Wednesday, June 30, 2010

White and Sparkly

I edited my last post about twenty times, so hopefully you didn't read it before I finished. ;)

I stayed up until 2 AM last night since I wasn't sleepy. After I wrote the random fact post, I went in the kitchen, ate a few spoonfuls of whipped cream since I couldn't find anything to put it on, and read a chapter of Hero, Second Class (a fantastic fantasy spoof by Mitchell Bonds). I set my alarm for 9 AM so I'd start getting back on a decent schedule, but it went off around 6:34 for some reason. I neglected to reset it, went back to sleep, and woke up between 11 and noon. Oops. It turned out to be a good thing since I'd forgotten that my last driver's ed driving session was today and it might not have gone very well if I fell asleep at the wheel. As it was, I managed to successfully parallel park. I'm going to Colorado in August and plan to get my driver's license and a job when I return, so I hope I succeed at it during the actual test.

Some people have too much time on their hands. Proof:



Not that I'm pointing fingers. You know you're a geek when...you go through all 94 pages of a message board thread in which people speculate and debate on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator personalities of fictional characters. Oh yes. And I love White and Nerdy.

I hear the new Twilight movie came out at midnight. I have two things to share with you.

1.


2.
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Those...you know...feelings.

Emotion is a subject that has occupied my mind for some time. It's a tricky subject, not something with exactly tried-and-true rules that I know of (it's something you have to get a feel for. Har har). Back around October '09, I became very frustrated with it. Emotions cloud logic and inhibit good judgement [if not handled properly], and logic is something I place high value on. I was frustrated with people around me who made negative life-changing decisions because they let their emotions control them. I didn't want to be in that place. So I began training my mind to control my emotions. Or more often, squelch them. I got very good at it and it's a skill I still have, with a decent amount of mastery over it. I liked it better than being emotional.

It made me...um, feel, stronger and more invulnerable. Nothing got to me. There were lapses, times my grasp on my guard slipped, but they were part of learning. I could make decisions and handle life from a purely logical standpoint. However, I found my behavior toward others becoming too stand-offish. My lack of emotion protected me from insecurity, but it locked the door to my soul and nipped things like compassion and sympathy. I couldn't relate to much of anyone (okay, that's never been my strong point regardless of feelings, but that made it worse).

Let me clarify something here - I wasn't completely without emotion (that, I think, is impossible, unless someone has invented Prozium*). One night, God was like, here, try it out. I felt nothing. I got zero enjoyment out of anything (considering I was reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it was very strange). Every activity seemed meaningless (okay, maybe that book isn't a great example). It didn't last very long, but long enough for me to grasp what it 's like. After that, I never wanted to be truly emotionless. Just mostly. :p

So, back to being stand-offish. I had an imbroglio on my hands. Previously, I was not a very confident person. When I started gaining more control over my feelings, I stopped caring what people thought of me, and that made me happy. I started liking myself. But eventually, I realized the reason wasn't a good one - I didn't care what people thought of me because I didn't care much about people, period. I knew I needed to change because I needed to love them. But being emotional made me feel insecure, and being insecure made me awkward and self-conscious, and being awkward and self-conscious didn't put me in a good position to love people. You have to love yourself to love others (see my first blog post), but I didn't love myself when I was insecure. My options seemed to be remaining hardened and working on being kind and loving there, or being insecure and hating myself and trying to love people anyway. So I went with the first, but I wanted a real answer to my conundrum.

I eventually decided being so unemotional wasn't good for me. I don't remember the whole thought process. But I started to let myself feel more freely again. I came to a point where I was feeling more than I wanted to, more than was comfortable, and got back on the seesaw of my options. Obviously my comfort wasn't a priority in the scheme of things. How much should I let myself feel? Was it an amoral question? Did God have a preference for me? Which pros and cons outweighed each other? I needed answers.

I didn't want to change. To be honest, I'd come to see emotion as weakness and hated the thought of letting it loose in my life. But another part of me knew it was important. That God didn't just give us emotion for kicks. That by suppressing it, I wasn't living up to my full potential. One night, the questions wouldn't let me sleep and I got on the internet. Vented a bit. One of my friends who'd been in the same place told me this:

"I decided, ultimately, that to feel is one of the most desperately important things there is - that without it, we are locking ourselves out of the fullness of God's plans for our stories. However, I think that's a decision that has to be made by each individual...for to feel is perhaps the bravest thing anyone can ever do."

And I finally let myself realize what I needed to - that to feel is okay. Normal. Good. It takes more courage to accept and allow that than it does to be the hard, untouchable girl. In the moment, it was a difficult decision to make, to allow much feeling back into my life. It was painful. A voice in my head said it was lowering myself, weakening myself, but another told me it was really living.

This doesn't mean that I sacrifice my self-control (Galatians 5:22-24. Self-control is fruit of the Spirit). This absolutely does not mean that I should/do let my emotions control me or make decisions for me ("The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it." - C. S. Lewis). It means that I stop being afraid of them. I don't give them free reign to wreak havoc on me as they please,; I examine my emotions when called for, and when they don't line up with who I am or who I want to be, I balance my head. I weigh them against common and Biblical sense. But I also enjoy them. Embrace being real, being me. Being vulnerable and broken, and the Healer who 's molding me into who He wants me to be. No matter how I feel, I've learned to accept who I am right now, when I'm up and when I'm down. Being sad or tired or withdrawn or moved or excited or happy aren't things we need to apologize for. It's part of life. Like everything, there is a balance to be found. I had to let go of some of my control-freak tendencies (when it comes to myself. I am not at all concerned about controlling other people or my environment or my circumstances - just me. In the other areas, I'm probably one of the most laid-back people you'll meet) and found that letting yourself feel doesn't mean you'll go crazy. Having been on both sides of the seesaw, my contentment doesn't depend on my emotional state of being - mind over matter - but I no longer restrain everything.

Emotion is part of the beautiful, messy experience of being human. To quote the movie Terminator Salvation, "What is it that makes us human? It's not something you can program. You can't put it into a chip. It's the strength of the human heart. The difference between us and machines." In the movie, machines are trying to take over the world. The human commander wants the resistance to attack a terminator facility without rescuing the people inside. But of course John Connor wants to rescue the peeps. "Listen carefully, if we attack tonight, our humanity is lost. Command wants us to fight like machines. They want us to make cold, calculated decisions. But we are not machines! And if we behave like them, then what is the point in winning?" (Yes, I'm a geek and proud of it. Leeeeroy Jeeenkins.)

*Remember the asterisk in that one paragraph up there somewhere? Prozium is the fictional drug in one of my favorite movies ever, Equilibrium, that balances the chemicals in the human brain so perfectly that no one in the society feels emotion. It's an excellent movie. I highly recommend it if you can handle intense fighting (it's rated R for violence, but there's little blood and no gore, unless you count the scene where someone's face is cut off with a samurai sword and slides to the floor. Close your eyes). A good book on the same general topic is The Giver by Lois Lowry. It's fiction and an extremely easy read, worth the two or three hours it took me to get through it.

I think I'm finished with this post now. Sometimes I fail to properly convey my meaning (and I stayed up until 2 AM last night), but I hope it makes sense to you.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Facts o' Random

It's time for another late-night post, because I'm up and I feel like it. Well, not that late (especially compared to last summer when I stayed up until 3 and 4 AM more than once working on a novel).

A bit of randomness does everyone good. So here we go.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teenage mutant ninja turtle.

When I was a kid, I read The Phantom Tollbooth eleven times.

When I was a kid, Newsboys and d.c. Talk were the coolest ever. Oh wait...they still are (but not Taitboys).

When I was a kid, I watched The Fellowship of the Ring several times a week. My best friend and I could quote the dialogue in its entirety.

When I was a kid, I daydreamed about having a robot German shepherd.

When I was a kid, I read The Lord of the Rings four times.

When I was a kid, I started writing a novel that ended up being over 70,000 words long (but I never finished it).

When I was a kid, I wrote a poem for my favorite dental hygienist. He framed it and put it in his office.

When I was a kid, I thought I was older than I think I am now.

Armadillos are small placental mammals, known for having a leathery armor shell.

SuNoWriMo

SuNoWriMo, or Summer Novel Writing Month, is Clean Place's version of National Novel Writing Month ( http://www.nanowrimo.org/ ). The first year we did it, the word goal was 15,000. The second, 30,000, and the third was either 40k or 50k; I don't remember which. I did it all three years. The goal is 50k this summer - to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of July.

Yes, you have to be a little crazy.

I conveniently had a dream this month that reignited one of my story ideas and the characters have even started arguing with me. This is a good sign. I haven't had characters talk to me in a while, but that's another story.

Did I mention crazy?

Regardless, I'm looking forward to a month of strong coffee and late nights spent hunched over the laptop keyboard, shivering in the AC as I pound out a work of sheer genius that, if I stake my career on it, will probably leave me living in a cardboard box off the freeway, as the crickets serenade me outside my window and my blood turns to ink (well, it would if I weren't using a computer), and my family opens my bedroom door every couple of days to make sure I'm still alive. It's always an adventure. Let's hope none of the sentences end up being that long.

The first year, my story was about some spiky-haired kid and a talking turkey. I never finished it. I stopped once I got to 15k. The second summer turned out a 61,000-word fantasy with a Frank Peretti twist, a novel so bad it'd send an editor into convulsions, but I did reach the end. I care a good deal for one of the characters (the villain, actually) and even wrote a sequel for that year's NaNoWriMo (2007, I think), but it's doubtful I'll ever touch it again (though said villain may be resurrected and relocated eventually). Last year I wrote a sci-fi/fantasy mix about colonization-gone-bad on a distant planet where things devolved to an almost medieval state-of-being in certain areas while others are more typical, sci-fi, dystopian-esque cities. I like that story and might edit/flesh out/etc. it at some point.

My story this year is about a blind superhero and illegal genetic engineering.

We did SuNoWriMo on Clean Place in 2006, 2007, and 2009. We did a different project in '08. I'm looking forward to beginning this summer's journey two days from now.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Trippy

When I type in the "Labels" bar on the post creator/editor, the letters turn into these characters: ठेसइ अरे थे चरक्टेर्स ठाट थे वोर्ड्स तूर्ण इन्तो. आईटी इस कुइते इन्तेरेस्तिंग.

Here's the alphabet: अ बी क डी इ फ ग ह इ ज क ल म न ओ प क्यू र स टी उ व् व क्ष य ज

I guess it has something to do with me enabling translation of my blog into Hindi (I stumbled across the option and spontaneously decided to enable it). But I don't know why it's doing that to me. I find it entertaining (I am easily amused).

Soo...yeah. Goodnight. Here's a music video of one of my favorite songs (Said video contains PG-13 violence. Ye be warned).



[1 minute later] Eureka. Apparently that translation enabler adds a button to your post-editing toolbar that when clicked, translates your posts into the selected language as you write them. I guess I should have read the rest of the description of that option in the first place. Apparently I clicked the button at some point, and the reason it wasn't changing my blog post - just the labels - is that I was in the HTML editor. I switched to "Compose" and it started changing everything. Um...I was out most of the day shopping and then went jogging in the heat. गूद्निघ्त फॉर रियल नो.

Eh?

Restless mind,
roving here and roving there,
why has the night got you astir?
Daylight fades,
leaving your gaze turned inward
to thought-paths trailing through the dark -
worn from travel,
stained with tears of blood
from nights the dagger twisted
and the Voice did not return your call.
Restless mind,
lilies spring along your length,
planted in the hours you persevere.
Their edges glow in moonlight
streaming through holes torn in your walls
where fingers reached out,
nails grasped for freedom
from the prison of your pain.
Sleep is here to claim you,
begging.
You finally heed the plea.
Sorrow seeps back
into the cavern behind your eyes
as sunlight crests the bailey,
spilling paradise through your window.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Battle

This is a poem I wrote maybe a year or two ago. It was a requirement for Clean Place (online writers' critique group I'm a member of). The first line was given us and we had to write poems from there. It's a little rough in some places.

No moon, it took an hour,
as thin mists played gently ‘round
the feet that tread the soft, moist ground,
heading quietly toward the tower

through darkened night.
On they went,
and never was their courage spent,
though fog now cloaked their sight.

Sweat beaded
on broad foreheads, ‘neath their helms,
as they walked past trees, past the elms,
wishing the humidity to go unheeded.

And now they’ve reached
the tower high,
reaching up toward clouded sky,
and pray t’will soon be breached.

Sentries guard the doors,
tall, silent danger,
unaware of each hidden stranger
as they gaze across the misty moors.

Swords hang at armored sides,
providing comfort as they surround
the great stone tower, without a sound.
On this their captain prides.

Soft lantern light
creates dancing shadows on the ground.
Flickering, disappearing, rising o’re a mound,
breaking through thick dark of night.

They smell the sweat
that drips down brows
as they take care not to arouse
enemies not yet met.

At a signal from a stealthy hand
hearts pound, excited yet wary.
And now no longer do they tarry,
as forward moves this intrepid band.

Swords are taken
from sheaths, by gauntleted fingers.
Nowhere is one who lingers
as fears must be forsaken.

Breaking through the silence’s reign -
a great shout to intimidate.
Soldiers no longer have to wait,
praying courage will not wane.

Guardians start.
Alarmed, they reach for hilts.
Complacency wilts,
leaving each heart.

The first blood falls
to marshy land,
and its owner will no longer stand
as others are haunted by his calls.

Opens the door
to the tower’s insides.
And sword collides
with sword, now harder than before.

Silver blades
glint in firelight
from lanterns bright
as another life fades.

Sweat mixes with blood
as they fight, tenacious.
Their spirits stand firm, audacious,
but flinch as life pours out, a flood.

They will not be swayed,
and move in, closer to their goal,
each hardened soul,
as swiftly moves each silver blade.

Now guards lie prone -
life gone, spirit fled,
and warriors file past the dead,
and walk upon the stone.

The tower is won,
a step in war.
But hearts are wounded by the gore,
and many hope it has not merely begun.

Haunted eyes -
witnesses to the truth,
many still not past their youth,
as in their ears echo death’s cries.

Now they take care
to choose their fights,
to weigh the worth of bloody nights,
and shiver now in humid air.

The lives of those
who fell that night -
did they not feel they were as right?
And now each life no longer glows.

Take care to choose your battles.

~*~*~*~*~

Here's an almost entirely unrelated video that makes me laugh every time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bee Yerself



One of the best things you can do for the world - and yourself - is be yourself. The main reason people aren't themselves is they're afraid of what others think. They want to please people. They want people to like them. But guess what. There are billions of individuals in the world and as many different sets of opinions. You'll probably never meet anyone with whom you agree on every matter. It is IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone, even in your own family or circle of friends. Scripture even addresses the matter.

Galatians 1:10: "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."

1 Thessalonians 2:2-6 (emphasis mine): "We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else."

God's approval is all we need. Yes, we must love our neighbors as ourselves - so be kind to people - but ultimately, we are accountable to God alone.

Trying to please everyone can be very stressful. I know this from experience. What will that person think if I say this? Will I lose this one's good opinion for doing that? Being so concerned with what others think of you will only make things awkward and you unhappy. Trust me, no approval or acceptance from your peers will bring lasting happiness. And if you aren't being true to yourself while gaining it, it'll probably make you feel a little dead inside.

"The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Do you know what kind of people other people like? Ones who are real. Ones who go through life with confidence because of the simple joy of knowing and accepting who they are. God made you incredibly beautiful and unique. No, you're not like the girl on TV or the guy down your street - because God didn't make two people the same. He made you to be you, not you to be someone else. He gave us all different talents and quirks and tastes in different areas. Sure, some are more marketable, but that doesn't make them any better.

Confidence comes with first trusting God and accepting His strength as so much greater than our own, and second, in celebrating who He made us. In accepting the little things that make you, you. Ever since I stopped caring what people think of me - even if I do something they completely misunderstand and form a bad opinion of me - I've been so much happier than when I was concerned with making sure I didn't do anything "wrong." Along the way, some people will love you and some people will hate you. This is the case even if you try to please everyone, so why not be free and joyful while it happens? The world doesn't want or need a duplicate of your idol. It needs you as God intends you to be, as He made you.

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Harold Whitman

Hi

So, here I am, sitting at my desk, wondering what to write about. My thoughts don't organize themselves very well until the middle of the night, when I should be sleeping. At that point a dozen topics spring into my head and lay themselves out with a precision I only dream of at 11:27 in the morning.

The last couple of weeks have been unusually busy. First there was a week of driver's ed classes, and then Atlanta Fest. Atlanta Fest is a four-day (well, 3 1/4-day) music festival held at Stone Mountain every year. I went with two of my best friends from Clean Place (online writers' critique group). One of them lives in Georgia and the other flew in from Texas (in April, I flew to Texas to stay with her family for two weeks). We camped at Stone Mountain during the festival.

I was surprised, but in a good way, to discover that the overall theme of the festival was self-worth. So many people, especially teenagers, hate themselves or some thing or another about them. And some people are so busy making sure they don't puff up egos that they neglect to let others know how spiffin they are. Some people are so busy telling teens to get off their lazy butts and change the world that they neglect to tell them the things that will help them become the change - like how awesome they are in teh sight of God.

When it comes down to it, there is no room for self-loathing in the Kingdom of God. For one thing, we are to have the mind of Christ. And Christ certainly doesn't loathe us. I don't have to quote John 3:16 at you, do I? God is crazy about you.

The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Romans 13:9, etc. etc.). Galatians 5:14 says, "The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself." Most people fail to realize this means you have to love yourself. If you hate yourself, you can't follow this command. You won't be a very effective light in the dark if you want to tear your own guts out. I think some people just need to be told that it's okay to like yourself. Spending your days in misery because all you can focus on are your flaws, putting yourself down, beating yourself up - this does not make you a more righteous, pious person. According to that verse, it does the opposite, because it inhibits you from following it. God is molding you into His image - so learn to enjoy the ride. Too often we define ourselves by our mistakes rather than the lessons we learn from them. Thank Him for who you are and for who He's making you.

I have to go drive a car with an instructor person now. Au revoir.

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Skillet, my favorite band. I saw them live for the third time at Atlanta Fest.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I might start blogging again.