A sweet little fiction

So one time this culture discovered that a readily-available plant had a really tasty component, and they began harvesting, and then cultivating and later, processing and refining and making all kinds of analogs and variations on the tasty stuff. Everyone loved it, and it sold like gangbusters, and the refineries and plantations and products proliferated; money everywhere. Soon the white powder was in everything. Every household had a bag of it, but that was just for extra, since even things in which the taste of it wasn't desired usually contained at least a little. Many people just ate it by the spoonful anyway, or carried it with them in easily-gnoshable packaging — besides being tasty, it was energizing, especially in the heavily-refined and concentrated forms. If you speculated about how many people *needed* it to get through a regular day…but that was silly; nobody speculated. Everyone ate it. All the children. *Especially* the children.

Who knew how early on the side-effects started, the rates of diseases that were once rare spiking, the birth-defects, the overdoses and organ failures. When nobody's watching, a lot can happen, and nobody questioned the world's favorite food, especially not after a couple generations of inculcation. Only the furthest-flung and least-communicative cultures rarely or never ate it, and their comparative longevity and health was chalked up to a million other factors.

But generations take their toll, numbers can swerve sharply when pressures are applied to linked and dynamic systems, and by the time the culture sees it, their invisible group addiction to the machine-refined white powder from a harmless plant, will they be able to avoid dying out?

Posted in 'pocalypse, consumer warfare, drugs, ethics, psychology, science!, writing | 2 Comments

Things I am sorely tempted to post on Linkedin

For more than a decade, I've been asked regularly for tech-job advice, as someone who started young and worked their way up self-taught from basement mechanic to manager, fighting the women-in-tech battle the whole way.

Today I tried writing down my situation the way I would if I were coming to myself for advice the way so many others have, and I read it and asked myself what I'd tell a friend who sent me that message. And the answer I would give them was, "You're fucked."

I'm still so angry about the whole thing, about all the work I put in and all the crazy shit I did "for my resume" basically being completely worthless now (if not a detriment — ask me how many low-level would-pay-the-bills-at-least jobs I've not gotten because they don't want someone with management experience, or who might leave for a better job), that I can't quite tell if I'm actually being shoved out of tech by circumstance, or so sick of it after all the bad luck and obstacles and consistent lack of support from any employer ever that I'd actually just rather sling burgers (or words) for less than half the money than even try dealing with it again. …I know it seems like it should be easy to tell the difference between the two, but it's not. I ask myself constantly, "Am I really trying as hard as I can here? Or am I sabotaging myself because on some level I'm just so fucking done that I physically can't push past it?"

Sometimes you break up, and you realize all the things about your ex that made you friends to begin with. And sometimes you break up, and you realize that your ex was never really good for you *at all*; you just felt like you needed them, so you ignored it. Believe me, growing up in a shit town with "escort" being the most common job the other girls had in high school, having computers skillz seemed like a magic save. But no job I've ever had has given me any technical training, and the only promotions I've ever gotten were to shove me, the lone woman on the team, into more managerial and therefore less valuable positions, and every single company I've worked for that didn't go out of business let me go the second they could save money doing so, even if I'd worked my butt off for them for years.

It made me good money a few times, for a little while, but it's never been fulfilling, and it's been rare that it was even marginally okay or morally not-grotesque. I've not been the only woman on a team I was on once, a decade ago. (A high point was last year when the boss stood up at an all-dev meeting and apologized to me for my being the only woman there. I had to thank him, profusely, for being the only boss I'd ever had acknowledge it.)

This whole thing is somewhat like getting a divorce, the kind where you're not really sure if you're better off now or not. Tech broke up with me, but the moment it left I noticed how much nicer it was to not have it around. Maybe, if I can replace the key things about it (like, you know, paying rent), I'll eventually be glad it's gone. For now though, I'm still just so stung over the time wasted, the effort that feels like it was for nothing, and the sheer fail of the entire career I cared about so much for actually-literally-twenty-years, that it's hard to see anything past "Yeah, you're fucked".

Posted in technical-ity, the root of all wealth | 2 Comments

Happiness is an empty space

That's it — it just hit me, walking home.  What happiness is, and why it's so hard for almost everyone to find it, but almost indestructible in the people who do find it.

Happiness is not a thing — nor a feeling.  It is a lack of things and feelings.  It is space, where usually there's other things, things that cause pain and suffering.

There IS no "happiness", basically; happiness is a No-Thing.  But we still know it and recognize it and chase after it…we just typically never find it, because we think we're looking for "some thing or things that can get me [that feeling]".  But "that feeling" isn't a feeling, really.  It's the lack of other feelings.  

And the Other Feelings, the things that exist where happiness would go and prevent us from having it, are all related to one thing.  They all stem from one place, one circumstance, one person:  Me.

But — and this is crucial — not the real me.  

Happiness is the feeling of space for the real me to exist.  It happens when I've managed, however briefly, to shut up or shut down the false me (or mes; I'm sure there's more than one).

True happiness, the kind that can't ever be really taken away, the kind you see on Buddha-faces:  That comes from having killed the false-me, once and for all.

I'm not inventing this — it's clear in a million texts throughout history.  I'm realizing it.

Ironically, to respond to lack of happiness — especially deep, total, or hopeless lack of happiness — with the urge to commit suicide is not, in fact, stupid or illogical.  It's actually the system giving exactly the right answer…just not in a way we can correctly understand it.  Killing the real me (or disincorporating it; whatever) is a tragic mistake based on a kind-of-right idea:  What's making you unhappy is "you" — is the thing you're thinking of right now as you — so kill it, burn it, ignore it, forget about it, strip everything you can see of it away and let there be room for the REAL you to breathe, exist, and express itself.

And wham, unkillable happiness.

OK, more pondering and then next up:  How to kill your not-self.  I'm sure others have written about that too, so I'll do some digging and see if I can add anything useful.

 

Posted in better thinking | Leave a comment

I’ll stim with you

I saw myself in the subway today.  Twenty-five or so and Asian and wearing lipstick, but otherwise, me.

She was stimming like crazy.

People seemed to both avoid and ignore her, giving her twice the personal space of anyone else, but also never really watching or noticing her.  I watched her intently, at first in surprise — because I've never seen what I must have looked like, before I did all that work to get my stimming (the various outward expressions of my hyperweird brain) under control; it was fascinating — and then I watched carefully, the way you keep half an eye on someone carrying a huge stack of boxes, in case one falls and you can jump in and help.

She looked fine, mind you — at least to me.  She was pacing on the balls of her feet, flexing and bouncing against the ground as she paced, never really stepping the same way twice.  She walked past the wall repeatedly, knocking on it with different knuckles each pass; all the while her eyes darted to different things, and she kept up a constant half-silent conversation with herself, muttering and whispering.  If she'd been wearing headphones, it would have only looked like she was super into the music — which is one reason you'll rarely see me out without headphones; they're great cover.  But those are all things that I do, still, regularly when I'm alone, and that at various points in my life I've been unable to avoid doing no matter who was around.  They don't mean that I'm doing badly (though more of them does usually mean I'm stressed — but all change is stressful, even good things).  She wasn't giving any signs of doing actually-badly, and yes, I'm quite comfortable in my ability to tell the difference.

 I sat across from where she was standing on the train — I used to not be able to sit down on transit, either — and I held a book in front of my face, something I usually do even if I'm not reading, because again, it's great cover.  My headphones were also on, playing what most people would probably consider extremely loud, aggressive music, because in addition to making good cover for your odd or excessive movements, it turns out that headphones can provide enough aural stimulation to distract some parts of the brain that would otherwise be flapping your hands or tapping your feet or talking out loud without realizing it.

Part of me wanted, of course, to grab her and give her future-you hints like that:  Have you considered stupidly loud music?  Do you carry things in your pockets to play with?  (Here, have a few of mine!  I have *tons*.)  Have you learned to flip quarters or roll baoding balls while you walk yet?  –But of course, that would be rude, even if I honestly think that when I was twenty-five, I'd have fallen to my knees in gratitude if someone had grabbed me and said the same.  The struggle to not stim in ways that earn social punishment was not infrequently, at that age, too intense for me to go outside at all.

But there's a difference:  It wasn't, for her.  People on the subway in Boston ignore you, and while there are downsides to that, the upsides are amazing for the mentally-atypical (be they ill or just differently-wired).  She was clearly similarly neuroatypical to me — maybe Asperger's, as those similarities come up a lot — but she was relaxed about it; she ignored everyone and they ignored her.  Stimming on the train around here is no big deal, as long as it isn't super loud or getting anything sticky on the seats.  This is not true in public in the Midwest, where people generally pay a lot more attention and are a lot more flinchy about behavior that strikes them as "wrong" or violates herd-rules.  In fact, while I put a lot of work into smoothing out and controlling my stimming for a long time, it wasn't until I moved to Boston that it suddenly got a lot easier.  Why?  Simple: my stress-levels were lower.  People weren't staring, glowering distrustfully, or slipping away to go talk to that cop and point back in my direction — regular occurrences in Michigan — and so, while I might have still been doing some of my dumb stuff, I wasn't hyper-focused on OH GOD STOP ROCKING and therefore making it worse.  

On the downside (not just of Boston but everywhere), the people so politely ignoring her / us on the subway weren't doing so because they "got it", or knew that doing so was polite — that's just how they roll around here.  If she'd been acting mentally ill in a way that needed attention, I don't suspect they'd have done any better than the folks in the Midwest would have.  We still live in a world, a whole culture and multiple societies, where mental illness is invisible at best, and punished at worst.  She and I are lucky to be ignored when we're doing well, but if we're not, the only meaningful help we can ever expect is from each other.

I wonder if there's a mental health equivalent of an "I'll Go With You" button.  I'd like to have one, to out myself at least to other people like me as someone who you can grab if you need eyes, a voice, or help getting to an exit.  I don't for a second forget how lucky I am to be as crazy functional(-looking) as I am now, and have been able to be for most of this decade of my life; and I deal regularly with plenty of people who aren't so lucky.  I wish I could do more to help.

(It's funny, we understand "mental illness" so poorly in this country that simple things about it — like how you are equally lucky for your mental and physical health, and likely to experience loss of both at some point — aren't even common knowledge yet.)

I'm watching my ragged fingers as I type this, fingers with nails permanently shortened by decades of biting; but fingers mostly in good shape now, no blood or injuries like I carried permanently before.  I'm so lucky — and yes, have worked hard — but really, mostly, lucky; all the hard work has paid off, and that's on luck more than me.  

And the urge to help keeps bobbing back to the surface, even though I don't know what to do with it.  I wish I could have told her, in some way that wasn't outing her to people who didn't understand, that I was there, that I get it, and if she'd have needed me, I would have dropped my shit and helped her.

Posted in better thinking, ethics, psychology | 1 Comment

Truth Hurts (as it catches up)

This will give you a headache, but it’s a headache worth getting I think:

…The scariest opinion I have heard about this well-done little video is “I think that’s probably accurate, but I don’t want to watch it because I’d rather put off having to think about that world for as long as I can”.

That’s a pretty terrifying summation of the modern view of the technological future, innit? ::shiver::

Posted in better thinking, technical-ity, the root of all wealth | 2 Comments

OMG THERE’S A NEW THING UP THERE LOOK

(Title brought to you by the New England Fireball meteor that scared the pants off of us the other night!)

Hey, Internet!  I've been doing too many things to count; I am buried in projects, and I would be completely overwhelmed with stress too if it weren't for lovely people in my life insisting that I also exercise like gangbusters — so I'm holding up!  Feeling sore and hungry, but good.  :)

This means I've gotten *extra* behind on answering your excellent polyphasic emails, and wow do I hate that.  But this time I think I managed to do something to address how this keeps happening, so pardon all my exclamation points but WOOT, I'm really excited!

Of course anybody's free to email me, that's how email works; and I wouldn't give up some of the people I've met and conversations I've had that way for nothin'.   But the truth is that I can take a while to get to those emails, and sometimes they're from people who are planning or in the middle of an adaptation, and then I feel SO awful that I couldn't help.  But now I can.

In the upper nav-bar of this site, there's a new link where you can get more polyphasic help and advicewithin a few days, on chat or phone or video (your choice), by paying me for my time.  I've tried to set up this consulting option to be as easy, enjoyable and useful for everyone as I could; please, if you would, take a look and let me know how I did!  

Posted in polyphasic sleep | Leave a comment

Thankful, not sorry

Well, I'll be damned.

That's why I say "I'm sorry" too much.  In business emails, to friends who see me cry, to total strangers in passing — that's why I do all of that over-apologizing.  

(Shockingly, it turns out that the answer is not "because I have female body-parts"!  Who would have guessed, right?)

I do it because I mean to say "thank you".  I know, right?!  How crazy simple!  But it totally is that simple.  Here, I'll explain how.  Which will of course totally make it sound complex, but LOL that's how it goes.  Try explaining to someone how to lift their arm in taiji; it takes all day.  :)

A stranger holds a busy door for me when I have a full load of coffee, but I get jostled and splash them a bit.  "Oh! I'm sorry!" I say.  

In doing so, I've skipped to the end of a thought-process, when I should have responded to the person in the middle of it.  I've thought, "oh, I'm grateful to you for holding the door!  what a nice person.  oh no!  the nice person has now suffered a bad thing because they were helping me!  I didn't want that to happen!  I wish it hadn't!" and then I say "I'm sorry!" — as if my not liking the outcome is the thing that needs to be communicated.  But it ISN'T.  What SHOULD have been communicated is MY GRATITUDE.

I didn't cause the bad thing to happen.  It's not my fault, though it'd be awfully nice of me, since I was involved, to help repair it if possible.  Before the bad thing happened, someone did something nice for me, and I either skipped over saying thank you, or let it go in the interest of "sorry".  I can clearly see this being true to some degree in almost every "sorry" that escapes my lips which is not motivated by an actual, humble, I-fucked-up urge to apologize.  

(Sure, sometimes — probaby not enough times though — I also say thank you.  But it's clear that "sorry" gets way too much air-time…and also, from a consciousness perspective, it's a straight-up denial, one of those resistances-to-reality that hides a seed of arrogance.)

I'm going on a verbal rampage to see how often I can replace "I'm sorry" with "Thank you" and let's see what it does, shall we?

Posted in better thinking | 1 Comment