some stuff that happened recently

  1. I am soon to be in need of a new car and a new phone and some studio lighting, and B and I need a bigger bed. That’s a lot of expensive purchases that ought to be made, but before doing all that, we’re getting a dog. Not a replacement dog, an additional dog. Maude has always seemed like she could use an Evil Minion, and who am I to deny her? She’d make a great Overlord. We’re in the final stages of adopting a 5-year-old chihuahua with a history similar to Maude’s, and I’ll let you know how it goes. There will of course be pictures.
  2. I saw Shutter Island. It was beautifully acted and shot and the dialogue was good and stuff. The movie started out looking like it was going to be about WWII, post-WWII anti-communist sentiment, and the history of treatments for mental illness. Those are three of my favorite subjects! But then (no spoilers here) the movie turned into something else entirely, and I was disappointed.  It’s probably just me, though; I’m sensitive about how mental illnesses are portrayed in fiction.
  3. I went to whatever SXSW Interactive stuff didn’t require a badge. Which was pretty much everything I wanted to see anyway. I got to spend time with most of my favorite SXSW people and introduce them to B and Maude. I got to help pay tribute to my friend Brad and see 20×2 where they also paid tribute to Brad which made me cry, and so forth. Good times.
  4. Then I got a cold. This is unsurprising, as I went on a cruise for a week and then worked a lot for a week and then worked/partied for a week. So right now I feel like the critical-thinking part of my brain has shut itself off, which does me no favors at work or when I’m trying to write.
  5. Oh, yeah, and I WENT ON A CRUISE. I’ll have to tell you about that later because I’m pretty busy dealing with #’s 1 and 4. But it was a lot of fun and a lot of weird.

a few more things about sxsw

1.  everyone should watch house of cosbysandy was shocked when i told him i still hadn’t seen it.  shocked!  jaime was surprised too, and set me up with his laptop and headphones right there in the convention center so i could watch it immediately.  it’s hilarious!  i never download or watch any videos online, probably because i had dialup for so long that i’m still stuck in the “videos will take for fucking ever” mentality.  but house of cosbys was totally worth it, if only for cosby team triosby.

p.s. if you are my mom or dad, you should not watch house of cosbys.

2.  this year kevin had a silent auction to raise money for 20×2.  he picked six people, each of whom made a shirt based on one of the previous questions.  the one i made was based on “what is interactive?” and you can see it here.  i added some velcro to the front of a black shirt, and made a bunch of magnetic poetry-type words with velcro on the backs so that they would stick to the shirt.  essentially it was a magnetic poetry shirt, with a little handmade cosmetics bag to store the extra words.  the guy who won my shirt at the auction (as a gift for his girlfriend) asked me for a swear-word expansion pack.  why didn’t i make any swear words in the first place?  you’d think i would have.

3.  everyone (even my mom and dad) should play apples to apples.

4.  during the conference i was interviewed by a lovely woman named andrea and her husband christopher.  they were filming interviews with bloggers for andrea’s masters thesis.  andrea had a series of questions to ask me, which she said i could answer as briefly or elaborately as i liked.  i’ve never been interviewed on film before, so i was a bit nervous at first.  but then my penchant for long-windedness and bizarre jokes took over, and the whole thing ended up taking at least an hour.  you can see pictures of it here and here.  i had fun!

afterward andrea and her husband said that i was articulate and well-spoken.  which of course made me launch into a ridiculous story about an ex-boyfriend who hated that i spoke in complete sentences during arguments.  but it also made me more confident about my public-speaking abilities.  my relative successes in the interview and on the panel are leading me to believe that i might not be as terrible at it as i’d always thought.

5.  not about sxsw: i’ve had this keyboard for over six years and i’ve never really cleaned it.  theoretically, it could contain the dead skin cells of four of my ex-boyfriends.

6.  every year i’m delighted to spend time with this creative, funny, interesting, talented group of people.  that these people seem to enjoy spending time with me is what pushes me to be more productive and try to accomplish new things.  these wonderful people must like me for a reason, right?  maybe i can do things, too.

i’ve been feeling sorry for myself for a long time now, and i think this year’s sxsw has helped me to realize that i’m capable of doing some of the things i’ve been meaning to.  to wit: if my new plan works the way i want it to, i’ll be seeing many of my sxsw friends before the end of the year.  keep your fingers crossed.

the mantras

those of you who know me well (and perhaps a few of you observant readers who don’t) are aware of the fact that i have some control issues.  i could put it a nicer way, i suppose.  i fear change.  i’m set in my ways.  i like things just so.  but truthfully, i’m a control freak.

my control freakiness comes out quite a bit at sxsw, when i’m in the presence of a hundred people i love that i never get to see at any other time.  i want to spend as much time with everyone as i can, so i get really concerned about the logistics of things.  how are all twelve of us going to get a table at this restaurant?  where are michael and cameron going now?  aren’t we waiting for leonard?  why is andrew going there instead of coming along with us?  i never actually get angry at anyone, but sometimes i get so stressed out that i’m unable to have a good time.

and i think i do appear angry to people who don’t know me.  cinnamon told me that last year i was all freaked out about something, and ryan leaned over to her and said, “she’s not mad at anyone.  she just gets like this sometimes.”  and while it’s nice to have someone explain me when it’s necessary, it shouldn’t be necessary at all.

this year at sxsw i decided that i was going to stop freaking out.  the freaking out was interfering with my good time and making me look like an angry person.  sxsw is my favorite time of year; shouldn’t i be happy spending time with whoever’s around instead of worrying about who’s not around?  and ultimately, why am i so worried about what other people do?  i should just do whatever’s best for me and welcome anyone who wants to come along.  anyone who doesn’t want to come along i’ll probably run into later.  right?

so i carried this mindset with me through most of sxsw without incident.  and it worked!  i felt happier, more relaxed, and better able to enjoy myself in any given moment.  it worked, i should say, until tuesday.  a group of nine of us were trying to go to the avenue cafe for lunch.  andrew had called ahead and reserved us a table, so we were all set.  on our way there, three people in our group decided that they’d rather go to a vietnamese place, so they broke off and started walking the other way.  i felt myself beginning to stress out.  but they were supposed to come with us.  we’re not all going to go have vietnamese.  we reserved a table for nine, and now we’re six.  is the restaurant going to be mad?  how will we find the others later?

at that moment i was walking with cinnamon, who had seen me freak out before and knew that not freaking out was my goal for this year.  so i took a deep breath and started chanting.  “i don’t care what other people do,” i said.  “i don’t care what other people do.  i don’t care what other people do.  i don’t care what other people do.  i don’t care what other people do.”  instantly i was calm.  even cinnamon could tell that this had helped me.  because i didn’t care what other people did.  the three of them would go have vietnamese food and be fine, and the six of us would go to the avenue and be fine.  we would all meet up later, and it wouldn’t matter if we’d eaten lunch together or not.

i know that mantras come from hinduism or buddhism, neither of which i know much about.  and i don’t usually put much stock in any religion.  but damned if repeating that phrase over and over again didn’t make things okay.  i think it worked because the rhythm of it calmed me down, and the content reminded me of what my overall goal was.

i can think of one other time when a mantra helped me.  after a particularly difficult breakup in 2003, jess and i went to marfa for a long weekend.  i was really upset about the fact that this guy and i weren’t together anymore, upset enough that in my worst moments i wasn’t sure that it was worth it to go on.  what scared me about this was that apparently my personal well-being had become dependent upon whether or not i was with this guy.  and i didn’t want to be that person.  i wanted to be a person who was devastated by a breakup, but knew they would eventually be all right; whose self-esteem didn’t have anything to do with their relationship with someone else.

during this time i kept thinking about people who suddenly find themselves in possession of a large amount of money, through the lottery or an inheritance or whatever.  most financial advisers tell those people that, to make their money last a long time, they should put it in the bank and live off the interest rather than spending the initial sum.  “don’t spend the principal,” they say.

so i applied that phrase to my own situation.  if i could become emotionally invested in another person without sacrificing major parts of myself, then i wouldn’t ever find myself at the end of a relationship feeling like i didn’t want to go on.  i would not spend the principal.

so when jess and i were in marfa trying to look at art and sneak into hotel rooms and check for aliens, my heart was breaking and the only thing that made me feel better was to repeat to myself over and over and over, “don’t spend the principal.  don’t spend the principal.  don’t spend the principal.”  again, it was both the rhythm and the content of the phrase that i found helpful.

i don’t know if i always believe in “don’t spend the principal,” and i definitely don’t think that “i don’t care what other people do” applies in every situation, but i do know that repeating those phrases over and over again has helped keep me sane.

next year’s mantra?  “there’s no need to shout.”