How to self-destruct and resurrect.

I often find myself stopping abruptly and fully when faced with a task that has even a hint of that well-known scent of “life decision”. Suddenly I can’t even procrastinate in any meaningful way, but rather I just turn into a useless sack of potatoes, just lying there on my bed, scrolling mindlessly to and fro on my cellular device, looking for something — anything — to take my mind off the task that demands a decision of me.

Today I faced this when getting into contact with a potential job opportunity. I had received all the details, I matched the profile quite well, and I had researched the company, only to find my feet moonwalking back to bed, my back resting as if it hadn’t seen a mattress for months, and my eyes choosing only to focus on useless, mindless updates on SoMe.

The worst thing is that I’m well aware. At any second of this pitiful act I’m fully aware of what I’m doing; that I’m hindering myself in whatever definition of “progress” you apply to the situation. I’m not getting further on the job seeking; I’m not trying out words for an email; I’m not getting over my innate fear of phone calls; I’m not even procrastinating in a way that’s useful for some other project of mine.

I’m well aware of my own hindering of myself, and yet I can stay that way for hours. Doing nothing; accomplishing nothing; learning nothing.

I did end up sending a bright email to the contact person in the company. So I’m proud of that accomplishment. And I’ve since then been productive in revamping my CV, finally summoning the courage and creativity to create a brand new one from scratch with a neat home-made visual look. I’m proud of that. And I’ve spent the last one and a half hour of the evening listening to Julia Holter’s new amazing album. In these days of lost patience I’m even proud of that, of sticking with an album of such a long playing time. (Hint: the album is BONKERS good, and you should pick it up at your local record store asap).

So all in all: I’ve had a good and productive day. I just wish I’d gotten around to that email sooner, or been able to do some productive procrastination. I hate this tendency I have of falling into my most useless behaviour when I’m faced with opportunities to do something. So I guess I’m back to using this blog as an outlet for my frustrated self, frustrated over my own psyche, and hoping that writing about my issues will help solve them, as has happened often before.

What more to add… I’m really hooked on expanding on my thesis. The result of the thesis was not what I had hoped, but I understand the score it received. I could have worked harder on it, I could have delivered a more focussed end-product. But lately I’ve been studying to get further insights on trust, fear and how they shape our political landscapes.

Most recently I’ve just finished Eric M. Uslaner’s The Moral Foundations of Trust, and begrudgingly I must confess, that this book is pretty much 1:1 the missing link in my thesis. I feel confident that had I found this book in time, my idea of the project would have been much clearer; I would have been able to better use my theory; and the thesis would have ended as a more developed project in all regards. Oh well.

My hope is to cut my thesis down to some main parts, add the fresh knowledge that I’ve been gaining since, and then turn it into an article to be published in one of the Danish philosophical journals, or maybe a journal with a broader scope in either geography or theme.

Whichever way this all turns out — job, article, life — I’m ready for it. I hope.

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Taking it all in, passionately.

There were fourteen minutes of perfect afternoon light today, and I managed to write 1629 characters in that space. Those minutes functioned as an entrance into a neighboring village in my mind, the place where my work ethic exists, and where I’m automatically strapped into my seat, fingers on the keyboard, working until the words again leave me alone and looking, wondering what happened.

I glanced up thrice during the excavation, as much to get a breath of air as to see the light turn my white walls a faint, peachy orange. The world rarely works in its most magical ways. It’s as if it saves those moments, letting them out with higher intensity when it finally strikes, trying to steal the attention of its inhabitants, as if to say: Look at me, I am the World, I have made you, and you shall acknowledge my powers with the eyes I gave you.

It was only those fourteen minutes, but they were angelical, and compared to the rest of this day’s bleak presentation, they stood out and filled my soul with a deep serene–just as they filled out my white page with fresh sentences, fresh ideas.

I’m always searching for that exclusive room where inspiration and a desire to work meet up. I don’t have as easy an access to it as I feel a lot of people have. I’m not naturally passionate about things that involve doing, creating. I’m passionate about taking things in. Listening to music, watching movies, enjoying the sight of you as you smile back at me for who knows what reason you might have to smile back at me from across the bed and across the world.

I’m passionate about you. I think you know that. I’m passionate about daydreaming. I just need to be able to turn my daydreams into something I can use creatively. I’m passionate about becoming passionate. And I think it all depends on finding the right thing to be passionate about, the right angle. And then applying myself.

Words come to me so easily here, while they have been so hard for me to find all day long in all other contexts. But I’ve written a strong page for my thesis. And I’ve created a new logo for my small-time publishing company. And I’ve learned six new Japanese letters, getting my total up to 24! One day I’ll be able to decipher a Japanese street sign. Watch me moonwalk away boasting.

The fourteen minutes have long passed. It’s some uninspiring grey version of blue on the sky now, the sun on its way down in hiding, leaving my walls a cold dark shadowed shade of their daylight white. Time to light the last of the winter’s candles and get back to work. Weekend starts tomorrow. Let’s see what that has in store.

I find a place I started from.

The thing about growing older is that we have a shared experience with our self. Each year I round the Sun I move an inch closer to knowing who I am; knowing how my mind and body work.

For years this knowing myself seems an integral part of being alive. I don’t recall having existential questions when I was in kindergarten, nor in the first years of elementary school. Everything I was back then seemed tight-knitted to everything I did. I was my actions, so to speak.

But during adolescence, part of the “I” gets split from the rest: the actions no longer seem as perfectly synchronized with who I envision myself as. Whereas I would lie in my bed and be an astronaut when I was a kid, I could no longer fathom the action in the same way as I left childhood. It was too obvious to me that my imagination was not action in the same sense that the real world considered events worthy of that description.

That marks the time when we begin to form who we are, based on how we react to the realisations of our loss of childhood. My primary reaction to most things has always been to draw back into myself, to hide away from the realisations, to procrastinate the answers. The less I knew, the more potential, was what I believed.

Nowadays I can feel the procrastinator in me in every sense of life. It’s a demon, but it’s also a saint. A saint when I manage to treat it right; to turn it benign. In the worst circumstances, it can be a downright paralyzing kind of procrastination, rendering me unable to perform even simple tasks such as getting out of bed. On days like those, where I find no answers, I end up huddled with a cup of cocoa, a movie I’ve seen a hundred times, and texting days worth of texts in 24 hours. The most painful in hindsight is that these are the days I ruin most for myself. The days where I cannot get myself to do anything are at the same time the days where I stay awake far into the night.

Whether that’s a sign of hunting for ideas, inspiration, or just plain stupidity, I don’t know. But I’m partial to the latter. It’s ignorance, mostly, I think. Leading me astray on days that were already sunk deep in the ocean from the get-go.

On other days, and pleasantly more often the last years, I’ve instead managed to perform the saintlike version of procrastination. Just as boredom is not always bad, procrastination is not always to be frowned upon, not always an evil spirit taking possession of the industrious mind. These procrastinating days are filled with substantial talk with my closest family and friends, and is guided by the reading of literature I have stored up, ready to offer me advice on various subjects and inspire me to get back on the task.

Currently I’m reading Draft No. 4 by John McPhee, taking it slowly, one chapter at a time. McPhee is one of my all-time greats. An extremely well-known name in non-fiction circles, he is less distributed in Denmark, and I consider myself lucky to have happened upon him. In Draft No. 4 he offers advice on writing, and though I’ve read most of the pieces already published on The New Yorker‘s website, it’s such a pleasure to hold the book in my hands, turn the pages, let the words sink in without rushing them.

There is so much of the advice in there that I can use. His chapter on structure alone would be enough to warrant my purchasing of the book, giving me new ideas on how to structure any of my own writings, from the fiction to the non-fiction, to the thesis. Even in genres with great differences there’s still an opening to play with the structure. Even in something as set-in-stone as a thesis, there’s the opportunity to use creative structure as a vehicle to create progression.

In this way I’m using my procrastination tendencies for good instead of evil. Taking time to learn from the best, to try to always better myself, learn new ways and new shades of this skill that I’ve always envisioned myself as possessing. The older I’m getting, the more acutely aware I am that writing is a skill that is never perfected. And so I shouldn’t be disheartened by reading greats like John McPhee, Ursula K. Le Guin, Henry Miller, for whom every word on the page seems so effortless and graceful.

As much as everyone is gifted with different levels of raw talent, the best only ever become the best by working hard at their craft, perfecting a skill that can’t be perfected. I often have trouble getting even thoughts going, running the same two or three words over in my head numerous times before finally getting on with it, or moving on altogether. I ascribe that to a counter-productive sense of perfectionism, but it might be something else. I’m no expert in thought processes, and still only a young student of my own. But I’m getting tips on how to move on anytime I read an inspired piece of writing.

That’s the only true drawback about my newfound way of dealing with procrastination: I immediately get drawn so far into the pieces I’m reading, that I imagine myself doing that kind of writing, getting new dreams (sometimes reinvigorating old dreams) that I can see myself pursuing, when there’s still this last big chunk of accomplishment in front of me.

Reading pieces of David Foster Wallace’s writings on tennis, in the collection String Theory, I find myself longing back to the days when what I wanted more than anything was to be a sports writer or commentator. I can still easily see myself in that role. My love of sports is as strong as ever, always enjoying the competitive aspects, the narratives that show up when you look for them, the intense struggle against failure, often more so than a battle to win. Sports to me is the most tragic of all arenas, and yet the most beautiful. It’s where humankind tests itself against itself; sets clear rules and boundaries; wins or loses, devastatingly, but not fatally.

I’ve strayed far off the paths I once set out to walk on. Some of that was down to evolution, refining my ideas of myself, becoming more enlightened in a clouded world. But a lot of it happened because of neglect toward my younger self. Forgetting the dreams and ideals about what constitutes good in this life.

Getting older and learning more about oneself is also about re-learning things about oneself. I don’t know what I’ll make of this in half a year when my life as a university student is at its end. But I feel positive in knowing that I’m regaining my sense of wonder, finding more subjects interesting now than ever before.

I feel that the older I get, and the more I know of the world, the more I still want to know.

Note to self: On writing.

Out walking today it dawned on me why my writing has been going better than usual these days. My fiction is flourishing, my pre-study notes are noteworthy. I noticed that in the latest things I’ve done, I’ve set myself a clear goal: some target to achieve with my writing. It sounds simple, and it probably is to most, but I’ve never really taken it seriously. I’ve always believed stubbornly in the grace of the muse, just coming down from the heavens, leading me on as soon as I let my fingers do the talking. It works sometimes, which is why I have been led on believing it to be the way for me. But after what has felt like a year of drought, where I’ve been stopped in my tracks more often than I’ve gotten on the train, where I have a hundred ‘saved drafts’ and a sad half-filled notebook of what can at most be described as attempts, it has finally started raining again.

Maybe it was the thunder the other night that woke me up, got me to realise that nature might just toast me any day now. I’ve probably already lived longer than most people in world history (how frightening a thought that is, how many poor souls left for dead in premature years). And I started setting goals before sitting down to write. Not much, necessarily. Just a theme and an ending — then let the words take form on the path there. It has helped tremendously with my ideas for my thesis, making sure I write down coherent thoughts instead of just scribbling down whatever loud nonsense came into my mind. And it has helped with the (still short) fiction I wrote to you yesterday (and plan to keep on writing). Especially that last one, the fiction to you, feels like such a shining light for me, telling me that I can do that kind of stuff, I can write fiction and be attentive to a storyline. Even if it’s just for a short period so far, it’s longer than 99 % of anything I’ve ever managed to concentrate on. It has a purpose, it has a direction. It might not be very original, and its intentions might be questionable at best, but it flows from my fingers like I’ve never tried before.

Maybe it’s just your presence that gives new life to my words. The whole muse-thing being true after all. But I like to think that I have at least found out a little something on my own as well. I’ll grant you the joy to write, I’ll grant myself the method.

It really has started raining now, and if it wasn’t because I’d been in front of my computer all day, reading papers for the thesis and spending indecent lunch break minutes continuing the fiction to you, I’d use the sound of the rain to write on. But I also strongly believe that every good day of work must come to its conclusion. And I’m hungry.

Bananer.

Ordene falder mig ikke umiddelbart ind. Det er en kamp, så langt inde i vinteren, at finde dem frem fra gemmerne. De er begravet under snedriver, isslag og dårlige minder (jeg har lyst til at rime minder med kvinder, men det føler jeg mig aldrig voksen nok til). Jeg drikker varm kakao hjemme en lørdag aften i mit eget selskab. Min plan er at lave en tærte i morgen. Og så at overleve. Som Nicholas engang skrev, så laver vi mange planer, mest for ikke at dø. Og det er rigtigt, det er alle de planer vi ikke tænker over, men som sætter fundamentet for alle vores dage. Men der er en forskel på at lave planer for ikke at dø, og så at lave planer for at leve. Jeg glemmer nogle gange det sidste. Og så skyder jeg skylden på vinteren, når det endelig går op for mig, fordi den er for kold til den slags. Eller på sommeren, fordi den er for varm. Og så sætter jeg Roxy Music på pladespilleren og glemmer at der overhovedet var grund til at slå alarm.

Jeg er blevet mere opmærksom på min holdning. Jeg er sumpet sammen i løbet af min ferie, og min manglende energi er primært på grund af, at jeg sidder sammenklemt. Ret ryggen, hagen frem. Jeg husker tydeligt da Rikke lærte mig hendes trick til en god holdning, “bananer”. Man skulle bare finde noget lidt underligt som man ofte tænkte på, som man kædede sammen med en reminder om, at man skulle rette ryggen. Hun tænkte ofte på bananer, så hver gang hun kom til at tænke på bananer, ville hun rette ryggen.

Nu tænker jeg ofte på bananer.

Det er lidt ærgerligt, at de bedste ting i livet ofte også er de mest forgængelige. Jeg har købt et vildt lækkert halstørklæde. Det er så sindssygt blødt og fuzzy og bare all the hugs in the world pakket sammen i et stykke stof. Downside: det fælder helt ekstremt og holder garanteret ikke mere end en sæson eller to. Sådan nogle ting kan jeg godt blive lidt ked af. Jeg elsker gode ting. Flotte ting, lækre ting. Men jeg er så bange for at ødelægge dem, at jeg næsten aldrig tør bruge dem. Ikke før jeg har fundet noget, som er endnu mere lækkert. En dag kommer jeg til at bruge 400 kroner på en læderindbundet notesbog. Så kan jeg omsider få brugt de 30 almindelige jeg har liggende på lager.

I could walk you through the park
If you’re feeling blue
Or whatever
Spring, Summer, whenever
Winter through Fall
I’d do anything to turn you on
Anything to turn you on

(Roxy Music: “To Turn You On”) I need to decide whether I want a volunteer job at Heartland again this year or just go as a paying guest. It was amazing last year. Such a great atmosphere between us workers. But of course, I had the best job anyone could ever want, setting up Brian Eno’s exhibition, meeting him, eating breakfast with him. There’s no way I can top that this year. But regardless I really need to go there and see Bryan Ferry perform some of these old Roxy Music songs. Avalon has shaped my mood over the last year like no other record. Hard to say if that’s a good thing or not. It’s probably the only record that’s as hopelessly romantic as I am, and while I obviously enjoy indulging in those emotions, you can drown in them. I’m really good at drowning.

Tomorrow I’ll be faster
I’ll catch what I’ve been chasing after
And have time to play
I’m quite alright hiding today

(Alex Turner: “Hiding Tonight”) I think Alex Turner’s Submarine soundtrack will be this year’s Avalon for me. I finally bought the 10″ and I’ve been playing it non-stop ever since. It’s a beautiful record, and I’ve loved the tunes ever since I first saw the movie, and especially since the 3rd or 4th time I saw it, when we created memories to it. There’s always that risk that you create memories with people that end up ruining bands for you, but it hasn’t really happened for me. I still love Alex Turner, Beach House and Moderat though they’re tied to lost love. And I love Bon Iver even though they’re tied to the weirdest love story ever.

I’m not at all sure about my view on how life progresses. I tend to think life “moves forward,” yet it’s so entwined with the past at all points. We constantly go into retrospective thoughts, revisiting moments that happened a long time ago, reliving them if the memories are strong enough. And it all somehow becomes part of the present again; it keeps shaping the things we do, the words we write, the conversations we have. It keeps forming us, like hands reaching out of the past, always not quite happy with how the lump of clay ended up looking.

I like that picture: hands reaching out of the past. I’ll save that for some fortunate poem later.

I’m not the kind of fool
Who’s going to sit and sing to you
About stars girl

But last night I looked up into
The dark half of the blue
And they’d gone backwards

(Alex Turner: “Stuck on the Puzzle”) Quite possibly the sweetest song this side of the galaxy. There’s just something about his voice and phrasing when it all gets a bit more stripped down. Not that I don’t absolutely love Arctic Monkeys, I do. But the side of him that this album shows is just so sincere. Such a hopeless romantic.

I know. Drowning.

Somewhere along the way I changed this blog post to English? I have no idea why or how or when. It reflects my thoughts pretty well, I guess. They shift between Danish and English throughout the day. I don’t think I’ve ever done it in a blog post before though.

Men det var heller ikke meningen, at jeg ville skrive om musik, eller at jeg ville skifte sprog, eller at jeg ville snakke om alt muligt, som ikke har med i dag at gøre. Jeg ville egentlig bare snakke om min aften, men fortiden griber altid ind, og musikken griber altid ind. Og så bliver man grebet, og så sker ting. Det var heller ikke meningen, at jeg skulle høre Twin Sister i aften. Men det gør jeg nu. Verdens bedste band på deres to første EP’er.

I want a house
Built of old wood
You can paint it any color you like
Just so long as I can live with you

(Twin Sister: “I Want a House”) Jeg ville bare gerne fylde min blog med et nyt indlæg, som ikke skulle fylde så meget. Nu fylder det meget. Men jeg tror på at det er meningen, at der skal et rodet indlæg til engang imellem. De sidste par stykker har også været meget ordentlige og on-point. Det ville være en skævvridning af mig som person, hvis jeg kun postede det, som kom til mig som en tydelig idé. Så ville jeg bare begynde at skrive dårlige opgaver, fordi jeg måtte bruge dem som mit frirum til at lufte ud i min rodebunke af et tankenetværk.

Næste uge bliver spændende. Men det gør alle uger jo forhåbentlig. Først og fremmest bliver i morgen spændende. I morgen bliver god.

Jeg prøver at leve efter Borges’ ord om at føle livet poetisk, at leve poetisk. Som når jeg husker at dufte til verden, og bruger mine øjne som to filmkameraer, der lægger mærke til, hvordan verden skygger for sig selv. Men jeg skal lige minde mig selv om det engang imellem.

Bananer.

I read you as every word I mumble.

“I read you as every word I mumble.”

(Source: Sin Renter, The Book About You)

That line from dear Sin Renter is why I love poetry. When words from one life is able to touch the surface of so many others. A simple selection of words, put together like all sentences are put together, but with such power, such insight.

The Book About You is a short poem, broken up in different rhythms throughout, circling around one or more people in the narrator’s life. It moves from the visible (“I find myself unintentionally crying”) to the invisible (“I feel sharp pain on my lungs”) at the jump of a line; it goes through emotions (sad, happy, frustrated, bliss(?)) built around otherwise simple things such as a smile. Actually, the smile is the only description of this “you” in the poem. The rest is the inner and outer life of the narrator.

And that’s what makes this such a strong poem for me. When we come back to the last line, “I read you as every word I mumble,” it becomes clear how much of the life of others we make up in our own mind. When we’re lost completely in another person we carry them around with us, and we develop them, we grow with them without them. Once we finally see the person again, we’re at a new place in the relationship than we were last time, even if we haven’t talked to them.

When we speak, they speak, and slowly their voice becomes our voice. And that’s the reason why we become frustrated, infuriated even, when we talk to the people we love. Because they will inevitably say something that catches us off guard, something we have never made them say. And we realise that they are their own person, that they are not us. That we are not that One Person that we had come to believe.

And we realise that they too have the ability to carry us around like mere fantasies, and, far more devastating, they also have the ability to carry other people with them in that way. We understand that we might not be special to others just because they are special to us.

It’s the strength of poetry to bring such realisations, hidden in a set of words that might as well mean something completely different. And this is the reason why it’s important to give a poem the time it takes to really grasp it. There’s no telling if what the author meant is the same as what you take from it, but a great author always gives you something to work with. And that is also why I should have posted the poem in full instead of just quoting a line and then shattering the rest of the poem throughout the post – but I’d rather you go to Sin Renter’s blog to read the poem in full, as there are so many other lines worthy of an audience on that blog.

I ought to be working on an assignment, but I couldn’t help myself when I came across this poem and felt my own little life entangled in words coming from the other side of our planet.

I had to say something.

Exterrestrial.

Someone has to go first. It’s not a competitive claim; it’s purely logical. There’s no such thing as complete simultaneity. At least not when it comes to human bodily movement. Not even in those terrific synchronized swimming competitions where the athletes practice four years to do things exactly the same way at exactly the same time in teams. Even then there’s still a slight difference between when people’s legs drop into the water.

And I guess we should have foreseen it. It seems silly now, standing here, looking back (metaphorically, of course) on all the things we didn’t take into account. Like: how long would an Earth-minute feel here? Longer, is my current observation. Definitely longer. Hopefully longer. And would the planetary rotation make any difference? Would the transfer of energy end up corrupting the whole procedure? I’m not saying no one thought about any of that. But if they did, I sure didn’t hear anything about it.

I probably should have prepared something about small steps and great leaps. But then again, what’s the use? If anyone’s listening in, it will likely sound to them the way a fox sounds to me. Desperate; hungry; incoherent. Just sounds. Plus: there was never the notion of being in this Neil Armstrong scenario. Our time had been spent wondering what sorts of creatures might be ready to jump at our throats as soon as we materialised.

But someone has to go first. Someone has to be the inter-galactic Neil Armstrong, even through large, round, easily-big-enough-for-two-people portals, it seems. And the honour and trepidation has been bestowed upon me.

My watch would say at least 10 minutes has passed, if it were to say anything. The only thing it seems to say is that it was another thing we didn’t think carefully enough about. At any rate, it has stopped. 12:01. The last moment before I took a step forward, outpacing my companion by an inch. Or, should I say: outpacing my companion by 2.5 million light years.

Now, I’m no mathematician. But that’s quite an inch.