I’ve been an insomniac to some degree for most of my life. When I was in my early 30s and subcontracting for the Department of Defense, I used to just accept that there was one night a week where I would not sleep at all; I’d just get some writing done, go to the Waffle House at 4:30 am for breakfast, and show up at the office before anyone else.
The older I get, the harder it is to deal with the lack of sleep. For a while, I was able to club myself into unconsciousness at a decent time every night thanks to sleep drugs, but recently, those are seeming to lose their efficacy. I took a bucket and a half of ZQuil last night around 10 and was still wide awake at 3 am. In my younger days, the three hours and change of sleep I got last night would have been fine. In my mid-30s, I feel barely functional.
Coffee helps during the day. It makes it so I can move my fingers across the keyboard in a rough approximation of working. It makes it so I can respond to questions and seem like a mostly normal person (or as close as I get, anyway). The US military turns soldiers off and on at will using pharmaceuticals; I seem to be stuck in the “on” position lately. I don’t remember the last time I had a dream. I don’t remember the last time I woke up feeling rested.
All I remember lately is feeling like I’m running at 30%.
I don’t like giving anything 30%. But sometimes, you don’t really have a choice. Sometimes, 30% is the best you can manage. And I’ve been at 30% for… let’s call it a month. That’s less depressing.
This post is not meant as a complaint, though it is fairly whiny. This post is meant as an explanation; if you’re looking for books, or stories, or blog posts… there aren’t many lately. 30% is not sufficient to write much that’s worthwhile.
So, go grab a nap, you. You’re getting cranky. And by you, I of course mean me.
So here are two things I secretly do every time I get on a plane: assume it’s going to crash, and keep an eye out for UFOs.
Now, I’m a pretty logical person most of the time. I know that, logically speaking, any given flight is so unlikely to crash that the chances are statistically insignificant (right about 5,000,000 to one). I know that the likelihood of seeing a UFO while in flight are slightly better (thanks to drones — remember, I’m just talking unidentified flying objects, not aliens), but not by much. So why do I always do both of these things?
We all have parts of our brains that are in opposition to our personalities, I think. I’m a reasonably logical, thoughtful person, but the second we take off in an airplane, I’m expecting it to crash. I’m not afraid of flying, and I’m not even afraid of crashing, but my brain always politely reminds me that impact with the ground at several hundred miles an hour is a possibility. I’m not chasing UFOs or believing that aliens visit us to mutilate our cattle and steal our women, but my brain always keeps a lookout just in case.
I think it’s this part of our brain, annoying as it is, that helps us be creative. The part of the brain that throws logic and facts right out the window and simply asks “what if?”
So what kinds of things does your brain do that are in opposition to your personality?
Do you live in a cave? (Of course you don’t, because wi-fi in caves is notoriously unreliable, and you wouldn’t be able to read this on cave-fi.) If not, then you’ve definitely seen the myriad ALS “ice-bucket challenge” videos on Facebook the past couple of weeks, of which, I am prepared to say, the Foo Fighters have decidedly won.
What I didn’t expect, but should have by now, was the people who came out of the woodwork to decry the entire thing (which has raised millions for ALS research) for any number of reasons, the absolute stupidest of which is wasting water.
To anyone who bitches about how this challenge wastes water: SHUT. THE. FUCK. UP. Not everything on the internet is an invitation for you to shit on it. The amount of water “wasted” doing a good thing — raising money for research on a terrible disease — is less than you personally waste if you water your lawn, which helps no one other than you. If you think the ice-bucket challenge is stupid, that’s fine. If you really are stupid enough to think the pail of water that got dumped on George W. Bush’s head would have otherwise gone to some drought-ridden country and saved a bunch of lives, I guess that’s fine, too. Stupid and wrong, but fine if you think that.
But posting a meme or bitching on Facebook about the waste of water? That doesn’t make the good thing people are doing to raise tons of money for ALS research look stupid. That makes you look stupid.
Angry old man rant #578: over. Sorry, I didn’t sleep last night. I’m cranky.
Over the last couple of days on Facebook, I’ve seen the following articles come into my news feed:
- These millenials are just lazy, not like us hyper-awesome Gen X’ers
- Stop fat-shaming!
- Stop skinny-shaming!
- If you’re white, you have white privilege
- Stop persecuting us for white privilege!
- Stop shaming people for being Christian!
- Stop shaming people for being atheist!
There were more, too, but I think you see the theme.
Here’s my radical idea for the day — how about we all just stop judging people? I’m not taking about Judge not, lest ye be judged, because at many points in our daily lives, we will all be judged by people we know and people we’ve never met. It’s more about why even bother to play that game?
I’m not saying we can’t think stuff sucks, or that we can’t have opinions… but just because we all have opinions on everything doesn’t mean we need to share them with the world, especially if it’s about putting someone else down.
Sure, someone might have said something about a group you belong to (fat people, skinny people, millenials, Gen X, white people, religious people), and it might have offended you. That’s all fine. You can feel as angry as you want when someone says shit about you.
But is the best, most productive response to immediately go say shit about that person or group who slighted you?
Or is the best response to not give a fuck?
Let people say whatever they want. You’re awesome, and slinging shit back is beneath you.
Also, I’m really turning into a cranky old man these days.
When I was a younger man, I didn’t burn.
I could be out in the sun all day without turning red. I’d just get darker and darker, to the point I looked Puerto Rican rather than Irish-German. It was pretty great, actually. The downside of never really burning, though, is that I never learned, as most people do, to use sunscreen.
That changed in the early 2000s, when I spent 7 hours or so outside at Madiera Beach and came down with the first wicked sunburn of my life. My face, back, arms, neck, and chest were all bright red. I looked like a cartoon character who had gotten really angry, and when I took a shower, I thought I was about to die. I was visiting my folks at the time, and my mom doped me up with fistfuls of Benadryl.
I suspect this doping wasn’t an attempt to treat the sunburn in any way, but to knock me out so I’d stop bitching about my sunburn.
A few days later, when I started peeling, I could have easily done a walk-on as a zombie on The Walking Dead, if only it existed back then. You’d think that would have taught me to use sunscreen, but no. I’m of stubborn Irish-German ancestry, no matter how tan I might look. Learning lessons like that takes repetition, because I apparently refuse to believe my skin is weaker than some ball of hydrogen and nuclear explosions 93 million miles away.
Besides, when I lived in North Carolina, I’d gone to the beach a couple of times and just tanned nicely. Surely the sun had just gotten lucky at Madiera Beach, and I was still tougher than some punk-ass G-type main-sequence star.
Cut to Sunday, when some excellent friends of mine invited me over to hang out, have lunch, and swim in their pool with them. Again, I was supremely confident. Three and a half hours in the water would surely only give me a healthy, this-guy-could-be-from-the-islands golden-brown glow.
And now shirts feel too heavy for my bright red shoulders. I only burned on my shoulders and upper back, and probably not even that badly… but I did burn. You win this round, sun.
The point? Sometimes, even though we’ve made the same mistakes in the past, we keep making them over and over until we learn. It’s rather like writing, in a way that I probably don’t need to point out. If you’ve been called out on something more than once in your writing…
Well, you might do well to look into purchasing a bit of sunscreen.
Unsurprisingly, when I get into something, I get way too into that thing. Thanks for the most recent time-suck, Netflix:
If you haven’t seen Attack on Titan, well… that’s fine. You don’t have to watch shit. But I’ve gotten into it, and I think there’s a very specific reason.
It’s not because it’s gotten popular over here (which is how I heard about it), or because it was massively popular in Japan. Either of these could have brought it to my attention, but if there wasn’t something to it, I would’ve tapped out after a couple of episodes.
The thing I like about it: it’s something I’ve never seen before. In case you’re unaware of the premise: in a couple of thousand years from now, humanity encounters the Titans, which are essentially giant, genderless Gary Buseys that eat humans (though not for food… apparently, just to kill us). The series focuses on humanity’s second war with the Titans, 100 years after the first encounter, when pretty much the entire human race lives behind a series of three huge walls.
It’s got a lot of things going for it, but the main thing I dig, as I said above, is the originality. As it’s getting popular, I totally expect Hollywood to try to make an Americanized, live-action version of it eventually. (Note: I would almost go watch that movie, if they cast Gary Busey as all of the Titans.) For now, though, it’s completely its own thing, and I dig that.
Sure, the show has its problems, but all stories do. It’s impressed me, though, despite being anime (I usually have a pretty hard time getting into anime for some reason). One thing it proves: good stories find an audience, regardless of format.
So what’s something you’ve discovered lately that’s impressed you?