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connections

Posted by james on Oct. 23, 2002

The other day I was driving towards campus, like I always do nowadays. Right after I got of the bridge, there was a car broken down and on the side of the highway. Now, everytime I see something like this I always want to stop, but I usually hesitate and then it's too late; just keep driving on. This time I made up my mind quickly, and decided to stop and see what I could do.

Which ended up being absolutely nothing. This man was driving his halfway-wrecked car to the garage to get fixed, and it refused to shift out of first gear. Of course I did what I could... I looked at his engine, muttered an interesting "hmm" as if to say "hmm... how fascinating." Then I watched him tie the hood close and get ready to drive off. I couldn't do anything.

I asked him if he would be ok, he said he would... and I got ready to drive off. As I drove off I mulled over how I hadn't been able to help him at all, and I watched him out of my rear view mirror. I was driving slowly at first, but I realized he was keeping pace with me. Then I started speeding up just a bit, and he was able to keep up. A miracle! He started to pass me in the fast lane, and as he drove by he gave me a big grin and a victory sign. How great is that?

I started to thinking... this is what I crave; some kind of connection with other people. Even if it's simply my condolences over a shot motor, and a helpful blank stare as I watch him do what he can (nothing). Something as small as a thumbs up as he drives by, a smile that says "Hey! Look what happened! Isn't this wonderful for me?" I realize now that I have much more time alone that I think often of random connections with other people. I think all the time as I pass by random strangers how we could possibly meet, strike up conversation. I could drop a comment to the grocery store checkout lane lady about the price of the apples I buy every morning, or talk to the meat department worker about the differences between mild and sharp cheddar (she likes mild, I gathered). I could help a random stranger, or hold a door, or smile at some small child who is just beginning those things I completed long ago.

I don't yet know what hunger these thoughts reveal. Something built into my insides call out, this is something good. This is something neccessary. But I can't quite pin it down yet, can't name it. And boy, do I love tater-tots.

sleep

Posted by james on Aug. 29, 2002

<span style="color:gray;">This is how it usually feels late at night... slow, dreary, <a href="../music/playlist-pedro-finish-line.m3u">pedro</a>.</span>

Occasionally, when I'm feeling a little crazy, I like to stay up really late.

I've got this funny kind of smile on my face because I know that's not true. At least not the first part. I stay up late all the time, occupying myself with anything. Sometimes I'd rather watch the worst reruns on TV of all the stuff that convinces me that America is a lost cause (for example, any sit-com on TV ever) or clean my room, rather than go to bed. I get to thinking why I do this all the time...

The first thing that comes to mind is that I have a certain creative cycle. I can feel it, and I know when it's coming on. Certain nights I'll be walking around the house, and then about midnight it'll hit; I need to do something creative. And I take it. I've learned to run with things like that, because if I sit down later when I have enough free time to do anything I want, the inspiration is gone. So I'll stay up until 6 in the morning, when the little birds can feel the sun coming around the horizon and let everyone know about it, while I construct random little trinkets out of cardboard and duct tape, and occasionally some wire coat hangers (which are really fun). Creativity... what a funny thing.

That's the light side of things. But recently I've found another reason why I stay up late. Lately I've been turning my life around in small ways... I've started eating right (that's a lie, but it's close enough to true). I've started seeing the sun at least once a day. I'm trying to help out around the house, even the things I really don't like doing. I've been trying to fight my laziness. And I've been trying to get to bed earlier.

But I've also lain in bed, staring at nothing for hours. I realize that one reason why I stay up is because I can never get to bed. I can remember when I was little I would lay down in bed with my eyes open, starying at the wall in darkness and listening to the sounds of my family falling asleep. I could tell by their regular breathing that they had fallen asleep minutes after they went to bed. I, however, would lay there for much longer, wondering why I never could simply sleep. Later, when I was in high school, I would look out my window at the city lights below me and pretend that they were stars above a sea, and start imagining what it would be like to fly, or be the popular kid at school, or admit my feelings for some girl I had a crush on.

And now, I lay awake thinking. My mind is always thinking about things whenever it has enough free time to do so. I laid in bed for 3 hours one night not even particularly worried about any specific event, but still I spent the entire 3 hours with my mind racing. It's as if my mind is a run away train, and any time it doesn't have some occupying task chaining it down, it takes off on a course all it's own. I can't shut it off, I can't calm it down. And when that happens, I can't sleep. There are things that never quite settle down in my mind, and when my mind is free it always goes back to that old closet, digs up the things most important that I've been keeping there happily stowed away, and starts trying to show each one to me. It goes through all the familiar arguments, runs over bulleted lists of the pros and cons that I've already checked over and signed. And it keeps jumping from one worry to another; there's so many to choose from.

My friend and I had a joke that the TV was where your mind turned completely off, and your brain chooses not to think at all. It's explains why I used to sit on the couch and watch TV, anything at all until my eyes stung and the hunger pains reminded me that the light coming into the room was tomorrow's light and I'd stayed up too long. As long as I'm doing something mindless, I don't have to think and don't have to worry. Maybe that's normal for being in a transitional stage, as I am. But I know there are so many things that race through my mind, and sometimes it's all I can do to shake my head, put those worries back in the closet, and push my mind into another mindless task to gain a moment of peace.

Blue

Posted by james on July 25, 2002

I love the song "Yellow" by Coldplay. It always makes me feel a certain way, think of certain things...

One day, back in high school, I was standing in the TV room of my family's house in front of a very frustrated father. It was mid-term time, and again I'd gotten myself into a mess. I wasn't doing so well in classes and it was because of simple things. I just hadn't done my work, even though it was so easy to do. And my father just couldn't understand why I wouldn't do the simplest things to help myself out. I remember him asking me, "Don't you care?"

I'd almost answered, "Of Course," when instead I paused and thought about it. And I realized something; that I really didn't care. I didn't care at all about school or doing well, and that was the thing that crippled me. If I was going to improve at all, I knew I had to figure out a way to motivate myself. Since then, motivation has been such a big deal in my life. I know that without knowing why I'm doing something, I find it very hard to do it well.

So now I'm in an interesting position in life; college is gone, jobs loom ahead, and I don't know where I fit. I miss the Dominican Republic so much because I knew why I woke up every day. Now, I don't. I can set myself goals; today I will get a new car battery. Tomorrow, I will find my guitar and play my songs. But where am I going? People around me are heading off to the goals and plans they've set, jobs and new states, weddings and missions. I have opportunities, but no direction, and it is a confusing place to be. I know where I would like to go, yet there are good reasons for staying here, so I figure there must be some other good reason I'm still here; some overall purpose that makes being here worthwhile. But somehow, it feels like I still don't know what that is.

So for now, I'll take these simple, single steps. I don't accomplish things very quickly (as anyone will tell you), but if I take one or two steps a day eventually I'll get somewhere. For now, I'll walk with my head down and a blue stone in my hand, and my eyes on the one or two steps in front of me that I can see. And I'll try not to fret too much about the others that I can't.


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