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When I was doing a lot of commuting on the L in Chicago, I did a lot of sitting on trains and writing poetry on my phone.  I’ve had my iPhone for three years, but before that, I would use the notes app on my iPod touch.  These aren’t the best poems I’ve written, but hopefully they will make you smile.

City Soul  – October 20, 2010

A city is see through its inhabitants,
for without them, it would be an empty soul

And soul, what are you but a city of ceaseless
thought and many formless dreams?

I find my soul in the city. And the city
holds my soul in the palm of its many hands.

Creation – December 26, 2010

I am at the creation of all things cold
and my breath is fleeting
The world is coming together;
Glacial mountains muscled from the
earth, sewn and stitched with
tendons of ice

Those few beings present to meet
the snow
Will be forever cast in rays of silver;
Laid on the ground
In frozen repose

In this moment, I too am made:
To bear the lightness of things
Unknown
To ever hobble toward the vast
Closeness of new uncertainty
To peer, unwilling, into
Uncomfortable truths

There has been little more asked of
One so clean and new,
I am undone; I am cold

A Lesson – July 18, 2011

There is a slight bent to every line;
A slight curve to all deemed straight.
And you’ll never notice until you’ve
followed it all the way.

The world is not flat; it’s gay.

Ode to Walt’s Teddy Bear Revised February 25, 2014

You, at first, seemed perfect
Wholly intact and unfazed
But I have discovered your seems
And your creases
The easy way you fit together
A little stuffing protruding
Evidence of a life well lived

It does not matter if you are missing
an eye, or a button
Ever so well-loved and lost-causely,
You are the emblem of those ruined,
yet saved
You are a boon to those seeking a boon

You are a comfort to me.

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I’ve been writing off and on through this blog for a few years now (mostly off) and now I’m starting on a new project with my partner Kristl called Sustainably Queer.  That doesn’t mean that I will not be posting on Life By ImageWandering, because it is still my blog; the only one that belongs entirely to me.  So, if I have something to post that is unrelated to sustainable living and our experience with it, I will post it in here.  However, we are off to a strong start on Sustainably Queer and I really think that if you have enjoyed my writing over here, you will still enjoy it over there. 

We’ve posted four entries thus far, the first being about our experience with the Chicago Food Swap (it was awesome), then a catalog post of what we do to earn the “sustainable” title.  The two most recent posts have been about stock from scraps and pickles from scraps, respectively.

Please check it out and add it to your reader.  Follow us on twitter @sustainablyQ and keep an eye out for a forthcoming Facebook page.  All this is to say there is gonna be some serious action going on on sustainablyqueer.com and I’m excited for you to join the discussion.

Thanks friends!  And I hope you enjoy Sustainably Queer!

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Friends, sorry to leave you for so long.  I got tired of my paragraphs a day approach way before the end date, and really, knowing myself, it was a bit of a stretch to keep it going for that long.  I don’t have a short attention span; it wasn’t really going anywhere.  Thinking of the future though, I’m thinking of making myself write long-form; competently and often.  I would love to write a book.  I think I need to write a book.  Rilke says in his “Letters to a Young Poet”, that no one should  be a writer unless they cannot avoid it.  You should only write if you try not to and are still compelled to do so.  Don’t just do it because it sounds nice.  Don’t do because of the inherent romance of being an “author”.  There needs to be substance behind the ambition.

What is my proposed “substance”?  Well, I have recently come out to my parents and I have been reading through some of the recently published literature and memoirs about Christians and LGBT folks.  So far the ones I’ve read have been published by men.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of similarities between gay men and gay women, but it never hurts to have more female voices in the fray.  There are misconceptions about the differences between female sexuality and male sexuality.  There are many incorrect assumptions about how Christians “become” gays and then somehow aren’t real Christians anymore after that. I went to a decidedly Christian liberal arts college, and my experiences there helped me understand the difference between folks who are being merely homosocial and those who are gay.  I could shed light to a little corner of the universe where gays are pretty much assumed to not really exist (conservative Lutheranism).  A lot of truly loving people are in some deep denial about LGBT people and issues.  A lot of young people are still alienated from their faith because the current issues with gays are pretty much ignored by church officials.  Parents of young gay Christians don’t know how to react to their children when they come out.  They’ve been taught to react with revulsion and “we’ll get you help”, but love and acceptance aren’t really near the top of the list.  To be honest, these issues are not unique to Christians, but we get the bad rep for them.  Christians need to ease up on sex and sexuality. I’m not going to go into the stats on here, but it seems to me that the sexual repression taught in Christian churches and schools does a lot to hinder the sexual  expression and maturity of Christians when they hit adulthood.

Anyways, that’s a book I would like to write.  It would require some serious research, just to make sure I get the facts right.  I would have to probably talk about the Bible a little bit, but mostly I would want it to come across as memoir.  Memoirs are easy to defend; it’s your pure subjective experience. You can only tell the story the way you see it, and that in itself is valuable.  All this is to say, I might try out some of the meat of that manuscript on this here blog and see what you think.  Sound good?

I would also like to write a follow up memoir about my life from the perspective of someone who didn’t like certain parts of her body for a while.  Honestly, I’ve got nothing in terms of heart wrenching stories on the topic of body acceptance (or nonacceptance given the current society), but I’m discovering a pretty strong passion on the subject.  Maybe I will name it something edgy to get people’s attention.  Anyways, this is a second book idea.  I also think something about food would be cool, like a personal trip through my food history and examining the way I think about food.  I don’t have a lot of natural talents, but I have an uncanny food memory.  I can remember cities by the food I ate there.  It’s helpful when traveling, well, hungry and traveling.

Basically, I want to write books about everything that effects me intimately.  I hope y’all can get down with that.  Right now, I’m savoring a tart cabernet savignon which has some bright raspberry notes in it.  It’s a beautiful end to a relaxing weekend.  Today, Kristl and I went to a learn to curl class at the Chicago Curling Club in Northbrook, IL.  It was fascinating, but not really because of the game itself.  It’s a tiny subculture that has it’s own lexicon, social events, and community.  We might be going to a comedy show or hanging out at a new bar, and these people are curling and drinking beer in this clubhouse on the outskirts of Chicago.  Maybe that would be a good book to write, a collection of essays on subcultures in Midwestern culture.  Community choir, club sports, activism groups, knitters; they all have their own subculture.  It’s fantastic to watch. I love participating in a handful of subcultures and keeping things diverse for myself, but there are clearly people who become obsessed with their subculture.  It becomes their whole life. Sure they have jobs, but they live for curling, frisbee golf, hydroponic farming, etc.

I’ve got a lot of ideas, obviously, I need to get writing.  You all have access to my blog, what would you like to see me write more on? I’m certainly open to suggestions.  I’ll look forward to hearing from you, in the comments or at schipmoney@gmail.com.

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Having persevered through an English degree at a small Christian, liberal arts college, I believe myself to be a competent writer.  I took only one class designed as a writing course, but most of my courses required me to write quickly, intelligently and concisely.  I went directly into graduate school after I graduated, and my master’s program in higher education teased even more writing out of me. Then I entered the workforce and suddenly the preponderance of my writing became very condensed and technical (see: cover letters) or long-winded and informal (see: blogging). The type of writing I was accustomed to producing dropped off very steeply.  Part of the reason I started this blog, specifically, was to make myself write more and write better.  However, that’s entirely a matter of self-policing and my audience.  Some of my readers love more academic/serious writing.  Some of my readers don’t mind a more casual, daily bread sort of approach. Acknowledging that academic streak in myself is why I clicked on this link about “Zombie Nouns” (OooooOOooooOOOh!) this morning (from a fellow former English major’s Facebook page). I think I manage to avoid this zombie noun trap (basically the idea is that people turn other types of speech into nouns to beef-up the fanciness of their writing.) Zombie nouns are created by adding add a suffix like itytion or ism (e.g. zombiality, zombination, zombiism). Fancy, right? While I think the “Zombie Nouns” title is pretty new, the fact of nominalization (which is a nominalization itself, bitches!), has been around since the language was created.  All this is to say, try to avoid it because zombie nouns make your writing really hard to slog through. If you are also into writing, this test site will tell you how fit your writing is. Drop in a writing sample and it will give you a fitness test. (I happen to use the “be” verbs far too often.)  Writer’s Diet wants me to use more complex verbs.  Blah, blah, I can use whatever words I want, thank you very much! When I drop this post in the test I get a “Fit & Trim” rating over all, but those gosh darn “be” verbs make my verb score a “needs toning”. We all have something to work on, I guess.

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I don’t know who designed the office space that we have, but if this school wasn’t so friendly, I would start to think it was designed out of spite. We have grey walls, grayish carpet, grey cubicals, and bright white fluorescent lights. There are two windows for about a 2000 sq ft space. One in the VP’s office, one in the front by the administrator’s desk.  There are those legit motivational posters from the 90’s, not the currently popular demotivational posters. It’s austere and gloomy.  We could use a facelift in there. I would be so much more creative if we had color and less straight lines. Anyways, whenever someone brings in a plant from an event or some other venture where plants are distributed, I end up adopting them.  Given the conditions, plants don’t really last too long, but I think I may be able to keep my current plant alive for a while.  Last year at graduation, they had azaleas, but they left them in the truck too long, so when we got them, they were basically done for.  However, I managed to get my azalea to hold on to most of it’s leaves until August when I took vacation.  It was down to a third after that, but I made it to October before trashing it.  This year, I made sure we grabbed the extra plants off the truck. I got the flowers to last about 4 weeks and now the plant is putting out NEW leaves. It’s a miracle! Florescent lights are no where near as bright as sunlight (which seems crazy, but I’m sure you can tell is true by the amount of time you can stare at a florescent light VS. the sun), but little plant is growing like gangbusters.  I’m a little surprised Graduation Plant 2.0 is doing so well.  It’s so green and happy.  I hope to make it last to at least Thanksgiving, who knows, maybe CHRISTMAS!

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I know it’s been a long time.  Listen, I got really busy.  Give me a break.  I am in a new relationship, (which is time consuming), not to mention all the couple dates that come with it.  This is what couples are really doing all the time.  Dating with other couples.  Damn, everybody wants a piece of this couple dating extravaganza. So, I’m booked through March, basically.  It’s sort of wild.  Not that I’m complaining, but it does take away the extra time I have for sitting in my room composing blog posts to titillate and challenge you.

However, I have been dreaming up excellent things to post about and I hope to follow through on some of those seeds in short order. My topic for today is another change I’ve taken on in my life.  I’ve started seeing an acupuncturist.  My girlfriend is an acupuncturist, which is what got me interested in the practice of acupuncture. Hearing her stories about what she’s been able to accomplish with her patients made me consider the random selection of weird aches and pains I have and how those might be treatable with needles and so forth.

Acupuncture can be used in a very straight forward clinical way.  The patient professes their symptoms, the acupuncturist determines the issue (deficient Blood, stagnant Qi) and needles the patient to help bring the essences back  into balance.  This works really well for people seeking alternative answers to conditions which have already been diagnosed by a medical doctor.

Other acupuncturists approach their practice in a holistic manner.  They want to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms.  They see emotional health as affecting physical health and have strategies to help their patients overcome both. My acupuncturist goes about my treatments in a more holistic way. We talk through basically everything that’s been going on in my life, and then she needles me to help support my whole health in dealing with the stresses in my life.

So, let me run through a few things I’ve learned through acupuncture thus far.  It’s proving to be an interesting journey which might become a life long addition to my self care.

1.) Random pains are not a bad thing. Haven’t you sometimes had inexplicable pains in random parts of your body? Maybe a part of your ear will be tender for no reason, or your wrist or thumb? Maybe you will have a tingle or a zap in a random point on you body, or a certain part of your back will be achy or sore for no reason.  Those are points on channels on the surface of your body.  The correspond to different organs in your body.  I always thought before that it meant I had cancer or an infection (I’m a little bit of a hypochondriac) but now I know that it’s just my body talking to me and managing it’s stress.

2.) The body is intelligent. My body knows what is going on.  It responds to the changes in the season. It responds to stress. It can protect me from my ego. It recognizes stressful situations before they happen.  It prepares me for things. My body is on it.  What I know in my mind is reflected and amplified in my body. If I pay attention to my body, I can avoid illnesses and stress before it hits a point where my body can’t handle it. If I was super in tune with my body, and focused on my breathing, probably I could avoid most illnesses.

3.) The body has the best memory. When something tragic or terrible happens to you, (or good and wonderful) happens to you, your body remembers how you were when that happened. So, let’s say that you received some terrible news while you were ironing. It’s possible that if you don’t grieve properly, you may experience pain, anxiety or discomfort every time you iron in the future.  Body memories that are ignored can go deeper and effect the general health of the body.  If a certain activity or position or place makes you feel ill, anxious or uncomfortable, it might be worth it to to do some reflection on whether something stressful happened to you there that your body is remembering.

4.) When you hold onto emotional pain, it comes out in other ways. Things you do or don’t do can effect the health of your body.  I think the best example I can think of for this comes from my own life.  When I don’t say something important, but rather keep it inside to avoid conflict or “protect” myself, I tend to get a sore throat.  If I recognize this and go ahead and voice my opinion or concern, I find the pain moves out of my throat. If I hang on to what I want to say, I often end up getting a cold.  That’s it people, the cure to the common cold is NOT biting your tongue. Seriously though, very many physical issues are directly correlated to what’s going on with you emotionallyAcupuncture shines a light on these connections.

5.) Different emotional types tend towards different illnesses. Chinese medicine groups people into five different types correlated to the different elements (wood, fire, water, air, metal). Depending on which group you tend towards (most people are a mixture of a 2 or 3 elements), you will find that your illnesses follow a certain pattern.  This can help you and the acupuncturist discover the best way to treat you.  Acupuncturists do the needling, obviously, but they also do cupping, herbal medicine, and some do body work/massage. Different people respond to different parts of treatment in better ways.  Acupuncturists have a  lot of tools to work with.  I respond pretty well to needles and cupping because I have a lot of stagnation (I need to bottle up my pain and not deal with it on my own).

That’s some of the stuff I’ve learned thus far.  I’m letting go of some stuff and it feels good and bad alternately. We’ll see how it goes. Basically, I’m convinced ANYONE could do better with acupuncture.

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Probably, this is going to come off as a slapdash (surprised that’s a word, really) essay on Carl Jung’s slim volume “The Undiscovered Self”. I’m okay with that.  I picked it up on Memorial Day (I remember this because it was a Monday and I was not working.)  I stopped by a local independent bookstore, looking for something to read because I knew I’d be out of a New Yorker for a couple weeks until the USPS managed to get their forwarding service in order. An article about The Shadow (one of Jung’s archetypes) and conversations with my friend Jess about Jung back in the winter caused me to gravitate towards his work.

I picked up “The Undiscovered Self”, not only because it was short, but also because the brunt of the article I had read earlier was about screen writers being able to unlock depths of creativity by undergoing therapy to discover  their shadows.  I find this concept of The Shadow very interesting.  Jung expanded on Freud’s understanding of the unconscious by endowing it with the shapes of several archetypes.  Jung’s idea was that the conscious self was the tip of the iceberg of the psyche, and that the unconscious was, if not larger and more complex than our conscious, was at least an equal counterpart.  In the unconscious, Jung said the archetypes, Shadow, Mother, Father, etc, developed in each person according to their upbringing, their genes, and then as a reflection of them being human.  So, through this he sort of proposed a collective psychological ancestry for humanity as there is a collective biological ancestry.  These archetypes, left widely unsought and undiscovered in each individual, still influence our thoughts and our actions.  Our reactions to certain things may be different than what we would expect because we are being unconsciously influenced by our archetypes.

The vast majority of people choose to ignore their unconscious.  I mean, really, I think this was my attitude prior to reading all this.  I thought it was kind of silly to believe in a huge part of my psyche that I really had no agency over but that could affect my thoughts, feelings, and actions.  At first, it seems kind of ridiculous that something so significant would exist and act but only be proven through clever extrapolation. And then, it starts to seem brilliant.  The psyche protects itself from itself.  I don’t think our egos would be able to handle being exposed to our unconscious all at once.  It would probably cause insanity across the board. But to seek self knowledge, as Jung encourages, is to slowly and carefully delve into the unconscious to understand what can’t be seen.  To have an answer for why we do the things we do.

So “The Undiscovered Self” is written from a cold war perspective (I’ve been trying to imagine what Jung would have to say about the current state of the world, and it occurred to me that probably there are dissertations written on that topic, somewhere). Jung is basically telling us why communism is a terrible idea.  He says that the collective belief that all people are good and that the State is good leaves open the door for great evil to happen.  If everything is good, then there is no reason to question any decisions that are being made.  The collective approach strips away the human compulsion to examine one’s self.  I’m not sure Jung would call it a compulsion, and certainly, if you are educated your entire life to believe that whatever supports the State is good, then there is no drive for self knowledge.  If the State serves the people, the people serve the State, what could go wrong?

Jung says the same mistake is made in some religions which are not religions but rather creeds.  If you are merely following a set of rules/beliefs, then you don’t need to think about yourself.  And when large groups of people move forward with actions based purely on a set of rules, then the necessary introspection to maintain the morality of those rules and how they are enforced falls away. Forget about ethics if you are just going to do what you are told.  Developing a moral center is very much a personal process.  You have to understand your own desire to do the easy, vindictive, hurtful thing to come to the decision to do the hard, just, kind thing.  This is not to say that The Shadow is cesspool of evil thoughts waiting to take shape.  The Shadow, from what I’ve read thus far, represents the things we hate about ourselves; the part of ourselves we are ashamed to even admit to ourselves.  I guess, it’s not even so much how you feel about yourself as it is part of yourself.  If you really are selfish or arrogant or self-loathing, The Shadow encompasses this part of you.  The conscious part of your psyche realizes these are unsavory traits, and so it is not quick to acknowledge them on its end.  Who wants to identify as deeply selfish?  Not a lot of people, because it’s a lot more favorable to be seen, by yourself and others, as deeply generous.

Anyways, so Jung says that substituting the ideals of the State for individual ideals and introspection wears down on the psyche and sort of destroys the best parts of humanity.  He says the way to fix/avoid this is to engage in practices which are usually connected with religion, e.g. meditation, introspection, confession, acknowledging a higher power outside of the self capable of providing a moral basis.  He uses Christianity as an example because of the Christ figure.  Christ was both man and God, but as man he was completely conscious of himself and his relation to the higher power.  Jung posits that this example of individual importance and knowledge is the main reason why Christianity has been such a powerful force in the world.  What is the concept of original sin if not a nod to the shadow? It makes sense to me.

I was advised by a wise person earlier in my life that true maturity is in finding balance. I think psychologically, this also makes sense.  Finding a balance between really loving and appreciating yourself (being content with yourself) and also being critical of your own thoughts an actions to discover what is going on behind the scenes is really an important, albeit ongoing, step in personal development.  Finding that balance must be one of the largest tasks of a well-lived human experience.  Self-worth and self-knowledge unmitigated by outside forces strikes me as a goal every human should strive for.  How to get there is another thing entirely.  Jung would suggest religion, but there are other ways.  I have met many well-balanced and wise individuals who have nothing to do with religion.  Maybe they all have great therapists.  Truly though, the work religion does that Jung notes is so important can be accomplished without that framework, although I would want him tell me if the religious community is vital to the religions experience.

I guess that’s about it for my essay, although I did want to include the following quote from the book regarding modern art:

An excellent example of this is modern art: though seeming to deal with aesthetic problems, it is really performing a work of psychological education on the public by breaking down and destroying their previous aesthetic views of what is beautiful in form and meaningful in content.  The pleasingness of the artistic product is replaced by chill abstractions of the most subjective nature which brusquely slam the door on the naive and romantic delight in the sense and their obligatory love for the object.

Now this is regarding literally Modern Art, although in 1958 culture was already starting to turn toward post-modernism.  The divorce from established modes of artistic expression, the wild veer towards subjectivism, the detachment from traditional understanding of beauty seems to indicate that artists in this period were delving into their individual Shadows and revealing the Shadow of a generation.  Jung goes on to say that Modern Art was a move towards “giving expression to  psychic wholeness” for all humanity.  Beauty and ugliness together in art are most fascinating to the human eye and perhaps most genuine to human mind.  So maybe, if religion cannot save us, art historians can.

Probably, all of this explication is pretty simplified, but I suppose what’s the point of reading difficult texts if you don’t try to glean your own understanding of it.  It has certainly had me thinking.  Mostly about church and Christianity and my own Shadow, whatever shape it may take.  When I was younger and less educated, I used to say that I kept going to church because I felt it made me a better person.  I think probably that was a pretty good way of thinking about it.  Whether or not you believe the content of the creed, being asked to consider yourself and the way you treat others on a weekly basis remains a commendable practice.  I used to know a monastic self-reflection exercise, in which you think back on your day, think of three instances in which you were your best self, and three instances in which you were your worst self.  Then you are encouraged to reflect on your intentions and thoughts when you did those six things and how they effected those around you.  Then you reflect on how you a enhance the former and diminish the latter in the coming day.  It creates a cycle of reflection.  It’s hard work.  But so centering.  I should start this again, and yet my gut is unwilling to put the work in, or perhaps is afraid of what I’ll find.

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