Out of Sorts

Last week, I had mentioned I was struggling a little. I woke up feeling out of sorts and couldn’t point to any reason. I was coming to terms with that uncomfortable feeling and feeling like I was turning it around when I found out Harris died. That sent me into a sort of tailspin. I saw so much of myself in his personality that it terrified me when he didn’t make it. It’s not like he was my exact clone. He was way more clever, and funnier, and I disagreed with plenty of the things he said. But there was still a recognition of myself in him. For people who don’t listen to conversational/comedy podcasts it’s hard to explain the relationship you have to the hosts and guests. You eventually learn almost more about them than you know about your friends. I actually remember Paul F. Tompkins saying he finds out things about friends he’s had for years when he listens to them on a podcast. Mostly because they usually drift into very serious topics that aren’t always appropriate in casual conversation. I don’t want to talk about my depression when hanging out with people, but on a podcast, heavy topics like that pop up from time to time. And they get to explore every aspect of them without judgment. Even on comedy based podcasts like Comedy Bang Bang. They tell stories, they joke, they share ideas, they philosophize. Sometimes it’s as stupid and silly as college freshmen waxing poetic after getting high, but other times it’s illuminating. And when you spend hours and hours listening to someone talk about heavy, important things, you feel like you know them. And when you connect with so many thoughts you feel a kinship. Kindred spirit perhaps. I felt the same way about Stephen Fry. His thoughts about depression were especially meaningful to me. I agreed with how he approached it. Then he tried to kill himself. I had to rethink everything.

Death sucks for a million reasons but one reason that’s not often talked about is when it destroys your philosophies. It’s not only taking a person, it’s taking ideas. I’m sad for all the normal reasons people are sad one someone dies. I’m sad that other person won’t get to experience anything else, ever again. I’m sad for all that we lost. The mind that we lost. The love. The humor. All the potential that comes with life. I’m sad that all that is gone. But I’m also facing myself. I’ve lost ideas that took years to build.

When I watch someone I closely identify with lose his/her battle with life, it really makes me nervous. Not only does the world have one less person who could understand me, it has taken part of my mind.

I’m still very sad.

Out of Sorts

Willful Blindness


I’ve just heard about this book called Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan.

It appears to be a book about things I think about quite often. Namely, why we are so bad at seeing what’s coming our way. From amazon, quoting Publishers Weekly, “We frequently ignore painful or frightening truths, subconsciously believing that denial can protect us, she argues, but our delusions make us ever more vulnerable, and whatever suffering we choose to ignore continues unabated.”

I think this is such a huge problem with a lot of people, including myself. We seem to be unable to accurately predict anything about our futures because we can’t look at the possibilities honestly. I’m reminded of friends I have who decided to start having children. They had been married a few years, and there was no reason not to. Besides the fact that they weren’t well off financially, or in a position to be comfortable financially in the near future. They wrongly thought things would work out but ended up having to move in with family and are now in an awkward and annoying situation. Not that any of that information would have changed their decision to have a child. The point is, that outcome was clear to most people not directly involved.

In brings back this idea that I harp on that when we try to stay positive we ignore reality and risk making terrible situations avoidably worse. Had we just decided to weigh the bad with the good, we could prepare for the future outcomes. I think too often acknowledging these negative possibilities scares people away from them. But it shouldn’t be that way. Just because you know of the risks, doesn’t mean you should avoid them all the time. You look at all possible scenarios to the best of your ability so you can prepare. When you get in your car, you most likely know the risk associated with it. Car accidents kill around 30,000 people a year, but you still get in your car. If anything, knowing the dangers can help you be more vigilant on the road. It doesn’t need to scare you into inaction.

Anyway, I’m just rambling. This book looks useful to me, so I’ll probably pick it up soon.

If you made it this far, feel free to through some book recommendations my way. I’m always looking for more to add to the list.







Side note: I studied neuroscience and read a decent number of articles and popular science books by neuroscientists, and I rarely come across the word subconscious. I read about conscious and unconscious (even nonconscious) but this concept of subconscious is very confusing to me since I don’t deal with it often. I assume it’s used to mean, basically, the same thing as unconscious. Is it a non-specialist or lay person word? Or am I the lay person? Maybe someone can educate me.


Willful Blindness

Authors on How to be Happy


Here’s a link to 40 quotes from famous authors on the topic of happiness. I found a lot of these quotes to be pretty interesting so I thought I’d go through and comment on a few. Also, the title of the list is pretty misleading, as many of the quotes are not any sort of instructions. Still fun, I think.

Mark Twain – “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”

What a start. I guess this could be considered a tip if you want to go insane in order to be happy. It’s very telling though. This is how a lot of genius artists feel about happiness, which says something about artists or about happiness. Or both.

Hunter S. Thompson – “I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”

Interesting. Make your own happiness. I’m on board. I see the temptation to find happiness in others. I love my friends and I love (some of) my family, but I also realize they can’t make my life worth living. Only I can do that. The other trouble with relying on the external to make you happy is what you do when you’re all alone or when those people fail you. Because other people will always fail you. They have their own issues and lives to figure out and can’t be perpetually concerned with yours. Placing your happiness in their hands is a sure fire way to end up unhappy.

Haruki Murakami – “But who can say what’s best? That’s why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”

From Norwegian Wood. Seems like a cheat to get it from a book the author wrote. Who can say if he was writing what he/she actually believed or was writing what fit a specific character. Either way, the message is along the lines of Hunter’s, and I think it makes some sense, whether Murakami believes it or not. (By the way, I love this book and recommend it to everyone in the world.)

Ernest Hemingway – “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

Along the same lines as Mark Twain. I wonder why this idea is perpetuated, not by the media, but by artists themselves. I’m sure Twain and Hemingway are speaking from their incredible amount of experience and this is what they’ve come up with. I’m sure there are plenty of counterexamples, but the cliche of the “happy writer” is not quite as common.

Kurt Vonnegut – “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

I enjoy this quote a lot because it highlights the importance of noticing the small moments of happiness that don’t generally weigh in on our assessments of life in general. He suggests that you should pay attention to a quiet afternoon with a cup of coffee or a conversation with a friend. I try to keep that in mind because it’s so easy to let those moments pass.

Slyvia Plath – “I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between.”

Sad considering how her life turned out. I question her use of the word “choice” in that quote. Maybe she just meant they were two of the options out there, not that she had much say in the matter.

Charles Dickens – “Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight in it when it comes.”

This is also from a book, so I’m not sure it reflects how Dickens actually felt. I don’t know much about him either, so I can’t make a guess either way. I like it though. Too many people try to force it.

Jack Kerouac – “Happiness consists in realising it is all a great strange dream.”

Aldous Huxley – “Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability.”

Again from a book. Interesting though.

Virginia Woolf – “Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.”

That’s good, isn’t it?

Maya Angelou – “If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.”

That’s not so good, is it?

George Orwell – “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”

From 1984. There’s a lot in there. Whatever Orwell actually thought, that’s a loaded statement. Possibly how citizens are treated. Possibly our freedom is our greatest source of unhappiness. Who is in a position to make the decision that happiness is better, though?

Vladimir Nabokov – “And yet I am happy. Yes, happy. I swear. I swear that I am happy… What does it matter that I am a bit cheap, a bit foul, and that no one appreciates all the remarkable things about me – my fantasy, my erudition, my literary gift… I am happy that I can gaze at myself, for any man is absorbing – yes, really absorbing! … I am happy – yes, happy!”

Take from The Eye. This made me laugh. Whatever that’s worth.


I guess those are my favorites (minus Maya Angelou). I liked the quote from Nick Hornby and Thomas Hardy, but I felt I listed enough. If you’re interested in the others, from the likes of Cormac McCarthy and Edgar Allan Poe, click on the link at the top of this post. I hate how the website is formatted, I wish all the quotes were on a single page and didn’t require clicking back and forth, but it’s a fascinating bunch of quotes.

Authors on How to be Happy

Stay At Home Parents

Should Stay-at-Homes be paid somehow?

I’m reading a book about women. So far it’s primarily about how the different sexes are treated and the expectations placed on them right from the off. There’s some interesting stuff about how little boys and girls are treated by their parents, usually the parents don’t even realizing it’s happening. But one huge obvious difference is in the division of labor when one person stays home. This book mainly talks about how it’s more likely that women take up the childcare and household jobs (even when they’re professionals themselves). But I don’t want to get into all the complications that come into the picture when talking about men and women (like how they are raised and expectations, which are messy), so I’ll stick with staying at home vs working and how each are viewed.

A question that popped into my head while I was reading was how two people can be on equal grounds when one works and one stays at home to raise children. I think people generally say they value both jobs. I’m sure you’d say staying at home to raise children is a valid and worthwhile undertaking (maybe the most noble thing you can do). But there are clear inequalities as well, that are maybe unavoidable. Who decides which car to buy? Which house? Which appliances? Who makes most of the financial decisions? And who holds the power if a relationship starts to falter? Whatever the divorce laws are where you live, that’s not the most appealing route to take. Especially when the troubles are small. Immediate earning ability holds sway, I’d say, over the prospect of a long, drawn out divorce. Divorce damages both people, and involves the children. So it would seem that the working person has a much larger say and more power.

So just hypothetically, if you were in a relationship in which you worked and other person stayed home to take care of your child, would you try to work out a way for the person at home to feel like he/she is equal in earning? There’s a dollar amount attached to a professionals. You can count exactly what a full time job contributes to the family. Meanwhile, raising a child is much more abstract. So you spent 9 hours feeding, changing, cleaning, washing, cooking, etc? What does that mean, really? I spent the day at work and earned such and such amount of money to buy those things! It’s hard to make concrete sense out of diaper changes and bottle feedings. Is spending an hour trying to improve your child’s hand-eye coordination equal to an hour on the job? Is that a fair question? It’s equating work, that may or may not be a passion, to taking care of your child, which most people would claim they enjoy. Saying you deserve money (or something) for doing it implies that it’s a chore. You raise your children because you love her or him and want to help do what’s best. You don’t do it for money. Wanting some compensation can make someone look heartless.

It’s not hard to see how unfair that is though. No matter how much lip service you pay to raising the children, one person is still “bring home the bread” (I don’t eat bacon).

So you want to make it more equal and quantify the work that goes into raising a child and keeping a house in order. But then the trouble is, is the other person just giving you an allowance? That’s not ideal. You aren’t a child. Having a joint back account makes people feel more unified. “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” But not really. If I make 100% of the money, then no matter the name on the back account, I’m making the money. I bought the groceries. I bought the house. Etc. And, primarily in arguments, those issues will come up. (“And who goes to work every day to pay for this house!?”) Maybe it would help if it was set up in a way that the paychecks were immediately and automatically split and deposited in separate accounts. The same thing might be true, that I’m making the money, but it might give a feeling of independence. That the stay-at-home is being paid for doing a job. Maybe you can write up a legitimate contract (like Kurt Vonnegut wrote for all the jobs he would do while his wife was pregnant). There is no real way to be paid as a stay-at-home unless it somehow comes from the employed person (because the government isn’t going to pay you). I don’t know if splitting the paycheck and depositing into separate accounts would work, but I do feel there should be some tangible way to acknowledge the effort and importance of staying at home to raise kids.



The book also mentions how having parents who stay-at-home vs work, gives a constant example to the children that maybe there are different roles for different sexes. And since, statistically, women are more likely to be stay at homes, then kids learn women stay at home and men work. And a little girl or boy has more limited options than he or she otherwise would. Food for thought.


Note: This was not thought out. I was reading, thought about this and basically stream of conscious’d it. I tried to clean it up a little but please excuse the terrible flow and disconnected logic/logical leaps.

Stay At Home Parents

Fan Friday 16

it was the last post. Harris Wittels. Funny as hell. It sucks when people you like are as troubled as they are. I wish it was different. Every time he talked it made me smile. I am so sad about all the laughs I won’t have now. It also sucks that it’s hard to imagine him any other way. So many ideas and experiences go into making us who we are. We are troubled (or not) and that is part of how we think. It all goes into making us funny. Or thoughtful. Or nice. Or whatever. The same thing that makes us cry enables us to make us, and others, laugh. I didn’t know Harris. So this is all me projecting myself onto his life. But sometimes we are only able to be as funny and understanding as we are because we also feel the bad way too much.


“‘we’re all trying to avoid thinking about death, that’s why we get excited about these stupid, human interactions.’ – Harris last night”
From Steve Agee.

“You should know that Harris was brilliant beyond compare. That his imagination was without limit. That he loved comedy more than anything.

That his heart was big and he FELT hard. That he was someone who would reach out to tell you he was thinking of you for no particular reason”
From Sarah Silverman



Fan Friday 16

If you like music or comedy at all, one of your favorites has probably died from an overdose. When I was a kid, finding out Keith Moon, John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix, Nick Traina, Janis Joplin, Chris Farley, Mitch Hedberg, John Belushi, and more recently Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman, all died from drug or alcohol related issues, made me hate the idea of ever trying.

Harris Wittels died yesterday. You might not know his name but he’s probably made you laugh. He wrote for Parks and Recreation, The Sarah Silverman Program, and Eastbound and Down. He is also the creator of Humblebrag. He was plain funny as hell.


He was just 30 years old. He frequently talked about his problem with drugs. On the last podcast I heard him on, he was sober. It gave me such a false sense of security. I felt so sure he had a handle on himself. I realized he was struggling, but I felt if anyone could handle it, he could. I’m reminded, again, the precarious nature of living and how little control we really have.

I never like talking about something right after it happened. Everything is a jumble of emotions and nothing makes any sense. My head hurts. I can barely read. I’m hitting the wrong keys more than the right ones. My thoughts seem to be in a foreign language.

This sucks. There’s no other way to say it. It sucks in every way something can suck. It hurts. It makes me feel powerless. It takes away someone that always made me laugh. I never got more excited for comedy than I did when I saw his name pop up. No matter what, he was funny. He could be heartbreaking and honest, and still hilarious. He could tell the worst joke, and land it. He made me happy. It feels terrible. Yeah, he probably overdosed, and cynical people can say it was his own fault. Fine. It was his fault. To the extent that everything in our lives is our fault. It’s the same sort of victim blaming that everyone turns away from in any other type of incident. Everyone knows what addition means. Harris was so open and honest about what he was going through. You could tell how much he wanted to change.

He didn’t use drugs to have fun and be irresponsible. He did it cause he was hurting and addicted, like so many others. Five days before he died, he was still trying.harris wittels

So many funny people loved him. That’s a pretty good indicator of just how good of a person he was and how damn funny he was.

And he was a fellow drummer.


I woke up today feeling quite low. I couldn’t tell you why. Just one of those downswings. Guess the clouds moved in overnight. I’ve been searching my brain for something that could have set this in motion but I’m coming up empty. Yesterday was fine. Sure, I’m a little disappointed in my progress of late, but it’s nothing serious. I’m aware that there will be slow periods for anything you do, I don’t expect to breeze through life. So that wouldn’t be causing me any problems.

Otherwise, I don’t know. I keep thinking of something Stephen Fry wrote, “I don’t want to be alone, but I want to be left alone.”

As Fry goes on to note, I guess that’s pretty selfish, right? Wanting people around completely on my terms. I don’t really want it that way, either. I love people and I love making them smile or laugh, even if it’s at my expense. I’m simply not stable all the time. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s nothing serious, but I’ve got some wonderfully specific moods. And when I’m in one of the less sociable type of moods it’s impossible for me to do much of anything besides think and maybe write some of those thoughts down. None of the thoughts are all that exciting and I tend to file them away where no one can see how cliche I really am. Unfortunately(?), there’s no real cure for my feeling this way. It’ll be like this until it isn’t, and I’ll feel something else. Frustratingly unpredictable, eh? I suppose that’s just how the mind works.

I know the lines are the same length, but no matter how many times I say it to myself I can’t see it that way.

lyer muller illusion