Sketching

Self-Made Boundaries

I think I’m a reasonable person. At least most of the time. But still, pretty often I find myself doing a very strange thing. I procrastinate.

I know what I like to do and why. I know what goal I want to achieve and what exactly I have to do to get there. But I don’t do it. I used to look for excuses, like, I have no time, I am not ready, I need to learn more about how to do it… Now I know it is all crap. These all are made-up reasons not to do what I have decided to do. So I don’t look for an excuse anymore. I just don’t do anything. Yep, as simple as that. I don’t even promise myself I’ll start next Monday. I know so well that Monday will come and go, and I won’t move a finger.

I believe every psychological issue has a root, and there’s no sense to try to fix yourself until you find this root, the seed that caused the whole problem. Looking for this seed, I have read so many articles explaining reasons for procrastination. They all make sense, but something is missing. I understand why people procrastinate, in general; I understand it, really, but I can’t apply this knowledge to change my own route, my personal approach. All those ready answers, like fear of failure or fear of success, don’t help; they don’t seem to be right or personal enough to explain what forces me to sabotage my own plans when I have developed a step-by-step strategy and a strict schedule. Am I that lazy or don’t I care enough? Maybe my goals are not really mine? Maybe I’m nuts and ask too many absurd questions?

“My doctor told me I shouldn’t work out until I’m in better shape.” This is my vicious circle. Thank you, Steven Wright, for putting it in words for me. I can’t start changing until something changes, who knows how and when.

Can it be that procrastination is my destiny and all I have to do is surrender? I think it can be, especially if I choose Steven Wright as my best adviser. “I bought some batteries, but they weren’t included.” Yeah, exactly, I know what he’s talking about.

 

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Sketching

The Turmeric Turmoil, or The Danger of Easy Solutions

“I look old and I hate it,” I say to a friend over Skype. “Should I try some fancy anti-aging cream?”

“Try a homemade mask,” she says and sends me a Youtube link. “It’s a Brazilian woman, she’s very popular.”

I don’t speak Portuguese but click on the link anyway. The ‘Brazilian’ woman is blond and speaks English with an Australian accent.

The recipe of the homemade mask that promises youth and beauty in ten minutes and forever is simple. A tablespoon of turmeric powder, some milk, two drops of oil. The ‘Brazilian’ applies the mix to her face to demonstrate how smoothly it looks. Then she washes it off and claims that, due to this mask, she always looks young and fresh and pretty without any make-up.

“Well, she is young and fresh and pretty,” I think. “She barely needs any mask at all.” But I have an hour before my son leaves school so I decide to give it a try. What do I have to lose?

I prepare the pumpkin-colored mix and spread it over my face. When the mask dries I rinse it off and look at myself in the mirror.

My skin looks fresh and smooth and pretty. And it’s bright-yellow.

“Oh my god!” I’m ready to faint. “I have to leave in half an hour! And go outside! Where there are people!”

I grab face cleanser and nervously rub it into my face. My face is still yellow. I grab soap. It works. The yellow turns green. My skin is still surprisingly soft and tender. I could be the most attractive corpse in the cemetery beauty pageant.

“I have to leave in ten minutes!”

I call to the friend who sent me the damn link and skip all the preambles, “My face is green because of this stupid mask! Was it a prank?”

My friend sounds innocent and surprised, “Has it stained your skin? Really? They should inform about this, don’t you think?”

“I’ve no time to think! What can I do?”

“Uhm… Well… Maybe, try olive oil. They say it cleans the skin.”

I hang up. I won’t add greasy glitter to my already olive face. I take a deep breath and think. Then I grab a bottle of baby cream and a roll of kitchen towels. After five minutes of aggressive scrubbing I sit before a huge pile of dirty paper, and a desperate red face with greyish-green spots all over it looks at me from the mirror.

I give up. Seven blocks of shame on the way to school are inevitable.

In the street, I fix on the tips of my shoes. I don’t look at people. They look at me.

I rush into the school, grasp my son’s hand and turn to leave.

“Are you all right?” My son’s teacher stares at me. “You seem… agitated.”

“Uhm… Yeah… I don’t feel well.” I put my hand on the stomach to prove it and pull my son outside.

We almost run home and bump into Mrs. Gossip right next to the house.

“Hi Joan! Have you heard what happened to…” She breaks off and stares at me for fifteen long seconds.

Great! Now all neighbors will talk about my green face.

“You look… somewhat younger,” she finally says. “Have you used Botox?”

I search for sarcasm in her eyes but find only disapproval and envy. She keeps talking about how inappropriate it is to do what I’ve done, but I don’t listen. She said ‘younger’! The mask works! I’ll have to do it again!

Sketching

When It’s Time to Talk…

blah

The more the merrier, they say. But I’m not sure they’re right. The more the noisier, that is a fact. When a big joyous group gathers around the table and every its member talks at the same time, impatiently interrupting others or simply not listening to anyone but themselves, that is fun, maybe, but surely it’s not a conversation. It’s a polyphonic or rather cacophonic concert for a well-trained ear. I witness this once in a while when it’s time to celebrate someone’s birthday.

l prefer more intimate meetings when in a small circle, over a cup of tea, you can discuss for hours whatever it is the area of your interests, from the latest fashion news to the nuances of semantic difference between comma and semicolon. Believe me, the latter can happen. I even remember that I myself talked about it once.

Inner monologues are also a good example of informative pastime although they are not a conversation, technically. They are pure rambling and blabbering (this post is not an exception). And what else could they be if there’s nobody to interrupt you or object to your flawless arguments? You are always right when you talk to yourself. And you are also the best listener ever because you wholeheartedly agree with yourself, no matter what. And if suddenly you hear another voice inside you that has doubts about something you have just thought it means a monologue turned into a dialogue, your mind is split and you are a bit of schizo. It’s probably time to visit a shrink, or two. The more the merrier. Or that’s what they say.

 

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Bookworm, Sketching

Sad Roots of Comedy

I am reading Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose, and I enjoy it. I love his writing style and sense of humor. The most interesting thing about my reading choice, though, is that I recently developed taste for stand-up comedians’ memoirs. Not just anyone’s memoirs attract my attention, an author has to be a comedian. I’m still looking for roots of this reasoning myself, but so far, without finding any, I created a whole list of books of this kind I plan to read. And I’m good at making lists, you know.

So far I read only a couple of books. First I went to the boarding school for boys with Stephen Fry (Moab Is My Washpot), then accompanied Steve Martin on his lonely journey (Born Standing Up), and now I am in Scotland, with Craig, whose teachers beat 5-year-old kids on the hands with the belts created and used for this purpose only.

I remember my days at school and many teachers being rude or mean or offensive, but at least they didn’t beat us. I’m so glad that the standards of education changed and keep changing. If they didn’t I would probably have to be a comedian to process all that crap that the gentlemen mentioned above came through. It looks like the laugh is truly the strongest defensive mechanism our brain develops so that we can stay sane, no matter what shit is happening to us. But does the comedy have to come from pain? (This is Jim Carrey’s belief who, I hope, one day will write a book to complete my list of comedians’ memoires). Can’t it have another source, like pure joy, for example?

I think I need to go through all my reading list to find the answer. And if I don’t find any I still will have some laughs. After all, these guys know how to make a joke.
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Bookworm, Sketching

Too Much, Isn’t It?

manybooks

“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.”

Edna Ferber

I love reading and I want to read everything that sounds interesting. When I hear about a new book that sounds interesting I want to read it almost immediately, and immediately indeed I check if it’s available online. If the book is easy to get I don’t read it right away because I read something else at the moment; but I put the title on the list of books I want to read. On one of the lists, to be exact, as I have many lists of many books I want to read so badly.

The more I read about new books the longer the lists of books I want to read become and the more I forget the titles of the books I want to read so badly. I even forget where I keep the lists of books I want to read which explains why I have so many lists instead of one.

I love reading the lists of books I want to read (when I’m able to find them). I love it even more than reading the books I want to read. My favorite lists are 100 Books You Have To Read, 100 Novels You Must Read Right Now and 100 Books of All Time You Still Haven’t Read. I write and reread the lists of books so often that I don’t have much time left for reading the books themselves. If you think I’m crazy you are perfectly right, but I’m afraid you are quite crazy too as you are losing your time reading about the books I want to read instead of reading a book you want to read so badly.

P. S. I have no idea who Edna Ferber is, but oh, she’s right.

 

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Sketching

The Sloth Destiny

A three-toed tree sloth hangs from the trunk of a tree in the jungle on the bank of the Panama Canal

There’s an animal called sloth. He lives in the jungle and doesn’t do anything except for hugging a tree branch and chewing leaves when he’s not too lazy to reach for them. If you can imagine this picture consider you met me personally. I’m a sloth, a cute and smiley idler.

The irony of being a sloth, the real one, from the tree, is that to digest the leaves shoveled in this creature needs sunlight that produces ferments necessary to transform food into energy. And if it happens to be a rainy season and the sky is covered with crying clouds the sloth can die of hunger even when his stomach is full of eaten leaves.

Not being literally a sloth, I still can die, of boredom, if I let my lazybones nature and lack of activity to win over. So, to stay alive, instead of waiting for help of fickle skies, I need to kick my own ass to do something, to keep my mind, and even body sometimes, working. If you can imagine the sloth serenely hugging the tree and struggling with himself simultaneously consider you met me personally.

 

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Bookworm, Flash-fiction

Brevity Teasers

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time,” said Blaise Pascal and looked proudly at the pile of paper covered with his neat writing. “Not a blot! That’s how great I am in writing,” he boasted and stroked the upper leaf with his hand. “This feather can’t be used anymore though,” he looked at the broken tip, sighed and threw it out in the open window. The feather did a slow farewell dance in the air and fell on the cobbled roadway.

You know what they say,” Anton Chekhov pensively looked at the feather disappearing under the hoof of a dirty horse. “Brevity is the sister of talent,” Chekhov gave Pascal a wink, “which one you, obviously, don’t have.”

What?” Pascal jumped up from his chair and clenched his fists. “What have you just said? Repeat it and I will punch this grin off your face right away!”

Oh, come on, Blaise, calm down! Don’t take it so seriously,” William Shakespeare tapped Pascal’s shoulder.

But Bill, don’t you see, he’s mocking me!”

Tony made a joke, that’s all. He’s a satirist, that’s what they do.”

Pascal looked at Chekhov through his narrowed eyes and murmured several words in French, one of them being ‘merde’.

Chekhov took off his pince-nez and, while cleaning it with his handkerchief, looked with his near-sighted squint at the cloud that looked like a grand piano. “But tell us, Bill,” he said after a long pause. “You are agreed with me, aren’t you?”

Well, you know what I wrote in my last work…”

About the cuckoo prince? Yes, I remember. But tell him,” Chekhov pointed his pince-nez at Pascal. “He has no time to read, he spends it all on writing without blots.”

Shakespeare nodded and recited, “Therefore since brevity is the soul of wit, // And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, // I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.

I will be brief,” repeated Chekhov and giggled, “Pascal is tedious and should quit writing.”

Damn you idiots!” Pascal jumped up from his chair again. “We are not friends anymore.” He pointed at the door. “Get out of my house!”

Shakespeare shrugged his shoulders and got up from the couch. “Ok, Tony, let’s go. It’s time to pay a visit to someone else.”

“To Charlie maybe?” Chekhov put the pince-nez back on his nose.

Sure, why not?”

They came out to the street and stopped a cab. “Bring us to the Dickens’s house,” Shakespeare said.

Yes, bring us to Dickens,” Chekhov grinned and rubbed his hands. “We have some brevity issues to discuss.”

“All right, sir,” the cabman said, and off they went to see the man working on Little Dorrit.

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Sketching

Information Is Information Is Information…

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

Gertrude Stein

When Gertrude Stein said this she didn’t know what Facebook or Internet in general or even TV was. She probably read a book, slowly and with attention, every now and then throwing a pensive look at the tree near her window, or talked to a smart guest of her literary salon, maybe a scientist, and thought, “Oh, this is so informative! I don’t know if my brain can take it all in.” Yes, I can see her ready to faint for the superfluous information she had to deal with.

I don’t think that today we truly take in all the information we witness. If you are on Facebook, for example, you can see people sharing quotes of wisdom all the time, many post dozens of those each day, and if we read those quotes with attention and thought about them afterwards then maybe we would learn something indeed and our common sense would be affected, somehow, I’m not sure in which way. But we throw a shift glance at wise people’s thoughts as if they were an advertisement poster and scroll down the newsfeed as fast as we can to see a photo of a cute little kitten so the common sense stays untouched.

Many people never switch off TV, it hums and shines and talks all the day long while a person eats, chats on the phone or scrolls down the newsfeed on Facebook. The flow of information is unstoppable, it truly is a tsunami, but the person who sits on the couch in front of the TV set with a smartphone in hands doesn’t absorb this information, at least consciously, as his or her mind is elsewhere, perhaps with a cute little kitten.

Probably there’s a sensor in our head that works like a fire alarm. When the informational temperature gets too high and the brain feels it’s ready to be washed away with the hot wave of excessive data it blocks the perception door, and we stop hearing everything that disturbs our overheated cerebrum. I don’t know where common sense hides at this moment, but I hope it’s still there, with you, especially if you are much better trained than Gertrude Stein.

 

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Flash-fiction

Freaking Out

I stopped by our favorite café to wait for Greg and ordered espresso. I sipped my coffee, looked at the window and pretended I was absorbed with the view of the busy street and didn’t care that the guy in the corner stared at the back of my head for fifteen minutes. I felt enormous relief when I saw with the corner of my eye that he got up from his chair. “Finally he’s leaving,” I thought. I was wrong. He came up to my table and sat in front of me.

“Hi,” he said. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“You mean at me,” I thought, but I said only, “Really?” and expressed false surprise as well as I could.

“Yes, you look beautiful in this light. I’m Danny. Can I ask your name?”

Softened with the compliment, I said, “Liz. But I have a boyfriend.”

“I know, I saw you with him here, a week ago. That’s why I was looking for you. He doesn’t deserve you.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes, really,” he said seriously, not noticing my sarcasm.

“It’s not your business,” I decided to be more direct.

“It’s my business because I deserve you.” Now he stared at my forehead and, probably as a result of heavy concentration, his eyes crossed.

I felt awkward, but also curious. “Are you trying to hypnotize me?”

“I’m connecting to your third eye to correct your thinking.”

“Oh, and how’s it going?” I checked my cellphone for time.

“He’s late, your boyfriend?” he asked.

He was, but I said, “It’s none of your business, believe me.”

“I saw him with another woman. Here, twice. He doesn’t deserve you. You should be with me.”

Now I stared at him. “When, how did she look?”

“Red hair, slim, not as beautiful as you are. So, will you go out with me? I can cook, I dance tango and I am a great lover.”

“Oh my god,” I got up from the chair. He got up, too, and grabbed my hand.

“Don’t leave, let’s go to see a movie.”

“Next time,” I said, pulling my hand out of his clammy claw and wiping it off on my jeans.

“Promise?” he said.

“Sure.” I rushed to the door and right outside the café bumped into Greg.

“Liz, I’m so sorry I’m late.”

“Sure, it’s hard to date two women at once.” I pushed him away and hurried along the street.

“What are you talking about?” Greg caught up with me and blocked my way.

“I knew it!” I almost cried at him. “I knew something’s going on, and now it’s finally clear.”

“What’s clear?” He looked puzzled.

“You are cheating on me, that’s what’s clear! You don’t even care enough to bring her to another place; you meet her in our café!”

“Who told you this crap?”

“Danny!” I paused. “I mean, he’s a freak, for sure, but it doesn’t matter. He saw you with another woman.”

“And you believe some random freak more than me?”

I looked at him, confused. ”Kinda.”

“You’re a freak!” he shook his head. “Let’s go, I will introduce you to my second girlfriend.” He brought me to his car and waved to a read-haired woman on the front seat.

“Melissa, this is my girlfriend. Liz, this is Melissa, she is a realtor,” he looked at me meaningfully. “Re-al-tor.”

“Realtor?”

“Yes, realtor.”

“You bought the house!” I jumped on him and hung on his neck.

“Almost. I want you to see it first.”

“Oh my god, I’m such an idiot, I’m so sorry.” I hid my face on his shoulder.

“I know,” he kissed my cheek and said, “Get in the car.”

Before we took off, I said, “You know, let’s not go to that café anymore. I’m afraid being a freak is contagious.”

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Sketching

Not a Cry-Baby

crying

I’m not a cry-baby.

I never weep watching movies. Well, sometimes. But only when they kiss in the rain that falls in the desert. Or when a hero is killed in the very last moment by his best friend who slept with his wife who is a hotty. Or when they show a cute little puppy and he’s hungry or wants to pee.

You see, I’m not a cry-baby at all. I’m a strong, emotionally stable woman, and you need to offer something really dramatic to make me sob.

 

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