Silence, Patience, Grace.

29 Nov

The title of this blog post has three things in it which I am very poor at, in far too many conditions. I am rarely silent, I am rarely patience, I lack physical grace in a manner which would have made Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy very proud. It has always been this way, and I have been consciously aware of it since I was about ten, when an event which I shall not talk about here made me aware of it. It has been on my mind, and dwelt upon thusly, ever since.

The problem with the way my brain works is, it never stops working. It is always turning over, always thinking and analyzing and poking and creating and destroying and, sometimes, just looking. This is not necessarily a bad thing, except when it does it too much and too quickly, something I was reminded of when the conversation in the last blog post’s comments area wandered onto the topic of hyperactivity and ritalin. Certainly, I am hyperactive. Very much less so than when I was younger — these days, I am more likely to be tired than I am to be running.

The problem is that my better thoughts, my better personality, really doesn’t shine through when I’m moving at eleven million miles per hour, either physically or intellectually. I am very rarely aware of the acceleration of all things in my life, until they have occurred and reached silly speeds. It’s like not realizing that your foot is sitting too heavily on the gas pedal until you’ve cleared the hundred-miles-an-hour mark.

Unlike a car, however, when I realize I’m going far, far too fast, the thing I can do is to hit the breaks and come to a stop. And this is what I do, periodically. It’s what I did yesterday, and I do it every so often. It’s normal.

Eventually, my music escalates during my writing time from relaxing music that encourages me to focus and write, to louder rock music that I enjoy, but fails to keep me writing. My conversations and interactions with my life become energetic and boisterous and busy, if you see my meaning, and usually for no other reason than because I am ticking, ticking, ticking. I can write just fine in this state, my writing skill is never hampered.

So I apply the brakes. Yesterday, my wife and I got together after she got off work and we went out shopping. I enjoyed that I didn’t not bustle or rush, I just meandered slowly. I spoke low, and quiet, and considered. I continued to do so today. My music today has been full of Beethoven and Yo Yo Ma and piano pieces. Quiet music. Calm music.

Some of this change is conscious. I am aware of the acceleration and do not enjoy it. Some of it is just unconscious. Today, I could not listen to rock music. I really don’t want to. I want to listen to beautiful pieces of orchestration. I want to sit here and quietly write a great deal of fiction. So I did both.

The biggest noticeable change is how I write my e-mails. I noted — in hindsight — that a number of my e-mails today were written in lengthy paragraphs and long exchanges, full of useful words and ideas and devoid of smiley faces or witticisms. It is after I’ve applied the break that I am at my most humorless, not because my sense of humor goes away, but because there is danger in laughing.

Sometimes, I really do think we laugh too much. And that sounds all depressive and sad, I know, but I don’t mean it like that. Perhaps the more accurate way to phrase it would be “Sometimes, we laugh excessively and without clear purpose,” and that’s what I have a problem with. And if you disagree, then you disagree with me and Douglas Adams, who said something similar. And you don’t want to disagree with him. (For one thing, he’s dead, it would be disrespectful).

Part of what calmed and quieted me down was that yesterday, I returned to AW after my month of being banned from the place. I return cautiously and tepidly, I did some mod-related things, I made a couple of posts, then I left again. The place has a use and a purpose, but it does not always make me happy, not so much as it once did. This is not a failing on anyone’s part, but if it were, it would be mine and not the forums.

In my life, I forever strive for silence, patience, and grace. Sometimes, I get pretty close, or I get within a holding pattern of those three virtues. When I don’t concentrate and pay attention (two things I should do all the time, but don’t when I’m tired), then I wander, and eventually I have to shake my head and get myself straightened out again. I am always the better for it, when I do get straightened out. When I get quiet, calm, peaceful. I infinitely prefer it.

In other news: When I began The Nondescript, I planned for it to be a neatly told story, done at 80,000 words. That means that by the time I hit 40,000 words, I would be well into the middle of the book. If this an alphabet, then I expected to be at “M”

I’m in the vicinity of 40,000 words, and am at plot point “C,” I think. So I have a long, long way to go and plenty of story left to tell, plenty of people left to meet.

I also have a great deal to talk about on that matter, but all of it shall have to wait. It directly relates to the answer to Lori’s latest question, over on the Commune, and I’ll give her an answer before I expound on it anywhere else. That’s only fair.

For those of you who are concerned about the ending and vanishment of the Tea Debacle, fear not. Would we truly carry on without plans? Of course not. Rest easy.


Posted by on November 29, 2007 in Uncategorized


33 responses to “Silence, Patience, Grace.

  1. tjwriter

    November 29, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    I feel ya, Pete.

  2. Pete Tzinski

    November 29, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    …I hope that didn’t come off as whining, so much as it was intended just to be me thoughtfully musing on something which I have been aware of for some time. This blog tends to be an outlet for things that cross my mind more than once. Hopefully, anyway.

  3. Ed, the Shadow Ferret

    November 29, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    I think I’ll need to see Douglas Adam’s quote about laughing too much in context. Seems odd to me that a humorist would say something like that.

    But I often approach life from the other side of the field, that we too often take things seriously and don’t laugh quite enough.

    But that doesn’t mean we should never take life seriously.

    Moderation in all things, and in life I strive for balance, a zen-like balance.

  4. Pete Tzinski

    November 29, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    “But nowadays everybody’s a comedian, even the weather girls and continuity announcers. We laugh at everything. Not intelligently anymore, not with sudden shock, astonishment, or revelation, just relentlessly and meaninglessly. No more rain showers in the desert, just mud and drizzle everywhere, occasionally illuminated by the flash of paparazzi.”

    The thing to remember about Douglas Adams was that although he was frequently hilariously funny, he was very much not a humorist. The above is from an article in “The Salmon of Doubt,” the article is called “Turncoat,” and is under the “Universe” section of the book. And the article discusses if people don’t find him a bit of a turncoat, because he made his name in his Hitchhiker books making fun of technology and science, and at the time of the article (really, most of his adult life), he was a proponent of science, ecology, and intelligent thought above casual comedy.

  5. tjwriter

    November 29, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I don’t think your whining. I know that feeling very well. Things just continue to spiral until they are very tight and very fast. You have to find time to unwind and just breathe. BTW, meditation is a very slowing-down type of exercise. I should do it more than once in a blue moon.

  6. Pete Tzinski

    November 29, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Meditation’s one of those interesting things I’ve always thought about trying, but have never actually followed-through on. Primarily because even when I’m calm, quiet, I suspect I’m still to wired for sitting with my eyes closed and thinking myself calm. Probably, that shows that I really should meditate. But mostly, it falls into the category of “Not Writing,” which is full of all the things I half-heartedly pursue, ever-anxious to go back to the writing itself.

  7. tjwriter

    November 29, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    I can’t Not shut my brain off either. But the few times I’ve been able to sit and not think a million things, it’s been relaxing.

  8. Lori

    November 29, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Not whining at all, Pete. It’s a very thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. Lori

    November 29, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Last Tuesday, I didn’t have time for aikido. I wasn’t going to go to aikido because I did not have time for it. There was far, far too much other stuff to do. I couldn’t spare the time for aikido. Then I realized that I was letting my tasks drive me, that I was being propelled by them, carried along by the current, with no direction or way to control how I was flowing.

    So, I stopped.

    I went to aikido.

    I stepped out of the current in order to better evaluate how it was running, where the rocks and hazards were, and which part of the flow I really needed to concentrate on and which parts I could let just go on by.

    I gained perspective and I was better for it.

    I think we all need something like that, whether it’s TJ paying $20 a week for a babysitter or you taking time to go shopping with your Wyfe. I also think that it’s equally important for humanity that each individual learn how to gain this perspective on their own without the benefit of such drugs as Ritalin, which is really just a shortcut that circumvents learning how to balance our own shifting needs next to life’s and society’s priorities.

  10. Pete Tzinski

    November 29, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    I think that’s exactly it. I think it’s also sort of nice to know that I’m not the only one who tends to operate in perpetual spirals (which would have made a far finer title for this blog post, now I think about it). I am forever running in a widening gyre, and sometimes you have to realize that you’re far off on the outer edge and you need to stop, sit, think, start over. It’s like you say, stepping out of the current and gaining perspective.

    It’s Tori paying twenty bucks, if me speaking quietly, or not at all, it’s you going to akido even though there was no time.

    I know that it affects my writing, not in the sense that it causes me to write less, or write slower. It affects my ability to think about writing, because one of the side effects of a widening gyre is that my mind is filled with more and more business, more stuff. Not even relevant stuff. I know that when I’m running faster and loud and more busy, I tend to sing around the house when I’m with my wife, or doing things which don’t involve writing (much to the distress of my wife, who as you can probably imagine gets mightily sick of hearing songs from the Disney movie Aladdin, or whatever else is on my mind at the moment). This is my mind, spinning too, too fast. It’s mental sparks, sort of. I talk a lot, I sing a lot, I read very little, and I cannot think about my writing properly. Mental sparks, coming off a wheel.

    Tori, you’ve got me on a tangent now, I hope you’re utterly pleased with yourself. I’ve gone to look up meditation techniques and am starting to think and stew and consider that line of reasoning before, because I have not previously done so.

  11. Soccer Mom

    November 29, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    I find myself frequently falling into the trap of filling time. If I’m not “busy” at any given moment, then I must be a slacker. This is how I end up with a day job, a farm, a family, choir, cubscouts, church, teaching, soccer, writing, PTO, blogging and all the things I do to fill every moment of my time.

    Society as a whole tells us not to value quiet and stillness, being without doing. Jenn Nipp’s guest blog on The Commune has made me think about this quite a bit today.

  12. Shadow Ferret

    November 29, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Try tai chi. I understand exactly what Lori was saying. Step out of the stream to evaluate. Or to use a more modern term, take time to stop and smell the roses.

    I believe I suffer from AADD. I believe because I’ve never had it diagnosed, although maybe I had it diagnosed as a child and thus the ridalin. So I know what you mean Pete about the spirals and spinning and its probably the reason I have trouble finishing reading a book because a newer more interesting book vies for my attention or my own stories asks for help or whatever.

    I’ve taken and retaken tai chi and need to get back into it to learn how to meditate and relax. I love Chinese philosophies and try to live like that.

    But now you said tangent and it made me wonder whatever did I do with my Dark Tangent comic and now I’m off to see if I can find it.

  13. Pete Tzinski

    November 29, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Ed, I think you and I are exactly on the same level in regards to this discussion, not least because I have fond memories of Dark Tangent comic books, an oddball title that never go the audience it should have.

    I tend to scatter between a number of different books and actually fail to do a great deal of reading anymore. Just sitting on the table beside me are three different books — four, I just realized the one is atop the other — and I’m reading them all. I used to do this with comfort and ease, but these days, I tend to just read and then stop and read something else and stop and read something else. I ricochete. I also do not sit on the couch when I’m home alone and just read, I always sit here and try to write. I waste an hour Not Writing while staring at my story when I could just go sit somewhere and read and relax and unwind.

    It’s ADD, and it’s workaholism, and it’s a lack of perspective, and it’s the spiral I was talking about. And the more we discuss it at length, here in this thread, the deeper I realize it goes. It’s not just about physically calming myself down now and then — talking quieter, moving slower — but it’s about a lot of other things.

    To tie into older posts, I think this is the basis and part of my ongoing problem with an excessive amount of internet usage. Not only do I not regulate myself well — indeed, at all — since I have discussed how fairly addictive I am, but I’m also wildly distractible. I admit that I can go online to check my e-mail, and then decide that what I’d really like to do just now is go off to Google and find out if there are any Patrick O’Brian, or JOhn Steinbeck interviews on the internet. And when I find there are, I read them. And if I realize I don’t know much about the person, then I go off and research ’em. And there goes my time.

    I know that my mother used to take and practice tai chi on a nearly daily basis. I never did. I practiced a strange amalgam of different martial art styles, taught by a father and son in the Carribbean (and another father and son, in Minnesota, when we moved here). It was a good outlet for a young man who had a great deal of energy.

    I’m definitely thinking about meditation now. I would elaborate, but Ed mentioning Dark Tangent has made me have to go see what old Spectre comics I have…

  14. carrieinpa

    November 29, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Meh, there’s enough darkness in this life that I cannot, will not, agree with the notion that we laugh too much, no matter the context.

    /two cents

  15. Lori

    November 29, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    One thing I’ve learned is how closely related the mind and body are to one another. If you can physically calm yourself down, or focus, or center, or whatever word you’d like to use, that goes a long way to doing the same thing mentally and vice versa.

  16. Jeanne

    November 29, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    I’m with Carrie about the laughter. It’s impossible to have too much, we need it, I think, to remain sane and healthy.

    I also think that, as writers, there’s really nothing wrong with going off onto the tangents. You learn things when you wander off the path and stop to read some blog or interview or book or article. When you stop to talk to the person looking at the lemons next to you and discover a fascinating person with a history you’d never know otherwise. It’s why I learned to love the Internet. Because I can meet people I’d never have the chance to otherwise, discover things I wouldn’t have without it, and remain connected even when I feel far away.

  17. tjwriter

    November 29, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    I tend to sing around the house when I’m with my wife, or doing things which don’t involve writing (much to the distress of my wife, who as you can probably imagine gets mightily sick of hearing songs from the Disney movie Aladdin, or whatever else is on my mind at the moment).

    Now I know you are my twin. I sing songs from Aladdin all the time.

  18. Arachne Jericho

    November 29, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Reminds me right now of Japanese baths. I remember reading somewhere that Americans take “crow baths”–e.g., showers, and tend not to take the time for a relaxing bath often; whereas the Japanese take a relaxing bath every night (and clean themselves outside of the bath; I follow the same practice when I take a bath–shower and clean, then relax with bath salts).

    Some more information on Japanese bathing culture.

    Time to relax and recharge is important. The idea of sitting and thinking of nothing for a while is repugnant to the American work ethic. I have problems with that.

    As for laughs…. I’ve gone through some pretty miserable situations in life that lasted for years. Yet I make jokes about that time, and I’ve even started talking about it all as if it were merely some normal kind of familial eccentricity. People wonder what I’m repressing or why I make such “sick” jokes, and if I should be institutionalized for my method of coping (as if hitting people in anger, or going all emo and suicidal, is somehow more dignified).

    Well, if you lived like that for 20 years, either you learn the value of finding the funny in many situations or you die inside. Is it wrong? From my standpoint (of still being alive and relatively normal, all things considered) hell no.

    I talk about those times with seriousness, too, but really… “there’s too much laughing”? Get over it. Life is too short. I really don’t get enough laughter in my life and tend to believe–rightly or not–that only folks with a surfeit of sunshine would believe that it’s a bad thing.

    Also on the meds front… I used to think that people who took meds were weak. Yeah, well. You try coping with PTSD without meds; humor is not enough, depression is suicidal, and alcohol is very a bad idea. I can thus perfectly believe in Ritalin as serious medication in the right places (not where PTSD is concerned). As someone who is on meds I kind of take issue with the idea that people who take them are somehow less worthy or lazy, though I hear they are over-prescribed often and believe that, too.

  19. Arachne Jericho

    November 29, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    (I am now also reminded of the dividing line between American and British humor; Brits have no problems making jokes about death, but in America, death as funny is not touched upon by the stand-ups with a 40-foot pole.

    I conclude thusly that America is too serious, not the other way around.)

  20. Pete Tzinski

    November 29, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    I’m afraid you rather missed the point of the discussion of laughter. I was not saying that we should all cease laughing; I was saying that when we laugh, there should be a reason for it. Go back and read the Douglas Adams passage again, it illustrates the point nicely. Laugh freely, laugh long and loud, but do not laugh and laugh without reason or cause, and laugh and laugh some more, laughing and laughing like a deranged person in a horror film. That’s the foolish bit.

    Also, I’m a bit confused on why you think death as a humorous concept is not to be touched with a ten foot pole. If that were the problem, Denis Leary would be out of a job. And for that matter, we would never have seen films such as Weekend at Bernies, or its sequel, or Eight Heads in a Duffle Bag, and so on. Death’s hilarious.

    I take baths frequently. Less often, in recent days, but often no less. I do a great deal of reading in the bath.

    (P.S.: It’s worth pointing out that I wasn’t advising any of you to stop laughing, or be grim and somber. I was talking strictly about myself. The Douglas Adams passage came along strictly to answer Ed’s question. Laugh as you will. I am trying to persuade no one of nothing.)

  21. MidnightMuse

    November 29, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Douglas Adams is a god among men. So it follows that, naturally, I agree with everything he says. Laughing without reason is as meaningless as crying when you’re not truly sad. I, too, have what I like to call Mental Hyperactivity. My mind it always flitting from one obsession (did you see the blog remodel?) to another (writing/posting/writing/emailing) One of several reasons I had to self-ban from AW was my tendency to overload. It’s like an addiction to the stimulation, and it’s not an addiction that gives me the pleasure it once did. When I suddenly realized being on AW was affecting my emotions, I knew I’d gone too far.

    I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years, but there’s a lot that still needs work. I’ve learned the value of a bubblebath, I’ve learned the first, hardest lesson of meditation and tai chi is to Be Quiet.

    And today I learned that laughing at a funeral service is good for the soul.

    I, too, bounce from one extreme to the other. I don’t have ADD, I’m not bypolar. I get obsessed and wacky, then I get quiet and introspective. I get crazy-angry when interrupted while writing and I can sit on a couch for an hour staring at the wall, feeling perfectly content.

    Mostly, I have learned that I’m human, after all.

  22. Pete Tzinski

    November 29, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    The nicest thing about this column — and something which I wholly didn’t anticipate — was the commonality of something which I have otherwise regarded as a fairly lonely problem. That’s probably just another part of the human condition, though: We all assume it’s just us. It has made me happy, reading Kristine’s and Ed’s posts in particular (although I delight in all conversation) and seeing exact descriptions of me and how I work. Ed, and Kristine’s post just above mine, describe me to the letter. That makes me happy, in a way.

  23. Arachne Jericho

    November 29, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Does anybody really laugh without a reason they think is funny? That’s where the quote falls apart for me. It’s like saying that people shouldn’t be sad without a reason; typically people aren’t sad without a reason, even if it’s one lots of us may think lousy.

    I think death as humor SHOULD be touched; what I said is that it’s not generally touched upon in American humor, although British humor has no problem with it.

  24. Pete Tzinski

    November 29, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Read the article, AJ. It’s just a specific quote. The article expounds.

    And I know what you said about death. All the references I made to places where it IS touched upon are in American humor.

    And thus, we move on…

  25. Lori

    November 29, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    Of course people laugh without reason. They laugh because they think it’s the polite thing to do, because everyone else is laughing, because they are masking something else. Laughter can be empty; it can not be felt.

  26. Arachne Jericho

    November 30, 2007 at 12:27 am


    I have the _Salmon of Doubt_ on my bookshelf. I should reread it again; still, I don’t always agree with the man and the article’s probably one of them.

    And I did get that your references were to American comedy (wouldn’t make sense if they weren’t). And still: of course not all of American humor is devoid of references to death; but in general it is. Comedy Central and all that.


    Ah, laughing without a traditional true funny or ironic trigger. Like fake smiles or crocodile tears.

    But those cases of laughter still have reasons behind them–social motivation, covering up another emotion either to oneself or to others. Easing the discomfort of social situations seems to me to be a good case for laughter; and defusing one’s own discomfort seems to me also a good case for laughter.

    Whatever, though; I probably have an extremely warped sense of humor and laughter that isn’t realistic, and thus I think about the matter in ways all wrong.

    So I’ll drop it.

  27. Shadow Ferret

    November 30, 2007 at 7:00 am

    Pete, I think we might have been brothers in a past life. I completely understand about addiction to the internet. These blogs everyone of us is putting out isn’t helping any. Like you, I’ll stop by AW to see if anyone left any new rep points, but then I’ll have to see if there are any new posts to reply to, then I’ll stop by my blog to see if anyone commented, then I’ll go to your blog, then Kristine’s, and Lori’s, and now Arachne’s and Soccermom’s and on and on and on. I get nothing else done. I’m surprised work hasn’t yelled at me yet.

  28. Rllgthunder

    November 30, 2007 at 7:07 am

    *I am the rain on your parade*

    You all suck. πŸ˜›

    See? Sarcasm is a nice change of pace. πŸ˜€

  29. Pete Tzinski

    November 30, 2007 at 7:12 am

    Yes, exactly! It’s a sinkhole, and I wind up with the same problem of going to check “one more, and then one more, and then…”

    I have less problems with blogs than I did with AW. I would be wiser still just to try to focus on my e-mail alone and set aside all else, though I doubt I’ll do that.

    The only balance I’ve ever found is the occasional vanishment, where I publically announce that I won’t be blogging or commenting or visiting AW for a week, or two weeks, or what have you. Even then, I still lurk. But because I’ve announced it out loud, it means I can’t blog/comment, and it keeps me a little honest.

    When I get back from one of those breaks, the first thing I do is check everything and blog and post and stuff. I’m getting better with AW. My extended leaves of absence mean that when I come back, it’s timidly and I tend not to spend very much time there. Blogs, currently, I just vanish beneath.

    Surest sign we were brothers once, Ed, is your fine taste in comics.

  30. carrieinpa

    November 30, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Up there a ways, Pete said: “I’m afraid you rather missed the point of the discussion of laughter.”

    Actually, I quite got it. I just very much disagree.

    I don’t think I need a good reason to laugh. Or cry when I’m not sad. Or to sing out loud. I laugh. A lot. I cry. A lot. I sing Christmas carols in the middle of July when it’s blistering hot. The reason? I felt like it.

    I feel what I feel and I do what I do and don’t feel the need for a deeper reason than that. *shrug*

  31. Pete Tzinski

    November 30, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Well, like I said: I wasn’t trying to convince anyone of anything.

  32. Ed, the Shadow Ferret

    November 30, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Carrie sounds manic. πŸ™‚

    And I mean that in the nicest way.

  33. Pete Tzinski

    November 30, 2007 at 11:06 am

    She’s mad because her porch has gone unrepaired for many a day, for alas, my hammer done vanished unto oblivion. *skedaddles*


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