Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ice and Leeks, New Resolutions And Sexy Badgers

Hoo boy. The last week has been a constant stream of not-writing. If there were a yearly award for not-writing, I would be a contender, right behind a dude with broken fingers and a block of vaguely man-shaped wood.

That's always the danger about heading up north to visit the parents. There's never a good time to just lock yourself in your room and get things done. Instead, alas, I spent quality-time with some awesome old people, enjoyed several quiet days, finished up reading a bunch of books and helped out with chores. Restful but not conducive to getting things done.

Vacation, at least this kind, is a social activity which actively precludes solitary activities. I suppose I could have put up a big sign outside my door, or maybe sat under a tree with a moleskin notebook, sketching down words with a pensive look on my brow, but it would have been annoying and inconvenient.

"You're writing a book?" my parents would ask.

"Yes. It's about sexy badgers who fight crime in outer space. Also, compound interest."

*long silence*

"We're trading you in for a more normal son."

It was an odd weekend, as if there are any weekends which aren't odd in the Upper Peninsula. The late winter had strange repercussions: even though it was the end of May, spring was just beginning to kick in. The trees were gray and skeletal and only just thinking about budding. The spring plants were in full riot, all the leeks and trilliums and other swamp-loving plants which crowd the woods around my parents house, were out in full profusion. As a result, the entire time I was there the whole place smelled like an Italian restaurant and there was a reflected white glow through the windows from all the blossoms, which are, technically, a protected species in Michigan owing to their rarity in any place other than my parents' backyard. There: as common as pennies.

And yet the weather was pushing eighty much of the time. Felt like summer, but winter still had its claws buried deep, fighting every step of the way out. There was still snow on the ski slopes and ice choking Marquette's harbor. We drove out to Marquette on Saturday to enjoy a new Mexican restaurant near the docks and there were Yoopers in swim trunks and bikinis lining the beaches. After a winter as bad as the one we've just had, you take what you can get, apparently.

The UP is kind of like that. It's one of those places you can tell the tallest tales about and every word winds up true, almost by accident. It snowed on July 4th once. There's a shrine to the guy who invented the highway dividing line and it's only a two hour drive from Paradise (Michigan). There was a blizzard so bad it buried telephone poles. There's exactly one strip club there, and it's in a town which can best be described as having fifty people living within a five hundred foot radius of the community center. Said titty bar is painted bright f'ing pink and has no liquor license--it's technically a tea house.

You can find moose, wolves, cougars, Italians and the world's largest wooden sports dome all within an hour's drive of each other. While you're scratching your head over the wooden dome, you can watch the only current (or ever, really) Finnish-language program airing in the United States.

You get the idea. It's a deeply weird place which gets weirder the more you explore it, more of a fantasy land than anything Tolkien or the like ever conjectured. It's like visiting Oz every time you cross the improbably large bridge guarding its entrance. You find yourself leaving sometimes with a slightly befuddled look on your face while you try to reconcile the fragments of the trip you just had.

Was someone's shed burning down really front page news in the county newspaper? Did you really just see a forty foot wooden Indian in that town you drove by? What's up with all the locally produced commercials? How in the hell can so much wilderness fit into such a small strip of land?

I really need to get back to writing stories about Argyle, the fictional trap town I wrote about last year during my challenge. The beautiful thing is how I don't really even have to do anything to create stories like that--they sort of write themselves. No matter how hard I try, the real UP is weirder. No matter how interesting I try to make my characters, real Yoopers are more fun and likable and ten times more diverse than you can imagine.

Actually, I need to just get back to writing more. Nothing quite like fantastic weather and lack of a ridiculous resolution-with-deadlines-built-in to really spike my productivity.

Okay: here's one. five hundred words every morning, rain or shine, in honor of the end of May, which is now, and I'm totally making this up, the new hipster version of the New Year. I'm making a spreadsheet and I'm going to post the totals at the end of the week. Boom!

Addendum: I need a finish line for this resolution. Some nice round number. 500 days is too long and marathonesque.  100 days, perhaps, with an option to renew. Sweet.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On Cognitive Dissonance

I'm a relatively mellow guy, contrary to what everybody says about me behind my back. There are few ways to consistently ruin my day. You could probably do it by dynamiting my car or burning my apartment down. Maybe kick me in the baby-maker, or whatever.

Anything smaller than that, I usually just let go. If you were to map my moods on a chart, like the ones geologists use to track earthquakes, they would follow a flat line. No ups, no downs, just steady sailing. One mood, all the time, as the old joke goes.

I take after my dad in temperament. If you look beyond the colorful language ("More broke up than a bag of assholes!", for example) and an extraordinarily earthy sense of humor, you'll find what is, essentially, a Stoic. He doesn't get ruffled by life and he mostly gets along just fine with everyone. He has an easy-going nature and ability to pick up friends which I envy dearly and try to emulate whenever possible.

My mother, however, is another matter entirely. She's from Indiana and she has a Hoosier mean streak. I would rather assault the Kremlin equipped with nothing more than a birthday suit and a plastic Taco Bell spork than piss her off. It is also, I believe, the reason my dad has lived so long--if you want a long and mostly happy life, marry a beautiful ex-nurse with a temper. Most of the better decisions in my life have mostly resulted from me asking myself "would this piss off my mom?" Fortunately, the things which piss her off align very closely with healthy life-style choices. Wash your hands, brush your teeth, avoid major debt, don't start major land wars in China, etc.

Other people in her family have a violent temper. Or they're meaner. Or they have a greater capacity for evil. It comes out differently in every person, I think, just listening to the family stories.

My mother is a natural storyteller and has a vast memory for certain details. She could tell you what she was doing the day George Burns died. She could, off the top of her head, tell you a large number of the movies he did, who he married, who acted with him regularly and if they're still alive. It's pretty incredible. She usually only bothers with IMDB to prove a point. She has a better version in her head.

Her Hoosier mean streak arises from that, I think. Storytelling plus long memory equals a recipe for self-reinforcing brooding. I know, because that's how it carried down to me.

I never really lose my temper, save for the occasional unfortunate witticism--an inherent lack of filter plus a natural affinity for insult comedy has, in fact, gotten me into trouble in the past, as you might expect.

Something happens to piss me off and I brood about it. Let it rattle around in my head. I have imaginary conversations with those people involved where I picture them telling me things which piss me off even more. I mentally reinforce details which buttress my narrative. I downplay things which don't. I build a scenario in my head every bit as convincing and detailed as something I'm writing. It's awful.

And once that ball starts rolling it's hard to stop it. Eventually it reaches a tipping point and I either realize what I'm doing or it boils over into the real world in strange ways. I've got into some truly bizarre arguments because of it. I once got into a heated argument with a roommate because he denied that he had a worse sense of smell than I do. It didn't even make sense at the time and, no, you didn't have to be there. Fucked up, right?

But it only happens in certain circumstances. And I think I figured out why earlier this week: cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the emotional stress which happens when you have two contradictory beliefs in your head at the same time. You're a cop tasked to protect the public, but the public hates you. You know drinking is ruining your life, but you keep drinking anyway. The Star Wars prequel trilogy sucked donkey balls, but you're still a Star Wars fan. You get the idea. Basic psychology.

It works itself out in weird ways, eventually, a sort of subliminal stress-derived gut punch which produces a wellspring of irrational behavior. It ramps up the drama level of your life, erodes your basic common sense. You wind up getting into heated arguments online with complete strangers about how Jar-Jar ruined everything, man.

In my case, these fits of brooding happen when someone I'm really fond of--a long-time friend, a relative, whatever--does something spectacularly crazy or awful. Sometimes not intended, sometimes it is. Sometimes trivial, sometimes major.

If it was from a complete stranger or someone I'm okay with not liking, I'd just put it into my "hey, an asshole did this" bin, close the drawer and be done with it.

But since it's someone I care about doing the crazy-talk, I can't. It's something I'm naturally inclined to let go, but since I care about whoever did it, I can't just write them off into my asshole drawer. Sometimes I say something right away to make it worse because my monkey-brain tells me the proper response is to fling poo, which my target usually volleys back with double the force.

I start to brood.

The brooding bounces around in my head, the contradictions between the urge to ignore and not ignore causing thoughts to ping around in there like a BB in a tin can, which is about as accurate a portrayal of my brain as you can get.

Eventually something gives. I either realize just how ridiculous and trivial things are and I apologize profusely, frequently to the vast confusion of the target who has long since moved on and largely forgotten the entire situation, or I let it out, usually to the detriment of everyone involved, mostly me.

The only real way I've found to stop this is to realize, as soon as possible, that there's a direct correlation between how pissed off I am about something and the urgent need to drop it and move on with my life. Every time I feel myself beginning to brood, I just say "nope", clear the thought and think about something, anything, else. Let it fade with neglect.

Pop psychology would say bottling up your anger that way is a terrible way to cope, but it's dead wrong. Anger feeds on itself. Letting it loose simply makes the shit-storm clingier. Anger dies when there's nothing left to feed it.

Fortunately, it only happens very rarely. Possibly once a year, no more than that. Long-term grudges like that bother me because they are so rare, I think. I know people who get through life in a state of near-constant simmer and I wonder how they can even function with that much inside them. I find even spending a week like this in a three year period to be completely exhausting.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fiction: The Princess Of Windsor

It's been a while since I've done one of Wendig's challenges.

This one was to go to this site full of inexplicable pictures. Choose one, write a short story.

I had no preference so I rolled a die and came up with #39: Princess. Fantastic.



So here you have it. Wizards, Molly Maid and Detroit.

Read: The Princess Of Windsor

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Being Afraid Of The Bar

I lift weights in my free time, as an occasional reader of this blog might know. As forms of fitness go, it's probably the best bang for your buck: three days a week, half an hour or so in the gym, get in, lift heavy things, get done.

If I'm short on time, I can cut it even closer than that and still get a decent workout. There's a nigh-infinite variety of exercises to choose from, a myriad of different approaches, depending on what goals you want to shoot for. If you get sick with one thing, you can do something else. It's relatively safe compared to many forms of exercise, as long as you remember to keep it in your pants and use proper technique.

There gets to be a point, however, when progressing gets mentally hard. You find yourself flat on your back on the bench, psyching yourself up for the next set, which is going to be at a higher weight than any you've attempted before. Worst-case scenarios play through your head.

You think about that Youtube clip where a powerlifter dropped nine hundred pounds on his chest, turning his rib cage into a dented sack of wet noodles. You go over the horror stories friends have told you about their myriad of bad lifting experiences, things which happened to them when they lifted too much too fast. How your buddy Brock deadlifted too enthusiastically one day with a double-supinated grip, resulting in his biceps both tearing at once, flapping up his arms like two window blinds gone out of control. You queasily remember that kid on the high school football team who could slide his patella entirely around his knee joint because of his bad squat form. The bad things get more real the more you think about them.

You double-check the plates on the bar: they look big. Is it too much? You think you can handle it, but you're not absolutely sure, because, yeah, it's only ten pounds more, but you never know. Maybe your muscles will randomly hate you. Lock up at the wrong moment. Maybe the bar will be a bit too sweaty and you'll drop the weight on your head. Maybe there's some weakness in your lifting technique you don't know about that will suddenly flare up at the wrong moment.

The weight racked on the bar looks bigger and heavier the more you think about it. The more you think, the less you can see yourself lifting it. You psych yourself out.

And then, hopefully, you push through it anyway and it's not so bad. You get over it.

The initial fear of the bar is a bad thing, though. You've never done that much weight before, so of course you can't imagine yourself doing it. You have no frame of comparison; no direct experience to visualize the end result.

When I was sixteen, I was worried to death about learning to drive. I hadn't gotten in the business end of a car before. My only real knowledge of driving was osmosis, watching people who'd done it for years, in real life or on film. I had no idea what to expect when I turned the ignition. Life after a driver's license was a big blank that I couldn't really picture.

And then I actually did it and it was no big deal. In hindsight, I should've realized that. Plenty of idiots drive all the time without much issue. I'm no stupider than any of those guys; no point in doubting I wouldn't be able to do it myself.

Other grown-up things were worse: living on my own, for example. Paying bills, paying rent, making enough money to not have to worry about having food on the table. Not having anybody to really tell you what to do or where to go. It was moderately terrifying. And it still was for a while, even when I was doing it for a couple of years.

But I got over that, too.

Other things: grad school, learning to Scuba dive, learning to swim. Writing stories. Learning finances, learning to code. Speaking another language. Travel. None of these are things I saw myself doing, exactly, before I started doing them.

The thing is, it's pretty easy to psych yourself out of things which are worth doing simply because you've never tried them before. I'm about as guilty of this as anybody can be. In fact, I'm a poster boy. If there's ever a Department Of Psyching Yourself Out Of Doing Fucking Awesome Things, my picture's probably framed and hanging on the wall of the entrance lobby. The receptionist probably sticks her chewing gum to the back of it when it runs out of flavor and she's too lazy to reach for the trash can.

That's what I like about lifting weights. It's a constant reminder that few things in life worth having are going to be entirely comfortable or easy. That sometimes you just have to push through fear and trepidation and burst through the other side like the Kool-Aid Man about spring sugar-water on a roomful of screaming children.

And, holy shit, this looks like another short story week. Where does the time go?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Don't Worry, He's Fine

And my dad just randomly lopped off most of his right index finger in a wood-working accident. He's fine, just doesn't have that finger anymore. I'd be more full of angst about the whole experience, but mostly I'm just VASTLY RELIEVED he's okay.

Whenever you get a phone call from your seventy-year-old parents at 9:30 on a Thursday evening about something that's not emergency tech support, you're always worried it's going to be That Call. This wasn't it.

After the initial shock, we reverted to the usual family response to anything short of apocalyptic hardship: we joked about it, to an extent that normal people would probably find vaguely-to-deeply horrifying.

Of course, my friends and I were watching the Veronica Mars movie (which was pretty great, by the way) when the call came in. So, they got to listen to my end of the conversation which went pretty much like this:

"You stuck your finger in WHAT?"

*long pause*

*belly laugh* "At least you have nine other ones. If it makes you feel any better, that wasn't even my favorite finger. Your other fingers are way prettier. How are you going to be able to pick your nose now?"

The belly laugh was about 75% pure relief.

He's doing well, but it obviously hurts like hell and it's going to take some readjustment. I think I'll take a few extra days this Memorial Day weekend and just chill out up north. It's good to have these occasional reminders that nothing's forever. It's easy to get caught up in the day to day details of life; road bumps like this remind you there is more to life than the things you usually stress about.

Also, since he's now missing most of his right index finger, I'm probably going to find myself being cheap muscle a bit more than usual this trip. Not a problem there, I live for that kind of thing.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Urge To Write What Everybody Else Writes

What's that sound? The sound of spring in the air? Chirping birds and lawnmowers, the dulcet mating cries of frat boys fresh from school ("HEY BRO, WATCHA GAME, WATCHA GAME?! CHECK MY GUNS, ED HARDY BITCH!")? Is it the sound of traffic, minivans carrying families from the burbs to beachier places far from here? Is it children playing outside, getting into friendly tussles involving bullets and invisible force fields, werewolves and vampires? Is it that damn ice cream truck which rolls by precisely 3.6 minutes into my late afternoon nap every damn time I try to sleep?

Hell, no, this is the sound of me not getting much writing done this week. Maybe that other stuff, too.

This time of year always tosses a monkey wrench into my motivation levels, and this year more than most due to the previously aforementioned process of reconfiguring my gray matter and finances to a more retirement-boosting-friendly configuration. That's going pretty well, thank you very much. My company's accountant thinks I'm nuts, but it'll make sense later, I promise.

Anywho.

I was sitting around, brainstorming fun ideas for blogging and decided it had been a while since I'd talked about my Grand Theory Of Boring And Consistent Progress, which I've mentioned before. It's my favorite approach to just about anything, turning any goal into a process of tiny daily steps. It makes for really boring progress reports when friends ask you what's up, but is usually worth it in the end. And everyone is always really surprised when you hit the finish line. They ask you how you did it, assuming there was a training montage or blind cosmic luck, or good genetics or you were born into an awesome family or something (I was, but that's besides the point).

They're always disappointed when you tell them the truth: boring and consistent hard work, over a long period of time. It's what it always boils down to in the end. Even lucky breaks tend not to be so lucky if you look into the circumstances leading up to them.

I was going to write about that. Excellent idea for a blog entry, worthy fodder for my usual bloviation.

Then I loaded up my news reader. Basically, everybody in the world decided to write about that today. They didn't have my apartment bugged. They didn't prompt me to think about it. I doubt any of these guys were influenced by the other. It was just a zeitgeist thing, I think.

One of the cool things about having a decent newsreader (I use feed.ly) is subscribing to a shit-ton of different feeds. Shit-ton, that's the correct work for multiple feeds, naturally. It's like a murder of crows, a keg of fratboys, a cacophany of writers, etc. Anyway, you have enough feeds, you can actually track how news spreads. Memes spin out from a starting point, which you may or may not have access to initially. One blogger thinks up an interesting spin on something, the other bloggers pick it up or riff on it, do it better, do it worse, do it different or just flat-out fucking plagiarize each other. It's all good. Pretty soon it spins out as far as it will go, usually dying somewhere on Lifehacker.

My absolute favorite, though, are science articles. They go through generations, you see. NASA might release the results of a CERN study which analyzed a colossal stack of data produced by crushing many tiny particles into hard radiation and analyzing the resulting flood of exotic subparticles and wave-forms. They point out a strange peak which might suggest some interesting new angle to super-symmetry, or at the very least a direction to follow up in closer detail. That's as far as NASA is usually willing to speculate.

Cue the science writers. They speculate it's a new particle. Maybe it's the fabled Plaid Gluon or its lesser-known brother, the Taupe Anti-Meson. The science sites release the article, with a byline designed to get attention (CERN DISCOVERS POSSIBLE SHATNERON-B PARTICLE). Then the geek sites link to it, summarizing the interesting parts, which is usually the particle that the CERN researchers didn't say anything about (PLAID GLUON WILL MAKE YOUR CELLPHONE FASTER).

Then the main stream Gosh-Ain't-Science-Cool sites pick it up, exaggerating the exaggerated byline (TAUPE ANTI-MESON WILL MAKE YOUR WANG LONGER AND FUEL YOUR NEXT CELLPHONE). Finally, by the time the sites your parents read have read it, Jesus has come back to the Earth with a rail gun which fires the damn things, chiseling deep trenches through mountain ranges. Badgers and snow-cones may also be involved, I dunno. At least four people will meme it and clutter your news feed. Fox News will turn down the opportunity to cover the story because it's too scientific and confusing to their core audience of really old people and younger people who are mentally really old.

And then two days later, it's completely forgotten in favorite of the new shiny.

As much as I sometimes find myself disliking flooding my brain with mostly-useless noise like that, it makes for a fun spectator sport. Except when it pops a cork into what I was planning to write about. Damn it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Failed Experiments

I'm forced to admit my experiment over the last few months of getting up at 5:30 in the damn morning every day is a failure. Not a colossal one, not even a slightly larger than usual one. On the fail-o-meter (tm), it's probably a 2 out of 10, right above not matching your socks properly, but way below sparking a major land war against China.

The original idea was to maximize my writing time in the morning. An additional half hour, paired with my increasingly efficient morning routine, would have given me about an hour and a half each day to hammer words down. The increased confidence from my new and improved morning routine would give me a keen and confident air, sure to win me fame and fortune. My penis would increase in size by roughly 47% percent. My breath would be mintier, my general mien would be hoopier and more froodlike, my hair taller, my kung fu grip kung-fu-ier. It would be AWESOME.

Sadly, it just didn't work well with my evening routine. There's only so much give my social life will take. My friends hang out until 9:30 or 10. I need a few minutes beyond that to decompress before bed. It was cutting into my sleep in insidious ways. Tiny little chunks here and there, sort of a death by a thousand papercuts.

Never enough at once to kill me in the morning, really. But the constant fifteen minute shortage of sleep every night was slowly cutting into my sanity and stress levels.

At first, I thought it was the hellish winter we just had. The constant dark, snow and cold were giving me cabin fever. And yes, it was, but now that it's spring, it's becoming pretty clear that's not entirely the case.

It was kinda burning me out. I'd run out of steam in the afternoons a lot, more so as the week wore on. When I did get up, I'd find myself writing LESS instead of more. It was becoming harder to focus. I was becoming fairly irritable and my usual zen-like equanimity about life was beginning to erode.

And so I'm setting the alarm back to 5:55. The five minutes before six are there simply so I can claim I wake up before six every morning. Yes, really.

Not a big change by any means but significant. It's good to know a little bit more about how my brain and body work.

I'm a big fan of tiny experiments like this. Pushing your comfort levels in trackable, easily-reverted ways. It pays to blow things up every once in awhile, push your comfort zones, even if it's in ways that people will mock you for if they ever find out. If you don't change things up every once in a while, you wind up too comfortable with the status quo. Growth is change, after all, even in trivial amounts.

Progress on the book was, as you might guess by reading between the lines, pretty slow this week. Hopefully with more predictable sleep, I'll get back into a better groove.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Game of 10's

I'm a big fan of doing nothing. If I had a totem spirit, it would probably be a rock. Moss-covered, unremarkable, of no particular pedigree. The kind of rock kids would pass up on because it wouldn't even be interesting enough to toss through a neighbor's window. All assuming, of course, that kids these days even went outside to play or that minor acts of relatively-harmless vandalism wouldn't result in people going to jail under the current zero-tolerance laws.

But I digress.

Doing nothing is great and, I think, something of a lost art. If people acquire too many consecutive minutes these days, they usually spend them staring at one screen or another. Me, I just stare off into space and gather wool...even though I have no idea why the hell I'd want more wool, let alone spend time accumulating it. Maybe it's an old-timey metaphor for something more exciting like juggling chainsaws or punch-fighting grizzly bears. Who knows.

But that's besides the point. I think a lot of stress these days comes from peoples' inherent inability to just slow the fuck down and do nothing every once in awhile. It's not particularly encouraged in modern society. Everything has a time and date attached to it. We've become a society of clock-watchers, Facebook-status-updaters. Twitter ain't going to watch itself.

Cities aren't designed to be walked anymore, let alone ambled. I live right across from a grocery store, but the road separating us is the most heavily trafficked in town. Should I attempt to cross it at any time other than ass o'clock in the morning, I would be mowed down like a line of coke at a Hollywood ad agency. It would be like playing Frogger, if you're old enough for that reference.

Wasting time is a lost art. And that's a shame.

I think the biggest single tool I've had over the years in optimizing my finances and time management is day-dreaming. Because, really, what's the point of having any money if you don't know where you're going? And the best way to figure out where you're going is to pay attention to what the eight year who lives beneath your brain has to say about you.

I've got many day-dreaming prompts but my favorite is something Charles Pellegrino writes about often. Charles Pellegrino is a damn fine writer. His books range in topic from diving the Titanic, to 9/11 and Pompeii, to startlingly-advanced civilizations which predated ancient Greece. By background, he's more of a geologist, which makes his career arc rather surprising--you'd expect a geologist to write more about rocks and less about, say, the Roman empire's use of plumbing. I suppose he's what somebody from the Renaissance would call a polymath. He knows a little about a lot and is very good at conveying his enthusiasm.

One of the things he does when he shows up in a new area is what he calls the game of tens. You step out of your plane and then imagine what everything looked like one year ago. Then you clear your mind and picture what it looked like ten years ago. Were those buildings there? That tree was probably a bit shorter. Maybe another company owned the airline you're using back then. Were the haircuts longer then?

Then you go back another power of ten, to one hundred years. One hundred years ago, that airport was gone. Planes were barely even invented yet. It would have been a long time before paved runways. There were other trees here, perhaps not even a road. Just a corn field and some cows.

How about a thousand years? Ten thousand? One hundred thousand?

And on and on.

It's a weirdly effective way at dealing with scale. What am I going to do in one day? Ten days? A hundred? What do I want to be doing in ten thousand days? It gives you a built in structure to reference things.

Money, distance, time, it's all good. I do money a lot because it's tied in so deeply with so many other life goals. Money is a terrible end in and of itself but it sure as hell can buy a lot of freedom, flexibility and piece of mind.

What would I do with one dollar? Ten dollars? A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand, a million, ten million and so on.

Sometimes it's easy. But sometimes you find yourself coming up with answers which are too glib, too rote. Never work again? Why? I'd give a lot of money to charity. Why not? I'm rich. Daydreams are fun and relaxing so you can just keep asking yourself the questions over and over again until you start giving yourself interesting answers, like a bored toddler with an easy target. Why, why, why.

After you keep asking yourself these questions over and over, you start to realize some things. All your answers start to acquire patterns if you reflect on them enough, push for the truth beneath the truth.

Why do you keep resorting to "travel to exotic locations" for half your rote responses? Are you actually dodging the question that you're terribly bored where you live? Why aren't you travelling now? Maybe you need a change of scenery. You want to buy a big house, have all your friends over for parties? Can't you do much the same already? Why? Why not?

And that's the rub. Daydreaming is an escape from the real world, but the real world is an essential part of the equation. I like it because it's simultaneously an escape from and a good place to explore the real world. It's fun because you don't have to take it seriously, but at the same time it's a great way to short-circuit your boring adult brain and figure out what you find really important in life.

Finally, you do enough of it about one topic or the other, you get to the Million Dollar Question: why aren't I doing this now? After all, giving to charity is free. All you really need is time. Travel? Travel is weirdly cheap if you think laterally. You want a really awesome car? A bigger house? It's all achievable if you think creatively enough or work harder or take more free time off. But you need to know your goals first before you can go after them.

Unless your daydream is about being able to fly because you have a magic cape, like Superman. That's absurd because everybody knows that Kryptonians are inherent fliers.