Some Thoughts #64

    Summer has come rolling in, on a rollercoaster that seems to have skipped right over spring.  Without the schedule of a school year, and the fact that this hot weather has been around on and off for months now - it doesn’t even feel like summer to me.  And yet - currently it’s hot muggy and sweltering in the depths of summer which will last for the coming months.  This is always the last part of Slug & Lettuce that I work on.  Usually by the time everything is done and either laid out or ready for layout -- I plod away with my thoughts of the season, influenced heavily by the weather and how the seasonal changes affect my moods.  Lately I am faced more with the fight for time.  It seems like I’ve been fighting time for as long as I can remember, and it only continues to increase.  I watch days then weeks and then months slip away.  I seem be losing touch with keeping track of time.  And I fight the need to cling to time all the while, remembering how liberating it was to cast off my watch and live with the only house clock safely tucked into a drawer.  Yet time is what everything comes down to for me these days in a finely structured day, week and month where every minute counts.  I’m a compulsive work-a-holic.  Continually taking on more and more, without ever being able to let anything go.  Logic dictates that something must give - yet everything is precious and nothing expendable.  I have so many diverse interests which split me across the middle, up and down, and spread me thin over too many projects, subjects and circumstances.  I feel as though I am continually saying “if I could only get my shit together” or “if I could only get on top of it all”.  On top of it all - and what does that even mean anymore?  I mean, along with a lot of help - we did get nearly all the reviews done this time around and it that is not “on top of it” then I’m not sure anymore what is.  It’s a seemingly impossible task, because I will always fill every spare moment.  The busy frenzy actually feeds itself and inspires itself - propelling the momentum forward, and motivating me more.  I do not know such things as free time or an idle moment.  For me a day in which nothing got done still consists of a long list of tasks accomplished - it just means I didn’t get to that which I had hoped or wanted to.  I’ve come to accept it, as much as I continue to fight it.  I have been this way for as long as I can remember - and it only seems to get worse.  NYC burned me out and I blamed it on the city and it’s over-stimulation.  Richmond was so appealing because the outside stimulus was much more laid and more condusive to my frantic over-activity.  But 3 years down the road here and I’ve made myself as batty as I was then.  I’ve taken on too much and I have set out to do the impossible. It seems the only way to sort it out is to move again and make a clean slate - but that is a silly reaction and not something I at all want to do.  I often daydream about what it would be like to have only one passion or hobby.  One thing with which to dedicate myself to fully. But then I also see so many people who don’t even have that one passion and that is as hard for me to understand.  Cause see in the midst of being a work-a-holic, I’m also a perfectionist and I want to be able to do everything 100% or more.  And so of course, everything is sadly lacking to my own high standards which I set for myself.  I set these deadlines for myself with S&L and then literally stress myself out to the point of sickness to keep them.  A rational person might ask - well what difference does it really make?  Or, it’s your own deadline so you can take a few more days.  All true.  In reality - no one will notice a few days late to the printer, or if I slide a deadline a little bit.  But I notice.  And in the end -- if I were to continue to slide deadlines, then what sort of structure would S&L have?  It would never get done and then you wouldn’t have this in your hands now.  So many people give up or give in when things get hard.  So out of necessity I stick deadly to my deadlines.  I push myself.  I kill myself.  And then ask, is it worth it? Sometimes I really don’t know if it is.  And sometimes I really question myself as to where I find the inner strength to continue to push forward when it seems that anyone else would slow down and take a deep breath; take it easy; hang out with some friends and do something fun.  See that is what is all comes down to - the difference between fun and work.  We all say that we will do whatever we do as long as it stays fun.  But often times the fun has some pretty harsh and difficult roads. And sometimes that very fun thing turns into hard work.  And it’s those times when things come together for me that I really know and understand why it is that I do what I do.  I had several such occasions recently which brought me that fulfilled purposeful feeling.  I set up a show for Submission Hold and Anti Product along with locals 400 Years and Lewistown.  I haven’t done a show for awhile (out of necessity) and I was really excited about this one.  It turned out being one of those nights that reaffirmed my faith in punk rock - and in activism - and in living by my ideals.  I have been especially moved and inspired by these rad women -- Jen from Submission Hold and Taina from Anti-Product - who get up there on stage with so much strength and so many inspiring words that are a call to action.  I left that night feeling like I had purpose again and I know that a good number of people left feeling that their fist was high in the air and they were ready to take things into their hands.  It’s these little moments which I live for.  When the vastness of the punk community fuses itself into a focus point, when people from afar are brought together in one place, and when the energy level produces positive creativity.  It is what I often call synthesis - the coming together of all elements that matter and create something greater.  Due to my schedule, I miss a lot of shows these days.  But when Scumbrigade from Sweden were playing, I moved mountains to get myself to this show.  I had really liked them on vinyl and was excited about the chance to see them.  And also pretty in awe at the idea of a band traveling from Sweden to play in a sunken garage on the other side of the small town that I live in.  It’s such a given in our scene that bands will tour and travel all over - and it’s sometimes something that I think we take for granted or don’t even fully appreciate.  So  many bands go on tour these days that we pick and choose and don’t support everyone who plays in our town, the way we once might have.  But Scumbrigade were an exception to all that.  Best of all was that I came to realize that one of the throaty voices on the vinyl is female, and also the very same person who my pal Karoline told me that I absolutely had to meet.  These days it’s the women and women’s voices who really inspire me and fuel my fire.  And it’s the women who really get my attention.  With a lot of crusty-punk and grind-core bands you can’t tell a voice is female, and in this case, that realization made it all that much better for me.  While it may not matter in many ways, it makes all the difference for me and takes something to a new level. I got to meet up with an  old friend who was traveling with them, and the show was totally awesome.  One of those small microcosms which make me proud.  My brief frantic time passing through this show was a huge dose of reality which reminded me of my priorities and that there is a whole awesome world that exists outside of my work-a-holic routine.  And these days that is a very important realization.  On the other show-front obsession -- As Friends Rust finally made it through town.  With so much obsession on my part, it was bound to be anti-climatic.  But once again I was overjoyed and rewarded with that coming together feeling which brings synthesis to my life.  I found all these little details come together in realizing the I had new friends to meet in Soophie Nun Squad and that as I’m raving about how the Tem Eyos Ki 7” is something that Beth must absolutely get her hands on -- I find out that the female singer who I’m so obsessed with is right there in front of me.  Funny how these things fall into place when you least expect it.  In full punk rock ecstasy - Strike Anywhere and As Friends Rust played in a tiny dead rat smelling basement, powered by the shoddiest extension chord plugged into a light fixture.  But the energy and excitement was high and I was finally getting to see a band that I’d obsessed over for so long.  It was rad.  Yet again - the very connections which fuel my fire and give me purpose.  Why is pushing myself to stay up till 7:30 am typing away and stressing out is a prerequisite for getting to a really good punk show, I can’t explain, except to say that if I didn’t do all these things then I would miss out on the best moments of my life.  And that is why I do it - for the coming together of people from far away places with a shared fusion of energy and creativity.
    And then you never know when life with throw a curve ball at you.  We spend so much time planning and dreaming and prioritizing and figuring out what course of action to take in our days, weeks and months.  And then out of the blue something can come a long and change that completely.  Maybe it’s a friend that needs your help, maybe it’s your family that needs you, maybe you just follow the day and see where it leads you and go with the flow.  But when these forks in the road come you choose which way to go and sometimes those choices get thrown at you and make all else seem irrelevant.  And that can be tragic and beautiful at the same time.  Sometimes it’s those things which break the routine which are the best blessings in disguise.  It’s those things which I secretly wait for -- the snow storm that never comes that will hold me hostage in my house for weeks while I read book after book (even though I can’t just make the time to do that on my own).  Those obstacles which stand in your path and change your plans -- can really make you reevaluate your choices and your decision and most of all your priorities.  And that is what I think is important -- being reminded of what is really important to you.  Really enjoying the present - and savoring it for all it’s worth.  Living in the moment.  And placing yourself into circumstances and situations which you want to be in - rather than making due with what is, and always waiting for that better time to come, or else reliving the past.  I often am guilty of the very things which I so easily can criticize in others and in society at large.  I work too hard and stress myself out.  I make due with less than enjoyment of the now in hope for a better later.  But at the same time - right about the time when the stress gets so great, or my priorities really start to be questioned by myself -- then I take stock of things, breath deeply, smile and look at the whole world in a different light.  Lately my work-a-holic tendencies are killing me.  I’m constantly struggling to maintain.  Sacrificing sleep and all to often happiness in the moment and sanity at the end of the day.  I feel as though I tread a thin line that is soon to break. And so it seems time to real it all in and get the shit together for once and all (again).  But I still come back to the fact that nothing is expendable and there is no room to give.  I want to put all my energy into 100 different directions and feel like nothing can stop me.  Except of course for that left curve.
    I started writing a monthly column for MRR.  Regardless of my column, for anyone who has not looked at MRR for awhile; for anyone who things that MRR sucks -- you should re-consider.  After growing years of my own disinterest - I’m finding that MRR has a lot of great coverage and things of interest again, and this has been pretty exciting and it’s coming full circle to the forum where I first got myself so connected to the punk world.  So I’m writing this monthly column, which with my grasp of time of late, is a pretty demanding thing.  A month goes by like the snap of my fingers. I used to write a daily journal, but somewhere in the last few years, since I’ve lived in Richmond actually, that habit has slipped away.  Because so many of my thoughts and ideas have been channeled in that direction lately, it’s left me thinking about this here page and wondering just what is on my mind that is so important that I want to tell the world.  With that sort of pressure - nothing really seems that important.  Complaining about my stress and overworked mind yet again, bores even me.  And droning on about the weather and my moods -- well how many times can I go on that track. Of course as the heat of summer settles into Richmond - I can’t help but be affected.  The weather is completely out of whack and it’s either flooding or drought conditions all over the country, with little moderation.  Likewise, we skipped right over spring and went straight into the heat wave - which has proceeded to bounce up and down and all around.  My sensitivity to the weather seems to be very akin to the plants in my garden.  My 3rd year garden is struggling.  I’ve had an infestation of every imaginable bug.  Aparently this too is a result of the whacked weather - it wasn’t cold enough this past winter for their cycles and many are lingering in droves.  I’ve had slugs in my lettuce (which I get endless pun jokes out of), worms in my broccoli, ants fucking everywhere, the seedlings get chewed and leveled, just about everything seems to have it’s enemy. I try to combat that with companion planting - planting herbs and vegetables together which are mutually beneficial. But  if it’s not an insect then it’s the weather extremes.  From 40-100° overnight.  The lettuce are long gone by this point of the year, as are the broccoli and spinach - all of which like the colder weather.  Now we’re sprouting tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and peppers.  Garlic will get harvested in July.  Sunflowers and cilantro will continue through the summer.  As will the basil, tomatoes, beans and hopefully the squash and zucchini.  The herbs are filling out the garden into a lush jungle - covering any spare path and intermingling with each other and crowding out the weaker plants.  My garden is very small for all the talk I do of it. I tend to the garden on a daily basis - visiting the plants, checking out their changes and evolution, watching and waiting.  I fuss over them sometimes a bit too much - especially because I often don’t know what to do when there is a problem.  I spend frantic moments with reference books and concoct organic soap sprays to try to fight the bugs.  And then it’s all about patience and waiting and watching and seeing what will happen.  Gardening is all about patience because it takes some time to really see the results. Many things are slow to grow, but then in hindsight they seem to have grown so fast. It’s all about paying attention and yet waiting and watching and there is so much to learn from their cycle.  With the dedication of time and care - the plants give much back.  This pattern seems to fit my life really well in coming back to the discipline of time.  Living with the plants kinda forces me to take things in stride and move a little more slowly.  It also gets me that much more in touch with the magical times of day - dawn and dusk - which bring relief to the summer heat and of course to appreciate the slight changes in weather and growing conditions. 
    Even though I’m totally stressed out, compared to the mood of winter and those cold days of early spring -- the bright sun and longer days of summer make me feel on top of the world - as if anything is possible and that the world is on my plate.  And so I set out to conquer it.  And I will seek out my own advice and strive to balance out all of my life and put full attention to enjoying the now.
— Chris(tine) June, 2000