Sea of Dreams

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Photo by Andrew Montgomery on Unsplash

Today’s song is “Sea of Dreams” by Oberhofer on their album, Chronovision.

 

It feels like years since I have written you.

So little, yet so much has happened in the past month.

My life’s purpose has been laughing in my face for quite a while.

My ex contacted me recently to “get back together” (see “Loser”). Clearly, I said, “no” (that’s putting it delicately). However, it made me think about all of the shitty things that happened over the past two years: how I “wasted time” with this person and with myself, how I felt alone even when I was with him, and how I sacrificed my needs for someone, who didn’t appreciate a damn thing.

This past weekend, I discussed life goals with someone that eerily resonated mine. We are the same age, though I felt like he is light years ahead. He teaches Psychology courses full-time and is finishing his PhD. We talked about how we want to write some sort of novel or film. We both haven’t achieved this goal yet, but who knows?

However, I felt embarrassed that I am the one sitting on my hands with two part-time jobs that aren’t really going anywhere, because I don’t have a doctorate or am working on one. I’m not working on anything now or sometimes it feels that way. I need to make this change.

Then, I recalled a recent conversation I had with one of my college students about how it would be amazing to live in Colorado—to live among mountains that make us feel small, yet a part of something bigger. On that note, she talked about how she could have been there now, how she should have made different choices like how she transferred schools, and how she felt she has been “wasting her time.”

In response, I played on a spinet of wisdom: “We are always wasting time.”
She laughed and said something like, “That’s true,” in affirmation.
I reassured her that she would find her place and get to where she needs to be—it isn’t about when you make something happen, but that you make it happen, at all.

Consequently, as a friend said, I have to find a way to fulfill my Ikigai.

No, Ikigai isn’t a hipster term for “happiness”—it is a Japanese term, “iki” meaning “life” and “gai” meaning “value or worth.” Basically, it is your life’s purpose.

I know my Ikigai is writing and teaching, but it involves much more. How do I accomplish these goals? How do I afford them or make a living from them?

I thought about this principle and how we can achieve our Ikigai in a few steps:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
This step is crucial in our journey to find our Ikigai. I was so tempted to continuously compare myself with this person, who seemingly has accomplished much more than I have. In these moments, I run away with the thoughts that I will never accomplish my goals, because “I haven’t achieved them yet,” or “I am not trying hard enough.” Honestly, when you think these things, it is probably bullshit because it’s not accurate or even worth thinking about. Comparing ourselves only gives us a reason to hold ourselves back from achieving what we truly want.

2. It’s okay to “waste time.”
Some people may think it’s a waste of time to go out drinking with friends, meet new people, or binge watch Netflix for hours on end, but these experiences can be refreshing or even inspiring. Did you ever get drunk and think of the most amazing idea for a novel, because you overheard someone say something crazy? It may just be a drunken idea or infinite wisdom? Either way, write it down. Worst case scenario, it can provide a good story. And if you feel like you’re really wasting time with your life: Do something about it, even if it means opening that GRE study guide and re-learning Algebra. It will be worth it in the end or another waste of time. Regardless, move onward.

3. Don’t look back in anger.
It is so easy to dwell on our past mistakes, what people have done to us, and what we have yet to do, that we forget our purpose. We drown in a sea of anger and resentment, that we lose our sense of balance. We can’t stop our thoughts, but we can circumvent negative thoughts sort of speak. The principles of Aikido, a defensive approach to martial arts, teach us about redirecting attacks or negative energy per se, thus defending ourselves without harming others. My Sensei joked that I was like “Gumby,” so I translated this as I am freely moving and cannot be caught, spiritually or otherwise. Consequently, I learned how to fall down stairs without killing myself and how to redirect my negative feelings somewhere else in a positive way. Find it in your heart to forgive others and more importantly, yourself.

4. Most importantly, be kind to others.
“Life is chaos; be kind,”-Michelle Eileen McNamara
As the late wife of Patton Oswalt said, we need to be kind to others. We need to forget about ourselves for a little while and focus on sharing our kindness with others, even if they don’t appreciate it. I refuse to let myself give up on others, even though I had so many negative experiences being kind towards others. I realize I don’t need anyone to complete my happiness, but it’s okay to want someone. It’s okay to want someone to join you on your journey in achieving Ikigai or maybe sharing your love with others is your Ikigai. When we communicate with others, especially with dating, we can tend to simply take “pieces” of others to fill a void without any intention in returning affection—”ghosting,” particularly. We tend to forget that there are other people on the other side of an unanswered text. Sometimes we don’t have the energy or it might be the lesser of evils to avoid people, but try to be kind as possible. Psychotherapist, Esther Perel explains this phenomenon of “ghosting” and other related concepts succinctly in her video: https://www.facebook.com/Jezebel/videos/10154831710036356/

I will leave you with these thoughts. We may not know what our Ikigai is or how to achieve it, but don’t forget that we are all looking for our purpose in some way. We are not alone and don’t have to be. Until we find our purpose, we can enjoy our paper sailboat ride downstream. Remember in the words of the fictional character, Bojack Horseman, “In this terrifying world, all we have is the connections that we make.”

Best wishes,

A. Dawn

If you would like to listen to our playlist, you can find it here and on Spotify: thirtythirdwheel

15 Seconds of Art: Sam Kuchwara

Sam Kuchwara is a gifted local artist in the NEPA area. He creates stunning mixed-media pieces using materials such as oils, wood, glass, and broken pieces of everyday objects. Sam’s paintings include local architecture and scenery.

Check out more of Sam’s work on our Instagram page, thirtythirdwheel.

If you happen to be in the Scranton area this Friday, come see Sam’s work during First Friday, from 6-9 pm at New Laundry, 127 N Washington Ave, Scranton, PA 18503.

What Will It Be This Time?

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Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash

This poem was written by our columnist and creator, A. Dawn Pica.

What Will It Be This Time?

I run my fingertips
Along the grooves of the bricks at my knees—
I grit their teeth between buried secrets
And the cracks are like those of his fallacies.
They are rudimentary
Buried in the cemetery
Of our unspoken words
That still linger in drafts
Of text messages.
I put my back against the universe,
And choke back my tears
In a single shot.

“What will it be this time?” he asks again
As I watch the fake candle light
Flicker its brightest star,
Then die in effigy,
Leaking battery acid.
“I’m not a hopeless romantic
Anymore,” I say,
And he gives me the usual
Overstated with gold flaked parlay.
This glass swirls and spins a fairy tale
Of someone else’s fantasy,
Full of unfulfilled promises.

I am lucky to have you.

 

If you’d like your written work to be featured in this column, e-mail A. Dawn at:  adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com

15 Seconds of Art: Ali Pica’s Photography Showcase

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Photography by Ali Pica

Ali Pica, of Thirty-Third Wheel, is our featured artist this week. Ali finds inspiration in nature and architecture. She also enjoys playing with light and color.  If you are in the Scranton, PA area, check out her and other fantastic artists and musicians this Friday, October 27th, at the Irish Wolf Pub for Hallowfest III, from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.  Also, you can view Ali’s photography on Instagram at Thirty-Third Wheel.

If you would like your work featured on our site, e-mail A. Dawn at adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com or message us on Instagram.

 

 

 

Present Tense

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Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

Today’s featured song is “Present Tense,” by Radiohead on their album, A Moon Shaped Pool.

 

 

Do you ever feel like your life is like a dream? I don’t mean like Cinderella or some fairy tale crap, but just the mundane of everyday life cut up into oddly pieced snippets then spliced back together like an artsy foreign film? You can’t quite figure out if you are awake or if every day is just a blur of actions and reactions, then something happens.

 

Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference—It is a numbness that takes over sometimes when we do the same routine over and over. Sometimes it can be when we see great things happen to other people and not us. Or worse yet, when bad things happen to us or people we care about.
It doesn’t have to be so bad, but lately I have been indulging in ennui. Maybe because I have been so busy with the everyday, I forget to dream about something interesting? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been sick with a cold this week, I don’t feel like doing anything.

 

Sometimes we need to slow down. Maybe we can bathe in the present tense? Soak our fingers until we are pruning with the day-to-day reality, which is our lives?

 
Let us not be too real. Let’s pretend for a bit.

 
If I look at my life, I see that I am underpaid immensely for my qualifications and education. Right now, I am a substitute teacher in the day and teach college courses at night. I don’t make a lot of money, but I am happier than I was with my “dream job,” which turned into a nightmare. The students I encounter when subbing were kids I knew from last year when I taught at their school. They tell me often that they wish I would be their teacher and can’t figure out why I wasn’t hired to teach at their school. After hearing it so many times, I started taking it more seriously, though I can’t fight the political machine and win every time. I can’t dwell on what isn’t.

 

A lot of us have been there.

 
My love life was on life support recently, and then I pulled the plug. I was seeing someone off and on, who is considerably younger than me. There are no harsh feelings—I would rather just be honest with myself and realize there is no hope of it going anywhere.

 
End scene.

 
This may sound like I am depressed, but I am okay with everything. People may think happiness is a constant, an object, that you have no control over, like winning the lottery. You may be lucky or you are not and there is nothing you can do about it.

 

I beg to differ.

 
I have been reading lately, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” which is the novel that inspired the film, Blade Runner. I don’t want to give too much away, but in the novel, the main character, Rick Deckard is obsessed with obtaining a living animal (because animals have died due to the aftermath of a World War). Living animals are a status symbol to possess, because they are obviously so rare and cost exorbitant amounts of money. He thought if he bought a living animal, life would be so much better. It reminds me of the old adage, “money can’t buy happiness.”

 
The problem with this is not necessarily that money can’t buy you happiness, but happiness is not a tangible object or concept. We place demands on ourselves everyday: “If only I had that house or great job,” “If only I lived somewhere else,” or “If only I were married.” When we place these contingencies on ourselves, we make ourselves miserable—there will always be another contingency to replace the one that is resolved. If you place contingencies on yourself, practice reframing them into reasonable goals. If it sounds ridiculous, then it is not worth thinking about. These are reasons why I have to live in the present as to prevent myself from feeling sad or disappointment. If I start placing contingencies on myself, I will dwell in failure of a future that may never be.

 
There are ways to live in the present, but you have to be willing to try:



1. Leave the house and do something different.
You don’t have to go skydiving, another country, or a concert all of the time to be happy. The problem with indulging with social media is that we compare ourselves to others. We see their smiling faces with a bunch of their equally interesting friends doing amazing things, while we are sitting in our hypothetical (or real) Snuggies. We don’t have to be out living life the fullest every night or every weekend to be fulfilled, but maybe try something new. Travel to a nearby place you haven’t been. Do something nice for others and throw a little get together. Ask people to bring food and/or drinks if you can’t afford it. Break up your routine instead of feeling sorry for yourself after another night of Netflix and Ben and Jerry’s bingeing. Even if you are with your significant other, life gets boring when you are always locked into a bubble.

2. Find something to distract yourself.
Need to clean that closet in your house? Repair your leaking faucet? Get a paper done? Just do it already and get it over with. You will feel so much better knowing it is done and when something exciting comes your way, you will be able to join in the adventure, whether you have saved your money, time, or both. If you don’t feel like being productive or doing something you don’t want to do, write a song, read a book, paint something, or go on an adventure and take photos. If you can’t do those things at the moment or it’s more of a thought process that’s holding you back, change your mind.

In Cognitive Behavior Therapy, there are techniques which help you control your racing thoughts. If I continue to have anxiety producing thoughts, I will “thought replace,” which I will shift my attention to something else silly or something productive in order not to think negatively. Thankfully, I have an active imagination, so I will try to think of something funny or random (kind of like an inner improv). Additionally, I have been practicing meditation lately, which there is a method you can try, which is called “Noting.” Noting is not necessarily changing your thoughts, but “noting” that you have these negative thoughts and that’s okay. You can start noting when you have negative thoughts, what situations they occur, and so forth just as you would with “thought replacing.”

3. Make Small Goals for Yourself
Along the lines of distracting yourself, make small goals instead of larger ones. Break your goals into chunks. What do you want out of life? Is it manageable? Can you try to make it happen? I have wanted to be a novelist since I was eight years old, but sometimes if I think about writing a novel, the process sounds daunting and impossible. If I break it down into small parts, like thinking about what kind of characters I want to develop, or what generally I would like it to be about, it makes things easier to process. Certain goals take time, possibly years or a lifetime. It takes us a while to get a degree or start a family. We don’t just obtain what we want overnight, typically. If you want to break it down further, maybe something like you adulted this week by working a bunch of overtime, so you buy something nice for yourself. Whatever your goals, you can achieve them in small parts, which add up to a bigger picture.

4. Don’t make concrete plans for the future.
When I say this, I am not referring to putting money in a retirement fund or making any attainable plans for the future (e.g. getting married, having kids). What I am referring to is to not be so rigid in your plans. Life changes and so do our plans. Be prepared to make changes or to roll with them the best you can. Again, these can be typically the contingencies we create for ourselves: “If I do this, then I will be happy.” It doesn’t always work out that way. Most of the time, it doesn’t, but what you can do is dream. As Blondie says “dreaming is free.”

5. Lastly, Dream, Dream, Dream.
The fun thing about dreaming is that it doesn’t have to be taken seriously. When I was younger, I lived in a world much like Doug Funnie, which I would imagine exaggerated situations and write about them, good and bad. 99 percent of the time these fantasies never happened, but the reality of it though is that I never worried as a kid that “my dreams won’t be realized” or that they had to be. The point was just to let my mind float and sometimes use it to cope with stress. As adults, I think we sometimes forget it’s okay to not worry about actualizing everything we dream about. When I find the dream is not fulfilling or in some cases, becoming harmful, I dream of something else and deal with that negativity in my life, typically by expelling it. For example, I would catch myself daydreaming thinking things would work out in some way with the person mentioned above. In reality, it didn’t “have to” work out, but some part of me wanted it to. When I realized it never would, it wasn’t fun anymore to dream about it. And if something keeps coming back to you, like my dream of being a novelist, maybe it’s time to make that dream into a reality or change your dream.

I hope my advice has served you well in a pressing time of ennui. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy what life brings me on another unseasonably warm October, today.

Sincerely yours,

 

A. Dawn

If you would like to listen to our playlist, you can find it here and on Spotify:  <a href=”https://open.spotify.com/user/thirtythirdwheel/playlist/1AY3MCl1GDEPm7N5uWbBCU”>thirtythirdwheel</a&gt;