Mundanity

The mundane is every quiet thing that you do that falls in line with maintaining your lifestyle. It’s those things you do every day that could easily be considered boring by some. But not to me. I have a fixation with the mundane. I look for it in all of the media I consume – film, YouTube videos, books, music. I look for the lulls in conversation, washing the dishes, lighting a gas stove, putting a plate of food before a loved one or stranger, phone nowhere in sight, boiling of the kettle, the whistle of the wind. It’s pure magic. The mundane is fascinating because we all have access to it.

There are things that we must do as humans living in this society to maintain ourselves. How does my coworker organize her computer cables? How do the mail people deliver letters – do they toss them into mail slots, place them with care, shove them in with the grocery store sale catalogs? How long do different drivers wait before flicking on their blinkers when nearing a protected right turn?

If I invite a partner into my life, I want to see how he washes the dishes. Is he thoughtful about turning off the water between lathering the dishes? Does he leave the sponge in the sink after he’s done? How much soap does he put on the sponge? And the all important – which side of the sponge does he put the soap on? Mundane tasks say a lot about a person. They express to me if someone is thoughtful or thoughtless. Now, of course there are different ways of doing things. But if the individual has no method, no rhythm, no attention to their task, then I obtain a lot of information from this.

The way people perform menial tasks reveal parts of their personality that they can either corroborate with their words, or refuse with their words. If a man is thoughtless about a simple task like washing the dishes, I can understand him to be thoughtless in other aspects of his life. If performing mundane tasks frustrates him, then I can deduce that he has not spent much time alone and in a meditative state. And those people who cannot be alone with their thoughts are the most dangerous kind.

The way people approach the mundane shows how much time they’ve spent enthralled in thoughtful practice of living, regardless of the action they are performing. So someone’s way of living the mundanity of their lives reveals their quirks, and potentially their thought patterns. I have a fondness for people who have an intentional way of performing their daily tasks. They are considerate to the details.

Think of a film in which two people sit in a cafe across from one another. The camera views them from the outside of the cafe, but the audio is clear as the glass in front of the actors. We can tell the relationship of the two people by the way that they interact with the objects on the table. Let’s take a man and a woman. The man looks down at the cloth napkin on his plate. He moves his right arm (of course the one closest to the camera) and grasps the napkin tightly before dragging it downward. He looks up to see the woman has already put her napkin on her lap.

His interaction with the prop – the napkin – speaks volumes, especially if the scene is elongated to pause at the glance he gives the woman. Based on how he’s handled the napkin, we can gather that the man may not be familiar with the protocol of cloth napkins. What should he do with it? Ah, yes he remembers going to a nice restaurant for his great aunt’s birthday and she requested he place the napkin in his lap. He should do the same here. This cafe looks nice. He hasn’t been to the cafe before? He picked it because he though the woman would like it?

There is a tremendous amount of information to be gathered from a person’s relationship with the objects around them. It could be argued that the previous passage has more to do with social mannerisms than with the mundane. But there is an intertwine between the two. For example, we would typically frown upon someone using an old t-shirt as a kitchen sponge. The mundane is not without its own rules. But the systems of variations, the way that move our hands, concentrate, hunch our backs – well, that’s the beauty of the mundane.

Life’s beauty is in the quiet details that make our daily meals, clean our homes, greet our pets and children and partners, sit to read or write or watch a show. If we look at big life events, we remember the details. Those are undeniably the morsels that keep our recollection intact. When we remember people of our pasts, we find that we zoom in on something small, maybe something irrelevant to the totality of the relationship. We remember the patterns that people form. Our memory is tied to the smell of the day we ran through a field and found some old bricks from the nearby factory, the feel of a cow’s tongue and teeth as it wrapped around the grass in your hand, the taste of warm raspberries picked right from the bushes.

Being astute and aware of our mundane experiences brings us into the wrap of the present, that terrorizing place we seek to flee from. Because if we just stayed in the present for a second longer, maybe we would think everything would lose its place and we would lose grasp over our lives. If we stayed in the present for a moment longer, we would be safe and in this modern world, that’s often an unfamiliar feeling. A frightening one even.

The mundane ties us to history, place, and spirals us in time as was always intended. It confronts us with the surety of our mortality. And so the mundane brings us into immortality. It weaves us into the narrative cycles of life. Large events happen, we are shocked. We may weep. We may seek comfort from others, neglecting to pay attention to the unbearable simplicity of the going about our day. Because that would just be too much. Wouldn’t it be too much to act as though nothing big happened? If we practiced living in the realm of the mundane and rejected our god-like egos, would we then lose something precious?

Or would our lives in simple, daily action honor the large events in an even more poignant manner? Would it be insulting, anarchical to continue living as we did the days prior when life was less wrought with those stories that are going to make history?


A Bit of Poetry

Here is about half of the poetry I wrote last year during an especially difficult time.

Falls

Trust that risings look like falls
And grief like anger
Trust that there’s a whole world outside of this
And that your beautiful mind can create anything
And that your incredible heart will keep pumping blood and hurt and earthquaking love throughout
And in all of this,
You’ll twirl like a dizzy ballerina grasping at a wall
But you’ll never fall

 

Ruthless

Fearlessly, ruthlessly
Tear apart you life
Until it’s hanging on by threads
Because that’s when you’ll see what hangs on
And that’s when your identity will show you everything you’re going towards and everything you’re moving away from

Fearlessly, ruthlessly
Purge what forms pockets of hatred in your heart
Fly, swim, and sprint towards the things that make you alive

 

Change

You know the name of change
She lives in all things
And at all times
She comes and turns things
Kaleidoscopic

 

Broken

The wind breaks boughs
Waterlogged, dead, dying
The bugs broken were not strong enough to hold
Against the movements of the winds
Bow to change
Relent the weak parts to the gusts
These are boughs meant to be broken

 

Toil

I fear only to have lived a small life
Cocooned in daily toil that lines my pockets with dollars I would gladly return
For an hour outside in the fresh air and salty sea
For an hour writing poetry at the moon
For an hour writhing my hands over the surface of clay
For an hour in meditation of the sky and land
For an hour fighting even the shadows inside me

I fear only to have lived a small life
Found at my cubicle desk wedged between other warm bodies with gutted souls
Found hunched, countering my natural good posture

I fear only a small life
One that is noisy with distraction, sick coughs, computer monitors, unrooted and shaking place

 

Quickly

I see change
In all things
In all days
The winds of last night
Brought whispers
Saying things I already know
I see change
It’s coming quickly

 

Warrior

Flavorless notes ting in my head
To have another word written
Would be more favorable instead
The ocean flumes its watery feathers
And I try to remember, dig deep within
To pull out the person I could have been

She’s mighty and stands with perfect posture
And she hides behind the amygdala and frontal lobe
She sees me lobotomizing, overanalyzing
She sees me and waits for the weak parts of me to soften
She looks and waits for the water to subside
And like the surfer I used to be
She’ll come again smoothly down the front of the wave as if she’s never misstepped and never hidden away when she saw me grow weak and tired

Colorless notes for just a moment
She’s growing strong as I relent to her
The warrior who pulled me through it all
She never fully leaves me because she knows her place

Flavorful and colorful
She rebuilds the home we share in my body
And I embody her and she embodies me
I am my strength and I am every weakness
Here she comes, she’s sick of seeing me like this
She’s tired of sitting back and watching me break from the love and sink back into pretend fate

Flavorful and colorful
She waits, she waits
Here she comes

 

Rag Dolls

We sewed ourselves tattered homes from cloth of our pasts
The stitching was strong and made to last
Rag dolls, hard and fast

And then we took knives to our stitches to unravel the threads seamlessly
And see if opening our wounds would finally make us free
Rag dolls, you and me

 

Running

I am staying put
Through all the discomfort
Through the aching of my heart
And the unknown

I am staying put
Through the valleys and mountain tops
Because I’m done walking
My well worn path

I’m finished running
I’m finished running away
And not seeing things through
I’m staying put


The Creativity Complex

These are some rules that I came up with that define creativity and its relation with humans. We are users of a force called creativity. It was something that we all have access to, regardless of the tools are our disposal or our societal ranking. Some of us may believe that creativity was allotted to us from a higher power. Regardless of its origin and though it can seem elusive, creativity is very much part of our world and our everyday lives. 

It may serve us best to believe in the following Precepts, because they assume that we can (and will, with practice) live in a creative fashion. Creativity is more a way of life than it is a thing of circumstance and timing. By this I mean that I believe we can stay in a position of creativity if we foster it enough. And no matter the mundanity of the task at hand, we can interject the process with creative passion. This fashions us as the ultimate creators we all are. 

The Creativity Precepts are as follows:

  1. Everyone is creative. 
  2. You can never lose creativity. 
  3. Creativity is an infinite pool. 

Everyone is creative. 

Every single human being is creative, regardless of their rank and social status in society and regardless of whether or not they receive acknowledgment and attention for their creative endeavors. There is no human lacking the quality of creativity. We were all born with it and we will all die with it. 

Our modern society will have us believe that a select few are creative. Or that there is a ranking of who is more creative than another. I don’t believe in a scale. We are all creative in unique ways that are not measurable against others. However, it can appear that some people are more creative than others. This is because of a number of reasons. 

Those who appear more creative may have been subject to the following:

  • Consensus from a group of people (such as a  following on social media) that labels the individual as creative. 
  • Acknowledgment from an individual who has already themselves been acknowledged for holding creativity. 
  • Accreditation from a school that labels the individual as a specific type of artist. 

Do you see the pattern above? It is that those labeled creative have received external validation from other people or an organization. Then, creativity seems like an elusive club that requires some sort of authorization. It is not. Creativity is an expression. It is not a thing that exists with any conditions. It is unconditional. And every human being holds it.  

You can never lose creativity. 

Touching on the unconditional essence of creativity, it stands outside of a person’s age, valuation of beauty, engagement in mundanity, amount of mistakes that they have made. 

As a side note, I don’t believe in mistakes. We follow a path through life that requires us to make choices. Our values inform those choices and the roads that we travel. To speak about mistakes is to speak about choices that we have made and give ourselves the retrospective burden and guilt of having been uninformed, naive, angry, or other. We are the culmination of our values. We can take into the variables at hand, but to linger in false concepts like “mistakes” is to force the roll of seer onto ourselves. Of course, all this is said with the understanding that our actions have been congruent with our current values. When we go against our current values, it is because we do not value them enough. And then we must ask ourselves if those were indeed our current values, or if we idealize and internalize a set of values that we have not integrated into the consistent parts of our identity.  

 

Creativity is not fleeting. It may appear that way only because of the conditioning of society. And that’s when we need to start to consider the thoughts we have towards creativity. I know that I am creative because I do small things each day that make me smile and see the beauty of the creative life-force within me. 

For example, before I sat down, I was mopping my hardwood floors with my swiffer. But I am out of swiffer pads (and don’t plan on buying more because they are not cruelty-free and therefore, they don’t fit into my vegan lifestyle). So instead, I attached two cleaning wipes from a vegan brand and in such, created my own swiffer pad. 

An example like this shows the creative process of my brain, and also the connectivity of creativity with my values. 

  1. I ran out of a material that would enable me to clean my floors.
  2. I recognized that purchasing more of this material would go against my values. Note that while I could say that purchasing swiffer originally was a mistake, I opt to say simply that I was ignorant to the fact that the brand is not cruelty-free. From this, I can take away that I will research more thoroughly when I am shopping. Mistakes come with unnecessary allowances for my neglect to be a smarter consumer. 
  3. Going off of the design of swiffer pads, I thought about what similar item I had in my house that could most easily be swapped out. I opted for cleaning wipes. 
  4. Now that I found a similar shape (sheet) and texture (smooth, fabric-like) to swap the swiffer brand pads for, I simply fascened the wipes in the same way. Since the wipes are shorter, I used two and overlapped them. 

Now why am I talking about values here? Because I believe that our creativity is deeply integrated with our values. Once we are able to establish clear values for ourselves, we are able to refine the width and scope of our creativity. We are also prompted to make creative decisions that align with our true selves. My true self is in tune with my values. 

Creativity is an infinite pool.

Oftentimes, we hear about writers’ block or an artist being in some way prevented from using their creativity. Writers’ block has nothing to do with creativity. There is nothing extinguished within the artist. Writers’ block is instead an affliction of the human mind that works in counter to productivity. If we talk about the infinite pool of creativity, then we should talk about how to mine from this well. There are many ways, and in my experience, the quickest solution to overcoming writers’ block is to look at creativity as something that needs to be cultivated. 

We must be sure not to give creativity any elevated status, or we may determine that it is harder to bring it forth than other things. Instead, creativity is a cultivation of habit. To develop a habit, we must practice, and that takes repetition. It takes letting go of the notion of selling everything we create, and of the notion that all has to be comparable to our best work. 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is an excellent book that delves into regaining creative flow. Cameron walks you through 12 weeks of lessons geared at helping you regain control over your work. One of the tools that she puts forth is Morning Pages, which is writing three pages in a notebook every morning when you wake up. Morning Pages were a key for me when I was writing my first two books. They enabled me to have a routine and to stick to a commitment I made with myself to write those pages. Then the commitment I made to myself to write 2,000 words each night seemed less daunting. I had already proven to myself that I could honor my creativity and make time for it. 

 

This was the start of a non-fiction book but I decided to continue focusing on fiction instead. 

Since creativity can never be depleted, it is our job to figure out ways to keep it all around us. To be clear, it is all around us. We need to be able to see it more clearly and use it at will. If we place value on creativity and see it as an innately human quality, we will be able to see it in even the most mundane of places. 


Things to Do During Social Isolation

My last article was about how to cope with working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. This article is about things you can do during social isolation. While work may keep you busy for most of the day (if you are working from home during this time), there’s a lot of time you’ll be spending alone outside of work hours. I live alone (and love it) so I naturally have spent a large amount of time by myself. In this article, I’ll share with you some things you can do to stay in your power, explore yourself, and keep away fearful thoughts.

Journal

I mentioned this in my previous article but journaling is invaluable and completely necessary when you live alone and you spend most of your time alone. Simply grab an old notebook, some printer paper, or even some old paper grocery bags and get writing. There’s something very relaxing about the tactical act of writing, but if you absolutely have nothing to write on, use your cell phone’s note software.

Write about anything, from the most mundane things you did that day to your plans for the future (and how you’re going to get there). If you get stuck with starting, try situating yourself. By that I mean, write down what day of the week it is, what you just did, what you just ate, where you’re sitting, what you’re glancing at when you’re not writing. Keep the pen moving and get out as much or as little as you want. Keep your journal out and in clear sight so you can pick it up throughout the day. Before long, you’ll find yourself itching to jot down your thoughts.

Read a Book

This one may seem obvious but it can be easy to forget how important, thought-provoking, and enthralling books are. You’re never lacking company when you’re reading a book. There’s sure to be at least one book laying around your house that you can pick up. If you have a hard time concentrating on reading, build up. Don’t try to force too hard. Read a page, then take a break, come back to it. Repeat until you’re able to build longer periods of time reading.

Go Out in Nature

While we are supposed to stay socially isolated, this does not mean that we can’t take a brief walk around the neighborhood or drive to a local park. Go out at any time of the day that you can and that benefits you the most. Try out different times. Since moving and living close to Griffith Park, I’ve been going out early in the morning before 8am and I love that time. It’s already light out and I get in a brief hike before work. If you don’t live in an area where there is much to do outdoors, simply go outside and find a tree or a bush or a small plant. Breathe the air. Look up at the sky.

Exercise

There is no substitute for exercise. Walk, run, do yoga, lift one of the many bean cans you’ve stocked up on, jump, dance. Do anything to move your body a bit, no matter how small it is. Exercise is not about shame for what you cannot do or what you lack the ability to do; it is giving your body thanks and restoration for all that it does for you. Get creative about exercise during this time. Maybe going to the gym is not the best idea. So try making up a routine at home, follow a YouTube video, or have a dance party (by yourself).

Make Art

There’s probably a time when you got excited about a new art-related hobby. Do you have any art supplies laying around? Do you have a pen and paper? Draw, paint, make a collage, play an instrument, crochet, sew, design, record a podcast or video. Do something with your hands and/or voice. Engage your childlike wonder and creativity.

Play with Food

My brothers and I used to play “Iron Chef” when we were growing up. We didn’t have much food in the house, so one of the ways to distract ourselves from that was by being creative. We would pick a star ingredient and find some questionable ingredients in the fridge and at the back of the cupboards. Then it would be me against one of my brothers, and our other brother was the judge. Activities around food in a time like this spark creativity while being a productive distraction.

You can also play your own version of Iron Chef alone. Play some music in the background, narrate what you’re doing (if you want a laugh), or cook and eat alongside a YouTube video. There are loads of YouTube videos that can be comforting in this time in the following formats: What I Ate in a Day, mukbangs (these help a lot if you’re lonely over the holidays), and tutorials. My favorite vegan YouTube channels are Julien Solomita (tutorials, comedic cooking), Cheap Lazy Vegan (tutorials and mukbangs), It’s Liv B (tutorials, What I Ate in a Day), and Lauren Toyota (What I Ate in a Day).

Appreciate Your Pets/Plants/Things

My two cats are amazing companions for living alone and spending a lot of time alone. They are low maintenance, but they also love being pet and they love playing. Your pets are little buddies that are always there for you and with you. Life is so much more fun and lively with them around. If you don’t have a pet, appreciate your plants! They are beautiful, living organisms too! Or appreciate the sky outside of your window. Appreciate books; they came from living trees! Appreciate natural materials around your house; they help you live a more convenient life and they came from the environment. Appreciate momentos that you have from childhood, or an award you received a year ago, or the expert way that you put together your IKEA furniture.

 

Social isolation is a great time to reflect and get to know yourself a bit more and reconnect with the simple things in life.


Coping with WFH Isolation During COVID-19 Outbreak

Amid the warnings set out by government organizations over the Coronavirus, plenty of office workers have been required to work from home until further notice. My company is one of those enforcing this policy. So for the foreseeable future, I will be working from home. It can be a scary time for people, especially those who know or are members of more vulnerable groups like the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

I’ve spent a good amount of time alone, so I have some insights on coping in a time like this. Here are some positive takeaways from working and living in relative isolation.

Dealing with Anxiety Around COVID-19

While the majority of the population may not have the Coronavirus at this time, we are all affected to different extents by it. Our main preoccupations during this time are fear; a sense of instability, unknown, and lack of control; and a tapping into our survivalist mentality and tendencies. It is important that we remain committed to combating excessive fear. We can start to do this by preparing for isolation to the best of our abilities by purchasing the materials that will help to make us feel more secure in our home environment. But in addition to this, here are some useful thoughts to keep in mind.

Continue Life as Usual, but Modified

To alleviate some of our feelings of fear and instability, it is important that we continue to live out our daily lives with any accommodations we need to make. While the world has changed seemingly overnight, individuals can benefit greatly from keeping stable rooting. If you work out every morning and you no longer feel comfortable going to the gym, opt for a morning workout at home. You can bring out your old yoga mat and follow a guided session on YouTube. Modify but don’t entirely eliminate parts of your life that make you feel good, happy, and healthy.

If you need further help to remain calm during this time, you may want to pick up a new self-soothing habit like journaling. Find an old notebook or even printer paper, and start jotting down your thoughts. Listen to calming music and take some time to sit in the present. Continue to plan for the future.

Use This as a Time of Reflection and Change

If it doesn’t cause you additional anxiety, you may choose to see this time as one of deep reflection. For me, I have used the past week at home to evaluate the goals I have in life and to really ask myself why I don’t think I can achieve them. Because of my realizations, I’ve sought out individuals who can help me achieve my goals. For example, I really want to get great with money this year, so I found a financial advisor.

With the realization that the world can change at any moment, I have had to stop questioning whether or not I can do something. And instead of just talking about my goals, I’m giving myself a fair shot to achieve them. Part of coping with a scary time like this is understanding that there is life beyond it. While keeping a future-oriented view is not virus-proof, it can really instill some healthy, distracting ideas that can keep fear at bay, even if temporarily.

Look at the Larger Picture

When I get anxious, it really helps me to look at the larger picture. If we look at diseases like this, we start to see a pattern. COVID-19 started in a meat market, Swine Flu is from pigs, Bird Flu is from birds, MERS is from camels, Mad Cow Disease is from cows, and Sars is from bats. Now, we are listening to the World Health Organization during this critical time, but we chose to ignore them when they told us in 2015 that meat is a carcinogen.

It is important to examine our daily choices and understand that we are all part of a world in which every action has a consequence. We may decide to use this time to determine if it’s really in our best interest to continue ingesting foods that make us ill, cause deadly diseases, devastate the environment, and leave billions hungry. Some documentaries for learning more about our personal impact through our food choices are: What the Health, Game Changers, and Cowspiracy. They are all viewable on Netflix.

Put Emphasis on Your Environment

When we work from home, it’s important that we make it easy and comfortable for ourselves. This means limiting our distractions and giving ourselves the upper-hand to get things done. Is your work area optimized for the work that you need to do? Do you have clutter that distracts you? While our contemporary “LinkedIn gurus” tell us we’re lazy and uncommitted if we can’t work in the most distracting and ill-suited environments, it may well help to actually clear the clutter and set ourselves up for success. Let us not deny any longer that making a peaceful space for working will enable us to do better work.

In my last apartment, I never bothered to furnish my living room. And I also never spent time there. Of course I didn’t want to spend time there, it was sterile and uncomfortable. At my new apartment, I set up a workstation and here I am using it frequently. Spaces matter.

Spending a considerate amount of time alone can be an immense opportunity for growth and reflection on the self and the larger picture. While this virus may be spreading and encouraging a state of fear, we can do our part by taking care that we remain happy and healthy in whatever situation we are currently in. During this time, we can show ourselves just how strong and adaptable we are.