Monday, June 15, 2015

Music Experiences

Listening to music is an intense experience for me. I love music of so many different styles and all for very different reasons. Music is not just about listening to a song - it is about the moment I hear a tonal shift or a regressive change in key - that one moment stops time and becomes part of my sensory memory palace. Every time I hear it from then on, I can immerse myself in that one moment again and again. I don't even have to physically hear it - I can play it in my head and become lost.

Music affects me physically - I think it just overwhelms me. I literally cannot listen to classical music without crying. It's something about the pitch and ferocity of the violin that just pushes the tears button in my brain. It can be a little embarrassing and it sucked when I used to perform with an orchestra. That's pretty much why I never pursued singing as a career - the music was too beautiful and being in the midst of it, caught up in that performance was too much for me. The tears would come and then I'd be singing through some mucus and that is just not a good thing. Ever.

I still love singing and playing the piano though. I don't do either often enough. It feels so good to get the vibes out. Singing and playing an instrument is the best way to express feelings that you have no other way of expressing - getting that out of your body and brain is intensely therapeutic. That's why when I drive, I sing. I rock out so I don't lose my mind from sitting in traffic for hours. It really does help. It's also why my husband probably hates it when I play the piano...I always end up playing Rachmaninov because I'm angry and his music is some wrathful, discordant shit.

This post brought to you by this fantastic album by Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise

Illinoise - YouTube

 The album is just all around fantastic. Thanks Sufjan.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


The past few days I've had this feeling of something I can't tell what it is but there is something different about the world. Or at least my perception of it. But I don't really feel like anything in my mind has changed to alter how I perceive the world, so I'm not sure where this feeling is coming from.

I feel...uneasy. Like something is going to happen. Doom but undefined doom.

I'm going to try to express in words what I see and feel...sorry if this comes out strangely.

It comes in waves - the impending feeling of some major shift in reality. When the waves come they are driven by gusts of wind and I see the sky thick and dark with mammatus clouds, yet the air is full of diffused light. It washes over me and leaves a cold emptiness in my gut. I don't feel anything horrible but therein lies the discomfort...the emptiness actually feels really good, but it shouldn't feel good because something really major happened to cause it and part of me thinks that "the something major" is not a particularly good thing. I feel utterly alone when this feeling hits - it's not just feeling's just an utter lack of anything outside myself. Like the world is a void and since I'm in it, I am part of the void.

That whole paragraph of stuff has been hitting me for two days now.

I'm used to feeling off when crazy stuff happens in the world but this is on a different level. I'm not sure what to think about it. Everything I see around me is like an alien landscape - nothing looks different, really, but nothing looks quite the same either.

Anyone ever feel this way? Did it ever resolve?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Back to Beauty

I had a pretty bad week last week and I needed something to fix my attitude. As a result, on Saturday I spent the entire day outside doing yard work. This was my third weekend in a row of outdoor labor - chainsaws and shovels, weeding, leaf/litter reduction in the woods, digging and planting...

It was hot.
I got sun burn and apparently unwittingly found poison ivy.
I worked out every last muscle in my body.
I pulled several ticks off of my body.

And you know what? I was totally blissed out. I like the progress I see when I work outside. Overgrown and unkept is slowly becoming a little tidier. I think the best way to picture it is the forest and chaotic wilderness is barely held in check. It looks like it could take over again at any moment but is just tidy enough not to look wild. I don't want it to look too tame. The woods are fantastic - why tame that?

I also harvested some mulberries from the enormous tree outside my house. A lot of mulberries. There are so many more to pick - I have to get those today before they are gone. Those birds are some stiff competition. Just look at them all! So delicious.

Working outside and beautifying my environment brings me satisfaction that I don't get anywhere else. I think I'm addicted. I went to get coffee this morning and looked out my kitchen window at the side of the house.

View from the kitchen:
Those leaves - I just want to clean them up! But it's Monday and I need to work.

I really like discovering what the previous owners of this house did. I uncovered huge old grape vines - it looks like there used to be a vineyard on one side of my house. Those vines are old - at least 30 years. I'm researching how to prune them back to a manageable size and how to propagate them. I see some fruit buds on some of the vines, so I guess I'll see what kind of grapes they are before I start devising my plan...

There are a ton of different plant varieties around my house - most of which I didn't plant.

These bushes, I think they are faux orange trees, are lovely!

And the woods behind my house are just gorgeous. I'm a fan of this little stand of trees.

Of the plants I have added to the landscape, I am most impressed with the size of these hostas...seriously, Cretaceous-huge.

Just waiting for my tiger lilies to bloom and BAM! Crazy colors and multiple layers of awesomeness.

It is just so satisfying to see everything growing and thriving. I wonder if other INFJs like gardening and physical activity like this as fulfilling as I do.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Beauty is the essence of life. I'm not talking about celebrities or models. No, I'm talking about the striking beauty of moments - snapshots of life that bloom and thrive as they are experienced.

Beauty is defined by perception. We form our reality based on our perception of the world around us by sensing and processing that sensory input. Everyone's reality is totally unique because different experiences and synapse connections in peoples' brains add color and shadow to how we process our world. Everyone's perception of beauty is also unique. Everyone has heard, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Well, it's true. You could take it a step further and say, "Reality is in the eye of the beholder." The point is experience is all about perception.

What fascinates me, as an aesthetic, is that beauty isn't passive. There is a whole rabbit hole of quantum mechanics that explores the very real possibility that nothing exists as we know it until it is observed. My theory is the same for beauty. We create moments of beauty by mindfully observing them. In order to see beauty, we must look for it. I don't mean we leave our house in the morning saying, "Hey I'm going to go hunt for some beauty." What I mean is that we have to be present because beauty exists in a moment. If we aren't paying attention - meaning we aren't in this present moment aware of our surroundings - we cannot perceive beauty.

Being present is awareness existing from moment to moment. If we aren't aware of each moment, are we really alive? Is there a point to living if we are not aware of the present moment? Appreciating the present is recognizing and appreciating beauty. Aesthetics forces one to always be present as one is always appreciating beauty.

While I recognize the importance of beauty, I don't know what to do with the experience. Beauty is transformative in that it shifts your entire focus to the current moment and, for that moment at least, you are not thinking about anything else. Beauty is a mental health tonic. It clears your mind for a moment and if you allow it can clear your mind for a lot longer. You see, the more willing you are to see beauty in the world around you, the more of it you are likely to see. That works in the reverse as well - if your mind is so focused on your problems or the horrid events that happen every day, you are less and less able to see the beauty of the world. The less you live in the present, the less beauty you are likely to see.

Because of the obvious benefits of seeing and appreciating beauty, I want to share everything beautiful I see with the world, in the slightest off chance someone struggling with their life sees it and gains some perspective that eases their mind, making their day even a tiny bit better.

My problem to share this ethereal moment?

I'm not a great painter but I try.
I'm not a great artist but I try.
I'm not a great writer but I try.

People look at me weird when I suddenly go all hazy-eyed and point out how striking that peony looks highlighted by a ray of sunshine peaking through the trees - I've learned that the hard way over the years - so how can I do this? How?

This is my struggle with beauty. This post brought to you by: the woods behind my house.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Dark Side?

I keep reading about the "dark side" of INFJ personality types. It is written about in such a negative context and I don't understand why. If every INFJ out there was to remain 100% altruistic and NOT use their inherent knack for understanding others' motivations and behaviors for an ulterior motive...well, I have a feeling there would be a lot fewer INFJ's out there. I embrace the dark side of my nature. I just don't let it run amok.

I can see how INFJ's can be manipulative. Easily. Seriously, we know everything about you without talking to you. Every INFJ uses their super power to manipulate. Just because manipulation is happening, doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad thing.

Example: An INFJ is out with their friend (unknown type) shopping for a dress for a special occasion. The INFJ knows that their friend is super pumped about this occasion and wants to look their absolute best. An INFJ will not just come out and say, "That dress makes you look like a hippo on a McDonalds diet." We may think that but this is our friend so of course we won't say it. We love our friend. But because we love them, we'll say exactly the same thing but using different words. Because you don't let people you love think they look good in that dress either because...damn that dress looks awful on them. So what do we do? Manipulate. "Hm, I don't like the way the cut looks - it doesn't jive with your personality. Try this one instead." That would be more of an INFJ response. And since we pretty much know everything somehow, whether we realize it or not, the new dress will look phenomenal and the friend will love it. And love their INFJ friend for looking out for them. (You're welcome!)

People of other types try to do the same, unless they are just innate assholes (and they do exist...)  but other types aren't aware that what they are doing is manipulation. INFJ's understand and recognize what they are doing and have insane inner conflicts over whether it is the right thing to do. "Well, the color looks really good on her and it is the only dress in that color." BUT "that cut just highlights the wrong places - she looks uncomfortable like someone is squeezing all of her squishy spots." BUT "Who am I to say it doesn't look good on her?" AND "She really wants to look fantastic. I wouldn't be a good friend if I let her buy that awful garment. It is my duty to tell her the truth. But I don't want her to be self-conscious so I'll have to be nice about it. But still get my point across. Damn that dress is awful."

Sometimes those inner conflicts are as innocuous as guiding a friend in the right direction by knowing how that friend will react to criticism and communicate the opinion thoughtfully and productively. Other times those inner conflicts are much heavier and more impactful and they come with truly outrageous consequences that will forever weigh on us. And above all of have to remember that a lot of what we think about is possibilities and the future - the chain of events. So, not all of our inner conflict pertains to anything that is actually currently happening. No, there is zero hyperbole here.

We know everything because at any given moment, a little piece of our brain is trying to solve a particular puzzle. Everything that little piece of brain learns as it solves the puzzle is transferred, somehow, to our mind palace or long-term memory - whatever you want to call it. I heard mind palace on Sherlock and fell in love with it.

We don't really control those little rogue pieces of brain, but they do their thing anyway. There seems to be quite a lot of them because we know SO MUCH USELESS SHIT. Even though it is mostly useless information, we store it anyway because one day, that shit will come in super handy. I'm reminded of how much information I absorb every now and again when someone asks a random question about something obscure and "DING!" I know the answer. Or I should say I'm the only one who knows the answer. This is why we always know everything and why 99% of the time...we are totally right.

It's manipulation but it's for a good cause and for the most part, we really are looking out for everyone's best interest even though sometimes we're really stupid and shitty about looking out for our own.

I think our manipulative abilities are what makes us so damned diplomatic. I know how everyone in a room will react to a statement, so I'll need to craft that statement to be as digestible as possible without losing the actual meaning of what I'm trying to say. We smooth the edges of words and phrases to make them not sting so much when they cut you but still get across what we are trying to convey. How can that be a bad thing?

Sure, I've heard that Hitler was an INFJ too. I think we all have heard that. If he was an INFJ, he just took the manipulation super power to the next level. Definitely crossing the line...which brings me to my next point: Responsibility.

I think that's what makes us so damned interesting. We see the line. We know it is there. We know how to just come to it but not cross it. Many others don't know about the line. Or where it ends or begins. Or just how close we come to crossing it. We understand everything. We see everything. We kinda know everything. I think the weight of the responsibility of managing ourselves in a civil and humane fashion when it comes to manipulation is what keeps us from crossing that line. We know all the rules and the gray areas because we obsessively think about everything...and with that comes the knowledge that we would be hypocrites if we cross that line. And we all know...hypocrites suck.

I know manipulation is just one of the "dark side" aspects but I think it is the one we observe the most easily because we just "get" people. We understand their motivations, why they behave the way they do, and how best to communicate with them.

I'll be digging into more "dark side" aspects and writing about them because I find it fascinating. We who know all and feel all have more depth than we even know. Thinking about it and writing about it just seem to increase my fascination so I guess I'll be learning more from this.

Also, to be perfectly honest, this post was fueled by beer. Thanks Yuengling!