Thinking that I’m not-normal

I thought this morning about my own social awkwardness—how it doesn’t hurt [There was a weird “Ooaah” loud, high-pitched, then declining, sound from the direction of the counter-worker {at this coffeeshop} telling an old man in teal sweater and white pants that there was a help-yourself water station—this could be dude who sneezed earlier] to think of myself as not-normal, or not quite normal, in the sense that thinking that would keep me from judging other socially awkward people. Thinking that I’m not-normal reminds me to be patient, accepting [and accepting the cold I just felt pour down on me as a person left the store—maybe from air coming up and over vestibule’s glass walls]. [Pages 124-5, Sat. 16 March 2019, Meg’s Daily Grind, Rockford, Ill. See random-selection editing process here.]

So much dross!

I don’t try to communicate through my drawings—so why should I try to communicate through my writings? [Fri. 18 Oct. 2019]

Maybe I don’t care which texts of mine I publish to the blog. The texts just offer readers an experience of hanging out with and listening to me. [18 Oct. 2019]

My journal texts: so much dross! Once I’m dead, no one will care—and that’s OK—it’s freeing. These texts aren’t set-and-dead [as texts seem once they’re published]. Openness: However I wrote that I feel today, I won’t necessarily feel that same way tomorrow. I can embrace being weird—I might as well! That way I don’t have to try to seem normal by justifying or defending my writings or myself. I can let go of trying to seem normal and instead just seem my weird self. [Sat. 19 Oct. 2019]

15 Nov. 2015

 

Drinking party and baby rabbits: December 1987 days in Journal 1

The journal/diary entries below were written in my youthful handwriting and found jammed inside Journal 1. I’m in 8th grade in the entries below.

Monday, 7 Dec. 1987: I finished typing my letter in C.S. [Communications Studies class]. I put the antlers on my reindeer [a crafting project in Home Ec class, I think] after school and Dad took me into Rochelle to the library to drop off books and to Walmart. Our library card has expired. I stayed up late doing lit.

Tues., 8 Dec. 1987: We redid our transaction sheets as we got a letter from Dekalb [I’m not sure what that means]. I finished my cross-stitch reindeer today. Billy Cornett and I worked at concessions after school. [Brother] Nace saw the game and he helped us with the pop.

Weds., 9 Dec. 1987: We finished watching a movie in C.S. and the periods were only 30 minutes long today because we got our early, 1:30, for conferences. Nace didn’t get out early. [Brother] Dan hasn’t gone to school for 2 days now. I cleaned the manure out of my rabbit’s cage. We watched 2 Christmas specials on TV, “Frosty” and “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Thurs., 10 Dec. 1987: [Band teacher] Mr. Sisler told us today that we might play to the grade schools on next Friday. In Algebra, I learned that Carin is moving next year. In Home Ec., I put the lace on my ornament. I stayed in at lunch and talked about Animal Farm [a book I was reading as independent project apart from the rest of the class]. We took a hard test in P.E. I finished the back to my ornament after school. Dad and I made a nest box for my rabbit. I got my homework done early, but I stayed up late double-checking it.

Fri., 11 Dec. 1987: I was called out of Band and Algebra for activity pictures. I had my picture taken for Band, Stage band, soccer, and concessions. I finished my ornament in Home Ec. I took an exam in C.S. on Animal Farm. I went to Krista’s house for a party at about 7:00. First the kids threw cards, then they drank liquor and went in the closet. Mark and I didn’t drink or anything, we played tapes and talked.  [Reading this in 2019, I’m contrasting it to my memory of that night, feeling awkward and wanting to leave and not wanting to be doing any of what the other kids were doing. I seem to have understated my reaction in the journal entry above, or to have remembered it as being much more uncomfortable than I wrote at the time.]

Sat., 12 Dec. 1987: I got up late and I didn’t do my rabbit chores until 3:00. We cleaned house and then went to Rochelle. Dan went to practice and Nace, Mom and I went to Spurgeon’s [clothing store], RW Liquidators, and Aunt Mary’s [Yarn, I think]. We saw a very neat little tree made from tiny items. It cost $194.00. We went back and got Dan and we returned to Aunt Mary’s, where I bought four counted cross-stick kits and the others bought things, too. We bought our tree from Ron’s in Ashton. Then the boys, Mom and I went to Byron. I bought the Happy Holidays cassette. We had pot pies for supper after Mom and Dad went to a party. I tried to put on the lights, but I didn’t do so well. Mom and Dad came home early, mom felt sick.

Sun., 13 Dec. 1987: We decorated the tree this morning. Mom put up the lights. We used four strings on the tree. We melted a hole in the rug from a frosted bulb when we were testing the string it was on. I started sewing on my cube [for Home Ec.]. After lunch, Mom and Dad went Christmas shopping, and they took Nace and Dan to [grandma] Phoebe’s. I was a little scared by myself because I heard wood creaking. I finished my cube tonight. Mom and Dad and the boys came around 6:00. I lit up the tree tonight. Nace said that my rabbit was getting excited and making a next.

Mon., 14 Dec. 1987: My rabbit did have rabbits today! I saw at least two during evening chores. They’re hairless! We took a text in Algebra, we are going to finish it tomorrow. I worked on my cube in Home Ec. It is predicted to snow tonight.

Tues., 15 Dec. 1987: I awoke at 6:15 to the crack of lightning and boom of thunder. The storm thundered and lightninged at least a dozen times more. I look at my clock. I read 4:40. The power had gone off and didn’t return until around 10:00. We got 11.4 inches of snow during last night and today. Schools were called off and Dad got off work too. There was a lot of snow in the rabbit part of the barn. There were three lambings today. The second lamb was found by Dad and we all had to revive him. Dad and I shoveled snow. We watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tonight.

I lived my life in a different context: Random bits from Journal 234

There’s something about the new concussionball season—that it’s pretty much just like all the other seasons. There won’t be much that’s brand new—which, I know, is what fans like: minor variations within known and set rules. But I’d like some novelty, I guess. My old joke: “Hey, there’s football game on–wanna watch?” “Nah, I’ve already seen a football game.” Not a hilarious joke, or even a funny joke, but comic in that it misunderstands the fan mentality. And of course, the business of sports requires multiple games, multiple seasons for revenue and, of course, there’s some value in the tradition. Winning the Superbowl in its first few years probably didn’t mean as much as it does in the 50th year of that prize, once the prize is known. Of course, by year 50, your team’s win makes it only one of 50 winners. [Page 96-7, Sunday, 4 Sept. 2016]

The school days make the day go slowly, in a good way—to be alive each day at work, to know I’m alive. Sometimes the amount of work seems overwhelming. Neighbor Beth walks Lou-dog just now. A student wrote that his dad beat his dog after the dog chewed the dad’s boots. That’s probably not great (an understatement, and I’m not sure why). It makes me feel bad, when jackasses beat dogs. Dogs are so wonderful—and it’s not like beating them does anything but make the beater into a monster. Dogs as nonviolent protestors? [Page 68-9, Friday, 2 Sept 2016]

I feel bad for how busy students taking A.P. courses are–take a study hall instead! Ah, well. I lived my life differently, in a different context. There weren’t A.P. courses offered to me. But, you know, these kids could—but don’t have to—max out on stress here. I’m pretty happy with my life. It is a little odd that we make choosing a career such a big deal when, frankly, we all get to a point of settling. Maybe that’s cynical to say, but I don’t say it out of bitterness. I mean it in the best way possible—not even “settling” but letting go of ambition. Ambition  belongs to the young, and even there it might not be so great. What if following your goals (your usually arbitrarily chosen goals) is exhausting, doesn’t make you happy, anyway?

I read or saw something—the statement that someone (the “I” speaker) was willing to do anything to reach his/her goal. But why, I thought? As I’ve said before, how do you really know you want that goal you’re working so hard for—how do you know you’ll be happy in that job? I had a thought last night—got a fortune cookie message last night: “Learn Chinese: Still, Hai” and “Lucky #4, 7, 34, 22, 50, 32,” but also, “Your dearest wish will come true,” and I actually felt a little hopeful—”Maybe I will publish a book of my own writings, done my own way, and it’ll be popular!” But I also (or later) thought: maybe what maturity is is getting what you want while also being wise enough to know how to take it, how to receive it, how to react to it—which is to say: maybe I publish a book only once I’m also aware that doing so won’t be all that big a deal. That even if you published and won a Pulitzer, you still have to live your life, deal with dog poop and back pain and daily classes—new students won’t care who I am. [Page 22-43, Sabado, 27 Augustus 2016]

What matters is a focus on my own life, interests, being alive, thoughts and feelings, writing what I want to write. Living in a way where I choose what I want to do, you know? I mean, instead of doing things for others, to try to impress others. The last thing I’d want right now (well, OK, not the last) would be to be nominated for the Man Booker prize—who wrote the best example of the novel genre. I don’t want to write to those standards, to that outcome. Teaching poetry, sometimes I do read kids’ work aloud to the class (anonymously) and maybe this gives them a notion that there’s a standard for writing poetry, that they should be externally focused on product rather than internally focused on process, on their writerly experience. It’s hard to focus on internal/personal/individual experience in the classroom setting, which is kinda outwardly focused on doing what teacher asks, earning the grade, though I do try to focus on process, on having them try, on giving them some leeway.  [Page 170-1, Weds. 14 Sept. 2016]

‘It can be a secret now?’: Exquisite Corpse poems, Fall 2019, 4-5th period

Here are this semester’s 4-5th period Creative Writing class’s poems written in the Exquisite Corpse method.  What I love about these lines is how they were created almost randomly but have a kinda of weird logic. I like how some of these seem almost brilliant, in an obtuse way. See here for previous semesters’ poems.

Flowers smell good, and, look, it’s a rat. Ahh, OK.

Not so much are you this.

Away I ran with nothing red.

The dog just keeps going to convince you that you are beautiful.

Quit being such a tiny hummingbird that flew like the wild hunt.

Physical traits are great to have.

Do you understand, kid, you’re the apple?

No, I’m not “heh” like a bunch of cats in the litter boxers.

I wrote to who is your special secret.

People are dumb and complicated. I’m so dang complicated.

I cannot lie to me like I’m a clown.

Die in a whole.

An inappropriate word is bongo and bingo. I like Uno better than the last one off the rough ground.

Songs about love come from melons.

Equations are the dumbest Cheez-its.

Dang, my life—is it going to happen?

Bored love is amazing and sweet like drops of sprinkles on the house.

Swing by sometime, or maybe just Marvin Gaye and get too big for me.

Blue hats are cool just like no one else you knew.

Who didn’t flush after I went to a house in the point of this is creativity?

It will be soon.

Take another hint, I guess.

Brussel sprouts are fire and have straight ice hanging off my neck.

Neck of the snake vanishes like dead demons evaporate.

Bomb.com, a website where you, me, we’re face to face.

Here is the end of the smart people who can recite Miranda rights to party.

Humpty Dumpty, like, sat on the wall. Bang. What even is that? Is not cool, man. Oh, well.

Park parallel literally anywhere you would like to.

It can be a secret now?

She is too fast for you, slow Poker Face by Lady Gaga waduba romance.

‘It’s a wonderful life. Now 10 minutes left’: Exquisite Corpse poems, Spring 2019

Here are Spring 2019 semester’s Creative Writing classes’ poems written in the Exquisite Corpse method.  What I love about these lines is how they were created almost randomly but have a kinda of weird logic. I like how some of these seem almost brilliant, in an obtuse way. See here for previous semesters’ poems.

Movies are seen as entertainment.

The snow is falling from a cliff screaming.

Winter socks are fuzzy like frost on a windshield.

Time is going by slow people.

Death is at times considerable amounts of chicken nuggets.

Plant a book, harvest an untraveled path.

Nice place you have here, there, everywhere, and somewhere.

Another family will find you trees.

All your memories will start to fade away into nothing. 

Expensive shoes, purses, and clothes are not good food.

Think of a world where your mama doesn’t sound like a Chicken in a Biscuit crackers.

Like like or just like a snowflake falling?

A daydream escapes from the classrooms.

Boring places can be anywhere anytime.

18 January 2019 is a giant, horrendous flop on the hard ground.

Staircases are for falling downtown.

Fake your normal face, hide and seek.

Found a loose tooth and have almost found happiness.

People like Fred Flintstone and swerving on icy roads.

I am trying hard like a rock.

You are a lost cause effect.

World domination is kinda cool but not really.

Soggy grandma’s cooking is the best.

Soon I will not die.

Mean girls wear pink on days that end in the year of Thanksgiving.

The holy bible of memes is God.

Lie like your life depends if we go fly a kite in a dollar tree.

Yesterday, all my truffles seemed to be snowing.

Words are really long johns in summer’s heat.

Rocks hurt when they’re thrown into the world.

House made of cheese and I want some crackers.

Boys like to eat potatoes from a jar on my mom’s shelf.

Nights are kinda my thing except when I’m scared of peeing in dark rooms.

In my bathtub I drowned my first-born child because he was a cat.

Goldfish taste good while alive but even better raw and wrapped in donuts.

Are you happy yet again, you ugly soul?

Jail is a cool place to be the best.

The devil is tired of being there.

That is a question—the reason we exist.

You have many adventures with my two thumbs stuck in the mud.

My only home sweet home is my stomach.

Place this dead deer over the years.

Over the years I’ve learned how to make an apple.

Words are but things; we will live 500 years.

Hawaii is a beautiful place, as beautiful as Hawaii.

Dumb rat just hit the tree that never grew fast.

A weird personality is an important trait that defines who I am.

When is the next apocalypse?

The next apocalypse has now come to the best store ever.

Careers are always important for a whole hour while I wait for the foxes.

I like when my uncle is part Cat in the Hat.

Good wills are the best.

Now the sun is bright like the sun outside.

The rain is more wet than other people’s family.

Broken clocks in the city limits cross the rivers.

Fishing outdoors is great but it should be okay.

I wish I knew those who came before I call my mistress.

The only way outside is cold.

It’s a wonderful life. Now 10 minutes left.

Hear like a deer in the headlights.

The Walmart greeter likes my sister.

Bad grades make parents angry birds.

Today I jumped over the other day.

Friday is the best day that had rain falling into love with my family.

Dumb idiot boys are annoying sounds all around the world.

When are we gonna smash everything you stand on?

Grades are the currency of the system: Journal 33

I still don’t understand freshmen, where they are intellectually and how to teach to them, reach them. No abstraction, I know, stay concrete, and that’s more foreign to abstract-thinking me. Also, my top student, S., asked me during her quiz retake Friday what “underlie” meant in my question “Why did Dalton think atoms were what underlie matter” or something. I’m confronted by the fact that nobody asked about this on the first time through the quiz, nor even did any of the re-takers. So none of my students are asking questions, or something. And they got a little out of hand Friday during the measurement lab—a little loud, little off-task, etc. I can’t even understand what student M.C. is telling me: “8 of these bad-boys” as he casts down his meter stick on the floor. I can’t fathom his language, it’s so odd. A flaky child. And yet I don’t want to script him (or my attitude toward him). Keep up the positive expectations for all students, Matt. [Page 37-8, Sunday evening, 9 Sept. 2001]

Too late to write much but … So weird and fascinating to watch Grace dog try to find her rag doll after we hide it. Real thinking going on, a method to her searching. And in quarry pond now, I break ice for her to drink out of, and she drinks, then tries to pick out chunks of ice, usually with her mouth—submerging head until almost her eyes! And today I also observed her “splashing”/scooping water and ice out with her front paw. She doesn’t even do anything with the chunks once she gets them. She walks around with a chunk, or sets it on ice. Even they slide back in sometimes! I didn’t start her on this—she was doing it herself with ice; last two days I broke ice for her. Sometimes she crunches the ice, but not most times. No snow (beyond a dusting) this whole vacation, so no sledding. [Page 213-4, Friday night, 3 January 2003]

On my way home yesterday, it occurred to me that if I really teach all process, then I’m devaluing Newton and established, mainstream physics — If I want “Suzy” to develop her own theory of light, am I saying her theory is as good and as valid as the Accepted Theory of Light? No—this morning I can answer no, because I’m not saying they’re equally good. There are surely better and worse answers/theories.

After weeks of searching, I finally found some evidence for waves in Galileo’s Two New Sciences—he gave evidence that when you get a glass singing, there are waves in the water inside, and chisel leaves marks across brass plate. So there’s the evidence—but is it convincing? Is it compelling?

I think I need to go more process-based. Maybe introduce some history, I’m not sure, but I’m not trying to teach “physics” anyway—I’m not the Conservator of Physics–I’m teaching particular students. [Page 107, Tuesday morning, 22 Oct. 2002]

What I seemed to need (felt like I needed) was to truly do nothing—just lie and nap or just watch TV. Even reading for fun would’ve felt taxing on brain, like I was forcing myself to do it (as I felt reading Monkey Wrench Gang that day one summer). Normally, I’d have felt sick of doing nothing, I’d’ve felt the need to do something, and I’d have gotten up and done dishes or something. Never got that stir-crazy feeling today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel more like working, though maybe not, too. I’d really like to catch up on sleep and rest (separate from sleep ) so I felt better during week. [Page 145, Saturday evening, 16 Nov. 2002]

  • Exhausted, slept 6:30 to almost 8:30 tonight, grumpy all day, pissed off.
  • Puzzles, problems, concepts—these aren’t just dismissable “schoolwork.” These are also ideas not dealt with or taken seriously many other places—not in factories, for instance, not on sports teams, etc.
  • I show kids the big ideas, help them identify those, but let them fill in the details? Not bad idea.
  • Principal today was on me about grades—it’s just too much to do. I’m too busy, feeling run down, then that.
  • I was displeased with students, but realized mostly that was because I was feeling bad myself. My generalizations, as I’ve been thinking, are not valid.
  • Principal’s expectations (and by extension, the parents’ expectations of me) not meeting my own—a disconnect. He’s telling me a set of priorities, and getting grades into the computer is one of those priorities. Once again, it’s reinforced to me how important grades are to others, though they seem beside-the-point, an afterthought, to me. I forgot: grades are the currency of the system. My priorities are planning, and beyond that, planning thought-provoking activities. It’s just a reminder to me that that’s not a priority in the system. That’s how the system is, and once again I have to concede to the system. That’s the conflict of expectations. [Page 287-8, Wednesday evening, 26 March 2003, and Thurs. morning 27 March 2003]

Commentary in Trib today—English prof was criticizing other profs for not teaching grammar, mechanics, but rather being more open-ended in their teaching. I can’t defend what his targets did, but I considered that as possible criticism of what I’m doing in my classes. After all, I’m admittedly not teaching how to solve problems with formulae, etc. I’m not doing the standard physics class, and probably kids will leave class not knowing what some might think they “should know.” But I think I’ve thought about this enough to argue against that criticism.

First, that there are two approaches to teach: the rules of the system (any system), and empowering people to form their own rules and ideas (to not be tyrannical)—that is, the foundational split between what to think, and how to think. Students are entitled to their own perceptions and judgments. They might leave thinking I’m no good. I can’t do much about that, other than tell my side of the story.

Second, he’s accusing other profs of doing intentionally what they do. Lord knows I don’t intend to do everything that happens in class (“intend” as in logically think it out, reason for it, judge its pros and cons, etc.) and furthermore, I’m a new teacher, still feeling my own through things, this is my “rough draft year,” I’m trying out new things—that’s bound to be less comprehensive than others’ teaching, but I think it has its own benefits. Spontaneity—I told 1st hour the other day that I don’t plan ’til 7:30 before 8 a.m. class. That way, the teaching is fresh, not “day-old” (and I can’t plan as well the evening of the previous day—I’m too tired then, not mentally fresh).

Trib story on state test scores—I have so many objections, but mostly they are philosophical ones. A “letter to the editor” would not be the proper forum; only a full essay or book would be.

The strong, not always pleasant personalities of “geniuses” like Wittgenstein, Popper–so far removed from notions of “good teaching.” They didn’t need to be liked, so why am I worried about not tutoring for Mrs. T? Who cares if I say no, even if it pisses her off? Further, it’s interesting to me to see how both men (I’m reading Wittgenstein’s Poker) had neuroses and character flaws–they may not have even been “normal” like the people I meet everyday. They may have been truly odd, neurotic, not really healthy, not socially adapted. And I guess that surprises me because I must’ve thought (for much of my life) people are mostly singular, most people are basically like me. I’m not sure that’s a true or accurate assumption. People very often are very different. It’s truly hard to really understand another person. Journalists sketch a profile the best they can, but profiles are mostly inadequate.

In physics today, we talked about formal vs. intuitive knowledge. Formal knowledge is when one has to think things through, like learning Spanish. Intuitive knowledge is when one is fluent in Spanish, when it’s “second nature” to one. Doing any new skill vs. the unthinking proficiency of repeated use. You don’t think, you just do (as described in title essay of Breakfast at the Victory). Lecture-style physics is formal vs. seeing something first-hand, developing one’s own ideas. Is knowledge-becoming-intuitive how our brains can get used to operating in a world it sees upside down?

Telling students what to think is dead learning! Knowledge must be created anew, for each person, by each person, for it to be real. There are lots of ideas already thought and published, say, for example, in the history and philosophy of science. But I as a newcomer to science had never been exposed to these. I barely knew this was even a field of study! So I had to create from almost nothing, create anew for myself, because all these thoughts out there are all dead until they are explored and rediscovered by each new individual.

Why don’t these ideas get into the mainstream culture? It’s as if academia is where ideas go to die. Popular American culture, news, etc., is so vacant–so few ideas, generalized into meaninglessness and repeated ad nauseam. It’s like with the Trib article—it’s so establishment, siding with the politicians and the administrators. The press seems to take their side by accepting their terms and boundaries for the debate. It’d be hard for me to express my points as serious, legitimate points because I’m so far from that debate. Why does the press buy into the politicians’ terms and debates and perpetuate those? Why don’t they advocate for a new debate—or do you get marginalized, like I was as agriculture reporter at WILL. I asked about organics at the Farm Bureau and I questioned the National Corn Growers on labeling, but my norms were so far from theirs, their off-putting answers actually made my points.

No wonder the “public debate” (to what extent it exists at all) is so damn vapid, empty. Think of sources of info and discussion—TV, newspapers, Time magazine–each article is short, just a summary. You need length of article to spell out complete thinking. M says there’s no time given to most people to think now—speed of the workplace. Long boat trips, carriage rides gave more ruminating time? And there’s no time to think in school—thinking well takes time. No wonder adult discussion is so insipid—philosophy (not formal philosophy but the idea that there are ideas behind decisions, and not just self-interest) is almost absent from political and public discussions. This is a big idea—I’m bored with shallow reporting because there’s nothing there, no substance, all shorthand.

No wonder TV bores me–it is damn dumb! It felt dissatisfying, but I didn’t know why ’til just now. Actual thinking, good discussions are rich experiences. With TV, our minds are not being stimulated much.

Lack of time to think in school is one of my big frustrations now—time for me to think, and students, too. School schedule lacks unscheduled blocks of time to think. Creativity requires free time. Schools are essentially arbitrary the way they are set up to run—50-minute classes? Totally arbitrary, no relevance to learning (unless there’s some research on this?). But 90-minute classes are also an arbitrary choice, good for some subjects or topics but not for others.

So I’m not going to feel bad about taking all period for one topic! Or taking time for things—not every second has to be scheduled. [Page 136-40, Wednesday evening, 13 Nov. 2002]