2.13.2017

Fading into the background, with peanut butter.

Fading into the background is sorely underrated.

There's a great deal of freedom in between the vertical seams of the wallpaper. I've written about this concept in great masses of words elsewhere, never one to say a few words when I can write many.

The oil pipeline protest in North Dakota, which has lasted nearly a year, has made me sit in some kind of awe as I watch people from all angles jockeying for position as personal celebrities. Live feeds on Facebook, inflammatory posts of dubious truth, and other species of drama all served to gather a back-slapping chorus of fans who chime in with comments of true love and devotion no matter what the person is saying.

We're apparently a world desperate to be worshiped, or to worship. Social media abounds in golden calves as people are frantically searching for lives that seem significant and others are trying to latch onto their contrails to maybe get a whiff of relevance.

The protest, as ugly and tiring as it has been to have the world's hashtag ankle-biters targeting my state, brought about a unique friendship with an older part Scots-Irish, part Native American gentleman who took the time to share a lot of fascinating history and cultural insight about Native Americans, genealogy, and about 100 other random things that I discovered weren't so random after all.

As he shared story after story, revealing one of the most unique lives I've had the good blessing to intersect with, he made a casual comment.

"I used to have a significant life. Now I have a different one, but it's still significant."

Later in the conversation, he told of subsiding on peanut butter until his Social Security check arrived and I marveled at how much knowledge and experience and life there was in him to be digging peanut butter out of a jar for a meal.

You never know how significant your life is. Significance is generally reflected off the people whose lives you change, not how you look in the mirror or on your social media live feed. You can't really measure it, especially since some people never get around to letting you know that your life meant something to them.

Back somewhere along the walls, while the rest of the people are partying and vying for attention and making all kinds of clamor, are the nearly invisible. They're having great conversation, eating peanut butter, and are absolutely free from needing to be noticed.

At the very least, they are absorbing some of the senseless fast-forgotten racket from those at the party.

2.06.2017

Lives of quiet desperation during tax season.

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation...But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."-- Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

Quiet desperation rears its ugly head most often during income tax season.

For example, today as I sat down across from the accountant to hand over a few sheets of paper that symbolized a year's worth of work, knowing I'd be paying many hundreds of dollars to her for the privilege of having a percentage of that money given to the government, I felt a quiet desperation.

Should I be embarrassed at how low my income is?

Should I worry what the accountant is thinking about my work as a freelancer and making a judgment on me based on what ended up being a slow year?

Should I be concerned at the shift in clients from one year to the next and the fog of future war?

"What's your best guess for next year's income?" she asked.

That's a fantastic question that desperate freelancers everywhere want to know.

Image (C) Julie R. Neidlinger
You want to guess high enough to not incur a penalty, but not so high that the quarterly payments are more brutal than usual. A pound of flesh is a pound of flesh, but I'd rather it was taken from a non-vital area if possible.

So I throw a number out there and want to tell the world of younger people who are scrambling to live their dream and find meaning and impact the world and refuse to live a life of common daily work that that's all well and good, but once a year you have to make your income estimate.