The river I feed

I can’t sleep. It’s the stroke of midnight. Waking mid-sleep is becoming a common and unwelcome occurrence. One consolation is that I often wake with a song in my head but not without the added plague of too many thoughts, including the unwanted.

Tonight I am fortunate to be greeted with a song.

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep

Billy Joel’s River of Dreams – perhaps a little ironic?
River of Dreams cover

Billy was one of my all time favourite artists when I was a young impressionable teenager easily influenced by many things. Luckily for me, my big brother loved Billy Joel and when my brother listened to anything with audio, everyone in the house knew about it!

I loved Billy Joel’s lyrics. I loved the subliminal and the unconscious psychology in his lyrics. It gave me a sense of the world and Billy’s music just ‘did it for me’.

Music is unlike art. Art is a little harder to decipher let alone hum along to!

In doing a little research I discover there is a huge load of information on the psychology of music – general music psychology, music cognition, music therapy, even psycho acoustics! My adult, sleep-deprived brain gives me a nudge to suggest now is not the time to dive into this any further. The tune continues to escape from the upper echelons of my brain..

I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

I stop to sip the almost-cold cup of tea I made to ponder the things I was thinking while awake in my bed with Billy’s emerging hum. In my semi-wakened state I find the ideas and words don’t come to me as vividly and fluidly as they did when I was horizontal. My thoughts immediately turn to imagining the invention of a “thoughts interpreter” or “brain dictation technology”.

Billy’s cries come back to me ..

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for

Then I look up the words to the rest of the song and this part jumps out of the screen:

And I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

This is the part of the song I most relate to. I shy away from delving into why this is and from deciphering the deeper meaning of the verse.  Besides, it’s now one o’clock! I acknowledge Billy’s struggle easily though. I sense that this time of year (even this time of the morning) is one of the best times to quietly consider claiming back what might have been taken from my soul or what i know has been stolen. It’s times like these I am faced with observing the search that Billy sings about. And I am confronted with dealing with the river streams I am drifting in and wonder which of them I am flowing in – if I’m flowing at all!

There is a struggle. It sits with the two people fighting the rivers in my heart. One who was devastated, angry and robbed a long time ago. The other is loving, compassionate, optimistic and creative. But which one will win the fight in my heart? “The one I feed” as B has been known to suggest, particularly when someone is in need. I take consolation and hope in those four words – the one that I feed. And God knows I need to allow myself to feed on the good stream, the good in me.

My mind turns to the ending of the song and I hope that it will bring with it the sleepiness I require to get back in bed with my beloved to sleep soundly as the night intended. As I search for the last lines, B walks in checking if I’m ok. “I needed to write”, I tenderly reply and he reluctantly nods and turns back towards to bedroom. I sip the last of the cold tea, clutching hard at those four words and the remainder of the words of Billy’s song and I force myself to go to bed.

We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams

Swimming in Television

After a refreshing post-swim shower, I sit in the cool of our lounge room where the sounds of Viking wars on television project from the sub woofer and pierce the walls of my brain unsettling the calm from the earlier events. I don’t understand war. Nor do I understand how a life can be lived through television.

For many years I’ve wanted to go to a small seaside village on the south eastern coast of Australia just over the border into the state of Victoria from New South Wales. Mallacoota was featured on television last week. The program showcased the place, the people and the things that make it a quiet and beautiful seaside town to visit. By being out today, I suddenly sensed the pull to visit the place dissipate. It’s as if seeing it on television stole some of the mystery and desire to visit.

Yes, there are many things television can do but it often leaves me feeling that I am living my life through it. And that’s not living.

I wouldn’t ordinarily watch a lot of television but it’s part of the fabric of this household, of my husbands life. In the evenings the television goes on. It is engrained. Not one night has gone by in more than twelve years where television has not featured as part of the evening ritual. Despite admitting there are some benefits to it, I have learned to live with it but very reluctantly.

It was incredibly hot today and tomorrow will be even hotter. This evening I had to ventured out to remove myself from a lazy day inside the house – trying to stay cool – and the thought of another night of noise and the pointlessness of watching programs like the news. I jumped in the ute – dog in tow – and went swimming at lovely Myola beach. Myola sits in a bay bigger than Sydney harbour and the sand and waves make it great for an easy walk or swim.

  
As I drove towards the beach, I realised there was a whole life I was missing out on by not getting out to places like this more often. The summer weather bought with it holiday makers that swell the small town to a blistering triple its usual size. There were cottage homes with their front lawns filled with cars like a car park. Every second home was alive with young people, older couples or children hovering in and around the mostly fibro-clad accommodation. I approached the jetty and couples walked by wearing flip flops and shorts exposing bronzed legs and hairy knee caps. Myola was alive!

After my swim I treated myself to a honeycomb magnum, shared willingly with Louie dog. The ice cream was a bit of a disappointment. It was soon time to make my way home before the sun set. I drove almost unwillingly back towards home blaring the Zack Brown Band. I found satisfaction in reflecting on my brief but familiar outing and sang at the top of my voice together with Zach .. “I want to live like tomorrow never comes”.

Short adventures like this tickle the memories of my childhood days spent frolicking by the sea in a small lazy tourist-filled town. But my mind turns quickly to the present day and I’m back in the television-filled lounge room again writing about my woes and wishes while Vikings brutally ravage English Christian forces who seek to defend their land.

Ink, wood and the blues

As Jeff Healey plays chilled blues rifts on his steel string, I stop to reflect on the day; Christmas Day. Blues music has that capacity – to pull you from reality into reflection, contemplation or even melancholic stupor.

So, I contemplate with Jeff in my ears. Today I put on and put out a wash, I tinkered with my thistle and drank some coffee. Just another day really. There was no need to go “all out” like the majority of the populous. We’re ok with it being another day.

So today, it was just me and B filling our day with mostly every day activities, eating seafood we wouldn’t normally have and indulging in a bucket load of home-made trifle to the point of exhaustion. It’s fair to say that after cutting out my thistle and feasting on festive foods, we experienced an afternoon of slumber, quiet conversation and some loving too.

We are ok in each other’s company and most days are like today was – nice. Most days we hang together at some point in the day where we appreciative each other or dig in with some mocking of each other’s idiosyncrasies. Bill’s digs are more than occasional most days, which he says have ‘hardened my skin’. I guess that’s a good thing. Mostly though, we generally do what we like. Bill has always said you must always do what you feel like.

What a life it is when your needs are met and you can do what you like to do. 

Later in the day, the dog and I benefited from a walk in the refreshing twilight breeze. As I walked I realised that there was something happening. Something that had a slight air of excitement.

Some years ago I had created a series of images using black ink that came mostly from my imagination. These black and white ‘doodles’ inspired me for a time but have sat in a lovely leather folder for over four years now. Since discovering the scroll saw, I’ve created a few ‘essentials’ you could say. A Christmas tree and all of it’s decorations, a Scottish Highland cattle head and now some thistle to go with the Scottish theme – it’s a husband’s origin thing!

The excitement came when I realised that I could either use the black and white doodles I designed years ago or design new images that I could then transfer to wood. Ordinarily I wouldn’t say that this was startling news or anything to get excited about, but given my lack of passion and enthusiasm about my creative ‘flow’ of late, the excitement that came after I put these two creative fields together was something I hadn’t experienced in some time – a long time!

I came home and completed the last thistle. I got excited as I felt the wood. It had been sanded and it felt great.

There is something about wood that is giving me a kick of excitement. Is it in its rawness and being a natural material? Perhaps it is the gratification in extending my drawings to create something more than a paper ‘doodle’.

Maybe completing intricately designed and cut pieces by manipulating a machine is giving me a sense of accomplishment that pen and paper no longer can? It could also be likely that this is new and novel for me – since I will try anything once. I learn quickly and I’ll make a few things but I don’t usually stay with things for any length of time. I’m ready to move on to something new and novel again far too quickly.

For now at least, I’m infused with the idea of getting my creations, maybe even some of my old images into the shape and smell and feel of wood. Maybe even create a few pieces I can gift or sell! Who knows?

Stay tuned.

The best creative investment I could ever make

I watch motorbikes pass and I wonder if I gave mine up too soon. I wonder if the bread I eat is contributing to my foggy brain. I wonder if menopause is on my door step and whether I can be as fortunate and determined as my sister in law who says [at the age of 70 something], “Menopause! what menopause?

My day dreaming is interrupted by a hand on my shoulder. An ex-student I meet with occasionally. She’s half my age but we relate to one another and we get along with ease. We chat about the ins and outs of our lives; there are some parallels and some extremes, but mostly we hover somewhere between general chit chat and the deep and meaningful. The “discuss deep shit” type of friendships don’t come along that often nor are they easy for me to strike. Somehow though, this woman’s life and the things she thinks and talks about remind me a little of when I was her age [maybe even how I am now!].  The desire to do something good with her life amidst so many obstacles and other things demanding her attention. I have to stop myself from giving advice like an older sister or young mother – for who am I to give it when (a) who am I to know what someone else needs and (b) how do I know what’s right when I have had no children of my own?

But it’s one of the things about us both – we like to help others be well, do good and achieve.

I contemplate how we spend our lives searching for something that will bring us happiness. We search for things we can measure our worth with or determine our value through. I have always thought of myself as a creative person and that being a creative professional would be “my thing”, that it would bring me happiness. Lately though, productivity and seeing others do good seems to be taking precedence over being creative. Is it because I’m getting on and time’s running out? Or perhaps because I was brought up with the notion that I “should be doing something more productive” – other than painting on rocks or drawing top gun logos and plans for my future home. Perhaps it’s that being productive seems more fruitful, more purposeful and achievement oriented.

In my case, being productive especially around our home gives me the sense that I am helping us (mostly my husband) look after, maintain and nurture our home and our space in the street, in the world.  In doing things for my husband, our home and to sustain or improve our lifestyle, I get that sense of being part of something that feels like home and it makes me feel content with having been productive, having achieved something purposeful and nurturing. Contributing to something as big as a home and a man’s life allows me to feel like a real mature woman and to my surprise, a creative! Maybe just not in the artistic sense.

holding hands

I’m of the thinking that things are shifting away from being “me-centric” – as well as away from what things I can do for me to make me happier – to being a more giving and caring person where doing things and caring for someone else could be the key to my ultimate happiness. And so I’m learning that ..

A relationship could the best investment you could make for your own happiness.

In not having been a mother, I am sensing that caring for someone (like a mother does for her child) is a life affirming thing, a confirmation that you are a capable, caring and worthy human being. I imagine it is something to dive into with all your life force, love and creativity! I hear of women who spend their whole life raising children at the expense of doing what they enjoy, what they want. I hear of the opposite too – women who work so hard they have no time for children or to nurture anyone, even themselves. I don’t think I can put myself in either of these categories. I had opportunities to do well in a previous career, I had offers to make babies too. Now that I’m in my late 40’s and menopause is knocking, my views on what is important are shifting. I know at times we all need to do “our thing”, to use our talents in meaningful and life affirming ways, but I’m thinking that solid relationships are what helps to drive those endeavours, they are what gives you inspiration, guidance and purpose.

What I am really trying to say is this:

I grew up with parents who said that there was no such thing as love (yeah, go figure). But from a very early age I knew something that a girl that age isn’t suppose to know – that there is such a thing as love. I held on to this belief all my life and despite it being very late in my life, I found a man who I love – really love (and I waited for him in order to get married at the ripe old age of 40!). Here’s the thing; he encourages me to be creative in many ways. I struggle with that a lot but I rarely struggle with helping him, loving him and doing things for him because doing so gives me purpose. That sense that I’m nurturing someone else and giving another being a reasonable if not, good life. And that is the best creative investment I could ever make.

Comparison, productivity and white paint

comparison

kəmˈparɪs(ə)n/
noun
1.
a consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people 


Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. As a result, we are constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of domains (for example, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success).


I tend to “constantly make self evaluations across the artistic domain”. No, wait! Come to think of it, the capabilities domain, the good-wife domain, the health domain, the mid-life domain ..

My mind shifts quickly from adding to that list to what I “achieved” today. Something that went some way in helping me to feel productive maybe even creative and that wasn’t something that I would tarnish with an automatic comparison.

I painted. Albeit not a scenery, nor a portrait to make me feel a sense of accomplishment or moment of pride, but it involved paint and a paint brush. A very good step in my “add-more-creativity-into-every-day” journey.

I can see the thick white paint sticking like peanut butter to the black acrylic bristles, sludging as I slopped the brush along each beam of our twenty foot by twenty foot carport to cover the film that had developed over the five years since Bill built the carport.

I don’t mind painting. I’ve painted quite a few things around our home not only because we are both tight arses but to put a fresh look over the place and feel house proud. I guess I also feel somewhat obliged to do my bit and also cut my Bill a break – he’s not as young agile as he used to be. Besides, he hates painting. Says it was as boring as f…

white paint tin

So, I thought about why I don’t so much as hesitate to paint repetitious white lines on linear undeviating wooden panels, and yet I find it ten times harder to paint something colourful, beautiful and artistic. Why I almost enjoy taking one colour (despite white actually not being a colour) along a panel of wood over and over and over again.

As I painted I thought of the old cliche of painting being ‘meditative’ but that didn’t sit quite right. That term doesn’t sit right for a lot of things lately – the whole “it’s good for you because it’s meditative” garb. So there I was, stretching to find an appropriate description and explanation for not minding the art of simple paint application.

Given that the last couple of days I’d spent viewing, pondering and comparing myself to professional artists and writers – which left me feeling a little crushed via a sense of under achievement – I figured this type of painting was not the type that demanded anything from me or asked for any comparison. This type of painting was constructive, productive and purposeful. These are things I find hard to feel or find in artistic type painting. This type of painting was the type that gives you that sense of ‘productivity’ without comparison or judgement. I don’t find it hard to paint a block of wood to make it look fresh and keep it from rotting but I find it hard to paint for art’s sake; to paint without judgement or comparison and yet still feeling like I’m being productive.

Painting a carport does not require as much if any “consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people” (comparison), it does not “determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others” (social comparisons theory), whereas art and being artistic – for me – does promote comparison, and is often used to measure against others, especially in determining if it’s ‘good enough’ and therefore used as a means to determine personal worth.

If I were to follow my own advice (I often give my design students advice to create from their own ideas without getting ideas from Google, for example), and if I allow my intuition, my innate creative abilities to surface with the same simplicity I have when painting panels of wood, I’d possibly be a very content and unjudging artist, painter, illustrator, writer who doesn’t need to compare her work with others or feel the need to paint only to feel like she’s been productive. If ..

The truth about creativity [for me at least]

Yesterday I was in Dean Swift’s Book shop in Nowra looking for a Bernard Cornwell book for Bill – he loves how Cornwell takes historic 17th and 18th century facts and turns them into incredibly detailed and vivid modernised stories. Bill’s always encouraged me to read. He says ‘it’s very good for your imagination’. I’m not sure I need any encouragement to promote my imagination since it runs rife without my volition on an all too regular basis.

I once started to read one of Cornwell’s books. It was all roses for the most of the first chapter and I thought I might actually be able to get into this kind of historic tale. It was a tale of ‘Alfred the Great and his descendants as told through the eyes of Uhtred, an English boy born into the aristocracy of ninth-century Northumbria, captured by the Danes and taught the Viking ways^. As I read on, I realised I’d gotten towards the end of the first chapter – unheard of for me in one sitting. I became enthusiastic, enjoying getting engrossed in the beginnings of a story that could possibly hold my interest. I came to the very last page and suddenly I was thrusted into shock when the last paragraph detailed a brutal and disturbing beheading. Just the treat before I was to venture off to tranquil, peaceful slumber!

It’s fair to say I didn’t read another of “Bill’s types of books” but I found that I had developed a knack of finding him better books than he was able to find for himself. And the Bernard Cornwell, rip your head off type were exactly what my man needed more of. I’m not so sure but who am I to know what a man’s soul needs. If nothing else, the least I can grant him is what he says he needs, wants and enjoys.

So, the new, thirty two dollar Cornwell book was in my hands. I gently flipped it’s fresh smooth pages as I browsed more books. I have a bit of a book fetish – not the worst of fetishes I think. None the less, every time I rearrange my books in my home studio, I always seem to manage a cry of “what the hell am I doing with all these books” and yet I still love them. Perhaps it is associated with a drill my sister use to have where she would take me to a newsagent or book shop and encourage me to snif the pages of the glossy, almost perfumed pages of not one but several magazines. I don’t know, but books do something to me and I’ve often thought that in another life I could be a book-shop owner. Perhaps I’ll reincarnate as a stork carrying an expensive or rare illuminated text?

I continued to browse and spotted a lovely hard covered book at the end of a book shelf right up the back of the book shop. The art on it’s cover grabbed my attention immediately. It’s that kind of image that spoke to me – almost like something I have created or would like to create. I flicked through the pages and reviewed the artists’ life and works. Seeing the photos of Belinda Cox, her studio set up, the mood boards displayed around her studio for inspiration and focus and all of her consistent and recognisable artwork, reminded me of how little I was as an artist and how some people develop into adult, professional and sophisticated artists.

fullsizeoutput_129
Belinda Cox Book Cover

Despite feeling a little artistically and creatively crushed, I just had to have the book. It had a firm, smooth-feeling cover, it was wonderfully colourful throughout and it felt well made. The art on it’s cover and within it really resonated with me. Then I looked at the price of the book ($85) and realised perhaps I could simply view her art on the web or buy the book cheaper online (I looked it up while I was in Dean’s – $53). It wasn’t until I got home and really looked at the art with a more considered and discerning eye that I realised it didn’t resonate with me as deeply as when I was in the shop. When I got home and viewed her art online it appeared murky – not as clean, colourful and vibrant as I had first thought. None-the-less it was incredibly modern, intuitive and mature art. I could certainly learn from this woman. I read her profile and once again felt small.

So what has all this got to do with the truth about creativity?

All the books, videos, speeches, profiles, the three, five or twenty-step processes and therapy I’ve completed over the years .. I know they are well-meaning, but what they have failed to ‘cure’ for me is the annoying reoccurring unconscious patterns that have come from years of indoctrinations which have suppressed my creative genes and rung in my ear like an incurable case of tinnitus. Perhaps one of the only things to help me consider how my belief systems, innocent views and natural talent could have been tainted, suppressed or essentially ‘murdered’ during my younger impressionable years is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I went through that book with a fine coloured pencil inch by inch, completing every activity, every contemplation and every exercise. And aside from a little creativity in completing the exercises, there was virtually no increase in creativity that came with it for me.

I’ve read, I’ve watched, I’ve listened and I’ve meditated on how to be more creative and I’ve desperately searched for something that will bring my ‘creative gene’ back. I’ve been advised to go out, to “fill the well”, to get inspired by the likes of Julia Cameron’s book, Belinda Cox’s art or even Bernard Cornwell’s beheadings! I’ve self educated and done a myriad of things that were designed to inspire me and to promote creativity but at the end of the day none of it has worked – for me at least.

Now that I’m an adult with natural urges and surges of creativity that were disrupted and who’s confidence and ‘artistic maturity’ never really developed or florished, I’m stuck. What could have been a normal creativity flow is never going to be like second nature as it might have been when I was an aloof and creative child or adolescent.

The truth for me is one of either two things – drop the fantasy of being the impulsively creative child I use to be – without critiuque without reason and without comparison – or perhaps I’ve got it all wrong and that banging my head against the creative barge poll will never reveal the pool of creative oil that I’ve been misguided in believing would happen if I banged hard enough.

Perhaps in letting all of this go, it be what it will be.

^ Bernard Cornwell, The Last Kingdom Series, http://www.bernardcornwell.net/series/the-last-kingdom-series/, sourced 16 December 2016.

Downloading new software to take the focus off my head!

So, to avoid creating something I decided to look at what’s happening in the tweeting world. I found a tweet by the CreativeBloq team http://www.creativebloq.com/news/incredible-new-graphic-design-app-now-available-to-download and proceeded to download the software because I couldn’t decided whether to go out and look for a new washing machine or do something more productive like finish painting the carport – more things to take the focus off being more creative! What is it with this? That I feel I must be continuously creative?

This software looks amazing! Perhaps a steep learning curve even for a seasonsed teacher who uses Adobe on a daily basis. Something to keep the juices flowing and anything to keep me from truly being the master of any one topic, subject or field!

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Is playing a kids xylophone or moving books good for a woman in a mid-life, unproductive-life crisis?

Tra la la, tra la la la .. I bought it at a charity fete. It’s missing flats and a few majors too. It’s made of porcelain and when gently and correctly tapped, the bars of the xylophone make a lovely reverberating chime like church bells. It’s quite a lovely sound for a kids instrument.

The dilemma is that I feel a slight ping of contrition when I play them. Perhaps its because of what I wrote about yesterday, in that they are a /kids/ instrument [and I ‘should’ be getting serious and ‘more adult’ about things at my age]. Perhaps it feels like it’s because I’m playing basic songs [and the thought of practicing like I was forced to when I was a pre-teenager seems painful and constricting]; or perhaps its that the authoritative father voice still lingers after all these years telling me to do something more productive with my life. I think all of the above.

And so, I end up bringing out two book shelves hubby made to house the copious unread books I have accumulated over the years. I place a selection of Computer Arts magazines and books on typography and colour into them.

This seemed like a better and easier task to set myself than to play bad chimes on the xylophone. However, the choice of which books and magazines to put into the book shelves almost caused me a melt down – another one! I wondered how it could be that a grown woman can not only move book shelves and books in and out of a room several times [in any given month] but be at odds with which books to select for that manoeuvre to the point of a melt down!

When I’m like this, it’s as if I’m viewing someone else from above. I nod my head as I review the feelings that arose as they happened. Feelings of “what the hell am I doing this for again?”. Or,“why can’t I leave the book shelves and books as they are, in the one spot, period?”. And “what the hell, Luise! This is the third time this month you’ve moved these books in and out of the spare room into your studio. For Christ’s sake, paint, create, write, do something!”

So, that’s what I did. I came and wrote about it here. Lately, I’ve found an increasing desire to release my internal dialogue onto a page [of writing, not paint unfortunately]. Something is calling me to write down the crazy insights, the weird musings and just general boring information my subconscious acknowledges no one would likely want to read but for the sake of my existentialistic needs, I’ll do for the heck of it anyway.
I’m hoping that this somewhat aimless writing at least, will be good for a woman’s mid-life, unproductive-life crisis.

What’s so f’ing hard about this? I’ve got the skills, I’ve got the eye, I’ve even got the money..

Today I thought about how everything I’m doing and have done feels “junior” and how it’s about time I grew up and started completing some serious ‘adult’ work. After all, I’m the tender age of 48, turning 49 in a few weeks – ‘bout time right?

Hm ..

I’ve continually dreamt of my pre-pubescent days of the ease and simplicity of that dreamy, child-like state where I would create art for no reason or rhyme, where I would get lost in painting, drawing, imagining and have no qualms about it all – it would just happen and I’d be happy with my rock painting of a wintery scene copied from a Christmas card received from a distant relative I knew nothing about let alone being able to grasp the concept of someone living over 10,000 miles away.

And so, instead of being creative, using the skills I have always had and conjuring up some mad, exciting project that I can dive in with all my heart and soul where all I crave is creativity rather than the insatiable need for comfort food, hugs and chilled jazz music – I insist on continuing to tidy and rearrange my studio, put things in order as I was instructed when I was young [and did even then] and listen to chilled jazz music!

An unusual bug lands on my computer screen. It’s head is orange and under a magnifying glass I am inspired. But, not enough to do anything about it. I am quick to think of many ideas I could do with this bug – turn him into a cartoon character, give him a name and match box home with another unusual bug to see what happens, put him under a miscoscope .. but then I’ve always been great at conjuring, imagining and coming up with ideas – but when it comes to fulfilling any of these ideas ..

That’s what I find so fucking hard. Picking an idea, feeling the passion surrounding it, knowing it’s what many people term ‘what I’ve been put on this planet to achieve’ and then of course, the peace du resistance, going for it, seeing that idea come to fruition.

So, I find myself tired just from thinking about all that. My bum is aching from all the sitting I do and have been doing. So, like all my great ideas, I’ll dump this note right here and carry on with my subliminal streams of consciousness and dialogue tomorrow.