Auto-Correct

A few months ago, I took an old notebook, half-filled with Russian words, out of a cupboard, and appointed it my new diary notebook.

It has more ink in it now than it could ever have as the kind of notebook you take to classes. In fact, it’s almost full by now. When I wave it goodbye and take on a new one, I know I’ll remember it with fondness because it is the place where I’ve learned and am practicing a new life skill: auto-correct.

The pages filled with Russian words are the only pages from my notebook that you're allowed to see...
The only pages from my notebook that you’re allowed to see…

Let me explain. For most of my life, I thought I lacked self-confidence but that that was the way I was. I thought that not being sure what you want and not believing that you can get what you want was something you were born with and that you couldn’t change regardless of how much effort you put into it.

“Being the way I was” in this aspect never made me happy. But it wasn’t until my early twenties that I decided I can get rid of tendencies that make me unhappy.

One of the eye-opening events during that time was reading Anna’s post about women’s lack of confidence in their dreams, plans, and abilities.

It was this post that made me start to notice the little “I think’s” and “maybes” that I slip into my utterances, my diary entries, even my thoughts. And when I became aware of the number of those seemingly harmless words in my language, I decided to… one after another, get rid of the fuckers.

So when I had filled some of the new notebook those few months ago and, flipping through it one lazy day, spotted several sentences starting with “I think I may want to…” or “maybe I will…” crowding it up, I corrected them to what I actually wanted to say: “I want to”, “I will”.

Since then, I’ve crossed out many “I think’s” and “maybes”, and you know what? Over time, I’ve begun to feel more confident about what I want and how I feel about things. In fact, I’m just beginning to believe that I have the right to want things, and to feel about things the way I do. In other words, I’m beginning to feel that my life is actually mine.

Auto-correct may well sound silly to you, but to me it sounds like the best way to start. I have always experienced words spoken out loud as “heavier” than ones you just turn over in your head. That’s probably because I don’t like talking very much, so when I do talk, I try to at least make the words “heavier”, that is more meaningful.

The same goes for words that get crossed out on paper — the act of crossing them out means that I don’t want them in my language. It’s a manifestation. It means that I want to change.

So if you also want to change something about yourself… why not try out auto-correct?

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Word Issues #8: Disrespect

This post is an experiment for me. I wrote it ten months ago and after I opened the file yesterday, it intrigued me because I didn’t quite remember writing it. And although I would write it differently now, I’m posting it here as is, only with some editing*.

 

Disrespect

When I was being prepared for confirmation (yup, actual Catholic confirmation) some eight years ago, the priest who taught religion at my school (yup, they actually “teach religion” in schools in my country) told us to make one forever-binding promise to God.

So I made the promise to myself instead that from then on, I’d respect every single person I meet.

I made this promise although I didn’t feel particularly respectful towards that priest at the moment. (Seriously, what kind of a moron makes teenagers make such promises?) Nor did I feel respectful towards many other individuals around me at that time.

I guess that in my own way, I was being idealistic: without actually idealizing anybody around me, I idealized my capability for kindness, respect, tolerance, and so on.

But the older I get, the more apparent it becomes that I can’t fulfill this promise. All those nicey-picey, cuddly-wuddly things like love, kindness, tolerance, and even respect, just aren’t there for everyone. I wish I had them in me at all times, but I don’t.

I lose respect when I see cruelty and stupidity.

I’m not tolerant of people who knowingly confirm all the bad expectations society has about them.

I’ve grown out of the belief that you have to be kind to those who have wasted their time on earth.

From the few of Charles Bukowski’s poems that I read, I liked one:

we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
viewpoint
no matter how
out-dated
foolish or
obnoxious.

one is asked
to view
their total error
their life-waste
with
kindliness,
especially if they are
aged.

but age is the total of
our doing.
they have aged
badly
because they have
lived
out of focus,
they have refused to
see.

not their fault?

whose fault?
mine?

I am asked to hide
my viewpoint
from them
for fear of their
fear.

age is no crime

but the shame
of a deliberately
wasted
life

among so many
deliberately
wasted
lives

is.

The poem seems to be written from the perspective of someone young, and lacking in respect for the old ones who have aged badly.

My own disrespect transcends the categories of young and old. It’s trans-categorial, omni-present, and ever-growing. I can’t shake it, and I don’t think I will ever be able to do so.

If anything, it will get worse with age. I will be an old woman one day, hanging around and nurturing her misanthropy before it kills her. Actually, I can’t wait for this.

 

Well all right, I would probably write it pretty much the same way if I did it on the day I saw that stupid woman at the bus stop who was squeezing the hand of a boy, squeezing it hard with her big, fat, stupid hands of a grown-up and shouting just because the boy preferred to run around instead of standing in one place. Fuck you, woman at the bus stop.

And you who are reading this, please don’t get me wrong. I respect people and even like them but not when I see this kind of shit done.

 

* I know a fellow blogger who sometimes posts his short stories with little notes that he doesn’t remember writing them and stuff like that. It’s cheap but it works so I decided to try it.

Word Issues #7: Vain

Have you ever thought about the Polish word “próżny” (“vain, void”) very, very deeply, as if your life depended on it?

Because when you do, one of the things you may notice is that this word has two distinct meanings which are different yet the same.

“Próżny”, when applied to containers, rooms and such, means more or less the same thing as “empty”.

Another meaning generally applies to women who want to hear compliments and are unhappy when they don’t. When you think of it very, very deeply though, it means “empty” just as well.

You see those women around you? They’re empty. You must tell them they’re pretty, and they’ll be filled. Fulfilled. You must say that often to keep them in that state.

I have a friend who thinks all women are to some extent vain and need to hear compliments from time to time. Back when we were exchanging e-mails more often, he used to compliment me randomly because I didn’t know how to tell him it doesn’t do much for me.

Now I’m thinking perhaps I should write him an e-mail saying that he’s been wrong all his life.

Because it has never occurred to me with such clarity before that there’s millions of ways in which a woman, or anyone other than that, can be filled, fulfilled, happy or whatever you wish to call it, and not just from time to time but every day.

Music. Work. Friendship. Sex. Writing. Taking care of someone else. The scent of air when Spring is just around the corner. You know, the sort of things that make you hum “because the world is round it turns me on.”

So much of it out there, and inside of you, too. Why would anyone prefer to just hang around waiting to hear they’re pretty?

Life Is Not A Race // Word Issues #6

A few weeks ago, I was scribbling a note on the blank space of the last page of a short story written by someone from the students’ association. It went something like this: “the heroine’s actions seem random, there’s no pattern to them… that might signify immaturity (and I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with immaturity!).”

At that, I wondered why I should feel the need to explain that there is nothing wrong with immaturity – that, in other words, immaturity isn’t a fault.

It’s as plain as the nose on your face: you will probably agree that the word “immaturity” can justifiably be understood as describing a phase of life preceding maturity. A phase of life, not a personality trait – yet we usually use this word to describe the latter, most often to summarize somebody who did something stupid which we didn’t much like.

But if we give it a little thought… immaturity in the latter sense of “personality trait” may well dominate someone’s behaviour in both the immature and the mature phase of life. Well, then?

We all make mistakes and, very often, have a hard time finding the right paths for ourselves. But even if we keep blundering, does that mean we should get summed up as “immature”? Does that mean our lovely mistakes, the time we spend deciding on the right course of action only to choose the wrong one, our troubles, worries, and profuse amounts of acting out should be dismissed as unimportant?

Do you know what age slot Erikson designated as the maturity phase? It was 65+. That’s just to (randomly) quote an authority before I proceed with a piece of unsolicited advice to make your lives perhaps a bit less plagued by worry:

Maturing is a slow process. It’s okay if you haven’t yet mastered all the skills that come with it, like wise decision making, or good time management. It’s okay if you don’t know how you’d behave in each and every kind of situation. It’s okay if you’re not ready to take up all responsibilities that someone may expect you to take. Remember: life is not a race.

And, by the way… don’t you think there’s something inherently awesome about immaturity? You can act random like the heroine from the story I mentioned, and it’s just the natural way you act. And then, as that phase passes, you learn more and more about the kind of behaviour that suits you. You make choices about what responsibilities you want to take up. You basically learn and learn, and learn some more.

Personally, I wanna keep being slightly immature indefinitely.

Cockroaches Don’t Stand a Chance // Word Issues #5

This is my end-of-year rant about security plus a little lesson of Polish.

There is a beautiful Polish expression used to refer to the place one lives in: “u siebie”. It’s difficult to translate it into English literally because, unlike the English “at one’s (place)”, it uses a form of the reflexive rather than the possessive pronoun. In this way, on the lexical level, it doesn’t point to a place but to a person — its owner and/or inhabitant. “At oneself” could be the closest lexical equivalent… if it wasn’t so unintelligible.

Anyhow, it’s one of the expressions in the Polish language I thoroughly love. Because even if it stands only for the simple concept of “place of habitation”, to me it carries a load of very important meaning. What does it mean to be at your own place or, forgive the crudity of the translation, “at oneself”?

For the period of my life which I spent living in my parents’ house and with a depressive mindset dominated by insecurity, I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t feel like the house was my own place and in fact, no place was “home enough” for my troubled mind. Then, as I began to realize the trouble, I slowly convinced myself that I should take better care of myself. In the meantime, I made some awesome friends, moved out to Krakow, began therapy, and all along was learning how to simply be good to myself so that I don’t fall in any trap my own mind may have in store for me.

cockroach
Photo by Toby Hudson (Wikimedia Commons)

Because for many reasons, my mind isn’t a great place to be. But as I was learning to take care of myself, I recently realized that every physical place I have lived in for some time — my first Krakow kitchen/room, which I hated because it had no doors and no privacy; my second, cosy room in what is known as one of the more dangerous districts of Krakow; and my current place of living, an ugly flat that I’m sharing with two guys and an army of cockroaches — is my place, a place where I can “be at myself” (być u siebie), where I can “go back to myself” (wrócić do siebie) every evening, and where I can also “invite someone to myself” (zaprosić kogoś do siebie).

Once again, forgive me the crudity of it, but you get the concept, don’t you? It’s not really about the place you live in. It’s about the feeling of security you have found in yourself. Not in the fact of being in the place you made your first steps in, and where your mom is to bake your favourite cake to cheer you up, or anything. Not in the fact of living on your own, and having personally bought all the items that are in your flat, either. Not even in the fact of liking the place: as I moved into my current place of living, I was repulsed by it. I remember telling SO, who helped me move my stuff there, that it’s so ugly I was never going to like it.

But now, I like it regardless of the cockroaches and all — because I live there, and if I live there, it must be a nice place. C’mon, with all the reading, thinking, crying, talking, and laughing I’ve done there? With everything good I’ve done there to maintain that feeling of security, even if I lose it sometimes? Cockroaches don’t stand a chance of making me dislike it.

I wish for all of you to feel secure in yourselves in the coming year and on, so that we all have a secure “place” to go back to, wherever that might be.

Mulan

Word Issues #4: Virginity

As I have already said in this post, I like words.

But some, I don’t. It might be because they “sound bad” to me, or it might be the way people use them with other words and create horrible images that reflect their horrible views of the world they live in.

Because words matter, and after a year of attending a seminar in cognitive poetics, I have become much more sensitive to this: words matter in the way their usage reflects how we see the world.

For example, we associate the upward direction with changes for the better, and the downward direction — with deterioration, and hence we speak of e.g. “uplifting stories” and “down-trodden workers”. Or we see certain actions as involving a transfer even if what is “transferred” is not a material object but, say, a piece of information (consider e.g. “leave a message”).

This leaves room for endless mooning over particular collocations that strike you as meaningful: you hear someone use an expression, and then you have something to analyse cognitively when you’re on a bus, or something. But it can also make life very annoying.

For instance, if you search for “virginity” in any collocations dictionary, the entry you’re sure to find is “lose virginity” (some also give “take away virginity”). You’ll find the same results in any language corpus and, needless to say, you’ll probably hear the word used that way more often than any other.

And if you think of this in cognitive poetic terms, like I do, you’ll soon be mad because you’ll see the error in it. These words put together show virginity as a thing you can transfer, something you can lose or take away from somebody, when in fact… it’s just a state.

You’re in this state, and they you might stop being in this state, but the moment this changes — the moment you stop being a virgin — isn’t an act of losing or taking something.

Like all error, this may influence the way we think about the world in stupid ways: for instance, some people see virginity as a value to be protected when in fact what we should protect is not made-up values, but people’s safety and health.

Of course, it may well not bother you at all, but I can’t just pass over it. Not as a cognitive poetics student, and certainly not when I’m in my annoyed mode.

Because, like all error, it’s annoying.

(Im)Practical Guide to Cross Dressing // Word Issues #3

I decided to put my intimate knowledge of cross dressing (no, not really), together with my awesome (no, not really) technical writing skills, into some practical (no, not really) use, and write a guide to cross dressing…

dressing 1

dressing 2

dressing 3

dressing 4

The dressing being cross with you guaranteed!

The post is a collaboration with lotny. You may check out his blog here.

Take care,
Mulan