Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Web Design Trends 2014

Flat and Clean Design 
Yes, simple is once again beautiful. We all remember the monstrosities associated with the dawn of the world wide web in the early 90s such as rainbow colors, animated icons, 3D bevels, and weird textures. As users of the Internet have matured they said "no, thank you" to the superfluous razzle-dazzle. Most people use the internet as a way to get information quickly and efficiently, and they don't want to sift through clutter in order to get to it. Modern websites strive to be clean and well organized; a pleasure to look at and a snap to get from point A to point B. This means flat design with only subtle shadows, gradients, and textures, if any at all, effective use of white space, more boxes, less bubbles and less rounded corners.

Sophisticated Typography 
Fonts have always been underrated. Until Comic Sans showed up on the horizon and made everyone blatantly aware of its misuses, no one really noticed fonts. It was more of a subliminal message in advertising. But now typography is making its great comeback: there is not only more focus on typographical elements when they are featured sometimes as primary design elements (like in the Swiss style or Russian propaganda posters), but they are being used more creatively. Sans Serifs (with Helvetica in the lead) were certainly a big improvement for cleaner designs, but now designers are mixing typefaces to create interesting, effective, and appealing combinations. However you do it, the type must be clean, legible, and objective.

Responsive Design 
Your mobile device is no longer just a phone: it slices, dices, and makes julienne fries... its internet connectivity capacities and larger displays allow for more convenient web browsing. With the mobile device share of website traffic at over 25%, it is becoming imperative that businesses optimize their websites for smaller displays. While smartphones are used primary as a web browsing or research platform, tablet use for making online purchases is expanding as users' comfort levels rise. To prevent alienating a large chunk of the market, web sites are adopting adaptive or responsive designs to eliminate usability issues arising with smaller displays. Big buttons are in; hovers are out. Menus are simplified and downsized. Performance is optimized to give users quicker access to information.  

Full-Width Backgrounds 
Super-sized, high quality images take center stage. This trend's increasing popularity is not only related to aesthetic appeal but also usability and maintenance. The plethora of display sizes and resolutions--from small smartphone screens to large laptop displays--create viewing consistency challenges. A full-width background that stretches and adjusts accordingly to the size of the screen adds stability to the design. Also, large attractive images can appeal to audience pathos and trigger an emotional response strengthening branding and import of the message. The website can easily be updated, refreshed, and revamped by simply changing the background image.

Vertical Scrolling
Vertical scrolling and one page designs eliminate clicks and present content neatly in one spot where it can be accessed by scrolling down the page, which is intuitive, simple, and mobile-friendly. The vertical design opens the door for parallax effects and sticky navigation. Even though there seems to be much buzz about alternative navigation functionalities, at this point we have enough trained users to look for navigational elements on the top and left of the screen, and I think appealing to these conditioned tendencies rather than trying to subvert them is a much more successful strategy.

Social Media Integration
Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Google+, Instagram. . .  they came, and it's pretty clear they are here to stay, so you might as well incorporate social media interactivity into your website and, what's more important, use the exposure to your advantage.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our Little War

People have been posting sappy pictures with messages about the death of our troops on Facebook. Here's one, "R.I.P. To the 31 US Troops who were killed in Afghanistan yesterday. I bet no one cares enough to repost this to show some respect. This is the real reason for flags at half-staff! I have only seen this posted one time; if it was [sic] a celebrity[,] it would be plastered all over Facebook. What a shame! I reposted out of respect to the fallen heros. God Bless Our Troops." What a piece of blubbering idiocy! I appreciate the sentiment: troops are dying overseas fighting a useless war. Sad. They are the property of the government, but that doesn't mean they should be treated like pawns in the government's game of chess... oh wait, checkers. Honestly, if the government did not send troops to the hostile ass of the world, there would be no fallen troops. What are we fighting for over there? Our freedom? Equality? The end of oppression or tyranny? The assurance of our way of life? None of these the last time I checked. Someone, please, explain to me why we are there. It seems to me that the only reason why the United States decided to start this military operation was to save face. Were we really afraid that the Afghani were going to be a consistent threat?

Ah, but we were attacked: on September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center was taken down by terrorists. What was 911? It was an isolated act of violence against, not a country, but a random group of people (by the way, I worked at WTC when it happened). It did not promise any sustained threats. It was orchestrated to piss Americans off, to force a retaliation. And that's exactly what it did: we got sucked into it like a moth to a flame. We're not even sure whether this attack was foreign or domestic. I wouldn't be surprised if our government did not dip its greedy, corrupt fingers into it.

Was a military response really the best, most reasonable one? It wasn't reasonable because there was no good cause to start a war and because it was not economically sound in our failing economy. Karl Marx labels war the ulti­mate exam­ple of unpro­duc­tive eco­nomic activ­ity and calls it “the direct equiv­a­lent of a nation throw­ing a part of its cap­i­tal into the water.” We consider ourselves an advanced, civilized society, right? And the Afghani are not exactly on the same socio-evolutionary level: their governance system is rather primitive in comparison to ours. Why not respond with reason: open communication to try and understand why they bear this grudge? Wouldn't it be more civil?

Of course, it was a shame that the towers were taken down and that 3,000 people had to die. Any form of terrorism is a shame and should not be permitted. But it is terrorism, and by definition it aims to create fear. And remember what Yoda said? "There's much fear in you" Fear leads to the Dark Side, it leads to evil. Our response only showed that we were no better than them. Are all the Afghani people guilty of ill will towards Americans? No! An isolated, pompous group of extremists. Then why are we terrorizing the entire nation? And why is it that our elite military force we boast of cannot get rid of a relatively small, targeted, primitive group of hostiles? Am I the only one who sees some serious ideological flaws in our government's actions? So no! I don't support this war because I don't understand the cause for it. And no! I am not happy that my tax money goes into paying for it, for widowing women, for making orphans out of innocent children, whose lives wouldn't be any different if their fathers did not die! And yes! it makes me angry to think we're losing innocent lives for nothing.

I do believe that there are wars that are justified. World War II would be one of them. Let's compare! Let's look at the casualties. Let's look at the causes, the countries involved, and the freedom threatened of many, many European nations. 60 million people died in WW2: that's 2.5% of all population. The reason World War II broke out because one nation led by one bloke, Adolf Hitler, decided to successively acquire neighboring countries: he started with Austria, then Czechoslovakia, and then he decided to help himself to Poland. Meanwhile, in Britain, the conservative Mr. Chamberlain continued his appeasement policy: "Let's just give these insignificant East European countries to Hitler. Perhaps he won't bother us." Finally, when Poland stood up for itself and declared war, with Hitler's troops knocking on its own door, Britain finally considered Hitler a threat to all of Europe. There were at least 30 countries directly involved in the conflict. Let me make this perfectly clear: Germany threatened the freedom of the citizens of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Britain, among others. How was their freedom threatened? Well, he physically walked his troops into those nations and started killing people--soldiers, civilians, people of power, members of the intelligence, clergy, Jews, cripples, people who looked funny to him.... There were battles; there were tanks; there were planes; there were submarines; and ships. It was a full-blown military operation. If the operation were successful, most of Europe would be German! WW2 vs. one, half-assed, isolated act of violence by a couple of suicide (read: desperate) extremists against a country defensively positioned to prevent armed land attacks (with two oceans guarding most of its borders) where 3,000 innocent people were targeted by one angry loony at the head of one terrorist organization who had no means to threaten either the United States or any other nation any more than he already did. Hmm... you decide which one is more justified.

Ah, yes... But we need to look at OUR OWN involvement in WW2. The United States entered the war because Japan attacked Pearl Harbor (otherwise, the US just sat there and watched how the war enfolded... in fact, I don't believe the US sent any troops to help out the allies in Europe until 1944... that's one year before the war ended and 5 years into it). We declared war on December 8, 1941 and fought bravely naval battles with, predominantly, Japan. Hitler was really never a threat to America, but Japan had the military means and the best geographical location to threaten our freedom. Again, Pearl Harbor: 361 Japanese warplanes attack American airfields and shipyards, disabling 19 ships, destroying 200 planes, and killing over 2300 men. Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Malaya, Philippines soon fall to Japan... that means a bigger threat. We responded to an organized military operation that potentially endangered all of our West Coast and revealed a weakness in our defensive position, possible gate through which the enemy could enter the land. Let me add a post scriptum: Germany capitulates on May 7, 1945; the US bombs Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945. Do you detect a slight anachronism here? Not only was Hitler dead and Germany not a threat anymore, but Japan was very much powerless at the time (sans an official surrender). Yet another questionable decision of our government.

Neither Saddam Hussein nor Osama bin Laden have ever had the military means to cause serious damage to any people but their own. The question is, "Is it really our business, if we are not in any way involved?" If you are suggesting that we should enter Afghanistan and Iraq on a humanitarian mission to help the oppressed citizens of those countries, then why didn't we help out the allies in Europe during WW2? Why didn't we help out Rwanda in 1994 to prevent the genocide, when our military help would've saved lives, would've made a difference?

We would all want to believe, especially our soldiers, that our troops are fighting for our freedom. Freedom is not free, you say. Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote" "Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains." No freedom is not free... not in the United States, and most likely nowhere else: I pay taxes for mine. Albeit, it should be free. It's our fundamental right as human beings. If we are not enslaved by kings and monarchs, masters and oppressors, and our measly employers in this fine capitalistic society, we enslave ourselves by our narrow thinking. It's true! But what I'm saying is that our freedom was never threatened on 911. How was it threatened? Again, it was an isolated act of violence... it's like saying that the shooting at the movie theater was an act of war, that the school shooting in Connecticut was a threat to our freedom, or that the Boston Marathon bombing was a military operation. Hell no! Did the people die in vain? Yes, they did. That's what happens when nut jobs have their way. What do you think the victims would say if you told them, "Hey, we're going to go and start a war to avenge your lives"? They'd say, "I'm dead! You can't bring me back. Why spill more blood? What's done is done. You're out of your mind. And put away that medieval thinking!"

What can we do, you ask? First of all, how about we let our government know how we feel. The Dalai Lama says, "If you think you're too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room." The very basis for a democracy is that individual people CAN do something about it because WE control the government. I don't think I have the power to do it by myself. All I can do is create awareness that something is rotten in the state of Denmark and that I disagree with the government's decisions. Would it be better we pulled our troops now? Hmm.... Is it better we remain there and keep losing and taking lives for no good reason? This is why we pay those foreign ministers and advisors, who are (or supposed to be) well-trained in foreign policy: to solve these riddles for us. They got us into this mess; let them take us out. But first we need to make sure the government we support knows that we do not support this expensive, rather futile operation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review

Walter Kaufman’s discussion on Goethe, Hegel and Nietzsche in his book, From Shakespeare to Existentialism is illuminating. By the end of the book, however, his insights become less informative and increasingly invidious, irrelevant, and tedious. His chapters on Kierkegaard and Heidegger fail to provide a substantial exposition of the respective philosophical views; instead it focuses on single failings of the philosophers: Kierkegaard is presented as overly, dogmatically Christian and Heidegger, obscure and ambiguous. The book culminates in a tirade against Toynbee taking up what seems like an unnecessarily lengthy discussion (about 50 pages) about a man who is not a scholar, historian, poet, or prophet. If Toynbee has nothing to offer, beyond influence to Americans who don’t know any better, and is rather irrelevant to the topic of existentialism, why bring him up at all? Kaufman’s criticism and scholarship is admirable. But the book lacks aim, focus, and, by its end, objectivity.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Love of Words

I have a special relationship with language. People? Not so much. When I talk, I usually avoid niceties. I get straight to the point, and quite often people think I'm rude or arrogant. They get offended and shy away from me. That's one reason I am somewhat antisocial and choose to remain in my shell. If you can imagine, I lose friends quickly, but the ones I keep I cherish: they are the good ones that have weathered it all, proven their loyalty and love, and I love them for it. I don't complain: one good friend is worth more than a thousand false, two-faced, acquaintances ill disposed towards my persona.

My heightened sensibility to language is probably born out of my multilingual education. My first language was Polish. In third or forth grade I started learning Russian (according to the mandatory elementary school curriculum imposed by our Eastern communist comrades). Then when I was fourteen I moved to the United States, and my rendezvous with English started. Latin was next on the list to learn because, as Thoreau explains, it is impossible to be deliberate in a common tongue. Only when ancient Rome and Greece stopped talking were we able to here the best thoughts of those generations that provided the foundations of Western civilization. So when I look at words, read words, I do not merely translate the visual symbols into sounds: I think about them, analyze them, and relish in them. So when I communicate with people daily, I try to be as brief as possible.

There is a difference between spoken word and written word. Henry David Thoreau tells us that the orator speaks to a mob, but a writer speaks "to the intellect and health of mankind" and to all who can understand him. Our everyday language--words we use to get things done, to communicate simple needs--is not the same as the language of literature. Everyday spoken language is crude, vulgar, brutish,  and transitory. We don't pay attention to how we say things most of the time because we are too familiar with it. Written word or literary language, on the other hand, is deliberate. Writers put effort and energy into what they say. They think about the vocabulary, grammatical constructions, punctuation, and order because they have that luxury.

My economy of spoken word comes from a deep conviction that words should be revered. One should not use them in vain. They make our world possible. Without words our experiences would be meaningless. Words give us a way to describe a world, organize it, explain it, and share it with others.  In fact, they do not only describe the world around us but also create it. Immanuel Kant tells us that all knowledge is not derived from experience: we use the external world in our thinking processes and transform it, using semantic paradigms, into models that make sense to us. In that sense we must admit that the world is somewhat subjective: there are as many worlds as there are minds. Words allow us to partake in the eternal: through them we participate in the history of human race. Maybe it is through words we can feel time.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Heroes Wanted!

We look around lately at the arts and culture, literature and poetry, theater and the cinema and perhaps cannot help but to feel that somehow as a generation we are lagging behind our more accomplished predecessors. Is our age, our (post)modern condition, somehow unprecedented in its artistic mediocrity? Is the age responsible for the impossibility of real genius in the arts today? Or is this condition (if one such exists) perpetuated by our own lack of confidence in our accomplishments?

Walter Kaufmann looks back into history to find some examples of genius or excellence in philosophy, music, and literature. We revere Plato and Aristotle for their philosophy, Mozart and Beethoven for music, and Shakespeare above all for drama, while modern artists wallow in self-pity and burn their works and egos on the altars of futility crying, “Oh, if I were only born in another age!” After all, who are our heroes today? Who do we idolize? Hollywood and mass media teaches us to follow popular trends too readily. Social media further shows our preferences. For example as of today, the most popular on Twitter are Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Barack Obama (the only politician who has wiggled his way into this entertainment pageant). Perhaps the problem lies not in the lack of genius but in the lack of recognition of genius: if a Shakespeare or a Mozart or Aristotle appeared on our culture’s stage, would we even recognize their remarkable talent or would we boo them off the stage?

Although I cannot disagree that popular taste is not the most sophisticated or discriminating nowadays, has it ever been? As Kaufmann explains, Socrates was put to death, Dante was exiled, Van Gogh died a pauper. Are we lacking an elite, a sophisticated audience? Have our tastes disintegrated because of poor education? I don’t believe so. I think we are more starved for quality cultural products than ever–starting with TV programming, news, art, music, cinema ending with philosophy and politics.

Instead of complaining and whining about our inability to live up to the best other ages had to offer, we should confidently march on and pursue our passions because without passion and spunk none of these great men would have made it into the pages of history. Besides, only the future is capable of singling out a generation’s men of genius. So we might as well abandon our anxieties and reach for the stars!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Girl Interrupted

Christmas time is finally here! It is the season of reflection (come to think of it, when is it not for me?). I have been thinking about my life and a question came to mind: if I were to write my autobiography right now, would there be a grand narrative? Would there be a unified plot, or would there be a whole bunch of disconnected episodes with nothing in common but the lone heroine? Would she even be a unified identity? Would she be the protagonist or the antagonist? A heroine, femme fatale, a knave, or the antichrist? One thing I can say in the affirmative: my life was certainly anything but dull, and I have made special effort to make it as chaotic as it can be. Any time it all starts to make sense, I manage to throw a wrench in it and begin a new chapter (or a new book even) in search of a better narrative. Perhaps, I am drawn to 19th Century literature because there always is a grand narrative, and it is always grand indeed: amazing things happen to amazing people, and they always come out wiser, stronger, happier. My parents have always believed I was meant for big things, great deeds, and significant discoveries. I have been waiting all my life for something amazing to happen to me, for the Jamesian beast to jump out of the jungle. Yet I am 37 years old and nothing has happened, and, I'm afraid, nothing ever will. I have accomplished nothing. Lately the thought has been giving me much trouble, and it is depressing me.

Now, I don't mean it lightheartedly. The time has come to admit that I am prone to depression. I often find myself sucked into the black hole, where I tend to remain for quite some time until something jolts me out of it. The worst of it is that it is never a gradual descent but rather a sudden fall, a snap, a blink of an eye: one minute I am counting my blessings, enjoying the euphoria, my so-called life; and the next, I feel my life is over, I wasted it away, wasted my potential, thrown it all away, burned all the bridges, and there is nothing to live for any longer. Perhaps, there is a progression from my state of happiness to that feeling of desperation, despondency, and alienation, but I am incapable of recognizing when I begin this downward spiral until I'm at the very bottom. In fact, sometimes I mistake depression for euphoria until the bubble finally bursts.

I guess I have always been afflicted. As far as I can remember, starting with grade school, I experienced these dark episodes. Some of the highlights from my memory bank date back to 3rd grade, when I announced to my homeroom teacher I was going to the restroom to hang myself on my shoelaces. Then there was the time in high school when I was "invited" to see the school therapist and ended up telling her I sometimes felt like shooting people. Come on! How can anyone take this kind of questioning seriously? My prank did not end well: they wouldn't let me out of the office without parental supervision. At other times, I would find myself sitting on top of a subway tunnel listening to Nine Inch Nails, brooding, and watching the trains go by until some driver finally stopped the train and chased me off. Then, of course, there were countless nights of uncontrollable weeping and running away, most memorably to Florida. But those were all quite benign.

The bouts of depressing moods were interjected with a search for other extreme affections. I lived for an intensity of emotions, and every experience needed to surpass the previous. I was addicted to feeling life: if I read books or listened to music, the experience had to be profoundly moving; if I took up a sport, it had to be dangerous; if I were angry, I was violent; if I loved, it had to be out of this world; if I made love, it had to be exquisite; if I felt joy, it had to be euphoric;  and if I were sad, I wallowed in misery and despondency.

The problem is that as I grow older and understand myself better, these episodes become more alarming. Before there was no real reason behind this depression: it was more of a pseudo-masochistic self-indulgence--indulgence in extreme emotions, intensification of my rather boring life. Now I find real reasons to be depressed about. I have realized that there are real consequences to making mistakes, that burning bridges is not only a game of defiance, that sometimes there is no going back, that there is a point of no return, that I cannot get away with everything. I am no longer looking for a thrill. Instead, I am looking for some tranquility and balance. I do not want to live on the edge anymore. I do not have visions of grandeur. I am no longer concerned with the beast: if he is in the jungle, I don't care anymore about his looming presence. Now I only look back with fear that I missed something, that I failed, because, in contrast to my younger days, I cannot afford any more screw-ups.

The feeling of failure began to sink in during my years at the University of Colorado. Graduate school took a toll on me. The first two years were nice and easy. I enjoyed supportive faculty, friendly colleagues, and ample intellectual stimulation. My confidence was as high as the Rockies. I applied to the doctoral program to continue my study of Romanticism under Dr. Robinson, got immediately accepted, and successfully completed my coursework. With the sudden announcement of Dr. Robinson's retirement everything changed. I tried to continue studying for my exams, but without encouragement from faculty my motivation and enthusiasm waned. I began to have trouble concentrating on reading. Teaching became increasingly difficult as I watched my confidence plummeting. I was increasingly stressed and found escape in rock climbing. It was my new passion, my new addiction, my new rush.

The time was also rather damaging to my marriage and relationships. After years of feeling estranged from my husband following the birth of our daughter, I finally decided it was time to let go. The final rapture was sudden, immediate, and not without some drama. But it was over. It was better that way. I moved out and lived a few years rather uncomfortably suspended between houses in a basement without much financial means or material possessions. I did, however, find emotional support in my climbing and living partner. The shame of it all, almost broke me. I finally began putting my life back together starting with fixing up the house, moving out of the basement, accepting a teaching position at another college, and finally buying my own house and getting remarried.

At this point, my priorities have already shifted. My daughter had finally a stable home and was attending a new neighborhood school. I was climbing harder and better. But without academic support and much not so subtle resentment from the department, I did not pass my comprehensive exams. I saw the animosity growing, but I still had faith that professionalism and academic integrity would allow the members of my committee to remain objective. It was on one hand the ultimate failure but also a relief: I did not quit on my own; I was forced out.

The next six months were difficult. My episodes of depression were more frequent as my confidence levels fell and anxiety levels rose. As much as I tried to see the blessing in it all, I couldn't shake the feeling of failure and worthlessness. They started with fatigue, difficulty to concentrate, irritability, over-eating, drinking, crying, and, in most desperate cases, suicidal thoughts. I was tired. I could not read anymore. Reading, once one of my favorite occupations, became almost impossible. I could not concentrate and that further led to feelings of incompetence. I lost confidence in my intellectual powers, my intelligence. I found myself boring, dull, inadequate, and socially awkward. I doubted my ability to do anything. My attempts at finding a job in design and marketing, my career before I quit to go back to college were unsuccessful and only further diminished my sense of self-worth of my already fragile ego. I couldn't shake the feeling of inadequacy and shortcomings in character. When I did attend social gatherings, I avoided eye contact. I was irritable. My diet consisted of junk food, and my routine evening occupation became the mindless distraction of watching movies and drinking martinis. I did not want to feel anymore. I just wanted to remain comfortably numb.

I was not certifiable, but it began to dawn on me that it was not normal and that it was time to consider serious changes in my lifestyle and my thinking. All this time I was teaching part-time and working for a small marketing company. Pretenses needed to be kept up. No one really knew what was going through my head, not even my husband, and how difficult it was to keep attending to my daily responsibilities. I was barely hanging on by threads of sanity.

Working two jobs, I was able to improve significantly my financial situation: as my bills were getting paid off, some of the anxiety lifted. My students loved me, and I enjoyed the challenge of teaching a new class. Also,  I started relaxing at my other job and began to once again enjoy designing. Sitting at the computer manipulating images while listening to music was almost therapeutic. I socialized more too: I held conversations, joked around, and laughed more. I finally summoned enough courage to see the only member of my committee who was convinced I should have passed. He was able to put the entire hoax of an exam in perspective: I was not the only one who got the impression that I failed before the exam even began. But it would still take months before I was back, before I could find the courage to write it all down. Because, you know, unless you write it down, unless you verbalize the pain, you cannot begin to heal. Language makes sense of it all, makes it real. And only once it is real, can one deal with it, rationalize it, and find a way to mend.

Finally, recently I started reading books again. I went to the library and borrowed books on depression. I read. I read fast. I read furiously. I could recognize myself in the experiences described. I also started eating healthier, taking vitamins, and running. But my renewed ability to read is what helped me the most.  The books did not only show me that I was not the only one, but they provided me with the language to describe my own experience, my own pain. They provided a narrative, which made sense of it all. I still have ways to go, but I'm slowly getting back on my feet.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sinking Ship

Recently I have given much thought to who I am and how comfortable I am with my life. I realized I've spend a good couple of years blaming myself for things that went wrong. No, not wrong. Just different than I expected. But, as much as I tried to mask the emotions, the shame and the blame were there.

For those of you who know me, I am the last person to admit that I have no control over circumstances: I believe there are no victims, only people who allow themselves to lose. And, of course, I am one of those who never loses. Whatever happens, I have the strength of character to come out victorious because I march to the rhythm of my own heart, and I am an entire army. Incidentally, this exceptional confidence is also the reason I am hard on other people: if I can deal with adversity in my life, so can anyone else. Michael Jackson and Elvis are my favorite targets for abuse: these men had the world at their feet--talent, money, love, popularity, expensive therapists, and all the prescription drugs they could handle (or not)--and they whined and complained because, as my husband says, they were so unhappy and unfortunate...  Really? "Unfortunate"... O, let me tell you about unfortunate! That's how that conversation goes. You can already tell that I am not the best person to turn to when you're feeling blue. My answer is always going to be the same:  stop whining, have a drink, get your s&^%t together, and move on! Hard core? Hell yeah! Confident? Certainly. Pompous? Maybe. But stay a while. I will be faithful.

So the recognition that I do blame myself for things that took a different direction in my life rocked my boat. Keeping in mind that this boat is the Titanic, the epiphany was huge! Now, there is nothing wrong with shame. Those who do not feel shame we call "psychopaths." But too much shame, too much blame in an individual who thinks she is in control of her life all the time can have disastrous consequences. Namely, since she has no one to blame but herself, it inevitably leads to a feeling of unworthiness: I failed because I was not good enough, I was not smart enough, and nobody loves me.

And this is where I slip into the Eeyore coma and wallow in my own pain and misery, while at the same time I build this impregnable wall around me because I don't want anyone else to know that I am feeling unworthy... that there is a reason for me to feel unworthy. Of course, this wall that's protecting me from everybody's judgment, keeping me safe, is also making me seem more obnoxious than I already am. Because one thing that makes us human is being imperfect, letting our tiara slip a little, showing our vulnerability. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we also allow ourselves to be loved for who we are. But in order to show our vulnerability, we must have courage.

And you know me! The lone warrior! I have no fear. I can be courageous. I can wear my heart on my sleeve. Right? Hell no! I follow Q's motto: "Never let them see you bleed!"

Well, this is a problem.

It turns out that the thing I call "strength of character," the thing I am so proud of that allows me to overcome any obstacle in life, is also the one thing that's keeping me from being me. It obscures who I am. And, most importantly, it alienates me from people because I do not allow anyone to see me for who I actually am. So where do I go from here? One thing is clear: in order to avoid this unfavorable human condition--what D. H. Lawrence terms, "the utter isolation of the human soul"--I must abandon ship and get into a lifeboat.