Long time no see, internet people! It’s been a strange season for me here, which explains the gap in blog posts.
Things were kind of the same for me for a long time and I was able to settle into a routine. But lately it’s been one thing after another, each event more disruptive than the last.
Two big ones for us: I started a new job in March and we got into a fairly bad car crash at the beginning of April which totaled our car and has left me with a lot of neck and back pain.
Content warning: Description of car crash
I’ve long been anxious and afraid of being rear ended. My husband will attest that I routinely watch the traffic around us with a baleful eye, warily perched on the edge of my seat and tensing at every little thing. I have a bad habit when we stop in traffic of anxiously craning forward to look in the rearview mirror – as if by looking I could control whether someone was going to run into us or not.
Well I was not able to control it. And it so happens that looking and being tensed can actually be worse for your body than if you were totally relaxed. And I can attest that I think it’s worse for your mind as well. Because I was able to see the giant truck bearing down on us, going way too fast to be able to stop in time. My husband started yelling and trying to get out of the lane. I had time to think, “So this is how I die.”
We were struck from behind and pushed across two more lanes of highway traffic. We struck the wall of the tunnel. Then we were struck again from the side by a car in the fast lane.
For days I kept hearing the sound of my husband and daughter screaming as we shot across the highway. I couldn’t see how fast those lanes were going at the time, but in the split second of time I assumed fast enough to kill us. It’s a highway, they could have been going 60mph. But we were lucky. We missed the second lane traffic and the driver in the left lane had slowed.
Miraculously no one died and we had no broken bones. Ruby was bleeding from a scratch but otherwise unhurt. I banged my arm somehow and Sean and I both are dealing with back and neck injuries. But nothing life-threatening, no hospital visit. The car was totaled. But we walked away.
It’s been three weeks now and I’m still so relieved we’re not dead that I haven’t had time to be upset yet. My neck hurts so much of the time and I have headaches that are wiping me out, but still I keep thinking how lucky we were.
He wondered if it had hurt Curley. He wondered if Curley had felt the gas-tipped slugs hitting home or if he had just been alive one second and dead the next. But of course it had hurt. It had hurt before, in the worst, rupturing way, knowing there would be no more you but the universe would roll on just the same, unharmed and unhampered.Stephen King, The Long Walk (emphasis mine)
And I keep thinking: What have I left undone in my life? What have I never gotten around to? What dreams are left unrealized and potentials unfulfilled?
The answer is: There’s a lot!
There’s obvious answers like time with family. And things I haven’t gotten to experience yet? Tons. I’ve never really traveled almost anywhere!
But also there are so many ideas I’ve never brought to fruition. Even this website and blog is semi-formed. I’ve never created all the pages I’ve wanted to or written all the articles in my head.
I have a Notion database of design ideas.
I have a hardcover journal of random ideas like inventions, story ideas, comics, and more.
I’m definitely realizing I need to make time for some of these things before it’s too late.
One thing I’ve done in the last couple weeks has been to finally finish a new merchandise design – it’s only taken me a year and a half since I thought of it until I finished it. Oof!
I also finally finished an alien vector design to put on a hat (which I’ve been wanting to do forever!), got a print of my PDX poster design I made in December, and ordered business cards.
It would be such a shame to die while struggling to decide between option A and B instead of just finishing the darn thing! You can always make another version later.
“Story of our species,” Malcolm said, laughing. “Everybody knows it’s coming, but not so soon.”Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park
Chaos theory vs Law of Attraction vs “Clumping”
Have you ever noticed the way that sometimes nothing happens at all and other times it’s like everything happens at once?
If I were Ian Malcolm (from Jurassic Park, naturally), I’d tell you this as a feature of life explained by chaos theory:
“You’ll notice that the graph alternates between high and low spikes,” Malcolm said. “That is characteristic of many complex systems. For example, water dripping from a tap. If you turn on the faucet just a little, you’ll get a constant drip, drip, drip. But if you open it a little more, so that there’s a bit of turbulence in the flow, then you’ll get alternating large and small drops. Drip drip … Drip drip … Like that. You can try it yourself. Turbulence produces alternation—it’s a signature. And you will get an alternating graph like this for the spread of any new illness in a community.”Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park
I’ve been thinking about Ian Malcolm a lot lately.
It’s not just that things happen in clumps, it’s that they have a fractal, repeating quality to them, also. So that the things that happen are sometimes like echoes of past events and hints of future events to come.
“You see, the fractal idea of sameness carries within it an aspect of recursion, a kind of doubling back on itself, which means that events are unpredictable.” . . . “But we have soothed ourselves into imagining sudden change as something that happens outside the normal order of things. An accident, like a car crash. Or beyond our control, like a fatal illness. We do not conceive of sudden, radical, irrational change as built into the very fabric of existence. Yet it is. And chaos theory teaches us,” Malcolm said, “that straight linearity, which we have come to take for granted in everything from physics to fiction, simply does not exist. Linearity is an artificial way of viewing the world. Real life isn’t a series of interconnected events occurring one after another like beads strung on a necklace. Life is actually a series of encounters in which one event may change those that follow in a wholly unpredictable, even devastating way.”Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park
I got my current job because a coworker from 6 years ago reached out to me the very same week I was going to reach out to her asking if she had any leads for a job. After I started working there, my firm got a new contract with a business they’d never heard of, but it turns out I actually worked there 10 years ago – not only that, but I sat at a desk right next to the project manager. This coincidence made all the more unlikely by the fact that my current firm is in a completely different city.
And there’s a few more incursions from the past I won’t specifically go into…
I can already hear in my head those that will pipe up and tell me that’s the Law of Attraction at work.
But maybe it’s really the same effect as when you travel to Europe for the first time in your life and walk into a random bar and randomly run into your college roommate. Or you go to the grocery store wearing an old dress you literally never wear and then the woman in the checkout lane ahead of you is wearing the same dress.
Yesterday my husband and I were admiring an obscure pop culture embroidery he’d applied on a t-shirt, discussing the stitching and pointing out how it had puckered around the edges. Then this morning 12 hours later that same design popped up on a tattoo artist’s social media.
I call it “clumping” and I think of Ian Malcolm as the father of the my philosophy.
The philosophy is that human experience is by nature fractal in design. Just as if it were made of particles or was itself a biological organism growing and made of matter. That means sometimes you get those patches where nothing happens and sometimes you get “clumps.”
Okay, okay but what’s the point?
Here’s my main takeaway: When you’re in a clump, hold on. Be ready for anything.