Prompt – Jan 21

If you could, what year would you time travel to and why?

I have questions. Would I get to time travel with no consequences? Like, is it an accepted tourism practice, and people in other times expect travelers? Is it instant and easy? Or what? Do I have to stay for the full year? Do I remember what I know now, or am I just living in that year? Is this intended to be educational, or purposeful (i.e., change something), or what?

I think this is likely supposed to spark things like “I would go to XXXX so I could see Y event live, how cool!” but really, all I can think is, if I go to some event, I’d just be thinking about the historical context (that you wouldn’t know if you were there live, just living it). And there’s really no prior period where things are peaceful, like, truly peaceful. So going back to a time when things aren’t a pandemic would just be a trade. Plus, you couldn’t enjoy the peace, because you know what’s coming. There’s no escape, not really. The only escape from the present day is by creating a better future; it’s not in the past. Plus, I have movies and books for escapism, thank you very much.

Changing something seems ill-advised. Count me out.

Follow-up question: does time in time travel count against your overall lifespan? For example, do you age at the same rate during time spent in other times? I would guess yes. Second follow-up question: assuming you can only time travel backwards from Point A, and then only back to Point A (not beyond), do you age up going forwards to Point A again? And if that, why wouldn’t you de-age going back in time? Is time just perception or a force? If time is just perception of movement/decay, I think you would just continue to decay at a normal rate. If time is a force, then I think time travel could be personally disastrous, depending on the distance in time traveled.

Another follow-up question: if you could time travel living people, what’s to stop you from time traveling other statuses of people? Could you identify a point where a person will be, but is not yet (because they haven’t yet been born), and time travel that point to bring forward a person into life, or even old age? Or time travel a dead person back to when they were alive?

Obviously this brings us to Groundhog’s Day. If you make the assumption that you can rewind a day (a single day) and relive it, with zero consequences to future events and your own aging, then you are probably solipsistic, how would that even work – the world doesn’t revolve around you. In the movie, this is a time loop, and he can’t control it (except by growing into the best version of himself, which takes what seems like years, so that’s ridiculous because why would time care). How would a time loop not affect every thing in the universe? Is time a personalized event? Obviously, a year is a different fraction of everyone’s life at every stage (a year is 1/5th of my 5-year-old’s life, but only 1/40th of my life), but we still experience the same number of days.

We have no way of knowing, too, if we experience time loops like this all the time and simply can’t measure them. We could, after all, be in the midst of an incomprehensibly massive time loop, as the universe vibrates between big bangs, expanding and shrinking in an endless cycle of creation and destruction. I see no evidence to the contrary.

Though I guess the fantasy answer is that if time is incredibly malleable and forgiving, and we can play with it, as if it were a movie, to rewind and relive, I’d spend my time reliving all the good things, over and over again. An easy morning. A delicious meal. An exciting conversation. A moment of anticipation. A lingering sunbeam. An afternoon reading. A beloved experience. Time with my family, time with my friends. I’d take that. I’d take that in a second.

Prompt – Jan 19

Write about something mysterious.

In the natural world there’s lots of very unexpected, seemingly mysterious things that happen. Caterpillars turning into moths and butterflies. Jellyfish, as a whole, but specifically the ones that are immortal. Seeds being underground yet knowing which way to send their shoots and roots. Hibernation. Monotremes. I say “seemingly” mysterious, because of course we can eventually come to understand more and more about each of these things as we study them. But nevertheless, each of these is just one tiny example of the cacophony of unregulated nature. It’s beyond our expectations, wild, and works just fine regardless of our intentions or knowledge.

Then we move into physics, where lots of mysteries abound; quantum mechanics and string theory, and such. Theories are great, because they give us a way to examine something we don’t really understand, without tying us down to one way of considering it. Because we fundamentally don’t know. Anything that has an uncertainty principle you know right away: it’s mysterious.

Here’s a person-made mystery that is delightful in the overall shape of it – when Agatha Christie, famous mystery novelist, when missing for 11 days. No one knows where she went, but there was a massive manhunt after her abandoned car was found. She resurfaced at a spa. Two years later she divorced her abusive husband and good riddance to bad rubbish. Of course, the actual details hold no delight – a woman who was gaslit by a cheating husband for years, who drove off into the night after kissing her sleeping seven-year-old daughter, and checked into a hotel under her husband’s mistress’s name is most likely suffering from crippling depression, not out for a lark. Yet the symmetry of being famous for writing mysteries then being at the center of a mystery, which remains unsolved to this day, is intriguing.

So there are some mysteries, have fun.

Prompt – Jan 15, 16, 17, 18

A real doozy of prompts. I have been AFK for remote schooling, so I haven’t been checking email.

What is a life lesson you feel everyone can benefit from learning?

Embrace being the side character. In the view of nearly everyone in this world, that’s what you are. Don’t think about policy in terms of if it helps you, think about whether it helps society. If someone is going through stuff, don’t make their experience about you, because you are the side character to their processing. Just support them or give them space (or whatever else they express). Don’t assume that your neurological status is the default. Put it in perspective if your cousin’s friend’s testicles swell up after getting the vaccine. Did he also get kicked by an ox? Just because you heard a story, doesn’t mean it’s the story. Put yourself in the backseat once in awhile.

What is a cause you’re passionate about and why?

Social systems that actually work. Why: because hello? Our entire country is completely broken?

What is a superpower you’d love to have?

I’m mad because I read two other responses to this prompt before answering it myself. I usually try to avoid reading any other prompts before replying. Right now, I’d have to say “be able to focus at will” because I have two 10 year olds getting up to hijinks and shenanigans while I’m trying to work (and blog). But if you ask me another time, it’ll be something else.

What book is next on your reading list?

The first of the Witcher books. We’ve played the game, and we’re watching the show. I didn’t realize it was based on a book, so here we are. I’m finishing a senior community murder mystery first (the murder wasn’t in the senior community).

Singing

Yesterday Grant set himself up to “do the dishes,” which means he fills the sink with ice cold, soapy water, washes one utensil, then goes and finds more things that are clean to put in the water. Then he plays for anywhere from 10-30 minutes. I encourage this past-time.

I caught him singing while washing the dishes, and it exploded my heart a little. I managed to record some while he was occupied Listen below.

https://anchor.fm/zandy-ring/episodes/Golden-slumbers-e1d0hbc

Prompt – Jan 14

Write about a challenge you faced and overcame.

I don’t believe for a moment that everyone isn’t going to talk about Wordle in their response, so let me join the masses. Obviously, it’s disingenuous to write about not (yet) getting COVID. That’s not something that’s been overcome. We’re still dealing with it, and it’s not like a marker of having done something individually, strategically correct. It’s luck. And most of my life is successful because I was able to start out with so much privilege, so that’s not something I’ve overcome. That leaves games. They’re explicitly a challenge, and you either win or you lose (or you draw, I guess).

Every morning, once the kids are off (OR ARE STILL HERE DOING REMOTE SCHOOL), I sit with my tea and my smoothie and I work on the Wordle. I’ve been using Bob’s two favorite starter words, but I’m going to go back to my original starter word. It feels like cheating to use someone else’s starter word strategy. Six chances! To guess a five-letter word! Clues! A super easy way to share your result without revealing the word! It’s got everything.

The other day it took me all 6 tries. Let me tell you, once you fail try 4, you are sweating bullets. Will you get it? Nothing is certain. You just match your wits against the clues given.

The tweet above shows today’s puzzle, and that it’s Wordle number 209. Everyone gets the same puzzle (same word) each day. The website shows you a grid of 5×6 blank squares. You type a word. You hit enter. And you see what the result is. On my first attempt today, I got the 4th letter correct, but in the wrong location. On my second attempt (using a completely different word), I found out two more letters, and where they also don’t go. Now I knew 3 letters, but not their locations; only where they don’t work. On my next try, I got all 3 letters in the right place, but the word I guessed was wrong. On my fourth try, I got the right final letter. Finally, on the fifth try, I got the full word. This is not guaranteed, even with 4 right letters! Something that the game doesn’t tell you is whether any letter is used more than once (not relevant to this specific game), and in my experience, when I’m really stuck and getting frustrated, I need to try some letters twice.

So, this is, decidedly, a challenge. It’s popular, so it’s fun to see how you fair each day against others. My team at work all plays, and we share our results in the team channel then stumble all over each other not to spoiler the word before everyone’s taken their shot. It’s a low-stakes challenge, and a feel-good challenge, so I do have perspective. But man do I feel great when I figure it out each day (so far; I am sure I’ll miss one sometime).

You can play it here. There is no app for it (only rip-offs).

Prompt – Jan 13

What does your ideal day look like?

I’ve been thinking about this all day while I work, and I don’t feel like I have a great answer. Or, a satisfying answer.

If I get only one day that is ideal, I get to sleep as much as I want, no one talks to me, the dishes are done and the house is clean, there’s plenty of groceries in the house, and I have no childcare responsibilities. The weather is accommodating, I can either watch TV, or draw, or paint, or knit (or crochet!), or take a walk, and I can decide any of them on a whim. I have no deadlines or responsibilities, no task to accomplish.

If I get a string of ideal days, I do actually want to see my family (which I’m sure is somewhat reassuring to them). I wake up on my own schedule, and no one needs me to do what they need to do, but we are all congenial and happy to see each other. Breakfast is leisurely over the crossword, and I can share tea with Bob (coffee for him). After breakfast, I can do whatever I would like to do, for my own personal fulfillment, which might be anything. Literally anything. But nothing with a deadline, unless I’ve given it to myself. No one needs me to schedule their appointments, because they can do that for themselves. No one needs me to call insurance, because insurance in our country is magically socialized and it just works. There’s a thunderstorm in the afternoon that clears up after 22 minutes. During this time, I do something that feels productive but low-stakes. Perhaps read a chapter of a book. I make a dinner that everyone will eat, and I get to be creative while making it. It’s a real meal, not things thrown together. Everyone eats it and appreciates it. I enjoy making it and eating it. The dishes are done. I might participate in the dish washing, but I might not. They get done anyway. I stay up late puttering around on creative projects and go to bed feeling content.

Another ideal day. The kids are excited about whatever takes up the majority of their time. Perhaps Grant is in college or trade school, and the twins are working, or taking a gap year, or something. They all like what they do, and they can’t get enough of it. It drives them, and they all adopt at least one puppy or cat, that they can’t stop raving over. It’s fun to catch up with them. They don’t live at home, but one or more may live nearish. Bob and I decide to go to the lake house for the weekend. We call and invite the kids, and some are going to join us. We make a run to the grocery store to stock up the house when we get there. It’s fun picking out cheese. We stop by the house to get the dog, and grab our supplies. We listen to music on the ride and halfway through switch to a podcast we both like. It’s not about murder, so I will listen to the murder one tomorrow in the shower. We get to the house and throw open every window right away. It’s a sunny day and still just a touch cool. The breeze feels good as we unload the car and get things carried inside and put away. The dog is paddling in the shallow end of the pool, then gets a little too near me to shake. We laugh about it, because she does this every time. I even have a towel for it hanging on the back of the chair, right there. I am able to light the candle that I keep at the lake house, and it’s a bit of a treat. We have a quick, simple lunch, then take a bottle of local wine on the back patio. We stretch out and enjoy the quiet. The still-damp dog curls up with us, but that’s ok, we’re going to go swimming in a few minutes anyway. We swim for a little while, but then I get out because I want to go check on the wild flowers in the field. I’m going to pick some to draw tomorrow. I get my wellies on and the dog comes along. She has to jump really high to see over the grass, so she’s like a canine exclamation point on my meander. We gather up flowers for the table, and a couple specific specimens that I want to look at more closely later. The three of us take a walk into town to get ice cream at the local shop. We can see the lake down at the end of the street, and the shine from the sun is blinding. A young couple pet our dog and we talk a bit about her with them. We stroll back home, in time to see the first car turn into the driveway. I put our daughter to work setting the table for dinner, then she helps me start making dinner. A little bit later, our younger son arrives and he talks to Bob about sports things that he’s involved in. They’re both really happy about the outcome of the sports event. They like talking to each other about it even more. Our son comes and helps finish up making dinner so our daughter can go show her dad some photos from her most recent trip abroad. She loves to travel, and does a lot of solo traveling. We stay up late playing Clue, and then euchre, and it’s pretty late when we all finally turn in. We have well-worn old quilts and soft beds. When we get up in the morning our other son is sleeping on the couch with his shoes still on, and we’re all happy he came. We set the boys to making breakfast and take some tea outside to breathe. Deeply.

Prompt – Jan 12

What emoji(s) do you like to use?

First of all, all of them.

They have the ability to confer joy or happiness in a way an exclamation mark doesn’t or can’t (as the standard-bearer of excitement in the punctuation world). They also can convey sadness, weariness, anger, annoyance, and frustration. But my favorites are the happy and gratitude-laden ones. These are the ones I use in work Slack the most.

My top favorite for a long time now is Sheepy, also known as Party Sheep.

Sheepy is just being Sheepy, and with Sheepy comes smiles and happiness, rainbows and a carefree willingness to scamper across the page. Sheepy doesn’t have a thought in it’s head, but has a lot of joy to share. Love it. A+ emoji.

Another top favorite (perhaps tied neck-and-neck with Sheepy) is Piggy.

Piggy is overtly happy to see you, like a puppy. Combined with the lolling tongue and the hopping, this pig is a delight and is bringing you happiness in his lil pink existence. Another A+. Can’t be improved.

On the next tier of favorites, we have rainbow walk. It is exactly what it says on the tin.

This one is a bit sophisticated, with the way the rainbow walks, the colors moving forward (and trailing behind) – it’s overall well constructed. And it’s still joyful and fun. I give this one an A, because it’s more restrained (and I like my emojis to be boisterous).

My final non-standard favorite emoji is dancing bear.

It doesn’t necessarily look happy, but I get a happy, eager vibe from it. This bear has done something and is excited for you to know about it. A perfect mix of a 6-year old ready for praise, and an adorbs stuffie. Good on ya, dancing bear, I’m proud of you. A.

I like to use these particular emoji in celebration, to tell people good news, to thank people, and to acknowledge content with a bit of joy. As a professional woman in the workplace, I don’t tend towards sparkly pens or feathery notebooks, or girlboss merch. I tend towards these tiny squares (or lozenges, whatever shape Slack tucks them into) of personalized connection with what someone else has said. In a fully distributed environment, the words on the page are what are most important to our work, and being able to say “I have heard you” in a way that feels both satisfactory and kind matters to me. As does injecting the occasional emoji to illustrate the tone I am taking in a message of my own (often, crying laughing 😂, because I’m a woman Of A Certain Age). Emoji give me a chance to smile in my words more often than I do in my actual physical self (because of my resting face), and through and past all the jokes about us returning to hieroglyphics, this layering of meaning is, well, meaningful.

Prompt – Jan 11

What does it mean to live boldly?

This is not a phrase I have ever used, so I’m not sure I can comment on it. It is likely somewhat different from living italicized, though, because living italicized gets mixed up with living quote marks, especially when it comes to book titles, movies, tv shows, and newspapers. Don’t even get me started on living strike-through; it’s difficult enough as it is, particularly when the text size is small. Living camel case is, predictably, a rollercoaster, and not for the faint of heart. Living footnotes is really off topic1. Living underlined is probably the closest in meaning to living boldly, so using this flawless logic, we can dig into what living underlined really means and come to an understanding of living boldly.

I do not know what living underlined means. Maybe, shoes on, like a physical underline? All the time? We can agree that sleeping in a bed with shoes on is a bold move, but is it living boldly? If you just turn your body horizontal, does the underline have to move too, i.e., do the shoes need to go under your back (or stomach, however you sleep)? This is hard. I’m shocked and a little saddened to learn that Aristotle never even came close to covering this, one of the biggest – if not the biggest – philosophical question of our times.

Perhaps to live underlined doesn’t refer to your physical self. I feel I am on the verge of a breakthrough here. Perhaps it means that the horizon (the future, the potential of the individual) is existential. And if that is so, then being underlined means that you have the capacity to determine your own horizon; that you are, in a sense, on top of your own future. So by being underlined, you are taking control and making deliberate choices, rather than letting life make decisions for you. You are opting in.

If we accept that premise, and also accept the previous premise that living underlined is akin to living boldly, we can therefore claim with confidence that living boldly means to grab life by the horns. Impeccably reasoned, A+.

Footnote
  1. So let’s not even go there.

Prompt – Jan 8, 9, 10

I missed some days, so I’ll lump them all together. You can expect Mondays to be like this as I don’t check email over the weekends (and that’s where the prompts are sent).

Jan 8: What do you like most about your writing?

I don’t think about the things I write down as “my writing,” to begin with. It’s not a body of work to be considered as an entity.

That said, when I am writing things down, I appreciate a turn of phrase. It’s a little bit of a game to make a particularly onomatopoeic phrase, or run some consonance through a paragraph to bind it together, or make a callback to something previously mentioned, or bury a joke. So I guess when I do one of those things, and it makes me happy to have done it (even if it’s not done particularly skillfully), that’s what I like.

Jan 9: What do people incorrectly assume about you?

Sometimes people think I will have an English accent. I once had someone tell me that I must LOVE the Cure (because I was born in England). I obviously have vague concerns sometimes that people think I’m more or less competent than I really am, but I’m not sure that’s a valid response here. Someone once told me that she and her office mate thought I was a huge bitch when they first met me (I work with neither of them, and never have). I am a midsized bitch at best.

Jan 10: What are 5 things you’re grateful for today?

FIVE things? In this economy? Jesus. Well, let’s see what I can drum up here. Foregoing the obvious “my family” one (though if I run out, I will be using it):

  • Increased representation in high profile places (movies, tv, government, etc), as it is important for so many folks, and it’s vastly more interesting. It will only make us stronger.
  • My phenomenal job, which is rewarding on many levels and gives me opportunities I could have never dreamed up on my own.
  • To have been born when I was and into such privilege. I could wish for less pandemic and fewer unprecedented events in my lifetime however. Although, watching the end of capitalism is certainly… eventful.
  • To be (temporarily) able-bodied. I read once that we should consider being able-bodied a temporary state, as everyone experiences disability at some point in their lives. I am currently in a state of ability, and I really am grateful for it.
  • Tea and toast. I’m not being trite. I genuinely look forward to my cup of tea every morning and my warm sourdough toast with salty butter around lunch time. In those moments, I need nothing, I want nothing but what I have, and I am relaxed.
  • My family — I did not run out, this is number 6. But I am grateful for my knuckleheads, they’re my favorite.