The names

Staff Sergeant Robert Bale’s victims:

The dead:
Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali

The wounded:
Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim

Source: Al Jazeera

Pursued by a bear

One of my mantras that I offer to myself and my friends and colleagues at school is “a bear is not going to eat you.” Taken from Merlin Mann, it’s the notion that we respond with fight/flight reactions to many things in our lives that are not, in fact, actual threats that match such a response. Stress then “eats” at us because we spend so much time in a physiological state that is designed to help us avoid being eaten.

A bear is not going to eat you.

So, you know, relax a bit. Breathe. Don’t let stress settle into your body. Of course all of that is easier said than done, especially when overwhelmed by work or stressful environments or expectations to perform. I wake up and am instantly flooded with panic about the work I have that is coming due at school, about the fact that leaving a complex podcast production to the last minute has potentially let down my editors, about my ability to get everything actually done on time and with a modicum of care and attention. My body is flooded with all the chemicals that prime it for a fight or to run like hell away from the large and devouring beast that wants me for breakfast.

But the truth, the fragile and delicate and necessary and so easily forgotten truth, is that a bear is not going to eat me. Embarrassment is NOT life threatening. A missed deadline, if it comes to that, is not the end of the world. People will forgive me if I fuck up, or at least anyone worth my trust and consideration will, just as I would for them. If I let the imaginary bear dictate the conditions of my experience, I am allowing a misplaced physiological response to damage my health and my equilibrium. If I’m running from the bear, or trying to fight it, I am fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of my environment and making myself a slave to stress, allowing such conditioning to become my default emotional and physical state.

Of course, I say all this, but my body remains tense, my muscles tight with fear and worry and stress and I think I hear the low growls of the bear and feel its hot breathe on my neck and all I want to do is run.

A bear is not going to eat me.

Today is a day I think I’ll need to remind myself of this fact quite often. Actually, I have a feeling that the rest of this semester will be a struggle between finding perspective and balance and breathe, and the feeling, near constant, that I am being pursued by the bear.

I’m willing to bet money, however, that I never actually get eaten. So maybe I will, occasionally, remember that.

Making things

I recently saw a blog post about making sure that the first thing you do in the morning is produce rather than consume. Now, my typical morning starts with me reaching for my phone and checking mail, or my rss feeds, or Facebook or Twitter . . . or, actually, all of those before even getting out of bed. **Last year I’d gotten into the habit of stretching and exercise first thing in the morning, but then lost the habit when I broke my ankle and never got it back. Yesterday, I switched things up a bit by making tea and sitting down to write my Kiva Han farewell before starting on anything else. Putting off the consumption of information felt quite good and making something, even if only a blog entry, definitely gave the morning a sense of accomplishment that reading email doesn’t offer. Today, because I’m waiting for and worried about an email to do with PodCastle, I did check my email very first thing, but then managed to put the phone down and start composing this entry.

It’s not a lot, this entry. It’s not like I’m getting up and writing a novel (not yet) every morning. But making sure that I get up and produce something, some set of words and thoughts in the morning can only be a good thing. I don’t know that I’ll always write something for the blog. Maybe I’ll get back to working on the half dozen or so stories that I have in various states of un-finish. Or maybe, I’ll work on a paragraph or two of a paper or write an abstract. Or finally get around to working on an essay for DoctorHer. Maybe I’ll take a picture and do some editing and post it. The trick isn’t to necessarily be writing creatively, although if I can get back into that habit, I’d like to. Rather, the trick is to simply make something that wasn’t there before and to step back from the constant craving to know what’s on the other side of the screen.

Small steps, but forward steps.

So Long, Kiva Han

We tend to think about ourselves, our identity, as a noun. A thing. A quantum of personhood. It is, however, not all that deep to realize that it may be more advantageous see our identity as a verb, a process, a doing. We are what we do. But we are also, I think, where we are. The places and environments in which we spend our lives are as much a part of our identity as any activity (writing, researching, directing, playing music, etc.) that go into making us who we are. I’m not saying that places merely shape our identity. Rather, that places constitute, fundamentally, part of who we are as people. Whether through extending ourselves into certain spaces, or certain spaces extending themselves into us, place becomes as much who are are as our emotions and actions.

Which is to say:

I miss Kiva Han.

It’s been around three weeks since my favorite coffee shop in Pittsburgh closed, and I’m still feeling—yes, I know it’s a strong word—bereft. Like a part of me is missing. Kiva Han, even before I’d moved close to school, was a warm and inviting place, a space where I could get good breakfasts and go upstairs and get an always surprising amount of work done. In the last few weeks of my first semester, I would often get up at 6:00 am get down to Kiva by 6:30 – 7:00 to be the first one in. I’d have breakfast, coffee and write for several hours. After moving closer to school, I became even more a regular. Yes, I liked their food, and yes, I liked the people (still miss Ruthie a bit after she left the place to go live in New Zealand for a year), and yes, I liked the fact that I’d become such a regular that, when their credit card machine wasn’t working one morning and I had no cash on me, the owner told me to just bring in the money for my breakfast the next time I was in, since I was in so often. But the real feeling of loss comes from Kiva as a work space. The upstairs, while it would often get way too hot in the winter, was even when full, quiet enough to work and yet still have the white noise of the music and conversation from downstairs. I tried working downstairs sometimes, and it was possible, but it was really the corner by the window on the second floor that was “my” spot.

Having a place that can, for whatever reasons, produce a kind of flow in my research and writing, is, I’m realizing now that I’ve lost it, hugely important. Home can be good for some of the time. I like my apartment and I like my room. But there was something about Kiva that lent itself to a mental flow that I find hard to achieve other places. Certainly none of the other coffee shops in and around school work. Neither does the library (though I may be spending more time there as an ersatz solutions). In addition, none of the other coffee shops have full kitchens or make real food.

The real loss, the real pain, however, comes from the fact that, quite simply, Kiva had become part of my identity. Part of who I am and now it’s gone. This is, of course, not unusual. Places, activities, knowledge, people . . . everything that goes into creating the story of who we are—the story we tell ourselves anew each and every day—are never fixed. Never static. Continuity is less a fact and more a trick of perspective.

Still, I really, really, wish Kiva Han was still a continuity in my life and identity.