Friday, December 11 2020

music, conflict, and the tiny octopus



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Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends. Happy Friday. What a relief to finally make it to the end of this week. A short workday from now, good things await us. Naps, recreation, and time with family. I’m looking forward to the weekend - I feel like I’ve earned it.

In terms of music, what a bevy of new selections we woke up to this morning! Kid Cudi released his long awaited Man on the Moon sequel. Clicking through the twenty second previews on Apple music last night, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it sounds pretty good. Kid Cudi is one of those artists that I don’t often listen to (especially the recent stuff), but I’m rooting for him. I’m glad that things have been picking up for him after a long dry spell in his career, and even more glad that this album is listenable.

Rejoice, swifties. T-swizzlets. Taylor nation. A surprise sequel to the brooding pop & folk fusion album folklore. First and foremost, thank you Taylor Swift for giving me the exact amount of time I needed to accept that folklore is a good album before expanding it with a sequel. I resisted at first. The album folklore wormed its way into my life, and Stockholm syndrome be damned, it’s here to stay. Having just redeclared my citizenship in Taylor Nation, I’m here for evermore.

In terms of music quality, I think there’s a combination of things making Taylor Swift’s stock go up. Taylor is maturing. She’s figuring out how to add depth to her lyrics without losing connection with her core fan base. Her fans are also growing up, and like a kind of symbiosis this might be giving her room to explore some less innocent subject matter and slip in the occasional cuss word. She’s also surrounding herself with good talent in both features and in music production. Even if you haven’t come around to Lover and folklore, you’d have to admit that everything she makes is just like ice cream for your ears. Even the songs I don’t like sound so good.

Taylor Swift. What a roller coaster. I look back on a time when she was still writing country music, and I had a giant Taylor Swift poster on my dorm wall. I liked her music, but not enough to warrant putting a poster on my wall. If I’m being honest, that was more of an ironic funny college guy thing - a running gag based on a half truth.

It’s always sad when new music drops this late in the year after I’ve already whittled down my favorites for the year. Some albums just kind of fall through the cracks. Last year it was Kanye West’s Jesus Is Born. This year, it might be the Kid Cudi album.

Sip. How is the music in your life treating you? Do you pledge allegiance to the Taylor Swift nation? And how did your Thursday go?

Yesterday was kind of a tough day. I can’t go into specifics, but I raised some conflict at work. Something happened in a way that I didn’t like, and after processing it all week I decided to channel my frustration into something constructive.

I refilled coffee. I shut my door. I fired up the pomodoro timer. I wrote some questions into a google doc and would spend the next half hour staring at them. I imagined how it would feel hearing every word on the page, and deleted the phrases that felt loaded or judgemental. I wanted to remain curious and open about how this whole thing unfolded. Before heading into it, I showed the questions to Marissa and asked for a gut check. She felt good about it too.

The conversation was difficult. It felt unfair, like I was chucking a grenade into the middle of pleasant small talk. But still, it was well received. I felt like my frustration was acknowledged, and I came away with a more complete story of the thing that hurt me.

By all measures, everything went perfectly. But I still felt terrible. After it was done, I had the urge to pester the person with groveling slack message. Despite taking as much time as I did to line up my story, I couldn’t convince myself that I had done all I could. I couldn’t convince myself that everything was cool. The same questions that I had poured so much time and reflection into now felt petty and kniving. I felt guilt, like I had set of an event of senseless destruction or vandalized something that was working well enough.

It’s clear to me that I have a real problem raising conflict. I’ve always had a knack for keeping the things around me easy going, and consequently I’ve avoided conflict my whole life. But sometimes this habit causes you to paint over real pain and frustration, and you end up just taking it out one someone else.

It’s tough. I wish I could just be more aware of the things that frustrate me, take my shot, and then move on with my life. I feel cheated that instead of feeling accomplished for raising something like this in a mature way, I’m just feeling more doubtful about it. I probably just need some more time to reflect on it.

In other news, let me tell you about last night’s tiny octopus incident. For dinner, I made fish stew. Fish stew works with just about any seafood, so I mix it up each time. This week was cod, shrimp, baby clams, and squid.

I unpacked the frozen squid. I cut the long pale body sheath into neat little rings, and just for fun I threw in some tentacles. In the hot stew, the long squirmy legs thicken and curl, forming what looks like a tiny octopus. Just before we started eating, Marissa fished one of these out of her soup bowl and set it in front of Rodney.

“What?” exclaimed Rodney, leaning in to study the specimen. “A tiny octopus? That’s not food!”

“It is,” said Marissa. “We’re eating that tonight.”

I poured Rodney his own bowl of soup, picking out a few extra pieces of shrimp for him to enjoy. I finished the bowl with another big rubbery bundle of tentacles. Rodney saw his bowl and began to nervously laugh.

“I don’t want to eat that, I think,” he said. “Tiny octopus is not food.”

Without saying anything, I plucked the tentacles from his bowl and popped it into my mouth. Rodney’s mouth hung open in astonishment.

“It’s delicious, dude,” I said. “Try it.”

“I don’t think I want to,” said Rodney nervously. “Makes me feel kinda pretty weird.”

“I’ll tell you what, dude,” I said. “If you eat that tiny octopus, you get instant Rodney time. The timer goes away.”

Rodney looked at Marissa in disbelief. “No timer?” he asked.

Marissa nodded. “I agree,” she said. “If you eat that tiny octopus, you instantly get Rodney time after dinner, and you can just eat for fun.”

Marissa and I expected more deliberation. But instead, Rodney picked up the tiny octopus from his bowl and slipped the entire thing into his mouth. He bursted into tears.

“You did it, dude!” I said, smiling. Marissa and I offered him a golf clap, but Rodney cried harder.

“It tastes kinda pretty weird,” he whimpered as tears ran down his face.

He would later tell us that it just tasted like a weird sausage. As promised, we honored Rodney’s bravery with focused family time playing with construction toys on the floor.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great day, everyone.