2014: The year of evoked potential

In medicine, evoked potential is “an electrical (response) recorded from the nervous system … following presentation of a stimulus.”

A practical example: you have a seizure, your neurologist gets oddly enthusiastic about replicating the experience, and next thing you know you’re hooked up to an EEG with a bunch of lights being flashed in your eyes at ever-more-annoying intervals.

Spending the next three days washing adhesive out of your hair is the most pleasant part of the experience, is what I’m getting at.

Though the actual thing is a (clinically necessary) pain in the ass, I’ve always loved the lexical thing: evoked potential. It speaks to something that is present but sequestered, something known to some but not to all, a latent capability that can come to life given a very specific set of circumstances.

That was my 2014.

Much less amazing (to me) than anything I actually accomplished is the fact that there exist in the world people who are able to perceive, beneath whatever combination of invincibility and insecurity we adopt as daily habit, something worth a second look. Couple that simple act of noticing with a desire to help – or maybe a desire to be helped, or who knows what – and next thing you know, potential is being evoked all over the place.

I’m not big on resolutions, as you know. Nor gratitude, as you also know.

But I know that my year would have been measurably less exciting, chaotic, challenging and fun had others not evoked, had potential not existed in the first place.

I am thankful for those people and I would like to be one of those people. That’s about as close as I’m likely to get to a resolution.

2014 has given me many things, among them the tummy-level suspicion that if we’ve been put here to do anything vis-à-vis our fellow human beings, evoking potential is probably as good as it gets.

So let’s go out and do that, shall we?

Marvelling at the sheer fucked-up-ed-ness of it all

coffee is the answer to every questionFamous asshole beats the crap out of women, and in the quiet heat of the shower, women think, “Dodged that bullet. But I was never pretty/smart/interesting enough to be picked out of a crowd, anyway.”

Video showing a woman being harassed on the street goes viral, and sitting alone on the commuter train, women think, “This never happens to me. Did it ever? Have I let myself go? Was I ever desirable?”

Women huddle in the corner of the coffee shop, alternately confessing to the above and marvelling at the sheer fucked-up-ed-ness of it all.

Not all women, sure.  But more of us than you’d think.

You thought wrong

From the J&W archives, because I just Googled “fall cleaning” and it led back to my own website. HA HA HA HA HA.

If you’re on the internet as much as I am, you’ve doubtless encountered websites with end-of-article features like this:

This one is by Outbrain, which bills itself as “the leading content discovery solution.”  I used to do PR for technology clients, so let me apologize — once again — for ever having used language like that.

I thought about doing a HuffPo Spoilers-style post where I would, in their words, “give in to (the) click-bait so you don’t have to,” but I really don’t want to give in to the click-bait.  Instead, in the spirit of “how to dress for your shape,” I’m just going to go ahead and guess what these Teasy Teasersons — found on TLC.com — might be all about:

10 Things Your Kid Should NOT Be for Halloween
1 through 9: Adolf Hitler.
10: Sexy nurse.

5 Fall Green Cleaning Tips
Oh, I am sorry, but are we cleaning TWICE a year now?  That is OPPRESSIVE.  And we’re supposed to be environmentally sensitive all at the same time?  What load of PATRIARCHAL BULLSHINE.

HowStuffWorks “Costumes 101 Pictures”
Ha ha ha … what?

How to Pick a Paint Color
Do you like it? YES / NO
If YES, pick it.

10 Hairstyles That Make You Look Thinner
1. Inflatable dreads.
2. The Skunk (black on sides, white up the middle).
3. Over-sized sombrero.
4. Over-sized sombrero that is made out of corn (optional: cheese dip in crown).
5. The van Goghtee.
6. Beehive (made with actual bees; everyone is thinner when viewed at a distance).
7. Pigtails (made with actual pigs).
8. The Tennessee Wall.
9. Asymmetrical blob.
10. Pielights.

Ultimate Guide to Recycled Milk Jug Crafts
You guys, do NOT read this article.  They ask you for your mailing address and two weeks later they mail you eight mimeographed pages of bedazzled bird feeders.

Ultimate Guide to Green Building
I asked my three-year-old what this might be about.   He said, “you do a Lego but you only use the green ones.”  Yeah, that sounds about right.

Painting Siding
This looks complicated.  I think I’m just going to hang up another bird feeder and play with Lego instead.

5 Tips for Cleaning Glass Without Streaks
Pretty sure this list consists of vinegar, vinegar, vinegar, vinegar, newspapers.

What do you think that means?

I often turn to P for advice on personal and professional matters.

It’s a testament to his patience and/or my charm and/or the fact that we co-produced the World’s Loudest Children™ that he hasn’t run for the hills based on these requests for help alone.

Because it’s not like I’m bringing him A-list material. No looming break-ups with best friends, no ethical conflicts with work. Instead, the conversations usually go something like this:

Me: So … she said she’d think about it. What do you think that means?
P: I think it means that she’ll think about it.
Me: But … what if “I’ll think about it” actually means no?
P: Then it means no.
Me: But what can I do to make it mean yes?
P: Probably nothing.
Me: I don’t like this conversation anymore.

Because I find this kind of exchange exhausting – and in the interests of preserving my relationship, have resorted to mostly having these exchanges take place fully in my imagination – I’ve decided to pretend – and that is exactly what it feels like: pretending – that there is no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive, no decision-made-as-yet-unspoken hiding behind others’ statements. And I have to tell you: I’ve had stupider ideas.

The thing is, it works. For as long as I remember to think that way, I mean. It’s not my default way in the world. I really have to work at it. But it’s a great alternative to the mental donuts I do otherwise.

There’s one catch, though, and it’s this: a horrid lingering suspicion that I’m completely naïve, that everyone else is smarter, that they’re all sitting around some kind of library filled with titles that don’t start with “Captain Underpants,” drinking gin and shaking their heads at what an intellectual force I could have been but for my debilitating addiction to thinking the best of others.

It’s that catch that stands between me and any true hope of liberation from worry.

It’s that catch that says, “Hey, gin actually sounds like a really great idea right now.”

And that’s the story of how I decided that self-improvement should be served only after 5:00 PM, over ice, lime optional.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.