Tonight I went to aikido for the first time in about nine days, since I was in Santa Barbara last week. My mental state's not been great for the past week or two: I've been dissociating a lot. This is, I've discovered, the clinical term for what happens when I space out. I'm not sure exactly what happens, since consciousness in general is poorly understood at best, but you're probably familiar with it in the most basic form, where someone tries to tell you something and your thoughts are somewhere else, and you discover that nothing they've said has penetrated your mind. There's a continuum for this, ranging from vaguely spacing out a little all the way to the various dissociative personality disorders (of which Multiple Personality Disorder is one).
Dissociation is fairly creepy. I met a girl once whose arms and hands were covered with cigarette burns, because she'd be smoking and she'd dissociate and just go...somewhere else, and while she was dissociated, she would put out the cigarette on her body. No one, including her, knew where her mind went, or why.
I've only had one period where I felt like that kind of blackout (minus the cigarette burns) was nearby, and I wasn't real happy about it. Mostly I was finding in aikido class around the 24th that I would watch the teacher demonstrate a move, but I would feel really distant, and then when it came time to actually practice it (aikido works by the teacher demonstrating a move followed by the students practicing it with each other) I found that none of the demonstration had reached my conscious mind. I remembered that I had watched it, but my consciousness was elsewhere, and the information contained in the demonstration was deflected like water on Teflon.
I believe that, for me, the practice of being present, through Zen or aikido or what have you, involves pulling myself out of dissociative states, and paying attention, really feeling and being focused and involved in whatever I'm doing.
I did manage to do that in class tonight, I think, although I was learning slowly. My brain feels all scrambled in some respects, to the extent that I can tell the difference. Also, Kayla-Sensei is starting to teach us the names of all the moves, sort of in preparation for the 6th kyu test (the lowest-level test in aikido--not that the test itself is necessarily important, but when you work to master anything you have to just learn it, and the tests are a way to track what you know and what you've accomplished). Aikido is Japanese, and so like so many other Japanese things there is a vocabulary of Japanese words with a painful level of specificity. So, e.g., a strike to the side of the head (I believe with the blade of the hand) is men-uchi, but an overhead strike to the head with the blade of the hand is shomen-uchi. There are also different holds, like holding the opponent's hand with your hand (katate dori), not to be confused with holding the opponent's hand with both hands (morote dori). The real pain comes because all of these things get strung together, German-style: shomen-uchi ikkyu omote waza is the only one I really know, and it means "the first move [in some sort of sequence], stepping around an overhead strike with the blade of the hand". I believe there are a lot of these.
However, I'm in no hurry, and startlingly enough I'm not in it to prove anything.
I'm unemployed again as of today, since UCSB couldn't find more money to fund me. I'll keep working for them informally for a little while, though, because I said I would and they're nice people and they did throw a little more money my way. EDD (California's unemployment insurance) will cover about 80% of my monthly expenses, keeping my burn rate (the amount of money I lose each month I'm not working) down to a relatively manageable $400 or so. I'm not optimistic about finding another job, although I imagine something will turn up. I'm applying for various job listings, although doing so has a definite perfunctory quality, because the only way I've ever found a job has been through people I know. I've gotten an interview or two, but never a job.
I still want a job where I can actually do career development: I've never worked anywhere where it was possible to get a promotion or change positions to focus on different technologies or kinds of work. Having those things involves working for a larger organization that can afford to move people around for reasons other than attrition.
In other news, the November Computer Science GREs have been cancelled, making grad school a more difficult option even if I can be organized enough to assemble an application and figure out how to pay for it.
Saturday Mona and I went to Jessika and Mike's housewarming in Sunnyvale (big, big house that they somehow got for cheap), followed by dinner at Laura's with her old roommate Misti, and Murray and Noah and Veevi.
On Sunday the dojo had a work party to get a bunch of painting done, so I helped out there for a few hours (if I'm going to join that community, I should participate in it, neh?), and then went over to the Folsom Street Fair, a leather fetish fair for which people travel from around the world. That turned out to be a mistake on my part: I'm neither gay nor into leather fetish, so by the time I got there around 3, the area was packed with people I'm not really interested in, namely gay leather daddies and associated bottoms. So I fought through there for about a half hour trying and failing to find a cheap Indian restaurant someone told me about, and finally deciding "Fuck this" and going to hang out with Murray in North Beach. We acquired dinner, he showed me several episodes of Sealab 2021, which is insane, and then I went home.
Parting shot: hurt your brain a little. I know, I couldn't believe it, but people have checked the colors of squares A and B, and they're the same.