Perception

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My lamp shreds the dim, morning darkness agonizingly. The room is the same way I left it only hours ago, diving into the warm blankets and the unconscious equally as ferociously. Yesterday is done, soon to be completely forgotten. The work piled and undone, which felt so pressing previously, now feels motivating and exciting. I can hardly contain the passion I feel, rising promptly from bed, rested, even on so few hours of sleep. The office glistens in the crisp wash of lamp light. Today will be a good one, I feel.

My day has only just begun and already I feel powerful, motivated, and ready for what is to come. So much like the others is this morning, but it feels unique somehow. In hindsight, the events that tortured me so over the last weeks seem miniscule, so much less implacable than I once felt they were. The onerous happenings seem to fade away, leaving in their place a sense of renewed hope for the future.

Not so much was it about the instances themselves but the arbitrary set of emotions assigned to them each day. The places I went, the people I met, and even that actions I took were, and are, shaped by the unsupported, often undecided views I took on them momentarily.

Perception holds such an incredible place in our lives as human beings. For, while other creatures observe their world on a subconscious level, we are able to not only observe, but also cogitate on our perceptions and explore them in order to glean comprehension.

Only a week ago, I would have told you that only two basic categories of comprehension exist in this world. I would have described to you the reality as I believed it then— we either observe and perceive the world in order to understand it or we are passive to all objects around us by concerted effort to shelter ourselves from reality. But what I now hold true is that our comprehension is also highly dependent upon the specific way in which we perceive every moment, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. I too used to believe that one simply viewed the world as it was, that I could easily perceive the difference between the reality in my head and the reality exterior to my mind. My view of this has changed as well, even in this short time period. Our internal ideas, preconceived notions, and a lack of true objective perception often lead to the horrible phenomenon of miscomprehension and misperception, I now understand.

After a bad week, Friday felt the worst of all, despite the inherent reprieve that is naturally associated with the end of the week. And in hindsight I realize that Friday was in fact the end of my sorrows though I didn’t feel so at the time. My deep resentment for all that had happened that week had poisoned my perception of all experiences and actions for the entire rest of the week. My thoughts had been negative towards all around me and I was stuck because of it. But I didn’t exert any effort to change this fact; I felt so comfortable in just allowing my negativity to stew and eventually boil over, thinking that my attitude towards the world was set in stone, unchangeable by mine or anyone else’s hand. But the weekend brought with it the time to journal, converse, and reflect on the week as it had been. And what I realized was that the week had gone exactly as my poor attitude had predicted going in. One misfortune on Monday morning had soured the rest of the week, promoting numerous conflicts, anger, and eventually, unproductive self-pity and depression. And it was my fault. No, the world had not sent me a week full of problems; my own mind had created all of that. The way I dealt with tiny daily issues had sent me into a downward spiral from which I did not recover quickly. Instead of seeing the value in all of my experiences or noticing the smallest beauties of every moment, I had fallen prey to the easier, yet more detrimental cycle of negative energy, unproductivity, aggression, and irrationalism.

I now view positivity as a personal choice, rather than a predestined factor. As I have chosen over the last week to think positively in the face of adversity, I have been much happier and felt less stressed too. Yes, the inconveniences, the conflicts, and the stressors still exist. But I have been dealing with them in a very different manner. Even when I find it difficult to remain positive, I try to utilize the passionate emotions as motivation to keep growing, keep working hard, and keep moving forward.

The beauty of perception is that it is unique, manageable, and easily controlled— this is what I try to remember each and every day.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Musical Love Affair

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Lights blare; the crowd hushes to silence; only my footsteps crack harshly in the deafening emptiness. Thousands of beady eyes focus intently on each and every square inch of my body. Somewhere out in the dark theatre, a cough echoes, seeming inexcusable and out-of-place. I am alone on the stage, the only center for the room’s attention. I raise my eyes to the loge and a roar explodes from the crowd. My arms are raised above me head as I smile lovingly at the audience. Sitting on the deep-black leather piano bench, the room hushes in an uncomfortable, anticipative silence. My fingers delicately rest on the keys, my eyes scanning the magnificent nine feet of strings constituting the Steinway, stretched out before me. Taking a deep breathe in through my nose, I begin to play, the sound filling the monstrous theatre, my mind becoming intoxicated with sonorous music. I feel comfortable in the song for a while; then it changes; I am no longer at home where I am; the music transitions to a place very far from where I began. Emotion drives expression onward into the cavernous abyss. I am focused intently on the music; yet when one is accustomed to playing music, one knows that sounds bring back memories wrapped in the silken gauze of emotions, rushing out through musical expression. The end approaches, I feel. A sense of longing for it to never end engulfs me and I am reminded of so many other nights just like this one, equally as perfect. And then the song is over. I’m sure the crowd is clapping; their hands are moving; but the roar of music in my head deafens me to the sounds of the outside world.

A group of musicians comes out on stage with me and I’m sure that I make some gracious speech to the audience, however subconscious my words seem to be. The next song is counted off; I play once more. But the music has no real beginning or end, only ephemeral constancy. The heavy black Steinway is resplendent in the purple hue of the stage lights and I am suddenly unaware of all tangible things in this world. The music is all. In the air surrounding the other musicians and me, a creative energy flows, water-like, torrential, and imperious.

Just as soon as it began, the concert ends. I bow and leave the stage, waving royally as I exit. Alone in my dressing room, the energy fades, the lights burn out, the world comes rushing back and the dressing room feels cold and isolated. Thoughts are turned to reality: I should get some more gas; I think I’m out of lettuce; I should really head to the office and finish up some work. The stage is gone. The concert fades away.

I am alone on the stage. Dim radiance glows from the work lights throughout the theatre. The air lies dormant, thick around me. I am nothing; I am nobody; I have no talent; I have no worth; it is all a lie, a repugnant untruth; my life, my dreams, and my reality are all inchoate, prone, strewn across the wretchedness of the stage; doubt turns to despair which in turn turns to self-loathing. I try to play, but the feeling is gone, the emotions- all snuffed out. In the dim glow, the piano seems decrepit, deterrent, disdainful even. Tears stream down my cheeks onto the keys that once passionately embraced my fingertips.

But the clouds lift; the lights return.

The theatre is quiet but alive. Breathing deeply, I step gingerly onto the stage I know so well. And the roar begins again. Beloved once more, I am weightless, significant, and unaware of the despair that lies just beneath the surface, at least for a little while.

The crowd hushes once more and I scan those nine feet of strings. A musical love affair begins anew.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Dead, Hopefully

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It was late January and as I drove my Honda along the long, dark highway, all I could think about was the all-encompassing death I was heading towards faster and faster every day. My career was in the toilet, my love-life was on its way to its death, my hope was dead, and worst of all, my ambitions were dead-and-gone. Death had swallowed my life whole, and now it was simply spitting out the bones one by one, leading me into the dark alleyways of despair. I breathed- in…out…in…out- the simple task of breathing seeming somehow more difficult than living another day on this earth.

Lost, desperate, lonely, and hopeless, I drove on through the night, a lone pair of headlights illuminating the suffocating darkness.

What was it that they used to say back in Catholic school?

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

What a load of bullshit. When God closes a door, he fucking slams it as hard as he can in your fucking face.

Career: unemployed; spouse: none, twice divorced; kids: none; life: DEAD. The only thing I had to show for twenty-seven long fucking years of life was my old shitty-ass Civic, Marge, as I called her. Marge was my one true companion; she seemed to love me no matter what.

I was driving on the highway towards… well… towards the end, wherever that was. I was finding my new life at the other end of a long, winding highway- how fucking euphemistically cliché. Bitter, that’s how Aunt Lois used to describe me, bitter, resentful, nasty, and her favorite one, fucked-up. I was as far removed from the fucking bitch as I could get; I moved across the country just to finally evade her grasp. Lois was a poised, elegant woman when she wanted to be, but Lois didn’t often want that.

Marge purred along as my mind wandered aimlessly through the dark.

Back in Illinois, I had always believed that it would work out, that I would make it big and never come back to this God-forsaken hellhole. My whole life had been like that, always running away from something. First it was my family, primarily Aunt Lois, and then it was my first marriage, and now, it was my entire God-damned life. Running…

Cities appeared and then flashed by, my destination was unknown, but I was sure that none of this was it. I was ready for death now, nothing could stop me. Happiness had left me. You know what they say; when life gives you lemons- fucking give up. Well, life gave me a whole fucking lemon grove, and guess what, I fucking gave up.

I hated Lois for who she had become, a crotchety, selfish, old cunt who did nothing but bitch all day long. Thank God her poor husband Lester had died so at least he was in a better place now- hopefully a very quiet, peaceful one. I had spent enough years of my life with Lois to realize that death was better than having to put up with that old bat.

I was close now, the road was about to end, one more path ending abruptly in death. Mine was just one life, would it really matter? I longed for death, for only in death was the pain gone, were the voices silenced, was the anguish extinguished.

But death was too fair, suffering was much more realistic. And so I suffered. And I still suffer, and I’m alive. I guess that’s good, being alive. I wouldn’t know if death is any better since I’ve never reached it.

I guess it’s safe to say that the road never ended that night- who knows when it will end. Life’s a bitch as they say, and you know what, so am I. I’m a fucking bitch, and that’s ok, there are lots of us out there.

I hope death is a little less unfortunate, that’s what I fucking hope. Oh well…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Audrey Brooke

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Cool, crisp, blue-gray air buffeted Audrey as she slipped out the front doors of her apartment building. She walked quickly on the way to the subway, conscious-as-ever of the work that lay ahead of her. The office was just three subway stops south, and given that she was virtually alone on the train, it didn’t take long before she was strutting up the hard cement steps and into the cold, New York winter air.

It was 5:30 AM to the second as Audrey glided up the icy front steps in her red leather pumps and black fur coat. She was a very punctual person, and the fact that it was a cold winter day was no excuse for tardiness. The lobby was deserted and virtually silent except for the harsh click of her heels on the mosaicked floor. She greeted the doorman cordially and strutted on, eager for the day to begin. After a lengthy elevator ride, she stepped briskly out and, arm outstretched in anticipation, slid the key smoothly into the shining silver lock.

The warm office lighting glittered on, as if it had been excitedly awaiting her arrival. And for a woman like Audrey Brooke, things always awaited her arrival. The view was lovely as it always was in the early mornings, Manhattan at its finest, she liked to say. Her purse bounced gently and quickly found a comfortable resting place on the side table against the wall. Her office was spotless as usual, she liked it that way.

Audrey looked stunning as always, red leather pumps, a black Vuitton bag, a light-mint dress that met her perfectly at every curve (not that there were many), and a glistening sliver necklace with matching earrings and bracelets.

It was typical Monday morning, if that were a real thing in the office of one of the most powerful people on the planet. Editor-in-Chief was the official title inscribed on her door, but she was so much more than that.  The black leather furniture and imposing adornment of decorations in her office hinted at the level of her power.

She was an elegantly dazzling young woman with golden brown hair and piercing blue eyes. She was effortlessly tall, strikingly authoritative, and above all, poised and charismatic.

The largest publishing company in the world, Brookestone, lay in her hands and her hands only; she liked that- being in charge. But what went unsaid in this office was the fact that Audrey Brooke was about to become not only the most powerful woman in publishing, but also one of the most powerful women in the entire world.

Audrey had the check signed and everything was in place for one of the largest buyouts in history. Audrey Brooke, the woman whom so many had forgotten when she was young, was about to show the world that she ran the news, the magazines, the books, the internet, and so much more.

Audrey Brooke was finally going to get what she waited so long for, and everyone else, well, they would get what they had coming soon enough.

Audrey’s blue eyes seared through the glass as she felt the warmth of the immense power she was about to gain course through her veins. Nothing could stop her now, and nothing would. For beneath that saccharine veil lay a much darker personality, one that was willing to kill, one that would use any means possible to get its way.

This was what Audrey thought about as she stared out onto the world in the earliest hours of dawn.

Today was her day, hers, or no one’s.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Lost in Life

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Lost. Looking up and having no place to go. We are lost, longing for some glimmer of hope, waiting for a rescuer that isn’t coming. We are alone in this life. When we trip and fall, no one cares. When we lose our way, no one is there to save us, and not a single person will guide us on our way without desperate imploration.

Waking up, we are dead before our feet even hit the ground. Our life has lost all purpose and we are just drifting on the gentle, savage waters of depression. Life is gray, the days are gray, the nights are gray; all is gray. Groping for our savior, we are drowning in the deepest black waters, sliding into forever while mercilessly adhered to the agonizing moments of today.

Our career has swallowed us up, and we are but another mindless, expendable employee. Frowning faces greet our every moment. Each hour seems to grow exponentially longer towards infinity, the excruciating days never ending.

We get in the car and just drive, hoping to god that life will just end. We drive on and on, driving on a journey towards nowhere, waiting for hope to come racing around the next curve towards us. The world goes on forever and we believe that if we just keep driving, perhaps we will hit the end of the darkness, that just maybe, our life will be cut short, thus ending our misery.

But we move on, because we don’t know what else to do. We have lost our way, and we are ignorant of which way to progress. We miss the life we used to live, and we miss the hope we used to feel. Locked in cynicism and depression, we see no hope for the future; but life moves on. We move on, and no one is there to hold our hand as we go forward.

We are alone in this world, and we are lost.

And life moves on…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Rush, the Bustle… Overwhelmed!

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Jumping up from bed at 530 AM certainly must have its perks, but complacency is decidedly not one of them. Even as one takes one’s first steps on the day’s crisp, new ground, the world is already racing along and the daily struggle to keep up initiates once again.

Papers and products fly everywhere as one rushes out the door, late as usual, coffee in hand. The sprint from the front door to the car is one of Olympic quality, and despite the traffic, one is able to maneuver the vehicle like a professional driver, expertly racing to work. Showing up at work goes similarly, slamming in the door with T-2 minutes till official working begins.

And so starts the day, rushed, stressed, and tightly-scheduled.

The rest of the day looks like any other, running from one meeting to the next, never a minute to spare. People stare as though astounded by the proposition of actually having places to be, an outlandish and extraordinary idea.

Coffee is always a necessity, but on days like this one, coffee is a means of survival and an indulgence clutched constrictively in one’s hand at all times. Food seems a luxury today, as does even the tersest of bathroom breaks, let alone breaks at all.

One’s desk is an oasis in a sea of endless desolation, an edifice among shanties, and a release for desperation and anxiety. The familiar little space seems so comforting in the accelerated world encompassing it.

The drive home is a small period of serenity, spent in quiet, mindlessly attending to the road ahead. The whoosh of air from the vents is refreshing somehow, like the fragrant sea breezes on a smooth, soft, seductive, sandy beach.

A glass of Merlot is all one can think about on that drive home, and luck would have it that it is waiting for one on the counter once home. The Merlot slides effortlessly, slyly, placidly down one’s throat and it instantly alleviates the stresses, problems, and pain of the day.

The chilly, crisp sheets unwind the pressures of the day, soothing the day’s wounds and roll one into dreamland. The thoughts of the day soar away making way for effusive aspirational dreams.

And tomorrow the day will begin again, the everlasting cycle of exhaustion and assiduity. Life moves on around us at a brisk pace every day, the question is whether we can keep up.

Love,  Ethan Brown Jones

Life of the Designer

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I wake up, looking towards the deep blackness above me, my alarm blasting away in the night. It’s 5:35 AM which I state not as a malign reality, but simply as an assertion of fact. The arresting cold of the air outside the warm cocoon of my blankets is abrasive on my skin. But it is morning, and if nothing else, we can be sure of this. The day has begun, if not gracefully, at least assuredly. I turn on the desk light with a clack and boot up my computer, ready for whatever work the day has in store.

After a quick glance at my calendar and my inbox, I slip into the frosty dark of the hallway and scurry quickly into the bathroom where an encompassing, massaging, warm shower awaits. I dress in the clothes that have been so cautiously, delicately laid out the night before, style my hair, and apply the makeup that has been so neatly displayed beneath the big the big wood-frame mirror above my dresser.

Breakfast comes with toasty, cheddary, steaming eggs, a crispy piece of toast, and dark, rich, creamy coffee with sweet orange juice on the side.

It’s still dark outside as I sit down expectantly at my desk. I check the news briskly and then start the processes of work I know all too well. I sketch a little and then play a little and work on each minute task that is yet to be completed. Designing and sketching gives way to playing piano and arranging music and before I know it, it’s lunch time.

Lunch is spent on the couch of my studio answering emails and updating my calendar with a warm burrito and a chilling smoothie for comfort. I check Facebook and twitter while I’m at it, seeing if anything is new with the vast and diverse world outside of the luxuries of my office and studio.

Lunch passes on quickly and my afternoon is spent researching, reading, and writing away furiously. Hours upon hours of time wander by while my pen glides swiftly across the paper and my fingers race agilely around the keyboard. Words become sentences which in turn become pages upon pages of drafts in my notebook.

The sun has gone down by the time I emerge from my office to start cooking dinner.  Cooking a creamy pesto pasta with fresh herbs, tomato, mushrooms, and garlic chicken sounds like just the thing to take my mind off of work for a while; and the glass of merlot help too. I spend dinner watching TV and going through more emails and contacting clients before heading back to my studio to journal and read until it’s late in the night.

When one day turns to another, I move to my office where I finish up going through paperwork and typing and editing publication drafts. And when the clock lazily flips to 1 AM, finally my work is done and my restful night sleep can commence. My dreams are of designs and stories and music, that which is my greatest comfort and contentment in life. For tomorrow, the rollercoaster will begin anew, another day in the life of a designer.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones