Sometimes the universe shouts, I just don’t know what it’s saying
Today is a shitty day for me, and I’m going to blog anyway. Because sometimes I hide the darkness and I just don’t care enough today to do that. The trigger that you’ll see for this is annoying. Maybe semi-significant, maybe not. But it has started a cascade and a spiral, one that I will not survive unscathed.
Ostensibly, this is only about my astronomy hobby, but it’s really not. I have struggled mightily with my hobby and the universe keeps kicking me in the teeth. I keep fighting my way through, hoping to break through to the other side of the veil that has been holding me back. But the universe keeps responding, telling me no.
When I was a kid, I was interested in the stars, and my parents got me a telescope. That was the mid-70s, and like most parents who don’t know about these things, they got me a simple one, handheld, from Sears or Canadian Tire. I’m sure they thought it was a good one. But anyone in astronomy knows that these things killed more interest than they sparked. They were telescopes designed for basic land use, almost impossible to steady for kids, and even if you did steady it, you wouldn’t see much other than the moon. If you were lucky. Tons of people got these things and tons of people lost interest. I did.
Fast-forward a number of years. Still interested, but not doing much about it. A friend took me out for a night to see a conjunction, but he has a complicated setup, and I just about gave up again. Too hard, too slow, too complicated.
Then when my mother died, and I got some inheritance money, I decided I would look into it a bit more, see if there were “easier” scopes. There were. A computerized GOTO scope that would allow me to set up, point at any three stars, and the computer would handle the rest. Great idea. I invested in the scope, the right scope for me, and thought I was making progress.
The universe pushed back. While 90% of the scopes in this model work great out of the box, I struggled with mine. One night, doing a sky tour, it went to zenith position (straight up) and the back of the scope hit the mount and ground the gears. I’d had it working for less than 3 months, and it was then gone for 2 months for repair.
Even after that, it took me five years of struggles, giving up here and there, trying again, giving up, trying again, and finally getting advanced help to figure out that it was an alignment issue. It wasn’t my eyes, it wasn’t my scope quality, it was the process I was doing combined with a computer problem. Fixed it, all excited leaving the guy’s house, pulled out on the road, and my tablet reminded me I had left it on the roof by flying off and tumbling along the road. $400 to fix. I destroyed it again 2 weeks later, paying $400 again. Again, the universe speaking to me, perhaps.
I thought maybe I could get a bit of momentum last year using my smartphone to take some basic astrophotography shots. I am not interested in the big long exposures with DSLRs, tons of processing time, high-end equipment, etc. Just some basics. Baby steps. Maybe someday I’ll do something more, I thought. But let me start with basic stuff.
I bought a simple adapter for my smartphone, gave it a go, no real luck. Upgraded the software, tried again. Struggled, again. Upgraded to a great adapter, practically foolproof. Found out that my phone was too old, too limited for what I was trying to do. Most people have iPhones that were outpacing everything, but I had an old Samsung. I borrowed Andrea’s iPhone 6 Plus and actually managed to get SOMETHING, although not awesome. But it was also her phone, and not a viable solution.
Took a break, figured at some point I would upgrade my phone and get the iPhone. Went back to visual observing only. And had a series of crappy nights for weather and struggled with maintaining my alignment. Not as bad as it had been, partly as I knew more about what I was doing, but still not inspiring. More like slogwork than an enjoyable hobby.
At New Year’s, I upgraded my phone and got a great iPhone XS Max. Should work great with the tools I have. Night Cap software, check. Best adapter on the market, check. Large light bucket telescope, check. There’s a guy out in Stittsville with the same setup doing amazing things; a guy on FB that I interact with who has basic setup doing amazing things. I gave it a go two weeks ago and couldn’t even get a single decent shot. This was my “momentum” builder idea. Get some shots, blog about stuff, learn as I write, stay interested. Hell, I volunteer with the local organization just so I have a reason not to flake out on the hobby.
So, yes, I’ve been struggling to keep interested. Keep working at it. Then, a seeming breakthrough. I went out on Sunday night and everything worked. I did a full star tour for the night sky, 100+ objects, alignment held well enough to see everything. I saw Mars. I saw Jupiter. I saw the Great Red Spot on Jupiter for the first time. Best night of viewing ever.
Then I screwed up. I forgot that the universe doesn’t seem to want me doing this hobby. I got happy and the universe apparently doesn’t like me happy. I got cocky and shared the news, partly to offset the less positive stories I have shared in the past about my astronomy hobby. Worse than that, I got hopeful, and that never ends well.
Last night, the sky was clear, and I was still feeling cocky, so I decided to set up in the back yard and see if I could image the moon or a couple of stars. Figure out the workflow. Went to the garage, got my scope and a portable grocery bin that I keep some basic stuff in (filters, etc.). Went back and got my full scope box. And I was there. Two trips, seemed like I finally had this “down” for my process for setting up even. Great work, Paul, I thought. Okay, let’s do a quick look at the moon, let Jacob see it too, and then he could have his bath, I’d go pick up Andrea, hopefully, the clouds would hold off, and I’d spend an hour on the imaging workflow. And the moon was a small crescent, an interesting target.
Let’s see, where did I put my eye-pieces? Huh. I didn’t bring them out. No wonder it only took me two trips. I forgot a box. Wait. How did I forget them? I just took the last box out of my astronomy cupboard with my scope in it, and the EP case wasn’t there. That’s weird. Maybe it’s on the floor.
Raced back to the garage. Not in the cupboard. Not on the floor. Not on the shelves by the cupboard. Not in the secondary cupboard. Not anywhere in the garage. Not by the front door. Not in the car still. Not anywhere.
About $2K worth of eyepieces. Although it isn’t really about the cost. We have insurance, with a deductible of some sort, don’t remember right now.
And I don’t know if I somehow left them at the observing site (I checked, not there, and emailed a few people who could have seen them with no luck) or they were stolen from my garage (the door was open on the garage for a while on Monday or Tuesday night). It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that the universe has spoken again. I keep struggling to get some momentum going, and it constantly feels like two steps forward and three steps back.
And if this was limited to just my astronomy hobby, I would find a way to roll with it. But it doesn’t feel like just astronomy.
Those who know me, know that I am huge on goal-setting, trying to make progress on lots of things. Like my 50by50 project for my 50th birthday. Not too many “bucket list” items on there, more small things. Baby steps. Things I can realistically achieve, to be honest.
One of my goal themes is health, fitness and cooking.
I cannot get momentum on my weight loss. I’m yoyoing on my weight, creeping slowly back to where I started, having gained 10 pounds back. The mental energy to keep focused is wearing me down like crazy. I took a break when I was overwhelmed, and I am struggling to muster any interest or energy to embrace anything else.
I bought a fitness gym, great idea, except it requires me to completely reorganize the basement. Dominoes that have to fall to get to the domino I want, and it’s just slogwork. And no guarantees of any success when I’m done. Maybe I’ll just flake out on it, maybe I’ll find it too hard. Or I’ll hurt myself and be unable to do it. The universe has many voices.
On the cooking front, I thought perhaps doing HelloFresh would help with stuff. Pre-organized meals. But mostly it has just meant a lot more work. Andrea is doing about the same, maybe more, and our prep time is way longer, even if we are doing more things together. Yet it still feels overwhelming, but without much in the way of “wow” improvements. Not sure it is worth it.
For the family / home / reading front, it’s a mixed bag of outcomes, partly because “outcome” doesn’t really apply to relationships. With Jacob, I keep trying to find things we can do together other than video games. Something that will spark a mutual interest. I was so excited for him to start the new school this year with the extra clubs — chess, math, coding. And none of those have worked out for him really. He did the math contests, throwaway days, nothing sustainable in his eyes. And one of his friends is being bullied, without much in the way of success to do anything about it. I’ve even spoken to the principal about it. J is hating school these days and about all we have to offer is that the summer is coming. Last year, we got him a remote control car, and I thought that would be awesome for him. A drone for me kind of fizzled, I need a much larger open space to find a way to control it easily, but I thought the car would be great. Got it going in Peterborough, worked well for about 20 minutes, and then it crashed and broke. I’ve got all the new parts but haven’t had the energy to hope it will work well for him after the first crushing failure. It was fun, and then just a disappointment for him. The universe is a sick fuck sometimes. I can deal when it kicks me, but when it kicks him, it is soul-crushing.
For the home side, there’s tons of stuff we should be doing, none of it ends well for me with home projects doing it myself. I’m good at writing cheques. That’s about it.
For the reading front, I started a Reading Challenge this year, and while there was initial interest from people, not many seem to be doing it, which is fine. I’m still doing it for myself, which was the original goal. And I wanted to use it as a prompt to purge some books too. Except after boxing up a bunch of boxes, I realized that there were two other dominoes that needed to fall before I could purge them, one of which has taken some time to figure out, and so they sit in the living room. Mocking me daily.
On the third theme, Finances / Organize / Activities, I was really hoping to do some retirement planning stuff. Except we need our benefits statements from the government, and all that stuff is screwed up by Phoenix. Hard to do planning without the data. Part of my interest is that I got excited last year about retirement, but then the universe nudged me on a couple of financial things, and I realized that my excitement is probably premature. There’s a small glimmer that I’ll be able to go in 7 years, but I suspect it is probably more like 12. On the organizational front, there are a ton of dominoes, and I have no interest in any of them. Just on my list. Too many other energy-sucking projects. Similarly for some of my activities, like trying to knit something, or going for axe-throwing. I just don’t have the energy to work on it.
Learning / Photography / Astronomy is my fourth theme, and we all know how well the astronomy stuff is going. On the Learning front, I forced myself to do some work on a course called Metaliteracy. Interesting, but in order to finish it, other people have to mark your assignments — it’s kind of like a group learning experience. Except if there aren’t enough people doing it, your assignment doesn’t get marked, and you kind of sit there stalled, waiting for someone to review your stuff. Which finally happened, but after I did weeks 1-4, out of ten in total, I kind of lost interest while waiting for the other inputs. It’s like the worst part of group assignments in regular school, added to a MOOC. I hate it, even if I want to finish the class.
On the photography front, I did a course at Henry’s, learned a lot, and a month after it was over, I’d forgotten just about all of it. I just can’t retain the process and workflow techniques. I understand the concepts, but the mechanics of applying the technique to a situation is lost to me as soon as the class is over. I’m doing an online video one now, and it’s the third time I’m trying to learn it. Maybe it will stick this time, but I’m not hopeful. Maybe this is just another hobby the universe doesn’t want me dabbling in. I’ve had similar experiences with origami. I love it, but I can’t remember the folds as soon as the diagram goes away.
I am not sure what to even say about my website. I write, I post, the abyss beckons. I wish I knew how to better engage people for comments. My hit count is up, but mostly it is dine-and-dash viewers. Whatever, it is still mainly for me. But the universe hasn’t fucked with me on it for a while, so I’m probably due.
I was hoping to finish my HR guide, and then found out that I’m going to have to have it reviewed by the Conflict of Interest people, with the likely outcome that I can maybe, possibly, give it away, but I likely, definitely can’t sell it as a book if I’m ever going to run a competition again. At least not while working for the government. Kind of kills any desire to keep writing.
On the work front, I had a great job, a good work-life balance, and I wanted a change after nine years. So I took one, ended up with a terrible management situation. Then I moved to what looked like an ideal outcome, everything I wanted, only for the project to accomplish almost nothing, and the subsequent work arrangement moved from working with three people I wanted to work with to instead one of them leaving, one of them retiring, and the job changing drastically to something I have done before and hoped not to do again. It’s not horrible, it’s just not great.
And yet I can’t help wondering if that is what the universe is trying to tell me. That “okay” should be the benchmark I aim for. I sure as hell can’t shoot for the stars, literally or figuratively.
The universe is trying to tell me something, shouting as loud as it can, and I am apparently too deaf or too stupid to know what it is telling me. And the frustration leads to anger, the anger to the dark side of the Force. Which right now feels about right. I want to grip the universe’s throat and choke the living shit out of it, just to see it squirm in fear. I just don’t have the energy to bother to think it would change anything.
Paul- Sending you zen hugs. I’m really struggling with the eating right and exercise thing again. Sometimes it feels so futile and disheartening. I am doing my polywog reading bingo regularly but not posting about it much. But it is hanging proudly on my work bulletin board! I sent the pdf version of your HR guide to 3 students so far this year. Both of the others I sent it too last year used it to get into the PARDP program here at NRCan. I used it for my EX prep. Hobbies are such a challenge for me. I find I have such high expectations but don’t really have the time to follow through. Have you thought about not doing the goal setting for fun activities? Maybe the pressure to do it is making it less fun. Honestly you do about 250% more than me but is the goal setting making you happy? I’ve basically kept it down to just reading and camping these days.
Thanks…I don’t know if “happy” is in the cards at the moment.
Average people with average numbers of interests don’t have this much bad luck. That being said – the sheer amount of stuff you have on the go is impressive and shows a tremendous level of ambition (across a really wide variety of skill sets). You’re climbing multiple learning curves here, cut yourself some slack – or really focus on what is actually important and only let those things get your goat (but, don’t add hobby farming to your list – unless you do buy that bigger space for your drone hobby, and J’s remote control car hobby). Nice blog – i hope you recover the eye pieces, i really look forward to your pics of the cosmos!
Thanks. I think you’ll need to find other sources for the cosmos…I’m done climbing that hill.
Readership of Polywogg in Africa is up by one. Hang in there Paul.
Read it, witnessed! Loved this blog post and how real it is. Thanks for sharing “life” with us. 🙂