Sunday, December 6, 2009

The 5 (warning: illiteration and liberal use of hyphens ahead)

'Tis the season for lists: gift lists, "he's making a list and checking it twice" lists, thank-you lists, New-Year's-Resolutions lists, food-to-eat-and-deliver-the-death-blow-to-your-already-hopelessly-shattered-last-
New-Year's-Resolution list ... you get the picture. Well - and this really should come as no surprise to you if you actually read the previous, poorly constructed sentence - I have a list of my own! It's one that I have been formulating for years - altering, cutting and adding as necessary - that has finally settled down in 4-solid tasks and one big question mark; oh, that's right my faithful followers, fair-weather friends and fearless foes, I am speaking of none other than the fun-to-write-but-rarely-actualized Life-Goals Lists (dum-da-da-dum)!! Don't be fooled - this isn't just another life-goals lists; it is long-pondered, hard-thought and realistic ... "Wait! What's that?!" you say, "a realistic life-goals lists?" That's right - no curing AIDS, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, owning the world's largest private library fantasies on this list ... anymore ...! Another difference: it's short. Condensed from approximately 100-I've-already-done-them-so-they-might-as-well-go-on-my-list tasks to 5. The idea behind this list was that I wanted to only include things that were:
1) important to me personally without the need for explanation or apology
2) quantifiable with an end-point (meaning no subjective and ongoing, "be a good person/partner/kitty mom/etc.")
3) achievable by my will, strength, motivation, etc. alone, completely independent of outside source (meaning, no prizes or "world's largest/best/biggest" allowed) but also things I have to work hard for (emotionally, physically, mentally)
4) already apart of who I am (meaning I'm not trying to become someone I'm not, but rather play to my strength and the things I already enjoy)
Additionally, I didn't want too many things on the list; if there is a limit to the number, then you really have to decide what is the most important goals for your life. So, what have I come up with? Like I said, there are 4 solid goals, and one is still up in the air - I don't want to pick life-goals willy-nilly, after all! The goals I have so far have been years in the making; I figure that the last one will come when it's time. Okay, okay! I'll end the suspense that is driving you all mad.

#1) Take a walking journey. I'm not entirely sure where this one came from - maybe my time backpacking through Eastern and Central Europe when I spent WAY more time on a bus than was really necessary or healthy! I had really wanted to walk from town to town - when they were close enough - and the few times that this did happen were some of the greatest times on the trip. You have to slow down when you walk, take in your environment, be in tune with your body, and - of course - you have lots of time to think. I also love backpacking; the strength necessary to carry 40 lbs. over 50 miles, the self-sufficiency of carrying all your necessities on your back, and the ultimate feeling of accomplishment when you're done. It's the idea of a pilgrimage without the religious fervor. This definitely plays on the "solitude" part of my life; I'm a fairly reserved person ... most of the time ... I very much like my alone time and quite, open space to think. I also love being outside; I feel the most connected to and at peace with myself, the earth and some sort of potential "other world" when I'm alone or quietly with someone in nature.

#2) Run a marathon. This is the goal that has been on my list the longest - since high school. I was on my way once, but bad knees and early mornings foiled my plans, and here I am - 3 years later and 10 pounds heavier - still dreaming the dream, eating too much junk food and drinking too much wine. Good news on this front, however: finally having medical insurance has allowed me to get my knees checked and go through physical therapy so I can run again ... $4000 for doctor's appointments, MRIs and physical therapy appointments is great motivation (and people say we don't need health care reform, like $3000 for an MRI on your knees is normal and anyone can do it - please - imagine my eye-rolling here)! So why stick with this goal through so much hardship and misplaced motivation? Bragging rights! Come on! Also, and only slightly more seriously, I just want to prove to myself that I can do it! It requires dedication, motivation, and perseverance - all things that I'm afraid I lack; I want to do it because it will be hard for me, and that seems like a good enough reason. That said, however, this goal plays on my determined - some call it hard-headedness - character. If someone, even myself, says I can't do something, or doubts that I can/will, I want nothing more than to prove them wrong, and won't stop until I do. Also, I really do like running; I don't necessarily like the preliminaries to running - shuffling, huffing and gasping really - but once I'm in shape, I love picking a country road and getting into a rhythm ... bliss.

#3) Earn a doctoral degree: this one almost didn't make the cut - I just wasn't sure if I wanted it enough to make it an honest life goal, and I simply wasn't sure what I wanted to get it in - nothing seemed particularly practical if I wasn't planning to teach university. What finally made up my mind with this one, however, was my interest in geology ... hang in there, I promise this relates ... So, I recently decided/discovered that I'm interested in geology - chemical geology and paleontology specifically - and, if I had it all to do again, I would have gone to school for that rather than art (ha! yes, yours truly was truly an art major in college ... weren't my parents supposed to dissuade me from art school?!). Then I decided that, after I'm done getting my masters in Public Policy, I'll just start over and get a B.S. in Geology ... which in the end really just reminded me how much I love school. I really, really love going to school; it doesn't matter to me if getting a doctorate makes me a better job candidate or not, I want the degree because I want the degree - because I'm going to be in school anyway, so why not have the highest degree to show for it. I guess this plays to my super-clique thirst for knowledge. I love learning new things, I love the process of it and the outcome; I love talking about new things I've learned and getting different perspectives to help draw my own conclusions. I just really enjoy school, and once I sat down and really thought about it, this goal was a no-brainer.

#4) Complete a genealogical chart of my matriarchal line. My dad does genealogy, so I have grown up with the stories of my family, but - because the women got married and changed their names, essentially dropping off the family tree at that point - they were almost always the stories of men. I generally believe in the idea of a "family unconsciousness" - think collective unconscious combined with "the sins of the father" kind of idea, but not necessarily only sins. I like to think that we all carry the experiences/ideas/understandings of our ancestors, and have come to some interesting conclusions based on the stories of the men in my family, but half of my familial unconscious is missing because I don't know the stories of my maternal ancestors. I need to know those stories; I need to know where that part of me comes from and how it affects who I am; I need to give voice to their stories to help me understand my own. This goal is best described as my "spiritual" goal. The connection through time and exploring ideas of who you are and what has made you that way seems to me to fit into the "spiritual" category; also, that's just the way I feel about it when I think of this goal ... it feels spiritual to me, and that is that.

#5) Unknown. As I said, I'm not sure what this goal will be yet, but I feel strongly there needs to be five, and the other goals took some time to come to, so I'm not rushing the process. I will let it come as it will.

So - where to go from here. I've taken little steps towards several of them - well, all of them really. I'm not entirely sure how it will play out, but the reason I have decided to blog about it is because it's time I stop thinking about them and actually start realizing them. I have ideas of where I'm going to start - need to look at some logistical things before I reveal my next step - but never-fear, I will blog about them all the way!!

Okay, now it's your turn. Given the 4 guidelines I've set out for myself (review: important to you personally, quantitative (no, "I want to be a good person/parent/partner" allowed, as nice of a goal as that is), achievable by your own strength (independent of outside sources), and part of who you already are), what are your top-five life goals?

Monday, October 19, 2009

To Procreate or Not to Procreate: The Great Child Debate

Most people who know me in a real-world, not-voodoo-magical-internet context know that I have long declared my desire to remain childless, but - perhaps inevitably - I have been thinking about babies quite a bit the last couple of years ... okay, let's be honest - it's not been "quite a bit" but something more along the lines of A FREAKING BLOODY TON!!  I say inevitably for several reasons: I'm getting older and know that the amount time I to actually make this choice is quickly dwindling, my family has accepted my childless state and therefore no longer gives me anything to rebel against by remaining so, practically every woman I know is or was recently or is actively trying to be pregnant, I'm making major life choices right now and need to decide if having children is indeed a desire ... you get the picture.  Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm pining away on the couch hoping for the pregnancy fairies to fly through the window, it's not even that most of the time I think about the possibility of having children I actually want it to happen; I haven't made any kind of decision here, but rather I'm just thinking about the decision a lot.  Do I or don't I want to have children?  Honestly, most of the time I don't see it happening - not that I don't necessarily want it happen, but I just don't think it will.  There are those times, however, that I seriously want nothing more than to get pregnant right this instant dammit!  Luckily those are few and far between, and after several days of moping, crying in the shower and imagining how beautiful my child could be while she sleeps, I'm infinitely grateful that I'm a really consistent birth-control taker!  There are simply so many reasons not to have kids (in no particular order):

1) Financial: children are really bloody expensive!  And once you have 'em, you're in it for the long haul!  I would want some sort of financial security if I were to have children, and let's face it - that isn't happening anytime soon!  The hubs has at least 4 more years of school, and I have at least 2 more starting next year.  Being two full-time students doesn't equate well to making/having/saving money!  Nor does it leave much time to be a parent, which is my second point.

2) Time: Obviously, as mentioned above, being in school for several more years doesn't leave a lot of time for feedings, sleepless nights, changing poopy diapers ... you know, the general being-a-parent stuff.  At this point neither M nor I are willing to give up school and career goals to raise children.  This issue isn't settled once school is done however; this might sound selfish, but I really like my me-time and our us-time, and I simply don't know if I'm willing to give that up.

3) Environmental: A child brought up in America today will consume a disproportionate amount of the world's finite resources while at the same time creating more non-degradable trash than most people in the world.  This is also tied with Overpopulation (which I'll call 3, subcategory A): America's population continues to increase, making it one of the only (the only?) "developed" country to do so.  Most of Europe has reached replacement population growth (1 child per 1 adult), or negative growth!  Additionally, there are SO many children in the world who need loving homes and parents - can I really justify bringing another life into the world, thereby increasing the population, when there are already so many children?

4) Biological: Everyone is born with a biological history - my child would be born with a fairly substantial history of  severe depression on both sides of the family.  This isn't to say, of course, that they absolutely would inherent this trait or tendency, but the chances are actually pretty good, and do I really want to be responsible for passing that down to a child?  Perhaps a greater deterrent for me is the possibility of postpartum depression and my fear that my child will be raised by a depressed mother.

5) Auntie-hood: I really enjoy being an auntie - I have 3 nephews and 1 niece and feel pretty fulfilled by those children in my life.  I usually don't feel like I'm missing children, because it's easy to go see them if I do, and of course I can give these children back when I'm exhausted or they have a dirty diaper.

Regardless of all these reasons to not have children though, sometimes I really want them!  Chalk it up to an evolutionarily lagging biological clock, societal pressures and personal expectations, and pure damn curiosity, but regardless of how much I go over the reasons to not have kids, I usually picture my future with children in it, I catch myself saying, "when I have kids" and have to qualify it with a "I mean IF," I am occasionally torn in half, rather painfully actually, when I get my period - I'm happy because I know it's not the right time, and also mourn the loss of a child that never existed and have to consul myself with cake ...


I don't expect answers, but I am curious about other people's decisions.  Do you have children?  Are you planning to?  Why or why not?  Is this is a decision made purposefully or did it just seem like the natural thing to do?  

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wait, this isn't real life?!

I hate to admit it – I really do, but in the interest of full disclosure to the masses of strangers that, of course, read my blog religiously, it must be done!!

Here is goes … I have been watching a lot of TV lately … I mean, A LOT!  A couple of clarifying points are needed here: one – I’m technically not watching TV, seeing as how I don’t actually own one; I am, rather, watching – in rapid succession – season after season of Veronica Mars on my computer, courtesy of the network execs who realized that they could make SO much more money if they could get people to buy multiple series on DVD.  Two: I have been working furiously to get an art piece done by last Saturday for my nephew’s birthday gift – the project ended up taking about 100 hours, and exactly two weeks before the party I was only about 40 hours into it; as most of this work is anally repetitive I generally do it with a show playing in the background.  So … yes, a lot of TV watching!

The purpose of this post is not, however, to reveal my secret shame – no, no my friends – but rather to add my two-cents to a long-standing debate: do the things we watch affect us?  You know the one I’m talking about; it goes something like:

Person one: “I think watching violent movies and playing violent video games makes kids more prone to violence.”

Person two: “I think your stupid face makes me more prone to violence!”

Oh yes, a civil debate if ever there was one.  Perhaps my stance on the matter is obvious from my grossly simplified characterization of the debate itself, but let me take you through my journey of choosing sides …

Like I said, this journey involved a lot of TV watching in a very short period of time: 2.5 seasons in 1.5 weeks … yup, yup, a lot of TV!  I think it is this very circumstance, however, that intensified an effect already taking place – that being that the entertainment that we choose to partake in, perhaps especially the shows/movies/games/etc. that we choose to watch very much effect our everyday lives – but one that is generally subtle enough that we often don’t make the correlation between what’s happening in our own personal lives to the effect entertainment has on us. 

I don’t know how many of your are familiar with the show Veronica Mars – it’s basically about a girl detective who picked up her skills working for her private-investigator father.  She tries to solve the mystery of who killed her best friend, who killed a bus of kids, who raped the girls on campus, etc., lolley-pop licking fluffy-bunny, uplifting topics all, I assure you!  As with all shows aimed at the high school/college crowd, it’s full of high emotion, passion and angst … ahhhh television!  I just recently, within the last couple of days, began to notice a correlation between my mood, emotions and interactions and what was happening on the show – a correlation that at first I denied, then was weirded out by, and finally knocked my on my ass because of the implications.  I have always been a fence-sitter on this “effect of entertainment” debate, not because I haven’t noticed the correlation before, but because it was subtle enough I could easily pass it off as something else, but this experience was so dramatic and obvious that the connection, for me, could no longer be ignored.  I began to notice that if I stopped watching the show when the main character was angry about something – which happens a lot, you have to keep the people coming back to find out what happens! – I was much more likely to be irritable and cranky; if the main character was dealing with the fallout from a particular sexual encounter (which is dealt with throughout the show), I would find myself dragging up issues from a similar, but not exactly the same, encounter that have been dealt with years ago and are really best laid to rest; if she was having problems in her relationships, I would be more irritable with my partner, and alternately if things were going well I would be more understanding and happier.  All of this from a show that, although I find interesting, I barely (consciously) paid attention to – it was noise in the background, a way to keep time; how was I to know that my brain was absorbing the emotions from the show and forcing me to act them out in my own life? 

Like I said earlier, I think this affect was exacerbated by the amount of time I spent watching the show, but I don’t think it was caused by the amount of time spent.  I really have to conclude that all those times in the past when I thought to myself, “hmmm … I don’t understand what’s wrong!  I felt fine an hour ago!” after watching a show is much more than coincidence, but rather my response to what I’m seeing.  I have to believe that this is true for the greater population as well, but – again – the affects are so subtle that it can be difficult to see the relationship.  I have to wonder, as well, about the specific affect on children. 

At 26 I didn’t at first realize what was happening – I accepted my emotions as my own and never questioned if they might be a figment of television.  Imagine, if you will, a pre-teen who has grown up in American society – watching violent television, cartoons, movies, playing violent games.  How is this child supposed to separate her own emotions from the “figment” emotions?  When do those “figment” emotions honestly become his own?  Are our brains actually wired to separate television “reality” from actual reality?  Certainly I have not experienced the violent murder of a best friend, then think her brother/my ex-boyfriend killed her, then realize – when he tries to kill me too – that it was actually the father of my best-friend’s then/my current boyfriend, then experienced the violent murder of a bus full of children which I think is my fault and that someone has a hit out on me, and then experienced multiple attempted/successful rapes all within the span of 3 years, and all the accompanying emotions associate with such experiences … I doubt many people have, but I imagine that if my best friend was going through everything I just detailed – everything that the main character of Veronica Mars, or any other television show experienced – it would affect my life in some of the same ways the show actually did.  Perhaps our brains haven’t evolved to distinguish the difference between entertainment and reality yet, and if this is true, perhaps the loads of money spent on counseling and drugs for violent, troubled, “misbehaved” children is misdirected.  Could it be as simple as turning off the TV?

Image courtesy of this website.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mathematical melt down

I’d like to say that busyness is the reason for my long silence, but honestly it’s been a motivation issue – as always – that and I wasn’t sure I wanted to share my feelings of being completely overwhelmed with family, friends and strangers alike.  Apparently I’m over that, however, as I am writing it down now.  A disclaimer for the overly offended, however: I am being honest about my feelings and views here and if you – dear reader – are afraid you might have a problem with what is said, stop reading now.  Additionally, I have absolutely nothing against stay-at-home moms and the following characterization is made only of myself and in no way depicts my views of stay-at-parents in general.  Lastly, I think it’s ridiculous this disclaimer is necessary, but I know it is.

Now, on with the show!!


“What,” you ask, “can you possibly be feeling overwhelmed about?  You sleep in, feel guilty about not running more regularly, do some art, pet some kitties and play with puppies at the Humane Society.”  I know, it sounds like a cush life, but as I live almost entirely in a head that never shuts up to give me some peace and quiet, how I feel is rarely related to what I’m doing.  These feelings came when I finally broke down and took the GRE practice test to see just how much I had to cram for the test, which is at the end of October.  I did as I expected – well on the verbal part, poorly on the math.  What I didn’t expect, however, was two things: just HOW poorly I did on the math, and how absolutely stupid and incompetent it made me feel.  Granted, I haven’t taken math for 7 years and I have NEVER understood Geometry, at the least these are the things I keep telling myself to try to bolster my fragile, cracking ego, but it doesn’t seem to keep me from spiraling into a downward dream-crushing, life-immobilizing panic.  “Wow!  It’s just math!!” you say, and my more sensible self would agree.  The self that is firmly in control of my emotions and panic button, however, doesn’t.  That self assures me every day that I’m going to get less than 1000 on my GRE, I’ll be exposed as an unintelligent fraud, no school will ever want me and I’ll never have a real job, which will just lead to me being a depressed stay-at-home mom who didn’t choose that life but utterly failed at everything else I tried and is constantly thinking about what could have been, should have been, would have been and then living out my unfulfilled dreams through my thoroughly resentful children.  Oh yes, my friends, a bright future lays before me indeed!

This does, of course, have so much more to do than getting a bad pre-test score on my math GRE; it has to do with the whole process of going to grad school – no, more than that even; it has to do with the position I am in my life currently.  I am on the edge of making a major life decision, which is always stressful anyway, but made even more so when you realize that this is the first major life decision that I have actually MADE!  “You’re 26, married, college educated … obviously you’ve made decisions before.  You must be exaggerating you drama-queen you!”  Oh, I wish I were!  I have never sat myself down, looked at all my options, asked myself what I wanted most, and then made that decision.  I have LET things happen to me my whole life – I have fit myself to circumstance; I haven’t directed and shaped life to fit my wants and goals – I was never quite sure what those were, and I was so worried about disappointing everyone else that I never noticed I was disappointing myself.

Take my numerous years in college, for example.  College was always the next step after high school for me – it was simply what came next, without question or thought.  I had always wanted to move to the East Coast and go to American University, but knew I wouldn’t because I was expected to go to a religious university – one, in particular.  When I got a scholarship that could only be used in state, I kind of talked about going to a state school, but again, I knew I wouldn’t; I did what was expected of me and went to a small, conservative, Christian school; I let life happen rather than directing it.  Again, when I went back to school for post-bacc work it wasn’t because that was what I really wanted to do at the time, but rather I needed something to do while my partner was working in the area.  I wanted to leave, to pick up and move somewhere far away, but rather than taking steps to make that happen, I simply sat back and fit myself into the circumstance I found myself in.

I have been married for 6 years – yes, that means I was 20 when I got married.  20!!!!  This part is tricky to explain well – it’s not at all that I didn’t want to be with my partner, I absolutely did – I wanted to be with him, live with him, travel with him – but I didn’t necessarily want to get married right then. I was 20!!!  There were so many experiences that I’d never had, and now never will, namely living on my own.  In order for us to have the relationship we wanted, however, our families absolutely expected us to get married; it wasn’t about us and our relationship, but conforming to values held by our parents but not necessarily shared by us.  I did it though – I was expected to get married and I did.

I have done what is expected and let life happen to me for far too long.  I want to live my dreams and stop changing them to fit into current circumstance and expectation.  So here I am, about to apply for grad school with two concerns: what if I fail miserably at my first attempt to live my life according to my desires, and how do I truly know this is my desire and not living in circumstance once again?  I feel like there is a lot riding on this decision to go to graduate school, a lot of pressure (mostly from myself) for this to be the right decision.  How do I know the field I’m choosing is the one I want to do forever?  How do I know that the schools I’m applying to are the ones I want to go to and not the ones that are most convenient to my current circumstance?  Like I said, I feel overwhelmed by the entire process; I feel unsure about my decisions, but I’m not entirely sure they are the wrong ones either.  I want to direct my own life, but I don’t know if I’m up to the challenge and am terrified that I’ll make the wrong choices; I don’t know if I’m actually unhappy or if I’m forcing myself to be just to give myself something to do every day.

            So there it is: I failed the math section of the GRE and it paralyzed me, not because of the test itself, but because of all the choices, confusion and frustration that it ultimately represents; it isn’t the confusing mixture of numbers and letters posing as numbers that’s really the problem (although, come on, those really should be kept separate!), but the mixture of dreams and expectations, direction and circumstance, life and … well … life.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why Can't We be Friends?; or, Refuse to be Defined by the Owl Table.

I was having a normally pathetic day at home the other day … sitting alone, alternately petting my cats and yelling at them like a harassed mother of twin toddlers, “stop fighting right now you two!” as if they could understand – much less give a damn – what I was saying, and longing desperately for some sort of social interaction with actual people – you know the kind of I’m talking about, the mythical type of people who aren’t 3 inches tell and don’t live in the box in your living room, the almost-imaginary kind who actually talk back, answer questions and carry on a conversation with you – I hear they exist, although I’m not entirely sure where to find them … and I couldn’t help but wonder, “when did it become so bloody hard to make friends?!”
Believe it or not, I used to be really good at making friends. Anywhere I’d go, if there was another kid within 5 years of my age we’d be planning our first slumber party while I caught them up on my most recent imaginary world so they could join in the magical goodness before my parents even had the time to turn around and wonder where I’d gotten myself off to. “Social butterfly” was written on my progress reports from school on an abnormally frequent basis, as were the observations like, “Emily has a very gregarious personality … [nice enough] … which can be really distracting to the other students during class time [there goes the nice].”
I met my childhood best friend the first day of kindergarten. I had just moved to town and was in the afternoon class (none of this crazy full-day kindergarten for me!). I sat at the owl table, which I really disappointed about at first because I had really wanted to sit at the kitty-cat table, but it was all full – as was the bunny table and the squirrel table … actually, every table except the owl table was totally full and what 5-year-old in their right mind wants to sit at the bloody owl table?! Yes, I was definitely disappointed by the owl – I felt dorky, un-liked, nerdy. But, like I said, I made friends easily and refused to let the owl table define me, so I picked someone out and managed to "distract" her through a full day (which, as mentioned earlier, was really only a half day) of free time and nap time; by snack time I had already asked her, straight out, if she'd be my best friend and we were for the next 7 years (and -if you're wondering - she was not at the owl table at first, but the much cooler bunny table, until she switched with someone to be at the owl table with me - yeah, she was pretty much awesome like that). Why was it so easy then?!
It's not that I'm expecting adult to go up to each and ask if someone wants to be their best friend in-between commute time and coffee-break time, but seriously, there has to be a way for those of us adults who aren't working or in school and didn't stay best-friends with the kids we grew up with to make new friends in a non-sexual and non-super-creepy-I'm-going-to-stalk-you-if-you-reject-me kind of way! I've live in this place for a year already and have a grand total of 2 people that I do things with - one of whom I've known for most of my life - but even then it's only occasionally. It's not that I want someone that I can see every minute of every day - remember, I said NON-creep - but someone I can randomly call up and go to coffee with or to whom I can bitch about my day would be nice. There are so many social mores that must be followed now as an adult, rules for social conduct of which I am hyper-aware and deathly afraid of breaking, but it's more than that. Everyone is so busy, so independent and disconnected from each other, and it seems that the more of these things we are (busy, independent, disconnected) the more we're admired and thought to be 'contributing to society' ... when did having friends go out of style, and dear god, where did the social butterfly who refused to be the friendless, dorky kid at the owl table go?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Living with Teenage-Hormonal-Fluctuation-Syndrome; or, How Petting Kitties and Walking Puppies Will Help Me Overcome THFS

Wow - I've actually been away for awhile; not away, away - of course, god knows I don't have the money to go "away, away" - but away from the blog-o-sphere.  It's not that I didn't have anything to say - I always have something to say - or not even that I couldn't think of interesting topics.  The cold, hard reality is that I didn't have the bloody motivation to turn on my damn computer and organize my thoughts into some form of coherency.  You see, I live in waves - waves of total lack of motivation and therefore complete inaction and stagnation alternating with waves of hyper-motivation, overachieving and uber-giddiness due to my inability to sleep because I'm too busy saving the world and making it prettier at the same time.  I know what you're thinking, I had doctors question whether or not I had bipolar as well, but after years of therapy, they discovered it was actually something much more terrifying: teenage-hormonal-fluctuation-syndrome.   This is, apparently, an unfortunate misnomer, as teenage-hormonal-fluctuation-syndrome, or THFS, is not confined to the teenaged-years of life.  No, oh no my illustrious friends and faithful followers, THFS has continued to haunt me well into my adult life and shows no sign of letting up. 

I do believe I have found a major trigger for THFS, however: lack of purpose.  Back in the good ol' days - you know, about 5 months ago, when I still had a job! - my life was filled with purpose and, therefore, my THFS was thoroughly under control.  I had a reason to get out of bed and leave the house; by the end of the day I was so emotionally and physically exhausted that THFS simply didn't have the energy to rear it's ugly head.  Currently my great get-out-of-bed motivators are: "the sooner you get up the sooner they will stop meowing in your face and stepping on your overly-full bladder," and  "I think I'm kinda hungry."  My reasons for getting dressed and leaving the house consist of needing to transfer more money from savings into checking and the book I reserved at the library is finally in; although the transferring money thing happens a hell of a lot more often than I like to think about, neither event is frequent enough to get me out of the house more than once a week.  So, besides the occasional 4-hour online application that decides to not save even though I hit the save button a million and a half times and the subsequent 2 hours spent on the phone with various IT departments trying to recover the application and procure the supplemental materials needed for a 19-hour/week job that I probably won't get anyway, I have very little purpose in my life currently.  Sure, I'm doing art again, which is actually really exciting, but there are only so many hours out of the day that you can individually place tiny beads before you go insane.  Naturally, in my current situation, I am dealing with frustrating waves of THFS on a daily basis!  I decided last week that this must be rectified, and then lost of the motivation to do anything about it until today!  Yay for the hyper-motivated, overachieving, uber-giddiness wave!  

So, purpose.  How does one create purpose in their life when they have an entire year to kill before they go back to school?  I see a couple of possibilities.  One, get ready for school.  I registered for my GRE.  It will be in late October so I have time to study but if I suck it up I can re-take it in November before my first applications are due in December, and I have a GRE study book on reserve at the library.  I've also inputed all the application procedures and dates in a spread sheet with projected "done by" dates.  I haven't actually started working on any of the applications or studying for the GRE, but it's all ready to go!  This "purpose" doesn't actually get me out of the house, however, which is why I've come up with purpose number two: animals.  I really like animals ... a lot; I don't, however, need more animals at home.  The best solution to my petting-cute-puppies-kitties-and-bunnies need while not bringing them home to live with me seems to be volunteering at an animal shelter!  I've downloaded the application and signed up for the volunteer training - also in October, as that was their earliest available date.  I've indicated an interest in dog-walking, kitty-petting and small-animal-socializing.  I am actually ridiculously excited about this!  Thirdly, I've decided that I need a solid medium-term goal for myself as school is ultimately long-term and animal volunteer will be accomplished in the short-term.  Official medium-term goal and third giving-purpose-to-my-unemployed-self is: hiking the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Now, I know I've mentioned this before, but it's a little more developed in my head.  Next summer, mid-July to mid-August, I will be hiking 460-ish miles across the state of Oregon.  Until that time, I will also be blogging about my training: where we hike, product reviews, difficulties and successes ... (oh yes my dear friends, for those of you who simply can't enough of reading about my life to make you feel better about yours, you will soon have a NEW outlet!  I'm creating a new blog to chronicle my training!  I will post the link as soon as it's created!)  This last one seemed like a good mid-term goal that will also force me outside (as you can't train very well inside the house, or more specifically you can, but your neighbors will look at you funny when you go up and down the stairs to the basement 150 times with a 40 pack on your back ... I don't actually know this from experience, but I'm guessing it's probably true) and give me something to do on a semi-regular basis in the form of updating my blog.  Don't worry though, this blog isn't going away; I definitely still need a place to rant, rave and expose all my embarassing social faux pas. 

So there you have it: my reason for being so silent the last few weeks, and my new ambitious plan to overcome the all-but-completely-debilitating, if misnomered, condition of teenage-hormonal-fluctuation-syndrome.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Anyone who really knows me knows that I'm generally pessimistic, and if you didn't know that, be thankful that you didn't have to learn it on your own, in the real world.  The famous Woody Allen quote, "I always see the glass half full.  Of poison!" sums up my outlook on life pretty well.  If something 
could go wrong, it will - that's the only constant in life.  This may explain, therefore, my tendency to focus on the negative side of "growth" and "personal development."  Where's the negative in growth and personal development, you ask?  Oh, it's there my friends, it's there!  It's been my experience that, in order to grow and develop, we must also give up; this is what I generally focus on - what I'm giving up to achieve the growth and development rather than the positive outcome that growth will (supposedly) create.  I look at the can't, won't,  and shouldn't instead of the can-be and will-be.  The purpose of the growth/development is almost lost in the mourning for things I've let go ...

So ... hold on to your seats boys and girls ... you're about to see something never before witnessed!  I'm focusing on the good!  I'm looking at it as a "reinventing" of the story of pity and pessimism.  If power comes from naming, than re-naming a difficult experience can be powerful too, right?!

As previously mentioned here and here, I am unemployed and have been for going on 3 months now.  Perhaps needlessly said, the last 3 months have been a continual pity party: what am I doing with my life? What should I do next?  Why won't my personalities stop fighting?!  I've been looking at what I gave up when I left my job - you know, small things like rent money and a sense of purpose in this world.  I haven't let myself really look at the positives - the reasons for leaving in the first place and the benefits that have come from that decision.  Going against years of training, I will enumerate those positives now:

-Sanity: generally a good thing, especially for one inclined to insanity, such as myself.  There are a lot of scary, creepy people out in the world, and I felt like I was dealing with all of them on a daily basis.  Now I only have to deal with them when I choose to!  Yay for me!

-Environmental friendliness: In a really good week I was driving 600 miles a week - that could easily be closer to 750 or more in a bad week.  My not working is helping to save the environment!  Yay for the earth!

-Perspective: I can watch movies, watch strangers, read books ... pretty much enjoy any and all forms of entertainment without assuming that every guy I see/encounter is a totally jackass who is beating his intimate partner!  Yay for men!

-Time: I now have time to focus on the other areas of my life that were being neglected: writing, art, exercise and spirituality specifically.  These have always been very important to me, but it was hard to focus on anything other than not falling apart in front of clients, and these things have been too long ignored.  I also have time for the important people in my life ... you know ... like my husband!  I also have time for (here it is - you'll all be the first to know!) training for the Pacific Crest Trail next summer!!  Okay, okay - I'm actually only doing the Oregon leg of the trail, but still 430 miles in a month - pretty damn good!  Yay for hiking!

Now, don't get me wrong - I loved my job!  I really, really loved my job.  I felt very fulfilled there,  like I was being the person I always wanted to be - I just didn't realize that "the person I always wanted to be" was maybe not the healthiest option for me - that maybe I didn't have the personality or temperament to leave my work behind, to thrive while being surrounded by pain and suffering, to maintain a good quality of life and not let other people's problems become my own ... NOW I KNOW!  Yay for me again!  I know that I can still do work that's important to me and that helps other people, but that my skills, personality, experience is perhaps best focused on larger societal issues rather than one-on-one direct service work.  This is a good thing to know about yourself.

Don't go expecting all my posts to be so happy-go-lucky from here on out - this is seriously about as smooshy as I get, but it's important to remind yourself about the good every once in awhile!  I'm regaining perspective on my life.  That perspective might not be telling me what the bloody hell I should be doing! but it is helping me get back into contact with what's important, and that seems like a good place to start.

How about you all.  Are there experiences you want/need to re-name and reinvent?  An experience that needs a little perspective?  Please ... share with the world ... or the 12ish people who read this blog anyway! ;o)

Friday, August 28, 2009

This makes me sound completely insane, but I'm 95% sure that I'm not.

I've started this bloody post three times!!  I'm trying to be funny, witty, humorous ... pretty much everything I don't feel right now, so I'm just going to write it the way I feel - it may lack some of the grace and charm of other posts, but - hey, I think that exists mostly in my head anyway!

I have always felt that I am two very different people forced to live inside one body.  There is the sarcastic, independent feminist me who is skeptical of anything resembling religion, conservatism or traditional gender roles, and then there's the shy, calm homebody me who is deeply spiritual and wants nothing more than to have a family.  Needless to say, my two "mes" don't get along.  Life might be a bit easier - if not exponentially more complicated - if I had a third me, the mediator, the one who sets priorities, goals, passions and then decides what of the other two "mes" is best suited to take the lead in any given situation.  This, however, is not the case.  Both my mes (is this getting complicated for anyone else?!) have equally loud voices, equally strong pulls and hate the priorities of the other "me" equally as much.  There is no middle ground.  When I was younger these two mes ... 

(okay - wait - time-out; this whole "mes" stuff is getting really confusing for me, so I'm sure it is for you, and given my inclination for naming things, it only makes sense to give my two mes different names: feminist me is now Xena, Warrior Princess and homebody me is now Laura Ingalls Wilder ... okay, time-in)

... When I was younger, Xena and Laura played nicely - they generally got along and even helped each other out; when Laura was too shy for a party, Xena would step in; when a situation required more delicacy and tact than Xena could manage, along came Laura.  Now that they are both all grown up, however, with heir own dreams, goals, passion, etc. they have realized that only one of them can get their way, and they are fighting tooth-and-nail for the complete destruction of the other.  Now that I'm in my mid-twenties (on my out of my mid-twenties, actually) I really need to start making some life choices - deciding which way to go, what path I want to be on, which one of the "mes" dies - Xena or Laura - because I really don't see how they will coexist happily again.

Meet my two-personalities (see - I told you you didn't want to live in my mind):

Xena has an exuberant passion for life.  She's a fierce friend and companion and has unreasonably high expectations of herself and others; most people fall very short of these expectations and her disappointment is keenly felt.  Xena wants to live a fast-paced, high-powered life in the big city, traveling extensively and being the absolute best in her field.  She loves having people around - thrives on activity - and truly wants to help the world.  She wants to get divorced just so she can live with the same person she's living with now, but not in the "conventional" way, "fuck this institution called marriage" (oh yes, and Xena swears ... A LOT).  She never sees herself having children - it wouldn't fit into her lifestyle or goals, and simply isn't a priority.

Laura, on the other hand, wants desperately to have children and is feeling their absence daily; she wonders if it's maybe already too late to start.  She deeply values her spirituality and wants to practice it, uninhibited by convention or space.  Give Laura 5 acres with trees, water and tools and she'll be absolutely content.  She wants to raise animals, spool wool, grow her own food, have a ground-cellar, and the space to create, work and live without having neighbors listen on the other side of the wall.  Laura is exceedingly private.  She has few friends, but those who are can expect absolute devotion and compassion.  She is quick to forgive herself and others and simply wants to live in peace with her family, her farm and her thoughts.

So, here I am - the big, main, body Me, Emily - housing these two totally different set of ideals and goals, trying to figure out what the hell I actually want from life - where am I going?  What am I doing?  Do I want the country or the city?  Friends and activity or family and peace?  Xena or Laura?  It has to be a choice - one or the other.  There is no compromise or middle ground; neither of them would be happy with that; both would be disappointed and unfulfilled.   If I make a decision, however, I think I will also mourn the loss of the life-not-chosen, the death of the other me.  I know it has to happen, but how do you choose to kill half of your dreams - half of yourself?  How do you decide which path to follow?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guilty Conscious

There isn't a lot in my life that I regret; honestly, I can only think of two things - they are the same two that I've had for over 5 years now.  I've done some stupid things, definitely some things that I really shouldn't have done, but precious little that I would actually go back and change if I had the chance.  Those things, however, are not the topic of today's blog for two reasons: 1) no one would understand why that has me sobbing onto my keyboard, and 2) I'm not a fan of snot, and when I cry there is definitely snot, so it's best avoided.  Today's topic IS, however, related: guilt.

Unsurprisingly, I have a lot of guilt.  Perhaps it's the remnants of growing up with a religion that had a lot of rules and expectations that I not only completely didn't understand but utterly failed to live up to, or maybe I just hold on to things too long ... which I actually know is true, since I do also have a tendency to hold grudges.  Whatever the reason, there are two things that have been plaguing me for years (hmmm ... I sense a pattern of 2 ... now that I think on it, there are only two people that I still hold a grudge against as well ... hmmm ... dammit, now you know I'm going to be looking for patterns of two absolutely everywhere, utterly convinced that the number 2 has some sort of meaning for my life! ) *Eh-hem* moving on ... where was I? 

 "Two things have been plaguing you ..." 

Oh yes!  So,  two things have been plaguing me.  This isn't the keep-you-up-at-night kind of plaguing, but more the creep-into-your-mind-at-the-oddest-moments kind, the kind that randomly pop up and 30 minutes later you realize you've just been staring into space thinking about them - no lost sleep, but bad enough.  Both of them happened YEARS ago - Jr. High kind of years ago.  I don't know if I've just not done anything in the last 15 years to have guilt over ... haha!  Well, that's certainly not the case, so apparently my mind is starting with the early stuff and working its way up from there, and since my mind apparently only deals with issues two at a time (which we learned today), it chose these two:

1) In 6th grade, a boy in my class - we'll call him Edmond because I have never even met someone with that name - had some sort of brain surgery.  I think he had water on his brain, and if he hit his head too hard there was the potential for him to die.  Just imagine being a 12-year-old-ish kid, you've had brain surgery, you have to worry about not getting hit on the head too hard, you have to wear a bike helmet everywhere you go to help prevent your death if you do get hit hard on the head, and everyone in your class makes fun of you for it ... everyone, yes (here is where the guilt comes), everyone including me!  We were totally brutal to Edmond!
"Hey Edmond, how was your bike ride?"
"It's lunch, Edmond, not time to ride your bike!"
"Is English a little hard, Edmond?  Afraid it might hit you in the head?!"
I mean, seriously, it was absolutely ridiculous!  I'm furious with 12-year-old me!  It's not like he was new and we didn't know him (not that that would justify anything of course!) - we had gone to school with Edmond since kindergarden, and it's not like he could escape us - we all graduated high school together!  He had to go through the rest of school with the knowledge that the kids he had grown up and gone to school with his whole life didn't seem to give a shit that he could die.  I like to think we would have cared if something had happened, but you wouldn't know it to see how we behaved toward him.

2) I had a best friend growing up - how about I name her Suzie as I have only known cats with that name ... hmmm, ironically she hated cats, maybe I should name her something different ....  Anyway, her mom owned a business across the street from my house, and we played together almost everyday after school for years.  Jr. High rolls around, and we grow apart, inevitably.  We're still nice to each other, say hi, occasionally hang out, but we're not really good friends anymore.  My sister is dating her brother and for whatever reason I'm really irritated by this - something about "you spend more time with Suzie; when you have kids together you're going to want Suzie to babysit them, not me!" - seriously misguided anger!  So I do what any pissed off 8th grader does - I write it down in a note, but not only that, I give it to Suzie's now-best friend.  I can't even describe how bad this note was - it was horrible!  I don't even know how to describe it and pretty sure I don't actually want to ... it said horribly rude and untrue things about Suzie's family - people whose house I had played at and stayed over at for years, people who had been wonderful and kind to me ... I don't remember what all it said and I hope to god it doesn't exist somewhere still!  Needless to say, that ended any remnants of a friendship with Suzie right there.  It's a little difficult to avoid someone in a school of around 300, but we managed it for the next 4 years.  After high school I moved away - that made the avoidance much easier - and now it's 12-years post-note, and I've barely said a word to her since.

So, what brought this guilt-confession on?  Well, I saw Suzie on facebook the other day (ahhh facebook!) - apparently she's going by a different version of her name now, like going from Suzie to Susan - so I facebook-stalked her for a little bit, looking at her pictures, seeing that she's engaged, etc., and I had this overwhelming urge to write to her, to tell her I'm so terribly sorry for what I said, that I wish we could have been like those people who becomes friends in 3rd grade and stay friends for life, but how do you say that to someone you've hardly spoken to in 12 years, someone that you hurt so badly?  I will probably never see Edmond again - never have the chance to apologize for being such a mean little kid, but she is right there - I can email her so easily ... I can, but I'm so afraid to!  Is it better to drag it all back up just for the chance to relieve my guilty consciousness, or to hope that it's not something she thinks about any more and let it go? 

I'm not even close to the same person I was then - thank god!  I'm not nearly as angry at the world (I swear!) and I'm much more conscious of the potential outcomes of my actions.  So, the big question is: what is more selfish - bringing it up and apologizing - and I truly truly am sorry - while assuaging my guilt, or letting it go and letting her live in peace while I just deal with the guilt I feel as a not-quite-fitting-enough punishment?  I'm conflicted - I simply don't know the answer to this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The colors of social interaction

I'm wearing a pink shirt today (yup, that very one over there --->).  I know, I know - this doesn't seem profound or even very interesting, and you may very well be right, but bare with me and give me a moment to explain.  This is actually a fairly big moment for me!  You see, I don't wear pink ... no, that's not entirely correct - I don't wear colors, period!  To give a little perspective on the matter, a perusal of my closet, dresser and laundry basket turns up: 

- 26 white, off-white and mostly white shirts, tank-tops, sweaters and jackets
- 9 brown or khaki pants, skirts and dresses
- 22 black or grey shirts, tank-tops, sweaters and jackets
- 7 black or grey pants, skirts and dresses
- A smattering of maroon and a pinch of green thrown in to prove I can at least see colors!

As you can see, I'm not one to deviate from the tried and true fashion rule that you can't go wrong with black, white and brown or variations of those non-colors.  Colors draw too much attention, require too much interaction with those around you and generally say to the world, "why yes, complete stranger, I am in fact open to your advances of social friendliness, I will have something witty to reply with and we'll both leave the interaction feeling happy and refreshed!"  This is generally not the impression I want to leave with people, not because I'm not friendly or don't want to talk to the random, caffeine-starved (or overdosed, depending on the time of day) people I'm standing in line with, but because those very people will leave with their hopes of casual conversation dashed upon the rocks that is my social awkwardness.  

I generally make one of two mistakes when strangers try to talk to me. Probably the most common problem is that I end up having a conversation with myself while trying to figure out how to retort their brilliant opening line, "hi!"  If  you live in my head - which, thank your lucky stars you don't! - the exchange sounds something like this:

Stranger, attempt 1: "Hi."
Self 1, to self 2, "say hi!"
Self 2, "She just said hi, I can't say exactly the same thing!"
Self 1, "Say 'hello' then."
Self 2, "Doesn't 'hello' sound entirely too formal?  I might as well ask if she's 
         seen the queen lately."
Self 1, "... ... ... What?!"
Self 2, "You know, formal - queen, you have to be really formal to meet the queen."
Self 1, "How do you know that?  Have you met a queen lately?"
Self 2, "No, of course I haven't meet a queen, but you can just imagine how formal 
        it would be to meet one!  I think there are a bunch of rules you have to 
        follow, mostly about being really formal ..."
Self 1, "Oh, you're right, remember when Michelle Obama met the queen and broke some 
        sort of touching rule - the press wasn't happy about that. I guess ..."
Stranger, attempt 2, "It's a really long line for coffee this time of day, isn't it?"
Self 2, "Yeah, it really is!"
Self 1, "Don't say it to me, say it to her!"
Self 2, "But it's so obvious!  I need something witty and interesting to say!"
Self 1, "No you don't! Just say something! Tell her you like her shirt."
Self 2, "What?!  No, that's creepy - she didn't ask me about clothes, she asked 
         about the coffee line - I can't just change to subject to something so 
Self 1, "It's a shirt - she's wearing it in public, it's not that personal."
Self 2, "Yeah, but ..."
Self, to the stranger, "Um ... yeah, it's pretty ..."
Barista, "Hey, you, with the kitty-kat cup holder, it's your turn to order!"

Of course, if you're the stranger - or anyone else caring to listen - it sounds, and looks, like:

Stranger, attempt 1, "Hi."
Crazy woman with the white shirt, black pants and kitty-kat cup holder turns around, as if to respond, but instead stares with brow slightly furrowed ...
Silence ...
Silence ...
Silence ...
Stranger, attempt 2, "It's a really long line for coffee this time of day, isn't it?"
Silence ...
Silence ...
Eyes move down to shirt ... silence ...
Silence ...
"Um ... yeah, it's pretty ..."
Barista, "Hey, you, with the kitty-kat cup holder, it's your turn to order!"

This exchange is probably more preferable - to everyone involved - than the seldom-used alternative of voicing the confusion in my head, which goes something like:
"Michelle Obama is the queen of the United States, and I think she has a shirt exactly like that one! ... Look! Kitty-kats! (maniacal grin, pointing to my cup holder)."

The problem is that spontaneous interaction is just that - spontaneous - it lacks any sort of relational definitions or boundaries.  If you'd see me at work or school, you'd never guess I can't hold coherent chit-chat with those around me - I can schmooze, connect, network and function normally with the best of 'em!  But the game is different - the rules are outlined and my role is specific!  I can do specific roles!  I can be work me, and you can be work you and there are rules for that dialog and relationship!

This is something I'm working on, however; hence, the pink shirt!  It's the brightest, most come-and-talk-to-me thing I own!  I'm making progress! I'm willing to try! I'm totally not planning to leave the house today!