Sunday, December 6, 2009
'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.
EMILY'S LIFE GOALS!!!!!
#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
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):
Monday, October 12, 2009
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
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
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
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 ...
Friday, August 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
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.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
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: