Thursday, September 30, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 8

Today's topic is "someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit." I'm going to resist the urge to write about family members here. Because, let's face it, while certain ones drive me crazy, and too many of my relationships are out of balance, that's not really what this is about.

So I'm going to talk about teachers. I did, on occasion have supportive, encouraging teachers, but they were the exception, not the rule. More often that not, however, I wound up with teachers that did not understand me, and wound up trying to discourage me. It was really frustrating for me -- and probably more so for my mother.

As a kid, I was always reading and writing stories. I'd read on the bus, under my desk, during lunch, on the playground during recess -- and my teachers used to actively discourage it! One teacher kept commenting to my grandmother (who worked at the school) that they needed to get me to put down the books and play more, "like all of the other kids." And I got in trouble for reading things that were age-inappropriate -- i.e. too advanced. I was also in a gifted program that took us out of class to do additional work, and we were expected to make up all the regular classwork that we missed.

I always felt that I was being punished for being smart. So I would act up -- I stopped reading what I was assigned, I refused to do my homework. In short, I decided to purposefully stop participating in the system. It took my mother a long time to figure my behavior out, but eventually she understood. It got somewhat better when we started having classes that were tracked for "gifted" or "honors."

Still, in a high school gifted English class, I had a teacher that tried to get me kicked out of the program because I refused to write a five-paragraph essay that just regurgitated the points that she made about the books. I had written a paper with my own ideas, in my own way, and in my own voice -- and rather than encouraging me to think for myself and try to support my own conclusions, she tried to punish me. And again, I was lucky enough to have a mother who encouraged me and fought for me.

Yesterday: Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Tomorrow: Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 7

Today I'm supposed to write about "someone who has made your life worth living for."

I was born. It was not my choice; it was my parents' choice to have me. (This is particularly timely today, on what would have been my parents' 36th wedding anniversary.) I am grateful for that -- glad to be alive, in the present time, in my present circumstances. I am cognizant of the myriad ways that the stars had to align for everything that I am and everything that I have to even be possible. But yet, I don't live for or because of any of that.

The idea of someone -- just one person -- who made your life worth living? It's trying to reduce your entire existence to one relationship. To me, that seems dangerous, lacking in a solid foundation. Life is more beautiful, more subtle, more complicated than that.

I live for me. Maybe that's selfish.

Yesterday: Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Tomorrow: Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 6

Today's topic is "something you hope you never have to do."

This brings me to something I think about a lot: death and loss. I wish I had never had to learn how to lose someone I loved and how to grieve. But ultimately, loss and death and grief are universal -- we all have to go through it at some point. If you're lucky, you don't have to think about it until you're good and old and perhaps ready to let go of things. Personally, I think had to learn the lesson a little too young. In the absence of that lesson, I would say that I hope I never have to go through the loss of anyone that I love, but now I know just how unrealistic that is. Besides, my grandmother is 85 and my dad is almost 70. Ultimately, eventually, I will lose them both -- and perhaps my siblings, other family members, and friends. I now know that life is like that, and all you can do is love the people you love while they're around for you to love them. It sounds so simple, doesn't it?

Every once in a while, my dad and I talk about "what ifs," and things like his health care directives. As far as I know, he hasn't reduced any of it to writing yet, but I know he's going to put me in charge. And I hope that I never have to make any of those decisions. I would be no good at it: I am no good at letting go.

Yesterday: Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Tomorrow: Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.

Monday, September 27, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 5

Today I'm supposed to write about something I hope to do in my life.

There are a quite a few that come to mind. Many of the first ones were travel related: I would like to see every state, go to a baseball game in every major league park, travel the world. And then there are the accomplishment goals: I would like to write a book, get my Ph.D. But all of these are small goals -- and are all things that I've at least started working on.

Then I realize what the real answer is: I hope to someday have a family. This is something that I didn't really know or understand until a few years ago. If you had asked me if I wanted kids when I was 25, I probably would have looked at you like you were crazy. If you had asked me the same question at 30, I probably would have said maybe, but not any time in the near future. Then I lost my mother -- and as a result, I realize the importance of having a family, of having ties both to the past and to the future. I want to have those ties.

Will it ever happen? I don't know. Everything else seems so much more controllable for me.

Yesterday: Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.
Tomorrow: Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 4

Today I'm supposed to write about something you have to forgive someone for.

This takes me to Buddhism.

Don't worry, I'll explain.

A few months back, I read some Buddhist philosophy that moved me. My biggest take-away is a quote from Pema Chödrön, "stop having expectations of others and just be kind." (There's another quote from another Buddhist nun that I read recently that strikes me in the same way: "We don’t get angry because the glass is broken, we get angry because we thought the glass would never break.")

When I was at the spa a few weeks back, I took a meditation class. One of the instructors had us try to find a mantra to meditate to. Her instruction was to breathe in a gift that we were giving to our self, and breathe out a gift that we were giving to the world. The Pema Chödrön quote was my inspiration -- my inhalation thought is "letting go" and exhalation is "kindness". For the record, this works a lot better than some random Sanskrit word or focusing on various parts of my body.

So what does this have to do with forgiveness? I have to forgive people -- particularly my family and friends, and most specifically, my father -- for not living up to my expectations. I'm working on it, every day, by trying to let go of those expectations. Some days it's easy, other days, not so much.

Yesterday: Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Tomorrow: Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 3

Today's mission is to write "something you have to forgive yourself for."

I have to forgive myself for not being perfect.

I struggle with this, day in, day out. I hold myself to an impossible standard, and I am constantly disappointed when I can't meet those expectations. It also works in tandem with the walls I wrote about on Day 1 -- I don't let anyone close enough to see beyond the facade out of fear that they can see the imperfections. I know this. I understand this. And still, every day, it is a challenge.

Yesterday: Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Tomorrow: Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.

Friday, September 24, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 2

For Day 2, I'm supposed to write about something I really love about myself. This, too, presents a challenge, because there are so many things about me which are loveable.

For example:
  • I am cute. I have pretty eyes, and dainty features. My hands are nice, especially when my nails are long. I have small feet, and my toes are not gross.
  • I am very strong for as small as I am.
  • I am a really good person and a really good friend. I am a good listener. I am reliable. I am honorable. I am not purposefully hurtful. And, despite what my brother might tell you, I am very nurturing.
  • I am smart, I am clever, I am witty, I am funny -- and I know that "smart, clever, and witty" and "clever, witty, and funny," while related, are not precisely the same thing.
  • I know the difference between their, there, and they're, and how to use them in correctly-spelled, correctly-punctuated, complex sentences. (Take that, oxford comma!)
  • I am good at my job. I am organized, precise, able to multi-task. I am a good researcher. I am a good student. I am a good reader. I ask thoughtful questions. I am a quick learner, and people generally only have to explain things to me once.
  • I have an exceptionally good memory.
  • I can keep plants alive.
  • Giant t-shirt collection notwithstanding, I have excellent taste in shoes and clothes. I also have an uncanny ability to bargain shop.
  • I am quite decent at fantasy baseball and fantasy football -- and don't have to qualify that with "for a girl."
  • I can make a sock monkey. From, like, actual socks.
  • I can gift wrap presents like no one's business.
  • I make great cookies.

Clearly then, I am awesome. And I love that.

Yesterday: Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Tomorrow: Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

30 Days of Truth: Day 1

So, for Day 1, I'm supposed to write "something you hate about yourself." At first this seems easy -- I have a host of things about myself that I really don't like. I don't like my weight. I don't like my thighs. I don't like how little motivation I have lately. I don't like how easily I give up on things. I don't like how materialistic I can be.

But none of those really advances to the level of hate.

What I do hate are my walls. Almost all of who I present to the world is facade, and my real self is locked away. I don't let people in -- at all -- and as a result, I find myself often feeling that there is no one out there that really knows me. Even my family -- they only see fragments and spectres.

I've gotten close to letting people in -- and there are times when those people probably think I've done so -- but it's never more than just a glimmer, and then I get scared and close back up. I wish I could stop it. I don't know how.

For tomorrow: Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.

30 Days of Truth: The Prologue

Let's face it kids. I haven't exactly been prolific lately. Don't get me wrong: I have tons of ideas of things I want to say -- in my head, in my notebooks, in draft form -- but I haven't really had the inspiration to write anything of significance in weeks, maybe months.

So then I stumbled across this meme -- 30 Days of Truth. GirlVaughn is doing it. Thinking Too Hard is doing it. So now, I'm doing it: 30 days of me trying to write things that are brutally honest.

Here is the schedule:
Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Los Angeles Thoughts

I always relate Los Angeles to my mother. She always told great stories about when she lived out here in the late 60s/early 70s. When I'm out here, I often wonder about her experiences -- what it was like for her to just pick up and leave the east coast at such a young age, with no one but distant family around. Then I realize that I did the same thing at right around the same age. The only difference was that I never went back.

When I checked into the hotel, they put me in room 1015. My mom's birthday. Weird.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bad luck or bad karma?

I almost never write about dating. There are many reasons for that, but they probably all boil down to the same central concept: I am no good at it, and I don't want to give my friends any more ammunition than they already have. Still, sometimes there is a really really good (read: horrible) story that just needs to be told. Today, the merit of the story outweighs my general rule.

A few months back, by happenstance, I met a guy. Right age, right religion, single, liked a lot of the same things, worked in a similar job, similar background, had interests outside of being a lawyer . . . in other words, he was perfect on paper. (Of course, the last time someone was perfect on paper, he wound up dumping me in the IHOP. I should really know better.)

Anyway, the guy and I hit it off almost instantaneously, but because of work, we didn't go out right away. Instead, we spent a few weeks getting to know each other through long email conversations. Eventually, we went on a first date, and a second. I even told my best friend about him, which is something I generally don't do unless I've been seeing someone for a while -- like a month or more.

Anyway, then we went on what was our third or maybe even fourth date. To a relatively early movie, on a random midweek evening.

For those of you who don't know, I like to watch movies. I pay attention. I think about plot twists and acting and cinematography.

I am also not a teenager. This is an important detail.

So, the movie started, and about five minutes in, the guy started pawing at me, like we were sixteen years old and sitting in the back of a theater in a suburban mall -- instead of mid-30s professionals sitting in a downtown art house theater. I politely pushed him away.

He did this on and off for the next two hours, to the same result.

Now, granted, I can occasionally be cute, but I am not that irresistible. And I expect to have my boundaries respected. So by the time the movie was over, I was really annoyed and felt more than a little violated.

He sent me an email that night telling me how nice I was. I ignored his email, and several other attempts at contact over the next several days. I thought about responding and telling him what I was thinking -- and if I were really a grown up, I would have explained and given him a second chance or something -- but ultimately, I am a child, and in that moment, I lacked the desire and motivation to communicate. So, instead, I continued to ignore him and instead concentrated on work -- which, in my defense, was really busy. Not being a total and complete dumbass, the guy eventually got the message and stopped pursuing me.

I thought this was the end, but still, had an inkling that it wasn't. I mean, we don't work with each other, but we run in some of the same circles. I understood that, eventually, my luck would run out, as it always does.

Which brings me to last week, when I was looking for concert tickets on Craigslist and ran across an interesting personal ad. I pretty much never respond to those things. Really. But the ad was interesting and funny and witty and my curiosity got the best of me. So I wrote a quick note in response to the ad.

Of course, it was him. And rather than ignore it (like I would have), he decided to write me back, making a joke about trying to figure out what etiquette dictates. And what would Emily Post or Miss Manners do? Well, they wouldn't have responded to a Craigslist ad in the first place. So now, here I am, completely mortified. FML.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Fifteen Albums

(from Facebook)

The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Choose fifteen albums you've heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.

15. U2: Achtung Baby
14. Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
13. Pearl Jam: Ten
12. Dave Matthews Band: Crash
11. They Might Be Giants: Flood
10. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
9. U2: The Unforgettable Fire
8. The Cure: Disintegration
7. Nirvana: Nevermind
6. Guns N Roses: Appetite for Destruction
5. Bon Jovi: New Jersey
4. Madonna: Like A Virgin
3. The Police: Synchronicity
2. Led Zeppelin IV
1. U2: The Joshua Tree