Friday, December 26, 2008

Being Jane

I always liked the name Jane. If I ever have a daughter, I just might name her that. Conjures up images of Demi Moore doing one-armed push-ups and a woman in a bandana emerging from underneath a car, covered in grime. Today, I repaired a curtain rod, assembled a vaccuum cleaner and changed the headlight in my car, all before cleaning house and hosting coffee-talk with a good friend. (Changed headlights with the help of my oh-so-awesome brother: Even though I kept saying "Are you sure you're supposed to do that?" he knew exactly what to do, and I drove home safely with bright lights going before me.) Stand back, Rosie the Riveter! I like self-sufficiency.

But I also think of Austen's Jane Bennett, a sweet golden girl who exudes pureness of heart and is loved by a lovely man. I like being in love with another person. This has ony sort of happened to me before now, and I find myself stumbling all over the balance between myself and me-with-him. Naturally, I want to always be thinking of him--what he wants, needs, feels--and adjusting accordingly. Is that so wrong, to want to accomodate a loved person before yourself?

Jane is not a mirror, a mother, or a wishing well. And I know that I am not pure of heart. I like to think I can be very sweet, but I'm definitely not golden. I wish I had a better way to reconcile the two, sometimes. Maybe, I should just aim for bronze?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Want: Christmas Edition

Merry Christmas, all! I hope everyone is healthy, peaceful, and fulfilled (or some combination thereof) on this day. I've never really had a lot of committed feelings about Christmas--meaning, I don't have many personal rituals about gift giving, decorating, or card-sending. I like doing all those things, but some years are more fruitful in this way than others. Because of travel plans or transportation issues, I rarely participated in caroling or visiting. Parties were usually confined to the work day or after church. All this to say, I've never made a substantial committment of time or labor to make the holidays a festive wonderment.

This year has been one of ups and downs, and I feel a little differently this time than the last. Thanksgiving always felt a little more my speed--a small, yet vital holiday on which I could count my many blessings, naming them one by one. Christmas has often felt like it called on resources I did not have banked--inner peace, abiding faith, joy, financial strength, unmitigated positiveness, joyous creativity.

My resolution today is to spend this next year banking Christmas spirit. I want to be more loving, more creative, more content, more thoughtful. I want to make people laugh--really laugh. Not just with sarcasm or irony. I want to make things for people and not feel self-conscious about giving them. I want to verbalize my best feelings and share them, unafraid of the consequences. I want to work disclaimers out of my repetoire of things to say. I want to memorize poetry and be ready to quote it. I want to use terms of endearment. I want to be self-controlled in my financial habits, and untiringly generous with my love.

It may be very selfish to say "I want" on Christmas. But this is my wish list for the next holiday season. If I can spend even a moment making those around me happy, fulfilled, peaceful, joyous, healthy, then that will be a tremendous present to myself. No one may be reading this, and I could be saying it all to myself. But today and for this year, I love you, and everyone like you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Me-ness run amok.

Holly extends a tag like a scepter, and I must bow to my liege's will:

Top seven signs of me-ness run amok:

1. Whenever I wash my hair, I apply conditioner, then wash my face, then rinse conditioner. Even if my face doesn't need washing. Even if I'm not taking a full shower. I time the length of leaving conditioner on my hair by the time it takes to wash my face. No exceptions. If I do not do this, then I am confused by what my conditioner has accomplished, convinced my hair will begin to break off or fall flat the minute I begin toweling it dry.

2. I walk up and down escalators. Even in West TN. People stare, but I get where I'm going twice as fast as they are.

3. Closet doors must stay shut at all times when not in immediate use. Daylight, dark, messy room, clean room, doesn't matter. I'm sure there is a Freudian explanation for this. All I am willing to commit to is that the closet door must stay shut. Period. I often find myself wanting to shut them when in other people's houses.

4. Whenever I drive to or through Nashville, and I first see the skyline, I say "Hello, Nashville!" or "Goodbye, Nashville!" outloud, depending on whether or not I am coming or going. I always have a good time when I'm there.

5. Whenever I see my 2-year-old niece, I pick her up under her arms and swing her like a bell saying "Ding, dong. Ding, dong." It has conditioned her to run up at me saying "ding dong" whenever she sees me.

6. I don't like visiting museums with other people, for the most part. I want to be left alone to look at things and read all the labels without people talking to me, or making demands on my time or attention. Of course, I tend to point out all kinds of things that are wrong or design choices I don't like, which annoys my companions. They usually prefer to let me go on my own. PS--to all the museum professionals reading this: Please don't sway the opinions of your visitors by using boldface type on your labels. We all know Andrew Jackson was a racist pig for signing the Trail of Tears legislation, but it is not a museum's function to pot-stir at the sacrifice of honest dialogue. End of diatribe.

7. I obsessively love Lucinda Williams' music. Surprise.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Make it an amendment

Jason Mraz's song "I'm Yours". I'm not necessarily a fan of his, but today a lyric struck me. Probably because my Christian university radio station usually bleeps out the word "God" in the expression God-forsaken. First time I heard it was a little jarring, like hitting the bottom step of a staircase wrong. "It's our (big silent space) forsaken right to be loved." Trust me, I don't believe in censorship, but it occured to me just now that bleeping out that word is probably a good thing. Why?

Our right to be loved is not God-forsaken. God created us with the right to be loved. If we are not loved, it's man-forsaken. Either because we won't or can't commit ourselves to caring for each other. As the producers of Love Actually reminded us, true love comes in many forms--from sex to colleagues. I went to school with a brilliant guy who once uttered this brilliant statement:

"The whole problem with the world is that there is only one word in the English language for love."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to gift giving

It's not needed now. Thanks for the feedback anyway.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gifts, gifting and giftiness

Spoiler alert--Christmas is coming. I know, I hate to be surprised, too.

What do you do when you are trying to choose a gift for an incredibly special person in your life, and your approach to gift-giving is completely different from theirs? In my family, we always choose useful gifts. We like useful gifts, like gift cards, sheet sets, kitchen knives, iPods. My special person believes in giving useless gifts. But no gift is really useless, is it?

When I receive something that had no other purpose than to make me happy, it would be useful. That's the way I see it. And after all, isn't gift giving--at least partially--about what the gift says about the giver? You see, I've already decided what to give this person for the holidays. I decided this based on things he has said he enjoys having and using, and partly on things I want to give him. He hasn't said he wants these things. I didn't check them off his wish list. I think he will like them. I'm not worried about the quality of the gifts, so to speak. But what if he isn't so interested in them because they are "useful"? Perhaps some "useless" gift should be waiting in the wings? Are they going to be perceived as boring or pedantic?

To be perfectly honest (and if you can't tell the truth at Christmas, when can you, eh?) I am a little intimidated by "useless" gifts. Especially if you haven't known the person for years and years. I feel like giving these sorts of gifts takes some warming up to. Maybe my love language is acts of service, so that translates into the type of gift I naturally lean towards.

I'll figure this out. But I think I'll have a useless gift or two around just in cases.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New opportunities

Exciting news! I have been asked to teach a class for the spring semester on curatorial research & planning. I'm going to start small--only one student, actually. We are going to learn all about locating and interpreting primary source material and using them to reinterpret a historic home owned by the university. I'm so proud of this particular student. This project--like all projects you could propose to me--need to be done. Everything about my job screams "do me now." Which sounds racier than it really is. Not going back to edit.

This kid reminds me of the student I wish I had been--and was, in some ways. She has these huge circles under her eyes, and always comes in with a scraggly ponytail, toting books by hand and backpack. Me, too. She also has all these plans that she can't yet articulate with sentences full of "I'm kinda thinking of..." or "Something to do with historic preservation and art. Maybe?" Yep--me again. While I don't think everything about my college experience was a wash (clearly), I hope I can provide her with some more focused guidance I wish I had been given.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peace, Not Contentment

Twelve months ago today, I sat in a guestroom of the Americana Inn, positively vibrating with stress and foreboding that the decision to move to West TN was not the wisest one I ever made. But, you know, I was prepared. People always say "weigh the pros and cons" or "make lists of what's good and bad about this". So I did. I saw 6 pros--major ones. Things like being closer to family and there never being snow in the winter. Of those original 6, 4 came true pretty soon. I feel the truth everyday of better winter weather, close proximity to family, financial peace, and a chance to make a positive contribution to my alma mater while building my professional cache. Another pro just came true last week, when I finally decided on my church home. I'm really looking forward to being a part of the life of the family I have here.

But one pro turned into a con, and the balance between the two was already rather precarious. The cons are what they are. They have to do with the position and nature of the place I live, and the chance they will be otherwise is rather small. I never have been comfortable with decision-making, despite my rather assertive personality and clever mouth. For a good six months after making a life-altering decision, I usually am in agonies over whether what I did was right, and being a slave to crippling what-ifs.

What has helped:
1. Increasingly warm friendships. New friends. It may take me a while to make them, but when I make, they're stuck. My soul has selected its own society and then admits no more.
2. My therapist. For anyone who has ever wondered if they needed to go to therapy or anyone who ever thought they were a failure for going--you do and you're not. Sometimes I just have to get outside of my own head, or let someone else in it.
3. Kirkegaard's Fear and Trembling. This last year has come pretty close to being the third worst experience of my life. SK takes the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, and explores it as a journey of faith for Abraham and what it means to undertake the hardest moments of our lives-- and it is helping me make sense of Worst Experiences 1 & 2 as well as this past year. My favorite passage:
Who gave strength to Abraham's arm, who kept his right arm raised so that it did not fall helplessly down! Anyone who saw this would be paralysed. Who gave strength to Abraham's soul, so that his eye did not become too clouded to see either Isaac or the ram! Anyone who saw this would become blind. And yet rare enough though they may be, those who are both paralysed and blind, still more rare is he who can tell the story and give it its due. We know it, all of us--it was only a trial.
Had Abraham doubted as he stood on the mountain in Moriah, had he looked about in indecision, if before drawing the knife he had accidentally caught sight of the ram and God had allowed him to offer it in place of Isaac--then he would have gone home, everything would have been as before, he would have had Sarah, he would have kept Isaac, and yet how changed! For his withdrawal would have been a flight, his deliverance an accident, his reward dishonor, his future perhaps damnation. Then he would have borne witness, not to his faith or to God's mercy, but to how dreadful was the journey to the mountain in Moriah. Abraham would not be forgotten, nor the mountain. Yet it would not be mentioned like Ararat, where the Ark came to land, but as a horror, for it was here that Abraham doubted.
Venerable Father Abraham! When you journeyed home from the mountain in Moriah you needed no speech of praise to console your for what was lost; for in fact you gained everything and kept Isaac.

4. Lucinda Williams. My father is an unreconstructed Bob Wills fan, and he and I agree that there is a point in your life when a daily dose of your favorite music becomes a life need.

So today, I claim peace, not contentment with my life. I have plans and I have a bright future before me.

Listening to Lucinda Williams, Rescue.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not the Olympics...

but I did just smoke out a bunch of skinny freshmen, to finish 2 miles in 30 minutes, with the lowest heart rate. Just saying.

Listening to: Queen, We Are the Champions

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Man, I love this song.

Is this an escapist plea? I dont' know. But it's got me thinking of future vacations, and I love vacations. Click on the link for "Enough to Get Away"

What's the difference from a Saturday night
Where the light spreads dark around the drunk hearts
In their headless hallways where bodies are put on the market place
To happiness endlessly taking pills
With the young going downI see nothing or nowhere
I know what I've found must be in paradise
Next year we will live in the country
With our money, by day the sky builds
Doing our laundry and renting us some random machines
Getting our religion and sex on the TV
Assumptions made simply to get away
Everyone old is already with me
On tiny decks enjoying midsummer weather and friendly company
And in their picture frames there you and I will be knowing what we've found
Enough to get away
Knowing what we've found
Enough to get away
Knowing what we've found
Enough to get away
Knowing what we've found
Enough to get away
Bright drops of blood so my thoughts are
I turn to lie down but sleep stays far
I'm just an echo of the song going through my head
The light behides the ghost
But I'm the one that's dead
And I think of who you be
When you're here with me
Maybe it's a spiritual disease
Sliding through shoots of oblivion into infinity
Back into our maker's hands
No more rain or controversy
Knowing what we've found
Enough to get away
Knowing what we've found
Enough to get away
Knowing what we've found
Enough to get away
Knowing what we've found
Enough to get away

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hm--so that's what falling off the earth feels like.

So, about the 7-month absence. Everytime I started blogging, misery just bled all over the place. We each have enough misery in our lives, so why add mine to the stream? Anyway, I feel the need to blog today.

Of my two non-family best friends, one I talk to frequently, even if it's for five minutes. Because of our communication style over the years, phone conversation tends to function as the medium through which to arrange business. Even the years we've lived at great distances from each other, phone conversations never seem to be the mainstay of our relationship. Because of our schedules, etc., the other friend and I have marathon phone conversations. Four hours is just the tip of the iceberg, and neither of us know phone fatigue. With both friends, we seem to skim over the surface level conversation, and move straight on to what's really on our hearts. For example, on the phone with Friend B last night, we spent 3 hours discussing mutual friends, and what we perceive to be the splintering of our group.

Here's where I'm going (and thus the whole point of writing today). Since I've been in West TN, I haven't been happy. I've been comparatively more financially stable, more plugged into my family, and I finally FINALLY see some measurable progress in my job situation. When I decided to move here, these were all motivating factors. I was having a conversation with another friend of mine recently, who was facing a similar situation--the overwhelming need to move away from DC, but feeling trepidation about making a final decision. My advice to her, was that she would make the best decision she could make, and then make the best of the decision. I haven't done that, not really. I made the best decision I could make, and I stand by my decision. The reasons to move still stand--I had no money, I wanted to be nearer to the family, and the career opportunity was an unexpected boon. What I have failed to do many times is to make the best of the decision.

Part of what I've been doing, that I never should have, is telling myself that this is temporary and that one day, I can move wherever I want to--even back to DC. While this is technically true (and its quite possibly what I will do in a few years), it reflects a bad tendency to dwell on what was ideal in the past. I think of my friends, my job, my church family in DC, and I forget that I ever had any unhappiness connected to them. One very comforting thought I've harbored here, was knowing that all of my friends in DC were happy and doing well. And then I find out that they are not happy, not doing well, and not happy with each other. They seem to be content at letting themselves drift apart from one another. That group is beginning to divide both physically and emotionally. How can I dream about the day I can move back closer to them, when they won't be there? Last night I realized that I don't have an answer to that question, and that even though I may not have much to cling to here, I now have nothing to cling to there.

So, what am I going to cling to now? The thought is empty and bewildering.