Tuesday, November 16, 2010
As this time of year rolls around again, it is hard for me not to draw parallels to last year. Last year at this time, I was, what I thought, a silly girl with crush. And I did silly things because that's what happens when you have a crush. It is hard for me not to feel embarrassed about some of the things I did or thought even a mere year ago. I once lectured my then-friend Travis over g-chat, this time last year, about how he shouldn't be so physically affectionate with girls he only intended to be friends with. At the time, I thought I was being grown up. But I was also nursing a little bit of hurt pride. I had begun to fall for him, had recognized belatedly that it was not reciprocated, and was pushing back in the only way my pride knew how: by pretending like I knew all along what everything was about. Covering my naivete by affecting urbanity.
Like I said, at the time I thought I was being grown up. Now, I feel supremely foolish about it. I say, "Travis, how did you end up with that silly girl with a crush? That unsophisticated newbie who had never even kissed a boy before you came along? Who thought she knew what everything was about because she'd had her heart broken before?" I cringe when I think about this time last year... even though, even though there was so much good.
I have developed a system for dealing with the times that I am falling under the influence of an insecurity. I think I am borrowing this idea from my sister-in-law Mary--maybe read it somewhere on her blog, can't remember--and I am certainly stealing it from Ursula K. Le Guin. But there is a certain power in naming something. In the book A Wizard of Earthsea, Ged is endlessly chased through by a nameless shape, a fear, that nips at his heals and threatens to consume him wherever he goes. At the end of the story he turns around, faces the thing, and defeats it by giving it a name. It's a beautiful story, and this same concept works, for me, in real life. Whenever I sense that I am succumbing to the influence of an insecurity, if I just stop, take stock, and name what it is that's bothering me, I am almost immediately freed from its grip.
I find that over the last four months, i have had to do this over and over again as various little insecurities crop up. But they have all been successfully navigate, including the last one mentioned above. The fact is, we all need to go through whatever it is we go through in order to grow up, and it doesn't do any good to look back on our past selves with scorn or with embarrassment. We change--even from one year to the next. We make mistakes, we learn (or we don't) and we move on (or we repeat). True!
And so it behooves us all to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, yes? To allow that we change.
I'm probably writing this post more for me than for you because, frankly, I'm one of the most insecure people I know. But I'm learning not to let that form of pride--because pride it surely is--get in the way of the rest of my life.
I look at it this way: In spite of my being silly and naive, and in one case just stupid, things turned out as they should with me and Travis. Who cares about last year. It's now that matters. Now and tomorrow and the rest of forever.
So there. I've named my insecurities: Pride. And Pride leaves no room for growth. Or love.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Travis has been growing his beard of late. Ever since we got married, to be precise, and even before that. It became more a joke than anything to let it keep growing. And then he had the brilliant idea to build a Halloween costume around the beard. Face it. It isn't every day that one has a beard the ilk of which Brother Brigham himself would have been proud. Captain Ahab it was. Of course, this being our first Halloween of married life, I wanted to do a couples thing, which could only mean one thing for me in the costume department.
I knew right away I'd have to make my own costume, but in a flurry of denial, I did my research on the internet. Someone, somewhere had to be selling a whale costume!
Well, it turns out that someone, somewhere does :
It simply wouldn't do. Besides being the wrong size, it was the wrong kind of whale. So I sucked it up, went to Joanne, waited half an hour in the pre-holiday costume-making rush to get my swatch of fabric cut, bought a few other things and went to work. I already owned a white hoodie, so I decided to work with that as the top half of my costume and, for the tail, to construct something like a white mermaid tail. But a whale tail.
(As an aside, I learned something as I researched the shape of a whale tail--an intriguingly descriptive slang word, in fact. According to Wikipedia, "whale tail" was selected by the American Dialect Society in January 2006 as the "most creative word" of 2005. For this:
Yep, that's a thong. And I think I agree with the American Dialect Society's pronouncement.)
Anyway. What I was really looking for was something more like this:
So with this shape roughly in mind, I began to design my own patterns--which I did before going to the fabric store--guestimated the amount of yardage I would need (which I ended up grossly overestimating. I'll have to make a few hundred fleecy stuffed animals with the leftovers, I suppose.) re-taught myself how to use a sewing machine and got to work. Below are pictures of the work in progress:
I don't know why I thought I could finish this in a couple of days. Probably because I could have if I'd really set my mind to it. In any event, I am not a very crafty person, so it was a real challenge. Still, it was fun. And my photography fails to show the full extent of the shoddy workmanship so all is well.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I dreamt that I was out late one night and my friends Shanelle and Mike, Julie, Whitney and Daniel all pulled up in a car. They were going somewhere without having called me. I thought, “Since when do my friends start doing things without telling me? Is this what happens when you get married?” Anyway, I told them I really wanted to go to Cold Stone and get chocolate cake batter ice cream, so they all agreed. I also casually dropped into the conversation the fact that it was August 5. “Oh my gosh, it’s Pear’s birthday!” They all said. I said it to make them feel obliged to go to Cold Stone. (Heh.) So we all went and we ordered from the girls behind the counter, and we got the little pagers that tell you when your order is ready ('cause it takes SO LONG to get ice cream ready.) Anyway, we all went outside to wait, and it was suddenly late afternoon and not evening. Travis and I decided to go for a bike ride up to the church building just up the road to check it out for some reason. When we got there, people from our old ward were playing broom hockey in the cultural hall. We said hi to a few of them. I was anxious to get back to Cold Stone because I was pretty sure the pager wouldn’t work from this distance, but Travis told me to relax. I also had to go to the bathroom, but since there were several wards’ activities going on, I couldn’t find an empty bathroom. Finally, after walking across at least two cultural halls, I found the other side of the immense church building, and an empty bathroom. When I came back, I was really insistent that we go back to the creamery. So Julie (whom Travis had mysteriously transmutated into) and I rode back down the hill to Cold Stone in the late afternoon. By the time we got there, it was dark again. Which was weird. My pager had never gone off, but I was quite sure it was because I’d been too far away. So I went into the creamery, which was about to close, and lied and said my pager had never gone off and could I please get my order. I was as nice about it as I could be. They were nice, too, but they handed me two free cookies instead of my ice cream because I guess they had really closed up shop. I said, “This is really nice, but can I please just get a SCOOP of chocolate cake batter ice cream? It’s all I want.” One of the girls went into the back room. I think she didn’t know how to handle the situation because a manager came out and said to his staff, “Now girls, what do we do in a crisis?” And he pointed to a poster on the wall that told them how to react in a crisis. Then he asked how he could help me. I told him I just wanted some chocolate cake batter ice cream. It took him about ten minutes, but he finally was able to fish a tiny ben and jerry’s type container of chocolate cake batter ice cream out of some freezer. The freezer was a tiny hole behind the counter that was way up close to the ceiling. It was bizarre how hard it was to get my ice cream. Maybe the girl who had complained had a legit reason. I finally got my tiny container of ice cream and I rejoined my friends who had long finished theirs.
And then I woke up.
Friday, October 15, 2010
10 Things this Public Librarian Hates About You: True Confessions of a Fledgling Reference Assistant.
It’s not easy working with the public. Any flight attendant, receptionist or customer service rep can tell you that. So I present for your consideration 10 things that make my work harder than it needs to be. And this is going to come off as really negative. But level with me: Sometimes it’s fun to be snarky and my snark-o-meter is off the charts today. So get ready for some good-hearted—and perfectly legitimate—reasons why I hate (certain) patrons:
Does this look like a cafeteria? Is there a big yellow M rotating slowly outside our building? No. So eat your food elsewhere. “But I’ll just eat at home around the library books, so what’s the big deal about eating in the library?” We don’t really care what, where and how you eat at home just as long as you don’t ruin the books. But we can control what, where, and whether you can eat in the library.
I can’t tell you how many patrons apologize for “interrupting” my work at the desk with a question. Your questions are my work! And believe it or not, I’m not going to think you’re stupid. I really don’t take for granted that you know your way around or how to read a Dewey call number. So when I’m sitting at my desk “deeply absorbed” in my work, 19 times out of 20 I’m playing around with different search techniques, or reading work-related emails, or even just reading the New York Times online!
3. Overly chummy patrons.
Like I said: we love answering questions. It’s why we do our job. But please don’t talk about your uncle’s best friend’s cousin or your crazy political conspiracy theories or anything else completely unrelated to your reference question. We’re not your best friend, so don’t draw us into pointless conversations when other people might really need our help. No, actually…just don’t do it because it’s annoying and we have to pretend to care.
No…let’s call a spade a spade: Rudeness. In what universe is it okay to be impatient, nay, rude to someone who is sincerely trying to help? A patron who is already in a bad mood will often find any way to misconstrue a librarian’s genuine mistake into a deliberate attempt to sabotage them. You may be having a crappy day but please don’t project your hostility on to me. And if you threaten to talk to my supervisors? Be my guest. They don’t tolerate a bully either.
Not food servers. People who wait at the desk without ringing the bell. I try to stay at the desk as much as I can. I really do. My job is to be available to answer questions when they come. But sometimes something pulls me out into the stacks and I may not notice you standing there, pursing your lips and tapping your fingers impatiently until I’m on my way back again. Ring the damn bell.
I am not responsible for providing your child with pens and an unlimited supply of paper while you play on the computer. If you bring your kids to the library, take them out of the kids section and expect them to be patient while you do your thing, you better provide your own distractions. My job description does not include making paper airplanes, cutting snowflakes or making sure your kid is not disrupting everyone else who’s trying to study. Believe it or not, I don’t think your kids are as cute as you think they are. And if I catch them pulling books off the shelves with reckless abandon, I will hunt you down and kill you. (I should just note here that children are some of the best public library patrons, usually polite, and delightful in almost every way.)
There’s a little thing called the Child Internet Protection Act that not only makes it a bad idea to look at porn in a public library, but illegal. Are you so pathetic that you can’t wait to look at this at home? Or on your own computer? You don’t have one? Not my problem.
8. “Is it clean?”
Here in Happy Valley we get this question a lot, especially down in the movie section. Probably this question shouldn’t bother me, but it does. Who am I to be the arbiter between you and what media may or may not be “clean?” And how am I to even know what your standards are? Don’t assume that I know what you mean. Moral standards may be important to you—and to me too! But don’t assume that I too consider a movie with one or two swears in it to be “unclean.” I don't let the MPAA dictate what I do or don't watch.
Bad and annoying things happen in libraries. They do. Sometimes other patrons are inconsiderate. Sometimes things are too hard to find. Offer a suggestion. Fill out a form if you must. But I, the person at the desk, am but a peon in the library hierarchy. All I have the power to do is to pass along your suggestions to the Powers that Be. But if you offer them in the spirit of complaint—or entitlement--I may be less inclined to do so.
10. Indecisive reader.
One of my duties is to advise people in the choice of a novel, and while this is often challenging, you can have some fun with it as a librarian. But for some patrons, nothing I suggest is good enough. The one book they’ve read in their entire life is Twilight by Stephenie Meier and they want to read something exactly like that. Exactly. Newsflash: (Do I even need to say this?) NO TWO BOOKS ARE EXACTLY ALIKE. All I can do is offer suggestions based on a brief discussion with you about your tastes and some books you’ve read that you liked. It’s hard enough recommending books to people you’ve known your whole life. I can only do so much for a total stranger. And another thing. Do yourself a favor and branch out a little.
I love my job. I really, really enjoy helping people. There is pretty awesome satisfaction in helping someone achieve something, whether that be finding a book or creating a document or leaving with an armful of fantastic movies. But don’t be a bad patron, because then I will have to hate you. And that would be sad.
Monday, September 20, 2010
And then I thought, "I'm better than this. And what's more, I have control over who I am and what I do." I made a resolution that day that I was going to control my outward response to things. I may not be to the point where I can control how I feel, but I can control what I do about it, and that in turn will help my feelings change. My goal was to take things a week at a time.
I should know by now that whenever I make a goal to self-improve, temptations, trials--whatever you want to call them--inevitably pop out of the woodwork. Last week was one of the most upsetting weeks for me at work, to date. Without going into specifics, I'll just say that something I said was misconstrued and there were repercussions. No, I did not get in "trouble" per se. But it was one of those times where I felt like I should have known better than to do something--in fact, deep down I did know better--and yet I did it anyway. I'm not used to feeling like an idiot, so when I feel like one, it's extremely upsetting. I have always been outspoken and impulsive, a bad combination. And a tendency toward hypersensitivity doesn't help either.
Even now. Even now, I want to stand on the rooftops and defend myself! Explain myself! And to my sister (who is my coworker) and my husband, I did plenty. But my small triumph this week was that, at work, I was able to respond to the situation in what I thought was a mature way. I wasn't perfect. I don't believe I was totally able to mask my upsetness, but I tried. I may not have swallowed everything, but I swallowed a lot.
It's a start.
Now, I have to learn to forgive my own and others imperfections. Life really isn't fair, and those who live it expecting it to be are in for a lot of frustration.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Travis bought this about three weeks ago while I was in Alabama for my three-day library school orientation. It was sitting on his desk when I came home. My first reaction was, "You blew 60 bucks on a computer game? At the beginning of the school year??"
Fast forward to yesterday. I spent two hours (maybe a little longer) playing three levels of a campaign. That's right. And it was fun.
Years ago, my brother-in-law introduced me to Warcraft II, and I loved it. I loved building farms, mining gold, chopping down forests, and amassing huge armies. I loved my birds-eye view of the world and my omnipotent command. It wasn't exactly that I grew out of Warcraft--rather, our computer software at home grew out of it. We became Mac people, and WC just kind of faded away. Nobody really noticed. Not even me.
Something about the presence of Starcraft, the shiny newest version of the old Warcraft (there was an older Starcraft even) must have awakened in me my former love. Hence yesterday. But in reliving my childhood I made a couple of mistakes: 1) I played too long. 2) I played too close to bedtime.
Right before bed last night, I was involved in a mission where I had to get seven convoys of colonists off the planet before the Zerg picked them all off. I was having to balance the training of troops and the position of bunkers and the mining of minerals, etc. Meanwhile, the Zerg just kept coming and coming and one of the convoys was destroyed and most of the colonists got picked off, and Travis was watching over my shoulder telling me to do this and that, and....I won the mission. But barely. It was tense.
Then we went to bed, and I felt asleep right away. But the mission carried on. My mind kept playing and replaying certain scenarios, figuring out what I had done wrong and what I could do better. I built more bunkers and positioned them more strategically. I mined minerals more efficiently. I trained a better ratio of marines to medics. Still, the Zerg kept barreling in from outer space, burying their huge bulbous bodies into the planet's surface and releasing their disgusting, slimy spawn! (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, that's a good thing.) I kept losing! But I kept fighting, and worse, I kept replaying that damn scenario over and over in my mind!
Finally at 2:30 a.m. I clawed my way out of sleep, having figured out that I was dreaming, and demanded that my brain STOP thinking about Starcraft. It was ridiculous! And it took a good little while to get that broken record of a dream to stop playing in my mind.
Lesson learned: don't play Starcraft right before bedtime. Or ever. (Not likely. ;)
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
I want to write about how I just assembled, and used, my very own vacuum for the first time, in my very own home. I know it's a small thing, but it represents a lot. It means I have a place of my own now. A home where the only other person maintaining it is on the same page as me, and cares about the house as much as I do. I love feeling responsible! Is that weird?? I love feeling like something probably, or even definitely, won't get done unless I do it. I love tying up little loose ends. I love doing the laundry and tidying up our room and doing the dishes and making this little nook of ours feel like OUR space. I like being entitled to mess something up, and then being responsible to put it back together. I'm putting my very small mark on the world, and I feel great.
I really, really enjoy being the principle author of "atmosphere" in our home. Well... I'm more of a co-author right now. Travis is home about as much as I am, for now. But in years to come, when he is schooling and then working more, the lot will fall primarily to me to keep our home a place we'll want to be in.
There's more I need to write about it. But once again, I'm waxing philosophical about something that involves zero philosophy: vacuuming. Bottom line: I like keeping house when it's MY OWN house.
Real post coming up later. I just thought I'd post this now before it becomes outdated and I decide to delete it. Yeah. That's happened many times before.
Friday, July 9, 2010
And then my phone rang and I woke up. But I woke up oddly invigorated...like I had this renewed desire to experience EVERYTHING.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
7. a point that marks the beginning of a change.
For the next seventeen minutes, it's still morning. I can take the time to write.
I am standing on the brink with my arms spread and my eyes wide open. And I'm tipping forward, but not falling. Not yet. I don't feel strange; I don't feel scared. I feel...nothing. Because "nothing" is what I am. I am practically a wife, but I'm not. I'm not in my old apartment, but I am. I am almost so many things that I am not. I don't know how to be these days. I don't know what role to play, or which me to be. Am I uncomfortable? A little bit. But it is only the natural discomfort that comes from being stuck in a liminal space. I am liminal.
That was the catchword in the English Department for many years: Every work of literature was all about "liminality," and I grew to dislike the word. But I find now that it is all I've got. Knowing about it is the only thing that keeps me sane, because liminality--or limbo--by my definition, is not a destination. Thank goodness. It's a passage.
There are lots of things I want to write about these days, but I find that most of them are actually probably too personal. There are things I want to--I need to--say and do. But I cannot. I'm still liminal. I'm still pending. I am in the throes of these desperate last few days before the dam breaks. Before the floodgates opens. Before I begin the last GREAT adventure of the rest of my life. There will be other great adventures. Of course. But I have a feeling they will all be tied inextricably to this one.
It is an immense feeling to love and to be loved.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Wrong. A thousand times, wrong.
Even if my point of view is more valid, I'm pretty sure the great work of this life is not to prove how right one is all the time.
There are probably lots of things that qualify as the "the great work" of our lives. But, Christian or agnostic or whatever it is you believe, achieving basic human kindness is a worthy goal. And not just kindness, compassion.
I'm discovering that compassion requires me to swallow a lot of pride. And I have a lot of pride to swallow, as evidenced (among other things) by my last post. I have a horrible tendency to assume the worst. For example, sometimes I feel unfairly judged when no judgment is being passed. When Paul talks about charity thinking no evil, he's talking to suspicious, defensive, vulnerable-feeling people like me, who tend to take life with waaaay too many grains of salt.
Compassion, on the other hand, tells me to swallow my injury--real or imagined--and see a situation through someone else's eyes. To not project my disapproval of someone's momentary rudeness onto their entire character. To not take an honest mistake personally, or carry insults away with me. Compassion tells me to defenestrate this whole notion of entitlement and "what's in it for me." (Defenestrate: the best new word you've learned all day)
Compassion says, "Wait a minute. That person is not out to get you. Stop, and try to understand before you react."
Why am I posting this? Because I'm thinking about it. Because I had an instance or two just in the past week that could have gone from ugly to worse, but didn't. Because...I don't know why. Because through the haze of my rage, or terrible impatience or what have you, I reached really deep down into myself and from somewhere (I don't know where)I found compassion. It was really, really hard, but somehow, I did it, and it turned my whole day around. It was totally empowering.
I felt like an adult... no, that's a bad way to put it because there are a lot of really. dumb. adults.
I felt whole.
Monday, June 14, 2010
I almost just posted an impassioned entry about how I’m tired of people’s reactions to Travis’s and my, hmm, public affection... But I’ll trade in eloquence for terseness and just say that I’m tired of feeling like it annoys people. I’m tired of people turning their heads away in embarrassment or disgust (I can’t tell which) even when I just lean in to touch my forehead to his or kiss his cheek.
Keeping in physical contact (not overly so, of course) is an important way for me to communicate with him even when I’m not talking directly to him—especially as I’ve been inducting the new entity of us into my HUGE and rather tight-knit groups of friends and family.
Is that so wrong? So inappropriate?
Monday, June 7, 2010
I felt oddly proud.
Obviously, the land was sold, most of the trees cut down, and the only remnant of the Thomas orchard farmstead now is a little nondescript one-story brick home close to State Street, where my grandparents now live.
I have a very strong sense of what it means to be home. When I went on my mission to Brazil for 18 months, I struggled with feelings of dislplacement for a long time. I missed routine. I missed familiar smells. I missed the mountains and the sweet smell of rain on pavement and parched earth. I missed the seasons and the ways my family marked their passing. I found it difficult to face the possibility of moving every six weeks.
Of course I grew to love Brazil. I fell in love with new flavors, new hills and vantage points, and the spicy smell of tropical rain. I felt quite at home in the loud, wild, urban tangle of the city streets and power lines, and even the bad smells ceased to put me off. My sense of place adapted. It became less about physical location and more about people. And when I came home--Utah home--I discovered, paradoxically, that I had left home(s) again.
Two years later. Travis' and my home started with a sense of urgency. A need, really. We are getting married and we didn't know how long it would take to find a decent place. We semi-frantically stumbled upon a nice condo in a good neighborhood, for very reasonable rent, that looks out over the valley to the south. Now that the contract is signed and rent is paid, we've started cooking and eating meals there. Our sparse furnishings comprise a little Ikea implement that fits perfectly in our miniture kitchen and doubles our meager counter space, as well as a comfy chair for my school desk. We were also able to purchase a new bed at cost, and plans for a couch and other chair-like furnishings are in the works, including a giant, blue, Twinkie-shaped "slacker sack." But in the meantime, all we've got is a kitchen table and chairs (courtesy our landlord) and enough guitars and drums to start a small band.
Our first evening spent in our place was a surprise from Travis to me. He brought his projector, a movie I'd been wanting to see for a long time and some pillows and blankets to prop against the wall. We ate our lemon chicken--the first meal in the new place--then settled in on the floor of our mostly-empty apartment for a movie. I felt oddly proud.
My sense of home is adapting again. I find that it's less about people now and more about person. I've never really spent more than a couple hours at a time in the new apartment, but it's already more my home than where I live now. It's probably because wherever Travis is to talk with me, bump into me, or hold me, or just be with me...that's home now, and I'll add it to my collection of people and places I call home.
That's our place.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Here's a taste of my to do list:
-KEEP IT CLEAN (this is a continuous project that is only done sporadically at best.)
Okay, I need to comment about this. I am an inherently disorganized person who has forced herself to become organized enough to function in the adult world. This translates into my keeping up the appearance of orderliness. I keep public spaces clean. I put my dishes in the dishwasher right after I use them; I take my shoes to my room; I turn off lights; I lock doors. But for whatever reason, my room is a neglected space. Why? I don't know. Maybe, like Virginia Woolf, I just need "a room of my own" where my spontaneity and right-brainedness can live unfettered for a while until my superego tells me that the state of my room is no longer acceptable. the short of it is, sometimes it's really nice to just take off your clothes and LEAVE them on the floor and go to bed without some annoying little voice in the back of your head saying "pick it up. You'll regret it later if you dont." And I invariably do. Moving on...
-get a couch
-get a bed
-get a life! (some of my friends are beginning to believe I've died and they've missed the funeral.)
-pay it again. (sell extraneous contract...ahem...)
-pay various parties back money I owe them
-work like crazy until June 26 to fill up 100 extra hours available to me at work
-get announcements out.
-etc. ("Et Cetera" happens to be a very important item.)
oops! and don't forget...
-get wedding band
-get an assortment of ribbons and frills i have to give to various event planners
-AND, get the ONLY thing we really need in the first place viz. the marriage license
I'm sorry for such a disappointingly short and (oh horrors!) disorganized blog post after such protracted silence. But thus is my life. Thus is the life I'm trying to turn into my new life.
I'll probably make a greater effort to blog over the next while. ("Probably" being the operative word.)
Friday, April 9, 2010
I take the mountains for granted all the time. I live ten minutes away from this height, and only come up here maybe once a year to just sit and watch. I look at the tiny, cardboard houses, and the miniscule cars inching along, I see the grandeur of the lake and the mountains rising up all around, I pick out the tiny speck that is my home in the distance, and I feel my cares and stresses ebb slowly away. They are but one more small, momentary thing amid a sea of other small and momentary things.
Then, when I come back down into the melee of the close-up, life-sized, fast-paced world, I know where I am on the grid again.
Sometimes a bird's-eye view of the world becomes a God's-eye view.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
It's unfair to be so happy.
It's unfair to be so much happier than some of the people I love the most.
This is what I feel today. This is the thought that keeps pulsating through my mind. Why? Why have I been given so much and others have not? Why have I been so blessed? I have done nothing, NOTHING!, to deserve it; I am still an "unprofitable servant"as the scriptures say. And yet... why have so many blessings been entrusted to me at this time?
More importantly...what am I supposed to do with it? The happiness, the blessedness? So often I feel the need to hide it, to dampen it somehow in order to shield others. I wish to avoid all appearance of gloating. My happiness is not a badge of honor I wear on my sleeve. But, still, the fact is...I have so much. How do I share it? propagate it? Radiate it?
Why? Why is it so hard? I have been through my fair share of hard. I have been raked across the coals of shattered hopes. But somehow, my hard no longer seems to mean too much to me. I remember the lessons I learned from the Hard, but the "hardness" of it all has faded, and I am light--LIGHT!--with promise!
But today I feel heavy. Not for myself. Heavy with the sense of life's unexplained injustices and hardnesses and heartaches. I feel...I feel like I want to cry someone else's tears, and know--if only for a moment--what it is like to bear their burden, if for nothing else than to be able to honestly say, "I know how you feel."
How can I feel such joy when there is trouble all about me?
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Well, I fell off the ski lift and then spent the next hour falling down the "bunny" hill. I quickly abandoned hopes of engaging in any real skiing and made my only goal to keep my bones in tact and my tibias in their sockets. I was frightened. It was the kind of frightened that surprises you, electrocutes you, into survival mode. It still kind of makes me angry to think about it--the fear, that is.
I really don't have too many irrational fears. Spiders constitute one of them, and so does getting a flat tire. But the fear of dying at a high speed on a ski slope just really didn't feel like one of them. It kind of felt like the most dangerous and most idiotic thing I could ever do. I resorted to tipping over whenever I got up too much momentum. It made for a very slow and frankly harrowing descent. French-fry/pizza wasn't working; my legs and arms were shaking and my hip hurt pretty bad from repeated falling. I needed to gain speed to learn properly, but I needed to NOT gain speed to keep from flying off the edge of the trail into a tree. I was having visions of Sunny Bono, Natasha Richardson, and Michael Kennedy... I was far too young to die.
And there was Travis, patiently snow-plowing the entire run to keep from getting too far ahead.
Inside the lodge, I slumped into a chair and watched hundreds of people clunk by in their ski boots. Many of them were children, most of them seemed happy. Their biggest concern, whether or not the fancy-shmancy restaurant had "kid food" on the menu. The temptation to indulge in a good cry was strong. I didn't want to ruin the day for my more experienced ski companions, but I knew when to accept defeat. I'd barely started...but I also know when I'm licked, and I was licked.
Humility and humiliation are but two or three steps away from each other, and often the only difference between the two is what construct we choose put on the situation. It is the humiliation that brings tears of rage and frustration. Humiliation says, "How can so many people do what seems so totally beyond my potential? Humility, on the other hand, seems to bring a calm acknowledgment of our limitations--and the hope of someday overcoming them. Humility also sees the unexpected positive outgrowths of a bad situation. Like an opportunity for two people to work through a hard day and grow closer as a result.
That was good.
Monday, March 1, 2010
In Brazil, as a missionary, it was nice to have a place to go when there was really just nowhere else to go. This was Liv’s house. Liv was also a ward missionary, so we frequently enlisted her help in teaching investigators. She lived in a version of the same building that everyone in that part of Santos lived in: a building on stilts, about four stories tall, clean, white brick (except her building was red) and gated.
Liv was a naturally blond Brazilian of Danish ancestry, who, I always thought, looked curiously like she belonged in my family. She had the same kind of mouth, the same round nose and roundish eyes, and the same lank figure as my own mother. The only thing that made her typically Brazilian (if there is such a thing) was her brown eyes. Liv had two sons. The older son, the 14-year-old, played guitar.
Lucas sat playing his guitar one afternoon. He slouched back in his easy chair in the unstudied way of the teenage boy, and stroked the guitar as he would his cat, which was curled up nearby. He effortlessly picked out bits and snatches of several different songs. I was mesmerized. Not many people that I had met in Brazil played any instrument at all, let alone guitar. When i asked how long he'd been playing, Liv proudly told me he'd only been at it about a year, and that he'd basically taught himself. I thought, if he can do that, I can do that.
I could do that.
For Christmas this year I finally stopped dreaming of learning guitar and actually asked for one. I knew it was a long shot. But on Christmas morning, there it was: a roughly triangular box wrapped in yellow paper. I was surprised, and thrilled! But as I held the beautiful, pale instrument in my hands and ran my fingers over the glossy, blond wood, it occurred to me that I had no idea what to do with it. No business to even touch it.
Celeste came to my rescue later that day as I sat, perplexed, with the instrument in my lap. She taught me how to contort my fingers into a G chord and then a C chord. My small fingers were weak and could barely hold the strings firmly enough. The strings dug into my soft fingers and left angry, red lines in the pads. "The calluses will come after a couple weeks," Celeste said. I didn't know if I could stand a couple weeks.
Over the next few days I tirelessly picked out G and C. G and C. G and C. I was more fascinated than irritated by the pain in my fingers. Mom gave me a book of chords. I studied the diagrams. The dots and grid that had been meaningless to me before became frets and finger positions. It was such a little thing, but I felt pretty accomplished every time I strummed out a new chord. And even more successful if I remembered it later. Eventually, I added D, Dsus9, E, Am, and Cm7 to my arsenal of learned chords.
Chords alone weren't enough after a while. I have been a pianist since I was seven. I played in a music ensemble for six years in school. I know music. I wanted to play songs. Songs! I wanted to organize my chords into a logical progression, and sing along if I could. I knew it was asking much after so little time, but I started looking up the chords I needed to play the song I wanted to learn first and started stringing them together. One phrase at a time.
(G) "You always were the..." (Em) "...one to make us..." (Am) "...stand out in a..." (G) "crowd..."
G to Am to Cm7 to D, etc. I couldn't strum worth crap. Still can't. But I practiced first with my fingers, and then a pick. I watched the way Travis (who plays very well) held his thumb tightly against his fore finger, with or without a pick. I watched how he kept his wrist moving up and down in a regular rhythm to keep the beat steady. I listened very carefully to the song I was learning, and payed attention to which strings of the chord were being played.
I started picking out another song in the meantime. A Brazilian song. It needed only five chords to play. they were kind of obscure chords, but I looked them up, and I watched videos of the artist playing them. I looked at her fingers and copied what she was doing. It was exquisite. An entirely different technique. She didn't strum the chords; she plucked them, like a harp.
Here's another song I want to learn someday. On the guitar, that is. I already know the words.
I haven't mentioned how bad I suck. I'm trying not to focus on that. This is me suppressing the perfectionist in me--which, believe me, needs suppressing in a big way. This is me focusing on not being proud, but humble, and admitting that there are certain things I'm no good at.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Thus, as I librarian, I have to be logical: These people aren't going to want to go through every book about animals until they get to what they're looking for. Preposterous. So, I have to ask leading--even prying--questions. Questions like, "What grade is your child in? What project is she doing? What kind of animal(s) is she looking for? Your name, your quest, your favorite color?..." Et cetera. Questions that essentially ask, "Now, what are you really looking for?"
Even after that, if the book we've found is unsatisfactory, some of the follow up questions can be pretty vague, like, "Well, can you just find books about Utah in general?" This requires me to flex my librarian's muscle again: "But weren't you specifically looking for books on animals in Utah?" Yes... "So why don't I try a different search, like 'desert animals' or 'animals of the southwest'?" Utah books in general would have just given her a bunch of crap about Jim Bridger and the Great Salt Lake. Maybe seagulls.
If there is one thing I've learned about patrons during my eight and a half months as a pseudo-librarian, it's that many people have no idea what they're looking for. And even if they do know, they still don't know, because they have no idea how or where to find it.
I wonder if all of this, everything I've written, is analogous to human nature in general?
Monday, February 1, 2010
I just spent the last half-hour free-writing something I only half-intended to post. And now that I've re-read it, I am fully convinced I will never post it. At least not in full. It's like brain vomit. But you know what? I got it out of my head. And that's what's important.
For those still curious, I will give a brief but comprehensive update on my life. The biggest news is T. (And I'm not referring to him as T to bug him, because I know he dislikes it, but because this is a public blog, and I think SOME privacy is in order.) I've never mentioned him by name (or initial) on this blog. I'm not even sure I have referred to him in the abstract either. But it is neither my intention to be oblique or abstract tonight, so here it goes: T and I were friends. And now we are dating. In the meantime, we are STILL friends, or at least we still were an hour ago, and will probably be friends ad infinitum, as the ancient Italians would say.
So here goes. Here's my story, and I'm sticking to it:
Once upon a time there was a very judgmental girl who, never admitting this to herself, thought that all the boys of her acquaintance were either totally creepy or immature. And then one day, one of these people, who, in her mind, fell into one of these categories, swaggered into a church activity and caught her eye--all of this according to that most unpredictable of sciences, physical attraction.
But they hardly knew each other, and each, regarding each other with due uninterest (or outright suspicion) simply gave the other a wide berth.
In the meantime, the girl both liked and disliked what she saw in the boy, and battled within herself about it. But mostly, she didn't think about him. Loneliness had fostered within her a kind of defensiveness. And, wishing at all costs to not repeat certain mistakes and heartaches and vulnerabilities she had undergone in the none-too-distant past, she guarded her affection jealously, and resented the attraction she felt for the boy. What would a boy like that have to do with a girl like her? She thought, nothing, and went on her merry way.
Then one day--the day the boy discovered that he and the girl shared a birthday--they spoke again. The day was hot. The girl was coming home from work, and so was he. She saw him drive in, and disregarded it. Then the unthinkable happened. He spoke to her again--he shouted her name across the parking lot--and he spoke to her as easily as if no silence had ever passed between them.
Later that day, to compound the unthinkable, the boy asked the girl for a date. She couldn't go. But that didn't matter in the long run. Not really. The seed of a long series of (hopefully not unfortunate but definitely) unexplainable events had been planted.
Over the course of time, friendship began to grow little by little. Girl and boy began a lively, if somewhat frivolous--though occasionally serious--Gchat correspondence. The girl felt comfortable behind the semi-anonymity of the written word, and began to peel down some of her defenses, one by one. The boy intrigued her. She caught glimpses of certain sides of him she never suspected existed. And naturally, the lively, if somewhat frivolous, and occasionally serious, conversations began to occur--by degrees--face to face.
By late October, the girl's heart was well on its way to being lost. Confused, a little exhilarated, but mostly terrified, she hid these feelings. She did not dare let the boy know, because of a kind of certainty that her confusing, exhilarating, but mostly terrifying feelings were not returned, and would be met unfavorably upon revelation.
So she buried her suffering poet's heart for a month a half, and continued to let friendship grow on its own. November was a black and white month filled with some highs...and some interesting, disappointing lows. But no matter how low it got, the girl felt completely calm, which was the biggest surprise of all. Some days she felt like SCREAMING, "Why?!"...but she didn't. And she inevitably felt better.
By December, she'd had it. The girl had been in this situation before and had learned from it. Seeing that her suffering heart was on the fast track to sure disappointment, she resolved to distance herself from the boy. It wasn't his fault, but his was a door that needed closing, and soon. So she gathered herself together, bolstering her resolve with thoughts of how nice and simple life was going to be again, and with these comforting, if somewhat optimistic thoughts, she started...closing...the door.
But then, for the second or third time during the course of their acquaintance, the unthinkable happened, and this boy--this dear friend, who, unbeknownst to him, was about to be purged from her circle of daily contacts--put his foot between the door and the jam, and said, "Don't go."
So she didn't--but with enormous (and, I think, pardonable) skepticism. Skepticism which, by degrees, melted away into something like trust. And then something that was trust. And then...
Well...let's just say goodnight for tonight. There is more story to tell, but it bears waiting and watching. Obviously, from the story I've told, I have simplified and foreshortened and eliminated almost every concrete detail in the interest of being concise. And I realize that by doing so I broke my promise to be neither abstract or oblique. But oh well. Sometimes a metaphor says more. So I guess if I had to tell this story in one sentence, it would go something like this: The seed that was planted many months ago was a good one--simply because it grew.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
In the waking world, I’ve been in that neighborhood before—and it’s lovely! But what I saw yesterday morning was something else entirely.
The light was bright, and kind of a pale pink, like a summer sunset after a rainy day, when everything is still shiny from rain. Only it was winter, still. The road, which was made of cobbles, sloped down and up on multiple planes, and curved gracefully to the right into a kind of cul-de-sac. It followed the contour of the Provo River, which rushed by about ten feet below, iron gray and turbulent. A venetian-type bridge arched across the gulley, connecting the two sides of the street. Expensive houses—the kind you actually find in that neighborhood—stood very close to each other, as if fighting for every last inch of real estate. Houses like palaces, with Currier & Ives-type lampposts in their front yards, and turrets, and sloping gables. New, old-fashioned townhouses lined the west side of the road in crescent formation, filling in the minute gaps between mansions.
We were going somewhere, to someone’s house perhaps. But we never got there because we were too busy marveling…
I don’t know if it was remembering the scenery from having watched the Merchant of Venice the night before, or the muted morning light glowing through the red, satin curtain of my bedroom window… I often dream about interesting places, but the setting of this particular morningtime dream was exquisite.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Well, let me share with you all a REAL life epic workplace fail that happened to moi. We all know the economy is bad. Well, Orem City has had to make some cutbacks in response, one of which includes reducing janitorial services to almost nothing. As of this week, city staff is responsible for the cleaning of everything in the city center and library EXCEPT the bathrooms. (Hallelujah.) This means that in addition to regular opening and closing procedures (balancing tills, booting up computers, etc.) we also now have a whole litany of other little nitty-gritty tasks to complete. Vacuuming, sanitizing drinking fountains, washing support pillars, emptying garbage cans… etc.
The mezzanine of the children’s wing in the library is a pretty pleasant place (ugh. Alliteration.) a pretty pleasant place to work. Vaulted ceiling, windows, panoramic views of both Timpanogos and Cascade Mountains, and a nice view of the art glass window on the floor below… not bad, eh? Fortunately, I will be working there a lot during the next few months. I was working there Wednesday night with P, the Childrens Librarian when closing time rolled around and we began to make the janitorial rounds.
Note: About a month ago, the library staff all sat down and brainstormed ways to cut back spending and one of the things we all decided to do was turn off the lights at night. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, not really, because up until a week ago, the janitorial staff (the now notoriously ABSENT janitorial staff) would come in at night and clean. Now that they no longer come…well, you get it.
So, P and I are upstairs cleaning, and we’re just about done, when suddenly…
I wish there was some sound, some onomatopoeia, for being plunged into the inky darkness that is a darkened library. Oh, wait. There is. It sounds like this: HEEEEEEYYYYYY!!!! Or if P and I had been any fainter of heart…AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!…. You get the point. Whoever had been working downstairs finished, and—dutifully heeding the counsel of our library director—turned off the lights. Upstairs and down. So what’s the big deal? You’re asking. Why not just…turn ‘em back on? Well, they are the big, halogen (or whatever) gymnasium-type lights that take like TEN MINUTES to warm up and turn on again. Even if they’ve just been turned off.
So the end of the story is this: P and I drop whatever we were doing, find our stuff in the dark and basically FEEL our way downstairs to where there are still some lights on. Needless to say, P was incensed and gave everyone downstairs an earful.
Me? I thought it was kind of hilarious. However. I’m really, really happy we weren’t in the dungeon basement somewhere.
An effort to save money one way pretty much precluded the possibility of saving money in another. EPIC FAIL!
Friday, January 1, 2010
1. Remain integral. Whole. There are a lot of new developments in my life right now. What I am figuring out now is how much to change/give and how much to reserve/receive, and how to remain integrally myself through it all. The way I figure it, one of the great works of this life is to achieve balance in every aspect possible. Apparently one of these equilibriums is to try and learn how to interact with other people and still stay true to yourself and what you know is right. Hard? Sometimes.
2. Strengthen my body. This will require my going to early morning yoga, which will require early bedtimes, which will require self-control. And healthier eating is included in this equation somewhere by default.
3. Remain as close to the Good and True as possible. I don't think this has ever been as crucial to me in my life as it is now. It is frightening how much is at stake. This will require me to be very consistent in practice and in attitude.
4. Get to know Children's literature very well. I just found out my winter schedule at the library and I will be working almost exclusively in the Children's wing. Having read a lot of adult fiction recently (and by that I don't me "x-rated," p.s.) I think I'm ready to explore something new. I'm ready to read about human issues through perhaps the less jaded, gentler lens of childhood experience. I'm also excited to be working in what I consider to be the "pretty" part of the library: vaulted ceilings, panoramic mountain vistas...ahh. More on that later.