Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In My Mind

The longer I live, the more I realize how little I know.

I look back at old entries on here and am struck by how much I have changed in five years. How wrong I was about some things, how far some of my ways of thinking have shifted. I wasn't a teenager when I started writing here. I was 30. And even still, my view of the world has altered. The self that I am now is far less convinced she has anything to teach anyone else. I'm a work in progress. There is so much I do not know.

A long time ago I wrote a list of qualities I wanted, a post about the Woman I Want To Be. It was a long list. It had somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 items on it. The woman I am now has accomplished some of these things (I have adventurous hair. I pay my bills on time. I am more patient. I travel a great deal more...)

But my priorities have shifted.

And my goals have become simpler.

I want to be kind.

I want to learn to be content.

I want to be good at sharing my life with someone.

I want creating to be a part of my daily life.

The rest will figure itself out. Or it won't. But the stress I have created within myself to meet some vague ideal had never been fulfilling or fruitful. The constraints I have put on myself because of my own fears or my need to fit into some image of perfect that I assumed other people had... they have taken me nowhere.

At the rate I am going I may just be completely self-aware and centered and actualized by the time I'm 70. I think I'm kind of okay. At 70? Clearly I will be freaking awesome.

Some part of me wants to remove old entries. Erase foolishness, broad proclamations, a tone that implies a high opinion of my own knowledge and understanding of the world... But it's all a part of the journey, right? I keep running headfirst into the world (or, to be fair, sometimes the world runs headfirst into me) and getting battered and bruised and coming back thinking, "That hurt like hell. But I learned something." Which is good.

Even when what I learn is that I know so little.

That's okay, too.


When I'm struggling with it, listening to this gets me right on track.

It's the funniest thing, because I don't think the person I was 5 years ago would have appreciated this song in NEARLY the same way.

"It's funny how I imagined
That I could win this win-less fight
Maybe it isn't all that funny
That I've been fighting all my life
But maybe I have to think it's funny
If I want to live before I die
And maybe it's funniest of all
To think I'll die before I actually see
That I am exactly the person that I want to be."

– Amanda Palmer


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Crossing Paths

In the past few weeks I've made new friends. People who live all over the world - in four different countries - as well as a few new ones here in the states. It's been a long time since I've met new people I have a sudden and strong connection with. I had begun to think I'd outgrown the ability to make such quick, almost instinctual bonds with people - grown too cynical to allow myself to have faith in a stranger, to grow attached to someone new.

When you've lost many people who are close to you, caring can become a risky proposition. Allowing yourself to become very attached to anyone new seems unnecessarily reckless. Every person you let yourself love is another person you will lose. Funny how I remember the fears I had as a teenager - to grow attached was to risk that someone else would hurt me by rejecting me. Now I simply worry about those I love being safe, being well. For the past few years to add to that burden was unthinkable.

I attended a work conference last week. I had made a few connections via online networking in advance, so I was looking for a few faces that might register or be vaguely familiar after gazing at the icon that had represented them to me for the month preceding my trip. Perhaps there is a kinship to working in a similar field, but I also think sometimes you just know a kindred spirit right away (how very Anne Shirley of me, no?). The first night there I introduced myself to a few strangers, had drinks in the hotel bar, passed time as one does when far from home and surrounded by unfamiliar people. Then one of the people I'd had brief contact with online showed up. Our brief exchange online had left me expecting someone with a sense of humor not unlike my own, a sharp mind, someone I was likely to get along with. Perhaps it was seeing anything familiar after a lonely afternoon, but as I introduced him to the group I had gathered with in the bar there was this immediate feeling of comfort. My introduction read so clearly as, "This is my friend."

Some of my reaction to the people I met is, certainly, that I was fortunate enough to meet some genuinely special people. I am delighted to be keeping in touch with several people I met there and feel an increasing sense of community as we maintain contact. But it was also a striking and much needed reminder that I am not done. The world is still huge and full of interesting and wonderful people. I am not too old, too damaged, too cynical to make a new friend. To care about people who hadn't existed for me just days prior.

The week involved listening to a great many speakers, trying to soak up far more information than I feel I could ever manage in just a few days and being exposed to so many new ideas. The first morning I walked into a conference room filled primarily with strangers and sat down next to an old friend. Who I had met the night before.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Holding My Breath

My friend's husband is a Mexican citizen. They are truly in love. They were married in Mexico City almost a year ago. It was joyous. His family loves her. She is so happy with him, she glows. With him, it's like she has found the security and support she has always needed in order to fully be herself, trust herself, accept herself. He is kind and has a generous heart. He is playful with her and has such unwavering faith in her. I love watching them together. They give me hope.

I wrote a letter of support for her petition for him to come to the U.S. while they go through the process of applying for his citizenship.

I know there are people who marry just for a green card. My friends are not those people. I know that immigration is a complex issue with a fraught history and much animosity on both ends of the argument. My friends aren't making any kind of statement.

They are just in love. They want to build a life together. A life where they can live and work in the same country. A life where the people around them love and accept both of them. They want to have a family (maybe not as soon as his grandmother thinks they should have a family, but eventually - a family!) and a future.

She would move there, but the two of them together in Mexico cannot earn a fraction of what either of them alone could earn here. And his family lives in Mexico City - where it is notoriously overcrowded and incredibly dangerous. If they were to raise their family there, they would share a three bedroom home with his parents, his two adult sisters and their two children. And, like his sister's children, my friend's children would play in a small concrete courtyard with a locked gate to ensure their safety in such a dangerous city. So she is here, away from him. Working in the States, to pay for lawyers, so that someday the two of them can have a life here together.

We all know this - but in the U.S. we take for granted the wealth we are born with. I grew up with very little, but the poverty I was born in is nothing like the poverty they endure in other nations. I thought I understood what an overcrowded city meant until I visited Mexico City and saw the people packed like sardines into bus taxis to get to their jobs, the number of people who share a home - and only one bathroom - in even a middle class environment. There are so many people, there is no escape from it - 24 hours a day you have people around you. Huge crowds in the streets, even at home every bed is a shared space. It's overwhelming. I had no idea.

I think that when we discuss immigration, it's easy for the argument to get focused on our resources and to forget the people involved. Families who are separated. People with no other reasonable choice than to seek shelter in a land that will not welcome them. So that they can make enough money to support their families. So that someday their children can play outside. If I was born in a country where the work I could get would not allow me to live in any comfort, where my children had to be locked in a courtyard in order to be safe, where I could not go out without an escort because I feared for my own safety - I wouldn't care whether it was legal that I travel to a neighboring country to live in safety.

I respect that my friends are doing this the right way, following all the proper legal channels. In spite of how painful it is for them to be apart. But my perspective on this issue is forever changed. I watch my friend working, living alone and missing her husband terribly and I am in awe of her patience. I watch her and catch my breath, knowing how she aches to have him home with her and how long they have been apart as they try to do the right thing.

Monday, March 07, 2011


My mother and I were addressing my little sister's commitment ceremony invites last week (sis isn't sure about marriage, especially when so many of her friends cannot yet legally marry in the states in which they live). We were missing an address, so I called my sister. My mother kept writing while she listened to me talking. I got the missing address from my sister and then read aloud the list of names to ensure that we hadn't missed anyone.

We get to a dear old friend of my sister's who I remember fondly. I last saw him a decade ago. Sis tells me he's met a great man and they're very happy. My mom hears me discuss this with her and I say, "His beau is a bear? That's SO perfect for him! I bet they are adorable together."

My mom asks me - very serious and in all innocence:
"Does that mean he's a plushie?"

She learned that word from my sister.

I hope mom makes some awkward incorrect reference to this during my sister's event. It would be suitable karmic retribution.


My father (who is actually a pretty hip guy on the whole) recently read an article online about youth culture and modern slang. He thinks "I'm just saying." is hilarious. I told him some acronym based phrases that were not on the list he read ("OMG" and "bee-tee-dubs" - which is "BTW" pronounced out loud). But the phrase he CANNOT get over, the one that surprised and entertained him the most, was this:

"friends with benefits"

He keeps repeating it. And bringing it up in conversation. Because he thinks it is bizarre and is vastly entertained that people use that phrase.

It's like having a 7 year old hear a curse word. And they aren't used to it and only understand it to a certain degree but they KEEP SAYING IT.

It's horrifying. Makes me wish I could take his internet access away.


I think this means we've come full circle in some odd way. Now I'm the one worried that they're learning words or phrases they shouldn't know and hoping they won't say them in front of the neighbors.

I bet they felt like this when my brother started belting out lines from Les Miserables' "Lovely Ladies" in the supermarket when he was 4. Or when I was 7 or 8 and they took all of us to a restaurant and I wanted to order my drink myself. I saucily demanded that the server put "a LOT of nicotine!" in my Shirley Temple.

(I thought I had the word "grenadine" figured out.)

This is like payback for those moments, isn't it?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Talking to People Who Aren't There

I tend to be a talkative person, but I have become less so as I have grown older. People don't really need to know so much about me. There are things we say to other people to make ourselves feel better, but that benefit them in no way. Some confessions, deep personal thoughts, difficult truths, messy personal histories... some are meant for few people to hear. Your closest friend, maybe a sister. But really, sometimes we just talk for ourselves and it serves no purpose. Sometimes our deepest feelings aren't meant to be shared. Getting to this has been a process. It took me a long time to learn to trust and to share information about myself or things that I felt with people. Then I had to turn around and learn when to stop. I'm still learning.

As I grow, sometimes I find myself "telling" someone something when they aren't there. The things I know I would be saying only for me, the things that are too hard to actually tell. I will picture the conversation I would have, that I might have about these things. I talk it through. I apologize. I tell the person who isn't there all the hard things they don't know, the complicated things I feel but can't say. Different people in my life, people who were once in my life, people I never got to say my piece to.

Sometimes I want to go stand outside somewhere and call things out. Like The Sound of Music meets Primal Scream therapy. Put me in a dress made out of curtains and set me on a mountaintop so I can give the universe hell for all the things I can never say aloud or realized too late. I can see myself - just screaming out sentences. Because the people who should hear them are gone. Or the time for it is past. Or because it would help me, not them.

It's like an exercise I do in my head...
finding the thing I wish I could say:

"I'm exhausted and sometimes this is too much."

"If I had it do over - I would press charges."

"I should never have left you and gotten on that plane."

"Grow up. See past yourself. Yes, I think you are selfish."

"Sometimes I want to protect you from the world. And yourself."

"You should have left her back then."

"No one believes anything you say anymore."

"Next to you is the safest I ever felt."

"I always loved you."

"Come back."