Saturday, November 29, 2008

Synecdoche, New York

There is so much going on here, as Thanksgiving break continues! For anyone in Longmont, Colorado who doesn't know, I would highly recommed eating at A Taste of India (actually, I have no idea if that's the name of the restaurant. The place is on Main Street, about a block south of the Red Room. And, actually, I have no idea if that's the name of a place either. That's where Left Hand Brewery is? Hometowns are so familiar and vague at the same time . . .) Anyway, the food was fabulous (especially the vegetable korma) and the people working there are really nice. Our waiter said that he'd been there for two months and that he really like working there--who actually says that about their job?! And the manager came out to talk to my nephew after my nephew told the waiter that he wanted to grow up and build them a new restaurant (because he liked it there so much). Friendly people; fabulous!

So there's a ton to write about as far as family goes, but here's not the place. I just wanted to check-in and say that earlier this week, for my artist's date, I went and saw Synecdoche, New York. I really enjoyed it, blah blah blah; go see it, if you'd like (I think it's smart without trying too hard, or showing where it's trying). One of the absolute best parts was a quick flash to Michelle Williams' character reading Anne Sexton. Only nerdy people really care what characters are reading, but the best nerdy people rejoice when Anne Sexton is being read--hooray!

So, let's celebrate Anne Sexton and a movie that alludes to her.

Friday, November 28, 2008


So, I'm feeling a little Doogie Howser-ish as I sit here trying to find something to write. I have much to say (I've been around family for two days now; there is a ton to say), yet everything seems too trite.

That said, I have to remark upon how refreshing it is to hang out with kids. My little nephew, who is four years old, was loaded with gems today. My parents have a napkin holder with a cornucopia and some phrase on it; my nephew saw it and exclaimed, "What a good looking cornucopia!" He continued through the day to say things that he was thankful for (including his dog) and to declare each of us geniuses at whatever we were doing at the time (for example, I was the genius of Connect 4 (I couldn't just let the kid win every game, you know (that's the mind-poison of greed, I believe)!).

As we were playing, I tried to imagine what things would seem like through his eyes; I tried to think of how he experiences the present moment. He said quite a few insightful things along the way. At one point we were pretending we were in space; he declared me an alien, and I kidnapped him to outerspace. He then asked me if I was a friendly alien--I had to stop and think. I said yes, so whenever he asked for help (like when he needed to zip up his astronaut suit/winter coat), he prefaced it with, "Friendly Alien, can you . . . ." We travelled all around and after we ate the big feast, we went back to the guest room with his other aunt. My sister and I wanted to chat, and he wanted to play with us. He wanted me to take him to a new planet, so I took him to Courtopolis. Then I passed some gas and apologized. My nephew said I was stinky and Vic said, "It always smells that way on Courtopolis!" (That's pretty much the truth.) So we decided we could all fart on Courtopolis. As a ploy to get some alone chat-time with Vic, I told my nephew that he could be the ambassador of Courtopolis and go tell everyone else what Courtopolis was like.

Like any ploy to get rid of a kid, this one didn't last long. He came back in the room with a sad face and told us that everyone said he was rude. "Why?" we asked. We asked if he farted out there and he said no, that he just stuck his butt up in the air at his mom (he demonstrated this move a few times--it's great). We told him that people are different--that what is acceptable in Courtopolis could be rude in other places.

He was still pouty and told us that one of us should go fart out in front of everyone because "it's rude if kids do it, but it's funny if grown-ups do it."

What wisdom; what awareness of audience and context! And I could see the injustice of it all written on his body--I could understand how frustrating it feels to not be able to get the same response for doing the same thing somebody could do.

My dad, sister, and nephew all have excema; my sister and nephew have it pretty severely. My nephew was having a flare-up as the evening went on and was scratching his body all over. So my sister and I put some of his "stingy lotion" on him. This made him cry, and we tried to calm him down. Vic and I were making puppets with him, so we tried to go back to our puppets, but he didn't want to play. He was still crying and yelling because he was in pain. He said that he couldn't work on his puppet because he was in pain; so we told him that that was ok. He didn't have to work on his puppet, we said, but we told him that it might help take his mind off his pain. A little while later he had calmed down and then exclaimed that he wasn't hurting any more. He said we were right--working on his puppet and listening to music had helped him; he looked so surprised! He was cute as he said that he would have to remember that in the future--that sitting down and listening to music helped him feel better!

Again, what insight! He wasn't trying to avoid pain, but rather thinking of what he could do the next time he feels bad. This is just something I'm trying to do now, myself; for so long I've had things backwards--I've been trying to avoid the pain. What a joy to see things from this guy's point-of-view!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Artist's Way

I talked about this a little bit the other day, I but I just want to recommend (maybe it's the bibliotherapist in me) The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron.  I tried reading the book when I was in high school, but I didn't get far with it.  A few weeks ago, though, I picked up the workbook, and I think it's fabulous.  The workbook describes her basic beliefs (like the idea of morning pages and artist's dates), but is filled with exercises to help put some of her ideas into practice.  So it's less about reading and more about doing exercises.  I highly recommend it for anyone.  It's helping me learn more about who I am.

This morning, for instance, I was writing my morning pages and out comes this huge realization about myself.  Since I've been pretty invested in figuring my stuff out, I was surprised to see that I had some more insights.  I could analyze my surprise (I just did, in my own head), but the point of this post is just to recommend The Artist's Way to anyone.  I'm finding it playful, insightful, and gentle.  It's a nice way to reconnect with yourself.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I was just reading more in Psychologies, and there was a little article written by bibliotherapists, which is a profession I had never heard of before. These particular bibliotherapists are housed in The School of Life.

I just glanced through the websites and I think they look pretty great. Or at least compelling. And clever.

The article recommended two books for someone who is "fed up with my life, and dream[ing] of escape": Waterland by Graham Swift and The Accidental by Ali Smith. I'll add these to my reading list (I haven't heard of either one). I'll try to read these before I run away to London to become part of The School of Life.

An observation

This morning, when I couldn't convince myself to get out of bed, I realized that I like to be excited about things before I do them.  I think that's an attachment to excitement.  And it's no wonder, then, that I spend so much time fantasizing (especially with ideas of escape/travel)--I can get more excited by what I make up than by what is actually in front of me.  I'll work on that (am I excited to work on that?).  

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today's Ungame question

"What would you like to receive on your next birthday?"

Answer 1: Compliments.  I'm SO needy!
UPDATED RESPONSE: What was I last night--a martyr?!  I need compliments now (I think neediness might be connected to my PMS), and not just for my birthday.  For my birthday, I think I need to think big.  I'd love/hate to be on a makeover show, like What Not to Wear.  Or Oprah.  It'd be great.  I'd confront my heretofore low self-esteem; my friends, family, and coworkers would all get a chance to showcase their own selflessness; there would be tears and laughter.  I would ignore all advice until someone stepped in to help me.  And then, at the end, I would discuss the connection between appearance and self-esteem that I have been ignoring most of my life.  And I would start wearing make-up.  (The best part: if I were on What Not to Wear, then I wouldn't have a whole lot of clothes to get rid of.  Although, that might be the worst part--my wardrobe is not very exciting or horrible right now.  Damn it--this was going to be great. . . . Nevermind now.)

Answer 2: There are so many answers here; I don't really feel comfortable giving them!  I feel a little private tonight, I guess!

Holistic Fair: Revisited

I know I complained about the holistic fair yesterday, but now I'm ready to post about the issue I was arguing over.  (I think this is a larger pattern of mine, and I wonder how many people feel the same.  I can't really engage in an issue until I believe that someone can understand my motivation/feelings/intention.  I saw this at play when I was catching up with a friend who was out visiting; I cared about her and what was happening in her life, but I couldn't really be fully present or open until we talked about our feelings.)

Anyway, the speaker yesterday was talking about love and saying that love is a choice before it is a feeling.  He was trying to argue that you could love anything that you put your mind to.  I told him that it sounded to me like he had an attachment to love and that it's beneficial to feel all the feelings in any given situation.  And sometimes love just isn't there.  

I'm not sure, now, how much we agreed or disagreed with each other.  But I'm trying to play with his idea (and not just reject out-of-hand) that love is a choice before a feeling.  Ideas on this?

In Praise of Girlfriends!

This is just a quick note to say how amazing girlfriends are; they are so amazing!  Yesterday I had the privilege to hang out with many of the people I love and admire--we just gathered for brunch.  So mundane, yet so life affirming.  We shared stories and advice.  (People put up with me talking about how great meditation and counseling is--I'm that girl now, apparently!)

We all said a big "hell yeah" to the idea that we'd rather be single than not get what we want out of a relationship.  I've been playing with ideas of wants (just to share an affirmation I've been working with: "There is no ignoring what I want; what I want is love."  And just to clarify, I'm not really talking about romantic love--I'm talking about that feeling that occurs when you are so open to the world and what is.) because I'm not sure about the relationship between wants and gratification vs. wants and happiness.  But what amazes me about my girlfriends (in part) is their ability to be honest about who they are and what they've learned and what they're still confused about.

To me, there's just nothing like hanging out with women who have their guards down; who are open to each other and themselves.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"You don't have to agree with me!"

Tulsa's Holistic Health Fair is running this weekend (at the Elk's lodge on Harvard, if you're interested), and I listened to one of the talks on how to be in the moment.  I ended up disagreeing with what the speaker had to say, and I asked him some questions at the end of his lecture.  I think I'll spare the details of what the conversation was about (suffice it to say it was a conversation about love), but I just want to express my frustration with something he said in regards to our disagreement.  After I had disagreed with him a second time he responded by saying, "you don't have to agree with me!"  

This annoyed me because I tend to interpret that kind of comment as one where the person isn't listening to what I have to say--s/he only seems interested in making sure that I understand her/his point.  (And this is after I (oh so graciously, you know) said, "I don't want to sound arrogant by thinking that I can understand exactly what you're saying, but I understand what you're saying." (Now that I write this, maybe I sounded like I was playing dumb; I was just trying to make room for the fact that I can only see the world through my own lens and that I have a tendency to think I know people's intentions.) So, clearly, I was being open-minded!)   

But my main motivation in writing all of this out is to express frustration with the binary agreeing/disagreeing; in his mind it was either that we agreed or disagreed.  From my perspective, I wasn't more concerned with understanding his point of view better--I'm not really sure that I was invested in agreeing or disagreeing with him.

But now that I've spent the time writing this out, I realize that I did have an investment in him agreeing with me.  I wanted him to think that I was so smart and insightful.  Well, at least part of me did.

I feel a little ashamed of my behavior ("But," she says defensively, "I did tell him afterwards that I wasn't trying to be combative!"  "But," she re-second-guesses-herself, "maybe that's just because you've been socialized to be agreeable.").  I feel humbled.  And I'm reminded of how I do that thing called projection.  So, to recap:  I just talked heatedly with a person that I thought was insecure yet over-confident, disinterested in what I had to say, and invested solely in his own position.

Yeah, that sounds like some projection there, Courtney.

(I tried to end the post there, but I just want to say that I still think I was right about what I was saying.  In fact, I think I might be talking myself out of everything I wrote.  I think his comment on me not having to agree with him was a way of cutting me off; and I really wasn't trying to be combative or anything.  I had the best intentions for a discussion.  I guess I don't need to judge him (that's projection), but I don't need to second-guess my intentions.  I trust that I meant well.  It's a bummer he couldn't trust that, too.  But I guess trust takes time.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Would you rather . . .?

When my lovely friend Julia was in town visiting, she bought the game Zabmondo at a garage sale.  So we spent quite a bit of time amongst friends asking each other "would you rather this gross/annoying/bad thing happen to you or this other similarly gross/annoying/bad thing?"  The only question I can remember is, "Would you rather have breath that smells like a fart or a laugh that sounds like a bad fart?"

When Ye Olde Boyfriend (or Yob, who will love being referred to as "olde," for short) was visiting, we went for a walk.  To take our mind off the freezing cold wind, I tried to make small talk and asked him the above question.  While my other friends tried to find ways around each situation or make up rules to accommodate their preference, Yob flatly rejected the question; "Neither," he responded.

"Of course neither!" I protested.  He then said why isn't there a game where you could pick between two good things.  So I had to think for a while and then I asked him if he would rather have an hour long massage or soak in a hot tub; he quickly responded by choosing the hot tub.  Game over--no discussion.  I said, "That's why there isn't a positive version of this game--it's too easy!"

Then we discussed if Zabmondo would be as popular if we weren't a fear-based society.  Well, I'm kind of assuming we are a fear-based society, but I don't know for sure.  Does our society teach us to always be aware of what would be the worse of any set of options?

What if we were a happiness-based society?  Would that make the massage/hot tub question difficult?  What if we were so invested in happiness (not just gratification, but true happiness--love, even) that we carefully weighed our options as to which would make us the most happy?

Does happiness work this way, though?  I think I've talked myself out of an answer here; I'll have to think about this some more . . .

All this said, and I want to highlight a moment from David Sedaris's Naked concerned with the same type of would you rather question.  While the whole memoir is smart and funny (I highly recommend it), this following moment turns a little somber when he talks about a family member.  Anyway, Sedaris is at a nudist trailer park in a sauna with an oldish woman who asks him, "what if everybody in the world were allowed one wish, but in order to get it, it meant they'd have to crawl around on their hands and knees for the rest of their life?" (270).

One thing this question does is combine the fear and happiness elements; so, maybe the underlying question here is whether people (who are already able) value the pleasure of their mobility over another type of pleasure.  How much do we value our bodies over our desires?

So Freaking Annoying!

I've been trying to explore (since Tuesday, mind you) an interest in psychology by reading popular psychology magazines.  Which is to say I read part of one article in Psychology Today and I purchased a copy of Psychologies today.  (So, clearly, I'm a psychology pro now.)

That said, Psychologies published this little tidbit that has pissed me off: "Telling your partner everything is good for your psychological health--but not necessarily theirs.  A recent study found those who disclosed a lot to their partner had better mental health and relationship satisfaction.  Psychologists believe this is because telling your partner all about your day enables you to better regulate your own emotions, and may also promote feelings of intimacy.  However, the same effects were not found for the other person in the couple--perhaps best to keep the details of your beauty appointment to yourself" (Nov. 2008 p.27).  

Um, what?  This article, which I thought was targeted towards both men and women is apparently speaking only to women, all of who must go "beauty appointment[s]."

That glaring annoyance out the way, how about just taking the premise of the article as truth in order to promote a relationship in which both partners (heterosexual or not) reveal the minute details of their respective days?  It's like this tidbit is saying, "Women, shut up--your men's health depends on it!" when it could also be saying, "Men, speak up--your health depends on it!"

One oldish book I recently read, "Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?" advocates speaking up about your emotions every time you have them.  The author claims that this is the way to get to know yourself and get to know each other.  I understand that the Psychologies tidbit wasn't just referring to emotions, but still.  I think the little things we notice each day are so tied into our emotional life that ignoring them just isn't helpful.  And men do pick up on little things and it effects them emotionally, too.  (subtext: so there, Psychologies!)

Secretary of State Clinton!

The New York Times just announced that Clinton will be giving up her Senate seat to become Secretary of State--hooray!

I haven't read the details, but I am so excited by this news.  It's about time Obama brought in some female leadership and I'm so happy that Clinton is part of things!  At least I'm pretty sure that I'm really happy about this!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Ungame

Remember the rules: you answer the question and then (or only) answer it by adding "when masturbating."

Question: "Complete the sentence: 'I wish all people would . . .'"

Answer 1: Believe in peace.

Answer 2: Try not to picture their elementary school gym teacher.

Stirring the soup (cont.)

I've been thinking more about the stirring the soup quote and another dimension of it hit me this morning. I had been wrapped in the quote as talking about staying in the moment, but I also realized how it encourages us to experience what is happening as it is happening. These probably sound like the same idea (because I'm not a good enough writer to convey the difference I'm talking about).

So an example: this morning I was walking across campus from my car to the law school. It's freezing out and I am still wrangling with my winter wardrobe, so I don't have a good jacket yet to keep me warm. (And, I have a knit hat that is supposed to look cute, but probably just makes me look dumb. My shadow looks dumb with it, anyway (Miss Pointyhead).) Um, where was I? So, yeah, I'm freezing and I'm wishing that I didn't have to walk in this weather. So I say, when walking to the law school, walk to the law school. And I just try to focus on the walking, as opposed to my grouchiness and my fantasy of actually being already in the law school. But (this is the new/amazing part for me), then I say, when you are caught in freezing cold wind, experience the freezing cold wind. At that point I became more aware of my senses and more aware of the outside world--it felt so wonderful! For about three seconds--until I got grouchy again! But that three seconds felt amazing and I'm so glad I had that experience.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quotation Source?

I was house/dog sitting recently and the owner had an awesome quote board.  One of which was "If you are stirring the soup, then stir the soup."  This has been my mantra these past two days, which have felt particularly stressful.  Does anyone know who said this?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Identity and Politics

I just got back from a panel on campus on race, gender, and politics.  It was very informative, and it included real politicians--fabulous!  The panel included Senator Judy Eason McIntyre and member of the Democratic National Committee Kayln Free.  I enjoyed learning a little bit more about the local political scene.

Kayln Free discussed her organization, INDN's List, and the importance of creating a pipeline to help Native Americans get into office.  Both Kayln and Sen. McIntyre discussed the role of gender in politics and how it is important for women to not do such things as cry in public (crying was mentioned quite a bit).  This issue recalled to my mind my mom's comment that she, partly, respected McCain's decision to pick Palin as VP because she figured that he was just trying to get women's votes.  She was suspicious of Obama's decision to pick Biden--she wondered if Obama thought that no one would vote for a double minority ticket.  To me this kind of concern plays to the issues Free and McIntyre raise (and which feminists have raised for decades (at least) now)--how much of the system is an act, and how much can people just be themselves?  How much will the system (dis)allow some sort of authenticity?

I'm not quite sure how yet to understand my mom's take on McCain.  Where some women felt patronized by his choice of Palin, my mom felt he was just using the system and therefore respected him for that.  I guess my larger hope is that identity and politics is changing such that people can start to recognize the ways in which identity is used both for and against them.  For me, I long to say the system is screwed up, let's abolish it.  And I see not letting women show emotions as a good example of a flawed system (and not letting men show emotion is troubling, too; not that I need to qualify myself).  But, instead, I wonder if American voters are starting to understand ways in which the game is played while also still believing that the system can get better.  It's just hard for me to find hope in a system that teaches its up-and-coming minority leaders to be the same as what they have seen before because this will somehow invoke change.  These are competing rhetorics, I think, even though it all makes sense to me.  These are not new concerns, either, but just something I've been thinking about . . .

On a fascinating note, Free mentioned that there is a lot of talk in politics about how men can't attack women (for instance, Biden's approach to Palin in the VP debate), but she also said that women aren't allowed to attack men (because then they will be called bitches).  I found this so refreshing to hear and it made me wonder if it's partly because attack politics are just bad all around.  It seems to me that even our gender stereotypes are telling us fighting is bad.  So, let's stop the bickering, yes?  Maybe that's one thing gender parity in government would do--put a stop to attacks.

PS: a biological exploration . . .

Who knew that narwhals were real animals? How did I get to be this old and never realize that they were real (until this week)? How does one even learn/not learn about narwhals?

Breathing into it

Yesterday I was so wrapped up in an escape fantasy (I think these are my favorite types of fantasies), and I learned quite a bit from it:
-I need strong mentors around me all the time (I trust my ability to find these mentors even while it worries me how dependent I am on other people)
-I'm afraid of finishing my degree and being locked into a certain profession/career progression, but I'm also afraid of feeling guilty if I leave (so why not just deal with some fear by staying? It'd be easier . . .)
-I keep thinking that I understand how systems work, so I take that to mean that it's time to move on. This is a favorite pattern of mine. I think it allows me to try new things, but I also think it prevents me from finishing anything.

I had other thoughts, too. But this morning I realized that dealing with these escape fantasies (and all of my other baggage) is just kind of like yoga--I need to breathe into these new ways of thinking/being and it's going to take time. And it's never going to be perfect or ideal, but I just need to keep at it and pay attention to the material I have to work with. There's no need to get frustrated with this material--there is, though, a need to be gentle with it and pay attention to what is actually here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Speaking of My Delusion . . .

Well now, this is something.  If you're obsessed with yourself and take everything seriously/as a joke, then you might be interested in this test on what your needs are: (I'm not sure if this link will take you to the test; it's the Needs Test at

I found out that my main need is distraction.

The Ungame!

Everyone should play the Ungame.  My girlfriend Melissa introduced it to me when we were in high school.  She even created a version of the game as a present for me once!  The moral: she's great and the Ungame is great.  And it's great if you take it seriously and it's also great if you add the phrase "when masturbating" after every question, too.  You can answer the following: "How do you decide between right and wrong?"

I'll go first: I decide between right and wrong by asking the people I love and trust the most what they think is right/wrong.  Then I take their word as gospel until someone contradicts another person.  Then I agonize and torture myself over the decision.  I'll journal about it.  I'll try to let it go and to not be so obsessive.  And it will be my instinct to eat something to try not to think about it--but I'm working on that.

Step two: When masturbating, I decide between what's right and wrong on my own, without the committee.  Usually.

First Post!

Look at me--I'm blogging!  I'm still trying to figure out why this is so appealing to me, especially since blogging has been around, like, for-ev-er.  I joined Facebook a few weeks ago and I think I don't like it, even though I like the idea of having some kind of online presence.  So we'll just see how it goes . . .