Friday, February 26, 2010

Coming Out of the Country Music Closet

I would like to take this opportunity to praise country music. Last night I was with friends watching part of a Willie Nelson concert--talk about true love.

Here's an old video of Willie singing "You Were Always on My Mind." Swooning at male relationship incompetence? Gladly, with this song.


My history with country music began with my mom playing Randy Travis' "Always and Forever." When we weren't listening to the tape in the whole house, I would get to listen to it on the Walkman. Travis' music paved the way for the family rule that we could swear, as long as the word was in the song. So out came blaring versions of "Good Intentions." Here's a link to the video of "Forever and Ever, Amen." This is the Randy Travis I had a crush on when I was six!

Desire and social convention? Yes, please!


Childhood meant watching Ev dance her doopa off to "Boot Scootin Boggie" and "Achey Breaky Heart," both of which are annoying, yet still kind of infectious.

I didn't realize how much country music I listened to as a child until I was listening to the classic country radio station and was singing along to my old favorites. For example, there's T. Graham Brown's "I Tell It Like It Used to Be"


When I met my future ex-husband, I was not listening to country music. In fact, I kind of hated it. But love will make you do crazy things, and I soon found myself pondering that line between naivete and irony. What is the purpose behind something that is, well, bad? Take, for instance, any Toby Keith song.

Bad art is endlessly fascinating.

I am all for masculine bravado because I think it is such a performance--it seems so certain, but how can anyone/anything be so certain?! When it comes to love, though, I like masculine bravado with a side of humility and self-deprecation. In my fantasy world, here's what men sing to me all the time. [S, this is the FM]









And that's just the men! I love the women of country music! Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, the Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert. I love them.

And that's just some of the mainstream artists. Give me some homemade country music any day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brief Apology

I would like to extend an apology for the cynicism regarding college in my previous post. I stand by my analysis, but there's no reason to be cranky about things!

Pets, Writing, Reclusivity

I caught a segment on NPR the other day interviewing Maureen Adams, the author of Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Brontë. It turns out Edith Wharton always traveled with a little dog, and that Emily Dickinson had a Newfoundland. (!)

It's so true that pets inspire our writing!

I like the image of Emily Dickinson with a Newfie!

Also, I like the image of me being a recluse! I love people, of course, it's just, perhaps, I would like to love them in less institutionalized ways.

I am officially on the job market; I'm looking for either a) a summer job or b) a permanent job that is awesome and lucrative.

Maybe it's just mid-semester slump, but I am getting a little tired of teaching and talking about teaching--at least at the university. I am all for teaching and learning . . . just not in such a formalized way--it's wearing me down and I feel powerless!

As a way to feel more empowered, I eschewed (oh yes, I totally eschewed) the opportunity to apply for summer teaching. Oh summer teaching! Teaching to athletes that need an extra hand so that they can pass class so that they can play ball so that the University can make money so that it can:
-build buildings that labor organizations protest
-fund more of the same
-spend more time thinking about how to regulate and spend money (as opposed to considering larger questions of education in today's world).

This is clearly a cynical view of college. I'm just ready for a change. I know I can write, teach, and do crafty things (like knitting and sewing). I know I am an INFJ. I know that my views are liberal, my intentions are pure, my heart is big, and my brow is often furled. I know that I would like to pay off my student loans (and not accrue any more!). I know that I love my cats and that I am a good listener. Somehow, somehow, somehow, all this can add up to something! I am ready for an (non-traumatic) adventure!

Monday, February 22, 2010

When and Work

When I'm not thinking about working, writing about not wanting to work, scheduling when I'm going to work, evaluating others' work, criticizing my previous work, fantasizing about other work I could be doing, castigating myself for not already doing work, planning dinner, planning projects, attending to every other detail of my little existence, then, sometimes, then I actually do some work.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Am Optimal and Above Average!

I just got a copy of blood work that I had done last month. I was afraid--like usual--that I might have some sort of illness (like maybe a hypothyroid condition).

Instead, I'm actually normal and nothing is wrong with me. My cholesterol levels are fantastic (if I do say so myself).

This is such news to me because I've always been fat, and always just assumed that something must be wrong with me.

Well, I have officially gone on a weight-loss program, and the first thing I did was buy some junk food (cheese Doritos and chocolate covered donuts, to be precise). I am following some of Martha Beck's advice in The Four-Day Win; she recommends rewiring your brain by teaching yourself that certain foods aren't off limits.

She suggests (like others) being mindful of when you're actually hungry (instead of anxious, scared, happy, whatever). Then, when you do eat, eat what you want, but only eat until you aren't hungry anymore. In doing this, you build trust with yourself.

I've seen it happen to me just this week. I've turned into one of those people that I usually scoff at--I'm not attracted to sugary products like I once was. And a bag of chips and donuts have stayed in my apartment--where I spend the most of my time--for a week now. This is not something I've ever been able to say before!

I've been hearing a lot of conversations about death and illness lately. It overwhelms me when I hear someone who knows he is close to death, and can conceptualize being dead. It's amazing to me how we still live when our loved ones have died. It's really nothing short of amazing. So I think I can give up thinking that I can somehow prevent death, and instead begin to appreciate just how healthy I actually am.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Like Craisins for Words

It is officially Lent, a holiday season I usually could give two shits about. But this year is a little different! I am choosing to celebrate Lent and have decided to give up putting craisins in my morning oatmeal. It was recommended that one should choose to give up something small that you could do without--this instead of something that you shouldn't be doing anyway.

So what happens when you change your pattern in a small, harmless way? Where does your mind go?

Well, if you are me and you did not put craisins in your oatmeal this morning, then you made it about one and a half steps to the table before wondering, "I said I wouldn't use craisins, but I never said I wouldn't use sugar."

And then you spend to rest of your breakfast reading O, drinking coffee, and trying to notice the way oatmeal--pure oatmeal--feels in your mouth while a larger debate regarding word choice, intention, and action takes place in your head.

I'm working on dropping my storylines and questioning thoughts that I used to take for granted. I'm trying to listen to what my body is saying. And I'm resisting this process with all my might!

I tell my students that we can question an author's intent by looking at his/her use of the word "infidel." " One word!" I say. "A whole viewpoint can hinge on one word."

And then in my private mind, I say, "Don't trust words." And I think about craisins and sugar.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh, God, Another Thing!

(I am trying my hardest to avoid studying today--I am doing a great job! Actually, I'm not even trying and I'm doing a good job!)

Anyway, the story of the biology professor who shot six colleagues, killing three--that is too much. The NYT had an article revealing that the woman has been linked to other questionable events . . . like the shooting death of her brother and a mailed bomb to a former boss.

What in the world is this?! I have my theories, all which add up to a big overhaul of our country's view of education. I'm going on the job market soon--the overwhelmingly crowded, competitive, stifling job market--and I say it's time for educators to educate! Grad school (at least in my experience at the PhD level) crushes people's spirit (I've seen it happen! I swear! People enter with bright eyes and that light is gone--just gone--by November). Then people are so crushed that they do not see it's THE SYSTEM, MAN, THE SYSTEM!

And so the cycle is repeated and so on and so on . . .

But will I let history and human nature get me down? No, not today! I embrace a phrase Sister Ellie brought to my attention: Those who can do, do. Those who can do more, teach.

I added this part:
Those who talk about doing, blog.

(Merg.)

And Guess What Else?!, Part II

A breakthrough in my thinking/feeling last night! All thanks to counseling, Beamish, and Vic! I've been feeling my crappy emotions and I stopped (at least paused) in thinking that I (or anyone else) needed to do something to fix them! And I went another step further, I expressed these crappy emotions.

Usually when I say I'm feeling bad I want myself or someone else to fix this feeling. While I was angry and sad yesterday, I realized that I couldn't ask for anything that I wanted because there wasn't anything I wanted. I trusted that events were happening this way for a reason and that I could use these events to practice learning more. I also did some things with the express purpose of tending to these bad feelings.

So after a while of constructive work and deep conversations with beautiful friends, I knew that I just wanted to be able to trust that I can express my ugly side to people and that they will still be friends with me.

My pattern has been once I think I know how people are feeling, then I will know how to act. In that pattern, I've become a micromanager of people's emotions. And if there's a type of managerial style I do not get along with it is the micromanager.

And I thought that if I told people my feelings, then they would respond in particular ways. But I realized last night that I never really give people a chance to respond.

I thought of it in terms of tennis: it's like I'm always hitting the ball against a wall instead of engaging with another person. When communication with someone feels successful it feels like playing real tennis at those moments when you and your partner can string together a couple of volleys. It feels great! You can feel the excitement of realizing that you are playing tennis while actually playing tennis!

In real life I usually pout if Scott doesn't feel like playing tennis or going for a walk; I usually brood when a friend is out of touch. I get stifled and worked up. But if someone doesn't want to play tennis, then they just don't want to play tennis. And if I want to play tennis, then I just want to play tennis. There are myriad other things we can do, and when someone comes along with a good idea, then great! Let's play!

Until then, I'm out of ideas and I still would like tennis.

And Guess What Else?!

Not to ruin what everyone I know is getting from me for every birthday and Christmas present for the rest of their lives (starting, oh, say by the time we hit retirement age), but last night I sewed myself a headband from material scraps! I starting making it with the idea of giving it away, but as I continued, I gave myself the option to keep it if I wanted. I finished it, it was cute, I wanted it to be mine, and I'm wearing it today.

It's the first thing I've made for myself on the sewing machine, and it makes me feel so good! All of this thanks to Scott, who provided the tools to help me accomplish what I've been wanting to do.

But, bummer, I can't post a picture because I'm trying to look industrious here at the public library. And good thing I can look industrious and cute at the same time!

I'm Sister to the Queen of the Universe!

Well, I believe I'm sisters to two queens of the universe! The other day Vic texts me, "Guess what I'm making for dinner?" Oh, the intrigue, and I leap for an opportunity to prove my psychic skills. These skills had been honed just the previous day when Scott said, "Guess what I had for dinner last night?" Oh, I guessed alright (a can of beans?) and I was sooooo close (a can of green beans, to be precise).

So I'm feeling confident with Vic; meatloaf? homemade mac and cheese?

No, no, and no. The girl is making some extravagant, elaborate dinner--something I can't fully remember because she lost me after the first dish. I know it involved homemade pierogies, though.

That's when it hit me--I am not related to this girl. Me, whose idea of victory was buying the large Sesame Chicken and having it last for three dinners (!).

I tell Vic I'm not her sister and she replies, "You are my sister. I just happen to be Queen of the Universe, too."

So true!

Let's hear it for sisters!

Head Drugs = Yes, Please

I've read a more than a few accounts and have heard people discuss their use of antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medication with a tone of apology. It's as if these people feel that they have failed at something because they can't solve their happiness issues on their own.

I used to feel this way, but not no mo'.

I have changed medications this past week, and I feel a trillion times better than I have in a while. I feel more empowered and willing to drop my dwelling thoughts. I'm excited to do the things I usually do. I've been asking for help and trying to speak more clearly about what I need and want.

All these things come just a little easier on medication, and for that I feel grateful. I can stop beating myself up, and I would like others to stop beating themselves up, for using medication because I feel more confident and certain that I am trying to use all the tools available to live my--as Oprah would say--best life.

I don't want to feel apologetic anymore for trying to make myself feel better . . . I just want to keep trying over and over! I think an experimental attitude is so helpful when exploring your life, and I can hear my inner experimenter a little better now that I can choose to let go of the inner judger.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Late Valentine

It feels kind of nice to have Valentine's Day on a Sunday--it's like a nice start to the week! It feels pretty good to experience love and to think about love. I'm stealing this quote from Sister Ellie's blog, Meditation Matters, as a late Valentine.

Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.


-- Dr. Albert Schweitzer

This is just a little thank you and a warm sentiment to those who keep my inner light burning--it means everything to me!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Talk to Me "Tuesday": Super G Edition!

I'm just going to complain: it's been a craptastic week for people that I care about. Craptastic.

In non-craptastic news, though, tomorrow my little nephew, Super G, turns six! It seems like just yesterday we were watching him develop into the puppet-making, Napoleon-Dynamite-dancing, baby-cousin-holding kid that he is today. I adore this guy, and I hate being away from him. A few months ago, when I saw him last, I was asking him the Talk to Me Tuesday questions. We didn't get far; it's hard to focus on questions when your aunt will let you jump on the bed and just, overall, act ridiculous. Here's what he told me, though:

1. Why are you a feminist? What does being a feminist mean to you? And if you don't consider yourself to be a feminist, then why not?

I kind of don't like to be a feminist. [Me: Can you tell me what a feminist is?] Someone who's really annoying. [Me: Why do you say that?] Because they are really boring to have around. [Me: Can you tell me who some feminists are?] A genius; they are really rude; they spit spitballs; they don't like hanging out with their girlfriends. [Me: Super G, are you telling me that geniuses are feminists and that they are annoying?] Yes! [Me: Why?! Why?!] Because they always ruin people's microscopes. [Me: What?! What are you talking about?!] They like to spend the night in their old shoe house. They like to spit on their windows at the shoe house. They rip pillows.

2. What place(s) make you feel truly alive?

Boring places. [Me: Like what?] Like the circle house. [Me: What is the circle house? (I thought it was his old house.)] I haven't seen it before!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some Focus?

Who the hell am I kidding with that last post? I don't have a purpose for this blog?? Uh, its purpose is to postpone, indefinitely, any of my own schoolwork. I could be working on my statement of research interests right now . . . but I'm not!

I'm glad I got that out of the way.

I met with Sister Ellie yesterday and we talked about distress tolerance. When she told me I needed some, I thought, "Oh no you didn't. Do you even?" But, I followed her advice (which she attributed to someone else), and made a self-soothing list.

At first I thought, I don't need a self-soothing list. If something goes wrong, then I eat ice cream. Done.

Well, I made my list, and it is filled with the usual suspects (sans food). I consulted this list during the course of the day, and I noticed a connection that I had been ignoring.

When I consulted my list, it was a conscious effort to take care of myself in a healthy way. Further, it allowed me (and I allowed myself) to say, "I feel like crap right now. I wish I didn't, but I do. What can I do?" And the things that I did (light incense, dance to a song) helped me say, "This is my situation and this is how I am dealing with it." I felt more in control, which is a big issue I have been thinking about thanks to my mom and a comment on this blog from a couple weeks ago.

All of the measures I'd been taking before were kind of preventative, and then I would get angry when they didn't prevent any unwanted feelings.

I have tried so hard and so long to not be angry. But Scott points out that I make him sound more angry than he actually is. And I notice how quick I am to say, "This is the worst day ever." This morning I was blow drying my hair and I shouted, "I wish this wasn't my life!"

I felt so guilty afterwards!

Last night while I was working on my statement of research interests, I was reading over old papers that had been saved on my computer. I thought, "Holy crap--I can actually write. I am actually smart." I was impressing myself, and I wondered why I've spent so much time beating myself up and thinking that I was no good at anything or that I was merely lucky.

Well, of course I'm lucky. Despite this realization, though, I still have really petty concerns and lately I find myself in a whirlwind of emotion. I'm not going to try to not feel these emotions, like I have done in the past.

After serious consideration, I decided today to speak to my advisor about how difficult it has been trying to do my work since the fire. Our communication styles are different and last week my feelings were really hurt by what she had told me. So I've been torn in feeling defiant and then in feeling like I am no good.

I told her today that writing my statement has been difficult because I think I lost a lot of memory with the fire. (It's not like I had an excellent academic memory anyway, but it just feels harder now.) I told her that I know I'm behind, but that I hope my special circumstances would give me a little leeway.

She agreed, and seemed surprise that I would even have to tell her this. We ended up talking briefly about what she is doing to support me and how I recognize support (not that we used those terms). Anyway, I felt better telling her that this was hard for me. Because it is hard.

I'm not sure how trauma works or how mourning works, but I feel really sad today about the fire and about how I treated myself after the fire. I've been so hard on myself and demanding so much from myself. I've been saying, "It's ok. It's ok." when it really hasn't been ok. I've been a liar!

I am seeing this deep sensitive side of myself, and right now it's kind of scary! I am scared and sad. But, well, I will continue writing my paper and hold conferences with students! It's going to take as long as it takes, I suppose!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Time for Pats on the Back

I have been so damn proud of myself for the past few hours (dare I say, days?!). Nothing in particular has been going on, but lately I just feel wise and perceive that I am being true to myself. How rare that this happens! How great it feels to let some things slide that would normally stick around! I told some friends earlier today that I needed some Chip-Be-Gone for the large boulder I've carrying on my shoulder. I think--new idea! inspired by Sass and Snark--that my shoulder chip can be polished in the depths of my heart and transformed into a true gem. Oyster- and pearl-like. I feel like I'm rearranging my internal architecture and making some things more private and some things more true and some things more functional.

Which is just kind of leaving me with the question . . . what is the purpose of this blog?! I am coming up with no compelling answers right now! I always hate being so purpose-driven--why should we value purpose over other aspects--but now I actually might be in love with purpose.

Purpose seems so in control; it seems sexy, smart, and mysterious. I used to think it was all an image--all contrived and cultivated (and fake because of that cultivation). Yet now I really realize (!) that my purpose is happiness. I really want to be happy, and I know I can work hard to make that happen. (I've done it a trillion times already today!) In that sense, I'm not really sure what it is about this blog that makes me happy. Lately I've seen it as a vehicle for sadness and self-reproach, both of which I am in love with!, and that's just no longer enough. Adventures of the greedy girl, I suppose!

Friday, February 5, 2010

“Lonely Women Make Good Lovers”: A Manifesto*

I am a needy girl. I hate when things aren’t my own idea first. I hate being born in this era because I am so many people that have come before. Never Shakespeare, though—I have no rhythm and unstressed syllables can become easily stressed when I say them.

We forget easily and then become attached easily. When you are the Iceman, you forget you aren’t in the bar and when you are in the bar you forget that you will later move to Seattle and be pretentious for a while. You forget you are alcoholic. You forget that you look nothing like a celebrity, but it’s cunning because someone suggested it and you don’t know who you are. It becomes fun to try on others’ definition of us. Fun until someone says you should be serious.

That’s why it’s compelling when someone seems so certain. Who would give up fun? And why? Among the certain: activists, theorists, writers, politicians, Christians, liberals, conservatives, artists—all these men and women giving and giving of their emotions over and over and you wonder, why? Why do they do that? Over and over? Why? How can someone be so convinced? It’s a craving. A craving for certainty.

At times we play different characters. We slip and slip and slip the way some people pick up accents so that we don’t remember where they are actually from and haven’t they always been here?

My accent is a hodgepodge. Something to laugh at when it slips out. Because where does it come from and who is saying this and what is my interpretation and why does it seem just a little warped? Like something that has stayed in the sun a little too long. A little too long. So it’s morphed a little and is not quite as functional as something that has been better taken care of, yet, I just have to say, when you look a little closer, it makes pretty distortions. If this one hadn’t been wonky, then we would never be reminded that some things just look better if we squint a little.

But don’t forget, those of you who haven’t been in the sun (and who has been in the sun and what is the sun and how could we tell anyone?), that this disk does not know it is giving beauty. It just doesn’t know. And we spend so much time using beauty; using it to tell us about ourselves that we don’t ever worship beauty in and of itself. We do not tell beauty that she is different. In fact, sometimes we get angry at her and devalue her. And she is so sensitive because she is all alone. How will beauty ever listen to you? I think that is our challenge.

We aren’t religious people, we say, but that is bullshit. You can memorize anything you want to memorize. You can go to whichever temple you want. But don’t forget that that temple is not there for you to use. You need to worship your temple, otherwise that temple will die.

***
*With apologies to the word "manifesto"; I love you, but I do not always know what you mean.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Free Books for OK

I received this in the Tulsa Library literacy newsletter, and thought I would pass it along.

Oklahoma is in the midst of national contest to win 20,000 books for children at risk for low literacy. The contest, hosted by First Book, gives individuals the opportunity to vote for the state that should receive the free books.

Votes are made by correctly answering multiple choice questions about children's books. Each correct answer equals a vote, and you can vote as many times and as often as you like. The top 5 states will each win 20,000 books. Oklahoma has won book sin the past and is in first place at the time of this article. Check it out at booksforkids.firstbook.org/jonscieszka.


Note: I just tried this and it kind of sucks. Kids may like to play, though!

Monday, February 1, 2010

This Just In

This just in: as it turns out, I'm learning how to live my life. So it's been more product and a bit less process lately. Or, some half-assed product and less, but more fulfilling, process. Anyway, I have less than a minute to tell you about this. But stay tuned (somewhere) for more information on my sewing, knitting, card making business. And for a self-help/memoir on how to be crazy. And for me to pass my exams . . . this will happen soon! Ok--negative one minute to write. Peace to you today!