Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Updated Teaching Philosophy [draft]

Today's class warm-up exercise was: "Tell me everything you know about love."

Some people smile and start writing. Some people carry on with whatever it is they were thinking about before they got to class. One student smiles and mocks me, "Ok; that's easy!"

I think about what love was like when I was nineteen. (Love was a deep crush on the absolute wrong person; a rejection of love from who might have been the absolute right person; entangled attractions, and a lingering question about a friend in a committed relationship.) It's remarkable what stays the same over time!

(We can't go home again, or can we?)

What my students know about love is everything anyone knows about it. I had them list what they knew. Then I wrote out the questions they had written to me last week regarding what they wanted to know about writing.

Don't waste my time, I had instructed them. If you have an honest question, then write it. If you don't want to know anything, then don't ask me.

They had a lot of questions. Once they were written out, I asked, "How is this list any different than what we wonder about love?" We want both to happen naturally and easily and without work and how can we get started and what if we do it wrong and everyone else should tell me what to do because if you tell me what to do then I can do it and if you can't tell me then please oh please already just point me in the right direction.

It is funny what we show up for and what we do and where we are and what we say when we're there.

I only know love and writing when I'm not doing it. When I'm not loving and not writing, then I know I am not doing those things.

Today in class we read an excerpt from King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." The textbook asks us to state King's premise as a syllogism. One of the smartest students I've ever had says, "Sin is separation. Segregation is separation. Segregation is a sin."

Another smart student disagrees: "I think it should be the other way: separation is sin."

"But he says 'sin is separation.'"

I say, "He says Paul Tillich says sin is separation." I ask: "does it matter? The same three words with two reversed: sin is separation or separation is sin. What difference does it make?"

I see the difference, and for the first time in my life I want to argue the difference, and I want to believe that there is a common good and that there is a God. There is everything huge about the difference. To believe we are divisible--oh, that is a huge tragedy! The largest one of all! To purposefully separate--well, that is sinful.

I remember arguing something about Puritan religious beliefs in early America; this argument happened in a graduate class, and I could have given two shits. But I spoke up anyway, and someone else just said, "But that doesn't make any sense," and even though I wanted her to be wrong about her religious views, I knew my interpretation didn't make sense.

So I shut down, and decided that I didn't care. I saw a handful of my students today not caring about separation is sin or sin is separation. I asked them to notice this. I told them that this is love and writing. That we can work on the same thing and have a variety of different approaches.

I say, "Please return to your body." And we return and we look for more clues in King's passage, and I try to end the class elegantly by talking about audience. Who is King's audience? Who do you think he thinks his audience is? When you love, who do you love? Who do you think you're loving? Who do you write to and how are you interpreting these people, who are each individuals, just like you?

After class I think that it's choosing the conversations that are important. Last night I had been thinking about false consciousness and my research on transsexuality. I've always wanted to know how anyone could believe they were meant to be a man/woman.

I have loved transsexuals and I believe that is no easy road. I have thought: there could be an easier way. There could be an easier way.

But who am I to talk about easy? Is the truth easy?

A writer writes that she is in love with a transsexual, and that he is the bravest person she has ever met. She sees him living his truth, and to be true requires bravery. I fell in love with this woman's love.

And personally, my body has the markings of a woman's body, and none of the trappings of being a lady. I have kept it that way on purpose. It's important because my body goes to the classroom and comes out of the classroom. While inside I think and smile and ask, but mostly I sweat. My body sweats as if it were my religion.

I can't hide my religion.

So I know what love is and what writing is and it's all just the doing. This sentence is not love. My plans--are they love? Tulsa sunshine in March--surely that is love. I will dig out my sneakers and jog outside for the first time this season; I will make plans to decorate Easter eggs.

What I give up are conversations, and I don't mean to be a space cadet, but I cannot focus on anything else right now.

I believe, in my heart, and with my whole body, that love is the spring wind circling up your legs, that writing means putting your fingers in motion, and that to teach these things means you are a big fat liar.

Some people belong in the Tell It Slant Club, and some of the rest of us are too sweaty and smelly to make it to those meetings.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Explosions

I would like to welcome everyone to what is officially Not My Finest Hour. So anything that I say here . . . well, really. Like I ever know what I'm talking about.

A sneak peek into the Weird Things That I Do file: I have been recording myself reading Barry Stevens' Don't Push the River (it flows by itself), which I'll post (perhaps one day) on this blog. (I just need to learn how to push another button on iMovie; I even think I know which one I need to push.)

Anyway, I came across this quote last night, and I feel compelled to share.

"Utter ease, and no mistakes. This is perfection. 'Striving for perfection' makes no sense to me unless it means striving so hard and getting in such a bind that there is an explosion. I (ego-I) have blown to bits, and organism which is me takes over. That's a pretty strenuous way to go about it" (21).

If we ever want to talk about strenuous ways to go about things . . . well, I am around for that conversation.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

Wow. This week. This change of seasons! Most everyone seems to be on the verge of a major life change right now!

In the midst of life changes, I've been listening to The Wall on repeat for the past four days.

I was seven or eight when I first heard "The Wall." Dad and I were driving somewhere on a spring day with the windows rolled down. On comes the song, and he turns it up and starts singing. I am scared by the sounds and horrified by the notion that "we don't need no education." But I'm also excited because Dad is having a good time, and it's always fun to be around Dad and music.

The next day, at school, I am confused. We're working on something at our desks, and I raise my hand to have my teacher come over. I tell her that my dad doesn't think we need to go to school. After some prodding, she recognizes the song reference; she tells me not to worry: "It's just a song."

"The Wall" continued to haunt me. When the grocery store was remodeling (while I was in third grade), they erected a large brick wall and someone spray painted "Pink Floyd The Wall" on it, just like it appears on the album cover. I asked my aunt what that meant, and she just said, "It's a stupid band." I really didn't get it, and for a while I thought that "Pink Floyd" was a verb--something you could do to a wall. (Person A: What are we going to do with this wall? Person B: Pink Floyd it. Person A: Ok.)

While at the swimming pool with some friends in fifth or sixth grade, some friends and I were bugging the lifeguard for a penny that we could dive for. She tells us she will give us a penny if we answer a question: "Which band has an album called The Wall?" I say, "Pink Floyd the wall," the lifeguard is surprised I knew the answer, and we win a penny. I can't explain to my friends or the lifeguard how I knew that; in fact, the lifeguard's question is the first hint I had that Pink Floyd was a band.

Years go by and years go by, and I tell Dad how that song scarred my view of education when I was younger. He replies with a casual, "So you're telling me you didn't have a developed sense of irony when you were a kid?"! No, Dad! And I still don't!

Because here's the thing: some songs are not just songs; they are life! I give my students simple writing exercises and they look at me as if I'm crazy. Everyone wants to know the point before they start anything; curiosity seems dead at times like these. So I'm done pretending, and declare this my anthem. If you read this far, then I want to tell you that I am dropping out of grad school!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Something Tangible

My material existence has been bountiful lately--I don't think I can say thank you enough! Spring Break brought me to the fabric store a couple of times. I purchased two things that I want to make for myself. One of which is dress! It's close to being finished--I've had to tear out the seams a few times and make adjustments. With any luck I might have a piece of clothing that I made and that I might actually wear!

Or, well, maybe I'll just let the almost-finished project sit for a long long time while I begin any number of new projects.

Material comforts have also found me cooking (what?!): Italian beef in the crock pot, chocolate chip cookies, and omelets using eggs from local chickens!

Scott kept a fire going for us this weekend, which was really nice to cozy up to during the weekend snow storm. He also brought me a large piece of paper that I'm going to use to post MY LIFE GOALS.

Additionally, we've been watching Battlestar Galactica. And on my own I've watched about a trillion and a half movies--nothing mind-blowing, although Moon was really good.

Sensory delights everywhere!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

When the Fingerbones Play, a series of blog entries to read from the top down

For my friends and family, with love.

Some Boundaries: My Most Current Manifesto

I will shower, then go to Panera, where I can get a salad, coffee, and internet connection. Maybe I will get an iced coffee—sexy. I will email K-- that I believe she saved my life in the form of Mary Ruefle’s The Most of It. Without her suggestion, I wouldn’t have bought The Most of It or K--’s book. Before I read the first poem, I dreamed of the box coming, and my dream said: “be very careful with this box.”

I was careful. I waited for it, but not obsessively. I looked forward to it and was assured of its arrival (why not expect what you ordered?). I opened the box and took out the books: Mary’s, K--’s, and another’s (too embarrassing to name right now. OK, it’s Melody Beattie’s The New Codependency. I told you—embarrassing!). I was happy, excited, and wasn’t sure if I was disappointed.

Because when you order a box of crap, then you should not be disappointed when you get four High School Musical alarm clocks, two extra large remote controls (which just add insult to injury), a toilet handle light, and a plastic picnic box.

Luckily for me, that’s not what I ordered! I paid a larger price, but I have found the exact reasons to keep living. I was hoping to find that, I expected to find it, and now I don’t have to struggle with my disappointment. Less thrilling, yes, but exactly the right thing without any effort on my part. For that, that’s what I want to thank K-- for.

(But not in a codependent kind of way, you know. Sheesh!)

So, I will shower, go to Panera, thank K--, and then blog about this all. Good thing because time was starting to get too serious. I just say that last sentence because of my half-assed theory about time travel. Not that I invented time travel theories, but I am really wondering who is willing to consider believing in time travel with me. Bleh: that wasn’t my point. My point was: I’m writing now about what I’m planning to do, which is to read this later and to consider believing that anyone else gives a damn. I was trying to run from that last fact for a long time! “To Someone Likeminded”?! Who was I kidding: I just wanted permission to talk to myself, and I must have thought I was something if I thought I was living alone. Oh, I must have thought myself one hot thing!

One hot sad thing that doesn’t know to separate sadness from herself. The power is there to separate sadness from yourself. Sadness and its bff anger. No wonder, you know?!

No wonder I can argue in and out of theories . . . as soon as I get in my right mind. In my right mind I deny my body and get very angry. I know these theories in my mind, and I have limited tolerance for anyone who doesn’t get it because if I can get it then it’s obvious, of course, because I am not that smart and you only want to think I’m smart because you sense that I do actually think I’m smart and wouldn’t it be nice to just wipe that smirk off my face?

Oh, it’s a fight I want alright. I go headlong into fights; I pick my sides, feel my way through. It’s fortune I have a brain for knowing everything.

Sometimes, though, I fall out of theory mode and I don’t remember why about a lot of things. But I still fight! I just sense that what they are saying is so obvious that it’s goddamned retarded to waste our time speaking when we could be doing the fun business of doing. Never mind your words which I may or may not be jealous of at any given moment (that’s just something I can’t predict).

A blindness to how some of us don’t have to learn things through words first, even though that’s what we wanted the most.

A lump falls to my stomach: what was my point?! I always have a point here.

Oh yeah: it’s the future and you are talking to yourself and it’s also the past, but it’s not past enough to tell your grandmothers that they did a good job and that you are walking their paths, but in a different groove. Independent? Fiesty? Desiring love? Feeling the boundaries of the human condition? Yes and of course. And this time I’m going to keep going. We will see what happens to my body. We will see what I inherited! My body, connected to yours! Half of me is my grandmothers!

Parkinson’s disease; desert cough, cancer? Dementia—drug-induced, or simply natural, or both?

I wish I was lying. I wish these truths could be said a different way: I wish they could. I know no one meant to, but these women paid the price of stifled anger with their bodies. I see other women doing the same thing.

To be crazy? That is something.

Imagine this—going back to the subject of time—imagine me and M-- are sitting in the library discussing language. On purpose because we think it is important. M-- is from Morocco and speaks Arabic, Spanish, French, and English. I speak English and repression, so together we can somehow work into similar brain aches thinking about present perfect progressive tense and future perfect progressive tense.

This is why in high school English I didn’t care about grammar; it made my stomach ache, my hand hurt, and my brain foggy. But I loved English class. And somehow that just stuck and I couldn’t get rid of it, and now look at me: a teacher, a tutor, a PhD student and I cannot explain and can barely allow myself to contemplate the what appears to be magic classificational difference between “I, you, we, they have been walking, riding, being” from “I, you, he/she/it, we, they will have been walking, riding, being.”

I had to look that last part up. I had to pull out the guidebook; I paused my work, sought clarification, and then went on with what doesn’t make sense. And I even thought about it some more. It almost makes sense that we have been walking, riding, being now and that we will in the future have been walking, riding, being. Because we’re doing it now, so of course we will have done it later. Same-same, I think, and so the future just seems redundant.

I will begin the campaign to end the future perfect progressive tense. Not because I can’t explain it [hands on hips, twin annoying hair braids, smirk, know-it-all stance]. But because it’s just actually wrong.

Will this make me a lonely woman? I don’t know; you tell me how many friends a grammatologist has! None now, but legions later, in the future. Fucked up, right?!

I’m ready to make friends. That’s what I want to say in all of this. I want comfort where I once thought there was none: in multiple languages, in different cultures, in grammar, in my own writing. In my intentions. I am ready to lay down all arms. Peace is harder, and I’m here for peace.

Six Possibilities Derived from Others' Phrases . . .

(I’m Not Fond of Any of Them, But Technology Made Them Possible; I Would Have Given Up If I Couldn’t Copy and Paste.)

A Brief History of Time,

where Time is Time or heals all wounds,

then A Brief History of Time or A Brief History of heals all wounds,

where heals all wounds is heals all wounds or wounds all heals, where heals is heels,

then A Brief History of Time or A Brief History of heals all wounds or A Brief History of wounds all heels,

where History is History or repeats itself,

then A Brief History of Time or A Brief repeats itself of Time or A Brief History of heals all wounds or A Brief repeats itself of heals all wounds or A Brief History of wounds all heels or A Brief repeats itself of wounds all heels.

To K. A. H. and M. B., with Love for Your Worms and Turtles

I don’t want to be human anymore, so I am not going to. I don’t think I have to keep doing this the same way. We will be human forever unless we choose not to be, and then we get to be dirt. What a reward; a reward for a life hard earned. All human lives are hard-earned because we are so fragile. It’s amazing we make it through anything at all. But dirt? Earth? That is a true feat. It’s inevitable. To achieve inevitability—that is the center power.

And religious folks choose not to believe in the big bang—a central force that couldn’t exist before. And physicists aren’t arrested for being stark-raving mad! This is the world we live in: explain that to me!

I had it all wrong the whole time: silly INFJ! Myers and Briggs don’t test whether or not you have a body; of course you have a body! You and your extroverted emotion and introverted intuition. You did such a good job of going out and coming in, that you forgot the source of your comings and goings!

It’s obvious now!

Oh to be Jung!

Three days ago I dreamt I had grown extra thick eyebrows. Hair was growing in—rapidly, thickly, like a gorilla darting across the zoo floor to the window—where I had previous plucked. I now had two eyebrows joined at one end. A double-forked eyebrow. The new eyebrow was a perfect arch; it was exactly the shape I’d aimed for last week. The old eyebrow now seemed halfway up my forehead. Maybe it actually was halfway up my forehead—this is a dream, you know. I thought: can I just pluck this old eyebrow, the one I thought I wanted, just because this other one looks better?

I was with that question for the rest of my dream, which was either a minute long, or the whole rest of the night long—it’s impossible to tell with dreams! Two days later, I considered that it would be okay to pluck the old eyebrow because I was cultivating an eyebrow anyway; I was only changing what I was cultivating.

Like the nongardener who, despite noble attempts, grows the weeds just because they are prettier sooner than the real flowers.

A mistake that could only come from someone trying something anyway. The gardening just to garden. That counts. That counts for something. I wonder what I will dream tonight.

Stuart Smalley’s Big Sister: In Mirror

I get it now. I know that fear is ok. I know regret will come from running from something out of fear. For a person who’s already afraid:, For a person who sees multiple endings:, For a person who knew the end to a Choose Your Own Adventure before making the second choice to look in the hole or ask the neighbor: simply consider, . . .

Well I forget my sentiment. Do you regret not doing what you fear the most, or will you regret making yourself face your larger fear?

I Am the Woman Your Mother Was Afraid to Warn You About

I am the woman your mother was afraid to warn you about. I am the woman who chooses not to choose, and the mobius strip with a little thickness. With four sides: choosing, not choosing, grief, and love all as one.

I choose not to choose because even if I have no choice, then my choosing won’t matter, and I’ll have no choice, which is what I wanted to choose anyway.

Am I out of my right mind? Of course I am. I am the woman your mother was afraid to warn you about. Your yelling? Your yelling and your yelling? I am not crazy; I am not making it up—it is real and it is yours and if you are ever going to take account of me, then you will have to account of yourself. I know you agree with me.

I say this process feels like shit right now. It feels like goddamned shit, and I am going to make myself feel better—body, emotions, intuition, in that order—and I am not going to do any goddamned thing else. Me first; my body, my emotions, my intuition: these things are mine, and I know how to take care of them.

You will either love that about me and then love yourself, or you will continue hating yourself all by yourself, which is what you believe yourself to be doing anyway. If I could save you from that sadness, that loneliness, then I would. But I believe you will actually love if you learn to do that on your own. I think you will be thankful for me later, if this ever happens to you. I would rather be thanked later than thanked now, if that’s what’s for the best. I have time, I’m learning. I’m learning patience for my own sake . . . it’s a very curious thing. I’ve never both time and passion on my side.

I am showing you there is love inside you and you are choosing to hold on to your misery. I know why someone would do that—I know why; because it is so scary. It is so scary, and I am so scared, and if I can’t reveal my soft underbelly to you, then you will choose not to look at it. I am not forcing myself out of my shell at the sake of my life; I just happen to be exposed here and now because I am moving forward. Crawling, slowly slowly, the wrinkled creases from my armpits to my paws revealing a softness. Attack, if you must, but I have to keep crawling. I have other places I could be.

They prey creeps on, knowing it is prey and not being afraid for being what it is. Someone else will have to do the killing today because peace is harder and I’ve been training for this: training like a soldier, who leaves his abusive father and loving mother to fight for a country he believes in because of course he believes, and it doesn’t matter if he leaves behind a piece of his heart in the form of a teenaged girl. That girl was there, he was there, and another force called him.

Special Pre- Post- Script: Forgive us our Dave Couliers as we forgive those who have Dave Couliered against us

Alanis Morissette is a genius of our time—sometimes the obvious is just so much fun to observe! This song, “Doth I Protest Too Much” is a perfect relationship song: it’s self-hating when I’m self-hating, self-empowering when I’m self-empowering, passive-aggressive when I’m passive aggressive, smart when I’m smart, honest when I’m honest.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hero: Bob Filner (D, CA)

From NPR's excerpt of the House debate on the war in Afghanistan, "House Holds Rare Debate on Ending Afghan War."



Now is not the time to give up the fight, Texas Republican Ted Poe said.

"War is hard. It is always hard," Poe said. "We shall not give in; we shall not surrender or retreat. It is in our interest and the interest of America to defeat the enemy. And let them have no doubt in their mind, we will be victorious."

California Democrat Bob Filner responded directly to Poe.

"Yes, Mr. Poe, war is hard," Filner said. "I got news for you: Peace is harder. Talk to Dr. Martin Luther King. Talk to Nelson Mandela. Peace is harder."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

command + x

My little brain and heart have been all over the place lately! This is a long post, but it was well worth it to me to write it! I hope it can be of use to someone else!

I used to think correctness, affirmation, and care were closed systems (a product of black-and-white thinking, I know!). I used to think that if you cared about something, then you sought to affirm it and to try to get it right. And if you didn't care about something, then there was really no need to affirm it. And in order to express care, then you express affirmation and support, and if you support something, then it must be the right thing.

I'm untangling these assumptions . . . and it's difficult! It's difficult to want someone's affirmation or support, to know that they care about you, while also knowing they think you are making a wrong decision.

This is a special hang-up of mine because I have wanted to support others, and then sometimes I completely go dry and have no more support to offer. I know this is means that I haven't been offering genuine support; instead, my actions are closely linked to people-pleasing and indirect self-affirmation.

I usually can't be supportive of someone when I think they are making a wrong decision. Uh, this has gotten me pretty far in life considering I know everything and others don't! ;) So then when I think someone thinks I'm wrong, then I take that to mean I don't have his/her support. And if I've determined that someone is really important to me and that I value that person's opinion, then I try to mold myself around that person's ideals.

I don't even really mean to! I have usually thought that I'm very self-assured and independent . . . but I'm not really those things at all. I have plenty of opinions, knowledge, and resources . . . but my actual actions are usually dependent upon someone else's ideas.

I usually end up physically moving or finding other people to fulfill me as soon as I perceive someone doesn't like what I'm doing, and I want to do that thing anyway. This has meant that it's been easy to find replacement mentors, friends, lovers--sometimes I perceive I use these people up because I'm asking more from them than they can provide. I'm asking for definitions of myself, and that kind of neediness can just never be fulfilled.

It doesn't really help me when others say to just listen to myself, or to just surround myself by positive people. On any given day, for example, I might find someone else's cynicism to be refreshing while the next I may find it hurtful.

I want everything to be so clear-cut, and it just isn't that way. To work with what's actually around me, I'm trying to be more careful and specific about what I want, to give thanks more often, and to understand that care and love breeds more care and love.

Case-in-point--and the reason behind this post's title--I've been working on a memoir for the past couple years. It takes different forms every now and then; sometimes, for example, it takes the form of a dusty document that is never seen. One of the most successful forms I've used has been writing letters to other people. In one letter, I wrote to my ex-husband telling him what I thought of the last email he sent me. The email had made me angry, and I imagined telling him that I was just going to assume I had his support. I pasted his words into a letter and said,"These are your words, and I'm just going to take out the ones that have made me angry." So in place of an email that upset me, I actually have a really considerate email!

I saw this revised version a couple of weeks ago, and I thought, "Wow. These are really nice things to say to me." I couldn't remember, exactly, what had made me angry. I didn't feel defensive and I didn't try to justify my actions with him.

I've done similar things when Scott has said the wrong thing at the wrong time. When he does this over a smaller issue, I can say, "[buzzer noise] Do you want to try that again?" Or, "Let's go back in time and pretend you can say the right thing."

These comments are usually met with a well-intentioned yet blank stare. No one likes to be educated on how to communicate and no one likes to teach others how to communicate with them--(I'm generalizing here with "no one") shouldn't communication be seamless?!

I think the seamless, continual part of anyone's communication is that we care about each other. I think it's ok to take someone's care and just cut-out the parts you don't want to hear. What you'll have left is only a good image of someone, and I think, some comfort in your own abilities as the editor of your own story.

And you can't really know where your story is going while you're writing it, either. You can know what you want, but sometimes it will be ugly until it gets better. (I'm just in an ugly phase right now!)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Guilt

Well, after a nice, long weekend filled with some mindless and fun activities, I feel a surge of guilt!

I am totally tired of feeling guilty, so I'm stopping! It's just astounding to me how often relaxing later feels horrible and how it can be difficult to be sober and engage in mindless activities. It's like the brain needs to be fully engaged or fully disengaged in order to not cause problems.

I know, though, that this issue is not the truth of things. I think living a life of these types of extremes probably isn't really living at all because it's life that is determined by the mind.

It can be hard to negotiate guilt, though, because my two usual responses are either "Oh my god I shouldn't have done that I should have been doing this what was I even thinking I'm a lazy no good failure" or "I deserve to have a good time and I don't even care that I didn't work. I am so justified."

This morning's episode with guilt, however, prompted me to think (in addition to the above storylines), "Whoa--I lived with this feeling all through school; how horrible I was to myself." And, "Whoa--where did this come from?" And, "Whoa--is this what it feels like to be a mom?" And, "Whoa--there's no need for this right now."

So, the point is just: whoa, I feel guilty about everything, and I'm going to stop now by just letting it go, instead of trying to explain or justify! Holy self-compassion!

Friday, March 5, 2010

In Love With Marys

Just dance, you know?!

"They're going to hate anyway; don't you get that? Doesn't matter if you go along with their plan. They'll never be happy 'cause they're not happy with themselves. I'm talking about things that I know."



Just laugh, you know?! My little niece!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Indecision May or May Not Be My Problem"

I am reminded of this phrase--which was printed on a t-shirt my mom gave me when I was in high school--after meeting with my advisor today. I've been really excited about my work (a buzz which has last about two consecutive weeks--a new record!), and yet I have been paralyzed when it comes to the writing part. So I dragged my just barely non-apologetic ass to her office hours and shared the grand paragraph I wrote this past week. And by "this past week" I mean "the hour before I said I wanted to meet with her."

It's a fine enough paragraph, and my ideas are promising (what's new? I dwell in the land of promising . . .); we talk, I gain clarity, I reveal my fears of arbitrariness and overwhelm, I'm assured and pushed and inspired. Pretty much par for the course (when I am not enmeshed in a cloak of self-doubt). At the end of our conversation she says, "It's just a matter of making decisions."

I light up: "Oh, it is! I am historically bad at making decisions!"

I can see so many options in most any situation. I used to try to go with the lesser evil, but now I really sense a feeling of going with the greater love. They say you shouldn't work on what you love and you shouldn't expect to be in love with yourself, a romantic partner, your job, and your location at the same time. Ours is an era of great privilege and great selfishness; some of us (like me) cannot apologize for this any more!* We can't atone for sins we don't think are sins in the first place and we can't expect anyone else to shed their false religion and chose our religion. (And we're all religious.)

So I say, damn the consequences, I am going to make some decisions! I will start small, as small as I possibly can . . . yet I also feel big changes coming on, too!

This whole feeling might just be the fact that the sun is out again! It's in the high 50s/low 60s today in Tulsa; it's beautiful! There is nothing like sunshine to make you believe that the world isn't actually conspiring against you.

*I'm not saying that privilege and selfishness aren't sins and that they should simply be accepted uncritically. I'm just saying I can't change the fact of my nationality, racial identity, sexuality, and education level, for example. Acting contrite about these things, along with my access to an overwhelming wealth of resource, isn't helpful. Nor is it helpful to pretend I can get rid of my privilege. I think maybe some liberal thinking goes wrong when it equates privilege to empowerment. I think everyone is empowered to do something in or with their lives; it's just not everyone has the privilege of realizing their own empowerment. So those of us that do realize our privilege can use it and teach others . . . not to do as we have done, but to do what they would want.

That paragraph there is probably one of the smartest things I've ever written! It's like being a teacher of life! [Ha, ha, losers!] [Just kidding! You aren't losers and I'm not that full of myself today. Just full of myself for myself.]

Love!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

E Clap

Well, Eric Clapton and Roger Daltrey played in Tulsa last night. In my imaginary world, I was going to meet and hang out with Eric Clapton. But, well, he didn't seem to put any effort into that, so . . . dead end. Believe people the first time they tell you something; and I'm hearing that Eric Clapton doesn't really want to be my friend. Or, he hasn't yet received that wonderful letter I wrote him.

[Note: Yes, it is a real thing that I am writing to people. Who? Celebrities and to this one Christian person who left material on my doorstep. Letter-writing kind of has a stalker ring to it--I am aware of this.]

Anyway, Sara's brother started calling Eric Clapton "E Clap"--pretty funny, I think.

Anyway, anyway, Scott's parents went to the concert, and I've indirectly asked them to write a review that I could post on my blog. So let this be the post wherein I begin the campaign for Scott's parents to write on my blog.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mama's Got a Brand New Bag

I realized last night that I actually know everything, and that I keep talking myself out of things I know. This is going one step farther for me because I realize that just because I know something doesn't mean I have to do anything about it. I've said this before, and I'm starting to understand it a little better now.

I feel pretty comfortable realizing that I'm often wrong, but that it's ok to trust my instincts and go ahead and interpret situations the way I want to interpret them. I don't need to get attached to my interpretations! In fact, isn't it true that when we are proved wrong, that that's when we're doing some of our best learning? I think so!

I realize that I'm doing a lot of harm to myself by believing that I need to change. I spent yesterday being cranky, and it wasn't until I could feel comfortable sharing that crankiness that I was able to let it go and get some insight. I think this translates to my relationships, too, because I tend to be attracted to people who are flawed and imperfect (uh, yeah, so I'm attracted to people)--I just mean people who have internalized a lot of self-hatred. I know that other person may know that s/he doesn't have to act in a particular way, but knowing something doesn't mean it can happen.

So, instead, my relationships, at their worst, can feel like I'm sitting around chatting while peering around the big elephant in the room. I always want to talk about the elephant! Other people don't always want to talk about the elephant and I always want them to--I'm fundamentally wanting people in my life to change. This is because, fundamentally, I want myself to change.

Just to carry-out my metaphor, I'm starting to think that I've been searching for my elephant in the room, and the elephant is that there is no elephant. And just because I may not have the elephant I thought I had doesn't mean I can't see other's elephants.

I think this has to do with the idea that we are all individuals and have lived particular lives with singular events occurring in our lives. Yet the emotions that these events provoke, of course, are shared across lives. It feels isolating to believe that you need someone to share the particulars of your life in order to feel like you have an ally. And then it feels self-hating, perhaps, to deny that you want others to understand your individual situation. I tend to think, "I know so-and-so knows this feeling," and so I make allies that way. Yet I still (sometimes frequently) desire to spill the details of what my life has been like these past two years all as a way of trying to say, "Do you know how hard this was for me?"

So I think there's a subtle difference between knowing someone's feeling--certainly everyone knows what it's like to go through something difficult that you didn't think you could survive--and having their particular experience. That particularity simply can't happen, which is why it makes sense to listen to ourselves and be there for ourselves first.

If I were making a list of my particular needs, I know that I would put on that list the fact that I need a lot of help right now! In particular, I need help with my schoolwork. Or I just need help in understanding the people I work with; why do I adore everyone, and yet want to yell at them, too?! I vacillate between thinking others (and by "others" I mean "everyone") are so stupid and then believing they are actually really good at what they do. I look at people's career trajectories, and I am tired of people with a neat story and people believing their story will continue to run neatly. Not that it has to be difficult or messy, but I'm just tired of silently giving my consent to others' bullshit.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Seventh Rung

I was reading O this morning; Oprah has an interview in the current issue with Thich Naht Han.

Oprah asks Han what he "knows for sure" and he responds by saying that he knows we are always learning. He compares learning to a ladder and says that in order to reach the seventh step on the ladder, you have to give up the sixth step.

I think that is a beautiful statement. And I don't even know what it means! I don't want to give up my sixth step because I am tired of stepping and there are things that I like here, if only because they are familiar, says cranky Courtney. Maybe keeping the sixth step is part of getting to the seventh, says annoyingly wise Courtney.

But nobody likes annoyingly wise Courtney (unless we're in full-out crisis mode, and even then it's questionable), so we get to tell her how boring she is, which is what she thought we'd do anyway and she doesn't mind, but maybe she does mind, in which case she's not so wise, and we always knew she was just like us and if she's just like us, then why is she so smart sometimes? and why were we so mean to her. She started it, but she couldn't have. We started it and who are we? We are cranky because we are not wise and we will never be wise, so we might as well settle for cranky because it's as good as anything and if we're in the business of settling and accepting, then, well, maybe that's wise. And this is how the snake eats her tail.

Lent Update: I'm Tired of the High Road

I've been whining and complaining all day--and all I've wanted was to experience peace and, you know, "be the change." I want a big time-out . . . even though I feel like I've been in a time-out for a while now. I get cranky because I have no grounds on which to be cranky!

This morning I slept in (which was not gratifying, of course), and when I got around to breakfast, I was so annoyed that I had sworn of craisins for lent.

Facing the bland prospect of plain oatmeal this morning was too much. I couldn't imagine having to suffer through one more plain oatmeal experience. So, I realized that I swore off craisins, but I did not swear off three dark chocolate Hershey's kisses. Hello chocolate oatmeal; you are my new favorite thing!

On my drive to campus today, I was thinking about what I was thinking when I decided to put the chocolate in my oatmeal. I was wondering if I had to consider myself a loser (a Lent loser?) because I did not eat plain oatmeal. I thought if I had eaten plain oatmeal, then would I have considered myself a winner? Then I said, "There are no right answers."

End of game, at that point. No matter what I do, there are no right answers? Then I win and get chocolate oatmeal.