Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Life: I'm so tired of being tired.

I promised that this blog wouldn't be reduced to an emo rantfest like my old livejournal was. And I still promise that it won't be. But I'm long overdue for a blog post, and my life is what's weighing on my mind right now.

I'm (finally) nearly halfway finished with my final year of college. This means that I am now beginning to freak out about what to do with the rest of my life. For so long, my plan has just been "finish school." Now, I'm about to be finished, and I'm coming to the realization that I did college all wrong. I should have done some school activities; I should have done some internships; I should have at least done some volunteering. For most of highschool and all of college until about a year ago, my plan was the Peace Corps; I figured that would give me whatever direction and experience I needed. But that plan was for when I expected to finish college at 22, 23, when I had no real ties and could afford to give up two years of my life to a worthy cause. But now... Now I have a life, I have ties, people, plans that I just can't leave behind. And now I find that I should have spent this time making contacts, gaining experience, making myself attractive to potential employers. I'm going to be entering the job market in a tough economy. Even worse, I think I've finally figured out what I want to do with my life, and my major has basically no connection to the field whatsoever.

You see, I love planning events. And I want to be involved with nonprofit organizations. So what I'd really love is to plan events for nonprofit organizations. Work for a place like Zuma or Attention Homes, or maybe be a freelance event coordinator who specializes in nonprofits. But I have no marketing experience, no public relations experience, no business experience, no background in finances or fundraising or anything like it. I don't have the faintest idea where to start or how to break into the field. I know why I chose linguistics as a major originally, but it really is an academic field where you wind up either as a teacher or in research (or maybe some kind of cognitive science), none of which are fields I have any real interest in. That or you get a master's in something else. I'll at least have a bachelor's degree in SOMETHING, but it's not something particularly useful.

I'm so sick of school, but I'm equally terrified to graduate and start my nonacademic life. I mean, I know I can stay at Turley's basically forever, but it's not what I want. They take great care of me as an employee, I have fun there, I'm great at what I do, it's been a wonderful experience, but I've never wanted my career to be in the restaurant business. I think my experience there will be incredibly helpful if I can break into event coordinating, but I've had a taste of restaurant management and it's not what I want for the long term. But I've really never had a "professional" job. I haven't had to write a resume since we were required to do them in high school. The idea of trying to find a "real" job is paralyzing.

I've just been feeling really overwhelmed lately. On top of freaking out about my long term career plans, there's still the short term goal of finishing school. I'm taking four upper division linguistics classes, which means 50-100 pages of reading per week, much of which is dense, dry, and very "academic," and in addition to exams, each one has some sort of presentation as well as some sort of project or paper (which in every class is worth nearly half my grade). Add in my morphology homework every week (think of an epic word puzzle, usually 2-3 hours of work at least) plus phonetics homework and a lab (the scientific side of linguistics - yuck!) and I already have plenty on my plate. Add in 25-30 hours of work per week (thanks CU for barely giving me any money this semester, that was awesome!), plus a car that needs something like $2000 in repairs, not to mention day to day chores like laundry, dishes, cooking, and keeping the house clean, and I just feel exhausted all the time. And that's not including social stuff - D&D, TV night, birthdays, holidays, visitors... Sometimes, I ditch class just so I can have a few hours to myself, even though I know I'll pay for it later, either in extra work or a hit to my grade or both. Dan helps as much as he can, especially with housework stuff, but sometimes I get so stressed and focused that I don't ask him for help when I should. I wouldn't be able to survive without his support though, I know that much for certain. But he can't work my serving shifts for me, nor can he do my homework or pass my classes.

There is sort of a light at the end of the tunnel now, with graduation looming in May. But between knowing how far off that still is and the fear of not knowing what I'm going to do with myself after, that light is distant and dim. Things between now and then are only going to get harder, too, what with my final projects and exams coming up in December and then an even FULLER school schedule next semester combined with even LESS money from CU (since I'll be paying partially out of state tuition - I'm about out of COF money). And even once I graduate, even if I find my dream job the day after graduation (ha!), will my life really be simpler or less stressful? Looking around at my post-graduation friends, and the "real" grownups in my life (parents, bosses, professors), I doubt it, and that's sort of a depressing thought.

I was hoping to end this on a hopeful note, but the truth of the matter is, I'm so tired that some days I only get out of bed in the morning because Dan drags me. My schedule is so full, I resent social invitations because it means giving away another chunk of precious time. The rare time I steal to watch TV or read a book, I feel guilty for because of how many other things I "should" be doing. I've always been a big supporter of taking time for yourself so as to not burn oneself out, but there just aren't enough hours in the day.

I'm just so tired.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On Choice: Freedom and Responsibility

Choice. What is it? How much responsibility does someone have (or should someone have) for the choices they make? Which choices should be sanctioned by the government, and which should be illegal? Choice encompasses everything. How we feel, the way we live, what we think. Choice defines who we are. The choices we make ourselves, the consequences of those choices, the way we react to the choices of others, and the consequences of the choices of others, all combine to make up the entirety of the human experience. You choose who you are.
One of the things this country was founded on was the notion that people should be allowed to make choices about their lives with minimal interference from the government. There are, of course, some choices that all or most people can agree are wrong, most obviously the choice to take from others. Whether it's someone's TV or someone's money or even someone's life, most people in a given society can agree that theft is wrong, and thus provide laws laying out stern consequences for anyone making that choice. But other choices - what god to believe in, how to raise one's children, where to live, what career to have, what to buy, whether or not to agree with the politicians in power, what to read, the choices of the day to day, should be made with as little governmental interference as possible. That is the notion around which freedom is based in this country.
You have the freedom to choose, but you also have the responsibility to own up to those choices; responsibility is intrinsically tied to this freedom. You have a responsibility to accept and deal with the consequences of the choices that you make. This concept seems simple, but of course it isn't. People argue, for example, "I have not choice but to have a terrible life, because my mom abandoned me/dad abused me/schools failed me," etc. Others argue that, for example, children, the elderly, and the insane do not have the mental capacity to understand and make choices. How does one determine these things? Should a woman who was abused as a child be held accountable for then abusing her own children? Should a child who murders someone be held as accountable as an adult would be for that same crime? Or, to move things to a less intense but equally relevant topic, should you be held accountable for the way I feel, or do I have to take some responsibility for that? There are no clear answers for any of these questions. Everyone has a different opinion. And I will offer mine on some of these topics at a later date. For now, what I want to talk about is arguably the most well-known, hotly debated topic on choice:

Abortion. Should it be legal? Is it a valid choice, or are people who have abortions murderers? What are the consequences of abortion?
Who has the right to decide if those consequences are acceptable?

Abortion has been in the news a lot lately, sparked by the murder of a doctor who ran an abortion clinic in Kansas, George Tiller. His clinic was one of only three in the nation that would perform late-term abortions. Articles I've read, and discussions I've listened to, have gotten me really thinking hard on my own stance on abortion.
Typically, the two camps are divided into Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. Personally, I hate both terms. I find both to be grossly inaccurate, especially as contrastive terms. It implies that people who are "Pro-Choice" are not pro-life, giving the impression that people who are "Pro-Choice" don't respect life and rather are unfeeling baby killers (and, in fact, the "Pro-Life" nickname for George Tiller was "Tiller the Killer"). It also implies that people who are "Pro-Life" somehow have the ability to take away a woman's ability to make choices about her life. But even if abortion were made illegal, you cannot take away someone's ability to choose - you can make the choices harder, you can make them suckier, certainly, you can discourage someone from making a choice you feel is wrong, but even when options are fewer and less appealing, the choice does not cease to exist. The term "Pro-Life" also bestows a sheen of moral superiority on that faction, because of course all of us want to feel that we respect life, and no one wants to be in the group that opposes life!
But, hate the terms as I do, they are the common terms in our society and I have to live with the linguistic terms I have been given, and so designate myself as "Pro-Choice." However, in being Pro-Choice, that does not mean that I am pro-abortion, an important distinction and one that those of the pro-life camp try to blur as much as possible. I simply think that the issue of abortion is an incredibly complex one, and a deeply personal decision that has to take into account each individual's circumstances, circumstances which are unique to each situation. It is far from black and white. Here are my equally complex feelings on the issue.
I think that the decision about whether or not to have an abortion is a terrible decision to have to make. For some women, it is a decision that haunts them for years afterwards, even those who feel that they made the right call. Whatever the circumstances, it is the kind of decision that you can't take back, and the impact of that decision not only impacts the unborn child and the woman making the choice, it impacts the child's father as well, not to mention the impact it can have on the relationship between all of those involved, including friends and family. The right to choose comes with heavy and sometimes heartbreaking responsibility.
I'm using a "no no" word here in terms of what you might read in a typical "Pro-Choice" essay on the subject. I have noticed that "child" (or "baby") is a term reserved for "Pro-Life" people only. The "Pro-Choice" side seems to prefer "fetus." While fetus isn't inaccurate, I do think that it tends to diminish the gravity of the situation. When thinking about abortion, it's easier to think in terms of "fetus" rather than "child." The fetus, in most peoples' minds, is sort of an amorphous blob until very late in the pregnancy, looking more like some kind of weird alien than a baby. But if you ask any expecting mother what she thinks of the fetus in her womb, there is not a shadow if a doubt in her mind that it is a child. We have an example in pop-culture in the film Juno, where the protagonist of the movie, Juno MacGuff, finds herself pregnant at 16. She initially intends to have an abortion, until outside of the abortion clinic a fellow classmate informs her that the fetus has fingernails, even at this early stage. It is this humanizing characteristic that turns the fetus into a baby for Juno. It is for this same reason that Pro-Life advocates want to pass a law requiring an ultrasound before a woman can have an abortion. The idea is that once you have seen the child, heard its heartbeat, it will be far harder to view it as an abstraction. Pro-Choice advocates argue against the measure for the very same reason.
One of the central questions to the debate is this: Is a fetus alive? Is it a person, thus making abortion murder? Or is it merely another cell within the mother, or something akin to a parasite or a tumor? There are no concrete answers. Science cannot definitively tell us whether or not a fetus is a person. Some people believe it is alive from the moment of conception; others from the first heart heartbeat three to four weeks into the pregnancy; others at the point of viability, i.e. when the fetus might be able to survive outside of the womb; others not until its first breath. Even Thomas Aquinas believed in a concept called 'delayed hominization' wherein a fetus did not have a soul until 40 days after conception (or 90 for girls), and there was a time where the penalties for contraception were harsher than those for abortion before ensoulment.
So. If science cannot tell us, definitively, whether or not a fetus is alive, or at what point it is alive, then we must turn to our own beliefs. Theology. Ensoulment. Personhood. Concepts intrinsically bound up with religion, with faith, with personal conviction. And we're dealing with choice. What do you choose to believe?
So what do I choose to believe? Personally? A fetus is a baby to me. A living being, with all of the promise and potential of a budding life. What proof do I have? My gut. My belief.
In other words? None.
I am lucky enough to live in a country that allows me to choose to believe whatever I like, a country that (at least in theory) believes that the church and the state should be separate entities. If the state has not right to legislate my religion, then how can it legislate my beliefs about something as completely bound up with religion as the personhood of a fetus? And if I do not have the right to force someone to share my religious beliefs (a concept this country was founded on), then how can I have the right to force someone to share my beliefs about the ensoulment of an unborn baby? I have the right to try to persuade them to my way of thinking, to try to talk them out of having an abortion, to make sure they know all of the options as far as having the baby and putting it up for adoption (especially now that something like open adoption is a viable option, and thus adoption no longer means that the biological parents of a child will never see their child again). I have the right to educate people on contraception and safe sex, on the value of being careful until you're ready for kids, to try to minimize the need for abortions. I do not have the right to pass laws making their choice illegal, and forcing people into the awful situation of seeking out dangerous back-alley abortions, or choosing to raise a child they are ill-prepared for, which they are unable to care for.
Because the truth is, making something illegal doesn't take away the choice. It just makes the choice more dangerous; it makes the consequences of that choice more dire.
As to the Pro-Life protesters who scream at women walking into abortion clinics? Or, even worse, who assassinate abortion doctors and bomb women's clinics? What do they really think they're accomplishing? Do they really think that's the way to change someone's mind? I read a story from a friend who told of a friend of hers who was referred to an abortion clinic by a doctor because her unborn baby had died. She was in the midst of absolutely awful, tragic circumstances, and she had to weather judgment and abuse from the protesters standing outside of the clinic, calling her a slut and a murderer. These people have no idea what the circumstances and stories are of the people on whom they are passing judgment, and that is the thing that infuriates me most about these situations.
No one knows your circumstances better than you. No one knows what choices are best for you. And in the incredibly difficult choice of whether or not to keep a baby, that is doubly true. No one can make that choice except the parents of the unborn child, and ultimately, the mother of that child.

I choose to allow others to choose.

Friday, July 10, 2009

On Honesty: Where is the line of TMI?

Ok, I've been tagged by not one, but two different people. I supposed I'd better play. You asked for it! The theme of this seems to be not just sharing funny little-known factoids, but also deeper, more meaningful truths about yourself, some of which may even be embarrassing or scary to share. So, I gave this a lot of thought, and here's what I came up with.

The Honest Scrap award is given by other bloggers who consider a blog’s content or design to be brilliant. The awardees must then post ten honest things about themselves and pass the award on to other bloggers who fit the bill – in other words, whose blog is brilliant.”

I think honesty is put to the test when you tell people things you’d rather not share. Things that scare you. So here’s 10 painfully honest / potentially disturbing things about me (proceed with caution):

  • Hanna, you aren't the only girl who digs some occasional (or not so occasional!) porn, though my site of choice differs from yours. Incidentally, static pictures do nothing for me. I'm all about the video. I also have a guilty reading pleasure - pornographic Buffy fanfic!
  • I dreamed and planned for practically my whole life to study abroad while in college and then to join the Peace Corps after. As it turns out, I'm doing neither. A big part of me wonders if I'm making a huge mistake.
  • The person I lost my virginity to is not who everyone thinks it is.
  • I live in fear of a normal, boring life. I wanted to do something important with my life, something that made a difference in the world, even a small one. If I wind up with some kind of standard office job, I'm afraid I'll end up bitter.
  • A small part of me resents my parents for not helping me out more through college. However, I do have a certain amount of pride in the fact that I've made it through mostly on my own.
  • I detest when people allow themselves to be made victims. I'm big on personal choice and personal responsibility, and there is absolutely nothing that infuriates me more than, "Well, I was totally helpless because of circumstances." You can't always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose how you respond to them.
  • I once flew out for a week in San Diego to hang out with a Navy guy (no, not Fletcher) whom I had met through a coworker while he was in town on vacation. It was an unmitigated disaster, and one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. In the entire trip, I only left the apartment twice (and not because I was just having that much fun indoors, sadly), I never even met the guy's roommates (he never bothered to introduce me), and I spent at least one night alone because he abandoned me to go hook up with his ex. My self-esteem was in shambles by the time I got home, and for a long time after.
  • In my search for the perfect man, I actually paid for a subscription to eHarmony. I also put up several Craiglist ads. Even went on a few dates with online prospects. What I finally realized was that I would never be able to take seriously a guy I met through a personals ad. Not that I judge other people who meet that way - just, for me, there had to be some sort of previous connection. I think I'd have the same problem with a guy I met at a bar.
  • I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I want kids, and I've always wanted a big family. But deep down, I'm really really scared of being a parent.
  • I'm even less vanilla than most people think. This is mainly about lifestyle, and the lifestyle side of it will almost certainly come up in future blog posts.
So, you asked for it, now you have it. ^^ And now, I bestow the award, and the dare, upon the following fabulous bloggers:

Tea Party with the Hatter
Opposite Ends of Infinity
Branden's Idea Blog
The Adventures of a Bohemian Butterfly

Lynnsey Life

P.S. Thanks for the award, girls! :D

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On Love: Fear and Certainty

Being in love is at once the most wonderful and the most terrifying experience of my life.

The wonder comes from having a partner in crime; a teammate in the day-to-day parts of life; a warm, solid presence in my soul; an ally who always has my back; a lover who knows me intimately and loves me deeply, through my proudest moments and my darkest experiences, who sees all of the imperfections and rough spots and loves them for being a part of me. And, too, the wonder comes from loving someone else in the same way; in knowing that I know him on levels that no one else does, that he counts on me to have his back and cheer him on, that my love sustains him as his sustains me. It is an incredible feeling to know that he looks forward to waking up with me and falling asleep with me in his arms, that he trusts me like I trust him, and that at the end of the day I am what he looks forward to coming home to. And the wonder comes from feel cherished and safe in a way that I never have before.

The terror comes from the vulnerability of leaving myself so totally open to another person; from trusting as I have not trusted since I was a little girl; from venturing into completely unknown territory.

I've never been in love before. I've experienced puppy love. Longing. Lust. Infatuation. Until Dan, I was infamous for yearning after men who were either unable to be or uninterested in being romantically involved with me. I have spent a great deal of time being heartbroken and sad, and for a long time I confused this with being in love. I pictured myself as a martyr. A long-suffering saint who loved unconditionally and received nothing but empty promises, pain, and regret in return. The truth is, I was stupid. I chose to be a doormat. I chose to be used. And I made these choices out of fear. Because, as painful as unrequited "love" is, in many ways it's easier. Safer. It requires no real commitment, no real effort, no faith in someone else. No trust.
I was almost in love once. But it's hard to call a relationship conducted almost entirely over the phone, e-mail, and IM a real relationship. We met only once face to face, and there was no real possibility of living in the same country, let alone the same city, short of us getting married and one of us completely uprooting to be with the other. At 19, that was not a step I was prepared to take. Because of this, the relationship was safe. It had all the elements of the unrequited love with which I was already so familiar, with the added benefit that I got an ego boost from knowing that he actually returned my feelings. And I did care for Fraser. I think, in another life, another time, I could have loved him. I admit, since he found me on Facebook, I have wondered what it would have been like if things had been different. He's married now, with a beautiful little girl, and there is a small corner of my heart that knows it could have been me. But I wasn't ready then. I had the opportunity to let our relationship really get real, to let myself get truly involved and take that next step. But when it reached that point, when I knew that I was becoming vulnerable and I was going to have to take some kind of leap of faith, instead I ran away.

And for a long time, that was the closest I got. Any time someone showed interest in me, I found a thousand reasons not to be with him, even if I had previously liked him. I hung myself up on the unattainable and the uninterested. Men in relationships or fresh out of them; college professors; men with serious problems with drugs and alcohol; men who were unstable, who were jerks, who were broken.
Dan fell into the category of "interested and therefor uninteresting" for a long time. My closest friends, the ones who knew and loved me best, on more than one occasion told me how stupid I was for not giving him a chance. But I was stuck, trapped into an unhealthy rut by my own fear and self-destructive tendencies.

Last summer (or, to be more exact, the early to mid-fall following the events of last summer) I basically hit rock bottom romantically. I was utterly miserable, for which in hindsight I blame no one but myself, though at the time I had other ideas. I felt used. Stupid. Undesirable. Most of my friends had washed their hands of the situation; not abandoning me, but understandably sick of giving advice that fell on completely deaf ears. During that time, it was Dan who was always there for me. I remember one incident, in particular, which happened on my birthday last year.
This was by far my lowest point. By the end of the night, when I shared a taxi home with Dan and Shad, I was drunk, I was angry, and I was desperately hurting. I remember getting out of the taxi and slamming the door, and I think I made it across the street before bursting into tears; I made it maybe halfway up the stairs before I was sobbing so hard I couldn't walk any more. I should note that this misery was a result of equal parts alcohol and self-inflicted torture, with perhaps a dash of confusion and an ounce of rejection. But the important part of this story is that it was Dan who realized how distraught I was; Dan who checked up on me; Dan who tried his best to console me. I remember thinking at the time, "if only I could find someone who cares about me like Dan cares about me."
It took almost four months, and a little benevolent shoving from a friend, for that thought to really sink in. In fact, even after Dan and I first became involved, we were under the impression that our relationship would take the form of "friends with benefits." But it didn't take long for us to realize that we weren't going to be able to maintain that for long without things getting much more emotionally complicated, on both sides. And it finally occurred to me, "You know who cares about me the way Dan cares about me? Dan."

Taking that step into a real relationship was one of the hardest, scariest things I've ever done. It helped that he was (and is) endlessly patient with me; it also helped that I had been so epically burned by my own self-destructive stupidity. The idea of being with someone stable, sane, and supportive, who makes me feel safe, who thinks I'm wonderful and beautiful... After spending so much time with a wounded ego and a broken heart, I had finally grown up enough to embrace these qualities which once upon a time I would have denounced as "boring." And Dan's and my relationship is far from boring.
For the first time, love songs reflect how I really feel, rather than how I wish things were. My whole world feels different. Even my bad days aren't so bad; when I'm completely stressed, or miserably sick, or upset or hurt or angry, there's still this little corner of me that is blissfully happy. And most of the time? I'm content. I feel safe and loved and all is right in my world. All is so right, in fact, that it still doesn't feel real sometimes.
I spent a large portion of my life believing that love was all bound up with conflict and drama and pain, and that anything else would be dismally dull. But there's something to be said for stability, for communication, for trust. For unshakable certainty. There's something to be said for thinking about the future in terms of "we." For watching him with his nephews and feeling myself filling up with love as I picture him with our own kids. For this new feeling, that no matter what happens, he and I can get through anything.

I can honestly say, I've never been so completely happy.

Monday, June 29, 2009

On Family: His, Mine, Ours

I spent last weekend up in the mountains outside of Westcliff with Dan's family. This was the big meet; I'd had the chance to get to know one of his sisters (JaNyce) and her boys a few weeks ago, and I had of course met his mother back when we were kids, but I'd never met his oldest sister or her family, and I hadn't seen his parents in probably ten years, aside from perhaps a passing hello at Elly and Branden's wedding a few years ago. I certainly hadn't met them since Dan broke the news to them that we were planning to move in together. I should mention that to his deeply religious Baptist parents, this was not happy news, and has sparked several long e-mails from his mother along with their insistence that we read books and watch videos to "educate" us on the evils and pitfalls of living together outside of marriage.

Our families couldn't be more different. I am the product of a military brat who was in college during Woodstock and participated in that era whole-heartedly, from peace protests to dumpster-diving after Bob Dylan memorabilia, who grew into a man of the live and let live variety and eventually married my mother, a hard-partying child of the seventies who is fiercely independent, a bleeding heart liberal who tends to think that everyone on the conservative side is ignorant at best and evil at worst. Neither grew up in a traditional family; I never knew my paternal grandmother, but I get the impression that she was a very savvy, spunky lady, and my maternal grandmother had the cojones to divorce her cheating, alcoholic husband in an era when divorce was nearly unheard of, and move her family across the country to start over. My parents married after living together for a year; my mom was 24, my dad 37.

Religiously, my dad is a (very) lapsed Catholic, my mom an (equally lapsed) Lutheran; they've both dabbled in religious ideologies with elements of Buddhism and metaphysics, and while they always encouraged my sister and I to read, explore, ask questions, and formulate our beliefs, we rarely went to church and my mom always made clear her distaste for organized religion. Both consider themselves people of faith; both believe that the Bible is a book worth reading, and that Jesus was a man worth admiring. Both think that the Bible is a human book written by human hands, far from infallible, but beautiful and valuable just the same. Both think that Jesus was a good man, a spiritually advanced man, a divinely inspired teacher, and no more (or less) the son of God than anyone else. Neither of them has ever been satisfied with the common explanations and justifications for a supposedly all-knowing, all-loving God who is portrayed by most religions as petty and impotent. As a child and teenager my beliefs were shaped by books like The Chronicles of Narnia (yes, I am entirely aware that they are Christian in nature), Stranger in A Strange Land, Illusions, and books by Mary Summer Rain.

My parents are good people. They love my sister and I very much, and tried to teach us to be independent and smart, generous and compassionate, honest and fair. They made some mistakes along the way; neither of them is perfect. But they did the best they could with what they had, and in all I look back on my childhood with mainly good memories and heaps of admiration for what my parents accomplished. And all of this without the threat of an angry God looming over us. Incidentally, they were both thrilled at the news that I had found a man who I felt ready to start my life with. They will be equally thrilled when we decide to get married.

Dan's family are good people, too. They did their best to include me all weekend, with everything from helping to pitch tents to being included in jokes and swapping stories about our lives and especially about Dan. JaNyce's two boys were very excited to pick flowers for me, and if occasionally someone couldn't remember my name, well, I occasionally struggled with some of theirs, too. But it was incredibly disconcerting, and even a little uncomfortable, for me to find myself among people for whom religion is such a central part of their lives. His parents married before they were 21, because they were finding it difficult to resist the physical temptation represented by the other.

I grok faith; I "get" believing in something bigger than yourself, in wanting to believe that there is a reason behind the madness in this world, that there is some kind of grand plan. I "get" wanting to gather with other people who believe as you do to share in that faith. I do not, however, grok religion. My thoughts on religion will almost certainly come up in a later blog post, so I won't go into detail about it now. As it pertains to Dan and I though, it's like I feel this huge, gaping chasm between his family and I, and that chasm is this fundamental difference in belief systems. It shows up in little places; my awkwardness when his mother and sister said grace over our lunch, a little discomfort when his dad held an impromptu (though quite lovely) church service before Dan and I left in the morning, furious tongue-biting on my part when topics such as gay marriage, women preachers, and the King James version of the Bible as being "the most accurate" version came up. There has always been an incredible amount of intellectual debate in my family - we are all well-educated, well-read, and rarely all agree on any given topic, and as such we have animated discussions on most any subject we please. And we always come out on the other side of these discussions still friends; we often still don't agree, but we come out knowing not only a little more about the topic at hand, but also a little more about each other. It makes me sad to know that I will never have that kind of closeness with Dan's family. And the heart of that is religion.

That tenseness isn't going to get better with time. I will never come around to their way of thinking, and especially as Dan and I start building our own family, I fear that that chasm is only going to get wider. I sincerely hope not; there is an abundance of love in his family, and I don't want myself or, more importantly, our kids to be cut off from it, even partially. It makes me sad that something that has its roots in something as beautiful as the Christian faith can be come such a source of divisiveness.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Time: Everything changes, and yet so much stays the same.

I've been reflecting about time a lot lately. The spark for my development of this blog was perusing some of my old livejournal posts, and deciding that I didn't want to be "represented" on the internet, if you will, by that collection of emo ramblings. The journal was started during another time of transition for me, but while both then and now have in common the themes of self-discovery and self-definition, reading those posts is almost like reading the thoughts of a totally different person. The girl of those days was untried; she was reckless; she was self-destructive. She was unashamedly promiscuous, and a heavy drinker who rarely slept and even more rarely thought more than a few days ahead. This was the girl who killed her car by neglecting to put oil in it; who repeatedly failed entire semesters of college because she couldn't be bothered to go to class; who always yearned after unattainable (and totally unsuitable) men; who routinely bounced checks and ignored bills; who had to go to jail for playing the "maybe if I ignore it it'll go away" game with an underage consumption ticket.

I don't even know who that person is anymore. In those days, I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer, I was still carrying a torch, and I had no idea where my life was heading. If someone had told me then who I'd be about to move in with I'dve laughed in their face. Now I'm a good student, who may actually graduate some time in the next year with a degree in something I've always been fascinated by, moving in with someone I love with an intensity I didn't know was possible, who actually takes care of me and treats me not just well, but like I am something truly precious to him. I'm stable, I'm responsible, and I've begun building a life that I think I'll be proud to look back on. But it's a life that the girl of that livejournal would never have pictured.

Really, the truth is, it doesn't take traveling back even five years to spin my head in terms of time. This time last year, I'd just come back from Fibark, and was embarking on what would turn out to be a pretty intense summer for me. Lots of things about it were great - I spent a ton of time out hiking, and lots of time laying out by the pool. I was in the best shape I've been in in years, with a fabulous tan and a generally positive outlook. But I also made some stupid decisions, let myself get swept up in an incredibly unhealthy situation, and did a pretty good job of alienating everyone important in my life (though not permanently, thankfully). For a while there, I wasn't me; not only was I not me, I wasn't someone that I liked very much. And I'd probably be a lot more bitter about it, except that without the lessons I learned last summer, I wouldn't be who I am today. More importantly, I would never have let go of the fixation I had on unhealthy, unstable, unattainable men, and fallen in love.

The biggest change in my life is definitely Dan. Really, most of the change in my life (new man, new apartment, new outlook) is centered around him, and our relationship, our commitment to each other. It started out totally unexpectedly, but I really couldn't be happier. We've gotten so serious so quickly, and it's incredibly scary, especially for a confirmed commitment-phobe like me, but I've never felt so sure about anything in my life. And if I hadn't gone through what I went through last summer, if I hadn't spent so much time hanging out with Dan, talking to him, crying on his shoulder, getting closer to him than I ever had been before, if those steps hadn't been taken then we may not have ever wound up together, and that would have been tragic. And so while I don't relish the memory of all of the emotional turmoil, confusion, and pain that I went through, I can't be bitter.

Something else that got me reflecting about time happened to me this week. Dan and I spent the afternoon and evening in the hospital with Elly and Branden a few days ago. Even though as emergency surgeries go, an appendectomy is fairly routine, it was still pretty scary to go through. But it's times of crisis like that that really bring home how lucky we are as a group of friends. I mean, sure, we're always bringing in new blood, but it's rare to have such a close group of friends that lasts over such an incredible span of time. Dan, Elly, and Branden know me as well or better than even my own family (which is saying something, because I'm pretty close to the fam, too). We've been through so much together. So when something awful happens, it's a little less scary because we have this incredible support system. If we can get through what we've all already gone through together, we can face anything. It's easy to forget how blessed we are to have each other during the day-to-day minutia of our lives, but we truly are.

More than a decade ago, when Branden and I first became friends, when through him I met Dan and Elly (and Fletch and Christina and others who aren't around so much any more), when through me he met Sarah, and the core of our group was formed, we all figured we'd be friends forever, just like any group of friends does at that age. What's truly incredible is that we were right. We've grown up, we've changed, our lives have taken turns that none of us would ever have predicted in a million years, we've fought and reconciled and moved away and come back and now as we are all taking the steps into real adulthood we're closer than ever.

I think that's pretty cool.

On Blogging: Why the emo?

In the past, I've tended to only write online when I was feeling particularly emo, depressed, cranky, pissy, or otherwise unhappy. I've had my livejournal for five years (almost exactly, in fact) and while looking back at it is both enlightening and entertaining, it's also depressing and more than a little embarassing. It doesn't exactly showcase my proudest moments, and while I suppose it does offer a snapshot of a few pieces of my journey, it's most certainly not an accurate reflection of my life.

So, inspired by an amazing single mom, a vivacious bohemian butterfly, and a practical, big-hearted atheist, I'm starting fresh. I'm embarking on an exciting, scary new chapter of my life, and I think it's worth writing about. And while I don't promise that I'll never be cranky, whiny, bitchy, or unhappy, I hope to be far more likely to share an abundance of wonder, contentment, satisfaction, and joy.

That's my hope.