changing the negativity conversation: a request

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So seriously positive people who hate complaining and complainers… what do you do for small talk? When someone is sighing their brains out about how hard it all is, there is only so much “That sounds really tough, I’m sorry” I can do before I have to just agree with them or pretend to agree with them. And if I say that I agree with them, I can feel their negative energy creeping into my brainwaves and I am doing so much work to fight against unnecessary negativity!!!

 

Ugh… SIGH… it’s just SO HARD! See? Like that.

 

How do I stop that? How do I be a supportive coworker/friend/etc. without falling into their spiral of badness? And what do I talk about if I don’t have to complain about how overwhelmed I am? Does anybody have a good strategy for turning around a negative conversation?

 

I asked the “Let it Be” people (that’s the “podcast about less doing and more being) and they said “good question!” but they didn’t answer it. They got stuff to do… or stuff to … be.

 

So help, internet. Please. Thanks!

mindfulness, hospitals, Busy, panic, rant

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1   I’ve been on a big mindfulness kick lately. I go on mindfulness kicks every now and then and whenever I do it, there is a voice in the back of my head that tells me I’m doing something frivolous and not worthwhile. Then another voice argues that stress can cause serious medical problems and so it is worthwhile. And then another voice expresses extreme anxiety that I am too stressed out and it’s going to lead to health problems- health problems that are ALL MY FAULT. And WHY AREN’T YOU DOING MORE TO CALM DOWN? CALM DOWN!!!!!!!!!

2.  I have this horrible thought that comes up pretty much every time I hear about someone I know having to be laid up in the hospital. This horrible thought is, “How very nice for them- maybe it will be me someday.” What a weird thing to think. But people in the hospital are being allowed to rest, to be taken care of, to take a break from their responsibilities- and they have an external reason for it. Something happened beyond their control so they are also excused from the guilt of not being Busy. I don’t know what the answer to this is… maybe to pull out and find hospital time for myself… time to do nothing but focus on resting and getting better. My kid is asleep and my husband is at rehearsal… so maybe now.

3. I think the most popular subject of conversation in workplaces is how Busy we all are. The more Busy you are, the better teacher/mom/therapist/worker you are, of course. If you’re not feeling so Busy, you better not admit it because people will think you don’t care enough about your job or that you need to be given more to do. I have fought and fought and fought this, but the Busy is so contagious. I mean what do you have to talk about if you’re not Busy?

4. I am afraid I don’t know how to live and work in the world and not be in a state of panic. I’ve been so much better these last few weeks but sometimes I feel like it’s an uphill battle. There are so many things and people telling me about how hard and stressful and bad things are… how failure at everything is inevitable. I don’t know what the solution is… more meditation? More medication? More friends that don’t talk like this?

5. And what is this blog post? A big huge complaining proclamation about how Hard everything is. mkay… gonna end this post now… do some deep breathing…

 

 

 

 

caledonia- or “making old people cry”

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For a brief period of time, I was participating in a cabaret show, singing show tunes for an older audience. During that brief period of time, my dad was really into Celtic Woman. They did a cover of Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia, which is a song my dad had always liked. I’d never heard it. He sent me the sheet music with a note that if I sang this one, “you’ll really make the old people cry.”

The lyrics of this song are so sappy, I cringed reading them. I shoved the sheet music away in some forgotten folder and didn’t think any more about it. I actively avoided talking to him about it anymore.

So then last year, it came time to plan my dad’s memorial… and to decide whether or not I was going to sing. And I thought of this song… and about old people crying… I decided it was absolutely appropriate. My last inside joke with my dad.

Now that it’s been a year, I wanted to explain it… in case anyone who attended his memorial was also cringing at the lyrics. This song that I rolled my eyes at will now forever break my heart.

a year without my dad

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It’s been a year since you’ve been gone but it still surprises me. I’ll remember something you said or do something you taught me to do and then I’ll remember what happened. And I’ll draw in my breath sharply… responding to a sudden deep pain. Like when you sprain an ankle, forget about it, and take a step on it without bracing first.

I think often about what your last moments were like. I’m so frustrated that I’ll never know exactly what happened. I’ll never know what you were thinking. I hope you know that you were loved–by me and my sister and Mom. And your grandson.

I miss you terribly.

You died on a Monday after injuring yourself somehow the day before fixing the Jeep. I secretly curse every Jeep Cherokee I see- especially blue ones. The app I use for teaching speech sounds has a blue Jeep for the “word-final /p/” section. I use that app for every other speech sound- but if I have to do word-final /p/, I’ll use picture cards. Your death has affected me in much more profound and sweeping ways, of course. And after a year, I’m still not ready to go into just how profound and how sweeping. I’m still figuring that out, I guess.

I would do anything to bring you back. That’s something I know I’m not capable of, but my poor brain continues to go over and over again the things I might have done to get you to have gone to a hospital instead of dying on the floor alone in the night… or the morning… whenever it was.

If there is any form of you in spirit or energy or whatever, I hope you are at peace.

 

 

reprogramming

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I’m so used to “total crisis panic mode” that I think something is horribly wrong when I don’t have a large mountain of burning crap to deal with.

I was thinking to myself a few weeks ago- when I was dealing with the wrath of unholy hour-cutting and subsequent poverty- about what it might feel like if the new job was everything I wanted. I was unsure if I’d be able to handle it.

I’m way too early into the school year to make broad statements about how perfect my job is now, but I would like to report that I have had two weeks of enough to do and enough time to do what I need to do when I need to do it. I’ve had time to make dinner. I’ve had time to seriously consider putting thought into side dishes for dinner. I’ve had time to go running. I’ve been listening to podcasts about mindfulness (my favorite is currently “On Being“).

I’m currently enjoying a weekend that is completely free of any kind of money-making duties. While my son is napping- I took a bath, baked some brownies, finished reading the book club pick of the month and wrote this blog post.

I would like to graciously give up bragging about how busy I am and start bragging about how much I’m winning at life. But first, I need to shake the feeling that there must be something I’m forgetting to do and the need to look for some area of my life in which I am failing miserably. Gotta reprogram those neural pathways designed by the chronic stress of the last 10 years.

 

in 1978, God changed his mind about black people. Now it’s time for the LGBTQ

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I’m apologizing right away for quoting the musical “Book of Mormon” but I’ve been trying to title this thing for 15 minutes now and I need to get on with my Saturday.

I have a friend from college that ran in the same circles I did. We spent a spring break together one year spreading a cement floor for a mission trip in Mexico. Now, she’s a mother of two and has a blog where she eloquently writes lots of stuff that I agree with. I think she’s come to a lot of the same conclusions I have- but unlike me, she’s somehow been able to hold on to her faith. The following is a response I had to write to her post about being a Christian and affirming/accepting LGBTQI people. It got so long that I decided it wasn’t exactly appropriate to just copy and paste on her Facebook page… so I’m posting it here.

In one of her more recent posts, she writes about things in the bible that mainstream society, including those identifying as Christians, doesn’t include in their own belief system like slavery and, possibly also the condemnation of homosexuality:

“If we believe that God is alive and working today, then we must admit that he is working in this generation, in this time, in our culture. Not that we assume all beliefs are therefore valid because of the time we’re in, but is it possible that certain truths were veiled from humanity in a time where their implementation was not possible?”

And here’s what I have to say:

So mainstream Christian society figures out that they should ignore the verses that condone slavery and not take so seriously the (many) verses which condone the subjugation of women and now, more recently, they can also reinterpret the verses which condemn homosexuality. All the while, these changes are happening because God is allowing it- that he is unveiling the truth to humanity in a time when it can be implemented. Suspend your belief for a moment and look at this suggestion from the point of view of a non-believer (like, say… me). To me, it is very obvious that the interpretation of scripture follows the whims and lessons of society. It’s exceedingly more logical (to me) that these revelations are our own- not something directed by a higher power who inspired the very writings that made us okay with slavery, subjugation of women and homophobia in the first place. You figured these things out on your own. You’re not giving yourself- or society- enough credit. I don’t think you could argue that this wouldn’t have been easier to figure out without the curveball scripture you had thrown at you.

It would be SO much easier for everybody if the bible didn’t actually condemn homosexuality. You know in your own heart that the condemnation is wrong. I applaud the efforts of those who have tried to come up with alternative interpretations of the problem verses, but they’re not all that convincing to me. I think it’s pretty clear what the bible says about homosexuality.

You cited the documentary Dr. Keene did about homosexuality and his church. I was at the convocation at Pepperdine he held in the chapel when people were standing up and reading these verses. He had decided he didn’t want to talk about why he thought the bible didn’t condemn homosexuality and he wanted to focus more on how his church decided to let them be themselves at church. But that’s all everyone wanted to talk about- because if the bible didn’t condemn homosexuality, then we could all be friends again. We all had LGBTQ friends and we really wanted to love them as we loved ourselves. But we really loved God- and we really thought the bible was the word of God. And God must be right. Right?

And that’s just it. You know it’s not right to include “homosexuality” on a list with other sins like lying, cheating and murder. How could you know something God didn’t know? This isn’t something God revealed to you. This is something you discovered for yourself. I’m pretty sure God’s not all like “oooo, let’s see if they get that I didn’t actually mean all that stuff!”

At some point here, you have to concede that the bible is not the end-all-be-all infallible document that we were taught it was. And I think- from reading what you’ve been writing in the past year- that you know that. I appreciate the post about how to reconcile your compassion and your faith and I haven’t read all of the links (and books). The reason I’m writing long-winded posts about this is because this is where it turned for me. It became exceedingly clear that I knew it was wrong to condemn people for things they could not control- be it their sexual preference- or the culture they grew up in (which might not include exposure to Jesus or the opportunity to accept him as a personal savior before dying and being condemned to hell forever) and I refused to believe in a god that did that. And it was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. And I’m still trying to sort out the pieces.

Because there is a large part of me that is spiritual–that’s still seeking… that wants to do good… that wants purpose and meaning in life. And I’m interested in knowing how anybody can still identify as a Christian, but not cling to the tenants of eternal punishment. I don’t think I will ever end up adopting a religion again- but I do believe that many of the principles (doing good) and many parts of the culture (helping others /community) are important. And lacking in my life in particular.

And I’m going to try to keep having these discussions- because people are dying at the hands of other people with these deeply-held fundamentalist beliefs. It’s absolute madness. It’s absolute lack of reason. And although I do not identify with Christianity any more- it’s still my alma mater. I feel like my former homies need to be the ones to step up and condemn violence and hatred. They need to be the ones shouting about peace, love, forgiveness and acceptance. Not about marriage rights and bathroom privileges.

graduation without my dad

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I graduated from Pepperdine in May of 2005. My dad flew down from Portland and neither one of us had cell phones at the time. After the ceremony, I panicked for a few minutes because I had no idea how I was going to find him in the huge mass of people.

I saw him before he saw me. He was standing- with a slightly stooped posture… looking around… looking confused. He was looking for me- a lei draped from his hand. It struck me for the first time that he looked old. And maybe I’m projecting this, but I think I had a brief thought about how awful it would be when he died.

I’ll graduate with my master’s degree from CSUN on Monday. My mom is flying down to see me. My dad’s absence is going to be felt. I feel it now and it’s heavy. I had a dad for most of the five years it took me to get this degree. He paid for some of the textbooks and the computer I did most of my schoolwork on–the one I’m writing this blog post with now. He had told me he was proud of me. I can hear him telling me how impressive it is that I’m a “master” at something… Like when my passport came in the mail before my trip to Spain in college, he called me “the world traveler” for a week. Walking across the stage without my biggest fan is going to be painful. And although I will be opening the door to much bigger and better things, closing the door on this stage of my life is going to be painful too.

coming out

posted on Facebook this morning. I’m shaking. I’ve never come right out and said that I had abandoned the faith held by so many of my friends. But I had to say something. You can’t actually believe in the tenants of Christianity and support Donald Trump:

 

From NPR this morning: “The apparent depth of support for Donald Trump among evangelical voters has produced an identity crisis within that conservative world. Some are disassociating themselves from the broader community.”

YOU ARE SO LATE TO THIS PARTY, GUYS. It took Donald Trump in his unmitigated language to voice things that conservative, “evangelical” politicians have been saying (although not as bombastically) for YEARS to wake you up and say “huh… I don’t think that’s consistent with what Jesus tells us to do.” For real?

Please hear me- someone who spent the majority of her formative years as a church-going-Jesus-loving-bible-study-leading-church-camp-counselor and graduate of Pepperdine University: It was the revelation that the current brand of Christianity was not at all consistent with the actual tenants of Christianity laid out in the New Testament that led me to give it up completely. In my studies of history and the history of religion in this country, I have found that religion so closely follows the whims of culture- that it’s been used to justify our own existence- whatever existence you’ve got… Religion is a function of human self-esteem- and absolutely, not ever, the result of revelation from an actual deity that exists outside the human mind.

It only took me 10 years to come right out and say it on Facebook.

But I felt the need to- just to tell you Christians- you need to take a serious look at the tenants of your own faith if you’ve decided after “prayerful consideration” to vote for Donald Trump. And while you’re doing that, check the statements of his competitors against the tenants of your own faith as well.

book review: Station Eleven

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5/6 stars: Great book that I would recommend to most people. (e.g. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks)

I loved this book! It’s the best book club pick ever since I’ve been in book club. 🙂 Lots of gorgeous post-apocalypse imagery (i.e. trees growing through cars stuck for miles of freeways, for instance) and life-affirming stuff. I found myself in wonder at the grocery store, pulling fresh milk off the shelf and into my cart… and all this food that I didn’t have to do any work to produce. The characters in the book talk about how incredible that they used to be able to flip a switch and the room would flood with electric light. Books that make me think about my life differently- even if it’s only slightly differently and even if it’s only for a very short period of time- get high ratings from me. Very rare that I get this from fiction- so A+, Emily St. John Mandel.

this sweater is hand wash only, so it’s dirty

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There’s a hook on my bathroom door that’s been occupied by a few articles that I don’t use. It’s a point of irritation for me because I probably could use that hook to hold articles that I actually do use. One thing that occupied the hook was an Anthropologie sweater that didn’t fit me anymore. I gave that to my mom when she visited. In July. Good job, me, for getting rid of something I don’t need, but now to the other things occupying the hook.

One of them was a green, chunky sweater with fringe that I might actually wear. If it didn’t have cat puke on it. I haven’t washed it because the tag says “hand wash only” and how inconvenient… Am I ever going to hand wash this huge sweater? Because if I’m not, I should get rid of it asap. Then I picture Goodwill employees being super grossed-out by the cat puke on this green sweater. They’re definitely not going to hand wash it. (Do they wash donated clothes at all? I think they’d have to… but what about all the complicated instructions? Do they have one blanket method to clean everything- including blankets?). Throwing out a usable sweater because I don’t want to wash it seems like something a Kardashian would do… Well… the Kardashians can pay people to wash things for them. The Kardashians probably only wear clothes once and so therefore don’t need anything to be washed ever. I have way less money than a Kardashian. My car crapped out right after Christmas and cost me an extra $1300, so I’m exceptionally broke right now. I decided to wash the goddamn sweater.

I figure I should look around and see if I have anything else that’s hand wash only so I can do them both at once. I throw the green sweater into the bathtub with another black Express sweater that was advertised to me as having “a touch of cashmere” and so bc of that or something it’s also hand wash only.

Oh my gawd sweaters soak up so much water. In addition to the “hand wash only” instruction, the tags also say “lay flat to dry.” Since I didn’t have any space anywhere that was ok to also get soaking wet, I left them laid as flat as possible in the drained bathtub.

The baby needed a bath the next day and so I had to move the sweaters which I think were not a bit dryer than they had been 24 hours prior. I laid a clean(ish) towel on my bed and put the smaller Express sweater there and then draped the huge green sweater over the shower door… thinking about how warped it was going to get… how I wouldn’t want to wear it… how this would all be for naught… but the baby was crying in his high chair and needed to get out and take a bath asap so I compromised. I heard a “tap tap tap tap” from the bathroom and realized the green sweater was So Wet that it was actually dripping water on the floor. I wrung it out (something I wasn’t supposed to do according to the bylaws of the sweater tag) and it was Still Dripping. I had found the solution to California’s water crisis- this sweater was generating its own unending source of moisture… So I found a random plastic bowl and set it under the fringe to collect the water and went off to bathe my son in the other bathroom.

Now, I’m aware that there are contraptions made specifically to help you dry your hand washed sweaters. But the whole point of me washing the sweater and keeping it instead of not washing it and throwing it away was that I’m Poor. As in- “not a lot of money to buy things.” I’m also living in an apartment with way too much stuff so I absolutely do not want to pay for something else I will just have to store when not in use. And I also can’t get a hotel room for drying my sweaters- which is something that crossed my mind… I have no floor space that is not immediately being used or will be used shortly bc a toddler runs around everywhere.

Before going to bed, I transferred the Express sweater and now-very-wet-towel it was lying on to hang over the shower curtain rack… noting that the bed was damp but at least it was only on my side so the husband wouldn’t have to deal with it. Meanwhile, the husband groans from the bathroom with the green sweater, telling me that the bowl I chose to use had a crack in it. To which I replied WHY DO WE HAVE TO KEEP A BOWL WITH A CRACK IN IT? He said he had thought about throwing it out, but had found himself using it to hold things that didn’t leak like chips when company came over. The right answer would be “because we’re not Kardashians.” No way the Kardashians have bowls with cracks. They probably also never reuse dishwear and don’t have to make decisions about whether to keep slightly broken things.

But almost everyone is not a Kardashian. Do normal adults just have washing machines with delicate settings and sweater dryers and enough room in their living spaces to actually dry sweaters? What do the rest of us do? Wear dirty sweaters… or throw out dirty sweaters… or just never buy sweaters…

P.S. This reminds me of a Mitch Hedberg line- “This shirt is dry-clean only. So it’s dirty.” I tried to find a clip of him actually saying this on YouTube but all I could find was a clip with terrible audio- and this one below that has a joke about dry cleaners- not dry clean only shirts. But it’s still really funny so I’m going to post it anyway: