Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I've been thinking lately about the rarity of the question "why." My friend and I were talking about religion the other day and he mentioned the frustration that, as an atheist, he is supposed to be respectful of people's beliefs, that it is considered bad manners to question someone religious as to why they believe the things that they do. This idea has extended somewhat in my thinking- why don't we ask why more often? Why seems like a question that invites vulnerability. If I ask you why you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or why you don't return my phone calls, or why you believe that Muslims shouldn't be allowed to build a community center in downtown NYC, the likelihood is that I am asking because I disagree with your position or your actions.

I get the whole "vulnerability" aspect of questioning someone's actions or opinions, but it seems like we could get to know one another so much better if we asked why about seemingly unimportant things too- why do you like that type of coffee? Why did you buy this truck? Why do you think you like Brandy Carlile? And then the importance of giving thoughtful answers. Communication focusing on actual connections- "why" indicates an interest in one's inner workings. "Why" means that I care about you enough to be interested in your reasoning, your processes, your background, your history. Being brave enough to answer "why's" means that you are able to act with integrity- to question your own thoughts and beliefs and see if there's something solid underneath the actions and the impulses and the emotions.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The green elephant in the room.

So I've felt pretty boring lately- haven't had a lot to talk about in terms of politics, life experiences, realizations, epiphanies, etc. Which is not to say that there haven't been things to talk about; nationally, this has been a pretty brutal summer. I could talk about lessons learned in Thailand (the real question would be whether I could stop once I started). I don't know- none of it is giving me that buzz- the itch to just spill my guts via Arial font and smear them across my private corner of the internet neighborhood.

But I want to write today, so I figured I'd talk a little bit about money.

If you asked me to give you a run-down analysis of my experiences with money, it would probably go something like this: "I'm shit with money, I never have enough, I'm poor, I'm bad with money, I'm scared of money, I can never seem to get ahead" blah blah blah insanity. For the majority of my life (save a brief, rosy time when I was living at home and had no debt, before the car and the student loans and the credit cards), I have struggled with money. It has been a source of stress and fear and frustration in my life as long as I have been signing my name along the dotted lines of adulthood. I'd say my approach to dealing with this stress/fear/hate has been out and out avoidance. Classic denial, ostrich head in the sand, etc. Sure! Go right ahead and buy that! Why not! I have no money for it, but I'm NEVER GOING TO HAVE MONEY, so let's just keep on digging!

What this approach has essentially meant is that I will go for long periods of time with this vague, stressful feeling in the back of my head, and then one morning wake up in a cold sweat, spend hours of my day pouring over accounts, making plans, etc., until the panic settles down a bit wherein I return to my denial until the stress builds up again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

However, this past year has really been an amazing year. I have been happier, more productive, more focused, more in line with myself than I've ever been. Getting older sucks for the face, but it sure feels amazing to finally get to a place where you feel comfortable in your own skin. Anyway, so feeling good is sort of addicting, and once you start feeling so great in other areas of life, the temptation is to want that feeling in all areas. Crazy, I know. So slowly, I've begun to turn my focus toward the green elephant in the room.

I'm not feeling altogether secure on the wagon, but I figured I'd share some things I'm learning along the way. Here are some useful tools I've found:

  • Bryon Katie. If you appreciate her rather Buddhist approach to reality and existence, you may find her work with money can help with cognitive hangups. I think in the past, many of my issues with money have stemmed from beliefs I have had about where I am supposed to be financially, fear stories that I have inherited from my parents (whose fears about money have always been a factor), and stories I have told in conjunction with the events of my life (like the classic one- "I have a degree, so therefore, I should make more money" hahahahahaha....aaaahhahahahahah.... soooo funny!). So much of our lives are spent story-telling. Living in reality is so much kinder. It's really helped with my underlying fears.
  • I have a new goal (as of a few weeks ago) to spend a little bit of time learning about money every day. Whether that's reading through a few money blogs, reading the financial section in the NYT, getting books from the library on money, or what- I am committed to becoming more proficient in the vocabulary and terminology of money, finding tips that might help me out, finding people who give good advice, and following it. Doing it daily helps me to keep focus and it also helps me to remain motivated to stay on track with my own monetary goals.
  • J.D. Roth, author of the blog Get Rich Slowly. I like this guy. He's practical and non-gimmicky and his information is, for the most part, helpful.
  • ING.com- online banking. The best return rates for savings accounts, checking accounts, etc. I signed up because I was looking for a savings account that I can forget about. It was easy to sign up and, when I had a question, their customer service person was REALLY nice and helpful. I'm sold.
  • The Simple Dollar- I like this guy too. Informative and not preachy.
  • Mint.com- I'm pretty sure everyone already knows about this already. It takes a little time to set up, but once you're done, you have a complete, up to date, financial picture of just how screwed you really are. For me, while it's sort of depressing, looking at it helps me with my avoidance- I know exactly where I'm at. And, at the end of the day, it's not something that a little extra effort can't turn into a good situation.
What have I learned? The biggest thing I've learned is that, while I'm not perfect with money, I'm really not as bad with it as I'd thought. Hopefully, it just gets better from here on out.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


*Names and information have been changed

So, I thought it might be interesting to dissect an incident that occurred last week as a little vignette on being a woman in today's society.

Since I've lived in the same house for going on four years, I've taken certain pains to establish connections with the community around me. I make friendly conversation with my next door neighbor when I see him, I clean up other people's dog poop at the park when I have a spare bag, I try not to leave our trash cans on the street for more than a couple days after trash day, etc. I'm no Pollyanna paragon of gung ho community spirit, but I love the place I live and I take a certain enjoyment out of the little connections that accent my life.

A certain amount of these little connections are to be found at my nearby grocery store. I know that cervical cancer has traumatized one of the checkers and that she's now too frightened to get a colonoscopy for fear of what they might find. I know that one of the customer service desk women goes running by my house and has a baby poodle puppy. I like talking to these people and I like seeing them day after day, year after year. One of my favorite people has been a little checker boy that I will call Steve*. Steve is probably around 21, going to Salt Lake Community College, likes to hike, likes to help me with my grocery store problems (no more tilapia on display, all the avocados are overripe, can't seem to locate the fennel). I've looked forward to saying hi and having a brief 30 second chat with Steve whenever I see him.

So, it was no surprise that when I got back from Thailand, Steve asked me where I'd been since he hadn't seen me in a while. I explained about my trip and we talked briefly about the things I had seen there. He mentioned that he was thinking about applying for medical school and would I mind giving him my number in case he had any questions about public health? At this moment, little warning bells started ringing in my head, but I figured, the kid is 21, he seems earnest enough, why not? So I did.

That night, the texts and the late-night phone calls and the Facebook friend requesting began. It became apparent that Steve was not looking for a buddy to talk school plans with. So in the spirit of honesty, I sent him a quick email the following day. My email is as follows:

Hey [Steve]!

I figured I'd write you a quick note on Facebook, rather than have a text conversation. I hope you're having a lovely day today. :)

This is sort of weird, but I just wanted to clarify with you that while I'm definitely interested in being friends and activity partners and etc., I'm not available for a relationship right now. I apologize if I'm terribly narcissistic in even bringing this up- for all I know, you're just wanting to have another friend on Facebook and go for hikes occasionally! I just try to make that clear with people from the getgo so that there isn't any awkwardness or miscommunication between friends.

Anyway, from your pictures, it looks like you like to do stuff outside- camping, etc. Have you ever been to the San Rafael Swell? If not, may I just TOTALLY recommend it right now? :) It's one of my favorite places in the whole world.

Have a great day!

Not too harsh, right? Pretty direct? Writing emails of this sort gets tricky, as any girl can tell you, because while you don't want to be misunderstood, you also don't want to offend someone. However, I didn't have to wait long for the following response:

Thanks for clarifying with me what you want. I am not really looking for a relationship either right now. I would like to hang out and go do things with you. this may sound weird to ask but would you want to be just freinds with some benefits on the side that we just keep on the down low?hope your having a great day and would you want to hang out sometime?


There isn't enough space on the internet to describe what is wrong with this email (grammar? spelling? Not even going to GO there), so let me just take one thing.

I was IMing my friend when I received that email, so I shared it with him. His immediate comment: "Yeah, he thinks you're a slut or something."

Yes. He DOES think I'm a slut. My 21-year old grocery bagger Steve thinks I'm easy.

You might feel compelled to defend Steve against the imminent skewering that is about to happen. The whole, "he's young and stupid" argument, or maybe "what's so wrong with asking for what you want?" argument. Or MAYBE, deep down, you're thinking something more insidious, like "what did she do to make him think that she was open to something like that?"

And the shitty thing is that, even as a strong feminist, as someone who openly defends women's rights to sexual expression, to taking the lead in relationships, to making the first move, to swearing and talking frankly about sex, MY first thought was, "My god, what did I do to make him think that I'd be open to something like this?" I quickly scanned through my head, reviewing past conversations for any hint of inappropriateness on my part, trying to remember if I'd ever gone to the grocery store sans bra (definitely, but also sans makeup and hair brushing), trying to figure out anything that might have led some random dude to think that I was, basically, a slut. Because of course it's MY responsibility to control what men think about.

Apparently though, according to the results of a study done by a Christian website called, "The Rebelution" on women and modesty, a woman doesn't even have to dress provocatively or say provocative things in order to be considered a slut!

So let's see here- I'm pretty sure I've walked around the grocery store. Pretty sure I've probably stretched once or twice. I've definitely bent over in an attempt to retrieve rogue produce. And, no doubt, the scrub bottoms I've occasionally worn as pajamas have served their insidious purpose as the "technically innocent" outfit with naughty nurse connotations (no actual medical practice need be involved!). No wonder Steve was confused as to my slut-ness! I am basically a walking SEX FOR HIRE sign!

All Christian man modesty insanity aside, it was really disturbing to me to see the culturally reinforced stereotypical interplay in this interaction even though it was relatively harmless. Here is a man who knows next to nothing about me other than my first name, who believes that sexual proposition to an almost total stranger is completely appropriate. And the woman in the situation, me, upon receiving such an utterly tasteless and offensive proposition,immediately tries to figure out what it is that SHE did to mislead said asshole. Classic sexism 101.

It gets even worse because, rather than dealing with the situation as I would have liked to, with a big "WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TALKING TO?" email, I hesitated. I didn't want to make waves or cause a fuss because I wanted to be able to shop at my grocery store without feeling deathly uncomfortable every time I saw Steve. And so I held back my indignant anger. I fell back on the most socially acceptable rejection excuse for a woman in today's society because, true or not, it's always easier to reject someone under the guise of a relationship than to reject them because they're a misogynistic disrespecting shitbag with no common courtesy.

Hey [Steve],

Unfortunately, perhaps I was not clear in my first email: I am not available because I'm seeing someone else.

However, this little interplay of weakness only led to the following response:

Don't worry about it. I was just seeing if there was any possibility. we can just be freinds. and maybe if the oppurtunity rises if your not seeing anybody else just let me know and we could do stuff?

After which, I promptly deleted him from my phone and Facebook and thanked my lucky stars that I'd only allowed him "limited" profile access. But I'm angry. I'm angry at myself for not standing up for myself. I'm angry that I felt the pressure to be nice to him even in the face of utter disrespect. I'm angry that I didn't tell him that the real reason I wasn't interested in having "something on the side" was because he's a 21 year old checker at the grocery store who I'm not attracted to and who treated me like a sex object. I'm angry at the thought that he may still be under the impression that his attempts to solicit me constitute an appropriate way to address women. And I'm angry that all my compromising didn't help:

I still don't want to go to my grocery store.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Mikey is dead.

This is the second time I have written that sentence since it happened, though in the interim between writing it, I have said it (to myself, to others) what now seems innumerable times. I have been afraid to write it. Writing is so permanent. I am frequently paranoid about writing things down and destroy evidence of anything I write that may be particularly incriminating later. But with this, I cannot take it back. I cannot destroy it. Because he is gone.

And I need to write about it because writing, in part, is how I deal with the world around me. But I don't know what to write about. If I write about all the memories of Mikey, all of the love I have for him, and only tertially touch upon the fact that he is dead, it seems like a lie. If I delve too much into the pain of losing someone I loved so much, it feels unseemly- too expositional- too emotional- not enough Mikey too much me.

I cannot seem to write about him in the past tense.

Worden (2002), gives the four processes of grief:

1) Adjust to the reality of the loss. (He is gone. He will not return. After I found out he was dead, I called his phone and left him a voicemail telling him goodbye. As if I somehow expected him to receive it. )

2) Work through the pain of grief. (It feels like the ocean tide. The pain comes in and it overwhelms me and eventually, it recedes and I can move forward, knowing all the while that it will come again. I don't know how long it is supposed to take- I feel almost awkward trying to deal with time in this perspective- I'm sure some would say that time isn't the important thing here, that the pressure to grieve and move on is natural, but to stick with it through its natural cycle. I'm sure there are all sorts of rules for this- I just don't know them.)

3) Adjust to the environment without the deceased. (I find it terribly ironic that, in the lowest circumstances of my life these past three years, it has been Mikey who has stepped in and sat with me in my despair and my sorrow. And now, when I again find myself in this place, the one person who has always unfailingly been there, is the one person who cannot step in and say all those right things that he is so good at saying, or tell all those stupid jokes that he is so good at telling, or give those big, lanky, all-encompassing hugs, or sing all those beautiful songs that somehow made things a little easier. Adjustment indeed.)

4) Emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life. (How can I take him with me into the present? How can I honor him best? How do I keep such a dear friend close in my life, despite the fact that he is no longer living? This is a process I have not figured out yet. Not being religious anymore, I do not have the easy out of supposing that he and I will again reunify in another life. I was reading Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, the other day and he mentioned that it is almost a certainty that in every person's life, they will, at one point or another, consume a water molecule that has passed through Oliver Cromwell's bowels. For some reason, I found this oddly comforting.)

It is a process. It is a process I did not anticipate and, if he'd given me the choice, I wouldn't have signed up for it. But here we are. He is learning how to be dead, and I am learning how to grieve. He loved me and I loved him and that certainty makes this very difficult time worthwhile. He is worth grieving for. He is worth learning from. He is worth remembering.

"The pain of grief is just as much a part of life as the joy of love; it is, perhaps, the price we pay for love- the cost of commitment."

I am ok with paying that price.

Monday, May 10, 2010

On not being an A student

I'm not an A student. I am A, A-, B+ sort of student, meaning overall, I'm probably at best an A- student. I try not to let this bother me, try to realistically analyze the fact that while I may not get the best grades in the class, I certainly learn the material and in fact may just not be that great of a test-taker, have skills in other areas, blah blah blah. I can make all sorts of rationale for it, and in truth, if this were someone else's issue and they were telling me about it, I would definitely not feel it to be that big of a deal, but, unfortunately, I do feel like it's a big deal and it totally bums me out any time I get anything less than an A.

It doesn't have anything to do with me being a perfectionist or anything- anyone who has looked at my car or my backpack or my room will tell you that I don't suffer from any sort of obsessive compulsive tendencies. In life, I generally try to aim for the stars and feel pretty content if I hit the moon. If my bread falls, if my garden doesn't grow, if my Blockbuster calls about yet another movie I haven't returned, if I need 30 "breathers" while on a hike, I take it with a pretty even hand.

I think my total disregard for my standard "hey, may not have done it perfectly but at least I tried/hadfun/didn't totally suck" attitude has to do more with the fact that I really hate feeling so fucking average when it comes to academics. I'm that nerdy kid on the playground who doesn't really rock at sports, isn't popular, isn't rich, isn't particularly ANYTHING, but damn I can read a book. Funny how grades bring me back to that mindset. A-'s seem like the epitome of "Also Ran." I don't think I'm totally alone in wishing that I was the absolute rock star at something, ANYTHING. Books/grades/school have always seemed like my best bet at being above average (because it sure as hell wasn't going to be anything else). However, reality deems that I face facts: I'm not a rockstar in school. I'm solidly middle of the row.

So what do you do with a solidly middle of the row aptitude? How does one deal with the fact that despite an enormously inflated ego, you're just not as smart as you think you are? I guess appreciate the humility of it all? I really have no idea. I guess I should get started finding out.

The Middle Way

So I have some pretty negative thoughts on pornography. Negative as in, even typing the word makes my teeth grit together and my blood pressure rise.

The other night, I was at Piper Down with some friends. For some reason, all their television screens that night were showing porn. Not just boobs, but full-on female nudity, girl on girl action, etc. I'm not even sure what the show was about, but it seemed along the lines of some Girls Gone Wild action- except with full sex scenes, etc. When it first came on, I tried to ignore it and pretend it wasn't happening- tried to ignore seeing all the guys I was with watching it, etc. But as time went on and the seemingly never ending parade of boobs and sex kept coming, I just felt myself get angrier and angrier. I mentioned to my friend that I was thinking of asking Piper if they wouldn't mind changing the channel. Her response was just to "ignore it." Another friend of mine chimed in and said the same thing, that it wasn't that big of a deal. And I basically snapped a gasket. I told him OF COURSE it wasn't a big deal, to HIM, because he had a PENIS. I told him that it was impossible for him to understand the perpetuation of objectification and degradation toward women that comes in conjunction with pornography because he was a man. I was angry. Not at him, per say, but at the entire situation. Even now, I'm fighting back the urge to make this a post about the shittiness of porn.

Anyway, after my rant, I sat there feeling waves of anger just rolling over me. I really felt emotionally spent. I was worried that my friendship might be compromised due to yelling at my friend about his laissez-faire attitude. I wasn't having a good time. And the naked girl parade was still going on in full force. My anger had essentially accomplished nothing positive.

In Buddhism, there's talk about finding the Middle Way. As someone who does not identify as Buddhist, I apologize to those with more expertise on the subject than I have if I misinterpret the concept, but I believe it's the concept that in all things, balance is key. This applies to the normal, boring things like diet, sleep, exercise, sex, etc. However, it also applies to things like emotions, where allowing a particular emotion/mindset/belief to become entrenched is also a way to become out of balance. In fact, it seems like most of the focus on balance, regards this emotional upset that occurs when we attach to our thoughts. You see this focus on awareness and disattachment to thoughts in cognitive psychology too- I just think the Buddhist concept of the Middle Way is an appealing viewpoint.

Anyway, so I've been thinking about the concept of the Middle Way for a while. I think, for me at least, it gets tricky around things like politics and feminism and other ideologies that I subscribe to. How to be an effective proponent and supporter of things I believe in and yet not allow the beliefs about them to overattach? That's where it really gets tricky.

So for now, I'm practicing letting go with porn. Digging right down to the nitty gritty of it and admitting that, for as much as I utterly loathe it, all that loathing isn't going to stop girls from stripping for the camera in order to win "Most Sexy" or "Best Boobs." In fact, my loathing essentially accomplishes porn's initial intention- it deidentifies these women for me- I stop seeing them as individuals and can only see them in the context that they are displayed. I stop caring about them as human beings and instead feel resentful that they are playing active roles in supportive a sex culture that commodifies them- essentially putting them in the role of "other"- which then places me in a similar role to men who only see them as an objectification of sex. The only difference is how we each moralize it.

In other instances of successful letting go, I've noticed that it doesn't make me any less of an advocate. In fact, approaching things like this from a more positive, less attached position often times means I've been able to more strongly explain my positions without all the emotion. Hopefully, that means that next time, instead of becoming Mt. Vesuvius next time Piper does Girls Gone Wild night, I'll be fine with simply asking if they could turn the channel. And if they don't, that will be fine too.

Friday, April 9, 2010


I kind of shrink when thinking about actually posting this because I really hate it when people get all sanctimonious about their life choices. If I go vegetarian this time, it will be because I really can't justify the consequences of eating meat. And I don't have to start quoting Michael Pollan or posting Humane Society feedlot videos. We all know what's going on. It's bad. It's inhumane. It's environmentally unsound. And yet, I'm still not altogether convinced that getting rid of meat is the answer.

Here are some things I've been thinking about along these lines:

1) From a logistical standpoint, the odds are pretty low that everyone in the world will become a vegetarian. This means that there will always be a population consuming meat. This means that, rather than trying to ban meat or preach veganism, it's probably more realistic and responsible to encourage more sustainable and responsible agriculture. However, if people like me who are interested in supporting sustainable and responsible agriculture convert to vegetarianism, we are no longer contributing to the meat market, per say. Which means that the meat market will continue to be dominated by the percentage of the population who doesn't care or can't currently afford to support sustainable practices. Which means that those who are in the meat industry won't be convinced that it is financially feasible for them to transition to more sustainable methods. So there's that concern. I don't think that my ONE meatless mouth is going to be the determinant factor in this, but it is definitely an issue.

2) I absolutely do NOT believe in vegetarian self-righteousness. I don't want to be labeled as an asshole. It seems like a paltry reason, but it's a big deal to me. Many of my social events in life center around friends and food and I'm not interested in bringing my political beliefs to the table in these circumstances. This means, at best, I'm still a flexitarian (which is pretty much what I am now). So what would be the point of making the transfer over if I know I'll still be in pretty much the same place?

3) I cook dinner probably two or three nights a week and the people I cook for (roommates, friends, etc) and eat with are not necessarily vegetarian. Since I pretty much hate cooking for myself, going vegetarian might mean that I end up doing more cooking for one. Unless I suddenly become the world's most awesome vegetarian chef. Which I'm not. I'm not a bad cook, but you're not going to be seeing my upcoming show on the Food Network any time soon.

So yeah. There are some thoughts that I'm having.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On turning 27

I think blogging is probably the best way to talk about turning 27. That way, no one has to hear my long, drawn out thoughts on it without the ability to turn off. :)

My birthday is on Saturday. I'm turning 27. To be honest, up until about two weeks ago, I haven't really felt like turning 27 was going to be a really big deal. After all, it's sort of a boring age. Late twenties, not yet thirty, nothing exciting here, move along folks. That's sort of how I've been thinking about it.

Except, that's apparently NOT how everyone else thinks about it.

I had a friend ask me the other day how I felt about my upcoming birthday. I said I didn't think it was that big of a deal. "Oh come on," she said, "you and I talk all the time about how getting older sucks and how hard it is to deal aging and not having anything really settled down. You're saying that it isn't hard for you at all?"

I think that's where this whole navel-gazing began. Because my thought on that comment was simply, "do I really spend time talking about how getting older sucks?"

Since that little exchange, three other people in my life have commented on their own advancing age status (turning 30 for two of them, turning 50 for another) and how getting older is hard, especially turning 30. And when I mentioned that it was my birthday to a couple of friends from school, both of them seemed surprised (and happy?) to learn that I was older than they were. It seems like everywhere I turn these days, people are talking about how getting older is difficult and scary and signifies the end of....something.

And you know what? It totally does. When barraged by reminders of my ticking clock, I can look around and see how completely frightening it is to get older. Frightening because it is indicative of a loss of power, especially for someone like me who hasn't utilized the power of youth to steamroll herself into the social normative roles (married, kids, etc) expected in this culture. My god! If I don't have my looks, how will I ever attract a HUSBAND!!! And with no husband in sight, it's just a matter of time until my uterus gives up and shuts down the factory and then *GASP!* no babies!!!! Which means, of course, that I am going to die old and alone. Did you hear me? That's right. OLD AND ALONE.

On top of that, getting older means that at some point, I'm going to be ugly. Not saying that I've ever been Cleopatra or anything, but advancing age means that I'm stepping closer to that time when popular society will deem me useless, as they do with all women who get past a certain point. I'm not close to that point yet, but all the indicators out there are constantly screaming warnings about that dreaded date with destiny. BOTOX!! NO ONE WILL KNOW THAT YOU'RE FORTY!! Olay Night moisturizer! TAKE AWAY THOSE AGE SPOTS! Acai Berry Diet! Revamp your metabolism to that of a 21-year old!

So to sum: ugly, powerless, useless, alone. Definitely scary things to face. No wonder getting older can be terrifying.

I love Mad Men. I get together with friends and watch it and we revel in the drama and the despair and the beautiful retro clothes and the hotness that is Jon Hamm. The third season just came out and we've been like a bunch of addicts, cloistered for hours in a tiny dark room, watching episode after episode, impatiently pausing for bathroom breaks and food. So far, it's been a great season. One of the things that's really struck me though, is the concept of "having it all." There's a scene where Peggy and Don are talking about how Don's not going to give Peggy a raise and Peggy tells Don that she doesn't understand. He has EVERYTHING, she says. And no matter how she tries, she can't figure out how to be like him. Don just looks at her. The audience knows his repressed misery, the bad childhood, the empty marriage, the endless affairs, the distracted quality that rules his world. But from the outside, she's right. He has it all.

And maybe that's the thing about getting older. Maybe the really frightening thing is the clarity with which we learn to see our sacrifice at the alter of time. No one can have it all. Even if you have everything society deems useful (husband, family, career, wealth, beauty, brains, travel, success), somewhere along the line there's something you've compromised to get there. It's simply not possible to do it any other way. So perhaps that's why it hasn't bothered me so much. Although I do have days (and weeks, and months) where I question my life choices and ask myself whether or not this particular path I'm on will ultimately get me where I want to go (which is another topic entirely), this year has been a year of happiness, direction, and excitement. Many of the things that I have wanted for myself in my life are in the works. I feel more grounded now than perhaps at any other point in my life.

My favorite quote from Mad Men this season has come from Don.

"Our worst fears lie in anticipation."

It seems like that's the whole hype of aging. Society tells us that if we don't do xyz, at some point in the future we will be miserable. Reality, however, is this minute. I can't tell you if I'll ever get married or have children or die alone or grow haggardly. Statistically, the odds are pretty good that all of those things will happen. All I can really know is what is here, and right now I'm pretty happy with that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts on Codine

So I took a massive dose of codine about 30 minutes ago and am waiting for the said "amazing" effects to kick in and punch my lights out. But they haven't yet, so while I wait for said unconsciousness, I thought I would take a few short moments to write down some of my thoughts. Because I can. It's my goddamn blog. I can type whatever I want. On whatever drugs I want.

1) Maybe codine just makes me edgy and hostile.

2) Or maybe it's the fact that this is my second sickness in a month. Two weeks of February spent being sick. That is fucking. ridiculous. Doesn't my body know I've got shit to do and people to see and things to study? Doesn't it know that all the time spent indoors instead of outside in the sun means a spiral into late-winter SAD???? WHAT THE FUCK IMMUNE SYSTEM?! COME ON!

2a) I also find it really interesting how sensitive I am to the comments about how I am "always" sick. Seriously. If you want to piss me right off, tell me that I'm always sick. I had swine flu in November and then I've been sick for two weeks in February. Maybe to SOME people that's "always" sick, but to me, that's called winter. Working in a hospital. See how defensive it makes me? Why is that? Is having a shit immune system somehow equated with being a "weak" human being in my brain? I'm also sensitive when people rib me about taking medication when I'm sick. Like toughing it out through an illness is so much better than taking some fucking Mucinex and being able to function. Why do people think that toughing it out is better than taking meds? Do they think that if some future apocalypse should hit and the pharmaceutical companies should be blown to smithereens that suddenly I would shrivel and die upon catching cold, while they would laugh heartily in the face of illness and go do something tough, like chop wood and birth babies? Or maybe both at the same time. Guess what? Toughing it out through a fucking flu virus doesn't make you Paul Fucking Bunyan.

3) Today we were talking about gender differences in healthcare. Which sort of bothers me. It's kind of like this destructive cycle. You take a researched little factoid like "men are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for depression" and we talk about reasons why that might be. We talk about how men are socialized to ignore pain, socialized to "not talk" about their feelings, socialized to not go to the doctor for psychological illness, socialized to think mental illness is a weakness, etc. And then we talk about public health initiatives that might encourage more men to go to the doctor. But what's problematic to me is that by building upon stereotypes in order to extend care (someone suggested creating a support group for depressed men but disguising it so that it wouldn't involve the words "talking" or "feeling" and would instead use the word "doing"), we're just further contributing to the stereotypes that have created the problem in the first place. My professor didn't particularly care for this observation btw. This however, is the man who described all women as "empathizers" and all men as "systematizers." He's got his positive points, but gender neutral conceptualization isn't one of them. God, gender stereotypes piss me the fuck off. What pisses me off even more is when people in my life actually ABIDE by them. Blurg. Blurg indeed.

4) I now have a Facebook friend who is also a school colleague. For some reason, that makes me feel vulnerable. I have no idea why. Good thing there aren't that many people in my program.

5) I think Top Gear is one of the funniest television shows of all time. Seriously. I watched an episode tonight and laughed my guts out. Who knew that three British dudes talking about cars could be so funny? I've also learned a lot about cars and can now say big impressive car words like "Bugatti" and can tell you that an M5 is faster than the new Jag due to the fact that the M5 doesn't waste speed (whatever that means), but that the Jag has 80 pounds more torque than the M5 does. Are you impressed with my car verbage? No? You should be. I drive an 11-year old Toyota Echo. It's the only car I've ever owned and the most work I've ever done on it personally is to help change the brake pads and once I replaced a tail light. Weeeee. Cars....

6) I think my favorite food is the french fry. Honestly. Or, more honester (wahahahaha! grammar!), the sweet potato fry. Those things are the BEST THINGS EVER. And I never have them. It's like the tease of the food world. I rarely eat at places that offer fries and when I do, I rarely get them. But god they are good. Sooooooo delectable. Michael Pollan says that you should only eat junk food that you make yourself, mostly because it's all so goldarn difficult to make, that you'll only make it once in a blue moon. He's right. Good fries are hard to make. Also hard to make but delicious: eclairs. I once had the dream of swimming in a vat of eclair cream, like they do in jello in that Disney adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Alright, it's now been 64 minutes since the taking of the codine and I'm not feeling at all tired, but I'm stopping because I ran out of coherent and interesting things to talk about 6 numbers ago. (Takes a bow)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nostalgia and future nostalgia

I have moments where I wish I could go back and relive things a certain way, just to see how they would turn out. My life, like I'm sure it is with everyone else, has presented so many divergent paths over the last few years. Not just the kind of paths where you wake up one day and hey! you're an accountant and how did that happen, but the kinds of life-changing decisions where you have to sit down and weigh your options and try to go with what feels best at the time. Agonizing, painful decisions where things can't remain the same and so you have to go forward.

I kind of wish life were like those Choose Your Own Adventure stories from the 80's. You know, the ones where "If you choose to go down the secret corridor, turn to page 86; If you choose to go back and eat a sandwich, turn to page 93." I'd like to be able to turn to page 93 of my life--the page that I'll always have to skip because in real life I chose page 86 instead-- just to see how it turns out. Am I happier? Where am I in the world? Have I made more money? Have I been run over by a bus?

I like life the way it falls. I'm even silly enough to believe that things are exactly the way they are supposed to be right now. (Maybe that makes me delusional??) But it would be interesting to get a peek at the alternate realities that I could be living now, if for no other reason than to appreciate this exact moment in time.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Foreign Aid

Just a quick note to voice my thoughts on a discussion concerning foreign aid that I heard on NPR this morning. Many participants had called in voicing frustration that the federal government continues to donate billions of dollars in foreign aid when people here in the states are suffering from economic crises.

My thoughts:

1) Our donations abroad equate to approximately 0.17 percent of our GDP, which is less than pretty much any developed nation. Last time I checked, the numbers were around 13 billion dollars per year. Our military spending is close to 500 billion dollars per year. So the money, while it's still a lot, is not even a drop in the bucket comparatively. It's America and these are our priorities (apparently), but stopping both wars we're in would do FAR more to help the people here at home than refusing care to suffering Haitians.

2) Of that 0.17 percent, 40% of that aid goes to two countries. Care to guess which? ISRAEL and EGYPT. We basically pay billions of dollars to each country to keep them from killing one another. I could go into this a whole helluva lot further, but I'll just leave that little factoid with y'all to ponder. So a big fat chunk of this money isn't even going to countries who qualify as "third world" or are in need of it. Getting control of our lobbyists would probably help this money to be better spent.

3) I have really conflicting thoughts on foreign aid, as I have alluded to in prior postings, but basically it comes down to this: We, the United States of America, substantially contribute to the general fucking-over of many downtrodden nations. And if we're not actively contributing to this fucking over, our past actions have done so. We have a moral debt to pay. We should pay it. And it should be more money than we're paying out now, irregardless of how many people in the US are hurting. However, that money should be carefully monitored to assure that it reaches people who need it and governments who will allocate it with wisdom and integrity.

4) All that being said, I think it's totally understandable that people are frustrated and angry.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Global Health

So I'm going to Thailand for a month. Just got the official notice today. I'll be there for a month starting the second week of June through the second week in July. I have no doubt that I will be writing lots more about this in the future months, but the point of telling this is to note that as a part of this study abroad, I have to take a course on Global Health. In the class we talk about what it means to be a public health professional in an international setting.

When I was younger, I dreamt of saving the world. I saw the photos of children in Africa and Latin America and listened to the news of wars and famine and poverty and I would daydream to myself about how I was going to one day travel to those far-away places and help suffering people and how the world was going to get fixed and everyone would live happily ever after. I can't even tell you how many times I've daydreamed about this sort of thing, but let's just say that it was FAR more time than I ever spent thinking about getting married and having babies and a house with a white picket fence. In fact, much of my life has been directed around figuring out a cheap way to get "international" experience in order to boost my resume so that I would be a good candidate one day for some U.N. post somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. This dream has led me to volunteer work, refugee studies, and a whole host of experiences that I felt would expand my horizons in ways that would someday help me "save the world."

Today, I am here to report, that the dream is on its deathbed.

It's on its deathbed because, quite frankly, I'm a ginormous ignoramus. Oh, and I'm not God. I don't even believe in God.

I think the dying process of this dream really started when I started falling in love with my home. For me, falling in love with Utah and with the United States of America has been an evolutionary process that's taken many years, a political science degree, and a few bruises. But I do. I love my home. Love, however, does not mean that I am patriotic or nationalistic. I think this country is fuuuuucked up; I refuse to look away from that. But love is the reason I don't look away, or move to Europe, or become completely cynical and jaded.

However, loving one's home is a matter of really trying to "know" a place. To know the names of the mountains that surround me and the good places to eat downtown. To know the demographics and the politics and the issues in my neighborhood. To be familiar with the seasons and the plants that grow here and the good coffee shops and the times of all the festivals. It also means trying to understand the people who live here. And, if you're a crazed feministy atheist liberal, trying to understand the conservative Mormon culture here is a stretch. And I was Mormon once! Trying to understand the people and the culture of the place I call home is goal that I am still working on, and probably will be for the rest of my life. God forbid I eventually move somewhere else and have to start over again. (and yes, I probably will move elsewhere) :)

The point of this is that I have miles to go before I will really feel like I understand America. And I have even more miles (read: infinite) to go before I really feel like I've really got an understanding of America's problems (lack of health care, poverty, poor education, misogyny, racism, etc) and can solve them all. And until I can solve all the problems with my place, I'm just not feeling all that qualified to go to other people's homes and tell them how to fix their problems. What do I know? Yeah. Not a lot.

This doesn't mean that my heart doesn't absolutely burst every single time I hear about the tragedies occurring globally. I pretty much can't even think about the Democratic Republic of Congo without tearing up. Nothing gets to me like poverty does. It absolutely rips me up inside to know that people are suffering needlessly. These days I console myself with the knowledge that people in need are people in need and helping people in need in my own neighborhood is just as good as helping people in need around the world. Every human life has worth.

It also doesn't mean that I disparage the many people that travel around the globe trying to make a difference. Many of those people are experts in their fields and have means to back their directives. And many more people are just trying to do something kind to try and give back and alleviate the pains of a suffering world.

I chose the Thailand program because it's an education program rather than a service program. We're not going to try to solve any problems. We'll be under the tutelage of doctors, epidemiologists, hospital directors, monks, and government officials from Thailand who are getting paid to teach us what they know. They're going to show us what's up. And I'm excited to learn. But the objective here, at least for me, is just to learn. Hopefully they'll have something to teach me that I can take home.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Seeds in the desert are sneaky
Lying in wait
sometimes for decades
waiting for rain
for an unexpected coolness in the soil
and suddenly
the ferocious climb to the top
the bloom
quick to take advantage of this one
fleeting moment
quick to sow their ninja children
who will follow their example
in the coming heat
and bury themselves deep and quiet.
I scattered such seeds on you
while you lay sleeping
in the hopes that they too
would someday find a day of rain
in our desert.