Monday, February 23, 2009

Apathetic Problem

I'm finding it difficult to care. At least, I'm finding it difficult to care about certain things. Inanimate things. I don't think I've ever found it difficult to care about people. Even when I don't want to care about certain people, I find myself caring. Funny how that works.

But with my school work, I'm finding it difficult to care. It isn't even because the classes aren't interesting; I'm learning. But I'm getting more than a bit frustrated with myself, because none of the current material seems to be sinking into the inner recesses of my brain.

I read material without fully comprehending it; I can't decide if it's because my brain has reached capacity or if it's because I'm having difficulty finding ways of being invested in what I'm reading. Perhaps it's a bit of both. And even though I'm more or less back to reading all of my assignments in a timely and proper manner, I still feel woefully behind. I'm trying to get used to it, though, because all of the second year students tell me that feeling will be more or less consistent until I graduate.

Anyway, right now I wish I had the means of packing away the apathy--of setting it aside somehow, of boxing it up and wrapping it and tying on a bow. A ridiculous bow. It would be a heavy box. But if I decorated it right, it would also be a very silly-looking box.

Except that apathy isn't silly. Is it?

This post is part of the Blue-Beta Blog Coordination, a continuing series of content coordinated by theme or motif with posts from Gromit of The Dancing Newt, Redoubt of Redoubt Redux, Third Mango of Funkadelic Freestylings of Another Sort, Yarjka of Sour Mayonnaise, and Xanthippe of Let’s Save Our Hallmark Moment. This week's theme: 'A Heavy Box'.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

It's That Time Again!

I know that y'all dearly long for these bi-weekly posts that update you on the progress of my goals. Perhaps you laugh at my failure. Perhaps you applaud my success. Perhaps you do none of the above, and instead sit and quietly scheme up ways of disrupting my efforts. Whatever the case may be, here goes:

1. Um, well . . . again, what is regular? Or even semi-regular? And do I get points for always waking up at the same time (sans alarm, even) regardless of when I went to sleep?

2. Okay, so I've sort of reformed. I'll try to reform more. On the bright side, I now have plenty of space for yoga in my room. Behind closed doors. So I don't feel that I'm putting on a show for anyone. (So I like to exercise alone. So sue me.)

3. I picked up some mouthwash from the store the other day. I'm brushing. I'm flossing. And no, I still haven't called a dentist. Haven't either bothered to figure out which dentists are on my insurance plan.

4. Okay, so I have to say that I'm tremendously proud of myself. And I do mean tremendously proud of myself. Because if cleanliness is next to godliness, I've pretty much managed to transform my room into heaven. Sure, it took five and a half hours to accomplish. But it's so worth it. Particularly since I'll be needing to write a few large papers soon.

5. and 6. Should probably have been one goal with two corollaries. But anyway, I'm back on top of things. At least, as on top of schoolwork as graduate students ever get. I think there's some sort of diabolical scheme planned to make us all feel behind, even when we're no. But hey, when it comes right down to it, we're sort of asking for it.

7. I feel like I'm being a realistic soul. At least about these. I've never, on the whole, been a realistic soul. Where's the fun in that?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just My Imagination

I remember the first time I heard the chorus to "Just My Imagination (Running away with Me)."

I couldn't have been very old--probably six or seven. My mom and I were in the car, going somewhere. The ophthalmologist's, perhaps. I didn't pay much attention to the lyrics leading up to the chorus, but when that old-sounding group on the radio started singing, "It was just my imagination, running away with me . . . well, it was jut my imagination running away with me," I found myself convinced they knew who I was.

My imagination, then and now, runs away with me far more often than I would like it to.

It's not, mind you, that I always have a beef against the reality of any particular moment of my life; it's just that the creative side of my brain loves to take things to an extreme. So even the best moments of my life--both as they happen and in the aftermath--are embellished. I suppose this means my imagination likes to create the best possible realities.

In conclusion, let me get a tad confessional: I have never stopped believing in magic. I probably never will. I believe that if I can think it, it can happen. (Not that if I can think it, it will happen. That's an entirely different statement.)

That's the beauty and power of imagination.

This post is part of the Blue-Beta Blog Coordination, a continuing series of content coordinated by theme or motif with posts from Gromit of The Dancing Newt, Redoubt of Redoubt Redux, Third Mango of Funkadelic Freestylings of Another Sort, Yarjka of Sour Mayonnaise, and Xanthippe of Let’s Save Our Hallmark Moment. This week's theme: 'Imagination'.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Are You Ever Burdened with a Load of Care?

Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by. --Hymn 241, "Count Your Blessings"

Lately, my epiphanies have been happening while I'm singing. And usually while I'm singing in Relief Society. In fact, it's usually been the closing hymn. Don't ask me why this is a trend, because I have no earthly idea. It just happens this way.

Anyway, this week has seemed inordinately difficult to me and I've had to face up the fact I often feel challenged: I feel inadequate (equally) in my home, school, and social lives. But particularly in my school life. Lately, I've just felt stupid. Perhaps stupid isn't even the right word. Not smart enough. I just haven't felt smart enough.

So when I started singing this particular verse today, I felt as though the questions were directed me. I thought "Burdened with a load of care? Check." and "Cross too heavy that I'm called to bear? Check." And then, I sort of felt like I got a slap in the face (in a marginally nice sort of way) when I sang the next four words: "Count your many blessings."

Um, yeah. I realized I've been too busy moping and whining about my struggles to think about the things I'm blessed with. For example, I griped a lot this week about feeling intellectually challenged. But I didn't stop nearly often enough to think that I have several friends in the department who help keep me sane, either by empathizing with my frustrations or by making them seem as absolutely dorky and ridiculous as they are.

I growled about spending a fair amount of time alone, but didn't stop to think about the blessings of productivity granted to me by that solitude.

I whined about the snow without thinking about the moisture it brought and how sparkly it made things.

In short, I realized that adversity and blessings are flip sides of the same coin, and quite often, we get to choose what side we see. As Lehi said, there is opposition in all things.

And that means that wherever we can find bad, we can also find blessings and good. I'm now officially resolved: any time I see something bad, I will refuse to budge until I achieve a perspective that allows me to see the good of that particular bad.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

And Now I Remember . . .

. . . why I try to avoid any type of retail setting on Valentine's Day. But unfortunately, today's visit to the store was unavoidable. Well, not completely unavoidable, but since I forgot to pick up toilet paper from the store yesterday . . . yeah. Like I said, unavoidable.

Anyway, as if it wasn't bad enough to wait for the Trax train while trying quite hard to ignore the couple making out while they waited for their train, the store itself was ghastly.

Periodic announcements about the very-on-sale "intimate apparel" upstairs. Flower arranging! Right next to the Starbucks! Luscious chocolate-dipped strawberries. Candy, candy, candy--on sale for all you slackers. (But really--of course it's the ridiculously cheap and marginally grotesque candy because all of the smart people buy the good stuff before Valentine's Day.)

These announcements, I swear, are repeated on a two minute loop. By someone with the most ridiculously perky voice in the world.

And don't even get me started on the balloons . . .

Yes, I'm cranky. And not because I'm single, either. Because I think all of the perkiness and all of the hoopla and all of this ooey-gooey crap is aggravating to being with, and it only becomes more obnoxious when repeating on some kind of infinite loop.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Everything Changes. Nothing Changes.

In one of my American Studies seminars this semester, we just finished discussing "Rip Van Winkle." And one my fellow students and good friends put forth a particular interpretation (that he partially reneged on later, but hey . . . nobody's perfect . . . and I'm unsure how far, exactly, this idea could be carried out) that "Everything changes and nothing changes."

I mention this, because today I had lunch with a friend I haven't seen in--oh--three years or so. We were in the Institute choir together at good old Weber State, but she drifted off to LDSBC and I stayed in Ogden. Periodically, we'd see each other briefly and have half hour recaps of all fundamentally important things in our lives.

She's married now, graduated, and working a full-time job. I'm single, graduated, had worked, and am now back at school.

In short, we're not exactly the same as we were three years ago.

And yet, everything changes and nothing changes. We've both moved locations; we've both changed phases of life; we've both had our share of drama over the last three years. And yet, she's still someone I can be fundamentally myself with. I don't have to filter. I don't have to pretend. We are who we are, and we don't have to hide it.

Everything has changed. Yet nothing has changed.

Oddly, it's a good feeling.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sometimes I Wonder . . .

. . . based on the titles of some of the spam I get, if the spammers know something I don't know.

Particularly when multiple titles are variations of "A Perfect Setting for Your Wedding" . . .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Victory, Failure, and Victorious Failure

"Like the great and good in story, if we fail, we fail with glory." --from the hymn "God Speed the Right"

I mentioned in a recent blog that I am most afraid of failure. That admission was not a lie. Neither was the admission that I've had to face that fear. But it wasn't until I was singing "God Speed the Right" in church that it occurred to me that it's entirely possible that our failures are sometimes our victories. Our victories are sometimes our failures. And I, for one, would rather have victorious failures than empty victories.

Though I didn't intend this post to end up this way, I suppose it will--perhaps--be a bit more svithesque than anticipated. But here's the thing: most victories in life will not, in the grand scheme of things (and I do mean the grand, i.e. eternal, scheme of things), matter nearly as much as we thought they did at the time. At least, most of my victories won't.

I tend to want big victories . . . grandiose displays that showcase my intellect, my musical capabilities . . . pick a talent I think I may have, I want to have a way of showing it. And showing it so the world understands how amazing I am. (Admittedly, humility is not exactly my strong suit.)

But I don't want big failures . . . I would rather fail quietly somewhere in a back wing, quietly crying until I can regain my composure enough to fool people into thinking that I'm okay. And this is the thing: these victories and these failures I sometimes invest so much of myself into are petty. Silly affairs. Not even, when I stop to think about them, important in the short run let alone the long run.

As I sat in Relief Society and thought about that particular line, I made a decision. I want to fail. And I want to fail in an epic way. Like the great and good in story, I want to get right out there and fail with glory. And I want this epic fail for two reasons.

First: when it comes to this grand experiment called life, we're all going to fail anyway. None of us will achieve the perfection requested of us. That's a fail. Except we fail with glory when we aim for that perfection, even if we don't reach it. We fail with glory, too, because we have a certain amount of glory bestowed on us as a gift. When it comes right down to the wire, we all fail. That's why the Atonement exists.

Second: today, my roommate and I were joking about inviting a particular person to dinner, and I said, "Let's not and say we did." It's not my life mantra, by any means, but I can think of some other circumstances where I've subscribed to a "Let's not and say I did" kind of attitude. At various times, it has applied to attending Institute classes. To reading my scriptures. To making my prayer meaningful. It's easy to pretend small things.

But I want to fail at fundamentally more important things. Being more friendly. Taking more time to listen to others. Lending a shoulder to cry on. Writing small notes to others. Smiling more. Making people laugh more. Letting people know, more often than I do, how much I appreciate them. I want to try to do too much of this and then fail at it, because in the trying I'll gain the kind of victorious failures that I, for one, would like to have.

This post is part of the Blue-Beta Blog Coordination, a continuing series of content coordinated by theme or motif with posts from Gromit of The Dancing Newt, Redoubt of Redoubt Redux, Third Mango of Funkadelic Freestylings of Another Sort, Yarjka of Sour Mayonnaise, and Xanthippe of Let’s Save Our Hallmark Moment. This week's theme: 'Victory'.

Another Goal Update

Look at this! I'm being accountable again. Because it's been two weeks, and so it's that time again: time for me to tell you how well (or badly) I'm doing with my goals. Time for you to applaud my efforts or to snicker snidely at my failures.

1. Regular: it's such a vague word. How, exactly, am I to define regular? In other words, epic fail. My sleep schedule has been weird, weird, weird.

2. In my defense, I'm not allowed to exercise until tomorrow. And then I'll get back to exercise. I'll revert to my yoga-doing, school-walking, more active ways. Unless it wipes me out too much. I do need to stay awake long enough, after all, to do my homework.

3. I haven't even thought about the dentist in the last two weeks. Unless you count the time I realized that my landlord's wife is in one of my classes. My landlord is a dentist. So I suppose I vaguely thought about a dentist. But my teeth aren't hurting me, so I'm okay . . . right?

4. There has been a marked improvement in the appearance of my floor. Unfortunately, that's been accompanied by a marked disintegration of the order I had previously imposed on my desk. I think I may be defective somehow . . . only able to keep a certain number of things clean at any given time . . .

5. and 6. And again I say, epic fail. Despite my classes all being behind schedule.

7. Based on how well I've done with my previous six goals, I'm not sure how exactly to update the status of the not-setting-unrealistic-goals goal. But on the bright side, it's not like I'm attempting to fly to the moon or anything. So perhaps I've partially succeeded.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Have a New Life Anthem

You can listen to it here, although the sound quality isn't absolutely fabulous. I would say I'm mildly attached to this song, but that would be the understatement of the year. As a matter of fact, since my little brother introduced me to the wonders of The Gabe Dixon Band and downloaded their most recent album onto my computer, I have listened to little else. (With the exception, in December, of Josh Groban's Christmas CD.)

The new day dawns and I am practicing my purpose once again.

I'm utterly and completely in love with the phrase "practicing my purpose once again." Quite often these days, I'm not entirely sure what my purpose is supposed to be. Let me pause to ponder how to explain this: I know my purpose, but I don't know my purpose. To elaborate: I know, eternally speaking, what my purpose is. That particular direction has never posed much of a problem for me. But when it comes to the here-and-now, I feel that I am always and forever practicing what I feel to be my purpose at any given moment. Right now, I suppose that purpose is finishing my master's degree. And I still have a goodly amount of practicing that particular purpose. And it always feels like practice: I never feel so purposeful and driven that I think that I'm not making all of this up as I go along.

It is fresh and it is fruitful if I win, but if I lose . . . ooh, I don't know.

I tend not to view losing as an option. In the course of a conversation I had with my parents and my brother this weekend, my dad asked all of us what we fear most. With absolutely no hesitation, I replied: failure. Because I am deathly afraid of failure. I tend not to try anything I know I won't succeed at, because failure scares me that much. And the few times I remember losing left me in a state of perturbation.

I'll be tired but I will turn and I will go only guessing till I get there then I'll know. Oh, I will know.

Any substantial effort to do anything has always exhausted me. Whether I win or lose, I end up tired. But I end up especially tired when I lose. Possibly because I get this looming sense of discouragement that exponentially increases the exhaustion. But setbacks are no reason to stop. They never have been; they never should be; hopefully, I never let them be. After all, the way past a roadblock is never to stop in front of it and await the day it goes away. In that circumstance, a detour is necessary. And detours are often as beneficial--or more--than the ways we choose to go. Sometimes I forget that. I need to remember. I also need to remember that I don't always need to know exactly where I'm going and exactly what I'm doing. Life would be dreadfully dull if everything went exactly as I planned. Such exactness leaves no room for surprise. And I like being delightfully surprised at life. On a regular basis.

All the children walking home past the factories can see the light that's shining in my window as I write this song to you

I don't know if the light is always shining at the end of a tunnel, but I've discovered that there's always a light shining in my life. It's there, but it's not always directly in my line of sight. After looking a while, I always see light in my life. At certain times, I have to look harder than I do at other times.

And all the cars running fast along the interstate can feel the love that radiates, illuminating what I know is true.

Sometimes we run so fast that we forget to reassure others and ourselves. But that doesn't mean we can't. Even when I'm in a hurry, I know I'm loved. And I know that I love people.

All will be well, even after all the promises you've broken to yourself.

Don't think I'm heretical or anything, but I prefer this "all will be well" construction to the "all is well" construction from "Come, Come Ye Saints." Because frankly, there are times I feel most vehemently that all is not well. Not at that particular moment. And that's part of the test that is life. There are moments we're required to sing something we couldn't disagree with more. But eventually, everything will be well--in select temporal moments and in the eternal scheme of things. As far as breaking promises to myself: I'm my own worst critic. I think most individuals are their own worst critics. We expect more of ourselves than others expect of us, so it often seems that nothing will be ever be completely well because we never believe we've done everything we expect of ourselves. But I'm facing it right now: my expectations for myself are ridiculous. I'm acknowledging that right now, so the next time I feel I've failed myself, I can look back at this and tell myself exactly how insane it was to try to reach that expectation.

All will be well. You can ask me how, but only time will tell.

I've had moments where I felt that all was well. If only for that instant, all was well. Those moments pass, and I never know how they came into being in the first place. I have this nagging suspicion divine intervention has something to do with it, but I have no idea what part I play in those moments. Or if I play a part at all. But I appreciate them, and I trust to Heavenly Father and to time (His time, not mine) to periodically bring them.

That's not the entire song, but since I don't want to write an epic post, I'll stop there. But that's my new life anthem: All Will Be Well. Even if it's not right now, all will be well.