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An Autumn Lesson, or, learning how to not be such a spaz.

24 Aug

School starts back up on Thursday. Three classes. Nine credits. The heaviest course loaded I’ve ever attempted while being employed full-time. In the past week, I’ve felt myself get tense. I keep catching my shoulders inching up toward my ears and my foot tap-tapping away. I am jittery and jumpy.

I spent the summer joking about what an asshole I was going to be once fall rolled back around and school started back up. Throw in a few nervous laughs for good measure, and it’s pretty clear I’ve been worried about this semester since I signed up for it back in April. I’d scale back a class, except that I know I can do this. My nerves hit before starting last semester. And the semester before that. But everything was fine. My GPA continued to inch up and my head failed to explode. Plus, if I get through this semester, I’ll be just 21 credits away from my degree. That’s 7 classes. Spring, Summer, Fall. If I keep it up, this time next year I could be entering my final semester of undergraduate work.

In order to stay sane this Autumn, I’m setting out on an additional learning adventure:

I want to:

// learn to be still.
// relax.
// let the bulk of the stress and anxiety go.

I don’t want to:

// spend the next three months stressed out, throwing snippy remarks around and stomping around the house.

SO, I’m going to:

// try new things.
// remember to breathe.
// exercise more.
// be still for a few minutes each day.
// squeeze the things bothering me really tight and then just let them go.
// remind myself that I’m lucky to have something like college and a secure job to get stressed and anxious about.
// enjoy a few mini-vacations.

By the end of the season, I hope to:

// have found something that helps me let go and relax.
// be a few steps forward on the path toward being less of a high-strung asshole.

When life gets to be too much, what helps you unwind? Do you have a hard time letting things go, or are you more of a mellow mushroom? What keeps you grounded?

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Yep. Still trying to figure out the difference between who I am & who I want to be.

16 Aug

It’s humid again. Big surprise there.

Andrew told me this morning that I hate summer. And he’s right. I like the idea of summer. Spring hits and I start to looking forward to sitting outside, reading a classic novel, sipping some fruity concoction, but then reality hits harder and all I can stand to do is open the door for the dogs to go outside and occasionally peek into my mostly wilted garden. I don’t want to sit outside and enjoy the weather. I don’t like sweating. I don’t like melting. I don’t like it when my legs stick to one another and, around here, that’s what summer is all about. It’s about sweating and sun-burnt grass that crunches under your feet, air so thick with humidity you can almost swim through it.

As it turns out, I fucking hate summer.

Realizations like these fascinate me. I’m astounded. How did I not know, after 26 years of life and countless days sweating it out in the sun, that I hate summer? What the hell took me so long? Why do I keep looking forward to summer? Why have I convinced myself that I like it?

It makes me wonder: Have I been so wrapped up in discovering REALLY BIG AND IMPORTANT things about myself that I’ve totally skipped over the little things that make me, me? Like my favorite color. It’s green, but I didn’t decide that until about 2 years ago. As a kid, I couldn’t tell you what my favorite color was. I didn’t have one. I liked blue and green and purple and red and so on and so forth. I don’t have a favorite food, or a favorite alcoholic beverage, or a favorite movie or song. So far, I’ve gotten to favorite color. That’s it for the favorite department! Color me undecided on everything else!

In life, I like order. I like plans and lists and schedules. Everything needs to be decided and defined. But when it comes to me, when it comes down to who I am, definitions are out. I can’t define myself. Or rather, I don’t want to. I don’t want to be this or that. I ride the line. I don’t have a favorite. I don’t want to choose. I don’t want to decide. I want to be everything and nothing, different, sometimes opposing, parts of a whole.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. There’s no rule book for life that says you must have favorites or that you have to define yourself using a 74 topic, 12-point scale. I just think it’s neat, how each time I learn something new about myself I get firmer in my belief that I’m undefinable. I’m not one thing. I’m a million things and undeniably in between on everything. I love steak, but crave vegetarianism. I proudly serve in the military, but, at the end of the day, I’m still a tree-hugging hippy. I love defining plans, but hate defining myself.

Ultimately, I guess I love little discoveries. I love learning that I don’t like eggplant or that I hate summer or that capers are one of my most favorite things to toss in a pasta dish. These little things give me a clearer picture. They don’t bring me closer to a definition (which I don’t really want, anyway), but they do help me to paint a bigger and brighter picture of who I am today.

Festivals, cute critters & decisions I need to stop talking about and just make.

21 Jun

 There’s a lot I love about my Southern city, but one of my favorite things about summer in Richmond is the festivals. As soon as the weather starts warming up, we start having festivals. We’ve got so many festivals, in fact, that you could probably go to a festival every single weekend of the summer if you really wanted to. We’ve got festivals for just about every type of food you could ever possibly want and, this weekend, it was all about the vegetables. 

Vegetables are, and always have been, my favorite food group. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a big fan of snacking on broccoli and cauliflower and lettuce and carrots and green beans and other assorted types of rabbit food. BUT, I still eat meat. Every other day I think, seriously, about giving up meat. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when. 

As a household, we only eat meat maybe once or twice a week. If that. I can easily go weeks without meat without even trying. I like beans and have mixed feelings on tofu but feel like I could learn to enjoy it, or at least not hate it. It wouldn’t even be that much of a change. 

 There’s always a reason to wait. I didn’t want to go veg right before our cruise because I wanted to enjoy delicious moo-cow. And now, there’s the Independence Day party we’re throwing in just a few weeks and I can’t rationalize spending a bunch of money on beef (that we’ll get from Whole Foods and that won’t have added hormones in it) and not eating any of it. Bottom line: I like meat. And I like veggies. I can’t decide if I want to be someone who only eats “happy meat” or if I want to be someone who condemns the entire business of eating critters and just says “hell to the mother f’n ” on meat and go full, balls to the wall, vegetarian. 

 Part of the problem, and it’s not really a problem at all, is that I grew up on a farm. We had happy animals. Our chickens were free range, in the true sense of the term. They went wherever the hell they wanted to go, ate the corn out of horse shit, chased snakes in the creek and did whatever the hell they felt like. At night, we herded them back into the barn so they wouldn’t get eaten up by bobcats. Even in the barn, they had plenty of room to do whatever is they wanted to do at night. They were well-fed. They lived happy chicken lives. And then we ate them. 

For me, when I think about chicken, I think of the chickens I had when I was growing up. I think about how good they had it and it’s really easy for me to not think about the horrors that the chickens I’m eating these days suffered. But, given the wonders of movies like Food, Inc., I can’t play dumb anymore. I know the treatment of these critters is horrible and it bothers me. A lot. 

 All in all, the VegFest was a good experience. Lots of good food and neat vendors and lots and lots of non-profits to talk to. I’m not sure when I’ll do it, but I do know that, probably before the end of the year, I’ll be making the change to full-fledged non-meat-eating vegetarian. Again. 

As we were leaving, we saw this guy: 

 He made it pretty apparent how he feels about vegetarianism and wants everyone to know that Richmond squirrels are damn delicious. I named him Irony and prayed he wouldn’t peck my eyes out or claw my scalp off as I crawled toward him with my camera.

The bitch that’s June & the problem of chronic multi-tasking

15 Jun

This month feels like a pack of bricks weighing me down. There’s so much to do, so many little tasks that keep piling up around me that need attention and let’s not even talk about the mountain of crap crowding my dining room table right now.

In part, I love it. I love being busy. I like knowing that I there’s something I need to be doing every second of every day. But I hate it too. I hate feeling guilty about coming home from a long day at work and school and sitting on the couch watching TV knowing there are approximately 467 other tasks I should be accomplishing.

My solution? Multi-tasking! I’m never doing just one thing at one time. I’m doing 2 or 3 or maybe 6 things at once. I make dinner while sweeping the kitchen and catching up on my reading. I calm my guilt over watching TV by catching up on blogs or by making a collage for the bathroom at the same time. While this works great, for a bit, it means I’m never devoting my full attention to any one thing.

Then there’s the foot tapping and the knee bouncing. If I’m sitting at a desk, working on the computer, whether it’s at home or at work, I’m bouncing my knee. It annoys me and I’m the one doing it but I can’t help it. I’m just so anxious. But for what? What the fuck am I anxious for? To complete a project? To move on to the next task? For the work day to end? For class to start? For dinner to get cooked? For the damn dining room table to get cleared off? For the dogs to pick up their own damn dog fur because dammit, don’t they know how busy I am? Or, all of the above? It’s everything this month. It’s the heat and the house and the dogs and the work load and the course load and the future and on and on and on. I’m anxious for all of it. For tomorrow and next week and the end of the day and our next vacation and next year.

I know it’s just this month. June is such an asshole. It’s the busiest month of the year for work, I just started my summer class, and we have guests coming to stay for just under a week at the end of the month and we’ve taken on a multitude of little projects around the house to get ready for their visit. And there’s life, you know. It’s happening right now and somehow, with everything else going on, I’ve got to find a way to keep up.

I’ve got to remind myself that now only happens once and if I miss it, I’ll regret it.

On the fence, in the middle, and picked last for dodgeball too.

9 Jun

Some days I think I’m finally starting to get me. I’ll think about who I am and what I like and what I want and I go HA! I’ve finally figured me out! I like X and want to save the planet and really don’t agree with Y. My favorite color is green. I like marshmallows, red wine, dill pickles, and sand between my toes.

But then I start thinking about it – like really thinking about it – and I decide that no, I don’t know me at all. I’m still evolving, still deciding who I want to be when I grow and what I want for dinner tonight. I’m not quite anything, really. I’m in between. I’m a mix. A mish-mash of a little this, a little that. I’m riding the fence, comparing the blades of grass on either side.

I’ve got clear ideas of who I want to be, but I’m not sure the person I want me to be is really who I am. For example, I want to be the kind of girl who wears heels and gets manicures, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade my combat boots for a mountain of Manolos. I’m a jeans and a t-shirt kind of gal, no matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise. I want to be a full-blown, organic cotton wearing, vegan food eating, tree-hugging, bra-burning hippie feminist, but at the end of the day I think I’m more of a slight meat eating, tree-hugging, gardening, organic produce-purchasing, my body, my choice, I don’t have to change my name if I don’t want to kind of girl. And that’s okay.

I’m not all in just yet. I’m sticking my toes in the water, testing things out, seeing how far down I want to go. I’m making decisions, trying new things, trying to find a balance between raging and meek, crazy and boring, loud and soft. I’m getting more comfortable with the idea that there will always be more to learn, that I won’t ever have everything figured out, and that I’ll never stop growing.