Monthly Archives: September 2009

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

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“The flower is the poetry of reproduction.  It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.”  –Jean Giraudoux

 

One of my favorite things to see is a small plant that I pass on my way to work.  I have no idea what it is, but it grows right out of the cement where a traffic sign is planted.  It starts small and gradually grows taller than the sign.  It is so striking, the bright green against the gray of the sidewalk and metal sign post.  It’s a tired symbol, the life sprouting from the dead concrete, but it’s no less moving.  Despite the strength and sheer volume of the pavement, this small plant emerges.  Life finds a way to go on, no matter how hard its circumstances are.

I also walked through the mall today.  There is a wall that usually is covered in beautiful vines.  The powers that be cut down the plants to small stumps, leaving a long stretch of empty wall.  The plants grow beautiful pink flowers and delicate leaves.  I love walking past the bushes, despite my usual hurry, and missed them when they were cut down.  However today, as I walked past, I happened to look down at the little stumps.  The wall still stands empty, but down by the ground, less than a foot tall, stand new green vines and a handful of flowers. 

I don’t know what it is about flowers that makes people so happy.  Sure, there are the colors and and the genius of their form and symmetry.  But I can’t explain why we bring them inside and admire them, cultivate them.  There are only a few whose scents I really enjoy.  Real flowers, that withstand the trials of the average garden or field, not those grown to be identical in greenhouses, typically are full of insects and holes.  Nibbles are taken out of leaves and stems don’t stand straight.  And then flowers die.  They sag and wilt and shed their leaves and petals.  Flowers don’t last.  I think that is also part of their allure.  They are temproal, fleeting.  The only way to enjoy a flower is to enjoy it in the present.  You can’t put off flowers until the budget is balanced or school is done or whatever excuse fits your purpose.  The flower won’t wait around for you. 

However, the brevity of flowers isn’t the only thing that is refreshing.  In fact, it’s the cause of something I think we also love about them: flowers come back.  Their buds bloom and drop and their leaves wither and die, but in time, they bloom again.  They grow up each spring and thrive again after pruning.  In fact, they require the cutting and dying and hibernation to bloom and flourish.  I find it comforting that in the short weeks since my vines were cut down new ones have taken hold.  Sure, we share this world with other humans and animals, but there is something awe-filled about plants.  Their life and resillence are so simple– they don’t need jobs and families and skills to hunt or farm or find shelter.  They simply are.  They live and grow and die and grow again.  They do not worry or stress or fear or envy.  They are life at its simplest and, in some ways, most beautiful.  They are humbling. 

“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.”  –John Ruskin

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Failure

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“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”  –F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Failure sometimes enlarges the spirit.  You have to fall back upon humanity and God.” –Charles Horton Cooley

 

It would be kind to say I am a little disappointed with myself for not writing this weekend.  I could excuse it away with the fact that I have not been sleeping well, so I spent the time resting.  Or I could rest easy in the fact that my trusty lap top is dying a slow death and it can take a big chunk out of my night just to get it up and going.  But, my reality is, I just didn’t write.  I failed. 

I did hedge this little venture by saying that I wanted to write and reflect almostevery day, but giving myself that out was weak.  In fact, I haven’t been very true to what I wanted to write yet, and I’m not now.  I want to write creatively again, to work at poetry, perhaps some prose, and regain the small bits of talent or discipline or whatever it is that creates something good.  That is not to say that what I have written in the past is “good,” but I have my moments.  I want to really try to write again.  If I’m not being creative, I at least want to reflect on things that go a little deeper.

That being said, I”m going to talk about tv.  Tonight I watched the season premiere of House and was incredibly touched by a moment that you could see coming a mile away.  A woman had been mute for years, vacantly staring and simply not “there.”  There was a moment when she was handed the music box that had been taken from her.  She instantly returned to herself, she spoke and connected.  The next time she was shown, she was playing the cello beautifully, her passion.  It gave me hope.  Yes, this attempt at writing has been less than stellar.  Yes, I failed and didn’t write this weekend.  Yes, this is not eloquent or interesting or profound.  Yes, I am still mute, lost somewhere inside.

Someday I’ll find my music box.  Someday I’ll come back to me fully, I’ll write and be happy and alive like I used to be.  It might take time and it might get discouraging.  But this will not last.  I’ll find my passion and skill again.  I’ll connect and use the voice I’ve lost.  It will happen.  Until then, as discouraged as I get, as bad as this is, as lost as I can feel, I just need to be more forgiving of my failures.

The Friendship Paradox

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“There is an electricity about a friendship relationship.  We are both more relaxed and more sensitive, more creative and more reflective, more energetic and more casual, more excited and more serene.  It is as though when we come in contact with our friend we enter into a different environment.”              –Andrew M. Greeley

 

I am a different person when I am with my true friends.  I’m a person that surprises me with her honesty and ability to open up.  I’m someone who wants to be better to others, who is kinder and more genuine.  I’m happier and more alive, literally feeling more, seeing more, hearing more.  I’m the most vivid, authentic me that I know.  I’m challenged and pushed out of my comfort and complacency.  I’m a better person because of my friends.

Today I got to talk with a friend for a few minutes over the phone.  Lately I’ve avoided talking to people who used to know me because I’m not the person they knew.  I’m someone that I’m embarassed to be, settling for very little.  I sucked up my pride and caught up on life with a friend.  While I tried to deflect questions about my life and what I’ve been doing, because the answers are short and depressing, it was refreshing to just talk with her.  I’ve made some new friends at work that I’ve spent more and more time with lately, but there’s no comparison between new and old friends.  It’s fun and interesting and exciting to get to know a new friend, but there is a certain comfort and peace that comes from people who know your past, who’ve seen you change and grow.  She reminded me of who I used to be.  As we talked I felt my sense of humor come back, felt myself joke and talk like I did in college.  It took little more than a voice to bring me back to life a little bit.

Then I got to spend some time with another amazing friend who knows me better than almost anyone right now.  We talked about everything from books to boys to life ambitions to what we’re meant to add to this world.  I laughed and talked about things that I don’t tell many people about.  She listened to and, most importantly, understood me while I talked about my love of writing.  She encouraged me not to just find a new job, which my dad does, not to just be thankful that I have a job, which most people do, but to go after what I really love.  She could do this because she’s seen me at my lows, which have been pretty low lately.  She’s heard more than most because she asks more, she’s earned the trust to know more, and she uses that to push me.  She’s seen me at my best, at my happiest and most alive, and she helps me remember that part of me. 

I love this quote about friendship because it captures how I feel when I’m with the people who know me.  It’s a paradox of being the most calming and exciting thing.   They give me rest and comfort but they push and challenge me.  They know who I was and am and they allow and encourage me to grow and change.   Right now they also uplift me and bring me down; they encourage me and leave me discouraged.  I’m reminded of who I was, make me happy and joyful.  However, they remind me of who I was and who I now am.  It’s hard to remember how happy I was, how genuinely alive I used to be.  I was active and giving and now I hide whenever possible.  But the fact that I remember that me, that I still feel like her from time to time (thanks to my friends) brings me hope.  It shows me that, while I’m down and struggling now, it’s not all there is.  There’s still affection and laughter and encouragement– I can still be who I enjoy being.  I still have my friends.

Expectations

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“So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say, and so often one regrets having marred it.”  ~Harold Acton

 

I expected that this little journal would last about four days.  I was pretty much right.  For the past couple of days I was excited to write, to reflect and create something.  I waited to sit down and type.  Tonight I thought I might pass on it.  I thought I might just go to bed.  I could justify it and no one but me is reading this, so it wouldn’t have made a difference.  I was very close to making it only four entries in.

But I decided to sit and think of something to say.  I perhaps should have spared myself from ever having to read this in a moment of retrospection, but here it is.  Part of this is my stubborn side.  I’m not so much motivated or inspired, but I’m determined to stick to something, no matter how mundane.  Perhaps if I give this time, real insight or creativity will come. 

I also have the embarrassing idea that someday this will turn into something interesting.  Someday, this will be worth reading or sharing, or at least revisiting.  I want to believe that this will be important… at least a little bit.  I’m reading about a man who decided to commit to reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.  That ended in a book.  A friend of mine decided to take at least one picture each day.  That ended in an actual published book.  Julie and Julia is the hit of the summer in theaters.  I want to make something that matters.  This, to be sure, is not it.  But perhaps if I keep trying, something will come up that will lead to my contribution, my defining work, my opus.  Perhaps it will lead to utter garbage that will make me blush when I reread it.  I remember my creative writing teacher in high school saying that if you write every day, a lot of junk will come out, but some really good stuff will surface too.  It’s just bound to happen.  So I’m marring this blank space with some ramblings, I’m not living up to the potential of what this could be.  But at least, for today, I’m trying.

Fast Friends

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“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.  True friendship is a plant of slow grow, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the application.” –George Washington

 

I understand the sentiment of the wise Washington’s words.  Protect your heart.  It’s a fragile thing and wounds heal slowly, leaving deep scars.  Don’t trust it to just anyone.  It gives you life, it sustains you, so be careful who’s given access to it. 
I’ve learned this lesson again and again, but never really apply it.  I’ve let too many people too close to the core of me, to my most vulnerable places.  I’ve let them just under the surface, kept them at a distance, but they still make a swipe at the important stuff.  I don’t think that they have ever done so intentionally.  Well, perhaps one, but that’s the exception that proves the rule– I let them hurt me, they don’t seek to do so.  Which is ironic, because I’m slow to truly open up and share and be exposed.  I don’t give them ammunition because I know that they don’t need it– it takes very little to do much damage. 

Despite this distance I maintain and all that I keep to myself, emotionally I get close fast.  It takes no time at all for me to be invested and committed to a relationship.  I may never be open about my feelings, but they instantly take hold.  It’s the only part of my life that I dive into head first.  This is where I get hurt.  I’m sacrificing and giving long before it’s earned and, while I’m at least somewhat aware that I should be holding back, I cannot stop this.  I guess I have something to learn from our first president.

However, I also take him to task on his advice.  I know that my feelings have been wounded and my confidence shattered, but I don’t think that I regret my swift loyalty.  In fact, I wish that I was not so reluctant to open up.  When it all boils down, life is short.  I have spent enough of my years lonesome, feeling isolated, and I regret that.  While I may get frustrated or hurt, I don’t regret giving to my friends.  I don’t regret caring.  I don’t think that it’s a mistake to add a little love to someone’s life.

I do think that this leaves me open to pain and disappointment.  Every time a friend misses my birthday after I make sure to call them, it stings.  When I give rides to the airport but am left stranded, it hurts.  But I do not think that I could live with myself, I do not think I would be myself, if I balked because I feared that my friendship would not be reciprocated.  Or, perhaps, that reciprocating would take a form that I did not expect, because people are not perfect. 

As I hang out more with people I work with, people I might not choose to spend time with if we weren’t coworkers, I think about this caution to protect my heart.  Do I too quickly call them friends when, in fact, we’re only acquaintances, slightly more familiar with each other than with others?  Do I expect too much from them because I know how much I’m already willing to give of myself to them?  I don’t know.  I do know that, to quote Grey’s Anatomy , “People are better than no people.”  I appreciate the caution to beware who I allow into my life and how much access I allow them, but I would rather count my friends faster than I should.  I’d rather regret being too open to caring, loving too fast, giving too much, than regret being closed off, alone and unwilling to be a friend.

SecretPost

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When we live such fragile lives/ It’s the best way we survive Dirty Little Secret

While running errands today I heard the All American Rejects song that reminded me of the Post Secret (www.postsecret.blogspot.com) event we organized.  I’ve started checking the site each week since then to read the secrets that people are willing to share and the see how they share them, which is almost as important and interesting.  I know that I submitted a number of postcards when we put on the event, in part to share and in part so that it didn’t come off as a total failure.  I was surprised the night of the event to see how many more people shared their secrets.  Or, if they were like me, how a few people had so many secrets to share.   At a school in a city where so much is invested in appearances, it was both a beautiful and ugly moment when all these things we hid were shared.  Granted, the project is anonymous, so the secrets are still somewhat secret.  There was still something cathartic, something powerful in giving secrets a name, to condensing it into a four by six inch piece of paper. 

It was refreshing and energizing to see such openness and authenticity in a community that was only really linked by the art.  There’s no way to know whose cards those were and if they had any other interactions aside from the project.  It’s almost easier to think that people who don’t know me, who don’t see me every day, were seeing things that I never admit to anyone, whether trivial or deep.  It’s easier to tell someone who I don’t have to maintain contact with that I’m broken and dark and messy because the reality is that I don’t really matter to them.  There is less judgement, less pity, less chance that I’ll ever have to talk about the secret again.  There is also something healing about getting to be that confidant for someone else.  It’s nice to know that you are not alone, but you are also not discovered.

I think it’s interesting the secrets that we keep and those we finally let go.  The trivial habits and vices that we will never reveal and the monumental thoughts and fears that we do and don’t share.  I think that some things just eat away, are so corrosive to a person, that they just have to come out at some point.  Others, in the light of time and distance, become less dangerous so the time comes to allow them to be known.  Still others reveal enough of themselves in small ways, over time, that they simply cannot be denied or hidden any longer.  And still others will never leave our lips.

I want to talk to people more about what I’m feeling– about fears and pain and joy and hopes.  I want to talk honestly and fully.  It’s easy to say that I’m afraid of being alone or that I feel lonely, but it’s another thing all together to really talk about why and what I actually feel, specifics instead of generalities.  I want to be honest with people about how I feel.  I want to tell them what they mean to me, to be up front about feelings that I hide.  But it’s too raw and real and risky to get into all of that, so it stays silent.  There is too much that I do that I’m embarrassed of, that I want to be reassured in, that I hope I’m not alone in.  But the fear of actually being alone, being abnormal, of humiliation is too intense.  So, no matter how much I talk myself up, I decide to be honest, I face my secrets, I keep it all inside.  I hope one day this isn’t true.  I hope that I can be open, show my friends and strangers alike the things I hold inside, like I was in my postcards.  One day I want to choose to keep my secrets back, not let them keep me.  I don’t think we’ll ever not have secrets– sometimes it’s nice to keep something to yourself.  I just want to feel comfortable enough not to keep myself to myself.

So here goes nothing…

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I’ve decided to force myself to write again.  I spent a long night earlier this week looking over many different things that I wrote in college: essays, poems, journals and stories.  I wrote constantly for years.  I miss the act of writing.  I miss the feel of keys under my fingers as they fly over the computer.  I miss the sound of clicking as I type and the appearance of words across a once empty stretch of white screen.  I miss being me.

However, wanting to write is not the only reason I want to start this.  I need focus.  I used to know who I was, what I loved and aspired to and enjoyed.  I feel like I have floundered for the past two years and have lost sight of me.  I was at a point near the end of college where, while I recognized the monumental changes and growth I still had coming my way, I was somewhat comfortable with who I had become.  I am no longer that person.  Sure, change can be good, but this has not been.  This has been loss.  I’m hoping that writing, something that defined me in the best possible way, will help me find me again.

I want to sharpen my skills that have dulled with lack of use. I want my vocabulary to return and my observations to become more focused.  Not only do words escape me at an alarming rate, but I feel like I miss so many things around me.  I don’t see like I used to.  I want to write intelligibly about things, to write creatively, to write clearly.  I want to remember how to do what I was groomed to do for years.

But this venture isn’t all about skill and creating.  I want to reflect more.  I have recently encountered so many different stories about people who set out to complete something: writing every day, cooking every day, reading the encyclopedia.  I admire their ambition and dedication.  I want to write every day, or close to that, but I want to write with purpose.  I don’t want to make a diary about lunch and crushes and the weather.  I want to find joy again.  I’ve never really been a glass half full kind of gal, but things have taken a downward turn in the past couple of years.  I learned that, despite my introversion, I love people.  I like their stories, I like their company, I like their authenticity.  I have lost this love and fear it’s never going to return.  I have never identified with this quote from No-No Boy so closely:

It’s a matter of attitude.  Mine needs changing.  I’ve got to love the world the way I used to.  I’ve got to love it and the people so I’ll feel good, and feeling good will make life worth while.  There’s not point in crying about what’s done…I want only to go on living and be happy.  I’ve only to let myself do so.

So, in an effort to be happier, in a genuine way, and to be better, in an authentic way, this is one of my projects.  I just need to hold myself to it.