Category Archives: Introspection

Something is better than Nothing, I guess

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This afternoon, after finishing all of my assignments for my online training, I scanned my usual websites for something new to enjoy.  While I am devouring the archives of the newer finds, and discovering links that they are kind enough to include, I would love to find some new blogs to follow.  I decided to give stumbleupon a try.  It proved somewhat interesting and a good waster of time, but wasn’t giving me the new connection I was hoping for.  However, tonight, I found something very, very interesting.  I will continue my search for new people to “meet” online and read, but this was creepy and made my night fascinating.

I found a very strange and somewhat confusing personality test.  A series of 20 images are shown, and you are forced to choose A or B.  Many questions do not really make sense, so I just went with my reflexes and instinct.  It doesn’t take long, so I recommend you give it a try:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/3X4MO9/www.hypnoid.com/psytest2.html

My results we as follows:

Your power comes from an ability to sense how things might be and to proclaim this possibility with a great force and willingness to act. You have a tendency to be romantic, and can be an idealist. This sense of how the world can be is often expressed with self-deprecatory humor. Because of your need to address the immediacy of the moment, you may not think things through to their logical end, relying instead on a feeling for how a situation SHOULD end.  You need to be liked and appreciated by others, although your attention often wanders. Sometimes you neglect old friends in favor of a new or exciting acquaintance. You have a real difficulty being alone.  Often you will seem to know how to handle a situation without exactly knowing HOW you know this. Your thoughts are often shallow. While in the excitement of the moment you can obsess about a task at hand. If it should become rote and unexciting, however, it can be dropped just as quickly.

Some of this is a bit off, but most of it is weirdly spot-on.  I’m sure some of it is generalized–we all need to be liked and appreciated.  But this need is the foundation of who I am, why I do almost everything.  One of the things that made choosing a major and career difficult is that I do fall head over heels for what I am currently studying or interested in–children, teaching, writing, criminal justice, ministry… my passion was strong and changed with every new class I took.

I am less enthralled by how accurate this analysis is than I am with the thought that I am deeply and fully me.  There is nothing I can do to hide or change what it is that drives me, sustains me, plagues me.  Just like the children from the beautiful 7-Up series, I haven’t changed over the years, and I won’t.  Insecurities, pleasures, ideas, loyalties–these are so entrenched that every instinct, every action I perform relays them.  Even when I am unaware, these traits permeate my choices and display themselves for the world.

“I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”  –Popeye

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A Complex Victory

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“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible.  But in the end, they always fall.  Always.”  –Mahatma Ghandi

I had planned to write about something else tonight.  Then life happened.  While talking on the phone with my dad, the news cut in with the announcement that Osama bin Laden is dead.  For a country that has feared that name alone for nearly a decade, a name that is synonymous with death and destruction, this is huge news.  This is the only news. 

I think about the gravity of this revelation.  The man we have hunted, have feared, have loathed since September 11th, 2001, is gone.  He is no more.  His body is still, his life ended.  It is still far too early to tell what the implications of this will be.  Is the world now a safer place?  Did we crush the head of the terrorist beast that has stalked us?  Did we simply anger it?  No one has answers to these questions yet.

I am, rather unbelievably, conflicted about this news.  The moment I read the headline flashing on my television, I felt a jolt of disbelief.  I remember that morning, remember the planes, remember the rubble and tears and flags.  I remember the fear, the hope, the patriotism, and the thirst for blood.  I remember vividly the day that made Osama bin Laden a household name. 

“The world needs anger.  The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.”  –Bede Jarrett

A piece of me is glad, relieved to hear that he is dead.  I feel a little safer, a little calmer.  I am not naive and know that there are still plenty of people out there who hate me because I am an American, because I am white, because I am me.  This is not the end of the story.  But tonight, as I go to sleep, I will know that there is one less monster in my closet, one less nightmare hiding under the bed.  This is not an innocent man, bullied by the big kid on the block.  This is a murderer, gone.  He terrorized the world, made life unbearable for average, innocent people.  He preached hate and lived violence.  His crimes warranted punishment. 

We were wounded, blindsided.  We wanted justice, and were willing to settle for revenge.  In all honesty, they may be one in the same.  We wanted blood for blood, death for death.  And I am not necessarily saying we were wrong.  Tonight’s news may very well be a reprieve for countless lives.  This may mean freedom for the masses.  This may have been necessary and inevitable.

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”  –Ernest Hemmingway

All of that being said, I feel a deep, nagging sadness as I watch the news.  I do not think that we were necessarily wrong.  As I said, I do feel that this was necessary, that I am now safer, if only in my mind.  However, the human part of me, the divinity within me, the heart of God calling to me, is saddened. 

I watched as crowds gathered in front of the White House and cheered.  They threw streamers, chanted, and took photos.  They celebrated.  And perhaps the joy is justified, but a man is dead.  Another person was forced to end a life.  No, bin Laden himself had no qualms about killing.  Yes, he was a monster.  But a tiny little part of me also knows that he was once a baby, a son.  He was indoctrinated, just like we all are.  He made choices, just like we all do.  He allowed a hatred to manifest in ways that we all do not.  But he was a person, a life now ended.  I have no problem with people resting easier, with a danger neutralized.  I do, however, sit uneasy in the celebration of death.  I do not know that we should have a party over the end of a life.

I feel a tearing, a pull between knowing the bigger story and seeing the bigger picture.  Justice.  Revenge.  Protection.  Necessity.  It was all of those things.  I can’t help but feel, though, that relief and jubilee are not necessarily the same.  Death and destruction are still tragedy.  The man who killed him did not deserve to be a hero in that way, deserve to have that job thrust upon him.  Whatever had to happen, I feel a deep sadness that we rejoice in murder.  That is what bin Laden did.  We did not deserve the attacks he rallied terrorists behind.  However, we also do not deserve to be a people who celebrate death, dance through destruction and revel in ruins.

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary.  The evil it does is permanent.”  –Mahatma Ghandi

“You gotta hear this one song, it’ll change your life…”

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As I mentioned before, I am not a “music person.”  I am enjoying music more and more as I get older, and I am finding more value in it, but I’m still not that person.  A friend asked me this week to make a list of ten or fifteen songs that have made me who I am, that I couldn’t live without.  There are few songs that I would go crazy if I were deprived of, but there are more than I realized that have shaped and changed me.  At the very least, they make up a soundtrack, marking important times and moments in my life.  Interestingly, as I started thinking about them, a number are linked to movies that I love.  Picking movies that change me or that I couldn’t give up is much harder because I have a much stronger connection to some of them.  Go figure that their songs are on my list.

So here is some of my list.  This is not concrete and will undoubtedly change over time, if not immediately.  These are my songs:

*”Slip Sliding Away,” Paul Simon: My father sang this song to me as a child when he put me to bed.  There were others that he sang, others that I listened to on my cassette player, but this is my bedtime song.  I know it in no other context.  It will always be my dad’s song.  The lyrics are so sorrowful, so beautiful.  I wonder, looking back, if it was just a song that he loved, or one that epitomized those nights.  Was it just another song, or a reminder to savor the warm nights before homework, television, sleepovers and moving out?

*”Faith,” Limp Bizkit: I vividly remember this cover from my junior high days.  It was a time when my parents forbid MTV and VH1, when I snuck home with my best friend and watched TRL in my room.  It was harsh and slightly vulgar, it was nothing that I had ever listened to before and the first time I really understood music as rebellion. 

*”Fix You,” Coldplay: I gave a presentation in college about Jesus healing out biggest, most paralyzing wounds.  It was about complete healing and the invitation to be made whole.  It was a talk that was a profound learning experience for me and a revelation about God’s relationship with His children.  It touched a lot of people and really was an important message.  The talk concluded with this song, begging the question of allowing ourselves to be fixed.  It was so unexpected and so powerful that, no matter how many times I hear it or in what context, I’m brought back to that night and invitation to know wholeness. 

*”We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Billy Joel: The song, in and of itself, is fascinating and full of energy.  Why this song really stays with me, and gives me chills, has more to do with seeing it live.  The first musical I saw was Movin’ Out, which sparked a love for broadway and musical theater.  This song comes near the midpoint of the play, but the theatrics of it were amazing.  The lights flashing and the representation of war on stage was like nothing I had seen.  It was a visceral example of the power of music, the story it tells. 

*”24,” Switchfoot: Without question, this is my favorite band.  There are so many of their songs that have touched me, challenged me, opened my eyes, and brought me joy.  I choose this one for its simplicity and beauty.  While it is not their most famous, it is one of the most personal. 

*”Part of Your World,” The Little Mermaid: I am not sure how many times I have watched this film.  I cannot even estimate how many times my parents watched me stand on our hearth and sing this at the top of my lungs.  I sometimes operate under the dillusion that I can sing.  I took voice lessons in junior high school that ended with me refusing to learn piano scales and quitting.  This song stands out as one that, as early as I can remember, instilled a love of singing.  Now it’s only in my car or shower, but singing brings out something joyful, something alive in me that I love. 

“The News,” Jack Johnson: Here is another beloved artist whose songs could fill this entire list.  I love his work and could choose any one, but this song sticks with me for a few reasons.  Aside from his lullaby voice and beautiful guitar, this song is haunting.  The images of death being ignored, of flippant disregard for the tragedy of everyday life are chilling.  I have heard the protest songs of the sixties, the music of social change.  I do not intend to take anything away from those, but they are too far removed from my time to really hit me hard.  This one, a song for my media-saturated generation, makes such a plea for empathy and humanity.

“The Luckiest,” Ben Folds: I first heard this song my freshman year in college.  My RA played it for me and I fell in love.  It is such a sweet, pure love song.  The music is beautiful and the images are unique.  While I am a sucker for love songs of almost any kind, this was refreshing.  It strayed from clichés and reached to find the words to describe a unique bond.  As a writer, I admire it.

*”Time of Your Life,” Green Day: As over-played as this song is come graduation, I will never tire of it.  Aside from being background music for the Seinfeld finale, which was and is my favorite show, it marked one of my hardest goodbyes.  The night before I left home for college, one my best friends came over to say goodbye.  We stood on my front porch talking for a minute and just as he was ready to leave, a car pulled up across the street and opened its door.  Blaring from the speaker was this song.  It was right out of a movie and made everything a little harder and a little easier.  It was meant to be, but it was meant to be special.

Because this is getting to be quite a long process, here are a few current favorites, simply for listening pleasure: “Konstantine,” Something Corporate, “Ungodly Hour,” The Fray, “Hey Soul Sister,” Train, and “Beautiful Mess,” Jason Mraz.  Even as I think about these songs, they seem incomplete.  There are so many others that I love, that bring up important memories.  I realize that a number of them are, as I said, songs tied to movies or other things, not songs standing on their own.  I don’t really think that lessens their importance.  I also realize that this list is very heavy on male artists.  This is a relatively recent development, and it does not mean that there aren’t songs by women that are important to me or that are enjoyable.  It just means that right now, in this moment, these are my list.  When I wake up tomorrow, I’m sure it will have changed.  It’s an interesting challenge, though, to make your own list.  It may prove that we’re all more “music people” than we may think. 

“All deep things are song.  It seems somehow the very central essence of us, song; as if all the rest were but wrappages and hulls!”  –Thomas Carlyle

A World of Grief

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“When someone you love dies, you don’t lose them all at once. You lose them in pieces over time, like how the mail stops coming.”  Simon Birch

I have come to the conclusion that, once you lose someone, your life continues on in a world of grief.  Each person grieves in a different way, dealing with the loss, and they grieve differently over time.  It never ends, though.  The tears may end, the ache may dull, but we don’t wake up one day and suddenly find ourselves living the same life we had before death entered it.

I had friends who lost parents when they were quite young, but old enough to remember.  I always wonder how often they think of their parents, how life is after.  I wonder if it’s a daily shadow, something that follows them everywhere, or something that comes to them at big moments, or perhaps small ones, now and again.  Do you always miss your dad, even after your mother remarries?  Or does his birthday sting, but most days go on without him?  The first person I actually knew who died was the son of one of my mother’s friends.  The first person who died that I loved was my aunt. 

I made my way through a large part of my childhood without feeling the emptiness of death.  When it came, I didn’t know what to do or how to cope.  I wonder if anyone ever does.  I do know that I didn’t mourn then, that the death stayed fresh with me for years, until I was able to begin to cry and grieve for her.  Now she crosses my mind often, but not daily.  I still feel an overwhelming hollowness, a numb day of near sleep walking on the anniversary of her death.  It has been ten years, and I think that I have begun to let her rest in peace in my mind, but things are not ever the same.  And she was only my aunt.  My mother lost a sister, my grandmother a daughter, my cousins a mother. 

Today I made a trip to Goodwill in an effort to clean out my life.  If I am not using things, there is no reason someone else shouldn’t.  It’s a mixture of cleaning and charity.  I finally pulled a large box of recipes out from under my bed and brought it with.  The heavy box literally contains hundreds of recipe cards and is one of two things I received after my uncle died.  My mother, who has lost two siblings, does not talk about death.  She doesn’t talk about the brother and sister she lost.  This made her giving me his possession all the more meaningful.  I sorted through all of the cards right after I got them.  I pulled out dozens that I have not used, but someday might.  And then the box went under my bed.  I stubbed my toe on it, considered throwing it away, but I’ve had it for more than a year.  It’s like his mutt of a dog.  No one really wants it because it’s a burden, a little weird and impractical, but it’s his, so we hang on to it.  We love them because he did.  I tried to make a healthy decision and start a healthy process of letting go, so dropped the collection off for someone else to venture through.  And then I cried.

I didn’t know my uncle well.  I knew that he loved his fish and flowers, proudly caring for them.  He loved my grandmother and was her constant companion.  He lived a hard life of addiction and harder one of sobriety.  He talked endlessly, about anything.  He endured a long, painful death, but it was still too soon.  As I left his box behind, I felt a sense of betrayal, of abandonment.  I cried the entire way home, knowing I did the right thing, but wishing I hadn’t.  I would never use the cards, but they were a little piece of him that I had, a link to him. 

It’s best that I let that bit of him go.  It’s not really him, anyway.  There are many more things that remind me of him, more appropriately.  It just made me realize that grieving never ends.  My grandmother and her sister just lost their brother this week.  They lost a sister a few years ago, leaving them in the middle of one round of mourning and beginning another.  It’s a process that goes on until we die ourselves.  We are always with the memories of our lost one, always with their death, always without them, always a piece of them.  The world will always be one without them, one of mourning.  That does not mean that there isn’t joy in that world, that mourning does not also include rejoicing in their memory.  It just means that grief changes, evolves, and continues on in different ways.  It’s just like us. 

“The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.”  –Arthur Schopenhauer

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.