Thursday, July 29, 2004

Runner's High

So apparently there is so debate about whether or not a runner's high exists.  I don't know about all the biology of it, but I know that the past few weeks running has lifted my moods.  Today, I was unmotivated.  Then I ran 4 miles, and I still haven't actually DONE anything, but I don't feel unmotivated.  I feel good.  Maybe I have some crazy cocaine-like endorphines dancing around in the VIP room of my head, having a rocking party and the rest of my brain can't help but join in.

Whatever the reason, I am glad I got my lazy butt off the couch and away from QVC infomercials and the dirty kitchen.  Now, I'm still surrounded by a messy apartment and ungraded assignments, but it doesn't bother me!  I can handle this! 

I've also been watching the Democratic National Convention.  I don't remember watching the conventions before, but it's fascinating.  Especially as a communciation scholar, I love watching the speeches, seeing the way people react to things, picking apart the language they use and references they make.

Anyway, I promise to be back to a more cohesive version of myself by Monday.  Or at least someday.  


Almost the weekend!

So, in case you haven't read my past couple posts, I've definitely been upset, depressed, hurt, exhausted, and frustrated this week.  I still haven't been able to get a hold of my course instructor to advise me on how to handle this student and what options I have.

But, today I am relishing the fact that the weekend is almost here.  And maybe there will be sunshine today.  There is always hope that things may get better, even if they get worse first.  And I realize that in the scheme of all the other big things in the world, this situation is small and it's not that important.  I just have to struggle to keep that into perspective.

All my marathon training has taught me a thing or two about endurance.  So I'm sure I can make it through the next two days until the weekend and the next two weeks until this class is over!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Holding it together

Seriously, I am barely holding it together right now.  I am still so frustrated about my class yesterday and I just read some online assignments that were submitted and I am even more angry and shocked at some of these students.

So right now, I am just praying that no matter what I encounter today and no matter what is said to me, that I have the wisdom to do the right thing and to say the right thing.  I am tired of being in this funk everyday.  I am tired of not seeing the sunshine and being drenched with rain.  I am tired of sitting in front of the TV dazed, watching QVC for ridiculous products I will never buy like Tony Pony or a fancy treadmill with a fan and a cd player in it, just because I don't want to face anything else.

So here's to making today different.  I am going to come up with some sort of plan so I don't feel so helpless.  I think maybe I'll meet with the course director so I can get some advice.

Countdown till class...30 minutes.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


I have to tell you that I am very close to that feeling of not being able to handle anything at all.  I almost cancelled class yesterday just because I couldn't muster up enough enthusiasm to get up and talk to them about monroe's motivated sequence and how to motivate people using emotional appeals.  It's kind of funny that I was supposed to motivate them to movitate others and I couldn't even show them how it's done.

Anyway, I think a couple of circumstances last week have lead me to this point of frustration.  Being an instructor, especially when you're a grad student and your "students" are a couple years younger than you at most, is difficult.  I have taught public speaking for a year now, and although there are students I love every semester, there are also students that are a bit harder to love.  And it seems they keep multiplying.

Maybe it's because I'm a female, maybe it's because I'm young, maybe it's because I try to make myself approachable and I try to be understanding.  But for whatever reason, there are these students who think it's appropriate to speak to me and treat me like crap (for lack of better words).  I have had a lot of training in how to take crap from people, thanks to my three years of being an RA while I was an undergrad.  But it doesn't get any easier, really.

I try to do the active listening thing.  Yes, it sounds like you're very frustrated about this.  It sounds like you think this grade did not reflect the effort you put into this speech.  Yes, I understand.  I try not to talk back at first.  But sometimes the things they say really piss me off.  And I am left with all this anger and frustration of being misunderstood and mistreated and being in this difficult position of trying to draw my boundaries in the right places.  The boundary of, this is okay for you to say and this is NOT okay.  I've never been good at boundaries...And it's been a life long struggle for me to try to be assertive about them.

And I've definitely gotten better.  But I still just don't know what to do about all this.  Some days I need justification.  So I talk to other TA's.  Here's what I did, does that sound okay?  Here's what I said, what do you think?  Here's my policy on this, is this fair?  Other days, I just need to vent.  Some days, I just want to cry or crawl in bed and put the covers over my head and call it quits.

I know other people don't let their job affect them like this.  But I care so deeply.  I really do believe in what I am teaching them: that being able to articulate an important idea in a compelling way gives you power to change things, the power to have a voice.  I try to get them to think about deeper issues.  What things are worth caring about in the world?  What groups don't have a voice and how can we speak up on their behalf?  What's the point of speaking up on someone else's behalf?  

I want them to realize that this isn't just an intro level course.  I mean, of course it is, but it can be MORE than that.  It's an opportunity to speak up for something you believe in.  An opportunity to find something worth caring about.  I read them a quote by Rabbi Hillel: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?"
I know I am being idealistic in a lot of ways.  To expect everyone to see public speaking as such a rich opportunity to use our voices to speak up for others or for important causes.  I know that's not always going to happen.  But, I hope to at least sway some people.  I hope at least some of them get overwhelmed with it all and finally admit, wow, there are a lot of important issues in the world.  Issues that are worth fighting for, that are worth researching and speaking about and most of all trying to DO something about.  I firmly believe this.

Anyway, this post is more for me than anyone else (as most of these posts are, I guess).  But it just kills me to be confronted with students who don't give a shit about anything in the world.  Who can't think of one cause worth thinking about.

My sophomore year of high school, we read Dante's Inferno and we had to write our own Inferno.  It was supposed to have a theme.  I wrote one called "The Attitudes Inferno."  We had to have levels of hell and symbolic retribution - the whole nine yards.  Anyway, in my innermost level of hell I had the apathetic.  They were so self-absorbed that they couldn't think about anything but their own suffering.  All of them were in separate rooms, laid out in a big circle.  Each room had a button in it.  The button stopped the suffering of the person in the next room.  Obviously, since they were in a circle, if everyone pushed the button for the person in front of him/her, then eventually their suffering would stop.  Kind of like a domino effect that would only work if everyone cared enough about the other people.  The person being punished in the middle of the circle also had a button that if he pushed it, would stop all the suffering in all the other levels of hell, including his own.

So that's my take on apathy from when I was 15 in high school.  Pretty cool symbolic retribution huh?

Okay, so back to my original thoughts.  I guess my frustration and anger today is two fold.  One, that there are these students that I just can't reach...that just don't care at all or that only care about things that affect them.  I wish it was more obvious how connected we all are - how caring about others does benefit us, too.  Not always, but even then, it's still is worth it. 

The second thing I'm frustrated about is this feeling of entitlement I encounter a lot.  I feel I am entitled to get an A on this speech because this is an intro level course and it shouldn't be difficult.  They tell me how smart they are in their major, how ridiculous it is that this class is a requirement for them to graduate, how inferior this subject is to the complex things they are mastering in their own fields.  Isn't this stuff, like, common sense?  they say.  But then, they take their tests and realize, oh this is harder than I thought.  Or they try to write their speech and are overwhelmed by all the different ways they could approach their topic.  It's not common sense.  There are so many subtleties in writing a speech, in finding just the right words to articulate what you want to say in a powerful and influential way.  I make them read MLK Jr's "I have a dream speech."  There are so many other ways he could have said these things.  The basic jist of his speech is that things are not as they should be.  But his combination of images and metaphors and his vocal inflection and his passion and his adds up to something.  It builds and swells into a powerful argument built on values and logic and appeals to the most basic of human emotions.   Was his speech just common sense?  Could we all have just thought of that?  Oh, of course, throw in a little organization here and a thesis statement there and a few adjectives, and there you have it!  A speech for the ages.

No, it takes effort, it requires you to give something of yourself, put something of yourself out there to try to convince others to see things the way you do.  Intelligence comes in many forms.  And writing a speech takes a lot of thought and research that may be a different kind of effort than they are used to.  It's not that it's harder or easier, it's just different.

And so when they insult the way we are doing things, I take it personally.  Because I believe these things personally.  Today, we watched a sample speech on videotape and I let the students debate the topic, the media and women's body image, for a good twenty minutes.  We strayed from critiquing her exact message, but we talked about her topic, the issue at hand.  There were many different views held by members of the class, but they were getting involved and they were articulating their thoughts and using evidence to back it up.  I was impressed with their ability to have such a meaningful and well-thought out discussion and debate.  And then the voice from the back, why are we doing this?  I don't see how this relates to her speech exactly.  Okay, fair question.  I think every activity should have a purpose.  So I turn it back on the students.  Why do you think I let this debate go on for so long instead of making us watch the next speech?

And they come up with reasons.  I like to make them think of the reasons, so they can really try to decide why something is important.  Because her topic was obviously presented in such a way that sparked conversation and made us interested and got us thinking.  Because we can learn from her strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, good.  Because this is speech class and it's hard to fill the time, he says bitterly.  My stomach dropped.  A nervous giggle from one side of the room.  Why this constant undermining of everything I do?  I wished I could say so many things back to him.  This whole semester, these comments, this attitude, the way he talks to me and treats  me.  I am fuming.  I don't even know what I said, but I went on to the next person, who thank god, had something positive to say.

I am young and I am learning.  I realize this.  In some ways I hope it gets easier to deal with classes like this.  But in some ways, I hope it doesn't.  If I stop caring about this class, and get to the point where nothing they say will frustrate me or upset me, then I've probably become the type of apathetic person I don't want to be.  So for today, I'm just walking through the rain, trying to let this all go.  Reminding myself of the positive encounters I've had with teaching.  Of all the kind comments and thank you notes and success stories.  I know there's a lot of lessons here.  I just wish they didn't put me in a bad mood so often.


Monday, July 26, 2004


we all have that someone
the first one
maybe it was a betrayal
or a lie
or a withdrawal of connection
or the living of a double life
or talking behind your back
or degrading you
but whatever it was
that same feeling came
sinking, sharp
cutting your breath from your lungs
knocking your thoughts against each other
making you think
am i crazy?  is the world not as it seems? 
the pain that we cause each other is deep
as jewel says
"words can crush things that are unseen" 
its fragile existence dependent
upon others
what unseen things in your life have been


we like to think we have a choice
of who we let 
into our life
if only it were that simple 

we like to think we can control
who has the power
to hurt us
if only it were that simple

we do not have much control
over it all
and when we do try to control it
i don't get hurt, because i don't let
people get close to me
it backfires.

such a strange emotion
internal injury
the feeling of being devalued by someone
who you wish valued you more

is it usually unintentional?
do we do it on purpose sometimes?
do we hate to admit that we may have
hurt someone else?
instead, preferring to say
you're too sensitive.

it's a common emotion.
a combination emotion.
the researchers say it's located
somewhere between anger
and guilt on the unseen
scale of our emotions.

what can we learn from our experience of it?
how can we react and recover from those
how can we transform those experiences
into things that make us better and not



Thursday, July 22, 2004


This article about Fahrenheit 9/11 makes me happy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Improv 101

With them, I always laugh.  No matter my mood, with them, I can always be cheered up.  Creativity flows when we are together.  Spontaneous ideas collide with each other, brilliantly transforming into something curious and new.  The sub-conscious is brilliant, I tell them.  Trust your first instinct.  They know this, of course, but I tell them anyway.  Together, we create fantastic worlds, places never imagined before, situations so outrageous they seem familiar.  It always fascinates me how powerful it is when we work together as a team.  The audience explodes with applause, laughter, gasps.  They shout out their additions to our creation, a joint process.  At the end, we are breathless from our adventures through make-believe worlds, our sprint through the collective connections of our minds.
Even in rehearsal it is this way.  Of course being in front of an audience is a unique experience.  But even when it's just us, there's a feeling of freedom.  A clean slate in front of us.  A bare stage ready to be molded into whatever we put there.  The comfort of being surrounded by other brilliant improv-ers who are ready to leap forward and justify every detail of the world you just established.  The excitment of being in the midst of creation.  To see things come to life before you, all around you.  To jump into someone else's world, without a thought.  Instantly, a whole new character exists in your mind.  And you make it real to everyone else.  It really is amazing.
For a few year in high school I was on an improvisation team.  And then in college, Britney and I started a whole new team.  Cast it from scratch.  It started as a dream of ours.  A small, liberal arts school with no theater major, we thought there was a need for improv.  Of course, there were the regular shows, but improv is different.  It's unexpected, it's unpredictable, it's frenetic.  During the shows, even the audience can sense it, I think.  You can see it on our faces.  The ideas passing over our faces like momentary emotions.  And then there's it begins.  It keeps moving and doesn't stop.
It's been a whole year since I performed last with Improv 101.  I miss this creative outlet.  But more than that, I miss being with those friends that I love so much.  I miss being part of this amazing group of people.  I miss that freedom to create, that freedom to imagine things differently.  The anticipation of seeing what I'll stumble across when I just let go and immerse myself in the moment.
So, this is one part of me that no one here knows.  That is why I love going back to them so much.  It's like that part of my identity is illuminated, brought to the surface, nourished again.  But now, they are leaving, too.  The group that was there when it all began is moving on.  And that's hard.  When I get homesick for these people, for that time in my life that is impossible to recreate or go back to, I guess I'll just have to use my imagination to remember how it was.
I am amazed by the power of the mind to explore a world that does not yet exist, to picture things as they could be.  This power of imagination is a muscle a lot of us don't flex very often.  But what if we did?  What if we practiced imagining things as they could be?  And imagining ways to get there?  I'm not talking about theater anymore, but about affecting our world.  Sometimes things just seem so impossible.  Problems seem so insurmountable that we can't even begin to contemplate how to deal with them.  But what if we stopped thinking and started imagining?  Forget the logistics for now, forget the details, forget all the constraints that usually stop our mind from letting go.  What would our world look like if we could imagine it differently?  What kind of person would we want to be?  What kind of community we would want to see flourish around us?  How would we solve big, world issues if we let ourselves wander outside the box?
I really do miss my improv friends.  I miss that time of my life.  But I have with me a powerful imagination that is in need of some exercise.  If I let it run free, I wonder where it will take me...what it will show me.

Monday, July 19, 2004


i keep writing and ending up nowhere.  hopefully they'll be something worthwhile to pull out of all that by tomorrow.
until then, goodnight.  may you sleep with the comfort of knowing that you are loved.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Running, Church, and Community

So, it's 9:37 AM on Sunday morning and I'm struggling.  First, I am training for a marathon, so I need to go for my long run.  But there's no one else to go with me and I'm completely unmotivated (it is rainy and cold here afterall).
Then I think, oh it's SUNDAY which means church.  Usually it does at least.  Except I still haven't found a church here that I like.  And I suppose I am pretty picky.  Which makes me slightly annoyed at myself.  I hate viewing church like a product to be consumed.  This doesn't serve MY needs so I'm off to find someplace with a better offer.  I do believe that sometimes you have to commit to a place and just plant yourself in that community of people, even if you don't feel like it's what you want.  Because sometimes it's not all about us and what we need, sometimes it's about what other people need or what you're supposed to learn by bringing something to that community.
All that being said, I still can't convince myself to go back to the churches I've visited.  I felt so uncomfortable there, even though people were friendly and even though I took others with me a few times to keep me company.  It's just that I grew up in a church where everyone knew me, where I was comfortable and at home.  So as much I keep telling myself that it's good to be the outsider sometimes, that it will teach me things, that going to church can always be worthwhile if you put your heart in the right place...I just can't do it. 
I've only been to a few around here, but there are more.  So maybe I need to just try some other ones.  I just can feel myself being so judgmental as soon as I get into a place.  I analyze the language - what words are they using to describe god?  Then the music, the prayers, the greetings, the sermon.  Quickly categorizing the general church beliefs and comparing them to my own (at least the ones that I'm more sure about).  But, I don't know where the balance is between just happily ingesting whatever is given to me and being so overcritical that I have a hard heart and lack compassion and the openness to see the good that's going on. 
So I'm stuck in limbo it feels like...maybe I'll listen to some the sermon online from my home church today until I can figure out where to go next week.  And then there's that running thing...which would be so much easier if I had a group with me to do it.  A good community makes everything better, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Terminal

Just went to see the terminal this afternoon.  It was a good combination of serious and funny.  I feel like it had some meaning and insight for me, but I'm trying to piece together exactly what that was.  Airports are definitely funny places.   
Now, if you haven't seen it, you might not want to read this next part, because it's about the ending of the movie.  I was happy, because for once, he didn't get the girl in the end.  Tom Hanks' character, Victor, and Catherine Zeta-Jones' character, Amelia, don't end up together.  Yay for real-life endings that aren't forced.  Okay, maybe not real-life endings because it is the movies, but still.  I was just glad that the story ended with them going their separate ways, without being a big dramatic tear-jerker or something. 
Things don't always go the way you want them to in life.  And sometimes you just get to have people in your life for a little while before they move on.  We have to be okay with that, which isn't always easy.  I am one of those people who wants to keep in touch with everyone I've ever known.  They are all so special to me.  It's like if I lose contact with that person, I lose contact with that part of my past. 
I guess that is one weird thing about being at this time in my life.  Everything seems so transient.  I go to college and have this great group of friends for four years, then spend one day in a cap and gown and poof! it's all gone like a long dream you don't want to wake up from.  Same thing with high school graduation.  And now I'm here in the lonely land of graduate school wondering where I'll be transported to next.
And part of that confusion comes from trying to figure out what kind of person I am without all those people around me.  By the time I graduated college, I had a clear role in my group of friends, a clear picture of who I was to these people.  I thought I knew how they viewed me and I was comfortable with that.  Then, fast forward to grad school where I'm teaching public speaking to people who are barely younger than me, taking classes with brilliant grad students, and barely holding it all together.  I've made friends now, but it's still kind of like, hmm, i wonder how these new people think of me?  Who am I becoming in their midst?  Is that who I want to become?
I get homesick for people a lot.  I guess it's never really the places that you miss so much as the people there and how they make you feel.  The person that you are when you're with those good friends.  And when that time is over, you just have to be thankful.  They left their fingerprints all over your life, wriggled around in your heart, and now they're off somewhere new.  So I guess I'm hoping to really take advantage of the place I find myself in roll up my sleeves and get down to figuring out why I'm here in this place, right now, with these people.  I don't want to lose the opportunity to let this place affect me and to let myself affect this place.  


Friday, July 16, 2004

Friday afternoon thoughts...

It's hard to believe that the weekend is here already.  It's been one of those weeks that flies by but hasn't left much of a lasting impression.  I'm in a blah mood and don't really know why.
Maybe because I had a super scary dream last night that I was taken as a prison of war in Iraq.  I don't know why I was over there in the first place because I wasn't a soldier or anything, but I remember thinking I'm so mad at President Bush for making us be here!  I think Fahrenheit 9/11 had something to do with my dream, even though I saw it a few weeks ago.  I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it yet.  A powerful movie, no matter how over the top people say it is.  Hopefully people who aren't so sure who they are going to vote for will go see it.
Amy told me about her activist friend who got arrested by passing out voting registration forms to people in the theater after Fahrenheit 9/11.  Crazy.
Anyway, the war has definitely been on my mind at lot lately.  I keep thinking back to the woman in the film who was screaming and crying outside of her uncle's house about how many funerals they had been to in the past weeks.  She said something about god bringing justice to those who did this.  I can't remember the exact words, but she was just so overwhelmed with disbelief and emotion and the injustice of it all that the only thing she could hope for is that god would punish those responsible.  Or irresponsible depending on how you look at it.
I just can't imagine what that pain is like.  To see your entire network of people, friends and family, splintered between the dead and the living, scattered across the world.  You feel homesick, but everything that feels like home is gone.  How can you live through something like that and go on?  How can you survive lifetimes of this suffering?  It just seems so unfair. 
Then I think, I can't possibly be this lucky forever.  I think, something like this is going to happen to me, to us - it's inevitable.  My mind goes wild imagining scenarios like the ones that happen in Iraq all the time.  Scenes that happened during the Holocaust.  Someone barging into a peaceful house in the middle of the night, hauling off family members with no explanation.  It amazes me what the human spirit can endure. 
I had another scary dream sometime after 9/11.  There was some sort of terrorist attack going on, and I was so scared.  I frantically picked up my cell phone and started trying to call everyone I knew to see if they were okay.  First, my family, then friends and so on.  Except for when I scrolled down through my phone book, everytime I tried to select a name to call, it disappeared.  Before my eyes, all the names in my cell phone just vanished.  I was left, holding this phone, with no one to call, knowing that they were all gone. 
But that whole idea of god bringing justice to a situation seems so complex.  Who should be blamed for all the innocent killed?  For the innocence lost?  I know that if I were going through anything that painful, I would want an explanation.  How, god, how, how, how could you let this happen?  Why, WHY, is this happening?  I would want god to assure me that the situation was being handled.  That somehow this would all be worked out in the end.
I surely don't have any answers about this figured out.  I can just feel that deep calling of that woman, crying out to god in such a deep way, asking for something to be done about all this suffering, asking for peace, for justice, for her family's lives not to be in vain. 
Even if she is calling out to a different god in name, I truly believe that god hears her.  That somehow god will do something.  And I want god to do something, even if that means that my life is going to be changed.  That's the hardest part: admitting that for someone else's situation to get better, you might have to sacrifice some things.  
But if you really have a big picture view of the kingdom, we're all in this together.  It's everyone's suffering and it's everyone gain in the end.
Definitely some random thoughts for a Friday afternoon and I'm not sure how they all fit together, but hopefully I'll gain some clarity soon.  Either way, my "blah" mood had been put into perspective and I feel a whole lot more thankful.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The risk of happiness

Before I met him I couldn’t think of starting over. He changed all that. He made me want to begin again. Rediscover everything fresh and bright and new.

But something still haunts me. One of my biggest fears is the slow destruction of things. It begins innocently. Something so sweet and good just turns ever so slightly. You might not even notice it. Every drastic change starts somewhere. Even though wake up one day, asking yourself how did we get here?, it started somewhere, in some small way. You just didn’t notice it. Those small destructive moments did not reveal the projected fate of their continual existence.

How can you ever say where something began? Influence is elusive that way. Change happens and if you aren’t paying attention, you could become a stranger to yourself. Or the person you love can become a stranger to you.

The only price of happiness is the risk of losing it.

I can’t even remember where I read that quote, but it has always stayed with me. Happiness comes with a price, too: the risk that you won’t always be that happy. The risk that the thing or situation or person that is bringing such warmth into your life won’t always be there. They won’t always look at you the same way. The feelings between you won’t always be the same. And not to say that I would want to be happy all the time. The most precious of lessons are learned in the dark times. What I am saying though is that lurking in the background of all my happy moments is the realization: This won’t last. I know that’s cynical and perhaps it isn’t always true, but things get distorted over time. Even the best relationships get clogged with bitterness and hurt feelings, morphing the relationship into an unrecognizable version of its former self.

These thoughts depress me even when my life is going great. Though I am thankful, I am tentative. Dare I get too attached to the way things are right now?

But of course, I always do. There’s no other way to live than to jump right in and passionately give everything you’ve got. I just hope each time that things are different. In each relationship, I think, can we beat the odds? Or will things inevitably get messed up in some unforeseeable and probably unintentional way? It breaks my heart.

The past still pains me. Images flash through my mind of us, the way I like to remember us. The laughter, the safety we found in each other, the tenderness of kind words and comforting touches. And to think of the way things ended up seems unbelievable. How did things possibly end up this way? How did we get here? Were there signs all along of where we were headed?

I asked him once if he thought he could really live without me. He replied that he had been living without me for a long time. That I hadn’t been myself the past few months anyway. Is it really that easy to become a stranger?

I guess the reason this is all on my mind is because I have that renewed sense of hope again. Hope that things will be different this time. That even if there are ups and downs and even if things break down for awhile, that somehow they will be built back up again. Maybe it will be different, but maybe it will be stronger too. Is that how you really know if something is “built to last”? It still succumbs to the gradual decline of things, but eventually bounces back, reconstructs itself in a new way? Renews itself?

I guess I’ll have to wait and see. For now, I am basking in the glow of the happiness that surrounds me. I know that it’s a risk to fall in love with that warmth again, but it’s here and it’s a blessing and I can’t think of handling it any other way. You have to let that sun sink in while it’s around. Maybe that’s what sustains you through the winters.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Being a Dog Owner

So my dear, sweet pup, Kito, woke up at 4 AM this morning. I usually love him to death, but I was ready to kill him when he wouldn't go back to sleep and only wanted to go for a walk. I don't have children, but I can imagine how difficult it will be solely based on my experiences as a dog owner. Does he really need to go for a walk or is he just awake? Should I force him into his crate or let him roam around? Factor in that my roommate is sleeping in the next room and that Kito always barks when he is put in his crate, and I decide on the "attack him with petting" approach. J.Stone discovered this technique while petsitting for me. Here's the strategy:

1. Let Kito sit wherever he wants to sit or lay. If it's inconvenient for you, too bad.
2. Pet him continously, focusing especially on the belly and behind the ears.
3. Continue for as long as needed, until he is completely asleep.
4. Carefully creep away, making sure not to disturb him.
Warning: Stopping early could result in the dog waking up again and refusing to go back to sleep. Do not stop the pet fest prematurely.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, I will save my musings on "why having pets is good for your soul" for another post. Instead, here's a piece by Taylor Mali entitled "Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog."

First of all, it's a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you're walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain't no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breaths
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn't like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Somethimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don't you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise.
It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.
It pulls you in several different directions at once,
or winds around and around you
until you're all wound up and can't move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.

Ain't that the truth. More later on falling in love and the joys of pet ownership.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

On the vulnerability of writing...

I have always been a person who kept journals. It all started in sixth grade when I won a composition notebook (hot pink, I should add) at a raffle during a class exercise. Actually, now that I think of it, my writing started way before then. I was homeschooled and my mother used to make us write in our journals everyday. We got to choose our topics. My favorites are classics like "Cake Tooth" (about the day my tooth came out in a piece of cake...who would have guessed?) and "Foldings Socks Isn't Fun." Even then I was slightly obsessed with making sure that my writing was paired together with my name. I imagined that my composition book might come apart, scattering the pages everywhere, with no indication of the author of this fine writing. So I made it a habit of writing my name at the end of every single entry. But back to my original point. In sixth grade, I started writing for me. Secret journals that I hoped no one would ever read. Despite that, I STILL wrote my name at the end of every entry.

These entries were meant to chronicle every part of my life. I wanted all the details in case I needed them later. From who I had crushes on, to what I ate for breakfast, to what I was thinking about that day, to my nightly prayers. It all went in there. I probably have close to twenty journals, tucked neatly away in a box in my parents house. They hold the secrets of my past, amazing stories, true emotions, brave insights. And I imagine all the other journals stored in every person's house, all across this town, this state, this country, this world. These pages are precious, promising to keep silent as the author pours out the deepest of confessions. No judgement is given, no response offered. Just the safety of a blank page and a closed book.

We are all the same in so many ways.

I have always believed that writing can help me gain clarity that I couldn't gain any other way. Random thoughts react and create new elements, developing before my eyes on paper, a surprise epiphany. Things that seemed all jumbled in my head make peace with each other, untangling themselves, wiggling out in the hasty curves of my handwriting. This pouring out of myself gives me insight, a rich release allowing me enough freedom to exhale. Now, the wild thoughts racing through my head seem mangeable. I can turn the page, close the book, and let them go until I'm ready to deal with them again. That's how I normally think of writing.

But more recently, writing hasn't seemed like a freedom. It's seemed like a daunting exercise. When I started college, my obsession with chronicling my life stopped. I guess everything seemed too exciting and busy to stop and reflect. Plus, there were some painful times, too. Times when I couldn't even face myself to process what was going on. It was easier to push it away, to not allow myself those quiet moments to think and write. Without that space, something was lost. That ability to wait patiently for myself. We all have wise inner voices. But these voices aren't there to talk just any old time. Conversations have to be on their time, when they are ready. And if you aren't listening, if you don't have that space and time ready for them to speak, you might miss it. The wisdom may be lost, its faint whisper never being heard.

I imagine as if there are many little thoughts and insights living in my head. There are regulars that live there. We know each other well. They live comfortably there, familiar with my ways. Wise with experience. Everyday, new ones come into town though, some frantic and fast moving. Others creep in slowly like dark clouds and stay for days at a time. The regulars might make friends with some of the newbies. They have chats, come to conclusions, and want to talk to me about the way I'm doing things.

But, this all depends on me. Will I give myself the space to listen? To wait patiently while these thoughts tenatively venture out of their homes and reveal to me what they've known all along? Will I silence them once I realize that what they are saying will lead me to conclusions and decisions I am not ready to make? Will I let them leap out of my head and onto my page for my own eyes to process, unable to turn away?

Deciding to sit down and write is a vulnerable exercise. I might come across some messy discoveries, stumble upon some ugly truths about myself, realize there are things I need to change. Do I really want to do that? Maybe this is why I have stopped writing for so long. Forget the typical excuses of not having the time to do it. I think it's that I have been scared to hear my own voice. I have been scared of what I might discover when I really sit down with myself and invite everyone to come out and talk. Maybe it's time for a little town meeting. One where I'm ready to step up, lay my claim to my thoughts, and proudly declare "THE BEGINNING."