Your Love is my Drug

When I have other things that I’m supposed to do, I find myself setting goals in manageable areas.  It seems to be a rule of activities in general, that the ‘lamer’ they are, the more verbal uproar you must make to justify their perpetuation.  The less complex they are, the more they are surrounded by mystery and commentary.  The sillier they are, the more you must cram your heart and soul into talking about them.

I am supposed to be planning my wedding.  Wedding planning is paradoxical as the more time you spend planning, the more there is to do.  To divert myself I have therefore declared the *cue cymbals and trumpets*

SUMMER OF THE FROZEN YOGURT. 

This is the gingersnap frozen yogurt at Dick and June’s of Beverly.  They are currently in their 42nd year in operation (May hours 11-9).  Dick and June have a fairly substantial list of frozen yogurt.  It may even trump their list of actual ice cream flavors.  I’m sure you can probably combine some of the flavors to make new and delicious ones as well.  However, with a daunting list before me, including some scary flavors (granola, really Dick and June?) I think I will have my work cut out for me.  Even without repeating the nofat/lowfat versions it’s a large undertaking.  Having downed four cones now though with no noticeable weight gain in a 10 days stretch (thank you bike commuting!) I feel I must make a strategy for the rest of the summer.  And a punch card.  And to find out when the least busy time of the day to get frozen yogurt is so I can strike up a friendship with Dick and June and develop my own flavor named after me!

Perhaps planning to eat frozen yogurt will turn out to be a paradoxical activity as well.  Bigger and Better, as they say, Bigger and Better.

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Life Autonomy and the Pursuit of Hospitality

Nothing comes easily, though some things come naturally.

I just made up that aphorism, or at least, I didn’t Google it first.  Along with my New Years Resolutions to drink more, hang up my clothes when I come home from work, and caretake, I have added to my resolves the at times bewildering task of pursuing hospitality.

It comes from a long tradition of realizing that life is lived better with intention, goal setting, and clearly articulated mission statements.  Though these things are forgotten at times, and I have to come back around to them after neglecting these healthy thoughts in favor of junk food single serving gratification, inevitably I do.

Pursuing hospitality can mean spending money, but also valuable time.  It can mean cleaning out the large tupperware container at my house containing diamond hard marshmallows and making a list of things to put into a “Let’s have a fire at my house” box.  It can mean reminding myself to get birthday gifts, write cards, and shop for others.  It is remembering to send a card, ask to participate in someone’s favorite activity, which may certainly not be mine.  It may mean all of these things being forefront at my mind, at times when I want nothing else but to do only what I want.  How difficult!  How hard.

But the payoff is big, and the first fire of the year at my house was a success, and the third journey to Dogtown was a success, and the first trip to Beverly’s Dick and June’s for a wonderful Banana Chocolate froyo was a success as well.  And all of these activities counted toward pursuing hospitality.

Plurality from my perspective

I went to hear theologian John Franke speak tonight at The Gathering in Salem, Ma.  The building was a bank for 200 years, inside is a door leading into an open vault.  The church tagline is “it’s still a safe place.”  I suppose that’s comforting when the talk I heard involves getting others to confess their shortcomings, engage in bold humility, and work with others on bringing about change in life and community.  Pretty heady stuff for a non-scholar like myself

One of those heady things was this idea of “plurality.”  I only understood the word in terms of adding an “s” after a noun to make it refer to “more than one.”  Turns out in church-speak it means “an alternative system of church government, wherein the local assembly’s decisions are made by a committee.”  Or, Franke seemed to be using it to say don’t reduce things to their lowest common denominator, rejoice in differences.

This relates seamlessly to the conversation my sister and I had this weekend .  About how we’ve both grown up enough to realize we aren’t becoming any more similar to one another.  We’ve both moved out of our parents home.  Been through college, and now are embarking into married life.  These are all our connections.  Meanwhile, she wants to be a mother and music teacher, I want to see more of the world and experience life.  Neither of us would be comfortable in the others shoes, and both of us are choosing paths that express our authentic selves.  And our paths are bound to get even farther apart.

In the future, when we drive together and discuss our lives we soon won’t be able to measure success in relation to each other anymore.   Travelling and Teaching as careers are apples and oranges.  Our paths are perfectly legitimate, but we won’t be able to pull each other back into the same orbit we had as kids.

That’s where I see the concept of Bold Humility Franke brought up comes in.  Instead of believing that our life paths have put us squarely on the straight and narrow path and the other person must follow on our path or be doomed to failure, we can look at our vocations and see how they run parallel and rely on each other as communication tools. In order to understand some of my miscommunications I may rely on her experiences to shed a different perspective.  She will probably do the same for me.

Committee decisions in general can be difficult, but they certainly can incorporate many more types of people, and allow for expansion of many more ideas.  This plurality calls for a lot of humility and perspective taking.  Two things I hope to become better at, the more I converse with my sister, and the more I learn from scholars and laypeople.

ps.  This is The Blog for the Salem Gathering.  They have some pretty cool events in the area.

Actions speak louder than words…

Unless of course you work with someone who really needs verbal affirmation.

I used to think it was cheating to try and read people and figure out what they needed to hear.  And I’ve also heard that it’s pretty good advice to take books like The Five Love Languages with a grain of salt.  And whenever I hear the phrase “there are two kinds of people in this world…” I immediately think – and of course the third type that fits neither category.

Bearing all that in mind this book supposes that people really need to feel appreciated a certain way.  It posits that there are 5 ways people feel appreciated.  These are: through physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, and acts of service.  Each person has a way that makes them feel as though they are understood and loved.

Therein lies how I ran into trouble at work the other day, and I think, in a lot of past jobs as well.  I’m firmly in the “no news is good news” category.  If something’s not broken, there’s no need to try and fix it.  But it turns out, my coworker was sick of my seemingly negative point of view, fixated only on the things I want to change and enhance, never celebrating success, or embracing how much progress we’ve made.

She wants and needs to be commended on the things we’re doing that are working well and are changing lives.  She wants to rejoice in each moment of triumph.  That’s a wonderful thing, an awesome thing.

I want to look at the things that we need to improve in order to become better.  I want to make plans and lists and “fix” things.  Enough with the pats on the back, let’s get a move on! Let’s be busy!

So we decided to reach a compromise with each other, to attempt to speak each others language.  I will say “Thank You” many times a day, look for our successes and build on them without noting the things that could also be improved on.  I will notice and discuss the changes with her and talk about how great we are.  Cause, oh, we are.

And she, well, she’s not going to wait three months to tell me things like this anymore, trying to bring about change by focusing only on my positive qualities.   If I’m being a jerk, she’s gonna tell me.

Sounds fine with me.

Beneficial lies and Non-Beneficial lies

There are a whole lot of lies I tell myself.  You probably have yours too.

Mine are lies that mediate between what I know is best, and what I want to do at the moment.  They are lies that depress my scrupulous perfectionist streak, and they are lies that soothe my sense of immediacy.

I have lied to myself for a long time  saying “everything will get done eventually.”  That in some distant time I will have the ability to combine every hobby of mine with a job and social life.  And keep a clean house, garden and manicured nails.

That lie soothed my frustration when I wasn’t able to make a lunch for work the night before, and when I couldn’t mop the floor of my classroom everyday, and when the brilliant essay I wanted to write about my experiences playing intercultural soccer still languished in my brain.

I don’t think that lie is one of the beneficial ones I tell myself anymore.  I think that lie is harming me.  It’s distracting me from the perfection of when I DO manage to study 2.5 hours straight, and when I do manage to read three or four articles about A Science Discovery.  Because that lie has told me I can just make unlimited stores of “you should, could and will do x,y,z things that you NEED to do.”  That lie hasn’t pardoned the relentless sprint of time; that lie has pushed me to run with time on my heels always nipping my ankles with passed deadlines.  I’m living with the past and future taking chunks out of my brain.

Chances are, I won’t do everything.  At the very least I won’t do it all, not with the frequency, and regularity that that sentence has made me think.  So it’s time to search for a new sentence.

Generalists vs Specialists

I was sitting down in the dark with three unlikely people.  Four, if you count the kid among us who was tugging his dad’s sleeve asking “when can we go… what time is it?”

Myself, nice middle class white American.  Albanian immigrant college student and general smartass.  Ugandan immigrant soccer coach and student.  Hondurian… and it turns out I don’t know what he does as work.

We were sitting there because we unlikely birds have managed to find ourselves with no other friends on a Wednesday and an unusual hankering to play soccer.  “Where are you friends” I asked one of them, and he pointed to the other two and myself, then tapped his chest.  Here you are are.  Here I am.

And so we had played 2v2, a poor option but better than nothing, and were then sitting down, doing nothing.  Nothing but discussing a very convoluted and confusing topic.

Is it better to be the best scorer and become famous for it leading yourself and your team to glory, or is it better to be “good at everything?”  Is “good at everything” a catch all phrase meaning “not very good” at scoring, a “fill-in” as they say.

This hinges on an earlier soccer debate this year.  Is there such a thing as dominating?  If you have fabulous team cameraderie, and wondering passing, but poor scoring can you be outplayed by an inferiorly picked team with better scorers?  By a simple number you will clearly be “losing.”  Does that mean you are “worse.”   It’s hard to say.

The person who is scoring has been set up, by those possessing talent to create opportunities, assists they call it, but that person receives little credit.  The person who assisted the assister receives none.

Should you then be the generalist, the person who must manage the rest of the team, or should you hone those skills specifically that lead you to stand out.

In life it seems that the specialists is certainly the one that makes the money taking an illustration from the health care field.  The surgeon, whether it be brain or cosmetic is the one that makes the money.  The general practitioner is the one that lives in anonymity merely continuing to promote the good health of those around him.  How do we give credit to both?  Should we?

If some people in the benefit of the good of all give up their own hope for fame or greater fortune should there be a reward?  Is there anyway to smooth out the differences in these relationships or must there always be a tug of competition in complicated societies like this.

Seeing as my own path of life has created me to be a generalist rather than a specialist I am prejudiced on that side.  I see the role that I play in life, one of connection, as a way of mediating different social circles.  I don’t play soccer fabulously, I am not knowledgeble about particular branches of literature, psychology, theology, philosopy, health or nutrition, I can’t wax rhapsodic about the latest indie rock bands. But I know the people who can do those things, and I can connect you to them.  I am a generalist.  I know enough of some things to allow me to do more things.  I work fairly hard, but not too hard, in order to avoid classification.

At times this leads to yearning for a niche, but at times it creates a world of rich interdiscipline.

Metacognition – or The Very First Post

I first began this adult phase when I discovered, or perhaps appropriated, the verb “embrace” approximately midway through the year.  It applies to a whole host of things that I can try to chip away at, but for the most part can’t change.  For example, it is becoming cold out, last night was the first frost.  In this case, it would be wise to “embrace” winter.  It’s coming whether I am ready for it or not.  To this end, another wise move would be to buy a sweater, or many sweaters.

Another example of this accepting state of life is my realization and acceptance of my both pragmatic and reflective nature.  Try as I might, I find that life functions better when I have periods of solitude interspersed with wild parties and dancing.

Finally, what prompts this blog is the discovery of metacognition.  I suppose if you had asked me if I previously knew it, I would have replied yes, after you explained it to me in painstaking detail.  However, now that I understand the idea and use of it, I would like to try and incorporate it into my slowly changing life.  After all, Adults change too, they just do it a lot more imperceptibly than Children.

I began to discover it earlier this year, in March when I was prompted by a self-help book, to keep a journal on all of my eating and the reasons why I eat.  I lasted about three weeks of doing this before I decided that ignorance was bliss.  That exercise was the last link in a long chain of steps toward discovering metacognition however.

I am an adult now, and as such I believe I have an obligation to recognize that I have foibles.  That I do not have the only way of solving a problem firmly in hand, and that I can and do get on other people’s nerves.

That said, today I realized that I operate under the assumption that “Life is short, Eat dessert first.”  I do, and many times I eat that dessert early and often.  Literally, as in the case of brownies today at work, and figuratively, as spending twenty minutes earlier in the fluffy confection that is facebook rather than serious study.

The problem with this is twofold.  The body (and mind) doesn’t run very well on dessert all the time for one thing.  Fatigue is rampant and irritability surprisingly common.  The other is that when you eat dessert first, there is nothing to look forward to but the ruined taste of succulent spinach and crunchy walnuts.  The sugar and sweets have corrupted your taste buds for what is a better meal, leaving you the poorer and more dissatisfied.

Thus, today having realized this, I will attempt to put my dinner back before my dessert.