Eat, Pray, Love

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Yin to My Yang.”

When I think of what constitutes a “soulmate,” I think of the following quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love:

I won’t say that I embrace the quote in its entirety for my own life (though perhaps that’s my twenty-something-year-old romantic hopes speaking), but I love the idea of a soulmate helping you forge your own best self by fire. I’ve always found it rather unrealistic to think that one will simply bring permanent bliss to your life and help you transform without a certain amount of struggle. Instead, he will “bring you to your own attention so you can change your life…shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life.” If I find that, and in the same someone who will lead me to sing just because I’m happy, I will count myself a very lucky woman.

When Timing Doesn’t Match

The photo below would probably be really funny if it weren’t so accurate, but I feel like this experience is incredibly relatable for so many women! I know it is for me:

His-and-Her Diaries

Sometimes, I wonder how men and women ever really make relationships work. Lots of learning, compromising, communication (humph, when we can wrangle that), and diversions/friends/exercise/wine, perhaps. I just feel that we really do speak different languages a lot of the time, and it becomes harder to translate accurately when you really care about someone.

It always strikes me as odd that he and I somehow have opposite needs at the same time. Just when I’ve done something to make him happy that shows I really care about him, and that he enjoys and appreciates, he runs off for a few days afterward. I guess to get his thoughts back together, focus on work, etc…and that can be really anxiety-provoking for me. Less so now than when we were first starting out, but despite my friends and family and my own work, it can make me a little lonely for him while he’s “away.” I can trust now that he’ll return from “the cave” when he’s ready, fully prepared to talk and listen and be together and let me stand on his furniture (tall people really should invest in courtesy stools for guests if they want to prevent this), but I still miss him in the interim. And when he comes back, I need a little time to get close again like I wanted to before he vanished, whereas he’s recharged and ready. Because even though it’s okay that he needs space and I’m not upset with him for it, it still hurts my feelings a little sometimes.

It just doesn’t make sense on a visceral level for me, because there is never a time when not hearing from him makes my day better somehow. It’s hard for me to grasp that he–like most men, supposedly–can need that much space and still care about me like I care about him. I need more space than a lot of my female and some of my male friends seem to in relationships, so this isn’t something I’m very used to. Despite that, I have never needed this much room from someone I actually care about (as in I haven’t heard a peep from him since we spoke on the phone Tuesday night, and it’s now Friday morning), and I think that’s the aspect that is disconcerting at times. I don’t remember it being like that with other guys I’ve dated, but I suppose this is also my first “real” adult relationship, too.

It’s just a funny thing, I suppose. (1) I’m not worried, (2) I don’t actually think he is wanting to leave or that he doesn’t care about me, and (3) I know this week for him is more than ridiculously busy; in fact, I’m pretty certain that he’s pulled at least one all-nighter for work since we spoke…but still. I guess this is why I write: to avoid driving the poor man (or myself) crazy!

Mizzou, Racism, and Social Justice: On-Par with My MU Experience

Though it is unusual for me to do so, I have largely kept my silence about the recent events at Mizzou in favor of sorting out my own unresolved feelings. It has been intriguing watching from the sidelines, and an altogether exhausting and anger-inducing experience reflecting on my time as a graduate student at Mizzou, a coach in and resident of Columbia, and an advocate in an atmosphere that is altogether hostile of any person who dares critique the status quo. It was—and still is—incomprehensible to me that so many people are unwilling to even entertain the idea that racial inequality is a problem in Columbia and at the University. Let’s talk for a second about comfortability.

I am angry that white male students at Mizzou were comfortable enough to make racial remarks, quite audibly, when I was walking with black male classmates on campus. I am angry that people were comfortable enough to make discriminatory remarks toward black cheer teams (read: at CHILDREN) at cheerleading competitions to the tune of, “Just wait til we beat them and send their ass back to the ghetto.” I am angry that it didn’t even surprise me to hear a couple other coaches in Missouri discuss, quite calmly and matter-of-factly, “why Mexicans don’t take care of their families” (……… hard ellipsis here, for reasons that should be obvious). I am angry that residents were comfortable enough to voice the fact that they don’t believe in interracial marriage because it’s “too hard for the kids” (btw: if people in the city weren’t racist, it probably wouldn’t be so hard for the kids). I am angry that I was informed by a resident that the area I was living in was dangerous because of who I was living near, but that he knew a couple marines who walked their German shepherds in that area so that “they” would leave them alone; the hard part of this one is that I know the man was truly concerned for my well-being and was very surprised that his statement was upsetting to me. My neighbors had always been very nice to me. I am angry that a student felt comfortable enough, convicted enough in hateful rhetoric, to draw a swastika in human feces on a dormitory wall. I am angry that certain residents wouldn’t hear a word against their cops…but there was a Columbia cop who was comfortable enough to tell me (during a conversation on my undergraduate specialty in clinical neuroscience) that he wasn’t sure white people and black people even had identical brain structures. But those things–in addition to some of the more graphic stories I prefer not to post online at this time–are just isolated incidents, right? That’s still just me being “closed-minded” because I hate white people (or at least, that’s what the consensus was last year); my bad.

My experience at Mizzou showed me that there are a whole lot of people out there who are more concerned with being called racist than they are with actual racism. Racism itself was part of the culture, fine as long as you don’t speak about it openly, it doesn’t make them uncomfortable, and you don’t point fingers at white people for being racist. My stance about Ferguson resulted in a cheer parent, who I previously had a good relationship with, making a public status on her Facebook page–in full view of my former athletes–declaring that she had finally unfriended me, ranting about my lack of character, and proposing that I was possibly even mentally unstable. This, of course, was the perfect opportunity for several other parents and a coworker to jump in and cosign those statements rather than sitting down and having a conversation with me like a human being. That incident, though it was ugly and certainly upsetting to me, is nothing compared to what students of color experience at Mizzou and in Columbia on a constant basis. It’s nothing compared to the backlash ConcernedStudent1950 (and, you know, any student who isn’t white) is currently experiencing, the terroristic threats, the vandalism of the BCC last night…and so on. To all of my friends and classmates on the front lines of the movement at Mizzou: I am so proud of you. I am proud to know you, to have sat beside you in classes, to have met and heard you speak at demonstrations, to call you friends. You all are in my thoughts; please stay safe as you work to make needed changes to the very core of this institution.

P.S. Any statements along the lines of “but not all white people” (we all know that; it’s a diversionary remark) warrant the ghost of my late cat haunting you for the next three weeks. Just don’t.

Money Blues

Just thinking about my finances today, I am overwhelmed. From loans for graduate school to the car note (my car was totaled last November when I got rear-ended) to surgery bills to regular old “life” bills, it feels like I don’t even know where to start. After graduate school, I moved back home to help my parents with a lot of much-needed, much-overdue work on their house and yard. I felt they more than deserved that help, and after how miserable I was during my time in Missouri, I just needed to be able to work with my hands and be near people who love me. We’ve made wonderful progress on that on renovations and organization, but it has been a real challenge to my identity. I hadn’t lived at home since high school, and my tendency toward financial independence at a young age and working ridiculous hours had been big parts of who I was.

Although I’m coaching, transcribing and copyediting, and working promotions, that still doesn’t feel like “enough.” I’m not working a full-time job at one office that provides me with all my insurance, retirement benefits, etc., and as a result I have begun to question whether I should have even pursued what I did in graduate school. I suppose it was a bit of a bait-and-switch, since I had planned to complete my PhD there…but I don’t regret leaving after my master’s for one minute (and my assistantship, which was completely outside my degree program, was absolutely wonderful). There’s a reason (well, plenty of reasons) every one of us in the cohort left. The ethical practices were shoddy at best, and many of us ended up with debt that we shouldn’t have to couple the lack of advising and the poor academic standards. I know that I am exactly where I should be right  now, and in all honesty I am happier than I have been in years, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy place to be, either.

Surprise, Surprise

“Every day we come across so many things – some mundane and some quite out of the ordinary. … Share one (or more) of those funny/interesting things of your week every Saturday.”

This week was my significant other’s birthday, so naturally, I had some surprises up my sleeve. I met him at work during lunch to get his house key (see, he trusts me!) and headed over to get things ready for the evening. Knowing that he had an extremely busy couple weeks ahead, and that he wanted to have his place straightened up before his siblings, their families, and cousins came in from out of town (and out of the country), I figured I may as well get some cleaning and organizing done while I had the time. And I certainly had plenty of time: he would soon be busy enjoying the professional massage I had arranged as the first of his birthday surprises.

However, just as I was finishing up with the vacuuming, I saw a figure outside the back door and heard someone trying to get in. Though it certainly could have been someone with nefarious intentions, I realized all at once that the person had a key and suddenly knew with certainty who it was: his mother. This, of course, would have been little cause for alarm except for one small detail: I had never met her. In that moment, I truly, truly wished I had worn makeup or that my hair was less mad scientist-esque or that I wasn’t dressed in a slightly homeless fashion. Despite aforementioned appearance-related trepidation, I took a deep breath and went to let the very surprised (and confused) woman in and, after introducing myself (by first name only), I realized she had no earthly idea who I was. I should note that this neither particularly surprised nor bothered me; he and I have very different cultural backgrounds, and with the nature of the relationship between him and his very traditional parents, this made sense.

After several little exchanges–during which she put away the birthday cake and other food she had brought for him–she began walking to the door and turned to ask me one final question: “What do you do?” I then realized that, on top of my being disheveled and randomly in her son’s house doing his dishes, she thought I was unemployed. Understandably, I suppose, given it was 3 in the afternoon…but good grief, what a way to meet your boyfriend’s mother!! On the bright side, at least she didn’t call the police, right?

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My Future Reduced to Six Words

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other:”

And she laughed ’til she cried.

One of the most memorable things my mother ever said to me during my childhood was, “Sometimes you’ve got to either laugh or cry, and I would just rather laugh.” It should be noted that this frame of mind comes amidst a peculiarly high number of tragedies and mishaps happening to one family: friends and family refer to this as our “curse” (we jokingly apologize when bad things happen to them, since it must just be the ol’ family curse rubbing off).

Her phrase usually comes to mind during those weeks when, for example, three vehicles get totaled at fault of the other person; both brothers get hit or nearly hit by flying radiators from 18-wheelers while trying to drive to Arkansas for a family friend’s wedding (big bro was the best man) while our mother ended up violently ill with the flu during the Texas-California-Arkansas road trip to pick up said best man after flying radiator destroyed car’s will to drive; or I end up being stalked by a violent criminal who had just happened to live in my unit in the past and had a particular affinity for my doorway, stranded at the airport on my birthday by a (soon-to-be-former) romantic interest, with a sliced-open arm due to an apparently errant bedspring when I attempted to plug in my phone charger…etc.

As a result, we have learned to laugh even when to others, it may seem quite inappropriate. Though this is a story for another time, one of the funniest family memories of my childhood actually occurred during my paternal grandfather’s funeral. This would seem disrespectful and even downright horrendous to some, but for us, it was a testament to the fact that life, love, emotions, and family ties are very rarely neat or predictable.

I have learned that I can’t will ridiculous, tragic, or infuriating things away; they’re a necessary and unavoidable part of life. However, I can control how I let those things mold me and my approach to living and loving. Tears and laughter–one much maligned and the other oft heralded–are therapeutic in their own ways, whether or not others find them to be appropriately timed; thus, she laughed ’til she cried.

Self-confidence Sunday #1

“Let’s start each week off with a positive, go-get-’em bang! Post a photo (selfies encouraged–really!), quote, poem, or story that makes you feel accomplished, strong, attractive, or just otherwise awesome. The fun part: tell me what about it is so inspiring and/or how you’re going to use that newfound motivation the upcoming week.

Don’t forget to add a “Self-confidence Sunday” tag and pingback to this post! Happy blogging, and I look forward to learning more about what inspires you.”

WestSide Gymnastics Tuck Photo

Even though it was only a tuck, looking at this photo makes me feel strong, fearless, and competent again. This was before my knee surgeries, which was both good and bad in terms of tumbling: I still had bad knees, but they hadn’t been fiddled with by an orthopedic surgeon yet! It’s been slightly over a year since I’ve felt strong enough to just walk out and throw a standing tuck (which I previously could do practically in my sleep) but I start coaching again tomorrow…and maybe it’s about time I gave it a go. 😉

No Time To Waste

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No Time to Waste.”

“Life is too short to: let fear of failure rob you of life lessons and beautiful memories.”

If there is anything I regret (despite the popular cliche advising against ever regretting a thing), it is the many times I let fear keep me from trying something new. There is plenty of psychological research behind the rationale for this, especially where “gifted girls” are concerned…but no matter how well I have come to understand why I shied away from certain pursuits, I still remain a bit sad that I cared so much about upholding an appearance of seemingly effortless perfection that I sacrificed my own happiness. Looking back on these tendencies from my high school and college days, my 25 year-old self must ask: where is the sense in that? Whether it was letting softball pitches go by rather than possibly swing and miss, turning down choir solos in case I choked at the performance, or neglecting to try out for sports and/or musical honors I easily could have earned, I cannot think of a single time it was truly beneficial to let caution be my life guide.

What has been your experience, readers? Has there been a time you neglected to undertake a challenge and were actually grateful, or has your experience been closer to mine?