Thursday, February 24, 2011

On My Lack of Optimism and Fixing That Problem

I love how optimistic I was when I first got here. Everything was new and unsure and so it was easy to believe that I would adore everything about my life. There were so many things to look forward to.

There still are.

But it is no secret that lately I have been struggling to find that optimism again. I can't seem to work up much happiness or contentment. I know that with this audience I don't need to say when this started happening for me. I cannot, however, say with certainty that I wouldn't feel the same way had things gone differently this past month.

When we are feeling down, part of us WANTS to feel that way. It becomes easy to sit down and sink down into the deep, soft, mud of self-pity (points to the person who names what book this is from). Once there, it's hard to muster the motivation to leave even if we know how unhappy wallowing really makes us. We're humans. We weren't meant to wallow. If we're not careful, we might just end up in a puddle of cement instead of mud and the we REALLY can't get out (does that help anybody with the book reference?).

So what are we to do when things get that way? I could tell you all the answers you already know. Instead I am going to tell you about a book. One that Juli lent me when I stopped by her place on my way home from New Hampshire. It's called A Single Voice and it's by Sister Kristin M. Oaks. The tag line is "the unexpected life is no less a life."

Honestly I'm not one to turn to books to solve my problems or for inspiration (unless it's the scriptures). But I was getting bored with all the fiction I was reading. Nothing that I brought with me was inspiring me. Then I saw A Single Voice and thought, "Why not? This might be exactly what I need."

It was and still is. There are a lot of thoughts and insights that only really apply to single females. But there are some things that also apply to everyone.

This morning, as I was reading before I headed to work, I read this. "If you are complaining about your life, it is because you are thinking only of yourself...The most effective medicine for the sickness of self-pity is to lose oneself in the service of others."

This is a quote Sister Oaks included in her book from President-then Elder Hinckley.

I do not delude myself into thinking that I am not being immensely selfish in my wallowing. I should feel nothing but gratitude for being here in Maine gaining the experiences that I am. The truth is, I am only human. I can't force myself to not feel these things. I just have far too much time on my hands.

And yet, I do find that there are times I am able to forget myself, my petty emotions, and find a measure of happiness. So far it's been in little things. Making a gift for a sibling. Writing a letter. Being a supportive ear. Cutting out a new pattern for an envelope. I just wish I could fill my life with more of these little things.

I can. I may not have all the time in the world but I do have my nights. And there are many things I could be doing. I can approach the sisters in my relief society and ask if there is anything that I can do to aid the members of my branch. I have already considered offering my services as a babysitter on date nights. We have several families with young children.

I am not helpless. I am not suffering. I only convince myself that I am. I don't have to feel lonely if I fill my time with other people.

The solution to my lack of optimism and general happiness may seem obvious to those who are more experienced in this life than I. Service is a principal I have been told much of my life. The difference this time is that I understand the truth of this council.

This book has begun to change my life and the way I look at it. I'm not saying I know I am going to be like Sister Oaks: Single until I get into my 50's. I don't have to give up searching for a companion. But I also don't have to sit passively and watch my life slip away as I wait for him to show up.

I am going to study for the GRE as soon as I can get my hands on some materials. I want to take it in the late summer/early fall. I want to apply to grad school. I don't like the deadlines of homework and tests, but I love learning and feeling my knowledge expand. I might not get accepted. This might not be my path. But I can't keep standing idly by watching opportunities come and go.

I can't keep waiting for things to be easy. I can't assume that what I want will be handed to me. I can't hope that everything will turn out right because it's "what's supposed to happen". Maybe I did make a hasty decision in coming here. But I am going to make the most of that decision.

I just hope that I can keep this fire within me. I hope I can act on what I feel right now. I hope I can follow through.

And as a last thought, I know R/L ate my ice cream and that IS annoying. But every other thing that bothers me about her is because of ME. I need to put myself in her situation. It's hard living with someone when you've lived alone for so long. I can't keep assuming that the tone she uses with me isn't just the way she talks. I don't know much about her still and I shouldn't assume that I know how she feels. I might still be casually looking for a place to live that is closer to work but maybe I wont be able to leave the view that I have from the house. Maybe I won't be able to give up having a spacious room with lots of light and some furniture. Maybe I can find therapy in getting over myself and live with R/L for the rest of my time here.

Maybe not. But at least I can try.

Friday, February 18, 2011

On An Old Writing and Feeling Strongly

So I have been writing a lot of entries on my "creative" blog. Most of them are entries of old poems and writings I wrote in 2004 and 2005. The years of angst. Remember this post? Yeah.

As I was transcribing one I thought to myself that is was a good bit of writing for how I feel right now and perhaps even better for some people that I know who are going through a hard time.

A Wish To Be Empty - 11-30-2004

I want to take my heart out with a paper spoon and spread it on a page of life. I want to eat my emotions with an unfeeling heart of fire. I want to exit my life with all the confidence of a newborn child. Why must my knowledge contain all that I never wanted to know? And now I am here with a soul made of fountains. Overwhelmed with the notion of life. Being filled with nothing but tears. I lie all alone with my naked heart lying vulnerable on the floor.
And I stare and see...nevermore. Reason seems to lose itself.

This next one is dedicated to a sister who may not know just how much her experience with Math reminds me of my own experiences of Math in college. College Math is challenging. Even if you feel you KNOW it and GET it, the tests never MAKE SENSE. At lest they didn't for me.

Kirsti, this one is for you.

Ode to a Math Class - 9/23/2005

A dream.
Stifled by the clenching fist of failure.
A cold hard wind blows
Stings my eyes
Making me blind.
Straining so hard to succeed only to be beat back each and every time.
Bloody and weakened, I try again.
Gathering my reserve to have the strength to fight.
But once again, assailed by my weakness, I am left behind.
Weak and bloodied, I crawl my way back to battle.
But, to weak to care, I receive the final blow.
I fall. I fail.
A dream.
Stifled by the clenching fist of failure.

I felt a lot, and very strongly in those days.

I feel strongly these days too but I don't share those emotions with paper as much as I used to. Mostly I keep them inside or journal them in childish sounding sentences.

Here are some things I am feeling right now. Not said in flowery verse or wording, but in plain phrases. Honest phrases.

I feel like I wanted this so much. I wanted to badly to be here, in Maine, working at a nature center. And now to feel that I am unhappy seems selfish. Ungrateful. I feel a little excused because when I decided that YES I wanted to do this and I was going to accept the position (I remember the exact moment. It was right after whale watching and right before delicious dinner walking through Gloucester, MA) I knew that I was going to have Sadie with me and that made me SO excited.

I feel like I am being irrational when I think to myself "dang, Bonnie is home." when I pull into the driveway. I think this mostly when she said she might be gone for the evening and then ISN'T gone for the evening. I've lived with people before but never felt so strongly this aversion to the person I am living with. It's not even anything in particular really. I don't HATE that she does one thing or the other. There isn't ONE thing that bothers me so much I can't stand it (unless it's that she made me send Sadie home but I am over that...mostly...). It's a bunch of little things. I've watched movies with her. But I don't like doing it. How hard is it to just sit there and watch a movie with someone? Not very. But with her, I can't do it. I still haven't watched "The Triplets of Bellville" because I didn't want to watch it with her. What is wrong with me? Why do I feel this way?

I feel that I would be so much happier and joyful if I knew that I didn't have to live in this house with this person until November. Even if I live here for 3 or 4 more months, I think I could stand and stomach it if I thought I might be able to get out of it early and move somewhere else in the summer. Instead I just think to myself that I need to take it a day at a time. Forget who I am living with and remember that the rent is perfect. And that I can see the ocean from my bathroom window, and as I look down the street.

I feel like so far this job is not what I was expecting. And not in a good way. New Hampshire wasn't what I was expecting in a GLORIOUS way. Here, I feel there isn't enough to keep me busy so that I can forget how dull things are. My life feels boring.

I know that a lot of this is because it's February. I believe that it will be easier to deal with my living situation once things warm up and I am surrounded by the beauty of spring. Also, it would mean that R/L (was it HERE that I said I would start referring to Bonnie as R/L - which stands for roommate/landlady ?) will stop complaining about the winter. Yes, I KNOW it's a pain that everything is thawing just enough to be icy. It IS annoying that we have to back down to the bottom of the road in order to get enough momentum to make it up the icy hill that is our road. Yeah, cold weather IS NOT ideal. But she won't quit complaining about it and it's starting to wear on me.

There you have it. Some honesty. Feelings of me on the now.

Happy middle of February.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Valentines Day 2011

One could argue that the celebration of St. Valentine's Day has become sickeningly commercial. It focuses on professing love through superficial materialism. It hammers into our heads the concept that love between two significant others is the only love that matters on this day.

We participate if trivial rituals of affection on a day that commemorates the martyrdom of a Catholic Saint.

And I suppose you all think that this is going to be a bitter pill of a post on how I hate Valentine's Day because I never have anyone romantic in my life.


No. Really. I was just kidding before. Despite the fact that all of the above is true, I have more than that to say on the topic. And believe it or not, it has nothing to do with my feeling sad and lonely on V-Day.

Well, it helps that on the actual day of February 14th, I was sleeping away sickness and playing the role of the invalid. But the day before, the day I REALLY spent celebrating, I watched my Teen Girl Squad and loved it. I ate some candy that Mom and Dad sent me. And I made little Valentine's notes to send to my friends and family. I had a good, quiet time.

Sure St. Valentine's Day has become grossly commercial, but what holiday hasn't? Does there exist a major national celebration that has not found some way to play the market? St. Patrick's Day resonates with traditions of drunkenness. Easter is all about a little bunny who brings you candy and painted eggs. How does THAT make sense? Don't even get me started on the Autumn holidays and Christmas.

The point is, every single holiday has become a tragic representation of the western worlds glut on all things profitable.

But we still haven't really gotten to my point. Not yet.

I lied last year. At some point in my Blog post I said that I wasn't feeling resentful about being alone and there being a holiday to celebrate that fact. Yes, I had a good time. I had good food. It was grand. But I read a journal post that reflected my true feelings which were similar to what they had been ever since 6th grade when they stopped making us give little "be my valentine" cards to everyone in the class (what does that even MEAN? Be my Saint? Be my Martyr? I'm sure there is a historical context but can someone please explain it to me?). I hated that I was alone. I hated that I had yet to have a boyfriend and that I was seemingly not worthy of being loved.

That was last year. Don't worry, I am working my way up to my point soon.

This year, my celebration of St. Valentines Day represents my new take on the holiday and really on ALL holidays.

I spent the time thinking of my friends and family. That's the point. I wasn't thinking about me. I wasn't thinking about how I was alone. I was thinking about how much I appreciate my friends and their loyalty. I was thinking about how grateful I was for all the support I have received from my family. I don't need the love of a partner right now. That's not where this stage of my life has taken me. I made that decision and I am okay with it. I have the love of everyone else in my life to keep me going right now. And honestly, when I think about what I love about Holidays, it's spending time with family. That's what I miss the most when I am here so far away from everyone else.

I read Emily's post on Valentine's day with pictures of Noah and could read in her words and view in her pictures the kind of love that I want to have in my life someday.

And I will have that. For now, I am content with waiting for a time when I am ready to commit to that kind of life and love.

So, to all of you friends and family who read this, thank you for being the loves of my life.

You are my Martyrs...I mean Valentine's.

Okay, enough with the sappy. Back to eating lots of leftover holiday candy!

Wait, that IS what these holidays are all about in the end, right?


Monday, February 14, 2011

On My Immune System, Dancing, Long Talks, Muse

Lets all give a great round of applause for my immune system which managed to fight off all kinds of illness for my first month and a half. I can't say for certain that I am sick, but it sure feels like it. This is pretty routine, though. I think I remember getting sick either in February or March last year. I can't imagine I picked this up from someone. I haven't been around anyone sick. I think whatever germs are invading my body were lying in wait in some inconspicuous location. So far its mild nausea, aches, fatigue, and chills. Maybe this little morning stint will be the worst of it.

Oh well. Whatever doesn't kill you...

Moving on.

Lets all remember back to our days as youth. Us LDS folk remember (vividly in some cases) the many youth dances we were encouraged and in some cases made to attend (I'm talking about YOU youth conference). There are plenty of young people who enjoyed these get togethers. I was in the category of girls who felt uncomfortable dancing to fast songs and rarely got asked to dance slow songs. I was often just sitting there feeling like I was lacking in something. So my last Youth Conference was the last LDS dance I ever attended. Last year, in an attempt to encourage good clean fun in the woods, Bear Brook held many dance parties. I went to some of these. And danced maybe twice (only because I was forced).

But now I want you to take this information and forget everything you ever knew about me. As a long time "never dancer", I shocked myself this weekend.

I attended an LDS dance function. It was called the "Cabin Fever Reliever" dance. Was it well attended? No. Was the fast to slow song ratio about 1:2? Yes. Did I dance? YES. Did I have fun and make some new friends? Yes, indeed. I did. I got there and was at first determined to do my usual sit down and watch everyone else dance/be anti-social and leave early thing. But an older sister from my branch who came to help with refreshments introduced me to her granddaughters right off the bat. Jamie (my age) and Hannah (19). The first thing they did was ask if I wanted to dance.


For a split second, the usual "No thanks, I don't really dance" hovered on my lips. Immediately after that, I heard myself say "well, I am a HORRIBLE dancer, but why not? Let's get our dance on!" Despite the lameness of the phrase "get my/your/our ____ on" I was taking my uncomfortableness by the horns, looking at it in straight in the eyes, and saying "Forget you. I am going to have fun tonight."

So I danced. Not well, and not OVER exuberantly. But I danced. I did many of the "group dances" including the Macarena (how did that dance ever become popular??). I also dd the twist and had fun doing interpretive dance for the song Fireflies and I'm Already There (that song made me think of dad, of course). I made 5 new friends and had a GRAND time! I stayed the whole time and then went to Denny's with the 5 other girls I was dancing with. Yes, I got home at 12:30am (the 1.5 hour drive from Bangor to Owls Head was rough. I wasn't sure I was going to make it) but I had so much fun!

It's easy to have fun when you allow yourself to (My new motto. For YOU Juli, I did put it on my blog.)

Next thing. I finally had a long talk with Bonnie. Nothing all the serious. Just a chance for us to talk about how things are going. I learned that she doesn't like being around people in the morning which is a good thing because I don't really like interacting in the morning either. I also learned that for those of you who are ever going to visit, she would rather you found a hotel to stay in rather than sharing the house with a person or two so they can stay for free. I learned a couple other things, not much more than I already knew. We are going to have bi-monthly meetings and I am going to make a chore chart. I was as honest as I felt I could be about how I feel about Sadie and how I feel about it right now. How I felt it would have been nice to have given it a little more time. How I am still sad about it and will be for a while. How I know it's her house and she has a right to live in it the way she wants and I respect that. All those things. Oh! I also learned that she is very particular as to what is visible to her eyes in the kitchen. She can't STAND people's kitchens that have things out of the cupboards. What that means for me? Not much, just that I can't put my tortilla chips on top of the fridge behind the weird wooden tiger where no one can see them. SHE knows it's there and that's all that matters. No biggie.

And finally, I was going to post something about how I feel towards St. Valentines Day this year, but I am feeling sicker and sicker. I really need to go home. So V-Day 2011 will have to wait until later.

So I will end with saying that I am glad Muse won something last night at the Grammy's. Though I do think it's weird that Matthew Bellamy threw into his acceptance speech that he "thanks his pregnant girlfriend."

Okay, going to go home and sleep this illness off. I have to go to this Americorps thing tomorrow and I want to be feeling better by then.

Happy Valentines Day everybody.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Taking More Photographs Than is Necessary

I have more sunrise pictures. And some others. Many are of Sadie. I tried to condense and pick the best ones.

These next two are of Sadie the Friday before our trip to Boston. I cannot get over how cute she is.

Aww! I love how she nests into the covers!

Here is Javier after I finally dug him out. He doesn't like the frigid weather or the snow all that much.

After that big snow, there actually wasn't much to brag about except the drifts outside my window.

These next ones are of me. Obviously. Taken in the bathroom. No, I'm not vain but I think a few pictures of me pre-work are not amiss. Some of you might have forgotten I look like.

This is the view I have in the mirror. I have to crouch to see my face. Kind of annoying. Bonnie isn't THAT much shorter than me.

My nostrils are kind of big. I guess it's to compensate for my tiny mouth, teeth, and eyes.

There is nothing better than a stocked pantry.

Or a stocked fridge for that matter.


I couldn't stop taking pictures of Sadie in the car before the trip to Boston and after we got to the hotel.


On my lap before we left.

This is the tv we had in our room at the Comfort Inn. Better than the one in New York I stayed in.

Sadie just after we arrived in our room.

The room. Not too shabby.

Sadie's home for the flight.

5 minutes in and she is already settled in. The next few really don't need captions. They are just CUTE.

The New England Confectionery Company

Also known as NECCO. I think that means death in Latin. anyway, look hard. You can see the giant NECCO wafer rolls outside the entrance. This was right across from the hotel.

And last, we had a Winter Ecology Festival on Saturday and this lady came with her hawk. He's a first year (maybe second?) juvenile Red Tail Hawk. She is a master falconer and is training him to hunt. Isn't he beautiful?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On Something That is Now Missing

I'm going to admit up front that this wont be a particularly happy post.

It's honest.

Beckie, giving up her time and money, flew to Boston on Sunday. Giving up a little time and money of my own, I drove to Boston to meet her there. All for the purpose of sending Sadie back to Columbia to be with Mom and Dad.

This, you all know. You also know that this has left me overwhelmed with unhappy feelings.

Doubt, grief, frustration, resentment, guilt - just to name a few.

Those emotions are now joined by two others.

Loneliness and emptiness.

I knew it was going to be hard moving here. There would be joys (a lovely house, living near the ocean, wonderful seasons,) but there would also be challenges. These came in the form of:
a) the strange relationship of living with my landlady
b) living in a community where the majority of the population are 50+ years old and having no peer base
c) having to commute to work every day


Then there was the most challenging issue of all of them: Loneliness.

I knew this would be the case. Having just come from an experience where I had peers coming out my ears, I was throwing myself into a living situation where I would know no one and have no peers. Being alone was part of the deal. I knew this.

But I also went into this knowing that I would have at least one friend with me. A little ball of quivering hair who would be my constant companion. It's a little sad, admitting that your only real friend, one who knows you better than anyone you interact with in Maine, is a dog. But it's true. Honest

Yes, I have support in the form of my co-workers, my landlady, my home teachers, the relief society. I have support out the wazoo. But support doesn't mean friends. Support doesn't mean I have a social life.

Support does not mean companionship.

Now my loneliness buffer is gone. I have no one to come home to who greets me excitedly like I am their favorite person in the world. All I have is a woman whom I don't like interacting with at great length, and an empty room.

When I came home from last night, every action felt empty. I think that's why I stayed at work until 6:40 pm. I didn't want to see Bonnie. I didn't want to feel angry at her for the lack of Sadie. I didn't want to cry in front of her after walking into the kitchen seeing nothing but the table and appliances.

I ate dinner at work so I was spared that lapse of time where I would have to be in the presence of another human being. When I got home I quickly unpacked some things and answered Bonnie's questions dully, wishing she would just go back to reading her book and leave me to wallow in my emotions in peace. Then I headed up the stairs.

My eyes fell on the floor at the foot of the steps where Sadie would wait anxiously for me to pick her up and carry her up the treacherous incline. Doing her little Sadie dance. Going into my room was even worse. She wasn't on the bed. I went to the bathroom and when I came back she wasn't there trembling because of my 2 minute absence. She wasn't nestled amongst my blankets. Before bed, she wasn't there rolling amongst the covers and playing excitedly with my hands as we prepared for sleep.

And when I slept, she wasn't there curled into the small of my back, breathing slowly, completely hidden under the covers.

Normally I wake up at 7:00am to start getting ready and let Sadie out. If I sleep much past this she starts to get antsy and restless. She's my back up alarm clock if my first one does not go off.

Guess who's alarm clock didn't go off? Guess who woke up 1/2 an hour later than she meant to because there was no Sadie to force her up to go potty?

Yes, I was still able to get ready on time because I didn't have to spend time feeding her and taking her outside. But that's not the point. My routine is already thrown off and who knows what that will do to my day?

Everything feels empty. I have nothing to look forward to when I go home except poor internet, no microwave, awkward conversations, and sleep.

I know that right now I am just feeling sorry for myself. I am feeling the grief acutely. I have no motivation to do anything today. This will pass. Quickly if I let it.

Right now, I just want Sadie back.

Don't worry. A picture post will follow shortly that will have less words and less depression.

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