December 1, 2008

Seventeen Going On Eighteen

Just when I felt certain that it took traveling across the world to discover myself, I found that maybe I have been hiding here all along. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I dug around in my childhood bedroom and uncovered my journal from the summer before college. Humorous and sentimental, yes. I stirred up quite a bit of trouble at the end of that summer that I had forgotten about. But perhaps most startling for me was my extreme level of self-awareness at the ripe age of 17. Apparently I knew myself better at the age of seventeen than I do ten years later, which is a disconcerting revelation for me. I'm just starting to process what that might mean. I even made some predictions about the "me" I would become. Some very far off, some right on the ball. Regardless, it is an amazing experience to reintroduce oneself to one's self. So here, I share some of my less-personal reflections from that remind myself that there are pieces of my self hiding all around me, waiting to be discovered. Or perhaps, rediscovered?

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December 30, 2007

Growing Up

This semester was easily the hardest of my life. Did you catch the irony? My strength was tested in ways that I had never expected. In part, I grew up. I no longer feel like the 26-year-old girl with no life experience, the girl who flittered about unaffected and unaffecting. I learned a little about letting go of expectations. I learned a little about grief and loss. I learned what it meant to accept imperfection, the hardest lesson of all for my approval-seeking self.

It wasn't like anything tremendously unusual or different happened in my life; it's just that I became different. I didn't transform overnight, and it isn't even noticeable on some days. But overall, I feel differently. Part of this may be attributable to Wayne's death, part of it to Family of Origin; part of it due to a difficult class experience, part of it because of changing relationships. I can't even pinpoint the ways in which I feel different. I still have my sense of humor, I still care what others think of me, I still give everything my all, and I hopefully always will. But my approach is different.

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October 17, 2006

An Attempt at Self-Discipline

As the school year progresses and I feel more and more out of control, I understand what I need to grab hold of my sanity: self-discipline. Unfortunately, this doesn't come easy to me and never has. My mom and dad attempted to instill discipline in my sister and I by enrolling us in piano lessons before we could even reach the pedals. Piano, you see, requires a commitment to practicing, diligence to start over even when the wrong notes are played over and over, and a certain amount of perseverence to continue when the going gets tough (particularly after embarrassing yourself at concerts). The rule was that I could quit piano when I could handle keeping my room clean. Well, I played piano until I graduated high school and my room still isn't clean after all these years.

Right about now, though, self-discipline could come in handy for me. I am struggling with an immense amount of homework and thesis development, a body image issue and need for health, and basically never feeling organized enough to make it through one week without having a mini-anxiety attack. Some people recommend planning out a schedule and sticking to it, to make rules and not exceptions. Well, I love the planning. That's never been the problem. I get motivated to get all of my work done and to stick to the food pyramid and my workout schedule and even to make sure all of my clothes are off the floor before I go to bed. But the next day, the momentum goes back to a realistic level and "things fall apart." I've even tried setting attainable goals for myself that are easily attained on a daily level, but then I don't feel like I'm making much progress.

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October 3, 2006

Bringing Peace

Laurelle, Missy, and I headed to church on Sunday for the 9:30 am traditional service at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. Besides just starting again recently, I haven't been to church in quite awhile. Last Christmas a sisterly argument kept me from the holiday mood and prevented my typical annual visit. So besides weddings, I have not been to church in over a year and a half. It was refreshing and comforting to learn that not much has changed. My family and I attend(ed) a smaller Methodist church in Osseo, MN throughout my childhood and adolescence. I remember running through the dark halls after "Joyful Noise" practice and delivering cakes or food for my mom when I received my driver's license. I really loved it. Unfortunately, every church has it's cliques and politics, which turned me away. Not to mention, it is difficult to get me out of bed before double digits on the weekends.

In the last month, though, some personal matters have called me to church, seeking spiritual guidance and stability. The life of a 25-year-old, particularly a graduate student, is chaotic and I missed the "method" in Methodism. I know some people prefer the more fluid contemporary services with a lot of singing and praise worship, but I prefer the traditional structured service. So I was thrilled when Laurelle and Missy, two of my closest friends, willingly accepted my offer to attend with me. Church is like exercise; I'm more likely to participate if I have a "workout buddy."

This last Sunday, the umpteenth Sunday after Pentecost, was the Blessing of the Animals as well as International World Day. Unfortunately, the Blessing of the Animals was at the second service, so we only saw one or two pets. But I must say, I love that these city churches celebrate ideas like this. But for the International Day (one of six days for communion in the Methodist church), the theme was peace. Very suitable at a time when our country is at war with terrorists and our politicians are at war with one another. Hardly the shining example of democracy!

Anyhow, about one-third of the way into the service, the children are dismissed for Sunday school. Before they leave, the pastor gives a mini-sermon with the children gathered around the altar. Every week the children say adorable things and the congregation laughs and smiles, but this week was particularly funny for my Democrat self.

The minister asked the children a few questions. One of which was "How do you do good for others?"

Girl 1: I go swimming in a swimming pool.
Boy 1: I go to the zoo.
Boy 2: I go swimming in the lake.
Boy 3 (catching on): I do chores.

Pastor Robbins of course relayed the intended message and went on to the next question: "How can you bring peace into the world?"

Boy 1: Protect wildlife!
Girl 1: Do good.
Boy 2: Not vote for George Bush because the Iraq War is bad and should end.

As if Boy 1 wasn't funny enough, after Boy 2 spoke, the congregation erupted into laughter. In a very open and tolerant Methodist church, it was apparent why this message would be so well-received. Yet it was so funny to me...I loved what the kid was hilarious. But later I wondered, how do children get these ideas? I understand it must be from parents. But at what point do kids understand why they believe what they do? When do we start questioning these beliefs? Are there some of us who go through life without challenging the beliefs of our parents and simply pass them from generation to generation just like Grandma's pearls and Grandpa's war medals?

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