balmofgilead: (Default)
This really struck me when I read it on Saturday. 
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. 

         --Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
balmofgilead: (Default)
I hope what you are after
is an exchange...
not
a reaction

--Portia Nelson
balmofgilead: (dudley pippin)
Yesterday I was thinking about how I have been explicitly told to judge people by their shoes, teeth, and nails.  Somehow I'd never examined that idea before, or doubted it, or questioned it. I don't think I like it, at least not as an absolute.  Sure, you can glean little bits of information about someone by looking at their shoes or their teeth or their nails, but judging seems wrong.

Though come to think of it, maybe the explicit part has been the specification of shoes and teeth and nails.  I'm not 100% sure that *judging* was made explicit.

I hate culture where shoes matter beyond the issue of how easy they are to walk in.
balmofgilead: (Default)
For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.

--John Steinbeck, The Pearl
I'm not sure where I stand on this. It's true that it forces people to. . . do stuff and keep doing stuff, but it also makes happiness into a dangling carrot. Maybe it's not that way for everyone who wants and wants. I guess it depends on what it is you want and how you propose to get it.
balmofgilead: (Default)
In practice, I'm a bit of a fatalist. That's the best word that comes to mind, though it's not a perfect fit. It's not just feeling that events are predetermined/inevitable, it's also feeling that various events close off entire huge possibilities, that minor things are Dooming or Damning. (I suppose I don't believe that things are predetermined by Fate in the abstract, godlike sense, just that things are predetermined by past events. Which is true to some extent.)

In theory, I'm all about the Power of Positive Thinking and all of that stuff.

Oh, that disconnect between theory and practice. It's a killer sometimes.
balmofgilead: (Default)
"Ours is not to wonder why. Ours is but to do and die."

(It's a variation of a phrase in Charge Of The Light Brigade.)

I don't agree, at least not under most circumstances.
balmofgilead: (Default)
Honestly, I haven't read or heard/watched much about the Virginia Tech shooting.  I know there was a shooting and I know upwards of 30 people were killed.  That's enough to evoke a reaction in me, and I'm not sure the details matter all that much to me, personally, though I may go read about it.

Mostly, the idea that someone could be alive one second and dead the next just shocks me. I think about parents spending a lifetime raising a kid and then that kid (at any age) being just--gone. I know it's not any better when there's a potential warning--illness, a tour in Iraq, a dangerous job-- [people were actually stupid enough to try that on my mom when my dad died of a brain tumor: "but at least you knew your husband was going to die"] but at the moment that I hear about unprovoked murders, that's the thing that hits me. 
balmofgilead: (Default)
A very wise and reasonable woman I know approaches shopping in the following manner:
Twice yearly, she inventories what she has and makes a list of what she needs, from socks/underwear on up.  Then, she sets aside one week, during which she works her way up from thrift stores to department stores (or as high-end as she needs to go) until she's bought everything on her list.  Then she doesn't go shopping again for six months. 

I hate shopping with a fiery passion.  So does she.  I really should adopt her method (and not just for clothes, I think.) I hate how things can drag out, I hate the decision-making...limiting it to one week is wise.

I've been in a really good mood lately.  Yesterday I was thinking about how many different paths my life could take (or I could take in life), and despite some of them being mutually exclusive (which always scares me), a lot of 'em are pretty great.  Now I just need to stop taking the path of least resistance all the time 'cause that path tends to lead dooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwn (both in physics and in life).
balmofgilead: (art)

Pearls Before Breakfast, from Sunday's Washington Post.

If you haven't read it yet, do.  It's fantastic and worth the time.

balmofgilead: (quirky)
Lately I've been wanting to say:
I'm the sort of optimist who sees the glass as half-empty but is convinced that the waiter's going to come by and top me off* any minute now.  Unfortunately, the lack of proactiveness implicit in that statement is accurate as part of the metaphor.  Well, maybe it'd be more accurate to say I'm convinced that the waiter's going to stop by any minute now, but I can also see the bar (however faintly) from my seat. 
____________
*in the standard sense, not the urbandictionary sense.
balmofgilead: (Default)
From the [livejournal.com profile] altfriday5:

1. Who is missing from you?
people I haven't met yet that I will meet in life. also, my father.

2. Who is missing you?
no one that I know of, really

3. Who are you not missing?
my old landlord. people from the religious community. family members.

4. Who or what wouldn't you miss? (I realize that couldn't be taken at least a couple of different ways; I leave the interpretation up to the answerer ;-).

stress
anxiety
there is very little that I "wouldn't miss" in the sense of "I wouldn't miss seeing The Beatles in concert for the world." feeling that way about things can lead to stress and disappointment, so I've weaned myself of off it.

5. What is missing from you?
passion--the life's-passion kind, not the romantic kind
(perhaps this is connected to the second part of #4)
balmofgilead: (Default)
Y'know what? I have officially decided that I like getting older. Lyrics of an insipid sleep-away camp song have been running through my head lately: "I wish that we could stop the sands of time..." And then I stop and think about it--no fucking way do I wish that I were eleven again. I like the sands of time.

It's not that I hated being eleven or that eleven was a particularly bad year; it's that I like the deeper capacity to understand things that has come with age. I'm not sure if it's the brain development that continues through adolescence or if it's because I've been around longer and experienced more, but it brings mellowness and peace--and I'll take that.

I remember my mind being in a perpetual fuzzy haze when I was in nursery school: did Abraham from the Bible free the slaves? what happens if my mother doesn't pick me up from school? why aren't all of my relatives' graves in each cemetery we visit? (I think I viewed it as sort of like a library, with each cemetery having its own copy of the relevant tombstones). I'm not sure if it's common for most kids, but I didn't have a great overall grasp of time (i.e. months and years), which is both wonderful and very, very frustrating.

There were other, subtler mysteries like that as I grew older--the sorts of things that even scouring reference materials or someone sitting you down and drawing out a diagram or launching into a detailed explanation can't really sort out for you. Being able to see things clearly--and furthermore, being able to step back calmly when things aren't clear and figure out a way to make them clearer--brings a great sense of security. That skill seems to develop with age, and I like that.
balmofgilead: (Default)
Mr. Rogers sat quietly for 15 full seconds. "Perhaps we think that we won't find another human being inside that person. Perhaps we think that there are some people in this world who I can't ever communicate with, and so I'll just give up before I try. And how sad it is to think that we would give up on any other creature who's just like us."
balmofgilead: (Default)
Because Grey was a pilot, everything he said in the plane was recorded. After his death, I was given a transcript of that recording, and so I know what my son's last words were.
He was flying in formation, that day, with another plane. When Grey realized something was wrong with his plane, he radioed the other pilot.
'You're on your own,' Grey said.
Then he crashed and died.

I think about those words a lot. They're a reminder.
We're all on our own, aren't we? That's what it boils down to.
We come into this world on our own--in Hawaii, as I did, or New York, or China, or Africa, or Montana--and we leave it in the same way, on our own, wherever we happen to be at the time--in a plane, in our beds, in a a car, in a space shuttle, or in a field of flowers.
And between those times, we try to connect along the way with others who are also on their own.
If we're lucky, we have a mother who reads to us.
We have a teacher or two along the way who make us feel special.
We have dogs who do the stupid dog tricks we teach them and who lie on our bed when we're not looking, because it smells like us, and so we pretend not to notice the paw prints on the bedspread.
We have friends who lend us their favorite books.
Maybe we have children, and grandchildren, and funny mailmen, and eccentric great-aunts, and uncles who can pull pennies out of our ears.
All of them teach us stuff. They teach us about combustion engines and the major products of Bolivia, and what poems are not boring, and how to be kind to each other, and how to laugh, and when the vigil is in our hands, and when we just have to make the best of things even though it's hard sometimes.

Looking back together, telling our stories to one another, we learn how to be on our own.

from Looking Back: a book of memories, by Lois Lowry.

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