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After years of attending classes, working on their cleaning staff, getting to know the teachers and managers, not to mention paying for and attending Teacher Training and Extensions, filling out applications, and getting my CPR certification...I've been invited to audition for a yoga teaching slot at CorePower.

Obviously I'm pleased about this. But it's turning out to be a bit more nerve-wracking than I anticipated. The grapevine has it that 75 people applied to the Uptown studio alone; presumably not all of them are auditioning, but chances are there'll be a lot of people looking to fill just a few available spots. This has always been my concern with CorePower's business model; they market teacher training heavily because it's a big moneymaker for them, but as the local yoga market has reached saturation and their regular teachers settle into their grooves, the number of classes they need taught has shrunk significantly even as their potential supply has grown commensurately larger. I feel like I have some advantages versus the crowd: I've been attending for years and know a lot of folks in the community, I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule, plus I'm already on their payroll, albeit in a very minor capacity. (Cleaning staff are paid minimum wage plus a half-price membership in exchange for at least 1.5 hours of work per week.) But on the other hand, if the rest of the TT groups this go-round were anything like mine, we're going to have a serious glut of talented, capable teachers looking for a spot.

Upon reflection, I suspect what I'm feeling is that sense of insecurity that comes from having put most of your eggs in one basket. I'm not a joiner by nature; I tend to spread myself out, preferring to build minor connections in multiple communities rather than become a central figure in a single community and thus beholden to its failings and dysfunctions. So this whole "being a recognizable face in a large group" thing is new to me. And...it's a little anxiety-inducing, realizing that I've invested a not-inconsiderable amount of time, effort, money, and social capital in a community that may or may not return my investment, whether due to a lack of affection or simply a lack of availability.

None of which is to say it'll be the end of the world if I don't make the cut. It'll mean some changes in my focus, which are always uncomfortable when you've gotten into a habit. But they'll also be opportunities for growth, just in a different direction than the ones I'll face if I do teach for them.

I suppose we'll see which of my patron Five Gods deities shows up on audition day - the Mother of Summer, or the Bastard...
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...my path through the cultural morass has mostly been to be unquestionably brilliant -- it's really hard for people to argue that you shouldn't be on the team if you're the best at it.
--[livejournal.com profile] thewronghands/[personal profile] ivy, on dealing with society's engrained sexism

Having written recently about my sense of pride, this quote resonated in my mind with the clarity of a plucked string. If I'm the best at something, no one can criticize me or tell me I don't belong somewhere; in our culture, as a member of a group traditionally excluded, that's a potent defense. Unfortunately, it feeds right into the negative side as well - It makes it difficult for me to learn new things, because I have to first admit that I'm new to this and don't already know everything about it. And if it turns out to be harder than I expected to pick it up, if my unspoken mental "time allotted to become brilliant" is exceeded, I grow very tempted to abandon the effort - the risk of being challenged on it is simply too great.

Upon reflection, I realized it's social as well as vocational: I used to be obnoxiously assertive with my opinions, arguing them to the death when challenged. I've grown better about this in recent years, cultivating the ability to ask others and listen to their responses as well as to pick and choose my battles, but I've noticed that the more men are in a particular group, and especially the less attention I feel they're paying to non-male points of view, the more likely I am to revert to my old habits.

And god forbid I am challenged and shown to be less than brilliant, says my insecurity - that might lead people to question my brilliance in other arenas, and soon I'll be shut out entirely.
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"Take this paper, and write down all the regrets you have from the past year. Then we'll burn them and start with a clean slate."

My friend hands me a torn scrap of foolscap, and I pull my purple pen from my purse, considering. The other party guests banter with each other, covering up the inherent vulnerability of the moment by proposing outrageous stories or asking whether such-and-such mundane thing counts as a regret.

I write a few lines, mostly small things; slowly, they begin to imply a theme of something larger that I can't yet articulate. I write a few more, circling around the issue: I regret not taking some of the opportunities my mother offered to grow closer. I regret not reaching out to my friends when I needed emotional support. I regret letting my certainty that I already knew the answers cloud my ability to learn new things.

Finally, I've outlined the shape enough to identify what it is my brain's been hiding from me: carefully, in clear letters, I print "I regret all the times my pride has kept me from connecting with the world."

Then I circle it and underline it twice, as if to emphasize its importance to the oncoming flames.

--

"Even from the time Ambrosia was little, she knew her self-worth."

I am twelve years old, and my mother has told this story many times. Still, my back straightens a little.

"When she was a toddler, I would take her to the playpark in our neighborhood, and she would want to stay longer. So I would tell her, 'Okay, I'm going home without you,' and pretend to leave. And she would keep on swinging, or playing on the jungle gym, until I turned right back around and scooped her up."

At this age, in the nadir of middle school, I am just now beginning to be aware that my greater-than-average self-confidence has been a handicap to my social acceptance. Eight years of teasing, of ostracism both subtle and blatant, of outright violence on a few memorable occasions, are finally starting to penetrate. I am slowly realizing that, contrary to the "just be yourself!" messages of a thousand thousand afterschool specials and middle-grade novels, my defiance of social dictates - my refusal to wear 'normal' clothes, to care about my presentation, to keep my opinions to myself in class - are exacting a very real toll on my ability to get on with my classmates.

Until this point, I've taken pride in not caring about the shallow and superficial things most people in my age group care about, in marching to the beat of my own drum. But the constant shaming wears on me, as it is meant to do; we are social creatures, exquisitely attuned to the slights of others. It will be some years yet before I start to appreciate the value of building my personality through careful negotiation with social norms, of bearing superficial markers indicating belonging to a particular class or cohort. And it will be many more years of careful observation and learning - often by saying precisely the wrong thing - until I learn the subtle arts of getting along in a community, of deferring to others' knowledge even when I'm convinced of my own correctness, of influencing group opinion in small ways, of quietly building social currency against the day when my integrity will demand that I take a stand.

--

This morning, cocooned in blankets and absent any driving motivation to get out of bed early, I sank into the sort of brightly-lit, highly-detailed dream that often seems to visit me at such hours. I was visiting a mall storefront that turned out to be a beautifully decorated Jewish temple, run by a particularly Orthodox sect. For some reason I had a pressing need to wash my hands, and I remember asking a stern-browed woman if I might do so; she looked displeased at the notion, but apparently my need was great enough to overcome her reservations.

I proceeded to the back of the space, where there were several sinks, and started washing my hands at one of them, only to realize from the horrified faces of those around me that not only was I using entirely the wrong sink, but that I was trespassing upon the men's side of the temple, as well as likely violating several other rules I didn't even know. I take such pride in knowing the social tenets in any given situation, in acting carefully to ensure the comfort and approbation of others; the realization that I was in a situation where I was socially illiterate sends a wave of shame, pure and unadulterated as few non-dream emotions are, swamping my chest and my cheeks. Strong as it is, it burns indelibly into my memory the dream that might otherwise have faded in the light of day.


--

"Are you feeling inspired?" I ask my client, once she's taken a few breaths of her aromatherapy oils. We had been laughing at the silliness of naming a scent blend "Inspiration", as if achieving so notoriously elusive a state could be as simple as taking a few breaths.

"Oh, absolutely!" she answers, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "Now I can go home and finish all those half-done songs I have filling my notebooks!"

We spend a few moments bonding over the difficulties of musicianship, and the specific frustration of unfinished artistic efforts. She admits that she finishes perhaps one in ten songs that she starts; I, having not even been brave enough to start ten, feel simultaneously relieved and humbled.

I've long known that my difficulties in finishing anything artistic stem from my perfectionism; so long as a song or a story lives only as an idea in my mind, it will always be perfect, spared the trauma of birth and the inevitable marring of being shaped by imperfect hands. But, with pride much on my mind of late, I begin to consider how much of that perfectionism stems from pride. Completion means sharing, and sharing means risk - of judgment, of failure, of losing my sense of specialness. If I could let go of that need to feel special, set apart, would that help me to take artistic risks? Would it be easier to share something imperfect and true if I didn't tie my self-worth to my pride?

That last thought startles me with the truth it implies, and I almost miss a stroke in the massage.

--

"You can spend your life trying to fit yourself into a box. But you'll always be too much for some people. For others, you'll never be enough. But the great joy is that, if you let yourself, you'll always be exactly enough for you."

Something in the yoga teacher's voice catches me, which seems odd - I've been ruminating of late on how the doctrine of self-exceptionalism has been harmful in my life, and on the surface her message reads very much as a variation on the "just be yourself!" mantra.

You'll always be exactly enough for you.

It occurs to me, as my brain slowly slots the puzzle pieces together, that perhaps the problem isn't pride, per se - it's what I'm proud of. All my life I've been told that I'm talented, intelligent, exceptional; all my life I've been secretly terrified that I'm going to seriously screw up and prove everybody wrong, prove that I really am that weird girl who deserved to be bullied and ostracized, disappoint everyone who had such faith in me. I've accomplished a few things, it's true, and I'm proud of them, but I think I've been even more proud of how they reaffirmed my belief in my own exceptionalism.

And yet...in order for me to be exceptional, it logically follows that others have to be unexceptional. And I've long since rejected the idea of talent as a zero-sum game; I strongly dislike the idea that because one person doesn't measure up to another on one arbitrary scale, that means they don't have something to contribute on another axis. I wonder how much of the fear and misery I can forestall by refusing comparison, by practicing humility with regards to others, by working on being enough for me.

I wonder if, freed of its shackles of fear and embracing its gift of imperfect life, my art might someday take wing, finally able to share itself with the world, to help forge those tenuous connections we so desperately need.
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I haven't been writing a lot here lately, and not even for the usual "I've been too busy" reason (although I have been fairly swamped). For once, I'm actually writing more elsewhere; specifically, part of yoga teacher training is a requirement that you keep a journal of the classes you attend (both yoga classes and training classes) and your thoughts/experiences along the way. It's been a little bit of a pain to find the time, but at the same time I've had a couple of experiences that have illustrated pretty plainly the advantages of having such a record; when you're prone to moodiness and withdrawal, it's helpful to be able to trace the pattern of your swings and see what's been going on in your life at the time. (You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to think back a week or so and figure out what might have triggered things, but brains are notoriously fickle about rationalizing away uncomfortable connections; this is why a common strategy for dealing with addiction is to write down the reason why you're staying clean and keep it in your wallet.)

Given the pretty significant changes that've been going on in my life, then, I feel like I should invest the time in keeping a more consistent record. But...I'm still hesitant to commit, and I can't quite sort out why. It's not like I don't have the time; even with teacher training going on, I can almost certainly stand to use some time I normally spend on Facebook over here on LJ/Dreamwidth instead. Certainly there's some vulnerability involved, especially with blogging on a public platform; but there are privacy settings to deal with that.

I wonder if it's connected to my tendency to avoid writing about unresolved situations/emotions. As I think I've observed before, it's much easier for me to write about something when it's over, or at least when I've made a decision about it; by definition, however, keeping a regular journal is going to mean admitting that there are times when I don't know what to do. Even though I can usually figure it out eventually, that's...difficult. It's important to me to be the person with the answers, who people can come to with their problems; admitting that I don't always have my own life in order, even to myself, is kind of terrifying. Even though (in the way of these things) it's more likely to foster connection with the people who care about me, and thus help make frustrating and unresolved situations more manageable.

In any case, this is some of what I've been ruminating on lately. I don't have an answer yet. But maybe I can use the practice in leaving things unresolved. And unedited. :p
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I've written quite a bit about my struggles with anxiety and depression, both in terms of how they feel and how they manifest in my behavior. Yesterday, however, a friend linked to an article that resonated quite a bit: Living With High-Functioning Anxiety.

My experience is somewhat different from the writer's. For one thing, mine tends to move in cycles; there are times when I can't stop the stream of internal criticism, and other times when I feel perfectly normal and happy. For another, even when I'm in an anxious phase, my symptoms aren't usually that severe. But I feel firsthand so much of what she's written. The perfectionism. The need to constantly be busy while avoiding important or high-stakes tasks. The inability to ask for help, because that means admitting you're not capable of handling things on your own. The vacillating between "everyone has it together but you, what's wrong with you" and "other people have things so much worse, what are you complaining about".

Those of you who've been around the past couple years have probably noticed my increasing focus on self-care, mostly through increased physical activity and better diet. (I know that, to some people and in some circumstances, I've come across as more than a little evangelist on this point; to those people, I owe an apology. Yoga and self-care have been quite literally life-changing for me, but I suspect in my exhortations I was ignoring the twin contributions of a move to a much better-for-me environment and a significant socioeconomic boost that came about at the same time.) This has done a lot to stretch out the periods of feeling happier and more balanced. But these past several months, I've been feeling the anxiety creep up on me even with those efforts; this latest bout has lasted some weeks.

Another link from a friend, Life Hacks of the Poor and Aimless, has shed some light on what's been going on in my subconscious. Laurie Penny posits that my demographic's obsession with self-care isn't in spite of the scary events going on in the rest of the world, but is in fact a reaction to that very sense of helplessness. We can't refill the Ogallala aquifer, or stop ourselves hurtling past the carbon emission point of no return, or fix a broken political system, or avert any number of other disasters that seem to loom over the horizon. So we turn our focus selfward instead, and convince ourselves that by practicing "radical self-love" we can find happiness - and, on this philosophy's darker side, feel as if we're insufficient when our self-care practice fails to adequately substitute for a stable and functioning social contract.

And yet, the answer can't be to give up self-care entirely. One of my favorite yoga teachers would probably fit Penny's description of an "Instagram happiness guru", or at least an aspiring one. But I go to her classes regularly, because she makes a real effort to make them a safe place, where we can work on self-improvement without judgment. When it feels like the world is falling apart around us, where there's no good answer or right thing we can do to stop things hurtling toward a horrible conclusion, there's a real value in that sort of centering, in exercising that little bit of control we do still have. I always leave her classes feeling more hopeful, more able to focus on the positive aspects of my life. It doesn't always overcome the overall sense of helplessness, but it provides a bulwark, a small protection for my sanity that helps me keep a more even outlook.

And let's not kid ourselves - outlook is important. It's a lot easier to focus on the positives, to work towards making the world a better place in those hundreds of small ways that seem insignificant but are far more likely to ripple out into something lasting, if we're feeling energized and stable and hopeful for the future. Zeitgeist matters; the more we become convinced that the world is headed for disaster, the more likely it is that we will bring that disaster on ourselves. No single one of us can prevent it, no, but by each doing what we can to help raise each others' spirits, perhaps we can improve our collective future.

That's what I feel in my more hopeful moments, anyway. During those times when the anxiety starts to build, when (to paraphrase Brian) I spend more and more time either absorbed in news articles or staring off into the distance, I start to think that this is what my friends and family felt like during the Cold War. Those awful moments of hope mixed with increasing dread, that encroaching certainty that the worst will happen, it was just a question of how and when. It's not a fun feeling; I especially hate how it robs me of the ability to enjoy things in my life here and now, when the worst (whatever that might be) hasn't yet happened, and may not at all.

I've been thinking, too, about my earlier post on paradox, and how essential it is to our existence, even though it's uncomfortable and difficult for us to accept. Perhaps this is how humans get into these destructive spirals in the first place: we don't like uncertainty, we want things to be good or bad. And if things stay uncertain enough for long enough, if the constructive future feels too difficult or too far away, eventually we pick the bad option, just for the relief of knowing the uncertainty is over. Perhaps this is why it's so important to practice holding our paradoxes: that anxiety and depression are challenges to overcome and perfectly reasonable reactions to an increasingly scary world; that we need to focus on taking care of ourselves and fighting for a better society; that we can contribute meaningfully to our collective future and we're dependent on other people to help us build that future.

My head is not the happiest place, of late. But I hope getting these thoughts out in the open will help, if only in the sense of lancing the wound. And to everyone whom I owe letters, or a phone call, or words of comfort - I'm sorry I've been so unresponsive lately. Hopefully this will go some measure towards explaining why.
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Recently a friend told me how she took the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory for the first time in years, and rather than wanting to argue with all of the questions, she breezed through it relatively quickly and found the result helpful rather than aggravating; she attributed this to being older and knowing herself better. I tried something similar this morning, and discovered it was easier for me as well; what was interesting, though, was all the times I had to stop and think about whether I was answering a particular way out of habit, or because I actually functioned that way now. Growing up I was a dedicated improviser, but after some bad experiences screwing up work and social things I learned to carefully keep my schedule and projects organized. And yet I was still surprised at how differently I answered the planning- and organization-based questions, compared to the last time I took the test as a teenager. Similarly, in the questions about external vs. internal attention, I realized that I put much more focus on other people and the outside world than I used to, instead of spending most of my time inside my head.

As a result, instead of the ENFP that I used to firmly roll, the latest test I took pegged me as an ESFJ. I was especially entertained that the description on the website I used congratulated me on my social perception and compared me to a cheerleader or quarterback; if you had asked 18-year-old me to pick a self-descriptor, "socially aware" would have been one of the last items on the list. But at the same time, I've made a distinct effort to grow that part of my personality, because I got tired of being blindsided by people's shifting moods and alliances. (I'm still blindsided on occasion - human beings are complicated! - but I feel like I have a much better grounding in how we all interact than I used to.)

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I feel like the skills I've developed in the past several years are valuable, and I'm glad I have them. On the other...sometimes I miss the more imaginative, more self-reflective me. It's gotten noticeably harder for me to write introspective blog posts lately, and I can't tell if that's because the self-examination part has gotten tougher, or because my life is so much fuller lately that it's tough to find the time. I spend less time reading and writing, less time thinking about the world as it could be and more figuring out how to deal with the world as it is. Again, I don't think this is necessarily negative, but I'm concerned about going too far in this direction. Scary global events and news stories used to bother me a lot less; now that I'm more invested in the here-and-now, it's difficult not to feel concerned and helpless.

I suppose there's nothing stopping me from refocusing on creativity and idealism; doing so isn't going to mean that I automatically lose all the organizational and social intelligence I've cultivated. But it feels like that's tougher to do. I want to say it's because it's a more abstract focus and I'm not sure how to go about it; to a degree, I think that's what I've been telling myself my entire life. But now that I really think about it, I suspect the focus on practical matters has been at least partially a coping mechanism; a way to keep myself safe from rejection and failure. Which would explain why it's so difficult to imagine letting go of it. And makes the whole "news stories make me feel more helpless now" part more than a bit ironic. No system is without its dangers, it seems.
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Father's Day is interesting for me on social media. A lot of my friends post pictures or favorite memories with their fathers; those always warm my heart. Occasionally a friend will write about their difficult or outright abusive relationship with their father, which is always heartbreaking.

My relationship with my father is difficult, but in a way that's tougher to articulate. Normally I let this day pass unremarked, but recently a good friend of mine wrote about all the conflicting feelings he has around Mother's Day; it was raw and honest enough to inspire me to try and do the same.

When the subject of my father (and our lack of relationship) comes up, I usually make some reference to his self-centeredness, his penchant for emotional manipulation, his Peter Pan syndrome, his inability to see other people (especially his children) as separate human beings with their own agency. All of which is true, but which feels like an incomplete answer. We are culturally (and, likely, genetically) programmed to value parental relationships over all others, and while my father's dynamic with people he's close to is perhaps dysfunctional at best, he rarely tipped over into outright abuse or neglect (with me; my brother has a rather different story to tell).

For a while, as a newly-minted adult, I tried to maintain a relationship with him. Distance made that easier through sheer inertia; he would send the occasional email, I would tell him about my life, and invite him to follow my LiveJournal (which was then at its peak of use). He might mention a few things about his life, and that would be that for several months until the cycle repeated.

Eventually, however, I noticed a pattern of one-sidedness. For all that he asked after my life, he never seemed to have any real interest in it, never seemed interested in discussing anything I cared about in depth. And although I would ask after events in his, I rarely got any real answers; hence the petering out of our communications. It was pretty clear that I wasn't a priority for him, and frankly, it felt like he was asking not because he actually cared, but because he was maintaining form.

I thought for quite a while about whether I wanted to keep that line open. As I said, the cultural pressure to keep up family ties is strong; perhaps somewhat less so with me (the Pacific Northwest "family is who sticks around in your life" attitude is deeply engrained in my psyche), but enough that I was hesitant to lose it. But at the same time, I didn't really see the point in continuing this line of communication, especially given that I was basically just rephrasing stuff I'd put on the blog anyway. So at the next email, I sent him a response, worded as gently as my twentysomething self knew how, suggesting that he could stop emailing me for form's sake, and that if he wanted to know what was going on in my life he was welcome to follow my blog.

The exchange that followed, and its attendant outpouring of martyr complex, finger-pointing, and general drama-filled manipulative junk, doesn't really bear repeating. Suffice it to say that it did not inspire me to regret my filial ingratitude.

I've seen him a few times since then; I still keep in touch with my grandmother, and she occasionally organizes family dinners when I'm in town. The instance that really stands out is when Brian (who, if anything, suffers from an overabundant sense of family responsibility) got to meet him for the first time; as Brian commented later, it felt like the reverse of the usual father-in-law son-in-law dynamic. As for my father, he looked older, and just sort of...lost. Like his life had more or less passed him by.

I'm not sorry that we don't really talk; I have better things to do with my life than engage in one-sided relationships of any stripe. And I've never really been angry at him for falling down as a parent; frankly, I don't think he was ever really cut out for parenthood, and if my mother hadn't wanted kids so badly I doubt he would have had my brother and me. (I suspect our history is partly why I'm so strongly pro-family-planning; I've had the experience of being an unwanted child, and while I was fortunate enough to at least have one parent who loved me with the fierce, protective, unconditional love a child needs, many people I've known weren't even that lucky.)

But at the same time, when I think about that severed connection, I do feel...sad. Not regretful, but sorrowful. I suspect he got so wrapped up in feeling wronged and hurt and left behind that he completely missed out on connecting with a pretty awesome daughter. Or maybe he just never valued the relationship enough to fight for it, and that's what still stings, even all these years later.

So that's what Father's Day feels like to me. But threaded through it all is a very real warmth, as I see my friends talk about their fathers, or (more recently) embark upon their own fatherly journeys. Trust me when I say your children don't need you to be perfect; if you care about them enough to fight for them, they'll know and be grateful.
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I have an ongoing dialogue of sorts with a Facebook acquaintance about compassion, and the need to exercise it while - incongruously, it seems - maintaining strong boundaries to protect yourself. And in a recent iteration of this conversation, it occurred to me that this sort of paradox was far from unique:

It is precisely the embodiment of these sorts of opposing values that fascinates me about life. We need to be compassionate, and we need to have strong boundaries. We need to be open to new ideas, and we need to be skeptical of claims presented without evidence. We need to keep our games (literal, metaphorical and political) simple enough to be accessible, and complex enough to keep our interest. We need to focus on the goals we hope to attain, and accept that the path to them may be more roundabout than we anticipate (and that the roundabout path may be more rewarding). And although you will find people advocating one side or the other of literally all of these metrics, those who are most successful are always the people who realize that it's not an either/or proposition, but being large enough to embody the whole.

What really struck me, when I was writing this out, was that I had started out phrasing it as precisely the sort of either/or setup that I later disclaimed. "We need to be compassionate, BUT we need to have strong boundaries." "We need to be open to new ideas, BUT we need to be skeptical." It was such an engrained habit of thinking that it wasn't until I reached the final sentence that I realized that I was presenting these options as choices, and thus reinforcing precisely the sort of either/or framework I was decrying.

Having recognized that, still...it was surprisingly difficult, writing these seeming contradictions out not as quandaries, but as both/and directives. Even though there's plenty of research showing that people with the strongest boundaries are also the most compassionate. Even though just about any Internet comment thread will demonstrate the dangers of both over-openmindedness and over-skepticism. Even though my own life has borne out the value of the long road to a goal. Even knowing all of this, it was almost physically painful to stop thinking of them as choices, and start thinking of both as necessities.

Thinking about why, I was put strongly in mind of Q's final admonition to Picard in All Good Things...:

 
Picard: I sincerely hope that this is the last time that I find myself here.
Q: You just don't get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did.
Picard: When I realized the paradox.
Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered.
That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.

Paradoxes don't sit well with human nature.  We like things to fit neatly into boxes, to be all good or all bad.  It's genuinely difficult, almost painful, to hold two seemingly-contradictory ideas in our heads, even when we know they're not a contradiction, but two halves of a greater whole.  

But while I can't speak for anyone else's experience...when I manage to hold the paradox in my head?  It's exhilarating, even elevating.  Like I've grown larger, somehow.  Like someday I might be able to understand the entire universe.  

I'm curious, now - do any of you have experiences like this?  Are there paradoxes in your own lives that you struggle with?  Things you've learned that make you feel bigger?  Tell me!

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Hallo from Vegas! (Or more precisely, Paradise, Nevada, as The Strip isn't technically in the city limits.) I was realizing that, while I mentioned my upcoming trip a number of times on Facebook, I never got around to writing about it here...I've been busy enough that my blogging has kind of suffered.

It's been an interesting week. I'm here because Brian has a work conference and thus had the hotel space (a damn nice suite at the Cosmopolitan) paid for. I'd basically expected to spend almost the entire time either by the pool or hiding away in the hotel room, catching up on reading and napping and letter-writing (and blogging, heh) and all the stuff I've been neglecting due to my work and social schedule. Instead I've found myself doing far more of the touristy things than I'd anticipated. I have a lot of thoughts percolating in my head about my expectations versus the reality of the place, along with some classic Big Questions about art vs. artifice, the occasionally-fine line between service and exploitation, and how one's experience of a place can drastically differ depending on one's presentation, socioeconomic status, and ability to set boundaries. (Because apparently I can't even go on vacation without my brain turning it into a sociological dissertation.) Whether or not they make it into a post is up in the air, but suffice it to say, I've enjoyed myself rather a lot more than I anticipated. Not enough to make it a destination of my own choice, necessarily - week-long stays in swanky suites with giant soaking tubs aren't exactly cheap, and for that kind of cash, I'd rather go to Europe - but enough that I'd happily tag along again.

Unfortunately, Brian managed to pick up some con crud, which he graciously passed along to me...and even more unfortunately, it's been the rare bug that hit me far harder than him. He felt under the weather for maybe a day; I've spent the past thirty hours coughing and sniffling and fighting a fever. The good news, however, is that the fever recently broke, which in addition to that "I'm a new woman!" feeling means I won't have to fly tomorrow while feverish (fingers crossed). So that's a pretty big relief.

A few experiences that have stood out:

--The Fountains at the Bellagio. A truly stunning bit of public art, and well worth the accolades. Our suite's terrace overlooks the fountains; I've spent a lot of time watching them both from here and ground level. As a side note, I've been a little amused at how much the compressed-air boom of the Shooter jets, combined with the hiss of the water hitting the lake again, sound like an approaching monsoon.

--Truly excellent local buskers. A couple of standouts: a youngish kid playing the heck out of an electric violin, and an older gentleman singing Motown with all of his heart (which is the only correct way to sing Motown). The latter was especially cleverly placed at the bottom of one of the open-air escalators, so you had the whole ride down to listen to him; I wanted to tip him, but doing so on the Strip can be tricky - the place is littered with hawkers of tickets and titties and God knows what else waiting to pounce on you the moment you pause, and they can smell an open wallet like sharks smell blood. I was pretty proud of the strategy I came up with on the fly - I used the time on the escalator to fish a bill from my wallet, strode toward the busker at my usual "I've got places to go be fabulous that aren't here" pace, dropped it in his tip bucket, gave him a big smile and accepted his high-five, all without breaking stride - and leaving the inevitable crowd of hawkers and their "Oh, hey, Miss, come back here, can I interest you in..." in the dust. Kinda felt like I should've gotten a power-up for that one. Or at least an Xbox Live achievement.

--A shopping/fashion critical success. It's been much cooler here than we anticipated - the forecast had originally said highs of 85 all week, and instead it's ranged from the mid-fifties to sixties. Given that the only real coat I'd brought was my heavy wool winter one, I thought I'd look for an inexpensive jacket with long sleeves. Unfortunately, it being springtime in the desert, neither Marshall's nor Ross had any kind of outerwear section to speak of. I poked my nose in a couple of clothing retailers, but everything I found was either far too casual for the clothes I'd brought or far too expensive (or, in some cases, both). I'd about given up when I saw a sale rack at a White House | Black Market; lo and behold, the very first thing I pulled off of it was a black bolero blazer that both went perfectly with my outfit (a black maxi skirt and long pink shirt that matched my hair) and classed up the whole look. Even better, it fits a niche in my wardrobe I've been meaning to fill for a while - I'd been looking for something I could wear over a dress when it was just a little chilly out. All of that, *and* it was a whopping $30 on sale. Score.

--Brian being awesome. I've been more than a little grouchy about being bedridden for the past day and a half. (I really wanted to ride the High Roller before we left; I have an irrational fondness for Ferris wheels, and it's the largest one in the world, set over a glittering neon wonderland. Sign me up!) Brian's been an absolute champ, listening to me grouse, fetching me soup and tea, and generally making sure I don't stew in my own misery. He really went above and beyond, though, when I asked him if he could get me a hot toddy from one of the bars downstairs. After striking out at the bar (him, via text: "Turns out you can get anything in Vegas but a hot drink"), he went to the coffee shop and ordered tea with honey, took it to the Chandelier bar to get a shot of whiskey poured in, then (at their suggestion, since apparently they were far too chic to keep such a pedestrian garnish around) hit up another bar to get a lemon wedge. So I got my hot toddy after all, and he only had to trot all over the hotel to get it for me. <3
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
I love that Swedish has a word, "mysig", that basically encompasses the whole concept of "warm and cozy and snuggled down against the weather".

Still dealing with the dregs of this cold. My throat and sinuses no longer feel like they've been scrubbed out with sandpaper, but I've got a serious case of Joni Mitchell voice going on. (This may or may not be related to having had friends over last night for dinner and games. Still worth it - everyone got on well and we had a great evening.) Plus winter, after slacking for months, seems to be running to catch up; it's well below freezing outside. But it's sunny in my living room, I have nowhere to go except perhaps yoga, and Google Play has served up an excellent playlist of slightly wistful 90s and 2000s pop that nicely fits the theme of "snuggled down with books and blankets and tea on a cold day". To break out (and hopefully not mangle) my rudimentary Swedish, "Det mysig helgen börjar nu."

My first couple of days at the new job went well enough. Thursday was a bit rocky - I was having a lot of anxiety, and as a result barely slept Wednesday night. (I made a Facebook post to that effect, which my supervisor caught, and suggested that since I didn't have any bookings in my first few slots that I come in later, which meant I could catch an extra hour-ish of sleep. It was much appreciated.) I got through Thursday but was still incredibly wound up, so I spent a bit of time on the phone with my mother hashing out what exactly was bothering me so much.

Mostly it came to feeling more than a little adrift; the whole venture is still very new, and I get the strong feeling management is still getting products and procedures sorted out. (I keep hearing about these amazing products and experiences we're supposed to be selling, for instance, but nobody's given any specific training on them. I asked the spa manager how aromatherapy massages were going to work, for instance, and she reassured me that everything would be premeasured and easy to use, which was nice, but...not what I asked.) My gut feeling, reinforced by my supervisor's messaging, just says to leave it alone while management gets everything restocked and sorted, but some part of me is terrified that while we're in this nebulous phase I'll do something wrong, or say the wrong thing, or something. I'm trying to sit with that fear and acknowledge it while not letting it affect my work or my life overmuch. And true to my psyche's usual form, just having it articulated helped a lot.

Friday was better, if busier. One of the biggest changes from my old job is the pace of the churn; I'm doing 50 minute massages with 10 minutes of change time, whereas I'm used to 60 minute massages with 15 minutes for sheet/client changes. (Five minutes doesn't sound like that big a difference, but when you're having to wait for folks to get dressed and then take them all the way across the sizable spa space before heading back and stripping sheets, it's a noticeable lack.) The general policy appears to be that, as your schedule fills, the front desk blocks you off for a break somewhere in the middle of your shift, which gives you a chance to catch your breath and generally makes it much more manageable. Hopefully it'll keep working that way in practice.

But in the meantime, I think the next couple of days are going to be about snuggling down and recuperating - I have letters to write, and books to read, and cats to snuggle. And I might've just ordered a bunch of new teas to try as well - The New Mexico Tea Company and their amazing labels will be my downfall, I swear. Hurrah for cozy weekends!
missroserose: (Default)
My life looks very different now as compared to a year ago.

On the whole, it's a set of changes I'm pleased with. I've made a number of friends; found a career path; found a clinic job, a couple of fill-in gigs, and a number of private clients; I've enthused about my new career to lots of people and handed out lots of business cards, and generally made a start at establishing myself as a therapist, especially in the local yoga community. I'm in the process of making my first major job change, from the clinic to a spa in a swanky hotel, working for a woman I like and respect very much, with possible future management opportunities if I want to pursue them. I'm making an effort to continue learning in my field. I'm bringing in some income again, with a lot of potential ahead for more. My social calendar is filling up and my work calendar is as well, and so far I've been pretty successful at juggling the two.

The tradeoff, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been a corresponding increase in anxiety, despite regular yoga-going. Of course, being me, I didn't realize it at first; I'm excellent at sublimating anxiety and turning it into fuel. I merely attributed the stiffness in my shoulders to unaccustomed workload and figured I was just focusing extra hard and therefore not particularly talkative, until Brian finally sat me down and said "So...you've been really moody and hard to live with lately, what's going on?" and I put two and two together, took a deep breath, and almost broke down crying.

I've been trying hard not to berate myself over it; it's perfectly reasonable that the measures I took to keep my mood issues in check for the past couple of years aren't going to be sufficient for such a dramatic lifestyle change. It's hard, though; some part of me feels like this is a failing on my part, that I should have at least seen this coming and accounted for it. Then there's the ever-present fear that it was the even-keeled-ness that was the exception, that the stress => anxiety => moodiness => depression cycle is my natural state that I'll always return to. And it certainly didn't help when, roundabout the middle of the month when things hit a nadir, I sabotaged myself by subsisting almost entirely on junk food for a week, until I put myself in the blood sugar loop-de-loops and nearly passed out at work. (Brownies. Not breakfast food. Also, my Achilles' heel.)

So I'm working on climbing up out of that trench...again. Awareness is turning out to be a big part of the equation - noticing when my focus starts to narrow, when my stride starts to get that extra spring in it, when I start having difficulty keeping the flow of a conversation going because my brain keeps circling around one particular topic. Self-care comes next; massage is helpful, as are meditative exercises (and keeping focused on the meditative aspects when at my yoga classes). Eating well, of course, which means planning out time for grocery shopping and food prep rather than letting all of that slide so that the only thing available for breakfast is a brownie. I've also invested in some bottles of Soylent, despite my dislike of the "high-tech disruptive food of the future!" cult that's sprung up around it; the fact is, it does a good job keeping my blood sugar steady on days when I don't have the time to make/eat a full breakfast, so I'm going to keep some around regularly, Brian's aesthetic objections notwithstanding. ("It tastes like watery oats and sadness!")

I may also try reiki in the future. I'd tried a couple of sessions as part of a massage trade, and they were pleasant and produced some interesting effects, but nothing I would have called "therapeutic", exactly. But yesterday I had an interesting experience. I took a yoga class taught by the woman I'd done trades with; it was an excellent class in its own right, but towards the end when we were all in savasana, she was going around doing a bit of reiki on people. Busy floating along on endorphins, I wasn't even aware of where she was; then at one point I felt a discrete tingle all through my lower torso, and I had just enough time to wonder what had caused it before her hands came down on my hips. And...well, I'm not quite sure how to describe the sensation; y'all know I'm a little distrustful of experiences that can't be quantified. But physically, I could feel myself relaxing, and emotionally...I felt like a dried-out sponge that someone had just put into a pan of water. After class, she commented, "You were seriously ready for that reiki!" and I couldn't disagree. So perhaps I'll see if she wants to do another trade or two in the future.

And then there's needing to take time for myself. I think this might be the biggest piece of the puzzle; I was looking at my schedule recently and realizing that, while I've had some downtime between shifts/appointments/social engagements, it's been a few weeks since I had a solid day or two with no commitments. Some people can function just fine being "always on"; unfortunately, I need to face the fact that I'm not one of them, and I need downtime. It's frustrating, because there's always something that needs doing, or someone I haven't seen in a while whom I'd like to hang out with, which makes it easy to feel guilty; I think letting go of that guilt over prioritizing myself is going to be key to sustaining this pace.
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
It's the first real cold morning of winter (15 degrees in Farenheit, -9 in Celsius, At Least Three Layers And All The Winter Accessories in Ambrosia), and I decided to skip yoga class before work because I'm having a hard time convincing myself to go out before it's absolutely necessary. So now that I have two whole hours free, I thought I might wave to my LJ friends and reassure them I made it into the new year just fine.

Biggest laugh of the morning: Women Having A Terrible Time At Parties In Western Art History. "maybe if i keep covering more of my face with my hands/he’ll forget i’m here/and go away"...oh man. Vivid memories of working circulation in my college library, and certain patrons who thought they'd try to chat up the cute girl behind the desk.

It's been a quiet first week of the year. Our holiday plans fell through somewhat - we'd intended to go to a dance/concert with some friends, but they had an emergency and had to cancel. Since we already had tickets, and I had an outfit all picked out, we decided to go anyway; people-watching was fun, but ultimately we just weren't feeling it and decided to hop a train home before the rush. And really, that was okay; we got back and sipped some leftover sparking wine and went to bed. I guess this is officially The Year We Are Old.

Since then we've mostly been hanging out at home, partly due to holiday budgetary hangover and partly due to Brian having come down with a cold (Brian, dismayed: "I was working nights all month and barely left the house! Where did I get a cold?") I managed to fight it off successfully with a combination of Emergen-C and taking it easy for a few days, but given that next week he's going to be commuting to/from a client site in the suburbs, I think our plans to take down Christmas decorations are getting delayed a week.

Other than that, though, things are good. I have a longer and more thoughtful post percolating on finances, long-term goals, social/generational trends, and luck, but the upshot is, we're finally at a point financially where we're able to seriously save for a home of our own. I've honestly doubted for a long time we'd ever reach that point, since the places we wanted to live (i.e. urban environments with good transit and lots of restaurants/attractions) tend to be quite pricey, and historically we're more prone to want to enjoy our money than sock it away; but thanks to hard work, good social connections, and some excellent luck, it's looking like we may be able to start seriously house-hunting (or, more likely, condo-hunting) in a couple of years. We'll see how it works out - make plans and the gods laugh, after all. Still, it's a nice place to be.

I don't have any New Year's resolutions as such; most of my goals are continuous (keep up with yoga/healthier food choices to keep my mood issues in check, keep an eye out for new career opportunities, keep learning new things to avoid getting stuck in a rut, et cetera). But a theme that's been coming up in my life lately has been practicing gratitude without anxiety or entitlement. I have a lot of friends who did not have a great 2015, often due to factors entirely beyond their control; I know that someday that might be me (in cases involving death of a loved one, someday it will be me, unless I die first). And I also know a lot of people - including me, sometimes - who have trouble appreciating when things go well because all they can focus on is how temporary it is, and how things are bound to go wrong eventually. So I've been working on holding that sense of gratitude, and the vulnerability it entails, and being gentle with the part of me that wants to get caught up in worrying about the future. Similarly, there's the part of me that's terrified of becoming an entitled white person, who subconsciously believes they're owed their privilege and success simply because they've always had it; it's partly why I get so uncomfortable in the suburbs, where there's a high percentage of people with that mindset. So I'm trying to be gentle with that part of me as well, acknowledging its existence and reassuring it through various means (staying socially aware, donating when I can and without feeling guilty for not giving more, practicing compassion towards others even when they're doing things I disagree with or find inconvenient). It's a tough balance to strike, and man, is it difficult to practice self-love towards the parts of your personality you don't like. But it feels like important work, so I'm going to keep at it.
missroserose: (Default)
It's 6:30 AM on Christmas Eve, and rather than sleeping like a normal person (or a normal person without children), my brain is apparently wide awake. Not unpleasantly so, oddly; I think knowing that I have plenty of time to catch up on sleep is helpful in keeping the "must get back to sleep/can't sleep, going to be short on sleep/must get back to sleep" stress cycle at bay. But enough that coming out to the living room and making tea and sitting and admiring the Christmas tree felt like an attractive option.

I've been writing letters to, and gradually getting to know, a friend-of-a-friend who's going through a tough transitionary period in her life. We've been Facebook acquaintances for years but (as transitions often are) she's pretty lonely right now, with a lot of difficult issues and contradictory beliefs and unhelpful coping mechanisms to sort through. And at one point, she said something along the lines of this: "Tell me about your life. Because I read your posts and I wonder if you're really that happy."

This hit a bit of a nerve, and has resulted in quite a bit of rumination. Not because I'm unhappy, but because of the context. See, one of the issues I've struggled with most, both in person and on social media, is the desire to always appear happy and content, no matter my actual emotional state. It's both a way of defending myself and my life choices - if I'm happy, no one can question whether I've done the 'right' things in life, can they? - and, in a way, a form of revenge. All those people who've wished me ill over the course of my life can just eat it.

Obviously there are a lot of problems with this; for one thing, as I've discovered over the past decade or so, vulnerability is a powerful social tool, and studiously refusing to use it hamstrings your interpersonal interactions. But the more pertinent issue here, I think, is that it's just not possible for anyone to be happy all the time. We talk about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in this country as if the first two will naturally lead to the third, and perhaps they do: the key word being pursuit. Even "hap", the root word of "happy", literally means "luck" or "chance"; hence why we also see it in "happenstance", "haphazard", and "hapless". For all that our culture is poised to sell you happiness at a moment's notice, guaranteed, we completely ignore that most of our moments of happiness are more like a cat in a sunbeam. Even if we don't change, the sunbeam moves on; our mental balancing point reasserts itself. (The flipside, of course, is that people who go through horrible experiences also eventually get back to that balancing point. It just doesn't make sense, from a survival standpoint, for us to be constantly on one end of the scale or the other.)

And then there's the question of whether we're talking about short- or long-term. When I woke up and opened my computer, I had about two-thirds of a blog post written, complaining about a bunch of miscellaneous stuff - petty things like waking up and being out of coffee, or forgetting my work clothes and having to block off the first half-hour of my schedule so I could get new ones; all the way up to more overarching things like being exhausted from a six-hour shift at the chiropractor's and my crazy schedule making it feel like I'd practically missed Christmas this year. But before I could finish it and click "post", Brian and I had dinner and watched some Star Trek, and the food and relaxation time helped recharge my cope - enough that I decided not to post my whining, since none of it was really all that important; I simply had been losing perspective thanks to exhaustion and low blood sugar.

Long-term, though, could take us all the way back to the beginnings of this blog, almost exactly twelve years ago, which was the first time someone asked me if I was happy with my life. I would say I'm much happier now than I was then, in large part due to figuring out a set of goals, and how to achieve them in a way that fits with my strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, that doesn't mean that I don't get frustrated or upset at times. But I think the better life circumstances, combined with learning and practicing better self-love and self-care, have helped to move my usual balance point up the happiness scale. And because I like myself much better, it's much easier to genuinely care for others, too.

So yes, ultimately, I think I am that happy. I know it's partly due to several spectacular runs of luck, and that it's an ongoing project (once again, the key word is pursuit); I also know that it's probable that I'll have less happy periods in the future, whether due to loss or environmental change or just the pain that comes as an inevitable part of living with and caring for other people. Which is partly why I try to spend less time complaining about petty things, and more time being grateful for what I have now, and the people I get to share it with. <3
missroserose: (Default)
Tonight Brian and I went to see Mythbusters Unleashed, which is staged (as Brian put it) rather like a science-themed traveling medicine show; for most of the segments, Adam and Jamie would take scientific principles that are relatively dry or abstract (force equalling mass times acceleration, for instance, or the power of friction) and find colorful ways to demonstrate it (having a large male volunteer try to hit a high-striker carnival bell with a gavel versus a fourth-grade girl with a sledgehammer, or hoisting Adam up nearly to the ceiling by two shuffle-paged telephone books). It was fun, in an Exploratorium Onstage kind of way.

One of the more thought-provoking moments, however, was when Adam was talking about his personal history, and how for so much of his life he had lots of different interests, but never had a focus. So he would spend some time learning a new skill or subject and get better-than-average at it, but would inevitably hit that wall where in order to have a hope of actually becoming good, he'd have to dedicate a serious chunk of his life to it. And he'd shy away, because that wasn't what he wanted, and would lament all the time he'd wasted learning that skill, when it was apparently his destiny to only ever get a step above mediocrity.

And then the day came when the studio called him and asked him if he would be interested in joining a show called Mythbusters, which turned into, well...Mythbusters. And even though they've just finished filming the final season, and for the first time in fourteen years he won't be spending huge amounts of time at it, he's discovered through the show that his calling is in science - specifically, the storytelling and communication and public outreach aspect of it. He might not have the specialized know-how to make cutting-edge discoveries or devote his life to research, but he has the intelligence and enthusiasm and charisma to explain and demonstrate basic principles and new discoveries to folks who otherwise might never even think about them; and all his many weird and varied skills help him to do that, as they give him a broad background of experiences from which to draw, which in turn helps him solve problems by thinking in new and different ways.

People who've followed my personal agonizing over my career might recognize this theme. I have so many weird and varied skills and pockets of knowledge, but for so many years, I had no real drive to develop any of them. So I'd write a bit here, and play the guitar there, and study psychological or sociological principles one day, and then read up on how they were used in marketing, and another day I'd be looking at the latest studies in neurochemistry, or learning about physiology so I could diagnose myself and avoid a doctor's bill, and now and then there'd be some yoga in there, and then a friend suggested I go to massage school.

And I suddenly felt like the savant in her element. Helping people feel better appealed to my humanistic bent; all the basic physiology/pathology I knew gave me a good foundation and kept the science courses from being overwhelming. The psychology and sociology and storytelling helped me understand how the profession is viewed and how to frame it most attractively to potential clients; the yoga (and associated knowledge of alignment/proprioception) helped with body mechanics. Even the employment-law and ethical stuff my mother used to lecture me on when I was a kid turned out to have relevance. For the first time, I had a focus, something I was enthusiastic about and not scared to devote a good chunk of my life to; and it intersected with almost everything I enjoy. (Still working on getting the music in there.)

I still worked hard in school, don't get me wrong; there's a reason I was barely available for those seven months. But having that foundation, that basic understanding of how these subjects worked and how they fit together, made all the difference; it's why I got one of the highest MBLEx scores on local record, and why I feel I really have the potential to be great in this field. In a way, I've been studying for it my whole life.

I don't know if bodywork is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life or not. But having had that experience, of finding that point of intersectionality between so many different interests and realizing that it's not necessarily a question of either/or, was a life-altering experience. I don't think I ever consciously articulated it before now, but for so much of my life I was afraid I was going to have to Pick One Thing and focus on it exclusively - that was the message I always got about acting, about writing, about any kind of career-level undertaking (at least if you wanted to excel at your career). Now I know that, even if I do decide to do something other than bodywork later on in life, I'll still have this knowledge (plus whatever else I've picked up in the interim); and chances are I'll find something else that has a high intersectionality with my interests. I'll just have to trust that my intuition will help me figure out what.
missroserose: (Default)
Happy birthday to me!

I was going to post a video I found a while back, a parody of Taylor Swift's "22" for my current age: "Uh-oh, hey! I don't know about you, but I'm feeling thirty-two/Read Fifty Shades of Grey and kinda liked it too!" Unfortunately, they appear to have taken it down, which makes me sad. There are a couple of similar parodies by other artists, but none of them feature the singer drinking wine and chowing down on a Costco-size wedge of Gouda, and thus they are clearly inferior. (Mmm. Gouda.)

Still, I can't feel too bummed out. I observed on Facebook that multiples of 16 must be lucky for me, present-wise; I've gotten more presents this year than I have since my sweet sixteen party. I have no idea what it was I did this year, but hey, I'll take it.



(Not pictured: the professional-quality blow dryer I wanted, currently on order by a longtime friend; and a significant contribution towards a professional-quality massage table from my mum.)

It's been a good year, I think. I've made a number of social connections (and lost some as well, all of which were painful but good learning experiences), I've tried and learned a number of new things, I've acquired a few new skills and embarked upon a new career path.

Now for some introspection: reading through a few of my entries from around this time a year ago, I'm seeing a lot of variations on the theme of structure vs. independence in my life. I've often prided myself on being an independent sort of person, willing to forge ahead my own way when there isn't a set path that I like. But while that's true, I've been comparing my mental state now to a year ago, when I was trying (and failing) to figure out a career path in writing and/or music. And I've come to the conclusion that, independent as I am, I need a certain amount of structure in my life to function well. At this point, I don't have a strong enough center or the self-motivation to work with no real idea if or when I'll see a payoff; I do far better when there's a clear set of expectations with (relatively) fixed rewards, which in turn gives me a sense of social identity. (This, incidentally, explains why keeping up enthusiasm for guitar was so much easier when I was busking weekly in Bisbee; I wasn't doing it for money, but the social payoffs in a small hippie town were noticeable. Moving to Chicago, however, removed a good chunk of that motivation, as it's not a particularly busking-friendly town and I don't know anyone in the local music scene yet.)

More importantly, I feel like I've decided that that's okay. I can be an independent-minded person who happens to work best in an interdependent context. It doesn't mean that I don't make valuable contributions, or that I'm not my own person, or that I'm not 'extraordinary enough'. It just means that I know what lifestyle choices fit me best at this point in my life, and points me at opportunities where I'll function at my best.

I'm thoroughly glad I decided to go to massage school; it's a path that gives me lots of options with varying levels of independence, but with a comparatively structured social role and a sense of identity I feel I can be proud of. It's a field with plenty of opportunities for continuing education, which I've found is integral to maintaining my interest. It's something that helps people feel better, which in turn helps them be excellent to each other. And it's something where I can earn a decent income of my own, enough to be financially independent if I need to. All of which, I think, are important to me in terms of finding long-term career satisfaction, as well as mental stability. (Now if the nice folks in the Illinois licensing office would get around to processing my application...)

So to celebrate, tonight is dinner with some of the local folks I've met who actually like my weird intense hyperintelligent analytical enthusiastic slightly-Zen...self. And Brian made me the most delicious chocolate layer cake with mint-chocolate-chip-buttercream frosting. Because he is the best. <3
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I said earlier this month that I love the transitional seasons, and it's true. But Life, as it tends to do, has taken me at my word. It's been a month of changes: some minor; some major, but distant enough in my social network to be relatively minor in terms of their day-to-day effects on my life; a few pretty profound.

Interestingly, the most personally profound are less changes in external status as they are in internal outlook. For one, I've reached the point in my education where I start to look at people and see them differently; in much the same way Brian looks at a new place and immediately scopes out the places where the wireless access points and cameras and other network equipment all are (or if they aren't, where they should be), I've gotten to the point where I can look at someone's movement and posture and immediately suspect what's going on with their musculature/fascial system - where they're tight, where they're inhibited, where they're probably feeling pain/discomfort. So far it's mostly just generalities, but I'm starting to see those around me way a bodyworker sees them, and it's kind of an awesome ability. Even if it occasionally makes me despair when I pass by the same woman day after day wearing the same unsupportive heels that make her entire foot collapse inward.

For another example, I'm actually genuinely excited for my friend Donna - she's the one expecting her very-much-wanted child. (Latest news - it's a girl!) After some discussion, Brian and I have volunteered to be godparents; it'll mean making an effort to visit regularly and remember birthdays and Christmas, but honestly, Donna's practically family anyway, and one of the things I remember most fondly from growing up was the variety of close friends my mother had, from whom I got to learn about many different options in terms of lifestyle and priorities. (It helped me feel less railroaded when I was a teenager, which, growing up in suburbia, felt like a time when the world is simultaneously telling me "You can be anything you want to be!" and "So long as it's going to college and getting a job and getting married and having 2.1 children and buying a house and being a good consumer!") And it feels like the right thing for me; I want to help raise the next generation, but despite my recently-reexamined views on the importance of childrearing, I still am just not feeling any particular desire to have kids of my own. But I'm thoroughly jazzed to be in the helper/supporter role, and am even kind of looking forward to when she gets older and we can take her for a week here and there and give her parents a break.

On a more external front, graduation is coming up fast. I'm definitely going to apply to work at the school clinic, but I've also come up with an idea for a target market that I could build a clientele around - they're both greatly underserved and would likely have need of my services (both in the "needs the work due to physically demanding job" sense and the more nebulous "needs a safe place where they feel cared for" sense). I'm kind of excited because it's the first solid idea I've had that feels right for me. It's still just an idea, of course, and building clientele is as much luck and perseverance as it is ideas, but I'm hopeful. And it gives me something to focus my marketing-class project on.

Less concrete but equally profound has been the continued realization that I have, somewhat unintentionally, become Part Of The Yoga Community here in Chicago. Mostly it's just little things, like meeting someone for the first time and having them comment that they've heard about me from their favorite teacher, or having someone tell me about being at a yoga-related event and having my name come up in the group. (Luckily in a flattering context, at least that time.) I guess it's not terribly surprising; I go to various CorePowers regularly and am unshy and friendly and sort of stand out...but. But.

In all honesty, it's a little bit scary for me. I don't have the greatest experience with community participation; a lot of the traits people initially find attractive about me (forthrightness, confidence, analytical ability, fearlessness in speaking up) tend to read differently in mixed-company scenarios (tactless, arrogant, judgmental, overpoweringly opinionated). In many ways, I still speak Human as a second language; it's difficult for me to read multiple people's reactions in the moment and censor myself accordingly. So I try to make the most effort to spend time with people I know understand me in one-on-one or small-group scenarios. But community links are important, and helpful in one's career as well as one's social life, so I'm making an effort to strengthen those relationships. My marketing class notes actually had an insightful suggestion on that point: "You have: two (2) eyes, two (2) ears, and one (1) mouth. Use them in that order." It's taken me upwards of three decades, but I'm slowly learning when to be quiet and listen.

And this isn't even getting into the more distal-social-network events that're happening - deaths, marriages, pregnancies. Life moves fast! And I feel eminently lucky to be living it somewhere I love that has opportunities for me, even if I'm a bit scared I'll make a hash of them. But to paraphrase Miles Vorkosigan, it's all about the momentum - keep moving, keep learning, or you might as well give up. Things move quickly - let's jump on that train! Onward!
missroserose: (Default)
This morning, I was reading a discussion elsejournal about the importance of how one conducts themselves online, positing that negativity, since it can ruin so many people's moods and thus their whole experience, should be avoided as much as possible online. Someone else brought up the point that negative emotions/experiences are a fundamental part of being human, and sharing them should be okay, because it helps us all recognize that we're not alone. I'm posting my response here, both because I think it's a point worth wider consideration, and because it's a lesson I'm learning in my own life right now.


I think there's a crucial distinction to be made here. There's a big difference between sharing one's troubles from a position of vulnerability and ownership, and doing so as a means of vindictive projection.

The latter I see far too often, and tends to happen when people are too afraid to understand their feelings are fundamentally their own, and start talking about how Others are Responsible. Sometimes they do it in a passive-aggressive way, pretending they're talking about themselves, but the subtext is clear. Sometimes it's just out-and-out active "These people are ruining everything!" What always gives it away, however, is that they're giving away their agency left and right. "Why doesn't everyone feel the way I do? Clearly that's the only way that's correct!" It's a seductive trap for a lot of people, because it renders you helpless; you don't need to put forth any effort to think about your own reactions, or do any work to change them, because it's all on the Other People.

In the former, however, you're saying "I'm having a rough time with X, and this is why"; you're owning your feelings and acknowledging them, as you say here. This is tough for a lot of people, both because you're having to take responsibility for your feelings/reactions (which often means examining and/or changing them), and because you're putting yourself in a position of vulnerability by asking others for empathy. Most of the time, people will instinctively understand that, and will respond accordingly. But sometimes, especially when they're projecting their own issues, someone will take the opportunity to sucker-punch you right square in that vulnerable spot you've so conveniently opened up for them. And that kind of social rejection hurts like few other experiences; it's no wonder we're so afraid to be vulnerable.

The strange thing is, however, that when you're truly standing in that spot, having empathy for yourself and your shortcomings, it gives you uncommon clarity into others' minds. We're all human, after all, and our problems and mental processes are far more alike than different. So while it's painful, when someone you care about takes that opportunity, it's not as world-ending as your initial fear of that experience might have suggested. You've already acknowledged your humanity, in its strengths and shortcomings; if they can't see it, then it says much more about them than about you.

So I say yes, share the less-acceptable feelings. But do the work beforehand; make sure you're coming from a place of power, not giving that power away in a mean-spirited attempt to deprive others of theirs. *That's* the sort of negativity that ruins others' experiences, and the root of most real evil in the world.
missroserose: (Default)
Hello everyone. My name is Ambrosia, and I like fashionable clothes.

I came at this from an unusual path. My mother taught me to dress professionally, like any good second-wave feminist, but past that she was more or less clueless about fashion while I was growing up. Furthermore, I lived in Alaska, which is about as far from trend-setting as you can get when it comes to fashion. (It is, however, a marvellous place if you want to learn about practical clothing that'll protect you from the elements.) I proceeded to spend much of my socially-awkward youth suffering insults from the well-dressed girls at my school; thus, for many years I rejected the concept of style altogether, both as a means of defense and for fear of being identified as someone similarly heartless. Throughout my teens, I would loudly declaim that anyone who paid triple price for a pair of jeans that had a popular logo on the button were clearly idiots. As I grew older and more aware of global manufacturing trends, I would declaim on the topic of sweatshops or the vapidity and misogyny inherent to the fashion industry. I certainly wouldn't have been caught dead in anything with a designer label.

But, slowly, the little things added up. I shopped for lingerie and corsetry online in college; it wasn't trendy, so that was okay, right? One of my favorite movies in the mid-2000s was The Devil Wears Prada; I told myself it was for the performances. I would occasionally glance through a Vogue or a Vanity Fair in a waiting room somewhere (though of course I'd never be seen dead with a subscription); mostly it was just to laugh at the prices, but now and then a particular outfit would catch my eye and I might sigh a little before my name was called and I put the magazine away.

For a long time, I buried myself in fiction and research and other improving literature, hoping to prove that my occasional desires were an aberration. But with the advent of the Internet, with the ability to flip at any time to The Sartorialist or Humans of New York, my interest grew difficult to deny. Why did people wear the things they wear? What worked for them, what didn't? How much of an outfit's allure (or lack thereof) was its construction, and how much the confidence of the wearer?

Then I started dyeing my hair bright colors. At first it was a lark, as much about standing out as a fashion statement; I lived in rural Arizona, after all, and fashion wasn't precisely a high priority in my community. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that if I was going to stand out, I should make it work to my advantage - which meant looking like I knew what I was doing. So I invested in hairstyling products, and regular trips to the hairdresser. And, as my hair looked better, I started thinking that perhaps I should do something about my clothing, too.

Now I live in a city, with a spouse who makes enough money to comfortably buy expensive clothes every now and then, and who has better taste than I do, to boot. And, slowly, I've been admitting to myself that I like looking well-put-together. I enjoy figuring out a killer outfit and wearing it around. I even like shopping, which I used to think of as a chore; there's an almost physical thrill to finding that one perfect piece that completes the outfit you've been dying to wear.

There's still a lot wrong with the fashion game. The industry's dependence on sweatshop labor is concerning; the broad assumption that every woman, simply because of her gender, must participate or be judged lacking is downright regressive. And I remain troubled by the way clothing is so often used as a means of class and tribal separation; a person should not be judged to be of lesser quality simply because they don't care to spend the money and time required to dress fashionably (or of lesser intelligence because they do).

So here's my promise, to myself and to you. If you see me walking down the street in my expensive clothes, and you greet me, I will greet you back with the same level of warmth. My clothes are for me, because I like them; if you like them too, great! And if not, or if you don't care at all, that's fine too. Just as I wouldn't judge someone for liking different movies from me, I won't judge you for your taste in clothing (or lack of caring about it). There are so many other amazing things in this world worth talking about, at length.

And in return, I'm going to stop feeling vaguely guilty about all the compliments I'm getting on my new Michael Kors jacket. Because it looks awesome.
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
This morning, while getting ready to go buy Brian​ some shirts at the Lincoln Park Nordstrom Rack, I made a joke about how I needed to make certain my hair looked nice and my accessories all matched, because Lincoln Park is where the rich yuppies with impeccable hair and designer outfits all snoot at you if you don't look perfectly put-together.

Today, while at the Lincoln Park Nordstrom Rack, Brian found (and bought) me a Michael Kors jacket that I loved because it looked amazing. And matched perfectly with my Tumi sunglasses...and Coach handbag...and carefully colored and blow-dried hair.

It's interesting how we're the most judgmental towards the people we're the most afraid that we'll become.
missroserose: (Default)
Hello, world! I'm not dead! I've just been...kind of insanely busy. As mentioned earlier, school is ramping up in intensity, and while I don't feel overwhelmed, exactly, there have definitely been some things falling off the edges of the plate. Thus, this post - part assessment, part update, so I can get a big-picture feel for how I'm doing and my friends have some idea of what to expect for the next six months or so.


Stuff that's going well! )


Stuff that's going less well. )

On the whole, I think I'm doing pretty okay. I could probably stand to de-stress a bit more; maybe a few more hot baths are in order. But for the next six months, I think I can deal. After I get my license, hopefully things will calm down a bit, especially if I'm working part-time. We'll see.

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