Archive for October, 2012

A Community of the Mind: Literature

Growing my mental community

Idea From X Ray courtesy arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve talked a little bit about how music and literature and art reflect and define and cultivate us as much as we do them.

So in following my urge to grow and change, I contrarily took to reading some childhood favourites. When you feel the need for change, possibly drastic change, it can be helpful to find comfort in the familiar.

But now I’m done. My mind is adjusting to the changes, slowly, and right now it is screamingly bored.

I need something new to read.

Now I have a lot on my fiction to read list: Frankenstein, The Book Thief, and some new-to-me Sharon Creech – and those are just some of the ones I own… My shopping list is much longer.

But I’m craving some Non-Fiction. I could re-read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, but again, I want something new…. Something.

You know that feeling when you can almost taste it, you just can’t name it? Yeah, that. Totally THAT.

The problem being not many people in my communities read non-fiction. Oh, sure, if I want to discuss the Hunger Games, or hear (again) why I should invest in 50 Shades of Grey, or even to discuss Tolkien or A Song of Ice and Fire, I can find someone in a heartbeat, but non-fiction…? I’m hearing crickets.

Unless it’s a to-do (cooking, knitting, quilting) book, or a bio on someone you absolutely idolize, most people around me simply believe they will be bored without a plot filled with familiar character archetypes and either action or romance (or a little of both)…?

This is not true. A well reasoned argument, or well documented research and interesting conclusion, can be both stimulating and inspiring. Simply put, learning makes me want to learn.

And right now I don’t want to learn how to do something new, I want to learn how to think something new.

I want to bring new argument, new perspective, new challenges and debate into my mental community. I need some new fodder to chew on, I want to disagree and be inspired to do research and come to conclusions. I want to be made to think about whether or not I agree with someone’s logic.

So all you non fiction fans out there – help – any juicy non-fiction books you’d recommend?

How to Keep Friends: A Social Experiment, Part I

What's wrong with a little social experimentation?

Blue And Red Flasks courtesy posterize/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK, I’ve talked about how little I know about this here, and here.

But here comes the social experiment part. I’m going to list five methods I’m going to try to reconnect with my existing community, and I’ll let you know how they go.

1. Facebook

I’ve talked about how exhausting it is to come home after staring at a computer screen for eight hours and feel like you have to look at another one just to contact, oh, anyone… but since I’ve actually managed to blog fairly regularly lately (yay, me!), I think I can manage a couple of hours per week of skulking into my friends personal lives to figure out what they’re up to. So my goal is to go onto Facebook at least once a week, and to not only creep their lives but to change a picture, update a status, poke someone to let them know that I am alive and reaching out.

2. Engaging Phone Conversations

I’ve talked about how I hate the phone, and I do. It’s very useful as a tool, but for contact, well, it’s a cold, plastic box.

So, my goal is to move beyond my hatred, and when people call me to engage them in interesting conversation, instead of my usual “OK, got the info, gotta go” routine.

This is actually really huge because it will force me to think about my day and come up with interesting things to say, instead of feeling like nobody’s interested because if they were, they’d already know what my day was. Which, bullsh*t. Really.

3. Organizing Outings

My hope is that eventually these will become more routine so that they take less organizing and so that others maybe think to invite me out once in awhile.

To start, at least once every two weeks I will go out, for supper or drinks, or to watch the band, with at least one of my friends, and in this instance, Dashing does not count (because I would go to the moon every day for that man, it’s embarrassing, really).

4. Holiday Cards

Nothing says reconnection like the annual catch-up of holiday cards. I’ve never done them on a large scale. This year, I will, to all and sundry. I’m talking researching mailing addresses, old-school letters enclosed, stamps and envelopes Holiday Cards. I should probably start in the next couple of weeks.

5. Downtime

For a lasting change, I can’t just do a complete 180 and hope it sticks, like I’ve done before. So if I need a night or two (or five) to myself, that is OK. If I miss calling someone back, that is OK. If three weeks go by and I haven’t gone out at all, that is OK, but I should start thinking about it soon at that point.

This part is the trickiest, because while it is important to take time to oneself, for a hermit like me, it can be oh so tempting to live there. But friendship is a two-way street and I have to have faith that once my friends know I want more time with them, that they’ll be happy to oblige. I have to give them the chance, and trust that they’ll come through for me.

Those are my five, for now. By no means is this a comprehensive list, but I think it’s a pretty good starter list.

What do you think? What would you add/take away? If I manage to achieve these goals, what should be on my next list?

Work Friends: The High Road

High Road Please!

High Or Low Road Directions courtesy Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So it finally happened. I managed to reach through the corporate veneer and offend someone… I’m actually surprised it took this long.

Maybe it’s because I’m really rather blunt. Maybe it’s the Smart Woman Syndrome attacking. Maybe it was just an off day for both of us.

It was last week, and this colleague asked me for advice – she was getting an error and didn’t know what it meant.

So I asked a few questions and tried to figure it out with her. Once I had a better grasp, I advised her on what she should do from there.

I’m looking at her while I’m explaining the process, and she’s getting all flushed, and she keeps interrupting to make defenses and her voice is starting to raise.

So I said, “I’m not attacking you.”

And she said, “But in a way, you are.”

And I said apologetically, “No, I’m just trying to advise you of the best practice in this situation. I’m never attacking you. Not ever.”

So I wrapped up as quickly as I could and got the heck out of there.

And she hasn’t spoken to me since. Even when we meet face to face in the kitchenette or bathroom. Worse, I think she’s encouraging other members of the team to avoid me.

I am acting as though it is all in my head. I continue to greet her, and try to remain unfazed by her stony silence.

Fortunately, she’s leaving the position for another within the company in twenty days, otherwise I might push to hash out our differences and resolve the communication problem (I like to hash things out). Part of me still really wants to ask her for feedback, so that I can grow my communication skills, but the bigger part of me says that would be opening a can of worms bigger than I can control, so….. no.

Anyway, I just really don’t get the silent treatment. I mean it doesn’t particularly bother me, because, well, I have work to do, but this is someone I did consider to be a friend. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t just tell me, “Hey, here’s where I think you were out of line. I’d like an apology.” Or even, “I don’t feel comfortable talking with you right now, so unless it’s work related…”

But this nothing??? It smacks a little of sixth grade. Which is maybe why I don’t mind so much, because really? Really??

Oh well, while she’s sulking, I’m getting lots of work done.

How would you handle a work situation like this?

Housewarming

Housewarming/Heartwarming

Love Heart And Nest courtesy renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I went to my cousin’s housewarming party this weekend. It was fabulous. Naturally the family all showed up early, so we were hanging out in her new digs when her friends arrived.

It’s so funny being in the middle of all that action. Watching my cousin and her boyfriend creating a new chapter in their lives, seeing them surrounded by friends and family, those who have gone before and those who may follow in their footsteps.

Their house is huge, and it’s a great starter home, with great bones and good updates. It’s right in the middle between their respective places of work, and they’ve filled it out nicely with a mix of new and hand-me-down furniture.

It was amazing watching them juggle the colliding spheres of their communities. Family, friends, his family, her family, cats, and each other.

Then of course the uncles and aunts started in on the poor lad, pressuring him to propose  – “Oh, I guess it won’t be long now” and “Well, you’ve made this commitment, surely you’ll go all the way…” and flat out “So are you planning to propose??”

They’ve just gotten successfully over one hurdle, and everyone is all ready to throw another in their path… as if they can’t truly be part of the community, part of the family without that slip of paper and some rings.

I know people think it’s harmless, just teasing, and most of them are probably just saying it to have something to say, but we were there to celebrate the home-owning-ness.

Still, familial expectations aside, it was fun, and I hope they both enjoyed it. There were snacks and pumpkin carving (because nothing says awesome like tipsy relatives wielding paring knives!) and chatter and nostalgia and hope for the future.

And I guess that’s where all the pressurized teasing comes from. Hope for the solidification and legalization of relationships. Hope for the family structure and babies and all those things that they want to happen after a wedding.

It just seems a little rude to rush them from one life changing event to another.

But that’s family, right?

Which means, even without the rings and the paper, without the officiant or the money, even without the vows and witnesses, they view him as part of the family.

Heartwarming.

Ego Boost and Sunshine

Sunset and ripples

Golden Waves courtesy Evgeni Dinev/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes all it takes is a little ego boost.

I was driving home in rush hour traffic, per usual, but it was sunny and beautiful out, possibly the last windows-down driving day of the year.

So I’m bopping out to Happy Days theme song on my local oldies radio station, and I glance up and there’s someone staring at me.

So I smile, because yeah, you caught me, I’m that geek singing out loud and dancing in my seat as I sit at a red light.

And this cute someone smiles back and bops a little himself. I laugh. The light turns green, we move forward.

So we share the road for awhile and I notice, he’s matching my speed even though his lane is wide open. Then he starts honking for my attention. I look over and he’s making a motion like talking on a telephone. I laugh, because really, it’s hilarious – who gets picked up in a traffic jam?

Then he calls over, “I want to call you!”

So I shout back, “Thank you!”

And we drive off into the October sunset.

Well, separately, I think he may have pulled into the next parking lot, because I lost him.

At any rate, it was an awesome end to a fairly soulless day.

The Soundtrack of My Life…

I think acoustic guitar features in my soundtrack

Acoustic Guitar courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So when Dashing and I were just barely thinking about courting, I made him a mixed CD. Full of songs that I liked and was listening to at that point in time.

We’d been friends for awhile, and were both getting out of long-term relationships in pretty messy ways. Mine I spoke of here, and his, well, his marriage was ending.

So I’d been listening to a lot of Matchbox 20 and Dusty Springfield. And I thought some of the songs might speak to him too, so I made him a mixed CD, and instead of labeling the song and artist, I wrote down who or what the song made me think of most.

I think I labelled Matchbox 20’s “Bed of Lies” as You and I labelled Dusty’s “I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten” as either Me or Us, I can’t remember how bold I was feeling at the time.

I made him cry. And then I made him blush.

Music has always been a huge part of our relationship, and a huge part of our individual lives.

For me, I grew up singing motown and rock and roll with my Daddy, and gradually included the Cranberries and Great Big Sea and other assorted artists from the contemporary era.

But I was never the kid who knew what music was in at the time. I didn’t listen to top 40 radio stations, and the songs were usually new-to-me at school dances. It actually took me until university to learn the difference between Prince and Michael Jackson… And they say people don’t learn anything useful at university any longer…

Now, I feel like the media surrounding a person really speaks to and about that person. When I read Lucy Maud Montgomery, I speak and think like Anne Shirley. When I read non-fiction I get introspective and then turn those reflections out onto the world. When I read Sharon Creech, I long for travel, and stories from grandparents. When I read A Practical Wedding, I’m inspired to journal my thoughts and feeling and channel them into cohesive, creative viewpoints for discussion.

When I listen to the ’50s and ’60s, I’m at home. I’m comfortable, and I want to party and reminisce. When I listen to classical, I usually have something on my mind. When I listen to jazz or musicals, I want to perform and invite drama in. And when I listen to modern music that is new to me… well, it does depend on the song, but usually it’s pretty love it or hate it, and mostly, I just want to skip it.

But I’ve been expanding my reading base, going back over classics I’ve wanted to read or to be able to say that I’ve read. So I felt I should expand my music base…

So I bought the Burlesque Soundtrack CD, and two Grey’s Anatomy (Season 1 and 3). Burlesque has Cher, and Grey’s I already enjoy the snippets of music in the episodes, so I figured, baby steps, right?

So while I don’t enjoy every song, I have found Grace Potter and the Nocturnals Falling or Flying to be interesting. I’m looking forward to cultivating more music around me by artists who are still producing, because as much as I love that which is familiar, I, like all people I know, am constantly changing. And the people and things and art we gather to us should reflect that.

So to one who is fighting the stagnation of her radio, what modern or contemporary artists would you recommend?

And my super power is…

Super power is orbital money??

Flying Businessman by digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK, I don’t actually know what my super power is. Maybe the ability to come up with a very detailed and efficient plan super quickly? Or perfecting the junk food medley by situation and companions?

Anyway, it just so happens that whatever my super power is, I am also the best ex-girlfriend ever.

I dated a guy, we’ll call him The Scientist, for three years. It was my longest relationship to that point.

He was funny, sarcastic, loyal, and could be quite sweet. When he wasn’t being arrogant that is. In all reality, I was quite in love with him, and he was very much in love with me. We were going to have smart, crazy babies, and live a very suburban life.

Except I wouldn’t move in with him without a ring on my finger, and he wouldn’t propose without having lived together first.

And then he moved to Italy as part of his PhD work, for nine months. And I swore I would wait.

Well, yeah… Long distance is hard, yo. I couldn’t do it. I mean I tried, and I know he was trying in his own way, but we just didn’t have the communication mesh to make it work. Not to mention while he was away, all those friends I’d neglected seeing came back into light – those friends he felt awkward around, and didn’t particularly enjoy, um, at all.

So we broke up. In that messy, god-awful long distance way, over Messenger and Facebook and Skype… And then he came back into town on Hallowe’en.

And I picked him up at the airport, and brought him home with me to my parent’s house, and the four of us lived together for an awkward and, at times, torturous three and a half weeks while he found an apartment. Then I helped move all the stuff I had been storing for him into the new apartment.

I am the best ex-girlfriend ever.

Then he didn’t speak to me or my family for three years. He didn’t even personally thank my parents for their hospitality. And in my father’s book, that is practically a sin.

But he was raised by wolves – or well, lawyers…

Anyway, three years later, I get an email out of the blue from The Scientist. He wants to meet, catch up, be friends again.

I breathe my sigh of relief that he is a) alive, b) well enough to type, c) over me enough to want to be friends (or possibly under me enough still to use it as a ploy…)

Then I contemplate letting him back into my life. See, it was messy. And we want totally different kinds of things out of life, and basic human decorum has different standards between us.

So we meet, and chat, and it’s heartbreaking, but over in an hour and a half. We hug, and promise to stay in touch. But before I go, I mention that he really ought to give a call or pop an email to my dad and let him know, hey, thanks for hosting me by the way, it was a tough time, you made it easier. Whatever works. I go home and warn my parents he may call so that they’re not too weird trying to figure out who the h*ll is on the other end. And that’s the last I hear from him for six months.

Until he phones my house. And speaks to father to ask for me. And still doesn’t thank him. All he wants to know is if I’m up to hanging out tonight (Saturday night). I decline, because I honestly didn’t know what to say.

I never thought I’d have to make it a condition that he thank my parents for us to be friends again, but frankly, if I have to make it a condition, I’m not sure I want to be friends.

Then again, this totally falls under the “basic human decorum” differences between us, so maybe, since we’re not dating, he doesn’t have to respect my family’s values in order to just be friends with me…

But he should respect my values, right?

So now I don’t know what to do. Obviously, talk to him. But to what end? Do I really want to go through all the effort of being heard and making him feel like a jerk, or do I just let the relationship go the way of most relationships past…?

What do you think?

The Point

Yeah, I'm definitly one of the spokes on the dented wheel

Broken Bicycle by Cecelia/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OK, confession time.

I was a bad girlfriend.

I don’t mean that I was unsupportive or abusive, or even that I didn’t listen to him (I really hope none of those are true!). I had unrealistic expectations. Ridiculous expectations, in fact. It all comes back to this, doesn’t it?

I know that I am not a hub of any social network. I’m barely a spoke, these days. Dashing is a hub. He is one of those people who naturally draws people in, and manages to keep them around. People call him, book him for gigs, want to spend time with him, want his opinion, his perspective, his presence. I know I do.

For me, this is magic. I know it actually takes a good amount of work on both parts, but from the outside, it is magic. For someone unskilled at maintaining a community, it is awe-inspiring magic.

So I think some part of me thought that I could learn this skill from him. Or that it would rub off on me somehow. And when that didn’t work, and we’d been together for awhile, I think I began to think that if we just got married, if we just lived together, if he declared me family – then I would be part of the hub, too! I actually think this may be the source of a lot of our issues – my feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and desperation to move foward (because it’s better over there, it has to be, right?), and his feeling pressured and like he couldn’t give me what I wanted.

Well, of course he couldn’t. No one can, except me, and I don’t know how!

This is not a new thought.

The realisation that I was unconsciously doing this to him, to us, is new, but the knowledge that I suck at maintaining friedships, and that no one can fix it but me, totally not new.

It’s actually part of why I started this blog. To figure it all out. To put my thoughts out there (semi) cohesively.
See, I’m kind of a hermit. Or I go through periods of hermit-like behaviour.

Part of this is that I newly suffer from anxiety, of the kind that avoids crowds and loud environments. And part of it is that I carry a good amount of shame around with me. I very recently figured that part out.

See, I try to stay in touch, but then people don’t call back. Or I organize a party and people don’t show up (true story!). So then I stop calling and reaching out, because if people really wanted to be my friend, they’d call, right? They’d show up, right? They’d do some organizing and invite me places, right?

So then I think, I’m not worth it, they don’t want to talk to me because I stopped acting and sold out to a corporate overlord for drugs and money. They don’t want to talk to me because our communal event which forced them to endure my presence is now over and so they can go back to their real lives, which don’t include me. They don’t want to talk to me because I’m not cool enough, I speak too loudly, I’m too opinionated, I’m offensive, I get too excited at the prospect of hanging out – maybe I smell…

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this. In fact, I think one of the keys to it all is that maybe, just maybe, love is all about giving.

Maybe nine times out of ten you feel like you’re the only one  participating, for the payoff of that one time when you get contacted. Maybe it’s always a struggle. Maybe they’re not calling you because they’re so wrapped up in wondering why you’re not calling them.

To Dashing, I’m sorry. Clearly, I have a lot to learn yet.

I thought we could learn together, but maybe these are lessons best learned apart. Maybe.

To the rest of the world – what do you think? Do you ever feel this way? How do you combat it? Do you never feel this way? Are you a ‘hub’? How do you do it??

Smart Woman Syndrome

Community

Ancient Map courtesy of aopsan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How do you make a community? That is the question, isn’t it? At least here, it is.

For some people it seems so easy. I know, the popular have their insecurities, too, and I know (first hand, even) that it is possible to feel alone in a crowd, but some people do just have that uncanny knack for drawing people to them. For the rest of us, it can seem daunting.

I personally find it difficult, not only to make friends, but to keep them. And on more than one occasion I have lost close friends because a boy (who I brought into the circle) and I broke up, and my friends liked him better. Or maybe he was just better at staying in contact. Maybe he bribed them with chocolate and puppies…

Chances are, it’s the second, with maybe a dash of the first.

See, I suffer from what I call Smart Woman Syndrome (or Smart Girl Syndrome, whatever floats…). I made this up years ago, from observing that the smart women around me have a hard time coming-off as likable a fair amount of the time.

My high school boasted a generous amount of smart and fun teachers, both male and female. The student population was in fairly good consensus about the top 5 male teachers, but if you asked about the top female teachers – well, that was a much more difficult conversation. Any one female teacher nominated generated dissent. You ended up with a dozen nominations, and no actual frontrunners.

My female professors in university similarly seemed to have a harder time generating respect from the populous and in convincing their students that the subject matter was not only important, but interesting, and that classes and discussions could be fun and engaging.

I noticed my step-mother, who is smart, and professionally successful, was having a hard time getting promoted past a certain point – because she was over-qualified.

And then there was me. I’ve told you I’m too smart for my own good. And I’ve always had trouble making, and more importantly, keeping friends.

Now I’m not saying that in my case all of the issue is this Smart Woman Syndrome (honestly, it could be a real thing!) but it does seem to me that society wants us to believe that smart women are intimidating, aloof, and, generally, not in need of friendship.

Bullsh*t.

Seriously, though, I’ve met smart women who have bought into this harmful propaganda. And end up hating themselves for being so smart and driving people away. What? I know!

Now I’m not saying that all smart women suffer from this issue all the time, or that if you haven’t suffered, that you’re not a smart woman, it’s just my way of simplifying a very complex issue.

Very complex. So back to the much more concrete (though still very tricksy) issue of me and friendlessness (because it’s all about me, clearly!).

Part of it is, I have the darnedest time staying in touch with people. Honestly, they should still teach correspondence in school. I hate the phone (it rings, people!), and I try not to use it unless I have something to say, or unless someone calls me. The idea of calling someone just because is weird to me. I’ve had to get over it, in my various long-distance relationships, but it’s hard.

I don’t email much, because frankly, I spend all day staring at a computer screen corporately, and it’s hard to come home and want to look at another one – which makes Facebook difficult, too.

I could write letters – I should write letters, but it seems a little weird. Not to mention outside the instant gratification methods our society values and encourages.

Which leaves face-to-face interaction.

So either you create the face-to-face time, by organizing get-togethers and events, or you only consider friends those people you naturally see regularly. Or something’s gotta give.

Comments? What do you think? How do you stay in touch?

 

Growing Pains: Breaking the Fight or Fighting the Break

Fighter? Me?Growing pains. They hurt, no?

So this break thing is hard. Honestly, I really didn’t expect it to be a romp through the daisies, but it is hard.

And I thought this break thing was all for him, he needed space and time, he needed to figure out what he wanted, he needed to be a whole person before being a twosome…

And I need to learn to let go.

Seriously. Because what I’ve learned in these three days (yes, it has only been three days) is that night-time is the hardest because I don’t get to say goodnight, and morning is the hardest because I don’t know if he’ll call or not and I wake up to the lack of him, and afternoons are the hardest because I can’t pick up the phone and tell him about my day, and what I learned, and felt, and dreamed.

I’ve learned that I’m a fighter. I’ve described my self as a woman of extremes, a control freak, and someone who takes on too many projects at once, and I’ve been described as a go-getter, and impatient, but never a fighter.

Oh, I like a good debate, and I’ve been known to pick a few fights in my time, but I’m not competitive. And I’ve quit every relationship I’ve ever had – because I knew they weren’t going anywhere, and a few times, because I knew the guy wouldn’t fight for me to stay.

I guess I never figured out that I wouldn’t fight for them to stay either.

Now I’ve found someone who I would fight for, who I desperately want to fight to be with me, and my instincts are telling me to do more, to say more, to compile mixed CDs of songs that are poignant to this situation and mail them to him so that he will know that I love him, that I’m still here, still wanting to be with him, but that I get it, I understand, and I want him to be ready.

And I have to remind myself that it’s not about me. That I have made my position clear. I need to trust that he understands how I feel, that he knows I am here whenever he is ready, and I need to have faith that this will be good in the long run – and I have to realize that it may be a long run.

I have to believe that he will want me again. Or still. Or something.

But it is hard, oh so very hard. I have debates every few minutes about texting, or calling, or emailing, or just driving to his home or job, about breaking down to mutual friends and hoping the sentiment gets passed on to him… And then I remember that I am an adult, and not in sixth grade, and that I made this choice with him and we decided it was best, and part of that means I need to uphold my end of the bargain and let him make the first move. It is not my turn yet. I have had my say, and he is still thinking of the right words. I have to let him think.

I just miss being able to reach out and touch him with text or a phone call. I miss knowing that he’s missing me, too.

Student living and me.

Just life. But through the eyes of a Blue-eyed History student.

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