Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Walking back to my car that day Laura said, “I hate meditating like that. I always feel like I’m doing it wrong.” I laughed and told her I felt the exact same way.
I feel the same about grieving as I do meditating. I can’t seem to do it when it’s appropriate and I always feel like I’m doing it wrong. I must have been sick the day they taught us appropriate grieving techniques in elementary school. I haven’t lost a grandparent, parent, sibling or close friend. I see bad or horrible things on the news and I feel distant from the emotions I am supposed to be feeling. I let myself believe that nobody I love can ever die because that’s just cruel and unfair and life is already hard enough so god wouldn’t even dare taking someone away from me. I realize this is unrealistic and even childish, but if you could have held onto the belief that Santa is real for just a little bit longer, or that your babies could believe just one more year, wouldn’t you? I let myself indulge in this fantasy, because like Santa and the Easter Bunny, once I know I’ll never be able to go back.
I remember the day our friend Florian passed. She was my mother’s dear friend and I don’t think my mom thought it would upset me when she told me. I was living in New York and going to a summer graduate program at NYU. I think I had run out of money by then, or maybe it was the last week of my 30 day metrocard before I had to start walking to and from class – from Union Square to the Brooklyn Bridge. I remember I was alone when Mom called, and probably running late. My mother called and there was something in her tone that gave it away before she said the words aloud. There was the initial shock that I didn’t snap out of until one of my roommates asked if I was okay. “No,” was all I could get out before I ran out of the conference room where we had classes. I walked down to Battery City Park. I cried as crowds of people walked by, not a single one looking or asking if I was okay. I remember it was a cold June day and it was starting to rain. I was glad that this kept people out of the park. It was a weekday and people were scarcely scattered about the park I stood and stared at the Statue of Liberty, then wrote in my journal for a bit. There was a Mexican man and his son taking pictures and the father interrupted my journaling to ask if I could take a picture of both of them. He then explained how they had travelled all the way from Mexico City just to see the Statue of Liberty. I thought this was a strange pilgrimage since they weren’t American, but then I remembered all the castles and landmarks I visited in Scotland when I lived there. My eyes were probably red and my cheeks stained with tears, but this man just rambled on and on about their journey to get there. I listened, because that’s what I do when strangers want to tell me their story (and they always seem to seek me out for this task). I smiled, glad that they had made it and it meant so much to them to see Lady Liberty even though I just wanted to sit on a bench and pour my heart out in the blank pages of my journal. I was glad when they left without asking me to dinner or trying to hit on me, the man simply wanted to share their moment of joy and triumph with someone and I just happened to be the someone who was around. He wanted someone to know what that moment meant to him and I was able to hide my moment of sorrow behind his excitement.
I think about this day from time to time when something reminds me of Florian. I feel selfish for not thinking of my mother, when it was her close friend who passed. She talks about her often and I know she misses her. I feel ashamed that I didn’t try to contact her husband and children with condolences. I can remember being upset that I wasn’t living at home and couldn’t drive out to Oklahoma with my family to go to the funeral. This was the first of many events I have been too far away to attend. I wonder if someday I’ll regret living so far away. It will be seven years this summer and I still wonder if I grieved properly. Maybe I should have checked on my mother that afternoon.
Today, I opened up my email to the subject line, “Funeral.” My parents have been active members of the Tecumseh Lodge since I can remember. We have danced at the Tecumseh Labor Day Powwow every year for the last 20+ years. I get emails about member’s failing health, births, deaths, graduations and every other triumph and trial of life that they want to share with the lodge. I haven’t lived at home for ten years, and don’t always get home for the Labor Day powwow let alone for the lodge socials and other dances. I don’t usually recognize the names in the emails and delete them without reading the details, but this morning the name for the funeral notice was Jim Deer. I’m trying to remember if I saw Jim when I was home this past September for the 50th anniversary of the Labor Day powwow. Did I talk to him? Did he eat with our family over the weekend? Was he even there? As we always say, “if I knew that would be the last time …”
I didn’t know Jim any better than I knew Florian, but they both influenced my life more than they will ever know. I was extremely shy growing up, but at every dance Jim came over to our camp and asked me how I was doing and what I was learning in school. Jim lost his son after he left for the military. During off hours he was playing football with some of the guys and broke his neck. Growing up, I can remember wondering why Jim always looked a little sadder than everyone else. He lost his wife and adopted son far earlier than is fair in life, as well. Jim was a veteran and I remember watching him dance around the arena with the other veterans during the memorial songs. During Officer Candidate School (OCS), when I didn’t think I could push myself one more step, I thought of Jim and the other Veterans that I had watched through the years and kept going for them. During the Veteran’s song they danced through the arena with a humble pride, grace and unexplainable sorrow that I never quite understood until I went to war. My dad sang with Jim on the drum and I know he’ll be singing his favorite songs in heaven today and Jim will finally be at peace with his wife and sons.
I think today I will take my journal to the Vedanta temple here in San Diego. Instead of trying to sit still and meditating, wondering if I’m doing it wrong, I will take my journal and meditate my way and think of those I’ve lost and those I’m fortunate enough to still have here. Like we always do, I’ll swear I’ll try to call those I don’t see or talk to daily a little more often, even though I know I probably won’t.
Monday, December 6, 2010
I've spent a lot of time in the last two days thinking. Thinking about my time in Iraq. Thinking about active duty. Thinking about why I joined the Marine Corps to begin with and why I went back to the reserves when I missed it. I thought about how bad some of the leadership in my prior command was and I thought about how great a few individual leaders in that command were. I sat in my office watching at the Marines and Sailors coming in and out of the office cheerfully working. I finally concluded that they deserved better. They deserve someone who's heart is in the fight. Not someone who got out for a lot of different reasons and went back to see if she made the right decision. Over the last six months, I got my answer. I put the uniform back on, this time with Captain bars. I had a better attitude, had a lot of fun and became a better Marine and leader. However, the truth remains the same - the Marine Corps will never change. The faces of the young, gung ho Marines evolve, but the Marine Corps doesn't. I can go back in six months or a year. I have two years on the IRR. There is a strong chance that I will have to deploy during that time or I can start drilling with the reserves again. As a Gunny keeps reminding me, I serve at the pleasure of the President so I am never really free. I kind of like that fact. I'm part of something for the rest of my life no matter what. A commitment I can't break, divorce or run from. I like to think that when I'm 90 and aliens invade earth I'll be pulled back to kick alien ass or that someday I'll really get to be a space Marine (although I can't figure out why Marines are always featured in sci-fi movies when there really isn't much water for amphibious tactics in space). I go back to my other job today with a heavy heart. "I did the best I could with what I had," I tell myself. "It was the right decision for you, today." Still, I wonder if I did the right thing.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Sure I might be taking things to the extreme when I daydream about building a bomb shelter in the middle of the desert, but if there was an earthquake in California that disrupted the flow of food to our local grocery store is it a bad idea to have a week or more rations of food in the garage? With Russia burning down and 1/3 of the world's wheat crop destroyed, is it wrong to prepare for food shortages mentally and physically?
Yes, it's a bit ridiculous to take notes while watching movies about alien invasions, but do you really think it's out of the realm of possibilities? We live in a society that lives preparing for a hypothetical future on paper. We plan our retirements in Florida and how to make money off fake economic systems all the while paying for insurance on our cars, houses, property - life itself. Now, do I really sound that ridiculous preparing for an earthquake or nuclear war by storing food in the garage (which, unfortunately, I haven't had the time or money to do) opposed to investing money in a fiat money system with nothing but bank statements to back it up? Maybe the apocalypse isn't going to be one huge event of massive death and destruction with a few survivors left to struggle and find one another and create a new world from the ashes. What if the apocalypse is a slow take over of our mind and will to survive against all odds without our laptops, IRAs, automatic driving cars, wireless internet and Facebook. What if we are in the apocalypse now? What if this was the beginning and in another ten years we will find ourselves roaming the roads of what was once called America trying to find food so we won't have to eat one another. Of course on the flip side what if the economy picks up and in another ten years we have regular shuttles for vacations on the moon?
Maybe I'm just daydreaming about the end because then interviews, careers, retirement, loan payment plans, housing markets and all of the other things that bogs down our life in adulthood wouldn't matter anymore. Maybe it is a bit fucked up that instead of looking and applying for work I'm sitting here daydreaming about the end of the world. If the world does end tomorrow then none of this bull shit that gets in the way of, but is essentially what makes up life, would also cease to exist. Then again, "On a long enough time line the survival rate of everything drops to zero." (Chuck P.). Maybe we shouldn't sit around and wait for Superman or a global leader to come rescue us and start preparing ourselves. If the apocalypse was tomorrow how long would you survive? 2012 is right around the corner after all.
Well, in case the world doesn't end I should probably work on life plans again.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
"No, actually I won't," I tell her in regards to the latest bad idea I have. "At this point I regret not quitting a year ago. At this point the only thing I am loosing is my time."
We're talking about school. Again.
"You're so close, Libby. Just finish it."
"Fine, if I get everything done on time I'll do it, obviously. If I don't get everything done I'm done. I can't do this any longer."
I've been working on my MFA for almost three years. It's a two-year program, but between a deployment to Iraq and time in Peru I had to extend two semesters. I'm exhausted and for two semesters I have grown to hate, despise, loathe and whatever other verb you want to add, reading. I want to burn every stupid book I own. Now, I'm starting to resent writing. I try to sit down and do work, but it makes me angry. I'm pissed off I haven't graduated yet, I'm mad that I don't really have much of a manuscript, just lots of pieces that don't quite connect. I'm tired and frustrated that I spend everyday of my life so worried about all the work I have to for this program that I can't ever get anything done. It's a vicious cycle and I fear that school might stop me from writing altogether. I have done exactly what I was trying not to do - force myself to write. I went into the Marines because I didn't want to write for a living. I believe any creative outlet done for money looses its value to the creator. Apparently, doing it for professors and deadlines ruins it too. The funny thing is I never studied writing with the goal of publication or a career. I write for the same reason I play the piano when nobody is around to hear - I enjoy the act. If someone came to me and asked to publish the crap I'm throwing together as my final manuscript would I object? Of course not, but I also don't need a book to validate what the value writing is and has been for me.
What am I trying to say? I had a professor ask me after every piece I sent to her, "What are you trying to say? Figure that out and say it." It was the most important lesson I have learned in the many years I've spent studying writing. What I'm declaring right here, right now to whomever comes upon this post is this - if I don't finish the things I need to finish by the deadlines of this semester I'm done. I'm not going to regret not finishing this even though I'm so close. In many ways I think it will free me. I spend time at school and online talking about writing with very competitive, adult writers and it has stripped the joy out of the task. In June - one way or another - I'm going to be done with school. Do not call, write or try to convince me otherwise. I'm telling you, not asking for encouragement, this is over.
In the last week people have tried to encourage me. It's useless. Mark Twain once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do." Well, I'm in school for writing and I no longer write. I think twenty years from now I'll be more disappointed that I did not have the courage to follow my heart so I could continue doing what I love rather than focusing on getting a piece of paper that I don't need in order to write. Off and on for the last ten years I have been in school for writing asking permission from professors, administrators, financial aid directors to write. I don't need permission to write. I need freedom to write. We teach our children to follow their dreams and not to quit what they have started, but what happens when one is in the way of the other?
Monday, March 22, 2010
I tried hypnotherapy this week as well. A friend of mine has a practice and I decided I had put off supporting her business long enough. I told my boyfriend, "It was awesome and you're probably going to say it's all in my head." Many of my friends and family seem to think I'm a hypochondriac and my problems are psycho-sematic. Well, if I am than hypnotherapy was created for me. "Because it IS all in your head," I told him. It was an interesting and positive experience that will hopefully help me start writing again and end the horrible nightmares I've been living with for ten years. Some say we only use 10% of our brain potential. If you're skeptical of this statistic try looking at it from another angle, what if we have 90% of brain potential TO use? What could you accomplish then? I'm not sure where that myth/fact comes from, but I think the average person is capable of so much more than they realize. If it takes hypnosis to reach my potential I'm willing to try.
Why am I doing all of this? Why not. Somewhere on the road to adulthood I am afraid I lost the fearless spirit of my youth. Isn't this the sad truth in life? Instead of jumping in my car for spontaneous road trips, I curl up on the couch to watch a movie with the man I love. Some nights this seems like a fair trade-off, other times I want to grab that man and take him on a road trip to anywhere. I used to live by the quote "Do one thing everyday that scares you." Stepping outside my comfort zone was the only way to grow. I still believe that, but now I find my comfort zone, well, comforting. At what point do we trade the care free days of our youth in to worry about careers, and loans and all the things we swore we'd never worry about? Was it a day? A moment in time? Can it be stopped if we traveled through time and tell a younger version of ourselves not to fall for it? We all swear we will be the one to stay young forever and then it passes through us like a gentle, fall breeze and we become mature enough to know better. Maybe it's my health problems, maybe it's the relationship I'm in, maybe it's the fact that I have been stable for more than six months. I don't know why but lately I feel like I gave up the exciting freedom of my youth and I'm not sure for what? I suppose I'm happy and this seems to be the natural progression of life. It's in my nature to fight - even if it's myself I'm fighting. The weird part is I am happy. A different kind of happy, but happy.
But, happy or not, I'm challenging myself to do something that scares me everyday! Tomorrow I'll stand in front of Marines and teach a class about writing and even though this is the third class and I spent three hours preparing my class it still scares the hell out of me!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
I don't watch the news. I used to listen to NPR in my car on my way to and from work and in my office. Usually by the time I got home I had every news story at least twice. I never read the paper. On occasion a headline will show up when I open my Internet browser and I click to read, but lets be honest when it comes to news I'm generally apathetic and lazy. Now, I get the paper. At first it was exciting. I had something waiting for me outside the door every morning. In a waking dream I crept down the stairs in slippered feet to a freshly printed bundle just waiting for my eyes. I even read it for a few weeks. I was up to date in current affairs. I could follow what was going on in the ridiculous world of politics. I followed the horrifying story of a local high school runner who went missing. Maybe this was what ended it all? Chelsea King was a high school senior, cross-country runner, honors student, probably counting down the days until she graduated and left for college. She went for a run and never came home. A few days later they found her body, a true tragedy for San Diego or anywhere for that matter and an awakening for me. Sometimes I carry a knife when I run. If I get a creepy feeling or think the sun might beat me on a run. It's not convenient, but the thought of getting mawed by a mountain lion isn't very convenient either. Now, I have Chelsea to think of when I run on long, empty trails alone. The thought "that could have been me," has crossed my mind more than once in the last week. The thought, "If this is was anyone but a young, beautiful, white girl from a moderately wealthy family, bound for success would it be the headline for a week?" has also crossed my mind, but this should not take away the fact that it is a tragedy and it easily could have been me. When I train I run trails just a few miles from the same area. When I run I zone out and more than once have almost stepped on rattle snakes or have had mountain bikers sneak up on me.
Well, it's Sunday and they have a suspect in custody who was a convicted and registered sex offender. People are questioning the safety of their children and the effectiveness of sex-offender laws, but life moves on. Above the headline "The Chelsea King Case: It can and does, happen here," there is a picture of two local police officers saluting a motorcade of police cars on the way to a memorial service for a local sheriff's deputy who was killed trying to intercept a driver going the wrong way on the interstate. In the section Our Region there is a picture of three scuba divers looking for clues to another case of a different local girl who went missing over a year ago. "Pond yields no new clues in Amber Dubois case," the headline reads and along the side is a column reading "Missing kids is a sad fact of life in county."
I flip through the headlines reading the first couple paragraphs and not really finishing any article. By the end of it I'm depressed and scared and remembering why I don't pay attention to the world around me. Ignorance is bliss.
Am I better off jumping straight to the comics? Am I better off skipping the story about what's going to happen in Iraq now that elections are over and the US had pulled most of the troops out. Do I want to know about a female Navy Commander who was relieved of duty because of her language and maltreatment to her crew. Never mind the fact that five other Navy Commanders have already been relieved of duty this year, this is another strike against women in the military. Way to go, ma'am! Thanks, really appreciate it. I scan for uplifting stories, but like everyone else my eyes are drawn to the tragedies and tyrannies. Eventually I make it to the Sunday comics and my world somehow seems balanced again. It's only $10/month to get the Union Tribune, but is it worth it? Am I single-handedly saving the art of printed news or am I just killing trees daily? Should I call and cancel my subscription and just go back to my bubble of news that only pertains to me? Decisions, decisions. Maybe I should keep my subscription until the introductory deal runs out (6 month subscription at $10/month), but I'm on such a tight budget. Am I in a better mood when I don't get worked up over a headline about an event in the wold I have no control over?! Does any of this matter anyways? The world is doomed! Do I want to know that the apocalypse and end of mankind is scheduled for tomorrow! Perhaps the paper is bad for my health, but then I get to Garfield. Maybe it's because he's from Muncie, Indiana and my mom once drove us to Jim Davis' house in a very stalkeresque manner to show us how close fame and fortune was. Maybe it's the juxtaposition of Garfield's pessimism and Odie's blissful happiness that seems to mock me the debate of whether or not to keep my subscription to the paper I don't really read. Then again, what else would I be doing on a rainy Sunday afternoon?
NOTE: I recycle the paper.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
"I'm sorry you can't come on base."
"It's up to you if you want to give her a ticket or just give her a warning," Pudgy was now telling the cop.
"No, that's okay she looks like she's already having a rough enough day," the cop who suddenly looked like an angel sent from the heaven's said to the nasty, overweight, ugly pig woman who is a disgrace to the uniform.
Disgusted Pudgy told me to park up by Balboa park in some public parking lot and go in the back gate. I did as I was told, thankful not to have a ticket on top of being inconvenienced and late. I walked in the back gate and up to the Wounded Warrior barracks. We had decided on a time late last week and even though my little intro and talk with the Marines at their Friday formation generated some interest in a writing class I wasn't sure if it was enough time to add to their schedule. So later than ever, now frazzled and flustered I stood in the lobby waiting for the section leaders to explain to me why the class had to be postponed for a week.
"We can find some Marines if you want to start today, ma'am," a tall, handsome sergeant tells me.
"No, that's okay we can start it next week," I tell him a bit relieved.
"We emailed you last night to tell you they had a financial seminar that was mandatory to attend today," the other sergeant tells me.
"Really, it's fine, but I did not get an email."
They assure me they sent it and don't see that I'm more concerned about future correspondence than the debauchery of my day. I left defeated with the intentions of crawling back into bed and starting this damn day over again. Of course that didn't happen and after running errands and getting a little control over my life I'm finally sitting down for the first time all day. Sigh. I'm sure tomorrow won't disappoint me as another chain of events that are unplanned and inconvenient, but hey what can you do? You can look life in the eyes and growl, "YOU will not defeat me. Not today anyways!" And so it goes, a day of days.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
PS. Starting today I will be updating my blog every Sunday. This is my new commitment to myself and my writing. Have to have something to keep you on track even if it's a make-believe deadline and promise you make to yourself. . . Until next week, Love Libby.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I’m in a coffee shop with my roommate. We’ve been here the better part of the afternoon – Jill job-searching, me writing. I try to concentrate, but I can’t help but listen to the conversations around me. A man walked in earlier and asked if he could wash the windows. He does not look homeless and in this economy it is hard to assume anything about anyone. While he does not look homeless he does not look like a businessman either. His face has wrinkles set deep in the pale skin. His hair is thin on top. He is dressed in blue sweat pants and a brown long sleeve work shirt. His beard is trimmed and maybe I shouldn’t assume anyone who walks into a business asking to wash windows is homeless. Maybe I shouldn’t assume that if you don’t have a home you don’t shower or wear clean clothes.
About half an hour ago a young woman walked in and sat at the table on the other side of the room, but directly in front of me. I tend to stare at people when I think. It’s not something I do consciously, but something I am conscious that I do. She was dressed in jeans and a frilly, silk dress shirt. She had a name brand purse, but did looked very self-conscious holding it. She looked like she was waiting for someone. She crossed and uncrossed her legs, played with her phone, looked out the window longing not to be alone.
For a good half hour I didn’t really notice her except when I looked up from my computer screen to give my eyes a break, but the window washer came into the main room to perform his janitorial duties. I watch as he tries to make small talk with this woman. He does not seem to be creepy or inappropriate, but I watch as she wiggles in her seat even more uncomfortable. I do not know what they are saying because I am wearing headphones, but her body language makes it very clear that she does not want to be talking to this man.
It makes me think of all the times on city buses or trains, walking to the store or just sitting at the park that strangers have made small talk to me. I wonder if I look this self-conscious waiting for someone or purposefully being alone. Do I act like men who are making a living doing something I seem think I’m too good for are lepers? I can’t say, but I hope this isn’t the world’s way of letting me look in a mirror. I like to think that I am comfortable with myself when I’m alone. I find people at the least entertaining no matter what their circumstance so I hope not to judge when a stranger tries to hold an appropriate conversation. I find sometimes life’s lessons are taught through strange encounters with people who have a seemingly low-impact on your life.
An Asian woman is now sitting at the table. She is working on her computer much more attentive than I and maybe life is again providing me with a mirror showing me that I’ve gotten off track again. I should not be staring at the other patrons at the coffee shop I should be working on my final project for school.
The man has finished cleaning the front windows and has done a stellar job. I get back to work occasionally staring dreamily at the sky.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I woke up at 10:30 today. I had a minor procedure done last week so I'm letting my body rest and recover and apparently that requires 10 hours of sleep (I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. My body is requiring around 10 hours of sleep right now and who am I to tell it no?). I was up late last night job searching/applying to fill the weekly requirements to receive my unemployment check. In the last year I have applied to at least one (usually more) jobs a week and not received any word back. Now, it could be the bad economy. It could also be that a majority of the jobs are hourly-wage jobs that don't require a degree or experience and I'm sure the managers look at my resume and assume I'm looking for work until something better comes along. I can't say that I blame for not wanting to hire me. I also apply for jobs within education which I have experience in, prior to the MC, but no college credits towards and who would want to hire a bad-ass, haji*-killing, Marine who would probably bring big guns to show and tell and gory war stories? I have recently given up on the idea of not going back into what I used to do because I hated my actual job in the Marines. Times are hard and my experience in the last four years is in supply and logistics so the last few months I have applied to supply/logistics management positions. I digress, this is not about my excuses for still being unemployed, but there are plenty of people who will read this and argue there are plenty of jobs out there if I just try harder. This intro is my way of saying there really aren’t and it is as much the struggle to find a job as it is the struggle to figure out what I want to do.
So, I look for jobs with no luck and a crappy attitude. I do my schoolwork, but not diligently and usually at last minute (I find my creativity fairy only visits the week before a project is due). I talk to my sister and my friend Deb, who might as well be my sister, daily. I fart around until something is due or a wave of creativity overwhelms me and I can't escape it. Like most of my life I get by on bare minimum. Recently, I recalled a conversation with my friend Bruce, who also manages to skate by doing bare minimum (or at least he did in high school and college, I can't speak for him now). He once asked me (forgive me Bruce if you read this I’m just paraphrasing), "Do you ever wonder what would happen if you actually tried? We go to a high ranked, private school and put minimal effort into our studies and still get good grades. Do you ever wonder what you could do if you actually tried? What could you achieve then?" Now, Bruce wasn't trying to spark inspiration in me, or at least I don't think he was. He was simply stating a rhetorical question for the both of us. I did wonder from time to time and I did try my best in the classes I cared about - mostly writing. Funny, how someone can make a comment or statement not trying to change your life, inspire or judge you and yet some years later you still ask yourself the in efforts to both inspire and judge yourself. Bruce was right, what would happen if I tried harder? What would be the cost? What would be the reward? The reason I went to a small, private school was as much the social life as the lectures. I was not in a sorority, nor did I party much. On the Friday or Saturday nights that my friends and I weren't studying we were at plays, museums, swing dances or sitting around having conversations about music, trips to Africa, semesters in New York, what great things we were going to do for the world when we finally graduated, etc. I cherish those nights and to this day I think I grew as much as a person as I did intellectually over those four years because of those late night conversations and friendships. So, would I do it differently if I went back now? Probably not. Do I wish I had put more effort into my master's program? Only the night before a project is due and I have more work than I have time. But, I always manage to get things done on time and I find when I spread the work out over time I’m working last minute trying to perfect it anyways. Would it be better if I had spent less time thinking about it and more time doing it? Doubtful.
I've been unemployed for a while. I don't really wish I had tried harder to get a high paying job right after getting off of active duty or networking or staying in the reserves. Like the late night conversations with my friends in college, I cherish my experiences in Peru, Panama and other adventures this time has afforded me. American's are workaholics who dream of one day retiring. I'd rather spread out the adventures and traveling throughout my youth so I can enjoy it rather than wait until my retirement investments give me a nice cushion to lay my head while I do the things I always wanted to do. I back this statement up with a conversation overheard at a wine bar on Sunday. A man was talking about how he used to live and travel through Europe and how he wanted to take his wife someday. All I could think was what if that someday never comes? What if you die of a heart attack tomorrow? What if this, that and the other? But I did not feel it was my place to tell this stranger, "You have to make that someday today, otherwise it will never happen." The more of the conversation I heard, the more I realized they were very well off as a byproduct of being successful workaholics. If work is what makes you tick, then I won't judge, but I will ask, do you ever wonder what would happen if you took more vacations? Took time to enjoy the sunset and smell of rain? If someone was to tell you the exact date you were going to die would you look at things differently? After all, Americans also think we are going to live forever, we are invincible to heart disease, cancer, car accidents, natural disasters. These things won’t happen to us so we can plan for elaborate retirements.
For the record I was not at the wine bar alone, I had met a friend there. Later another friend joined us after getting off work at her second job. She told us about the trip to Disney Land with kids from either the hospital she works at or the non-profit her mom runs for kids with cancer (I can't recall who sponsored the trip). She smiled as she told us about hitting every major ride and how exhausted she was from pushing a wheelchair around. This friend is a wonderful person with lots of energy and a very positive attitude, but listening to her talk about all the things she had crammed in her weekend and how she had to work in the morning I realized something else about Americans. We aren't only workaholics, we're stillaphobics. We live in a society where we can't stand to be still. Funny, we medicate our children for something that Darwin would probably see as natural evolution from this lifestyle. We can't sit down to talk to our loved ones on the phone - we have to call them while we are at the grocery store or driving home from work. When was the last time you had coffee with a friend where you actually sat down – not grabbed it on the go saying, “Here I’ll walk a couple blocks with you then I have to go.”? We can't stand waiting in lines or having dinner without the nightly news on, multitask, multitask, multitask. Honestly, when was the last time you had an entire afternoon off to do nothing, alone? When was the last time you sat down on a rainy afternoon and read a book? I have had an entire year of this, more or less. There have been plenty of days when I wished I had a job and thought another minute of quiet time might drive me off the edge, but again I cherish this time with myself. People, including my roommate, have told me, "I'd go crazy without a job." And yes, sometimes I felt like I was going crazy. Like a child in time-out or an inmate in solitary confinement, there’s a chance you might go crazy. However, you might discover something about yourself or at the least learn to appreciate the stillness, which is not really still at all. When my friend was talking about how much she had to do this week, which was like every week, I realized she couldn't sit still if she wanted to. Between her fulltime job and her second job, diner parties, volunteer work, and everything else, there simply was not room for standing still.
I have another friend who is still an active duty Marine. She is also a great person filled with lots of energy. When she moved to her latest duty station she started a Masters program, kung fu classes, continued refereeing softball leagues on top of all the extracurricular activities the Marine Corps requires (like duty). Both of these women are single and childless, which is how they have so much time and energy**. They are both happy and do great at whatever they try, not because they are naturals at it, but because they put so much energy into it. I love them and their friendship, but as I listen to their active lives I realize I used to fill my time with a million and one things to do. I used to think of sleep as a chore, not a necessity. I used to be a quietaphobic, a caffeine addict, an ADHD adult who fed off of filling my days with things to keep me busy, busy, busy. I don’t know why. Nothing was missing in my life. I do not want children and I was happy with that lifestyle. I grew up in a family where it was expected that you take dance classes, play volleyball, march in the band, piano lessons, travel to Powwows, hold a part time job, and more and more and more. I loved it and I think I’m a better person for it, but things are different now. I have finally learned to enjoy my quiet time rather than try to fill it with learning something new or perfecting something old. I don’t dread Sunday evenings because there is nothing to do. I can do nothing (although I am still very ADHD so this is a challenge in itself). I can meditate without thinking of all the things I could be doing or rather should be doing, as I used to think. This year has been hard economically, but to try to take something positive out of those struggles I have learned how to be still.
All this being said, I enjoy learning something new. I love to run 6, 7, 8 miles a day. I like my active lifestyle. All I’m saying is now I enjoy taking my time, standing still while the world turns, journaling about the sound of thunderstorms and pitter-patter of rain. I have learned that taking time for myself is as necessary as filling my calendar with things to distract myself from myself. So, Bruce, what would have happened if I had tried harder? Maybe I could have saved the world. All I know is right now, as I write this, I’m happy standing still.
*1. Yes I did just footnote my blog and 2. I do not use the term "haji" unless mocking those who do. It is a derogatory term some American Servicemembers call Iraqi's in order to dehumanize the men and women we have been trained to see as our enemy.
** This is not passing judgment on single, childless women or saying that they fill their time with extracurricular activities to fill their lives because they are single and childless. There are plenty of women in this world of childbearing age who are happy being single with no desire to have children.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I'm working away at my last semester of school. I seriously doubt it will be my last semester ever, but for my MFA this is it. By working away I really mean procrastinating and farting around when I should be diligently working. The problem is I don't know if I even want to finish anymore.
During some of this 'farting around' time I find myself Facebook stalking friends and more often acquaintances. People I met at work or a bar once upon a time. The young woman who took over my job when I left the Marine Corps. A woman I met during my travels. Midshipmen who I trained at Quantico who are now officers in the fleet. The funny thing about Facebook pictures is nobody posts pictures of themselves on a bad day or mundane day. It's more like a place to brag about what you are doing or where you were. It's a memorial of how fun your life was at some point and how you have it all put together. Naturally, I get jealous when I see people who have traveled more than I have (which is most people). I am conceited when I see that someone from high school has gained weight. I feel free when I look at old classmates families. More often than any of that I look through the pictures of people laughing, smiling, traveling, at job promotions, family pics, kissing couples, babies crying and I ask myself is this what I am supposed to want? What is wrong with me that I don't want to get married to a nice man with a good career, work on my own career, have children, move into a bigger house, take vacations to fancy resorts, blah blah blah. It sounds nice. It really does and part of me is incredibly jealous of the people who live this happy dream because it is what they want. I click through more pictures wondering if they are really happy or live the life that was expected of them and are therefore happy because they fulfilled their end of the contract.
I look through pictures of Marines and Sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan and ask myself should I still be there? Did I quit? Is this what I was meant to do? Like most things in my life I got bored, now I wonder if I gave up to easily? Did I quit before the big pay off? Why couldn't I adjust to the military lifestyle? Why couldn't I just give up some of my innate stubbornness and force myself to conform for 8 hours a day?
I skip to the page of another "Friend" and another and another. I look at their happy profiles and ask myself what do you want, Libby? What do you want to do with your life now? I don't know. I simply do not know. Is it really as simple as people seem to make it on their profiles. Is my world full of random Facebook acquaintances who are really happy with their life? Am I just the odd man out who can't differentiate between what I want, what I'm supposed to want, what I'm expected to do, what I'm meant to do and what I'm doing. Shouldn't these things all line up?
I haven't had a job for a year now. Unemployment isn't going to last forever and the job search has been fruitless. What happens when the stimulus extensions run out? What happens in June when I won't be able to use school as an excuse for my immature aspirations. I emailed some people about going to Afghanistan. If I follow through with that it will postpone figuring things out for at least another 8 months plus post-deployment vacation time. Then what?
And in the meantime I post pictures from birthday parties, road trips, sunsets, finishing lines, dinner parties, etc. I wonder if someone I met once at some point in time is looking through my photos with the absurd belief that I have it all figured out and they're wrong. Is this what Facebook has done to our culture - created an emotional masquerade hiding our insecurities and failures as well as our greatest ambitions and hopes? Is it uniting us or creating acyberworld for us to hide?