The following is a list of all entries from the thoughts category.
I hit — and probably killed — a raccoon with my car last night.
It was late, the streets were slick with rain, and I was looking everywhere but where the poor little creature was: at the lines on the road, at the car braking unexpectedly to my right, at the hands of my boyfriend, mid-conversation, as they gestured in my periphery. But then, clearly, a face. It’s the face, I think, that we would all make in the presence of our own impending death, in our last corporeal display of emotions before the eerie silence of the soulless body settles in.
I pulled over and cried harder than I have in a long, long time. I know that part of the burden of adulthood is a deeper understanding of the fragility of life, but seeing first-hand how easy it is to take life from another creature shook me pretty hard. I called on my faith more than I had in a long time, trying to remind myself that I am part of something larger than me or that cute little raccoon, and whether it be karma or fate or destiny or the hand of God leading me, I will find myself in situations I cannot control. After a few minutes, with my boyfriend’s hand in mine, I composed myself enough to pull away from the curb and head home.
But my thoughts wandered back to the raccoon. Was it a he? A she? A parent? Were there others, and were they watching? I couldn’t help but think of a family waiting in the woods for mommy to come, which sent me into a second round of tears. For the animals, yes, but also for me, as it awakened some deep rooted fears of my own. I have always been irrationally afraid of losing my parents. As a child, I would curl up around my dad’s pillow when he was away on business trips, trying to memorize his smell in case he never came back. Today, I curled up next to my mom on the couch as if I was trying to preserve a bit of her by osmosis. It’s strange, because I was raised with the philosophy that death is a comforting end to a life well lived, and not worthy of fear. Yet when faced with the idea of death, I crumbled.
I have spent a great deal of time lately thinking about what it is I want. I am back and forth, sure then unsure, about how to move forward. Further, I question what it even means to REALLY want something – I often pursue things that don’t present too much of a challenge, for fear that if I stepped to far out of my comfort zone, I might become too vulnerable. I take comfort in being good at things in the technical sense, which helps to blur the fact that I am not pursuing them with passion.
My dad told me recently that I need to find myself, that he sees me floundering. “You should get lost somewhere,” he says. “Maybe then you’d find yourself.” Speaking with my father one-on-one can often be surprising, as we have the opportunity to talk so infrequently and yet he sees me so clearly and can describe me with chilling accuracy. He was seeing something I had recently been seeing in myself – that it is time to tailor my life around a real, permeating goal that can guide me out from under his wing and into the world on my own. It does not necessarily mean a career choice, or chasing a certain paycheck; for my dad, many moons ago, that goal was finding (and keeping!) a mate, which he did, and they have been happily married for the past 40 years.
Recently, I have begun to finally pursue things that challenge me, with the confidence that if I screw up, so be it – I can brush myself off, and move on. Still, I can’t say I have settled on a specific goal. I’d love to be a better writer, a better runner, a better cook. I’d love to be better at networking within my field. But these things all hinge on a more important goal that needs attention first: to be comfortable with myself. I want to consistently make choices that I feel good about, rather than focusing on making other people happy. Furthermore, I want to make the wrong decisions – lots of them – and prove to myself that wrong turns and brain farts and love handles are all normal. Progress is slow, but writing is a great outlet for my thoughts and ideas and is definitely a big push in the right direction. In writing, you can be what you are not in real life. You can admit fears, you can change your mind, you can be bold, or you can disappear.
And speaking of disappearing, my dad’s idea of getting lost somewhere really resonates with me. I would like to find a way to travel alone. It scares me and yet it excites me, as it would present an opportunity to act confidently without distraction, influenced only by my own thoughts and desires and hindered only by my own limitations.
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Romantic homeostasis seems to be at work on us as our relationship, tipped so long towards complete contentment, finds it’s own more realistic level. I know the initial feelings of total bliss in any relationship will naturally become interspersed with some frustration or other less-desirable emotions, and the two will take turns defining the relationship as it settles into a more mature version of itself. But that doesn’t mean I will feel comfortable accepting these feelings, now or ever.
Apologies for sounding a bit like a negative Nancy – my general feeling is still one of love, acceptance, contentment. But small nagging points emerge that tend to take hold in the front of my conscience, bothering me more than they should. A forgotten “thank you” here and there for the little things, or skipping over the “how was your day” in favor of a rumination on the events of his own day, for better or worse. I see my own immaturity emerging as I project my unmet desire for personal perfection – normally applied to grades, body weight, or being liked at work – onto my relationship, as well as my desire for constant positive feedback and reinforcement. He’s not feeling well, so I stop by with soup and love and the groceries I know he can’t drag himself out of bed to buy today. He thanks me often, and passionately, for spending the day with him. He loves me, and just being there makes him feel better. Oddly, my first – FIRST! – thought is, “but what about that soup I bought you?”
I get it, I do… a lot of this is in my own head, my own problem, my own responsibility to find a solution… So until I do, I’m trying to keep my irrational mind quiet and enjoy the bliss as much as I can.
January 2. The beginning of the year is our first chance to take a breath and survey life after the beautiful mess of thanksgiving and finals and christmas and the coming of the new year has passed. Traditionally, this is also the time when our plans for the upcoming year are excitedly set in motion, perhaps based on shortcomings of the previous year: starting a diet, improving relationships, and many other self-improvement goals all seem easier to follow with the momentum of an unmarked calendar upon us.
This past year was full of wonderful changes: I ended a dysfunctional relationship, started to blog, continued to dedicate myself to my studies, took up running, solidified my most meaningful friendships, and met someone wonderful who bears a striking resemblance to the man of my dreams (could it be him? we’ll see!) Nonetheless, I can also see much room for improvement. First and foremost, I want to make better use of my time. I’m annoyed by the amount of time I spend idly perusing the internet, while simultaneously complaining I don’t have enough time to exercise or write. I hope 2009 is a fitter, more prolific year (even if it is at the expense of not knowing what blogger A & B ate for dinner last night… pity).
I also want to be more organized. I can see the way my mess impacts my state of mind, especially during stressful times at school. I look around at my bedroom with clothes all over and notebooks strewn here and there, and I have a hard time focusing my mind on whatever task is at hand.
Finally, I want to eat better. Considering my nutrition education, my job, and my health-conscious friends, this should be a NO-BRAINER. But somehow, I have many days where not a single vegetable makes its way onto my plate, and I subsist largely on carbs and fat. If I want to be stronger and more active, though, I need to get my eating in line.
I think all these resolutions can be categorized under a general goal: I want to live a life I can be proud of.
My local paper has been focusing a lot on nutrition in schools this week, with a three day feature about food in our local schools, followed up by a feature this morning on a specific local school district with a notable foodservice system. The school district (along with two others in New York State) received a $5,000 “best practices” award for the food they provide; they have been recognized for getting creative with commodity surplus foods in an attempt to provide more interesting and nutritionally sound meals to the students they serve.
This series is just one example of the larger trend we’ve all seen a lot of: attacking obesity in the US by placing a stronger focus on obesity prevention and education than ever before, which includes reaching out to children. Providing palatable, healthy meals and nutrition education to school-aged children is still pretty new, and I’m curious to see the positive effects in ten or twenty years; when these children are autonomous adults and able to make their own decisions about what to eat, will we see a difference in obesity rates?
A lot rests on our ability to educate children as to the importance of healthy diet habits. Working in the weight loss industry (and putting a good deal of effort into maintaining my own weight) I have seen firsthand the struggles people go through when it comes to developing new habits as adults and trying to reverse the effects of their old habits. Although the perils of poor weight management – cardiovascular health, blood sugar, knee/joint problems, lack of energy, etc etc – strike a chord with my clients, it’s not enough to keep them from turning to food as a universal band-aid for their problems. I’m optimistic that we can turn this around, but it will definitely be an uphill battle. My clients were loved, welcomed, punished, rewarded, and taught right and wrong through food, and I think it will take starting with a clean slate and actively trying not to use food as a stand in for love and attention to turn this whole mess around.
I stood waiting for a late afternoon train on the very platform where, just hours earlier, I had kissed my boyfriend as he headed to work. The thought of our shared space made me smile; though hours apart, knowing our feet had touched the same spot left me feeling closer to my beloved.
It also left me wondering how many times I have unknowingly stood upon the same ground as a friend or loved one, separated only by a short span of time. There are times I will linger in a place I know a friend has been, and I could swear I can still feel their presence.
If we were to slow our lives down, how many of the people we try to track down in a given day – old friends? future lovers? – would we meet if we merely stood still a while?
At what point do we stop trying to reinvent ourselves?
Recently, I’ve been communicating with an old college friend, a person I haven’t really spoken to in about two years. What joined us in the first place was a mutual love of our ability to communicate with each other: openly, excitedly, and for great lengths of time. And yet, merely two years (or so) later, as our paths grow towards each other again, there’s trepidation on both ends – have we changed, beyond the point that we can relate to each other anymore?
I had to eventually step back and call myself out. Why am I so worried? Perhaps because these fears are rooted elsewhere? Are we both concerned, perhaps, that our connection was more situational than anything else, and now the situation has passed? Who knows. This is an issue in my life that is gonna take some more dealing with.
But in the meantime, it’s interesting to think about the idea of reinvention. Everywhere I turn, it seems as if there are people in my life reevaluating and actively trying to change some part of themselves: religious exploration, romantic attachments, physical appearance… It’s as if we feel stagnant if we aren’t treating ourselves like a work in progress. But at what point do we step back and let the masterpiece BE?
I think about my parents. For 24 years, they have presented a remarkably stable presence in my life, as two people who are 100% content with themselves and each other. Are they freaks? Or is our generation different? Do we all reach a point where we can be confident that an old friend will, the second time around, meet the same person they knew back then?
A sub-plot of a book I recently read revolved around a husband and wife and their inability to communicate effectively; no matter how they tried, they just understood the everyday occurences in their life in completely different ways. To accentuate the “dual realities” point, the author has the husband/doctor/amateur photographer taking on a project, photographing scenes in nature that viewers might interpret as an anatomical image, or vice versa: leaves that conjure a textbook image of a capillary network, a sinusoid bone that looks shockingly like a delicate antique lace, and so on.
The book was a dud, but the concept of multiple views of reality stuck with me. If you gave most people a chance to think about it, I think they would agree that yes, you and I may view the exact same situation/person/thing in a completely different way, and that’s okay. Yet this understanding seems to go out the window sometimes when we communicate with each other from different sides of the fence. Do we prefer the illusion that what we see represents truth, over accepting that there may not be such a thing?
writing makes me anxious.
As a rule, I like to write because it challenges me. I don’t find it fun, or easy; nor can I just sit down and expel words. Which is interesting, because as I take walks or read things that inspire me, I have words, sentences, paragraphs just floating around in my mind, begging to be written down. But once there is a keyboard/piece of paper/person/recording device in front of me, I choke… the idea of having this specific arrangement of words set in stone (as opposed to the free-form they assume in my mind) rattles me out of writing anything of substance. Take this post, for example. I took a long walk around my neighborhood last night, and thought about these very words… in my mind, words merged into beautiful sentences, and coherent thoughts, and yet sitting down to write took an unbelievable amount of effort; I was paralyzed, yet again.
In casual conversation, if I mention that I blog, I generally say that it’s because I love to write, and that I blog to keep myself in writing mode, so I can stay accustomed to regularly producing material. But really, I don’t love writing… Rather, I think I am working on fully accepting the discomfort of it.
An article I read in the New York Times recently discusses the benefits of taking yourself out of your comfort zone and entering the ‘stretch’ zone where you are challenging your brain — Writing definitely puts me in the stretch zone. I don’t know that I will ever truly love writing, or be accustomed to writing, enough to consider myself out of the ‘stretch zone’ when I’m doing it, but I’m realizing that’s a good thing. After all, I think its the discomfort that keeps me coming back for more!