Friday, January 27, 2012

My kick-ass goddess

I have never handled drama particularly well.  Being homeschooled, I was largely removed from the drama of high school, and honestly, I'm pretty sure I was born already "over it."  I don't know if that's related to the thing of me being an "old soul," like my grandmother used to tell me, or if it's just not who I am, but drama just never fell on my radar.  There are definite benefits to this, but there are also definite negatives.  The main one, of course, is that there is always drama.  No matter where you are in life, I'm learning, there will be drama.  Up until about two years ago, I strongly disliked drama.  I couldn't stand people talking about one another, petty bullshit made my eyes cross, and I avoided drama-causing people as much as possible. 

Then, drama hit me.  Or rather, maybe, trauma hit and drama dragged along behind, flattening me like a squirrel trying to cross the highway.  Yep, I'm pretty sure my guts were splayed just like that.  If my drama tolerance meter was at about half-way full before, it's empty now.  Believe me.  I shook it, turned it upside down, flipped it, left it sitting on its lid overnight, just to see if anything would fall to the other side, but the damn thing's bone dry.  I officially have no tolerance for drama.
For some people, "no tolerance" means an explosive "DON'T MESS WITH ME I DON'T DO DRAMA," which makes friends and colleagues cower in their presence.  For some people, "no tolerance" means a cold shoulder in the office, somebody who does the work and goes home, doesn't engage or socialize, and isn't well liked.  This is the "you and your drama can just fuck off" type.  I am sure there is also a very healthy and sane way of doing/not doing drama.  However, I have not yet learned or encountered this way.  (Any and all suggestions are definitely welcome).

Unfortunately, I do not fall into any of the three categories above.  While I don't particularly want to fall into the "DON'T MESS WITH ME" or the "fuck off" categories, I am also not a fan of the category I do happen to fall into.  I fall into the silent anxiety "please dear god don't let them direct their hatred towards me" variety.  This is the "drama makes me shut down" subtype and the "my heart feels as though it will explode and my hands are shaking" way of moving through drama .  Extreme?  I know.  I'm working on it.  The trauma of the semi-recent drama is still a little too fresh: that wound just hasn't completely healed over yet.  Damn thing keeps getting infected.  (And yes, I'm working on getting some stronger antibiotics and some band-aids).
 I'm sure there are other types, these are just the three ways of not doing drama I see in my office currently.  There are only 4 of us who don't do drama, the rest are fully entrenched in the drama-creating, drama-making, drama-filled fun.  And, unfortunately, the drama going down is real: it is hurtful, and hateful, and it is wrong.  I've only worked here 4 weeks, and the drama has not been directed towards me, but what I'm seeing/hearing is the real deal.  To even call it "drama" is an understatement, as one action in particular borders on a fire-able offence and has led to official "reprimands" from The Organization.  But I'm not writing to talk about the drama, I just want to underscore, that this is real drama, in addition to office politics drama, and it is hateful. 

When drama hits, my first thought is always "it's my fault."  I know better than this.  If you're walking down the hallway and somebody sticks out their foot to trip you, it's not your fault that you fell.  I'm smart enough after the fact to put it all together, but in the moment, I automatically move to "it's me."  Even when I realize that was, indeed, a foot that I tripped over and that, actually, there wasn't any way I could have seen it and walked around it, I STILL think things like "well you could have at least ANTICIPATED the foot sticking out to trip you," and "you could have at least fallen so you didn't get that banged up elbow and the skinned knee.  I mean seriously, your elbow AND your knee?  Come'on, you can fall better than THAT, right?"  And I think things like, "but you fell LAST TIME somebody stuck their foot out and tripped you out of the blue!  No, you couldn't see their foot either, and no, there was no way you could have walked around it, but really?  You let yourself be tripped again in this completely different circumstance, by a completely different person, in a completely different hallway, with a completely different pair of shoes?  Come on now, Auto.  You can do better than that."  Have I mentioned that I don't do drama?

My relationship with god has been a little funky for the past couple years (talk about drama!  On again, off again, on again, off again...what a fickle thing god can be when you're sorting through understanding life).  In the midst of the messiness, I found that I needed something or someone to hold on to.  In an unrelated phone call with a really beautiful friend, she said, "I think what you might need is a kick-ass goddess."
"A kick-ass goddess?"

"Yep," she said.  "You need a kick-ass goddess."  She then sent me an email with a list of 3 kick-ass goddesses that she said reminded her of me.  Of the three she sent, one of them stuck out.  To be honest, I thought it was a little weird.  I mean, if I was feeling funky about god, what did I think some goddess I had never heard of, no matter how kick-ass she was, was going to do for me?  But the more I told myself it was weird, the more this goddess stuck.  For over a year, this goddess has been the background on my computer.  I have a statue of her in my living room and her picture in my bedroom.  When I ground myself, I use her image to help me.  When I am anxious, I picture her, my kick-ass goddess, as living in me and protecting me.  Other goddesses?  They just don't cut it.  I just don't have an interest.  This goddess, though, was clearly my goddess.
Durga, for those unfamiliar, is a Hindu goddess, and is the warrior aspect of the Divine Mother. According to one story, Durga came into being when all of the gods were threatened.  They put together all of their powers and each created a part of her, such that she could be the force to destroy evil.  She is seen riding a tiger and has many arms (with which she can protect others in all directions).  The story goes that Durga releases her devotees from fear, and she is known for her fearlessness, her compassion, her humor, her patience, and her self-sufficiency and independence.  She carries several items in her many hands: a conch shell, bow and arrow, a thunderbolt, a lotus, a discus, a sword, and a trident.  She fights several kick-ass battles and, of course, wins.  She is supposed to protect us mere mortals by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, hatred, anger, ego, and prejudice.

For me, for whatever reason, it all just works better if I have a concrete image of something I can use in times of drama, whether that drama is internal or external.  It has become strangely important for me to have her in both rooms of my house, though I can't distinguish whether it's because I feel safer because she's there or because I feel more kick-ass and thus feel safer as a single woman living alone when I see her.  Perhaps those things are one and the same.

What's my reason for writing this?  I don't know.  Other than the fact that I needed to do something to keep my mind off of other things tonight, I'm really not sure.  Why is this what I wrote?  I have no freaking clue.  Do I really believe in this goddess?  Nope, I don't, and it doesn't resolve my god issue, either.  Do I think Durga will give me guidance with this whole drama-at-work issue?  Nope.  I have a tendency to analyze and beat everything to death think through everything very thoroughly.  In matters relating to myself, I have very little tolerance for ambiguity and like having clear answers.  I do find it interesting that she so completely fits what I so often feel I need in my life, but really, I could name at least two psychological principles stating why I feel this connection.  On this matter, though, I think I am strangely content to let it be.  For some reason, I need the image of this goddess in my life.  For reasons I don't completely understand, she IS my kick-ass goddess, and she makes me feel stronger in a multitude of situations.  Strangely, I think I'm okay with just letting that be what it is.
Do you have a god/goddess/symbol/image that is yours?  Do you know why it is yours?  Have you embraced that it is yours, without question, or do you fight it?  What would it mean for you to let that presence just be in your life?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winners and Losers

In a school with clouded windows,
lead-ridden water fountains, and
missing bathroom doors,
a wise little boy drags his bookbag behind him.
He is yelled at to walk, to hurry,
to pick up his bag, to listen,
to be a big boy
more like his brother
more like the other boys, he
shuffles his feet to the finish line:
boys on one side, girls on the other.
The boys lose again, his teacher reminds them.
The girls smile, give high-fives, he
is ready to walk to after-school,
can almost taste the Kool-Aid and graham crackers on his tongue
when he realizes he
forgot his hat.

“S-sometime we win, s-sometime we lose,” he reminds me.

While the children scramble
to get to their seats by the teacher's count of
five seconds, four, three, two…
the wise little boy is left standing alone
tripping on chair legs and dropping papers behind him.
He is mocked by his classmates
ridiculed by his teacher
wanting to be a big 2nd grade boy, his
face sinks into despair
tears form but he's
too much of a man to let them fall.
His round brown eyes catch
and hold me
stabbing repeatedly in my chest.
He talks under his breath
twists his pencil in grubby hands
trips on untied shoelaces
and finally spies his chair
on the other side of the room.

“S-sometime we win, s-sometime we lose,” he reminds me.

"Is that the way it is?” I ask
resting my hand on his shoulder.
He doesn’t answer but stares off,
talking under his breath about
pigs and movies,
guns and his father.
He draws pictures during spelling:
guns and blood and dying men.
He daydreams during math
two plus two is:
Fourteen mens who is dyin'?
Between stumbling over words during reading,
he asks me whether I've ever seen a rat
cause there was one, bigger than a cat in his kitchen
but he didn't scream, 'cause he's a man like his daddy and
daddy doesn't like babies
and his daddy
is better than the 'Credible Hulk
and he's saving his milk from lunch
to drink at home during dinner and
during science, just when I think he's about to understand
that plants need dirt, and sun, and water,
he asks me
"why can't you be my mother?"

I take a breath
he looks away
a brave little boy with the same damn refrain:
"s-sometime we win, s-sometime we lose," he reminds me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


It's been a long time since I had a poem just come to me like this one did. It fell onto the paper, almost entirely as you see it now. I don't have a title because...titles are frustrating. But I do have a poem.

When the phoenix has lived for 500 years
the legend states the gold and scarlet bird builds itself a nest.
It collects the twigs and places them, night after night,
making sure the base, the sides, the circumference
are just right. The painstaking perfection
the broken repeating truth of impending change
rests on his feathers like lead snowflakes
increasing his brilliance
and the necessity of destruction.
His urge to self-destruct outweighs
the 500 years,
the brilliance of his feathers
the masterpiece of a home,
being a divine creature in an earthly world.

In Tibet, the monks in gold and crimson robes
place grain after grain of sand
day after painstaking day
creating a masterpiece whose only purpose
is to be destroyed
to serve as a reminder
that what we are is transitory,
this life
is impermanent
but destruction
is in our blood
when it's time, the bird and nest ignite
burn until only ashes remain,
the masterpiece of sand is washed to sea
and then it all starts again
the phoenix is born--ashes become egg
sand is collected and dyed
we give this life another try
with hope reborn from desperation.

But destruction rides along our bloodstream
traced by the map our doctors call veins
I know some days, they're my compass
leading me steadily to yes
and there are days
those roadmaps sit dangerously close to the surface
I trace the history of my life with glass
that used to be grains of sand
those pulsing maps
are waiting to be destroyed into ash
and who's to say, what we call veins
aren't blue sheaths holding our crimson feathers
our heart is the egg that holds our ashes
waiting to resurrect us
when a person in a gold and crimson robe
washes us --the masterpiece--
to sea.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ten things...

In her TED talk, spoken word poet, Sarah Kay, talks about the writing workshops she leads, and mentions this exercise:

Write a list of 10 things you know to be true.

Write a list of 10 things you should have learned by now.

Below, you can find my lists.  You can post yours in the comments, or post the link to your own blogpost there.  What are 10 things you know to be true?  What are 10 things you should have learned by now?


Ten Things I Know to be True

1.) Lists are important. They make life more manageable. This list may or may not be important. Your list may or may not be important.  But our collective lists of truths could likely change the world.
2.) Everyone has two stories: the story the tell and the story they live.  There is no way these two stories can become one, but our closest connections with others should be an attempt to try.
3.) Having a pet can change--and even save--a person's life. 
 4.) The more education I have, the less I know. 
5.) I should never have been scared to express my knowledge and my passion. 
6.) I have always and will always care to the very core of my being.  I am, in Eve Ensler's words, "an emotional creature."
7.) Asking for help and acknowledging that I am not Superwoman is like pushing a wheelbarrow of bricks up Mt. Everest, backwards, while wearing stilettos.  In other words, it's really fucking hard.
8.) I will finish graduate school and will be officially a doctor.  There were times when I definitely did not think this would be true.  I don't care that I will be a doctor, I care that I finished when I didn't think I could.  I care that I will have a job where I can know that, even if I never manage it, I will be in a position that I can try every day to change someone's life.
9.) The hardest things in life are not related to school, or work, or not being able to live your dream, or attempting to achieve your goals.  The hardest things in life are the things that blindside you on a sunny, Thursday afternoon.  The phone call you get on a Tuesday morning.  The fun night out one Friday with friends.
10.) One day, I will remember that I am worthy of love, without reminders.
Ten Things I Should Have Learned By Now
1.) If there is frost/snow/ice on my car, I need to get out the door earlier than I usually do.  The car does not magically defrost itself.
2.) Some people are never going to make you feel good about yourself.  It's okay to limit your interactions with them to whatever extent makes you feel comfortable.  Boundaries are our friends.
3.) I don't need to have the answers to everything.  There is beauty in the silence, connection in the confusion, and power in the shared struggle to find our own answers.  This silence, confusion, and shared struggle is likely called "life."
4.) Perfectionism is too much work.
5.) Like it or not, I inherited my mother's (and grandmother's, and grandfather's, and great-grandfather's...) need desire for control.  I can, however, channel that desire in the way that fits me best.
6.) Loving and living intensely is not a character flaw.  Empathy is not a weakness.
7.) There is such a thing as righteous anger.  Anger can be passionate, righteous, fulfilling, driving, or unhealthy.  It is important to know it, not be afraid of it, and use it accordingly.
8.) Dishes never wash themselves.
9.) My words are powerful.
10.) My voice can be, and should be respected.  I can choose to use it in nearly every situation, as long as I am speaking my truth.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

For Your Safety and Comfort...

Do you ever have those things that come up in your life that just happen again, and again, and again, and again...until you just have to scream "OKAY!  I get it.  I get it, already.  What is it that I'm supposed to learn here?  Is there a lesson I'm missing?  Something I'm supposed to learn?  Because I'm obviously missing the point."  Maybe there isn't a lesson.  Maybe this is just a "life is going to add small complications to show you how much you can handle," type thing.  Or maybe a "life is just going to add little stressors to get under your skin for the fun of it."  That last possibility there might be it.

I have lots of those little things right now.  (Don't we all?)  But the biggest little thing that is getting under my skin and is set to send me off the deep end is transportation.  Oh, transportation.  "Ah yes," I hear you thinking.  "Everybody hates sitting in traffic."  And I do hate sitting in traffic.  But let me tell you a story here.  The story of me getting to work these past 6.5 months.
If I were to drive from my house to work at 2:30AM on a Sunday morning, it would likely take me about 35 minutes.  That's not a bad commute at all.  35 minutes is perfectly reasonable, respectable commute.  However, I never drive to work at that time, so it takes me anywhere from 1 hr 15 mins to an 1.5 hours.  Sometimes longer, if I'm lucky.  But that isn't the end of the commute.  I can't park at the building I work in...nope...lowly interns are not lucky enough to get a parking pass, so I need to park at a different building, then take a shuttle up to my building.  Shuttles run every half hour, so if I have a client at 9, I need to get to the shuttle by 8:30 to get to my building at 8:45, which means I have to leave my house between 6:45 and 7 to make sure I leave enough time to park on the 53rd level of the parking garage* and walk to the shuttle before he puts it into drive at 8:29 to step on the gas and leave any stragglers in the dust at 8:30.  I'm not kidding.  Marcus** waits for no one.

So, when I realized this would be the case back in July, I decided I would take the metro to work.  It takes me 15-20 minutes to drive to the metro, 30 minutes on the metro, and deposits me right across the street from where I need to be.  Perfect, right?  No traffic, I can sit and read, no need to worry about missing the is beautiful.
July through September, I took the metro.  Some days, it was a piece of cake.  It was quick, smooth, clean, calm, environmentally friendly, and totally not sketchy.  Perfect!  As I continued taking the metro, though, my life became considerably more...interesting.  Of the multitude of incidents I could share, the two that stick out are as follows:

1.) The infamous chicken incident.  Coming home from work one day, I was sitting on the train in the station, waiting to go, with a handful of other people.  Just as the train was about to leave, a man boarded the train.  "What the fuck is your problem?" he asked of me and the woman across from me.  "Fucking bitches."  I looked out the window at the wall, and the man found a seat several rows in front of me, facing me. 
"For your safety and comfort," stated the recording on the train, "your safety is being monitored.  Please be mindful of MTA's prohibited acts.  Individuals eating, drinking, or playing electronic devices without headphones are subject to arrest."

I wondered, not for  the first time, whether the train was actually monitored as the doors closed and we began to move.  As I continued watching, the man pulled out a box of fried chicken from the Popeye's on the corner and proceeded to pull out a piece of fried chicken in each hand.  The train swerved slightly and he leaned, dramatically, nearly falling over as whatever drug he had recently ingested began to take a stronger hold.  He dropped the chicken from one hand and picked another piece out of the box, taking a bite, and then dropping that piece, too.  He then began searching, blindly, on the floor for the chicken, unable to see it right next to his foot.  The train leaned again and he fell heavily onto one side, saw the chicken on the floor, picked it up, and resumed eating.  Humming, grunting, and making loud, exaggerated chewing noises, I feel comfortable speaking for everyone when I say we were all sufficiently grossed out, and some of us were pretty freaked out.
Two women, one with a baby, got on the train at the next stop and, unknowingly, sat down in front of Chicken Man.  Having sufficiently finished one piece of dropped, picked up, gnawed on, and dropped again chicken, he did the only natural thing one would do when you are holding a chicken bone on the metro.  He put it on the back of the seat in front of him.  The entire train seemed to collectively hold its breath as the mother in front of him put the baby up on her shoulder.  And the baby, being a baby, did the only natural thing a baby would do when it sees a chicken bone right behind its mother's shoulder within reach.  I'll leave what happened next to your imagination.  I mean, you could be reading this while you're eating dinner, right? 

Needless to say, the mother caught on and took care of baby, glared at the man behind her, and continued her conversation with her friend.  The man, almost completely gone, but still aware enough to know that the Mama in front of him was pissed off, did the next, completely logical reaction.  He took another chicken bone in his right hand, reached forward with his left, grabbed the back of Mama's shirt, and dropped the chicken bone straight down the back of her shirt.  And with that, he fell over completely, dropped the box of chicken on the floor, and did not sit back up. 
Mama, of course, screamed, jumped up, and did the "get this chicken bone out of the back of my shirt" dance.  If you've never seen it, you'll know it as soon as you do.  It's pretty unmistakable. 

2.) While going to work, a man with a weed whacker got on the train.  This wasn't just any weed whacker.  This was a BIG weed whacker.  He got on the train, just like the woman with her groceries, the man with his briefcase, and the kid with the backpack and sat down. 
The train on this particular morning was crowded and, a second later, someone in an MTA uniform popped her head in.  "Uh uh," she said, motioning to him.  "You can't get on here with that."

"Then how the hell am I supposed to get to work?" he exploded.  "I've gotta get to work and you can't stop me."
She motioned again.  "Off.  That has gasoline in it.  Can't be on here.  Figure it out."

The man exploded again, but got off the train and walked over to the trashcan, unscrewing the gas tank.  He began dumping the gasoline into the trashcan and, as soon as Uniform Lady looked at him, walked over to the track on the opposite side and acted like he was going to pour gasoline on the other track.  She ignored him and continued walking.  He closed the gas tank and got back on the train.  I rode to work with a pissed off man wielding a weed whacker muttering his discontent under his breath sitting in front of me.  Obviously, he was not some infamous Weed Whacker Train Killer I had not yet heard of...but in the moment, I wasn't so sure.
"For your safety and comfort," came the announcement, "this vehicle is being monitored..."

At any rate, after a few of these incidents, plus a few too many sketchy guys trying bad pick up lines and refusing to leave me alone, I decided I was done.  I finished out the month on my pass and decided to start driving to work.  Week 1, Day 1, I see a pedestrian get hit by a car 3 cars in front of me.  A couple nurses jumped out to help and the police arrived shortly after.  I don't know what happened with that.

Week 1, Day 3: I drive into The Building I Park At and park.  So far so good!  I go down and wait for the shuttle to take me to The Building I Work At. (These shuttles are private shuttles just for my organization for the safety and comfort of people--particularly interns--to get to and from the myriad of locations).  It comes right on time and I get in.  It had been a particularly stressful week at work, and it was my colleague's birthday, so I had made cupcakes and was trying to balance my purse, the cupcakes, my jacket, and climbing into and out of the shuttle, so I sat in front.   I was the only one there, aside from PK, the driver.  "This is easy," I think.  "This is totally going to work out.  No chicken incidents, no weed whackers, no bad pick up lines...I got this!"
PK**, the shuttle driver gets in.  "How you doin'?" he asks.  As an aside, there were issues with PK I had heard about from other interns.  PK asking personal questions, asking for money, asking where they lived, what types of cars they drove, if they were married...these things had been reported to our training director about a week before.

"I'm good, PK.  How are you?"  I know PK from riding the shuttle between buildings when I have to go other places for meetings.
"I'm jus' fine.  Those look good," he says, eyeing my cupcakes.

"Want one?" I ask.

"Yeah," he says, enthusiastically.  I laugh and give him a cupcake, which he eats half of before we start driving.  "That's real good," he tells me.  "If this work thing don't work out for you, you start a cupcake store and let me know where it at, mmkay?"
"Sounds like a plan," I say.  We ride in silence for a few moments as we start driving through downtown.  The streets we take, I have to say, are sketchy.  Adult movie theaters, sex shops, unlabeled buildings with people always hanging out outside of them, and rehab buildings make up the entire street, with a few churches and boarded up buildings thrown in in-between. 

"I don' usually see you in the morning," PK says. 
"No," I say.  "I used to take the metro, but I'll be driving to work from here on out, so you'll be seeing me more regularly."

"Why you stop takin' the metro?" he asked.
"Well," I said, "honestly, it was just kind of...sketchy.  I just didn't feel very safe."

"What do you mean, sketchy?" he asked.
"You know...just kind of...sketchy.  It made me uncomfortable.  I never felt very safe."
"I feel you," he said.  "That's why I always carry a blade on me."  I didn't say anything for a moment.

"Oh," I said.  "Huh."  We stopped at the stoplight across from the XXX Movie Theater. 

"Yeah," he said.  "Don't tell nobody, because I know it's against The Organization's policy, but I gotta have my blade.  See?"  He lifts up his shirt to show me what seemed like a sword size switchblade on his belt/in his pocket."
I say nothing, but my mind starts racing: "PK has creeped out other female interns, and now I am sitting alone in a van in a bad section of the city with PK with a freaking huge knife he won't stop talking about.  What the hell am I going to do?"

So I did the only thing I could think to do.  I sat in the van, listened to him talking about his knife, and I waited.  I arrived safely at my building and went inside.  As I walked into the office, I (for reasons still unknown to me), decided it was no big deal and would not tell my colleagues about the knife, figuring I was just over-reacting.  So, I walked in, and resorted to one of my natural anxiety responses.  I laughed.  "Hey guys," I giggled.  They looked up at me, immediately aware something was off.  "I brought cupcakes!"  I laughed some more.  I turned on my computer and waited for it to boot up.  I laughed again.
"How was the trip in?" asked Matt*, obviously aware that something was weird.  Sarah* and Amanda* turned around.
"It was fine," I lied.  " was weird."  They looked at me, expectantly.  They were used to weird transportation stories, looked forward to them, even, as their morning entertainment.  "I don't think it's a big deal, but..." I told them the story, and they freaked out.  I called our training director, who also freaked out.  Long story short, I got PK fired that day (and banned from The Organization's property) and then had a couple weeks of escorts to and from my car, two shuttle drivers (for safety and security purposes), and increased security at the front of every building.  HR and facilities had to be aware of my schedule to increase security during the times I was in transit as they were worried PK would link his firing to me and somehow target me for being fired.  Kinda made me wish I hadn't given the guy a cupcake.
A few weeks after things had blown over, I got a call from my training director.  "You're not going anywhere anytime soon, are you?" she asked.  Apparently, PK was spotted hanging out across from The Organization's property, they were increasing security, were going to find out why he was there, and I was to remain in the building for the next several hours.  This has completely blown over, I no longer need to feel like I am surrounded by the secret service, and there have not been any PK sightings. 
Starting January 1, I switched buildings, so I need to park in a new place, with a new shuttle, and a new route.  However, there were issues getting my parking pass, so the past two weeks, I've been taking the metro.  In the past two weeks, I saw a drug deal go down, saw a man get chased off the train by men who were trying to get money from him, and sat for nearly 45 minutes waiting underground because there was a man in a wheelchair stuck under the metro.  Nobody knows how he got there.
Starting on Tuesday, I start the new parking situation adventure.  Needless to say, I can't wait*** to see what...adventures are ahead as I take advantage of these modes of transportation in place for my safety and comfort. 
*This may or may not be an exaggeration. 
**Names have been changed.
***This may or may not be sarcasm.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reflections: Year of the Trees

My friend and fellow blogger, the fantastic Reticula who, unlike me, is a real blogger who posts and everything, posted this to mark the beginning of the year.  Or maybe, to mark the end of the old year.  You'd have to ask her which way she sees it.  Either way, as she often does, she served as inspiration for me to write my own post.  She said I could write my own, should even, and I'm giving her credit, so I'm not in fact stealing her idea because I'm short on my own (even though I happen to be just that).  It also just happens to be an awesome post, so you should go and read it and all of the fantasticness she writes.
I did not make "resolutions" last year because, in all honesty, I didn't really want to mark the beginning of a new year.  Hence the reason that last year is the only year I didn't write a letter.  (Admittedly, I haven't written that damn letter yet this year either.  But I will.  I will, I tell you!)
When I read Reticula's list, my first thought after "WOW, what a year!" was "I don't think I did anything this year."  I thought about it for a little bit and confirmed my original thought.  Nope.  Nothing interesting.  Nothing worth writing about.  2011 was, admittedly, not the best year ever.  Not the worst, but definitely not the best.  And that's okay.  I still made it to 2012 and, best of all, we are a whole 2 days in and the Mayan prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.  The end of the world would definitely put a damper on the year, wouldn't it?
Anyway, I'm stalling.  You don't REALLY want to hear about my year, right?  You do?  I set all this up and now you're curious, huh?  Damn.  This might be a long post.  You don't have to read the whole thing.  I know I've said this before, but I am just reminded as I sit to write this that, while I am only hitting the big events of the year -- and there have been a few, in spite of my initial impressions -- it is sometimes the small things we don't write about that mean more.  Sometimes, when we look back on our lives or our year or our day, we see the forest and we think "wow, that was a really dense forest" and we are proud of having made it through that time.  We can remember the one time we ran into the coyote and had to run for our lives, or the time we tripped over that root in the particularly rough patch and broke an ankle, or the time we thought we were about to be trampled by the herd of deer, and it turned out they weren't running in our direction at all.  We can also remember the meadow clearings we found, the cool streams, the fellow travelers, and the way the sun felt on your forehead as it blessed you in the early morning hours. 
As I think back on my year, though, I'm not yet able to see the forest.  I still see every fucking tree I passed, every root I tripped over, and every thorn that caught my skin.  I was not trampled by deer, I was not eaten by a coyote, and no ankles were broken.  There were rainbows, and there was sun.  There were cool streams and fellow travelers.  There was dew on the grass in the morning.  In telling the stories that make up the story of my year, it does not seem extraordinary.  From a distance as an outsider, I am sure it is a forest that looks like any other forest.  I am certain it is just as dense and wild and beautiful and frightening as yours.  One day, I am sure it will look like a forest I have exited, even as I am about to enter another.  Right now, I am still in the thicket, and I still remember each of those damn trees. 

Does this metaphor even make sense? 

What I mean to say is this: I cannot really give you a tour of my forest.  I can tell you about the sunlight, and about the nose and tail and ears of the certain animals I saw.  I can paint you pictures of the rain and the meadow and the summer flowers, but I can't bring you in and have you feel what it's like to walk amongst all those damn trees, and that is what makes up the journey.  One day, maybe I'll look back and remember the highlights: the sunlight, the thunderstorms, the snakes, and the flowers.  Or maybe I will always look back on these past 2 years as the year of the trees.  If that is the case, then I am also sure that, one day, I will also be okay with that.

So anyway, here are some of the patches of sunlight, the rainbows, and the flowers from my year.  I may throw in a thunderstorm or two, and maybe even a snake, but probably not.  There is no reason for me to remember those storms and dangers.  They are in the past.  (This is in random order, not chronological, and not in order of importance.  There is no good way to organize this list). 

I was totally almost to this point
with my dissertation.  The end was
a little hairy.
1.) I finished my 4th year of grad school.  Hallelujah.  Enough said.
2.) I stressed over my dissertation.  I set a date for my dissertation defense.  I finished my dissertation.  I tweaked my dissertation.  I rewrote half my dissertation.  I sent it to my advisor, who approved it, and to my committee, who also approved it.  I made my presentation for my dissertation.  A week before the dissertation defense, my committee member informed me she couldn't be there.  I had a nervous breakdown  rescheduled my defense.  A month later, I defended my dissertation.  I actually remember very little about the defense.  They asked me questions.  I answered them.  "Reconstructing Autism: A phenomenological study of the relationship between parents and their children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder" is soon to be published in the no-mans land where all happily passed dissertations end their merry little lives.  Hallelujah.
I totally considered doing this for my
defense.  I didn't.  But I considered it.
3.) In late 2010, I applied to 19 internship sites.  Out of all of these sites, I got 1 interview in early January 2011.  I felt sure I wasn't going to get in.  The 1 interview was at the most competitive site I applied to, and at the site my training director told me I wouldn't get in.  It was "out of my league."  I am now 6 months finished with my internship at said site.  Better yet, I'm pretty sure they'll take me for a post-doc if I apply.  Apparently, it just takes one interview.  Nobody tells me I can't do something.  So there.
4.) I moved across the country for the second time in my life.  Actually, this was the 4th time I've moved in 5 years.  This move was a difficult one for me.  I miss my Ohio friends and the amazing community I had there.  I have yet to find that community here.  I will...but I haven't yet.  I don't like where I'm living and haven't gotten up the energy to do anything about that yet, but I'm going to work that out really soon.  Believe me.  I will.

5.)  I've worked for 6 months at a super intense site.  I managed a caseload of over 100 kids.  I heard stories that would break anyone's heart.  I have been frustrated and angry and sad and proud and overjoyed, and at the end of those 6 months, I am exhausted and feel blessed to call this my "work."  It is not easy, and there are days when it makes me question everything I know about humanity, but it is deeply fulfilling, painful, beautiful, difficult work. 
6.) I took a trip to a strange city, including flying on an airplane and navigating public transportation, by myself.  Don't laugh.  For me, this was a big deal.  I've rarely felt so confident and independent.
7.) Winter quarter 2010, I taught my first undergrad class (abnormal psychology) and discovered I really like teaching.  I also discovered the joys of reading student papers and giving grades.  I developed a new appreciation for teachers.  Through the experience of reading student papers, I learned interesting phrases such as "chugg the watt."  As in something like, "individuals with Schizophrenia often experience hallucinations and chugg the watt."  Confused?  Go hug a teacher.  They deserve it.

8.) I read poetry that I had written out loud in front of people--lots of people--and it was amazing.  It's addicting, almost, and I can't wait for the opportunity to do it again.  I read in front of one person, two people, four people...a whole congregation of people.  It's one of the most exhilarating highs I've experienced.

9.) I participated in several events speaking out against sexual violence.  This was, in a word, terrifying.  This is not something I told anyone, other than the people who would be there, that I was doing.  Nobody--except for those who were there--knows that I did it.  But I did, and I firmly believe that I am a better person for it.   It was one of those experiences that is indescribable.  Powerful, terrifying, knock the breath out of you sort of experience.  There are so many people I hold in my heart from these events--for so many reasons.

10.) I was involved with the most amazing group of youth at church in Ohio and had the opportunity to learn with them and from them.  I watched them grow and change and care about one another and their world.  They allowed me to become part of their lives, and they and the rest of the amazing community at church gave me a gift I still don't know how to ever thank them for.  So many people there--kids and adults alike--hold such a big piece of my heart.  They leave me with so much to be grateful for.

11.)  Most importantly, I think this year was a process of opening my heart.  The business of opening your heart--to life, to love, to others, and to yourself--is hard and painful work.  It is healing work.  It is important work.  It is work I imagine I will spend the rest of my life doing.  I can't imagine doing anything else.
 Open your heart to everyone you meet | chris erdman
Peace. <3