Wednesday, August 18, 2010

italy encapsulated

Sometimes I like to pretend I was an Italian in a past life. I envy them their landscape, their passion, their language, their food and wine... there are so many great things about Italy.

The magic of Italy cannot be truly appreciated unless experienced, though this weekend I saw Eat, Pray, Love and while my review of the film may be the subject of another blog, the part focused in Italy encapsulated as true as can be to the feelings and the spirit that I've carried since my experiences there. I fondly remember the charm of the language, the hustle and bustle of the espresso shop, and the many conversations and laughs shared over delicious pasta and never-ending wine.

If you haven't been, please make sure to go. You won't regret it. My two trips to Italy both experienced travel delays, strikes of every type of transportation, rain, getting lost... and I loved every moment. It's really impossible to describe in words.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the ramblings of an insomniac

Do you ever have trouble sleeping? Isn't it the pits? Laying awake in bed, anxiously waiting for sleep to come upon me, is one of my most dreaded activities.

Every now and then I experience bouts of insomnia. Usually I can take a little something (thanks, CVS-version of a nighttime sleep aid) to help me get over those rough patches. But for whatever reasons, this week the fine ingredient diphenhyramine said 'screw you, you're on your own'. Great.

So this week is kicking my ass. I've not had a decent night's sleep since Saturday night. My main problem has been that I can't get my brain to shut up. And the things that it's thinking about are just ridiculous. As a woman, I have a tendency as I think many of us do, every now and then, to have little moments of insanity. Mine usually rears its ugly head around day 21 and I feel practically righteous in blaming it on hormones.

My insanity usually comes in the form of insecurities though as women I think we all have our special form of insanity, whether it is expressed through anger, depression, guilt... you likely know what I mean. But for me, regardless of whether those insecurities revolve around my physical features, my relationships, or even the things which I typically consider marvelous parts of my personality, they are usually pretty absurd and have no actual basis in reality. Yet they all jostle for space in a brain already overwhelmed by a continuous stream of consciousness.

Now I don't know about you, but my brain seems to almost always be working at 110% capacity on a normal day. I can somehow be thinking (and over-thinking) about things simultaneously. It's really rather exhausting. I think I'd nearly be willing to do anything for an 'off' switch so I could just give myself some peace and quiet every now and then.

This is the blessed, wonderful, adoring thing about sleep. My brain shuts down and I get to rest. For a certain number of hours, I stop over-analyzing conversations, or situations, or actions taken by others. Just peace. So when sleep eludes me, it hurts me. Physically, mentally and emotionally. It feels like hormonal-misha-on-methamphetamines.

As I rolled into Thursday this morning, having gotten about 10 hours of sleep total for the week so far (I do not exaggerate), I was running nearly on E when it came to emotional bandwidth. I was feeling tired, irritable, insecure and anxious. And I didn't even get to blame it on day 21 (which is coming up soon though... thanks body). I started stressing about things I needed to do, longing for people I missed, and attacking all the things that were wrong with me that were the cause of all my woes.

Now I don't have a lot of woes. In a normal state of mind I recognize I'm a pretty lucky girl. I live in a great city and I have great people in my life, both personally and professionally, both near and far. But this morning, I was feeling a bit like Alice. I was itty bitty and the world around me was enormous.

I'm good at faking it, for the most part, and I'm pretty sure anyone I ran into today mostly didn't know the war the was taking place inside my brain. I went about my business, trying to use work to occupy my mind.

I was looking at the account of one of our host families, just doing some 'maintenance' work, if you will, and for whatever reasons, decided to click on the host family letter. We ask our families to write a letter to their perspective au pair; ie who is the family, what do they like to do, what are they expecting from their au pair year... you get the picture. The work I was doing didn't lead me to the host family letter in any shape or form, but for whatever reason I was tempted to click that baby open, and so I did.

Now I won't get into details as to protect the privacy of the family, but essentially only one of the parents was still alive as the other had passed away within this past year. The phenomenal, moving, inspiring thing about it was in how the surviving parent spoke about the experience. They spoke about it with love, with gratitude for the time they were able to spend together, and that the important thing was to remember the greatness of their spouse and to pass that legacy onto the child they had created together.

Granted, I was already on E, but this just emptied me out. I mostly held it together at my desk, and shared the letter with a few colleagues around me, but later I went and locked myself into the bathroom and cried. For someone to experience such a personal tragedy and to come out of it with such a positive attitude is one of the most inspiring and uplifting things in this world. Reading that letter popped the bubble of self-pity that I'd been carrying around with me for the week and I felt the tension physically leave my shoulders.

So hopefully tonight I will sleep in peace, as I have felt a lot of that anxiety flutter away this afternoon, the anxiety that had been rattling in my brain and keeping me awake every night this week. But even if I get another sleepless night, it will be okay. Life is good and I'll make it through.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a local tragedy

When I got off the T last night, the intersection at my stop was partially blocked off with crime scene tape. In order to get to the street where my apartment is located, I had to walk in the direction and directly around the tape. As I crossed the street and got nearer to the scene, I saw that there was a car and a mangled bicycle within the confinements of the tape.

It was clear by the atmosphere of the bystanders and the police officers that this had been a serious accident and the tape and number of officers wasn't for mere protocol. I was tempted to ask an officer what the outcome of the accident had been, but I didn't want to bother anyone nor was I sure that it was any of my business.

Today I couldn't stop thinking about it however. The bicycle in particular was burned into my brain. It had a pinkish-purple frame though it was an adult-sized bike. The tires had been bent and the seat twisted around a bit, but all in all it didn't appear to be that damaged. But I wondered about the cyclist; I assumed it was a she. How was she? Who was she? And if it even mattered, what caused the accident, who was to blame?

I monitored boston.com throughout the day to see if I could find out what the outcome of this accident had been. It wasn't until the later afternoon that I discovered that the rider of the bicycle had been a 24-year-old girl and that extremely unfortunately, she had died as a result of the accident.

Perhaps selfishly, as I think often happens in circumstances like this, I reflected it upon myself and through my perspective. This girl wasn't much younger than I am. She was in an intersection that I literally cross every day that's just a few blocks from my house, probably on her way to work or school or to visit some friends. Similar to endeavors that have also brought me to cross this very intersection.

Sometimes I feel so consumed with life, with worries and frustrations, particularly ones over a future I cannot control, that I forget to stop and think that it could end any moment. This isn't to say that I feel we should be consumed with death and the thought that life could end at any given time; but I do think we should maybe let some of the smaller things go and take time to remember what we're grateful for, who we're grateful for, the things in life that bring joy and happiness and that matter. I often forget to enjoy the life that I'm living right now and to be grateful for every day's experiences.

Perhaps it's clichéd, but clichés exist for a reason, and sometimes it's important to take stock of what matters, and what doesn't, and be thankful.

Monday, August 9, 2010

equality & relationships

Over the last week or so I've been thinking about equality and relationships. First is started off with thoughts about equality for relationships, in light of all this Proposition 8 nonsense (I say nonsense as in such a proposition was even passed), and then due to some events over the weekend, both in the lives of friends as well as my personal life, I started thinking about equality within relationships. But I'll tackle these thoughts one at a time.

Equality for Relationships


For those of you that have either a) been living under a rock or b) are non-Americans and rightly so don't follow every news shenanigan of ours (a lot of it is true shenanigans, or just mere depressing), the citizens of California, or at least 52% of the voting population in California, elected to pass Prop 8. I'll let Wikipedia sum it up for me nicely:

Proposition 8 (or the California Marriage Protection Act) was a ballot proposition and constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008, state elections. The measure added a new provision, Section 7.5 of the Declaration of Rights, to the California Constitution, which provides that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The 'marriage protection' act? Oh barf. What are we protecting marriage from? Couples who love each other and want to get married? Oh the atrocity, the horror, the... absolute ridiculousness. Probably the only thing they could rightly be protected from would be America's 50% divorce rate. But that's another story.

Anyway, last week Prop 8 after a few different debacles was brought up to District Court in which it was found to be unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which states in part that the government must respect all legal rights due to each of us according to the law and also, under equal protection, that no state can deny any person equal protection due to them under the law. Yeah, remember that part of Government 101 where we heard somewhere about how 'all men are created equal'? Right. Here's looking at you.

So anyway, Prop 8 has been overturned in District Court, which is a victory but really just one step in the right direction - ultimately it is predicted that this case will rise to the Supreme Court, and it is also expected that the Supreme Court will hear the case. Whatever they decide, it will be a landmark decision (think Roe v. Wade, Brown v. the Board of Education, you get the idea).

My favorite part of all this is listening to the arguments against gay marriage. One argument I heard was that it affects the sanctity of marriage. First, I'd like to reference back to the 50% divorce rate. Just saying. Second, how does anyone else's marriage affect your marriage? Maybe if everyone started paying more attention to their own marriages, we wouldn't have such a high divorce rate.

Second, there's the argument about what religion says marriage is, and so maybe it's okay to call gay marriage a 'civil union' but not marriage, oh no, heaven forbid we let them call it marriage. But remember that other part of the Constitution that says something about the separation of church and state? It really was more than a tiny detail. It was kind of a big part.

For conservatives to argue that marriage is a protected act of God - what about all those marriages born by atheists, or agnostics, or any other religion that doesn't recognize the same God? We obviously don't all believe the same thing, but we wouldn't find it acceptable to stick our nose in those marriages or make them be called 'civil unions' - well unless they were also of the same sex.

However, my favorite argument is the one that says, 'how will this affect the children of gays and lesbians'? There is no research (or any research that could hold its water, anyway) that suggests children fare worse, or are at a disadvantage, by being raised by a gay or lesbian couple. Have any of these Prop 8 supporters bothered asking the child of a gay or lesbian couple how they feel about their parents being allowed to marry?

Well no one has asked me. I was raised lovingly, happily, superbly, by two lesbians. I was given so much love, support, encouragement, even the discipline and structure I needed to excel in school and life in general. So please, Prop 8 supports, don't you dare speak on my behalf. I'll be the first one to stand up at the wedding of my parents, or my gay and lesbian friends' weddings, and declare my support.

Lastly, for those Prop 8 supports, did you go knocking on anyone's door and ask permission to marry your spouse? No. So don't ask it of others, just mind your own damn business and let equality exist for all couples.

Friday, August 6, 2010

holler for a... blogger?

I’ve entered that blogging slump again, in where it has been (insert shameful amount of time) since I’ve written anything. I love writing and always wish I could (would) do more of it. I can. So why don’t I?

My biggest hang-up is myself; typically I say ‘self, you don’t have anything interesting to write about’. But that can’t possibly be true. In the month of July alone I was fortunate enough to travel to Japan and visit Jef, as well as to visit Seattle and be in the wedding of one of my dearest and oldest friends Kara. That’s plenty blog-worthy!

Or what about the news? With Proposition 8 being overturned (hollaaaa'), I’ve got plenty of opinions to write out. And that’s just one example.

Additionally, I live in Boston. For anyone who has lived/visited here knows there are plenty of shenanigans occurring on a daily basis. Encounters with DJ Night Train or the Comm Ave Runner are just two examples. Riding the T everyday typically provides an outlet for some story of hilarity/annoyance/astonishment.

And look, I have 15 followers! When did that happen? Thanks for subscribing to my blog; sorry I’ve been such a boring blogger. I’ll be better! More coming this weekend.

Friday, May 14, 2010

a can-do attitude

This season I have been a regular watcher of The Biggest Loser and it's hugely inspiring. Week by week these people reclaim control of their lives through healthy eating, exercise and a mental adjustment of their self-esteem and attitude.

While I was watching the other week, they were showing clips from the beginning of the season. The mom and daughter of the pink team were sitting together, before they started at the ranch, and the daughter who was about 200lbs over weight says to her mom, "What of we go in there and I can't do it?" and her mom replies, "But what if you can?"

Such a simple statement but so profound. I know I limit myself in many ambitions by thinking "What if I don't succeed/what if I don't overcome/what if I can't..." But what if I can? What if I do? It's all about a mind shift.

Running is still a huge challenge for me but it's taught (and is still teaching) me that a lot of life's challenges are mental. I ran this morning the furthest distance I have in a while without needing to walk, but it was a huge mental challenge the entire way. My mind kept saying "You're tired, you should walk, you've gone far enough" but when I focused on what my body was saying, it was saying "I can, I can, just keep going!" I fought the mind game the entire way but pushed myself further than I thought I would be able to. And in hindsight, I know I could have gone even further.

So I'm going to make a real effort to have a can-do attitude in my day-to-day life, and not just with running, but with all things. Because hey, what if I can and what if I DO?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

writers block

I absolutely love writing. It was the reason I first started blogging nearly 5 years ago on MySpace. You may have heard of MySpace once upon a time.

I used to blog about my school adventures, my overseas adventures, my grad school woes... In grad school my blog was my therapy, Lord knows I couldn't afford real therapy, it is the student curse to be perpetually broke. And therapy was needed - I wrote so much in the way of papers, presentations and dissertations that I needed an outlet.

Anyway, I'm digressing. Not that I had a point, really. But I'm frustrated over lack of topics to write about. I can't think of anything to write that is interesting, or not too personal, or that forms into clear thoughts. So if you have a suggestion, I'm open to it.