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Posts Tagged ‘life’

December 16 – Friendship How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

Gradual…  I think about my friends Tom and Eric and Jodut, and how they have influenced how I think about teaching, studying, being political in the world, taking care of my self…

I’ve grown closer to my friend Nick this way. For some reason, we hung out this year more than we have, and he went through some tough times that encouraged many deep conversations. He holds me accountable to my heart, and to living authentically.

Before the wedding, my friend Amy was a dream– I mean, she is always a dream, a gift, an inspiration, but particularly in the year before the wedding: she was everything to me. I am amazed at the grace, smarts, kindness, and humor that she’s able to bring to every conversation.

My friendship with Matt has deepened, of course. We see each other all day most days, and he influences how I teach, how I interact with students and colleagues, how I want to live my life… and all the little living details: cooking, reading, day-dreaming.

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Listing

I saw this list on Apartment Therapy– it’s one woman’s “Top 100” of life skills we all ought have.  I like it.  I’m surprised both by what I know how to do (make my case in writing, feel confident naked, interview for a job, make a new friend) and by what I don’t (drive a stick, express condolences, use a fire extinguisher, ask for a raise). Here are the top ten from Mighty Girl’s Top 100 Skills Everyone Should Master:

1. Set goals
2. Keep a plant alive
3. Care for a baby
4. CPR
5. Feel confident naked
6. Interview for a job
7. Bake a birthday cake
8. Use a fire extinguisher
9. Use a compass
10. Express condolences

One slight problem I have with it is that the list is very middle class-y— that is, it presupposes that these are life skills you need if you are already comfortable finanically and socially.  I’m thinking of Ruby Payne’s ground-breaking (for me) book, _A Framework for Understanding Poverty_, precisely.  Payne’s book totally exploded and rebuilt the way I teach, think about fundraising and charity, and see class (and class privilege.)

But– all of that said, I like Mighty Girl’s Top 100 because it’s cool to think about simple things that I haven’t yet learned, but could.

I feel particularly bad about No. 10.  I feel things, I love people, I think I’m a decent writer…but when someone experiences a great loss, I’m mute. It’s awful. I let days and then months and then years go by, thinking of the person, framing things I’d like to say, or wish to convey in my head, and do nothing.  It’s really a horrible failing, because to me it means that I’m ignoring people dear to me, when they might need affirmation most.

I’m working on it.  Two summers ago, my Aunt Ruth was killed by a falling rock. She had been hiking with friends. She was my Dad’s beloved older sister, and a glamourous intellectual figure in my young Southern Illinois childhood. Like: she had a degree in anthropology and traveled to Taiwan with her husband. Her daughters studied ballet and piano. And my Dad had nothing but glowing stories of her: she introduced him to everything fair and good.

I don’t really know my Uncle Barry, her husband. I think he and my Dad didn’t get along. And my family didn’t go to lots of extended family trips and things like that, so I didn’t see Ruth’s family, or those cousins. Maybe twice in my entire childhood. Barry, maybe once.  Facebook has meant that I am now in touch with my cousins, and that’s wonderful.  But when Ruth died, I had all of these feelings, and desires– I wanted to say something to my Dad, and my Grammy, and perhaps send a note to my two cousins, and Barry.  And I did, said, nothing.  It was overwhelming, to pare down the difference between what I wanted to say, and what ought to be said, and what one writes and sends off into the post…  Terrible.

Last week, I got a congratulatory wedding card, with gift, from Barry.  Mind you: I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to the man– I have one memory of him running on a beach from childhood, and the unfounded sensation that my own Dad didn’t get along with him. That’s all. But I had sent him a wedding invitation because if I didn’t, he’d be the only person in my whole family not to get one. And that just seemed wrong. Also, if Ruth were alive, I’d have of course sent one. So I sent one.

His note was late, and he wrote, “I’m sorry this is late. Your Aunt Ruth would never have let that happen.”

My eyes promptly filled up with tears. What a perfect, sad, and good thing to say.

I wrote him a proper note in the thank you note. I told him how sorry I am that Aunt Ruth is gone, and described what they as a couple (an idea of a smart couple traveling the world) meant to me as a child, and that I had thought of him frequently– and that if he ever came to our city, he should let me know, because I’d like to see him in person.

Anyway. I felt anxious when I mailed the note– flurries of “it’s too much!” and “it’s not enough!” and “why even try to say these things?!” for a full 24 hours.  I eventually told myself, “You had to write something. We’re only human. Better to try and write something clunky, and convey it awkwardly, than ignore these things.”

Wow: that’s a lot of unpacking from the original list post. Maybe another reason I like the list is because it reminds me that many of us are still not good at everything.

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Those of you who know me in real life know that I’ve been waiting (and trying, and making calls, and navigating the world of financial aid) for a portion of my student loans to come through for this year.

Long story short: in August, right around the time of the national financial crisis, I discovered that a portion of my (expected) loans for this year of grad school wouldn’t be coming through.  I tried asking various family members, who either wouldn’t or couldn’t act as co-signers for a new loan, and went to my family’s bank in my hometown.  All of this asking, and paperwork, and applications, and many, many calls to the student loan group took months.  My school hasn’t been very forthcoming with advice, and so I’ve been navigating on my own, and anxious throughout.

It looks like an end might finally be in sight–the problem might be solved in a week or so. In the last week, though, my anxiety has really peaked.  I haven’t slept through the night since before Christmas, and throughout the day a generalized sense of worry or dread infuses my work and study.  Therapy helps, and anti-anxiety prescriptions, and prayer.  I e-mailed my nun (my spiritual director, a Dominican sister), and she suggested I e-mail the Motherhouse (the Dominican convent) to share my story and prayer request with all the sisters.  I have, and have received encouraging e-mails back from some of them.

I’ve also shared my predicament with the campus student Senate, of which I’m a part, and have learned that plenty of other students are in the same situation– the banks and loan companies pulled back in the fall, leaving some of us stranded.  Foreign students especially are in the lurch, needing American co-signers, which is impossible for some of them. During the portion of Senate attended by all members, including faculty and staff, I shared my experience, and an older professor stood up and told the group that if he had a student in my position, he personally would act as co-signer to assure that she could remain in her studies.  The liaison from the President’s office, of course, immediately spoke up to assure the group that this could not be an official policy, but the professor went on to say that this is a human problem, and that if they valued the community of students, it would need a human solution.  I appreciated very much feeling supported and empathized with, even in that formal setting.

I have learned a great deal.  I have become adept and confident about talking to banks and learning the ins and outs of student loans.  I am no longer nervous to ask lots of questions, and call back again and again.  I have learned how to ask for help and weigh options.

Until I hear back, until I know that the loan will come through and I can continue my studies this semester, I appreciate all prayers and good thoughts.  Both for the loan itself, and also for the return of a peaceful mind.

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pranachhanda

nandalal-bose-sati

“In all forms, ordinary or extraordinary,

I seek that life rhythm (pranachhanda) of the reality

whose vitality has generated the whole world and all forms,

actual and imaginary,

and pulsates within them.”

–Nandalal Bose, 1944

 

I think of Grace, I think of a “life force,” and I think of the way St. Catherine of Siena described God– God and God’s grace are the water in which we swim; we may not realize it, we may look for it, but we are _in_ it as it flows through our gills and as we move through it and it through us.

I’m also struck by the fact that Bose wrote those words in 1944, at a time when the West was at war, and also… his words seem so fresh and contemporary. I have access to them, for example, through yoga and uplifting items available at a nice bookstore, for example.  But he wrote them in 1944– nothing else about that year makes me think about ideas like this.

And, I love that word “pulsates.”  Yes.

 

(I saw an installation of his at the Philadelphia Art Museum this past summer.)

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What an amazing idea: with every hour, as the sun shines through a different series of holes, a new poem is revealed in shadow on the ground beneath.

http://www.re-nest.com/re-nest/artwork/one-day-poem-pavilion-by-jiyeon-songa-solar-projector-071807

How ephemeral.  I don’t know if I’d like it– I’d want to keep every one.  I’d be furiously scribbling, keeping track, writing them all down… and miss the slow movement passing… (miss the passing of life?)  I notice that one of the poems reads, “Life/Speeds/By/Like/A Dream.”  In this case, the poems dream by hourly.

(Via Apartment Therapy’s Re-Nest)

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