May 2008 Archives

Existential cat

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This is absolutely brilliant:


Via Cute Overload.

I finally learned to spell calendar

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I've been up to some fantastic nerdy things lately, and I plan to be up to even nerdier (and more fantastic) ones soon.

It doesn't feel like work, which makes it even more fun. This is what I've been waiting months for, so I'm thrilled to finally get to it. I'll explain all this in more detail soon.

I have a huge backlog of things I wanted to post, and I think that's part of what keeps me from posting when I have something random or inane to say. Well no more of that.

To begin with, I finally discovered the wonder that is Google Calendar. Wow. Wow wow wow. If you have not made yourself a Google calendar, go do it now. You will never regret it.

To me, calendars were mostly pretty pictures that I hung on my wall, occasionally changing the picture a month or two after it became outdated. I bought Eric a "Gatti di Roma" calendar in Italy last summer, and I didn't realize it had days of the week until, well, yesterday.

Usually when I have things to remember, I write myself notes in the sketch pad I carry around. I put as much information as I have and write additional details in increasingly tiny letters all over the place. There is absolutely no organizational system prevailing, in that I will flip to the first page which in that instant seems relevant (for example I was drawing an octopus, so I write in a friend's karaoke birthday party because, yknow, Hentai?). If I happen to flip through every page of my sketchbook, I will come across these appointments, but umm, it's not really reliable.

As such, I tend to have massive hovering anxiety because I know there's something I'm supposed to be doing, but I'm not sure what, or where, or when. I forget about lectures I desperately wanted to attend, I am late for meetings, I blow off plans etc. Not cool, and it makes me even more anxious because I'm afraid I'll do it again.

I always tell Eric I can't go out because I am "busy" in that amorphous, confused sense, but then when I try to figure out what I have to do, I realize I am actually on top of things and could be out sipping whiskey or seeing friends.

Ha! No more. As I was juggling dates and getting increasingly worried this weekend, it finally dawned on me that there had to be some organizational tool to help. I looked no further than the top of my email page to see the word "Calendar" and all my problems were solved.

I put in all my upcoming commitments, lectures, travel plans, and everything I could think of, setting up email reminders for the really important ones. I merged my calendar with Eric's, so that I would know when he was planning to be out of town, when he has visitors, appointments etc. It's brilliant. I actually know when we are available and can make additional plans accordingly! Why it took me until I was 26 to do this, I cannot begin to fathom, but I do suspect it had something to do with my chronic inability to spell "calendar" and my frequent insecurity in pronouncing "schedule" (I'm only half-kidding).

With all that floating stress alleviated, I had time to peruse the rest of my summer, where I realized that I will have about two days between Eric's big trip and mine, as well as only four days between when I return home* and when our lease ends. Awesome. The upside is that if I hadn't realized that, I would probably return home, look at the date and freak out with only four days to find a new apartment, pack and move all our belongings. Silver linings, everywhere.

In case I haven't written it enough in this entry, calendar calendar CALENDAR. Heee.

* - I haven't talked about where I'm going this summer yet, and it's super, SUPER exciting. We'll talk about it soon.

Inner and outer selves

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When I was an undergrad, a friend of mine wrote a really beautiful story about a relationship that had gone sour and its aftermath. It was complex and insightful well beyond either of our years, but when I read it I couldn't help pointing out two issues I had with it. The first was that it inadvertently repeated a particularly memorable scene fromAnnie Hall, which he had never seen (the spider in the bathroom, for those who have).

The second was that during this scene, the man was looking around the woman's apartment and observed photos of her doing different things: Susan as a dancer, Susan in front of a castle in Europe, Susan smiling with a dog (or similar - the actual activities were much more clever). They were blown up and framed, hanging on her walls, and I scoffed "No way, a woman would never do that."

My friend explained that this character derived her sense of self from an exterior place, relying on other people's perceptions of her to understand who she is and where she's coming from, rather than regarding herself from somewhere more intrinsic. We continued talking about the nature of identity and the mechanics of showing that in a story, and I've thought of that time often.

In those days, I thought it inconceivable to need photos of oneself to remember who we are. Aren't souvenirs, books, and memories enough to bring us back to our travels and experiences? We wouldn't populate our space with images, rather objects or an overall sense of personal aesthetic, and we especially wouldn't use ourselves as decor.

Five or six years later, I find myself immersed in the phenomena of blogging and social networking, where I have profiles and images of myself and my hobbies scattered on dozens of websites. When I am feeling lost or not quite myself, I look through my blog posts or read my own profile as a reminder of who I am and what I'm about. Realizing that I've basically created a public persona, I am in fact trying to be the person I say I am, and that's a very weird basis for one's identity.

Back in 1959, sociologist Erving Goffman wrote The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, a fascinating investigation into social identity and sense of self which I feel is more relevant now than ever. His ideas started with the concept of a mask that we all wear out in public, the ways we choose to present our selves to others through dress, attitude, behavior, diction etc (pretty straightforward). He continued to discuss what happens when people interact with this posited self, either rejecting or affirming the reality we've construed about ourselves. Some people respond by changing, trying to please others more by sacrificing their own urges and desires, to be more like what they think they should; others beat themselves up for being misfits, while still others feel a deep sense of satisfaction for maintaining their integrity of character even if society doesn't agree with their choices.

These are all very real issues that people deal with every day of their lives, and not just as teenagers trying to sort out identity. We look at our possessions, status, friends, activities, travel, etc as symbols of what we've accomplished and who we are, and whether consciously or not, people think of themselves as "a person who summers on the Cape" or "a person who obsessively watches Lost." We label our political affiliations, and I do believe make behavioral decisions accordingly ( "I am a liberal, I should be open-minded and socially conscious about this.."). In a neat way, I think we fulfill the utilitarian tenet "We become what we do."

In this way, we should be comfortable with who we are, all the time, and I think many people are. I think people can confidently say they work a decent job, pay taxes, own a home, raise kids as best they can, have friends, drive a fuel-efficient car, and so on, and therefore that they're basically good people living nice lives.

I wouldn't disagree with them either.

But there is still pervasive unhappiness and negativity just under the surface of a lot of people's veneers. Maybe it is the guilt of knowing there are people so much worse off all over the world. Maybe it is the knowledge of private shortcomings, secret prejudices and resentments which sully our outward appearance of being egalitarian and kind. Maybe it is the fear that we can do everything right and still come out wrong in the world.

Nietzsche (and yes, I'm sorry, I went there, but I won't linger) discussed the concept of bad faith, an inherent knowledge that the way we are behaving does not sit well with the things we believe. Even if we are successful, validated, even celebrated by the society in which we live, we can still know something is wrong with our lives, ourselves, the interests we promote, or the contributions we are making. We have pangs of conscience which may be completely counterintuitive, but there is always that voice poking holes in the blissful ignorance of contentment.

I generally believe that voice is my true self. I think it is the one who knows that even if I did something very very well, it wasn't to my full potential. That voice was the one who planted the seeds of doubt in relationships, misgivings about trust, and who has always pushed me not to aspire to be normal.

To this day, I read a lot about negative self-talk and self-esteem issues because there is a large and profitable industry which wants me to feel good (and then spend money). I do believe in the power of positive thinking, but I think the basis for this thought is more spiritual than factual: I choose to have faith in that which is good and benevolent in the universe. I may be wrong, but it has been my choice to exist in a universe thus aligned.

Where this goes full-circle is that, if I have made these choices about myself and the universe, and I act every day as if they are true, then perhaps it is possible to really actualize Mahatma Gandhi's beautiful sentiment, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

I'm aware of the tautology of such an argument, but in whatever it is that passes for logic in my brain, it makes perfect sense.

As I look at photos of myself (Vicki in Costa Rica, Vicki smiling with a cat, Vicki on a bridge in Italy), and they increasingly or decreasingly resemble the person I am on the inside, it forces me to question where I am and what I'm doing, to challenge the notions of my identity which I fixed several years ago while filling out my first online profiles or introducing myself to friends and colleagues. Do the words I've ascribed to my identity in any way reflect what my life is really about, or are they easy signposts of recognition for like-minded people?

My suspicion, as cynical and unkind as it may be, is that most of the people I know and care about operate on a completely different plane of existence than I do, and even if their private moments are spent on a similar terrain, it's unlikely that we'll ever talk about it or truly connect the realities we individually inhabit. And I guess that has to be okay. I do have a few very special individuals in my life with whom I can discuss the things that truly matter to me, and I think the rest are okay with smiling photos on vacation or a snapshot of a painting I'm working on.

In the end, it is our own existences alone which define who we are and what we do, and while we may get tied up with family, friends, society, and the logistics of buying stamps, when we close our eyes at night and drift into dreams, our bodies and minds know who we really are.

Despite all the pictures and words to the contrary, there are no secrets within ourselves.

These may all be entirely self-evident and obvious thoughts that I've expressed, but I've tried saying them a lot recently in conversation, and it's very rare that I get all the way through my thoughts without getting interrupted. Please forgive the subjectivity within me which needed to say it all at once.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming soon.


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(Fear of clowns)

Usually my anxiety dreams involve teeth. Either that my teeth are breaking or I have to chew on something horrible like seashells or pieces of glass.

I'm supposed to get up in 3 hours to go to a lecture in Manhattan, and I can't sleep because every time I drift off, I wake up startled with vivid, horrible dreams of clowns. They're not scary exaggerated clowns (a low-key clown - there's an oxymoron), but in my dreams they refuse to drop the clown shtick.

I say things to them like "Come on, I know you're just a guy from Queens, can you please quit the falsetto and say something normal?" And the clown is like "Woohoohooheee I don't know what you're taaaaaaalking about!!!" And so on. It's terrifying.

About a half hour ago, Eric woke up and realized I wasn't next to him. He called my name, and the only think I could think to reply was "Umm, can't sleep. Clowns will eat me." Weirdly, he understood.

As an aside, or rather a validation to my irrational fears, all the things I've been anxious about are now coming true, and I'm going to have a lot of unpleasantness to deal with tomorrow. Why I had to get on the computer and confirm all these fears, I can't say, but now it's going to be even harder going back to sleep. Stupid clowns.


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The greatest compliment anyone ever pays me is "You're just like your mother." This is because I know my mother is the most beautiful woman in the world.

My mom has always been the greatest inspiration for the kind of person I want to be. She has a fantastic wit and is one of the funniest people I've ever met. She is brilliant and really embodies the essence of being a lifelong learner (seriously, if you think I'm a nerd, you should check out her bookshelves sometime).

My mother is adventurous and daring. She is brave and constantly trying new things. While she has always been the voice of reason for me, she is also the voice of courage, pushing me to do things I never thought I could.

My mom is nurturing in every sense of the word: she is a fantastic cook and a world-class gardener, and she tends to the spirit of everyone she knows. She is the kindest human being I've ever met, with unparalleled warmth and concern. She is the only person I know who demonstrates genuine benevolence toward the human race as a whole and will always go out of her way to treat people well.

A lot of parents guide their children, but my mother really got us. From the time we were small, my mother knew my brother was going to be a sea captain and I would be an artist. Being so understood, in all the decisions I've made and the concerns we've mulled over, has made a world of difference. It's no exaggeration to say I would not be a painter if it were not for my mother.

My mom taught me that a person's true beauty is the warmth of their soul. My mom is not just a mom, but my very best and dearest friend. Being with her is like facing into the sun and basking in its radiant energy.

My mom is also the biggest goofball I know, and I've spent years laughing until my sides hurt with our silly jokes and running gags. I can't look at the word "miniseries" without bursting out loud laughing, and whenever I look at red and blue hot and cold water taps, my eyes well up in fondness (I'll explain those sometime). My mother never made my brother or I feel self-conscious or embarrassed of who we were. She is a fiercely loyal confidant, someone I can truly trust, and someone without whom my life would be a much grayer and scarier place.

I could go on and on. If you know me personally, then you probably already know my mom is my hero, and I've probably talked your ear off about her virtues and amazingness. I try to tell her as often as I can just how damn awesome I think she is, but just in case I haven't said it enough, I must say Mom, I love you!!!

Happy Mother's Day!

31 Years

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Today my parents have been married for 31 years.

Perhaps more remarkably, I think they're more in love now than ever.

My parents' relationship has always been an inspiration to me. They are best friends, companions, and true partners in life. They have all kinds of adventures together and genuine warmth and affection in everything they do.

Forgive me for dropping in a random quote, but I think it applies:

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction. - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Happy anniversary Mom & Dad!

Look what I made!

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For my final project & paper for my chemistry class, I researched and experimented with natural dyeing this weekend.

I know that as an artist, I should probably get over this whole "OMG I made something!" sensation, but it is a unique thrill to look at these yarns that I dyed myself in my kitchen.

I wrote all about the project, with notes on the process, here on my knitting blog, if you are interested.

(This could definitely become habit-forming).

Help my dad get out of lock-up!

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While I finish the last of my work for this semester (yikes), I will redirect you to a charity event.

Some of you know my father. He is a physical therapist and generally a really spectacular guy.

On Tuesday, May 6, he is getting locked up as part of the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Belmar LockUp 2008 - to help "Jerry's Kids ®."

To get out of jail, he must raise donations, and he needs your help!

(Do you want to keep this man in prison??)

You can read all about muscular dystrophy and the work the MDA does on their website.

To help my dad get out of jail, you can go directly to his event page, where you can make a tax-deductible contribution by credit card.

His deadline to raise bail is Monday, May 5, so please do consider giving whatever you are able.

Once again, the link to donate is here.

Thanks so much for your generosity and concern!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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