Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bowling Green Files

I'm alone in Bowling Green.

I'm listening to Radiohead. It's tempting when idealizing my life to myself to remember that only a few hours ago I was sitting at a window booth at Noshville with two beautiful, intelligent women and laughing while eating delicious eggs.

It's tempting to idealize myself like that because five minutes ago, while I was unpacking my bathroom stuff, I was startled by the presence of a giant grasshopper in my 60s-era mint bathtub. And with all the warmth of my Christmas heart, I turned around, opened the right hand door of the cabinet below the sink, lifted out the green foil canister of Comet, turned back to the bathtub and dumped a pile of it onto the grasshopper. Then I turned the faucet on and lifted the metal tab for the shower nozzle.

Five minutes ago, that is, I killed a grasshopper--the only discernible presence of life in my quiet, woodsy cottage.

At least I wasn't laughing when I did it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

I'm sitting in the basement of a McHouse in Brentwood/Franklin, where Shelby lives now. We're listening to Griffin House and I was looking up possible Spring semester classes in the kitchen while she made pico.

There are so many good memories with this girl. She's the best possible sort of person to have in your life. She makes the bad times good and the good times better. If someone tried to be her best friend in my place, I wouldn't let her go without a fight. And I would win.

It's cold down here and the whole day is ahead of us. In our pajamas, it feels like anything is possible. I wish we could just do something fun and self-indulgent, like the old days. There were actually days when we felt like we could spend as much money and time as we wanted on things that didn't matter at all. But we'll go our separate ways in a few hours so that we can work out and get our stuff done. Self-indulgence has to wait. I guess that's what they call self-restraint.

I will go to Target to look for Scrabble. Because I don't want to go to my family without having something like that to take with me. And other things I need are probably there, too. I guess some people woke up really early to hit the stores today, right? I was sleeping, so I don't know about that.

Thanksgivings

I guess the family Thanksgiving is over for awhile.

Over until I have my own family. I don't even remember the last Thanksgiving with my parents--it could only have been two years ago or three at most. It was the same as every family Thanksgiving, I know that much.

Thanksgiving with friends is different than with family--at family holidays there's always tons of people that are older and more gluttonous than me, trying to convince me to eat twice my weight in cranberry melange or stuffing, and doing a pretty good job. Maybe that's not the best thing in the world, to have that kind of peer pressure...but it's nice to have someone talk you out of your ruts every so often.

Thanksgiving with friends also lacks the family tradition of going to the movies to see the latest holiday blockbuster. We had a great run of movies during the late 90s and early 2000s when Tom Hanks seemed to have a good movie come out every Thanksgiving.

But with all the changes, I guess I'm still thankful to have friends at all. To have a place to eat, and to have the food be so delicious. I'm heading to bed and my stomach is full.

This year I'm thankful for:

-Going back to school
-The bed my mom gave me a few years ago that is so wonderful
-Gym workouts that relax my soul
-The best friend in the world
-Eggs (easy to cook and enjoy)
-People who are there for me when I need them
-Tears, how they cleanse
-Dark blue jeans & UGG boots to keeps my feets warm
-Blonde highlights
-Gigi's cupcakes
-Taking chances (even if they don't work out)
-Hope
-Privacy
-Old friends who keep me sane via telephone
-Lindt chocolate 70% Cacao bar
-Chocolate soy milk
-Oil of Olay sensitive skin moisturizer
-Soft brown towels that I almost didn't buy
-Always having enough food
-Morning Joe news EVERY weekday morning
-The old Hillsong albums
-Sunny days (already hard to remember what that feels like)
-That summer mortgage job
-The fact that my retainers still fit

There's really so much more. So much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Rambling Set of Thoughts


If I could show this world to my unborn children, I would show them the way the plaster of one of the buildings on campus curves into an arch with sunken light fixtures that are always on, even in the middle of the afternoon. The way sidewalks are worn and greasy in the middle along the main pathways but clean and fresh in the more inconvenient places. Those clean and fresh patches of cement, usually bordered by grass or a brick wall, are my favorite places to sit and lean my face into the sun.

Today the blue sky is crisp and alive, with moving clouds that are whiter than any cotton sheet I've ever seen. They're full of light, dragging across the sky above me.

This is the most peaceful place--Bowling Green. If nothing had a sound, Bowling Green would be full of it, because nothing seems to be the only thing around for miles. I ran down my street for nearly a mile into the downtown redevelopment district and less than ten cars passed me on that long stretch. The edges of the streets are piled with quiet, orange leaves and the barren branches of strange bushes poke straight into the air like some sort of knifey monster (I'm thinking Edward Scissorhands-ish) holding his knifey hands straight into the air.

I ran for an hour and a half and then sat on the grey steps outside Snell Hall, watching and old man with a bright yellow bag walk slowly to the end of the street. Old people make me wonder. About myself--about my ability to live a moderately paced, practical lifestyle. Even in the same breath as watching him and wondering about my future, I thought about how much I'd like to be wearing a really awesome new outfit. There's very little hope for people like me to convert to moderation. But that's not today's problem.

Today is the day before Thanksgiving. I still don't have a plan for what I'm bringing to Thanksgiving dinner with T&C and Co. Something vegan would require me to buy about $50 in ingredients. And it would require me to cook. Neither sound very appealing right now as I'm still sitting in my running clothes, covered in stank and wanting to already be with my friends in Nashville. Something not vegan wouldn't be organic or otherworldly enough for this crowd who make all of their own foods using types of flour that sound like something out of a Chaucer story.

I wish that it weren't Thanksgiving. That we could still get together and eat, but that it wouldn't be food for a 1700s American farm theme. I've always considered turkey to be one of the foulest foods ever. I've eaten it about 25 times in my life and don't remember even once thinking, "Mmmm, I wish I could have this more often."

But yams with brown sugar and marshmallows? That's a different story. I could eat that every day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rest for My Soul

I read a self-help book yesterday.
A workbook, actually.
I used to be into self-help hardcore, because I believed that we can shape our future selves by learning new habits and ways of handling our problems. That was before I was a Christian. A few years into being a Christian, I stopped thinking that I had any problems. Chalk a bad day up to an attack from the enemy and chalk a bad pattern of behavior up to generational curses, you know.

These last five months have been excruciating. That's not what you want to hear, but if you've read this blog any time since July, you're probably standing over your laptop with a First Aid kit every time you click on this site, wondering if I'm surviving myself or not. But most of the people that see me on a regular basis don't even know how bad I'm doing, or how good that bad is for me. And there are some things that are too hard to talk about. Some feelings that are beyond expression.

What I know about these last five months:

I know that things got harder instead of easier.
That instead of finding the pressure exciting, I found it destructive.
Instead of making measured attempts to solve the challenges, I froze in place.

And I also know that:
I would rather not have to find a cure for this.
I would rather not have to answer questions in an 8"x11.5" workbook.
I would rather not face any of it--

death
grief
anger
sadness
loneliness
frustration
disappointment
despair
silence

My twenties could be retold as a story in which a girl lives very carefully in order to avoid all of those things. If you're always going, always growing, always developing ... it's hard to imagine what any of those things feel like. It's hard to imagine what any of those things can do to a person's hope and joy.

And yet.
I can imagine it now.

Yesterday, because of God answering my prayers, and not because of anything else in this world, the intensity of what I've been going through broke. Relief flooded me and I was reminded inside of the verse, "Come to me all who labor or are heavy laden and I will give you rest for your souls," and I was happy that it was really true.

Tomorrow is another day, full of its own emotions. But for today, I'm free.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Almost Done

When the pressure tightens around you, it can be tempting to disengage. I'm absolutely certain that, here at the end of the semester, my hard work is imperative, now more than ever.

A long conversation with a professor yesterday reminded me that I am exactly where I belong. Only four weeks left ± a week of finals.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Leniency

Last night, as if I needed proof, I proved that I can pull no rabbits out of hats. I waited outside my prof's office after lunch to turn my paper in late because I missed his morning class (a first for everything) and seeing him I smiled and told him what my deal was. The first thing I said was, "I know your policy; I'm just hoping you'll accept it at all."

He said, it's near enough to class to be counted on time (his policy is that it has to be turned in during class to be on time). He was good to me. I don't deserve mercy or leniency.

I am grateful.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

If I Can Hold Out a Little Longer

I keep saying I wish I could stop time. But now I want time to speed up.

It's almost the end of the semester.

Holiday travel.
Family.
Joy.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Long Fall

The fall, although beautiful, brings with it a deafening and murky silence. I wonder about the information I'm learning. I walk from class to class out of habit rather then with a confident sense of purpose.

To be honest, a lot of my days feel this way.

Confusing.
Long.
Exhausting.


In a little snickerdoodle of goodness that brightened my week, today my abstract algebra professor asked me about my future plans. And he admitted that I remind him of the European women he met when he did his graduate work overseas. He said that they never felt they had to compromise or make choices between being coquettish and being taken seriously in the math department. He is recommending that I do my graduate work in Barcelona, Paris or England, and there are a lot of reasons why that might be a good idea. He's already started the process of directing me to one of those places.

Of course, on a murky, quiet day in fall, I'm grateful to feel like the future is out there somewhere, unlocking the door for me and making tea.

Out the window is another 7:30 p.m. fall evening, however. It is a little more immediate, unfortunately, and it offers me no tea.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Light Reflection

Outside my window I notice that the light reflects off of the grass and the beige paint, and that it seems to be emanating from the sky itself. The warmth of it is like a power that bounces off and bursts forth, and I'm going to sit outside, under the sky, where the warmth can cover me and soothe my nerves.

This light is beautiful.
The green of the grass is bright and alive, and the slender blades tremble in the breeze.

The only visitors along the street are the passing shadows of mailboxes and stop signs; all is quiet and waiting.

A tiny spider landed gently on the pavement, floating downward on his silken web from his tree perch to the world below, blown loose by a sudden gust of wind.

Sunny Morning Though Quiet, Quiet Though

This morning is quiet and sunny. There is a light cawing and warbling of birds, a soft sweeping of an old man raking leaves into a pile, the scratching of dead leaves as they blow across the pavement. I witness this morning from the inside of a personal silence. Somewhere, something is left undone, and deep inside I know there's a reckoning to face. In the meantime I have this sunny quietude and the simplicity of only Wednesday's homework to turn in, which is a relief.

I'm smiling as a philosophical gesture to my future. I wonder if I'm shaping or being shaped by the silence and by the sadness I've felt so often lately.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cock-a-roach-a

There was a cockroach in my house this morning.

I stepped on it.
And I left it on the floor because I was late for school and needed to come home later to make sure that it was really a cockroach and not some sort of junebug.

But when I got home it was gone.

I don't think I killed it. Either that or the cockroach mafia came and cleaned up the evidence.

Sickening.
I don't want to eat here ever again.

Time Zones

Sometimes I feel as though I'm alone with my grief here in Kentucky.

It is my constant companion.

But I dread how quickly the months are passing and how the gauze that separates heaven and earth is thickening with each passing day, and will continue to until my ability to peer into eternity is completely obscured.

That's the thing about death. One thing about death, I guess: this world we live in seems so faint, so fragile and so temporary when you experience a moment of eternity. For a short time I have been permitted to stand with half my soul here on earth and the other half in a place so much more permanent than here--and as the days pass, that sense of what is beyond this time is less tangible, less immediate.

I don't know how I feel about that, either.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Roy Orbison, That Heartbreak-er

When I was driving down the street in Nashville last week, a Roy Orbison classic song came on the radio. I sang along as loud as I could, belting every syllable I knew and humming over the ones I didn't. Tears pooled in my eyes and streamed down my cheeks and I kept driving as I kept singing as I kept crying.

Two Christmases ago when my parents came to Nashville to stay with me, I was jazzed about showing them "my town." We went to all of my favorite places: Noshville (seated next to Amy Grant!), Jackson's (we argued a lot there), FIDO (I think it may have been a little confusing for them), and the Loveless Cafe (oh, the biscuits).

That was also the year that my dad picked out a Christmas gift for me completely on his own, and it's the only time that I can remember him doing that. He was excited about it, telling me in advance, preparing me for something special. The gift was two music CDs; it was actually two different albums from the five sibling piano quintet, "The 5 Browns." The special-ness of this gift was that--I guess you could say that we shared a love; a zeal really, for wild and erratic piano players. I can remember that once, during one of his mid-afternoon phone calls, I became so sentimental about Liberace that I started searching for YouTubes of his performances, and narrated his theatrics over the phone to my dad.

On that Christmas trip, because of some degrading conversational remark of mine about the irony of the Nashville music scene, Dad began a historical talking tour of Roy Orbison's greatest life moments, including a recounting of wise and eloquent quotes from Roy himself.

Before that moment, I didn't realize that Dad loved Roy Orbison. When I think of the "music of my childhood," like so many American children living the 1980s television dream, my natural inclination is to think of the echoes of NASCAR engines around a track or the auctioneer-like WWF announcers shouting, "HERE COMES JAKE THE SNAKE WITH A CHAIR!!"

Just as on other occasions, I learned that Dad had a whole storehouse of personal feelings that I didn't know about. For every connection we shared, for every moment of collaboration between us, there were equally as many mysteries that shadowed our knowledge of one another, and so many, many things that we didn't share in our thirty years together. After Dad mentioned Roy singing for "The Traveling Wilburys" and vehemently persuaded me to listen to them, I ran up to my room and under the pretext of getting ready to leave for lunch, downloaded the whole collection of songs off iTunes and burned him a copy to take home.

In all that you have, there is something that you still cannot attain. Roy Orbison. Roy Orbison and all the things he represents to me--all the mysteries locked inside Dad's heart that faded away with the turning off of that damned machine.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Divide & Conquer

And I prayed that God would give me the grace to study and study and study and...
to study as if my life depended upon it.


But it's not my life that depends on it; it's all the people who won't be enrolled in college this year...or ever. All the people who walk through the doors that open to them, who make choices to maximize their own utility function and who may not know how to solve the problems in their neighborhoods and communities.

Some lives revolve so tightly around worry and despair, that by gripping to hold on in the midst of that spinning, they lack enough insight into the problems to know how to climb above them. When your biggest concern is holding on for dear life, climbing is out of the question.

So as I was praying, it immediately became obvious that the reason I need grace to study, is that someone's life depends on it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Those Days

I'm not sure I ever recovered from losing my daily doses of Amy and Stephanie. Those were different days. So much ennui, so much frustrated optimism.

Everybody needs a few extremely intelligent and witty sounding boards. I've had more than my fair share at times; I realize that.