Saturday, December 1, 2007

We all just want to be understood

When someone says something to me that makes me feel annoyed, misunderstood, or hurt, my impulse is to tell someone else about it. The reason for that is because there is a certain piece of me that has not been understood or accepted. Therefore I take that piece around to somewhere else to try to get understanding and acceptance for it.

One of the things that bothers me, and which often leads me to having a piece in search of acceptance, is people who cast judgment on other people's lives. When I take my piece around for acceptance, a side effect of that acceptance could be criticism of the person who rejected that piece.

Does this mean that I don't think other people should judge, but that it's okay for me to judge, or for others to judge as long as they agree with my judgments? I like to think that there's a difference. The difference is between judging someone's actions as being inherently bad and being disturbed by someone's actions. If someone bothers me, that means I want them farther away from me. It doesn't mean that the person is inherently wrong.

There is a place for judgment. There are some actions that are wrong, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about people who are steal or kill or cheat. I'm talking about people whose outlook or interpersonal style does not mesh with mine.

It bothers me when people make judgments about how other people live their lives. I don't like it when people think someone else should be working harder to improve themselves in some area, whether it's eating a different diet, exercising more, advancing their career, or improving their interpersonal skills. I don't think one can judge those kinds of things. Each person has their own preferences, goals, and barriers, and no one else can really understand what another person wants or has to overcome.

When someone says something that leaves a part of me seeking acceptance or understanding, I take it around to others in search of acceptance. All the other person has to do is say they see where I'm coming from, or not say much at all about it. But a lot of people don't do that. A common mistake people make is explaining that I really should not be bothered by the thing that bothers me. Apparently they think this will cheer me up. However it comes across as saying that I have no right to feel the way that I do. Even after I explain to people that the way I want them to be supportive is by accepting my feelings, they still explain to me why my feelings are wrong. This just leaves me feeling more misunderstood, so then I move on to somewhere else to seek understanding and acceptance.

When someone consistently says things that bother me, then I just stop talking to that person. It could be topic-specific. It could be that I find I can talk to someone about impersonal topics, but that there's no point in talking to them about my personal dilemmas.

There's a place for dialogue. I don't expect everyone to instantly understand me. But if someone persists in responding to me in ways that I don't like, even after I explain where I'm coming from, then after a while, I just have to stop sharing with that person in that way.

People can be close to the extent that they are on the same wavelength, but they also have to give room for distance in the areas where they are not on the same wavelength. I can't expect everyone to be close to me in all ways. If I strive for that, I'll just be frustrated, and won't be able to appreciate the ways in which I do connect with people. The complications arise when the ways I want to be close and distant with someone differ from what that person wants, or when circumstances put me into a situation such that a person is part of my life more or less than I would like.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Being with people

A week ago today, I was with some people I've known a long time who are perfectly fine people, but not people I've been able to be friends with. I left that event thinking that in high school and before, I was an unpopular misfit, then I went to college and felt like a normal person who fit in with everyone else and had friends, and continued to feel like a normal person after college, up until two years ago, when I turned into an unpopular misft again. Sort of like Cinderella -- the enchantment wore off, returning me to my original state.

Yesterday I was with some different people. One was an old friend whom I last saw 9 years ago and last really regularly spent time with 22 years ago. The other was his wife, whom I had never met before. Seeing them was the opposite experience of last week. I realized that when I'm with the right kind of people, it just works for me to be with them, even if I haven't seen them in a long time, even if I never met them before. So many times I've met people and they seemed like perfectly nice people and I wanted to become friends, but I just couldn't make a connection with them. So often this happens and I beat myself up about it. Then, several times a year, I meet someone with whom I can make a connection. I realize that that connection is something that just is or is not there, and if it's not happening with someone, it's just that we don't have that connection. It doesn't mean that it's a failure on my part for not being able to make the connection happen, and it doesn't mean that no one exists who is on my wavelength.

The two activities I'm in this year -- the radio station and the community garden -- seem to be very fruitful places for meeting people. I've met some really good quality people at both places. Some of the activities I've been involved in in the past, such as a ski club and a singles club, really did not have my kind of people.

I saw a number of similarities between the couple who visited last night and the couple whom I think of as the only true friends I have left living in this area. It was reassuring in a way. It showed me that there are certain traits that characterize my friends, and sort of explained why I'm not friends with certain other people.

Still, I had a creeping feeling of insecurity, a feeling that if these two couples met each other, they would hit it off so well that I would be a bit of an outsider.

I guess that's what I expect based on my experiences since I've lived here. Most of the people I was friends here with used to hang out with me but then they met people they liked better.

When I was with these friends last night, I found myself talking at length. It felt unusual. It's like the people I see on a day to day basis aren't interested in what I have to say long enough to let me talk for that long. It's not like someone could just decide, "I want to be your friend, so I'm going to let you talk at length." Intent is one thing, and it's valuable, but it's not the same as being on the same wavelength. That can be seen in my desiring to make a connection with many people but being unable to, and also in how an ex-boyfriend explained his inability to be close to me before we broke up: "I want to want to." That's why I can't fault the people who only hung out with me until they found someone they actually liked to hang out with. I wouldn't want them to hang out with me only out of a sense of obligation. Being with people who don't connect with me, who don't enjoy being with me, just reflects back at me the idea that I'm not a fun person to be around. The magic combination is to find people who both have the desire to connect with me and who have the inherent interest in talking about the same things I like talking about.

Seeing this friend I knew back when I felt like I was a normal person, reminded me of a few things from those days. It reminded me of the job I had two summers in a row -- after the first summer, they wanted me back for a second summer. During that time, I was also working as a babysitter. I babysat for one family who then recommended me to other families. The kids liked me and so did the parents. I remember there was a class for which we had to write a paper in conjunction with a partner. I ran the statistical analyses, and my partner wrote the commentary about what the statistics meant. I did not have the knowledge about the topic (politics) to write the commentary, but my partner did not have the experience with statistical software that I did, and he was impressed that I could do it.

There are people who appreciate what I do in my work now. It doesn't feel the same though. Maybe it's because I know that what they appreciate is only a small piece of what I'm capable of, because I feel that people don't appreciate me for all that I am, but only for something that is less than what I am.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


I always felt like a girl without a generation, caught between baby boomers and generation X. Today I found out there's a name for people like me: Generation Jones. Technically, I'm several months too young to qualify for Generation Jones, but culturally, it resonates with me much more than Generation X, which I supposedly belong to. And it's not like generations have a strict cutoff date, where if you're born one day, you belong to one generation, while if you are born the next day, you belong to the following generation.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

President Bush

Yesterday President Bush said in regard to stem cells, "Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical. And it is not the only option before us."

That does not seem to be his viewpoint when it comes to capital punishment or Iraq.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Harry Potter

I have been re-reading the Harry Potter books. I haven't gotten to the sixth one yet, so it's not as fresh in my mind as the first five. The books are not my favorites, but they have some good qualities. I think perhaps the main reason they are not my favorites is that they are told from the perspective of a boy. It's not the fact that the main character is a boy. A Solitary Blue features a male character as a child and teenager, but it was told from a perspective that I could relate to. The issue with the Harry Potter books is not the demographic facts associated with the main character, but rather the outlook of the main character. I could relate better to someone who showed more maturity, and who showed more of an appreciation for certain concerns of female characters -- Molly's worry for the safety of her family, Hermione's sensibleness and caution. Being told from a young male perspective doesn't make the book bad. Everyone should have the opportunity to read books they can relate to, I just don't happen to belong to the same demographic for which these books are written. Some of the things I do like about the books:

  • They are engaging. They make you want to keep reading, even when you've already read them a few times before.
  • The magical quality, the many details which create a sense of wonder.
  • The way some small thing mentioned later on turns out to be a part of something else. Veronica Mars is like this too. I suppose this is a trait of a good mystery story, but I don't read many mysteries. This makes re-reading rewarding. After you know how things turn out in the end, then when something is mentioned in passing, you can realize how it's going to turn out to be a part of everything else. I like that richness of so many little things comprising a complex bigger picture. That's what makes Veronica Mars good ( except when the network is trying to destroying it by insisting that it not be so complicated, that viewers shouldn't have to think so much to understand it).
  • I like the way Luna, Neville, and Ginny start to emerge as characters starting in the fifth book. I wish Harry wouldn't keep pushing away them and others. He always seems to think that Ron and Hermione are the only ones who should be a part of things. That seems to be part of his youthful shortsightedness.
  • At first I considered the books an entertaining read, but lacking any deeper meaning to give you something to think about later. However, each book is longer, darker, and more complex than the last, and the later books do have more to say on issues. They address how people respond to the existence of an enemy. Some people become so harsh and power-hungry that they act the same as the enemy they are fighting. Others deny that any threat exists. With the many different reactions to the threat, those who are against the same enemy experience sharp divisions amongs themselves. They become suspicious of those who disagree with them, calling them traitors. The presence of the enemy weakens the good side, not just through direct attacks by the enemy, but because the presence of enemy sows the seeds of discord within the good side, causing people on the good side to attack and destroy each other. They look to demographic factors to decide who is good and who is evil, condemning people based on the demographic category to which they belong. The people who strive to be good need to understand that being good is not just about hating the enemy, that deeds done in the name of fighting the enemy can be evil deeds too. Meanwhile, the evil side wants to get rid of people who are not purebloods, but the leader himself is not a pureblood. It seems to somehow be his own hatred of what he is that causes him to lead the persecution of others.

Also, regarding the Harry Potter movies, I have seen the first, second, and fourth, and these are my comments.

  • The magical aspect, the sense of wonder, is strengthened by the visual aspect which movies provide.
  • The casting is very good. The characters really exude the personalities that we know from the book. One thing that's a bit off is that the actor who plays Ron looks a bit more like Fred and George are supposed to look, while the actors who play Fred and George look a bit more like Ron is supposed to look. Also, the actor who plays Hermione is too pretty. But most of the actors look just right, and all of them play the characters really well.
  • The books are a lot longer than the movies, so events end up being somewhat compressed in the movies. This bothered me most in the fourth movie. I kept thinking, "That's not how it really

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Quaker dog

Bonnie says her dog is a Quaker dog. How can she tell? Because the dog thinks everyone is good.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My birthday celebrations of the past 12 years

Looking back on the birthday celebrations I've had over the past 12 years that I've lived in this area, I see how the changes in the celebrations reflect changes in my social life. Early in my time here, someone asked me what I was planning to do for my birthday, and I said, "Stay home and wait for the phone to ring." I was expecting a lot of calls from out of town family and friends. At the time, I had not yet established a life here, but had strong ties to people from the places where I have lived in the past.

Some years later, I spent my birthday out frolicking in the park with a group of friends. I thought back on that earlier birthday, and thought of how now I had found a vibrant social life here.

Some years after that my birthday was largely ignored by people around here, though I did get a few of those phone calls from out of town people. At the time, I was feeling unpopular, and the lack of recognition my birthday got from local people reflected that situation.

This year's birthday celebrations demonstrated how my life has come back into balance. My life is no longer focused exclusively on local people or out of town people. I received birthday greetings from all directions: family, co-workers, a local friend, a college friend, a friend I met here but who now lives elsewhere, someone at the radio station. Greetings came from local people, as well as from Florida, Washington DC, New England, and Taiwan. I celebrated all month long. Two people remembered the month but not the date, so they got their birthday greetings in toward the beginning of the month. On my actual birthday, I had a picnic and a concert with family members. Yesterday I had what I think is probably the last of the month-long celebrations: strawberries and ice cream with Jesse. (Strawberries and lilacs are my personal birthday traditions.)

I like the way my birthday turned out this year, and it's a good reflection of where my life is currently at.

Birthday parties

Yet another example of how I feel out of step with the people around me: mainstream people seem to think that if someone has a birthday, the people close to that person should throw a surprise birthday party. People in my family don't do that. Birthdays may not always be celebrated with a party, but if they are celebrated with a party, the person having the birthday is either the organizer of the party or has substantial input into it. To me that is much more sensible. That way, the birthday person gets to have things exactly how they want it. I wouldn't want someone throwing me a surprise party, because what if I was planning to do something else that day?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Favorite charities

Sometimes when people get married or die, people are requested to make donations to charity in lieu of gifts (in the case of marriage) or flowers (in the case of death). I'm not planning to get married or die soon, but being the kind of person who likes to make lists, I was thinking of what charities would I want donations to go to in such a situation. I found there are many. I think I need to narrow it down to a more reasonable number, but for now, I'll just list them all.

As I think about this, I think most people I know aren't any richer than me. They need all the money they can get. So it seems to me it would be better for me to donate to these charities rather than to ask my friends to. And in fact, I do donate to many of them. So in the case of me getting married or dying, I'm not sure I'd want the people to give money to these charities. I'd rather they buy themselves a house or something, if they have money to be spending. In fact, if I suddenly got rich, I'd want to make sure all my friends and family were taken care of before I started giving money to my favorite charities.

So I'm not planning to die or get married soon, and even if I was, I'm not sure I'd ask for people to donate to charities, so there's no rational reason for me to list my favorite charities, but I like making lists of things, so here we go.

I find I tend not to list organizations I've worked at or otherwise been involved in. I think it's because I've been close enough to see their flaws, so it's hard to give my wholehearted support. The organizations I haven't been so close to probably have as many or more flaws, but I just haven't seen them yet.


To me, there are two seasons, summer and winter. Summer is when I can go outside after work. Winter is when it's cold and dark after work. In summer, I can lie in the grass next to my garden, enjoying the fragrance of growing plants and the feel of fresh air wafting across my skin. In winter, instead I lie in front of the TV. In summer, I can wear comfortable, pretty clothes which encourage free-spirited movement. In winter, I huddle under many layers of clothes. In winter, my body is tense with warding off the cold. In summer, my body relaxes to drink in the fresh air and sunshine. In winter, the trees and fields are bare and gray. In summer, they burst forth full of life. Just looking at the green of leaves and grass makes my heart happy. I like summer evenings, with the feel of soft cool grass beneath bare feet, and the way the sun low in the sky gives a golden glow to the green of the leaves. I like sitting by the river at sunset, with the water looking so smooth and pink. I like the joyful bright yellow of dandelions. I like the feel of the earth in my hands as I work in my garden. I'm so glad summer has arrived.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

With a little help from my friends

Often when someone talks about their problems, the instinct of the listener is to suggest solutions to those problems. Sometimes advice is helpful, but other times it's more of a hindrance than a help. We give advice because feel we should do something to help. It's hard for us to realize that just by listening, we are helping.

Sometimes being a good friend can be sort of like watching a sunrise -- it's about being there to witness and appreciate as something beautiful unfolds. If someone does that for me, if they observe my strengths, then it helps my strengths to grow. It may seem like just being present is not really helping, but it can actually have quite a powerful impact.

One friend said to me, "If you ever feel too exhausted again to do stuff like groceries, please let me know and I'd be happy to pick stuff up for you. That's what friends are for!" Things like that make me feel so much better! When I'm sick, I fear what will happen if I become too sick to care for myself and there is no one to rescue me. Even if I never actually ask the person to do something, it's so reassuring to know that I won't be stranded.

When I was feeling that as a sick person, I have little to offer, one friend said, "You can still be wise and thoughtful even if you're tired and sick. (But I guess it's probably harder.)" This friend made me feel that I do have something to offer, and at the same time, with the part at the end, helped me forgive myself for not being able to do more.

I'm glad I have the gift of knowing these two friends.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I once was lost

I used to be a Quaker, but I quit because I didn't get much out of it. However, in recent months, I've been feeling that my outlook and values are straight out of my Quaker background. I've also been feeling surrounded by people who don't get my values. So last Sunday, I went to Quaker Meeting for the first time in over 10 years. Maybe I'll make a habit of it.

1-2 years ago, I was lost. I was depressed that my former friends had evaporated. I enjoy being alone but I don't like being frequently around someone who in subtle ways is constantly reminding me thatI am second-rate. And then I got sick. The illness helped to strengthen my depression, and yet I also see it as the turning point of coming out of my depression. As I emerged from the worst part of the illness, I also emerged from the depression.

That was one year ago that I was beginning to emerge from illness and depression. It has been more of a steady crawl than an exuberant bursting. My health does not leave me energetic, but I have re-adjusted my lifestyle, and I enjoy restful pursuits. I am no longer depressed. I am also no longer sociable. I have re-adjusted to a solitary lifestyle. Now, I walk my own path. Quiet, solitary times lead to looking inward. Many around me are dancing to a different drum than I. I just walk steadily forward on my own path.

The framework that keeps my steps on the right path is thoughts like, "How would a Quaker view this?" and "How would Grandma Lawn view this?" It's not that I am looking to external sources to guide me. It's that looking at questions such as these takes me to the part of myself where I find the serenity and strength of being true to myself.

Looking to Quakerism to find myself is not some new wisdom that I didn't have 1-2 years ago. It's that there are times when it isn't enough. Life's path traverses many different terrains and climates. There are times when the cold gusts of wind extinguish the flame. But I patiently nurtured the embers, and kept on walking, until my journey brought me to a climate where the flame could burn steadily once again.

My current sense of inner peace will not always endure. The path of life will continue to traverse many different terrains, and I will continue to weather whatever life brings.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Will you swear on the Bible?

On December 31, I heard a commentary by Jeffrey Reel on WAMC. I searched for it on the internet, and found it as comment #9 replying to the following blog entry:

Ellison to Use Thomas Jefferson's Koran - AOL Elections Blog - The Stump

Jeffrey Reel brings up the point that the Bible says not to swear, instead, let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Coming from a Quaker background, I've known about that since I was a kid. A verse from our favorite Quaker song says,

Will you swear on the Bible?
"I will not," said he,
"For the truth is more holy than the book to me."

Jeffrey Reel writes

say what you mean, mean what you say; let your word be good, and binding, at all times. And this, perhaps, is the most difficult standard for each of us to live up to, yet our emotional and spiritual growth is conditioned upon walking that narrow but clearly defined path.


The act of taking an oath – as separate and distinct from all other times – trivializes the immensity of the spiritual experience that can be found in every conversation we have with every individual we meet, at every moment in our lives."

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The future

As we walked on a path where the railroad tracks used to be, we could hear the cars whizzing along a highway off in the distance. Stephen said that some day people will go for walks along places where the highway used to be, and off in the distance they'll hear the hovercraft whizzing by.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Food and drink

This is what I do and don't eat, in case anyone ever wants to know.

To me, there are four basic food groups. There are a wealth of interesting things to eat in these food groups, but you wouldn't know it from going to an American restaurant.
  1. Legumes, nuts, and seeds. Includes lentils, split peas, kidney beans, chickpeas, and many others. Hummus and tofu are both made from foods in this group. I like some Indian and Latin American style dishes. Red lentils are one of my standby dishes because they are easy to cook. I just throw on some spices, and if I'm feeling energetic, I add onion and coconut too. Tofu is also easy -- usually I throw on some tamari and some sesame oil.
  2. Whole grains: includes brown rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, whole wheat, oats, and amaranth, barley, kamut, rye, spelt, corn, triticale, and flax. I don't usually eat all those. Usually it's mainly wheat, oats, and rice. Shredded wheat is a good cold cereal because it's just made with whole wheat. Most cold cereals have some form of sugar added. When I was a kid, my mother made whole wheat muffins without sugar, and that was better than the sugary things called muffins that they sell in stores.
  3. Vegetables. My favorites include tomatoes, carrots, squash, beets, sweet potatoes, spinach, and swiss chard.
  4. Fruits. My favorites inclue nectarines, peaches, bananas, mangos, kiwis, strawberries, blueberries, black raspberries, and blackberries.
My beverages of choice are:
  • Juice. I usually drink this for breakfast. When I talk about juice, I mean juice that's actually 100% juice. I don't see why anyone would add sugar to their juice. I like orange, pineapple, and grapefruit juice. I also like blends of several kinds of juice, sometimes with fruit puree added too. In addition to the aforementioned kinds of juices, these blends may include banana, passionfruit, etc. I don't really drink a lot of apple, grape, or cranberry juice.
  • Water. I drink this for lunch and supper, and between meals.
  • Smoothies. These are a tasty treat, especially in warm weather.
  • Herbal tea. I drink this once in a while, especially in cold weather, in the evening, or when I'm sick.
Now here's what I don't eat, or only eat in limited amounts:
  • I don't eat meat. Sometimes people ask me, "What about chicken?" What about fish?" I didn't say I don't eat mammals. I said I don't eat meat. Meat is the flesh of animals. Chick and fish are animals.
  • I am not a vegan. I will eat foods containing milk or eggs. However, often I don't. I don't generally drink milk as a beverage. I do put milk on cereal, but at home, I usually have soy milk for that purpose. Though I'm not fond of milk as such, I do like milk products such as ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and pudding. However, sometimes I try to avoid milk products when my respiratory situation is flaring up. Most of the time though, I eat milk products regularly, mainly cheese. However, some nonvegetarians seem to think the way to feed vegetarians is to give them a lot of cheese. I like cheese, but not enought to make it the main course of every meal.
  • I don't eat much sugar. Sometimes I try to avoid it entirely. Other times, it's not part of my daily routine, but I'm willing to have ice cream or cookies as a treat.
  • I don't like hot, spicy foods. Some people are proud of their tolerance for hot foods. To me, that's like being proud that you are so hard of hearing that loud noises don't bother you. I just don't see the point of repeatedly burning your taste buds until your sense of taste has been dulled sufficiently that you don't mind hot foods, and non-spicy foods seem too bland.
  • I avoid alcohol and soda because I just don't see the point of them. I don't really like them and they aren't the most nutritional beverages anyhow.
  • I don't usually drink much coffee or caffeinated tea, but they are okay sometimes. Occasionally I like a latte or cappucino.
  • Chocolate occasionally makes me nauseous, and besides, it usually has sugar in it, so it's a good thing to avoid. However, sometimes I try it in a social situation, like when there's cake to celebrate someone's PhD defense.