Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who am I?

Supposedly adolescents are trying to figure out who they are. I knew that when I was an adolescent, but did not really see how it applied to me. Now that I'm middle aged, now I feel like adolescents are supposed to feel. I don't know who I am. I remember that I love hiking, skiing, rollerblading, and kayaking. I remember that I love being part of a large circle of friends, and organizing social events. I remember vivaciously engaging in witty repartee. But then I look at my life and I can't find that person. I look at my life, and I find myself sitting on the kitchen floor in my pajamas at three in the afternoon, eating a bag of microwave popcorn, because I was hungry and it wasn't too hard to cook, and because once it was ready, it didn't seem worth the effort to move to a location farther than the kitchen floor in order to eat it. Now I find myself drugging myself up on caffeine, in a desperate attempt to fulfill the requirements of my job. Now I find myself without friends, because having friends requires that you go out and do things with people, and that is just too much work for me. Now when I think of hiking and skiing, I just think of how burdensome it would be to have to stand up for so long. The doctors say there is nothing wrong with me. Therefore I must be a normal person. I must live according to what normal people are expected to do. I must work full-time and clean my house and go to the store. So I struggle to do all that, though my body tells me it is not what I am meant to be doing. But what else can I do? I have to keep on surviving.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I took the Belief-O-Matic quiz on beliefnet.com to see what religion I am. I would say that I am Quaker, Pantheist, and Naturalistic Pagan. The problem with the quiz is that of those three, only Quakerism seems to be a possible result. I think I know more than the quiz does about what religion I am, so I did not find the results enlightening, but here they are anyhow, just for entertainment.

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (97%)
3. Liberal Quakers (95%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (80%)
5. Neo-Pagan (77%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (75%)
7. New Age (72%)
8. Taoism (72%)
9. Nontheist (70%)
10. Mahayana Buddhism (68%)
11. Orthodox Quaker (64%)
12. Reform Judaism (53%)
13. Scientology (52%)
14. Jainism (51%)
15. New Thought (49%)
16. Baha'i Faith (45%)
17. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (43%)
18. Hinduism (35%)
19. Sikhism (32%)
20. Seventh Day Adventist (31%)
21. Islam (26%)
22. Orthodox Judaism (26%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (25%)
24. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (24%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (17%)
26. Roman Catholic (17%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (13%)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blurb from Still Point

I found the following on the web site of the Still Point Retreat Center:
Tim Thomas, played by actor Will Smith in the movie Seven Pounds, is a grief-stricken, guilt-driven young man who is unable to forgive himself for his part in the death of 7 innocent people, one of whom was his beloved wife. Tim decides to atone for what to him is an insurmountable burden of sorrow and guilt. He looks for 7 people whose lives will be radically changed for the better by giving parts of himself to them. It is imperative to Tim, however, that these recipients be truly deserving of his precious gifts. We also give bits of ourselves away. All too often we don’t really notice the quality of the people to whom we give because we don’t really know our own worth. Like Tim, we feel that we are less, that we deserve less and so, we settle for less. Each of us is unique and incredibly beautiful deep within. Imagine if we valued ourselves and gave of ourselves knowing the precious gifts that we are! The suffering brought on by settling for less would end. We would begin to draw on inner strength and wisdom in navigating relationships that are mutually enriching and beneficial. Guilt and grief, self-doubt and loathing are difficult feelings to ‘be’ with. Yet we can learn to be OK with ourselves just as we are and release the images of who and what we ‘should’ be that often drive us. We can learn to value ourselves and release judgment. Unlike Tim, let’s opt for life-affirming actions beginning with forgiving and honoring ourselves in all our uniqueness and humanness. We are incredible gifts to the world! Let’s hope we each come to realize our true beauty and worth and enter relationships with that awareness. There are only winners in such a scenario.
Are they implying that we too should only share our gifts with people who are worthy? The idea resonates with me. I feel that I have not been discerning enough in the past about to whom I offer friendship. And yet it is also not consistent with my values, the values I saw expressed in Blood Brothers, the values that say we must love everyone.

This has long been a dilemma for me. I believe in the Quaker principle of that of God in everyone, and yet some people seem to me to be much higher quality people than others. There are some people I look to as role models, and some I definitely would not consider role models, except maybe as a model of what not to be.

The quote resonates with me both because of the idea of discerning quality in other people, and because of the idea of coming to see how precious one's own gifts are. At this time of my life, I feel I'm in a sort of limbo -- I am impaired by lack of health, I don't like my job, I don't live near my family. This situation has made me feel disconnected from my sense of the value of what I have to offer.

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour

A boy growing up in Galilee, knowing that Jesus walked on the same land he calls home, and knowing that his ancestors were there, that his Christian family is directly descended from the people who heard Jesus speak. In 1947, this boy is seven years old, climbing a fig tree. He does not know of events occurring in the rest of the world. One day, his father explains to the family, "In Europe, there was a man called Hitler. A Satan. For a long time he was killing Jewish people. Men and women, grandparents--even boys and girls like you. He killed them just because they were Jews. For no other reason. Now this Hitler is dead. But our Jewish brothers have been badly hurt and frightened. They can't go back to their homes in Europe, and they have not been welcomed by the rest of the world. So they are coming here to look for a home...We must be especially kind and make them feel at home" (p. 20).

The boy, Elias Chacour, feels terrible for what has happened to the Jews in Europe. What he does not know is that the coming of the Jews will shatter his carefree, idyllic lifestyle as a Palestinian.

Blood Brothers is the story of how, in a time of upheaval and violence, Elias Chacour tries to live by the values of forgiveness and compassion which he learned from his father and from his religion.

I am reading Blood Brothers because it was recommended by my grandmother, and I see why it is important to her. Besides the fact that it takes place in a country she lived in several years previous to the events of the book, the values Elias learned and tries to live by are the values my grandmother and I grew up with in our Quaker family, values which I rarely see expressed in the media or the people around me.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What to do with my life

I went to an advising conference last week. The idea was that I would find out whether or not I wanted a career in advising, but results were inconclusive. I like the part where you help people figure out their goals and pick their classes. I don't like the part where you urge people to do certain time management things. But that part is not part of all the jobs. I also don't like the part where you have to deal with aggressive parents trying to be overly involved in their kids' lives.

The part about the time management was mostly from a session about a program for students who get kicked out for low grades, then get re-admitted, and as a condition of re-admission, they have to attend a 10 week program on how to be a good student. If I wanted to change people not accustomed to showing up on time, I could have been a social worker.

The problem with figuring out what to do with my life is that there's a fundamental paradox. I think working with people is the most meaningful and rewarding thing to do, but it's also tiring and unpleasant.

One school of thought is that instead of having a rewarding job, I could just have a job that is not annoying, and find fulfillment in what I do outside work. Right now my job is too annoying to follow that plan. It seems to me that working in a library would be the kind of job that was not annoying and would allow me to find fulfillment outside of work. If I work in advising, I would be more likely to find fulfillment in my job than if I worked in a library, but working in advising would have more potential unpleasant aspects as well.

At the conference, I went to a talk by a 22 year old. She was very capable and professional. Far beyond me. I'm used to thinking the reason I can't do stuff is because I'm young and inexperienced, but I guess I can't really use that excuse any more. Now I'm almost as old as the President of the United States.

Today, after dosing up on caffeine, I went rollerblading. At the conference I felt like I didn't belong in my skin. Rollerblading, I felt like I did belong in my skin. Does this tell me anything about what I'm meant to do with my life? Maybe not. Maybe feeling out of place at the advising conference was just because I was new and not exactly working in the profession. The people at the conference did seem to be people I liked and felt similar to.

If I do want to go into advising or something else in higher education, then I would like to get a Master's degree in Higher Education. If I do want to work in higher education, then it would be best to go to school now. Now I have a job that I already want to leave. If my next step was to get a new job, then maybe I wouldn't want to leave that job, so then it would be harder to get the Master's degree. On the other hand, I'm not positive that higher education is the right field for me. It would be silly to spend a lot of money getting a degree in something that I don't even want to do, and then ending up unemployed afterwards. Or even if I decide I do want to stay in higher education, I could still end up unemployed afterwards. Many schools have hiring freezes on now, and things may not be any better by the time I finish a degree.

I would like to get a Master's and then get a good job in a good place, and be able to stay. I like to put down roots. I don't like the unsettled feeling I have now that I don't want to be in my job forever. If I go to school, I'd like to go full-time so that I can more quickly move on to a permanent situation, rather than spending years in limbo as a part-time student.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

TV: Medium

I don't really watch any TV show regularly, but one TV show that I like is Medium. The reason why I like it is because it portrays a loving, stable family (a married couple with kids). Most TV shows seem to think that they should keep throwing conflict, misunderstanding, and deception into all the relationships, because otherwise people won't find it interesting. So to all the TV writers and directors, I just want to say that I for one prefer the shows with the stable loving relationships.