30 January 2006

Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged

I have been thinking a lot about the judgments people make regarding others. The impetus for this meditation is three-fold. I have been reading a book I received as a Christmas gift titled Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi, I recently saw Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic, and I also recently had a conversation about the unceasing tabloid coverage surrounding Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie. All of which made me think about the judgments we make everyday about others.

Reading Lolita in Tehran was written by a liberal Iranian English literature professor about her life under the Ayatollah and his successors in post-revolutionary Iran. It is marginally about a secret, underground book club she started with a select group of female students after she was removed from her teaching position for being too radical. What it is really about is finding sanity in a world turned upside down, in a world where you are marginalized and judged because of your second X chromosome. A world where edicts by the ruling elite are final and disagreement is treason.

Walk the Line is a Johnny Cash biopic, but it is also about his wife June Carter Cash. The scene that struck me involves June Carter, recovering from a bitter divorce from her first husband, shopping in a small Mom & Pop store on a tour stop in the early 1960’s. Carter came from a well known Christian family, famous for its singing and performing. A woman who is also shopping recognizes Carter and tells her how much she admires Carter’s parents. Carter says she will tell her parents. The woman then says she is surprised that the elder Carters, being “good Christians,” still communicate with their daughter after her divorce. The woman continues berating Carter by saying marriage is ordained of God and permanent. She then walks away, leaving Carter extremely discomfited and on the verge of tears.

Finally, during a party this weekend, the topic of the tabloid fodder that is the Aniston-Pitt-Jolie triangle came up. People had different opinions and I played devil’s advocate, but really, I have never met any of the parties and I know nothing about what went on and neither did anyone else in that conversation. In fact, I have tried to avoid knowing anything, but merely standing in line at the grocery store means at least one 72 pt. font headline forces its way into one’s conscious. Which means everyone has an opinion about who wronged whom and who is at fault and who should be ostracized from society and who should receive our sympathy. Only three people know the truth and frenzied speculation will not uncover it.

What reflecting on these experiences produced was the idea that we can never know what is going on inside someone’s head. Ever. Even if we try to communicate, we are still flummoxed by different interpretations of the meaning of words. To observe and to converse gives us only an inkling as to what goes on inside the head of others. To believe that we can pass judgment on another because of something we see or read is hubris beyond belief. I am not suggesting we shouldn’t discern between right and wrong, or that we can’t protect ourselves from harmful individuals. But there is a difference between choosing and condemning. And we haven’t the right to condemn.

27 January 2006

My Deepest, Darkest Secrets.

Well, at least the deepest, darkets secrets I'm willing to share. WalkingFineArt tagged me with divulging 5 things no one knows about me. You might already know some or all of these things, but don't tell me that. I like to believe I'm a Woman of Mystery!

5. Vampire Nightmares. I have been plagued by vampire nightmares since the beginning of junior high. I can remember most, if not all, in great detail even though I have never written them down. They are burned in my memory. And they are always extremely vivid dreams in both detail and color. I am always being pursued, most often while trying to defend myself and whomever I am with in the dream. Usually I lose a compatriate or two to the other side. And if, by chance, the point comes where I have lost and am about to become the victim, the dream stops and starts over at the beginning. It repeats until I figure out how to beat and destroy the vampires. It adds up to quite a few sleepless nights over the years.

4. Jealousy. I am an extremely jealous person. I'm jealous regarding friendships, relationships, the use of my time, my money, and my things. If I offer, then I'm fine, but when people use or abuse or expect something from me I consider outside their right, I can be extremely upset. I try very hard not to act on my feelings, but I have them nonetheless.

3. Fear. A lot of my behaviors are driven by fear. I fear the unknown, which means that basically everyday I have to make myself get out of bed when I would much rather stay in it. The smaller my world, the happier I would be. I read an article in the New York Times a few years ago about a growing trend among Japanese men in their 20s and 30s. They were becoming 21st century hermits, often living with their parents, sticking to their bedrooms, not even interacting with even parents or family, and having food left outside their rooms at meal times. Often they would only emerge from their inner sanctums in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep to wander the streets. Their only connections to the outside world was television and the internet. The article scared me into thinking a little more about branching out and facing some fears. Not too many, but some.

2. Relationships. I have always thought relationships with the opposite sex were too fraught with drama and complication to be bothered with. In high school I had crushes, but usually with the unavailable or the prohibited. I liked the idea of someone better than the actual someone. I'm still that way, in that my life has enough ups and downs and enough complications that I think adding someone else, an unknown factor, just seems like a straw that would break this camel's back. In all my mental excursions to FantasyLand, regardless of what TV boyfriends populate them, I usually end the adventure alone.

1. The Real Me. I am extremely introspective and I think best in metaphor, which I conjur to apply to experiences and people. The metaphor I apply to myself is one of a multi-walled enclosure. There are many walls, each with a locked gate. My family, friends, and acquaintances all have keys that open gates, but only so many. The people very closest to me have keys that open the most, but everyone has a stopping point, a level at which they can no longer pass. And I'm not really sure who gets in the most center gate. That just might stay locked forever.

Miss Parker, you're it.

25 January 2006

I Do It All For You Mulder!

I have a confession to make. I’m on my second caffeinated beverage of the day. Well, actually my second Coke of the day. The sad fact of the matter is that not that long ago, Coke, Pepsi, and the like were not part of my routine. Then I started getting regular migraines, and having no health insurance and an allergy to acetaminophen, caffeine was my only relief. Thus began the downward spiral. Which brings me to today.

It has been a stressful week, even if it is only Wednesday. We finally got our network back up and running after nearly a month without it because of our office move. Which means there are about 4700 things I need to do that have been languishing in various piles on my desk. 4700 things I so don’t want to face. Additionally, even though I haven’t received my W-2 yet, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be paying several hundred dollars in taxes. Last year I got a whopping $7 back and in the intervening year, I’ve begun working full time and had two pay raises. So I’m a little stressed about when I’ll be able to eat again. Finally, people I know and love have been having major stress-causing issues pop up in their lives, which make me stressed. Which is all an explanation of why, last night, instead of doing the practical, responsible thing by going to bed, I stayed up until 1 a.m. watching reruns of The X-Files with Miss Parker.

They were great episodes, combining the humor and suspense for which the series was known. In addition, Parker and I have the retinue of private, inside jokes that accumulate from a shared obsession of over six years. We were cracking ourselves up during those two hours we watched. It was a great stress reliever. Plus, as my screen name indicates, Agent Mulder (and his alter ego, David Duchovny) is one of my oldest TV boyfriends, second only to one Mr. John Stamos, who captured my 8 year-old heart as Uncle Jesse and hasn’t quite relinquished hold of it. And thus, here I sit, sipping my Cherry Coke wishing I could take a nap, all because episodes of The X-Files, ones Parker owns on DVD mind you, were playing in real time on TNT. Where are my priorities?

02 January 2006

Well, the holidays are over and so is the vacation. It is time to face the new year with all its incumbent responsibilities and possibilities. So, for the first time in my twenty-seven years, I'm going to make, and record for history, some New Year's resolutions.

Read More, Read Better - I used to be a voracious reader, and I still love books and reading, but the television has started to encroach on my reading time. Also, I need to start reading more enlightening and spiritually nourishing literature. For example, I have been meaning to read Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmadge for about 10 years now, I just haven't done so.

Get into Shape - Again, something that has been on my To Do list for the last decade. Now that I live in a building with a fitness room, I have no excuse. Plus, with the colds I got over Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don't even have to worry about holiday weight gain. I'm starting out ahead of the game.

Pay Down My Debt - Since my debt is a car loan, there is no way I could pay it off this year unless I got an astronomical raise. However, I can afford to up my payments by 50%, which would save me about a year in payments, if I'm doing my math right.

Get Financially Savvy - I have a 401k but I have no idea what it does or how it works or even what my money is doing. I really need to find out. For Christmas I got a subscription to a financial planning newsletter (Thanks Dad!) so I just need to buckle down and study. And get a dictionary, because some of that fine print stuff confuses me.

Find My Bliss - Yeah, this is kind of esoteric, but I really need to find my passion in life. And find a way to make a career out of it. I know I won't be happy making a career of being an Executive Administrative Assistant.

Meet New People - I have great friends, people who have known me for decades, so I'm pretty content and complacent when it comes to friendship. And I've been lucky in my complacency as most of my dear friends live within an hour or less drive, but I won't always be this lucky and even if I am, I need to start broadening my horizons.

Learn Something New - There are so many community education classes offered in my city, it is ridiculous for me not to try some, be it gourmet cooking or web site design or even brushing up my Spanish or Italian skills just in case the secret trust fund does kick in and I can afford to travel Europe.

Write - Creating this blog has reminded me how much I enjoy the written word, especially when it is my written word. Also, I need to start keeping a journal. My previous attempts have ended because I either bored myself with meaningless entries about my daily doings or depressed myself with endless laundry lists of my perceived grievances with my life or the world in general. What I really need is a tiny corner where I can express my deepest thoughts and desires, with much less formality and no worry about the audience of this blog.

Simplify - I have a bad habit of holding on to things, of what-ifing my way into overcrowded closets and drawers, of making everything complicated. I really need to remember I don't need to keep greeting cards for fear of offending those who sent them, or to hold on to things I don't like, don't need, don't want.

Worry Less - I am a great Worst-Case Scenarist. I can think of fifty ways any given activity, event, or situation can go wrong. The fact I don't have an ulcer amazes me. The stress of doing the unknown is overwhelming for me because of all the ways I come up with for it to go wrong. But things rarely go so wrong. And if they do, it is never one of the fifty ways I imagined. So I need to let go and have a little more fun, because, as E.M. Forster wrote in A Room with a View, one can't rehearse life.