Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Resentment and forgiveness

I've had a lot of opportunities to be resentful lately. I try hard to be giving in my life, and sometimes that leads to people taking advantage of me, and that never feels good. I sometimes want to teach someone a lesson when they take me for granted. "Oh yeah?" I think. "Well what if I just didn't want to?" It's a bad attitude. It's resentment.

Today I had one of those opportunities. To avoid naming names, I'll be vague. Some friends had left a mess, and the one who would normally clean up didn't show for our regularly scheduled meetup. My first thought was disbelief, then judgement. "Oh, X person is always so irresponsible." Then I told myself that I shouldn't be surprised because I already knew that part of X person's nature. What was the real clincher was that the mess had to be cleaned up for a special meeting of strangers that needed to be impressed a little. So in order to make the place presentable, it had to be me and my roommate to cover X person's backside, who, I felt, was lucky that we'd showed up at all.

After getting the place ready for the meeting, I sent my roommate a snarky text message about how the dark carpet would cover the blood stains if I killed X person. I realize how uncharitable that was, but in my defense, that dark carpet surely does cover blood stains, and I was thinking of the movie "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." But it made me appear angry when I was really just annoyed. I'm not sure if this was passed on by my roommate, but later in the day, I got an apologetic text message from one of the people responsible for the mess. I thought about how I could respond. "It's fine" didn't seem right. It wasn't fine to repeatedly shirk responsibility. But it all got done, and I lost no special time out of my day to do it. What it was was all right.

"It's all right." I said, but what I meant was "All is right between us." I do not want to stay angry at my friends. I don't want to resent them, keep record of wrongs, scoff "Typical!" like a bitter Brit. If I can't be forgiving to my friends, who can I be forgiving to? If any one of us can't be forgiving, how can we ask for grace?

More than having to clean up someone else's mess, I was disappointed that my friend didn't show because I was really looking forward to kicking back and talking about Jesus and what to do about Him. Looking back on today, I wonder if God chose to give me a more direct lesson.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Discomfort zone

Picture by Jessica Hagy of thisisindexed.com

Inside my comfort zone I am around people that I already know, or maybe I'm alone, because being around anyone these days makes me nervous. It makes me feel like I've got to say the right things and make the right moves or the people around me will not like me. So inside my comfort zone are people I already know who for some reason or another are obligated to be around me and be civil. Inside my comfort zone are familiar places like University of Oregon, the Spring-ghetto, the libraries, Sara's Treasures, and Milton Keynes because I know how things operate there. I am rarely going to go to those places and be surprised by something out of the ordinary. I know how to behave in those places. In my apartment or at my parents' house or grandma's house, I don't even have to worry about anything new. I can go there every time and do what I always do. The internet is part of my comfort zone (unless it's on Skype voicechat) because I can always take my time to think about what I'm saying.

Outside my comfort zone is where the magic happens. The magic happens when I perform onstage. Magic happens when I meet new people, maybe people who need someone to listen to their stories. Magic happens when I can readily respond to my fellow human beings with kindness. Magic happens when I catch myself getting worked up or mad and stop and count backwards from five. I learn more outside of my comfort zone. My new placement is currently outside my comfort zone because I don't have it mastered yet. Dating is outside my comfort zone, not because I wouldn't like to date someone, but because it has been so long since I've gone out with someone that I don't believe in my ability to hold it together. After I try something new or open myself to criticism and then come back, I sometimes let myself hold onto my panic. I tell myself that I never want to do that again because it was so frightening. Sometimes I slay the dragon and do a kick-ass karaoke number and feel like a rockstar.

When I leave my comfort zone, it feels like I'm an astronaut doing a space walk and my tether has just been cut. It's terrifying. Sometimes I want to leave, but most times I don't. Mostly I want to stick to what I know, but sometimes I want an adventure, to mark another thing off my list of things I've never done. It's important to my faith practice to get out of my comfort zone so that other people can experience comfort. Sometimes getting out of my comfort zone means having to reevaluate the way I have thought about something for a long time.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Little Mermaid: Feminist Role Model

I have an ongoing argument with some egalitarian friends regarding Disney princesses. They have a three-year-old daughter and don’t want her to grow up believing that she is helpless and needs saving. I can see their point for some Disney films. Sleeping Beauty, for example, falls into an enchanted sleep and is unable to act for half the film. She awakens after her man has defeated the evil witch woman. Snow White finds a messy cabin in the woods and immediately sets to cooking and cleaning for seven bachelors. She also falls into an enchanted sleep and has to wait for Prince Charming to resurrect her.

However, when they start attacking “The Little Mermaid,” I start fighting back. Aside from her awesome voice and gravity defying hair, I think Ariel is a fine role model for any budding feminist.

On the surface (oh, nautical puns!), Ariel is a teenage nightmare. She’s irresponsible, disobedient, and goes to extreme measures to modify her body. Some would even say that she’s a spoiled brat. She hoards a grotto full of treasure from shipwrecks, but is not satisfied. Not much is asked of her except that she stay away from the surface for her safety. Plus, she’s royalty in a kingdom that adores her; what more could a girl want?

What she wants is to be her own woman. Long before she meets (and saves!) Prince Eric, Ariel longs for a break from a society that doesn’t understand her differences.

“Betcha on land, they understand/ Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters/ Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to stand/ And ready to know what the people know/ Ask ‘em my questions and get some answers”
This is a girl who wants an education. She knows she’s intelligent, but she also knows that what she can learn under the sea is limited. She is tired of the constraints put on her by her overbearing father, who discourages her passion for exploring and learning. She has a grotto full of material things, but she doesn’t want thingamabobs; she wants experience.

Honestly, who wouldn’t want to go up to the surface considering the life she leads as a mermaid. She has six older sisters, all apparently still living at home with Triton. The only scenes we see of the sisters are their musical performance in honor of their father, and something akin to a group beauty session. Ariel may enjoy the occasional dinglehopper, but vapid homebody she is not. While her sisters flounder at home, our heroine seeks adventure as far as her fins will carry her.

Ariel has good reason to get out from under the thumb of the overbearing King Triton. The man has some serious control issues. After she misses her concert, he shouts down her explanations, expresses his prejudice against humans, and forbids her to participate in her favorite hobbies. When he destroys her most prized possessions in a fit of rage, Ariel decides that she’s had enough. With “no one else to turn to,” she swims straight into the tentacles of the Sea Witch.

Some feminists would argue that the fact that Ariel gives up her right to speak for a man makes for a sexist film, but I argue that the exchange between Ariel and Ursula unites sexism with evil, and therefore, the film is against it. Ursula is able to wrest Ariel’s voice from her by convincing her that “on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word,” because she knows the girl is desperate, not because it’s true. In fact, the rest of the film proves the opposite. Eric is devoted to the woman with the golden voice who saved him, and when Ariel appears voiceless, it’s a serious hitch. He clearly wants to get to know her better, because he’s a nice guy, but doesn’t really fall in love with her until she again has the ability to speak her mind. (As a person who works with students with disabilities, I have mixed views on this, but that’s another blog.)

In the end, Ariel and Eric have each saved the other’s life once, and so are on equal footing in the relationship. Their marriage is a celebration of the unity between two worlds where there had previously been misunderstanding and hatred. A diplomatic mermaid sounds like a feminist heroine to me! Ariel is a good role model for girls young and old because she seeks to free herself from an oppressive, closed-minded society, she takes risks to become a woman of the world, and because it is her courage to speak her heart and mind that gets her to her happily ever after.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My roommate really stunk up the place

Soon after my roommate moved in, she told me that she was a furry. I can't recall exactly how this came up. All I remember is how easily she volunteered the information. "I have some furry art that I made... It's tasteful, of course." With visions of mating mascots in my head, visions I am still trying to erase, I nodded, "Ah....well...ok." When I had to pass her room, I averted my eyes to avoid the beady stares of her collection of fox plushies. I tried not to squirm when she said that her goal in life was to be a wildlife veterinarian.

It wasn't long until Merlin moved in. Far from magic, Merlin was a meek little thing who had just enough guts to sneak into my room and use my cat's litter box before fleeing in fear. Try as I might to clean the box every day, the apartment started to stink. Really, really stink. It got into my hair and clothes. I started keeping my clean clothes out in my car and getting a clean outfit each morning so that I could go to work without smelling like cat poo.

The cats did not get along well, so I tried my best to keep them in their own territory. One day, my roommate left her door open and Whiskers, being a cat, wanted to go wherever she was not allowed. When I entered my roommate's room to retrieve her, I found the source of the smell, and the reason that Merlin was always sneaking into my room. It was his own litter box, flowing over with cat turds! It was clear that it had not been cleaned since they had both moved in. Poop and grains of litter spilled out onto the carpet underneath my roommate's lofted bed. Gagging, I grabbed Whiskers and shut my roommate's cat and his bin of poo off from the rest of the apartment.

Lucky for me, my roommate's job transferred her to another city, so she, the plushie collection, and the litter box of plenty left me and Whiskers in sweet smelling peace.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Revolutions

I resolve this year to take more chances as opportunities come up. There have been too many times when I didn't take an opportunity because I was too afraid or because I wanted things to be just so. I waited so long without making a decision that the opportunity was lost. I have missed out on the kind of opportunities that I'd been waiting for for a long time, chances to make a difference in the world, relationships that would have made me happy, choices that would have saved me money.

I also resolve to get a handle on my social life, which is a brutish entity apparently separate from myself, because the two of us are in a constant battle. I have learned that my shyness, anxiety, and chronic loneliness is so extreme that it interferes with my ability to make new friends. I have an even more difficult time growing close friendships, which I can count on one hand. The rest of the world has access to deep, meaningful relationships and I'm trying to communicate in Morse code. I'm taking steps to learn some skills that have broken down over the years as I came to expect rejection, and some that I never had in the first place.

On that note, I'm also learning how to distinguish between realistic friendships and ones that I have built up in my head, and how to let the superficial ones go. I don't want to be anyone's friend because they pity me, and I don't want people to lead me on. I think I'm a pretty awesome person, and I want my real friends to think I'm awesome too, not weird, not creepy, not a burden. I've nearly buried all those "out of sight, out of mind" friendships, those "he's/she's not into you if he/he isn't calling you" friendships. I want to spent my time on people who identify with me, not waste my time on people who would rather be somewhere else.

Here's to a new year.