A Side Note on “Being Real”

October 30, 2012 § 6 Comments

After this post, I had some lingering thoughts. So here they are. Bear with me.

I am aware of the fact that it’s impossible to define what’s real, to define who we are, as if who we “really” are is some separate entity that doesn’t have to do with anybody/anything else, including Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Who we are consists of a lot of things: I am my mother’s daughter. I am my father’s daughter. I am Ryan’s wife. I am a devout Mormon. I am parts of each creative writing teacher I’ve had (even the old grouchy one I disagreed with). Thank goodness for all of these people/beliefs that have contributed to this current essence of me.

But I’m curious how this essence would change if my high school teachers encouraged me to major in economics instead of English (we didn’t even have an economics class), or if I grew up in Indonesia instead of Central Oregon, or lived on a farm instead of in a neighborhood. What if I was the fourth child, or the first child instead of the second? What if I married one of those weirdos I dated instead of Ryan (THE BIGGEST WEIRDO!!)? My experience of the world would be different. My understanding of experience would change because of my experience. Does that make sense?

How much of what I consider “me” would change if all my experience changed? I like to say that I’d still have my humor–(I’ve given up on being fascinating and resorted to being sorta funny)–but the truth is, what if my dad was never my dad, or my cousin Dani never handed me a Jack Handy book? What if I grew up watching Teletubbies (GROSS!!!!!!!) instead of Seinfeld? Okay, I’m a little freaked out. I HAVE NO ESSENCE.

But I kid. I kid. I believe there are parts of me that are essentially me. And not just my boobs and saggy butt (which, even though I inherited these from my grandmother, no boobs or butts are exactly like mine. Ryan assures me.). I mean, what about things like my awe? My anger? My hope? My sorrow? (I could go into a long discussion about learning emotions, but that might mean even my emotions aren’t my own. I refuse!)

I guess, though, who we are is constantly becoming. (I wrote a poem about this once.) Both our essences and our details. I am often learning new hobbies, interests, ways of living and experiencing that bring me either more or less happiness. This process of discovery changes what I do and what I want. (You could call it transformative!) Internet/social media = a place to learn new things from all kinds of people. I think that’s good. Great. Excellent. Fascinating!

I guess my concern always comes back to motives. In the words of Michael Scott, “Why are you the way that you are?”

In this sense, my question should not be “WHO ARE YOU REALLY?” because that’s not a fair question. And honestly, I think it’s a stupid and limiting question. Instead, my question is: “WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE AND WHY?”


But again, this raises more questions. Do our desires better represent who we are (currently) than our actions? Ahh. No and yes?

Of course, this post as a whole has no central purpose. Add to it what you will.


Sometimes I’m Really Great. Sometimes I’m Really, Really Not.

October 22, 2012 § 8 Comments

The other day I got everything all done and early. I had time for extra thesis reading, too. Woo hoo! Hallelujah! Those are the days that I tell myself: You are organized. You are responsible. You are capable. And then, since I’m in the mood, I throw in: You are cool, sexy, fun, funny, creative, generous, healthy, in-shape, brilliant, rich, good at cooking (and everything else I wish I were). Is it as obvious to you as it is to me how desperate I am for compliments from my own self?

Because other days, like today, I’m not so full of compliments. These are the days that I notice only the sourness of the pasta sauce I made, the comment I made that I now realize made absolutely no sense (I think faster than I speak), the time wasted on EVERYTHING!, the stupid paper I wrote, the stupid syllabus I made that doesn’t work, etc., ET CETERA.

Someone recently told me that instead of approaching each day as “I HAVE TO DO/BE THIS!” or “I NEED TO DO/BE THIS!” I should instead approach it like this:

I prefer to get BLANK done.

I hope to handle BLANK like this.

Or, when reflecting back on the day, to think:

I wish I would have handled this in BLANK way, but I didn’t. I hope to handle it BLANK way next time.

I would have preferred to get BLANK done, but I didn’t. I hope to do BLANK next time.

The reason I like this paradigm of thinking and the reason I write about this is because of a few reasons:

(1) In my recent studies of the brain, I’ve learned that your brain makes little, if any, distinction between thought and action. As in, your thoughts really do matter when it comes to your experience of the world. Your thoughts can actually shape your experience and interpretation of the world. AKA: How I think influences how I act. This is a big deal.

(2) The person who came up with this paradigm of thinking was some hot shot psychologist or psychiatrist* who noticed that when we approach tasks with a “have to” attitude, we either approach it and finish it begrudgingly, or we approach it begrudgingly and then don’t finish. And then we automatically feel like big, fat losers. We feel more motivated when we feel like we are choosing, rather than “having to”.

*Sorry-I don’t remember his name. (“I wish I could remember it, but I don’t.”)

(3) I can, at times, be extraordinarily hard on myself.

Perhaps my weakness in humility is not how I approach others or how I believe others view me, but how I form attitudes about myself.

Though I do, much of the time, love who I am and praise who I am (in a way that I hope is honest and healthy), there are so many other times when I drop all of those feelings, and replace them with really bad ones, like “Woman, you suck,” and not in the joking HA HA HA HA, I just slipped down the stairs and rug-burned my butt kind of way. But like, genuine, “You happen to be failing in life” kinda way.

What does it mean to say I genuinely love myself one day and the next day define myself by how much I get done, or rather, how much I don’t get done? Perhaps our love for others is most evident when they disappoint us–after they’ve hurt us, acted immaturely, foolishly, or even, spitefully. The same, I think, applies to ourselves. How we treat/feel/think about ourselves when we’ve really, full-blown, outright, supremely disappointed ourselves.

Sometimes I disappoint myself. But the key is to learn from that disappointment (Why? What could I do better next time?), not smash it against my head over and over again until I’m coughing or gagging or gasping for air, metaphorically speaking. (Okay, that’s kind of an exaggeration.) These things are all obvious. But I’m still learning, people, so bear with me.

Or perhaps, the key is to give myself a break and then think about other, more important things. Like autumn. Future babies. My wildly beautiful family.

How to Describe . . . “That Thing”?

October 9, 2012 § 4 Comments

I’m in the kitchen stirring some oatmeal when Ryan yells out to me from the family room, “Can you grab me that Aleve box?”

Not sure what he means by this box, I yell back, “What box?”

“I mean that Aleve can,” Ryan yells.

Still not sure what he means by “can,” but understanding that Aleve is a medicine Ryan has been taking for his shin splints, I yell back, “You mean the Aleve bottle?????!??!?!?”

Ryan laughs. I laugh very hard, then write this post immediately.

This all reminds me of my upset mother, yelling at us when we were younger: “Stop it, Dane! I mean Grant! I mean Lissa! I mean Nemo! I mean Tara!!!! STOP IT, TARA!”

The moment you call a bottle a box, or your daughter “Nemo,” which is the name of the family cat, you’ve lost a lot, if not all, credibility.


Upon Meeting People Who Fascinate Me . . .

September 26, 2012 § 12 Comments

I admit I’ve gotten a little tired of the Pinterest and Instagram world, in which everyone is suddenly looking and doing and saying the same adorable things. This is not to say I don’t appreciate adorable things/people/ideas when I see them. I do, always. I’m just starting to get confused about motives….and why we’re all becoming the same creative, interesting, unique people.

You see, there are genuinely fascinating people who don’t have blogs, Facebook pages, Pinterest accounts, and definitely not Instagram accounts. Obviously, I’m not one of these people because I do have a blog and a Facebook (+ I may or may not have tried a Pinterest account that I checked every four months or so.) This is not to say that people who have these things are not genuinely fascinating people. Of course not–that would be offensive to myself. This is to say, though, that some people don’t care about figuring out what other people are doing, and they definitely don’t care about whether or not anyone else knows/cares about what they do. These people are particularly fascinating to me.

Which is why I am going to tell you a little bit about my friend Maria who has lived in the shadows with her fascinatingness. Some things:

*She’s got bees. She and her husband randomly decided to be bee keepers about a year ago. They’re more into bees for honey than wax or anything else, but Maria’s not one to not try wax.

*She speaks Ukrainian and Russian fluently. She also spent a year studying Latin, which she’s kinda forgotten. But whatev.

*She and her husband are buying a plot of land in some obscure place called Hooper in Utah.









(Maria loves land.)

*She and her husband went to Williamsberg, Virginia for their honeymoon. They wanted, and I quote, “to learn about colonial life.” Fascinating!

*A couple weeks ago, Maria and her husband made a Fire Piston. This is how she explained it:

“You get a copper tube. You stick a cap on it so it’s air tight. You get a wooden dowel [which is a stick, for those of you who didn’t know, like me] and put a washer and some char cloth on it. Then you ram the dowel into the copper tube with enough force that there is enough air pressure that it combusts.”
When I asked her why they did this–Is your husband a science person or something?— she said, “Because we can.” Fascinating!

You can try pinteresting Maria. You can try building a Fire Piston or keeping bees or learning Latin and then forgetting it. I hope you genuinely enjoy it. Just remember that this Maria is the real Maria and you can’t really fake being the real Maria.


Maria does have a Facebook account. (However, she rarely checks it. We’re all trying to get her to check it more.)

Sometimes I Forget Things.

September 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

Like how I wrote this post exactly a year ago, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

How shamefully easy for people like me to forget.

And then I think about all those people who died. And their families, their friends, their lovers who are still alive, who will never have the chance to say what they have wanted to say face-to-face every day sinceI love you. You are a gift. They don’t forget.

I don’t want to forget their sorrow, to give up because of sorrow, because of them. I mean that.

Here is a quick and beautiful essay by Brian Doyle on leaping, on faith and love. Above all, love.

Favorite Lines Ever:

September 4, 2012 § 4 Comments

“He loved the woman and he wanted her to be alive for her sake. A theme favored by Saint Augustine was that to love anything (as God loved us in his view) is to want it to be.

I have always thought this to be one of the most profound of metaphysical insights because it connects objective reality and objective worth: to love something, anything, is to want it to be real.”

Robert Kane, from Through the Moral Maze

Who woulda thought that theory could be so . . . what’s the word for this? Like, I want, I want! to love like that.



Apathy a Virtue?

August 17, 2012 § 7 Comments

I like happy-go-lucky people. I do. Sometimes I wish I was a lot more like them.

These people have philosophies like “He who cares least is happiest,” so they just choose not to get all hot n’ bothered. Great. Hot n’ bothered sucks. Trust me, I know.

I get that some things really shouldn’t be stressed about. Even thought twice about. Like the dishes in the sink, this blog post, whatever.

But when did apathy become a virtue? It’s more like an incredible gift. Congratulations, you don’t care about anything. Life must come easy to you. You’re like, naturally stoned always.

Coming from someone who cares about a lot of things, even blog posts sometimes, I don’t get this kind of thinking and living–not that it’s wrong at all. I just literally can’t comprehend it because I’ve never experienced it. I mean, for me, I have to choose not to care about a lot of issues and how to better handle the things I don’t even care that much about. (Which, FYI, I suck at.)

When I hear people say, “What does he care?” or “Why does it matter?” I must confess: I get a little hot n’ bothered. As if because we don’t care, other people shouldn’t care either.

So I write a blog post about it. But I’m thinking, maybe I shouldn’t care about what I hear other people say. The question, though, is how do I not care?

Thoughts on apathy? Is it a virtue?