Wednesday, April 29, 2009

QCR (for the one person who knows what that stands for)

"Perhaps it's impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be." --Valentine Wiggin, from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.

Scary thought, right? the thought: that the mask I wear will become my face, if I leave it on; that my identity is not a fixed crystal that I can choose to hide or show, but a construct built of reflections and shadows; that the external me will inevitably permeate into the core that I think of as untouchable. . . that I am what I act like.

But what if I pretend to have it all together all the time? Will I actually become a perfectly composed and coordinated person?

So far, it's not working.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In which I am a bizarre specimen of humanity

In the past few months, I have frequently spent two or three hours talking over dinner. I have left several of them feeling bitter about the amount of homework I should have gotten done during those hours. Others, though, I left feeling pleasantly rebellious against the world of productivity. Some of these long conversations were fun, some useful, some informative; some were a combination of two or three of those; some were simply frustrating or unsatisfying.

The one I had today revolved around the definition of a (mathematical) limit. (". . . such that for an arbitrarily small epsilon, there is a number delta such that the value of the function falls within epsilon of y for every x within delta of a." "This is music to my ears!")

Based on a comparison of my feelings toward today's long conversation to previous ones, I think I can conclude that I would feel more connected in a relationship (of whatever sort) where we spent hours talking about math (or other abstractions) than one where we spent hours talking about the relationship.

What the heck does that say about me?

Monday, April 27, 2009

And there was much rejoicing.

Today, I was walking to buy breakfast, and it hit me: springtime.

I promise, I've been paying attention all along. I've noticed a tree white with flowers here, and there another blushing pink and purple, and by this road a burst of daffodils, and in that garden tulips like flames. I have not been immune to the sun's growing strength, and the wind's new gentleness. But each moment has seemed like an isolated occurrence. Added together, I could string them like beads into a necklace to ward off winter. Still, spring was a talisman, a charm, an icon, a picture--something to look at or not, to wear around my neck or put in a drawer. Today, though, spring escaped the strings and drawers, and leapt out of its frame. It swirled around me and I saw suddenly that it was everywhere.

When the weather turns from nasty to nice as it has in the past few days, I know in my bones why the line goes "Now is the winter of our discontent." It is easy to be discontent when the gray sky looms close overhead and the wind shrieks around the building and claws at you when you venture outside. It is easy to be depressed when twilight sucks the day away at four in the afternoon.

But when the sun is warm on your skin, and the trees soften their stark silhouettes with so many small blossoms--when the wind croons instead of screeching, and dances across the new leaves--when the grass is green, not gray--when the robins skip and flirt--when the sky is sapphire blue after a late dinner: it is easy to be happy. And I am.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I realized: I don't trust my body anymore. It is a traitor. It deceives me into thinking I want things that my real self doesn't want, and it encourages me to obsess over memories I don't need to be pondering. I am tired of being on my guard. When will I be able to trust myself?

Maybe never.

But I have Someone better to trust. It's going to be okay.

In other news, the past three days have been absolutely beautiful, in terms of both weather and experiences and mood. I'm sure my blog posts make me seem moodier than I actually am. =P

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recipe for Happiness

Grass, 1 field
Friends, 1 - many
Sunlight, 2 hours
Laughter, to taste
Entertainment, in the form of people doing gymnastics over trashcans (if desired)

Blend well, and serve warm.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


We talk about "hard questions" and "easy questions" blithely. The easy questions have simple answers, or at any rate, easily accessed answers; they are part of a known framework of ideas and approaches; we know how to deal with "What's the derivative of sin(x)?" and "How do you drive from here to there?" and "What's your name?" The hard questions are swathed in mystery, floating in a sea of unknowns, unquantifiables, unfathomables; we don't have the vocabulary to express their answers, even if we do have some vague ideas about what's relevant. "Who am I?" "What is the meaning of life?" "How should we respond to crises like AIDS in Africa or a tsunami in Asia, or a death in the family or a friend's break-up?" The hard questions ask us to actually look at the lenses that we look at life through. Sometimes it turns out we need a new prescription. Those are the answers we don't like.

So: we answer the easy questions, ponder the hard ones (when we can bring ourselves to face them).

But there are also questions that we don't even think of asking. If we knew those questions, and sought their answers, maybe everything else would fall into place. But the lenses we see through don't show us the things we need to ask about. We see them blurred, so indistinct as to be unrecognizeable as objects. We see them so far away they don't seem real. We see them without the detail that would distinguish them from the ground or the wall or the grass. They are invisible. If I am blind to them, they might as well not be there--until, walking along, going my own way, I trip over one of them. Having fallen and lost my glasses, I fumble on hands and knees and examine the world through uncorrected eyes, which blur everything equally.

But if I had only been picking my feet up a little more, I would never have run into that question. How am I supposed to find and answer the questions that I don't even think to ask?

Some questions are easy for me to ask, even when I can't find the answers. I am always asking,
What am I supposed to do?
What is right?
Is this wise?
Will this actually work?
What is prudent?
Why am I doing this?
Those are all so impersonal, you see. Principles, rules, patterns, logic: they are so reliable. If I can just analyze the situation right, it will all make sense, and I will fix it, and live happily ever after.

Here are some questions I don't ask, though.
Will this make me happy?
Is this a loving thing to do?
Feelings are so unreliable. How can I analyze them? How can I control them? Really, I can't. I need to accept that they are there, though, and that it's okay that I don't control everything...

Here's another question I don't ask:
What is God's will for me?
Maybe I'm part of a story that I am not the author of. Maybe I don't have to figure out every ending and plot twist. Maybe I need to let go and wait to be written.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I did what I'm sure was right. And now? I am supposed to feel heavy-hearted, sodden with the tears I haven't cried. I am supposed to be looking back and doubting whether I did the right thing. I am supposed to look over my shoulder wondering if he's there, I am supposed to wonder how he is feeling, what he is doing right now.

That's how it has been other times, anyway.

But instead, I feel light. Empty, maybe. I am light as a leaf. I could blow away on the wind, up into the sky, to the domain of the sun. When the wind lets me go, I will drift (not plummet) earthward. The air will pass me along, hand to hand, never dropping me, because I am no burden. My chest is full of wind and sun: spacious and gracious.

If I blow away into the cloudless sky, don't worry--I'll be back.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

why why why

If I am afraid of hurting people's feelings, is that because I love them and don't want them to suffer, or because I am cowardly and don't want them to be angry at me?

If I don't want them to be angry at me, why do I care? Because I care about who they are and what they think of me because I value their judgments? or because I try to define myself as a nice person so I can't take the idea of someone thinking I'm mean?

But I'm being to hard on myself. I do hurt people's feelings, when I know it's the right thing. I don't think of myself as an especially nice or kind person--I reach out and try to be welcoming not because it's natural or who I am, but because I believe it's important to treat people as valuable. It's something I have to work at, so it doesn't surprise me that I can't always succeed. Regardless of whether I seem "nice," my motive for niceness and my (professed) motive for keeping boundaries and thus causing pain are the same: doing the right thing.

I second-guess myself so much. I always want to be independent, but in the time of decision, I want someone else to tell me what to do, tell me it's okay to do the thing I really want. Justify me, is the cry of my heart. I seek security in all the wrong places. But I'll say of the Lord: You are my shield, my strength, my portion, deliverer, my shelter, strong tower, a very present help in time of need. Be Thou my vision.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I'm really bad at remembering numbers, but this is one statistic I won't forget:
Every minute, 2 children are sold into the sex trade.
(source: I do not have the words to express the degree to which that is just not okay.

I joke about things being "unacceptable" in my every day life: "I have only been getting 4 hours of sleep. That is just unacceptable." "Five dollars for a box of cut up fruit? Unacceptable!" Or I say they are not okay. "There is hair all over the bathroom counter. That is so not okay." But really? I can accept exorbitant prices for food, or some sleep debt, or some stray hairs. Those are acceptable. My life is okay. This, though: this is Not Okay. Every minute, two children. Unacceptable!

And it is unacceptable that it takes a statistic like that for me to think, "Ok, this has gone too far." It is unacceptable that I would accept, not as "okay" but as irremediable, the fact that little kids are ever, ever sold in the sex trade. What if it was one little girl every month? or every year? or every decade? That would still not be okay. That would still be unacceptable.

Six year old girls should not be facing problems like that. Neither should sixteen year old girls, for that matter, or twenty-six year old women. There is so much wrong with the world that we just take evil for granted. The word "evil" has lost its force, because we don't face it often. "A test on the first day back from break? Your professor is evil." No! People sold into slavery, children abused, those made in the image of God starving, being tortured, that is evil.

Everyone else standing by and looking the other way, at only school and friends and stories and technology and ideas and the myriad other wonderful pieces of our lives, and not at the evil that is truly present, if we paid attention--that is also evil.

And yet I don't know what to do about it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

[just because i haven't posted anything in a while, a random update]

Definitely getting worse at time management as I get older. Stayed up till four writing an essay due at the end of the semester, and then only did 3 out of 10 problems on the homework due this morning. Then again, maybe that just means I like robots better than recursion. My life is a great example of how people are motivated by inherently incompatible goals... which is what my paper was about... Asimov's Laws of Robotics + phonology's Optimality Theory + adolescent angst = my essay.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring Break

I would like to always face the sky. The clouds would cry for me, and the sun would smile for me. The wind would be my voice; I would never have to search for words. Instead of deciding and deciding and deciding, I would just grow. I would sink my roots deep, and drink whatever came my way.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


What makes two people click? To click with someone is to intuitively, effortlessly understand them. You click with someone because you have in common
(1) values,
(2) interests,
(3) sense of humor,
(4) style of communication, or
(5) emotional reactions (personality).
Of course, commonalities in some of these areas are noticeable more immediately than others. A similar sense of humor is quickly apparent, and shared interests are usually discovered early on. Whether values align is a much subtler question, especially since we aren't always aware of our own deepest values, but also because most of us aren't likely to talk about our fundamental values with a person we have just met. Revealing the inner workings of ourselves makes us vulnerable and can be overwhelming or imposing for the other person, so we don't do it right away. We work on the surface.

Likewise, personality and communication style aren't always immediately clear, because in order to function in society, we must all adapt our personalities and communicational styles. The persona that initially comes across, while not necessarily "fake", is often not the person's most natural self. Rather, it is the vision of the self constructed in order to guard the real self and work effectively with the surrounding individuals. (Extroverts don't have to put forth as much effort to connect with others as introverts do, so their personalities don't intrinsically pose problems for functioning in social settings. The "successful" introvert, though, probably isn't seen as an introvert, but rather as friendly and confident--characteristics which, though genuine, do not come naturally.) The outer self is as much a function of the surrounding environment as of the inner reality.

Preferred communication style may also be hidden. For instance, take a person who comes from a background that fostered indirect communication (such as Japan), and thus prefers to communicate indirectly, but who interacts primarily with people who communicate more directly (such as Americans). This person would have to adapt their day-to-day conversation style to function effectively, so they would appear to also have a direct communication style. But underneath, their natural communication style is quite different. Yet another complication is that a person who communicates very directly is unlikely to pick up on their conversation partner's indirect requests, and may not even notice that there is a misalignment.

So initial clicking tends to take place on the surface level: interests and sense of humor, and (to some extent) communicational style.

But what happens when two people are really well-matched on the surface levels but not on underlying values? They feel like they click, but ultimately they discover that they don't understand each other's core ideas. This can be problematic, because the surface level clicking has already created a strong bond by the time the issue of disparate values comes up...

In any case, on a day-to-day level, it's easier (though not necessarily more satisfying) to interact with people who share your interests, humor and communicational style but not your core values than the reverse--people who care about the same fundamental things but don't understand your attempts to communicate with them.