Tuesday, December 30, 2008

books, books, books.

i finished everything is illuminated the other day. i was reading it while in a room full of approximately eight friends all playing wii, and i cried quietly as the story took an abrupt and distressing turn. i've never cried in front of other people because of a book before, but it was a strange and nice feeling.



now i'm reading a book about a man who follows the rules of the Bible literally for an entire year. i expect it will help my spiritual dillemas more than i previously anticipated. i'm excited. i expect this will be a book i pass on to many others.

Friday, December 26, 2008

christmas.

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no matter how hard i try, i cannot like christmas.

i try, really i do. but in the end, all of those hallmark reasons you're supposed to love christmas, just aren't there for me. and i truly think that my mother is going mentally crazy. that doesn't help either.

Monday, December 22, 2008

complete.

i am so completely and utterly satisfied and thrilled with my life at this moment in time.



happy birthday, andrew!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

starving daughters.

The following are all quotes from the book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How The Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women by Courtney Martin. It begins talking mostly about weight, but delves into much more. It reminded me so much of so many conversations I've had with countless friends of mine that it broke my heart. I'd like to think it broke in a good way, though.

Being underweight or overweight so often stems from the same roots: a society of extremes, struggles for control, learned behavior, self-hatred. …Being on either end of the spectrum—totally obsessed or completely unengaged—is hazardous to your health. These extremes are crippling our society's collective economic, intellectual and even spiritual health.

Ninety-one percent of women recently surveyed on a college campus reported dieting; 22 percent of them dieted "always" or "often". In 1995, 34 percent of high school-age girls in the United States thought they were overweight. Today, 90 percent do. Over half the females between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five would prefer to be run over by a truck than be fat and two-thirds surveyed would rather be mean or stupid.

Connect the dots and you have a tangled, paralyzing web of obsession. Seemingly isolated cases—the gagging sound in the bathroom, the famly-style bowl of pasta disappearing in the night, the meticulous food diary—seen together are evidence of a larger picture of pathology. My generation is expending its energy on the wrong things. We are holed up in our bedrooms doing Google searches on low-fat foods, churning away on stationary bikes in torturous spinning classes and feeling guilty, inadequate, shameful and out of control in the process. We thought we would save the rainforest and find a cure for AIDS. Instead we are doing research on the most accurate scales and the latest diet trends.

Professors, sociologists and parents have called us apathetic but really we are distracted. We don't have time to think about the war in Iraq, because we can't get past the war in our own minds: Should I be "bad" and have pizza, or should I be "good" and have a salad? We can't look up and out because we are too busy looking down, scrutinizing our bodies in magnifying full-length mirrors.

At the center of most of the young women I know today are black holes. Next to the brilliance and the creativity and the idealism is a bubbling, acid pit of guilt and shame and jealousy and restlessness and anxiety. It isn't that they aren't driven or brilliant or powerful or determined. To the contrary, most of the women I know between the ages of nine and twenty nine are complete dynamos. …My friends and I, girls and young women across the nation…harbor black holes at the center of our beings. We, the perfect girls, try to fill theses gaping holes with food, blue ribbons, sexual attention, trendy clothes, but no matter how hard we try, they remain. We have called this insatiable hunger by many different names—ambition, drive, pride—but in truth it is a fundamental distrust that we deserve to be on this earth in the shape we are. A perfect girl must always be a starving daughter because there is never enough—never enough accomplishment. Never enough control. Never enough perfect.

We must not only be perfect—as in accomplished, brilliant, beautiful, witty—but also appear as if we achieve all this perfection through an easygoing, fun-loving approach. Perfect girls are powerfully afraid of seeming too uptight, rigid or moralistic. We don't just want to achieve; we also want to be cool. The "perfect" part of this equation gets us in trouble with eating disorders or obsessions with food and fitness. The Herculean effort to appear effortless keeps us silent or nonchalant about the pain we are in.

If the average woman speands about an hour a day contemplating her size, her calorie intake, and her exercise regiment starting at the age of twelve and she lives for eighty-five years, she will have lost over three years of her life. Three years! Most women I know get irritated if they spend more than five minutes waiting for a bus or talking to an uninteresting guy at a bar. Three years of inefficiacy, powerlessness and sheer waste should make us furious!

What can we do to close the gap between what we know—that body obsession is a waste of time and spirit—and how we actually lead our lives and think about ourselves?

We [perfect girls] take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read, and witty, intellectually curious, always moving. We are living contradictions. We are socially conscious, multicultural and anti-corporate but we still shop at Gap and Banana Republic. We listen to hip-hop, indie rock and country on our iPods. We are girls in hooker boots, wife beaters and big earrings. We make documentary films, knit sweaters and DJ. We are "social smokers", secretly happy that the cigarettes might speed up our metabolisms, hoping they won't kill us in the process. We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivation. We drink coffee, a lot of it. We are on birth control, Prozac and multivitamins. We do strip aerobics, hot yoga, go five more minutes than the limit on any exercise machine at the gym. We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves and forgiving to others. We never want to be as passive-aggressive as our mothers, never want to marry men as uninspired as our fathers. We carry the old world of guilty—center of families, keeper of relationships, caretaker of friends—with the new world of ambition—rich, independent, powerful. We are the daughters of feminists who said, "You can be anything" and we heard, "You have to be everything". We must get A's. We must make money. We must save the world. We must be thin. We must be unflappable. We must be beautiful. We are the anorectics, the bulimics, the overexercisers, the overeaters. We must be perfect. We must make it look effortless. We grow hungrier and hungrier with no close what we are for. The holes inside of us grow bigger and bigger.

Our bodies, our needs, our cravings, our sadness, our weakness, our stillness inevitably become our own worst enemies. It is the starving daughter within who must be shut down, muted, ignored…eventually killed off.

The face we show to the world is one of beauty, maturity, determination, strength, willpower and ultimately accomplishment. But beneath the façade is a daughter—starving for attention and recognition, starving to justify her own existence. The starving daughter within annoys us, slows us down, embarrasses us. She is the one who doubts our ability to handle a full-time job and full-time school. She gets scared, lonely, homesick. She drinks too much, cries too loud, is nostalgic and sappy. When neglected she seeks comfort in cookies, coffee ice cream, warm bread—transgressions that make the perfect girl in us angry. The starving daughter emerges in midnight confessions, a best friend's sudden tears, a suite mate buried in mountains of covers, shades drawn, eating ice cream in the middle of the day and watching Buffy reruns in the dark. Starving daughters are full of self-doubt. We don't want to worry so much about making other people happy but feel like we can never say thank you enough times, never show enough humility, never help enough, never feel enough shame. We feel guilty. We fear conflict. We are dramatic, sensitive, injured easily. We are clinging to all kinds of attachment that in our minds we know we should elt go of but in our bodies we feel incapable of relingquishing. We are self-pitying, sad, even depressed. We are tired of trying so hard all of the time. We feel like giving up. We feel hopeless. We want love, acceptance, happy endings, and the rest. We wish we had faith, that we weren't ruled by our heads and could live in our hearts more often. We want to have daughters, little girls who will love us unconditionally. We steal small things such as candy bars and bras—that make us feel special for just a moment. We try to fill the black holes inside of us with forbidden foods. We never feel full. We always feel cold. We starve for a god. We don't like to talk about this part of ourselves. Our whole lives, we have received so much affirmation for the perfect part that the starving daughter part feels like an evil twin. Sometimes we can even convince ourselves that the sadness, self-doubts and hunger don't exist, that we like to be this busy, that we like to eat small, unfulfilling portions or work out constantly. …Young women struggle with this duality. The perfect girl in each drives forward, the starving daughter digs in her heels. The perfect girl wants excellence, the starving daughter calm and nurturance. The perfect girl takes on the world, the starving daughter shrinks from it. It is a power struggle between two forces and at the center almost every time is an innocent body.


This is not a blame game. My mother's generation taught mine to be questioning, critical, outspoken, unafraid. Well, here we are: looking back on our childhoods and trying to understand how we acquired such bottomless hunger for achievement and perfection and such resistance to balance, wellness and satisfaction.



Mom puts in the time, but she also restricts and restrains. Dad is rarely around, but when he is, it is a laugh a minute, a real party time. As a result, femaleness is eqated with restriction in many little girls' minds. Maleness is about wild abandon, sweetness, fun.


She had a strong sense of her parents' political views, their philosophical leanings, the musicals they loved and the classic movies they adored. But she knew nothing of her father's soul. She knew nothing of what made him tick, what drove him, what scared him. She knew nothing of what he loved most.


One of the trademark perfect girl talents is this ability to ignore and overcome the body's weakness in pursuit of a goal. We quickly condition ourselves to tune out our own internal signals, our aches and pains, our hungers and tune up our plans, our determination, our control. What works in the short term, however, eventually leads to burnout. Many of us, so expert at overcoming our own pain on the road to success, end up crossing the finish line but not without disease and heartbreak.

We want to have fun. We want to dance. We want to relieve stress. We want to be young and reckless. We want to meet people who don't bore us with the same predictable stories. We want to believe in the magic of chemistry. We want to earn bragging rights about the posh club we got into. We want to feel lusted after and to lust. We want to numb, forget, fuck. The truest answer is that we want to be seen and we want to be loved.

Being noticed is ordinary, fleeting and impersonal. Being seen is extraordinary, lasting and intimate. Being noticed is common and only skin-deep. Being seen is rare and profound. It is what happens when you stay up all night talking in a stranger's car because the conversation was so good you forget to reach for the door handle. Suddenly it is dusk outside and your stomach is growling and your future feels as if it is laid out in front of you like a highway in the desert. Being seen is when your boyfriend knows that horseshoe scar on your knee was from when you fell in the gravel of the playground in fourth grade playing flag football and he adores it. Being seen is a hand on the small of your back as you walk through a doorway, a glass of water when you are coughing in the middle of the night, his making a passing reference to something you said so long ago you barely remember it. Being seen is when your girlfriend asks, "Why do you seem sad?" before you have realized that you are, indeed, sad. Being seen is rarely about physical beauty. Being seen is never about being buff or thin.

Despite the Venus and Mars psychobabble, we are both, women and men, from the same lonely planet. We are not, in truth, the hunters and the hunted; we are all just sweet, big-eyed animals looking for someone to love and be loved by. …We all need connection that fortifies us, that makes us feel that we belong somewhere with someone, that we are more beautiful and important than we ever imagined. …We have been duped into thinking that love is a logical extension of animal attraction, when really it is more closely related to friendship.


Both men and women are trapped in this maze of self-scrutiny, weight or shape preoccupation, preening and primping, searching and spending. But love doesn't dwell at the end of this maze, even if you do find your way through. Love can't be won like the lottery or hunted down like an animal. Love is much more elusive and complex. In fact, it is not something outside of us, waiting for us to find it. It is already inside, something's taking long, languid naps, something's watching, all the time waiting to be woken up by a resonant voice. There is no one-size-fits-all beauty, no perfect girl, no ideal guy. There is only a fit, plain and simple and miraculous.

If you live fat in your head, then you are. If you believe you are unattractive, you will experience the world as an unattractive woman. If you hound yourself about everything you put in your mouth, you won't enjoy eating. Regardless of the number on the scale, if the number inside your head is large, insurmountable and loaded with meaning then you will feel weighted down by its implications.

Turns out, none of us is special. Yeah, yeah, we are all as unique as beautiful snowflakes. Each of us has a distinct blend of gifts to give the world But when it is 9:00pm and your boss still hasn't' given you the fax he so desperately needs you to send before you leave (and God forbid he learn to use the fax machine himself), you feel a few meltdowns short of a beautiful snowflake. You feel like a what's-her-name. You feel, for all intents and purposes, invisible.



"Sometimes there is so much disparity between what young women are told to expect and what actually happens that they get disillusioned. They ones who blame themselves tend to get depressed. If they aren't good at managing their tough feelings, sometimes they get stuck exercising massive amounts of control in order just to keep going or worst-case scenario, they back off from the ladder altogether and give up the climb. It is all much worse if they grew up seeing themselves as special or precious." –Robin Stern, psychologist and feminist author.

When you turn twenty-five and you look up from the toilet bowl or the keyboard or the steering wheel and you realize that there is nothing where there should be something at the center of your life at the center of your body at the center of your soul, what do you do? When you realize that the hunger you feel is for something much larger, much more substantial than a paycheck or a flat stomach or a cute boyfriend, where do you look for spiritual sustenance?

We, the perfect girls, have been on our own version of a pilgrimage—going many miles and denying the most basic of our needs in the futile hope that lal this will lead us to some kind of salvation. When we are thin, we have reasoned, we ill be godlike and no longer need the reassurance of a higher power. We will possess a power within ourselves potent enough to get us loved and promoted and recognized. We have sought perfect gods and we have come up empty handed. We have learned that, no matter how much we deprive ourselves, our bodies refuse to become holy. They are fleshy, curved, bleeding messes, made in an ancient form—certainly divine but not devoid of discomfort. We have learned that, no matter how much we control our appetites, a hunger remains at our cores. It won't be satiated by food or the swollen pride that results from refusing it. It certainly won't be satiated by perfection. As Anna Quindlen predicted, those of us who have tried to be perfect all of our lives will face a moment when we discover not an impeccably ordered soul within, but a black whole. Only wonder will fill you and satiate your spiritual hunger—wonder at your little life, wonder at the struggle, wonder at minute and overlooked beauty. There is no secret path in the sky, there is only the very human work of slugging on the ground. It is at once mundane and miraculous, at once daily and divine. You will fail to bypass the nitty gritty choices of life. Inevitably. You will fail to live life completely in your head. Inevitably. You will fail to lose weight, keep it off, stick to a diet. Inevitably. You will fail to deny your hungers, cravings and desires. Inevitably. You will fail to be a perfect girl. Inevitably. Ultimately you cannot organize a soul or a life. You cannot achieve well-being. You can only move toward wellness and peace of mind and happiness with a humble, transparent intention. You can only admit your smallness in a large and overwhelming world, and then be surprised by the power of that smallness. You can only see your body for what it is—a miracle of coordination, curves, resiliency, a partner in your life's journey.

Perfection and thinness are not your most potent sources of authentic power; your potential is. We dwell in the most powerful of places, a place reserved expressly for those who are young and naïve: a land of nothing to lose.
Our obsession with weight is not simply pathology; it is a message about our anxiety and ambition. We are poised to change the world forever—we are that powerful. The preoccupation with food and fitness itself is disempowering but not a waste. Settling for that preoccupation most certainly would be. Accepting self-hatred as an inevitable part of being a woman would be tragic.

It takes tremendous will and determination to fight your natural cravings, each and every day. It takes finely tuned control to resist the excess all around you. It also takes profound depth of emotion to buckle under this pressure, to eat until you are bloated with the evidence of your own fragility. And revolting as it is, it takes real, physical strength and strategy where you can rid yourself of this fragility. If you harnessed just a fraction of this will, determination, control, emotional depth, strength and strategy to get better, to take care of yourself, to resist the culture's monotonous messaging, imagine how powerful you could be.

Our teacher will be our struggle. The wisdom we will gain from having been sick, to one degree or another, and gotten better will be more powerful than never having suffered. The therapist James Hillman writes, "Psychology regards all symptoms to be expressing the right thing in the wrong way." We hunger because we are hungry for the world. We starve because we are overwhelmed by this hunger. We binge because we want love and recognition and peace. We purge because we are ashamed that we don't know how it get it in the right way. We run because we are eager. We chase perfection because we are idealistic. We obsess because we are determined. We will heal because we are too young and too strong not to.

We must raise our consciousnesses through raw conversation. We must talk about how bad it really is in order to get better. We must admit we are not invincible. WE must ask brave questions so we can learn about our family histories and our genetic risks. We must face these and ourselves with brutal truth and fierce optimism.

perspective.

sometimes that from our perspective, it must seem like some truly awful things happen in time and space.

we live in a world of illusions. a world that springs from a much deeper and far greater reality. and while at times the illusions are indeed ugly, with our physical senses we only see the tip of the iceberg. If we could see the whole, we'd discover that the unpleasantness was only the tiniest piece of a most spectacular puzzle that was created with order, intelligence, and absolute love. we'd see that contrary to appearances, in the grandest scheme of things, nothing is ever lost, no one becomes less, and setbacks are always temporary. and we'd understand that no matter what has happened, everyone lives again, everyone laughs again, and everyone loves again, even more richly than before.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

sunday nights.

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Sometimes, when you're feeling your lowest, the real you is summoned.

And you understand, maybe for the first time ever, how grand you are, because you discover that vulnerable doesn't mean powerless, scared doesn't mean lacking in beauty, and uncertainty doesn't mean that you're lost.

These realizations alone will set you on a journey that will take you far beyond what you used to think of as extraordinary.

There is always a bright side.

oh, san diego drivers...

...you slay me! even the smallest amount of sprinkling and the highways turn into a school zone. why, oh why are we driving 50??

i understand that as san diegans, we're quite spoiled and i sympathize with you. but your track record for absurd driving with even the slightest amount of rain is unforgivable!

Friday, December 12, 2008

next semester

i am going to have the most insane schedule next semester.

21 units including two honors classes.

yikes.




at least i'll only have three nights of work instead of five!
i am definitely, deeefinitely going to appreciate my five weeks of winter vacation!

Monday, December 8, 2008

you know you're a douchebag when...

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...you, in your giant enlarged head, think you deserve not one, but two parking spots. note that this is especially douchey when your car isn't even especially valuable.

so thank you, man at subway who made me park and then use the crosswalk to get my sandwich, thank you. i'm sure your '99 cherokee is sitting safely in your driveway right now and you're damn proud of it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

to do before this semester ends aka two weeks:

-scrapbook i should have been working on for nine weeks (approx. 10-15 pages)
-sociology project (approx. 5 pages)
-chapter twelve extra credit (approx. 2 pages)
-revise english paper #1 (approx. 5 pages)
-revise english paper #2 (approx. 5 pages)
-do all missing homework in journal (approx. 4 pages)
-graded summary (approx. 2 pages)
-do research presentation via powerpoint
-do research paper on russia & it's environmental issues (approx. 10-11 pages)
-memorize monologue
-do production booklet for performance (approx. 7 pages)
-study for last astronomy test



oh. shit.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

tonight is one of those nights.

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sometimes you just need someone to show up at your door with hot chocolate in hand. they'd say you look beautiful, even though your eyes are red and puffy, then you'd fall asleep in their lap as they play with your hair.

but sometimes what you need is what you can't have.