Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Trepidation is onomatopoetic.

To me, anyway. The word - trepidation... you can hear the shiver, the nervousness contained within the word. It's the word I thought of when I was driving back from Little Rock this afternoon.

No big deal, by the way, but I've found my next house. It's everything I've been praying for. It's small, cute, close to campus, and has a pretty, level, fenced yard for the pooch. It's got lots of cabinets in the kitchen and a showerhead I won't have to stoop to get under. It's a three bedroom, one bath. It's got a nice big den on the back that I might even claim as my bedroom and stick couches in one of the bedrooms instead. It's in a safe, landscaped neighborhood. It's affordable. In short, it's a godsend.

Why, then, did I feel a very particular nervousness as I was driving back to Hot Springs after turning over the deposit check? Because I'm afraid of commitment and always have been and probably always will be. The particular feeling of fear I was feeling, the specific trepidation, seemed familiar to me and at first I couldn't put my finger on why. I began to dissect the fear to get a better look at it. It was the "run for the door, quick" fear, a "this might not be right even though it seems that way" fear. It was a voice in my head telling me that even though it was everything I'd wanted and everything I needed that I shouldn't change my life.

Then it hit me. It's the exact trepidation I get every time I'm about to go under the needle for some new ink. Even though I've committed to the design by staring at it for months on my refrigerator and drawing it on with a sharpie over and over, I still want to run for the door each time. But I suck it up, conquer the fear, and go through with it... and every time I love it.

Trepidation is a fun word to research. Merriam and Webster, close personal homeboys of mine, say the etymology is Latin trepidation-, trepidatio, from trepidare to tremble, from trepidus agitated; probably akin to Old English thrafian to urge, push, Greek trapein to press grapes. That's exactly how I felt - as if I was hopping from foot to foot, back and forth, nervously. Then the definition goes on to say that trepidation means "timorous uncertain agitation." What perfect, beautiful language.

I'm about to make a huge change in my life. For the past eight years I've been working in restaurants and trying to make that my life, even if I didn't realize it at first. That is not to say that restaurant work can not be part of my life again in the future, but at least for the next two or three years it will not be the focus. My focus will be classes, studying, papers, reading... Instead of in a kitchen, I will spend most of my time on a campus. Rather than cracking dirty jokes with cooks, I'll be discussing ideas with professors. I'll replace late-night-socializing with early-evening-studies.

I'm terrified... but excited. I've been put on this path for a reason, the universe has been painfully clear about that. Fear can be a motivator for strength - as long as my trepidation keeps me hopping from foot to foot on these fresh new grapes, I'll make sure I'm at least hopping forward.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Learning about that F-word

Technically, if I were going to stay "It all started when..." I'd have to say it all started one sunny Labor Day back in 1982 when Susan Elizabeth Weston Wallace gave birth to an eight pound zero ounce squalling baby girl with a head of curly black hair. That girl came unknowingly into a world of cruelty to learn many very important lessons, and forgiveness was one of them.

More recently, though, it started with a movie my father gave to me - a documentary on Forgiveness when I had no idea that I needed it most. I watched it and was overwhelmed, driven to go looking for more learning on the subject. Forgiveness manifests in every religion with different rules applied to it. The Buddhists say that we forgive so that we can clean up our own minds of negative thoughts, for our own karmas. Hinduism sees forgiveness not as weakness but instead as a great power. I told you what the Jewish religion thought about the F-word in a past blog – it’s my favorite interpretation thus far. Psychological and scientific studies on forgiveness have only begun recently – like, 1980s recently. Science has learned that when we originally refuse to forgive, it's actually a survival mechanism. It gives us the adrenaline we need to deal with a situation, and keeps the body moving away from the negative situation. However, when the resentment is held on to over time, it becomes detrimental to our bodies. People who are more forgiving live longer and have healthier as well as happier overall lives when compared to people that hold onto resentment.

When I wrote about it last, a few people asked me to talk more about it when I'd learned more. Forgiveness is so important and so beneficial and something I never thought I would be big on. I never saw myself as a "forgiving type." Those of you who know me well will surely have no problem understanding this. I would like to stress that I am not an expert (and it turns out there are Forgiveness Experts who by the way travel around giving seminars) on anything at all due in part to my twenty-five short years, and I'm just going to tell you what my experience of it has been.

It's awesome. It's completely different from what I originally perceived it to be. I had thought forgiveness was something you gave someone, granted someone, did for someone to help them, to make them feel better, or to somehow grant some magical pardon or... I'm not sure what I thought it was, but I thought the verb "to forgive" was something you did to or for someone else. It is not. It is not. It is not. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself that just happens to impact someone else. Forgiveness does not mean you forget that so-and-so is an arrogant and insensitive punk. It means you accept that they are arrogant and insensitive, and you let go of all resentment you have attached to the fact. You do not feel anger over their actions. Maybe you can feel disappointed, but even that's probably not so great an idea.

And I know that I still have miles to go before I sleep... and miles to go before I sleep... but I know now at least what forgiveness is and I've been practicing it with great results. Shoot - ask me about the fat man at the lake that I ignored at first and then told I forgave for screaming at me that I was an ignorant bitch for swimming near him! Forgiveness is letting go, it is the opposite of holding onto resentment. Acknowledge what happened, acknowledge why it happened and the person who is responsible for it... and let go. Realize and recognize that what happened was negative... and refuse to let it impact you any more. Forgiveness is not Forgetting - forgetting only sets you up to be hurt again and again. Remember, but remember at an emotional-arms-length. Forgiveness is practicing peace in your heart and your consciousness. Forgiveness is saying no to negative thoughts.

A week or two after my father sent me home with that movie, the package from my mother arrived in the mail. My mother, my greatest heartache, the woman I have not had a relationship with for eight years because I could not allow her negative influence in my life anymore. I've resented her for the way she treated me, for the things she did. I've resented myself for allowing her to hurt me. I've resented the other people in my family for not stopping it. And it isn't healthy and now I know this and I am daily practicing thinking of her and the whole situation without negativity.

We may or may not ever have a real relationship again, but that doesn't mean I have to let it bring me down. Someday I hope to tell her that I have forgiven her and to truly mean it. I cannot rush into this - again, those scientific studies stress that premature forgiveness is unhealthy - but I am working toward it every day.

This is what I've learned thus far. Now you know. Now tell me what you know.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

draft draft draft - battered tiptoe poem

The Ugliest Feet In The World belong
(it is said) to ballet dancers. It makes
so much sense, that their exquisite grace
should have such a cost. I hear that they wrap them
up in gauze, from bruised heels to broken, battered toes,
scarlet soaking through and they just keep dancing,
keep dancing, keep bleeding for the dance.

My feet are bleeding and it's
all your fault. Or that's what I tell myself when
I will not accept that the dancers can quit
whenever they want. But tell me, what happens
when you can't want to stop? When nothing has ever
existed but the dance? Some part of me knew
that when you and I stepped in front of the mirrors
and stretched out our limbs that we would be faced
with a thousand of Us, staring back, demanding answers
with their asking eyes, wondering why
I haven't quit dancing for you yet.

I say I am dancing because I cannot stop; because
since the moment I turned my face toward you there has been
nothing but the dance and my tiptoes are joyful martyrs
and my heels are kamikaze pilots with tears of ecstasy
waltzing down their cheeks and they will not stop dancing and praying,
spinning like dervishes on the verge of divine bliss. Because
you are divine like a golden Grecian god and I have shed
enough tears for us both, because since the Magdalene's first
two-steps it has been the woman's burden to sacrifice
unrequited salt. I keep dancing because the thousand couples
in the mirrors are crying like they know it's a suicide mission
and as soon as we step back from the glass they will all disappear;
because my bandages are blackening; because my shoes
are cups that overflow; and I am dancing because
I cannot stop because despite
all of this
the dance
is sublime.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ode to the Cute Girl at Table 21

O Darling Cutie seated at two-one,
the things we've done already in my mind
would make a red man blush, would make a nun
recite ten rosaries for all mankind.
The way you order your beef cooked mid-rare
has made me sure that we were meant to be
in love and build a life and every day
we spent would be increasingly more fair.
You look up from your plate and right at me,
and in this kitchen I feel myself sway.

But I have seen you 'round here for some time
and one would think that if I meant to kiss
your face, I would by now have made you mine,
and we would know the flavor of our bliss.
Your server asked me if we have steak sauce
and all that I can do is softly pray
your table-mates and not you are the ones
whose palates suffer incalculable loss,
and even you must feel a bit dismayed
to see them sauce their steaks ordered well-done.

Your dainty features, your exquisite smile,
your shining eyes, your lilting fairy laugh,
the way your head is tilted to one side,
the way your neck reminds me of giraffes...
Your personality must attract bees!
Although my feelings may, to you, seem queer,
and though you may not want me for a spouse,
my darling, I proclaim the facts are these:
that you could have the fame and the career
and I would stay at home to keep your house.