31 October 2009


what i learned about romance from refrigerator poetry:

  • nothing happens to or is done by me, as there are no first person pronouns
  • in other words, everything romantic happens to someone else
  • everything happens in the past tense; no present or future loving, apparently
  • more happens to him or by his than to her or by hers (very little by hers, actually, since there is no 's' to make her into hers)
  • for some reason saber-toothed tigers are romantic
  • as are big dogs
  • and pirate ships
  • there are some truly disturbing images for female genitalia
  • and hilarious ones for male genitalia
  • most nouns are adjectively enhanced
  • most adjectives come coupled
  • he is much more active and aggressive than she
  • i'm too embarrassed of the naughty bits to display them on the fridge where my innocent taiwanese roommate would see them; they live in a little plastic box on top of the fridge
and now i know everything i need to know about romance.  too bad it won't happen to me (see items one and two, above).

10 October 2009


"i beg you . . . to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  and the point is, to live everything.  live the questions now.  perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." --rainer maria rilke, letters to a young poet 

i encountered this passage from rilke again yesterday, this time on a quotable magnet in barnes & noble.  and there, in the middle of busy, superficial fashion island, it spoke to me again.

i want to live this way, loving the unresolved questions of life, embracing them as bearers of knowledge and wisdom that living will bring.  there is so very much that is uncertain in this world.  far more than there is that is known and understood.  i want to coexist with the questions, rather than beat them out of existence with pompous certainty.  i want to wrestle with them, as jacob wrestles the angel--struggling all through the night and, even in the face of injury, demanding a blessing.  and the blessing?  a new name: israel, or 'one who has prevailed with god.'  i believe god lies not in the answers, but in the questions.  in living them fully and struggling with them honestly, rather than giving pat answers which gloss over the messiness of life and truth and god.  and i believe if we live honestly these questions, this messiness, we will live our way into answers, prevailing even with god.

07 October 2009


ever tried. ever failed. no matter. try again. fail again. fail better. --samuel beckett

i've been thinking about failure lately.  it's an interesting thing, failure, because its definition is slippery.  what does it mean to fail?  does it mean not to accomplish what you set out to accomplish?  does it mean to disappoint others by not accomplishing what they expected you to accomplish?  does it mean not hitting certain benchmarks of success on a prescribed timeline?

at different moments in my life, failure has meant each of those things.  i've nearly dropped out of grad school more times than i can count.  each time i felt disappointment in my own failure to achieve what i had planned to achieve.  but each time i also felt a wonderful sense of release and opportunity for a fresh start.  and i have been accutely aware of the ways in which i have failed to conform to the expectations of others, both in my family and in my church community.  but these failures don't feel like personal failures; they feel like explorations and discoveries, my true self emerging from beneath layers of prescription.

the most difficult version of failure i've had to deal with is the failure to achieve life goals on the timeline i've always been taught to accept.  i'm 34 and unmarried.  i have no children.  purchasing a house seems like a distant fantasy.  i'm still a student after 14 years of school, and will be for another three.  finding a job in my field seems an even more distant fantasy than owning a house.  and then there's the complication of being unsure i even want to accomplish those goals.  it's a constant struggle to remind myself that it's okay not to have achieved these benchmarks by age XX, that it's okay to be different from the prescribed norm i grew up with.  when i fail to remind myself of that, i begin to fail in other ways, too.  because dwelling on the fact that where i am in life constitutes failure according to some grand schema developed by someone else interferes with my ability to succeed in my pursuits, making failure all the more likely.  it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.  not only do i end up a failure according to the prescribed metanarrative, but also according to my own ideas of what it means to be happy and successful.

so i try.  i try to remember that i don't want to be married; rather i want to be married to the right person with whom i can have the kind of relationship i want.  i try to remember that there is still time to accomplish my goals and many avenues to them, not just one.  i try to remember that owning a home is not, in and of itself, a good thing; that sometimes there are alternative and more sustainable ways of living.  and mostly i try to remember that the only measuring stick that matters is my own conscience, not others' prescriptions.

02 October 2009


it's friday afternoon.  i've had a delicious mid-afternoon nap.  and now i've steeped myself a pot of my favorite rubyfruit tea.  my new apartment is clean and already feels like my home.  there's a picasso on one wall, a matisse on another, and a hopper on a third.  and now i'll settle down with my tea and my book and make progress on my work.  and life--life is very good.

and you?  how have you spent your friday afternoon?