Tag Archives: philosophy

Flaming martinis and other things of non-importance.

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Newark: I had a three hour layover with a seven and a half hour flight ahead of me, so after going to the bathroom twice out of boredom, I decided to get some food and drink that would make my eyes water a bit. So, I bought an overpriced panini and an extra dirty martini; the type of martini I ordered back home on a Friday night with the girls to wash away the agony of a week passed, and the dread of another to come. Only, the bar olives were stuffed with red chilies,  and the waiter cautioned me several times that my drink “wouldn’t taste right”. But I like the idea of a mingling of things that don’t seem quite right together, so my dirty martini became a sweaty, dirty martini. The red chili, a burning flame in the murky shallows of vodka. The taste a symphony of salty, smoky and spicy. Not overly complicated – just an added bite to an off-the-menu sort of drink. And I thought to myself -the way I always do when some form of symbolism strikes me- “There’s a bigger picture here.”

Things started out a bit rough at the airport several hours before. I couldn’t even find my airline – it was an affiliate of United with no mention of United anywhere – and it took over an hour and a half to check in because of countless issues. By the time I finally did, I was charged nearly $500 for two overweight bags. I reluctantly paid, fretting as a I always do, making calculations, thinking about paying what I did for 20 pounds of hairspray and nail polish. Then I literally ran to make my plane; I was the last one to board.  And then I decided to let it all go. Because it was done and was now a thing in the past. The simple past, for anyone who knows much about grammar.

Sitting in the airport in Newark, I was looking around at the people walking by: kids in marshmallow jackets being tugged by their parents, young couples holding hands strolling along kiosks of neck pillows and packs of gum, friends laughing and teasing as they sat lined along their terminals, eating Pizza Hut and sharing headphones with one another. That’s the candid beauty of an airport – the unexpected calm. Everyone is moving and sitting, rushing and waiting. Unknown sounds swarm through a sea of nationalities, humming as they float up through a ceiling of sun-stained glass. I pretend to know what country the words are from and laugh at myself for not having the slightest idea. They are just sounds to me and I can’t distinguish where one ends and another begins. I wonder if English sounds the same way to someone who doesn’t know it. I convince myself that isn’t the case.

I slept a little one my last flight – the only way I know to sleep on a plane: with my head tilted all the way back, mouth wide-open, mouth-breathing, my $20 neck pillow sitting on my lap. Then I heard the wheels, then felt the bump-bump-bump of an amateur landing. Careful as items in the overhead bins may have shifted during flight. Follow the signs to baggage claim.

I can’t completely convey the sinking feeling that takes place in the pit of ones stomach when luggage never makes it to the conveyor belt. Once you realize luggage is no longer coming up, you look around the belt with the conviction that you simply did not see your bag. Then panic slowly sets in, and you scour the area, walking around the entire belt. Then you start giving people dodgy looks, wondering who would take your bags. You make lunges at a few strangers before realizing that isn’t necessarily your black duffle bag they are wheeling behind them. Then there’s a calm sense of purpose as you walk up to the baggage help desk. Then anger as you realize the form you are filling out has been filled out a million times before and your things are no more important that any of those other times. Then the realization that those are your things. Then a returned sense of hope as, surely by now, your bag has been returned. Then more anger. Eventually, apathy takes over as you realize you can live without it all but secretly hope you don’t have to. There is a sense of victory once that bag arrives though.

So it has all been perfectly dramatic. The type of drama we all secretly crave so we have exciting stories to tell, the tools we use to keep our listeners on the edge of their seats. The way we leave 5 minutes after we should, tempting fate and congratulating ourselves when our bets pay off. And there have been more of these dramatic encounters, even in the last day, of tight deadlines, missing money, and getting lost in a city I know nothing about. But, tonight, after sitting on a tram 11 stops too long, getting dropped off somewhere on a bridge in the middle of nowhere, and eventually taking three trams to get back to my apartment, all I could think about was a little red chili that fit so unexpectedly well inside an otherwise ordinary martini.

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Day 41: Sting like a Butterfly

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There’s a theory in communication called the Social Exchange Theory. It’s based on a system of costs and rewards you assign to relationships. Basically, when you feel that the costs outweigh the rewards, you terminate the relationship because you no longer get any pleasure out of it. I’ve certainly terminated a few relationships in my short lifetime. There are people who I used to be extremely close to that I began dreading being around. People who drained the optimism out of me just by being themselves. I never want to turn my back on anyone, but I don’t want to spend the limited time I have surrounded by black holes who suck the happiness out of the room either. That sounds grim, but there are unfortunately people who have that effect on me.

I know fights happen. I know that people get mad about things that don’t always make sense to others. I tend to consider myself a pretty go-with-the-flow sort of person. I tend to care more about resolving a conflict than expending the energy it takes to be upset about it. Afterall, we learn about each other through stepping on toes, hurting feelings, and punching it out. If you’re mad, there’s hope. When you become apathetic is when you should consider if a relationship has any place in your life.

I fight with my mom more than anyone else in the world. We’re finally at this magical place where we can yell and scream and get it all out, then take a breath to cool off and laugh at how ridiculous we are. When you love someone, pride has no place in your relationship – saying sorry is easy because it’s not important who is right or wrong – all that matters is that they know you love them. When you love someone, you get in the ring, take a few swings, then take a shower and buy them a latte. As long as the person gets in the ring with you, the fighting lets you get to know that person even better, it makes you closer, lets you love each other just a little more.

I have that relationship with a lot of people. Today, I realized that I’m glad that I’m the kind of person who will throw off my gloves and take a few hits, but I’m never too proud to apologize, or compromise, or do what I have to for someone I love. In the scheme of life, being right seems to be the least important thing of all.

140 Days to Prague

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Somewhere between our situation and our outlook resides our character.

I get that life is complicated. I get that things won’t always go your way. But, sometimes I feel like the universe has a pillow over my face.

This year has been wild. I’ve had a surgery, two car accidents, bought a one-way ticket to Europe and have had more friends get married than I can count. Those are just the big things. In between, I’m dodging calls from boys I want to forget, listening to my mother warn me about “ending up alone”  – including a recent article about how people who live alone die younger – and working behind a desk at a job that I’ve mentally checked out of. And then a million more things like it.

All the stress has been making me a little nuts. Has me seeing a glass half-empty, brown grass sort of world. But yesterday, I was going to get ice-cream with a friend and I put on a pair of jeans that have until recently, been too tight to wear. And I took a good look at my butt and all the rest melted away. I know we are a “big picture” world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy these little moments of bliss.

Thus, 140 days to Prague is born. A countdown until I leave and start my new life. 140 things in the interim that I find to be thankful for. Just one good thing a day. Suffocated or not, I can find one magical moment every day to be thankful for.

Day 1: The way your bum looks in the perfect-fitting pair of jeans. Hug my legs and cup my cheeks, wash is dark, pockets deep. Thanks, good-ass-jeans.

Soulkin – What Love Means to Me

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I don’t believe in a whole lot anymore. The only time I say the words God or Jesus, it is in a fit of profanity. If I had to fill in a bubble on a survey, I’d be some Zen Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, existentialist.  I know that is an offensive contradiction, but I change my mind all the time, and I’m not quite ready to commit to my spiritual status yet. But, despite my lack of spiritual certainty, I’ve become so much more present in my life lately.

I read a short book by Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Breath, which helps you think about being present in your present. Focusing on what you are doing as you are doing it – centering your mind, narrowing your focus. It’s liberating avoiding multi-tasking. And trust me, I’m a serial multi-tasker. I’ll do squats while blow drying my hair and brushing my teeth and reading a book. That’s no exaggeration. I’m crazy.

So it was a challenge just to read – and only read. To breathe and only breathe, to step and only step. This book, combined with the knowledge of my moving soon makes me appreciate everything I do immensely because I know I won’t be able to see and do and feel these things for much longer. My stimulus is about to change dramatically. So I’ve noticed the world again. The way you imagine a small child sees the world, when everything is new and full of mystery and won’t hurt you. I have been exponentially more happy, far less worried and even more positive towards myself and those around me. Just by being where I am – by doing less – thinking less.

I feel good energy all around me lately, and I’ve noticed it for the first time in a long time.

Again, I’m not sure about some greater power in the universe – we might be functioning off coincidence or self-fulfilling prophecy alone, but every once in a while, the stars line up. I have people in my life who have completely changed the outcome of my life. When I feared a bad relationship would never stop haunting me, it literally packed its bags and moved away. When I was bottoming out in my life, I met a dear friend who challenged me to start a new one. And there are so many of these little happy coincidences to be grateful for. It astonishes me that just when we feel we are at our breaking point, someone comes along to carry some of our burden, and walk beside us. Perhaps someone we never expected to be there in the first place.

I don’t know a whole lot about the Nicholas Sparks, Jane Austen versions of love.  My Pride and Prejudice fantasy ended up being the satirical version with the zombies. But I have so much love for the people in my life – I know people give me those sad expressions when they see my single status, but I just can’t seem to find the feeling that I’m missing out on anything. I’ve had friends sit through sniveling and crying and who have seen my most unshowered, unattractive version of myself, who have stripped me down butt naked and thrown me in a cold shower after a night of binge drinking, who have put up with panic attacks and tantrums and the most irrational and inappropriate behavior you can imagine. The ones who really matter – who have always been there- I know they aren’t going anywhere. The ones that do get away, well, it’s probably the very best thing that they did.

Some people will come and go – some will matter, some won’t. We don’t have time to open our hearts up to everyone, and even if we did, who would want to? The most precious gift you can give someone are your secrets, your time, your trust.  So when you find one of those people – your soulkin – hold on to them as long as they let you. If they want out, be thankful for the time you had together, but let them go. Know that there comes a time when you have to take the gloves off, and have a little trust in whatever it is that you trust. Don’t ever let anyone drag you down on their way out. No matter who it is, they are not worth it. Ever.

Above all, be open to being open. Let in all of the love that you possibly can, and then let in a little more. Accept people who want to be in your life – they see something in you that you may not even see in yourself. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and who will fight beside you. Then be that for someone who needs you. It may make their day, it may give them hope, and it could change you both forever.

Tracking Down Happiness

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I ended up on an interesting website the other day after a marathon of TED talks. I took a Character Strengths Questionnaire after watching a talk by Martin Seligman, whom I was introduced to by the book, Learned Optimism. His book was a revolutionary read for me, as it made me realize I would create envy in the most die-hard pessimist. After reading this book and applying Seligman’s theory to my own way of thinking, I’ve gone from raging pessimist to hopeful optimist … or at least less raging pessimist.

Knowing how much I enjoy Seligman, I watched his TED talk and ended up at authentichappiness.org to take the Character Strengths Questionnaire, which revealed my Character Strengths:

  • Judgment, critical thinking, open-mindedness
  • Kindness and generosity
  • Love of learning
  • Fairness, equity, justice
  • Leadership

After you take the test, 24 total values are given, ranked from most to least. Among my lowest ranking strengths were modesty, faith, self-regulation and humor. My complete list of ranked strengths surprised me at first, and many things that were at the bottom of the list, I would have thrown on top without much thought. After expending some time and thought, it makes more sense than I originally realized. I won’t dive into my perception of the inner workings of my psyche for your sake, so don’t worry.

The purpose of this little exercise is to identify your strengths and find ways to work them into your daily life, so that you will ultimately find more happiness – since doing the things you are ‘good at’ will reap higher rewards than those you are less ‘good at’.

It had some other profound benefits for me as well though. Some of these questions really stuck out to me. Among them were:

I am always busy with something interesting.

Initial reaction: Hell no. I’m either working on something I have to work on, taking a break so I don’t think about something I’m supposed to be working on, or sleeping and dreaming about the things I’m supposed to be working on.

I am the most important person in someone’s life.

My initial thought: Of course.  Then … I’m not sure if anyone would label me as the most important person in their life, or if I can call anyone person the most important in mine. I have a lot of people I love, but the idea of choosing one as more important that anyone else? I’m still not sure. Maybe that’s reserved for people in love, or when those people have a baby and re-fall in love.

I can accept love from someone else.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have no problem expressing my feelings. I shove it in your face. But, accepting love is a different story. This ended up toward the bottom of my strength list, based on this answer and those of similar questions. Accepting love from someone seems like such a primitive idea, and maybe it is something you’re innately given, and lose over time. I want to be able to take in all the love I can. I may have just forgotten how.

I have created something of beauty in the last year.

There has to be something … But I can’t come up with a single thing. That’s one of the first things on my newest bucket list (and not for the sole purpose of crossing it off the list). I want to make something I’m proud of – because I deserve to be proud of myself.

If you would have asked me 15 years ago where I would be today, I’d be a singer/songwriter/supermodel finishing up my first term as president. Biological factors and a short attention span have obviously led me on a different path, but I can’t help but miss the spirit I once had. Naivety is a beautiful thing.

A lot of these questions, and obviously the results to the questionnaire in all, were really positive for me. Sometimes seeing who we are on paper is the best way of recognizing who we’d rather be.  I did more than identify my strengths (and am currently on some kind of mission to put them into practice), but I was able to identify some areas that I did not even realize I was struggling in.

I hope you will take the time for a little reflection today. You don’t have to go this route if it doesn’t speak to you, but sit down with yourself for a few minutes. Check the path you’re on. Ask your past self if you lived up to your own standards. It’s never too late for a little modification.

Flip a bitch.

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Driving today, enjoying some Lilly Allen, I took a left turn, and ended up about 15 miles south of the right turn I should have made before I noticed. I was on a divided highway and couldn’t turn around. Next exit: 5 miles. Five miles of knowingly driving the wrong way after 15 minutes of unknowingly driving the wrong direction. It made my eye twitch.

Because that’s a frustrating thing, to be driving on a road, going in a direction you don’t want to be headed, and be told you are not allowed to turn around. I did what most people in my situation would have. I examined the height of the median, weighed the consequences, and “flipped a bitch” as the saying goes. Nothing damaged, no cops chasing me, I carried on my merry way.

And I thought,’that was easy’. And it was. I’m sure I broke a few laws, but I saved 5 miles each way. Or rather, didn’t lose it.

So, of course I’m leading to a big, sweeping analogy, because that’s how I make sense of the world and my decisions in it. Here it is:

I drove 15 minutes the wrong direction without even noticing. I was driving. I should have my license revoked at least. But how often do we do this? Keep moving forward with the lowest possible level of consciousness to get us by, a lot of times knowing it isn’t right. Our jobs, relationships, diet, lifestyles, and all of the choices we consistently seem to forget we are actually making. Nothing is just the way it is. We are making the choice every day.

So the next part of that is turning off the radio and tuning in to our lives. Being aware of all of the things happening around us. Making an effort to check in on the people we care about. Making an effort to check in with ourselves. Taking that cooking class, going on that jog, buying that dress that we’ve had our eye on.

We are exposed to countless stimulus constantly throughout our day. We are driven by timeframes and deadlines and the expectations of our bosses, our friends, our lovers, our family and our culture. Often, it feels like we are being pushed by a momentum we can’t control.

But just remember whose foot is on the gas.

If only every decision in life was so simple as flipping a bitch. If only when we felt like we felt like we were going the wrong direction, we took a moment to think about it and then we just turned around. If only people didn’t get hurt in the process, our money was safe and we had insurance on our decisions.

But, we don’t. And that’s scary.

But it might be more scary to wake up behind the wheel one day and not even know that we were the one driving the entire time. So, if the urge strikes you, flip a bitch.

Laws of good love and friendship.

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This has been one of the most exciting months of my life. I moved back home, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and had my first surgery.

This made me realize a few really important things about love that I’ve always thought about but spent little time contemplating. Not sappy, Nicholas Sparks love, but real-life, down and dirty way-you-love-your-best-friends-love.

First: moving home.

Not an easy task when you’re 24 years old. I was mostly embarrassed at first, but my friends helped conjure up some good excuses, and then reminded me of them after the first week of my Dad texting me when I wasn’t home by midnight. Bigger picture excuses. This brings me to thing I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 1: Be a public defender.

Moving home was the right decision for me, as difficult as it was to swallow the giant lump of pride I kept gagging on the first few weeks. Moving home allowed me Prague. If I would have continued my lease, not only would I not have the money to go, but I wouldn’t have realized that my family will survive without me. I needed the support of my friends to make it okay. Even though I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to be 24 and living at home, and it was okay to make a leap and be scared to death, I needed the people around me who know me the best to tell me the same thing. I needed the people around me to believe in me.

Which led to the next step in my journey: Committing to Prague.

There were mixed reactions. A little sadness, some excitement, but one really bad reaction that came from some of the people I’m closest to:

The selfish reaction. A ‘that’s not fair of you to leave‘ reaction that I got from some people – some with whom I’m closest. It was disappointing. I realize that I’m going to be really far away and that’s scary. I realize our dreams were different when we were younger.  We won’t get married like we joked about; I may not be around for the things I thought I would; you may die while I’m gone; I may die while I’m gone.

So this led to thing I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 2: Listen to all testimony before delivering your verdict.

I’ve sooo been this friend before: “OMG you’re engaged… are you sure that’s a good idea?” WRONG. “Have you thought this through?” WRONG. “You’re kidding, right?” WRONG!

By this time, the person telling you does think it’s a good idea, they have thought it through and they are not kidding. A lot of times, your initial reaction has your best interest at heart, even if you might not realize it. The life you have been picturing is shattered and you are hurt. I know that a lot of the bad reactions I got about Prague were because my friends were scared and felt betrayed that all of the plans we had been making for so long went up in a puff of Eastern European smoke.

But here’s the thing: even if you know – without a doubt – that your friend is ruining their life, now isn’t the time to bring it up. Hear. Listen. Absorb. Our little brains are swimming with endorphins and nerves are firing like missiles in WWII at the point. Shooting down someone’s dreams won’t talk them out of it. They just won’t talk to you about it. If someone you care about is really making a bad decision, bring it up another time when the anxiety of their big news is no longer around and you’re both able to breach the subject with a cool head.

Chances are, even if they are making a mistake in your eyes, you are going to have to learn to live with it, because as much as they love you, they probably won’t be changing their mind. Which brings us to things I’ve learned about love and friendship NUMBER 3: The judge sits alone.  In other words, if you decide to be judgmental, you run the risk that no one will care what your ruling is.

Next came the surgery.

So, with the excitement of Prague still fresh on my mind and my Facebook wall, I started feeling bad. Eventually, my stomach ache led to a surgery (This isn’t a pity post – I’m fine). But, this was my first of anything like this before. I only told a few people because it wasn’t a big deal at the time and I didn’t want people to worry.

But, it made me realize who did worry, which made me see things differently. I got flowers from work and at first, thought how caring that was. But then I realized, no one from work asked how I was doing but one person (my boss) and no one even responded to the email I sent updating everyone. The disheartening truth is that the flowers are probably a box on a list to check when someone is out of work for more than a week. A corporate facade of concern. And that wasn’t the only facade. The one person who I confided in  completely couldn’t even remember to remember. He pretended to be concerned, like he thought he was supposed to, but didn’t follow through in the end (and trust me, that wasn’t the first time he wasn’t able to follow through.) There’s another lesson here: Eventually, you run out of appeals. And, when that day comes, you don’t get to be a thing that matters anymore. People will stop answering your calls.

The check-list flowers did make me realize, one thing, however: There are people who genuinely care about me. That is a good feeling to have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not measuring the value of my friendships on who showed the most concern about me during this one week of my life; I only told a few people anyway. I did grow to re-appreciate a few people a lot more though. Dominic, who I forced into being my best friend in the seventh grade, has been texting me relentlessly. Having him prove that he was worried to death made me love him even more. Kaylyn came over just to spend a few hours doing nothing with me on a Friday night because I couldn’t go anywhere. There are others, of course too. This leads me to thought on love and friendship Number 5: When you love someone, never stop proving it to them. 

I’ve received more love in the form of calls, texts, skypes, cards, flowers, milkshakes (thanks mom), kind words and favors
than I remember ever having received at any one time in my life. Or, maybe I’ve just noticed it more.

And, it’s not that we need these things to validate our love, but I’ll tell you this: it is good to be reminded. So thank you
to everyone in my life who continues to be my public defenders, my jury, my peers and my constant support.
You make me better and make me strive for better.

So my closing thought is this: Notice the love around you, and return it in droves.