Monday, January 31, 2011

It's a Strange World #1

Sometimes as I go through the day, I observe things that make me shake my head, roll my eyes, or generally wonder if I am really of the same species as some of the other people running around this planet.  Hence I introduce to you a category of posts called "It's a Strange World."

The Bachelor
This TV show is surely a sign of a peculiar world.  It's odd enough to me that people think someone can develop a real relationship by lining up a bunch of prospects and auditioning for the role of wife.  I guess in some ways it's just a public version of how a lot of people find a partner.  But the idea that this guy can progress in relationships with a bunch of women and at the end come out with a wife, and that the fact that this woman has watched him build intimacy with a bunch of other women in the process isn't supposed to negatively affect their intimacy and trust level, is more than a little wacky to me.

Also, I'm not sure why I'm watching this show in the first place, but I'm an inconsistent person, and sometimes on my day off, I like to watch really bad television.

In Which I Rant About Wedding Vows

It is in fashion currently to write your own wedding vows.  Usually what this means for me is that couples regularly show up in my office wondering if the "have to" write their own vows, and thinking that if they can't or don't want to, maybe they don't really love each other.  Okay, they don't say it that way, but it's the subtext.  Personalized vows are the way to go; the movies tell us so.

I just watched Marshall and Lily get married on "How I Met Your Mother."  They didn't have their vows with them, so Ted told them to just "say why you love each other."  Well, that was very touching, and a pretty good example of what most people end up doing when they say they're going to write their own vows.  Unfortunately, that's not a vow; it's a reception toast.  I'm not married, so it's possible that I know nothing about how relationships work.  However, I'm pretty sure that a vow is when you make promises about what you are going to do, not when you tell someone how great it is that they make you feel so good.  Which is invariably what these "vows" are about: I love you because you do insert-thoughtful-thing-here for me.  I love you because you make me feel insert-positive-emotion-here.  What does that mean for the day that she doesn't do the thoughtful thing, or he doesn't inspire warm and fuzzy feelings?

But then, I'm not sure what I expect when I know very well that many people get married thinking solely about how great it feels to be in love, and not at all about what it will be like to have to live with this person every day and see them when they're sick, tired, depressed, crazy, gross, cranky, annoying, distant, and angry.  Again, I'm not married, but it seems like part of the marriage commitment ought to be a realization that sometimes you're going to have to do exactly the opposite of what you feel, because if you did what you felt every moment, you'd probably break up within the week.

I'm pretty flexible when it comes to weddings and doing what the bride and groom think will make their day personal and special, but I do insist that they speak actual vows.  I don't care who writes them, but they do have to be about what you are going to do in the relationship.

End of rant.

Dreams of Inadequacy

I have a colleague who is really into dreams.  He keeps a dream journal and does a lot of interpretation, and recently even preached about the importance of dreams in Scripture.  I've never really been that interested in all the dream interpretation stuff, but I do think that dreams can tell us something about what is going on in our own subconsciouses.  Maybe other people's dreams are more cryptic than mine, but generally, if I remember my dreams, they're not exactly subtle.

For example, a few years ago, I had a recurring dream about preaching.  I would be in the middle of a sermon, and the pulpit would start growing.  It got bigger and bigger, and I would find myself peering around it, trying to keep track of my manuscript while still looking out at the congregation.  Finally, the entire pulpit would shatter into pieces, and I would step through the rubble and keep preaching, without the manuscript or the shelter of that  wooden edifice between me and the congregation.  The dream was clearly connected to my growing confidence in preaching and the ability to be more mobile in preaching and ministry in general.  My subconscious kept telling me, "You are ready to drop the crutches and walk on your own."

This week, I've been having somewhat less positive dreams.  I dreamed that I got married to a guy I knew in high school.  The wedding was a disaster, utterly unplanned and chaotic, and I was marrying someone I hadn't really talked to in fifteen years, so the relationship itself lacked any sense of preparation or foundation.  The whole dream carried a feeling of "I should have done more, it's my fault that this is going so badly."  I dreamed that my mother was accusing me of being a failure, and then that a colleague told me I was a bad pastor and should consider other vocations.  I keep having dreams about not doing enough, or being enough.

My subconscious tends toward the overly literal (much like my songwriting, which is never as poetic as I would like), so I wake up and first ask myself questions like:
"Is this an expression of suppressed desire to get married?" (Not so much; I'm pretty sure the wedding would have gone better if that were the case.  But that was the same day that I was working on my wedding files all day and then looking through a friend's wedding pictures.)
"Why is this dude popping up in my dream when we've barely spoken for years?" (Maybe because I happened to look at his Facebook profile just before I went to sleep.)
"Do I think my mom is disappointed in me?" (Nope.)
"Do I believe that my colleague doesn't value my ministry?" (No, he's very thoughtful about making sure I know the exact opposite is true.)

Which leaves me the common theme of all of these dreams: my own sense of inadequacy.  I've paid enough attention to dream interpretation theory to know that dreams are generally not about what other people think of you, they're what you think of you.  And I am in this weird and frustrating stage of having to face significant physical limitations that are lasting longer than any I've had before.  As a result, I fairly consistently feel like I'm not accomplishing enough.  In addition to the temporary injury-related stuff that's going on right now, I've also been having longer-term existential questions about what I'm doing with my life and contributing to the world.  Part of me just wants to be...more.  I'm trying to picture where my life is going from here, but that vision is proving elusive.  I want to be doing something big and exciting, not sitting on my couch and worrying about finding a second van for our mission trip.

So, as I'm figuring out how to balance what could be done vs. what can be done on a daily level, I'm also trying to form a picture of my future in which I can hope for big things and advocate for big change, but not be disappointed in myself if that doesn't mean that I have the big job or the big name.  I want to keep my drive without driving myself into the ground.  I don't want to keep dreaming about inadequacy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Movies, Movies, More Movies

It was three weeks ago that I slid across my front stoop on the ice and flipped over the railing onto my head and shoulder.  I haven't so much been doing normal things since then.  One thing I have figured out that I can do, however, is see movies in the theater.  I don't do that very often when I'm not injured, but I have discovered that the height and angle of movie theater chairs is about as perfect as I can get for getting my shoulder into a non-excruciating position.  So, I've seen a lot of movies in the last three weeks.

Last night, it was "No Strings Attached."  It was fairly predictable - hello, romantic comedy, what do you think is going to happen?  It's not like Natalie Portman is going to remain forever single or run off with the jackass doctor.  But it was funny and cute and sometimes even poignant, which is what a romantic comedy is supposed to be.  I will note that my friend and I were the only ones in the theater laughing, which I found curious.  Seriously, there was dead silence behind us.  But I suspect that the older couple found it a bit crass, and the two teenage couples in the theater were likely a) on nervous first dates, b) too young to get it, or c) making out.

Last week I saw "The King's Speech" in Toronto.  Movies are expensive in Canada, by the way.  Many things are expensive in Canada, actually.  I think the sales taxes must pay for their obviously superior educational system.  Okay, so I don't really know if Canada is putting out more scientists or geniuses or whatever, or how their students would compare to U.S. students on standardized tests, but I do know that nearly everyone you meet in Canada knows and cares about what's going on in the world, which is a refreshing change from the land of ignorance and apathy.  It may or may not be related, but the theater was nearly full on a Thursday afternoon to see "The King's Speech," a quiet, slow-paced, thoughtful movie about role, identity, and facing psychological obstacles.  The acting was just beautiful, and the movie is well worth any Oscars it wins.

Sometime before that, I saw "How Do You Know?"  It's worth mentioning that my roommate and I had started out intending to see "Season of the Witch," but decided based on its absolutely terrible reviews to see something else.  I'm not sure we made the right decision.  The dialogue was stilted and unrealistic, the characters annoying, and the ending was so cloying that I wanted to vomit.  Paul Rudd had a few touching moments as a guy whose life is completely falling apart, but I was distracted by wondering why anyone would want anything to do with the Owen Wilson character.  It just didn't really make any sense to me.

And before that was "True Grit."  I have to say, I hesitated to even see it.  ***Spoiler Alert***
The original is one of my favorite movies ever, and John Wayne is Rooster Cogburn.  Any other possibility seems kind of ridiculous.  I feel about this movie the way some people feel about their pews in church: changing it seems completely disorienting, and another movie trying to sit in that spot...the idea was kind of appalling.  Ultimately I was too curious to boycott it, however, and I surprised myself by actually liking it.

Jeff Bridges was an entirely different Rooster, gruffer (thanks in part to that weird growly voice that I did not particularly like), somehow more obviously broken by his drinking, his motivations less clear, his overall character less noble - which is saying something when compared to the John Wayne version, who was a less than upstanding citizen to begin with.  But there seemed to be more of a moral center to the John Wayne portrayal from the beginning, which makes it less surprising when he nearly kills himself trying to get an injured young girl to safety in the end.  I knew what was coming, and yet found myself expecting that the Jeff Bridges version would just ride off and preserve himself.  When he doesn't, the surprise lends a different kind of poignancy to the new film.

Glenn Campbell's LaBoeuf was slick, arrogant, and decisive; Matt Damon's portrayal is none of those things.  He's weary, a bit ragged, and full of self-doubt.  He's not enough of a pretty boy for some of the lines about him to make sense.  He keeps deserting Rooster and Mattie, which would probably seem totally normal if you haven't seen the original.  He's less likable but more interesting than the Glenn Campbell version.

Hailee Steinfeld in the role of Mattie Ross was probably my favorite part of the movie.  She didn't quite pull off the rigid, self-righteous entitlement that Kim Darby did, but she did manage to combine enough of that naive chutzpah and unstoppable determination with a vulnerability that the original did not have.  She actually is the age that the character is supposed to be (Darby was 22 when she played this role), which probably helped.  She's less indignant at being treated badly and more genuinely afraid.  It's even less believable when this round-faced child with braids takes off across the wilderness with two rough men in pursuit of the man who killed her father - which is part of the point of the story.

It's a motley crew that sets out on this seemingly impossible venture.  That was true in the original, but it seems even less plausible that there is any chance of winning in the new version.  The two men seem hopelessly broken, the girl utterly without the skills or knowledge to accomplish her goal.  Of course, they don't really win by any reasonable definition, in either movie, and less so in the new one.  LaBoeuf dies (in both), Mattie is physically maimed (and perhaps emotionally as well, depending on your interpretation of the ending), and Rooster is seemingly unchanged by the experience.  The man they were chasing does die, but not in any way that demonstrates justice to a greater community, which is what Mattie hoped, or which procures the reward that the two men were after.  The ending of the original was humorous and uplifting, suggesting a newly acquired tenderness in Mattie and an ongoing relationship between her and Rooster.  The new film follows the book, but seems even more stark and dismal on screen.

I didn't like the ending.  I'm used to the original.  I wanted to see Rooster jump his horse over a four-railed fence and shout, "Well, come see a fat old man sometime!"  But there is a troubling kind of beauty in the realism of the new version, in which a hard journey doesn't soften the people involved, and the search for vengeance doesn't end in happily ever after.

I've wondered many times why I like the original so much, aside from the nostalgia of bonding with my dad over it.  It's full of revenge and death, which are not really high on my list of values, and it venerates a concept of honor that revolves around retribution - also not something I'd endorse.  Mattie's unexpected toughness, which appeals to my feminist sensibilities, is balanced by the traditional damsel-in-distress-rescued-by-rugged-man story line.  I admire the moral center that drives the characters (although the moral compass tilts a bit more in the new version), but when it comes down to it, that core doesn't really exhibit any of the Christian values that I try to live and teach now.  If you want it done, you have to do it yourself.  Justice sometimes requires violence.  The ends justify the means.  These are not the values I hold true.

Except that they are the values that I grew up with, and apparently they're still in there.  And they're not entirely negative.  They're the same values that have taught me that if I want to see change, I have to act, not wait for someone else to do it.  That if I want to see justice, I may have to be tough about pointing out injustice.  That goals require a long view in which some of the actions to get there may have negative consequences.  And then there is perhaps the ultimate lesson of "True Grit:" even if you act according to all you believe to be right, it may not end up the way you hope.  Not exactly the most uplifting of messages, but maybe the most true.  (Hm, there might be a reason why I ended up a Calvinist.)          

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sex, the Media, and the Single Minister

The clergywomen world is all abuzz right now over an article published in Marie Claire magazine about a young, single minister and her love/sex life.  Most of the buzz I've heard has been negative.  I heard certain lines from the article quoted before I read it, and I have to admit, my reaction was mostly of the "What the hell was she thinking?" variety.  Choice quotes include one about "itching for sex day and night" and fantasizing about Edward Cullen from the Twilight series, and a mildly snarky comment about being set up with a church member's son who was a drug addict.  Please forgive me if I don't get the quotes exactly right; I read the article today but then decided against giving money to Marie Claire.

So, I read the article, and I did have that initial gasp of shock - even though I knew what was coming.  Why, I wondered, would a minister publicly say that she was itching for sex?  How would her congregation react to such a vivid self-disclosure?  Was it really possible that any self-respecting adult woman would confess fantasies about a character in one of the worst books ever written?  Didn't she realize that slamming a parishioner's son in a national magazine was a breach of trust?  Did she tell her congregation that she was doing this article?  How would they react, even if they knew it was coming?

Then I thought more about what it would be like to be put in this situation - to be asked to speak publicly about a taboo subject.  Single ministers aren't supposed to have a sex life, and we certainly aren't supposed to talk about it.  But this woman had an opportunity for a voice in a women's magazine, one that generally promotes very little in the way of sexual ethics.  She had the opportunity to speak as a woman who dates, who is looking for love, who has very real desires, but who is abstaining from sex until she is married.  She also had the opportunity to present clergy as real people who face the same decisions as others.  What would I say, given the same opportunity?

Well, I like to think that I would have been a bit more cautious in some areas, but frankly, I have stuck my foot in my mouth plenty of times in public forums, so who knows?  I like to think I would have been more aware of how the media can twist the things I say, but I'm eight years into ordained ministry and have learned from being burnt.

I would have been trying to say that clergy women are much like other women.  I might have said that by giving a pop culture reference that I thought others could relate to (and other bloggers would likely have judged my literary choices), describing a typical end-of-date scene in a car, or making a humorous comment the low points of being fixed up.

I would have tried to say that it is possible in our hyper-sexualized culture to set limits on ethical sexual behavior.  The woman in the article said it by describing how, despite her strong urges, she abstains from sex because of her vocation.  She did it by using the example of having a a disorder that caused her to have a higher than normal sex drive.  If I were trying to talk about sexual desire in a way that would limit repercussions from my church and denomination, I might think that describing it in the context of a health condition that I couldn't control would be a safer than usual way to go.  Since I don't have such a disorder, I'm not sure how I could possibly reveal anything remotely interesting without subjecting myself to critique and possibly disciplinary action.

Which, come to think of it, is why I didn't respond to the call for people to be interviewed for this article.  But I can see why it is appealing to speak about something that is so frustratingly hidden.  I'm glad it wasn't me in this article, but I'm also glad that there was something published in a major magazine about the weirdness of being a single clergy woman: dating, often with strangeness, or not dating because it's nearly impossible to find someone who is okay with your vocation, dealing with normal sexual desires, making decisions based not only on our own wishes and values but also on the expectations of our churches, and hiding major portions of our lives because they might compromise someone's idea of what a pastor should be.  I hope the woman in the article is not being hit too hard with consequences from her church, and that she's finding grace in the midst of all the criticism that is floating around.  I hope we can engage the things that were said in the article, not necessarily giving wholehearted approval, but using it to think hard about how we might address the same issues.  This embodiment thing is a struggle for all clergy, and women seem to bear more than our share of the weight, so it seems like the least we can do is bear it together.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Balancing Act

I am learning that managing severe pain is a balancing act.  Right now, I don't just do anything; I weigh every action, by how much I want/need to do it vs. how much pain it will cause.  I want my living room to be cleaner, but is it worth the stretching and lifting that will be necessary to make that happen?  Not so much.  I want to take a shower, but will it be worth the stabbing pain of moving my arm to wash?  Thus far, the answer has been yes.  I want real food, but is it worth the hassle of trying to cook one-handed?  Can you say "delivery?"  I'm stir crazy and need to get out of the house, but is it worth the intense discomfort of sitting on restaurant chairs or barstools, and the inevitable increased ache afterward?  Last night, yes, but only up to a certain point.  Then the balance shifted, pain won, and I went home.

Yesterday was a pretty good day on the pain scale, so I did a lot of things.  I went to see "True Grit" with my roommate (I have things to say about this movie, but maybe later).  I hard-boiled a bunch of eggs (something fairly easy to do one-handed), and made egg salad with some of them (not so easy to do one-handed).  I started my car, because it hasn't been started in a week and it's been COLD here.  I more or less brushed the snow off of it, albeit somewhat awkwardly with my dominant hand in a sling.  I decided to see exactly how bad an idea it would be to attempt to drive my car (bad...I managed to shift it into first gear and then could barely get it back into neutral to shut it off).  And then I got a friend to pick me up and spent a couple of hours out, seeing people again.  

But pain is exhausting, and today I'm paying for all of that.  Ah, the joy of balance.  Today you can find me on my couch, where my greatest effort is trying to find a decent movie on TV, because, you know, the pain scale says that it's not worthwhile to get up and put one of the gazillion movies I own into the DVD player.

Pain slows down the whole process of life.  It takes longer to do everything, and for me, there's a lot more time spent sitting still than usual.  So, I've had time to reflect a bit on this balancing act and its applications to the life I someday hope to have again, in which I am not in constant pain, and can occasionally have a thought that is uninterrupted by consciousness of my right shoulder.  

Some sort of balancing act is happening in every decision I make; it's just that I'm not always conscious of it.  I'm not always thinking carefully about the priorities involved in my decisions.  So, I end up spending a lot of my time haphazardly, going with the moment and not thinking much about the possible results.  

In an earlier post, I wrote about wanting to be more intentional this year about the way I live.  This injury isn't really the way I would have chosen to be made more aware of my daily decisions, but come to think of it, I've always been hard-headed.  Maybe it takes literally having my head cracked to slow me down enough to get there.       


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Yo, Pain

I've been out of commission for a few days now, from writing and from life.  I took a ridiculous fall over the weekend, the kind of fall that you couldn't pull off if you were trying.  I feel like I should carry around a diagram to explain to people how it happened, because it's actually not as outlandish as it sounds if you can visualize my front stoop and know a bit about physics.  Anyway, I ran up my steps, slipped on the ice on the stoop, slid into the rail, and then flipped right over the top of it and landed on my head and shoulder.

As a result, I ended up in the hospital for three days with some minor brain bleeding, a giant gash in my head (which is now closed with seventeen staples), and some wicked shoulder injuries.  I'm home now, and on the long road to recovery.  Seriously, long.  I believe the orthopedic surgeon's quote was, "You should be reasonably mobile in a month or two, but it will hurt like hell in the meantime.  Come see me again if you don't see any improvement in three weeks."  If I still feel like this in three weeks, I'll need to go see a psychiatrist as well for my insanity.

I have had broken bones and sprained ankles and such before, so it's not like I've never experienced pain before, even prolonged pain.  But I have never experienced pain like this before.  Excruciating, debilitating, can't go even one minute without being reminded of it pain.  Granted, it is not as bad as it was for the first few days.  The AC joint that had been separated popped back into place, magically shifting my pain level from "arm being ripped out of the socket and taking the lungs with it" down to "large pointy objects embedded in shoulder muscles."  For five days, I couldn't get even the slightest relief no matter what position I was in or what drugs they gave me, and anytime I moved or even breathed deeply, the pain seared my entire body and left me crippled and gasping.  I couldn't put any weight on my right arm at all, and had about a one-inch range of motion before screaming set in.  

So, I'm pretty glad to be in the condition I am now.  I have a baseline of pain that is continuous.  On the "pain scale" they're always talking about at the hospital, let's put that at about a 4/5.  Then there are the small spikes of pain from typing too long (need to get off of the computer soon, speaking of), accidentally reaching for something without thinking, or sitting still too long and getting stiff - somewhere in the 6/7 territory.  Getting up in the morning or getting myself to bed at night bring on about an 8.  There's just a lot of maneuvering involved that can't really be helped.  It's either waking up stiff muscles that have been in one position all night (there's only one position I can sleep in now: flat on my back with my head and shoulders slightly raised), or moving around when the muscles are already maxed out from the day.  I'm kind of taking this opportunity to gripe about how much I hurt, but I'm also really grateful that these pain levels are no longer testing the limits of that 10 on the pain scale.

Sitting at home is getting really old, so I've been trying to figure out how to phase back into life.  However, I made a 10-15 minute trip to the office yesterday that disabused me of any delusions I had about going back to work in any normal capacity for a while.  One of my colleagues complimented my excellent sense of my own limitations and my self-care.  I laughed.  This is not really a choice.  If I could choose, I would be back at work today.  There are meetings tonight that I want to attend.  But I can't walk even moderate distances without jostling my shoulder.  I can't drive my car.  I can barely shower, let alone get myself presentable for a professional setting.  And I know that I could sit in a meeting for maybe a half hour before sitting upright in one of those chairs would be killing me.  There are things that pain forces you to do and not do.  It's annoying.    

I have many things to say, about the experience of being in seemingly endless pain, about what it's teaching me about people who are in chronic pain, about the complete idiocy of my hospital stay and the medical system in general.  But, alas, typing this, even with breaks, has made my shoulder start throbbing again.  So, it's back to the rest and ice for now.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I am Very Busy and Important

Earlier today, I was sitting in a meeting when I received a call that I just had to answer.  And then I had to leave at exactly 12:55 because I had to get to another meeting at 1:00.  I had to leave that meeting at 1:55 to get to my 2:00 meeting, ad so on.  So it goes.  But I heard something disturbing in my voice as I announced that I simply must be going because of blah-di-blah-blah.  I heard that, "See how busy and important I am?" thing.  Ew, I hate that thing.  We've developed this weird culture where people who are more distracted by everything else they have to do are assumed to be more important.  Those of us who schedule our lives so tightly that we have to run around like lunatics and never be fully present anywhere must be more valuable than people who can "afford" to give time to where they are.

I am busy.  I like being busy.  Given enough breathing space now and then, I thrive on it.  But one of the things I'd like to stop doing is using that as a a sign of my own value, either internally or around other people.  And now, because I am so very busy and important, I have to go to a worship planning meeting and an Epiphany party.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Annnnnnnnnd....They're Off!

Well, we're off and running back at the office today.  I'm dropping in here because I want to re-establish my routine, but seriously, I have no time to blog.  I need to choose hymns, make wedding packets, plan a Junior High retreat, start writing a sermon, go to my landlord's office, get a handle on our annual chili cook-off and auction, and organize the planning team for our new alternative worship service.  Typing the last three sentences took me two hours because I keep getting interrupted.  So, I'm going to give up and get back to work.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to the New Year

Given that lying around on my couch, feeling fat, gross, and self-pitying wasn't really working wonders for me, tonight I took my dog for a long walk.  I even jogged about a mile of it, just because it felt good to remember that I could.  I haven't been running in a few months, since...maybe September or October?  It's not a good sign when I don't remember.  I haven't even been on a real walk with the dog for a while.  I've walked around the block a few times, but mostly, since it got cold, I've just let her out in the back yard.  The funny thing is, it doesn't seem as cold when I'm walking instead of standing on the back porch watching her wander around.  Doh.

I suffer from an inertia problem, by which I mean that I will generally continue to do what I have been doing.  If work has kept me moving from meeting to task to meeting for fourteen hours a day, when I finally get a chance to stop, I don't know what to do with myself.  If I've been on vacation for a week, I have a hard time readjusting to being back in the office and actually getting things done.  If I go walking or running a few days in a row, I will mostly likely continue to do so until something interrupts that routine.  If I have been sitting on my couch in my spare time, that will probably continue until my slothishness gets to me so much that it propels me out the door.

Here's hoping this has been the interruption of the lazy inertia, and the beginning of the, "Hey, let's do something" inertia.

Tomorrow I go back to work after a week of vacation.  Okay, I worked on Sunday morning, but it was pretty low-key, just church as usual.  This week everything flies back into full swing to get ready for our major fundraising event and the upcoming mission trip.  I'm feeling pretty good about that at the moment, like I might even get up early and walk to work tomorrow morning.  But that might be pushing tonight's energy spurt a bit far.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Cranky Christmas and a Happy New Year

Yeah, so, I was really crabby at Christmas, obviously.  It was a rough holiday.  I was lonelier than I have ever been before, at Christmas, and maybe any other time, too, and it wasn't because I was more alone.  I spent about the same proportions of time with people and alone that I have for the last few years.  I haven't spent a Christmas with my family for something like nine or ten years, so I'm pretty much used to that.  I'm used to my one package in the mail and coming home to the dog after Christmas Eve services.  But I felt so, so lonely this Christmas.  Which I think probably has to do with how completely heartbroken I've felt for much of this (I guess it's last now) year.

See, when you're used to thinking of yourself as a person who is alone - not just someone who is single but someone who lives alone and is separated in one way or another from people with whom one might normally do things like spend holidays together - you just sort of know that you're going to be alone.  You adjust.  At least, I did.  I learned to appreciate my quiet time and my non-traditional holidays.

Then there was this...interruption in my self-concept.  I started to ponder a possible future with someone else in it.  Prematurely, as it turns out.  Going through the re-imagining of possibilities and then the squashing of them has changed me.  It feels like something is broken that I hadn't even known was there.  So, now I have this weird, fragile part of me that has been exposed that I don't really know what to do with.  I'm not really over the whole situation that caused it, which is painful and bewildering and annoying.  I now have this revised idea of myself as someone who could be in a lasting relationship.  But around that soft place that says, "Yeah, I could maybe want this" has grown all of this scar tissue that closes up tight and says back, "No way are we going there again."

That's not really a place I want to be.  I'd like to either be open to looking for something meaningful, or back to the person who didn't really expect or think about that.  But such is life at the moment.

Anyway, I'm far less sad and cranky now that Christmas is over.  I had a great week after Christmas, traveled around and saw a couple of concerts, went to a fabulous New Year's party.  I got a grip and remembered that I do have friends and things to do and better things to think about than my own current internal weirdness.    It was good.  And now it is a new year, which seems a way for us to mark the new beginnings we would like to see in our lives, even if they're not happening yet.  I don't really make resolutions, because they generally last about two days for me, but in an effort to continue the upward climb from my Christmas rock-bottom, I'm thinking of some new beginnings I'd like to see in the next year.

Most of them have to do with being more intentional about areas of my life.  For example:
- Finances.  I'd like to have a budget of some sort rather than scrambling about all the time.  I'd like to start being more mindful of how I toss money at things that don't matter, thereby ceasing to nickel and dime myself to death.
- Vocational considerations.  It's time to start thinking in a more focused way about what might be next, not because I'm leaving anytime soon, but because I know I will leave eventually, and I should be prepared.  The random, "This looks like fun!" method of choosing continuing ed is not helping me.
- This rearranged self-concept that might not be eternally single...I'd like to stop being afraid of it.  I believe it's possible to be open to being in a relationship without becoming one of those women who drive me crazy because they think of almost nothing else, so it should be possible to embrace that in myself.  Maybe.
- Health.  Denial about aging is also not helping me.  I would like to find a balance of making choices that are healthy for my body without becoming obsessive about numbers on a scale or calorie counter.

On the whole, I would just like to be more thoughtful about how I spend myself - my time, money, energy, and thoughts.  Maybe if I can stop being so haphazard about some of these things, I'll also stop feeling like such an emotional mess.