Tuesday, June 28, 2011

One Year Old

In this bloggers' group I belong to, the challenge this week is to post/re-post our first ever blog entry.  I initially thought mine was from 2006 when I was pregnant with my son, only for me to remember that I had written something else earlier, back in 2005.  Friendster used to be the 'in' thing then (prior to getting crushed by Twitter and Facebook...ouch!) and I had created a blog within that site and named it Catharsis.  I kept the name but not the blog and decided to have it resurrected via Blogger.  Anyway, here it is.  My very first 'baby', written on April 18, 2005....


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One year old


Most of us just go from one day to the next, taking for granted whatever path we’re on.  I, however, know better than to keep doing that.  Today, it’s been exactly one year since I came here to Illinois and no one would’ve thought that I’d come here to stay…not even myself!


I had a comfortable, pretty predictable life in Manila and then all of a sudden, I’m in a foreign country to stay for good.  All of a sudden, I had been stripped of the familiar, of my comfort zone(s).  Suddenly, I was the one sticking out, the one who had to learn a new set of rules for functioning in this society.  My entire notion of having a taken for granted reality for the sake of some ontological security, (not to mention simple sanity) was suddenly challenged.  For a time, I had no identity…no valid I.D., no Social Security Number, no driver’s license…nothing.  I was nothing…a non-existent in this foreign land simply because a number had not been assigned to me.  Yes, a number.  Everyone is ultimately reduced to that.


Anyway, as I was saying, for the longest time I felt invisible.  Of course things eventually changed and at present, I am driving, I hold a job and am once again seen as a ‘contributing entity’ to this society.  I have been given that "number" and by virtue of receiving such, I have been deemed "worthy".  Of what?…I am not exactly sure of…

Well, I am babbling.  I don’t exactly know where this is heading but to make the long story short, I just wanted to say this….

Life can change any day.  Yes we may find some comfort in the predictable, in staying within our safety zones.  But I assure you.  There is much growth in store for those who dare to brave the unknown; for those who are willing to shed the familiar.  Yes it will hurt for a time.  The transition is anything but painless.  But you just have to trust that you are where you need to be and that challenges are the ones that do build character.



Friday, June 24, 2011

Purgatory Never Promised Salvation

I’m stuck.  Normally I have a clear and firm opinion about everything but ever since I read this article two days ago, everything seems blurry to me.  This is the one about Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who just announced to the world that he is an undocumented immigrant here in the United States.  He is Filipino by ethnicity but the issue of course is not that of ethnicity but of citizenship. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/magazine/my-life-as-an-undocumented-immigrant.html?_r=2&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all

In sum, Vargas came to the US as a child, brought here by his grandparents, not knowing that all documentation used for his entry was falsified.  He was 12 years old, now 30, and since then, has not gone back to the Philippines.  All these years, he has survived using a 'fake' Social Security Number and driver’s license.  He has completed his education here in the US and undoubtedly blossomed to be a true achiever.  Amidst all the success though, he admits to feeling consumed by this dark secret; that he could not even fully savor the taste of everything he has achieved so far mainly because of this cloud hanging over him.  And so now he claims that he is tired of running and so has decided to come forward and speak his truth.

Sure I commend him for coming forward.  I admire him for believing in his dreams and having the tenacity to pursue them.  I have the utmost respect for him for being a fighter, a man focused on what is possible instead of allowing the call of his dreams to be drowned out by the echoes of all possible obstacles.  (And now do you hear a big ‘BUT’ coming?)….

I know that behind every action, especially for an intelligent human being such as himself, is an intention.  So what was his true intention for coming forward the way he did?  I refuse to believe that he only needed catharsis and wanted to finally be freed by the truth.  Did he just want to give another voice to illegal immigration, show to the world that our stereotypes don't always apply, that accomplished and articulate people like himself also do fall within said category?  If so, and then what?  So what?  In the article he did say that he is now consulting with immigration lawyers to explore his options.  Is it then absolution he is after?  Somehow I could not shake that feeling.
   
A lot of people are now rallying behind Vargas, arguing that he should be recognized as an American citizen mainly because he has truly proven himself to be a citizen in the truest sense, that he has most certainly earned it.  Citizenship speaks both of rights and responsibilities and obviously, at least from the article written, he has no doubt been faithful to his responsibilities…paying taxes and serving his community well.  However, the fact remains that all these years, he has been breaking the law.  With everything he has falsified and lied about, you cannot tell me that his sense of ethics and integrity are not questionable.  And may I remind you that he is a journalist.  Somehow that does not sit well with me.  Is it fair that Vargas was brought here as a child, without his consent, and he was not aware of the lies surrounding his migration? Absolutely not.  But in my view, legally pardoning a minor in a similar situation, a minor who does not know any better, is far different from pardoning a then-minor-turned-adult who perpetuated a lie, an illegality.
  
He has CONSCIOUSLY been doing something wrong, something illegal and yet continued to CHOOSE to go on this way.  He clearly acknowledged this in his article.  And then he added, "But what was I supposed to do?".  What about do the right thing, accept the consequences and return to your country of origin, even if it is a country you "barely know" (his own words).  If he were truly a bright and determined young man, and I think he IS, then he could easily survive in the Philippines and contribute just as much to the country and make something of himself just the same.  Why did he not choose to believe this?  What else drove his decision?  This is the part that somehow bothers me and it bothers me that he left it unsaid...unexplored.  There is something else that he is not being honest about or perhaps has not admitted to himself.  Don't tell me he had no choice.  There is always a choice.  He just chose, for whatever reason or motivation, to continue the lie, be in limbo and just blindly hope for absolution in the future....perhaps....and this is just me speculating, writing from my gut at the moment.

I’m sure he prefers not to be deported.  I don’t even want him deported not because I support his actions but mainly because he said so himself….He considers himself an American, not a Filipino.  He said it clearly...He considers the US his home, not the Philippines.  I wouldn’t want another Filipino who does not have any sense of loyalty and true love of country to live off of my country’s limited resources.  Maybe I can have a change of heart if I can have the guarantee that he will be a valued citizen of the Philippines as well and not add on to the number of people who know nothing but criticize and complain, instead of contribute and respect the Philippines for what it is (a young republic and part of the Third World).  But there are no such guarantees.  And so what now?  Like I said in the beginning, I'm kind of on the fence on this one.  I understand the complexities of immigration laws and acknowledge that there is a bigger picture of why people like him are thrust into such situations and this truly deserves closer analysis from a socio-political and global economic perspective.  I know better than to just simplistically judge undocumented aliens and personally know that each of them have their own stories to tell that, from a humanistic level, would make so much sense and justify their choices.  But there is the law, which needs to be applied universally to make real sense (instead of particularly, to borrow from Sociologist Talcott Parsons' Pattern Variables).  I am willing at this point to give him the benefit of the doubt, keeping me still on the fence, although my moral compass obviously makes me inclined to go a certain way.     









Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crashing Into You

http://www.flickr.com/photos/suburbanadventure/5280606799/
Words have consequences.  A very good friend of mine said that to me during a recent conversation.  And since I’d been thinking of writing about the power of words since I wrote my thoughts about The Reader a few blog posts ago, I took what my friend said as a clear ‘go’ signal from the Universe.

If you’ve ever had doubts about how powerful words are, imagine being illiterate.  Better yet, go to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and/or where the characters used are not the Roman alphabet (e.g. JapanChinaThailand, etc.).  Imagine riding a train or a bus and then realize that the signs don’t make any sense to you, leaving you feeling lost.  Imagine turning on your television not understanding a word you hear and feeling left out, alienated, like someone who’s not being included in an important conversation.  This is why when I wrote about The Reader, I thought the part where Hanna Schmitz finally deciphered the word “the” was so powerful because suddenly, it was as if blinders were taken off from her eyes and things started making sense.  In that moment, the world became more meaningful to her.  It must’ve felt no different from being able to see, really see, for the very first time.  Imagine that moment!...the exhilaration, the sense of wonder, the sense of joy and pride and hunger for more!  

I don’t like wasting words.  Though I understand that at times we need ‘fillers’ to get by in this world---'hi'; ‘how’s it going’; ‘have a nice day’--- I still think there will always be a part of me that will find them wasteful and nonsensical (unless of course they're sincere, which is not the case in daily life).  Given my Sociology background, I know that Ethnomethodologically speaking, it makes sense that when you go to a store, most likely some attendant is bound to ask you at some point, “Can I help you?”, and that this is part of reproducing the social order.  It’s a practice with taken-for-granted meanings, at least in American society, and that being a part of this society assumes knowledge of those meanings and there is no need to challenge such ‘everyday practices’.  However, sometimes part of me still wants to be naughty and strip the ‘taken-for-grantedness’ off of such a statement and reply, “Yes I hope you can help.  Would you give me some clarification as to the existence of God?”

You see, I love intentional words, just as I love meaningful conversations and fail miserably at small talk.  Maybe it's because I love how words, when meant and pregnant with truth, have the capacity to genuinely move you and even cause your body to respond.  They can make your heart beat fast, tighten your stomach, cause you to blush. You could get goose bumps, make you choke, or weak in the knees.  Think of the consequences you experienced when someone you desired said 'I love you' to you, or maybe you uttered the same to someone who has always felt unlovable.  Think of the gift of assurance given when someone says 'I choose YOU' and the possibilities opened with that declaration.  Imagine the fears calmed and banished just with a simple 'Mommy's here' uttered to a helpless child.  And what about 'I forgive you' or 'I believe in you' and the spirits they heal?  I know too well how potent words are since I am one whose most significant relationships rely mainly on words.  As an adult migrant, most of my family and dearest friends are not physically with me and so we only have words for each other to bridge our gap, convey emotions and reveal truths.  Given my situation, I know too well how utterances can drive me insane, make my mood swing from one extreme end of the continuum to the other.  I have felt much of words' consequences indeed and my world, my consciousness, have  been shaped much too often by mere words so I can never deny their power.  Where action or physicality is not possible, words, whether spoken or written, become sufficient verbs.

Words can be so many different things to different people.  But one thing is certain.  Words, with their meanings, make it possible for our individual worlds to collide.  Let's do our best to make most of our collisions count!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Life Is A Cliché

Love is blind and love hurts, because you only really hurt the ones you love.  But it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  You win some, you lose some.  We have to remind ourselves that all is fair in love and war.  And if you truly love someone, set them free and if they come back, then you were meant to be.  If not, then take comfort in knowing that time heals all wounds.   There’s no point crying over spilled milk.       

We don’t always get what we want.  To be happy, you have to learn to want what you have.  The grass is always greener on the other side, so the key is to look at your glass being half-full rather than half-empty.  Remember that happiness is a state of mind.  Don’t keep opening up old wounds but instead, keep looking forward.  When you are caught between a rock and hard place, don’t panic.  You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t anyway.

Life’s a bitch.  And life is definitely not a bed of roses.  But life is also a mystery and a beautiful tapestry.  You just have to do what you can, and take one day at a time.  Expect the worst but hope for the best.  Laugh…It is the best medicine!  Believe that you are where you are meant to be so try to live like there’s no tomorrow.  Throw all caution to the wind!  Live in the moment and seize the day!    

....That’s all folks!  Please don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coming Clean About Co-Sleeping

Last weekend, while I had some adult time with my sisters-in-law, the topic of conversation briefly turned to co-sleeping, specifically our having a ‘family bed’ at our house.  I have almost always succeeded at avoiding this topic knowing full well how touchy and personal it is, but it was my fault.  I think I brought it up and now don’t even really remember how.  I am never comfortable discussing this with others and frankly would rather suffer through a really bad migraine than be grilled on this topic.  As I had expected, I was advised to stop the practice especially since Noah will be in kindergarten next year and might be teased by other kids.  They warned me that this might even cause my son to be bullied.  Hearing that made me even more uncomfortable, not because I became afraid, but because it just did not make any sense to me.  In any case, it was not a discussion I wanted to prolong because I felt I needed more time to think things through.  Things were left hanging and lingering in my head, hence this blog post.

So to contextualize the ‘issue’ at hand, let me try to tell you how it’s like at our house. Here are the facts.  My son is 4 years old.  He has his own bed and bedroom.  He is an only child and will most likely remain so.  Since the time he learned to walk and climb out of his crib, he has never really slept in his room by himself.  My husband and I know the merits of having our bed and our room to ourselves but our son always ends up in our room, between the two of us, when he walks over in the middle of the night, mostly between 2:30 and 3 a.m.  Recently, we haven't even been insisting on Noah to start off in his room.  I just spare everyone the stress and allow the 3 of us to sleep together in our king-sized bed.  My husband has a job and has to get up early each day.  I am not employed outside the home but have a hard time sleeping, remaining asleep and am just all around sleep-deprived. 

Now let’s go back to the concept of co-sleeping and further clarify the term.  Co-sleeping has many kinds and it’s important to differentiate.  There is bed-sharing, room-sharing (where the child’s bed or crib is in the parents’ bedroom) and some articles I’ve read also include other sleeping arrangements that are clearly not safe for babies such as sleeping on the couch or sofa.  When Noah was an infant and even as an older baby, I never felt comfortable having him sleep with us for fear that we may either roll over him and / or suffocate him with our pillows.  I was clear about that risk so I never did that.  However, as a slightly older toddler and now 4 years old, I believe the risk is so much less and I’m more comfortable doing it. 

Aside from the risk of SIDS or the child getting suffocated, advocates of solitary sleeping for children argue that co-sleeping causes an unhealthy sense of dependence, behavioral problems and sleep disorders in children.  They also say that it is not healthy for marriages as it interferes with adult bonding time and therefore creates marital problems.  The SIDS argument, I can respect, and there have indeed been studies conducted supporting such argument.  The rest?..not so much.  Literature go both ways with some studies showing the reverse effect even, saying that co-sleeping children are better adjusted and have a stronger sense of security.  Even Dr. Phil (McGraw) stated this on his websiteRecent studies show that children who bed-share are not more likely to have emotional problems than children who don't, and that bed sharing before 6 years of age appears to have no major impact on a child's development or behavior”, (though he is not an advocate of co-sleeping).
 
The practice of having babies or children sleep by themselves in a separate room is a modern and Western idea.  In the old times, when houses were so much smaller, the families larger and there were not a lot of rooms in the house, family members naturally had to share beds and bedrooms (if there was even a designated bedroom to begin with).  Researches also show that the practice of co-sleeping, even in modern times, is very cultural.  It continues to be quite popular in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and the Philippines where I am from.  This is most likely why I never understood and still don’t understand why people make such a fuss over the fact that some parents allow their own children to sleep with them.  Growing up in the Philippines, this was never an issue for us.  It was done in my family and almost every single family I knew.  And it was not always ‘space’ that was the issue, necessitating co-sleeping.  It was just the ‘natural’ thing to do and guess what?  I grew up normal, with no behavioral or psychological problems whatsoever, and so did everyone in my family and circle of friends and acquaintances who co-slept at some point during their childhood.  My parents and the parents of everyone I knew stayed together and for those who did not, I can promise you that co-sleeping was not at all the root cause of the failed marriage/s. 

So again, let me further put things in perspective.  Our son has hit every single milestone required by doctors and experts on child development and is an all around ‘normal’ child.  He was never too attached to the bottle and did not give me a hard time weaning him off of it.  Save for the few hours he made me deaf when I tried taking away his binky after he turned 2, my son never really gave me a hard time, not even with potty training.  Now that he’s 4, he’s getting more involved in activities that push his limits and is obviously trying to establish greater independence.  He insists on dressing himself up, brushing his teeth by himself and just the other day, was so proud that he was able to button his jeans on his own.  He likes helping out in the kitchen and even dusts table tops and sweeps the floor.  He puts away his toys, cleans up after playing even when I don’t remind him at times and this I think is pretty impressive.  So you see, in the grand scheme of things, not only do I think my child is developmentally normal, he is also by no means on the precipice of turning into a needy, incapable and disabled creature.  And my marriage?...Well, my husband and I are on the same page with regard to this topic and without saying too much, I will just tell you that we still find ways to nurture intimacy. 

The point is that this is working for US.  I don’t see the urgency in forcing something that neither my son, nor my self, is ready for.  He is my only child and I want to enjoy being with him and cuddling him for as long as I could.  He only gets to be a baby, a child, once and I want to savor every minute of it before he gets old enough to refuse my hugs and kisses.  There is also no clear evidence suggesting that I’m ruining my son’s future by allowing this behavior to persist and I will certainly not allow the thought of bullies actually ‘bully’ me into enforcing solitary sleeping for Noah.  It is not reason enough for me and I am intelligent enough to know that any decision driven mainly by fear never really works.

What about you?  I’d like to know how it’s like in your own family or what you grew up with.  Please know that I am not imposing my beliefs, nor am I asking you to change my mind.  I already know what works for us.  Now I want to know what works or has worked for you.
 











Friday, June 10, 2011

Deconstructing The Semi-Happy Marriage

Credit: sarah_is_looking

I read this Yahoo article yesterday talking about the ‘semi-happy marriage’ and how more and more are considering themselves to be under this category.  The article continued to say that it’s these couples who are most predisposed to divorce. 

I have no idea how the studies were done, and what criteria were thrown in but my initial reaction is to ask how the respondents defined ‘semi-happy’.  According to the article, semi-happy marriages are mainly characterized by low conflict, low passion and low satisfaction Historian Pamela Haag said in the article, "One minute, you love the stability and contentment. The next minute, you think it’s not the right marriage, and there are flaws in the marriage that are serious, even though there are also great things about the marriage". 

Is it just me or does this sound like maybe 98% of marriages?  This article differentiates the semi-happy respondents from those that said they are ‘happily married’.  Does that mean that when you say you are happily married, that you are happy and satisfied almost all the time?  And what is wrong with being semi-happy anyway?  If most divorces are indeed comprised of these semi-happy people, isn’t it possible that there could be a major flaw with expectations and definitions of happiness?  Are we really supposed to be happy all the time?  Isn’t it more realistic to expect only pockets of happiness rather than a continuous flow of it?  Could it be time to admit that complete marital bliss is overrated, not to mention, an unrealistic aspiration that sets most of us for failure?

For a thinker and over-analyzer such as myself, I don’t think it would be easy for me to answer if someone indeed asked me if I’m happily married.  I don’t think it’s fair to ask that without breaking it down to specific criteria and operationalize the whole concept.  Do I think my husband is a wonderful human being and partner?  Yes.  Do I genuinely like and respect him?  No doubt.  Do we get along?  Generally, yes.  Do we have the same values that are important cornerstones for our partnership?  Absolutely.  Do I think he’s the perfect man for me and that we fit like two puzzle pieces?  Absolutely NOT.  But is this lack of complete compatibility enough for me to believe that our marriage will not survive and that we will not thrive as individuals in this marriage and ultimately end in divorce?  No and I hope not.

It’s cliché to say that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage but it’s true.  I’ve always been wary of people who openly give the impression that theirs is a perfectly blissful union because I just don’t believe in its existence.  Marriage is too complex to believe that it can all be smooth-sailing.  You’re uniting two imperfect individuals so naturally that can’t be effortless.  I think an important key to a partnership is to cease believing that your partner can give you everything you need, that all the qualities you desire can be in one person only.  I love watching science shows particularly those dealing with astrophysics.  I find them completely exhilarating and told my husband once that I find the discussion on black holes and multiverses completely and utterly orgasmic.  He just gave me a look that made me think he was going to institutionalize me.  But we do tend to enjoy similar movies, whether they’re sci-fi or chick flicks.  I also wish he would write me some poetry and love letters.  He has never given me any, not even one Dr. Seuss-sounding verse.  However when he gives me greeting cards during special occasions, they are perfect and never fail to make my eyes tear up.  I’m also known for being a sucker for deep, philosophical conversations.  He’d rather talk about practical things.  But when anything truly bothers me, I can rely on him to listen and think things through with me.  He also respects me enough to allow me to write, though it's time-consuming, and talk with friends who are willing to have brain-hemorrhaging discussions with me.     

So I guess my point is that I believe it’s important to be very realistic with our expectations when it comes to marriage / partnerships.  Passion is great but Longevity and Constance are equally important.  You have to be realistic and very honest with yourself in figuring out what qualities will sustain you over the long haul, IF that is your objective and ideal.  But if not, then choose what works for you.  Marriage also takes a certain kind of maturity to admit that you and your partner cannot be everything to each other.  A real marriage has to free you from the illusion that the two of you can give everything to each other.  I am not advocating infidelity here.  All I'm saying is that once you've made your commitment, know that it is a commitment for both of you to grow together, within the bounds of marriage, so you have to find ways to accomplish this without alienating the other.  In the end, it’s also important to remember that our commitment to a relationship with our partner is only secondary to our commitment to ourselves, to be happy with our selves and cultivate qualities that nurture us, instead of just expecting a partner to give those things to us.  The simple truth is that you can always divorce your spouse, but not your self.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Of Words, Truths and Love

I finally saw the movie The Reader (2008).  If you haven't seen this nor read the book and would hate any spoilers on it, kindly stop now and skip this post.  I don't want to ruin anything for you.  Otherwise, please do sit back and try not to get too distracted by Ralph Fiennes' beautiful face on the left as you read on.  I promise to make this post worth your attention and sacrifice.  (Yes, yes, I think he's beautiful and I love his acting, but that's not the reason why I think this movie, this story, is riveting and magnificent!  I would also use the same words to describe Kate Winslet's acting, by the way.  She played the role of Hanna Schmitz).

I can think of two main reasons why I loved the story.    The first is because I'm a Sociologist and the second is simply because I'm a hopeless romantic and sucker for all things heartbreaking. Both my cerebral and highly sentimental sides felt satisfied with this movie for the most part and I can confidently say that I am now including this in my highly recommended movies list.  

And let me further break down my reasons for loving this movie into the three main things that stood out for me...


Viewing the film with a Sociological framework, I see it as a perfect illustration of C.W. Mills' point when he said in his book The Sociological Imagination (1959) that 'neither the life of an individual, nor the history of a society could be fully understood without understanding both'.  I couldn’t help but be reminded particularly of one thing Mills’ wrote: “When wars happen, an insurance salesperson becomes a rocket launcher; a store clerk, a radar operator; a wife or husband lives alone; a child grows up without a parent.”  In this instance, Michael Berg (played by David Kross and Ralph Fiennes) lost a lover and was forever dented.  Love stories are complicated enough just because you have two lives, two biographies intersecting, intertwining.  Imagine what further complications ensue when you begin to locate those biographies within social contexts (histories) that are tumultuous and therefore present those individuals with life choices that are impossible to simply be viewed as either black or white; a context where moral simplicity and status quo thinking cannot be applied.  Imagine the struggles.  Imagine the questions.  Imagine not having answers...


In this story, I saw two characters whose lives were ultimately defined by their respective secrets.  This brings me to a second point that struck me and that is, when people deny a powerful truth about themselves, a powerful truth that defines them, then that ultimately consumes and diminishes them.  Hanna repeatedly chose to keep her illiteracy a secret, even though it meant turning down jobs, alienating people (and herself), and suffering for something she was not completely guilty of.  She would rather choose the label 'murderer' (which she probably was, although this is a complex point in the story), than 'illiterate'.  It was one self-definition she was never willing to accept and reveal.


Michael's life, on the other hand, was obviously strongly defined by his affair with Hanna, the pain she caused him, the abandonment, feelings of rejection, and then perhaps shame that this woman who consumed him is morally questionable, to say the least.  His relationships suffered and his internal struggles dominated him.  He could've helped 'save' her, but he felt too conflicted.  He loved her but at the same time, 'hated' her, what she's done, her choice to let people die and perhaps more importantly, her choice to leave him.  Faced with the opportunity, he then chose to reject her as well, abandon her as she had abandoned him.  During Hanna's incarceration, he had every opportunity to resurface and make his presence known but he did not.  And when he had resurfaced by way of his audio tapes, he still was not fully there.  He chose to not have any physical nor real personal contact.  He refused to even send her a note.  Why?  Could it have been a way of tormenting her as well?  Letting her know he was ‘there’, ‘present’, but not quite, not reachable, still invisible, distant.  It was cruel, to say the least, but could he have been merely trying to inflict if only a fraction of the pain he feels she had inflicted upon him all his adult life?  Perhaps.  All the suffering and cruelty they both caused and experienced stem from the powerful denials they repeatedly chose, thus diminishing them one way or the other.

A third main point for me was the obvious power of words.  One of my favorite moments from the film, and perhaps one of the most powerful ones as well, was when Hanna finally started learning to read and write with Michael’s audio recording of The Lady With the (little) Dog.  Imagine the empowerment felt simply by being able to figure out a simple word such as 'THE'.  (There is more to say about words and how writers and readers like us take them for granted, but I will save that for another day).  And what about Hanna's expectation of a letter from Michael?  How a simple note from him would've made a universe of difference to her?  How a few personal words of direct acknowledgment would've given her life?  If only he wrote.  If only they said more to each other when they finally met again after decades of absence.  They both appeared utterly burdened by a sense of restraint.  As the audience, you could feel the heaviness in their hearts, how both wanted to say so much and yet neither knew where or how to begin, or felt it didn’t matter anymore.  To me, the way they seemed internally conflicted was palpable.  And again being me, I'd always prefer the presence of words and insist that it always matters.  Just say it. Say everything, ask your questions, ask for explanations, tell her how much she has hurt you, how much you’ve been carrying this pain all these years and how much the memory of her has tainted every single step you had taken since you parted years ago.  But then...for what?  Closure?  Will anything she says now truly give him that?  Does that idea even truly exist and if it does, will it be enough to heal all the wounds she caused and bring back the lives she took, including his?  I feel, though, that if he had chosen to speak to her, truly speak to her, that it would've breathed some life back into her.  If only he gave her more words...

I hear that a lot of people who saw this movie wondered if Michael and Hanna truly loved each other.  My answer would be ‘yes’ and I say that because in the end, they continued to make better persons of each other.  As Michael began to confront his feelings towards Hanna, he chose to go through the painstaking task of reading books out loud and record them for her, knowing that this fuels her.  As a result, Hanna saw an opportunity to finally free herself from the shackles of illiteracy.  I think only love can do that.  Only love, even in its faintest or transfigured form, drowned in painful memories and difficult less-than-ideal choices made, can make people achieve better versions of themselves or at the very least, get glimpses of such versions.  In the end, I truly think only love has that much power.   

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Breaking Down a Breakdown

    We are roughly two and a half months away from the big move (from the MidWest to the South).  To some people, that leaves more than enough time to pack.  However, knowing myself, I would rather start early, go through it as calmly as possible and have as much sense of control as I could afford.  If there is one thing I learned a decade and a half ago from graduate school, it is that having a schedule is important.  In grad school, there were a million things to read, write essays on and plan reports or presentations for.  It seemed impossible to handle but I discovered that all it took was having a realistic system of imposing how much to read per day and having the discipline to really stick to this schedule.  As long as you pace yourself accordingly, you can always manage without getting too overwhelmed and losing your sanity.  When faced with something that seems too huge, too difficult to handle, you just have to break it down…whether it’s a task, a concept or even just a word.

    Given this approach, my plan is to pack an average of 2 boxes per day (whenever I could on weekdays), or total at least 8 per week.  I think this is pretty realistic and will definitely bring me a sense of accomplishment.  My only concern right now is the possibility of running out of space INSIDE the house once I pack so many boxes.  We’ll cross the bridge when we get there.     

    It’s quite interesting though how I’m realizing the emotional aspect of this task.  Especially with regard to packing Noah’s stuff, I’ve found myself doing the ‘Awwww’s’ and doubting which items I should really get rid of.  You have to be pretty ruthless though in this process.  If I give in to every sentimentality I feel as I rediscover Noah’s old baby gear, toys and clothes, I might end up wanting another child.  And yes I have decided that I no longer want a second one.  This may come as a surprise to some of you but if you also know what I’ve gone through trying for a second one, I think you’ll understand my decision more.  So, off to the 'donate' and 'attempt to sell' piles they go and I am not looking back.


    More than just packing our things and having to let go of some of them, what I'm having the most difficulty with is the thought of saying goodbye to this house.  We're not selling just because it's not wise to do so in this economy so technically it'll still be ours.  However, to be so far away and not live here anymore is the point.  My son was born here and there are just too many memories, too much energy (both good and bad) in this current home that I find difficult to fully let go of.  We've done quite a bit to personalize and upgrade some spaces and though it's a simple home and far from being 'high-end', it has always been home.  It's not a huge house but it has served our needs perfectly.  I have been happy here and very content.  It's funny how I look back now on all those times when I complained and wished for more rooms, more space.  Now I see those times as wasted when I could've just spent them accepting what is and making do with what we had/have.  


    Now we're moving to a larger house and though I am also excited, I also feel anxious about all the things that need to be done.  More than just unpacking and settling down, I am already thinking of our future DIY projects.  Oddly this is a new house but at the same time, I'm realistic enough to know that no house is perfect given one's tastes and lifestyle.  So yes, we already have projects lined up.  Do the floors, add crown molding, repaint, improve on the kitchen and I'm sure many others will make it to this list.  But hold on...break it down, break it down.....


    I'm still here and have to deal with this, 



    before I can inch closer to this...

    http://sarahrichardsondesign.com/portfolio/project/city-chic-lounge/living-room1



    Wish me luck!  And if you don't see me on the blogosphere for 2 straight weeks, that means I'm somewhere underneath those boxes!