Her

Sometimes you just have to treat yourself to a movie in the middle of the weekday for no other reason than that you want to and you think you deserve it.

I took myself to the movies last week to see Her. A beautiful film directed by Spike Jonze about a man who falls in love with his operating system.

I love how Spike Jonze takes these really crazy scenarios and portrays them in a way that seems so normal. It almost makes you start to wonder if you could fall in love with an operating system because at the end of the day it’s not about the social constructs of love that society has projected into the world, but rather just the emotions that you alone experience when you throw your ideas out into the darkness and listen for a voice that you hope is more than your echo. And if that voice comes from your phone then maybe that wouldn’t matter to you so much if it was a voice that deeply understood you and made you feel full and alive and inspired and young.

I’m glad that I have real people in my life to make me feel that way. But I still think everyone should watch this movie

Horoscope

Sagittarius: This week you might find yourself full of a sweet and weird melancholy, your heart all full of the past, missing people and places and objects and feelings all so much. It’s good to remember loss, all the different people you’ve known, the ways you’ve lived, the selves you’ve been, the different ways that love and sorrow and anger have moved through you. Let these feelings take you over, let them go wild, then do your laundry, call your friends, eat dinner with your neighbors. Dream about ghosts and live with your feet on the ground.

Courtesy of The Rumblr.

Back Again

It’s been almost a year since I posted on this thing, which seems to be a trend now, but I honestly don’t mind. Maybe one day I’ll decide to fully commit to the “writing thing” and actually start updating on a more consistent basis, but for now this space is mine and it feels like home. I love coming back to this little corner I’ve etched out for myself in the cyber world and seeing how much I have changed and grown over the past few years. I’ve never been the type to  have any sort of 5-year plan. I don’t even know where I’m going to be in the next 3 months…but that hasn’t stopped me from feeling happy and content with where I am. I’m proud of myself. I feel a little bolder, a little stronger, a little more brave than I’ve ever been before.

I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I know who I want to be. I want to be honest and trustworthy. I want to be kind, but not a pushover. I want to care about others more than I care about myself. I want to help people see their own beauty and watch them shine their lights out into the world. I want to be vulnerable and giving, but I also want to be independent. I want to be emotionally healthy. I’m learning how to take care of myself, to not need anyone else to be happy. I think I’m getting better at it, and that feels good.

Maybe it’s just the Christmas season that brings all of these warm, fuzzy, contented feelings out of me. But life is good right now, and I’m not mad about it.

Modified Silence

My roommate has taken on a huge shift in lifestyle for her 40 day Lenten journey. It’s a zen monasticism project that requires a strict diet, daily mediation, a conscious awareness of self, and various other impositions on the daily routine. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it in its entirety, but I decided to pull certain aspects from it that I thought might enhance my Lenten experience. One of those is daily journal writing, which will manifest itself, at least in part, in the form of this blog, but another is a challenge that I have chosen to take on every Monday for the remaining weeks of Lent–it’s called modified silence.

On Mondays, observe modified silence. That is, speak only when necessary and when you speak, be aware that you are speaking and that it is necessary to speak. This includes email, texting, and any other kind of communication. You should only respond to necessary (probably work or class related) messages.

I made it until about lunch time until I messed it up. Then I tried to start over again and failed miserably when I got home and had an hour long phone conversation with Connor. Now I’m sitting in the living room typing this in the company of my roommates and wondering why it is that I so desperately feel the need to have a conversation about government lobbyists.

Anyway. Despite my failings in practical silence, the few hours during which I managed to succeed taught me a valuable lesson in recognizing what it is that you’re putting out into the world. For every moment that I wasn’t speaking, I was realizing the things that I wanted to speak about, and a large majority of them were much more negative than I would like to admit. It’s kind of sad to think about how much breath I waste on complaining and griping and criticizing other people, and I wonder how much more productive I could be if I took all of that negative energy and focused it on something more productive in my life.

If I never make it a full day without unnecessary speaking, hopefully I will at least manage to modify my thoughts to avoid unnecessary negativity.

NYE

So I sat down earlier today to write a New Year’s Eve post. I figured I would have a lot to say on themes about life and its changes and growing up and moving forward and so on and so forth. This, however, was not the case. I just stared blankly at the screen for half an hour and then put my computer away, feeling defeated.

I think that sometimes that’s the problem with holidays, (mind you this is coming from a girl who loves holidays…all of them, and won’t ever turn down a reason to celebrate), but sometimes you get excited because you feel like they’re going to draw all of this inspiration and introspection out of you just because it’s a special day…but that doesn’t always happen.

I’ve come up with a few concrete resolutions like keeping my room from looking like this:

2012-11-27 16.51.47

As well as actually putting these to some use at the gym:

2012-11-24 13.42.03

Most of my resolutions are rather vague though, like being a little more focused, a little more organized, a little more present to the moment I’m in. I think that if there is anything 2012 taught me it is just how unfocused and forgetful I can be, and how often it can be an inconvenience to the people around me. I don’t expect to make great leaps and bounds overnight, but maybe by next NYE I’ll remember to leave my car keys at home before getting on the plane for Philadelphia. (Sorry, mom.)

Happy New Year’s y’all. May blessings abound in 2013.

For the 20

I’ve never been athletic or sporty. Growing up my brothers all played soccer and I did ballet. I begged my mom to let me play with them, but I was her only daughter and she needed me to be a girly girl. I get that. I was kind of afraid of the ball anyway. But I was jealous of the team aspect. Going to their games, their end-of-the-year parties, seeing them give each other pats on the back…I wanted that sense of belonging to something. There’s a comfort in knowing that you are part of something greater…that everything you’re doing and everything you’re working for is for more than just you because you have a whole team depending on you.

I always felt this the most when there was an injury in the game. Everyone from both teams huddles around the man-down, and the rest of us hold our breath until we find out he’s ok, letting out a sigh of relief as the circle of red and white jerseys around him breaks and he, with the help of two teammates, limps his way to the sidelines. There’s a short applause and acknowledgment of his sacrifice for the game, but then it goes back to just that…the game. And now everyone is fighting all the harder because they see what’s been lost and won’t let it be in vain. The substitute feels the pressure because it’s up to him now. He has to show that he can make things happen. That he can and will do what his injured teammate can’t right now. They play and they play hard. The game must go on.

I hope a sports analogy doesn’t come across as insensitive at a time like this, but the United Stated suffered a huge injury yesterday. Sometimes crap happens and we deal with it and move on…but this? Parents seeing the end of their children’s lives? Kids watching their best friends taken from this earth? Brothers and sisters finding out that the littlest one among them won’t be coming home anymore after school? This isn’t natural. This isn’t expected. This isn’t “part of life.”

The ball has been dropped, and the rest of us now can make a decision. We can rush to the sidelines with the injured parties, and for some of us that will be necessary. Maybe that’s where we belong. There is a process to healing and recovery, a process that never reaches full completion in tragedies such as this, but that can be helped along by kindness and compassion and a shoulder to cry on into the wee hours of the morning.

All of those things are necessary…but they’re not enough. People need to know that this has sparked something. That change will come of it. That no more countless lives must be lost in shooting after shooting simply because we’re too scared to talk about it.

It is often said after great tragedies that “now is not the time for politics.” And maybe to a certain degree that is true. Now is not the time for hostile attacks across political parties, it’s not the time for self-centered aggrandizement, and it is most certainly not the time to allow personal agendas to surface and get in the way of progress. If that is what politics means to you then I wholeheartedly agree that now is not the time. 

But to me politics is about a conversation. It’s about change, it’s about progress, it’s about making things better so that more people won’t have to suffer in the future. It’s about realizing when enough is enough. Enough lives have been lost. Enough suffering families have been left behind. Enough deranged shooters have hit their breaking points. I’m ready for that conversation to happen right now. I want to talk about gun control now. I want to talk about treatment for people with mental disorders now. I want to talk about childhood bullying that leads to adulthood bullying right the hell now.

If you’re waiting for this wound to heal then I have news for you. It won’t. There is no greater symbol of innocence than a child, and yesterday 20 of them were taken from us. This is a sensitive issue. It will always be a sensitive issue. It will never be funny, it will never be old news, it will never be lighthearted. At least I hope not. Because this? What we’ve seen happen? Well, we shouldn’t have had to see it.

The ball has been dropped, America. But to pick it up and keep playing isn’t our goal. The task we are faced with here is not just to finish the game, but to end it. To end the game that uses violence as an attack and silence as a defense, the game that has stolen our innocents and our innocence, the game that ends in tears, and bloodshed, and long sleepless nights. We need to stand up and do something. We need to make this stop. We owe it to our country. We owe it to our team. We owe it to the 20.

23

 

I love my birthday. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t. Not just because it’s a day that gets to be all about me (which is, admittedly, nice to have once a year), but because December 13th is a damn good day. It’s right smack dab in the middle of the Christmas (Advent) season, leaving it far enough from the 25th to not get muddled into the holiday, but close enough to reap the benefits of ornamented trees and lighted sidewalks. It’s during winter, which, with its coats, gloves, scarves, and boots, blows summer out of the water any day. It’s the feast of St. Lucy, my confirmation saint (and the name of one of my future daughters I swear.)

But one of the things I like most about my birthday is that it begins, for me, that end-of-the-year-nostalgia syndrome that comes regardless of how distracted I seem to have been beforehand. December is a month of looking back. It’s not necessarily about making new resolutions yet; it’s about seeing which ones you’ve already checked off your list, and which ones you didn’t even know were on your list in the first place. It’s about remembering that despite the fact that you had a crazy year with ups and downs and twists and turns, you made it through and you’re still surrounded by people you love and who love you. It’s about remembering the reasons why we put up with the crap stuff in the first place, like family and friends and the kindness of strangers.

When I was little, 23 years old meant being married with a job and 3 kids already because heck, that was just plain old. It’s not quite that old, but it does mean certain things. It means definitively past “college age” and old enough to do just about anything except rent a car in some areas. It means living in a different state as my family for the first time in my life and only giving in to go home twice before I had actually planned to. It means being in my first long-distance relationship and not backing out because of how scary or daunting that may seem. It means more crying and more laughing and more growing. It means many things. It means good things.

There is a quote from the book Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s about how people always say that they wish they were young again, but no one ever wishes to be old. No one ever wishes to be 65. “You know what that reflects?” the book says. “Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five.”

I’m not wishing to be 65 right now, but I’m certainly not longing for days that have passed. I think maybe having a satisfied and fulfilled life isn’t about moving backwards or forwards. It’s about wanting to be right where you are because you’ve found happiness there, and that’s how I feel these days. I’m blessed by all the things that have brought me to where I am, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for my future, but mostly I’m just happy, content, and satisfied.

Happy 23 to me.

Crayola Crayons

I remember going school supply shopping in elementary school. I looked forward to it all summer. There’s just something about the clean, bright, crispness of new folders and notebooks and an art box that isn’t yet covered in marker stains from the year before. It all just makes you so excited to start a new year. But the best part by far was the crayons. Crayola. Always Crayola. If you showed up with Rose Art your whole year would be a downward spiral.

One year my mom let me buy the 64-pack of Crayola crayons. The one in the big box with the sharpener in the back and random unnecessary colors like “macaroni and cheese” and “cornflower blue.” For those first few weeks you’re always so careful. Being sure to take out only one crayon at a time, taking care to put it back in the exact spot you found it in, so that even after countless uses your box still looks brand new.

But eventually it happens. Eventually you lose one, or the paper starts to peel off on its own, or the worst of all…your crayon breaks in half. Yesterday I was helping to work on a set for a play and my crayon broke in half. And I got that feeling that I used to get in elementary school. That there-goes-the-end-of-perfection feeling. That what’s-the-point-in-trying-anymore feeling. Maybe that sounds a bit over dramatic  But crayons are a big deal. I think that people are like crayons. I think that I’m like a crayon at least. You know, really good at trying for those first few weeks, until something goes wrong and it’s time to give up because you know that nothing will ever be perfect again, and the crayons will never all fit in the box the same way anymore.

But the best people in life are the broken ones. The ones who are a little rough around the edges because they know what it feels like to hurt and cry and have their wrapper peeled off a little bit at the corner. I think those people get it better than the rest of us…that it’s only when you’ve experienced nakedness that you start to understand the value of vulnerability, and it’s only when you’ve had that deep sorrow pain in your gut that you can see someone else is having it just by looking in their eyes.

The best part of broken crayons is that once you break them, then they can be shared. And that’s worth much more than them all lined up perfectly in a box. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s worth a whole lot more.

Something to Talk About

I’ve tried this blogging thing far too many times in my life. I always feel like I need to have some thing to blog about. Like I’m not smart enough to just talk about the normal things in my brain, so unless I’m doing something really exciting I better just keep my thoughts to myself because no one wants to hear them. And maybe that’s true. Maybe no one does want to hear them. But I also know that I read a lot of crap that I don’t really want to hear, and I’m damn proud of people’s right to put it all out there.

In perusing through my past blogging endeavors I eventually made it all the way back to my middle school Xanga. Once I got past levels one through seven of embarrassment, I eventually made it to level eight (which is the level of beaming pride.) Yes. Pride. Pride in my awkward gawky 14-year-old self who for some crazy reason thought that whatever she had to say was worth sharing with the whole entire cyber universe. For the record, most  of it wasn’t. It wasn’t but it was a step. It was a step in a person beginning to grow and develop into someone intelligent and mature with thoughts and ideas that maybe are worth sharing. And you can’t always wait until you are that person to start sharing. In fact, maybe the most important step in becoming that person is realizing that you will never fully get there…that you are always growing and changing and learning and being knocked the hell off of your “look I’m so high” horse. But the more times you get back on the more times you can learn, and it will make you stronger, and wiser, and more humble, and oh so much more beautiful.

So here is day one of the Amanda who doesn’t wait for things to be perfect. Who realizes that she can say what she thinks and it won’t offend the whole world, and that even if it does then that’s ok too because at least it will be something real and something honest, and that should be enough to make it worth talking about.

Month Numero Tres

Ok. I know. I suck at this blog updating thing. I actually haven’t even thought about it for awhile, but today I had the entire day off, which hasn’t happened for a few weeks now, so I decided to make no plans and just sort of see where my day went. By the time I had woken up, dropped my roommates at the prison, eaten breakfast, met with Chris, my supervisor, to catch up, folded my laundry, and given my room a thorough cleaning for the first time in awhile, I found that the only logical thing left for me to do was to sit down and work on giving the corners of my mind just as thorough of a cleaning in order to remember and process just exactly where I am and what it is that I am doing here.

The most significant thing I can say is just how not significant everything seems. I don’t mean that in a negative way; it just all seems so much more normal than I imagined it would. I have ceased to be phased by the idea of working with inmates or teaching ESL to potentially undocumented immigrants or the fact that a significant portion of the drug exchanges that occur in Wilmington occur just a few blocks away from my house. I love my house by the way. I love the bright green kitchen and the drab brown wallpaper in the dining room (though I am the only one of my roommates who holds the latter opinion). I’m even (maybe) beginning to find the mice a bit cute, though I really really wish they would stop pooping on the counter. Really.

Anyway. My point is that maybe this feeling of normalcy about serving the “lesser” ones is exactly what I could have hoped for. Maybe that’s the whole idea. Realizing that it’s not weird because they are no different than us. On Monday one of my ESL students got a little confused with her possessive pronouns. She accidentally matched the pronoun “we” with the possessive pronoun ”theirs” because she forgot the difference between “we” and “they.” I kind of like that. I’d like to think that there are less of “them” and more of just “us.”

On Saturday, I went to Silver Springs, Maryland for the annual Encuentro Franciscano, which is an all day gathering of all of the Franciscan Hispanic parishes in the Holy Name Province, which extends all along the East Coast of the United States. Tons of people came from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and as far as North Carolina. The entire day was in Spanish, and I had gone without my roommates so I had minimal understanding of what was being said for the majority of the day, but I had the opportunity to observe. I couldn’t help but admire the way the friars allowed themselves to be welcomed and embraced into the Hispanic culture. These really were their people, and the people saw these men as their priests, even with their terrible accents and out of tune singing and laughable attempts at dancing the salsa. It didn’t matter because they have all chosen to embrace something bigger than themselves, and to embrace each other in that process. It’s a truly beautiful thing to watch, and an even better thing to be apart of.

I have tons more to say about community living and Franciscan spirituality and all of the wonderful people I’ve met, but for now I will just leave it here. Still so happy and grateful for this experience.