Saturday, September 22, 2007

Full circle

I just found this photo on Friendship Community Presbyterian Church's websitethey're celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, which is a really neat time for Mr. Wonderful and me to be here, 25 years after I born into the community of this church. It's amazing how some things never changelike my mom and dad's appearance, the total and utter cuteness of my smile, and the warmth of the community at Friendship Church.

There are other things that don't change, toolike the way my mom has to hold that rubber ball because I can't maintain my own grasp of it, and the way my overall straps always fall off my shoulder . . . but I guess I don't feel so sentimental about those kinds of things.


Have you ever learned something about yourself that you really never wanted to know?

I think I’m the process of doing that now. I say “in the process” because I’m constantly waffling between accepting this new self-knowledge as truth . . . and discounting it as over-spiritualized crap. It would seem like an easy and obvious decision—you cannot ever fully deny the truth, after all—but the truth can certainly be ignored, veneered over; hidden for quite some time.

Either way, there is pain (on one hand, the pain of facing your darkest thoughts and feelings; on the other hand, the pain of dishonesty and stagnation). The latter, I believe, is a form of pain that is actually quite simple to medicate for long periods of time. And I suppose that’s what I’ve been doing for many years now: medicating. Mind you—following the pain metaphor—it’s not like I’d ever been given an accurate diagnosis before; I’d only ever seen and treated the symptoms.

But now that I have an inkling of what is really going on with me—why I seem to have so much trouble with stress and managing it—I think it might be better to face the pain and get it over with, rather than ignoring it for the rest of my life.

I don’t think I’m quite ready to face all of this yet, to talk about every detail. But I know I need to say this: I have never really thought about myself as a selfish, greedy person. But I have come to realize in the past few weeks that I care more about my vision, my goals, and my ideas of precisely how my life should unfold—I care more about these things than I had ever realized, and like a spoiled child, I am unwilling to accept anything that’s outside of my own plans and visions.

And when my life experience and dreams don’t match up closely enough . . . that’s when I feel stressed. Well, that’s the definition of stress, isn’t it? The trouble is, I suppose, that I haven’t really learned the art of reconciling these two things—a skill that all spoiled children need to learn.

There are probably several ways to do this. Stoics like Mr. Wonderful may choose to have no expectations at all (at least that’s what he claims sometimes), while seriously nerdy overachiever types just try harder to “do it all” (yes, that would be more my personality). But if you think about it, neither of these approaches is really that effective. It’s neither feasible nor healthy to empty yourself of all dreams and aspirations, and try as I might, I can never live up to my own expectations. I may be smart and talented, but it doesn’t matter how hard I try; sometimes I just won’t succeed in the way I want to.

Over the past few months, despite the fact that I threw myself, body and soul, into the task of finding a job that would pay well and make the best use of my skills, I failed. It didn't matter if I stayed up another hour to search for more jobs, or if I revised my resume for the eighteenth time; I just couldn't do it. And now, take the house: I can't really work any harder to suddenly make this house beautiful and perfect and 100 percent guest-ready; these things just don't depend on me like I think they do.

So if I can’t just try harder, or do much in the way of lowering my expectations, what is the solution? It might just be that I need to accept someone else’s expectations and vision for my life, instead of my own. Someone who has a broader perspective. Someone who “works for the good of those who love him.”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The unforgivable curse

So I've been thinking a lot about photocopiers lately, and why exactly they give me the creeps.

Today I finally figured it out: it's the green light.

You know, that eery green light that is just barely contained by the lid -- that light that can make you go temporarily blind? Well, doesn't that remind you of something? Something Voldemort-ish?

It's the same flash of green light that you see when someone issues a killing curse in the world of Harry Potter.

Weird, huh?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Highland Park: a photo tour

Hooray for Highland Park! This week, our neighborhood got itself on the National Registry of Historic Places -- and it's not hard to see why.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September hope

There is something about these early autumn days that just invites dreams and wandering thoughts that have very few practical elements. Autumn is the season of renewed hope -- of gathering up all the pieces of your life and actually believing that something good could come of them.

It's not spring, by any means -- there is nothing poking up through the soil for the first time, and the pace of life is not quite so frantic or harsh as the rapid growth of spring. In early fall, the time for growth has come and gone, and some things haven't quite turned out like you thought they would. If spring is hopelessly, naively optimistic, then autumn is the season of mature hope, when you've seen hard times and know they will come again but you have renewed energy to press on in spite of the past. Failure and a general sense of doom may be looming in the distance, but autumn is the time for squinting at it from afar and saying to yourself, "I think I just might be able to beat this" -- whatever it is, it seems there's always something like that in my life come September.

This September, of course, there are a number of things -- among them, just surviving in this new environment. And so, on this sunny, cool afternoon that's driven me to sip steaming coffee and pull on a waffle-knit henley . . . I am staring down the loneliness, the financial discomfort, the frustration with the state of our house, the fear that I might keep worrying and hating myself for the rest of my life, the thought that this whole Pittsburgh experiment might just fail miserably . . . I am staring it all down from afar with that against-the-odds optimism, and thanking God for His renewing strength this September.

A random thought about music
I was listening to the radio today, and was again annoyed by the trend that music artists are taking to calling themselves by singularly band-like names. If you heard a song by Feist or Iron & Wine for the first time, would it be instantly obvious that these are individuals, rather than bands? And if you heard a song by Rilo Kiley, would you guess that Rilo Kiley is a band? Of course not! So why do they do it? I have a theory: they are setting us all up to be mocked and ridiculed by their nerdiest, most dedicated fans who laugh and say to each other, "ha ha, she doesn't even know that Rilo Kiley isn't a person; Rilo Kiley is a band!" Music artists like this are drawing boundary lines between "true" fans and casual listeners who aren't absolutely obsessed with them yet.

Now, I know what you're saying: "But Dulci, you like Sting." And for those of you who didn't know I like Sting, please don't feel like this has to come between us. I know most people don't like Sting, and that's O.K. -- I won't try to push old Police albums on you or anything. Anyway, I realize Sting is somewhat of an ambiguous title for an individual music artist. But there's a bit of a difference here; most people have no idea that Sting's real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner (I can see why he changed it -- Gord Sumner doesn't quite have the 80s rock appeal that Sting does). Whereas people like Leslie Feist have a sort of dual public identity; they have no qualms about telling people their real, full names, but on their albums, they go by their enigmatic stage name. See? There is a difference.

If you asked me to suggest an underlying social change that is contributing to this shift in the way that musicians refer to themselves, I could probably come up with some kind of B.S. about how today's artists are much more willing to openly admit that they lead a double life; that the person on stage and the person on the street are not the same by any means. But I'm afraid I'd have to do a great deal more research in order to really confirm that hypothesis, and like I said, it's B.S. anyway.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What I'm reading

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
by Jasper Fforde

This, I think, is the last of the Thursday Next series, and I can't wait to find out how it ends! (Of course, if I stopped reading four books at one time, I might find out sooner.

Moon Handbook: Pittsburgh
by Dan Eldredge

A good guide to Pittsburgh, with a surprisingly casual, insider's perspective (usually these things are all ads and endorsements).

The Moving Finger
by Agatha Christie

One of my guilty pleasures. Actually, this one is quite well-crafted--one of Christie's favorites, and not nearly as formulaic as some of her other works. It's a Miss Marple mystery, but I'm halfway through and Miss Marple hasn't shown up yet, so that's a pretty shocking change of pace. Seriously, I love Christie's mystery novels, and this is a great one.

Food and Faith: Justice, Joy, and Daily Bread
edited by Michael Schut

With a collection of essays by the likes of Wendell Berry (yes, that was a huge selling point for me), this book explores . . . well, justice, joy, and daily bread. Heh heh. So far, I've read a thought-provoking piece on food as sacrament, and I thought it was very well done. I can't wait to read the rest of it. I'm sure it will be a blog-entry starter for me for the next few months, given that food and faith are two of my favorite topics!


Well, it's finally happened. I'm no longer unemployed! I got a job at McCrory & McDowell LLC (that's right; a company with a suffix!), which is an accounting and consulting firm in downtown Pittsburgh. I'll start work there on Thursday.

It's an administrative support job, which of course I know everyone thinks is a step down from editor . . . but it's also a step down in responsibility, and that will be a welcome change. The compensation for this position more than provides for our needs, and I feel good about the work environment, so I'm looking forward to it. They're actually going to let me do some editing and proofreading, too, so I'll get to use my editorial skills a bit, which is good.

I promise I'll put up a real post sometime soon . . . I know the Pittsburghy updates are getting old!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The coffee stirrer man

So there's this guy at my temp job who cracks me up. I think he probably has more degrees than a mercury thermometer, but each time he walks past my half-cubicle (which he does approximately 500 times a day), he is chewing on a red plastic coffee stirrer. Is it his personal version of the boy sitting on a fence with a blade of grass in his mouth? Is he so addicted to coffee that chewing the stirrer is the only way he can safely channel all the caffeine he imbibes each day? Does he think that red plastic really suits his pink and green striped button-down shirt?

But most importantly, perhaps, does he know he's doing it?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

And now, it would seem

I have job opportunities coming out of my ears. Well, maybe not quite, but compared to a few weeks ago, yes. Out of my ears. I just had a second interview today for a job downtown, and that went well . . . we'll see. Then I have another interview on Friday (only a part-time position, but still worth going to) and I got a preliminary offer from the place where I'm temping! Sheesh! :)