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Thursday, November 20, 2008

SPIRIT: Assertiveness

Unlike the previous two graces I considered, I don't feel like the word "assertiveness" has really any negative connotations that go with it. Moreover, it's definitely something I need to try and work on these days. I'm not sure if I consider it a true virtue to live one's life by, but it is at the very least an important character value that I know I need more of.

Assertiveness, roughly speaking, is the happy medium between being a doormat and a bully. It is saying what you like, going after what you want and being unafraid to try and influence people toward your aims, but without being rude, overstepping their personal boundaries or forcing them to do what you want - basically, getting what you want and being damn nice about it. 'Nuff said.

The area in my life that I think I most need assertiveness is in my relationship with my father. It's not a terribly healthy one - our conversations all seem to consist of him stating and restating what he wants for and from me in increasingly louder tones and me standing there sullenly, answering in single syllables and praying to be anywhere else in the world at that moment. Before I moved back here a few months ago, I'd lived on my own for four years, seen the world (well, parts of it), and become an independent adult woman in my own right. Suddenly being back here, though, staying in the same house, eating at the same table, sleeping in the same room that I spent my miserable teenage years in somehow causes me to revert to that same moody, sullen, troubled, silent, sad little girl I was back then anytime my father and I clash wills. I am struck dumb, unable to say what I think or feel or want in any way that makes sense to either of us. I feel like a stupid child, as I'm sure I must appear in his eyes - a silly little daydreamer who pouts whenever anyone mentions that her dreams might not be worthwhile, and who won't put real work towards anything that might actually lead her somewhere.

The thing is, though, I do have goals and dreams that are worthwhile. The two main ones at the moment are to get myself fairly secure financially and to continue my education, and the overall goal is to strike a happy medium between these two - not to put one (and the rest of my life, pretty much) on indefinite hold while I rush headlong towards the other, as he seems to believe I will do in either case (towards more schooling, if I should do as he wishes, and towards a dead-end life in low-wage jobs if I should go against him).

The problem here, of course, is that I can type all this out fairly coherently to a (mostly) anonymous internet audience, but I can't get up the guts to speak the same words, quietly and calmly, like an adult, to my own father.

I got an unexpected hint tonight that I probably need to say more of what I'm thinking, and damn the torpedoes. It came when my dad was reading the Bible before we ate dinner (yes, they do that every day), and the passage for the day was about Moses and the burning bush. There's a part where Moses is all "but um I like can't speak good 'n stuff, pick someone who's more...uh...ella...eloquent. Yeah." and then YHWH is like "honey with ME telling you what to say, you gonna be making speeches like they was Grandma's cookies, 5 dozen at a time AND all of them damn good!" Well ok fine they were speaking some strain of ancient Aramaic, but the gist is still there. Anyways, it was just a little bit of a two-by-four - I say often that I've got the exact same problem with words and use that as a crutch and an excuse for not speaking my mind, even though I know that with the right intent and the Big Mama telling me what to say (once I ask her nicely) I could speak words that would shake the planet.

It's getting late and I need my sleep, so I'll call it a night. To sum up, this one's got more than a fair chance of being on my final list.

-N

Thursday, November 13, 2008

BODY: Valerian is not to be trifled with

Maybe it's the fact that I took the valerian with no real need for it, just a curiosity about what it did and how it did it. Maybe if I really did have problems with sleeping, it would be a godsend. Maybe if I didn't have to wake up at a specific, rather early time and instead could just sleep till my body wanted to wake up, it would just result in a really good night's (and morning's, and early afternoon's) sleep.

However, as I have no huge problems with falling or staying asleep and I do have to get up at ridiculous hours for work, I think it would be safe to assume that the valerian kinda kicked my ass. I woke up alright, drove to work and clocked in feeling kind of meh...and it went downhill from there. I got a nagging headache that got steadily worse, and I became the Coffee Zombie, making lattes and mochas seemingly only by muscle memory, barely aware enough to mutter "skim or whole milk with that, sir?" and the occasional "I need drugs in my braaaaaaaaain." After a couple hours of this, my coworkers feared for their lives and sent me home (no but seriously, they're awesome dudes and told me to go home and sleep).

When I got home I stumbled up to bed and slept soundly for the next 4ish hours, with some very strange dreams. The only detail I can remember is that at one point I was sitting in the kitchen with my mother, and across the table from us was my grandmother, her mother, who is dead. She was a ghost, having some kind of trouble manifesting, so all I could see of her was her bathrobe (which has passed into my possession and which I wear to bed every night) in the shape that it would be on her body but empty. For some reason it was very dangerous/bad to touch her, and so I was crying into my mother's shoulder and trying to hide, and my mother was telling her not to touch me and to go away, and she didn't understand why. It's still kind of creeping me out.

Anyways: bottom line, I think, is do not take valerian unless you actually have a need for it. If I do have real trouble with sleeping at some point in the future, I'll give it another try, but until then, I'm not touching it.

-N

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BODY: The quickest update ever

Oh dear gods. Valerian, when brewed on its own for a good amount of time, is VILE. I had a milk chaser and brushed my teeth and tongue with baking soda and I can still taste it a little. All I can say is, this damn well better work - if nothing else, at least it'll help me remember to brush my teeth at night. Glah.

-N

BODY/SPIRIT: Activism, etc (and more valerian)

Well, so much for writing every day. Meh. I have a feeling I should put a virtue along the lines of diligence or orderliness near the top of my eventual list. In the meantime, there's lots of stuff running through my head, so excuse the rambliness/unclear nature of this post.

When I first think of activism, I think of marches and protests and yelling and waving signs and possibly getting arrested. This is the image we have been given, for better or for worse, by today's media and government of "activists." I'm not saying that this is a bad thing at all - in fact, we may need more of it than ever these days, depending on how things go in the near future - but if you think about it, there is a much broader spectrum of things that you might be considered an activist for. This could be as "little" as, say, recycling, or choosing to buy from certain businesses and companies because of their environmental and ethical standards, or signing a neighborhood petition. Basically, activism might be defined as going (even slightly) out of your way to demonstrate or make heard your beliefs and ideas.

While I'm not sure that any sort of activism that I don't already do pretty much subconsciously even should be a part of my life right now from a perspective solely based on my getting my life back together (more than what I do now could potentially take a lot of time away from work and, in the spring, school), I feel terribly selfish for even thinking this. I believe that the vast majority of us (at least in the US and other rich countries) need activists - people coming out and yelling at us about how horrible the real state of things is - to jolt us out of the complacency that it's so easy to fall into. Whether or not this is included on the final list (still need to decide how long that will be) depends on if other things on the long list turn out to be more important for me now rather than in general. We shall see.

So the valerian tea wasn't actually all that bad to taste - it could be the smallish amount I used, the other herbs in the mix or possibly the relatively short brewing time - but neither did I notice a huge effect. I was slightly more restful and calm, and although I of course do not remember how long it took me to fall asleep, I definitely wasn't lying awake for hours like I have before (although I haven't done that much recently anyways - having to be up before sunrise certainly helps with insomnia ;P). I'm brewing another batch, this time with a cup of water to a scant tablespoon of herb and have let it sit for about 45 minutes so far - hope that has some effect other that stinking up the kitchen like yeah whoa.

Briefly: when I turned on my Pandora station today, this song popped up first thing. I thought it interesting, considering that it is a full moon tonight :) Also, check out this video (yoinked from Beth Owl's Daughter's newest post) on a few things Bush and his cronies are trying to make happen before they're ridden out of town on a rail (now THAT would be an awesome late birthday present!). This is the kind of thing that makes me want to be a "real," yelling, out-there activist - this kind of thing cannot be allowed to happen. Of course, many things like it already have slipped by under the radar - I'll post the link to the bill/whatever it is that makes the president the sole real power in this country in the event that an unspecified emergenct situation is declared. But enough doom for tonight.

A quick prayer/public request to all the gods, goddesses, other beings and friends paying attention: T is in not-so-good straits. Send good thoughts and hugs his way, and help him know that he is going to pull through - and help me be the best friend and biggest comfort I can for him right now.

Goodnight, all!

-N

Sunday, November 9, 2008

SPIRIT/BODY: Acceptance (and valerian)

When I did my primary research on this topic (that is, googled "acceptance" and looked at what came up), the results mostly seemed to fit one of two topics. The first is a positive look at the word and what it connotes: acceptance is, basically, learning not to sweat the small stuff and the so-called "unchangeable" everyday problems that plague us, as well as learning to love oneself just how one is. There's a basic problem here, at least for me: right now, I do not especially like where I am or what I am. Even though my life is by no means a bad or uncomfortable one, there are aspects about it that I do not like and that I wish to change. If I worked hard to love where I am right now, I would have no reason to continue to work towards the goals of changing my situation and myself. One of the sites I found says otherwise, that in fact "[a]cceptance allows change":
"Think of acceptance of yourself like being okay with where you live now. You may want a bigger house one day. You may dream about that new home. But there ARE advantages to living in a smaller home if you only took the time to think about it. It is possible to be happy with the home you're in now, while still dreaming and working to make your new home a reality."
The inherent problem with this as I see it is that if you truly are completely happy with your life, you will have no desire to change it. If there remains the desire to change it to something "better," then by definition your life is not as good as it could be and thus you yourself are not as happy as you could be. This type of acceptance seems to be either an excuse to stay in the (not quite ideal) circumstances of the present, or else a sort of temporary, false acceptance until the circumstances you really want are achieved.

The second topic is nearly the same thing, but with a key difference: the things one learns to accept are neither good nor unchangeable. Here, acceptance is used to mean the mental process that an abused spouse might go through - convincing themselves that "it's not really that bad, this is just life, I just have to learn to live with this."This is part of the mentality that Christianity has used to keep the downtrodden down for centuries, as well as something I've seen in my own friends, and I abhor it to the core. Nothing more need be said there.

There might be a third type of acceptance as well - that which helps us realise that a friend who has died is in fact not coming back to us, or that the choices we have made in the past cannot be rethought and changed, that they are what they are and all we can do is live with the world that results from them - that is, the past is in the past and is truly unchangeable. This type of acceptance might be best defined as the opposite of regret, and is as I see it the only definition worth giving more thought to. Acceptance in this form may make it into the final list -we'll see.

In other news, I bought a handful of valerian this evening, and some tea made of a teaspoon of that and a pinch each of chamomile and mint is steeping right now. I'm assuming I'll need to have some kind of a chaser - everything I've heard about valerian says it is rather vile, and the whiff I got when measuring it out certainly seems to back that up. I'll post the results of that experiment tomorrow. Goodnight!

-N

SPIRIT: Overhaul, plus the makings of a tradition

I have been rather lax of late with this blog, and the few bits I have written don't quite fit what I want this blog to be all about - that is, detailing the process of changing myself, inside and out, into the woman I want to be. Without a set format for what to write about, it seems, I can't quite find the inspiration or drive to actually sit down and write. Thus, I'm going to take a page from the book of certain other bloggers I admire - namely, the wonderful Dianne Sylvan, who is right now doing a fascinating little series based on the alphabet, or as she puts it, "an alphabetical exploration of the aspects of my spirituality that are important to me." Of course everything she writes is awesome, but I especially like the idea of limiting one's choice of topics, for a while at least - it both cuts down on the indecision, the "too much to write about" that often plagues me when I take up pen (er, keyboard) and forces me to still be creative but within certain bounds, making it more of a challenge that way.

I'm not going to copy her exactly in doing the alphabet thing, but I think the idea of having a certain list of things to write about could definitely help me get back some inspiration. Therefore, I'm going to direct you all to this page for a moment. It's an article by Sylvan on creating one's own ethical code, choosing those specific virtues or "graces" that are most important to you, and setting them up as a standard to live one's life by. It's a wonderful idea, and very useful to those of us who don't have a default set list or scripture to draw from.

At the end of the article, she gives a list of 81 virtues gathered from various traditions with the suggestion to think and meditate on them and decide on a list of the ones that are most important to you to be your own personal code - which, I've decided, is fairly vital in order to have any kind of a direction in your life, something I need badly right now. Thus, for the next 81 days (or so), I will attempt to meditate on one of these virtues every day (or less often, seeing how other things go, but at least 3 or 4 a week), starting with the first of the list, "Acceptance," hopefully this evening. In case I need a break from that (and I probably will), please send me requests for what herbs or natural methods to try next, as I've done with nettles, or anything else you think I should write about.

-N

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Not sure what to make of this

So on Friday morning I was leaving for work as usual. I hadn't slept wonderfully and had forgotten to brew my tea the night before, so wasn't in a great mood to start with. When I went out to actually leave, I found that my mom had left her van parked behind my little car and I couldn't get out. My dad was awake but still in his nightclothes and didn't want to move it for me, so he just handed me the keys and told me to do it myself. Now let me say that this van is not small, and the biggest thing I'd ever driven before is my dad's Prius - and our driveway is narrow and steep and generally silly. I did not want to drive the van anywhere, let alone try and finagle it on this tiny stupid driveway enough so I could get around it without running over the holly bushes. Let it also be said that while my dad refused to actually move the van for me in his nightclothes, he still came outside and watched me do it. The culmination of all these facts means that when I was finally able to get my own car out, I was, fairly or not, rather furious.

It wasn't a terribly cool morning, so there was no frost or fog on the car windows whatsoever when I got in. However, in the short time it took for me to back out of the driveway and start off down the street a little, I could not see out of the car for the fog. I tried using the wipers on the windshield and wiping the driver's side window with my sleeve, even rolling down all the windows in an attempt to equalize the temperatures and clear things up, but to no use. It was only when I calmed down a bit (yay for Enya CDs!) that the windows cleared up enough for me to actually go anywhere.

How on earth do I explain that? Has anyone ever heard that when you're angry, you put off more heat or something? It's just a little mindboggling.

-N