Thursday, September 22, 2011

there are no bad words for the coast today

After spinning my wheels for the past hour and a half struggling to solve a problem in my dissertation data analysis - re-reading notes, looking up information online, modifying the analysis and running it again, only to receive the same error message - I finally emailed a helpful TA in hopes that she can help me get unstuck. Frustrated with yet another stumbling block in this long process, I walked away from my table at the coffee shop for a bathroom break.

As I glanced out the front door onto the sunlit, tree-lined street, I was struck with gratitude. "How lucky I am to live somewhere so beautiful."

Often in these perfect moments, I lament how they seem too perfect and are destined to never occur again. Like yesterday, when I sat in the shade of a beautiful flower garden while on my lunch break. I was so enjoying the beauty around me, that it was bittersweet realizing that I would soon have to return to my windowless office and that in a few weeks it might be too cold for me to comfortably enjoy the beauty of this garden. All I wanted to do was linger.

But in today's perfect moment, the moment was just right. I only felt thankful to be where I am at this time.

Rilo Kiley – Spectacular Views

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Urban Life: The City Park

I've recently come to believe that one of the best places to experience cultural equality is at a good city park.

I've started running since I moved to this new city. And by running, I mean power walking mixed with jogging, and trying to increase the jogging. Less than half a mile from my apartment, is a lovely little park, adorned with one a fountain complete with charging horse statues, which is often frequented by a flock of geese. It features a track around the narrow park, parts of which are lined with trees and go up and down small hills.

But it's not the picturesque fountain or tranquil trees that I like best about this park.

It's the people who come there.

A middle-aged woman photographing the geese. Six Muslim women in head-coverings sitting by the fountain with their children. White, black, and Latino men playing a game of soccer together. White chicks and dudes playing volleyball. Hipsters juggling and playing with hula hoops. A Latino family taking pictures at the fountain, later followed by an Indian family doing the same. A couple laying on blankets reading. A woman by herself reading. People running, biking, walking their dogs.

I can out power walk the middle aged women but the fit men always pass me. No matter, everyone has a place at the park. It's not like a gym that you have to pay for, where everyone else seems to lift twice the weight and run twice as fast as me. Even with my currently low level of physical fitness, I don't stand out when I work out in the park.

City parks are free. Paid for by taxes, but it doesn't matter if you paid a lot of taxes or paid none or cheated on your taxes, the park is available to you - so long as you have transportation to get there. You don't need expensive equipment or clothes or an invitation or your name on the VIP list. As long as it's safe, anyone can go there and enjoy it - men, women, children, teenagers, elderly.

Maybe I'm being overly idealistic in my park description. Despite the equality offered by the park, the reminders of inequality are ever present as the park is only yards away from the most upscale shopping center in town, mainly frequented by the affluent white citizens and college kids with credit cards. And the park is always populated with homeless men, so going to the park is not a luxury for everyone. For some people, they go there because they have nowhere else to go.

Despite the realities of poverty and racial inequality that I'm still aware of as I walk/jog in my park, the fact that so many people from different backgrounds come to enjoy it makes this park one of most beautiful places I've been to.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Support and challenge

On the first day of my psychology internship, we spent some time getting to know potential supervisors. In response to a question about how much support vs. challenge that she provides her supervisees, one psychologist replied, “I think that you can only challenge someone as much as you support them. In fact, I think there always needs to be a little more support than challenge so that you don’t run out of your ‘support bank’.”

This concept certainly resonated with me as reflecting how I best receive challenge in relationships as well as how I approach my clients in therapy. In order for me to effectively receive a challenge or constructive criticism from someone, I need to trust that the person challenging me also supports me, that the person has my best interests in mind and intends to build me up through the challenge. If I don’t feel an equal or great amount of support, then the challenge feels more like an attack on my person and abilities, and I react defensively instead of embracing the challenge as something that will help me grow.

I’ll admit that I am overly sensitive to any kind of criticism (perceived or otherwise) and even when challenged by someone who genuinely supports and cares for me, it’s easy for me to forget that support and just feel threatened by the criticism. But in the times when I do recognize the immense support I’m receiving and trust the other person(s) to speak into my life in a challenging way, then I can more easily accept the challenge, even if it’s still difficult to receive.

This is also how I approach both therapeutic and non-therapeutic relationships. For me to be able to challenge someone else, I must first support them and build a foundation of acceptance and trust, and continue to supply that support even as I challenge. This taps into what Rogers calls “Unconditional positive regard,” though I don’t think Rogers practiced any kind of direct challenging of his clients. These ideas of support and challenge going hand in hand also reflect the Christian saying of “speaking the truth in love.” Truth spoken without love for the one who is receiving that is just noise, a clanging symbol, that may be heard but won’t be listened to. I also recall a friend advising me, “If you’re coming from a place of love, then you can say just about anything to that person.” And I think it’s more than just having love in your heart as you say something – it requires the kind of demonstrated love that will lead to trust. The people I saw the other night on the street corner with their signs announcing repentance or eternity in hell were perhaps motivated by love for the multitudes of hell-goers they were preaching to, but I highly doubt than anyone who walked by felt loved by them.

While many of you might agree with these ideas (they’re millennials old and not original to me at all), some of us may have different ways of knowing that we are supported. I’m not saying that we all need to hug everyone and dote on them to make them feel loved, though that’s certainly appropriate and necessary in some relationships and in some cultures. In some contexts and cultures, support and love if felt through actions and words that are very different that what I find to be loving. For example, I’ve heard that in some Asian cultures which value authoritative parenting, children feel loved and accepted when their family members challenge them to perform better. Maybe some of them grow up believing that they only loved as a result of their good performance, but many probably grow up believing that the expression of requiring someone to succeed is a sign as love as it reflects a desire for that person to reach their full potential and have a good life.

So, I intend to keep these ideas in mind over the next year and hope to continuously examine how those I’m in therapeutic/romantic/family/friendship/coworker relationships with best feel loved and supported and best receive challenges. And when I receive challenges from others, then I’ll try to remember that (usually) the person challenging me cares very deeply about me as a person so that I can receive the challenge as an opportunity to grow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

light weight

A few days ago, I spent the evening with a group of friends. There was much laughter, as a friend sculpted a butter cat, we all sniffed the lavender handsoap, the guys confessed their love for Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music, we tried to guess one another's middle names, and answered random Loaded Questions cards that led to disclosures about the embarrassing things we own.

We also discussed various ways to interpret the Old Testament, talked about why we were Liberal, or Republican, or Libertarian, whether or not our country needs the Federal Reserve, and what is the true nature of the Christian gospel and how do we treat those Christians who profess belief in a different gospel version.

I left that evening absolutely invigorated by both the frequent tear-inducing laughter and the depth of our theological and political conversations. I thought about how rare it must be to experience those two different types of interactions throughout hours of discussion, but then I realized that such a dichotomy is false because the two share the same origins.

Both are facilitated by the abandonment of pretense and judgement, the comfort with oneself that allows for complete openness, and the true acceptance of others the embraces both their utter silliness and their complete honesty in sharing their opinions about weighty matters. Both the light-hearted and the weighty matters spring from the same spirit of authenticity, and when the two are freely shared, the light-hearted utterances are given more weight as they represent the freedom to be and the weighty matters become lighter as we are allowed to laugh at ourselves and question our beliefs even while expressing deeply held convictions.

I crave more times like these, times when I can engage with others both in our utter absurdity and profundity.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

new location for the next month

Well, tomorrow I'm traveling to Turkey for a month, and guess what? Blogger is banned there due to some bloggers violating copyright laws by posting streaming soccer (futbol) games on their blogs. Instead of targeting the criminals, the government decided to just blanketly ban the entire website, similar to their previous bans of of Youtube, and various other blogging platforms.

So, rather than mess with figuring out how to change my IP address, while I spend the next month in another country, my blogging will also spend the next month in a new blogging platform. Please add it to your google reader and follow me in my latest adventure here -

Unless of course, the Turkish government decides to ban wordpress as well in the next month.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Hmm. I mistyped my blog address tonight and came across this -

I guess someone else liked that quote from V for Vendetta, and it was a rather popular quote from 5 years ago.

An abandoned blog with only six posts, and a somewhat obnoxious layout, but I wonder, is she my Oregon alter-ego? If I had grown up in the Northwest or moved there for college, would my life look anything like hers?

I once was riding a train and a car just like mine was driving beside it. I imagined that it was me in that car, from another time, and I was watching my past or future self from the train. I like to imagine alter egos or selves from different times interacting. Maybe it's narcissism, but I think I just like to reflect on my life and ask, "What if?"

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

the good-byes begin . . .

This morning I unexpectedly said good-bye to my favorite allergy shot nurse. I have an appointment scheduled in two weeks, but she realized that she would out for the summer by then, and this was our last time to see each other. We hugged warmly and wished each other well. She is always so friendly and bubbly over with positivity, in a genuine and caring way, but also a little kooky too. I thanked her for always being so friendly, to which she responded, laughingly, "But I'm also kinda weird!" She's always asking me about school and my vacation plans, in way that isn't just chitchat but shows that she truly wants to engage with her patients and know them as people. There's a good chance that I may never see her again. While I won't truly miss her, there is still a sadness in saying good-bye to someone that I've seen weekly or monthly for over three years.

And so the good-bye have begun.

The last couple of weeks, it's really hit me that I'm leaving soon. I've frequently felt brief pangs of sadness as I think about the people and places that I'm going to miss. Despite being busy with papers due, I've been motivated to consistently spend time with those who are are dear to me. Living here for almost four years, I've really put down roots in this place, the first home that I've established for myself as an adult. I've found a great community and have my habits and rhythms of where I go and what I do on a regular basis. I truly consider it home, and sometimes experience confusion when people refer to the place I grew up where my parents still live as home. "When are you going home?," someone asked me. "I'm going back to college station Sunday afternoon." "No, I mean when are you moving from college station?" "Oh . . . " Recently I've thought about how "home" is shifting for me. In two and a half weeks, the BCS won't be my home anymore. I don't really consider my parent's town as home, since I'll only be staying there for about a month and a half, so it just feels transitory. Then I'll probably only be living in Kansas City for a year, which seems like too short of a time to call it home as well. DFW will probably always be one "home," but maybe the BCS will be a secondary home, as long as I have people here who feel like family to me.

At times in the past couple of weeks, I've even found myself wishing that I wasn't leaving. Four years ago, I could have never predicted feeling this way! But even if I feel that way from time to time, I know it's the right time to leave. I'm excited about my travel plans for the summer and excited about moving to a new city in a new part of the country. Great opportunities await me that I wouldn't be experiencing if I stayed here. But I think it's ok to both wish to stay in one place and to be excited about going to another. Just because I love living here doesn't meant that I'm also not excited about living somewhere else. It's just that right now, when I'm in the middle of good-byes, what I'm leaving behind is more salient than I'm headed into.

This week, in addition to the impending good-byes, the realization of just how much I need to do before I leave has struck me. Dissertation data analysis, the packing, sorting, selling, throwing out, & giving away of the things in my apartment, and closing the residence hall are the big things. But there's also many little things that really add up, like changing my address, going to the dentist, finding new health insurance, etc. Fortunately, this realization is motivating me to get these things done, so hopefully this next week will be a productive one.