Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Winifred Napers Nephew

I have a few drafts of unfinished blog posts saved. I just browsed through them, and found that this post was pretty complete. This one was from 2/8/10, about a month after I'd returned from a trip to New Orleans with some friends. After watching Inception last week, it's kinda fascinating to me again . . .


I had an interesting nightmare last night. I was flying home from a trip with some friends, going through airport security, when a female TSA employee asked me a strange question, something about petroleum engineering, that had one of two answers. One of the answers seemed obvious, but I thought about it a little more, and decided that the less-intuitive answer was actually the correct one, though I knew that I had little knowledge about petroleum engineering. Apparently, I gave the "right" answer, and then was asked to come into a small room for further screening.

At this point, a man who's personality reminded me of the US Marshall on LOST began interrogating me, as the answer I had given was suspicious given that I'm not supposed to know anything about petroleum engineering. He asked me who I was, and claimed that I was not who I am, but instead a woman named "Winifred." He showed me a card, that had the name, "Patricia Napers Nephew" on it and asked me to read it. I read it, "Winifred Napers Nephew," and he said, "Aha, you are Winifred! You just gave yourself away!" And I said, "No, I just misread it because you had just said the word Winifred, you mislead me. And I used to live in Naperville, so the word 'Napers' was familiar to me." He did other things to try to trick me into saying "incriminating" things. He asked me about my parents and what they did. He sat me in front of computer with a recording device and asked me to say "important things" about myself, then left the room. I spoke into the computer and talked about being a Christian, my church, being a doctoral student, and my career goals. He came back in and asked me again how I knew the answer to the petroleum question if I wasn't Winifred. I told him that I was a doctoral student and very smart and was able to make an intelligent guess about it. Then, another student from my program came into the room and told me that another friend of ours had picked up the friends I was traveling with. Then, the man interrogating me said that my trial would begin next week. "Trial?!" I exclaimed, "What did I do besides answer a question?"

At this point I woke up. The entire nightmare was more interesting than scary, until the very end. At the point when the man mentioned me being put on trial, I was struck with fear, set into some sort of Kafkaesque scenario in which I was falsely mistaken for someone else and unable to prove my true identity. Now awake, I looked around, and reminded myself that I was still in bed, and told myself that this nightmare was just a dream.

Monday, July 19, 2010

iced coffee and Grizzly Bear, in which our heroine, big surprise, continues to coffee shop crush

I'll invite him to the movie with me and my friends. That's pretty casual, it's not just me, it's a friends thing. It's an open invitation. Any friend can join, and he's a friend right? Friends talk about sociology and Narnia and couchsurfing and good music and stuff. If he comes, it won't be awkward, because I'll have other friends. And if he can't come, it's not a big deal, he'll know that I extended an invitation, and we'll see where it goes from there. If nowhere, then no big deal. This is a good idea. A simple plan.

Ok, how to implement the plan. I'll need to go back in side. Hmm, I need to go to the bathroom. And get some water. I'll talk to him when I get the water. If we get the chance to talk, then I'll ask him.

Ok, I'm pouring water. I actually am thirsty! He's right in front of me. But his back is turned. I'll linger for a couple of extra seconds. He's still not turned around. Should I say hello? He's busy with something. This is getting awkward, I better sit back down.

My friend wants to move inside. I look his way, and he greets me with a smile as we make eye contact. We set our things down. Great, I've got a good view of where he's standing. He's talking with coworkers. There aren't any other customers. He's not busy, I could go talk to him again now, but I'd have to talk to his coworkers too. No, I can't ask in front of them, that's too awkward.

He's at the end of the bar now, by himself. Now would be a good time. I'm lifting myself off of my seat. And gravity pulls me right back down into my seat. It's time for me to leave, I gather up my things, hug my friend, say my goodbyes.

I'm walking toward the door, looking over at them, his back is turn, but if I can make eye contact with any of them, then it's an excuse enough to go over and say goodbye. No one looks my way. I'm out the door.

I step out onto the sidewalk. The door shuts behind me and I halt. It's time to work against what's natural. I turn around, and walk back in. I walk up to the bar and am greeted by his coworker.

"Hey, I was wondering, does so and so still work here?"
"Yeah, let me look at the schedule . . ."

We converse about my friends and have a pleasant conversation, but he's still in the corner of my eye, still with his back turned, and I'm still wishing that I was having this conversation with him instead. Though the guy I'm talking to is a perfectly nice guy, always friendly and smiling when he sees me, and I enjoy talking to him too, he'd probably go to the movie with me and my friends. But that would actually be me extending an invitation to a friend. I wouldn't get worked up about asking this guy to join me for something. I wouldn't be as thrilled if he said yes.

The conversation ends, and I walk out, and this time I make it to my car.

How to guys do this? It continues to astound me. I'd like to think that I would have asked him, had we actually had a conversation after the idea popped into my head. I'd like to think that it would have been no big deal, that I would have been confident enough for that.

Or maybe there's a reason why I'm not a guy. Maybe I'd rather him be asking me to join him and his friends for something fun. Maybe that would work out better and feel more natural. But maybe I'm not patient enough to wait for that. Maybe I'm tired of waiting for the tide to come in and I just want to get off my butt and throw a stone into the water and see where it lands and what kinds of ripples it causes. I don't see the harm in initiating something when I just want to get to know a person.

Oh well, we'll have other opportunities to chat and get to know each other. They'll be some other invitation to extend. Plus, movies aren't a good way to get to know a person. Plus, I can think of many possible reasons why he's not a good idea. He's probably too young. He's probably not a Christian. He's probably flakey and noncommittal. He's probably married. I can always write a blog post to entertain you and release my frustrations for not having acted when I wanted to.

Coming soon, Iced coffee and Grizzly Bear Part II, in which our heroine discovers comically that her coffee shop crush is a gay married Satanist who is moving to Antarctica. Or just another immature college boy who doesn't know what he wants.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

yellow, red, green, and blue

Yesterday I had a day off. Not just a day without work or practicum like a weekend day, but a true day off. A day without anything scheduled. A day with no where to be. A day without obligations, work, academic, or social. A day in which no one expected anything of me. A day all to myself, on my own terms. I can't tell you the last time that I had a day like yesterday or whether I even enjoyed that previous day off.

But yesterday? Oh yeah, I enjoyed it. I savored and relished it, deciding that this day was a gift, not to be wasted, not to obsess over, but just to be lived however I see fit. I didn't try to pack in a ton of things nor did I beat myself up over what I should be doing. It was a day to be lived no matter what did or did not happen.

The only things that I had set to do were to ride my bike and work on a manuscript. This left me open to spontaneous fun moments like finger painting with my friend's three year old. On my bike ride, I decided to stop by their house just for a little bit before showering and making my way to a coffee shop to work on that manuscript. But then her precious son looked at me with his big blue eyes and asked me if I was going to stay and fingerpaint with him. I hesitated to answer and I'm a little ashamed at that hesitation. Even on my day off, there was still this drive for what I "should" be doing. I should take a shower and work on the manuscript. But I soon recognized that there was no room for shoulds on this day and I joined him in painting. "Do you think any other grad students in your program are finger painting on their days off?" my friend asked me. Probably not, but maybe it would be as good for them as it was for me.

As I sat next to him, helping him paint, I thought about the memory of children. Two months ago, he saw a dead headless pig on the side of the road and still talks about that pig. Next time I see him, and probably two months from now, he'll probably remember that we fingerpainted together. But what about two years from now? What about when he's 18 and I'm 40? Will he remember fingerpainting with his adult friend when he was three years old? Will he ever remember me gently wiping the paint off of his face with a wet cloth while he gazed at his painted face in the mirror, giggling at the sight of himself? Will I, for that matter, remember these moments and images with him without reading them on some old blog I had once?

And today I realized that it doesn't matter. A young child's memories may disappear and change as he grows older, but these experiences still impact him. He may not remember the specifics, but as an adult he will look back on his childhood and remember feeling loved. He will remember having adults in his life who cared enough about him to spend time with him, who were patient with him, who wanted to play with him and teach him and listen to his silly made up stories.

Yesterday I came out of a funk I'd been in for the past couple of weeks. A funk of stressing about comps, then still stressing after they were over, frequently feeling tired, unmotivated, judgmental of myself, and dissatisfied. I did fun things this past weekend, but I didn't fully enjoy them because I was frequently worrying about what thing I was going to do next. I wasn't present.

But yesterday was different. Yesterday I was present to my experiences, awake and alert, nonjudging. I lived that day like a child who just lives moment to moment. Though my young friend and I talked about going to the rodeo next weekend to see the cowboys and animals, he wasn't dwelling on his anticipation of that fun event. He wasn't playing with his fingerpaints thinking, "Yeah, this is fun, but that rodeo is going to be awesome." No, to him, in his world, what he was doing in that moment, yellow paint oozing between his fingers, was the best thing he could be doing. There was no dead pig in his past. There was no rodeo in his future. There was just yellow, red, green, and blue.