Saturday, December 27, 2014

Seasonal Affective Haiku: Book 2

Home should be happy,
Not melancholy or sad
This is the SAD life.

Way too much pasta,
bread and yummy oreos
Are in my belly.

Romance: no such thing.
Gathering thoughts and courage
For another day.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seasonal Affective Haiku: Entry 1

So disheartening,
when I can feel that I forgot
my medication.

- - -

Forgotten, sometimes.
Unsure, how does one say it?---
Measure me for me.

- - -

external coping
better for you than others
so please take notice.

- - -

My understanding,
however thoughtful it is,
seems to not matter.

Monday, December 8, 2014

That time I read a frilly book because life was stressful

People who know me know I'm attracted to books with deep, philosophical concepts. That is not to say that I always understand what they're saying, that's just to say that I love reading books that make me think about what I think about the world.  To me, this is pleasant. I have my feelings and my thoughts, and I enjoy truly experiencing both. 

My bookshelves are full of titles like
          I am a Strange Loop
          The Really Hard Problem
          The Gospel According to Jesus
          The Anatomy of the Spirit
          Light on Life
          The Artist's Way
          Man's Search for Meaning

But... I'll be honest. Sometimes I want a book that is the equivalent of watching some stupid Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy. (I swear, they should just go ahead a make that a thing...)

Last night a finished a book called The Perfume Collector. It wasn't brilliant, but it was entertaining - a nice change from my usual fare.  The book followed two separate timelines, one in the 1950s, the other in the 1920s.  A woman in the 1950s mysteriously inherits an apartment and stocks from a woman who (dun dun dun) turns out to be her mother who was forced to give her up in the 1920s.  1950s suburban wife ends up giving up sturdy life with husband to follow her free-spirit wiles with a man she has just met, all because she has finally reconciled with her past and the truth of who she is/was/is meant to be. 

I finished the thing in about a week, and suggest it to anyone looking for something quick. Don't expect to have your world rocked, but it's rather interesting to read how the author describes the smells of perfumes...that alone makes it rather intriguing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Journal for Survival

The act of writing in a journal, whether in the morning or evening, has been nearly a daily exercise for me since the beginning of high school.  What began as a way to calm down before bed has developed into a prolific activity that serves as a quiet meditation for my creative mind.  My journals are filled with reflections on life, ideas for projects, bird-brained attempts to answer life's questions, and stabs at emotional problem-solving.

In short... I journal for survival.

For the longest time I knew of no one else in my family that journal-ed with such ferocity as me.  That is, until a conversation with my uncle last year ( -- earlier this year?), where I learned that he, too, finds great meaning and help in his journal.  I'm not alone!! More than that, I know where it comes from!!  I told him at the time how nice it was to find a kindred spirit within the family.  Friends are invaluable, but there's something about identifying with a family member that provides a sense of security about one's temperament.

All my life I've called the little books full of my handwriting "journals."  Traditionally, they should be called "diaries," I suppose. (At least that's what Merriam-Webster and Wikipedia have to say about it.)  But there is something so immature about the word "diary," isn't there?  The only time it has sounded like a thing any sane adult - well, *sane* [wink,wink] - would consider saying was when I heard my friend Jeremy, from Australia, say the word. "Diary," he said, unwittingly legitimizing the word to my Laurel-brain.

As pathetic/emo as it may be, I have a few journals that have traveled with me to every new city since I left my parents' home.  I do absolutely nothing with them, but I like knowing they're with me.  Maybe they mark the first noticeable change in the evolution of my journal-ing, as they are full of poems and emotionally-charged ink drawings, not just a record of daily events.  It's the time of my life when the journey of embracing "who I am" began.  Even now, these journals sit in a few places in the house: some in my sewing room, others in the windowsills.

It's the symbolic (and well, literal), way of always acknowledging the full self.  Whoever we will become doesn't matter much if we don't know who we were.  Our relationships with our pasts never end.

I'm not very good at filling picture frames, as you can see. I don't have too many; they're placed where I want them, but I'm just really bad at making prints. As I continue to work on the sewing room I will fix that!

Monday, July 28, 2014

an apology haiku

Poor blog, I'm still here
I love you, I promise -
I'm just mad busy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

a moving haiku

pack, trash, pack, bleach, pack, sweep, pack
clean, pack, clean, pack. Beer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Highly Sensitive Person: an HSP's review and reflection


About a year and a half ago I started to experience the world in a different way.  I think it started with losing my Papa; that was such a huge change for my family.  Everyone handles grief in different ways, and for me that path seemed (at least at first) to be anxiety.  I have a hard time driving because I'm worried that another driver won't be paying attention and will plow right into me.  I regulate my social activities now because I feel overwhelmed easily.  I budget and prioritize my "alone time" for quiet reading, writing, sewing, or even watching TV.  For me, time spent alone is just that: I am by myself.

Though I've never been incredibly social or extroverted, this new-found fear of the world was - and still is - very confusing to me.  I felt the exact moment my insides "turned over" and found this new, more anxiety-ridden way of existing.  All of this led me to a search to find some kind of explanation on how something like that can happen to a person.

The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron, Ph. D

"How to thrive when the world overwhelms you"
I found this book on a random trip to Books-A-Million.  As soon as I saw the cover I knew it was for me.
Even the cover of this edition suits a sensitive person.  It features mild contrasts and just enough darkness to make sure you can read what's on the cover. Lovely

There's all kinds of info in this book, from a self test, to discussion on therapy options, to discussion on how to be proud of this trait, not ashamed by it.  Elaine notes that the world, as it is today, more readily rewards those that are loud, extroverted, and tend to act before thinking.  I agree with her notion.  In fact, around 25 pages in I exclaimed to my husband, "It's like she knows me!!!!"  

I've always worked better alone, even when I was a kid.  I'd rather work a long time on a project and then show it to you when it's complete, not show you my process.  Luckily, my pragmatic nature taught me that isn't always the quickest way to learn.  What's weird, though, is that sometimes I interpret this more private way of being as wrong or strange.  I convince myself that other people think I'm weird, or that a small criticism from them means they think I'm an incapable idiot.  This, evidently, is typical of HSPs - they take criticism to heart and become embarrassed by mistakes more easily than others.  We aren't weak, we're just sensitive, so it takes less "upset" to get a point across to us.  For example: my parents knew they just had to talk to me to discipline me, but my siblings required a bit more than that.  I'd feel so bad for whatever I did that a simple discussion was all it took. Usually...  haha!

Favorite moments from The HSP

Note: Elaine uses the word "arousal" to speak about the heightened state of the nervous system.
It is important not to confuse arousal with fear.  Fear creates arousal, but so do many other emotions, including joy, curiously, or anger.  (p.9)

On being an HSP but functioning in a world that isn't necessarily "HSP friendly:"
Some HSPs, perhaps all of us at times, get sidelined because of thinking that there is no way an HSP can be out in the world and survive.  One feels too different, too vulnerable, perhaps too flawed...  (p. 49)
Our culture has an idea of competition in the pursuit of excellence that can make anyone not striving for the top feel like a worthless, nonproductive bystander.  This applies not only to one's career but even to one's leisure.  Are you fit enough, are you progressing in your hobby, are you competent as a cook or gardener?... There is one other reason HSPs drive their bodies too hard, and that is their intuition, which gives some of then a steady stream of creative ideas.  They want to express them all.  (p. 52-53)
An expanded, loving mind, one that is open to the whole universe, is the opposite of a tightly constricted, overaroused mind.   (p. 58)

According to Elaine's research, HSPs tend to strive for deep, meaningful relationships.  "Small talk" does not interest an HSP, and I'd assume that "shop talk" doesn't either, based on my experience.  HSPs want to talk about the inner life full of meaning and depth.  I identify with this so much I almost can't see straight.
Introversion arises from a need and preference to protect the inner, "subjective" aspect of life, to value it more, and in particular not to allow it to be overwhelmed by the "objective" world.  (p. 99)
She goes on to quote Carl Jung:
They [introverts] are living evidence that this rich and varied world with its overflowing and intoxicating life is not purely external, but also exists within...Their life teaches more than their words...Their lives teach the other possibility, the interior life which is so painfully wanting in our civilization.

Social discomfort

Elaine talks about the awkward juxtaposition of an HSPs desire for deep connection with the overarousal a new social situation can create.  Often, an HSP will retreat to a corner or sit quietly alone.  The book talks about ways to combat this part of being an HSP, as functioning socially is certainly an important part of leading a fulfilled life.  My experience of social discomfort comes in waves: sometimes I can meet new people and love it, but other times I shut down and cling to my husband like there's no tomorrow. can feel wonderful to stay home once you accept that home is truly where you sometimes belong  (p. 154)
You can tolerate high levels of stimulation, especially when you are with someone who relaxes you and makes you feel safe.  (p. 155)

On figuring ourselves out and perhaps going through therapy:
Because HSPs have such close contact with the unconscious, such vivid dreams, and such an intense pull toward the imaginal and spiritual, we cannot flourish until we are experts on this facet of ourselves.  (p. 184)
The book goes on to provide tips on how others can deal with working with, raising, or dating an HSP.  Elaine estimates that only about 15-20% of the population could be characterized as being highly sensitive.  She says that's not enough to be widely understood but too many to be called a disorder. (Thanks, Elaine.)

Are you highly sensitive?

You can take the self test for high sensitivity on Elaine's website.

I'm really looking forward to re-reading this book.  I've already told several friends about it and suggested it to them.  Perhaps it's because I'm in the arts, but I think I have a whole bunch of highly sensitive friends!  I appreciate that our friendships exist naturally on a deep, subjective level.  We don't have to try to talk about important things - it just always ends up that way! 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A rant about professionalism

I've been ruminating recently on the idea of professionalism. As a person who takes part in the performing arts on a daily basis, I'm somewhat surprised how often the concept pops into my head. Not because performing artists have or are lacking in professionalism, but because it's an idea we throw around so haphazardly. We talk to our students about becoming "music professionals" or "professional musicians," which, in my detail-oriented mind, are two separate things, but that's neither here nor there...

A university program should certainly be a professional environment, but what does that mean? Does it mean I wear a dressy suit everyday so people think I know what I'm talking about? Does it mean I build and maintain a wall between myself and my students? Does it mean I try really hard not to mess up in front of them? Does it mean I compromise my musical integrity to always appear supportive? Does it mean I never say "shit" or "damn" (which, by the way, are quick in-roads with college students...'she said "shit," she must be cool'...)? Should I always try to speak as eloquently as possible? Do I curb the negativity I show to students, no matter how frustrated I am? What do I prioritize: my job or my art? The list is endless.

The transition from student to teacher isn't an easy one. You go from feeling like you know nothing to feeling like you're supposed to know everything. Then, when students and administration members alike mistake you for a student, no matter how dressy your outfit and your shoes, you start to think this whole "professional" idea is just a bunch of malarkey.

It seems like the general opinion about what it means to be professional is that you are polite, knowledgeable, always presentable, eager to learn more and contribute to your field. My best music teacher was not polite. My most inspiring teachers wore yoga pants and rolled around on the floor to demonstrate openness. My Dad wears a suit every day to work out of respect for his patients, but my husband, a wonderful music teacher, didn't own a suit until I bought him one in January of this year. My favorite musicology teacher feeds her grad students wine and cheese, but has yet to have one student that she hasn't greatly impacted with her knowledge and passion for music. My mentor gave me clothes that she doesn't wear anymore, wall decorations that don't fit her new colors, a couch that had been sitting in her basement, - not poster-child actions of professionalism, and certainly a breaking of the student/teacher wall, but she still plays better than anyone I know.

Combining an artistic field with this amorphous idea of professionalism is complicated and a little risky. From hour to hour we are to switch from a deep, emotional, artistic place to a "professional" one, where we are to act like business-people in meetings and (for me, personally) pretend to be something we're not. I don't find budgets interesting, and I won't whine about getting my piano tuned. Why?, because it's more important that I just practice and teach students how to really understand music in all its aspects: as a written language, as a sociological tool, as a gift, as an indescribable medium. Does that make me unprofessional? Maybe so. I don't enjoy schmoozing, but I'd be happy to talk to you truthfully about who I am and my philosophy of what I do. Does that make me un-useful in the "professional" environment of academia? Instead of telling you everything I plan to do so you're impressed, I'd rather just DO IT.

I'm very lucky that my job is one that requires me to learn music and practice, because it means I can preserve my personal morays about being a professional musician. I arrive prepared, I've studied the score, I've warmed up my hands, I've prepared questions. Above all, I'm courteous to my collaborators: they know what we're playing, they know what time to be there, they know I will be on time, etc. But like everyone else, I do have my moments of lapse.

In some ways I'm "unprofessional" (ehhem Family Guy jokes), but in many ways I, too, aim to find the appropriate facade in the workplace. I try to dress up, I try to speak to my colleagues respectfully, I'm on time for rehearsals, I'm organized for others' benefits. But in reality, who cares how fancy your suit is if you aren't a courteous colleague, or a knowledgeable teacher, or a competent one for that matter? As a musician, is it more professional to present and promote yourself well or to demonstrate consistent fluency in your field?

For me there's no question.

Big talk doesn't mean anything: Learn how to count or get out.




... Fart.    

(see? unprofessional...)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

For Papa, from Laurel

Today is my Papa's birthday. I write it into my planners and calendars, and probably always will out of voluntary habit. Papa was a farmer, a reader, a writer, a scary-monster-chaser, a sausage and biscuits eater, a husband, a father, and a papa...among many other things. I think about him everyday, and miss him everyday, too.

My Papa always insisted on getting a hint on what we grandkids would like for our birthdays. When I was obsessed with coloring books, puzzles, clay, "how to draw" books, and "real" piano music it was AWESOME that he wanted to know such things. [Yes, I am still obsessed with coloring books, puzzles etc.] Once I was in high school my reply to this question was something like this: "Papa, I want you to write me stories - memories of your life. I want to have them and keep them. Can you write them down?" (I have always cherished the handwriting of people I care for; it's something that makes me feel close to them, even when they're far away.) This is the last envelope he sent:

Inside was an essay that he wrote when he was younger, maybe in high school.  It was probably for a class, but since there's no grade on it I'm not sure. Perhaps he just wrote it, and wrote for fun - like me! It's called The Key to Peace and Good Will.  I thought, in honor of his birthday, I would share a few excerpts.
...First and most important we must find the key to peace and good will on Earth... Man has always wanted peace.  In order to find the peace that man desires there has nearly always had to be a war...
...we cannot hope to achieve peace and good will by some physical or earthly means of preservation.  Where can we now turn?  Since there is no solution here on Earth, we must look to someone who we have left out for a long time.  We must stop depending on ourselves and our fellow men.  We must go back and humble ourselves...
...we must go through a spiritual revival ourselves.  America is lucky to have survived as long as we have.  We have strayed very far...

He also writes about the League of Nations and the United Nations.  The "spiritual revival" he talks about is part of one of the last sentences of the essay, and he doesn't explain what he means by it. It's too easy to assume that it means everybody should go to church, everybody should believe the same thing, and then and only then can we find peace among ourselves. To me a revival of the spirit can mean many things: finding the light of who you are; finding the compassion and empathy we are wired to have; finding what is truly important, or finding your own gifts and talents.

Luckily, as an artistic person, the circles I find myself in are full of people searching for these very things, regardless of what kind of religion they may or may not belong. I wish the rest of our society was this way. It seems we care more about arguing than we do about finding a solution, more about self-imposed social prestige and superficial wealth than we do about nurturing ourselves and others through love and understanding. I wonder if everyone had a farmerPapa like mine if our social personality would be one of loving simplicity rather than threatened insecurity. I'm lucky that my family understands love, and that the family I just married into does as well. No matter where I go, I feel cared for and supported. I wish this for every person, because I think a country full of individuals who feel loved instead of threatened can create a country of peace.

My Papa was a stellar Papa. I'm so thankful that he has shared some of his memories with me and that he sent them in his own handwriting. It's a simple gift, really: a few sheets of notebook paper from teenage years. But it's more than that.

Love you, Papa