Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The one about honesty

I scribbled in my notebook a few weeks (honestly- months) ago 'The Case for Open and Honest' which, if I recall, had two meanings. The first (honestly- less interesting) meaning had something to do with government being transparent about stuff. There are psychological reasons why it's a bad idea for guys like the President to come out and admit he was wrong about something, but I already wrote a bit about that. On a related note, I thought it interesting that when the Vice President says something like "failure in Iraq would embolden the insurgents" nobody ever asks him, "since when do you know anything about the insurgents?"

But I digress, because the other meaning of open and honest was more personal and this blog is nothing if not (honestly- boring) personal. In past relationships, I was never completely open and honest, even in my marriage. I won't speculate that it had anything to do with the breakup, but it couldn't have been good. So now I try to be open and honest, no matter what the consequences. I had the opportunity to try it out recently, and although it caused me quite a bit of stress, I was rather pleased with the results.

This is counter-intuitive to me, because men are generally trained to avoid honesty when dealing with women. I don't think the intent is to be dishonest but when posed the question, 'Do these pants make me look fat?' it's just that we quickly learn that there is no correct answer. The obviously wrong answer is 'Yes, those pants make you look fat.' Some men might try to suggest that different pants would yield a different result, however these men are called celibate. The not-so-obviously-but-still-wrong answer is 'No, those pants don't make you look fat.' This answer is to be avoided because the woman sees herself as fat anyway and you're just a lying douche. Another incorrect answer is to say 'My attorney has advised me to assert my fifth amendment rights.' This will only encourage the woman to retain her own lawyer.* When posed the impossible question, the well-trained man will answer by setting fire to something (suggested: couch, car, pets, self). Men know that although this is not a guaranteed method of changing the subject, it is less painful.

Although I'm trying to be honest, I hope nobody asks me that question because I really don't want to set my junk on fire.

*Other wrong answers include, but are not limited to:
- I'm sorry, were you talking to me?
- You know who's really fat? That skank sister of yours.
- It depends on what the definition of 'is' is.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The one about writing again

Ok, I've neglected the blog. Weeds have grown, cobwebs formed, and squirrels have moved into the attic.

That last part is true. What the FUCK is so appealing about my goddamn attic that the squirrels have just GOT to get in there? You know, squirrels are all cute & fluffy and I'd be tempted to be nice to them if they'd just go the hell away. But no, they are determined to chew their way into my domicile and I will therefore destroy them. Trust me, you don't want to know the details, but mark my words when I'm done there will be pieces of squirrel in my trashcan.

Looking into the notebook for inspiration to break this, the worst-dryspell-of-my-bloglife, I see stuff that is really outdated, stuff that is just plain stupid, and stuff I don't even understand myself:
-Funny Christmas Presents: 'Go-fuck-yourself-Elmo' & 'X-wife (in a) Box'
-My roommate smells like he rolled around in General Tso's sauce
-When I was just a little girl...que sera sera

On the other hand, there are two scribbles that are particularly telling and I know exactly what they mean:
-I met a new girl online and I'm holding back because there are things I can't yet say to someone I haven't even met.
-The case for 'open & honest'

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The one about forgiveness

One of the things I enjoy most in life is reading something and then being able to apply it to my own life. (Another one of the things I enjoy most in life is pudding.) Whether I'm reading one of my physics books and learning something about the nature of time or a finance text that shows me how to protect my investments with very little downside, reading something practical always gives me a sense of accomplishment. That's one of the reasons I prefer it to the escapism of fiction. Outside of academic books, over the past few years I've read a couple of books co-written by the Dalai Lama. Most of these are very plainly written, easily accessible to the non-Buddhist and, as a result, I've enjoyed a greater sense of well-being for the most part. The latest such book I've been working on is The Wisdom of Forgiveness.

I won't go into too much detail or suggest that you should or shouldn't read this book, but I will say that the central theme of forgiveness is repeatedly related through the Dalai Lama's own stance on China and its harsh treatment of Tibet. In short, he reminds us not to forget about the past, that past suffering happened because of narrow-mindedness, and that revenge only creates more unhappiness. As in a previous book, we are instructed that all people seek and deserve happiness, to distinguish between the actor and the act, and that compassion towards all people (which doesn't necessitate condoning their actions) is essential to our own happiness (due to the interconnectedness of all people).

Shortly after reading a particularly personal passage in this book I had an insight about my own life/experience, exactly the kind of thing I love to get out of reading. An acquaintence of mine recently asked me a series of rather personal questions about my life and love, in an attempt to understand her own life better. After probing into the details of my divorce and my feelings afterward, she remarked with surprise that, despite a couple of obvious jokes, I wasn't too harsh on my ex-wife. This is where my sudden insight dovetails with what I previously wrote about happiness: I forgive my ex-wife because I pity her. I pity her for allowing her happiness to depend on my making her happy. I don't pity her in the way one looks down from some supposed moral superiority. It comes from a place of compassion.

Forgiving presupposes remembering. And it creates a forgetting not in the natural way we forget yesterday's weather, but in the way of the great in spite of that says: I forget although I remember. Without this kind of forgetting no human relationship can endure healthily. I don't refer to a solemn act of asking for and offering forgiveness. Such rituals as sometimes occur between parents and children, or friends, or man and wife, are often acts of moral arrogance on the one part and enforced humiliation on the other. But I speak of the lasting willingness to accept him who has hurt us. --Paul Tillich

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The one about resolutions

My New Year's resolution a few years ago was to make the time to read at least one book per month. For someone who enjoys spending his time either online or in front of the TV it was quite a challenge, but I think I read 15 books that year. The trick for me was to make a habit out of reading a chapter or a set number of pages each night then, as I tried to fall asleep, to calculate in my head what percentage of the book I had read and compare it to the previous nights. Among my favorite books were scientific non-fiction, specifically quantum physics. I know it's not exactly light bedtime reading, but I got a lot of enjoyment out of trying to understand the universe. I also read a number of autobiographic memoirs from either astronauts or people directly involved in the spaceflight business, the business I happened to be in at the time. In the years since then my nighttime reading has slowly dwindled back to zero so I think part of my New Year's resolution for 2007 will be to get back to reading.

You may recall that my 2006 resolution was to take a step towards living the life about which I dream. (Interestingly, the weather is just as beautiful today this year as it was last.) At the time, I wasn't sure what that would be but I knew that I'd be able to identify it in hindsight. There are a couple of contenders for what step I should credit. Completing graduate school with new and improved (read: mad) skillz was a biggie. Dating again, although unsuccessfully at first and now unconventionally (to say the least), was a huge step in the right direction. Therapeutic professional counseling has been generally positive. Taking a vacation to investigate where I might want to live the life about which I dream was a great experience.

Contrary to what I said last year, that I'd be able to conclusively point to one thing that I accomplished last year, I think it's the sum of my experiences that move me forward. The good, the bad, and the ugly all contribute to my improvement. Therefore, in addition to the reading thing, my resolution for 2007 is to continue moving towards the life about which I dream.