Resolution Check-In

With 6 months down and 6 months to go in 2008, it’s time for a resolution check-in:

1. Read two books for pleasure each month.

14 books so far, including one adorable childrens’ book that bizarrely made it to our New Bookshelf at work, so I’m actually ahead of schedule.  And no, this doesn’t include any of my textbooks, finished or otherwise.

2. See 12 movies in the theatre.

So far we’ve seen There Will Be Blood, Atonement, Michael Clayton, Indiana Jones & the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, and WALL-E, so I guess I’m right on track here, too.  WALL-E and Michael Clayton were the best, in very different ways.

3. Take a trip west of the Mississippi (and also west of Iowa).

Not yet, but we’ve confirmed that we’ll be spending Christmas in Carlsbad.  Also, I’m presenting at conferences in Denver and Monterey.  This one will definitely happen.

4. Go to Bonnaroo or Coachella.


5. Put $5,000 in savings by the end of the year (sub item: and leave it there).

No comment.  Paying tuition has killed me this semester.

6. Finish Couch to 5K and run a 5K.

Check!  I ran the Kelley Cares 5K in early June, and plan to run more in the fall.  I’d like to do a 10K next year.

7. Continue weight training and do an unassisted pull up.

Less successful on this one.  I took a lot of time off from lifting this spring due to shoulder and knee problems.

8. Finish my CAS.

I’m on target to defend my thesis in the fall, however I’m going to be one credit hour short of finishing unless I take another class.  If that’s all that I have left at the end of the year, I’m fine with it.

9. Get published.

So far this year I have 3 accepted conference proposals (all co-written), 1 accepted (and award winning?) co-written virtual poster, and 3-4 conference and journal submissions outstanding.  Not bad!

10. Find a church.

We’ve been sporadically attending services at Del Ray United Methodist Church, which we both really like.  We found it when we went there with my family on Easter.

11. Reconsider therapy and/or medication.

I tried therapy with the GW staff counselor person, but I mainly found her annoying and “let’s fix it”-y.  I did go back on medication, though, and it seems to be doing a lot to even me out.  I go back this week for a six month evaluation.

12. Beat SB at Zooloretto or Alhambra.

I won at Zooloretto in January, but have been soundly defeated in almost every other game since then.  Between Shane and our friend Kevin, I just don’t stand a chance.

13. Finish 2007’s Bond-watching resolution.

We’ve watched two Bond movies this week, and have now made it to the ill-fated George Lazenby era.  15 to go!

peregrina no more

i quit.

two days into the pilgrimage, i quit.

i quit because my feet were covered in blisters, and because i was scared, and because i was all alone, and because i couldn’t communicate with anyone, and because i really didn’t think i could walk another day, much less ten more.

in the town square in vilarinho, i sat and sobbed as i bandaged my blisters. i called my mom and told her i wanted to come home. she said that i shouldn’t come home – that i should make the most of this time that i had – but that no one was making me do the camino except me, and that if i was ready to quit, i could quit. she and i prayed for god’s help in figuring things out, and in getting safely to my destination.

i asked for directions and was pointed back towards the camino. i shook my head, no, i want to go home, my feet etc. i was told that i could catch a bus back to porto from the square. i sat down to wait, and five minutes later a small portuguese man came over and asked why i was crying. he told me how to get to the metro, and waited with me for 45 minutes, making small talk about the camino, pilgrims, my boyfriend, etc. this was not the first time i had prayed for help and immediately received it – nor has it been the last.

so now, a day later, two days after starting the camino – i am in santiago. i took the metro to porto to what i thought was a train station, another metro to the actual train station, and then the train to vigo, a coastal city in spain. i spent an awful night in vigo, then took the train this morning along the coast – so beautiful – to santiago. i arrived to a cathedral full of pilgrims bearing the compostela, which i would not receive because i didn’t walk far enough.

that is ok.

i have learned and grown so much in the last couple of days. putting my life, my safety, and my possessions entirely in god’s hands will do that. i feel closer to him than i perhaps ever have – which probably has a lot to do with the fact that i’ve been able to talk to no one else during the long lonely hours on the train, on the camino, in the hostels by myself. my mom and shane have been amazing – but they can only be there a part of the time, while god was with me crossing the busy highway, in the doorway of the shaded cemetery where i sat down and cried, on the streets of vigo while i frantically looked for a place to stay. he is with me now, in this internet cafe, and will be with me when i make my way to the albergue, and tomorrow on to london.

i don’t know if i understand entirely why this was what i was meant to do – start this road, and then leave it so quickly – but if i retain half of what i’ve learned in the last three days, it will be worth it.

on less spiritual notes, because of the change of plans, i’ll probably be back in the states sooner than originally planned. walking and sleeping and eating in rural spain and portual is much much cheaper than doing the same in london. i hope to connect with an old friend who is currently studying in edinburgh – but if that doesn’t happen, my plans are wide open, reliant only on my ability to speak the language (i’ve learned my lesson) and on my direct deposit from the university.

i love you all. i’m tremendously lonely. i’m having incredible adventures. and my feet hurt.

I’m leaving in the morning. I’m ready. Am I ready?

They say the Camino begins when you commit to it, and that you walk the Road from that time forward until you actually arrive in Santiago. If this is true, then this Road began for me seven years ago – March 1999, spring break of my sophomore year of high school. I had a day off, so I drove up to Madison and sat on the steps of the Capitol building reading The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. I read the book in two sittings – beginning on the steps in the sunshine of early spring, and finishing at Noodles over a bowl of mushroom stroganoff. The book was magical, and in the back of my head was born the idea of walking the Strange Road to Santiago. Since then I’ve reread the book a number of times, including in the last week, finishing it today at the laundromat while I washed the clothes I will take with me on the Road.

It was just a dream, however, until September 2004, when a friend excitedly told me that he was going to Spain, and that he had read this book – at which point I interrupted him and said, oh my god, you’re doing the pilgrimage! Neil’s Camino made it real for me – it became something that real people do, not just a thing in a book. His stories gave me goosebumps, and pasted into the journal I will carry is a picture he took for me – a garden gnome in Galicia.

About this time last year, following a conversation with a very old friend, I began – underwent – something – a spiritual transformation – a rebirth – a discovery of a faith long dormant. I wish I could point precisely to what changed in me or about me or for me, but I can’t. I just realized that I had been fighting so hard against something that was so simple and fundamental. Accepting it was like falling in love, and falling in love became another step towards this Road.

My plans have changed a number of times since then – plans for my life, and plans for the Camino. But tomorrow, thanks to the tremendous emotional and financial support of many friends and family, I will catch a flight out of O’Hare. I’m not sure how much Internet access I will have while I’m away, but I will write when I can, and write more when I can’t. My love to you all.

my body as god’s temple

right now there’s this hole inside of me and i feel like i’m trying everything to fill it – work, faith, friends, cooking, dancing, drinking, smoking, swimming, email, music, spending money, planning the future. but there’s still this hole.

i don’t need a relationship to be whole – and yet oh god i am so lonely. i have been alone for such a long time. my bed is empty, my heart is empty, and i feel like in every smile my need to be saved is incredibly evident. i want to take a lover just to remember what it is to be wanted again.

so many issues regarding faith have to do with my body. my body as god’s temple. it’s not a temple to me. it’s just a body. a body to inhabit, to use and enjoy before my organs start failing, one by one – before the cancers creep in, before old age and childbirth turn my skin and my flesh to something different. what’s the use of a body if it can’t be used to taste and dance and fuck and move and feel and experience? but if my body is a temple there is no fucking, no drinking, no excess, no hedonism, no pleasure.

but can there be a halfway between surrendering the spirit and retaining the body?

standing on end

Beth says she feels You near, as if You are running Your hand down her arm at the distance before her hair starts to stand on end. I understand. I feel like You’ve been there just beyond a place that I can reach for such a long time. I was reflecting on – this – the other day and said this was prefaced by my convo with Melissa – no, with talking to N about the camino – no, with thinking about the camino – no, I don’t know. It’s as if this has been just beyond the place of reason for a long time, and I’ve just become aware of it, like a shadow that has been following me. The conversation was the crisis point, but You’ve been there for a long time, just waiting. It is as if by opening myself up to the possibility of human love, of loving and being loved by N, I opened myself up to You.

I told the family about the Camino yesterday – they’re skeptical but not openly doubting. I think it’s so far off that no one believes it’ll happen – that I’ll change my mind before then or get distracted or something. Have been thinking of getting the pilgrim’s symbol – a snail? a shell? – tattooed on my inner wrist – marking my journey on my skin like a map or a icon (to use Madeleine L’Engle’s word).

towards the camino

more concrete steps towards the camino – today i talked to jill about taking time off next summer. had she said no, it would’ve meant the end of that dream for now. but she said yes, shouldn’t be a problem, and that i might even have vacation time. i’ll check with suzi when i get back, but that’s one less big thing to worry about. now – finances, fitness, etc. i’m glad i decided on this now, not impulsively a few months before the fact like i did with france. but this is something bigger.

tomorrow i’m leaving for california and will be spending four days with the family. this will be a challenge. i’m not ready to talk to mom yet. i don’t know if she’ll understand. in fact, i know she won’t. again this feels like a love affair i must keep secret because no one will understand. i am not ashamed by any means, but some people will get it and others won’t – so i am testing the waters gingerly.

today i was very tired and irritable and burned out.

from glimpses of grace:

“Faith and religion are not the same thing. Although my faith may falter, it has to do with the constancy of God’s love. Religion, which is the expression of faith, may find different expressions appropriate in different times and places and to different people, and the variety of these expressions can enlarge our perception and deepen our faith.”

n loaned me the mystic heart and i have been reading it these last two days, though the essence of it is in the above paragraph. religion and faith. i love that they can coexist but don’t have to. this is what mom won’t understand.

walking through westside park it began to rain, and with u2 in my ears and too much alcohol in my system i turned my face to the sky and said “i give in. i will believe. i will give you everything, because you have asked. i want your love, but i want ordinary flawed human love as well.” and the rain came down and soaked my face, my hair, my skin.

and now begins act two.

“What happens when things stop being cosmic and become something you can hold in your hand in very real sense?” – Douglas Coupland, Eleanor Rigby

The last 24 hours have been just – remarkable. For the first time in days, definitely, but in a greater sense years I feel at peace. I have struggled for so long and now – now – now there is the beginning of understanding, the beginning of love, the beginning of something so terrifying I am conscious of consciously holding myself back. I want to talk about it because it’s all I can think about – and yet I’m afraid to because I don’t know if you’ll understand, or want to understand, or think me foolish for wanting to surrender to this.

From the drawer of my bedside table I took her journal and opening it at random, under a date last January, I read: ‘O God, if I could really hate you, what would that mean?’ And I thought, hating Sarah is only loving Sarah and hating myself is only loving myself. I’m not worth hating – Maurice Bendrix, author of The Ambitious Host, The Crowned Image, The Grave on the Water-Front, Bendrix the scribbler. Nothing – not even Sarah – is worth our hatred if You exist, except You. And, I thought, sometimes I’ve hated Maurice, but would I have hated him if I hadn’t loved him too? O God, if I could really hate you…
I remembered how Sarah had prayed to the God she didn’t believe in, and now I spoke to the Sarah I didn’t believe in. I said: You sacrificed both of us once to bring me back to life, but what sort of a life is this without you? It’s all very well for you to love God. You are dead. You have him. But I’m sick with life, I’m rotten with health. If I begin to love God, I can’t just die. I’ve got to do something about it. I had to touch you with my hands, I had to taste you with my tongue: one can’t love and do nothing. It’s no use your telling me not to worry as you did once in a dream. If I ever loved like that, it would be the end of everything. Loving you I had no appetite for food, I felt no lust for any other woman, but loving him there’d be no pleasure in anything at all with him away. I’d even lose my work, I’d cease to be Bendrix. Sarah, I’m afraid.
–Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

some thoughts – hang in there, this is going to be a long one…

The temperature needs to stop fluctuating in this house. It was freezing in the basement, cold on the main floor, and cool upstairs. So I turned on the heat. Now it is cozy in the basement, cool on the main floor, and warmish upstairs with the windows open. The heat is off. Damned strange thermostats.
Finished Life of Pi just now – more thoughts on that in a second, but first some musings on Amazon. I clicked through to look at some of the reviews on Life of Pi and was amused at a lot of things.

One: the other recommended books – specifically Middlesex and The Lovely Bones. Middlesex? I suppose these associations are fairly arbitrarily chosen based on purchase history – but seeing these three (somewhat) recent reads lumped together was odd. Also odd to see my old friend Chuck linked as a similar and recommended author. Never would’ve seen that one coming.
Two: the review by Alex Constantin. He comments that while he immediately understood why, say, The God of Small Things won the Booker, he didn’t have that same experience with Life of Pi. I’m still puzzling through that myself – a lot to process – but I can definitely understand the comment because I had that experience with Middlesex and the Pulitzer. Haha, a connection! I finished Middlesex and said – what? I suppose it’s one that bears a rereading because the inherent value of the work didn’t occur to me until much later – but I don’t think I can bring myself to do it. I’m still puzzling over Life of Pi but as there isn’t as much, well, bizarreness, I think it will merit a second read. Again, still processing.
And I suppose my thoughts on Pi can be divided into two parts – the religious and the fictional aspects. I think maybe that’s why I’m confused about the award-winning – because (at least in my mind) the book starts off as one thing and ends as something entirely different. Pi’s conversions were wonderful and thought-provoking, especially having just finished And It Was Good. In And It Was Good, Madeleine L’Engle embraces her agnosticism:

“I reply, joyfully, that I am still an agnostic, but then I was an unhappy one, seeking finite answers, and now I am a happy one, rejoicing in paradox. Agnostic means only that we do not know, and we finite creatures cannot know, in any intellectual or ultimate way, the infinite Lord, the undivided Trinity. Now I am able to accept my not-knowing – and rey, in a completely different way, in the old biblical way, I also know what I do not understand, and that is what my agnosticism means to me now. It does not mean that I do not believe; it is an acceptance that I am created, that I am asked to bear the light, knowing that this is the most wonderful of all vocations.”

Compare that to Pi: “To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” Hmm. I understand both sides – and where they intersect. I’m wondering if I’m more attuned to this portion of Pi because of just finishing L’Engle. Either way – I found that interesting. Pi’s confrontation with the “three wise men” also reminded me of L’Engle – he and his parents meet with a priest, an imam, and a pandit – Pi has recently become a devotee of all three religions. Rather than discussing the ways this faith – this beautiful love of God and God alone, no matter the name – is admirable or unique or even just weird – they attack each other. Rather than admitting that this boy sees the ways that loving God intersects, no matter the name you’ve chosen for him – they resort to name-calling and finger-pointing – which only proves Pi’s faith as being the more authentic. L’Engle discusses faith and the nature of faith in terms of scientific knowledge, stating that the more we argue a point, the more we’re sure we’re right and are intractable in that belief – the more we are limiting God, God’s truth, God’s love and infinity. We do not need to prove God – or protect God – from or to anyone, any more than Pi would have benefited from arguing his “case” to the wise men. Faith just – is. Beautiful.
But the fiction? I don’t know. I read Pi quickly – in a few hours over the last two days – and perhaps I missed something. Back to Constantin’s review – I found the end unsatisfying, though surprising. What is real? What was real? The pedantic answer is, duh, none of it’s real – but characters this invested with life possess some reality, even if it ends when you close the book. The other story? It is much easier to believe – but it also divests the narrative as a whole of its weight while raising questions not easily answered (see above). If the other story is the true one, the psychological ramifications are more interesting but the survival aspect is lessened. It will be interesting to reread Pi with the knowledge of the other story – to see how it influences interpretation the second time around.
So – I liked it, but I’m dissatisfied. I enjoyed the religious discussions at the beginning and was disappointed that this particular element was not carried through to the end – though I suppose agnosticism is. You’re given a brilliant narrative – and then at the last moment, the rug is pulled out from under you – and you’re given a choice: faith or doubt. At least you know that bananas float. If you’ve read Pi, I’d be really interested to hear your comments on this and the novel as a whole.