Archive | December, 2009

Waste Not, Want Not

31 Dec

As we prepare to take yet another trip around the sun, many of us are making resolutions for the new year. Most of us, sadly, won’t keep these promises we’ve made in the hopes of making ourselves better people, or sticking to a routine for once. I myself have already made a list, which you may read below, if you feel so inclined. I’m hoping to cross most of the things off this list for a change, because I, like so much of the population, have a hard time remembering to keep my resolutions. I truly hope that this year, unlike so many in the past, I really will accomplish the things I set out to do. And maybe I’ll make the world a little brighter on my way.

While working today, I got to thinking about these promises I made myself, and I realized something about them. Underlying all these promises is something I’ve been denying that I’m guilty of: wastefulness. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I really have wasted a lot in 2009. Money, food, time, energy, relationships, resources…the list goes on and on. It took me until December 31 to realize this, but I’m glad I did, just in time to stop in the new year. Waste, waste, waste. That’s all the past year has been about to me. But no more! I resolve in 2010 to reduce my wastefulness. I will quit wasting money and spending it on things I really don’t need. I will quit wasting time, putting off the things I really must do, and doing the things I truly love before it’s too late. I will quit wasting food, and eat only what I must, which will hopefully result in a less wasted waist. I will quit wasting my energy on things that don’t matter, the trivial banalities and worries of existence that don’t matter now, won’t matter in five minutes or in ten years, and in fact really have never mattered. I will quit wasting friendships and other relationships that I have neglected or abandoned (and by that I mean, put myself back into them), and the ones which are sometimes toxic. I will quit wasting resources, and be more careful with the things I leave behind me.

As the title of this post implies, my quest for reducing waste will also be a quest for reducing want. If I’m not burning through the things that make up my life so fast, I will not be in such a rush to replace them. I have basically everything I need, and yet that doesn’t always come with satisfaction. In 2010, I want to get this back. I’m going to focus on enjoying the things I can control, and the things I already have, as opposed to an empty feeling of not measuring up or wanting more.

In my resolve to quit wasting my life, I will hopefully find direction and joy. These things haven’t come easy in the past year, and I hope to regain them. I wouldn’t say I’ve had a complete failure or misfortune of a year, but like the rest of you out there, it hasn’t really been what I’d hoped. My to-do list is still carrying items from months ago, and I really haven’t done as much as I said I would. Then again, I haven’t stopped to relax like I should have, either.

In the remarkably intelligent words of Drew Barrymore, “If you don’t take risks, you’ll have a wasted soul.” I don’t want to waste my soul at all, but I feel that may be what I have been doing for far too long. I refuse to settle for this any more. I’m going to make 2010 my boldest year ever. Gone will be the shy, quiet girl who was becoming an increasing homebody, replaced by a confident woman ready to take on any challenge. I’m confident that my ongoing quest for happiness and contentment has just taken a major step in the right direction.

At midnight tonight, raise your glasses and make a toast. Not necessarily to me, but the idea that we can all reduce our waste in the next year. We can all find happiness, and we can all be content. We can get everything we want, and still be happy with the things we already have. No more greedily dreaming of all the great things you might have. No more gorging yourself while others starve. No more wasted souls or friendships. Leaving only beauty and goodness in world, let’s set out to make bold moves, and not settle for mediocrity anymore.

I’m starting now, and I’m not looking back.

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Ten Things Tuesday – December 29

29 Dec

It’s that time of year again, when we say goodbye to an old year and ring in a new one. A time for looking back over everything you’ve done the past year, and for looking forward to everything you will accomplish in the next. It’s the last Tuesday of the year, and so today’s list is ten New Year’s Resolutions.

1. Get in shape. Oh, the perpetual new-year plan. I’ve spent the past four years exercising my brain and getting a college degree and have seriously neglected every other part of my body. This of course means I need to get into good eating habits and exercising regularly. Also paying better attention to my eyebrows, which have also been neglected.

2. Read. A lot. Now that I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands, I’d love to really tackle my ever-expanding reading list. It’s always difficult to read for pleasure when you’re bogged down with homework, studying, and writing papers. But now that that part of my life is over (at least for a while), I can really get back into reading like I used to.

3. Stop spending money on things I really don’t need. This means seriously reevaluating my spending habits, and deciding how much money I want for the future/paying off loans vs. how much stuff I think I need.

4. Have a positive outlook on life. I’ve really made progress on this the past few months, and it’s really caused me to worry less and to not hold onto things for so long. I’m generally not going to concern myself with petty things anymore. Whatever happens, happens. I can’t control the world or anyone else. Heck, I can’t even control myself some of the time. But I’m going into the new year with no expectations, so I won’t be disappointed.

5. Start graduate school. It’s still up in the air which school I’m going to. As of now, I really need to finish my applications, otherwise I definitely won’t be going to school this coming fall. But hopefully I will be able to go in a few months, and not have to drag out this “taking a year off” thing for more than I want to.

6. Have more confidence. I’m definitely not as shy as I used to be, but I’m still not 100% confident with myself. I think this will tremendously help my social life, work life, and love life. I mean, it can’t hurt, right?

7. Paint. When I’m not in school, I often forget that this is something that I genuinely enjoy and have talent doing. Funny, I know, but when you’re not worried about making any deadlines in art classes, it’s hard to do it on your own. I sometimes have a hard time finding inspiration, too, so I’m hoping to get some back in the new year.

8. Refine my wardrobe. My fashion fairy godmothers, Stacy and Clinton, would probably not be very thrilled with my current clothing choices. Not that I’m a terrible dresser, but I feel like I could really step it up a notch to look my best. I have no excuse to look bad. I’ve learned everything about dressing my body from Stacy and Clinton, and am an avid reader of InStyle. So hopefully, I’ll be able to take this fashion education to heart in the coming months and really look killer. And having a cute little body, as a result of Resolution 1, won’t hurt either.

9. Improve my vocabulary. I was a little disappointed with my performance on the vocabulary section of the GRE, mostly because no one uses those words in real life. And that got me to thinking that, while I probably shouldn’t use GRE-level vocabulary every single day with every single person (this is Tennessee, after all – you have to speak slowly), it certainly won’t kill me to step up the quality of my everyday vocabulary. I will definitely sound more intelligent, and have something better to say than, “That’s so funny! I love that stuff. It’s awesome.”

10. Keep my resolutions, for once.

Productive

28 Dec

On my day off today, my mom and I vowed to clean the pantry. This was quite and undertaking, considering there was so much built-up crap in there that we never ate we could hardly see the back of the pantry, let alone distinguish the items it contained. It had gotten pretty ridiculous, and it was just time to get rid of everything. We decided to purge the pantry with the intention of getting rid of all the junk food we don’t want to have around tempting us, but ended up throwing away a lot of food that was outdated, as well. Things that just got shoved off to the dark recesses of the pantry because we had to make room for the things we actually did want to eat.

This chore took about four hours to complete, as we had four shelves worth of food, one shelf of miscellaneous holiday decorations (spanning the entire year, mind you), and a bottom shelf full of random stuff: old thermoses and coolers, old fishtanks and lights and filters from who knows when, and other excessive clutter like that. By the end, we had five full bags of trash and quite a bit added to our growing pile of yard sale items.

It felt so good to get rid of all this stuff. My mom has been inspired recently, saying she’s going to get rid of everything in the house, top to botton, that we’re not using anymore. There sure is plenty of that to go around, let me tell you! We’re not hoarders by any means, but there certainly is a lot of random stuff around the house that we just don’t have a use for anymore. And with the addition of my grandmother and all her stuff, it’s getting out of control (because, let’s face it, anyone who lives through a Depression has a tendency to save everything). Old sheets that we never use, old board games we never play, clothes we can’t wear (or refuse to because they’re so ridiculously old), unread books, etc. Every closet is getting cleaned out, every corner swept up, in preparation for a huge springtime yard sale. If you as my mother, having a yard sale lies somewhere on the continuum of her favorite things between eating live cockroaches and listening to nails being scratched down a chalkboard. But it’s a necessary evil. The junk has got to go, and in the meantime we might make a little cash. It has been suggested that once the entire thing is over, we use the money to take a vacation. I’m voting for Paris, but that’s just my two cents.

So tonight, after our diligent sorting, throwing away, and cleaning, we rewarded ourselves with a movie. We went to see It’s Complicated, which was absolutely hilarious. My mom and I are big fans of anything Nancy Meyers does, and this movie sure didn’t disappoint. Alec Baldwin completely stole the show, and of course Meryl Streep was wonderful, as usual. The thing that’s so great about all these movies is that, while funny and entertaining, there’s heart, and they’re believable. They are stories that really could happen, and don’t have a lot of that Hollywood far-fetched feel. It was a nice, welcome reward for working so hard throughout the day.

So, get inspired. Clean out your refrigerator (ours has a date with the trash bags next week), go through your closets, let go of the clutter! You don’t really need that much stuff, anyway. And when you’re done cleaning each day, reward yourself with something you like. And when you’re done forever, sell all your old junk, donate the unsellable to Goodwill, and take a vacation. If you happen to choose Paris, you just might see me sitting in a small bakery, drinking coffee and having a tart.

Christmas Day in the Morning

25 Dec

Hope everyone had a merry Christmas today and is remembering the reason for the season! I myself have enjoyed celebrating with family, amazing food, albarino, A Christmas Story, lots of carols, and things from the Met store and Anthropologie. Not too shabby, I’d say. There was, unfortunately, no puppy under my tree, but this did not by any means ruin my day.

Now it’s back to work again. Hopefully the day after Christmas won’t bring out too many kids who are driving their parents crazy at home. Let’s stay home and put those new toys from Santa to good use!

Ten Things Tuesday – December 22

22 Dec

Ten favorite Christmas movies:

1. A Christmas Story. So classic and wonderful, they play it for 24 hours straight on Christmas Day. I probably love it so much because I only watch it this one day of the whole year. And honestly, I don’t get tired of watching it even then. Just pull it out once, and you’re good for an entire year. And still, no matter how many times I see it, it’s always hilarious.

2. Elf. There are so many Elf-referencing Facebook statuses right now. I really think all my friends are watching this movie at the same time…

3. Christmas Vacation. We all love to watch Chevy Chase annoy the hell out of his neighbors with his obnoxious light display.

4. Muppet Christmas Carol. I mean really, who doesn’t love a good Muppet movie? There might not even be such a thing as a bad one. And definitely not A Christmas Carol. It could only take Muppets to make this story even better.

5. Home Alone. I don’t care what you say. I still like to see Macaulay Culkin beat the crap out of those two burglars. Honestly, what kid doesn’t want to booby-trap their own house?

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The old-school one, not that new version that they completely ripped to shreds. There’s nothing like watching that old Grinch’s heart grow three sizes, and carving the roast beast. And his poor little dog, Max, is just so funny!

7. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Poor Charlie Brown. Trying to find the meaning of Christmas and direct the Christmas play, when all his friends want to do is have a Beatnik dance party. And that sad little tree – it just goes to show that you really can create something beautiful from something so small and seemingly insignificant. I love Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and the whole gang.

8. The Snowman. A short film based on the illustrated children’s book. It’s just an instrumental score, with no dialogue (except a brief introduction by David Bowie). I used to watch this all the time when I was little, and I found it again several years ago. At school we used to always watch it during exam week, as our nightly study break. It’s just so beautiful in its simplicity and elegance.

9. Love Actually. Because all you need is love, especially at Christmas. And really, what better time to tell the truth than at Christmas?

10. The Holiday. Technically not a Christmas movie, as the genre goes, but still so wonderful. I could watch it over and over again, and never get tired of it. Those two little girls are just so adorable, and I absolutely love the relationship between Kate Winslet and Jack Black’s characters. I want to find a goofy man like that.

Zero to Hero

20 Dec

People talk about having heroes all the time. They aspire to achieve great things, like their favorite political figures, entertainers or writers or artists, religious figures, scientists, or community members. Heroes come in many forms, and we admire them for their great and varied efforts. They’re mostly just ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things. Whether this is through divine inspiration or superhuman ability/intelligence or just plain luck, they’re just like you and me. It’s amazing to really think that the everyday and mundane can suddenly transform into something far more miraculous. But where does this come from, exactly? How is it that some of us are able to become something more?

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been the type to have heroes. Growing up, whenever we had to write about having a hero, I don’t really remember anyone I wrote about. I just mostly remember having a difficult time thinking about it. I’ve read about plenty of people who could be considered heroes, those who have conquered evil or stood up against injustice or tried to make the world a better place. These accomplishments are admirable, certainly. But I have a hard time pinpointing exactly which ones I call my heroes. I’m ispired by things all the time, and have seen plenty of things to admire. But as far as personal heroes, I’ve never been able to come up with many.

My life has mostly been filled with things that inspire me. Things that convince me, time after time, that there is goodness in the world, and that ordinary people can do extraordinary things every day. Things that make it impossible to question that there’s something bigger out there in the universe, beyond human comprehension. I call this God, others call it by other names. Whatever you choose to call it, I believe it’s really out there, and it holds the universe together in a divine perfection that is truly remarkable. Something that we’ll never fully understand, no matter how hard we try. I’m okay with that, because it gives me something to wonder about, something I will never tire of contemplating. The more you try and understand it, the less you really know.

The inspirational things in my life include art, of course. It never ceases to amaze me how many different kinds of expression artists have developed over thousands of years, since the first cave dweller picked up the first stick covered with red clay. I also find inspiration in music, books, quotes, movies, amazing buildings, and the natural beauty of the earth. Pretty much your standard fare, I would say.

I guess mostly the things that inspire me are things. Or ideas, rather. Maybe these things, in fact, are my heroes. I’ve never really considerd that they exist in my life. Admired things, yes. But considered these things and people to be heroes? Not quite. I’m inspired by both miraculous and everyday things in my life and the world around me. There are qualities in these things that I want in my life, and there are some people who possess qualities which I aspire to have, as well. But I want to be the best version of myself, not some cheap knockoff or bad fascimile of someone else. I’m just an ordinary person, looking to do extraordinary things. Maybe that day won’t ever come, but I’ll be okay with that, too. I’ll still have my inspiration to keep me company, and keep me in awe.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

19 Dec

An excerpt from my new book, which I think quite accurately describes what it’s like to grow from a child into an adult. I don’t, however, think life is pointless, but there are some interesting points to be made here:

Apparently, now and again adults take the time to sit down and contemplate what a disaster their life is. They complain without understanding and, like flies constantly banging against the same old windowpane, they buzz around, suffer, waste away, get depressed then wonder how they got caught up in this spiral that is taking them where they don’t want to go. The most intelligent among them turn their malaise into a religion: oh, the despicable vacuousness of bourgeois existence! . . . “What has become of the dreams of our youth?” they ask, with a smug, disillusioned air. “Those years are long gone, and life’s a bitch.” I despise this false lucidity that comes with age. The truth is that they are just like everyone else: nothing more than kids without a clue about what has happened to them, acting big and tough when in fact all they want is to burst into tears.

And yet there’s nothing to understand. The problem is that children believe what adults say and, once they’re adults themselves, they exact their revenge by deceiving their own children. “Life has meaning and we grown-ups know what it is” is the universal lie that everyone is supposed to believe. Once you become an adult and you realize that’s not true, it’s too late. The mystery remains intact, but all your available energy has long ago been wasted on stupid things. All that’s left is to anesthetize yourself by trying to hide the fact that you can’t find any meaning in your life, and then, the better to convince yourself, you deceive your own children.

. . . People aim for the stars, and they end up like goldfish in a bowl. I wonder if that wouldn’t be simpler just to teach children right from the start that life is absurd. That might deprive you of a few good moments in your childhood but it would save you a considerable amount of time as an adult – not to mention the fact that you’d be spared at least one traumatic experience, i.e. the goldfish bowl.