Saturday, October 25, 2014

Coming Back

Dear Friends,

I am returning to writing-- for a more sustainable period of time, hopefully! Please visit the new blog at I swopped out because I'm no longer writing from the same space as I was in the 2012-2013 school year. Things are different now.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Home Again:

I write from another of my favorite places in the world: the Teahouse Kuan Yin in dear old Wallingford.

I've been Stateside now for just over two weeks, and I'll admit that there's a lot of readjusting I need to do. There're a lot of blondes here, for one. It's also strange to share space with familiar faces again and to be expected to settle back into the routine of the life I'd built myself here before leaving.

I apologize for not having written in so long. The last few months of my stay in Turkey were taken up with travel, final exams, and various applications for study and work. But I'm happy to catch you up now.

On the return from the Black Sea the last weekend in April, we took a detour and discovered several underground caves that had been lighted and made ready for touring by the locals. Our tour guide was also an accomplished aerialist.

I stayed put in Bolu for a couple weekends, and I was lucky enough to receive some visitors. We spent a lot of time outdoors that weekend, and the boys tried out the lake.

We went to Trabzon, the girls and I. We stayed at Duncan's with Will, Jeremy, and Wyatt, and met up with Kate, Erin, and Mackenzie for a trip to Sumela Monastery and a most excellent pide joint. There was also Turkish coffee, but you aren't surprised about that.

After that, I spent June mostly in a blur of giving final exams, grading, applying to METU, and traveling to Ankara to do so. It got really hot. Politically as well as barometrically, but you can read about that on your own. (The Editorial Board of The New York Times has this to say, Al Jazeera featured this, and Anne Applebaum of Slate posted this yesterday.)

I flew home, and Mom drove me to meet Erich in the Tri-Cities. When we finally got to Walla Walla, I was already a couple hours late to the joint bachelor-bachelorette party for Seanacey and Kojiro. My first real meal back home was a slice of pizza from Sweet Basil.

The next few days were an actual blur of wedding preparations: cutting and arranging wildflowers for bouquets, boutonnieres (yes, that's how it's actually spelled!), and vases; readying lawn games; rehearsing; getting nails done; cutting muffins and arranging cold cuts; and more fun. It was an incredible blast, and Kojiro and Seanacey are one of the most beautiful couples I've had the privilege to stand for.

Erich took this picture. It's lovely, right?

After the wedding party left town, so did Erich and I. We went to Portland for the 4th of July holiday and stayed until the U.S.-Belize Gold Cup match on Tuesday. In between, I finally got to meet Ruby, my incredible niece. She's five months old and already better than the TV.

I also got in a couple games of Bananagrams in the park with Michael. We both won a game each, so we're due for a tiebreaker the next time I'm in Portland.

I came home to Walla Walla for a night and then drove to Seattle the following morning-- yesterday. I've found out that I won't be able to return to Turkey as I'd initially planned, but there may be something in the works for a much later date. Right now I'm trying not to worry too much about it. So I'm applying for work in various fields, trying to catch up with family and old friends, and keeping busy enough to keep my mind off the fact that so much is up in the air for me right now.

Thank you for reading and for caring. I wish you the best and that we may meet again soon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Children's Day, A Beautiful Day

Yesterday was a celebration of children as well as of the establishment of Turkey's Grand National Assembly (1920, yes?).

I took two walks: one in the morning, and one in the evening, just after coming home from city center to talk with Erich.

I've been feeling a bit inadequate in most areas of my life (being a sister, daughter, partner, pen pal, and friend), but it's helped to see his face and discuss-- among other things, including a frightfully intelligent new smart phone-- his parents' upcoming visit, too.

It's eight short weeks before I come home for the summer, and part of me feels like I can't get back to Walla Walla soon enough while the other part of me wants to suck the marrow of this remaining time-- especially with Claire and Stephanie. We have a Trabzon trip planned that we're really looking forward to when classes are over.

My last walk took place at about sunset. I hope you find me looking healthy and happy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Oh! What do you call it when...?

So obviously today was going to be a Des'ree day. I've heard this video called "passable", and I'd like to take a wider survey.

It's black and white, with the loose yet striking shape of the female form. No props except perhaps the fingernails. And I've been trying for the last several minutes to figure out the word for it. Who's got this word? I can't think of it! (I have a suspicion that Dustin, advocate of The Art of Seduction, would know this word.)

What do you call it when...

  • you could watch someone/something with your complete attention
  • you could watch this thing at least three times through
  • the audience is enthralled
  • (this is also like a spell bards in D&D can cast)

To be fair, I just spent a very long time trying to research "Britney Spears chair dance", because when I was sixteen this video seemed like the limit of cool (and I'd originally been comparing these two videos in my mind). I don't think there's actually any comparison. Where Des'ree is cool and sufficient, Britney is, well...

Other videos that do this same thing? I think Beyonce takes what Des'ree was doing 15 years prior and loads it up with steroids and cyborg arms. Lovez.

Seriously, though? What is this word? Dustin? Seanacey? Sarah? Ooof. What is it?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring Awakening

"I hope you're feeling a lot better since writing the last post I read, which notably featured your body in closer proximity to the bathroom floor than is fun."

Yes. I'm feeling a lot better.
And no, this isn't about to be a post on childhood tragedies in provincial Germany circa 1891.

It's Spring, and it finally feels like Bolu's caught on (cross your fingers for me!).

I'm going to bed now, which is only an hour later than I promised myself, and because I have no morning classes tomorrow, I'll run!

It's Spring, and I might've caught on.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Competing, Losing, Failing.

Most of my American cohort here are applying to and receiving word from the same International Relations graduate programs.

Most of them have spent their lives successfully competing for sports teams, school admissions, internships, jobs, and grants and fellowships. For many, this may be the first time that they're hearing "no" or seeing their dreams hindered. (Or that may come later still. Or never.)

I'm finding myself in a different situation: one in which so many of the things I have wanted require little competition-- in fact, much more cooperation than competition. But it's March Madness among my American peers, and I'm surrounded by wins and losses. And, as you know, I've had plenty of time and opportunity to think about loss and failure in my life.

I think you might be laughing at me (or with me or whatever).
Maybe you're thinking that I'm implying privilege in my peer group without applying it to myself.
Maybe you're wondering what failure I could possibly know compared to some of our mutual friends.
I get it. What do you want me to say?

We all only have our own problems, and hopefully we can see with and through and beyond them to be empathetic, sympathetic, compassionate, and good to each other.

And this was one of the first things my father taught me: live by the Golden Rule. Do your best, do what's right, and live by the Golden Rule.

I have a very specific memory from Kindergarten, one in which he was taking me to school (which would have been unusual, because at that time in my life he was the one to pick me up from school-- but it might have been the first few days, so the occasion might've called for his presence; also, Mom had just had Spencer, so she might've been laid up). I am in my uniform, which is a bit scratchy, and I have bangs (truly-- I had bangs in Kindergarten and haven't had them since until now). I am particularly proud of my new glasses and my saddle shoes: I feel like a real school girl. I'm not nervous about school, except about math. I'm not even nervous about making friends (this doesn't come until later in my life). It must be the first day, because Dad makes a special point to squat down so that we're at the same eye level, and he puts his hands on my shoulders. "Now, you remember our three rules?" And he says them with me as I repeat this mantra. Do your best. Do what's right. And live by the Golden Rule. "And always say your 'please's and 'thank you's."

I don't know if it's because of the rhythm of the rules, but "do your best" always came first. More on this later.

Another specific memory comes from age seven and Fred Meyer. I don't even remember what I wanted, but I remember when Dad told me, "you can't always get what you want, but [...] you get what you need." This was a big idea for me. Awesome in the strictest sense of the word.

These tenets, and perhaps a few other things, set me up to expect few handouts and a lot from myself. I knew that my parents expected a lot from me, too.

So, when I began to experience loss consciously, at about age fifteen, I framed it in terms of "did I do my best to achieve it? Did I do what's right? Did I live by the Golden Rule? Had I expected more than what I needed?"

[There is documented loss in my life before this-- but mostly it's surreal, hazy, and something about which I have very little understanding.]

Loss: loss of innocence, giving up a position on a team, losing that boy to another girl, growing apart from a childhood friend, losing faith in your role models, losing faith in your religion, being second-or-third-string, quitting what you love, running away, losing sanity, becoming an adult, betrayal, violation, failing two semesters of graduate school, knowing you can lie to your talk therapist without her realizing it, giving up on a long-term and deep friendship, regret, missing a single day with the one you love, knowing that others who love it less are better at what you love to do, finding out that choosing one thing means not choosing another, or rather, that every opportunity taken is another opportunity left behind. You cannot have everything. You cannot experience everything.

I would-- and consistently still do-- frame my losses in terms of not having done my best or even enough. That when I lost, that was tied up with me, that by doing better next time I could achieve what I wanted. That my best wasn't just what I'd managed to do, but it was a measurement of potential that often exceeded what I'd done that day. That the loss that I was experiencing was within my control.

I've lost at backgammon a lot here. I think of the days I spend here with the cooking that I can bring myself to do and not in the company of the people I love most, and I wonder. I wonder especially about jealousy.

Why do we compete (try?!) when we know that loss is at stake? That we may have to experience the jealousy of those who didn't do so well? Who achieved second place? Can we divorce competition from jealousy? Or, can we divorce achievement from competition? There are competing views on this.

The people who're studying performance seriously these days are finding a connection between performance and a combination of cooperation and competition: it's important to be on a team (something bigger than yourself) and critical to strive-- not for the win, but for mastery. Thus, performance becomes more closely tied to the process of learning than to the ends of achievement.

And so I've been trying to think about how to shift my perspective away from getting what I want or even comparing those wants to what others have achieved towards learning from the process of mastery. I mean:

  • Why am I participating in this? Is it because of an end goal I want? Is it to learn?
  • How do I treat myself if I experience disappointment in the process? Do I blame myself? Do I see what's in my control and what's outside of my control?
  • What I want: is it what I need? Or am I driven by the ambitions of the people I'm surrounded by? Will it actually contribute to my happiness?
  • Is there more than one satisfactory option?
  • If I feel like I'm losing, or failing, can I see what benefit can be reaped from the situation? Does my failure in one area of my life indicate a necessary redirection of my energies into another?

I saw this strange video from Solange (yes, Beyonce's little sister) several months ago, and at first I could not make sense of it. I'm still not sure I can. I was bewildered by the tone of the video in the face of the loss described in the song. She seemed so cool, even good-humored about it (I mean, the woman's got an infectious smile).

But then! I thought,

  • if I can take into consideration that my loss in competition is a result of things not entirely within my control,
  • if what I can do in a day is actually my best and that my best is being who I am,
  • if who I am doesn't want all the same things everyone else wants,
  • if loss doesn't necessarily exclude learning,
  • and if loss may indicate the need to refocus my energies on some other pursuit that may be better for me
why shouldn't I be good-humored about loss? Why can't I acknowledge the [socially-ingrained] desire for achievement, the painful pang of loss, and then see where that loss leads me? See achievement as taking care of my needs, not as a reflection of what others have or want.

We can't avoid competition, and we can't cut other people out of our lives entirely, but I think we can eradicate jealousy and a lot of the pain of loss by acknowledging our differences from others and seeing that their needs and wants are not our own.

I have lost some things this year; it's not because I didn't do my best, either. But in taking care of my needs, I've realized that losing things I've wanted (or have been ambitious about) means the opportunity to point myself in another direction. It doesn't mean that I'm getting any more control (in fact, I hope I'm not!), but it does tell me more about who I am. And that's worth smiling for.

So, my cohort: I hope that you can continue to strive for mastery, but that if you are experiencing loss right now, that you can recognize it as a chance to learn more about yourself. That you can be good-humored enough to see that many factors influence a win and that it doesn't all depend upon you. It doesn't always depend upon you. Be freed by this.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Things that are humbling...

I spent most of Sunday night, Monday, and Tuesday either in bed or on the bathroom floor. It's an incredible thing when your body resists you.

I was reminded this morning of how humbling it is when, after setting my visitors up to watch my favorite David Blaine video, I found myself again on the bathroom floor, a thin sheen of sweat covering me completely and leaving an imprint of my body on the tiles.

Then, just now, I was reduced by my internet connectivity to simply watching my beautiful mother's face and listening to her type messages to me. Skype doesn't work here anymore, and Google Hangout is a poor excuse for an interaction. I hear only about 40% of what happens in Hangout. So tonight, I had to satisfy myself with hearing my mother's staccato typing and watching her sunlit face smile as she considered what to write me. Mostly a message of love.

Is it sunny in Seattle? It snowed again this weekend just in time for my visitors.

Even Mother Nature is bent on reminding me just how small I am, how small my will and determination are against things like bacteria or body processes or internet connections or lack thereof or the weather.