About My Week


I had a difficult week – not bad – just difficult.

The primary struggle this week was friendships.

There were two or three different instances when I felt like a friend or friends were being competitive with me. It centered around the big life decisions I’ve been making, and really stirred up anxiety and sadness in me.

I hate comparison.

People are different. Circumstances are different. There is no possible way for one person to look at another person’s decisions and believe they should also do (or have already done) the same thing.

I completely close off when people start comparing themselves to me, and I wish I didn’t. I wish I had it in my to tell them things like, “Don’t play that game. Don’t get sucked in. Make the best decision for you. Don’t take the decision I made for myself and think it somehow provides commentary on the decisions you’ve made for you.”

One of the times I felt I was being watched and compared to others this week was at a get-together of some old friends. There were about 9 of us, I think, and I hadn’t seen or talked to any of them for months. Realistically, I’ve been intentional about moving on from 7 of them, so it was bound to be weird. I almost wish, however, that I didn’t have so much news to tell them. I wish I could have faded into a corner and let them catch up with one-another. I wish we’d gotten together a couple of months ago when I wasn’t getting ready to take the LSAT and sell my house.

I’m not selling my house to make money, although I am glad to discover that I probably will make money. I’m not taking the LSAT to feel smart or to impress. I didn’t quit teaching as a commentary that all teachers should get out. But it feels like that’s exactly what 6 or so of those old friends saw… the assessment, judgment, and occasionally envy or admiration was palpable last weekend.

It bothers me. It feels too much like a jockeying for position, like there’s some hierarchy and everyone is trying to figure out where I fit and where they fit in comparison to me. I don’t want to fit. Anywhere. I don’t want to fit at the top or at the bottom or in the middle of any hierarchy. It bothers me that a hierarchy exists.

My anthem for this season: “It is the most difficult thing in the world for a person to run her own pace when she knows someone is watching.”

I no longer even remember where that quote comes from, but I find great comfort in it. That quote brings me a peace, because it strips away the hierarchy and recognizes that every runner has a pace that fits her, that’s her own.

When I start to see my flaws or my strengths, this quote reminds me that racing isn’t about beating anyone else. It’s about taking the person I’ve been given – taking Katie… her muscles, her fat, her brain, her heart, her whatever – and running the best pace she can run. This quote reminds me that no matter how many people are watching and evaluating my race, the pace I set can never depend on their evaluation.

Have a good week, friends, and run your pace, regardless of the pace others around you are running.

Advertisements

Life Update: July 2016


Failure to thrive is a really mysterious diagnosis. We actually have hospice patients who are diagnosed with Adult Failure to Thrive. Basically, a person who has no specific disease diagnosis… no Heart Failure, Malignant Neoplasm of the ________, COPD, Parkinson’s, ALS, MS… a person can be disease-free, taking in a normal number of calories, and yet, be wasting away.

Like the physical diagnosis “Adult Failure to Thrive,” I believe there’s a really mysterious thing that occurs spiritually and emotionally that’s almost exactly the same thing. I’ve seen it in myself and the people around me. I’ve seen myself and others do all sorts of crazy things to try to fix it. Shasta got a personal trainer and learned to play the violin. I took up yoga and volunteered at an animal shelter. Amy took a sabbatical from work and traveled. But it’s never the things we do to try to make it better that actually make it better.

I really wasn’t well a year or so ago. I knew I wasn’t well, but nothing I did seemed to make it better.

However, as much as I want to understand what went on, because I want to be able to keep myself from wasting away like that in the future, I don’t understand.

I am doing well now. And I find the weirdest things making a huge difference in whether I’m thriving or not. So, I thought I’d take a bit of time to write about the things that are turning it around for me.

10. I started new projects. I really hadn’t been able to write at all while I wasn’t thriving. I kept writing, but it wasn’t good. It was just writing to keep the blog from dying. I certainly wasn’t able to put emotional and creative energy into my manuscript, but I’m not the type who does well with nothing to work on. I need to constantly be trying to improve something: my spiritual life, my house, a friendship, my race pace… So I decided to become a Vegetarian and lose weight. That sense of incremental achievement helped.

9. Roommate Kendra moved to Phoenix. I adore Roommate Kendra. She is the best roommate I’ve ever had, but I think my thriving needed complete privacy. I think my thriving needed to know that whatever Katie was, no one would see and have an opinion of it. It’s not that I was afraid Kendra would have a negative opinion. It’s just that if I’d had a roommate who was home and saw me regularly, she would have an opinion, and sometimes, a person needs to know that no one is watching. The hardest thing in the world is to run your own pace when you know someone is watching – Scott Jurek.

8. I watched TV. I’m generally not good at watching tv. It’s too inactive for me. I can usually make it through a 20-minute show, but beyond that, I feel the need to get up and cook something or vacuum or go for a run or read a book or chop down the Oleanders in my yard. This is fine most of the time, but I think sometimes thriving requires a still, gentle nap on the couch to exist. I think it requires the brain to stop turning and the body to rest. Sometimes, it requires the inaction of a good, long tv show.

7. I backed up on friendships. This could truly be its own post, so I’ll try to keep it simple. I generally believe that it’s not okay to give up on people, so I felt a really strong tension between that belief and some friends who had been my constant critics. The situation I found myself in was that I was living one of the low moments of life and my friends were relentlessly kicking me while I was down. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt an underlying judgment and unkindness in how they interacted with me, but it was the first time I realized I deserved better. Everyone’s friends mess up from time-to-time. Friends are flawed and human, and that’s okay. This wasn’t that. First, I tried to talk with the people who’d hurt me, but when they’d ignored and refused my attempts at reconciliation, I just backed away slowly and moved on. From my side of things, we  are at peace, but we aren’t close. It’s the first time I feel I’ve really stood up for myself with those friends. 

6. I got a dog. Moose is so important in my life. 🙂

5. I found something I can be good at, but isn’t easy. Volunteering for Victim Services feeds so many parts of me. It is part ministry, part community, part adventure… It’s challenging, but manageable. It’s the things my job isn’t.

4. A comic shop opened a branch in Northwest Tucson. I know this sounds stupid, but it really somehow brought me joy to be able to stop at the comic shop after work. I hate ordering comics from online, because comic shops seem like this last bastion of the local book shop. They are nostalgic and remind me of a time when people went to Blockbuster to browse, when movies and books weren’t quite so accessible as to be just a click away. I want comic shops to have my money, because I want them to hold out against Amazon, but it also seems stupid for me to drive for 35 minutes, browse and buy for 10 minutes, and then drive home for 35 minutes. Also, there is something really beautiful about the comic shop in how it provides a place of belonging and hope for people who don’t quite belong. So… now the geeky and nostalgic parts of me can be fulfilled simultaneously with a quick trip down to Fantasy Comics.

3. I exercised. I never really stopped exercising when I wasn’t thriving, but I was training for marathons rather than kick boxing. It’s a different kind of exercise.

2. I prayed. Like exercise, I never exactly stop praying, but I sometimes close off and pray obligatory prayers. I pray for things that matter like the world, others, and the glory of God. However, I thrive when I pray for the most minuscule, mundane things. I thrive when I pray for sleep and rain and weight loss. I thrive when there isn’t any part of my life that I hold as too personal or insignificant for God’s mighty hand.

1.Brandon offered to help me build a table. Brandon and Kira are a couple who I’ve actually known for something like 5 years. With the slowness that is my nature in friendship-building, I had probably only considered them to be my church friends until pretty recently. However, there was this sort of exquisite moment when I was admiring a table that Brandon had built, and I had said that I might try to copy him and build my own, and he said something like, “I’d love to help you with that.” I’d actually already pictured myself building that table and I was always alone. And it occurred to me in that moment that I could let Brandon and Kira help me. Brandon hadn’t offered because he felt he was going to earn points with God. He genuinely seemed to think it would be a fun project. So, I’m still imagining myself building that table, but I’m also imagining the help I might have in doing it. And I’m thinking that one of the absolute keys for me in thriving is having a strong sense of community. A sense that people are there for me because they want to be… I don’t struggle to be happy when I’m alone. I don’t feel a strong drive to be around people, but I’m realizing that I do feel a strong drive toward family, and that I truly thrive when the church takes on the role of family in my life.

—————————–

There have been a few setbacks recently in my heart… things that shook me and ache, but, by the grace of God, those things haven’t knocked me off my horse yet, and I’m still in the land of thriving.

The Question that Threw Me


I’ve decided to pursue volunteering with Victim’s Services. From what I can tell, this means that I would go to crime scenes and help victims meet their immediate needs, whatever those may be (a glass of water, a quiet place to sit, phone calls, etc…). Plus, I’d leave behind resources for them in the coming days – pamphlets with phone numbers and information to help them make the next steps.

I like thinking of it as going into the darkest dark of a person’s life, being a soft light next to them for an hour, maybe two, then leaving as quietly as I came, but also putting a flashlight and some batteries in their hands so that they can start finding their way out whenever they’re ready.

There’s a rigor to volunteering with Victim’s Services that’s to be expected, which is why I found myself downtown at 6:30 on a weeknight, in a building with metal detectors and a security guard.

I thought I was going to nail the interview. You see, the volunteer program at Casa de la Luz has a similar rigor to it, and I’ve been interviewing prospective volunteer for the past three weeks.

I answered their questions, but one of them really stuck with me.

Somehow, the question to get to me wasn’t the one about times I’d been victimized in the past. It wasn’t the one about what the most difficult scenario would be for me in volunteering. The question that’s haunting me is: “What did your friends and family say when you told them you wanted to do this?”

I feel a little like Creed in The Office when new HR person Holly asked him what he did at Dunder Mifflin, and he was all, “Who does she think she is, asking questions that are none of her business?”

I know it’s a fair question. And yet… the truth is that Victim’s Services was never much of a conversation with any of my friends or family.

I’m pretty sure I told my mom. I told Danny and Lauren; Danny said he thought I’d be good at it… and that’s about it. I mentioned it to a friend at church, but only because the training was going to prevent me from attending Bible Study for 6 weeks.

I mean, I went to Mongolia without anyone’s permission. I pierced my nose and got tattoos. I bought a house, quit my job, went to Peru, fell in love, adopted two ducks and a dog…Not only did I do those things without anyone’s permission, but I didn’t even really ask for feedback on most of it.

To some extent, I think I may now understand all of the conflicts I’ve had in my entire life.

I know, it’s been quite the week for me.

Steve and Lori, Ashly, the Johnsons… all of the people I’ve been closest with in my life have the unmistakable ability not to take it personally when I tell them they’ve given me great advice, but I’m going to do exactly what they said I shouldn’t do. They also don’t take it personally when I don’t explain why I didn’t take their advice. They also have a pretty wonderful way of never acting like it’s bad for me to take risks or do things differently than most people do them. When I think about it, how they relate to me might boil down to them having the ability to entrust me to God.

All of the people in my life with whom I’ve had major conflict have the unmistakable need for people, items, ideas, and everything in existence to fall in line; they take it as an insult that I don’t communicate my thoughts and reasons for doing the things I do. They have a sense of right and wrong that extends beyond what’s actually in the Bible, and it’s frustrating to them when I discard things on which they place moral significance.

When I think about what those close to me would have said if I’d asked them what they think about me volunteering with Victim’s Services, I think they’d all have probably asked me a lot of questions and said it might end up being really awesome, and if it wasn’t awesome, I’d figure that out, and stop doing it. Also, I think they’d say that I’ll probably learn a lot, and they can see why I want to do it.

Regardless, I may try a little harder to talk with people BEFORE I go running off to foreign countries, changing careers, etc… I may try to make friends and family a part of the decision-making process, rather than just updating them once the decision has been made. That would probably be a good change for me to make in my life.

A TNG Lesson on Friendship and Humanity


There’s this great episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation when there’s a trial to figure out if Data is property of Star Fleet or an individual with rights. For those of you who don’t know, Data is an android, but he’s super-advanced and often seems human. In fact, his deepest desire is to know what it’s like to be human. He does things like painting, whistling, owning a cat, etc… in an attempt to become more human. He is my favorite character on the show, and that episode is  my favorite episode of the series (and probably top 5 favorite of any TV show) because he and the episode exist to examine what it means to be human, which really is the purpose of all literature in my opinion.

Because the jag office is understaffed, Data’s co-workers have to serve as the lawyers of the case, and Commander Riker is given the task of proving that Data is property, while Captain Piccard serves as the defense lawyer. Riker doesn’t want to do it, because he considers Data to be a friend, but he agrees when he’s told that without his participation, the judge would rule summarily that Data was “a toaster” and didn’t have any rights.

Riker does an excellent job in the trial, but feels guilty about it, because his success would have meant Data’s destruction. However, the judge rules in favor of our favorite robot, determining that he is an individual with rights and freedoms> afterwards, Riker goes to Data and asks him for forgiveness. Data’s response is a very humane one that demonstrates empathy beyond what many of us real humans experience.

He explains that, by his actions, Riker had both saved Data and wounded himself, and therefore, there was nothing to forgive.

Isn’t that lovely? Perhaps we all ought to have an understanding of humanity and friendship that recognizes the sacrifices others make on our behalf… and perhaps we ought to be the sorts of friends who sometimes suffer wounds to save others. 🙂

Foul-Weather Friends


I’ve been talking to people at work.

I know, right? That’s not at all the way I normally do things, but I’ve decided to really give the socializing with adults thing a try. I kind of started at it last year, because I was unhappy enough to do things about it.

This year, I think I should just really give it a chance. I’m not at all unhappy. My schedule and situation improved exponentially over the summer, but I still think I should give it my all.

Problem: I’m realizing that teachers sometimes (and probably people in general) are only glad to talk to me when I’m in agreement with them. When things suck, misery loves company. However, I don’t think things suck right now, and it’s starting to feel like I’m not as appreciated as I was when I joined the fight for teacher autonomy. Now, I’m just Katie.

Writing. Reading. Running. Painting. Katie.

Is there such a thing as a foul-weather friend?

The Obligatory Phoenix Post


It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been to Phoenix… okay that isn’t entirely true, because I ran Ragnar here just a little over a month ago. Still, it’s been nearly a year since I stopped and “did” Phoenix, which is much too long to go without seeing the Johnsons and relaxing in the way that only Phoenix and its inhabitants can get me to relax. I suspect that if I lived here, it wouldn’t be quite the same, but there’s a time -slowing-down thing and an “Oh, right – that’s who I am!” thing that both happen when I’m here. Maybe it’s the solitude and quiet I get on the drive up, or the fact that I haven’t been to Starbucks much at all this year (except for the two times I’ve been this weekend) and I’ve forgotten what it feels like to just sit in a public place without putting pressure on myself.

Since I was here last, I’ve struggled a bit more than it probably looked like I struggled (to you and to the folks who see me on a daily basis).  I often forget that no one knows all of the thoughts in my head and I get frustrated when I have to explain them (because it’s all so obvious to me and I expect that everyone in my life is at least half Betazoid). As I look back over the time since I was last here, from the outside, all that’s visible is the races I’ve run, the books I’ve read, the working I’m always doing, the ducks I adopted, the writing I’ve written, etc… Realistically, I’m constantly considering quitting my job, and I’d give just about anything to get out of the country. I’ve stopped going to Starbucks – almost cold-turkey – and although I have the perfect setup at home for making Caramel lattes, I’m much less caffeinated than I was the case a year or so ago, only really enjoying a nice cup o’ joe once a week or so. I also stopped sleeping with my phone in my room anymore, started going to a weekly yoga class and I’m even thinking about getting a bicycle so that I no longer have to drive my car. Generally speaking, all of these small changes indicate how much, “I miss Mayberry, sitting on the the porch drinking ice cold cherry Coke…” But I suspect I’ll grow progressively more like this with each year that I age, and before you know it I’ll be telling stories about how I used to walk to school 4 miles in the snow – uphill both ways… in the desert?

I was considering skipping Phoenix Comicon this year, because it’s gotten MUCH too popular and I hate crowds just a bit. However, after this 24 hours, I’m convinced that I need to get up here, if only just to remember who I am and to accept that I like driving 2 over the speed limit even though everyone else drives more like 12 over. Also, I like arriving and secretly wandering alone downtown, peaking into BOB (Bank One Ballpark) regardless of the fact that it has been renamed to be Chase Stadium. And, okay, I get that I’m probably about to be scolded for wandering alone, but there are very few things as awesome as wandering, and it doesn’t feel as much like wandering if there are others with me… or even if others know where I am. Also, I need Dave and Lisa. It always mystifies me that I do, because they’re much more perfect than I ever feel, so I usually expect not to fit in, but in one of the few times when I enjoy expectations not meeting reality, I usually fit just fine. And I often feel a bit more perfect myself when I leave… not in the sense that I’m actually perfect, but in the sense that I feel a bit more Mayberry. The hustle-bustle doesn’t feel as all-consuming, and I don’t feel as betrayed by life or God when things don’t work out like they ought to.

Who Knew Choosing a Man Isn’t the Same as Choosing a Car?


Dear Lori,

Why do you have to say such casually insightful things? Now I have to rethink my whole life!

You suck,

Katie 🙂

 

 

So… I had a hot date this week with a nice fella named Ethan. Ethan is 24 and plays bass. He’s taller than I am and a little goofy, which is pretty much all you can ask for in a man. He’s got just enough extra weight on him so that I feel small standing next to him, but not so much that he couldn’t sit in a normal-sized row-boat without capsizing it. He’s got a scruffy beard thing going for him, and…unfortunately, he works at Circle K, and lives with mom and dad.

 

I don’t know why I agreed to go out with him.

 

I know I should be looking for an Engineer (because they are everywhere in Tucson) who owns a 4-bedroom house and has all of his crap together. Because I have most of my crap together – not in an I-have-nothing-to-improve-because-I’m-perfect-way, but in an I-work-hard-and-make-good-choices sort of way. I should be looking for someone who can fix stuff around the house and has a perfect hair-cut… but don’t perfect haircuts seem so unromantic? There’s just something about a guy with a guitar and wild hair that makes me smile and plan a very Bohemian, traveling future with little hipster babies in it.

This weekend, Lori pointed out my preference for the tragical artist type, and I sort of didn’t care at first, but then, I was out, walking around with Ethan because there wasn’t room for me on his motorcycle and he refused to let me drive him to a coffee shop and then have to drive him back to his bike, and it hit me: Lori is so right! Damn her! Talking to Ethan felt very much like talking to my students, because he lives with Mommy. Also, he let slip (he wanted to make sure I knew he has been independent since he was 18) that prior to moving back home, he lived with his 31-yr-old girlfriend (probably mooching off of her).

 

Why do I do that?

Then it hit me! I’ve been thinking about dating the same way I think about buying a car. When you’re young, you start with a modest 2-door that gets good gas mileage but can’t accommodate your hauling needs. Then, as you get older, you slowly upgrade to the absolute best of the best, matching your car to the stage of life you’re in.

 

The Torchwood Three SUV

The Torchwood Three SUV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, I think I grew up without realizing it. Also, I haven’t done a lot of dating, so I think I’ve been looking for a modest 2-door (or occasionally being all, “Who needs a car anyways?”, when I probably ought to find myself a nice SUV because that’s the stage of life I’m in.

 

Also, I think I needed Lori (and Ethan) to remind me of who I am. I don’t usually remember that I’m a classy girl who has most of her crap in line and makes good choices. I tend to think of myself more along the lines of Anne with an ‘e’. She can’t quite bring herself to get with Gil because she’s got to become an author who lives a very romantic sort of life before settling down.

 

And so begins my search for a respectable Engineer… who rocks out on the Rockband with me occasionally… and has some scraggly stubble on his face… and likes to travel.