Forgiven shambles

April 17, 2017

Lately I’ve been feeling like humanity is going to destroy ourselves either quickly by blowing ourselves up because of some pointless conflict, or exhaust our planet slightly more slowly by not taking known problems seriously. Perhaps the urgency of my angst is due to now having a child.

Turns out our generation has been blessed to have the opportunity to grow up in one of the safest and most peaceful times in human history. World Wars over, cold war ending, globalization and easy international travel. Safe to travel in most of the world. Some wars and conflicts here and there, but honestly not much to complain about between 1970-2000, a major blip after that, but honestly also pretty awesome from 2002-2016. Some conflicts, but so remote from ourselves that it was easy to brush off.

But it’s been degrading. The rich are richer, everyone else is poorer. Power concentrating in the hands of a few. Xenophobia. Terrorism. Seemingly random attacks on places that we have grown up accepting as safe. And now I’m starting to see how tenuous our peace is. How stupid reasons could tip us so quickly into the abyss. Don’t take me wrong, I think there is way more good in the world than evil. The way I see it though, is that the good guys by and large don’t make it into places of power. It’s hard to get there, and it’s much easier to lie and cheat your way there. So greed for power, greed for wealth, pride… these characteristics win out.  You end up with people in charge who don’t actually care about the people they’re in charge of. Only insomuch as their vote or momentary support when it matters. Other than that, who cares, as long as there is more power now. More money now. More pride now. During this election cycle, because the next is someone else’s problem. Truth doesn’t matter. Values don’t matter. Choices don’t end up being made that are actually better for anyone in the long run.

Because of humanity’s inability to come together to do what is right for humanity, I worry about our future. And perhaps have the least practice in how to deal with it compared to generations past.

In the season of Easter we celebrate our forgiven sins. Perhaps Jesus did come and forgive us. That’s great, thanks. But we’ll still go ahead and make a mess of everything. A pile of forgiven shambles.

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Reality vs. sensationalism

January 11, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and there’s a good reason. I’d been blogging for years, perhaps decades, under an anonymous website known to only a few good friends and internet acquaintances who cared enough to check it occasionally for my ramblings (or on my invitation). I maintained a level of privacy to allow me to speak my mind without concern. No identifying photos, names, or locations. I always intended it mainly for myself as a way to self-reflect, shared with some people I trusted as a sounding board for insightful discussion. This was a time when most people distrusted and rejected internet sharing as a geek’s practice, or something not worthy of their time.

With the rise of popularity of Facebook, there was an explosion of people I actually knew in real life finding it appropriate to share all kinds of personal details on the internet to close friends, family, and old acquaintances. Initially it was personal updates, family photos, vacation photos, updates on what they were up to. Gradually, people began sharing their personal thoughts and feelings. It was easy to move my web sharing over to Facebook, because suddenly everyone was there.

All this with the rise of clickbait articles, fake news, and strongly biased news sources with poor credibility. For me (and it seems a lot of people), the issues with oversharing became painfully clear with the recent US election, and all the other events over the past year with the rise of xenophobia, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and death of cultural icons.

Suddenly, we found ourselves inundatd with “news”. Sometimes it was accurate news but just too much of it. Sometimes there was real news there, but it was framed in a very biased and sensationalized way. Sometimes it was downright inaccurate. It overwhelms the senses and makes it difficult to parse through truth vs. fiction vs. sensationalization.  I liken it to watching the Weather Channel all day everyday, when you’d likely get the sense that it’s best you stay at home forever.

Besides news, there’s all the viral “news” of specific individuals and their apparent stupidity. This became clear to me recently on two items. One of a guy who when asked how old he would be if he was born 5 years ago, and he got confused answering 20 or 21. Another of a guy who thought Obamacare wasn’t the same as the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps this person was really confused on the issue. Perhaps he was drunk or high and didn’t process the question. Perhaps he was doing this for the attention. Who knows. But the practice of sharing these things virally, not just for a couple of your friends to laugh at, but for thousands or millions of views and derogatory comments, suddenly everyone has been degraded to schoolyard level bullying. Deriving pleasure from the mistakes of others is wrong. It’s bullying.

The head of state criticizing individuals for their appearance, disabilities, or popularity is bullying. Regular old Joe sharing a clickbait article about how one person was so hopelessly confused about something super obvious to everyone else is bullying. It’s ill will, and not at all what I set out to do when I went online to share my thoughts.

I wanted to grow and improve as a person. I want to know what is really going on in the world. Not fall to a confusion of real and fake news, and laugh at the misfortune of others. So for the new year, my plan is to delete my Facebook app on my phone - check it on the web when I have time for friends’ updates. Watch the evening news on CBC, maybe read the Globe and Mail. Invest my time in reliable sources for news. Blog again. Especially since I’ve been posting less photos since I decided to not post photos of baby.

Maybe if I spend more time in reality, the world will feel less hopeless and confusing. Less sensationalized. More real.

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Alien invasion

March 4, 2016

I’ve made a decision to not post pictures of my baby on Facebook, or elsewhere online. What gets online never goes away, even if it’s shared only with “friends”. Face recognition capabilities of Facebook make it clear the information you share gets OUT THERE. So I want my kid to be able to decide for himself when he’s older what he wants to share and what he doesn’t. So no baby pics.

As a result, I’ve actually not even announced the pregnancy on Facebook. Everyone who knows either found out directly from me or by word of mouth, old-fashioned way. Which makes is weird for me because so much of my existence these days is coloured by my pregnancy experience. Not having an outlet to discuss my thoughts is weird. Which brings me back here.

One thing I’ve been learning with this pregnancy is that, despite procreation being a fundamental part of the emergence and existence of our species, the whole process just seems very unnatural. The aches and pains, awkwardness, unbalance that comes with pregnancy makes me wonder how this could have been so central to the evolution of life. My muscles stretch, joints ache, fingers and toes swell. Carpal tunnel syndrome. The constantly stuffy nose, going through so many tissues. The nausea and emotional outbursts. The unending fatigue, oh so much fatigue. I feel so useless these days, dysfunctional. Never can get enough sleep, but with sleep comes swollen and stiff fingers. Can’t use my dominant hand for mostly anything without tingling and pain. Normal tasks leave me out of breath.

Then there’s the constant surprise to discover your mental understanding of the confines of your personal space being incorrect. Larger breasts and belly means basic things (like how far you can lean in at the dinner table to avoid contact with the table or food dropping on your chest) a totally new thing that requires attention. Going down stairs requires craning your neck so you can see around the new obstacles blocking your view. Ever growing parts means never knowing where your body really ends anymore.

Finally, an independent-minded living being inhabiting your belly, doing things on his own schedule and at his own will. You spend your whole life having control over your body, and suddenly you have someone else in there with his own agenda. Mommy needs to concentrate at a meeting? Good time to hold a dance party. Mommy is settling in for bedtime? Dance party. In some ways it’s neat to begin learning what makes him tick. So far these days it’s foods with tomato sauce (pizza and pasta), dog’s loud barking, Daddy’s voice, and belly rubs. In other ways it’s weird to think that in a few months, I’ll be meeting this little man for the very first time and not recognize his face. Nine months spending every moment with him, and I wouldn’t be able to recognize him walking in the street.

Pregnancy is weirdly foreign and unnatural in ways that I had never imagined. I wonder if it’ll all make sense when I finally see his face.

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My rocket science life

August 19, 2015

Not long ago, my belief was that God only gives us hurdles because He knows we can manage them. Lessons for the overall development of our soul. But lately I have been feeling like I’m grasping at sand. As soon as you think that you’ve got one thing done, everything else seems to crash down. Every tiniest little thing seems to have become rocket science. Sometimes even things that you would really just not expect to go wrong. Random crap that just won’t stay fixed. It’s frustrating, and evidence is mounting that God is doling out more hurdles than I can cope with.

There are the things that don’t directly affect me, but make the atmosphere that much more ominous. The guy who was abducted from our building. The guy who was shot this month along our daily dog walking path. The other guy we walked by on vacation who was about to jump off a building. Sure, I wasn’t really affected, nor did I witness any of these tragic events. The shooting was late in the night. The suicide, mercifully, we missed. But they happened. Who would have thought we’d be seeing blue police investigation tents twice in a couple of weeks?

There are things that kind of affect me, even though I don’t have to take any action. My husband has been dealing with a very irritating case of identify theft. He’s had to spend so much time chasing around credit card companies and the like, making sure everything is appropriately blocked and passwords secured. Nothing has been lost, thankfully, but it still reminds us of the frailty of our personal security.

Then there are the things that personally frustrate me, work frustrations mostly. Grasping at sand. The moment you think you’ve got it securely in hand, it starts seeping out between your fingers. As much as I keep trying to get things done, as much as I try to keep a positive attitude and stay optimistic, things just aren’t happening. One step forward, two steps back.

This isn’t to discard all the good things that have been happening around me. Lots of weddings of family and friends this summer. Lots of friends with healthy babies this summer also. But then again, seeing babies everywhere just keeps reminding me that our own efforts are yet unsuccessful. We finally went to see a doctor about things, hoping that nothing was wrong. That we were just being impatient. But of course that wasn’t true either. Nothing that can’t be worked around, but still. Hurdles.

And to me, a lot of this is my body telling me that these stressors just aren’t within the range that is healthy for me. I need to lose weight. I need to manage my stress better. And you know what? I need to be doled less shit. Why can’t some things in life not need to be fraught with hurdles? Why can’t just some things be accepted as a given fact? Have sex = make baby. It’s not rocket science. It shouldn’t be. Why does everything have to be rocket science?

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Pondering hurdles

May 13, 2015

It’s been a long time since my last post. Believe it or not though, I’ve checked on my blog every day since then and have been using it to remind myself that I shouldn’t only be retrospectively happy. It’s been helpful because it has served as a reminder to stop and take stock, and consider whether or not my life really is going well. Mostly it is.

I’ve been really busy. I’d say that’s the main reason I haven’t posted. Thoughtful posting requires time for thought. Life has been so busy that I’ve just not had time to think about it. We’ve been trying to conceive since the honeymoon about half a year ago, and that’s been one source of stress. I never thought this would be as stressful as it has turned out to be! That stress, along with all the other things that have been going on, have probably compounded to make this so far unsuccessful. Work has been crazy busy, and I’m barely keeping up. On top of that, I feel like I’m barely through one viral illness before I’m hit by another. It’s been completely ridiculous. Was looking forward to a bit of a break to get a breather, and WHOMP! my walk-in closet collapses and now we’re stuck with a big unexpected home improvement project. Between illness and renovations, all my clothes are piled up all over the house, whereever the dog can’t reach them. It’s such a hassle. I can’t see how this will help this month’s conception efforts.

I was just lamenting this weekend how I’d not be getting any rest in a while, and then fell ill. Enforced two days of laying low was certainly much needed. A little feverish delerium is perhaps sometimes what it takes to stop and take a breather. Perhaps that is why this blog post is now happening.

I think I have lamented about this issue before with my weight loss efforts. Every time I try to make some progress, hurdles appear that set me back. This continues with my current efforts to de-stress, lose weight, and get pregnant. Hurdle after hurdle. It makes me wonder, how do other people do it?

I heard recently about a highly-successful person who finished a full marathon despite a severely worn-down joint that requires urgent surgical correction. And then there are the people who just kinda bumble through life and seem to make it through. It seems like success comes in two ways: (1) knowing of the hurdles and barreling through them anyway or (2) not even noticing them to start.

Maybe I just spend too much time analyzing things.

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Retrospectively happy

December 5, 2013

I’ve begun to notice that I spend a lot of my time yearning for some defined moment of the future or hoping a specific thing will happen. I spend my time stressed and anxiously obsessing about when and whether it will occur. As a result, I’m not very happy. Once the moment has arrived and the thing has occurred, I will spend the rest of my life looking back on those previous days as so happy and fulfilling. When in reality, I neither felt happy nor fulfilled.

The more I realize this, the more I’m trying to stop myself at a moment of anxious obsession to assess whether or not I am happy or fulfilled. And the truth of the matter is, everything the way it is at that very moment is going well. Am I happy with my work? Yes. Happy with my living situation? Definitely. Happy with my family and friends? Absolutely. Is there anything particularly bad going on? Not a thing. So then, what is the problem? Why spend every moment stressed and anxious about things in the future happening sooner, when today demands to be savoured?

Why can I no longer slow down and be thankful for the present? I need to spend more time working on this.

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Long-term goal = no short-term solution

June 12, 2013

Lately I’ve been very stressed. Major life changes ahead, plus some major hurdles at work. Lamenting that I wouldn’t find resolution on any of these worries in the immediate term, I realized that I was not used to dealing with this kind of worry.

Formative years involve segmenting your life into short-term goals. Kindergarten, elementary school, highschool, college, postgraduate degree. Each of these steps lasts only 1-6 years. So until this past year, my entire life has been segmented into epochs of finite duration with a visible end goal. Projects, hurdles, complications - all of these would have a clear end date.

Suddenly, my life is no longer about getting from point A to point B. The home is on a mortgage that will take decades to pay off. The job is, for all intents and purposes, a life-long career. Marriage is a promise of lifetime committment. Even if you break down each component of work, each action is part of a career-long plan. Each little step not only affects your life for the next day, week, month, or year. Suddenly, life is working on paths with no end point. (Yes, death is the ultimate endpoint, but isn’t really a goal. So it doesn’t count. You can’t live your life planning on how to optimize your death.)

The irony is, I spent my career and life to date yearning for this kind of stability, of not having to make major life shifts in a finite period of time. Worry about something now? It won’t be an issue in a few months. But now that I’ve finally found stability, I find myself not entirely equiped to deal with long-term worries that have no expiration. It’s an entirely new skill I need to figure out.

How do you overcome worries if you don’t know when they will, if ever, end?

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Planning for action, not the Plan of Action

May 29, 2013

Life has been so busy lately, there hasn’t been time to sit down and internally process.

The new job. The big move. Trying to set up new programs at work. Setting up the new home. And then my boyfriend proposed in the end of February, and since then all the wedding planning and preparing the home for him to move in. Looking at the Plan of Action for 2013 that I wrote about in the last entry, I certainly not had time or energy to deal with a lot of it!

The weight thing is a frustration. I tried for a month to focus on balancing calories and regular exercise, aiming to eat healthy, balanced meals, and gain cardiovascular and strength fitness. It resulted in a 5 lbs weight loss, and a step back with iron-deficiency, and all the symptoms of headache and fatigue that come with that. Then I pretty much regained all that I had lost, with very little effort. The target really was set before I even got engaged, so certainly it was never meant to be a fit-in-the-dress kind of issue. In fact, I bought my dress this past week, which means that I shouldn’t be losing too much weight, lest the dress no longer fit! But it’s still something I need to do for my health, and my body definitely puts up a good fight against these efforts.

The wedding venues are set, dress is bought, invites sent, cake/flowers/photographers picked. Home is nearly ready for him to move in. No doubt I’ve been blessed with things coming together with relative ease. And of course I find myself with a bit of jitters. I love my fiancé and can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together. But of course it’s a big leap, and although I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the right thing to do, change is still scary.

I think back to the days before the move, when I had so much time to explore and relax, while impatiently waiting for my life to progress and for things to happen. Now that things are happening, it’s fun and exciting. But at the same time, I look forward again to days when I’ll have more time again. When life settles down somewhat.

If that will ever happen…

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Lost and found

December 27, 2012

Lately, I have gotten confused about how I feel about Christianity. I know that I believe in God, and I recognize that my life is blessed due to the grace of God. I first was drawn to my home church due to a number of factors. First of all, the beauty and majesty of it attracted me. The large stone structure, built in the 1800s, is at once reverent and irreverent, with its bell tower up top and its bowling alley down below. The sanctuary is large and airy, with beautiful stained-glass windows and organ. Close to the university, the music director has access and means to attract many skilled vocalists and instrumentalists, resulting in a service that goes above and beyond in regards to its music. The traditional service, organized and musical, is definitely a gem in this modern city. The church membership, owing again to its location, is diverse in age, ethnicity, and backgrounds, attracting international visitors and missionaries. To top all of this off, the senior minister always provided excellent sermons, delving into Old and New Testament to explain the reasoning for how things happened based on the culture at the time, and what it taught us in our modern day society. It brought new understanding of the Bible in ways that was applicable to my own life.

A few years down the line, the entire ministry team has changed hands. Thankfully, the music, building, and people remain. However, instead of bringing me closer to God each week, the new ministry team manages to repel me further away with every sermon. The senior minister’s literal and conservative approach to the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, has me balking and questioning the very foundation of my Christian understanding. It’s a very confusing place to be, especially around Christmas time.

The plan, then, is to go back on my own and read the Old and New Testament afresh using my grown up eyes. It’s been decades since I’ve looked at the New Testament, and indeed I’ve never read through the entire Old Testament. So it’s time that I read it myself and make for my own understanding.

So far, I’ve gone through part of Genesis. The way I see it, there were humans before Adam and Eve. The text says so as much, that the sons of God married the daughters of men. This explains why humans are not all clones, derived from Adam and his rib, Eve. Adam and Eve are one because they are a committed couple. Eden is their world before understanding good and evil. The defining feature of Adam and Eve then, is not that they were in Eden, but that they were the first to leave it. Eve figures it out first, presents it to Adam, and the two of them are instantly thrown from Eden when their eyes are opened. No longer without conscience, they now need to live with the consequences of their actions. However, despite their moral awareness, they continued to sin as humans. Without conscience then, we cannot be held accountable for our actions. But with this knowledge, continued sinning angered God, who unleashed his fury on the world. The story of Noah’s ark, which probably is an accounting of a true flood that happened in that part of the world, represents God coming to terms with his creation. Mankind is not perfect, and with the rainbow, He promises that despite our continued sinful ways, He will no longer attempt to destroy creation. Years before Jesus Christ, the Good News of the Bible has already been told. Those of us who can’t see the difference between good and evil remain “in Eden” and are safe. Those of us who can see the difference and continue to sin will disappoint God, but he will not destroy us either. Either way, from the beginning of our days, we have been forgiven. And that is the Good News.

With this, I am reminded again that spiritual growth requires that you ask questions. There is not one single path to God, and if you never open your eyes and heart to ask the important questions, you will never find the answers.

Plan of Action for 2013?

  1. Personal Health - attain healthy target weight by July 1 through diet and exercise
  2. Spiritual Health - finish reading the Old and New Testaments
  3. Interpersonal Health - make time for family and friends
  4. Career Health - continue to develop research portfolio

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A year of change

September 11, 2012

One year ago today, I posted this blog. One year ago today, first contact was made with the love of my life. It seems sometimes too coincidental that the day I lamented complicated relationships and marveled over the simplicity, openness, and honesty of the love of the couple in the Story Corps interview, I began my own journey into a relationship built on openness and honesty. A relationship that has changed my life, and carried me on this whirlwind year.

A year ago today, I was in a different city, in a different job, at a loss for knowing what I would be doing, where I would be living, and giving up on trying to find the right guy. I thought I would be moving to a new place with a new job. A year later, I’m not where I thought I would be. Different city, different job, but finally in a better place. I love my new home - big, airy, cozy, convenient. My new job is filled with opportunity. The man I love is by my side, himself embarking on a new path that he wouldn’t have foreseen that fateful day one year ago.

It’s clearly not all fun and games. Moving and the new home demand lots of time and money. Work is definitely busier for both of us. But I now walk onwards with confidence, because I now no longer walk alone.

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