A Wedding As Simple As I can Make It

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Wedding season is approaching, and there seems to be a lot of buzz about what to wear, what to register for, and the like.  My inner contrarian decided to share my experiences, and my vain attempt to have the most minimal wedding possible.

Attempt #1: the Civil Ceremony

I tried to get away with a simple civil ceremony.  It was legal, simple, and effective.  The above is my wedding dress.  It’s not white, it’s not long, and I bought it used a few days prior.  I always appreciate the complete strangers who have good taste, and are my approximate size at Crossroads.  I went to work earlier in the day, then took off in the dress through heavy traffic down highway I-80 to meet my intended.  We got married, and the day was perfect in every way.  I had hoped that would be the end of it, but alas, that was not to be…

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Attempt #2: the Reception

I have parents, who I adore, and who made it very clear to me how disgraceful my actions had been, because what did I have to hide by clouding my wedding in secrecy?  I could only redeem myself by helping them plan an appropriate wedding reception.  Here is what I have done to minimize personal aggravation and costs:

Venue and Food: Asian restaurant with fixed menu.  I have been to my share of weddings held at beautiful wineries and lodges where the fish has been dry and the meat has been wet. There is frequently not enough food, which the Asian in me believes is a bad value.  This, I believe, is due to the service being provided by catering companies who are not in the daily business of making large quantities of food for large groups of people. Restaurants, however, are in this business and they are experienced in precisely the types of dishes that they list in their fixed menu. This may not sound romantic, but so far I have not found the process of reception planning particularly amorous.

Dress: I am having one made, and it is not a wedding dress.  I did not say couture. I went to an experienced tailor who will make a dress that fits my short person measurements.  He had sample dresses available, and I chose one of them. It will cost slightly less than a dress bought at full price at Saks or some store of that nature, and I will not then have to have the dress altered separately to fit my short self. Bonus.

Flowers:  Yelp was my best friend. I scoured the local area to find a woman who was able to provide small affordable arrangements.  Alternately, I would have had to make these arrangements myself, likely the night before so they wouldn’t die during the reception.

Wedding Cake: When I last looked this up, cakes were going for $6 a slice, which would have eventually cost the amount of my monthly rent. I am going to go to a cake store, find a cake I like, buy it in three different sizes, and arrange them together (artfully?) with a wedding cake topper.

Wedding Favors: I found this unnecessary, and generally something that people tend to throw away, but buckled under the pressure of my mother’s tears and found some small tins off amazon to fill with candy.

These as what I have found to be minimal elements of my humble reception. As a personal indulgence, I am going to pay someone to do my hair and makeup, because I am certain to eyelash glue my eyelids shut if I attempt any of it myself.

 

 

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On Procrastination

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Interestingly, research suggests that one of the most effective things that procrastinators can do is to forgive themselves for procrastinating…

This works because procrastination is linked to negative feelings, the researchers say. Forgiving yourself can reduce the guilt you feel about procrastinating, which is one of the main triggers for procrastinating in the first place.

But the best thing that Pychyl recommends is to recognize that you don’t have to be in the mood to do a certain task — just ignore how you feel and get started.

– From The Real Reason You Procrastinate, by Ana Swanson

I am a horrible procrastinator, so this article, and the accompanying TED talk was of particular interest.  And it’s not entirely irrational, either.  I live in constant fear of wasting my life.  Wasting my meager talents.  I try to stay positive, but the idea of wasting my life – is terrifying.

Here is a link to a TED talk on procrastination.  Very interesting, but short on solutions, alas.

The Lightness of Beginning

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“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure of everything.”

Steve Jobs

It’s been a few months, and I can finally say that I’ve logged enough hours to say that I kickbox, Muay Thai style.  This is in every way contrary to my personality, five mammoth steps beyond the periphery of the border of the fence that lies five miles beyond my comfort zone.  For reference, let me share what I did before this: yoga.  I suppose hiking counts as well, but neither is directly confrontational, and neither involves punching anyone.

I can now say that I have been on both ends of the punching spectrum (both times with dragging reluctance).  One day, one of the instructors pointed at me, pointed at a girl who was in high school (although roughly my size, to be fair), and said “beat her up.”  That was my introduction to sparring.  I got punched in the head.  It was inevitable. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, I had entered a free for all punching and kicking buffet and there were no set rules as to how to conduct myself.  I froze, didn’t keep my hands up, and got beat up by a high school girl.  It was an even deadlier blow to the ego.  On the other end of the spectrum, the same instructor put me in the ring again (why??) to spar against someone who was training for an amateur fight. I freaked out (having learned nothing the first time, apparently) and ended up punching her. In the head. I apologized. I felt genuinely bad. Being on the giving end didn’t feel great either.

In retrospect, I think the apology was most illuminating. I saw guys hit each other all the time. They never apologized. I don’t think it even occurred to them to do so. I think the moment that was mostly revealing, where I was most quintessentially female, was in that moment of apology, because it revealed an underlying unspoken rule: that as a female, you are not allowed to be aggressive.  I have followed that rule blindingly, without regard to context.  In the context of sparring, where people put on protective gear and expect to be hit, in fact need to be hit in order to improve, you are supposed to strike to learn. But my mental brakes were on, and completely unyielding, entirely irrational.  It was one of those rare flashes of introspection when I could see myself from afar, and realize: Ah, so this is a problem I didn’t know I had. I will probably have to get over this.

This all sounds rather painful. In the short term, on a small scale, it is literally painful. The sore muscles from activities your body isn’t used to, the sore ego from having children able to beat you up.

And yet.

There’s been a lot of change I’ve embarked upon voluntarily lately, and I’ve been deeply uncomfortable every time. Please refer to the section on punching above, for reference.  I do things on instinct first, and figure out my motives afterward.  It’s easier that way.  I spend less time procrastinating, and more time diving in. It wasn’t until that random Steve Jobs quote that I was able to see the big picture.  I was caught up on small details: the sore muscles, the sore ego, apologizing for my existence, etc.  That is the small picture. On the larger scale, the whole process of immersing yourself (not dipping your toe into a class here and there) into something new and uncomfortable is deeply refreshing.  There’s a lightness that comes with it. I am expected to be bad, to kick like a duck and punch with limp wrists, and that is wonderful. Even though I’ve been going to class regularly, I still enjoy telling people I just started. If I manage to improve, even better.

Who is Your Authentic Self?

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I don’t know if I should have a sense of shame about this (I don’t), but back in college I took a Lit course from a grad student whose initials were BS.  That’s irrelevant.

Some of the books listed were comic books.  It’s how I discovered Maus, a comic that took on the Holocaust.  I highly recommend this comic, if you haven’t read it. It’s beautifully told and composed.  Now that I have that out of the way, I can get back to more important topics.

I thought that I had conceived a completely original idea. I was trying to impress BS to get an A, and we were discussing the Batman comic, one of the stories written by Frank Miller. He went over my writing, pointing out:”so here you have Bruce Wayne assuming the character of Batman” and I, like a smartass, contradicted him. “No. It’s the other way around. Batman is the real person, and he’s assuming the character of Bruce Wayne.”

That idea still fascinates me. I often feel that there are many selves that I have to assume to survive in the everyday world. There is my Professional Self, my Daughter Self, my Social Self, my Other Social Self, my Sarcastic Self, etc. and so on.  All these selves vary, according to who it is that I happen to be associating with.  I think everyone wears masks, to a certain degree. Now the question is, which one of these is the real, authentic self?

My working theory is that the Self who is truly happy is your authentic representation. There can be more than one. There are no rules. It takes a certain degree of self awareness to recognize who you are in relation to others, who you become.  And it takes a different kind of awareness, to know in the heart of your soul, if you truly enjoy being that person.

GEOMETRIC WALL SHAPES

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There are a number of ways to personalize your space on the cheap, such as painting a basic shape on your wall, and then pressing a large blob of paper next to it. I like these two complementary colors, and like every DIY, it’s a choose your own adventure, so choose your own contrasting color scheme…choose your own shape.

Happy Doesn’t Give a Damn

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Happy is a dog.

At times I speak broadly in metaphors, but once a blue moon I am literal. Happy is gone now, chasing squirrels in the sky gone. I will say this one small thing, which I hold among many dear memories, and that is this: like Rhett Butler, Happy didn’t give a damn.

By the time I knew her, she was in her dotage. And she was doing whatever she wanted. She spit vegetables on the floor, but ate the good stuff.  If she wanted a pet, she came up to you and demanded it. If she didn’t feel like it, she up and left your hand floating in the air.

When we went out, she often had her own agenda, which may or may not have aligned with yours. I found this endearing. It may even have been mutual.

She lived life on her own terms, a smaller, condensed, and furrier version of how I would like to go about my own.

 

 

On Stoicism

“When Stoics contemplate their own death, it is not because they long for death but because they want to get the most out of life.  As we have seen someone who think he will live forever is far more likely to waste his days than someone who fully understands that his days are numbered, and one way to gain this understanding is periodically to contemplate his own death…[in order to] to extract the full value of that day – and, hopefully, the days that follow it.”

A Guide to the Good Life, William Irvine

I’ve mentioned Stoicism before, and once I reformat an old posts, I’ll re-mention it again with a link.  I have a fear of wasting my life.  Focusing on the mundane and not living according to my own values.  Stoicism, in practice, has a way of thinking has a way of clearing away the clutter.  It’s like Marie Kondo, but for your mind.

Starting Over Again (and Again)

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It’s been a long while since I’ve posted.  I’ve fallen off the writing wagon again.  I always do, even when I have a good rhythm going.  I haven’t written anything in any form, and that usually means I’m in a tough spot.  There are reasons.  Good reasons.  There are always good reasons not to do something – if that’s how you’d like to spend your mental energy.

My life’s been all over the place, and it’s almost just settling back down: new job, new commute, new home, new dog, new exercise regimen.  There has been nothing solid to hold onto.  I usually embrace change, but a lot of change takes a toll mentally.  I injured my shoulder a while back, and now I can no longer do yoga.  That used to be my center.  It was exercise and mediation all in one.  Now both are gone.  I used to be able to do that before going to work, and that meant I could start my day in a state of calm.  Gone and gone.  To be replaced by a nice long commute into a different city with a high crime rate.

I’ve started a new job and a new hobby, so I’m at the bottom of the learning curve again.  On the one hand, it’s nice not to have expectations put on you – no one can fault you for being bad at something you’ve just started.  At the same time, every day is an exercise in frustration management.  Or here’s another analogy: bobbing around in a sea of uncertainty.

This isn’t supposed to be a complaint post, I think those serve no purpose.  I’m hashing thoughts into words, like I used to do.  Writing can be therapeutic, a way of finding your way back to yourself, or back to the person you know you can be.  I don’t always write as the person I am in the moment – usually a combination of frustrated, hormonal, and slightly depressed (let’s be honest) – I like to write in the voice of my ideal self.  I find that person much more interesting.

To Try in 2016: Mount Dana

2015-08-28 15.57.27 Do not do this for the view.  When you peak, you look down, you will not be impressed. There, I said it.

But…if you just want to know if you could do it, just casually walk up 13,000 feet in three miles. Just to try.  Just to see.  What if? Before you go to Peru and tackle Machu Picchu, wouldn’t you like to know how you body reacts to altitude?  A friend’s daughter had to be air lifted back down on her way to Everest Base Camp. Her brain and started swelling inside her skull. Better to know beforehand if you have this problem, I say.

Mount Dana is located just outside Yosemite National Park.  You start at about 9,000 feet and get going until you reach 13,000.  You can do it in a few hours. It takes no technical climbing skills, just pacing, leg work, and the stubborn kick of a mule.

The driving question behind this, behind a lot of backpacking trips is this: can I do this? And there is really only one way of knowing for certain.

It’s a new year, it’s time for new things.

 

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Traveling to Capture Moments in Time

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I took three shots of this ship as it passed me by: a beginning, a middle, and an end.  I was standing on the dock in Port Douglas, in Cairns, Australia.  Taking pictures is one of many ways I try to maintain a death grip on happy memories.  Some other times, it’s just to prove a simple point: I was here.  One of my good friends makes sure to take a proof of life selfie next to a landmark to prove she was there.  I am an abomination in selfies, and that is the only reason I don’t take them.

What I’ve started stocking up on in my travels, is single moments when my life and my idea of perfection happen to coincide.  They come in little spurts: taking that first bite of nutella french toast, snorkeling for the first time without a life vest and not sinking to my death as I’d imagined I would (water and I have never been friends), watching the sun slowly dip down over the water, and practically every night I was skipping around the Nepal wilderness, thinking “This is my life!”

It’s odd how my everyday work life doesn’t feel like my authentic life.  It may just be that my career doesn’t offer many opportunities for joy.  My authentic life seems to be when I’m running around elsewhere: writing, running (literally, for exercise), traveling.  Basically, any time when I wish I had my camera around, trying desperately to capture time.