Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stuff that matters - Thinking in print

I've been on a hunt for nearly a year now, trying to figure out what really matters in life. It's tempting to make the mistake of believing that the things that matter the most are the things that make you the happiest. That's a pretty egocentric way of thinking, so I'm trying to bar that idea and seek a more wholesome definition which still stays local to the heart of a person and avoids becoming about ethereal matters, as I believe there are enough people out there seeking OM at this time.

My sister suggested at one point that I write a mission statement for myself. I absolutely intended to, but the problem became that I couldn't define myself well enough to craft a statement that I thought would work for my entire life. It's safe to say that I don't define myself by my professional title, I also don't define myself by my financial well-being. I have learned, however, that what other people think of me factors into my definition much more than it should. Currently, I'm trying to figure out how to define who I am so that it is unaffected by temporary fluctuations in my surroundings.

Here's a question..."Is who I am important in figuring out what matters?" Certainly if I were going to tell you what *should* matter, it would have less to do with my specific life than trying to come up with the things that actually *do* matter. So now, I'm going to try to reverse this puzzle by figuring out what matters to me and then defining myself based on that.

First and foremost, it's my boys. They're a constant in my life and they make me happier than any one or thing ever has or ever can. I'll admit that I tend to forget this, especially when I'm heavy in to the quest to provide for them. I've been so consumed by figuring how to pay for our life that I've reduced their waking hours to daycare time. To make up for that, I'm going to bring them out of daycare over the summer and make sure that they get as much quality time with mommy as we can all handle.

Next, it's my family. The boys are included again (hey, they deserve it) but I mostly mean my Mom, Dad and Sisters. I've always been much more attached to them than I should be, but without them, I could no longer be myself.

After that (and at one point in my life I believed *before that*) is supposed to be romantic love. I guess this is a spot that I hold open, waiting for a man who deserves to be so high on my priority list that he actually defines who I am. I periodically test people for this section, but there is a major caveat to living here...the guy has to admit that he wants to.

You're probably seeing a trend with the things that mean the most in my life. It's practically all about people. I feel like the right thing to say here would be that my friends are the next most important thing - and they are - but really it's humanity in general. People mean something to me. Often, I feel truly and deeply for the people that I meet (good or bad) to the point where I actually take on some of their emotions myself. I had to leave peer counseling in middle school because I would absorb other people's problems and let them affect my heart. I've learned to control that quite a bit, but still find myself having to rationalize with my own mind when it comes to pulling back from someone who's taking advantage of my open heart.

What's next? Here's where I start running in to trouble. Does money matter to me? Only in-so-much as it allows me to provide the necessities of life and afford entertainment and adventure. Ah, now we're on to something! What kind of entertainment and / or adventure do I hold most dear?

EDUCATION. Yes, educational experiences and adventures of all kinds. Education of myself and my ability to help educate people around me. Education is definitely right there below the well-being of people in general.

Humor. This is probably the last of the elements that I consider to be at the foundation of what matters. It's very important to me that I bring humor in to the lives of others and that I have humor in my own life as well. This is why my life feels more complete with Jcomm.

There it is, the stuff that matters most in my life. All things that I believe will live there permanently. Now it's time to form that into a way of defining who I am.

I suppose I could stop now and encourage you to follow the same steps for putting together your own self-definition, but if you've been with me this far, you may have some interest in the outcome, so here it goes.

I am : A mother, a daughter and sister. I'm a woman. I care deeply for people and want to help in every way I can. I'm a student, a teacher and self-proclaimed comedian.

If I keep in mind what I am, then the opinions of others shouldn't ever cloud my opinion of myself.

To create a mission statement, I need to put into words my intention to tend to the things that matter in my life. After a couple of versions, here's what I've come up with.

My mission in life is to nurture my children in a way that reminds them every day that they are loved and able. I will take care of my family unfailingly, doing my part to make sure that they are never without life's necessities. My spouse will know what he means to me and will never have to doubt my love or fidelity. I will do my best to bolster others, without undermining myself or my virtues. Difficult decisions will be guided by my desire to make the world a better place through humor and education, combining the two whenever possible. Additionally, I will do my best to live my life surrounded by kindness, fairness and honesty.

So there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wisdom of the Panda - Warm Fuzzies in a Cookie 4/13/09

Topic of discussion: I was with my boys and we were talking about cookies.

Restaurant: Panda Express

Fortune: People enjoy having you around.

Thoughts: Really? That's so sweet.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Woops, your intolerance is showing!

Recently, a video by an anti-gay group calling themselves a "True Rainbow Coalition" has been circulating. I won't link it here, because I don't want anyone to mistake their views for mine.

To summarize, the video claims that a storm is coming. They say that they feel afraid because schools are teaching their children that same-sex marriage is okay. They say that they're being threatened by other groups who want to change the institution of marriage. This unlocked a whirl-wind of craziness in my mind, causing me to wonder what marriage was really intended to be.

Let's tackle the most controversial view first, shall we? If what you believe is that marriage is a ceremony linking two people together in the eyes of 'The Lord', then you most-likely believe that the reason same-sex marriages shouldn't be allowed is because 'The Lord' doesn't sanction same-sex lovers. If this is the concern, then shouldn't marriage only be limited to people who believe in God? Shouldn't marriage require that some deity has officially sanctioned the union with a public miracle or at very least a testimony from a prophet?

To be honest, I would be willing to vote for having a separate ecclesiastical ceremony for anyone who could prove that 'The Lord' believed in their union and truly wanted them to be together. The caveat would be that those marriages are interminable without also acknowledging that you are going against God's desires, much the same way that you would be by marrying someone he disapproved of in the first place.

Now, let's look at marriage in another way, a way of formally declaring your intention to love and be faithful to one another. This is the function that I truly believe most Americans consider marriage to have. This is my most abstract definition, but it's also the one that gets to the modern view of marriage and the reason that marriages are no longer viewed as permanent.

When you marry someone, you invariably promise them forever. In my opinion, that's a mistake. DON'T STOP READING! Listen, I'm not saying that love *shouldn't* last forever, I'm just saying that if you think declaring that your love will last forever gets you out of having to actually nurture it forever, then you have pain and hurt in your future. This is the same reason that I'm against giving your betrothed a diamond ring (oh yeah, and all that blood-diamond murder and cartel stuff.) I think that marriage shouldn't be symbolized by something that you give to them once and don't have to think about again. I think that your intentions in marriage should be symbolized by something that you know you're going to have to renew...and the more frequently the better! I'm talking like a band made out of wood, paper or even a Sharpie marker that you draw on each other in the morning. If you need a symbol, make sure the symbol is sending the right message.

With that said, if people love each other and are willing to forsake all others, then it doesn't matter what the race, sex or religion of the people in the union are. What matters is that they're willing to abide by their vows as long as they are bound by them. In a marriage like this, the vows should be chosen carefully by a couple, because those are the promises that you're making to one another. You're relying on those to define your marriage, not God's intentions.

Lastly, I want to consider marriage as a legal treaty. This seems like a perfectly valid bug...er, um...feature of marriage to me. Considering that marriage used to be used as a merger of land and/or families, marrying for legal benefit cannot be ignored. Again, if you accept the premise of using a legal union for personal gain, then it shouldn't matter what the race, sex or religion is of either person participating in that union. Amirite?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wisdom of the Panda - Talent - 04/02/09

Topic of discussion: Why am I the only one who got a fortune cookie?

Restaurant: Panda Express

Fortune: Your genuine talents will lead to success.

Thoughts: Super! Now I just need to figure out what those are.

It's a confusing life

Today has been stressful and confusing.  Each little item feels like it's building on the last and I was hanging on to all of that as I walked in the rain from the bookstore (where I just re-purchased a $100 book) to the computer lab.  My brain was tired and heavy, until I overheard a conversation between two guys behind me.

It was obvious from the way they were talking that they were good friends.  One had a girlfriend with him.  They were talking about differences and biases and perception, then one of them asked the other: "So, would you hold my hand all the way through campus?"

I giggled, appreciating the concept of that experiment.  Then I smiled as the other guy said "Yeah, absolutely."  Then, they held hands, at least until our paths diverged.

Reflecting on what I had just seen, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling about the world.  Then, I got all introspective.  I'm an enthusiastically heterosexual woman (sorry Kat) and yet, I realized that if one of my female friends asked me the same question, I would gladly hold their hand through campus.  What surprised me is that if one of my guy friends asked me the same question, I would certainly hesitate.  If it were a guy that I was actually interested in, my answer would most likely be, "No way."  So how effective could that experiment have been and who's perception was it testing - theirs or the rest of ours?

When checking my own initial reaction, I found that my response was mostly initiated by the impression that I wanted to leave with the person doing the requesting.  When the request is made by a straight, female friend, I can be certain that they have no expectation that our holding hands will insinuate any vulnerability on my part.  If the request comes from someone eligible and available, suddenly the act of holding hands becomes a public display of affection.  My current reaction, when faced with admitting to myself that I like someone (and through PDAs, everyone else) is to run!  My willingness to oblige has less to do with what everyone else thinks of me and more to do with how safely I can navigate the situation and emerge emotionally unscathed.

I wonder, does the origin of the motivation for accepting or declining the invitation change depending on the intensity of the request?  What if the request is changed to sitting next to each other?  Hugging? Kissing?  

What would you do?  What motivates your answer?