“Who’s your friend that likes to play?”

There is a scene in the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out where Bing Bong is sad because his space rocket has been thrown away. Joy needs to get to headquarters and tries to cheer him up by being happy and silly, but Bing Bong keeps being sad and won’t tell her how to get to the Train of Thought. Then Sadness walks up to Bing Bong and tells him she’s sorry that his rocket his gone, that it must have meant a lot to him. She gives him a hug, he cries on her shoulder, and he opens up to her. Joy tries to interrupt to say there’s not time for that, but once Bing Bong has someone to sympathize with him, he says he feels better and points to where they can catch the Train of Thought. On their way, Joy asks Sadness, “Hey, how’d you do that?” Sadness starts, “Well, I just -” and then the train arrives.

We know how she did it.

Sometimes all I want is to talk about my problems. My feelings. It helps me feel better to have someone listen and not want to jump in with solutions. Just to be there, to reassure me, to be supportive or say something like, “I’m sorry that happened.” Or “I know how that feels.” Or “What a sucky situation.”

I know what the solutions are. It’s not like I haven’t done the research, and the new information often can overwhelm me with yet more things I can do wrong or have failed at. More often than not I have applied this new information and am still frustrated. There are situations where I feel utterly helpless; there are times when I need to feel the uniqueness of an experience in my life before understanding that others have traveled a similar journey. This is when I can best feel the support of humanity, once I peek out of my self-involved bubble and am reminded that I am not alone.

It might just be certain personalities to offer fixes right away. And it’s definitely my accommodating personality to accept these people while still feeling horrible inside. Yes, thank you for trying to help, but that’s not what I need. Yes, I will feel better soon, but I first need to be allowed to feel sad/helpless/frustrated/embarrassed. That’s a part of my process, and it helps me in the long run if I don’t dismiss it or diminish it in any way.

Of course I try not to be melodramatic or overreact, and I’m resilient.

A not-so-heavy example: Yes, I’ve been complaining the past seven weeks about my cold. But should one suffer with a cold for that long? Should I rearrange my life around coughing, since it has wedged itself into my schedule? Should I just say “Oh, well” when my ribs are bruised from coughing so violently and for so long? No. But these things have happened to me, and I plan to get through them and to rise up stronger and more determined than before.

But for now, my body still needs to expel phlegm. But when I do this, or laugh, or take deep breaths, it hurts my ribs on the left side.

What’s my process? First, whine about it. Check: I’ve told several people, who range in sympathy, from: “Have you been checked for pneumonia?” to “Oh, man, I’m sorry. That sucks.”

Next, process this feedback. I’m glad that I could tell people who were willing to listen. I’m grateful for those who stepped back and truly sympathized/empathized. And I’m learning to be grateful for the form of concern people offer as suggestions or solutions. People mean well. And people have different points of reference.

Next, question myself: Wait, what am I doing trying to understand the people I want to understand me? Why does this feel like a bigger effort from me all of a sudden?

Next, return to feeling grateful: People love me, and they care.

Next, keep on keeping on: I’m going to make sure I get plenty of sleep and food and exercise. I’m going to work hard at work and be a good mom and wife and friend, one day at a time. Hopefully enough days pass to heal my ribs and make my cough go away.

Any time along the way, this process could repeat itself any number of times.

I’m well aware others are in far worse situations. The not-so-heavy example of my bruised ribs partly serves to imply that much heavier issues are going on in my life. I’ve talked to some people about those issues, implemented these very steps of handling my emotions and becoming stronger and moving forward with my life. The sadness, helplessness, and frustration would be a much greater burden without this process.

It’s a blessing to share these clunkier and unpleasant parts of my life with the people who mean the most to me. Thank you for being there.

 

Open Letter to … Oh, Who Cares

To Whom It Does Not Apparently Concern,

I know that no public transportation system is perfect. Things happen. Trains break down or even get stuck on the tracks in the “narrows” between Draper and Lehi like the southbound train did this evening. I don’t even know how that kind of a thing happens, but I’d like to understand why it did. Because seriously, if trains were running every hour southbound all day without incident, I wonder what happened. Was there a snowdrift? Could the train’s momentum not push through a snowdrift? I guess I could just jump onto a news website and find out what happened, but it’s so much more fun right now to vent.

The conductor did say that “bus bridges” would pick us up from the Draper station and drop us off at the stops farther south. I was fine with waiting at the stop, because I texted the situation to my husband, and he offered to pick me up.

I was fine waiting in the warm train, away from the frigid air, until the conductor announced (and apologized) that the train would have to go back north. He said that everyone would have to get off the train and wait for the bus bridges. I even bundled up and felt prepared to wait in the cold. Somewhere between zero and ten degrees Fahrenheit. Reilly found the address to the station online, and he texted me that he would pick me up soon.

That text came at 5:44pm. We got kicked off the train at 5:58. Draper’s not that far away from Orem, and northbound rush hour traffic isn’t as busy as southbound, so I guessed Reilly would arrive in about 20-25 minutes, which meant 6:05-6:10.

The wait went beyond that range of expectation, which means that I got that much colder for every minute that I waited past 6:10. I was perfectly cozy in my many layers before then. And then somehow my toes froze inside my insulated boots, which means the insulation worked the wrong way.

So Reilly didn’t get to the Draper Frontrunner station until 6:27, which means it took him 43 minutes from Orem. The station looks to be quite in the middle of nowhere, and I wondered if people who’ve never been to the station could easily find it. The answer is easily no.

Thing is, dear Emersonian eyeball of public transportation: Just because you name a road “Frontrunner Boulevard” doesn’t mean the Frontrunner Station is automatically easy to find. Online, the station location is 12800 S 500 W, but the street names do not follow this grid address system near the station. That extra 17 minutes in the cold really isn’t anything to whine about, but if public transit in Utah is to be efficient and comprehensive:

  • Mark Frontrunner (and bus) stations with signs at the freeway exits
  • Use signs en route (from the freeway exit) to clearly direct public transport commuters to Frontrunner stations
  • Provide better online maps/links for Frontrunner station locations
  • Update the website immediately with alerts or route changes

It could have been worse, definitely, but no one should get lost looking for a Frontrunner station, especially if so many people rely on Frontrunner to get to and from work, and especially if another situation like today happens and people don’t want to keep their friends and lovers cryogenicizing out in Siberia because uncoordinated or lacking streets signs have caused the station to David Copperfield. Poof.

Things could be worse. I could be in Florida, stuck on Blanding Boulevard or the Buckman Bridge. I could be in Manhattan, in a Zipcar on the Westside Highway on the Friday before Labor Day.

But things are better now. My feet are warm again, and I can feel my toes.

So, I guess as long as the mercury doesn’t freeze, there will always appear to be a silver lining.

Thanks for letting me vent,

May

On Voting

My very first federal election is coming up. After changing my name and residence for voter registration, I looked up my ballot. There are a lot of names I don’t know. The only political commercials that air on television don’t even apply to my congressional district, and presidential commercials don’t even air around here because not enough Obama voters live here, so I guess Romney’s using the money he saved from Utah to campaign like crazy in other states where Obama has a competing influence. Which I know is Mitt’s biggest concern. I just wonder where he gets and how he keeps his tan.

Anyway, here’s what my ballot looks like. I’m about halfway done researching the list, which sort of helps, but it’s mostly overwhelming. I recognize some of the names from billboards. My votes may just boil down to whether I like the spelling of names or if I can write poems from the anagrams of names or if my favorite letter of the alphabet that day is A. It is no coincidence that the initials of my new married name are the same as Mitt Romney. So, I could vote that way. Also, I like the Yes or No questions for the judges. Nothing about voting in Utah, America is confusing in the least little way.

Let’s Play Inferences

Facts:
I checked my grades for my religion class on Thursday
Apparently I received a 7/10 on a weekly journal assignment
I reviewed the journal assignment
I sent the professor an email contesting the score
The email may have sounded slightly annoyed, but I tried sounding as nice as possible

The professor’s response:
Ouch… sorry your journal was misgraded… It looks great to me and I have given you three more points. The reason it was marked down is my TA misunderstood what you were doing. It is fine. Press on. I continue to like your creativity…
[Professor]

Conclusions:
Ouch: I may have come across more annoyed than I intended
three more points: My overall journal score is now perfect, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be
TA misunderstood: This does not surprise me, though I’m a big fan of smart and competent TAs
I continue to like your creativity: The entry was relatively creative. Duh.

***

Now it’s your turn! What are your conclusions from these statements?

1. General Conference was great and dreadful in all the expected ways.

2. This week will be insanely busy.

3. I know I should want to get married, but most days, I just don’t feel it.

Have a great week!

Sweet Sorrow, or Ticklish Agony?

Today is the last day of my Shakespeare class. I have so much to say, but maybe I should save it for the class/teacher evaluation. It’ll be a great exercise in being diplomatic.

We’ll be wrapping up Macbeth today.

Oh, snacks! I always ate snacks in class, mostly when we watched movie clips of the plays we studied.

Sometimes granola bars. Sometimes fruit, which mostly were apples and bananas. I ate an orange once, but I peeled it before class.

One time I did fall asleep while watching a movie clip. It wasn’t quite fair though; someone had passed around cookies during class, and I had crashed from the sugar.

Watching movies was fun. Laurence Olivier, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Kenneth Branagh. Also: Keanu Reeves as Don John. Makes me laugh.

I also did a crossword puzzle during class last Monday. But I was also paying attention. It’s not that Shakespeare doesn’t engage my brain, because he does. Really. Again, I’ll save it for the evaluation.

The lectures and the discussions were always interesting. I often took notes and tried to follow and connect ideas between the text and the conversation with vague prompts.

And it was an adventure trying to follow the text without knowing the specific act, scene and lines. You know how I’m always up for an adventure.

Today, I will be eating an apple during class, and I’ll do today’s NY Times crossword. We’ll probably also go over what will be on the final, which is on Wednesday.

But I’ll turn in the evaluation tomorrow. That’s when it’s due.

I Took A Nap This Weekend, and I Called It Sunday

I’m looking out my bedroom window, and a mountain is looking back at me. It’s green and rugged and I’m in a valley, and I’m not very green anymore, though maybe I’m still a bit rugged. I’d hardly call myself refined.

So, there were pioneers. Many of my friends have ancestors who crossed the plains in crazy weather conditions and under the order of God’s prophet, in addition to being run out of the Midwest by state governments.

And they settled in Utah.

This is the place.

Apparently some of my dad’s relatives came on that trek, I think. I would need for him to retell the story. He was born in Salt Lake City. His parents were LDS, and he has a stepmother who’s a member of the Reorganized LDS church.

My mother was born and raised Catholic, in the Philippines.

I was born in the Philippines, and my birth certificate says I have a Catholic mother from the Philippines and a Mormon father from Salt Lake City.

I talked aloud to one person today, my roommate. I told her I wouldn’t be going to church, so she didn’t have to worry about giving me a ride. Then I read and slept. And read and slept.

There are people in Africa who populate remote areas of continent. Why do they roam, where do they wander, and how do they decide to settle in certain areas?

And, why are other people stuck? Is it a matter of pride? Survival? Circumstance?

What are frontiers, anyway? What goes unexplored in realms physical and metaphysical?

Now, I’m thinking about Norway.

How do we understand what and where people are trying to explore?

Who are the pioneers, anyway? Do we always agree with or understand what they discover?

Cute Friends and Live Music and STOP CHANGING THE DANG RULES WITHOUT TELLING ME

So, Thursday night. Decemberists. And being outside. And enjoying Decemberists. And being outside.

These are my two homies from the Senegal study abroad. I don't know if you can tell, but these ladies are very happy to be in America. Also they have excellent taste in music. Which explains why we're all at this concert. Seriously, these girls SAVED MY LIFE in Africa. I owe them big time.
I don't know why I choose to surround myself with crazy people. I like them--I like them a lot. The two girls on the right are sisters. The girl on the left is a former classmate, and a friend of the sister in the middle, and a co-novelist with the girl in the sunglasses from the previous photo. Small world. These girls like the Decemberists, too. The sisters even have an accordion to prove it.
This pretty much sums up my view for most of the concert. We moved from sitting on a sheet off to the side to weaving our way through the crowd toward the center. It definitely sounded better from where we were, but I'm pretty much doomed to smell armpits for the rest of my concert-watching career.

It was around this time that I tweeted the following, and a friend replied:

I really have accepted my fate. Sometimes I still wish, though.
So, I pretty much coveted the guy in the cherry picker the whole time. Can you see how thrilled he looks? Maybe he needed to use the bathroom or something. Maybe he wanted to see his wife and kids. But I cannot comprehend his not wanting to be at a Decemberists' concert. He's clearly not watching the concert. He has the best view! I wish I had an explanation.
Okay, occasionally I would catch fun glimpses of the band members. I listened hard to the instruments, and often I wished I could have been able to see the fiddler or the bassist or guitars riffing with each other. The band seemed pretty cool. They made fun of crowd surfers and they bossed us around quite well. Huge crowds are hard to contain sometimes with all the free admission and beer and pot. But the band did a bang-up job.

Speaking of pot, I tweeted this observation. The same friend replied and further confirmed my luckiness that he’s my friend:

So I texted Francis, and asked what he did to his keyboard. He replied, "Tea. I did 'tea' to my keyboard." I visualized this, and it was a pretty vivid image, most likely because the contact high was SO FREAKING STRONG.

We met a guy named Dennis who came with a friend. He introduced himself and extended his hand to shake, but we sort of brushed him off.

After the concert, we went to Denny’s, where our waiter was named Moe, which was short for Mohammed, and he sounded a lot like Barack Obama. Coincidence? I think not. He was a one-man show. Not only did he wait tables, he also was the cashier and he might have done all the cooking, too. And we spent a fair amount of time doing Barack Obama impressions on the way home.

What we also did? Acted high. But mostly we weren’t acting. Except we had to tone it down in Denny’s because undercover cops were also at the restaurant. It wasn’t possible to stop giggling, and I think we managed to order all the breakfast items on the menu. And half a sampler platter. Poor Moe.

Okay, so that was fun.

Yet, I have a small complaint.

Go to this website, and scroll down to the rules about food and beverages. Is it clear on whether one can or can’t bring food into the park? It doesn’t say we can’t bring food into the park. I brought food, and when we got to the entrance, I found out that food wasn’t allowed. And maybe I yelled, like, LOUD, and maybe no one cared, but come on, people, at least provide a clear policy on such things. I can go to a concert in Central Park, NYC, and they’ll have similar rules: no coolers, no glass containers, no outside alcohol. I can bring outside food; EVERYONE can bring outside food. They encourage it. Yes, I know that Pioneer Park isn’t Central Park. But Pioneer Park also doesn’t have to worry about the kind of attendance Central Park does. Pioneer Park should be able to handle food. I stood in line for an hour last month waiting to see Yo-Yo Ma with a book, a plastic bottle of water, and a Chipotle burrito. Free concert, even. Everyone knows what the rules are.

So, Twilight Concert Series people, don’t make like you’re Stephenie Meyer or the writers of Lost and change the rules whenever you feel like it. Or if you want to change the rules, make sure such changes are also on the website. It’s not a lot to ask.

But, thank you for bringing the Decemberists to Salt Lake City. For free.