On Seeing

June 7, 2010

There is a huge chasm between looking at people and actually seeing them.

I guess this has been one of the themes of my life for the past year or two, both in personal experience, especially associated with love, and in professional experience. I work with ladies rescued from forced prostitution in India. I help train these ladies to make a product and then market this product.

Naturally, the best way to market a product with a story behind it is to show photos and tell the story of the people who made it. However, these ladies have been objectified their whole lives, and further using them to sell something is the last thing we want to do. I want people to know what strong, brave, bright women these ladies are. I want people to see them.

Sometimes I fear that people will merely look at their photos. That hearts will be filled with pity instead of respect or compassion. No one wants pity, not when we’re honest with ourselves. At least I think this to be so.

I don’t want someone looking at me and my baggage and thinking, “Oh that poor girl,” as if they have their lives all figured out, instead of thinking, “I know what that’s like.” I don’t know what it’s like to be forced into prostitution. But I know what it’s like to be treated as less than what I am. It’s only a degree of what these ladies have gone through, so I can only imagine their struggle. Being treated as a less-than hurts, especially when I begin believing the lies myself.

I’m amazed at how many people are looking for someone to really listen to them and respect what they have to say, in spite of disagreement. I like disagreements. I don’t like being disrespected. I once dated a guy who liked to prove his point a lot, at the sacrifice of hearing others, at the sacrifice of hearing me.

Looking and seeing. Listening and hearing. I use these words synonymously, but they are so, so different.

Missing Things

June 6, 2010

My current romantic interests are sadly less than interesting.

Sometimes it occurs to me that I work so much that it would be hard to sustain a relationship, let alone find a guy who could understand why I do what I do, and that it grieves me that it takes more than 40 hours a week to save the world.

I miss the kissing. I miss the hugs and the pillow talk and the naps and the flirting. I miss having a guy in my life who laughs at my jokes immediately after instead of five minutes later. And even makes better jokes than mine.

I miss the verbal sparring, both light arguing and improvised renditions of conversations… when one of us says something outrageous and the other just plays along.

I miss playing. I miss it so much. I’m good at making up games. I’m good at making things fun. Once a former boyfriend and I unpacked a box of books, and I made it silly. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the freedom to make something silly.

I miss things I’ve never had but want.

I don’t miss the fighting or the subtle rejection or the unmet expectations or the loneliness – a different kind of loneliness that comes when you know in your heart that it’s not working. That loneliness is the worst kind, and I hope it never shows up on my doorstep again. It’s not welcome here. I will never let it stay again.

Before you know it, May 3 turns into May 25. It has been 22 days since my last confession. Forgive me.

I went to New York.

It was very grand and beautiful, and most certainly not Orange County, California.

Some very generous people allowed me and my co-worker Cristina to stay with them.
They live right across the street from Barbara Streisand’s former residence.
And right across the street from Central Park.

They also have a dog who only eats real steak and chicken alfredo.

This is the view of Central Park from their living room. Not bad.

This was my view one morning as I ate breakfast and made friends with the pigeons.

My friend Leah was there from San Francisco at the same time as I.
We went to the MOMA.
This is a painting by Marc Chagall called I and the Village.

This is an illegal, ILLEGAL!!!, photo I took during the William Kentridge film and animation exhibit.
I wanted to see what the camera would do with the light.

Art is great and all…

But ladies in dresses with sunbathers in the background are even better.
Please note the sandwich in my left hand and my exceedingly good hair day.

Thank you.

It was a busy weekend.

There ought to be a term for getting home on a Monday night, falling into bed at 5:30 p.m., going to sleep, missing your Monday-night accountability group, and almost sleeping right through bedtime on into morning if not for the phone call that made you get up and force yourself to stay awake until 10:30. I’m not saying this happened to me. I’m just saying there ought to be a term for it. Flakehaustion, maybe?

I directed a photo shoot for work on Saturday. It was a glorious day to do it, and we got some amazing photos, but man those days are hectic and tiring. On Sunday, I got together with some old and dear friends who were up visiting from San Diego. I love meeting up with people from my past life, the past life in which I was a high school student working at the local newspaper.

After brunch, I went home and sewed all day. Last week roommate Katrina and I went and picked out fabric to make some curtains for our bathroom.

Measure twice, cut once. (I love sewing tools like carpenter a loves his awl.)

Isn’t the fabric fun? These birds were telling me about their life experiences.

As I cut them.

These three are my favorite: “Hi. Hi. HI!”

They have co-dependency and anxiety issues but know how to throw a good party for anyone who stops by the branch. That teal apple? It makes great cider, if you know what I mean.

They told me all about it.

There’s nothing in the world like a good iron with lots of steam. It’s a must-have for sewing projects.

There’s nothing in the world like an ironing board about which one must apologize before opening and closing, because its scream resonates throughout the whole house.

I believe it has arthritis.

This is my great little machine. It’s nothing super fancy, but it’s a great beginner machine because it’s so easy to thread and use. As you can see, I have my direction book out. I ran into some bobbin issues, which I was quickly able to remedy with the help of the instruction booklet.

The curtains are finished and up. Last night on the phone, Mom asked, “Can I see a picture of them finished?”

I said, “After I clean the bathroom.”

The same goes for you, Internet. Finished project photos forthcoming.

The moon is full and bright. The palm trees outside are swaying like a hurricane.

I woke up an hour ago to the wind howling against my one window — a window so badly insulated that my curtains are moving even though the window is closed — and the moon shining so brightly through my other window, the itty-bitty porthole window by my bed, that I just awoke, extracted myself from my sleep cocoon, and constructed a curtain from thumbtacks and a bath towel.

It must be an exceptionally good night for werewolves.

The raccoons seemed happy earlier, their little raccoon feet scampering across the roof. Now they have likely blown away or been eaten. Or they are  making babies in the chimney. Chim, chim, cheree.

It is a good night for feeling a little crazy, for waking up in the middle of the night and whispering prayers, for ceasing the tossing and turning to reach over, snap on the light, and write. Now that I sit up, my head is drooping to the side. In the dark, I forgot I was tired. In the light, I’m so tired I can’t figure out a clever way to end this sentence.

I have a zit. I hope it’s gone tomorrow.

Sometimes it helps to cushion the real stresses in life by fretting about miniscule things.

Sometimes it helps to cushion the real stresses in life by getting a good night’s sleep.

Sometimes stresses get worse when one lies awake thinking about werewolves. Not the Twlight werewolves. Real werewolves. Gross, bony, evil werewolves with their giant, curved spinal cords, their knobby, branched fingers and razored fingernails, their dripping fangs, their rank breath, their coarse ugly hairs that grow from their stinky pores.

So, I have constructed a curtain out of a towel and thumbtacks, and I am hiding in my down blanket, hoping that now the wind will sing me to sleep. Hopefully the raccoons have satiated the werewolves’ ruthless hunger, and my towel-curtain will keep their snouts from poking in.

Good night, werewolves. Tomorrow you will just be little men again, awaking in ditches without your clothes.

Do other people sleep in such odd positions?

Lately I cannot fall asleep if any one of the following is not in place:

1. Lying flat on my back
2. Two pillows inside one pillow case under my knees
3. My special down pillow (that has three pillow cases on it because it has leaked feathers for the last 5 years) wadded up behind my neck
4. My down blanket folded in half for doubled warmth, tucked under my feet so they have a nice little warming pocket, and tucked around my body, like a mummy
5. My down blanket entirely covering my neck
6. A throw pillow slightly elevating my left shoulder

It occurred to me last night that this would be a nice position in which to die.

They could place pennies over my eyes, like in the olden days, and after enough days have passed to ascertain that I am, indeed, dead, they could lower my body on a gurney out the back window, and set my worldly remains afire on a raft in the Newport Canal.

My sleeping position would also be a nice way to experience chrysalis, I imagine, and no, that is not an illegal drug.

About a Boy

April 16, 2010

So, I drove up to Fullerton this evening to meet a guy.

I don’t say this very often about the guys I meet up with, but he was pretty special.

His name is Augustin Elias, but that’s kind of a big name of a little guy. So I’ll just call him Gus.

His older sister Nadia is one of my favorite little people ever. She calls me Miss Ann.

One of the hardest things about living so far away from my family is living far away from these two:

They call me Aunt Annie.

When I can’t live close to those who call me Aunt Annie, it sure is nice to have a couple of cuties who call me Miss Ann.

There’s the little burrito now.

I’m thankful to have old and dear friends nearby… and thankful that I get to watch Gus grow big.

Pus Eye

April 14, 2010

For the past few days, my boss Laura has been calling me “Pus Eye”.

Before you go calling the authorities for Employee Mistreatment, let me note that one conversation we had today went something like this:

Laura: I wish I didn’t look like I was 14 today. I’m wearing flats, and I look like I’m 4-foot-nothing.
Ann: Well, if it makes you feel any better, I haven’t showered for 3 days.
Cristina (chimes in): Really? Three days?
Ann: Yes. I’m conserving water. [Pauses]. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m really lazy.

That story was to illustrate that we have good, honest comraderie in my office. We don’t call one another Pus Eye and expect each other to cry about it.

But I did cry about it. Involuntarily.

Because my Pus Eye is also watering.

I think I have an infected tear duct, and the pus has filled the tear duct to the point that it will not drain my tears. Someone ought to create a product to fix this and call it Drano: For Eyes. Only that might not sell very well, so… forget that. Heh.

While my eye has been feeling (and looking) better today, the last few days have been rather tedious. Monday night was the worst. I won’t go into detail, but every-so-often, I’d have to wipe my eye of a substance similar to mucous. It was itchy and hurt a little and all red.

Before you ask if I have pink eye, the answer is no, I do not have pink eye, and that’s disgusting. I most certainly would not be sharing on my blog if I had pink eye, and if you know what pink eye really is, you know why.

It happened a lot to farm kids in rural Minnesota where I grew up.

After they had fertilized the fields, if you know what I mean.

No, I believe Pus Eye is the result of a dangerous liaison. Instead of combining prescription drugs and alcohol, I combined mascara and sleep. For this problem, there ought to be preventative commercials featuring breakfast food.

This is your eye. This is your eye on old mascara.

Anyway, that’s not the point. I do have a point. But first, here is something else that is not the point:

Pus Eye has actually been kind of fun because I get to simulate crying at random moments. For example:

“Do you know Jessie?”
Eye fills up and tear rolls down cheek: “You don’t know how much I wish I could.”

“What are you doing?”
Eye fills up and tear rolls down cheek: “I am eating Cheerios. Grandpa used to eat Cheerios.”

“How is work going?”
Eye fills up and tear rolls down cheek: “They are calling me Pus Eye.”

The point is that the whole thing is making me think about that passage in the Bible where Jesus tells people not to try to pick the spec out of someone else’s eye without first removing the plank from our own.

There is a lot of gross stuff coming out of my eye. People see it and call tell there’s something wrong. It’s pretty easy for this intuitive brain to make a connection between my current physical ailments and my spiritual ailments. What would someone think if I walked up to her and told her that her eyeshadow is a terrible color while my eye is covered with pus?


They Bring May Flowers

April 12, 2010

Before we get into this post, I just want to share what my friend Lee Ella shared with me on my Facebook wall this morning: “Last night I dreamed you and I got in a fist fight at a skating rink. You kept screaming, ‘I must win because I’m wearing polyester.’ You were and you did. Way to go.”

I love it that 1. I won, 2. Lee Ella took the time to share this with me, and 3. Lee Ella has vivid dreams (about me).

It is raining today. The Californians are saying that June Gloom has come early. It is cold, and I am grateful that today is my day to work from home, where I can hole up in my little room, under my fluffy down blanket, and plow through my email inbox. The window is open even though it is cold outside. The smell of the rain feels as though it is refreshing my lungs — it is the same damp musty smell that saturated my dad’s auto repair shop when I was a little girl — and I don’t mind that my fingers have iced over.

I am thinking a lot about time lately. Last night on the phone with my mom, I was expressing some grievances about life. She expressed sympathy, and I said, “It’s okay. When it comes right down to it, someday I will die, and none of this will matter anymore.”

But I have dreams. I have things I want. Lately there is this one thing that I think of, and every time I think of it, my heart just naturally wells up with prayer. It seems that the wanting is rooting deep, deeper each day, and I struggle with how much I should pray, “Thy will be done,” and how much I should pray, “God, I want this.” So, typically, my little in-car or before-bed conversation goes something like this: “God, you know my heart,” and then I throw in something about how C.S. Lewis talks about the problem with us humans is not that we ask too much of God, but that we don’t ask enough.

God must be impressed with my intelligence when I mention C.S. Lewis.

So, needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. I love my life and my job — I love the present-tense of my life right now, but being only 27, there is much future-tense to be had.

The other day my dear old high school friend Ryan recorded this. I haven’t seen him in years — he lives in Berlin now. I’m excited to reconnect with him and learn about his life. Ryan is an incredible photographer. He has always been an immensely talented musician, and to hear him singing this was touching. His voice is so beautiful and melancholy, just like Ryan himself. He lets himself feel things. He is a tremendous artist and a loyal friend. So, yesterday I asked him if I could re-post this song for you all, because it resonated with me:

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices
I’ve heard them calling my name
Are these the sweet sounds that called
The young sailors
I think they’re one and the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
There’s something that I’m supposed to be

I have done a lot of things in my life, and I’ve come to a place where, even though things are tough at times, God has instilled in me a sense of peace and purpose. It’s really kind of surreal, given my record of anxiety. I’m thankful. The only way I can explain it is to say that his grace is sufficient for me, and his power is made perfect in my weakness.

The last few years have included a lot of hard decisions — the hardest ones I’ve ever made — and sometimes I am tempted to have regrets. What if I had gone to fashion school right out of high school instead of spending those years at college in Arkansas? What if I had taken this guy or that guy back and married him or him? It would be so nice to have a partner with whom to share this period of my life. What if I still lived close to my family?

It is a sacrifice to live this far away. It is a sacrifice to think about how big my niece and nephew are getting and that I am just this person who floats in and out of their lives during the holidays to get re-acquainted and then leave again. My favorite cousin is due to have a baby in August, and I so desperately want to go to Minnesota during that time, because it’s so, so important when a new person joins your family. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time.

And then there are all these hopes and dreams that well up inside me at random moments. If my life were a musical, they are the moments I would break forth in song. I talked to my grandma on the phone last night. It seems that my life is the time for looking forward, and hers is the time for looking back.

So, I’m not going to have any regrets. I’m just going to strive to trust that God knows my heart and that whatever I’m supposed to be, I’ll be.

Transitional Forms

April 11, 2010

Sometimes things just strike me as remarkably funny, and I cannot explain why they make me laugh.

For example:

Pretty soon they’re going to be telling us that people evolved from cats.

I am sorry if you did not laugh. I recognize that sometimes my humor does not translate. Like the time my co-worker was wondering why her desk had a small, cubby space in it, enclosed by a small, swinging door.

“It is not useful space,” she said.

I told her, “It is where the puppies are kept.”

And I still laugh out loud about that moment.

You do not need to tell me. I know it is not really funny.