Archive for October, 2013

Can You Change?



Probably one of the most overused quotes on the internet and in life in general is one often attributed to Theodore Geisel, or rather Dr. Seuss.  Though the true origins of the quote are uncertain, the most popular version goes a little something like this: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  Anyone who knows anything about me is probably fully aware that I am one of the biggest proponents of “being yourself.” However, anyone who knows anything about me is also painfully aware that I have a terrible habit of overanalyzing every little thing and there’s just something about that quote now (though as a teenager I remember liking it just fine) that doesn’t sit well with me. 


From the moment I was born, I always knew what I liked and didn’t like, what I wanted and didn’t want, and who I enjoyed and did not enjoy.  My mother has always told me stories about when I was a baby and I would allow very specific people to hold me.  Some, like my nana, would be able to snuggle me tight for hours, and others, though equally kind and loving would cause me to wail.  It wasn’t just a baby phase either.  I distinctly remember times as a child I would gravitate to some people because I like the way they smelled, the sound of their voice, the softness of their skin.  Then there was the issue of clothes.  I’m sure my mother had absolutely no idea toddlers were capable of being particular about fashion, but I was about as picky as they come.  Fabric had to feel a certain way, a belt only felt right when cinched as tightly as possible, shoes had to be comfy, and I liked things bright and beautiful.   I never had any trouble expressing myself either, which made it much easier for those around me to get a sense of what I wanted or needed, but also created some awkward moments for my family I am sure. “TACT! TACT!” A warning I heard frequently from my mom. It was easy for me to tell people off, tell them exactly what bothered me about them, comment on their sense of style (or lack there of), or explain to them precisely why they were wrong and why their point of view was stupid.  Unfortunately, that child often didn’t have a whole lot of regard for whether or not her words were hurting others, and she couldn’t understand why anyone had a right to get mad at her for simply being honest, speaking the words everyone else was thinking anyway and telling the truth.  I understand tact much better now, but it still isn’t always my forte.  My words are both my largest asset and my worst enemy, used to give voice to the unheard one minute and tear down someone I love the next. 


Can people change? I mean really, really change? Are we all just old dogs from the very beginning, incapable of learning new tricks?  As a counselor, I have to believe in change or my work would have no meaning.  The simple philosophy of “you made your bed now go lie in it” may work (and I’m using the term “work” incredibly loosely) in my personal life, but it has no place on the therapy couch.  There, every day is a new day, poor choices have consequences, but don’t have to destroy us, and old patterns can be broken.  As a woman of faith, I also have to believe people can change.  The story of redemption would be incomplete if it didn’t have an impact on our day-to-day living.  Being shaped and transformed is a crucial part of the journey.


Let’s get back to that quote.  “Be who you are”… But what if who you are is spiteful and ugly?  “Say what you feel”… But what if what you have to say is cruel and insensitive? “Because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”… So is that saying the best hope I have for the people I surround myself with is they are “kind” enough to keep their mouths shut, minding their own business while I stomp around being my tactless, negative self? 


I would like to make the case that those who matter should actually mind the most what we are expressing and who we are becoming.  If not for people in my life who stopped me in my tracks after I said or did something foolish, I don’t know where I would be.  Without my mother empowering me to use my gift of words for good, I might still be out there shouting absurd insults to every passerby.  I’m permanently flawed though.  The times I have used my strengths for evil are without number.  I still have a lot of changing left to do.  Hopefully, not too much changing though.  I was created just the way I am for a purpose and I am not about to hide what makes me “me” just because I slip up and get it wrong sometimes.  I hope you won’t either.  I also hope you are blessed enough to be surrounded by people who know just how extraordinary you can be and encourage you to grow and change so you don’t have to remain a rip off of your true self.  


And being the cheerleader of “being you” that I am, I’d like to leave you a more meaningful, thoughtful, and powerful quote with a fully traceable origin from another man children adore.


“Nobody else can live the life you live. And even though no human being is perfect, we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to live in a redeeming way.”

            -Fred Rogers


What Time Is It?

I’ve fallen into this terrible trap lately. When I finish working at about 9:30pm, instead of writing, working out, reading or getting things done around my apartment, I park myself on my couch, open some mindless, rubbish, time-waster like Pinterest or Buzzfeed on my laptop, grab the remote and turn on The Big Bang Theory or Law and Order SVU and sit in an empty, technological stupor until it is time for bed. It doesn’t seem like I have much energy for anything else. I feel guilty about it, but after pouring emotional energy into people all day, sometimes a phone call or a text seems beyond my mental capacity. Even as I write this, I am frustrated because I know I could write something better if I just wasn’t so tired…


This week is fall break at school. Since I am not taking classes this year, the break doesn’t really mean much for me. However, it did mean the time I usually spend taking the train downtown and back and sitting in supervision on Monday evenings could be spent on activities of my choosing. For me, a free weeknight is about as elusive as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster and will remain so until May. I’m currently working approximately sixty hours a week, so weekday leisure activities are almost entirely out of the question. In fact, I used my evening off to take a trip to the dentist and the chiropractor and get some laundry done, which at one point in my life may have seemed like necessities, but in the midst of my busy schedule, almost feel like luxuries.


Time is a strange thing. I remember feeling like things took forever when I was a kid. There has always been a running joke in my family that whenever you asked my mom how long it would be until dinner was ready, the answer was always twenty minutes. It didn’t matter if she was making black beans and rice or beef stroganoff or if the water had just begun to boil or the soup was boiling over, the answer was always the same. Quite frankly, I don’t know why we bothered to continue asking. I do know that twenty minutes seemed like a lifetime. Now, it doesn’t seem like any time at all. It isn’t long enough to respond to all the e-mails in my work inbox, or see a client at my internship, or have a meeting with a student. It isn’t even enough time to do one of my favorite Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs. I miss playing monopoly, watching a movie from start to finish and grabbing coffee with a friend midweek. I wish I could take the time to send thoughtful texts and e-mails to those I love, plan fun get-togethers and trips, and write high quality blog posts, and reflections, but there simply isn’t enough time.


But then… I there seems to be too much time. I am exhausted and even when weeks seem to be rushing by, I still can’t get them to go fast enough. It’s Monday and I wish it was the weekend, it’s October and I wish it was summer break, this time of growth and learning is just beginning and I wish it were wrapping up. I want to find the fast forward button and be on the other side of this thinking, “Phew, that was crazy, but it’s over and I made it!”


But here I am living out a Monday in early October wondering how to enjoy the time that I have when I don’t often have the time to do what want. While it might be easier in some ways to shut out the world and power through, fulfilling my responsibilities, but never taking the time to appreciate them, it turns my stomach to think about how much I might miss if I did. But then again, when I truly think about everything that needs to be done, I get overwhelmed and start to convince myself there is no way I can continue to do it all well. Is it possible to be a good friend, daughter, sister, resident director, and counselor all at the same time or can you only pick a couple to excel at and then leave the rest for a slower season? How does one take time to breathe, when there is barely enough time to sleep?


Well, my friends, I have no idea, but here I am turning off the TV long enough to write a sloppy blog post anyway. Though they are not as long or meaningful as they were before, you just might still get a phone call or text at a random time, hours, days, or even weeks after you made an attempt to touch base with me. In between sending work e-mails and trekking up to the sixth floor of my Res Hall to get clothes out of the dryer, I even made a batch of my favorite dark chocolate, whole wheat, pumpkin muffins sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar. That’s because there is no fast forward button. It may still be October, and still be Monday, and I may be tired and spread too thin, but I’m not giving up. This time is precious and I want to be able to look back and be proud of how I used it no matter how fast or slow it may have seemed to go and even if it takes some lazy nights watching NCIS to get me through.