Thursday, June 30, 2005

Not a Content Cow or a Miserable (Wo)Man

"I can alter my life by altering the attitude of my mind."

I generally at least try to be a rational person - the kind of person that sees things for what they are. But I've recently become very, very cynical and pessimistic.

Now, while this is partially a result of other unrelated things that have put me on emotional overload, it's also a result of certain people I have been spending time with recently. I like these people (otherwise why would I hang out with them?) and they're smart (again, otherwise why would I hang out with them?) and they're nice (not so important to me, but they actually are), but they are really, really cynical. And that makes me cynical, and being cynical makes me depressed, and that's bad.

So, that whole long prelude was just to make the point that the attitude you have can make a big difference in dealing with the world. These past few days I've been in a really bad mood and I've been in a bad mood because all I've been doing is focusing on the negative.

And I'm not saying that we should all be happy and go-lucky all the time, I certainly have no interest in being oblivious to reality. But at the same time, the old adage of "would you rather be a content cow or a miserable man?" is not accurate. Thinking is hard but not something that necessarily breeds misery.

Being aware of one's surroundings when they are not ideal (and let's face it, one's surroundings are never truly ideal) is not an easy thing to do, but the answer is not to remain in a self-imposed nonage (bonus points if you know where that's from).

The answer is to figure out how to change your surroundings to bring them closer to the ideal. And if that's impossible (as it often is) the answer then is to subtly change yourself or your own expectations. The answer is never either to remain in oblivion or to remain in misery.

I do believe that you can be a thinking, aware, and yet happy person. It's all about the attitude you bring to your situation, and to life in general.

So do worry - do think - but be happy too!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New York City vs. Washington, D.C. (1-0, for now)

"New York is a city of conversations overheard, of people at the next restaurant table (micrometers away) checking your watch, of people reading the stories in your newspaper on the subway train."

On the fridge in my summer dorm room, there is a comparison between the Washington, D.C. Metro and the (by far superior) New York City Subway. At the top of that list is the fact that it is illegal to eat or drink on the Metro (punishable by fine or imprisonment or getting yelled at by a concerned citizen - and I speak from personal experience). It is, or was, legal to eat on the Subway, and it's a huge plus for the wonderful city I call home.

However, the NY Times reports that those blissful days of eating on the Subway are about to change. The rules have changed, and while eating and drinking are still allowed on station platforms (merely to appease vendors), passengers will not be allowed to eat on the trains anymore.

Now, I'm all for having clean public transportation, and I understand that D.C. has good reason behind its rules. But the New York City Subway doesn't stand a chance of ever being clean or even cleaner. And I want to drink my coffee on the train.

I'm So Vain, I DO Think The Song Is About Me

"You're so vain I bet you think this song is about you."

I'm upset at someone, and she doesn't even know it. And I don't intend to tell her either. I'm not going to tell her because, quite frankly, I have no right to be upset at her. But even though I keep telling myself that it's not fair for me to be upset, I am upset. Upset at what this person has (or rather has not) done, and also upset that I cannot stop myself from being upset.

No, the world does not revolve around me. Yes, people do occasionally have more important things to worry about than me. Yes, life sometimes gets in the way, and isn't true friendship about understanding that and not getting upset when your friend has bigger and better things to worry about? Isn't true friendship about giving and not expecting to receive?

Somehow, as much as I say that to myself, I can't seem to convince myself not to be upset, and that above all else is upsetting.

The Joys of a Secular Work Place

Co-worker 1: You should exeriment with drugs. It won't kill you ... at least not the first time.

Me: Do one of you have your key?
Co-worker 2: Girls never have their keys with them.
Me: That's because we have no pockets in our clothing.
Co-worker 2: But you have cleavage.

Help, I've Fallen Off the Blogosphere and I Can't Get Up

This is just an apology for the dearth of recent posts. Let's just say I've been busy and I'm tired and I have not had anything important or interesting to say. But I'm back for now at least, and I come with regards from the dark blogless side.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

If All You Need to Grow Is a Little Water, Then How Come I'm so Short?

"Do you believe in changing yourself or are you one of those tiresome people who prefer to remain stagnant?"

A couple different unrelated things spurred me to think about personal growth lately, and I'm just going to put down my thoughts on the subject, in no particular order or importance. I know this is not the most exciting topic or intro ever, but read it anyway. You know you want to.

  • Orthodox Judaism is all about personal growth. We don't believe in stagnation, in an end-goal, or in "already there Judaism." The point of Orthodox Judaism is to be "hopefully holier than yesterday." Every day.

  • Even people who have experienced personal growth find it hard to contemplate different types of growth. Once you're semi-comfortable with where you stand (and that doesn't mean you don't want to grow any more), it is very hard to stay accepting of people at different levels of Judaism. I found this very true for myself. Once I fought to be where I am religiously, it was very hard for me to accept where others stand (to the left and the right).

  • Growth is hard. It is not easy to change your beliefs slowly but surely. It is not easy to change your practice of religion. And it is not easy to admit that you were once wrong. Growth requires all these things, but in the end you are all the stronger for it.

  • Growth is incremental and constant. I've heard so many people say things like, "oh, I don't do that now, but when I go to Israel for the year I'll start keeping it," or even, "now that I went to Israel for they year, I'm frum." Neither of those makes any sense. You should ALWAYS be growing. Before Israel, during Israel, after Israel, and even if you never go to Israel. Growth is not about these huge spurts (and trust me, at my height of less than five inches I know very little about growth spurts), it's about slow and steady, ever-moving progress.

This was mostly a reminder for myself and just a reiteration of what I've been thinking about, so keep growing people!

Things I Cannot Understand

Things to ponder (or in any case, things that I have been pondering):

  • If it's hot outside, why people need to compensate by using air conditioning to make the inside as cold as Antarctica.
  • Why we have not adopted Europe's shorter work day. (Nine hours a day at a desk is a long, long time.)
  • If beauty is societal and half of society is made up of women, why we have not gotten rid of stupid fashion statements like pointy-toed stilettos and instead insist that they are beautiful.
  • Why the same city that has beautiful monuments with well-tended gardens and that houses our country's leaders complete with their mansions, planes, and bodyguards has homeless people starving on the street.
  • Why office work is so exhausting.
  • Why this is as coherent as my mind gets after work.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

If You Can't Live Without a Pedicure, You Shouldn't Have a Baby

"Mother's love grows by giving."

I believe that at least a part of motherhood is about self-sacrifice, it's about giving of yourself, giving all of yourself, to someone else. (Now maybe I'm just waxing poetic, and motherhood is nothing of the sort, but indulge my romanticism just for a bit. This is my blog after all.)

Having said that, I find this thouroughly revolting. I'm sorry, I am not going to pity the mother that has to make time for her baby over a pedicure. Sorry, that's the way life is. And I am not going to pity the mothers who feel so stressed out taking care of their little bundle of joy with the help of a nanny that they need to build their own private chic clubs to feel better about themselves.

Motherhood is not supoposed to be easy, nor is it supposed to be all fun and games. Rav Dessler says that love is giving (loosley paraphrased). You develop love for someone by giving to him or her, not by luxuriating in a spa while your one-and-a-half year old takes lessons in Italian.

Pitfalls of the Great American Dream

In an article about class in literature in the NY Times (where else?), I found this quote:

"What persists is the great American theme of longing, of wanting something more, or other, than what you were born with - the wish not to rise in class so much as merely to become classy."

And that is, after all, what America is all about, isn't it? The desire to get ahead, to better ourselves in some way or another. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but somewhere in that yearning to get ahead lies a dissatisfaction - even a disgust - for what one has, what one is in the present. The American Dream is a wish to escape what one is for something more glamorous, more classy, better.

And while I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to better oneself or one's conditions, I do think there is something inherently wrong with that constant, nagging sense of disgust with what you are and who you are. There is something wrong with always wanting more and never being content or satisfied with what you have.

"Who is happy? One who is satisfied with his lot."

Even God Is Single, So Stop Giving Me a Hard Time

Quote of the day by Karen Salmansoh, author of "Even God Is Single":

"It's easy to become married. Millions of people do it every year. If you want to pressure me to become something, hey, why not pick something a little more challenging—like an astrophysicist."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Is There No Decency?

Ok, I try not to make fun of people who feel very passionately about a cause, because I do believe that passion and dedication are what change society and initiate progress. However, can I just take a moment to point out a new phenomenon - the lactivist.

Granted, breast feeding is very, very important and definitely the healthiest choice for a baby, but nursing mothers everywhere, did you maybe not consider the fact that nobody wants to see someone breastfeeding her baby in public. It's not that it's socially unacceptable - like seeing two gay men hold hands, as is suggested by the article - it's merely that it's something that should be done in private.

There are plenty of things relegated to the private sphere, not because there's anything wrong with them, but merely because as limited as it may be, this country still does have a modicum of decency left and would rather leave certain things behind closed doors, and breastfeeding is one of those things.

But lactivist is a kinda cool word...

Prada at Wal-Mart?

"Dear God, what if Wal-Mart sold Manolo Blahniks in the shoe section? Or stocked copies of Dwell and the New York Review of Books in the magazine aisle?"

Ok, so honestly, the real reason I wanted to post this article is because the lede above is so super-awesome that I could not resist.

But the article does actually point to a real issue as well (imagine that!): as the NY Times has been insisting class matters. The Wal-Mart that appeals to lower and middle income families by selling cheap products in bulk is not going to be able to easily transform their market and appeal to higher-class consumers as well. People with money do not shop in the same stores as poorer people, they do not live in the same neighborhoods, or send their kids to the same schools.

And while that may not be the worst thing in the world (after all, a capitalist society is going to inherently have some sort of class gap), it's not necessarily a great thing that these two groups don't associate with each other at all. There's nothing wrong with some people having more money than others, but there is something wrong with people being segregated into categories based on that distinction.

So if it takes Wal-Mart selling Prada to integrate our society, well then let's all hope Wal-Mart figures out how to do it. And until then, that lede is still super-awesome...

I'm a Liberal Arts Major, Do You Want Fries With That?

So, apparently I will get a job when I graduate. Now that's a relief. I guess there's hope for my do-you-want-fries-with-that degree (because, my father says, that's the only type of job you can get with a liberal arts degree...) after all. Though, I'm planning on law school anyway, so this was a non-issue for me. Though, in all honesty, I'm not so sure I buy the proposition that a liberal arts degree prepares you for a job, but hey, if it'll convince someone to hire me, I'll keep my mouth shut.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

On Time Traveling

I am in the middle of reading a really interesting book called The Time Traveler's Wife right now. I can't decide if I like it or not yet, I just think it's a really cool concept. The way the book is written and the concept of time travel just makes the whole book so different, and that's kind of nice. In the end, the book is a love story, but it's so not typical. It's just intriguing. The way the time traveler time travels back to his wife starting when she is six and he is in his mid-thirties, but at the same time when they first meet in real time, he hasn't yet traveled back to her, so she knows him but he doesn't know her yet. The way the whole thing plays with your ideas of time. It's interesting. I'm not sure it's good yet, but it is very, very interesting...

Overprotection, Laundry, and Kissing Boo-Boos

Mothers have an innate right to be overprotective. It's just one of those things they do, along with laundry and kissing boo-boos.

I think because I'm out of the house so much and my mother has better things to worry about than me, I sometimes forget that, and it's funny for me to watch an overprotective mom and daughter. I don't think it's a bad thing - on the contrary, within some limits I think it actually is nice to be shown on a regular basis that you are loved (I know that overprotected daughters may not feel the same, but...). It's just funny to me. Overprotection of a twenty-year-old is just something that strikes me as weird, in a good way (it's strange as in striking).

But maybe that's just because I don't live at home anymore.

Tired and Cranky

Did you ever realize how hard it is to be objective when you're tired and cranky? (And how hard it is to tell when you're tired and cranky?)

That said, moving into my dorm has made me cranky, tired, and frustrated, but I am now all moved in (well, except for the fact that all my skirts are draped across my desk because I forgot hangers). My bed is made, I have some semblance of food in the fridge (c'mon, peanut butter and jelly totally cover all the major food groups), and I am satisfied. Tired, cranky, and grumpy, but satisfied.

The end. Good night.

Friday, June 03, 2005

My Turn ... A Work in Progress

So, I've been tagged to perform five random acts of kindness by STX. And this post is just to say I'm working on it. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I was the recipient of some random acts of kindness on my way to Baltimore this summer, and now it's my turn. So, I'll get back to you soon.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

What Else Is Kosher Here?

"In Baltimore we have Glatt kosher Krispy Kremes."

And do you have glatt kosher milk too?

(Disclaimer: I am not a mashgiach and have absolutely no knowledged of the actual kashrut of donuts in Baltimore.)