Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Out of breath, but breathing

I've spent the last three hours living an after-school special about Why You Don't Wait To The Last Minute To Assemble Your Applications. I guess this was a sequel to my 1L year lesson in Why You Always Check Your Legal Memo Word Count Before Saying "I'm Done" And Going To Sleep.

Anyway, I really am done now. Like it or not. And for the first time EVER, I felt an urge to run off steam. At 29, "firsts" don't come every day, but this was truly a first. So after I parked my car (legally -- check), locked it up (wheel lock -- check; faceplate put away -- check) and found the house keys I borrowed from T (in the locked car -- check), I suited up in some raggedy shorts and running shirt and WENT ON A RUN. All by myself. And not an obligatory run. I did that yesterday at the gym. This was a real "I actually want to" run. Cue the heavenly music.

Okay, so it was only a mile, and of that mile I only actually ran half of it: 2.5 blocks running, 2.5 walking, repeat. And I took the dog who had to do his business along the way. But for real, I came back sweaty and thirsty and exhausted. Yay :)

Now I am going to take a shower, await the return of my hero (T, as usual) and hopefully meet some friends for drinks and pub quiz where I will forget all about September and the Great Fellowship Debacle Quest of 2010. Bring on October!

Monday, September 27, 2010

This is not a post about weight

In high school, I was proud of the fact that I didn't care about weight. I was a 95-pound skinny girl who looked like she was still waiting for the puberty train to roll around. When my friends would talk about how little I weighed, I would roll my eyes and remind them that at our 10-year reunion (ha) I'd probably be the heaviest of all of them. After all, being skinny meant I didn't think about what I ate, so I was clogging those arteries and fast! Being in high school, everyone seemed to be self-conscious about something and for many of my girl friends it was about their arms, their thighs, their hips, or whatever. I never understood why they cared about those things. Didn't it only matter what we were like on the inside? Weren't they all pretty, regardless of their shape? Wasn't it good enough to just have fun together? I didn't care when a friend obsessed about her looks or the number on a scale, per se, but I was definitely baffled. And I'll admit it: I was smug. I could rise above such petty matters.

And that, I now realize, was privilege.

I've been paying more attention to issues of privilege lately. It could be because I've stumbled upon some really awesome blogs that talk about important social/cultural issues from perspectives I'm not used to. For example, I had never given much thought to naming and language issues in intercultural adoptions. And shamefully, I'd hardly noticed, much less thought much about, the ways in which mainstream society persistently "others" people with disabilities.

But now I'm noticing things that I do, and those around me do, with much greater frequency. Things like fetishize people of different ethnicities or heritages. There are some things I've long noticed but haven't been able to put a finger on... like the overwhelming dominance of male-ness in punk rock discourse and the persistent hate of "girl singers" -- of which I am quite guilty -- as if all girl singers have one single voice that can be hated on.

Looking back, I can see how easy it was for me not to care about weight when I didn't have any of the cultural repercussions of being outside the socially acceptable weight range. I had a flat stomach, clear skin and plenty of naievete. I didn't have to notice weight because it didn't affect me in any way. But I made no effort to try to understand the concerns of my friends who struggled with eating disorders and low self-esteem. Instead, I just thought they were hung up on something that they shouldn't be hung up on. And that line of reasoning sounds too damn familiar.

There are ways in which I am part of an oppressed minority. I am a woman, part of a class of people that are being systematically oppressed all over the world: laws (or social norms) dictating what we can/can't wear, normalization of domestic violence and rape, slut-shaming, denial of reproductive rights (no condoms for you!), undervalued work, etc. etc. I'm also a Hispanic American at a time when conservative talking heads have a love affair with portraying Latinos as criminals, perverts and dishonest sheisters who come here just to spit out anchor babies.

But I am also an oppressor. I have so much privilege it spills out of my mouth in the things that I say without my even realizing it. I come from a relatively well-off family. I'm college educated. I am light-skinned. I'm American. I am (temporarily) able-bodied. I'm young(ish). I'm straight. And yes, I'm still thin (ish). And that's what interests me more. How am I benefiting from the status quo? What do I stand to lose as people of color, people of other nations, people with disabilities, the poor, the working class, the queer claim a bigger space in the world? What do other stand to gain? How do we all stand to gain? I don't spend enough time listening to other voices on these issues. It's all well and good to think about it and talk about it with my like-minded friends. But thanks to some amazing blogs, I have been hearing from people I might never have heard from otherwise. And for that I'm grateful.

Monday, September 20, 2010

One in 10 million

I'm laying on the couch in long underwear, drinking my coffee almost the exact opposite of the way I prefer it. The dryer is running, the sun is shining, and the dog doesn't know it but he's going to the vet in about 90 minutes. Five out of the last six weekends have been spent either away or with out-of-town guests, and I do not intend to leave town again for several weeks. I'm enjoying this moment: settling back in to routine.

However, I am proud to announce that I've knocked off several of the things from my 30 Before 30 list:

#22: Ride a wave on a surf board

Over the last weekend before school started, I was in VA Beach with T visiting his family. Even though we usually spend that time catching up with his old high school friends and lazing on the deck with his parents, the weather was unusually perfect and we were unusually motivated to not be lazy. With minimal cajoling on my part, and enthusiastic prodding on the part of his mom, T loaded his old surf board into the car and we drove downtown to his old surf spot.

The water was extremely calm, with almost no waves breaking on the shore. Couple that with my ridiculously poor upper-arm strength, and I never did get up on the board. Even if I had, I probably would've chickened out and dropped before I had a chance to ride a wave, but we'll never know. Ahem. Anyway, what I did get to do was ride a wave in while laying flat on the board. It wasn't how I envisioned riding a wave on a surf board, but I'm still counting my surf lesson with my hot surf instructor as a win for my 30b30 list, because I made it all the way to the shore while clinging to that thing for dear life. I even got the sand in my suit to prove it!

#29: Go to a farm with my mom

Last weekend, my mom and I went to a farm in Red Oak, Virginia. It was a "working" farm, meaning you could help out with the animals and such if you wanted. We didn't. But we did go horseback riding in the backwoods, past fields of wildflowers, old tobacco barns and hidden whisky stills. We did pet goats and donkeys and rabbits and cows. My mom got to wander through a fenced in area full of various poultry - guinea hens, chickens and...more chickens? And we ate an incredible home-cooked dinner of corn on the cob, barbecue chicken, dirty rice, dill green beans, squash with onions and salad. Not to mention the sweet tea. Precious, precious sweet tea. And we sat on the front porch of the farm house in rocking chairs, looking out over the fields where bulls sat in bits of tree shade swatting flies with their ears. I had a great time hanging out with my mom, and she had a great time being around her "people" (animals). I'm really glad we got to share that experience.

#16: Go fishing

And then this past weekend, T & I had to go back down to VA Beach. (Long story.) While we were there, I requested demanded that we go fishing. Outside the odd outing with an ex-boyfriend or old high school pal, I haven't been fishing since I was a little kid and my grandpa would take us out to the lake by our family's cabin in the Shenandoah mountains. Sometimes we went up to PA to fish with my dad's cousin, who was a skilled fly fisherman and taught me how to string a line.

I'll be honest. The most tantalizing part of the fishing experience, to me, was getting to sit for a couple of hours in a lawn chair, drinking beers and reading in the sun. T gathered up all his family's old fishing gear from the garage, and we set off to a nearby fishing pier that claims to be the longest pier in the Atlantic. (Don't they all claim that, though?) A few dollars and a bag of bloodworms later, we were set up on our own little piece of the pier, with our Yuengling cans, New Yorker magazines and fishing rods cast deep into the Atlantic.

Less than five minutes after we arrived, a guy came over to give us his left-over bait (another bag of bloodworms, a can of nightcrawlers and a box of squid). T caught a croaker in the first hour, and I fretted over whether to toss him back as I bought a bag of ice for the bucket and tried to ignore his death throes. A leathery old man walked up to T as I was hooking a bloodworm and exclaimed, "You're letting her bait your line?!" to which T shrugged, "She insisted" and I turned around to defend myself, "I can bait my own line!" The seaman laughed, cigarette dangling from his lips, and told T, "Hang on to this one. She's one in ten million!"

That may be so, but I never caught a fish :) And to tell the truth, I'm kind of glad.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.... life. I can feel you filling my lungs back up with air and joy. I submitted my first (of two) fellowship application today and promptly shut my computer, saddled up the horse (dog) and went outside to feel the fresh fall breeze. I have spent a lot of the last several days asking myself why I continue to place myself in positions where I am expected of. Where I have to strive. It's not that I don't like responsibility... But there's do-your-job responsibility and then there's show-the-world-why-you-are-so-talented responsibility.

I guess anyone who is cocky enough to go to law school has at least a small narcissitic streak to them; some part that wants to show off to the world how good they are. We are all, to some extent, obnoxious oldest siblings trying to prove something to our parents. Or something like that. Right? No? Just me?

Anyway, I far prefer to just be quiet, keep my head down and do what I need to do to get paid. Yet once in a while I am presented with an opportunity and I feel obligated enough to pursue it, or the pieces just happen to fall into place. And that's how I got so stressed out over this fellowship. And now that I've taken a breather and gone out to spend an evening eating $3 burgers with friends and drank a few Octoberfest specials and shouted out across a bar at a law school classmate we happened to recognize and run into Best Woman at the park with her dog, I feel much better. Life can resume as normal.

I like to think of these little spurts of ambition as mere interruptions from my daily life, mere plinko tacks that occasionally send my life in a different direction (law school, I'm looking at you) but never actually *become* my life. I've got far too many more important things to do than worry about an application once it's been submitted. Like watch Mad Men with mabehbeh. But one good thing about those stressful times? They make me feel so much better about my life when it's all over.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cloudly with a chance of sky.

Here's the thing: I really just hate having a lot of expectations placed on me. I perform at my best when nobody is expecting much of me. So if you know me in real life, and you think I'm flighty, or disorganized, or lazy? Well, then. I've apparently done my job.

I got to law school by telling myself I was just playing around with brain teasers. But when it comes to actually setting firm goals, it's a flop. No sooner do I commit myself to doing something than I've found a way to weasel my way out of it, or sabotage it, or wait for someone to kick my arse in gear. Call it a high stakes version of performance anxiety. It's why I'd never make a good... oh, crap.

The thing is, when I know I'm good at something, and I just do it because I enjoy it and I don't care what other people think, there's no problem. Take schmoozing, for example. That's something I can do. Put me in a room full of people I don't know, and I'll come away with 20 business cards. Legal research... same thing. I LOVE me some Lexis Nexis! Ooh, or the best example? Boggle! I will kick your BEHIND at Boggle! And if I don't? Fantastic!! I love getting beaten at my own game: it helps me get better.

Here's what I don't do well: Deadlines. Writing my thoughts out on paper for someone else to read. Developing my ideas on a timeframe. Meeting the expectations of others. It's why I'm sitting here typing thoughts on a blog that virtually nobody reads, rather than writing them out for an essay that could make or break my shot at a post-graduation dream job. I just have a hard time making myself do it. And believe me, plenty of my procrastination efforts have involved psychanalyzing myself to death about this hang up. Be glad, o invisible reader, that I'm not boring you with the fruits of that labor here.

So I'll do what I always do. Wait to the last minute. Force it out of myself as I cringe, waiting for someone to scream at me for what a horrible job I'm doing. Cautiously open one eye and see the sky hasn't fallen as I've made my best efforts at getting people to give up on me. And eventually, submit what I've got, and hope it's enough, while telling myself I did the best I could. And maybe I'll be telling myself the truth. I just don't know.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Protruding stomach

I have a protruding stomach. When I sit down, my stomach hangs out and it looks like I have a big ol' gut like my dad's. I don't necessarily hate it. I've gotten used to it in a lot of ways. I do hate that the bottom half of me is wider than the top half. That much I do hate. But what I hate the most is the way T reacts to it. He tries to play it cool, and a lot of the time he does. But I can tell that he doesn't prefer my fatty fat round belly. And of course I don't blame him. I was pretty thin when we met. I'm expanding and it's hard to stop it. He deserves a wife that tends to her appearance. And considering he likes me better without make-up, tans and fancy clothes, it's not the hardest thing in the world for me to make an effort on this one front. The more I think about it, the worse I feel. And that's the cold hard truth.

On the one hand, I want to get in shape and take better care of myself because it seems like a good way to care for myself and show myself some love. On the other hand, I feel obligated to do it faster! quicker! better! because it's what my husband deserves. And to not do it is to be a bad wife, a lazy wife, a fat slob. This is real. When I feel that way about myself, all I want to do is crawl into a hole and give up. I start to make excuses about how when you start encroaching on 30 your metabolism slows down, it gets harder to keep off the weight. And that's true. I am mad that it's so much more work for me now than it ever was. I'm mad that I have to bust my butt to do what happens to T naturally. And I'm mad at myself for not being a natural at it.

If I were motivated from a healthy place, I would probably get a lot more done. This summer I stopped drinking beer because it seemed to be a major culprit of empty extra calories. But then the school year started. I've fallen off that wagon. It's hard to feel empowered and focused on the positive when there's a million deadlines hanging over your head and it feels like your future depends on each of them. I can't focus on more than one thing at a time: school reading, fellowship deadlines, keeping fit. These all require a lot of effort and I'm not in the habit of making any of them second nature. Right now, fellowship deadlines are #1. But after that? It'll probably be replaced by other job-searching efforts. And an endless litany of excuses for carrying around an extra 15 pounds will be sure to follow.

So instead of being motivated by feeling really on top of my game and wanting to take care of myself, I'm motivated by lingering glances and minute gestures that indicate my belly has not gone unnoticed. I'm motivated by shame and self-hate. And these are not very motivating factors in my experience. For some people they are extremely motivating: some people turn shame and self-hate into a militaristic regimine of dieting and brutal exercise that works wonders. That's really what I wish I could do. Turn my negative emotions into something productive. In moderation, it's probably a good thing. Better, at least, than wallowing, which is what I see myself as doing. Wallowing with the occasional fitful attempt at getting off the couch. But like a half-finished course of antibiotics, partial attempts at exercise inevitably make the malaise harder to beat. Sure, you're up and running one night, or even one week. But eventually you stop. And the next time you want to get up and try again, you remember how you failed the last time, which once again raises the volume of that little voice in your head saying, "What's the point? You always give up eventually." Until eventually that little voice is the only thing you can hear, and it's all but insurmountable.

I think I need a support network.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Big wheel keep on turning

So I am currently in Applying For Fellowships Hell. I've got a self-imposed deadline of Friday for the first draft of my project description. Going from laidback summer to the pressure and deadlines of finding a G-O-B is neither easy nor fun. Getting my reading done is about the last of my troubles at this point. Thankfully, I've been on top of it.

I will be happy when September is over, fellowship applications are in, and I can move on to other, less time sensitive (though not less competitive) forms of job-seeking. In the meantime, I've very, very grateful for the New Yorker subscription T got me for my birthday. Nothing like losing yourself in a biography of the head of the NIH to make you forget your troubles and get a good night's sleep.

I'm not the best at multi-tasking or even thinking about more than one thing at a time. But somewhere in the back of my head, I've vaguely recalling that I have a date with my mom for an upcoming weekend trip to a "working farm," which I thought meant a farm that is actually functioning, but my dad pointed out to me is probably a farm where the guests have to work! Um... But yeah, that's one of those 30 before 30 things I've put on my list, and I can't wait to check it off! Also, we have a wedding to go to in October, and I have plans to wax and spray tan before we leave... I've even talked my FFSIL (faux-future-sister-in-law) into going with me for the tan! Priorities, priorities, right? I'm also going on a back-to-school outing to a MLB baseball game, for the first time since I moved to the Big City, and my BFF is coming to visit with her little baby boy, my honorary nephew. Good things abound, if I can just not sabotage my efforts to pursue this fellowship.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me that I'll stay on track.