05 October 2008
That makes me wonder even more about the relationships that do work. The ones that don't tend to stick in our craw and we try to figure them out. The relationships that work best offer us a place of respite and comfort, a place where we can take communion for granted, in the very best sense. They become those rare and treasured spaces in life where we know this is how life is supposed to be. Trying to figure out why they work might jinx them.
I think though, really, we're just as clueless about why those work as about why others don't. It's like asking a happily married person how they knew their spouse was "The One" (assuming they believe in soul mates). They almost always give the highly unsatisfying answer, "you just know" or "it just works." Thanks guys, really helpful, thinks the single friend. That does nothing to help me know whether the way my girlfriend and I relate "works."
Currently being a person who dispenses such an answer, I'm sorry. But that's all I've got. Yeah, shared values and goals are important, bringing out the best in each other, and similar backgrounds can be helpful. But I didn't even know some of what the best of me was until I was dating my husband. Some of my values evolved through or simultaneous with my initial friendship with him. You never really know yourself or another person completely, so how do you even know why exactly you relate the way you do?
A friend once advised me, back when I was a single lass trying to make a final decision about a relationship I wanted but couldn't seem to get functioning smoothly. She told me, "You know the relationship will work when in the midst of problems, you know you will crawl through anything to get that person back." She said that not discounting the above-mentioned factors, as well as things like maturity and just liking each other (which often falls surprisingly low on people's list of priorities). But she wanted to highlight that almost irresistible love which flows naturally in good relationships and must flow most strongly in a marriage.
Two things to say about that idea. One, in pondering that idea I came to discover the limits of my love for that particular gent--in certain situations, I knew I would do the crawling if I had to, but not because I wanted to. The natural limits of the love I had for him reflected the limits of our relationship. Later, when I dated my husband, I discovered within myself an unlimited love that reflected the "it just works" nature of our relationship. Don't ask me to explain why, cuz I have no idea. But that's how it worked.
Two, while my friend gave that advice as a description of a relationship "just working", it can also be read as a prescription for how to keep moving forward in any relationship, regardless of its natural functionality. That's really what love is, in its essence--sacrifice of self for another. Being willing to crawl even when you don't want to, being willing to sacrifice both your petty demands and your real rights, being willing to wrap your efforts as a free gift to another person--that is love. That is the divine life in your everyday experience. "To love another person is to see the face of God," as they sing in Les Miserables. And the best part is that divine love is always an option for us. Whether or not a relationship clicks is irrelevant. Everyone I know can be loved, and with the grace of God I can be the one loving.
31 March 2008
"I could go on listing my Christian accomplishments, but I think you can see that I was very serious about my faith, and that I am quite capable of analyzing religion from the inside out." (from here)
What's fascinating to me about this--and many, many other similar articles I've read recently--is that longevity and sincerity of experience is regarded as a sufficient qualification for making judgments. I'm not saying the author lacks rational capacity. I just find it interesting that no one brings up skills in analysis as a component of their rhetorical ethos. The typical story goes,"I was really committed--a true believer. If even I realized it was all a lie, then it really must be!" Someone could only lose strong religious faith because it isn't faith in anything real. And somehow once believing it was real--but eventually being able to see through all the lies--gives a person special insight into truth. So the story goes. Experience, rather than rational capacity, is what elicits trust from the audience and forms the basis of the author's assertion of his right to speak.
Often study (sometimes impressively extensive) is also invoked as a qualification, which fits a little better with the argument that being a "true believer" is inherently irrational. But that's not always the case. The conversion experience--whether to religion or atheism or something else (like activism, the hot new post-Christian morality for religiously disillusioned Gen Yers)--carries psychological hallmarks, no matter which direction you're turning. (Many of these authors don't seem to realize that applies to atheism, too.) That's what readers identify with, that familiar experience. That's what they trust, because that's what they know.
The ironic thing is that these particular versions of the atheist attack on irrationality are based on experience. Not that experience is inherently irrational, or even that these authors are themselves irrational as they abandon their religion. (Some are, but a surprising number thought things through quite carefully, and fought very hard to keep believing.) But none of these authors set out the logical syllogisms that eventually convinced them to become atheists. They all record their stories--and reader comments are either praise from those who identify or rebuke from those who don't. Each side has its case, but nobody seems to be making many converts without the shared experience that gets a hearing.
O, the postmodern world! Veritas, quo vadis? ~pronounce in British accent, strike breast for emphasis~
08 February 2008
26 January 2008
My friend Sara and I were shopping the other night. It was one of those friendship forging experiences--not because we weren't friends already, but because shopping reveals some fundamental things about a girl's attitudes about herself, her priorities, her personality. It was a night to remember. Also, we got a 1000-piece Klimt puzzle. All's right with the world.
Anyhoo, as we trolled the mall I shared some of my shopping philosophies, whether Sara wanted me to or not. She told me I should blog them--probably to get me to stop talking about it long enough to let her buy some shoes. So, at the risk of plagiarizing every person who's helped me learn to shop, here's the extended version of what I blathered to Sara.
My Rules For Shopping.
1. Know thyself. This isn't about knowing your style preferences—those are changeable, and may determine where but not necessarily how you shop. This rule is about knowing your personality, habits, strengths and weaknesses. Do you procrastinate? Are you a details person or a big picture person? Are you a planner or spontateous? Do you mentally juggle with ease, or is your mind occupied with one thing at a time, in the present? Are you decisive or indecisive? Impulsive or hesitant?
You need to know these things because you need to understand how you relate to shopping and the boundaries necessary to being clothed appropriately and having money left over for bills and such. You also need to be aware of how shopping affects deeply personal issues—body image, social position and relevance, lifestyle (especially when the one you have and the one you want don't match), age (in our beauty-obsessed culture in denial of death), money (put your money where your mouth is, actions speak louder than words…). You may already know shopping, say, makes you feel like a pile of crap. And you know that shopping makes you feel like crap because all overweight you wants is to look sleek in that vintage pleated mini-dress, but instead you look like a pear wearing a smashed paper fan. How often do you lose the smashed paper fan and buy a tent instead, in an impulsive fit of of self-loathing? How much clout and internal space are you willing to give those feelings? How much more do you pay attention to them than to your true dignity as a human, or to what your clothes say about you to others, or to how your wardrobe relates to what you want out of life? Knowing the emotional and social underpinnings of why you buy what you buy will help you sort out your shopping style—and develop and stick to good shopping habits.
Even the less dramatic factors make a big difference in successful shopping. For example, if you're a procrastinator, don't buy something close to what you want and keep looking with the intention of returning thing A later—because you won't return it, and then you will have spent twice the money you needed to, or you'll have clothes you don't really want. Don't even make that an option. Enjoy the freedom of preventing situations that don't fit your natural habits.
2. Set goals and keep them in mind. It's pretty easy to either shop with a wandering eye or avoid shopping entirely—which can mean buying things you never actually wear, whether out of impulsive desire or frustration and inexperience. Keeping in mind what works for you, set specific goals for shopping: where and when you will shop, a budget, what you need. To set good goals, you're going to need to pay attention to why you set the goals you do, and what methods you adopt to achieve those goals. If you want a total wardrobe overhaul but you don't have $10,000 dollars handy, you'll want to prioritize—a good suit for the upwardly mobile, comfortable yet stylish clothes for the mom whose only time for herself may be getting dressed. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself aware of your goals: make lists if you're impulsive or absent minded, shop with budgeted cash if you're watching your wallet, shop with (carefully chosen!) acountabili-buddies if you're indecisive or you need help staying committed to your goals—or if shopping depresses you. Eventually these goals will become second nature, and your shopping will be more effective and a more positive experience.
3. Consider clothes an investment, and don't settle for less than what you want. Don't settle for cheap imitations of what you want—get good fabrics, for example, that match your lifestyle. Don't buy silk if you don't go to the dry cleaners, unless you really think you can incorporate that habit. Don't buy a lot of high heels if you can't walk in them, unless you're really committed to learning (and anyone can! but not everyone wants to). But watch your intake of the polyesters, the acrylics, the plastics. They don't feel as good, they don't look as good, and they don't last as long as natural materials. You're only going to want to replace them next year—the opposite of an investment. You're giving yourself an errand. If you're buying something you'll wear all the time, like a pair of basic ballet flats, get a version that will last, like real leather with comfortable soles instead of something plastic. And buy for your life—if you love suede shoes but you live in Seattle, you really need to get the good rain shoes, not the suede kitten heels. If you can only get one, you will regret the suede, I promise. And don't buy something that doesn't look right, even if you like it and it fits your criteria. Every body is different, as is every piece of clothing. You need to find the chemistry between the two that produces the best look and fit for you.
Be diligent in finding what you want (especailly difficult for the anti-shoppers, but truly worth it in the end). Don't spend your money, your effort, or your future on something that doesn't fit your needs. Keep in mind that leaving a shopping trip empty-handed because you didn't settle is a success!
Also, be diligent in researching clothing—fabrics, styles, fits. Get to know your body-type (not just what you consider your flaws) and understand what styles suit you. It's true, the fashion industry is generally not kind to those not shaped like models. But no matter who you are, you really can find clothes that look actively good on you, and reflect the self-respect you deserve and the personality and values that define you. Not to be a walking advertisement, but TLC's What Not To Wear is really a great show for understanding shopping in general, and this rule in particular. Many of us can't afford most of the clothes on the show, but you'll pick up a lot of insights about clothing, style, shopping, and what is worth spending money on.
Extra tips, especially for those new to shopping:
- Do not buy cheap shoes. Even if you don't regret it now, you will after four hours of wearing them, or after a lifetime of bad shoes when the bunions set in.
- Try to avoid marathon shopping, whether you love it or hate it. Visit your favorite stores briefly on a regular basis, sticking to your budget and list. Shopping does not mean purchasing; but those visits will familiarize you with your options. After trying on similar boots at three different stores, you'll know which ones feel right.
- Pay attention to sales. That doesn't mean running out and shopping every sale you hear about. It means finding out the sales of the stores you already shop. And don't neglect the clearance racks, or thrift stores and vintage stores. I have friends who look like a million bucks, even when they're casual, cuz they get lovely, good quality stuff affordably by exclusively shopping clearance racks.
- Learn to sew, or go to the cleaners for alterations. This will help update older items that still have some life in them, or adjust new items that need a little help. If you're feling really adventurous, you can experiment with dyeing—anything can go black, and white can go anything. Research your options before you act.