Friday, February 25, 2011

Paying it forward?

"A life lived for others is the only life worth living." ~Albert Einstein

We all know the meaning of paying it forward, right? Earlier this year (I think--it could have been the end of last year--I have no concept of real time anymore, but anyway), I signed this petition-thing on Facebook to do something nice for someone the next day which was supposedly "Pay it Forward Day." Now, I am the type of person whose conscience speaks WAY louder than anything else, so knowing that I signed this thing meant that I HAD to do something nice. What a great thing, right? Maybe for anyone else on the planet, but not necessarily for me...

I woke the morning of the supposed "Pay it Forward Day" (note, I have seen the same thing going around Facebook again--I know there's not national holiday for this event, but still) and I told myself, I must pay it forward today. So the day began...I dropped of K at school and had just a little extra time before my meeting with my professor. And the pressure was on. So that I would not have to grapple with living up to my deal, I was convinced I must pay it forward before this meeting. I was a little hungry so I decided to grab a bagel at Panera. And, as I parked, I promised myself I would pay it forward in the restaurant. It would be so simple. I would just pay for the meal of the person behind me.

SOOOO simple...or not. First of all, I realized I had no cash (as usual) but I told myself I could just pay with my check card--still simple, just not quite as simple as hading the cashier an extra $10 and telling her what to do with it. Minor setback but we were still good...or not.

There were no other customers in the restaurant. Crap. I was going to have to devise some sort of lunch plan. I could get cash and do some sort of drive-thru pay-it-forward-action. It would be okay...or not.

So I pay for my bagel and walk down to get my cup of water. Then, the door opened. Two men walked in. One was what I would describe as an outdoorsy-type--you know, with the big beard, plaid shirt, hiking boots, etc. And the man with him appeared to maybe have some special needs. Apparently they were regulars. All of the Panera employees knew them and they spoke with everyone. When the guy (not the outdoorsy guy) walked past, he said hi to me, too...and I said hi back. My palms were sweating now--Should I go with the original plan or just duck and run? Again, this conscience of mine speaks loudly and sometimes it distorts its messages. I felt I had to go with the original plan. I mean, what if I got tied up and did not get another chance to pay it forward? I must do it now, I told myself. So, great, back to the original plan...or not.

Since I was on the other side of the restaurant having this mental conversation with myself, I had to act quickly. The outdoorsy man had ordered while the other man sat down. I walked quickly to the register and, in my attempts to pay it forward, made a complete fool out of myself.

I panicked--I flaked.

I asked the lady if he (clearly talking about the outdoorsy man) had paid yet, suddenly realizing I am talking about the gentleman as if he was not there. So then I turned and asked him. He said he was getting ready to. And I said "Well, I would like to pay for your breakfast this morning." He told me I didn't have to do it and I told him I wanted to. In my panicking and flaking out, I became concerned that maybe he thought I felt sorry for him or something--or thought he couldn't afford breakfast or some other craziness. So I told him it was Pay it Forward Day and I had to do something nice for someone. He and the cashier laughed about how I "had" to and how I was getting it over with I paid, felt my face turn 10 shades of red, ducked my head, and ran out of there. Oh, and the grand total: less than $5.

And THAT was my "good deed." Or whatever it turned out to be. I blew it. I wrecked it. I felt like a fool and called my husband, who laughed at me because I somehow always turn something simple and supposedly nice into something humiliating--at least for me.

So, what's the point here? Welllll, why must we need a day to pay things forward? And why do we have to pay it forward to complete strangers? And why does it feel so strange when you combine the two? First of all, I don't think we should need a day to pay it forward. I do try to practice simple, random acts of kindness on a daily basis to people I don't know and will never see again. Yet, I am thrown a curve ball when I sign some silly petition. I don't like the pressure. I don't really like any pressure, so I throw myself into a PhD program--ahhh the irony...

Anyway, I have recently been having some rough days for a variety of reasons. I am working to change my thinking and my attitude. And I have come to the conclusion that, in order to do this, I need to work on rising above. And one way of doing this is to make every day pay it forward day--but my focus should not be on strangers, but on those close to me. All too often, I think we all forget that those closest to us need a little random kindness, too. Now, what deviates here, at least in my case, is that "paying" it "forward" implies that the niceness will be passed along to others and this will give you some sense of satisfaction--but that's not likely to happen in my case. I am sure those I am "paying" will not even recognize it. But I must rise above. I must pay it forward as a gift to others and, in turn, myself. I cannot do this as a credit or an I-owe-you or a promise to pass it on to anyone else. I must do it to be a better person--and to maintain some sense of sanity in the insanity which is my life. I must work to find intrinsic good in being a nice person ALWAYS, even if that is not reciprocated to me or beyond. I must be the example. Now, if I can just practice this.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." ~Gandhi

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Time Warp

Holy moly! Where did the past 5 years go?!? I felt like an old lady today. I saw a man with a 6 month old (I asked how old he was) little boy in a waiting room today and SOUNDED like an old lady talking about how my daughter is turning 5 and it seems like she was a baby not so long ago. What a nerd, right? But it's true...sort of. It didn't always seem to be going by so quickly in the very beginning when I was sleep-deprived and she had tummy troubles. Time also seemed to stand still during deployments and various other separations. So how does it now seem that she was an infant just yesterday? I assume I'm just nostalgic for holding and cuddling with my baby girl. Now she is so independent and growing up too fast. She goes to school, has her own friends, can entertain herself... I remember when I THOUGHT I couldn't wait for so many of these milestones. Now I want to just wrap her up and keep her away from that big world that's out there...but I know I can't. And so I guess in some way I long for the days when I could protect her from everything. But I'm still enjoying every moment, even if there are skinned knees, coughs, and hurt feelings. I suppose in many ways it is exponentially "easier" now that there are no diapers, she can communicate with me, she can get a snack on her own, etc. So as I prepare for K to turn 5--a whole hand--I will keep those memories close and move on with my old lady ways of remembering the good old days and looking forward to more fun to come with my growing girl.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Job Talking, sort of

I HOPE to finish my PhD next year--Spring of next year, to be exact. So, I am thinking about the job market. And in that thought process, I am HOPING that I will get places I want to work. And all of this means thinking about job talks. Just the sheer term irritates me. I mean, if you are giving or listening to a "job talk," you are a scholar and have made it to a place that such a small fraction of the population reaches, educationally speaking, and the term for this stressful, life-altering event it "job talk." Anyway, it worries me and I am already stressing out about those 7 letters of a term that could potentially alter my life in great ways.

Part of my issue with anything school/work related is that it sets my schizophrenia in motion. No, I don't think I have THAT bad of a disorder. I, personally, always feel like one person--a culmination of the individual who wears all of the hats that I wear. But in so many situations, I feel like I am forced to just take on one of those roles. To me, that's a lie. I'm not JUST a student or teacher or military wife or mom (though I wouldn't mind "just" being a mom--that's my primary role, I believe, and it is so awesome I could eat it up, but I digress). I am ALL of these things combined. And I think that's what makes me me. So, why do I spend so much effort trying to fit into just one of these categories? Why must I spend a job talk just talking about my school/work life? I, personally, think that being all of the things that make me who I am makes me that much more impressive of a candidate. No, I don't always handle things "gracefully" or without minor breakdowns, but I do think that sometimes I deserve a pat on the back for doing all that I have done and continue to do and will do in the future with all that's on my plate. I don't want pity--I don't need praise. I have chosen each of my duties because it's what I want to do--and without any portion of that I would lose a certain part of myself. So, I think just the mere recognition is what I would like. Since I likely won't get that, as the world of academia does not really fit with such a plan, I will give the beginning of my job talk (a year or more in advance) that I will never be able to share, but want to so bad, right here...

My name is Beth, but I will answer to "mom." I [am hoping to very soon] have received my PhD from the University of Tennessee. But, that's not really as big of a deal as my amazing daughter. She is MY teacher and she makes my world spin. So, I will be absent from this position any time she needs me to be. I also have two dogs [hopefully Sampson will still be around during this process] who call me mom. I will often be covered in dog hair--please excuse the mess. I am married to a Marine. The Marine Corps has largely dictated my life for nearly a decade. I have lived in 5 states, only moving out of my hometown once I married into the Marine Corps. I will be absent should husband leave and come home from another part of the world. I have been teaching for over 5 years now and I love that experience--it is the most rewarding job I have had outside of my family. You may be wondering about my research, and I will get to that in a minute, but before I do, I want you to know that, in the midst of this teaching and researching, I have done many other things. I have given birth. I have been a single mom while I sent my husband away to fight a war and perform other services to our country and others. I have spent nights in the ER--human and dog--with a sick kid. I have kissed boo-boos all better. I have given home health care to a dog. I run a household pretty much on my own. I have bought and sold houses, also largely on my own or with the help of a power of attorney. I have worked--sometimes two jobs at a time--to get to where I am in my educational journey. My husband loves something else as much as he loves me--service to his country. I don't get jealous; I try to take it in stride; but sometimes I cry. I didn't think I could make it to this place in my life, giving this job talk in front of you all, and I had obstacles. Without the support of my family, I wouldn't be here today. So, as you listen to the summary of a dissertation that took me years to finish, please know that this is not what defines me. It is a part of the larger puzzle which is Beth.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

LOST and found

Buzz and I have spent the last couple of months zipping through the entire series of Lost. It was something we talked about doing last year when we would see bits and pieces of the show but have no idea of the storyline. So we decided to wait until the series was over so we could just watch the whole thing all the way through on DVD. And we did. It was a little crazy--almost like some strange obsession. I think I have spent more time in front of the tv so far this year than I have in the past 5 years! I would have these crazy dreams that somehow incorporated my life into the life of The Island. I felt bad about myself for spending so much time watching a crazy tv show when I could have been and SHOULD have been doing things that were more productive--like school work.

But I didn't. I watched Lost instead. And during that time, I probably spent more "together" time with Buzz than I have in the past 5 years. And I found creative things to do with K, who couldn't watch the show for obvious reasons. For example, we would do puzzles with her back to the tv, we played games, we colored, we did math. I know, not the Leave it to Beaver family picture, but we had lots of family time.

So in the time and productivity that I thought I lost, watching Lost, I also found some things that I had been missing. I found family time. And I found out that I can spend a lot of time not doing school work and still stay on track. I didn't get any big epiphany from the series itself, though I don't see a problem with the ending as apparently many people did. But I got a bigger epiphany about myself and my time. Now, instead of making a deal with myself to lose myself and complete a tv series, I am making a deal to find more joy in everyday little things with my family. Putting off school work isn't so bad--I'm still (so far) making it through. And those moments spent with a little girl who is growing up way too fast are far more important than finishing that paper a week sooner.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nothing remains quite the same...

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." ~Nelson Mandela

Soooooo, I'm here at this blog that has sat dormant for almost a year. I didn't fall off the face of the earth. But I have fallen deeper into PhD-school-world. It's a little dark in here. In all honesty, I have thought about blogging a hundred times in the past year but I didn't see the point since very few people ever came here anyway. :) But now I am realizing that this might be therapeutic for ME. Sometimes it's good to write something other than a research paper and take a moment to reflect on awesomeness, like being a mom, or funny stuff, like being a mom in the middle of all of my other life roles. So, here I am...probably just for me but that's okay!

Here's the past year in a nutshell--my baby turned 4, my family went on our first trip to Disney World--and our second, Sampson started acupuncture treatments (it works) and became a vegetarian (he's also seeing another specialist--in nutrition), I turned 30, I traveled all over the east coast for fun and work, I passed my first comprehensive exam while my husband was in Africa, oh yeah-my husband went to Africa and Norway, my family went to a Jimmy Buffett concert (I got mean mugs for having a 4-year-old there), my dad had a heart attack (while my husband was in Norway) and bypass surgery (luckily my husband got home for that--and my dad's heart is doing well), I started work on my dissertation (which included spending time in a prison), I am preparing for two more comp exams and am in my last semester of classes (as long as I PASS said exams), my baby got her ears pierced (today) and we are planning my baby's 5th birthday. Through all of this I have learned the most important steps day-to-day in Beth-world are as follows: Take a deep breath--focus on what's in your control and roll with it--try to accept what you can't control and work on letting it go--have faith in others--believe in new beginnings--hug your daughter--hug her again--Take another deep breath...repeat.

What's next? More school, dog, mommy, and military wife stories...for whoever may visit me here. I'll try to be witty, but no promises. ;)

Right now, the reason that I am on this blog in the first place, is because I signed into my account to leave a post on another blog which I found through a Facebook post of another friend. Here's the link...