Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Notes from an Anxious Traveler

First of all, I apologize for my long hiatus! I'm afraid winter quarter finals and preparations for my Spring Break trip to Europe got the best of me, and for the last week and a half I have been on said vacation with my I'm afraid the blog was neglected in the meantime.

Walter and I are currently in Venice, enjoying all of the beauty, art, music, and good food the city has to offer. We have also spent time in Arles, France and Mallorca, Spain, as well as a day in Barcelona, and I have quite a few stories to tell. I am still working on processing the experiences and I am sure that quite a few will be recounted here in the future...but for now I will simply jot down a few thoughts.

1. For the anxiety-afflicted, travel becomes a veritable minefield. Fortunately, I have a wonderful travel partner who is absolutely amazing when it comes to my nervous tendencies, but sometimes they still get the best of me. While it is not always possible to use the self-soothing techniques I might employ at home, I have narrowed in on a couple of things that consistently help no matter where I am. Focusing on the breath is a good standby, of course, and always the first thing to try. Also, a cup of tea and a pastry can cure just about anything. And sometimes, the key is simply to slow down a little. It is impossible to see everything, and taking a little nap when I get overwhelmed doesn't mean I haven't used my time well.

2. Dogs make my life better, whether I'm in Seattle or Spain. Just seeing a dog eases my anxiety level, and there are plenty of adorable dogs to be seen. In the places we have traveled, people seem to love their dogs and simply accept them as part of the environment. There are a lot of dogs off-leash but none of them are aggressive, or even particularly concerned with other people nearby. However, I might make a bit of a fool of myself when I coo at every canine that passes within sight...

3. Unexpected things happen when you travel. This is a problem for someone like me, who likes to know what is happening at all times. It especially becomes difficult with the language barrier, which really exacerbates the feeling of helplessness. However, in the end things tend to work out. Even when you lose your fiance at a train station in France and meet up with him in Spain twenty-four hours later. But more on that another time...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Guilt, Molasses, Slugs, and other Slimy Things

For those of you who have been following my blog, you will recall the mishaps involved with baking my mom’s cookies. Just in case you had become complacent in the thought that I have conquered the cookie once and for all, rest assured: my ineptitude came into play once again tonight.

One of the main ingredients in the cookies is molasses. I realized once I had started making the cookies that I was running low on molasses. Why this didn’t occur to me earlier in the day when I was at the grocery store is a question that I asked myself, but still haven’t found the answer too. However, I determined that I had enough to make one last batch.

In an effort to get every last sticky drop from the bottle of molasses, I screwed the top on, turned it upside down, put it in the microwave and punched in twenty seconds. I checked after ten seconds but decided a little more time couldn’t hurt. I shut the door, punched the start button, and went to turn on the oven. Behind me I heard a sinister crackling noise, and then a sudden boom! I spun around and opened the door, revealing a scene much like the one on CSI I was watching involving a pipe bomb. For those of you who know better than to microwave sealed bottles of molasses excessively, let me assure you: the combined aroma of caramelized sugar and carcinogenic melting plastic is not pleasant. I still have a headache.

Which brings me to the main topic of conversation: I skipped class today. Yes folks, this is a confessional. I woke up, considered showering and getting ready, and then composed an email to my professor and went back to sleep.

I don’t do this often. I have missed two other classes this quarter, once in the same class because I overslept, and once in a different class because I was sick and in the middle of tech week. Do you remember the perfect attendance chart in elementary school? Oh, how I loved those little foil stars lined up in a row. In high school, I rarely missed class even if I was sick—I was too concerned about having to make up the work or missing something important. In college, I miss a few classes a term usually due to oversleeping or illness, but even when I am sick I usually attend class (I have even been sent home by a couple of professors). However, I think I can count the number of times I have deliberately “cut” class on one hand. Maybe on a couple of fingers, like my thumb and forefinger.

Responsibility is an admirable quality. Dependability and timeliness are fantastic traits. (Okay, so maybe timeliness, especially in the morning, is not always my strongest suit, but at least I always try. Blame fashion.) However, I have found that the slimy underside for these respectable goals is a guilt-driven need to please the people I look up to. Why did I want the gold stars? So that my teacher would be proud of me. Why didn’t I want to miss class in high school, even when I was sick? I was afraid of getting a lower grade and disappointing my teachers. In college, I am afraid that if I miss class or back out of other responsibilities I will be perceived as a flaky college student who isn’t ready to deal with the real world, and my professors/advisors/boss will look down on me as such. Guilt looks a lot like fear and people-pleasing sometimes. If I miss an assignment, sleep through a class accidentally, or under-perform on a test or paper, my first reaction is to be worried about what my professor thinks. It’s the same for work or extra-curricular activities. I hold myself to a high standard—one in which I never forget anything, run late, or get too overwhelmed to handle everything. The guilt and fear that inevitable slip-ups create can simmer and build pressure, until set off by the stress of finals or some other precipitating factor. What happens then usually creates a much bigger mess than if I had simply taken the time to care for myself the way I needed—i.e., allowed the molasses bottle to empty naturally rather than overheating it.

When I called my mom this evening I explained that I had taken the day to grocery shop, clean house, do some cooking, work on homework, meet with my scene partner, and also spend time curled up in my new pajamas watching a favorite TV show and drinking tea with my puppy. And instead of berating me for my irresponsibility she said something along the lines of, “Good for you for making a choice and not beating yourself up about it afterward.” Note: the conversation did NOT include anything about me being an ungrateful or lazy daughter. Who would have thought?

One final note: after taking my dog out for her evening potty break I was scratching her belly and came upon a slug stuck in the curly fur under her arm. Slugs are not easy to extract from dog hair, and this specimen was no exception. Finally I got the little guy free and as he squirmed on my finger I delivered him outside. I’m sure I’ll spend much more time worrying about decisions or mistakes I make, but for now, my microwave is clean, my dog’s fur is slug-free, and I don’t feel guilty about skipping class.