Month: March 2015

One of the things I’m trying to repent of

Friday night I didn’t sleep that well. I had slept late in the day (it was the last day of my cold, so that’s why I did it), so I think I just wasn’t ready to get to sleep again when night fell.

Saturday night was different. I was up up up! But it was because I had been doing a whole lot of thinking worrying about school. “If I transfer here and major in….” or “If I transfer there and major in…” and “If I take this over summer,” but “… then I won’t have time for…”

One of the things I’m trying very seriously to repent of–and this is really an ongoing effort, like quitting smoking, for example– is not worrying. It’s easy to ignore when Jesus said not to do it, but hey! He did! He freaking did, and I know it, and even if I can’t eloquently quote the verses, the idea is written on my heart. But the evil of worrying actually goes beyond disregarding Jesus’ words (which I’m sure some people probably just think of as “pretty good advice” more than as commands). For one thing, it’s self-destructive, and it can hurt relationships and productivity as well. It goes something like this:

I’m worried. I’m anxious. Now I can’t sleep. Next day I can’t concentrate. I’m not doing things as well as I should! More anxious! Stressed out! Maybe this extra latte will help! Oh no, I just blew $4 on a stupid latte, and I’m definitely not getting a better night of sleep tonight now! Just got home, cranky… Husband is happy! Why is he so happy? Oh, nothing to worry about, that’s why!

And so on. It’s ugly and terrible, and I can understand why people with legitimate anxiety disorders seek professional help. As for me, I’m not ill. I have the ability to wind myself up, like above, for example, or–by the help of God–to obey him and just chill and trust in him and depend on him and realize that I can’t control everything, and I’m glad I can’t anyway!

The other thing about worrying is that, at least for me, it’s breaking the first commandment. My priest talked about this last week. He was saying how really whenever you sin, you break the first commandment because you put something else before God–whether it’s money, your own will for something, or anything. You prioritize something above God’s commands, so really, that is idolatrous in a way. So in the case of worrying, I think what underlies it all is a desire to control life’s circumstances, the desire to secure certain things, and the fear of both the unknown and particular scenarios we imagine (one of the scenarios I fear is my husband dying, for example). When I worry, I’m trying to intellectualize and in some small way control–or make myself believe for a little while that I am controlling–and really, to make myself God. Maybe I am only trying to be the god of my own career! Or the god of my own physique! But there is only one God. I can’t be god of anything in my life. God is the only god, and he is god of everything–career, physique, salvation, character–everything, whether something I tend to overanalyze and stress over or not.

It’s a continuing thing. I have to consciously tell myself not to worry about certain things. Sometimes when I say I am “researching” certain pet topics, I have to be honest with myself and realize, No! You are trying to amass data so you can analyze it and determine a bunch of contingency plans! And you’re crazy! And you know you must stop! And increasingly, I can just stop. I can pray, and God helps me move on.

So Saturday night, I was in bed obsessing about some school things. As usual, I was planning contingencies. “If I get into SDSU, I will take X in Summer and Y, Z, and W in Fall,” and “If I get into UCSD, I will take A in Summer and–”

I cut myself off because I realized what I was doing. I said, Hey, you’re not even going to find out if you’re into SDSU or UCSD or both or neither until April! If you can’t stop from worrying, at least wait to worry until then!

And I chilled myself out. Then I had a fine night of sleep.

The next day, two weeks early, totally by surprise, I got the news that I was accepted into UCSD! I slept quite well last night, and surely part of it was knowing where I’m going to study next fall. Part of it was being classified as a resident student (huge financial relief there). But part of it was a most blessed time at Mass. Part of it was the mindfulness of Lent. Part of it was knowing I had let it go the night before!

The wonderful thing about repentance is when you think you can’t do it, yet you continually ask for help–or when you realize you can’t do it, and you really relinquish your idea of control and both ask and allow God to do it…. and he does! I know God could do so much more awesome stuff for and through me if I would just relax a bit more and willingly depend on him. I learned that when I learned to swim–but I’ll save that story for another post! May God bless you! Praise Him!

Rant (value of dialogue).

The thing is I’m tired of everything that seems to get ‘freshly pressed’ or commonly discussed. In the last several years, I’ve noticed two changes in journalism that are increasingly annoying me. The first is that nobody writes professionally anymore, except maybe in source material like AP reports and medical journal articles. If it’s in a newspaper, magazine, or especially online or on TV, expect there to be a tone as if the story is coming from somebody you went to high school with, not a professional who takes pride in balanced, fact-based reporting. Also expect cuss words or at least slang than would never have made it into a mainstream paper five or ten years ago. And you know what else? I’m sure a lot of writers think it’s totally cute and clever, too–but I’m seeing this really common thing where people who are getting paid to write news are using made up words. I see it a lot on NPR articles (because yeah, I have to admit the NPR news app is my favorite news source on a daily basis). Aren’t writers paid to write because they majored in English and know all the words that the rest of us don’t (but can understand from context)? Do they not teach the values of “concise” or “succinct” writing in journalism classes anymore? The “pyramid” writing scheme?

Anyway, the second thing I’ve noticed a lot lately is this need to discuss the things we think we need to discuss. We’re writing about discussing things. Maybe we’re not writing about actual things, but we’re writing that there was a conference for this issue, or a protest over that one. A bunch of bloggers wax passionate and hope they’re going to get Internet-famous, slacktivism accomplishes zero change, and… eh, it’s just all so boring to read anymore.

I like dialogue and all. I mean, I’ve taken a lot of discussion-based classes with emphasis placed on cross-cultural arguing understanding appreciation endless talking discussion. But the bottom line is that it’s pointless. We can talk all day about how the U.S. needs to discuss race issues, but that’s really not what the U.S. needs. Black people don’t need to be discussed, they just need to be treated fairly. There are practical steps to take to make that happen–same for gay people–and I’m all about marriage equality, affirmative action, and all kinds of things–but I’d like to read more about people actually doing good and making these things happen, and less about some intellectuals’/professors’ over-analysis of dreadlocks or Aunt Jemima. Long story short: discussion is good, but only if it leads to action; discussion is not, except perhaps inside a classroom, a worthy end itself.

There are just so many topics I’m tired of seeing. Let’s discuss breasts, and how they should be viewed this way and not that. Let’s discuss gender, and how you think it’s malleable and I don’t. Let’s discuss gas prices. Let’s discuss Van Gogh. Let’s discuss the obstacles that [insert favorite minority or women] face in [insert favorite field]. Let’s discuss the latest product that wouldn’t be even slightly interesting if it weren’t just 3D printed for the first time! I don’t know, is this just what the Internet is now? I remember 10+ years ago, when I’d go online with my mom’s AOL dial-up account, and there was so much to discover. I found people, friends, I’d never have been able to connect with otherwise. So much information! So much imagination! But now I feel like there’s just a ton of repetition and clickbaits. Whereas a Google search used to come up with reputable .edu pages back in the day, now I get Huffington Post and dozens and dozens of pseudoscience crap websites.

Honestly, it’s because everyone is online nowadays. Back then, it was only geeks–and it was not cool to be a geek yet!

But I guess if I have a point, it’s that all of these pointless discussion-based articles and blog-posts rarely lead to any real, thoughtful, continuing dialogue. They don’t lead to friendships. They don’t lead to change. They don’t lead to understanding. They lead to arguments in the comments section, and a cheapening of what “discussion” really means.

I miss the old Xanga days.