Realizations

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1. Sweet things are too sweet anymore.

2. Nine hours of sleep still is not enough.

3. Remembering takes twice the effort it used to.

4. I can’t eat all I can eat anymore.

5. Tiny Tim’s death in A Christmas Carol will always make me cry, even if Tiny Tim is being played by a frog puppet.

6. Somehow, weeks of nervous eating doesn’t necessarily make you gain weight–it makes you lose it.

7. Cats always think the world’s about to end if you try to trim their toenails.

8. Eggnog should only be consumed about once or twice a year.

9. There’s no such thing as too much salmon.

10. i don’t have to do homework. So binge-watching SyFy shows is completely acceptable.

Who Will Buy

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Christmas shopping. Such a delightful activity. There’s decorations in every shop window, Christmas music filtering down from the mall speakers, and lots and lots of discounts.

I shop maybe three times a year. Once in the spring to get fall clothes on clearance, once in the summer to pick up odd hippie clothing and a few Christmas gifts, and once a few days before Christmas. The Christmas shopping experience is always the most intense. I’m buying for other people then, not for me, which makes me think twice as hard. I know what I like, but figuring out what other people will like is both extremely fun and extremely nerve-wracking.

That process is not what I’m here to talk about today, however. I’m going to talk about advertising.

Walking around a mall is exhausting. Number one, there are tons of grumpy people everywhere. Not just people–being around people is exhausting enough, speaking as an introvert–but grumpy people.

Number two, the advertising. The advertising is exhausting. Online and elsewhere. A thousand larger-than-life images of photoshopped men and women, ersatz stock photo families, shiny gadgets and gizmos, story-tall displays of whatnots and whozits.

All of these posters and displays say the same thing: buy this, or you won’t be happy, healthy, successful, beautiful, desirable, lovable, whole…

Online, it’s even worse. Take a few moments to scroll through the health and beauty page(s) of any online news source. A thousand glistening, digitally altered images show you “perfect” skin, “perfect” eyebrows, “perfect” eyelashes, “perfect” everything–perfection that can be yours if you buy this product, watch this tutorial, purchase this brush, invest in this brand.

Not like the site was paid off to write those kinds of reviews in the first place. Not at all.

The greatest irony of American culture–or any culture, really–is its insistence that we’re all good enough just the way we are while simultaneously insisting the opposite.

Advertisements of an aggressive nature operate similarly to the TLC show What Not to Wear. In this show, concerned family members of someone who dresses according to her (or occasionally his) personal taste and comfort enlist the help of two expensively-dressed and overpaid snobs to tell their loved one that their life is a mess because he or she doesn’t dress according to current fashions. These “consultants” convince this previously happy person that he/she is in fact unhappy and ugly and take the person on a shopping trip to buy her things that will make her feel pretty and happy again. They also change her hair and how she does her makeup to make her look acceptable to their standards of beauty. At the end of the show, there’s a “big reveal” party to show all the person’s loved ones the glorious results of a simple wardrobe change. Everyone cries. The recipient of the makeover is crying because the emotional journey of discovering her new, conformed self is over. Her family cries because their loved one is finally “normal” and “pretty.” The consultants cry because…well, pretty sure they keep onions in their blazer pockets for such occasions. I cry because I don’t like shows that take advantage of people, and I could have spent the last thirty minutes of my life a little more wisely.

Some advertisements do the same thing as this show, or try to. Before I encounter the add, I’m content–with my face, with my hair, with my wardrobe, with my figure. The advertisement, however, presents me with an Ideal. The advertisement makes it obvious that I don’t measure up to this Ideal, and I’m suddenly tempted to feel inadequate. Why can’t I look like that? But the advertisement assures me that with the purchase of the product it presents, I can be returned to my previously content state and live happily ever after. At least until I run out of or wear out the thing and need to buy it again.

Advertisements create the problem they promise to solve.

Now, lest I trigger any knee-jerk reactions, I realize that not all advertisements are like the aforementioned. Most advertisements (store displays, etc.) give you polite reminders like “Hey, that thing you already like or genuinely need? It’s on sale this week! Just thought you’d like to know” or “This thing here might solve a problem you already know about, but you can take it or leave it, no biggie!” This kind of product promotion supports both consumer and producer.

But a lot of advertisements–and ladies, let’s be real, you know what I’m talking about–say “You’re clearly inadequate. But if you buy this thing, you will become adequate.”

I understand why companies advertise the way they do. People get degrees in advertising. It’s a science. The science of selling things. Despite my concerns about how things are advertised, I am grateful that people buy things, because every time an item is bought, someone somewhere gets paid and can feed himself or his family, pay the rent, pay the heating bill. That’s important. That’s very, very important. People gotta eat.

However, a day of shopping at the mall, the typical hive of more aggressive advertising tactics, leaves me mentally exhausted. All day long my subconscious has been grappling with image after image of what I should look like and be compared to what I do look like and am. I buy several items and my mother (the best shopping buddy ever) buys several as well. A few items she bought are early Christmas presents for me.

And I put them on and looked in the mirror. Yes, they make me feel pretty. And look pretty. I am deeply grateful for them. But, as my mother assured me today and assures me daily, I was pretty before I even knew those items existed. And I’d still be as pretty without them. Things, after all, are things, and they can’t fill a hole. They can’t make a person. The clothes do not, in fact, make the man.

The thing is, I am in possession of something no money can buy. I have a deeper contentment than any trinket or bauble could ever bring me. I’ve been given other goals besides looking like the fictional people in the catalogs or having what they have.

Christmas time is more than “a time for paying bills without money,” but “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open up their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Contentment oughtn’t to rely on the procuring or possession of things. Not at all. Contentment, properly planted, finds its roots in heaven and grows downward. Then the heart is free to buy (or sell) for the benefit of others, with the knowledge that the best gifts are yet to come.

Beautiful

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You know what’s beautiful?

The Christmas lights in the windows of your parents’ house as you drive up the long, dark road that leads to their front door.

What’s additionally beautiful is that you get to stay there for a long, long while, reveling in Christmas and sheltered by their love.

Adding to that beauty is the phenomenal weight that has been lifted from my shoulders. I wrote that sentence in passive. Do you know why? Because no one will be grading this blog post. No one will be grading anything that I write for a very long time. Because I won’t be writing anything for a grade for a very, very long time. So there.

Yes. The lights in my parents’ windows was enough to make me put on my brakes before I pulled in the driveway, just to look at it and cry a little.

The Big Bad Woolf paper got a high A. I don’t know how my other classes turned out yet, but I don’t care right now. I am happy and healthy and home and all is right with the world. At least my corner of it.

Good night, dear readers. My your days be as merry and bright as mine has been today.

As the Prayers Go Up

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The things and people I pray for:

  1. For the ISIS situation to cease, somehow.
  2. For everyone harmed by the atrocious acts of terrorism happening across the globe.
  3. For the families of the children who died in a taliban attack today.
  4. For wisdom for our government’s leaders.
  5. For all the homeless people.
  6. For everyone stuck in a hospital.
  7. For everyone with coughs and colds.
  8. For God’s churches everywhere.
  9. For lost and wandering people.
  10. For peace on earth.

[Untitled]

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I don’t know what to do.

I really just…don’t know what to do.

I was up until 2 last night/this morning. I was studying for an exam, and none of the information was sticking. I also had to write two essays for a take-home exam in a different class. I wrote one. It was finished at twelve, and I had barely looked at the material for the in-class exam.

My brain gave up at 1:30. I fought my way to bed by 2.

I got up at seven. My brain hurt, and I was still not done studying. And nothing would stick.

Then I blinked. The exam was over, and the other one was turned in. Fumbling through the day was not that stressful, after all, and everything is done. For the time being.

Two of my three classes are no longer the boss of me. The really hard ones.

And now I don’t know what to do. My brain is empty, my eyes are dry, my lips are chapped, my body is flabby from skipping running to get schoolwork done, and I don’t care about things right now.

My hands itch. The kind of itch that won’t be satisfied until I pick up a book or write something articulate, quickly and frantically, late into the night. My brain is still trying to form thesis statements and cohesive outlines for potential papers. I keep thinking I have assigned reading I have to do, a novel to read, at least a scanned article from my professor, but there’s nothing. Nothing to write. Nothing to read. Nothing left at all.

I could do anything. I could work on my novel. I could buy Christmas present online. I could draw something. I could work on a poem. I could write in my journal. I could write a play. I could watch a movie. i could do any number of things.

But I cannot form a thought. I cannot raise a finger. I can only sit and stare at the wall, overwhelmed at the magnitude of what I have completed, of what is behind me. What has been done.

I don’t know what to do.

A Little Longer

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Several things that are very hard to believe:

  1. I had just started writing a 5000-word paper a week from yesterday. This paper is now complete.
  2. A week ago, I still had that paper and my presentation for Friday hanging over my head.
  3. A week ago, I had eaten almonds and an apple for dinner.
  4. A week ago, I was still trying to finish reading a book that I was supposed to finish by Monday. I finished that tonight.
  5. A week ago, I was bone tired. I’m still bone-tired.
  6. A week ago, Christmas was a week further away.
  7. A week ago, I had no idea what I was getting everyone for Christmas.
  8. A week ago, Christmas break was so, so far away….now it’s not.

The Fourth Friday

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It’s felt like Friday every day this week.

I’m so confused.

I keep finishing things. Projects that have been hanging over my head all semester. Books I never thought would get completely read. Assignments I thought would never end.

But as of tomorrow, it’s all over. Friday finally gets here–the last Friday of the semester.

Well, there’s exams, but at this point, who cares?

…who am I kidding. Me. I care. Pick me. Sunday night you’ll see me panicking a little again, this time about the exams on Monday.

But next week will go just as fast, be just as satisfying, and will take me (at last) to Christmas Break.

Post-Assignment-Submission Euphoria

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And I turned that 5,664-word sucker in to my teacher’s credenza today. No more Big Bad Woolf. I’m a free woman.

Well, actually I’m not. I still have assignments to work on.

But I don’t care. Not right now. The semester’s biggest, baddest dragon has been slain, and I feel to light. So bubbly. So happy.

So, so tired.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back to my hard-working, diligent self. But I need to erase four days of tunnel vision to do that. One evening should be enough.

Back to the usual programming tomorrow.

Still Still Furiously Writing

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The body of the paper is done. It is 5,145 words long.

What remains is the introduction and conclusion, which will probably add up to around 600 words or more.

My brain was so tired I took a break…to do all the homework I’ve been missing because I’ve been working on this paper. And to write this blog post. The thought was that if I write my blog post early, that will streamline my intro/conclusion writing this evening when I get back from work at 10:30.

Because nothing makes me work harder than the last minute.

I’ve reached the word goal, though, which was more than I ever dreamed I’d be able to do a week ago. I didn’t even have an outline. I’d only done half my research. I had a billion other things on my mind.

What a week can do, huh?

Last week, the Bibliography of Death; this week, the Big Bad Woolf; next week, Exams.

Onwards and upwards.

Still Writing

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I’ve plugged away all day, and gotten a lot done. I have now written 3,220 words of my 5,000 paper. I am done talking about Orlando and tomorrow I can move on to writing about To the Lighthouse.

Admittedly, I did the fun part first.

I haven’t done any of my other homework, nor do I plan to. That will get done when the paper gets done.

Good night.