Saturday, November 21, 2009

Communication & Comunicacion

Living in Central America and being surround by another language I quickly came to understand better the importance of communicative-relationships. Having to learn Spanish, and the frustration and loneliness that came from being unable to make myself understood, brought insight into difficulties of interpersonal communication. I was a college graduate, a capable thinking adult, and yet I couldn’t carry on an effective conversation with a six-year old child. I remember sitting on the floor and playing with two young girls not being able to follow what they were saying to me -- then when I would speak to them, they would turn to their mom and ask what I was saying. We just could not communicate. I believe many adults feel the same way in their own native language – that they just can’t seem to pull out the meaning from other's words. And there seems to be a poignant difference in an inability to express oneself in an effective and satisfying way as an adult as opposed to as child. It is changes from a simple lack of experience or maturity to a kind of conflict between minds.

The miscommunication that happens between reasonable adult humans happens so frequently and powerfully that it can go beyond feeling like we're just speaking a different language to seeming as though we aren't even the same creature. I wonder at times if effective communication and complete understanding is even possible. Learning another language, I came to find that no matter how many words I knew and how used I got to hearing native speakers – there was still a fundamental difference in how they spoke versus how I spoke. Even when I felt I understood what they were saying, a part of me still wondered if there were subtle meanings in inflections and word choice that I was just never going to be able to pick up on. We were the same people, speaking the same words, and yet not ever perfectly communicating.

Of course the "language barrier" was there but even communication between two native speakers seems to have the same "barrier" because of the inherent imperfections in our methods of communicating. But...Perhaps that imperfection is necessary, and part of what makes a truly dynamic human relationships.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Remember the story of the Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree?

"In traditional versions of the story, it’s said that no matter what appeared, whether it was demons or soldiers with weapons or alluring women, he had no reaction to it at all. I’ve always thought, however, that perhaps the Buddha did experience emotions during that long night, but recognized them as simply dynamic energy moving through. The feelings and sensations came up and passed away, came up and passed away. They didn’t set off a chain reaction.

This process is often depicted in paintings as weapons transforming into flowers – warriors shooting thousands of flaming arrows at the Buddha as he sits under the bodhi tree but the arrows becoming blossoms."
     --Pema Chodron

To be able to experience "negative" emotion without getting sucked into the destructive cycle of feelings feeding upon feelings is something that I really struggle with and am working very very hard at. Worth it?

I'm sure it is. Throughout my life I have found myself caught up in the dangerous downdraft of negativity. What starts out as a small misunderstanding or hurt feelings quickly escalates into my life falling apart. Even when I know it's not rational. Even when my brain is saying "stop this! it's not a big deal!" Even when I understand that I'm just caught up in negative emotion...I still feel it. I still FEEL like everything is just disintegrating. However, there have been moments when I've been able to avoid this cycle of negative emotion... usually through focusing on something positive or distracting. But I feel like the story of the buddha is teaching something else. Not to dodge the arrows but to accept them as blossoms. I haven't quite figured out how to do that yet... But i'm learning bit by bit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I miss magnolia and olive.

I was looking at pictures of these beautiful babies and, like a shove, I realized they aren't babies anymore. I don't think I appreciated how lucky I was to live so close to these darling mini-humans. I miss holding their hot little bodies and playing with them -- and I miss the way that simple play brought immediate love. I ought to have treasured those moments more.

On sunday I was watching a little girl who had just learned to walk run across a wood floor and sliding around on it in her red tights sans shoes... and I thought about how mags is running around now. I'm missing that! I hate missing that...  and olive's toddler-talk and wiping sticky faces and hands and the sound of little hiccups.

And I miss watching their mother, and what a natural she was for knowing the perfect thing to do when someone was grumpy. It's captivating. Even being just a small part of that dynamic, by being around a real mommy with her babies -- was the most lovely thing in the world.

Monday, November 9, 2009

a new dress

My mom hasn't bought me clothes in years.

She used to buy everything for me. That or it was hand-me-downs from cousins. I really didn't differentiate or even care. I do remember the first time I ever bought something new for myself. My grandma had sent me birthday money and I couldn't find a toy that I wanted, so mom took me to the clothing department. I bought butterfly-print shorts with a matching top. I think I was in 4th grade.

Around middle school I started to "shop" for reals. For the first couple years mom came along, but after a certain point she just gave me my budget of money (or made me use my own) and sent me off into the stores for the hours I was willing to spend there. I think she was worn out. She would still buy me things from time to time, but after enough of my constant rejections of her choices she left me to my own devices.

I don't presume now to call myself a fashionable person. I certainly wasn't then, despite the years and HOURS and $$$ I spent hunting clothes. I think I went through the typical teenage-girl stage of "desperation to fit in through shopping" and just came out of it where I am now; aware of my personal style but without any driving urge to be continually expanding my style and dress.

And after the whirlwind of growing up I'm back to where I started. Back finally to a place where my mother can find something she thinks is pretty and suits me and not be afraid to buy it for me. Where we're once again close enough to understand what to give, and to be able to lovingly do so. I think THAT is the best part.

Thanks for the dress mom. It's perfect.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

I remember Dad always knew stuff. When we were kids it didn't seem so unusual -- Dads were always supposed to know everything, right? But then as I got older I realized my dad really did have answers for all my questions. Not just because he was dad, but because he was a man who made real effort in learning and understanding life. Not only did my dad know the names of trees on hikes and how to proofread my papers -- he also understood my frustrations with myself and how to use his own experience to guide the advice he gave me in directing my life and my choices. I've watched my dad and all the time he spends reading and researching and this has shown me the importance he places on learning and understanding. For me this is a virtue I value highly and I've tried to implement it in my own life.

It's kinda funny to me to think of all the times Dad used to say "You know Kirsten, you and I are a lot the same" when I was a child -- and how that is becoming more and more true. When I was a kid I used to get ticked-off at the phrase because it always seemed to precede some lecture on how Dad "knew where I was coming from" because we were both the oldest and were so similar... and of course I figured he had no idea because there was no way we were similar at all!

Now I can see that he did, and we were. And as I've begun to appreciate those similarities, I've found more. I've begun to see in my Dad all of the things (that I took for granted) for the value that they have. Not only personality similarities but even little things like learning to like gardening, classical music, and shopping at thrift stores.

I know it's a cliche but it's true what they say -- you don't really begin to appreciate your parents until you get older. I feel like I've only just begun to appreciate my father for all that he's done and all that he is. I have no doubt that as I grow older that appreciation will only expand and deepen in my heart. I love him. I hope that despite the dumb stuff I sometimes do and say (which I'm sure he understand since he used to do and say the same dumb stuff right?) he knows that I admire and rely on him SO SO much.

I LOVE you Dad. Thank you forever.

Friday, November 6, 2009

the right side

i parted my hair on the right side this morning.

for most of my life i've parted it on the left. i never really thought about why or about doing it any other way.

today when i look in the mirror i see a different person. which seems crazy because it was such a small change... and i don't usually feel this way when i dye my hair or change my clothes (much bigger changes!)

last night my brother had me look at a webpage he is designing because he wanted some feedback on how it looked. i talked to him about my impression of it and what he could maybe change. he said that in design most of the HUGE decisions you make are about tiny details; whether or not to include a 1/4 inch border around a photo or to do the text serif or sans serif, etc. These tiny visual pieces are what carry the design as a whole.

so maybe it's not so crazy to feel almost like a different person because of such a small change... maybe the smaller changes are bigger than the big ones because they are so subtle.

i bet a lot of things are like that.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


"We write to taste life twice;
in the moment
and in retrospection."

-Anais Nin