Friday, March 23, 2012

It's That Time of Year Again

This such a weird time of year as a student. It's the time of year with the most amount of work per week, but when we students have the least amount of energy and brain power. I've got about four assignments due in the next two weeks and a test, and then three exams. At this point I just want to go home and start my summer--especially with the gorgeous, teasing weather we've been having lately. I'm focusing so much on what I'm going to do with my free time (when I get it) that it's so hard to concentrate on the tedium of writing essays and reading and researching.

I read in Psychology (can you tell what my favourite subject is?) that the delay of rewards is one of the hardest things for children to learn about. I'm not sure I was successful in that stage of life! I'm just kidding, but sometimes it's so hard to remember that I have to do all this work so that I can go home and enjoy the time to myself and being back at work and writing and spending time outside. That going home is the reward. But my motivation is having a very hard time cooperating with this promise. SO, maybe it's silly and consumerist, but I've set out a list of tasks that I must complete this weekend in order to go out and buy myself a new dress I've been drooling over at H&M. Right after this post I'm going to dive into one of the essays that has been the hardest to start so far. If I get a draft of that done, as well as a "reaction" that has no particular due date and if I finish the research for another essay... then the dress is mine. I'm trying to be a little bit strict with myself because I'd rather just go out and buy lots of summer clothes for no reason... but I can't justify that if I haven't been working hard. So wish me luck on my weekend goals! I'm going to work hard at delaying my rewards--because I know that when you delay rewards, they are that much more enjoyable when you finally get them, especially after some hard work.

I recently finished A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. It was an interesting read. The writing flowed really well, so it was hard to put down. It was about a girl who grew up in a Mennonite community. I think what was most interesting about it were the details about everyday life that the author drew attention to. It's hard to explain, but she sort of recognized things that you realize you are always noticing too but could never put into words the way she did. I loved it. I love that kind of thing, because it's something I try to do but am not very good at in my own writing.

A movie that everybody should watch is After the Wedding. It is a Danish movie. What a roller coaster! Another tear-jerker, but I seem to be embracing sad movies lately. It wasn't entirely sad, it was just incredibly clever at getting you attached to characters without realizing, especially the characters you think you don't really like. It did an impressive job of revealing the multiple facets a single character can have. It was beautiful. And the acting was great.

I also recently watched 50/50. I personally love Joseph Gordon Levitt. It was a great story, and Seth Rogen was a cute best friend character--except there were too many Seth Rogen-character inappropriate jokes for me to entirely like it. I also don't really like Anna Kendrick, but she was right for her character. Once again, in a movie of funny (genuinely funny, some of them had me laughing out loud) and stupid jokes, there were some amazing moments. It portrayed a tense mother-son relationship, and some heart-wrenching human-reality moments. My favourite part was the end, particularly the very last line, which I won't spoil, because everybody should probably watch 50/50 as well. It makes me cry, but it left me laughing til my stomach hurt--my roommate can vouch for that.

It seems so weird that I've been living in this room for almost a year and that after the next five weeks I'll probably never see this room again. Someone else will completely make it their own next year and any trace of me will be pretty much gone. Alanna and I will write in the closet like those before us, but I know, seeing the pictures of this room last year, that it will never be the same room ever again. But it has blessed Alanna and I with peace and harmony. I couldn't have asked for a better roommate.

I'm sorry that this post is so ragged and random.

I hope you are all managing OK wherever you are in your life!

Your friendly neighbourhood

Friday, March 16, 2012


That's it. I can't take it anymore. The weather is too nice to go back to working. I'm still in my room, when I should be outside, but at least I'm not doing something as stuffy as working...for now.

I'm not sure what I need to write about today, but I need to write about something. This kind of weather is better for everything. It makes me happier, and it gets me inspired. This is why I love Summer so much. But maybe it's Spring I actually love, but I give Summer all the credit, because Spring is the kind of advanced-screening of Summer. Spring is the wonderful time when you're finally relieved of the cold, miserable, darkness of winter. And what a relief it is!

I've been thinking a lot about decision-making lately, and curiously enough, the Psych chapters I've been reading have been saying a lot about healthy decision-making techniques. What struck me most was their description of two kinds of decision-makers: satisficers and maximizers. Satisficers choose options that best satisfy their needs, even if it is not the best option. Maximizers agonize over choices, seek to make the best possible choice, and then agonize over the consequences. It's always interesting for me to have this kind of thing highlighted. It gives you something to work towards. Obviously being a maximizer is not a very efficient way of making decisions--but I definitely am one. The thing that I am able to realize, though, in reading this from an objective perspective, is that there is no "best possible decision." Just like how Utilitarianism doesn't really work because you spend so much time weighing the positive and the negative aspects of a moral choice, and can only predict the consequences (there are many more facets to the utilitarian theory and John Stuart Mill denies that you need to go through a process of giving value to every aspect of the outcomes). Even though this may sound cheesy, whatever choice you choose (of the most sensible options, of course) will be the best option. It just depends on how you deal with the consequences of your choice. I'm sure there will always be some sort of undesirable outcome from every choice, but if you behave like a satisficer, you can concentrate on the positive outcomes. Be satisfied. I guess allowing yourself to be satisfied is a challenge in itself. There's always a tendency to say "what if?" Life goes on, and, if you're following one of the philosophies I follow in life, everything happens for a reason. You make every choice in life for a reason, and it ultimately leads to something you could never expect it to lead to. While it's fine to wish we had done something differently, we shouldn't let the what ifs ruin the choices we actually make, or distract us from moving forward on the paths we choose. I've had the experience of being in a very dark situation, which was darkened most of all with regrets (in fact, most sad, bad situations are full of regrets). It was only when I realized that I was wasting my life away wishing I hadn't done this or that that I was able to move out of that situation. I could also not imagine that I would ever be entirely happy ever again. But that's why it's important to trust time to smooth out the wrinkles. So even with decisions, if they've been made and steps are carried out to confirm them, they may not always turn out right at the beginning. It's tempting to say "shoot I'm so stupid" and be disappointed and blame ourselves, but it's also important to try and make the best of it.

I was reading a whole chapter on health and well-being in my Psych textbook last night. That was also very inspiring. First of all, there's amazing research that has been conducted, showing that thinking positively and having healthy ways of dealing with conflict can actually improve your immune system and lower your risk of getting things like heart disease. Studies revealed that being hostile or experiencing chronic stress (these two things often find themselves in a vicious circle) can significantly increase your risk of heart disease. I think it's magical that nature actually makes it more healthy for you to have a generally positive outlook on life. This is not to say that our bodies can't handle it when we have occasional stressful situations, because we're bound to have those and they can be big or small. It's just about being able to take steps to confront the issues and deal with them in healthy ways. One of the ways they said to get through a stressful situation is by writing about it! I take the more extreme form of this advice by writing down my thoughts for three pages every morning--and I can tell you, as I have before, I am a much happier, healthier, more centred person for it! When you write things down, you are able to take a step back and look at the things niggling your brain and come up with solutions objectively. They say only to write things down when you're having a problem. But sometimes I don't even realize I'm having a problem until it comes out in the pages and I'm like "oh, that's why I've been so irritable lately." And many problems are not solved in one sitting of writing. But it's still neat. The other cool perspective I liked was them matter-of-factly saying "stress does not exist objectively in our environments, it results directly from the ways we think about events in our lives." I love it. So simple, but it was such a wake up call for me, having it put into those terms. Alright, I think to myself, I can do something about that!

The other suggestion they made, that I'm going to try to take up in my life (especially this summer--hello biking!) is to take thirty minutes out of your day every day to do some "moderate" aerobic exercise. That seems simple enough! And just that small amount of time every day will improve your health, mental health and mood. I wonder why it's so hard for us to justify doing that. For me, it's getting my special exercise clothes on and walking somewhere to walk on a treadmill, etc, etc. It feels like a big hassle. But on the days I don't feel like changing, I can always just go for a brisk walk somewhere. They said you don't have to lose your breath or get your heart rate up too high, just MOVE for thirty minutes a day, especially in this society when so few opportunities are provided to get just a little bit of exercise (thanks elevators, cars, escalators and so on).

I've been feeling great these past couple weeks. Maybe it's because I'm learning about cool things, some of which I've mentioned above. But I think it doesn't hurt to have glorious, warm weather. Interesting how something like weather can completely affect my overall mood. It seems unfair that I should be denied a good default mood when the weather changes. But for now, I will embrace it. The next challenge is getting my work done despite the summery, laid back weather!!!

Your friendly neighbourhood

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Is Romance Dead?

I realize that I've started with a rather morbid title... but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I wonder sometimes what relationships are coming to these days... especially with the romantic comedies people churn out.

I just finished watching One Day with Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway in it. I was all ready for a nice love story and a happily ever after. It was a wonderful love story. They are friends for years, and never give in to loving each other until they are much older. Then (and sorry to ruin this for anyone who hasn't seen it)... THEY GO AND KILL HER OFF. I get SO frustrated by that. Someone said "that's real life." I don't watch romantic movies to see real life. I watch them to see beauty and romance. I don't want the lovers to be separated by death because it's just so hopeless. I think this is just my present mood, because I've nodded approvingly at "realistic" love movies before.

That brings me to my second point: I say that I watch romantic movies because I like happily ever afters and running after each other at the last minute in the rain, etc. But of course part of me can't help but wish things that happen in movies could happen in real life. The romantic gestures and words and speeches and heart-stopping moments. I know I'm still young... but it certainly seems like they just don't. That's not to say I don't believe in love. Love is an integral part of all our lives. But love isn't easy and free and effortless... it's bloody hard work. It's exhausting and painful and wonderful and sad. It's like facing your greatest fear (which, for me, is like walking a tight rope forty feet off the ground). You don't know what's going to happen--if the person you love is going to handle your love properly or if they're going to let you fall. But it happens in life, humans can't help it. But those intense, passion-filled moments that they like to emphasize in movies? Those don't happen--or at least they don't happen gracefully--in "real life." Who really can think of the perfect monologue in those intense moments in life? You're readily able to think of all the right things to say when you're in bed later that night going over it and over it in your mind. I don't know about anybody else, but my mind can't think cleverly in "important" moments. I wasn't even able to handle my first kiss (or my second and third, for that matter) very well. I just looked surprised and he ran away.

It seems like the passion you feel when you first get the love of your life for yourself (I'm hypothesizing here) doesn't last forever. It seems like there might not even be a defining moment when you find the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with. Maybe in your heart, but it's not some kind of breathless, loving-gaze-ing, sound-the-orchestra moment. You don't turn to someone one day and say "I love you, [insert name here], I'll be yours forever" in a dramatic voice. On a positive note, here is how I see love: it's a long, winding road. It's not a moment that lasts forever, it's several moments. It's every moment. And sometimes there will be times where you can remember why you love someone and sometimes there will be difficult times where you might forget, and sometimes you have to start loving someone for a different reason than you started out. But there is a willingness in two people's hearts to keep working through the muddy patches, and each other's growth, if it's the right two people. Now I know some people might think I'm being too romantic even about this, but that's how I see it.

This is kind of an awkward subject when you get down to it. I can say, "I hope some day I'll find someone to share that with" or "I'm just glad I've got a few years yet before I have to any of that." Either way it sounds silly and I'm really not sure which one is true. But what I would like to point out, is that I'm sure romantic gestures would be incredibly awkward in real life and that romance isn't what makes love. Love is more than wooing. Life doesn't work with romance, at least not all the time.

That brings me to how I feel about relationships. In days of yore, according to my mom, people did this crazy thing called dating. Going on a date with someone didn't mean you had to be in a relationship with them. You actually saw different people to see if you liked them. You certainly didn't jump into things like people do now. These days, everything is rushed. There's no more holding out. I feel like the more you drag something out, the better it is when you finally get it. There's "no time" for that these days, I guess. People don't have the patience, maybe. But I've learned that I need time to decide, and I won't rush. If whoever I'm seeing wants to rush things and doesn't want to wait for me to feel ready to be in a relationship... then it's not right. These days I'm usually pretty good at telling from the start whether I like someone or not. Sometimes I worry though, if it will always be me saying "nope, he's not right, forget it." I worry if I'm too picky, because sometimes "he's" not right for very minor reasons. I just don't want to pull someone in because I'm ignoring my instincts, let them believe everything is going well, and then be hurt when I decide to actually listen to myself. I'm learning to listen to myself in the first place. It's not worth other people's feelings to be indecisive.

I hope I haven't been too cynical. It's just another one of those things I'm always trying to work out in my mind. Maybe I'd do better to leave it alone and let it be. I think I'll rent an old classic love story next so I can get my "happily ever after" fix. The oldies know how to do it right.

Your friendly neighbourhood