Perception is Nearly Everything, Sometimes

Like memories of what cannot be

Within the reign of memory

That shake our mortal frames to dust

– Hugh MacDiarmid

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1. Truth is relative

2. Except when it’s not, and you’re just wrong.

As John Mayer once said,

“You can be wrong and swear you’re right…some people been known to do it all their lives.”

But if something is wrong, does that mean it doesn’t exist? No.

Sometimes existence can be relative, too.

If you asked Professor McGonagall what non-being is, she’d tell you…. “Everything.”  *

* (“Where do vanished objects go?” “Into non-being, which is to say, everything.” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

Here are some examples of times I’ve been wrong:

In a journal entry dated early 2008, I wrote:

I  am old. I am ancient. I am decrepit.

I am a 24 year old undergrad.

Ahhh, the humanity.

… I feel like I have been in college longer than that Stifler guy from American Pie must have been in high school. The fact that I am IN high school when American Pie came out shows how old I am.

Sooo, I went with my dear Lancaster-ians (my English friends from my English university) to the fall convocation and realized that the freshman class of CU this year was born in 1990!!

I wore my sunglasses and tried to hide my smile crinkles, and then was literally paraded with the freshman and study abroad students (oh, there may have been a few grad students and transfers in there but who can spot them with the blinding light of youth surrounding you) past a bunch of cheering, whooping, entirely too perfect looking sorority sisters.

Maybe I have some sort of mental issue going on here, but this campus is making me feel ancient….

Part of me wants to the join the mass of my fellow 2002 high school grads and start having babies. One precursory glance at myspace shows that a large portion of my high school cohorts have babies.

But then part of me wants to make the most of being (relatively) young and revel in my last year of college, even if I am the new Van Wilder (the mormon version lolol).”

Yes, I thought I was ancient at 24. Wrong.

Here is another time I was wrong, in 1997. I was 13:

Bad Idea
Bad Idea

I found this while doing all of my de-cluttering (see other posts). It was empty.

Making pro and con lists are always a sound choice, right?

No.

Again, from 1997:

Baaaad Idea
Baaaad Idea

It’s a bit hard to read, but it’s a list comparing two boys named John and Glynn (wherever they may be, I doubt they are readers of my blog). One ‘good’ thing about John is that he is a ‘ghetto wannabe.’  But then again, Glynn would ‘make a better father.’  What did they share on the Bad List? ‘Wears hats.’

Needless to say, making this list was the Bad Choice here.

All kidding aside, how we perceive reality at any given moment is what’s ‘right,’ most of the time. I don’t want to go around in circles about moral absolutes or a lack of them (like murder), as that’s a topic for another day, but this is more about those of us who are ‘normal’ (functioning in society) and live out our lives in our own perceived reality.

I am one of the those people who finds meaning in everything. I’ve been that way since I was a child. I loved looking for ‘signs’ that I was on the right path, and I still look for those ‘God Winks’, or as some would say, coincidences. I love finding affirmation that the thing I believe is correct. And due to confirmation bias, our brains are pretty adept at doing this.

But it also means we can convince ourselves of untruths.

I’m not talking about a particular person or group of people or a set of beliefs. Because I think this just applies to everyone, as human beings.

I’m writing about this because I’ve been addressing my own mea culpa  as of late. Maybe it’s just becoming an adult, I don’t know. But I am seeing places where I’ve been wrong, even if I would have bet my life I was right, at the time.

Part of my ever-progressing journey into Letting It Go is accepting the times and places where I was truly….wrong.

I had this one idea perpetuating in my head for years (well, I’ve had plenty of ideas perpetuating in my head for years) and then one day a friend of mine told me, bluntly:

“Just stop.”

How does one simply enter Mordor  turn off an idea? It’s not easy. But once you accept it’s wrong, in some cases you really can

Just. Stop.

And some perceptions simply fade with time.  When I was a teenager, I literally believed I could, if opportunity presented itself, marry JC Chasez from N Sync. My best and I manipulated our movements in certain ways at N Sync concerts (trying to get picked to dance on stage, waiting outside certain doors or hotels) , so utterly convinced we were that if we could just MEET THEM, Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez would love us. How could they not?!?!

My first year of college, at 18, I began realizing how silly this seemed as  I was studying  in my psychology class how the adolescent mind quite easily accepts grandiose ideas

I don’t ever want to lose my dreams, my ambitions, or most of all, my sense of self ,  which has been shaping itself ever since all of the quirky incidents I’ve mentioned.

But I want to remember that while perception is everything at the time, sometimes…there are times we are just plain wrong.

And I’m sorry.

The Nostalgic Hoarder

That’s me. The nostalgic hoarder. With all of my talk of simplifying, and my blogged endeavors at letting go, there remains one area where I am/was  woefully cluttered.

‘My Memories’ I’ve called them, as my husband and I  moved them from Colorado Springs to Boulder to Fargo to Moorhead and back to Fargo.

‘Make sure we don’t throw away any of my memories!’ I insist with every move and spring cleaning.

In this new, smaller apartment (thanks harassing neighbors who forced us to move), my ‘memories’ have nowhere to live but the garage. So I’ve been going through each box, one by one, over the past months and trying oh-so-hard to downsize.

My 10th grade Science folder? I finally put it in the bin, 15 years later. My NSYNC seat cushion from Mile High Stadium? Oh, that will be kept forever. A collector’s item, for sure.

Here are some of my weekend finds:


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My favorite Sketchers, 2002-2004.

I don’t usually save old shoes, although these were a firm favorite mine. But I harbored them because they are The Shoes I wore when I met my now husband, Alex. I’ve saved the frayed jeans and blue velour hoodie I wore to the pub that fateful night, as well.

I’m a bit spacy, and excitable by nature.  Back then, in  late 2003 when I meet Alex, I was also still jet-lagged. So I don’t have a ton of memories of the event itself. My best friend Susan and I walked into the Edinburgh pub The Brass Monkey expecting to watch a movie, but ended up ordering Coca Colas and being teased by the barman in the black tshirt.

Alex.

I can picture the way he grinned at me, and how he flirted. But somehow, looking at these shoes makes it seem more tangible, and brings back those feeling I had in the pub. I can remember how it felt to walk in those shoes.

So, I wondered yesterday. Should they stay or should they go?

This was, indeed, a tough one. In the end, they’ve stayed, and I tell myself maybe one day they’ll be…..vintage. For anyone who wants to know what a backpacking teenager wore in 2003.

This is, perhaps, one semester's worth of notes.  What would the kids of today think?
This is, perhaps, one semester’s worth of notes. What would the kids of today think?

Next, I tried to tackle my memory shoeboxes. Each shoebox equals one school year’s worth of ticket stubs, passed notes, concert confetti, and birthday cards. As I went through these (and I still have some to organize, admittedly), I found cards from people who I honestly can’t place. Into the garbage they went. I found old glowsticks, presumably from a concert. Binned. But I kept the concert confetti, and I kept every one of my notes, including those above:  a small sample of one year in the life of Susan and Alana at Coronado High School.

The content of the notes is priceless. One of the notes contains apologies for tear stains. Most contain codewords and initials in an attempt to avoid interception by nosy parties. All include declarations of love for Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez and for each other, as BFFS and NFFs.

I’ll never toss these notes, and I’m so glad to have them. I wonder how today’s communication will be saved for the future? Snapchat is gone in a flash. The handwritten note ran the risk of falling into the wrong hands, but that was all part of the fun.

Next, I found a bittersweet look into my psyche, 2003…..

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When I found this, I could have literally cried. Here I sit in Fargo, 12 years older and none the wiser, and I feel the choice has been made for me. It makes me feel foolish to think I sat, as a 19 year old with the world at my fingertips, and contemplated choosing NORTH DAKOTA over California for college.

No offense, North Dakota. But really.

In the end, my best friend Susan and I ended up going on a student work exchange to Scotland instead, and the rest is history.

But I don’t remember writing this list. I remember applying to both MSUM and Santa Monica College and getting into both. I remember thinking MSUM would be a safe adventure. Ultimately we choose the least safe option of all, moving to Scotland.

This list went into the trash pile, out of pure annoyance.

And what of my box full of college papers and exams? I’ve been lugging around the answer to Hume’s Fork for 13 years.

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This  too went straight into the garbage pile, mainly out of embarrassment I couldn’t possibly get an ‘A’ on the same exam today. Thanks, short-term memory. No, seriously. Thanks for getting me through college.

Next….

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My more recent habit is keeping boarding passes, hotel maps, and other ‘memories’ in my carry on backpack. This means I’ve been hauling maps of London to Cancun, and have the correct walk-in massage information for Covent Garden  on my person as I drive up to Winnipeg.

It’s not laziness; I think I just don’t want to let go of my most recent travels. They seem so immediate right there in my bag.

But I took the step and moved them to a memory box – but only the mementos which held meaning.

And then, finally. Photos.

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Without this gem of a picture, I would never remember taking a swipe at a Britney Spears piñata (her crime: dating Justin Timberlake), nor would I remember the look of absolute glee on Susan’s face. I certainly wouldn’t have remembered wearing jeans up to my rib cage, and I doubt I would have been able to recall the on point way we all managed to look appropriately disdainful.

How could you, Britney? Justin was OURS. OURS, I tell you.

I don’t throw away old photographs. But I haven’t been amazing at organizing them and digitalizing them, either.

If there were a fire, I’d probably grab Alistair, Weasley and my bag of pictures.

(Alex would be fine to get out on his own, but of course he’s top of the list, as well)

I find great value in Scrapbooking, for those who have the attention span. I’ve started loads, and I love the first few pages I have.

Ha.

I think the best course of action is organization and photo albums, out in the open where people can enjoy them. Making digital copies is also important in case of things such as fires.

But I wholeheartedly believe photos are worth keeping.

So, by the end of the weekend I managed a few bags of trash amongst my boxes of memories.

Just some of the boxes:

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As fun as it was to ponder my past via memory boxes, it also felt good to through some of it away. Moderation was my guide, and I think it served me well.

If you are a nostalgic hoarder like me, here are some general tips I’d pass on:

1. If you can’t remember the person who sent you the note or the card, ponder it in amusement before throwing it away. Same goes for random objects and useless glowsticks.

2. Don’t be afraid to box up things you wish to keep, and then put them away. They’re safer in your garage than in your carryon backpack as you go from trip to trip.

3. If you can work it out, minimize the space ‘memories’ take up by condensing into smaller boxes which fit into bigger boxes, arranged by year or, in some cases by person (such as the ‘Alistair’ box).

4. Be wary of larger items of substandard collector value (such as my Nsync seat cushion, which I just couldn’t let go of). But I did throw away all of my NSYNC calendars, for example.

5. If something truly brings you joy, why let it fester in a box? See if you can find a new use for it.

6. If in doubt, throw it out.

7. But don’t be ashamed of nostalgia. We’re all human, after all, and our memories make up our lives. Little reminders of good times and good things can bring joy when you really need a boost. They can give others a boost as well.

And last of all, but most importantly…..don’t stop making new memories.

Yeah, so my dramatic teenage years are gone, and I can’t meet my husband again for the first time. But we’re making new memories as a family, and one day Alistair will be able to look back on things he doesn’t remember, such as the year he lived in Scotland, and we will be able to tell him about it.

We wouldn’t be able to tell him about it if we hadn’t gone.

Creating memories is much more important than saving them

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The very least that you deserve

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What do I encapsulate here as a joy-filled preschooler? Knowing I’m loved and with people I love and reveling in that security. It’s the very least that I deserved.

You deserve to be loved, by others and yourself. You are worthy of that love.  And if you aren’t finding that love in your current circumstance, you can change that.  As I learned in mindfulness- we cannot control what happens to us but we can control our own actions. Our freedom lies in the space between stimuli and response.

My two-year old is obsessed with the song “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift, and singing it all the time has gotten me thinking about the concept of self-love and how it relates to how others treat us.

My son and I shake our shoulders as we sing, “And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate….and the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake….heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break….just shake it off, shake it off, ooh ooh.”

This is so much easier (sung) than done.

And when I’m feeling really down on my current life, which is sometimes full of literal and figurative haters, fakers, heartbreakers and players, I need to find the strength from something other than the present. I wish it could always be pulled from inside my soul, but I’m not at that point yet.

Today someone called me a name. I don’t think anyone deserves to be labeled through name calling. It’s easily acknowledged to be a petty way to make a point, but the sting is the same. And we’ve all done it. But today I was on the receiving end and it helped fuel some righteous indignation. Which isn’t always good, but it usually feels good at the time.

I decided I needed to dig deeper. I needed to think about self worth and how mine was formed.

All of our life experiences differ, but I believe that there is a level at which we all deserve to be treated. A certain level of love and respect owed to us, by ourselves and our loved ones. It’s the very least that we deserve.

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We all deserve to have parents who will paint our vanity our favorite shade of pink, even if they don’t know how or don’t have the means to actually put a mirror in the vanity. Face it, this is just a pink dresser with two talons.  But it’s also a perfect encapsulation of the 90’s, with an Uncle Joey and Michelle poster, a Strabwerry Shortcake, and a “Talk to the hand.”  But I was so loved. We all deserve to have people who will paint our bedrooms our favorite color, and we need to appreciate the effort and look less at the missing pieces.

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We all deserve to have friends who will come and play dolls on our couch, despite the cushions seemingly have been sat upon by centuries of bums. Those friends who judgeth not how the seat cushions are white and the seatbacks a tacky 80’s  (maybe even 70s; it was old) pattern, now indiscernible. We deserve to have friends who love us despite our yellow walls and who aren’t afraid to be with us, no matter where we live, because they like to spend time with us. We matter more than our possessions, and those who care more about things deserve pity (although they’d prefer presents).

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We all deserve to have friends who will go to Wal Mart with us on a school night to pick up the newest Nsync CD. Heck, we all probably had friends who did that. What we REALLY all deserve are friends who will go with us to Wal Mart on a school night to pick up the newest  Nsync CD WITH HAND WRITTEN SIGNS ON OUR BACKS. Nothing says “I love you” like walking around shamelessly with a girl who has “JC’s Only Space Cowgirl” taped to her back.  The less-informed shoppers may have wondered what “I’ll Be Good for Justin” really meant. Perhaps people thought we were cult members. They would probably be right. Everyone a deserves a friend to share in pop culture obsession, and late night phone calls and early morning ticket lines and terribly written fan fiction. Everyone deserves a BFF.  Everyone deserves a BFF who you know so well, you no longer recognize each other’s stupid ideas because they’re one and the the same.

I wonder who took that photo.

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Everyone deserves a person who will be there for you in the bad times. A person who will take care of you when they can barely take care of themselves. A person who will protect you with all of their power from their own personal demons. A person who loves you so much, they do whatever they can to be healthy so they can be the best version of themselves for you.

In this photo, my mom was just home from her first long-term stay in a mental hospital. I was 17. Both my mom and dad sacrificed so much so I could live a normal life while my mom was an hour away in an institution, and totally not my mom during that time. I was scared and confused, but I was also so well taken care of. My dad did everything he could to take care of my mom and myself and he all of a sudden had to be both parents! My mom worked so hard out of love for us to get better and get home to us, and she did. (But mad props to my friend Kristi who more or less moved in that summer)

Having witnessed how difficult mental illness can be, I know everyone deserves to be loved so completely they can disappear for months on end (in their brains) and those who love them will be there like they never went away. I saw this in many manifestations. My dad took care of my mom. My dad took care of me. My mom took care of me. I took care of my mom. I took care of my dad. We all loved each other enough to care for each other in the darkest of times.

Everyone deserves love like that.

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This is my mom a few months later, so you can note the comparison. She bounced back with a lot of therapy, and medication, and mental health care. But her motivation was her love for us.

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Everyone deserves to have experiences so perfect they will just as fun to talk about a decade later. Everyone deserves to have magical moments.  These usually have to be created yourself, and it makes them all the more rewarding. When I look at this picture of myself at 19, about to go to an Oscar party, I don’t see sparkles or curly hair. Well, I do. But what I really see is satisfaction, pride and confidence.  My best friend and I made this happen because we wanted it badly enough.  We worked for it. We dreamed about it. We turned our passion into an experience we will never, ever forget.  Everyone deserves at least one Oscar party in their life. It will look differently for everyone.  But everyone deserves to have those perfect moments as a human. They are short moments, but they make life. They’re worth it.

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We all deserve to grow up with someone, to change WITH someone, at some point in our lives. It doesn’t have to be siblings, or spouses, or family. It can be friends. We all deserve the experience of growth with a companion by our side to make the changes manageable. With my best friend, we went from taping signs on our backs to traveling the world.  We didn’t just travel to places like California or Europe. We also travelled together to Adams, North Dakota.  This photo is in my grandmother’s house in a town the size a few blocks. But my best friend and I found some defining moments there, amongst the gravel and the humidity and the lack of people. Sometimes it’s not where you are, but who you’re with, and I feel we all deserve to have someone to help us come-of-age.

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Everyone deserves to be protected. Everyone deserves to know that there’s one person who has their back, not matter what. Everyone deserves to know that someone will help them get through the day. That someone will be on their side. Everyone deserves to have one person who they can count on for anything. Everyone deserves that unconditional love.  When my son is in his father’s arms, or mine, he feels safe. He deserves that safety. He deserves to know that we will care for him and he can count on us. He deserves to know that we will pick him up when he falls, that we will be his biggest supporter and cheerleader and confidante.

Not everyone has that in parents. Not everyone has that in families. But everyone deserves, in some capacity, to have a person they can count on for the big stuff and the big emotions.

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Everyone deserves a kindred spirit. A person who comes into your life when you least expect it, but connects with you at your soul. Everyone deserves that one person who knows where you’re coming from, and doesn’t judge you, because they just…understand. Everyone deserves that person who has similar hopes and similar fears, to help make life’s journey less lonely, for both of you, hopefully.  Everyone deserves to make friends past adolescence, sometimes when you least expect it. I met this dear friend when I was 29, and I’m sure we’ll be giving each other advice at 79.  Everyone deserves a friend who is borderless, where time and space apart become meaningless. Everyone deserves to know they have kindred spirits out there in the world and they’re on each other’s side.

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Everyone deserves to bring joy to another. And everyone deserves to belong. Is nothing sweeter than seeing someone else happy because of your actions? Because of your words?  Because of your unspoken bond, conveyed through looks and sentences, meaningless to others?  There is happiness in inclusiveness, but also happiness in exclusivity. Of being theirs and them being yours. Of belonging. We all deserve to belong somewhere. And we all deserve to belong ‘to’ each other. The connections that forge us together lead us to great lengths for others’ happiness. And somehow their happiness is our own. It’s even more important in some ways.  Since becoming a mother, I get far more joy from taking my son to playgroup than I do from wheeling him around a store to shop. Both make me happy, but the act which he prefers makes all the difference to my day. I understand holidays and celebrations much more as a parent. The anticipation of seeing his joy makes me want to put up Christmas decorations in October. But I refrain. There are plenty of  less ridiculous opportunities to bring him and others joy, and to enlarge my circle of belonging.

We are all worthy and deserving. Life isn’t always going to hand us what we deserve. It’s often completely unfair. But I’m learning on my journey to wholeness that we as humans deserve to do our best to carve out the relationships which help us be happy, healthy people.