Friday, December 25, 2009

A Blustery Christmas Greeting



It's Christmas Day, and as I write this post from the dining room table of my parents' house, the snow continues to accumulate outside. The storm rolled in on Wednesday afternoon and has only grown more intense since then. I was supposed to fly to Miami at 6:00 this a.m. on my way to Rio, but the weather concurred with my initial gut feeling and decided that I'd stay put a few more days. Not to say that the snow itself prevented me from traveling; this is Minnesota we're talking about, where three feet of snow can fall and an hour later the plows have already cleared the streets and blocked in our driveway again, to my father's delight. I can only recall one actual snow day during the 18 years I lived here, which makes me feel a little robbed when comparing stories with friends from elsewhere, but anyway... It was truly my disdain for the chaos of delayed flights and last minute holiday travelers, as well as my mother's genuine love and enthusiasm for the Christmas morning tradition, that convinced me to postpone the trip until next week.

So there we were this morning, my father and I on couches opposite from one another, separated by an oriental rug that my mother insists on placing in the middle of the wall-to-wall carpeted room "to keep the carpet clean", as my mother happily passed us our stockings. Let me mention that she had made us swear that this year our presents to each other would be time spent together. My mother, whose relationship with technology in any form can be described as highly inimical at best, fought with her camera to record the moment in still images while my father threatened to throw the camera out the window if she took a picture of him and I clung to my coffee cup praying for patience. The scene was entirely familiar and made me happy to be home.

In the days leading up to Christmas I've had many truly Minnesotan experiences, which I've both enjoyed and which have reminded me just how much I've outgrown this strange little world. I'm surprised and suspicious of the seemingly friendly way in which people greet each other here (commonly referred to as "Minnesota-nice"); I question whether I've merely become jaded or whether the over-enthusiastic hi-how-are-yah's are false compensations for sub-zero temperatures that would drive any sane person to madness. I keep warm inside the house bundled in multiple sweaters, a scarf and hat, while my father, originally from New Mexico but who has spent the last 32 years in MN, clears the driveway with the snowblower for the fifth time in three days in a sweatsuit. In spinning class the instructors play random compilations of their favorite songs, which is fine because the routines they lead us through ultimately have no relation to the beat of the music being played. I mention this Minnesota-ism because I've taken indoor cycling classes in multiple US cities, Argentina, Brazil and Spain, and although perhaps I've been lucky, this is the only place where neither the instructors nor the students seem to mind or even notice if they're pedaling completely off beat. I regularly make inappropriate jokes about white people not having rhythm, as demonstrated by any attempt to gracefully dance salsa (and while yes, I'm seemingly as white as they come, my dance background excludes me from this category). Nevertheless, I've witnessed the aerobics and step classes here, and the instructors manage to lead choreographies that obey the beat of the song playing, so I'm puzzled as to why the spinning classes are such a disaster. Is it that the instructors are truly unable to count (and I could cite multiple examples to support this argument), or are they just lazy about making coherent routines to accompanying music mixes? Either way, Minnesota-nice guides our behavior and thus nobody complains or even makes suggestions for improvement.

Enough ranting; it's Christmas after all, and I'm lucky to have a few extra days in my homeland with two people that both test my sanity and endlessly remind me of how loved I am. I'll make the most of it, while avoiding as best I can any reason to go outside. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and unless the unheard-of happens and I'm inspired to write in the next couple days, my next post will be from a much, much warmer place. Boas festas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Because it's worth re-posting...

For those of you who haven't already seen it, follow this link to view one of my first projects--a collaborative effort to document my first half-marathon in March 2008: http://ermphoto.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html

I wrote the text; my partner, an extraordinary photographer, made the images. We survived the 13.1 miles together. How is it that nearly two years have gone by so quickly?

Enjoy!
-Mira

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Time for something different

So I’m two weeks behind in my blogging. Oh well. The last few weeks have been extremely hectic, and have yielded major changes and over 40 hours of driving time up and down Florida’s east coast, with a weekend trip to New Orleans thrown into the mix. I’m writing this post at 32,000 feet while on my way to the Arctic Tundra (ok, Minneapolis) to spend a few days with my parents before leaving for my next adventure. I’d post this at cruising altitudes as well, now that the airlines are finally offering wifi, but I can’t bring myself to spend $13 for two hours of internet use.

Aside from all the travel, I’ll admit that I’ve been blocked on a topic for this entry. Perhaps it’s the result of the decisions that I’ve made as of late and the accompanying emotions and stress. For months I’ve been announcing that my next move would be to Rio de Janeiro, but not just yet because of X, Y and Z. The truth is, however, that X, Y and Z are merely excuses. I’ve been stuck in a strange limbo for months, uncertain about what I want to do and scared to move forward and try on a new path for fear of repeating past mistakes. Thankfully, my partner, who sees through my bullshit and who regularly calls me out on it, gave me the kick in the pants that I needed to start moving. After the excuses were nullified and the tears subsided, I saw clearly that as usual, I was being my own worst enemy, my only impediment, and I made up my mind to be in Rio by the end of the month. The most difficult part of this decision was to leave for Rio a few months ahead of my partner in order to get organized and find my rhythm, leaving behind the comfort of the familiar.

Why is it that we resist change so much? Because it’s difficult. Often when I’m encouraged to try something different I assimilate it as being pushed and my shield immediately goes up. Especially when I’m encouraged to follow what I want most deep down and when the person insisting is someone that loves me. The same goes for receiving feedback about my writing. I believe that my tendency has two causes, although a therapist might tell me otherwise. First, there is the problem of resistance that I mention in my first post; because change is difficult, my mind undermines me by finding every reason imaginable not to change. The second part isn’t so clear to me, although I think it has to do with being incredibly stubborn and wanting to do things my own way. In any case, I’d like to practice NOT having this reaction, as I usually wind up in tears, and instead find a more productive way to receive suggestions and feedback. I have a feeling it’s going to take a few attempts.

I’ll write again from Minnesota, the land of small trees and big people, assuming I don’t freeze to death on the drive home from the airport. For now, I’m enjoying the hum of the plane reminding me that I’m on the move, at the start in a new chapter filled with incredible potential for greatness.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Giving Thanks

I question whether I should preface this post with some disclaimer given that this is only entry #2, but for the sake of freely expressing myself I'll dive right in:

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving and were able to spend it with someone you love, or at least tolerate. I was lucky enough to spend it with several people I love and truly enjoy, which inevitably helped me cope. For me, Thanksgiving is a rather disgusting holiday (and I'll go as far as to argue that it shouldn't be considered a holiday, but we'll get to that later). If it weren't for the fact that I really enjoy a lean filet mignon and that my partner makes outrageously spectacular chicken dishes (after he lets me cut off everything that remotely resembles fat or reminds me that the piece of slimy breast meat was once part of a living animal), I'd become vegetarian once and for all. Thus, it shouldn't be very surprising that I find the traditional Thanksgiving ritual absolutely fowl-- pun intended. The idea of repeatedly sodomizing a bird in order to rip out its organs and neck and who knows what else (so delicately called "cleaning the bird") and then stuff it with bread to soak up the "juices", which is later intended to be consumed alongside the cooked meat after someone hacks the bird apart and then proudly displays the carcass in the center of the table like some trophy, seems utterly barbaric to me. Perhaps it's that growing up, my dad always made enchiladas for Thanksgiving dinner because his father had taken him to a turkey processing plant when he was a child and he's managed to pass on his trauma to me, but I just can't bring myself to share in the excitement.

This brings me to my second point. As I mentioned above, I don't believe that Thanksgiving as it is practiced today should be considered a holiday. If the prevalent idea were truly to give thanks for all of one's blessings with loved ones and in return people took the opportunity to share with those less fortunate, then I'd say Thanksgiving is the most important of the holidays celebrated in the US. Now, I'm not saying it's all bad; it does provide us with a few badly-needed vacation days and gives us a chance to gather together with family. Nevertheless, elaborate parades, hours of cooking, football games, and feast seem to take precedence over the giving thanks part, which in most households where I've spent Thanksgiving (including mine) is reduced to hastily saying grace before the meal. No, this special Thursday is not a holiday, but rather an annual excuse to celebrate gluttony and laziness. And yet we continue to seem surprised by the fact that some 75 percent of Americans are overweight...

Then comes Black Friday, on which someone is trampled to death each year due to opulent materialism that only echoes the opulence of the day before-- but if I dive into the topic this post could go on endlessly, so for now I won't and I'll save myself from really offending someone.


I recognize that all of this sounds incredibly dismissive; I know I need to work on becoming less critical. Yet in spite of the aforementioned absurdities, I did have a lovely "holiday", filled with sweaty yoga, a run on the beach, good friends, endless card games, and of course, enough food to feed a family of 12 for a week. I even tried the turkey. I found myself actively taking part of it all and wishing my family were there as well. I suppose I'm also guilty of absurd behavior for participating in (and enjoying) something I describe as "disgusting."

Lots of love,
Mira

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Resistance

Well folks, I'm blogging. The purpose of this blog is not to serve as some source of inspiration and wisdom to its readers (if it acquires any). For as much as my desire in life is to empower others, I still have a lot of self-discovery to realize before I can pretend to offer advice publicly. If a reader takes something away from this blog in terms of life lessons, what to do, what not to do, spectacular. Nevertheless, the purpose of this blog is to force myself to write. I like writing but I'm terrified of it. For years I've hidden behind excuses: my mother took 9 years to write her doctoral dissertation and I want nothing to do with that; I am far too perfectionist and labor over every sentence before moving to the next (as I just did with this one); I have no Ritalin or Adderal or other concentration-enhancement drug that enables me to sit down and write for 9 hours straight like I did in college. But these are merely excuses, and I'll invoke another excuse to justify them: aside from email, I've only ever written for school and work. Thus, this blog is an experiment, a personal challenge to break old habits and redefine Mira. If I offend anyone in the process with my reflections and rants, I apologize-- my warped sense of humor often gets me into trouble.

I was recently given a copy of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. While the book is applicable to multiple facets of my life, my blog is a perfect illustration of its subject. The book discusses Resistance, that force that keeps you from doing what your heart desires, be it write, start a business, go on a diet, you name it. As I'm writing this, my blog is without a title. Ever since I decided to start a blog, I've found every excuse not to. I've opened blogspot.com numerous times in the last week and each time I get stuck on the initial page that asks you to give your blog a title and create its URL. I brainstorm a number of different names but discard them as too cliché, too deep, too absurd, too boring, too unrelated. At that point something else distracts me and the blog gets delayed yet again. Its a simple thing, naming a blog, yet somehow its been the ultimate obstacle to actually writing. My resistance is such that I'm writing this post as an email to myself and will later copy/paste it into my currently nameless blog in order to force myself to get started. I know unlearning certain behaviors is a matter of practice and repetition, so while I won't guarantee any regularity in blog entries, I do promise to do my best to trick myself into sitting down to write weekly. First, however, I need to overcome that damn naming obstacle, which is clearly a mechanism to keep me from actually having to post something for y'all to read. That part scares the crap out of me. And who would want to read this? If anyone other than myself actually does, it will be a near miracle.

Until next time,
Mira

P.S. Thanks to my friend/former office mate/pseudo-psychologist Pancho for inspiring the blog's title (Translation: The only thing stopping you is you), which came to me after a ridiculously long struggle.