Archive for the ‘Living Large’ Category

The Perils of Peer Pressure   Leave a comment

Recently I stepped away from the self-absorbed world of the quest for employment and ran off to the adorable city of Quebec for a long weekend with the Limoncello Ladies.  Our annual get-togethers are cherished opportunities to step out of the everyday crush of existence and look at our lives and the world around us from a fresh perspective.  It all sounds slightly glamorous and certainly our original outing, a week in Florence, had its share of exotic experiences, but to focus on those aspects is to miss the really extraordinary thing that was happening.  In between the art and the food and the architecture, we were talking, sharing, letting the chinks in the armor show.  Being real.  Being real in the kind of way that you can’t always be in a world where you have responsibilities and people relying on you to hold it together.  While we may not have all been the closest of friends before going to Italy, by the end of that week, some extraordinary bonds had been forged.  And the experience had been enriching enough to make an effort to make this a regular occurrence.

That may not sound like all that big a deal until you think about it.  Think about how little free time there is in your life.  Think about how you guard those precious vacation days.  Think about how much time and effort goes into planning a family vacation.  Numerous people have told each of us how lucky we are to do this on an annual basis.  And yes.  Yes we are.  But it doesn’t just happen.  We make it happen.  We commit to the friendship.  We nurture the friendship and we make sacrifices to keep the friendship growing.  It’s not all “Sex and the City”.  In fact, with the exception of regular cocktails, it’s not “Sex and the City” at all.  It’s not about the search for external connections, but more about the internal journeys that we’ve been on for the past year.  Celebrating accomplishments, commiserating about frustrations, and finally, encouraging each other to excel.

While in Quebec, we visited Montmorency Falls.  At 275 feet high, they are almost a hundred feet higher than Niagara Falls, and as you stand at the base of the falls, you can see a little bitty bridge crossing along the top of the falls and to your right, a series of rickety switchback steps criss-crossing up the side of the cliff face to gain access to the bridge.  Of course we needed to get up to that bridge.  The view would be spectacular, and what a rush to watch the falls thunder down the side of the mountain from that perspective.  And there were two options:  we could pay to ride a tram up the side of the mountain, or we could climb up all those steps.  For the sake of argument, we’re going to call that the equivalent of walking up 26 flights of stairs (10 feet to a story, blah blah blah math).  Now, I don’t know about you, but my rule of thumb on walking up stairs is that once we go above 5 flights, I’m looking for another option.  Add to the equation, the fact that the last two years of grad school have been highly sedentary and have seriously impacted my ability to scamper about like a bunny and the result was that I was highly sceptical of my ability to actually make it to the top.  But the group consensus (also known in other circles as peer pressure) was that we should at least climb partway up (the view from the steps would be far more spectacular than the view from the tram).  We could always turn around and go back down if it got to be too much.

And so we set off at four different paces (we are independent capable women and not joined at the hip or herd animals, after all) all affirming that no one would be judged for any choice they made along the way.  No less than three times, I decided to throw in the towel.  But every time I looked up, there was someone from some point in the climb, looking down and giving a friendly and encouraging wave.  And I would make it up another half flight.  And at some point it looked easier to make the rest of the climb up than it would be to climb back down.

And then, on a day that had already seen me nab my first job interview (with the ladies very discreetly cheering me on), I also discovered that as long as speed and elegance were not an issue, I could indeed haul myself up the side of a mountain.  And that’s why we keep carving time out of our jam-packed lives, and why we sacrifice some of that hard-earned vacation time, and why we put the effort into coordinating four different schedules.  Because we are better for having been with each other.

But you know, of course, that we took the tram back down.  There are limits to how much improving I can handle at any one moment in time.

Apparently you can get me to achieve just about anything with the promise of natural splendor.

Apparently you can get me to achieve just about anything with the promise of natural splendor.

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Posted June 23, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large

The BatGirl is Back   Leave a comment

As of not quite a week ago, I have completed all required work for a degree in Library and Information Science.  It’s all over but the walk across the stage.  No longer BatGirlTrainee.

I am a BatGirl.

And as in any great adventure, there were moments in the last few months where the outcome did not seem sure at all.   When the world appeared to be coming apart at the seams.  When it seemed that the costs were too high. In spite of all my plans to ensure that my last semester be as easy and stress free as possible, mayhem loomed large.  How could those last two classes cause so much trouble?

This BatGirl spent a month only eating things that came out of cardboard boxes.  Many years ago, after I got divorced, a steady diet of chicken parmesan left me believing that I would never enjoy it again.  Sadly, after a month of subsisting on macaroni and cheese, I may have destroyed my ability to enjoy that delicacy as well.  In addition, I discovered exactly what it takes to get less than excellent marks.  That stung.  The BatCat paid a visit to the ER.  There were lots of tears associated with that.

But the BatCat is recovering, assignments have been completed and graded, and in a few days, I walk across a stage and …

And what?  A few short years ago, that walk across the stage was as far into the future as I dared to look.  But it’s not the end of this journey.  Far from it.  It’s a milestone, surely, and one I intend to celebrate.  It was not easy.  But there’s more.  A thought which in the past week has inspired both ecstatic elation and crippling panic.

The focus shifts.  I am BatGirl, but now what?  The search shifts.  I have the skills, now it’s time to use them.  I  need a job, but it’s more than that.  I am in search of … something.  I’m not exactly sure of what, just yet.  I’ve hit one of those blind corners, where life is all possibility.  It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.  Life could go anywhere.

Come along for the ride?

I'm not really going to do anything as simplistic as a blooming flower, am I?

I’m not really going to do anything as simplistic as a blooming flower, am I?

Posted May 6, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large, Scholarly Pursuits

My Year of Living Irishly   Leave a comment

This St. Patrick’s Day, the BatGirl was locked in the BatGarret having a complete mental meltdown over a relatively minor paper which had already monopolized spring break and was still refusing to behave.  It’s not the missed opportunity for drunken boorishness that stung, those days are well behind me.  And I know that everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but I really have no Irish in me, well at least to the extent that anyone can know.  Having come from fisher folk and marauder stock, I suppose it’s possible that there’s some Irish mixed up in there, but I tend to doubt it.  Regardless, I feel no burning desire to play Irish for a day.

This, in spite of the fact that many many years ago, the BatGirl found herself living in the city of Dublin for almost a year.  Young, impressionable and completely in thrall to both James Joyce and Samuel Becket (writers who both, it must be noted, fled Ireland at their earliest opportunity), I ran off in search of  … well, I ran off.  I’m sure I told myself that I had a plan, but I’m not sure the plan amounted to much more than: Dublin!  something something Writers!!  something something something  It’ll be SO COOL!!!!  I mentioned the young part, right?  

And well, it was and it wasn’t.  I look back now and I shake my head, amazed.  It was one of my jumping off a cliff moments, and while I walked away from the experience, I wouldn’t say it was without a scratch.  Seen through the rose-colored lenses of hindsight, that young girl seems so ill-prepared for the experience. I learned some lessons the hard way and I didn’t learn some lessons in an equally hard way.  When I left Dublin, it was with a shaking of the dust off my feet and no desire to return,  which I find sad.  For years, when I thought back on the experience, I regarded it as a mistake.  Most definitely an adventure, but a mistake nonetheless.

I’ve softened a little in my self-criticism, these days.   Those rose-colored glasses do a great job of softening the harsh edges.  The converted closet masquerading as a bedsit is more charming than impoverished.  Walking to school because I couldn’t afford the bus?  Let’s just say that I understand the glee with which elders talk about walking uphill to school in snowstorms … both ways … barefoot.  But mostly these days, I recognize the similarities between those hard and lonely days in a foreign country and my current adventure.  I think I learned more lessons in Dublin than I thought and they are lessons which are making the library school experience a better one.  I am less of a romantic these days.  I have ideals and cherished beliefs, but I don’t believe that they’re any more important than, oh say, having food in the cupboard and electricity.  These days I have plans and goals that are a little bit less starry-eyed.  They are more practical in nature and I’m far more likely to listen to the well-meaning advice of professors and advisors.  It doesn’t hurt that library school is far more trade focused than Literature programs.  There’s a reason it’s a science degree and not an arts degree.

In addition, I’ve learned to step outside my library school bubble and occasionally do something that has nothing to do with the curriculum.  That’s perhaps the toughest lesson I didn’t learn in my year of living Irishly.  These days I no longer feel quite so bitterly about my experience and I even think that one day I’d like to go back to Ireland and experience what I didn’t all those years ago.

It's not a matter of regrets or wishing I'd done things differently, but more a sense that perhaps there's still something interesting to be discovered around the bend in the path.

It’s not a matter of regrets or wishing I’d done things differently, but more a sense that perhaps there’s still something interesting to be discovered around the bend in that path.

 

Posted March 21, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large, Scholarly Pursuits

Fighting the Good Fight   Leave a comment

The other night was nothing but trouble.  Battles were being lost on all fronts.  The bed was uncomfortable and the sheets were irritating.  A variety of relaxation techniques were proving more aggravating than anything else.

And then it was 3 am.  Of course.  Nothing like the loss of time to take the pressure off and shut down a hyperactive brain.  I hate the farce of Daylight Savings.  I’m not even a fan of the bonus hour in the fall.  It all just really wreaks havoc on my reality.  And these days I can use all the help I can get.

And the other night was not the fault of Daylight Savings, much as I would appreciate a handy scapegoat.  The battle for peace and quiet is becoming all too common these nights.  My brain is crowded and does not set down its shiny baubles of worry easily.

I get it, I really do.  There’s lots to keep my mind busy.  It’s hard to stop thinking about assignments and projects, just because it’s time to sleep.  In addition, all kinds of uncertainty is looming in the coming months.  And of course, there’s the garden variety worries that slip in as well, health?  welfare?  happiness?  Just in case I manage to make my way through all the specific worries.

Daylight Savings just made it all the more annoying.  So I lay there, unsuccessfully running through a mental relaxation exercise, which I was sabotaging with a distracting monologue on superheroes.  Well, a monologue on BatGirl in particular.

In the past couple years, she’s been a totem of sorts, for me.  In part, yes, because she’s a librarian,master of information, and how cool is that?  But really, it’s the superhero thing.  The mask and cape.  The fighting of evil.  The kicking of butt.  The certainty of success.  When things are scary and success doesn’t seem quite so guaranteed, the allure of the superhero can be irresistible.  The admonition to “Be the superhero in your own life” is certainly one that I’ve taken to heart.  But on this night, my evil villain of a mind, mocked me for having chosen a superhero without sleepytime superpowers.  Alas, I’m not sure that one exists.  And tempting as the thought of super sleep was last night, I think I’ll stick with the BatGirl.  Sleep may be elusive these days, but the guidance and courage of the past few years is worth more than a few restless nights.  And I anticipate that in the coming months, while there will probably be a few more sleepless nights, the   inspiration to get out there and kick some butt and be my hero will be worth more than a few extra zzzs.

Don't put away the mask and cape just yet.  There's more thrilling heroics to come.

Don’t put away the mask and cape just yet. There’s more thrilling heroics to come.

Posted March 11, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large

Perspective   1 comment

So the bulk of my day has been spent glued to a heating pad, throwing the rowdiest pity party I can muster.  At some point in the last few days, I not only found a muscle somewhere in the vicinity of my right shoulder, but I also caused it to do something it was never intended to do and now I am paying the price every time I inhale deeply.  Yawning is inadvisable and I have blocked the memory of the sneeze this afternoon from my memory.

And the tricky thing about pain is that it manages to spin everything else negatively:

– The BatMobile goes into the shop this week becomes: Great!  Hauling groceries on the bus!  What joy!  And the bill!  Is that a new twinge in my back?!!

And not: Oh thank God!  I’ll finally be able to get in and out of the car without crazy contortionist moves.  Which, I might add, probably contributed to this current back pain.

– Staying up until 4 am to complete a paper becomes: What a chump!  At  your age you really should have progressed beyond this kind of behavior.  What is wrong with you?!!

And not – well, truthfully that was way too late to be up working on a paper and it surely didn’t help my back to be hunched over a computer at all hours of the night.  But I got high marks on the paper … so is it still a chump move?

Valid complaints or not, beating myself up and focusing on the negative without formulating some kind of plan to improve things is the real chump move.  A long time ago I came to the conclusion that complaining without an active search for the path out of the darkness is really just wallowing.  And there’s nothing wrong with wallowing, but it should be recognized for what it is.

So tonight, I wallow.  My back hurts and I’m cranky, and that’s valid, but really, the last week has been a pretty good week.  Classes are challenging, but I’m learning new things and really, I love learning new things.  I am kept busy, but I’m not buried.  While I’m not employed yet, I have managed to do some actual networking.  And the weather has even brightened up a bit.

Could spring be on its way?  Maybe.  And maybe not.  It’s New England and it’s March.  Whatever.

So I’ll take some aspirin, cut up a bowl of strawberries with some chocolate, pour a whiskey and watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Things aren’t all that bad.  

Sometimes the beauty is in the details.

Sometimes the beauty is in the details.

Posted March 4, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large

Gimme Shelter   2 comments

About the middle of last week, seemingly out of nowhere, the world became filled with dire portents.

A blizzard was coming.  It would be epic.  It was time to panic.

And I found this really kind of amusing.  I spent 20 years living in Virginia, the land of champion winter storm panickers.  It’s a mid-Atlantic state, the weather is weird, not quite southern and not quite northern.  The residents of Virginia seem to fully embrace the inherent drama of the situation.  Weather reports are always filled with excitement.

But now I’m living in New England.  Snow is to be expected and New Englanders are supposed to be hardy, stoic folk, unfazed by nature’s whimsy.  The weather reports said otherwise.  There were lots of exclamation points and lots of claims of impending doom.

And so I decided to go with the flow.  I planned meals a few days out and took into consideration the possibility that I might lose power.  I checked supplies.  I made some lists.  I braved both Target and the grocery store, avoiding the PANIC NOW displays, wielding my cart with authority and armed with my lists, and I was in and out in an hour.

As the snow started to fall, I sipped coffee and  worked on assignments, watching as the backyard fence slowly began to shrink under piling snow.  As the storm continued to blow, I took phone calls from family down south who, true to their nature, were envisioning me huddled Little Matchgirl-like in a corner of the BatGarret, freezing in the powerless dark and probably buried in snow by a collapsed roof.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  It was, indeed a bona-fide storm, with a very respectable snowfall and howling winds.  The windows rattled and the walls shook and some snow even  managed to sneak between one of the double-window panes, but the power stayed on and the roof held up.  It was really quite cozy.

48 hours later, the sun was shining and the icicles on the eaves were dripping.  I stepped out into the brilliant winter’s day, ready to take on the snow and win back the use of my BatMobile.

Only to find that the BatMobile had already been freed from the clutches of the snowbank by my landlord.  Slick purple metal, shining in the bright sunlight.  Enough space cleared around the car to maneuver out into the roadway.  The roof was even cleared.

Yes, indeed, they do things differently up north.  And I rather think I quite like it.

Now, also revealed, was that the BatMobile had been wounded at some point during the storm, by snow removal equipment.  But the wound does not appear to be terminal, and while it took some of the shine off the day, it won’t take it all.  We’re hardy and stoic survivors of severe weather.  We may be wounded, but we’ll continue to battle on.

Perspective is always essential, and the perspective from the BatGarret is really pretty cozy.

Perspective is always essential, and the perspective from the BatGarret is really pretty cozy.

Posted February 11, 2013 by batgirltrainee in Living Large

Here, Have a Cookie   Leave a comment

The end of semester hangover appears to be particularly tenacious this time.  It’s been a week, but still my brain seems to be suffering from some sort of sprain.  Laying down words and stringing them together is proving to be almost impossible.  I have started and discarded no less than 6 separate posts for this blog today.  I get approximately 75 words down and then everything fizzles and I scrap the entire piece.

Reading also is not going well.  I have my finger in three different books, and despite really wanting to read them – well, two of them anyway, the third is a book on tape which I have only been tolerating for the 10 hour drive down the East Coast.  But I really want to read the other two, and can’t seem to get lost in them.  Now, there’s a  situation to make this BatGirl panic.  What if I have broken my reading skills?  What if I have lost the ability to get lost in a good book?

Excuse me for a moment while I breath into a paper bag.

So, I have spent a large portion of the past week with a brain that has been wandering aimlessly, unable to buckle down and focus on a task.

But I’ll tell you what I am able to accomplish in moments like this:

Cookies.

For whatever inexplicable reason, baking cookies is a zen-like process for me.  I’m not a big cook, and even baking things like cakes or breads can be a stretch, but those little hand-held chemistry experiments?  I do all right with them.  There are a couple reasons for this that I can think of:

– Too much creative thought is hazardous in baking.  The result of your efforts is a controlled chemical reaction.  If you don’t follow the directions, you won’t get a cookie.

– They’re small and the baking time is relatively short.  This means there’s not enough time for me to be distracted by some other, shinier prospect.

– Sugar is always fun.

And so, I spent the last week baking cookies.  I still don’t feel up to taking life by the horns.  Maybe I need to bake a few more cookies.  It’s a good thing no one ever says no to cookies.

Life handing you lemons?  Bake some cookies!

Life handing you lemons? Bake some cookies!

 

Posted December 17, 2012 by batgirltrainee in Living Large

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