Thursday, August 31, 2006

Language Barriers

Have you ever watched some doggedgly determined to speak English to someone who doesn't speak English, or verbally address someone who is deaf...and just get louder? And you think, "Moron. That tool is obviously not working. Try something else."

I’ve been that person. I am that person. I know it isn’t working, but I keep using it anyway in the vain hope that something will magically transform them or me so that this tool – English – will suddenly work. Sometimes I have completely given up on it working: I know they don’t understand me, but I keep speaking to them in English anyway because that’s the only language I know.

I'm trying to learn a whole new way language, and I'm not very good at it. My current language – for thinking, for learning, for connecting with people, for expressing myself, and most of all, for problem solving – is talking. This is a curse that most of the McPherson clan share, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it drives our in-laws crazy. The real secret is: it drives us crazy, too – but, like the person in the example, sometimes it’s the only language we know.

I seem to have this compulsive need to try and solve every problem by talking about it. Discussion is not the only, and often not the best way to work through differences. But that's a new idea for me; after all, it's a tool that has served me pretty well all these years (probably because I have usually been surrounded by other extroverts). Even my mom and Jared – who are more introverted – have learned to adapt to us "talkers".

But I really want to try and change. Not because I think that good communication can't solve problems – because it can be very helpful at times – but because I’ve come to learn (mostly through Dan) that there are other ways to work through problems besides communication, and that there are other ways to communicate besides talking.

I fall prey to the false notion that if something is good, more is better. I know it’s wrong. I know it goes against logic and experience. However, I have seen by my behavior that I must believe it. For example, if SOME communication can solve some problems, then more communication can solve EVERY problem. But it doesn’t work that way, of course, and anyone who’s ever been locked into a never-ending discussion with a McPherson (especially me) can tell you how frustrating it can be. And meanwhile, I’m trying to be rational, and honest, and brave – to face up to and talk about the conflict, find a resolution, compromise, sacrifice, etc., etc. Often, I try so hard to do everything just right, that I do it all wrong. Irony sucks.

I’ve seen how sometimes I try to push through to a verbal resolution – come hell or high water. I think: You may feel miserable, I may feel miserable, but DANGIT, we’re talking this out until we’re both happy. I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall and other person looks like they’re getting beaten, and we're both exhausted and unhappy, and I can see that talking about it isn’t helping. Sometimes it’s making it worse. But I don’t know what else to do. I know there are other tools, but talking is the only tool I know how to use.

Jared’s always been pretty good at it. I remember as a young teenager, I would get upset at something, and storm to my room, angry and hurt and embarrassed and stubborn. And I’d hope that the person I’d been fighting with would feel bad, come apologize, and I could be “right.” But then Jared (who was never the one I was fighting with) would come to my room. And he wouldn’t really talk. Not about what had just happened, anyway. He would just hang out in my room, sometimes asking me about some object I had on a shelf, or telling me about a movie he’d seen or recounting a funny Calvin & Hobbes he’d read that day. And pretty soon, the anger and stubbornness and hurt had left, and all that I felt was some shame over losing my temper, humility to accept my part in the conflict, and the feeling that – despite my weaknesses – I was loved, and always would be. And he did it all without hardly saying anything.

Dan’s good at it, too. Maybe that’s one of their qualities that make them such good friends. They say a lot without needing to say much. I think of how often Dan has soothed my fears, hurt, or anger - not by what he said, but by the look he gave me, or just when he just pulls me tight to hug me and holds me there for a while as I cry and catch my breath, and listen to all he’s communicating silently. It feels like he reaches past my mind, past my logic, past my words – and he addresses my heart directly. Kind of like music does. A truth that I think these men have always known -- and that I'm trying to learn -- is that maybe problems can be solved as much in silence, or with a look, or a touch, or just a "feeling" that you radiate to the other person. Or just with patience, and time, and your presence – letting the person know through your actions they are loved - despite your weakness, despite their weakness - and always will be.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My life

Updating has been tough lately. I've been super busy...but that's not the real reason why. Sometimes you just get "writer's block" I guess. Maybe I also fall prey to the idea that I have to try and have some real "point" to writing instead of just babbling on about my life.

So here's my latest "babble":

Dan & Marci: Okay, I know you all must be getting sick of us by now, but don't you just LOVE that "Dan & Marci" finally hooked up? I'd been flirting with him for years, adored him for even more years, and always felt somehow drawn to him...though I needed a little convincing that it actually could work out as a "real" relationship. Although any relationship needs work, and this one requires its own share of compromise, patience, forgiveness, practice, etc. (on both our sides) -- overall, I just continue to fall more & more in love with Dan all the time, recognizing how incredibly lucky I feel to be with someone so loyal, deep-thinking, compassionate, creative, intelligent, selfless, and loving.

Panama & other humanitarian efforts: Although I was supposed to be departing for India any day now, it will probably be delayed until a later time. There's a lot of reasons going into it, but primarily it was conflicting with school, work, and my church calling. I'm torn between various things that are all important, yet I'm beginning to feel that maybe the humanitarian work has to be put on the back burner for a bit while I concentrate on other (just as important -- and some that are more important) things. I'm still hoping to go, but I may go in late September or October instead.

The project in Panama went very well, and was once again a lesson to me of the devastating poverty that exists throughout the world. Ever since I started going on these trips, I've felt an enormous appreciation for the vast amount of effort that the Church does worldwide, and I've made more of an effort to donate to fast offerings, humanitarian efforts, and the perpetual education fund when I pay my tithing. Sometimes when I'm confronted by such wide-spread poverty & other problems, and I feel so helpless, it is always comforting to know that the leaders of the church run an organized, honest, long-term method of helping people rise out of poverty - and helping is as easy as "rounding up" my tithing donation with just a little more in some of the other categories.

Lately, I put a lot of effort into making a DVD about the Panama trip - much thanks to Dan for loaning me his computer, his DVD's, his time, and his support (you're amazing, hon) and also thanks to Zane for helping get my video footage into a usable format. The DVD turned out great. Chris MacPherson (our project leader) said it's the best DVD of its kind he's ever seen. I really enjoy the editing, and adding quotes and music, etc. It's probably some of the most fun I've had with photography stuff. I'd like to get more into video in the future (and get a camera of course).

Visiting Jared/Chrissa: I was hired to photograph a wedding on the east coast, and decided to go ahead and visit Jared & Chrissa's (as I'd been promising to do). Dan also decided to go, so he visited his brother Dave in Boston while I was doing the wedding, and then we met up in Ohio for a few days with J & Ch & Champ (and with Shauna who flew out from DC). We had a great time watching old episodes of friends, eating good food, playing darts and other games (like pictionary on the living room windows), lazying around outside playing guitar and talking, taking a trip up to some beautiful mountains -- wandering around some wicked-cool caves in the process, and just generally enjoying each other's company.

Helping Rob & Julare Move: Dan and I got to spend quite a bit of time lately with Rob & Julare - playing frisbee golf, going to the drive-in, mini-golfing,and eating out at various restaurants. I had a great time re-kindling a friendship with Rob, starting a new one with Julare, and watching Dan interact with two people who have been his loyal, constant friends for quite some time. Unfortunately, I got to be friends with them right as they were moving away. Dan & I butted our way in, though, and spend most of the week before with them - talking, playing games, going to the waterpark, packing, and just generally enjoying our last bit of time together. Julare and I endured a baby shower together - and we both agreed that the next baby shower she has (or when I have my first) - we're going to have a real "party" - like a bbq in the back yard with loud music and lawn darts, where the men will be invited as well (don't worry, guys, there will be NO stupid/gross baby games).

Rob & Julare are trying to convince us to move out there to be by them, (as are J & Chrissa, and Dave & Karissa). Who knows what will happen - but the invitation is appreciated anyway. We will definitely visit.

(Meanwhile, Jeff moved back to Utah, and he's been hanging out with us quite a bit, too. Again, its been nice re-kindling the old friendships).

ESL Job & Going Back to School: I finished up teaching my ESL classes from this summer, and felt really good about the progress my students made. My boss loved me and asked me to stay on as a full time teacher (as full time as they get around here, which is only about 20 hours a week) - which is a huge deal, since they only have a few teachers and don't really take in new ones very often. I was really flattered (and excited, since I love the work) and it served as a kick in the pants to go back to school and get my certificate to teach ESL. (So far, I've been uncertified). Unfortunately, I discovered how much tuition has gone up, and I'm shocked and appalled. And there goes the last of my savings. But I love teaching ESL and it's time I got certified to do it.

That's about it. Sorry it's not all that interesting. But it's an update, nevertheless.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bad Day

Is it because I stayed up late? Or was it the news of the planned terrorist attacks and the probable results of such plan? Was it the recent murder-by-beating of the little girl in Utah by her parents?

Was it because of that fight with my mom? Or the judgments of others I've been fighting off lately? Or maybe it's all the fighting in the middle east.

Maybe it's the crap on TV at the gym. Maybe it's the pain that friends & siblings are going through that I'm taking on? Or is it the job stress & worrying about my humanitarian work? Is it because I've been slipping health-wise & financial-wise?

Was it the massive splash of blood down 50 yards of the highway? Or was it the terrible conversation with one of the girls from my branch? Is it because I'm alone while Dan's taking a (much-needed) day off, which just so happens to horribly coordinate with a really bad day?

Regardless of why I'm having one...can I just say: I'm glad they're not all like this.

As I sang my heart out to a mildly sad song driving through the night, windows down, head high (maybe I was protesting...or maybe embracing the bad day)...either way, I sang loud and strong, and my heart was in it and it pushed the darkness away, just a little bit. What a solace music can be. I was remembering a quote -- I only remember the first part: "Music, friend that it is..." That was enough, though.

I'll have a cheerier outlook tomorrow.