Friday, February 27, 2009

Simplify. Simplify.

I'm not by nature a domestic person, meaning that I don't enjoy cleaning or organizing or "keeping up" a house. I just like to be in my house more than anywhere else. So I'm homebody who is completely undomestic... How did THAT happen?

But despite my natural lack of desire to organize my space, I have been inspired by Thoreau and I want to simplify my life. So I went on this big rampage in our living room and rearranged and started stripping the books from the shelves. Almost all of them I love dearly and could not possibly get rid of, but they DO need to be rearranged in some kind of sensible order. As they were, they were insanely ridiculously ordered in toppling stacks and that just doesn't seem "simplified" to me. I am still in the process of getting all the books into categories so that they can be placed back onto the shelves and right now the living room looks like a used book sale. I should (it would be completely reasonable) be able to find at least ten books to try to sell at our yard sale. Ten! How could I possibly rid myself ten beautiful little books? It will be difficult to find the ten...

Eight sounds better. I can do eight!

There. I have resolved to weed out eight of my books. It can, can, can be done! Just you wait and see.

Is it just me or does selling a good book feel like selling your friend into slavery? You can't possibly know how that book will be treated! What if it is chewed up by a dog? Or water damaged? Or worse, what if it sits in a box in someone's attic and is never read again!?

I shudder to think.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Live Deliberately"

My American Lit class has finally given me something to write about! I so completely love Henry David Thoreau! The man just flat speaks my language. I haven't yet had the priviledge of reading Civil Disobedience, but now that I've read some of Walden, it is on my personal reading list for the near future.

Something I love about Thoreau is that he is completely stolidly against authoritariansm. I think every day, I become a little more anti-authoritarian myself and so I LOVE LOVE LOVE what he has to say. He talks about how people are virtual slaves to all the things that they think that they have to do- I would argue mostly because of societal expectations. We think we need so many more things than we do and we allow all the extra things to bog us down and prevent us from that most important exercise of using our own minds.

Here's a delicious passage about fashion:

"We worship not the graces, nor the Parcae, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey in Paris puts on a traveller's cap and all the monkeys in America do the same.... Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new."

I seriously laughed when I read this because I'm not a person of fashion at all and I see some of th people around me getting all wrapped up in clothes and brands and it really is silly. Why not find clothes that are comfortable to you? Why not find clothes that fit your particular type of body well? I get tired of trying on clothes that fit me horribly because the fashions are designed for people that are a size 2!

Thoreau's famous experiment at Walden Pond was designed to show people that it is possible to live more simply. Certainly, no one has to go to the extremes of moving out into the woods and building a cabin. There are so many ways we can simplify our lives right where we are. I'm going to get together with as many women as I can from my ward to have a yard sale when its warm enough this spring. It will be a good opportunity for all of us to get rid of all the things we have in our homes that we do not need.

More importantly, though, I feel the need as always to shake off the expectations of everyone in my life and learn to live bravely the way that I want to live. I listen too much to those reasonable practicable people who try so kindly to change my course. I want to pursue a life of writing and helping my husband with his personality and temperament research. It would be easier in some ways to do something "smart" like nursing school, but I could never be happy if I wasn't allowed to be creative in my work. I can't give in to anyone else because at the end of the day I will always have to answer to myself.

The choices you make follow you around like little murming ghosts and I want to like what the ghosts are whispering in my ear. I never want to hear, "But what could your life have been like?" As Thoreau says:

"I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear.... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life...."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Last week Paul and I wandered into an indoor rock climbing place and spent several minutes watching the strong and fit climbers scaling the walls. It was really cool to see people so comfortable in their own skin and so confident in their own abilities. One girl repeatedly slipped and screamed as the rope caught her and she swung suspended high off the ground. She was not deterred, though, and just kept swinging back to try again and get a little higher each time. It was admirable to see.

I just kept thinking that I would love to be able to be like those people. What would it be like to be thin and strong and able to rock climb? I have not been thin since I was a young adolescent, and all things considered I am truly grateful for the health I have. Nevertheless, I wonder what it would be like to be in a different body and to experience all of the things a body has to offer?

I am not as unrealistic as people sometimes think I am when they listen to me talk about all my dreams and fantasies, but I wonder if it really is possible for me to be the visibly physically fit person that I would like to be. I say "visibly" because I actually am fit right now, right this very minute, even though I weigh 215 pounds. I work out hard and I have become a strong runner, but the pounds stay on stubbornly, only coming off at the rate of maybe one in a month, if I'm extremely lucky in that particular month.

But I think my problem really comes down to pride. I want to be like other people. I want to look good and be able to wear cute clothes that will fit my body well. I want people to look at me and automatically assume that I take care of myself because I LOOK healthy. I know it would be much better for me if I could let go of all of those concerns and let everyone else's supposed opinions fade out of my mind forever. This stupid pride hinders me from improving in the more essential ways.

I talk openly about my weight because I don't want to pretend that I am anything other than what I am. I try to do better all the time, but I will ever be just what I am... I'm stuck in this skin, I guess.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The gift of choice.

I was thinking today about the concept of agency. The basic idea is that we can make our own choices, but what does that really mean?

Essentially, we are animals. We like to think of ourselves in terms of our achievements or ideas and especially the things we do. But we are beings of flesh. We are made up of bones, blood, muscles, joints, tendons and sinews. On a microscopic level, our bodies are simply billions of cells working together. Like all animals, we need to eat, drink, sleep, and have shelter. Like all animals, most of our bodily processes are involuntarily controlled by the firing of neurons within our brains. Somehow the nerves communicate with each other and this makes our hearts beat and our lungs process oxygen and our food digest. I am almost overwhelmed when I consider what a wonderous thing my body really is. It is so proficent at keeping me alive so that I can experience life. But our human bodies do one other thing for us. Our brains have a huge oversized cerebral cortex- and this allows us to actually make choices.

This is our agency. We have the ability to look at any situation and consider it, to reason, to learn and to put the things we learn into practice. We have the ability to communicate with each other in more depth and with more meaning than any other creature on this planet. Isn't it incredible to consider that billions of individual cells can somehow work all together to do the things that we choose to do? You could never get billions of people to work together in this way!

I am a religious person, and so I believe that this miracle is a gift from God. Whether or not you agree, it seems apparent to me that these fleshy brains of ours are the instruments through which we develop and grow. This ability that we have to make choices for ourselves gives us the opportunity to form ourselves. We can each ultimately decide the type of human beings we are going to be- because we have these amazing bodies that give us agency.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Going places.

So my parents and Sara and Ryan are in Florida this weekend. The Madsens are true adventurers, aren't they? Soon they'll exhaust the continental U.S. and have to start going foreign in their quest for new places! That was something fabulous about my upbringing. We were always taking trips. It was so fun and all the interesting sights had the effect of giving me a lot of writing ideas. My dad's hiking obcession also probably saved me from a lot of possible health problems early on because he kept me physically active. I hope if I get to be a parent, I can give my children the same kind of experience. It was invaluable to me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Let's get out of here before this goes bad!"

I think I've been watching too many action/adventure films lately. The last two nights I have dreamed the craziest wild adventures- and frightening scenes too. In one dream, Paul and I were in this house (for a reason that made perfect sense in the dream that I cannot now remember) with a man and a woman who were looking at us strangely. They seemed to know something we didn't and when they left us alone for a moment, Paul said to me, "Let's get out of here before this goes bad!"

We went to the door and found it locked. The windows were too small to climb out of. (Of course we never thought to pay attention to that before!) We began desperately searching the room for some way to escape and we pried open a cabinet, in which we found a bunch of medical equipment. With sickening horror, we realized that these people intended to use the equipment on us! When the enemies came back into the room, we had an all-out fist fight and let me tell you. In my dreams, I can fight like a female Zorro! We beat the trash out of those people!

In another dream, one of my friends and I were fugitives. We were running down these stairs on a steep hillside and all the while she was begging me to let her call her dad. I said, "You know they'll be tracking his phone! You can't call or the cops'll come right to us."

"But, Jessi!" she sobbed, "I don't know how long I can do this! I miss my family! We can't keep running forever."

"We can!" I insisted, "Just keep going and we'll find a way out of this!"

Really, I should write for Hollywood. My disturbed sleep is just as cheesy as any action movie!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

There is reason for feasting!

I want everyone to celebrate and rejoice with music and dancing (and delicious food). My husband finished his graduate school application! After a lot of time and stress, he's home free and we have really high hopes for this particular program in general psych. It is such a relief to have that behind us now. And when you're done feasting and celebrating, please start praying that this program lets us in/gives us great financial aid.

In reality, though, we feel really right about this and it is almost certain that we'll be moving to Arizona in the summer. That'll be a new state for both of us. I've only ever lived in Utah except for two semesters in Virginia and Paul's record is only one state more impressive. He's the California boy who went on a mission to Florida and then later moved to Utah. That's four states between the two of us and moving to Arizona will bring us to a grand total of five!

It's so fun to think of living in a new place, especially not a basement. We have resolved to never, ever, ever, under any circumstances live in a basement again. Floods and mice and tiny windows and lots of spiders are all things we'd rather leave behind us forever. And, most importantly for Paul, we won't live in another with a low ceiling. I feel so bad when he hits his head!