Monday, April 9, 2012

Big Change!!!

This blog is being moved to the following address:

Please update your links!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Answer to Yourself

Sometimes, it feels like the world is spinning out of control. This can be both good and bad. Perhaps your work just got noticed, which then lead to awards, promotions and offers. There's a lot to think about. On the other hand, perhaps someone you know just passed away, your car was hit and work is a struggle. Both strings of events are possible.

It can be hard to think clearly in either situation. Keeping track of details, meeting deadlines and obligations, and oh, the paperwork. Yes, the paperwork.

Inevitably, you get bogged down. You forget something or miss a deadline. Or perhaps you had to pass up a good opportunity because the hint of a great opportunity is nagging in the background.

Something's got to give. Who do you ask for help or advice? How do you organize, get a grip and focus?

Really, I feel like the answers to these questions might just be different for different people. And I'm not the type to rely solely on other people's input. Sure, I'll ask for advice, but I'm just as likely to ignore the advice and follow my gut instinct.

I found myself today in a conversation with a friend about what the next 6-8 months holds for me. (This is a common conversation among NPS seasonal rangers.) I kept saying, "I don't know," over and over again. And sitting here, seven hours later, I still don't know.

Perhaps this is part of my growing up. But I'm trying not to make assumptions about my thoughts and feelings. I'm trying to weigh my options in light of my own goals - goals for both the short term and long term.

The key is that I need to answer to myself. I am the highest authority on myself - no matter what people around me may say - and I need to not let myself down. I need to NOT cave to peer pressure or outside influences. I need to do what's right for me. I need to pick something and do it well. I need to do a job in a manner such that I can be proud of what I've done.

How do you answer to yourself?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Great American Ommission

Today something hit me. There is someone in my life who is "very thorough". (Isn't that politically correct?) This person is almost detail-oriented to the point of fretting over details that never even existed in the first place. It's almost like this person needs something more to do with her/his time. But because of her/his status, s/he generally makes me feel like a failure, almost 100% of the time. I fret and worry as to why I didn't notice details - many of which probably don't matter at all, but seem to be a huge deal to said person. I am drained of my energy and ability to think. I need a good bit of time to recover from this person - a person who is always giving unsolicited advice and "help". Especially when I don't ask for or need help. This person is still there, advising away, like he or she has got all of the answers, as though I can't think for myself. When I'm alone again, I feel like my life comes back to me.

It's those times, right after interacting with this person, that I'm truly grateful for some alone time. I need a few moments to clear my head, figure out if I'm ok, figure out what I'm thinking and what my next action should be, and generally relax.

This week, I'm reading through the book, _Introvert Power_ by Laurie Helgoe, Copyright 2008 (Sourcebooks, Inc., Naperville, IL). I read through a section last night that finally meshed this morning with what I'd figured out about the interactions I mentioned earlier.

Regardless of how dead we feel in a crowd, we cling to the uniquely American assumption that associating is good and necessary and solitude is suspect... Solitude is indeed "the great ommission in American life." We are told to have family values, to be a team player, to have a huge wireless network. More is better and there is never enough. How did we get so far away from our selves? (emphasis mine)

Is there something that should be left out of your life?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Introversion... A beginning of my journey

For a year or so now, I've been dealing with the concept of introversion.

Not that I just became an introvert. But because I work in a place where our staff takes personality tests to better understand ourselves, team dynamics, etc. On one test (for the life of me, I can't even remember which one), I'm a 1. Whatever that means.

On the famous Meyers-Briggs test, I'm at INTJ. Along with, perhaps, a whopping 3% of the U.S. population.

Earlier tonight, as I was reading (researching) about this introversion, a passage made me think back. More than a decade ago, I had a roommate. We'll call her Charlotte. Charlotte was very concerned about being social and hung out at the local college bar scene at least once a week. Now, Charlotte and I were in a lot of classes together, so we knew a lot of the same people. However, we did have very different personalities. Whereas I would go home and get to my homework (she often did too, she was a good student), whenever the opportunity presented, she would go out. I never did, at least to the bars where she went. I had friends and a job, but the bar scene made me cringe. I remember, distinctly, standing on the front porch of my house at the time, listening to Charlotte criticize me for being "anti-social". It was a problem that I was going to have to get over. If I was going to be a "normal" person, I was going to have to get over this "anti-social" habit and go out to the bars and drink with the "normal people".

Fast forward to present day.

Sitting at dinner a week or so ago, a friend used the word 'introvert' when referring to some tendency of mine. There you go. There's that word again. And a friend who I see maybe only 1-2 times per month thinks the Introversion sticks out like a sore thumb. I can't remember the exact context, but he wasn't making fun of me. Merely just pointing out that I wasn't telling him what I actually thought. I so wish I could remember during which part of our conversation this reference was made. Memory isn't my strong suit either. *sigh* I know this friend cares; he tends to take care of everyone around him, always fixing things, solving problems, etc. He's a generally nice person, very intuitive and thoughtful. I've learned through many conversations with him that, when he is serious, I should listen. (Remember the commercials in the 1970s and 1980s based on the phrase, "When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen"?)

I really dislike labels and I try to not think in terms of them. But I think I'm going to have to figure out this label of mine. So here's a confession:

When people walk by me in the street and say, "Hi, Jen. How are you doing?", I have no idea what to say back to them. My first instinct is to run away.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Town of One

Last night, a coworker (we'll call her Coworker A) told me about a news story she'd seen recently. It was a about a little town (if you could call it that) here in Alaska with only one resident. This woman lived alone in the middle of nowhere. During our short summer and autumn, I guess she guides tourists, sportsmen and hunters from her tiny little outpost. But most of the year, she has no contact with the outside world.

Another coworker, we'll call her Coworker B, pointed out that this woman is actually typical of many Alaskans, even as recently as only 50 years ago.

Regardless of this woman's isolated residence and somewhat atypical livelihood, this woman was NOT the point Coworker A was getting at. Coworker A went on say something like, "Jen, think about how much knitting you could get done! Think about how much peace and quiet you could have!"

I'm going to take the high road here and presume that Coworker A was meaning this, at least partly, in jest. She was teasing me about the fact that I hole up in my cabin several nights a week with my knitting. (Well, ok, that's not entirely correct, but let's deal with one fallacy at a time.) She was teasing me that I'm such an introvert that I can't stand being around people and 9 months of complete isolation in the middle of nowhere must sound like Heaven on Earth.

Dear God.

You know what? Those kinds of assumptions just hurt. Instead of getting to know me, there is a value judgement place on my habits and hobbies, without thinking to look at the root of the behavior.

Perhaps that root is the fact that I just can't stand being around people like Coworker A all of the time. But in such situations, is there a point to wasting my breath? Would she understand how I feel? What is the root of her behavior, in saying such a thing?

Instead of arguing, I acted like I didn't understand what she was saying. I think I made my voice sound a bit hurt (like the inept mocking bothered me). And Coworker A swiftly changed and restated her question as, "Can you imagine not talking to another living being for 9 months of each year?"

Holing up in my cabin is what I learned to do as a child. When the bully teased, I was sent to my room, as though it were my fault and their teasing was a direct result of MY behavior (which, of course, it wasn't, but that's another can of worms). I was never allowed to stand up for myself properly, and to this day, my only means of self-preservation is to go hide and take care of myself.

I don't argue, I don't tease back, I just wish Coworker A a pleasant evening after work and I go home. I get about my business without so much as a wink as to why I do what I do.

It's not for me to judge what she does with her time, because isn't this what got us into this mess in the first place? She's placing a value judgement on my hobbies, my interests and my lifestyle (at least as she views them).

It's true that I do like certain things that she doesn't. I like classic literature. I like European period dramas and well-written mysteries. I like making things for myself, including my food and clothing.

I'm not going to apologize for having skills for which she's jealous.

If I were to judge her interests, I'd say: truthfully, Coworker A rehashes the same beat-to-death topics every day and quotes (and re-quotes and re-quotes) the same TV shows to no end. I don't always agree with her politics. Actually, the things she considers to be "politics" are things that I think are personal choices. And I don't need to watch most of her TV shows, because they were already quoted to me at work. I have tried to watch TV with her; I usually end up paying more attention to the knitting in my hand simply because it holds my interest more.

I don't think I'll ever be able speak these thoughts to Coworker A, much less actually get her to understand me. She holds strong stereotypes about me that would be painful to break. (Probably more painful to me, due to the work involved.)

I think Stephanie Pearl-McPhee* has summed up this quite well:

A whole lot of knitters (myself included) knit beause it makes us better people. Way better people. Without my knitting, I have a lot of trouble even being polite to great swathes of humanity, never mind being relaxed about it....

Perhaps it's simple defensiveness. Perhaps the people who say, 'I don't have the time' are trying to justify their own slacker ways. Maybe, just maybe, when they see me using my time to churn something out while they're just sitting there, some little voice in the back of their head is judging them... 'We, um... we don't have time! We're too busy. Yeah, that's it.' With that, the idleness of a modern life is sanctified, most people slip back into compliant waiting and watching, saving time by buying what they need, confident that it would be a waste of time to make it, understanding that only grandmothers and terrifically boring people knit, and that if they knit like I did, sitting here [waiting in line] in a government office, watching each other's hair grow, it would be curtains for any sort of social life they may have hoped for themselves.

Yep. For me it's not defensiveness. It's self-defense. Coworker A would not want me to put down my knitting needles. She ought to be damn thankful that I knit.


*Quotes taken from _All Wound Up_ by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Copyright 2011. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. Kansas City, Missouri.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January? When?

Those of you who know me well already know how I started off my year. I spent three days (January 1-3) glued to my little laptop computer and WIFI, here among the majestic mountains of Denali National Park and Preserve.

I knew and worked with Margaret Anderson when I worked at Mount Rainier. In fact, she lived two buildings/houses over from me at headquarters. Of course, I was in the Division of Interpretation and she was a Law Enforcement Ranger, but she used to wave to me on her drive home.

Despite this tragedy, or maybe because of it, I find myself thinking back through all of the accumulated HAPPY memories I have from our parks.

Finding that last Harebell of the season on the Bierstadt Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in late September, 2007, after returning to Colorado from a research field season in Alaska.

Remembering all of the unique sounds that Yellowstone's landscape makes. (To me, Yellowstone is all about soundscapes. Everything builds up to Nature's Chorus there.)

Or watching a black bear scrambling around on a log near the White River in Mount Rainier National Park in the spring of 2010.

How about that time (those months?) I picked berries of many colors around the shores of Wonder Lake in Denali?

The message, at least for me, is that I draw strength and inspiration through the rough times from over 30 years of happy memories in our magnificent National Parks.

January, thus far, has been a month of reflection, conversation with friends, and a time to look back through the plethora of photos I've taken in our parks. I feel much more energized to tackle the coming summer season.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Festivus: Airing of Grievances

This was supposed to happen last night. I'm always a day late and a dollar short. (How's that for a disappointment?!)

Seriously, thanks to my friend Bill and his tribute to a semi-famed (at least in our circle of friends!) co-worker Juan, I've been thinking about finding the good in the bad.

The one 'bad' that most people ask me about?

"How can you stand the cold and dark up there?"

First of all, it's NOT always dark up here. Erase that stereotype from your minds! Honestly, the short days and cold temperatures don't bother me THAT much. On my weekends, I do get out for walks, the pink hues on the mountains at twilight are beautiful, and, as long as I bundle up properly, I don't get too cold.

Hopefully, that topic is killed. I get that question the most, and I want to break that stereotype forever.

As for my real grievances? And can I find good in the subjects of such grievances?

I'm constantly disappointed in the younger people in our society. Attitudes of entitlement, not taking their jobs seriously (especially those who are lucky enough to have employ), not working to their full potential, laziness, and apathy all make me want to scream.

I'm one of those archaic idealistic workaholics who believes in several causes. And for those causes, I will work very hard. More and more, I find myself alone in that effort. Yet I know there are people out there who believe as me: I have a friend (she's about 5 years older than me) who gave up her citizenship in her home nation across the ocean to live in America and support a cause over here in the U.S. And I admire her very much. But I don't see that kind of spirit very often. I try to hold on tight to people like that.

Another grievance? The judgemental hypocrites who tell me I'm wrong, or stupid, or missing the point somehow. I get judged very harshly, yet I know for a fact that I hold my tongue in some situations more than I ought. Some poeple may think they know my real opinions, but in fact, they don't. If they only knew what I was really thinking, they'd probably never speak to me again.

Thankfully, I do have some very good examples to follow here too. I have some very wise friends who have taught me a lot about patience, thoughtfulness and tolerance. Tolerance without lowering your own personal standards.


Ok, so this wasn't remotely about Christmas, but my friend Bill gave me some good things to think about this morning. Even if he didn't know he did so. :) Thanks Bill!