Flattery will get you everywhere

So, yesterday, I put on my sari and did my first run through of my slide show/visual walk through religious and Indian history. (We zoomed through the last 9000 years, the birth of all the major religions, the invasions, the empires, tribal life, etc.) I had taken my photos, added maps, artifacts to pass around, and music, and organized them in a way so that the presentation would be educational as well entertaining. It was about 100 minutes long. I thought it was a bit too long, but reports were that people were enrapt and would have stayed longer. In fact, a handful of folks stuck around afterwards to ask questions.

Yesterday and today, I have been flooded with compliments, requests for continued informal discussions, one request for some of my photos, two suggestions that I teach for a living, and a long letter from a woman who is so inspired that she wants to organize a fundraising effort for the women’s shelter I visited.

But, most importantly for me, I felt really energized afterwards. And at the end of the day, I went home and cleaned house. Which is so different from how I feel in the job I have now where I am exhausted at the end of the day and just watering the plants feels like a chore. How did I fall into this field anyway? I’ve been programming since I was 14 years old and have a frickin’ masters degree in computer science, and still when I give presentations on things computer-related, I’m still never totally comfortable with what I know and don’t know. I think it is because of the sharp epistemology involved and my need to feel like I’m seated at the core of what I’m saying. Plus, the levels to which engineers can split a hair can be alternately annoying and intimidating. People–mostly men (sorry, guys, but it’s true)–posturing like prima donnas to show off how much they know. It’s so dull.

Today was just a wonderful affirmation that my path really is towards teaching. And that I can teach religion and love it and be good at it. As I’ve mentioned in other entries here, I’ve been interested and scared of religion and ideas of the ultimate every since I was a kid. Funny how life drops us off at a starting line so far from the finish and, in retrospect, the finish line wasn’t so far off from the start.

I just gotta hang in there for a while, finish that thesis, and get myself going on the Ph.D. Who knows–maybe I really will have a book to publish by the end of next year. I’ve already got an offer from an editor and publisher just based on my idea and him knowing me and how I express myself.

Out With the Old

BTW, part of the cleaning I was doing was to get all my books in one place. Turns out I have so many really interesting religion, psychology, and philosophy books now that I’m running out of shelf space. I had forgotten how many great books I have and still have to read and I just got so excited thumbing through the spines again. It made me wonder what in the hell I’m doing watching so much fucking TV. I mean, I won’t really be missing out on life if I stop watching “Sex in the City”. True?

Anyway, I took one hard look at the folders of my remaining undergraduate, graduate, and professional computer science notes, tests, and projects taking up all of that precious bottom shelf space. And then I chucked all but my operating systems notes and my thesis project. (That’s several years worth of late nights and intense study now regretlessly in the dumpster.)

So, some part of me is pretty sure that I’m headed in a new direction and won’t be needing that stuff anymore. Seems I’m hanging on by a couple of finger nails now.

Dear God, what have you done with my brain?

I sat down tonight at my piano for the first time in months. No agenda. I just happened to be in the studio doing some cleaning and there it was, calling me from its protective layer of dust. And the oddest thing happened. I put my fingers on the keys and just played. No song that I knew. Not even any chords I knew. I wasn’t thinking anything while my fingers were moving. No strategy. Not even like “I’ve got an A-flat on top and this other thing in the middle so that means I should root it with a whozits and then it naturally moves to a Wunka 13.” And it just worked without any of that. There is no way I could tell you now what I played, not even could I have told you as I was doing it or remembered what I’d done only two chords previously. But it sounded rich and melancholy. My fingers just moved and I kept surprising myself with every chord. The only “uh oh” or “whooops” notes happened once I was so surprised by myself that my mind tried to figure out how I was doing what I was doing. Heh, heh. Funny thing, that.

Seriously, though, I never used to be able to do that. My mind used to be way too active. I felt it absolutely necessary to understand the structure and theory of what I was doing in order to know how to do it. Creativity was a function of control. What in the hell happened? I’ve hardly even played the piano or done much of anything musical in the last 5 years.

I will say this: The last five years have been pretty remarkable in other ways. I got the rug pulled out from under me and found God holding the tassles. I’ve meditated a lot. Gone inward a lot. Spent a lot of time with my dreams, which led me to a whole new way of thinking and seeing. Gotten so used to darkness (mine and others’) as to not worry much about its comings and goings. I’m much mellower. Much more centered. Have a more solid sense of who I am and who I am not. I grew up. A lot.

But the other strange thing is … software engineering–this thing that I’ve done since I was 14 years old, this thing that came totally naturally to me since the first day I sat down at an Apple 2E–well, I’m just not much good at it anymore. I was just noticing this again today, sitting in on a multi-national, 3-hour, technical discussion, and I just could not concentrate or hold onto concepts for long. It’s just really weird to me because I’m better than ever at humanities and writing. This, from the person who scored in the top 10% in the quantitative section of the GRE’s but couldn’t grasp the use of symbolism and metaphor in her high school literature classes. In fact, 3 years ago when I rashly and uncharacteristically decided to go to graduate school in depth psychology, I wasn’t even sure I could write. I don’t think I’d ever written anything longer than a 5-page paper and even that was a struggle.

Should this change worry me? It honestly feels like the little neurons on the left side of brain are slogging through molasses. I can feel the struggle in there. I’ve actually felt the progression of this change in the way my brain works over the last two years. I’ve also become way more forgetful in that time. Of course, now that I’m a lot more carefree and less controlling, I worry about that kind of stuff less. 🙂 I feel like, somehow, it’s all gonna work out and I’m cared for on some other level I can’t understand. But then some other part of me wonders if maybe I’m just nutritionally challenged or have some sort of degenerative brain disease. Maybe I should be worried that I’m not worried about it. I mean, people with full blown Alzheimer’s aren’t the ones bothered by their innocent ignorance, right?