Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Father's Voice

I woke up yesterday morning to my father's voice muffled through the loud and deceptively small fan in my bedroom. Though the sun was starting to heat the room, I turned off the fan and lay back under the covers. Something about my father's voice, booming from his office next door, was amazingly soothing. I closed my eyes.

A therapist once told me that to overcome my vivid and bazaar dreams (which are mostly entertaining but occasionally very frightening), I need to be more present in my sleep. My mind wanders too far into my imagination and, as a result, my adventurous encounters during REM do not provide for a well-rested feeling in the morning. He said I should name five things I see, hear and feel out loud ("I see a white wall. I hear a loud fan. I feel my cheek on a soft pillow.") When I was particularly frightened or anxious, he suggested I close my eyes and place myself in a safe bedroom...a memory when I felt especially secure. A real place where the sounds were calming, the sheets were comforting and the environment was at peace. I was to recall the noises, temperature, smells and feelings of that moment. Often, I placed myself back in my grandmother's bed in St. John, KS, where I often ended up after she awakened early to start cooking. She had a comfortable bed with old, cotton sheets that were so incredibly soft; but what is most appealing about that memory is the sound of the pots and pans just across the hallway in the kitchen. To this day, if I wake up to hear my own mother hitting a spoon or spatula against a mixing bowl I am immediately taken back to that safe place.

But this was a new feeling for me. It reminded me of the summers in high school, when I was allowed to sleep-in. My dad worked from home at the time, and I could always hear him on a call in the guest bedroom that doubled as his office. Though I never listened to the content of the conversations, just the lulling beat of his voice was enough to put me right back to sleep.

Memories are important, but they so quickly become snapshots that can replay as filmstrip-visions in the mind. Perhaps because I am a musician, the sounds are what seem to bring me the most familiarity and calm. And I have a feeling, at some point in the future, when I am alone in Egypt and I start to feel a bit homesick (because all us daughters have these moments), I will want to recall that comfortable security of my father's voice.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Art of Sprint-Packing (Need v. Want)

sprint |sprint|verb [ no obj. ]run at full speed over a short distance: I saw Charlie sprinting through the traffic toward me.
pack 1 |pak|verb [ with obj. ]fill (a suitcase or bag), esp. with clothes and other items needed when awayfrom home: I packed a bag with a few of my favorite clothes | [ no obj. ] she hadpacked and checked out of the hotel.

Today, I spent three hours sprint-packing. I ran from room to room, tossing things here or there, ending up with three distinct spaces in my living room: boxes for the movers, items for my brother's new apartment, and trash. After the cartoonish charade, I sat on the sofa (which is full of blankets and pillows) and drank a beer, staring at the middle "space," the trash. I found it troubling.

I have thrown away six huge bags of trash (like the kind usually reserved for grass clippings and yard waste) and given away three equally large containers full of clothes. This, in addition to a few boxes and bags of trash here and there, and donated items too large to be boxed or bagged. Several times I have uttered in disbelief, "How do I have so much stuff?" My future roommate refers to this "stuff" with a less child-friendly term that begins with the same letter. "We live amongst it," she says. "And now, every day, all I deal with is [stuff]."

It is troubling because in reality, I need very little and yet I have so much. And there are those that need so much more, and yet they have so little. Not just people living across oceans in developing countries, but also people in my country, city, down the street from me. When I put an add for a 5-year-old, $30 (at the time) small microwave in the free section of Craigslist, I received 30 responses within an hour. Many of them pleaded, stating that they resell used items to feed their family, or they haven't had a working microwave in months. And before Susan (the future roommate) suggested the ad on Craigslist, I actually considered just throwing it away. "Who would want this old thing?" I wondered. How incredibly insensitive, privileged and thoughtless.

I believe people should have nice things, and it is okay for people to have nice things. I hate it when people say, "I heard so-and-so gets food stamps but they also have an iPod. If they can afford an iPod, they can afford to buy their own food." That is so short-sighted, to believe that low-income people don't deserve to listen to music, watch TV, go to movies, or be otherwise entertained. My father (the labor economist) taught me the difference between need and want. "Do you think we need a TV?" He asked me when I was in middle school. "I guess not," I replied, shrugging, assuming I got it. "We do, in a sense," he said. "It's more complicated than that. People deserve entertainment, they need recreation. And they want a TV to fulfill that need."

Personally, though, it is important that I downsize to two suitcases and two carry-ons because I need to grow in non-material ways. I need to find a balance, and possibly some new forms of entertainment. Because what I'm finding, in my sprint-packing experience, is that there should actually be three categories in my dad's economic lesson: needs, wants, and [stuff].

Monday, July 23, 2012

Moving Home (Short Entries Commence!)

With more anxiety and stress comes more blog updates. Shorter, I hope. I have been told that will attract more readers. I'm also hoping it attracts more sleep on my end.

Last night, I slept in my bed for the last time. I know it's silly, but I'm rather attached to that bed. I bought it last October, about a month before I even considered moving abroad, and it was quite the investment. I thought a solid bed might help with my sleeping problems and I think it worked (most of the time). I'm giving it to my brother and I don't expect to sleep in it again until I return to the United States for good, if then.

I could have slept in it for another week, but a friend suggested I move home and treat packing like a daytime job. The clutter of a half-packed apartment was closing in on me and I felt a bit like an A&E reality-show-in-the-making. I was, again, having trouble sleeping. So, this morning, my brother and I brought a few bags to my parents' house and I make-shift moved into the guest bedroom.

I became slightly concerned when I grabbed all of my clothes, still with hangers on, and added them to my suitcase, which was already filled with clothes from my cleaned-out dresser. "Surely I'll need another bag," I thought. Alas, no, all of my clothes fit hangers-on into my suitcase. Which makes me wonder if I have too few clothes or too large of a suitcase. I have a smaller suitcase with toiletries (one of everything) and teaching materials. I'll have an overnight bag with a few days of clothes to take as a carryon, and a backpack with all of my electronics. Honestly, packing for Egypt is the easy part. Making sure my apartment is ready for the movers in a week has proven a much more stressful task. I would be totally screwed if it weren't for my brother coming over while I'm at the theater and piling my entire kitchen and several pieces of furniture into his truck to take to his new apartment. Thanks to him, I feel a sense of progress.

Moving home is good. Not that the house means that much to me--my parents bought it when I was in college. We moved around quite a bit when I was growing up, so I rarely get attached to structures. Though the furniture, set-up, and location has changed, home is where my parents are. Where I can yell my mom's name and she responds. Where I can hear my dad walking in the kitchen. Where we can sit and watch "The Newsroom" as a family and pause it every five seconds to discuss.

Tomorrow, I have a plan, and because I'm here, it doesn't seem quite so overwhelming. Walls, curtains, buffet and living room. I need to try to get a lot accomplished before I go back to work on Tuesday.

Signing off,