Super Saturday: A Hypocritical Heart Heavy with Hyperbole

I originally posted this on November 17, 2011. These kind of violent hyperboles are literally everywhere. I can see them now in a way I couldn’t before the accident. It’s made me stop using them myself. So I guess I’m not a hypocrite anymore!

I’m about to criticize the world for something I know I do on a regular basis. So I’m hoping you can afford me the love and grace to recognize the truth in the following words even if they do make me a hypocrite.

Your exams are not going to kill you. You have a cold; you are not dying. You broke up with your boyfriend; you are not forever alone. That class did not rape you. You don’t want to kill everyone. You don’t hate everything.

Hyperbolic phrases. I get them. They are sometimes humorous. Except when they aren’t. There are people all around you who are struggling with deaths, with sexual abuse, with terminal illnesses, with depression. I don’t know. I don’t mean to be a debbie downer here. And believe me, I understand being stressed or uptight about things that are seemingly unimportant to others. But that doesn’t mean that you should compare those things to grave things like death and rape.

Life is not exactly a walk in the park (although, it is a bit like standing in the ocean), but if the biggest thing we have to worry about is a tough exam, maybe we should be blessing the world instead of cursing it.

Super Saturday: A Metaphor Concerning a Family Card Game

This post was originally published on December 26, 2011. Uno was the first card game I played in the hospital after the accident, and I played it so many times when I got home. I made everyone who visited me play it. From the very beginning, I used my strategy.

Holidays at the Smith household are pretty amazing. We spend a lot of time playing the card game Uno.

That’s not completely accurate.

I spend a lot of time trying to convince my family that we should play Uno. I really like it. It’s a very simple game. It’s mostly about luck – what cards you draw and what cards others play. But I have a strategy.

My family doesn’t believe in the strategy, but the numbers speak for themselves. Over the past few days, I have won the most games (the numbers are even more striking when you don’t count Dad’s wins when he cheated and when we played by my brother’s “house rules”).

I don’t think that I’ve cracked Uno. That’s not very likely. Like I said, it’s mostly a game of luck. And I don’t think my strategy is ground-breaking. It’s just a plan. It does two things for me.

1. I always know how I’m going to play a hand. No matter the cards in my hand or the cards in my opponents’ hands, I know exactly what I’m going to do. I do all the thinking well before I ever pick up a card. It saves me from making mistakes during game play.

2. I never worry about what else is going on. Obviously, you can’t control the cards that your opponents get in Uno. But if you have a plan, any plan, then you are controlling all that you can. Therefore, there’s no reason to worry about what else is going on; you can just play.

That’s what a good strategy does. It gives you a plan, and it frees you from worry.

Super Saturday: When Eternity Finds Its Way Into Today

In recovery, eternity and the present seemingly merged for me.  It seems like my accident was a lifetime ago but it was a little more than five months ago. When people visit me, I can say “it’s been a lifetime since I’ve seen you” and mean it literally. This post was originally published on November 9, 2011.

I’m deathly afraid of eternities and infinities. My brain likes it much more when I have a finite amount of things left to do.

I used to be a philosophy major. It was a hard time in my life. I think I used to like philosophy. It’s hard to remember that far back, but I think I did, once. I started to second-guess my major at the same point in my life that I began to consider it as a life-long career.

The problem with being a life-long philosopher is that your job is never really done. There are always critics to argue against. There are always new ideas to explore. There are always more books to read, more systems to overthrow, and more logic to do.

That scared the hell out of me. I don’t know if I could have been a philosopher. Maybe I don’t have what it takes. But I do know that I would have been burnt out before I had gotten through grad school. I would have been focused on the following sixty years of my career. I would have been thinking about the next thing always. That’s tiring.

For a while, dropping my philosophy major made my life easier. I don’t plan on making an academic career out of my studies in literature so the endless amount of academic work in the field doesn’t intimidate me. But now I realize that infinity, the future, eternity sneaks up on you. It finds you. And pretty soon, you realize that you are never going to be able to read everything, see everything, meet every person important in your field. Then you have a choice.

You can either let it intimidate you. You can let it ruin you. You can let it stress you out.

Or

You focus on the task at hand. You can approach your present challenge as if it is the last thing you will ever have to accomplish. And you can do it.

Super Saturday: A Blog Post In Which I Over-Think My Tendency to Over-Think

This post was originally published on October 18, 2011. A month or so ago I told my father that traumatic brain injuries work out pretty well for perfectionists because I’d always have something to blame my mistakes on that had nothing to do with talent or intelligence. But now, I see that it actually makes being a perfectionist even worse. Now, I have one other thing about myself that is capable of causing a mistake. My parents tell me quite often that I’m over-thinking stuff.

I think far too much. Ask anyone who even knows the first thing about me, and they will all say the same thing. Thinking too much isn’t always a bad thing. I think it might be connected to my need to listen to jazz music while I study and my love for reading and my general ability to sometimes make good decisions. And all of those things are good.

But sometimes, it is a very bad thing. There are several reasons for this.

1) Thinking too much paralyzes. It keeps you from actually doing anything. Sometimes I get so caught up in the theoretical components of an activity, that I never actually do the activity. I am guilty of this in responsibilities as small as reading e-mails. I think about how great it would be if I set a little time apart each day to answer all my e-mails. And while I am thinking about this, my inbox piles up and my time disappears. But if I answered e-mails as they came in, I would have plenty of time for them.

2) Thinking too much leads to bad thoughts. When you think too much, it is impossible to think good thoughts all the time. Invariably, then, less than good thoughts creep their way into your mind. Often, I find myself thinking about how I am going to fail at something. And even more often than that, I find myself thinking about how I compare to other people. Spending time comparing myself to others is probably the biggest time-suck I engage in. It makes no sense. As I am thinking about how I measure up to other people, they are getting even farther ahead. Some people might argue that I shouldn’t think about it like that, but I do. And it is helpful to think that if I just did the work, I would stand a much better chance of measuring up. You can’t do anything standing still.

3) Thinking too much causes a decrease in self-confidence. If I listened to my head all the time, I would really hate myself. My apartment is rarely clean, my inbox rarely empty, my work rarely done, my dreams rarely achieved, and my relationships rarely deep. But what my head doesn’t tell me is that all of those things are within my ability to change. I just need to stop thinking and get up and do them.

What are you thinking about? How much you hate these questions? Leave a comment anyway. I would love to hear from you!

Super Saturday: A Life-Changing Incomplete Thought

I published this post on December 22, 2011. It’s something that I need to remind myself of just about daily now. Since I’m doing lightyears better since four months ago, I want to be out doing things. It often feels like my life is on hold. I’m waiting for that magical moment where I’m teaching again like it’s going to be the life-changing thing. I think it’s the journey of recovery that is actually the life-changing thing.

What if we woke up one day and someone told us that all of the stuff we were doing in preparation for that really important life-changing thing was the really important life-changing thing?

That’s a little confusing.

Let me put it another way.

You might be busy building a social media platform, training for a marathon, dating in an attempt to find a life-partner, getting a degree for a job, starting a business, or starting a movement. Currently, I have a couple of things like that on my plate. I am trying to get a degree. I am starting a student organization on campus. I am trying to build a platform as a blogger. And it’s hard. And a lot of time, I think my real effect on the world will happen when I have my degree, when my student org is running by itself, and when I have over a thousand people following my blog.

There’s a really great war novel I once read where these soldiers are training for war by using video games, but you find out in the end that the video games were the war.

That’s how life works. The life-changing part happens while we are trying to get to the part we think is going to be life-changing.

Super Saturday: Reflections, or, He Shoots Lightning From His Feet

I’m constantly amazed at how applicable my posts before the accident are to me post-accident. This post was originally posted on April 22, 2013.

I want to pack up every thought I’ve had in a box and place it in a corner where I will one day forget about it and when I finally rediscover it I will assume it’s a box of old basketball trophies (the kind you get for participating) and because you can’t do anything with old basketball trophies I will put it out with the trash and never have to think about it again.

I want to pull back all the words I’ve ever spoken as if they existed on measuring tape and I could push a little button on the side of my head and they would all come back to me and even if the shock of all of those words hurt me a little and made me feel a little dizzy at least they would stop hurting anyone they have stung.

I want to walk backwards through life and watch as everything I’ve ever done unravels and I want to know how it feels for the pressure to decrease steadily steadily steadily steadily.

I want to line up every person I’ve ever known and I want to stand on trial before them so they can judge whether I have helped or hurt them not because I want to know if I am a good person or a bad one but because I want to know how to maximize the helping and minimize the hurting.

I want to write down everything and everyone I have ever loved so that I can chart it [love] and diagram it [love] and dissect it [love] and maybe figure out what it [love] means.

I want to curl up into God like He is a king-sized bed and I am a three-year-old child and I want to feel all of my secrets wash away under me deep under the covers into long-forgotten and never-traveled bed-spaces.

I want to gather all the people I have seen but whose names I do not know and feed them cake and throw a party with small talk and then later big talk and then much later tears and when I leave I will know many new names and I will have made many new friends and fallen in love perhaps twice or more.

And I want to dance so hard that I create a storm and no one will be able to get near me and they will look at me and they will say that storm used to be a boy but then he danced and now he shoots lightning from his feet.

Super Saturday: A Metaphor Concerning Honey Wheat Bagels

This was originally published on January 25, 2012. If I could time travel, I would go back to that day, meet myself, scold myself (because hardship shouldn’t be desired; it’s hard) and then give myself a hug. 

Since I came to college, I have been obsessed with the fact that I am so normal. I have written blog posts and journal entries, had conversations, and lived a life trying to figure out why I am so normal.  I want conflict (naively)! I want hardship (naively)! It’s silly, I know. But it’s something that I think about.

I have always preferred white bread and plain bagels, which has made for a great metaphor. I am white bread. I am normal.

The other day, I was grocery shopping, and they were out of plain bagels. So I had to buy honey wheat. I was really upset. I am a plain bagel person. I will always be a plain bagel person.

So a couple of days later, it was time to open up the honey wheat bagels, and I did it begrudgingly. And I made my usual cheese and ham sandwich with a toasted bagel, and I bit into it, and the world opened up and the sun smiled on me. I loved it!

Sometimes you go your whole life thinking something is one way, and if you just step out of it, you can start having something another way. Metaphors. Bagels. Awesome.