Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Sense of Things

If there's one thing I've learned in my cognition class this semester, it's this:  The human brain is amazing at creating a unified picture of the world when, in fact, there isn't one.

Last week, a friend said I "wasn't very good with ambiguity."  He meant it in jest, and I laughed, then subsequently snapped something sassy back.  "You know what?  Most people are not okay with ambiguity!"

And so it is.  Even with something as simple as perception.  The visuospatial system of the brain does not work like a camera, catching every single thing with one blink of the eye.  We see what we want to see.  Our short-term goals and motivation affect what our eyes perceive.  We cannot attend to everything, and as such, we do not see every object or event in the world around us.  Almost like magic, our minds fill in the blanks and close the gaps.

General cognition is the same way.  The human brain is uncomfortable with unfamiliar things, so it attempts to make sense of events that might not literally make sense.  This is actually a good thing most of the time.  There's a lot of information in the world, and the amount of cognitive load would be too heavy for anyone to get anything normal done, were it not for the brain's capacity to make up stuff.  It also makes us feel good about ourselves or events in life that elicit anxiety.

Take for instance, the recent events in my life.  My apartment was broken into.  I was scared for days.  I had (and still sometimes have) nightmares.  I was sad and angry and worried.  Despite such negative emotions, here's the thing people said most that week, "Well, have there been any silver linings?"  And so I looked for silver linings; I even found a few.  In this context, I found patterns and meaning where perhaps there was none, and yet, it was important for my sanity and happiness that I "saw" them.

I've been thinking lately, about other kinds of meaning we find, in order to deal with incomplete pictures and anxiety.  The idea of soul mates is one.  The idea that God has a specific plan for each of us is another.  The latter one, in particular, seems preposterous, and yet, for the first time in my life, I feel very strongly that He does.  That is, Austin, Texas, is the city I need to be in at this very exact moment in time.  I tend to think that God has flexible plans for us -- more like overarching goals, really -- but I've come to realize that there is the possibility of checkpoints along our individual timelines that God has specific interest in.  For me, Austin is one of those checkpoints.  I'm sure I've said it before, but I think it's worth recording again, if only for myself.

Thing I'm thankful for: a new apartment

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Quote

Something that's been swirling around in my head for the last few days is a quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.  It goes like this:

"[H]ope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

I think that's probably true.  So there you go.  Think about it, or as Anne would say, "Drink it in."  Just let it soak into your bones and remember to hope that crappy situations will get better, that people will be kind and helpful, and that you will be happy.

Thing I'm thankful for: my friend Brookie.  She's so good to me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tender Mercies, Part 2

And it's stories such as this that make me lift my chin up, grin, and bear it:
$4.2 Million Settlement for Student Paralyzed by Bully.

From the article:
Rosenstein was paralyzed from the waist down due to a clot that had formed after the blow in a major artery above his abdomen. When the clot moved down to his spine, it burst, leaving him paralyzed. Complications resulting from his paralysis, such as scoliosis, led to 19 surgeries and a complete spinal fusion.

Life's not so bad. Things could get much worse than they are.

Thing I'm thankful for: being alive

Tender Mercies

Big problems are hard, but sometimes it's the little things that push you over the edge. One of the little things was having all of my earrings stolen. I got my ears pierced only two years ago, and in the two years since, I have found only one pair of perfect hoop earrings. They weren't too big, and they weren't too small. They were, as Goldilocks exclaimed, "Juuuust right!"

I found them at Payless about 6 months ago. Tuesday, when I was alone and thus jumpy and restless, I went to the nearest Payless to see whether I could find those perfect hoops again. I knew I was hoping against hope, so when I walked in, I didn't go straight to the earrings. I meandered through the racks of shoes and tried on a couple of pairs. Finally, I went to the earrings, and immediately spotted those perfect hoops. There was even a nice big pair of CZ studs as well. I was happy.

Even though it's the little things that sometimes push you over the edge, it's also the little things that can bring you back.

Thing I'm thankful for: your blog comments yesterday. Thanks, guys.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Break-In

While I was at church on Sunday and my roommate was gone, my apartment was broken into. The thief shattered the sliding glass door, cut himself on the glass, and spilled blood all over the place while he ransacked our rooms. He took laptops, a thumb drive, a backpack, a bag, jewelry, extra purses, and buttons. (Yes, those would be the spare buttons you get when you buy nice clothes.) My school life was in my laptop and thumb drive. Past projects and reports and wireframes and church talks and photos and videos were all lost. Memories were in the earrings I've collected since I got my ears pierced two years ago. Clothes and towels were stained with that stranger's blood and had to be thrown out. A Christmas present from my mom was ruined, so that got thrown out, too.

Of course I never knew how awful it would feel to be robbed. I didn't know how precious it is to feel safe in my own home. Now, I get nervous at the prospect of just studying by myself. I avoid going home if I can help it, and I have a hard time getting good sleep. I don't want to touch anything in my apartment that he might have touched, so I spend my time at home cleaning, if possible. Or walking around in flip-flops because I don't want my feet to touch where his feet did. I have always cherished alone time, but in the last three days, I haven't wanted to be by myself. It's hard to concentrate, and it's hard to be optimistic. I scored a 19, I think, out of a possible 22 on a post-traumatic stress disorder test.

Here's something, though: I know nice people. Truly generous and genuinely kind people who give me money, food, company, places to stay, cleaning help, and hugs. One friend loaned me her laptop; another wrote me a check for a lot of money. Another friend hosted a bake sale in her department just for me. My family has called and sent e-mails and text messages and prayed on my behalf.

Life is hard, especially lately, but I'm okay. I'll get through it. I'm getting through it.

Thing I'm thankful for: family and friends

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Accident

Last Monday afternoon, I wrote a post entitled "Every Little Thing Gonna Be Alright." And so it is. But there was a small hiccup on Wednesday, exactly 48 hours after I published that post. Here's what happened:

As per usual, I was in a hurry to get to my cognition class. I still had to print an assignment that was due, and since my printer doesn't work, I rushed to my school to take advantage of its cheap printing prices. As I pulled in front of my building, I spontaneously decided to parallel park in front -- something I never, never do, as Guadalupe is a busy street, and I'm scared of being hit when I get out of my car. I parked there that day, though, to save time. I don't know if I've ever made a worse decision. I checked to make sure there were no oncoming cars and quickly opened my door. As I was about to get out, a guy on a bike crashed into the door. In an instant, the window shattered, the door bent back on itself, and the guy and his bike were on the ground in front of my car. Besides some minor cuts from the bits of broken glass, he was fine and so was his bike. In the end, he drove off as though nearly nothing had happened. I, on the other hand, was a wreck, and I'm guessing the damage incurred to my car will come to about $1,500.

My first thought after it happened was, "I hope this man is alright." To my eternal relief, he was. Not only was the guy barely hurt, but he rode away on his bike when it was all over. It was a miracle of miracles. I owe Him everything for that one.

My second thought came after I knew the guy was alright. He told me he was fine and signed the hospital waiver, and I held back big crocodile tears and thought about how all I wanted to do was go home and cry to my husband and hope he didn't think I was a horrible person for not paying enough attention to people on bikes. To me, that's what husbands and wives should be for each other -- the people who love you and assure you that you are wanted, even though you do dumb things.

My third thought came as I was sitting alone after everyone had left. The firefighters, paramedics, cops, passersby -- they had all gone, and it was just me. I thought about those little chirping birds from Monday afternoon. I thought about how much worse things could've been. About how much worse they could be. And yet, the last four days have been wonderful days, and I find myself singing, "Don't worry 'bout a thing 'cause every little thing gonna be alright . . ."

Thing I'm thankful for: insurance!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Every Little Thing Gonna Be Alright

I never fully understood the Bob Marley song Three Little Birds until today. See, I have some little birdies living in the bush right next to my bedroom window. Sometimes I despise them, such as when they are chirping loudly in the wee hours of the morning while I'm trying to sleep. This afternoon, though, they kept me pleasant company.

I woke up early to study and complete some homework that was due at 9:00 am. In addition to being sleepy, I was feeling a bit guilty and inadequate after some of the talks at General Conference, and I was still recovering from an allergic reaction to a new Neutrogena product I tried on Saturday night. (My face was so itchy!) It could've been a real stinky kind of day, but for some reason, those birds made me feel lighter. They seemed to be singing, "Don't worry 'bout a thing 'cause every little thing gonna be alright!"

It turns out I really needed that moment because as I was leaving my apartment to rush to class, I dropped the plate and PB&J sandwich I was holding while I was getting into my car. THEN I spilled milk on myself. What a mess! I just laughed to myself and started singing, "Don't worry 'bout a thing 'cause every little thing gonna be alright!"

Thanks, little birds!

Thing I'm thankful for: picnic weather