Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Philosophical/Psychological Self-Examination Caused by a Detour on the Bus

On my Facebook profile I have an application that allows people to annoymously submit words which they think describe me. The more times a word is voted for, the bigger it is. Feel free to check it out and add words if you haven't already. In any case, the most voted for words that are supposed to describe me are enthusiastic, kind, creative, silly, and spiritual, followed closely by things like loyal, genuine, thoughtful, present, etc. I find this too extremely interesting because psychologically in our society, individuals use the perceptions of what other think of them as the main building blocks of self-identification (see Yoga and the Search for the True Self by Stephan Cope for more on this;I like to state my sources). Therefore this application both describes and defines at the same time for some people. Luckily I have always resisted basing my identity only on what others think. All that being said, knowing how others perceive you is fun and flattering but at times can be hard to swallow (if people are honest). This is all leading up to one word that was posted on my "Define Me" application. High-strung.

High-strung is something I used to think of myself as but haven't really for a long time. When it popped up it was hard for me to understand why it was there. Today I came to understand why I can't agree with it because of a situation on a CTA bus that unnerved me a great deal. I'll explain what happened first.

Every day when I go to work, I take one of the Express CTA buses that hops on Lake Shore Drive to make the trip downtown a lot faster and efficient for commuters. These buses are not always reliable but if you just have a little patience and give yourself time in case they are late, there is no problem. On my way home, I do the same thing. Downtown all 5 buses (4 of which are express) I can take home stop at the same stops so I usually just hop on the first express bus that shows up. Two of these buses gets off LSD (yeah, I know it is funny initials but we all use them here in print) about a mile and a half south of where I live. The other two get off a few blocks from where I live. Of course I'd rather get on one that waits to get off the express part later so I get home earlier but really, what does the 10minutes really mean in the course of the day?

Today I was lucky, I thought, because my favorite express bus that lets me off a block from my apartment and runs express almost all the way there came first. I got on, actually had a seat, put on my phones to listen to music, and opened my book to read, the best way to pass the bus time. As we approached Delaware, the last stop downtown before getting on LSD, the bus apparently started to go as if it was going to go on surface streets instead. A few people yelled out complaints and "explained" to the driver that this was an express bus and the express bus gets on Lake Shore Drive at Delaware. I ignored it because as far as I'm concerned, it is my time to catch up on my fiction reading and listen to music for a change. The bus did get on LSD but then things got interesting. I was sitting in the seat right behind the driver's box so I noticed that the man standing up near the front was talking to the bus driver about how this bus was a 148 not a 145 (meaning it waits to get of LSD at a later exit than the 145). Apparently the bus driver was disagreeing and was going to get off at the exit that is about a mile and a half from my apartment. Well people started getting generally upset and worried because the 145 afternoon route stops way before the 148 end point. The front of the bus clearly said 148. The bus driver kept quietly insisting that she was going to get off at the earlier exit, which she did. At this point, people started yelling "Get back on the Drive! You're not supposed to get off here! This is a 148! It's an Express!" The bus driver said something about not taking the express route which was strange since there is no such route as far as we knew and she did not get back on the Drive, despite the 50+ people yelling directions at her. This was a full bus.

So what am I doing this whole time? I was sitting in my seat, happily trying to shut out the yelling people and read my book. Then it got to be too much. The yelling had stopped since it was obvious the driver was not going to get back on LSD. She had also assured everyone that she was in fact going to the end point of the 148 route and thus driving that route with the one exception of which exit she used. Now people were just grumbling not very quietly. I finally took my earphones out and said politely "Maybe there is a reason we don't know about that she is not getting off at [the later stop]. She's going to the same place as the 148 on the same route so maybe there is something we don't know. Everyone is going to get home. It's not really going to take that much longer just because we got off a little early." I was very calm about it and just wanted people to not be so upset! I could almost feel how high people had let their blood pressure get and the negative energy was overwhelming. I thought maybe some of them would think "she's right and I'm not going to waste any more energy on something I can't control." I was also confused as to why these people didn't just get off the bus if they had such a problem with the driver. However, all I got was some angry looks and comments like "well she didn't want to even get on Lake Shore Drive to begin with! No one is getting off until the normal stop so why don't we just get back on the drive! etc etc etc" I said my last word which was "well, I just wanted to point out that maybe she has been told something or knows something we don't. We're going to get home which is the important part." After that I went back to tuning it all out and trying to read my book.

Not long after, only about 5 minutes delayed by the "detour," I got off at my stop a block away from my apartment. I said a very loud "Thank you" to the bus driver with a smile, like I always do, and got off. She looked appreciative that I had smiled and I just felt so bad for her! I don't know what was behind this weird route but I emphathised with the driver and almost felt like crying for her sake. It also must have been even scarier for her since the bus riders were almsot becoming an angry mob! As I walked home I contemplated my reaction and wondered why I hadn't been upset. Four or five years ago, maybe I would have been.

Maybe it was just because I wasn't in a rush to get home and didn't mind be a few minutes late. Maybe it was that I just didn't care enough. However, I think it is a sign that I am a much more flexible, accepting person than I used to be. Whoever wrote "present" on my Define Me application must have noticed that I tend to be more like this lately. I was in the moment, experiencing the moment, but also aware that it was just one moment that would not negatively affect the whole universe or probably even most of the individual universes of the people on the bus. In fact, I'm feeling pretty "laid back," which is something no one to my knowledge has ever used to describe me.

So how does this all relate back to "high strung"? For some reason the Define Me words popped into my head while I was walking home and I wondered, as usual, why someone sees me as high-strung. It is not a positive word but not meant to be cruel either. Well, as I was writing the first part of this post, I realized what it is: when other people "define you" they are only interpreting the actions and words they observe you using. They do not see the motivation. Often times it does not matter because things like "enthusiastic" are just that - it's pretty easy to tell when someone is enthusiastic about something. Things like "creative" are a judgement on things you have seen a person produce or heard them say. "High-strung" on the other hand is how you interpret a person's reaction to an event. That reaction can be motivated by so many underlying things that it becomes a lot tougher to get right without really knowing what the person is feeling. I wear my heart on my sleeve which means I cry pretty easily. At times I can get really frustrated by things and vent angrily. I can also get pretty passionate about things and go on diatribes about them which some people don't understand or can't see the motivation. All these things can be interpreted as "high-strung" In fact, I could be interpreting "high-strung" wrong too! I'll never know but I do know that by the way I define it, I would not use it or let it define me.

A better name for the facebook application would be "Describe me" because I personally don't let anyone "define me." I just let it go in this case because, well, I'm pretty laidback about it and still enjoy seeing what people see in me. Two of my favorite "Define me" phrases are crochet-ish and best-sister-ever. Only one person has voted for each of these yet they really mean more to me than some of the more voted for phrases. I'm pretty sure I know who made the sister comment, since my brother isn't a Facebook person and has another sister anyways (who also has Define Me so it might be bad if one of us was actually described as the "best"). It's fun even so! I'm not going to erase "high-strung" either just because I don't agree with it. It has obviously made me think a lot about myself today. I'm not letting it define me anymore or make me worried because really, what will it matter in the long run?

So just a little blip in the CTA bus driver service caused a lot of thought today. I'm praying for all those other people on the bus today because I don't want anyone to be stressed out about what happened. Would it have been the end of the world if we had been forced to get off early? There are plenty of other buses that go along that route. Most of the people were young professionals who really could walk a bit if needed. So I hope they are all "over it" by now because there are too many important things happening the world to be worried about a 5 minute delay.

I hope you had a nice day too!

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Monday, August 04, 2008

A new favorite book (I have more than one already)

Daughter of the Forest (The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Book 1) Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

My review

If you are looking for a review that is more about the plot and characters, you'll have to look elsewhere. However, these are my thoughts on my experience of reading this book:

This is now one of my favorite books. It was amazing. There are several reasons I loved this book but there is one that explains all the others - somehow I really identified with the protagonists even though on the surface I am nothing like her. However, I must have found something in her to identify with because I actually cried while reading this book. Twice! The really horrific things that happened to Sorcha (the heroine of the story) were so real when I was reading I couldn't help crying for her. Then at the end, I cried for a very different reason but I won't say why exactly because it would give things away.

Crying at the movies is something people admit to a lot. Crying while reading books I think is less common. This is only the 2nd book I can remember that made me cry. The other one was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, about the Holocaust. I think the mood one is in makes a big different to how one reacts to a story but even so, the story must be told well enough for the reader to identify so strongly.

The other way I know I identified with Sorcha has to do with talking. In order to break an evil enchantment placed on her brothers, she is not allowed to speak or explain why she is not speaking in any way until she is finished with a task set out for her. Therefore all her dialogue for most of the book is in terms of descriptive gestures or thoughts she can communicate with a few of her brothers without speaking. The story is also told in 1st person which makes her silence fascinating since the reader knows everything she wants to say but can't say. As I was reading on Saturday, I was startled when I had to say something to my roommate or if she said anything to me throughout the day. It was as if I was thinking "Don't talk! Everything will be ruined if we talk!"

This book was one that I wanted to never end but at the same time I really wanted to finish it so I could make sure everything turned out okay! When I took it back to the library tonight I almost didn't put it in the book drop, thinking I may want to read parts again. However, I let it go because I do recognize that I have a strong, probably abnormal attachment to books and reading... That attachment, though, is what makes me love reading so much. I have plenty of friends in real life but books are the only friends I can really "hang out" with when I am feeling introverted, if that makes any sense to anyone but me. I can read a book alone and feel completely renewed, the way that extroverts can gain energy from socializing. Reading gives me the energy to really enjoy my extroverted social times. This book is a perfect example because I had a wonderful weekend reading alone but when I went out with friends tonight, I felt more free and willing to socialize than I have in a long time. Maybe I just needed to have a good book to talk about ;)

View all my reviews.