Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dallas does...secrets, secrets are no fun.

Allow me to call my own bluff on something.
I'm pretty sure that every single time I've posted a Facebook status that's along the lines of "Life is short. Never miss an opportunity to tell somebody how you feel about them," I've been secretly hoping that my phone will light-up instantly with a proclamation of love from the man of my dreams.
Because I am (and maybe we all are) by nature, extremely impatient.
Because it's hard to understand how we can afford to keep things bottled-up inside when our whole lives can end so suddenly.
But let's be honest here. How often do I come out and tell someone how I'm feeling right there in the moment I'm feeling it?
I'm more of a let-me-imply-my-feelings-over-a-several-month-text-message-exchange type of girl. Which, frankly, sucks.
Because it means I'm not allowed to complain about such frustrations as the anxiety of being unable to know what's on everyone else's mind when I'm not sharing what's on mine.
I am, however, allowed to read into every single piece of communication to create an elaborate picture of the mindscape of others- a picture that inevitably turns out to be miles from the truth.
From the picture I've painted of myself over the last year of blogging, I'm sure you're all confident that you know what I'm referring to: that the world needs to invoke a "must fess-up policy" for crushes.
But what I'm actually talking about is something more than that. Something that encompasses the entire spectrum of emotions.
Because it's not just love that we forget to share. It's anger, too. And it's laughter and it's tears and it's ticklishness.
I like to refer to myself as "non-confrontational," and to me, that has always meant that I will avoid conflict at any cost.
But I think I'm beginning to realize that what I really am is an emotion-avoider. I'll spill out my feelings all over a blog post or to my mom on the phone (which hardly counts as a normal interaction because she literally can't be surprised at this point), but I run like crazy away from situations that require face-to-face, nitty-gritty, heart-to-heart talk.
Because I get scared.
Always considered a perceptive person, I'm scared that I will have entirely misread a situation. I don't want to know that my friend always secretly hated the way I never made her a trophy when she successfully crossed the monkey bars. Or that my dad is getting more and more worried about my grad school plans.
I just want to be proven right when I think that you've missed me just as much as I've missed you.
But somewhere inside, we all know that a situation is never quite how it appears.
And that's why we may never be able to actually say just what's on our mind at any given moment.
So if you stuck with me through this frantic post, let me just ask you one thing: how will we ever break this cycle of confusion?
Okay, okay, maybe I don't need to ask you. Because I've already found the solution, at least for myself.
Stop pretending to have the world figured out.
Sure, I am very good at reading the nonverbal cues of how the people around me are reacting to a particular interaction. But that does not mean I am some kind of licensed master of future affairs. The fact of the matter is that we will never be able to fully understand people who are not ourselves, so we need to stop trying.
So allow me to offer you a revised quote. One that I promise to be offering with a clear conscious:
Life is short. Don't ever miss an opportunity to let people surprise you.

Peace, love and perpetual confusion,

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dallas does...Silence Survivor.

It's been a week since the vow. Am I a changed person?
I've certainly still been facebooking like a fiend, texting like a twerp, and gabbing like a true gossip, but was there a lesson learned from those quiet hours?
I like to think so...but then again, I've always given myself the benefit of the doubt.
Because there's definitely doubt. I had moments of clarity within that day and a half (and with thousands of minutes to work with, that was definitely expected). But overall, I can't claim to have walked away with a lasting appreciation of the peace that silence brings.
I'd like to say that my lesson has been learned and that deactivating my Facebook and turning off my phone will be a common occurrence in my life.
But I can't.
Because that's not the real challenge.
Sure, when you separate yourself from your electronic communication outlets, you separate yourself from the power that others have to make you feel ignored or forgotten.
But then again, doesn't the real growth come from being able to leave yourself 'plugged-in' and learn to let go of that part of yourself that finds self-worth in notifications and new texts?
The real lesson I need to learn isn't one of silent stamina; it's one of communication confidence.
Smart phones and social media have opened up a whole new world of opportunities for telling the world about what matters to us. About fears and failures, successes and smiles. Painting a picture of our daily lives by the hour, or maybe even by the minute.
There's value in being unplugged, but maybe even more value in being plugged-in without losing the concrete, real-life aspects of who you are.
So here I am.
One week after the silence ended. Completely free to update my status far too many times in one day (Hey! I have important thoughts to share!) and text extensively about issues that could be much more easily solved in person.
And I'm already back to driving myself crazy waiting for contact from a particularly uncommunicative boy.
But a piece of me wants to believe that I am learning.
Slowly, but surely.
Somewhat struggling, but no longer silent.

Peace, love and party favors,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dallas does...Hours 18-28

Forgive the pun, but I'm speechless about how hard it is to remain speechless.
I meant to provide a much more detailed update, but the hour is late and I've had a pounding headache since my brush with total starvation earlier. A brush that happened to be very in-line with the activities of an ascetic- while practicing the austerity of silence they rarely ate more than what would minimally sustain them. The vow is meant to be accompanied by a dedication to giving your body nothing in excess of what is required for basic survival.
My major accomplishment of the afternoon was remaining entirely quiet during the entire 75 minutes of my discussion-based literature class. That is a landmark achievement in my entire college career. The worst part was that I got a good grade on the quiz from last week and couldn't even text my mom to celebrate.
It's the little things like that text that I came to miss the most. It killed me that I couldn't even say a casual "thanks" to the guy who held the door open for me this morning.
Of course, there were also more extensive speech acts that I wanted to participate in and I definitely crossed the line once or twice with my hyperactive hand-signaling.
When 6:30 rolled around it was time for the CAB administrative meeting, an event that I had given myself a "hall pass" for because of the issues that needed to be discussed. I was very careful to try to allow only CAB-related words out of my mouth, but it was nearly impossible to stop the flow once I let just a few words out.
Uggh. Yep, I admit it. It hasn't been 28 hours of total silence. But it's been a good faith effort and I'm glad that the final 8 will be mostly spent in bed. I spoke only when the conversation could not possibly wait until tomorrow, and even then it was sparingly.
All I can think about is how it feels to go home to a quiet room after a night of endless gabbing with my best friends. How it feels to exhaust your talkin' bone.
I long for that feeling again, though let me assure you, silence is surprisingly exhausting.
This morning I fought the desire to tell irresistibly funny stories, but now all I want is to say something. To say ANYTHING. Even if it's to comment on the weather or the room decisions of the winner of this season's Design Star. I want to be able to be the commentator of my own life again.
I knew I had it bad when I stared at the characters on SVU and was genuinely jealous of how freely they got to speak to each other.
Let's just say that tomorrow morning can't come too soon.

Peace, love and silent surrender,

Dallas does...Hours 13-17

I am being haunted by the letter S.
My silence is making it impossible for me to go order food at the campus cafeteria...and I'm too stubborn to walk home and make an omelette because I know that would lead to me taking a nap instead of doing the hours of homework that should be accomplished today.
So here I am writing an update to try to kick my mind out if its early-afternoon hibernation.
The worst part by far of this vow (at least, the worst part in the first 17 hours) was the walk to campus with my roommate. Everyone should walk alongside someone for a good 15 minutes in total silence to know just how agonizing it can be.
Okay, maybe I'm being overdramatic. But that's because I've always hated silence. I'm that person who starts telling pointless stories just to fill minuscule gaps in conversations. And this my friends, is why I'm plagued by poor performance on both telephone interviews and first dates.
Beyond forcing myself into a much-needed hiatus from social media, I undertook this vow of silence as a way to try to make peace with crickets chirping, if you will. I think it's an important skill to have to be able to be in the same room with other people without the need to continuously shoot the breeze.
But boy do I want to shoot the breeze right now.
I'm sitting on the top floor of our Union, attempting to be productive, but mostly just dozing off while reading Donne poetry and listening enviously as the person behind me receives constant Facebook chat 'new message' notifications.
It's been an interesting morning overall. I find myself shuffling along looking at cracks in the sidewalk, as I have become convinced that even a slight second of eye contact will allow someone walking past to draw me into conversation.
I completed my social outcast vibe by sitting in the very back of the lecture hall for my morning class, which, as it turns out, is home to people who carry on conversations as if they are eating lunch at Panera instead of sitting in the glow of a professor's Powerpoint presentation.
I continue to find value in shrinking my communication universe to one, but am beyond thrilled that this project only lasts 36 hours. It's mesmerizing to me that a true ascetic can sentence themselves to an austerity of silence that lasts 12 years. 12 years!! And here I am complaining about all the life-changing events that I could be missing in just a day and a half...
I doubt any single Facebook notification or text message deserves to be missed as much as I miss it right now.
And that's the real problem. Little red numbers in the top left of our profile and vibrations from our phone have come to be the building blocks of communication instead of sentences spoken aloud. I still don't think that these things will be the ruination of my generation...but they definitely do distract us from the life that's passing us by outside of computer screens and lcd monitors.
And so my goal for the second half of my silence is to stop missing what I've left behind and embrace this opportunity to explore the aspects of this vow that I won't ever relive. I gave up talking, not listening.

Peace, love and personal growth,

*Best story that I can't yet share....
In lecture, my friend was eating some dry cereal while the professor began his lecture. It wasn't anything too crunchy like carrots, but it was definitely creating an audible chewing sound. And that, coupled with the crinkling of the cereal box's bag, was enough to drive the boy in front of us crazy. What I wouldn't have given to poke her and share what I saw him type on his computer screen which was, in all caps, ARE YOU DONE EATING. You just gotta love passive aggressives.

Dallas does...Hours 4-12

If a word is uttered in a forest with no one around to hear it, does it still count as speaking?
Forgive me for my early morning philosophy, I'm just getting a kick out of the fact that I can't stop muttering things to myself, or, in the case of my shower this morning, singing "Que Sera, Sera" until I realized that I was ruining the silence.
To be fair, most of these last 8 hours were spent sleeping, so they were easily the most relaxing part of the vow so far. The only frustration I have is that I was unable to drag my lazy body out of bed for some morning reflection, and therefore only had time for my regular routine, as well as some last minute homework edits.
I'm not particularly nervous about the day ahead, though I realize that a small sign reading: "Caution- Remain Quiet" is probably necessary, because who knows who I'll run into and what stories they will wish to share.
My goal is just to keep a low profile and be the type of student I was never very good at being: a quiet one. My arm is going to get a break from its regular workout of raising repeatedly to answer questions.
Oh my! I almost forgot the most comical event of my silence so far. I actually had a nightmare about cheating. I had created some kind of excuse for my dream self to require a visit to Facebook and started responding to wall posts before I realized that all of my responses would be coming from within the time period of my silence and therefore marking me as a cheater! This dream does not stray far from my common thread of dream in which I carry on textual conversations with people and am disappointed to find, upon waking, that it was all in my head.
So, there you have it. I'm a third of the way through my vow and my only complaint is that it's infiltrating my REM sleep and giving me a sudden affinity for Broadway tunes.
But now it's time to take this show on the road...well, the sidewalk to campus.

Peace, love and sleepy silence,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dallas does...Hours 1-3

The silence is upon us, ladies and gentlemen.
Alright, it's mostly just upon me, since I'm the crazy kid who decided to take on the challenge of my Living Religions of the East professor and observe the austerity of silence for the next 36 hours.
The jury's still out on whether or not blogging is a form of cheating, but I don't consider this a complete act of communication until I post a link to I'll just go on putting my thoughts down while I'm having them and worry about the fine print later.
I didn't decide until Tuesday night that I was going to for sure give this project a go. I never thought it was impossible, but the logistics of the thing freaked me out. Would I sound like a brat if I said that on many days of the year I truly can't avoid talking?
It's true! My generation is built around communication. Even the failure to have an unlimited texting plan for your cell phone can make you akin to a social hermit.
Facebook, email, text messages- they're the way we stay in touch with each other (or, to be more blunt, the way we stalk each other). And the thought of going without all these things was enough to put me in quite a panic in the hours leading up to 8:00 p.m. this evening.
I'm the type of person who couldn't even stand to stay home from school for a day because I would miss too much of the hot gossip. I live in fear of being on the outskirts of an important news update (even if it's just that one of my best friends got a haircut) and I guess that's why so many people tell me that I'd make a great journalist. Consequently, it's also why I rarely miss an update to my Facebook newsfeed. It's almost pathetic how well-informed I am about other people's lives.
And I'm pretty sure it was this potential patheticism that inspired me to welcome this silence into my life. I spend so many hours of the day reading and talking about other people's lives that I forget to put valuable time into examining what's happening to me...unless it's to shape it into a clever status that will garner plenty of "likes" from my friends.
It was this very same problem that plagued me with guilt this summer. Even in the midst of the most amazing experience of my young life, I still spent more hours of my life engaged in social media than I dare admit. Where was the me time? Where was the peace that I promised myself when I was reading and rereading text messages trying to determine what the person on the other end of the cell tower could possibly have meant?
The goal of a vow of silence for "world-renouncers" in the Hindu tradition is to build up inner power, or heat. Austerities build up heat that can release you from the cycle of rebirth and into the higher level of being.
And as far from my Presbyterian upbringing as that sounds, it actually makes a lot of sense to me. Silence is inward. It forces you to remain within your own mind. To be fully in tune with yourself. (Comically, the only slip-ups I have had so far were to comment on things out loud to myself.)
The forms of communication I have left behind pull me outward. They stretch out my consciousness to include discussions of the bachelorhood of a poet that hit on Rebecca's friend or the likelihood that Nadal will be able to take down Djokovic in tomorrow's final.
"Kelsey" ceases to be one person living one life. She becomes a negotiator of many lives, advising Brittany about her long-distance love while simultaneously watching a movie with her mom. Making weekend plans with Andrew while catching-up with Beth. The energy she has to put into her own thoughts is splayed out over a thousand different conversations as she copies and pastes the advice of others into her own decision-making.
Silence is about being forced to live within yourself. To come to terms with only your own advice. To get to know what is truly best for you.
I find nothing essentially wrong with the over-communication of my's just dangerous. And these 36 hours are about collecting the pieces of my consciousness that I've been spreading throughout the tri-state area.
It's going well so far. Even though I feel somewhat like stories are fighting to get out of me like air always did during holding-your-breath contests at the Kasa's pool, I'm generally calm. I've dominated an essay for Virginia Woolf class and a Vocabulary practice test for the GRE. I'm getting to bed early so that I can wake-up for a run and some me-time.
I feel the pieces of myself finding their way back...and I almost want to scream out in joy. But that, of course, would be cheating. ;)

Peace, love and perfect silence,