Saturday, December 25, 2010

Name Change Notification- You've Been Served

To Whom It May Concern,

I know that you have known me as Maura or Frankie for years. Since birth, in fact, for some. I think that they're both perfectly nice names. Sure, I resented Frankie as a 5 year old- the bowl cut with the stirrup pants led to gender confusion galore. And these days, I've realized that Maura, while lovely, is a little too staid to fit me.

So, after much soul-searching, I have decided that neither of these options are sufficient for me anymore. They are nice but all wrong. I must be true to my inner self, and my inner self's name is not Frankie and it is not Maura. It's Susie, pronounced "snu-ffle-u-pa-gus". I am not interested in nicknames- I mean, why would I change my name to Susie only to be called Snuff or Paggie or Luffagus? That would just be silly.

Now, I know this will be an inconvenience to you all. I mean, aside from having to redo all of your address book entries and referring to me in conversation by my new name, you also have to endure the brow beating that I will give you when you inadvertently call me Maura or Frankie to my face. Not to mention the indignant responses I will send when you incorrectly spell my name Snuffleupagus instead of Susie. No worries, that's just part of the process of helping everyone remember my new (and real) name.

When you commit these unintentional faux pas, I will pointedly and loudly remind you that every time you refer to me as my old name, you are wrenching open a wound into a gaping, oozing laceration on my soul by forcing me to relive the days before the adoption of my true name. And that my grandmother's dying wish was for me to change my name. And that my religion requires me to make this transition. And that all of our mutual social acquaintances will now gossip about how ignorant you are to continue to call me by my old name. Don't worry, it's nothing personal. Just a verbal electro-shock therapy to shame you into complying with my new name change.

Anyways, I'm really happy to announce this important transition! I know that you will be walking on pins and needles around me for the foreseeable future- maybe forever. But that's really a small price to pay to enforce this unexpected and unusual decision on those around me.

Best,
Susie

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Advent Meditation: The Cost of the Incarnation

Not to toot my own horn too much, but I've always had a nice singing voice. I think this must somehow come from my dad's side because my sister has a nice voice, too, but you sure wouldn't guess this from the way my dad sings. Any natural ability I had was enhanced by the fact that I grew up singing Disney tunes, church hymns, and soulful oldies- the common denominator? Melody driven music that requires actual singing rather than breathily whispering to a beat as seems to be the current fashion.
This ability secured me several prime roles in school musicals. I was Mrs. Noah in first grade- rave reviews, let me tell you. Then in third grade, I was one of a trio of featured angels in the Christmas play who sang a special song in the interlude. I was soooo sick the day before the performance. Actually, now that I'm thinking about this, I'm pretty sure this was the year that I puked behind the risers and my friend Alisha slipped in it. Probably too much information.
In any case, I recovered enough to make the performance. I rocked my faux alto that I thought was tres chic (this was before embracing my inner 2nd soprano) and sang my part of the song. It was a song basically talking about how destructive mankind is and how puzzling it was that God cared about them at all. I remember the chorus: "We really don't understand (man is by nature a sinner), Why God should bother with man (man is by nature a sinner)."
This chorus has been running through my head this Advent season. One of the pros of going to a liturgically heavy church is the emphasis on the ebb and flow of the church calendar. We have proudly lit our Advent wreath for weeks now, reminding ourselves that the big day is just around the corner (delighting children with our church sponsored Christmas countdown). Advent is the time of year where we are meant to revel in anticipation... our culture has converted this into a manic season of hurry and scurry that we now all enjoy and dread.
As I've been trying to still my heart and meditate on anticipation, this is the chorus that has stuck with me. Why all the bother? Why all the planning? I mean, think about it. Before the beginning of time (actually, outside of time, since God is not in our dimension- wrap your mind around that one), God knew He would make man, He knew that man would sin, and He knew how He would bring everything back into balance. He      saw us for what we would be and choose to provide for us.
It's the ignominious nature of the whole scheme that's getting me this year. The King of the universe became a human baby. He came down and lived and breathed and had relationships with people. He cried and laughed and got sick sometimes. He went through the whole drama of life- without sinning. My friend Mary tied this into the whole Kinsmen Redeemer concept- only God had the power to redeem, but only a human could do it for humanity. So the Guy who had the means to pay took on the form that He had to be in to pay it. His divine nature was still there- that never went anywhere. But His glory, His form, and His rights- He forfeited all the things that we most cling to and came here. He came to serve us- how crazy is that? The one being in the universe that actually deserves loyalty and service gave that up to serve the people who by all rights ought to have been the servants. I would never do that. The human body, while a good and beautiful thing, is also frail. He took on those frailties and felt them in their full measure on the cross. It's all so counterintuitive and beyond my ability to relate.
All this to say, I am being completely humbled by the costliness of Jesus' pursuit of one soul. I think of my own life- all the twists and turns so far. There were so many points where He pursued me, and not just for salvation, but for relationship. It just seems like an awful lot of effort for little old me. That makes me think of a story I heard about a girl who Amy Carmichael worked with in India. She became a Christian through the school run by missionaries and then left her father's house to travel with Amy. He couldn't legally do anything to her since she was of age, but he wanted to make sure that no else became a Christian. He led a group of men to burn down the school and home of other Christians. The Christians grumbled and said that surely all the problems weren't worth the conversion of a single girl.
The cost/benefit analysis for any relationship doesn't match up for us, more often than not. That person is too frustrating or hurts us too much or is just plain too different than us for a relationship to be worth it. We can't be bothered to invest the time, or risk the pain, that love requires. But the perfect God who created us and everything around us- He can be bothered. He counts the costs and deems them worth it. I am really just staggered by this.
So this Advent, I am brimming with anticipation. I am remembering that once, many, many moons ago, my Savior came to earth, beginning the climax of a long-plotted plan to bring me back into relationship with my Father. He gave up so many of His rights and served me. And as I look at all the lights and general splendor that are meant to inspire awe within me, I will try to focus my awe on the One who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Panty Hose: A Poem

Forgive my shoddy meter:

As the cold wind blows,
I look at my bare legs,
and think of panty hose.

Come rain, snow, or shine,
I wear a girly skirt-
The essence of femininity divine.

Even in the bitterest of snows,
I sport my adorable frocks,
without panty hose.

I know I'm probably mad,
But the nylon fabric,
Is a most unfortunate professional fad.

To combat vendor foes,
I'm expected to wear a navy suit,
With complementary panty hose.

But I despise the synthetic cloth,
And those old lady knee highs,
I openly scoff.

What happened to the trends of long ago,
When garter belts and silk stockings,
Were worn instead of panty hose?

This inelegant modern style,
Is unmistakable to the old-fashioned eye,
As the embodiment of everything cheap, fast, and vile.

Yet as everybody knows,
In the winter it's cold and more tempting,
To endure the pain of panty hose.

I pluck up my resolve,
And decide to never give in,
No matter how the weather evolves.

So when to lunch my project team goes,
I bare-leggedly tag along,
Still resisting the lure of panty hose.

I think of the judgmental teeth,
Digging into my flesh,
And I want to weep.

But then I remember my parking garage lowest of lows,
When a stiff wind blew up my skirt,
And I'd longed to be wearing panty hose.

So just as I've given in and made up mind,
I see my boss' open toed shoes worn with tights,
And I see it's a sign.

Because no matter what the advice from the pros,
I do not like the look or feel,
Of the practical but uncomfortable panty hose.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

S@!t My Daddy Taught Me

In preparation for my departure for the holidays, I've been doing a winter cleaning, primarily sorting my massive backlog of Real Simple and Food Network magazines. I've been clipping the relevant articles and pictures and recycling the rest. In the midst of this purge, I've read some interesting articles, one of which reflected on the ten pieces of advice that the author's father had given her over the years that turned out to be on the money. You know, those ridiculous truisms your old man has been spouting out for years that you always rolled your eyes at, but found yourself repeating once you'd left home.
That got me thinking about my father, or Daddy, as any proper Southern gal calls her pater familias. There are a lot of things that I don't think he's right about (who knows? maybe I should just give it another decade) and many things that I've learned reverse lessons from. But he's pretty wisdomous in many ways and as I make my way through the "real world," I increasingly realize that he knew what he was talking about. This is my salute to the top 10 things my Daddy taught me about life.
As an aside, you might be wondering why my Mama doesn't get this same honor. The simple answer is that she is sickeningly right about everything in life, so a tribute to her "I told you so" moments would be exhausting. The upside to this uncanny tendency of hers is that women are supposed to become more like their mothers with every passing year, which means that I am constantly inching closer to omniscience.
  1. McDonald's Is Evil: Long before Supersize Me or Fast Food Nation came out, my father hated McDonald's with an unconcealed fervor. His reasoning was not rooted in a belief of the superiority of organic foods or a sense of indignation at the calorie/fat content. He just knew a bad burger when he tasted it. "That food is crap and you have to be crazy to waste your money on it. We're going to Wendy's." Until the age of 9, he successfully convinced me that his car was physically unable to enter the McDonald's parking lot, like there was some invisible force field that repelled it from the premises- yes, it is embarrassing that I believed him for that long. I used to get unusually excited when I got to eat McDonald's with a friend. I thought I was so denied- everyone else got to eat McDo's. The upside? He was right. That is one crappy burger, and since I didn't grow up eating it as an afterschool treat, I have no nostalgic associations with it and rarely stop there. I have plenty of other gastronomic vices, but the Golden Arches ain't one of them.
  2. Wear A Hat: My father is follicularly challenged (read: bald) and is a little touchy on the subject. I don't understand this problem with men. They accuse women of being vain, but the second their receding hairline comes up, they get completely self conscious. I hardly even notice those things- anyways, I digress. Daddy has taken the only sensible route to this problem and shaves his entire head. It makes him look distinguished, I think. In any case, I have never known him to have much hair and I have always known him to have a hat of some sort with him. He is outspoken on the subject- as a child, he reminded me on a daily basis that you lose X% of your body heat through your head. The percentage varied based on the amount of emphasis he wanted to place on the point. The statistic itself, whatever the true percentage, is based on faulty study, or so my roommate tells me. Nevertheless, I have found that a hat really is a good idea most of the time. First, as a fashion statement, since not many women still wear them. Second, in the winter, it does make you feel warmer and more snuggly when you're walking around in the snow.
  3. There Are Some Things You Can Never Take Back: Sometimes, when we're watching golf together and I'm about to settle into a nap, my father will suddenly drop one-liners of wisdom on me. A recurring one as I was growing up was, "Be very careful what you say to people, because there are some things you can say that you can never take back." I'm not sure why this was such a mantra with him, but I guess it worked, because that one piece of advice is something that I have repeated to myself and others countless times. It's just so true- as I've found myself having to have hard conversations with people and just repeating this in my mind over and over. You have to be so careful about what you say to people with whom you have an ongoing relationship. Because even if you say you're sorry, if you cross a line, the memory of it is still always there.
  4. Handy Skills Will Make You A Hero: My daddy is a contractor, meaning that he's handy with fixing things and using tools. Make that super handy, with the notable exception of questionable electrical skills (sorry, buddy, it's true). I'm not saying that these handy skills have been transmitted to me by osmosis. Quite the contrary- he has always been of the "I'm going to show this once so you better pay attention" school. Regardless, for a clumsy girl, I have acquired quite a repertoire of around-the-house skills, making me a modern, independent woman. However, more importantly, I am able to grunt and talk tools with my male coworkers. Daddy has similarly enabled me to talk sports with the same group, dazzling them with my piercing insight into the television broadcasting practices that discriminate against the SEC. 
  5. There Is A Correct Way To Load A Dishwasher: I was vehemently reprimanded as a child for incorrectly placing a dish in the dishwasher. At first, I thought it was because he was abnormally proud about his dishwasher loading skills, since that was his only contribution to the family meal. The most complex culinary process I've seen him execute is defrost on the microwave. So dishwashing has always been his area of expertise. I thought he was just being uptight. However, according to an article I recently read, his technique is actually word-perfect for maximum dish cleaning in a standard dishwasher. And since I've been so trained to follow this process, my loading skills are likewise ideal. Gracias, papa.
  6. Being In Love Doesn't Last Forever: Again, my dad drops random words of knowledge on me every once in a while. I forget the context, but one time he turned to me and said, "Nobody stays in love forever- you'll fall in and out of love all the time. You can love someone without being in love." This is a pretty counter-cultural concept, when you think about it, one that is reinforced in church teachings on marriage. What it means is that being in love is great, but that's not what marriage or any long term relationship is really about. The giddiness and giggles fade, at some point. They may and probably will return some day, but just because they're gone doesn't mean that all hope is lost. If you've chosen someone decently suited to you and invested in your relationship with that person, even when you're not in love with them, you'll still love them.
  7. Pay Your Bills- Every Month: I didn't realize how vital this lesson was until the recent economic downturn. One gift that both of my parents gave me was an open dialog in our house about finances. Not specific dollar amounts, but financial principles, which my CPA parents were obviously well-versed to speak to. I took it for granted that I knew basics about playing the stock market (don't panic- buy low and keep it) and buying real estate (don't bite off more than you can chew). The most pertinent lesson, however, was that barring some unusual situation, you pay off your credit card every single month. I later learned in my business classes that the principle behind this practice is that credit cards are essentially unsecured loans at extremely high interest rates. Well-thought out and planned debt isn't a bad thing- but paying 18% interest on an iPod is just silly. Friends would get into sticky credit situations as I went through college- I didn't get it. Why would they put themselves in that position for small luxuries that they just couldn't afford? But upon further investigation, I realized that their parents had never mentioned any of that kind of advice or maybe didn't even have it to give. I learned these lessons through no merit of my own- I'm just lucky.
  8. Everyone Starts Off As The Grunt: My daddy has never been a teddy bear. I mean, to me he's obviously dear and his bark is worse than his bite, but he's definitely a no-nonsense, down to brass tacks kind of guy. He scared my friends a little bit as I was growing up. In any case, he's just not the kind of guy that you go to if you're looking for sympathy.* I'd be venting about not getting enough playing time on the volleyball court or about getting stuck with the crap work on a project and he'd just deadpan, "Suck it up. Everyone starts on the bottom. You won't get anywhere without working hard and proving yourself." And again he's right. Geez. When I started my job, there wasn't much for me to do, so I volunteered for every kind of bitch work you can think of. I made copies, I got lunch, I procured office supplies, and generally just made myself useful. One of the managers that I was working with would say, "This is a disgrace. If my daughters were doing these kinds of things, I would tell them to quit." Well, there's a reason why I'm still at that client and he rolled off right after that. Because I'd been faithful in the small things and done it with a smile, the partner personally recognized me and gave me a much more responsible role than I should have had for my level. 
  9. Intimidating People Are Less Scary When They Have Patronizing Nicknames: My dad calls people "Big Boy" when they get on his nerves in negotiations. It's said in the most contemptuous, placating tone you can imagine. It incenses the recipient to the point that they just look pathetically red and don't seem nearly as intimidating. I've not determined my own equivalent yet, but I'm thinking maybe "honey child." Or "sweetie cakes."
  10. Stories Are Important: It may be strange to those who know his general dislike for books, but my dad is a huge part of why I want to be a writer. It's not because I saw him with a nose in a book all the time. It's because to this day, there are few things that I enjoy more in life than listening to him tell a story. He tells them with such warmth and character, spinning even the most mundane incidents into tall tales. If you've seen the movie Big Fish, he reminds me of that a little bit, except not as fantastic and more believable. In any case, I know that my mother pushed me more towards the form of expression my love of stories would take, but there's a reason why both of my Daddy's daughters are avid readers. 
*I will note, however, that last winter when my key wouldn't turn in the lock at 11 o'clock at night in a snow, he stayed on the phone with me while I loudly wept. He stayed with me until I finally made the lock turn thirty minutes later and was the picture of comfort and sympathy. Maybe he's getting soft in his old age... or maybe he just couldn't bring himself to be hard on a crying woman ;)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Confessions of a Chef/Crafter/House Frau Wannabe

I feel a little shame faced about this post, for some reason. There is nothing lecherous or sinister about it, but I feel like I'm simultaneously betraying feminism for admitting these desires and female instinct for not naturally being an expert at this stuff. I'm a decent cook, fair housekeeper, and moderate craft/creative project maker, but I want to be better. There, I said it. I want to improve my domestic skills, and I don't care who knows it! Take that, Gloria Steinem* and Irma Rombauer. I don't need your approval.
It's not that this is an all-consuming desire. I don't lie awake in the night, quietly weeping because I've still not mastered the art of timing my meals so that every component finishes at the same time. I'm not in therapy talking about how I've never managed to knit anything more complicated than a simple scarf in a truly tragic shade of sickly pink.
Yet I see this inner yen manifest itself in small ways in my daily life. I admire my uber-cook roommate's culinary skillz. I read Real Simple in the hope that the practical how-tos or decorating ideas will seep into my subconscious so thoroughly that I will know what to do the next time a domestic emergency or impromptu party comes up. I find myself browsing www.smittenkitchen.com to get recipes and look at the pretty pictures that I could never take. Or www.anceletphotography.com to look at other pretty pictures that I could never take. I look at the beautifully decorated homes of my friends or in magazines and try to memorize the arrangement of the candles and the bric-a-brac. I procure beautiful and helpful cookbooks, which, honestly,  end up serving as talismen. I feel like their presence on the kitchen cookbook shelf will somehow magically make me Julia Child overnight. I clean- well, sometimes. I won't lie about that, because my roommates could tell you how often I do an actual house cleaning. But I do tidy- my room is almost always perfectly tidy (though as I say that, I just remembered the state I left it in this morning...).
When I've summoned up all of my energy, I experiment with new recipes. I bought this Southern cookbook because, God love her, my mom is from St. Petersburg, Florida, which means she's a yankee with a tan. Despite the other cooking lessons she passed down (and that woman put a hot meal on the table every night after a full day of work), I never learned to make many of the country delights that I grew up enjoying at other people's houses. I've been trying to make a new recipe with a different central ingredient every week, and the results have been good, thus far. But it just doesn't feel like enough. Shockingly, even watching Julie and Julia on repeat doesn't seem to miraculously make me the innately skilled housekeeping, crafting wunderkind that I long to be.
I think most people are surprised to realize how strong my inner domestic diva urges are. Probably because I was surprised by them, myself. I was carefully groomed from an early age to be a Professional Success, to be a Go-Getter. I remember thinking pityingly of the other members of my sex who longed to be housewives. I would indulge their games with dollies and housekeeping, but left to my own devices, I played teacher or business woman or writer. I knew better. (In case you haven't been reading this blog very long or are just a bit dense, I was borderline insufferable from ages 5 to 11. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.)
However, to my sheepish surprise, as I went to university and had to actually make plans for what I was going to be when I grew up, I began to make a startling discovery. I didn't really want to be this business woman that I was so prepared to become. The more I reflected and looked ahead, I realized that I wanted to be a writer, working from home. And though it was too late at that point to change my degree, nor did I feel a real calling to do so, I was chagrined to admit that what I truly desired in my heart of hearts was to be a writer, stay-at-home mom, and general house frau. Oh boy.
These days, I'm definitely not working from home. I am working in a small, windowless room with 6 men for 12 hours a day, every day. I drag myself home, shove something fast down for dinner, and fall into bed. I'm not married and have no children, and my writing does not yet pay my bills so that I can quit my job or anything. And even when I'm at home, writing to my heart's content whilst wrangling a couple of children and waiting for the hubs to get off of work, I know that I won't miraculously have all this time to indulge these kinds of urges. I think it will just be more of a priority than when it's doing all of these kinds of things for more than just myself. It's a lot nicer to cook,etc. for people you love than only for little old you.
Regardless of when this time with others comes, I want to make more space in my life to enjoy these activities for myself. I want to be a little domestic goddess, even if it's just for me. So I will keep reading my Real Simple's and lucky cookbooks, and hopefully someday soon, I will make space in my life for my own enjoyment of cooking and crafting and general homemaking.
In the mean time, to all my far handier friends in these fields, your tips and wisdom are appreciated! Skill me in your ways!

*As an aside, how does one make "American feminist" one's title? When spell checking her name on Wikipedia, this is how she is described. Can my profession be "American person-with-an-opinion?" Please add this to my Wikipedia page, devoted fans. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Imagination - The Organ of Meaning

One of the side effects of being raised as the only child in the house is having a particularly vivid imagination. Or at least, it should be, assuming that TV time has been properly limited and reading has been sufficiently guided towards those books that improve the mind. Given that my parents were unsuccessful in restricting my TV viewing (I was a sneaky and stubborn little devil) and that I read every last installment of the Babysitter's Club that had been written up that point by the time I was in 3rd grade, one might surmise that my imagination was irreversibly spoiled.
Luckily, fate stepped in and my imagination was granted two saving graces: 1) an innate passion for movies of an epic nature and 2) an inexplicable love for the classics. The first imbued my seven year old mind with a sense of adventure- that life is a grand tale and that behind every seemingly innocent rock or bush, a unexpected surprise may be waiting to whisk you away into some journey unknown. The second opened my mind to the complexity of plot, character, and meaning that a story could embody, as well as to the power of atmosphere. The Three Musketeers, Tale of Two Cities, Pilgrim's Progress, CandideThe Age of Innocence- at 9, I definitely didn't understand most of what was going on in these books (resulting in a slow process of rereading in adulthood), but what I did grasp was the fact that they were all damn good tales.
I say all of this because I've realized recently that an active imagination, like a super power, can be used for good  or for evil in my own life and lives of people around me. See, I'm always writing storylines in my head. All day long, I'm making connections in my head between what happens and what it means and how it relates to other areas in my life.
My propensity for the fantastic often results in equally fantastic stories. I come home, notice the door isn't locked. There's no one else home. I go into the bathroom and think that the shower curtain is slightly out of place from when I left it. I go into the kitchen to get a knife and then return to the bathroom- I yank the curtain back, fully expecting to meet either a serial murderer or a dead body that serial murderer has disposed of in our house. (Just to set your mind at ease, I have yet to find either)
Or I am meeting someone for coffee and they are a few minutes late. I remember the ambulance I saw passing me on the way to the coffee shop. I realize that the person must have been into an accident, and within moments, I'm eulogizing them. By the time they arrive, I'm half in tears, besotted by void that they will be leaving in my life. They're not always such macabre stories- I'm sure if the long lost King of Prussia were to  materialize, I would soon realize that I must be his long lost daughter.
My narratives don't always run to the fantastic. It is the ordinary ones that really can get me into trouble. C.S. Lewis once said that "Reason is the organ of truth; imagination is the organ of meaning." This quote has really been sticking with me lately and convicting me deeply. I gather small data points all day long- objective points of truth. But I also attribute significance to all of the data points that I've gathered- subjective points of meaning. To be clear, I'm not saying that meaning is subjective. The shower curtain askew does not mean a serial murderer is in the house- it means that one of my roommates moved it slightly after I'd left for the day. The friend who is late has not been tragically killed on I-66 - they fell asleep and napped past when they needed to leave to be on time. However, I so often have just enough data points to make a subjective guess rather than an objective assessment of the meaning. The simple answer is that I need to be more disciplined about waiting until I have enough bright lines from data points to make the objective assessment.
The maddening part, however, is that I most often make these guesses when I will in all likelihood never have enough data points to make the objective assessment; matters of the heart and soul aren't often quantifiable. Extrapolation is necessary to attribute meaning. If your friend is acting quiet, you have to decide- is he mad at me or is he sad about something or is he just tired? I am displeased to realize that the extrapolations I make invariably cast the person in question in the worse light possible. I don't assume that they have good motives or even neutral motives. I always assume their motives are bad, and that's a really ugly thing.
There's one person at work who seems to always make my life harder. In my mind, I have developed a truly vicious storyline of why he's so thoughtless or inefficient. But rarely do I ever take a step back and think, "Maybe he's having a hard time at home right now. Maybe he's feeling a lot of pressure from the client and is just not focused on how he's treating me. Maybe someone in his family is sick and he's distracted." I am capable of this kind of empathy. I extend it to most strangers. Yet I've recently noticed that if my rights or comfort are infringed upon in anyway, that's when I get mean. That's when I assume that the person is purposefully trying to make me mad or deprive me of what's due to me.
I guess what I've been reflecting on is that even if someone really is as diabolical as I am imagining them to be... who cares? If someone infringes on my rights... who cares? I won't try to expand these statements to everyone, because some people are in circumstances where they are in genuine suffering because of the way people are treating them or the rights that they are being denied. Their heart in those situations are their business, not mine. But for me, in my life, most bad treatment or denial of rights result primarily in  my discomfort, annoyance, or inconvenience. For those outcomes, I can definitely decide in my heart not to think the worst of the people in question. Their motives are between them and God, and it's really none of my business. I guess that's where "turning the other cheek" starts. It's not placid apathy or perpetual victimization. It's a predetermined mindset to value loving someone well over asserting your own rights.
I want to use my imagination for good things. I have a pretty powerful one- it's what makes me good at my job. People don't realize that being imaginative and being analytical are really just heartbeats away from each other. At work, I see the relationships, meanings, and possibilities between logical entities or numbers or deliverables or tools. In the rest of my life, I can see the relationships between what I do and how that affects other people and God. I can understanding the meaning behind what someone says or why an author used that image for something. I can see the possibilities for where different paths might take someone or what I could become. I want to use my imagination to empathize with people, to love them better, to understand God more, to write stories that people enjoy.
So that's my next little project. Using my powers for good, not for evil.