Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We interrupt this program

Colitis flare. Going underground for a while to get myself sorted. See you in a few.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm baaaaack

Amidst an intensive napping schedule this past weekend, I managed to perform a personal annual ritual, that of setting my yearly goals. The urge usually overtakes me in the fall. By this point last year's goals and plans have been through the ringer and have come out pretty scathed. (Sorry, guitar skills. Maybe another year.) Generally my priorities and routines have shifted and settled, some snuck out in the middle of the night while others are skittering around in the attic like uninvited guests.

I use this book as my guide and this is, I believe, my 4th year. My successes have certainly not been unequivocal, but the book encourages you to appreciate your accomplishments each year and, indeed, I find each year when I write them out I end up with a list I'm proud of. (The list of accomplishments is not always long. I think for '09 it was like, Item 1: survived. End of list.)

In any case, so far I can tangibly feel my new yearly goals working - because my muscles are sore from yoga class, the re-commitment to which has been reaffirmed. Good for the mind and the body! Strengthens the muscles, quiets the voices.

I won't bore you with the ins and outs of my goal setting but suffice to say, it was good to remember to make my daily actions match my values. The more of your day that can be spent doing things that correspond with who you really are deep down, the less of a time-waste those activities feel like. Pour example: I'm listening to an "inspirational" audio book during my hour-long commute. I only have turn it off every once in a while to give myself a fake NPR interview about an astounding yet appreciably vague success I've had. ("Well Terry, you know, it's a funny story..")

I tend to get this urge to self-assess and goal-set in the fall because it feels like either a beginning or an end. Back to school, or else batten the hatches. Shape up. Winter's coming.

What about you? What do you get the urge for this time of year?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Surrender, surrender but don't give yourself away

I am dragging. My reserves have been depleted by a cold, not-enough sleep, and some important but difficult and thinking that I've been doing this week, and too much Doing and not enough staring at tree branches.

So I am raising the white flag. This weekend I am retreating, both in the sense that the enemy forces have gained too much ground and in the getting-zen-on-a-mountain-top way, except in my case the mountaintop is my bedroom.

This I pledge: I will turn off internet and TV. I will pull out notebooks, art supplies, walking shoes, my favorite jammies, my fuzziest socks, good music, yoga mat, just so they're ready. And I will make no plan, doing only what I feel like doing at a given moment (I'm thinking sleep will be right up there. No alarm! No agenda! Just me and the blankets and pillows, oh boy!)

Just thinking about it makes me feel perkier already.

Any suggestions? What makes for a restful, restorative weekend?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Would you like a little cheese with that whine?

It's raining. I'm up early. My eyeballs are tight and my nose is running from allergies. This is a day when crawling back into bed seems like the only compassionate option.

But we go on. We have projects, goals, ideas, classes scheduled, trips planned, futures to arrive at. We keep marching forward, the cuffs of our jeans are wet, our tissues are balled up in our purses.

I've been pushing hard lately. The old impulse to do everything perfectly right now!!!!!!!! has been rearing its ugly head and paralyzing me. I have to remind myself to do just one thing at a time. That work is not a life-or-death situation, unless you count your own life and how you're choosing to spend it. I have to remind myself to look at the yellow leaves fluttering on the tree outside, the umbrellas passing by.

What are you reminding yourself of today?

Monday, October 25, 2010

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Part 1 of ?

It’s a deceptively mundane question. After all, what can a blog accomplish, really? What is its purpose? A time-passer, a soapbox, a means of expression. An occasional receptacle for tirades, streams of consciousness, mindspew, rants (probably outnumbering raves).

Blogs are casual and democratic – any old chucklehead with an internet connection can have one. They are frequently unedited, unplanned, instant, grammatically incorrect. The medium allows flip-flopping, landing all over the map, run-on sentences, long absences while you’re on vacation. It is personal yet public, a diary on a flyer.

You often hear about blogs as a means to an end. Social media, people cry, so often and so loud that it begins to lose its meaning. You gotta promote yourself, you gotta get your jingles into their heads, gotta flog your product on your blog, not to mention tweet and twit and twat and get the handbook on the facebook.

But if I’m here, I’m here as an ends, not a means. Can a blog be an end unto itself? A little internet nugget of whatever it is we look for. These days it’s all about the Search and the engines, those things that power and put structure to your pursuit of all sorts of things… Am I the only one who has googled “the meaning of life” to see what the great white oracle will reveal?

Blogs represent the urge of us squalid, huddled masses toward something greater. A megaphone from which we may broadcast amusing things our cats did, the latest techniques in crochet, gossip from the world of technology, or manga, or book publishing, or the apocalypse, or whatever it is we care enough about to throw some words up on a screen.

For me, it’s this question of happiness, which in my scattered and highly unscientific studies I have learned is not a great question- the better question being the living of a good life, or the good life.

So here I sit, pecking away at the keys for reasons only moderately clear, for a devoted readership of 3 (Hi, guys!).

But also for an audience of one, that is, myself- that is, this nagging part of me that won’t put a sock in it already, no matter how many times competing factions insist that things would go more smoothly if I did.

What about you, Gentle Reader? What blogs do you read that works of art and ends unto themselves?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Life and Other Questions

Today I drove by a plastic sign stuck into the ground by the side of the highway off-ramp informing me that Judgment Day is coming on May 21, 2011. The end times, apparently, are upon us.

It would be easy to believe. To hear the airwaves tell it, the days are dark. People are struggling. Talking heads predict fiery collapse at any moment. It is easy to point to evidence. In the last few years, I, and many family members, have experienced the kinds of crises that force you to look life square in its spitting, frothing face and see what’s there. Physical illness, mental illness, destruction, deformity, natural disaster, plain old garden variety despair. Unemployment, the deep and profound and random unfairness of life, not to mention not-nice people and gridlocked traffic, can quickly take the shine off life.

And yet. When you look the unfairness of life right in the middle of its fat face, when a moment of reckoning is before you, when you are forced by circumstance to decide whether you will, literally and/or metaphorically, get busy living over get busy dying, to quote the Shawshank Redemtion…there is something that makes you return to that “and yet”.

Somewhere, somehow, you are not ready to give up on the strange beauty of life, moments funny and serene, an image of the moon framed in a window that you remember for no good reason, the force at once both within you and beyond you that makes you gasp for air coming up from underwater, hunger for food and sex, fear a drawn gun.

The will to live. The life force and the force of life – force, like strength, as in, you have no choice.

Like the Desiderata poem they print on things they sell at the Hallmark store: with all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

There are things that make life worth living, and there are ways to live a worthy life, and I’m just speaking for myself here, I want to discover them and do them and see what they are.


Update: Per the below comment, I have revised the mis-remembered date on the sign. And also, Ed. Note: Wow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Night Visitor

Last night my dear departed Grandpa came to me in a dream and said "I'm a big believer in the Grand Scheme of Things."

We were on the farm, standing by the barn, which was unpainted, peeling white and gray. His eyes were that sharp blue, but with a cloudy part. I had been talking and talking, trying to give him ideas for an essay he was writing, and he had to interrupt me and say "No, Listen--" and that's when he told me about the scheme of things. I woke up with his words loud in my head - I usually forget my dreams quickly but not this time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

No Dull Boys Here

A beautiful day. Waffles with strawberries in the backyard, crisp, cold, fall-like weather. Spangles and I went for a hike and I was reminded of the phrase from CD Wright: the trees true me. A comment on the web site described them as cathedral trees. They were.

As Spangles said this morning "I should do work all day, but spiritually, I need to go hiking."

And this afternoon when we got back, we both sat down mildly, without a fuss, to work on things that needed working on. Which is better, I think, than working half-martyred, sulking and staring out the window at the beautiful day, checking the internet, skulking into the kitchen for an unnecessary snack, turning on the TV "just for a minute".

Everybody needs to take themselves for a spin sometimes. Working is easier for me when I feel I've played.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Old Testament Question

I've been thinking about adversity lately, because my newest niece was born with some last week. Her problems, thankfully, are not life threatening, but at the same time they are not insignificant.

As Spangles put it, it's stuff like this that makes you wonder, if there is a God, is he asleep at the wheel or what?

The only upshot I've been able to find when pain and suffering strikes is that, as I've witnessed first-hand, when your luck runs out, your tribe runs in. You find out who your friends are, you find out how much you are loved, and you find out that you are stronger than you realized.

My cousin Ekkie and family were there for me more times than I can count. My impulse is to want to do everything I can for them, but what I can do seems like so little. What can you do for a loved one who is facing painful circumstances and unknown outcomes?

You show up with food and words of comfort. You just show up. You can watch the kids and fold the laundry. You can do research, offer to drive. You try to make the day-to-day stuff go as smoothly as possible. It would be foolish to do nothing just because you can't do more.

And in some ways, a person who is facing suffering has to face it alone. You can offer support and encouragement, remind them of their own strength, but they are the ones who have to walk through whatever it is they're walking through. Sometimes all you can give them is understanding and space. Especially for us "helper" types, the urge is always to run in and start trying to fix things and reassure people. It's so hard to stand by while someone you love is in pain. But sometimes you have no choice but to let people face the full force of all of it, trust them to withstand it and come out on the other side.

I think in life some people are thrust up against moments of being completely unconsoled and unconsolable, and I think what happens in those moments is important. You have to stare the ugly side of life right in the eye, the part of it that is brutish, nasty, and short, and at that time you have make some hard choices. There is no relief, no burning bush, no choir of angels or beam of sunlight pointing the way. You just decide quietly to yourself, whether you will (to quote the Shawshank Redemption) get busy livin', or get busy dyin'. In the face of all the many and varied kinds of suffering humankind can encounter, what are you going to do? What are you going to do?

At times of adversity in particular I wonder if there is or is not something bigger than us, an omniscient air traffic controller looking down and nudging things in ways that we can't understand. For example, it was a horrible flood that led Baby E's family to resettle here in this area which happens to be an international center of study for her condition, and where family is nearby and willing and able to offer support. It was a miserable job and health condition that led me to reduce my working hours, making my schedule flexible and allowing me not just the desire but the time to help out. My parents, too, are experiencing a lull in their hectic work schedule at this welcome time. I think about how Spangles came into my life just before the Year of Bad Things Happening started happening.

It makes you wonder if there's a higher logic, someone moving the puzzle pieces around, sending in solace at times of great suffering. If there is or isn't, as Sara Crewe put it in The Little Princess, "a Magic that will never let the worst things quite happen."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

10 Reasons to Put Some 3-Year Old In Your Life

1. They are hilarious. (e.g.: Edbear attempting to slide down the concrete path on his butt as if it were a playground slide. Did not work that great.)

2. They think you are hilarious. Pratfalls, funny faces, pretending light things are heavy, anthropomorphizing inanimate objects, pushing a towel on a swing. They eat it up so heartily you start thinking "Man am I funny. I should charge for this comedy gold."

3. It's good exercise. "Run with meeeee! Chase meeee! Go get the balls I keep hitting into the street! Heave my 30-pound body into the air!" Who knew the best personal trainers were the ones that stare up at you with an irresistably cute face and say "uppie, uppie!"

4. They are great appreciators of the finer things in life. Splashing in puddles, a good story, a bad fart joke, bacon. They are not capable of not living in the moment. Kids could give Thich Nhat Hanh a run for his money. If he had money.

5. They are gullible (see number 1). You can tell them anything! They don't know! The only limit is what your imagination can think of to tell them about where the boy on the bike is going or why the truck makes a beeping noise when it backs up.

6.They make you feel like a strong, omnipotent giant. In the workaday world you are just another shmoe. Around a kid you are Smelda, Viking God of Opening Things, Making Toys Function, Getting Out-of-Reach Objects, Fine Motor Skills, and Source of All Worldly Knowledge. (It's nice to have all the answers once in a while.)

7. A little body hurtled into your lap, or clinging to your side, is an excellent source of warmth.

8. You don't have to make small talk with them. They could give a crap. The real question is, will you or won't you take me outside to play.

9. Light-up sneakers.

10. Unabashed singing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Beside the Still Waters

"And I promised to change my priorities. You see, I think that the whole concept of happiness changed for me. When I was in the jungle, I read - and it comes many times in the Bible - it says that when you cross the valley of tears and you arrive to the oasis, the reward of God is not success, it's not money, it's not admiration or fame, it's not power - his reward is rest."

This is from an interview I heard on npr with Ingrid Betancourt, who spent six years in the jungle as a prisoner of a Colombian rebel group. She's speaking about her perspective when she was finally freed.

Now, normally I try to avoid such tales of horrible torture and misery, but npr is sneaky because they just shuffle these things in right after the jolly, gentle-mocking-of-current-events show. (An aside: It's surprising how hard it is to avoid media/entertainment/time-passers that have violence and ugliness at their center. I told the bookseller at the used bookstore that I didn't want any books where horrible things happen and she looked at me like I was asking if they sold diapers. Yes, I know you need conflict in a story, but does it have to be non-stop murder and adultery? It seems like a failure of imagination. Love and death, is that all these writers can come up with? What about those of us who want a happy little escapist jaunt of reading, not a profound treatise that will shake our conception of life as we know it? The bookseller ended up handing me a volume of chick lit (which I had already read, incidentally), but isn't there a middle ground between saying you don't want a book that will hang a little gloom cloud over your head and saying you do want a shallow book about shopping and hair dye? OK, diatribe over.)

Anyway, I think that aside is tangentially related to the point I was hoping to get at which is: rest. I was struck by Betancourt's comment that what she wanted out of life after six years of unimaginable suffering, was (in addition to cake and ice cream), rest.

I can relate to this desire. After The Year Of Bad Things Happening, I remember telling my spiritual advisor that what I wanted more than anything was just to lie down. Physically, of course, but also, you know, on a deeper level. And actually, the word I used at the time was lay down, and that was accurate too. I wanted to lay down my arms. I was tired from keeping by guard and my hackles up all the time, waiting for the other shoe to drop, the constant red alert. At the time I even printed out the 23rd psalm and taped it up by my pillow, replacing the word Lord with the word Love because, you know, jury's still out.

I wonder if this urge to rest after a valley of shadow is a common phenomenon. I am thinking of the lovely Slow Love Life blog and book, about a woman whose life came down in a spectacular crash, and how it changed her perspective. Once out on the other side, she didn't even want her fast-paced, high-powered job back. She wanted to putter in the garden, live at the beach, watch the sky.

And I can so relate to that. I was thinking about my priorities recently, and the one that came out on top was just, rest. I want to sleep 8, 9, 10 hours a night! I don't want to rush around in the morning, cramming a bagel into my mouth as I run for a bus. I don't want to be one of those Women On-the-Go you see in commercials. I want to be a Woman At Rest. I want to water my plants, cut out pictures of things I like from shelter magazines and catalogs. I want to re-read Jane Austen and novels about make-up artists to the stars. The past two weekend nights, my nightlife centered around the procurement and ingestion of ice cream. And I like it that way!

In some ways this goes against everything I believe in. A part of me would prefer it if I could be productive 25 hours a day. I give myself gold stars for organizing the tupperware and paying bills and learning new vocabulary words, and a part of me wouldn't be satisfied until I'm publishing sonnets from the top of Mt. Everest while giving life advice to Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama while skiing backwards. And even then, I would be thinking, "I should be doing jumps."

On some level, it's good not to be satisfied, because it pushes you forward, gives you goals to aim toward. On the other hand, never to be satisfied? How sad.

I wanted to be a fascinating and adventurous artist, perhaps, or an early Bob Dylan singer/songwriter selling stories of the vagabond life, or a Jane Goodall communing with the gorillas. I didn't think I wanted to be someone whose blood pressure got up for the Home Organizing Aides aisle of Target (which it totally did yesterday, by the way, I loved it.)

And then I've got that German Orthodox/American Puritan work ethic/guilt, and was told from an early age that I was bright and capable, and got hooked on grades and awards and achievements and other external measures of "enoughness". And when the other shoe dropped, when it got down to the wire, when the chips hit the fan, know what that stuff did for me? All of diddly squat.

So here I am. One faction wants Barack Obama and whoever the prime minister of England is now to crown me Queen of the Free World and give me that golden admission ticket to the chocolate factory of full of Chosen Ones. (Little known fact, Homeland Security owns 4 golden tickets, the fifth is rumored to be in North Korea.)

And another part of me just wants to chill here in the green pastures and restoreth my soul a little, achieve nothing more than a nap, and be satisfied with all the things I already have.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On The Good Life

My own questions to myself got me thinking -- in the grand tradition of questions to oneself. Seriously though, what do I want this blog to be? (Or this blog-to-be to be?)

I wish for the bite of Betsy Lerner, the humor of Sarah Bunting, the deep soul-searching lyricism of Cary Tennis. And I shun lame AdWords ads, trite subject lines, "lists" and "tips," as if anyone knows anything more than anyone else. Bloggers who clearly copied a page out of "how to write a successful blog", who cluttered the page with buttons and gadgets, who are clearly out to make a buck. What about being out to make a moment? What about being out to write good things about a specific topic? What about giving people something they can count on, a little nugget of inspiration or interest or unusual-ness or joy? What about a little ray of computer-aided connection drifting into all those bleak and lifeless cubicles?

The problem with blogging about/striving for happiness is that it's too confining. In some ways, too bland. How can we go around smiling all the time, like flight attendants, like a painted clown? There's more to life than cascades of ecstasy and joy. The goal can't be pure happiness. It doesn't make a good goal on the horizon, because it's slippery and hard to predict, hard to measure, describe, define.

Martin Seligman, positive psychology demigod, addresses this problem with the concept of the good life. It is up to each person what it means to live the good life.

To Scrooge McDuck it was diving into a swimming pool full of gold coins. To the image in my head of some 50's black and white gangster, the good life is what they'll be livin' as soon as they pull off this bank heist - cut to a nightclub filled with champagne and jazz and 50's bombshells in pointy 50's bras, men with slick hair wearing expensive suits...

But the good life is not be confused with life on Easy Street.

The concept of the good life allows for sorrow and struggle, death and taxes. It lets you whine, encounter suffering, overcome tragedy, grieve loss, pick scabs. The good life is not to be confused with the perfect life or the life of comfort and ease. It makes allowances for saving ones own soul. The good life acknowledges that we are not all walking around in a toothpaste commercial.

I consider it a small victory for my own good life that I stopped for groceries on the way home so the cupboard won't be bare; that I bought three used books; that Spangles and I ate our microwaved leftovers in the backyard by citronella candlelight.

Thinking about the good life made me think about another of Seligman's tenets, which is savoring. That positive experiences are made even more so by the act of relishing them. So I would like to take a moment to pause and relish life with good old Spangles (keep in mind he was in a lovey-dovey mood because I'd just brought home six miniature frozen pizzas and an eight-pound pork shoulder):

Spangles (after embracing me [I was wearing a cardigan]): This sweater isn't fair.
Me: Why?
Spangles: It's too soft and snuggly. With your inherent snugglability, it's too much.

Or, as I was puttering about and he was studying on the couch- "This is everything I ever wanted out of living together."

Or, after he came over and gave me a kiss- "It's a wonder I get anything done at all."

One must savor the fact that I have what every girl wants, which is to be adored. Here is a quote I came across as an epigraph in the used bookstore. It's from Tom Robbins:

"The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love."

And you know what else? I have a niece on the way tomorrow. And a nephew who all on his own invented "walking like an eggie" by putting his shirt over his bent knees so that only his feet stick out, and walk across the floor. And another niece with eyes like shiny blueberries. If that life isn't good, what is?

What are you savoring today, Gentle Reader?

What Is This Blog About?

The Twin requested that I update my blog. I know that when I see a new one of hers I feel a sweet, sparkly rush of anticipation, and I do want to reciprocate.

But, The Twin's blog has a subject matter (her classroom), and new material is generated daily. For me, the slow but not unwelcome plodding of routine often leaves me feeling as if I don't have much to say. 'Nother day 'nother dollar.

When I started this blog I thought it was about my interest in positive psychology. But now I'm thinking it might just be about my interest in my own positive psychology. And negative psychology. Etc.

I want to have a topic, but what is it? Is it inspiration, and how we get inspired? Is it happiness, creativity, progress, life, our collective human bumbling toward greater insight and understanding? Searching for answers/meaning/delicious snacks? A random place to unload my thoughts? An insipid trend?

What is this blog about? What am I all about?

In blogging and in life, I am searching for a subject.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Meaning and Giving

Beloved cousin Wee was in town, and told me of her current dilemma. Perhaps because of a stessbasket-y project she's working on at work, or perhaps because of all the media attention to the 5-year anniversary of Katrina, after which she had to rebuild her life...she is thinking about what it all means.

Sure, you work a good job, you try to make a nice life for yourself, you love your family, you do enjoyable and pleasant things, you have your hobbies...and is that it? Is that all there is to life, a dance featuring pleasantness interspersed with stressbasketing, and hope that pleasantness has the lead role? And in the end it all gets washed away?

Tal Ben-Shahar, positive psychology guru, writes that happiness is a combination of pleasure and meaning. So even if you're doing well on the pleasure side of things, if you don't have enough meaning, you feel like something's lacking.

And cousin Wee reconfirms that meaning is a tricky thing to pin down. Viktor Frankl doesn't necessarily say that life is anything more than circling a bleak existential drain - but, while we're here, we must make our own meaning, we decide what will bring it to our lives.

It seems to me that meaning has to do with giving. Like Winston Churchill said, we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. But where and why and how to give is what makes up the most difficult part of this question. What can you give, what gifts can you share, what motivates you to do so? What do you care a lot about? What do you know a lot about? I think it's about using your powers for good - which means you have to think both about your powers and your idea of what really is good.

I think many women of a certain age find it easy to think that having children and having a family will give life meaning. And it can. Leaving a legacy of yourself, passing on your values and beliefs, being a part of humanity continuing itself... but how do you do that if you haven't figured out yourself, your values, your beliefs, what parts of humanity are worth continuing?

Although thinking about meaning in life is usually totally my jam, I spent my whole summer in a blissful summer coma, flitting from leaf to leaf without a care in the world. As I've mentioned before, it's been a sweet relief compared to feeling like a sherpa carrying a hundred pound sack on my back.

But the approach of fall always makes me restless and ambitious, makes me want to plan my back to school outfit and set new goals and excelsior!!!!!ever upward. I have schemes and plans and dreams, which is also nice, in comparison to feeling like a member of the undead, walking around with nothing inside but blank walls and cork.

But I'm still tired and summer-coma-y enough to want to take on all these things slowly, still take time to practice the skill of savoring. E.g.: I am sitting on Spangles' parents' back porch on a gorgeous, sunny, September day. I can here the neighbors gabbing poolside in the next yard over. Spangles is reading for class. The dog is snoozing on the couch, a hummingbird visits the hummingbird feeder, its wings so fast they are visible and invisible at the same time.

Friday, September 3, 2010

In Memoriam

Every so often, someone you know dies. Yesterday I thought I saw a picture of a former bookstore coworker in the funeral announcements section of the newspaper, and I was right. He was 60, not that young, but not that old, either.

I didn't know him that well, and it's been a long time, so it's not like I can muster the grief that goes along with losing a dear loved one. And the usual platitudes about how life is short and you never know and live life to the fullest are used so often that they lose their meaning.

For me I guess it's just a feeling of surprise. The old guard at the bookstore, the dudes who chose to make selling books their vocation, it was like they were Mt. Rushmore or the Statue of Liberty or something. Something had at one point put them there, but so long ago that it was like they had always been there. And you just assume they always will be.

But they won't. No one knows what will happen eventually to the rock and metal faced monuments. They outlast us, but not forever. You think you can count on certain things but you can't, not always.

I don't know what I'm trying to get at here. Someone I knew died, that's all I'm trying to say. It feels more significant than a regular day.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Don't Have To Live Like A Refugee

It seemed apropos that, despite all the help I've received along the way from Spangles and my friend Blondie, I did that last scrub-down and took the last screws from the walls on my own. I vacuumed streaks of clean into the dust and debris, I tossed out long-unidentifiable refrigerator gunk. I moved through the old apartment, room by room, removing all the last traces of myself. It was awesome. It was like erasing myself, erasing the taint of the past. Taking out the garbage, literally.

I love that you get to reinvent yourself. I love that you can change your life if you're not happy with it. I love that with some planning and elbow grease, you can get rid of your old snail shell and pick out a new one that suits you better. I love that you can die and be reborn.

Maybe that all sounds a tad melodramatic to ascribe to a grimy apartment, but that thing was an albatross for so long. Now I am someone with hardwood floors and three couches. I am a person who completed a triathlon. I am someone who attempted to better herself. Sure, I still eat too much pasta and haven't showered in the very recent past and have trouble tearing myself away from instant Netflix to be a productive member of society - I mean I'm still a human being.

But man it feels good to have only one apartment at a time. This one is now full of boxes of my crap again, but eventually, I will find a place for it all. There is a place for it. There is a place for us. L'chaim!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quote of the Day: The Reward

"The journey is the reward."

I am considering this in the contexts of the following: triathlons especially finish lines, our vocations, deadlines, moving house, uncertainty, projects I want to embark on but don't know how, selling things on craigslist, Back To School. Actual rewards, such as chocolate and Christmas bonuses.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Words Failed Me

Amid the catastrophic year- no book
no bible, speech or phrase would hear
your pain. No prayer, no 23rd psalm
would lay you down to sleep or be
your balm. The poems you’d held up to your chest
so long as living beings bringing warmth
and tidings from the lands of friendly others
were as if written in another tongue.

You who labored diligent as any
twenty-year old might whose mind and body
battled for the spotlight. You who filled
five-subject spiral notebooks with your scribbles,
and wrote the world around you down on index
cards- quotes that you were sure would soon
sink in and leave you lifted up, inspired.
You who made a wallpaper of letters
and thought your favorite writers to be friends.

Where were they when the blood filled up
the bowl? What kind of friends leave friends
so unconsoled? When the phone call came
the lump was not benign and where were they?
Smugly silent, lost upon the page.
The collapse of roof and ceiling in the night,
the miserable fight, the time spent curled
in a fetal ball in tears, the waiting room
of Chester County hospital- all words
had disappeared. And so (we thought) you learned:

let the books be burned before the people.
May the alphabet be swallowed in a rage.
Let us be judged by flesh and fear and action.
Believe in God or science, trust yourself,
lean on your tribe, but leave the black and white
to those less wise. Words are bad friends, they make
a fool of you, they plunder, lie, betray.
Nowhere in the fine print will you find
what you are seeking: no truth, no meaning.

So if you find yourself one early evening-
late in summer, sun escaping fast
behind the neighbors’ house- drawn back in
some sentimental fashion to the page,
a place you once heard whispers of a song...
if you seek solace, or a place to place
your heartbreak, or escape to, just remember.
You could start writing then. You could be wrong.

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Internet Gem

epic fail photos cool-list
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Quote of the Day: The Future

At twenty-three, Dexter Mayhew's vision of his future was no clearer than Emma Morley's. He hoped to be successful, to make his parents proud and to sleep with more than one woman at the same time, but how to make these all compatible? He wanted to feature in magazine articles, and hoped one day for a retrospective of his work, without having any clear notion of what that work might be. He wanted to live life to the extreme, but without any mess or complications. He wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph. Things should look right. Fun; there should be a lot of fun and no more sadness than absolutely necessary.

Excerpted from One Day by David Nicholls

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Michigan Seems Like A Dream To Me Now

In the last scene of the TV series Freaks and Geeks, which I have just finished Netflixing, the main character Lindsey gets off the bus her parents think is taking her to academic camp and into a waiting van of Grateful Deadheads to go follow the band around the US for a couple weeks.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by this, but I was. In the story it represented an act of rebellion, the first out-of-character thing she'd ever done, a new leaf, a new way of looking at the world.

If it were me at that age, I would have sucked it up and gone to academic camp, done what was expected of me, pleased those in the position to praise me.

But after years after all of that pleasing and up-sucking, I have a growing urge to climb into the van. There is no one left to please, no more papers to be graded, no more report cards to be issued. That's one of the things I find annoying about this real world: there is no deus ex machina to come down and tell you how you are doing in relation to a random sampling of your peers. After years - decades - of worrying about how I measure up on the curve, the curve has devolved into a jumble of meaningless squiggles. How can I know whether or not I am Enough when there is no teacher designated to tell me so? How do I know if I have worked hard enough, studied hard enough, am naturally smart enough, if there is no number or letter value to assign to my recent efforts? In school I worked so hard to learn the rules of the game and then outsmart them, and now I am chagrined to find that everyone is playing a different game, they are making up the rules as they go, there is no consistent scoring pattern. I was not prepared for this!

And to top it all off I am now beginning to worry that while I was busy immersing myself in the minutiae of an unwinnable and ultimately irrelevant game, other people were climbing into vans and going to sex clubs and backpacking through Vietnam and Cambodia, thereby gaining a lead in a different contest, one which Spangles might refer to as Drinking Deeply From the Cup of Life.

I worry that this urge to go look for America, to have a crazy adventure, to do something wild and unexpected, is a rather bourgeois upper-middle class desire - not the desire, maybe, but the ability to execute it. Plane tickets to Cambodia, taking six months away from an income stream seem like luxuries that only a certain demographic could afford.

Still, sailors and settlers and explorers have embarked on the unknown for centuries, although they usually had more concrete reasons than restiveness and the quest for self-discovery. But why not? Who doesn't want to See the World!!!?

But then, is going somewhere just to see it a good use of resources? Particularly when going to more impoverished countries, is it enough to just be a tourist, stay in the hotels, spend your tourist dollars? And on the other hand, when you go on one of those mission-type trips where you build a house or something in between your tourist destinations, doesn't that seem a little, I don't know, condescending or something?

And then you have the ones who walk the length of the US or do the Appalachian trail barefoot. Dudes who just up and leave, no point, no purpose, they just want to walk, do something wild and different, see what they can see, the Doc Watsons in Cannery Row.

How to do something with no point, no purpose, no net gain? How is such a feat to be embarked upon? Even when I studied abroad in the back of my mind was the satisfying thought that I was also earning a foreign language minor. (Even though...fat lotta good it's done me so far...)

How do you balance this vague Simon and Garfunkel looking for America yearning, with something that wouldn't make my family sick with worry, with something that seems like it has a point, with something that I could even afford? And how do you balance that with the feeling that the whole point would be to do something crazy, something your family wouldn't approve of, something that doesn't make any kind of sense but you just up and do it anyway and find a way to make it work?

Perhaps even more enjoyable than a real adventure is the longing for one, the sense of limitless possibility (if only), the hurt so good, an aching tooth you can't seem to leave alone. I could, I would, I might, and then I continue my routine, write in a blog, cut pictures from magazines, imagine how I might have squandered all the money I borrowed for higher education in an entirely different way, how I might still make it, still go, still find, and find out, what I'm looking for.

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The New Me

I have moved house. Jung might suggest that I have symbolically begun to inhabit a new self, and I have chosen to celebrate my revamping my blog which has been languishing pitifully over the summer, like a dried out garden whose appointed tender has been off gallivanting irresponsibly.

As August descends so does that exquisite feeling of endings, dread, poignancy...the Back To School feeling that haunts me in August years after the academic calendar has ceased to have a bearing on my life, other than the way that this month inevitably feels like the last few minutes of a long back massage - great pleasure that is hard to separate from anticipation of the End.

And in fact, this heavy idea I began with, this pursuit of happiness, seems to have dried up and blown away. Who knows if it will be back again in another form, tumbleweeds or convection currents or a particle caught on trade wind that lands in your eye, but in any case I find myself gazing at the bookshelf I have full of books about happiness, finding it, keeping it...with a feeling similar but not quite as strong as disgust.

Perhaps I have finally talked this topic to death, or at least a measure of zombie- like living deadness, and I feel too bouyant and distractable and dilletantish to go poking my nose in that dusty old tome. I want to chase butterflies and fiddle all day while the ants lay in their supplies! I want to go for a long pointless bike ride and stay up late watching inane youtube videos! I want to have a second, third, fourth, fifth childhood, whittle sticks in the backyard for no reason, tell ghost stories, travel by catapult and parachute!

Yea, I walked through the valley of the shadow of death and it was a DRAG. Now I want to get motion sick rolling down hills and climb into waiting hot air balloons. I want to play hookey and splash in the creek and go riding on the trains with the hobos, finally, after all those years of wanting to, gazing wistfully out of the classroom window where I diligently learned my times tables and the price of achievement.

The New Me stays up late drinking wine with friends. The New Me might try to get in on this party of puppeteers getting into nonsense in Fishtown. I google cruises to anarctica and the beautiful empty facade of former hotel the Divine Lorraine. I will write odes to crumbling places and host parties and string up lights.

Somewhere in a dingy apartment on South Street in the recent past the Old Me still sits, looking for answers in books, curled up with desperation or despair. I want to send her a post card that says "No Regrets" and "Wish u were here" with a picture of an old old man on the front, but how do you mail something to someone for whom there is no known address?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Like a Madeline Cookie

Last night at the gym Antiques Roadshow: Salt Lake City was on. I have loved AR ever since I first moved into my apartment and, inexplicably, it seemed it was the only show that was on the only channel that came through. I learned to love it, and it wasn't hard.

Anyway, there was this one very old lady on it who had some sort of extremely old book of importance to Mormonism that she had brought in that her grandaddy had taken with him on the boat to America or something like that. The white haired lady sat very modestly and quietly while the rare books guy went through it bit by bit. In the end told her that it was worth like 50,000 dollars - I couldn't wait to see this lady's response. Do you know what she said?: "Oh." And then when he pressed her for a reaction, like, "what do you think of that?" she said "I guess I should take better care of it then."

Something about her understated reaction just reminded me so much of Grandpa. Except he might've added a "mercy sakes" in there somewhere, too. I miss that wacky guy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What I'm Doing on My Summer Vacation

It's been a while since I've posted, and it's been a happy while. Lately it seems as if I've been too busy to think about the pursuit of happyish, in a good way. In my case I think it's good to be doing more straight, hard and fast living, and less thinking about living.

This morning at the coffee shop as I wrote yet another pros and cons list of pursuing yet another career idea, I decided that how you do something is more important than what you do, that a committed, compassionate, create deli counter guy can do more good than a surly, doesn't-have-his-act-together radiologist. That said, I have trod upon the lands of the soul-sucking job, and having one's soul siphoned out on a day-to-day basis is not something that happens only from 9-5. The repercussions of an emptied-out soul are pervasive.

I have a big week ahead - Spangles and I (finally) are getting the keys to our new apartment/new life, and on Friday I'm headed down to the beach! for a week! with my rad family!

If that's not something to be happy about I don't know what is.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Like a fish (or duckling) to water

This is what I want to remember about my first ceremony:

The Twin meeting me at the train station, lit up by the joy of one-half day of school left before the summer officially begins, and by the joy of happy hour and her hilarious friends. We took our customary chatting-and-cackling-the-whole-way train ride back to her apartment.

At her apartment, I rehearsed my ceremony for her, and she gave me notes, and also gave me the giggles.

As I lay in her bed that night, my eyes were wide open, my heart was beating in my chest, but it felt good. I had to keep telling myself, "this is a gift you're giving" and that made me not think so much about myself but why I wanted to be there in the first place.

Which is, to help people. To be a part of people's joy and love. To try to notice beauty. To do something meaningful, for myself and others (maybe the "others" part is what makes it meaningful).

I told the Twin I tried to think of it as being excited more so than nervous. She said "You were born for this!"

It was in a beautiful garden at the Queens Botanical Garden. It was hot, the occasional plane passed overhead, guests heard a mama duck and ducklings quacking.

The actual ceremony itself went by so quickly and for the most part, as planned. You know how it is when you perform something - I was just caught up in making sure the moving parts kept moving, and didn't really have a chance to take it all in. But I was glad to have The Twin and friends there, and she seemed to have good things to say.

Twin and Co. dropped me off at the subway.

The way I felt riding the 7 train looking out at the buildings, listening to a happy song on my ipod - that's a scene I want played on the movie montage of triumphant moments of my life. I felt proud and happy and my cup was just runnething over everywhere.

What fun! A few days ago I was telling AJ about how I came to decide to be a Celebrant. And in addition to thinking I would like it, and be good at it, and find it meaningful. But it was also kind of a risk, and the first thing I ever decided to do entirely on my own, and some might think it kind of a random thing to do. And I was telling AJ, I wasn't 100% certain about it, but there was a point where I just decided I would do it. So I did.

It all stemmed from my own pursuit of happyishness - and I am pleased to report that from where I'm sitting, here on the megabus back to Philly from New York, caught in Shore traffic - that this out and out happiness has everything to do, like Winston Churchill put it, not with what I get, but with what I give. To be able to be yourself, do what you enjoy, and use your strengths for the benefit of other people - I'm pretty sure the secret of life is wrapped somewhere up in that idea.

I was thinking of calling my future/nascent/currently-being-born business Inspired Ceremonies. And in fact I think I will, because that's exactly how I feel right now: inspired.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fairy God-Auntie

I've been neglecting this blog lately because, I'm pleased to report, I've been living the heck out of life.

Right now I'm sitting in the Burbank airport after a week-long visit to Aunt Jane. It was a top-notch vacation: beach time, lots of LA tourist stuff, visiting Great Aunt Mabel, lots of driving around with the top down, ice cream, shopping, vegging on the couch, hotel therapy, my first experience of room service ever (it was as decadent as I imagined), the wild animal park in San Diego, Universal Studios.

And as an added bonus, I'm also coming back with my regular life in better shape than when I left. For one, I'm much better dressed, thanks to unabashed spoiling on AJ's part; I've also had lunch with a woman who works in the field I'm considering; had heart-to-hearts; been turned on to a new unresolved sexual tension TV character relationship to become obsessed with; have two high-quality free gift lip sticks and a lip gloss; learned many important tricks to employ on my mac; and have been proffered a place to host my future celebrant web site for free.

As if all of this wasn't enough: Before I left for California I called AJ for advice about a hairy problem related to last summer's illness/insurance debacle as well as me being a frightened disorganized lunatic at the time. She just told me to bring the whole sickening pile of files with me and we'd sort it out together.

Far beyond the call of duty, she just up and made the whole problem go away. I get choked up typing about it. I feel like the word gratitude is totally insufficient to express what I feel.

The Twin and I have talked about this feeling, like for example, at Christmas when you get too many really great presents and you just think "I can't! It's too much! I'm not worthy!" - the feeling of gratitude being almost too much to tolerate.

I think the Twin and I decided that the best way to deal with it is just to be grateful and strive to make your actions consistent with someone who is worthy of that scale of generosity...and also resolve to pay it forward at the earliest opportunity. In AJ's case it's long been established that the older and more decrepit she becomes, the more loyal and devoted I will become, in turn. I can only hope for an opportunity to be a fairy god-niece in turn.

As AJ said when I tried to express some of these thoughts to her, she said "We're family. It's what we do."

Probably most of the world's problems are caused by the fact that not everyone has a family like mine.

To conclude, I offer this excerpt from the lyrics of "If You're Going Through Hell, keep on Going" by Rodney Adkins:

But the good news
Is there's angels everywhere out on the street
Holding out a hand to pull you back up on your feet

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Inspiring Story of Courage

Once upon a time, there was a girl who needed to make a phone call for her work. She was not a girl who liked to make phone calls to unknown entities to begin with, and this phone call was to one of the scariest entities in all the land: a nun. It was scary because a few months earlier, she had written a difficult and demanding manuscript for some nuns, and they had scorned it, snatched it away, and sighed that they would just have to do it themselves.

The girl really did not want to make this phone call. She hemmed and hawed, she puttered and procrastinated. Procrastinating made her feel miserable. She talked it over with some friends. They agreed that she had good reason to fear the phone call to the scary nuns. They agreed that procrastinating tends to make one feel miserable and only serves to prolong anxiety. Everyone was in agreement. But this did not change the fact that she had to place the call, and reeeeallly didn't want to.

She pondered and fretted. She knew with her mind that what she needed was courage. She thought of something Wilma Mankiller had said, that the difference between a cow and a buffalo is that buffalo run toward a gathering storm rather than away from it, and therefore get through it faster. She knew that she should be like the buffalo.

But how? How does one muster courage? How does one become like the buffalo?

The girl Googled "facing your fear". She found some advice that told her to think about the benefits of doing the thing she was afraid. She thought about how it would feel to have placed the call - she would feel light, free, un-guilty, confident, peaceful. She asked herself, is this something you are willing to do for yourself? Are you willing to fight for this reward? Yes, she decided.

She gathered the phone number. She dialed it quickly so that she wouldn't have a chance to hang up before it rang. It rang. The nun wasn't there. She left a voicemail.

She felt relieved. The burden was lifted, for now. She could move forward. She felt strong and determined. She lived happyishly ever after. At least until the next phone call.

The End

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Magically Delicious

"We were always in a rush, a rush to get better, a rush to get somewhere--somewhere else, wherever we were not." That's a quote from Dominique Brown's blog, which is one of the most consistent highlights of my little blog-reading routine.

I am frequently in a rush to "get better." I am always trying to improve things, come up with some new strategy or system or mantra that will make me just a little more organized, efficient, productive, diversified, happier, better. And I don't think that's necessarily bad, but maybe the question to ask is, better next to what?

I guess the contradiction within self-improvement is that on the one hand you try to accept yourself and your warts and enjoy the present moment. And on the other hand you are still always striving. And what are you striving for? If it's to be happier, or happyish, does having a running to-do list of ways you could be "better" run at odds with this? And then maybe that list and the striving for betterment is part of what makes us human, and is therefore deserving of acceptance in itself? Our dogged belief that what we are seeking is just around the next bend. Maybe that's just what keeps us going.

Can I be "enough" while simultaneously hoping to be more? Can I accept myself while striving to improve myself? Can I be both satisfied and ambitious? Grateful and dream-ful? Content and anticipating?

I guess it all comes back down to enjoying that hackneyed old journey. I like projects! Trips are fun. Adventures are great. I guess the trick is to remember, as someone once said, that now is the fun part. To use a leprachaun metaphor: it's not about the pot of gold, it's the thrill of chasing the rainbow.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

This Time Last Year

Not to linger in the past, but as the calendar turns and personally significant dates come into view again, I can't help but think about what I was doing 365 days ago. This time last year I was about to begin a 24-hour fast before a colonoscopy/endoscopy.

From the vantage point of a year's time, the whole summer was a blur of sweaty bike rides past tractor trailers and dumpsters to work, stomach cramps, getting to know the ugly new cubicle world that had become my life, and making frequent trips to the bathroom. I used to sit outside at the picnic table in the overgrown grass in the blistering sun, eating pre-canned tuna and crackers, and calling MamaBear to complain. "I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, " was all I could say.

I recently tried eating one of those tuna packs again, and found that I no longer liked the taste. I have close to a physical aversion now.

I am trying hard to think of that time not as a miserable miasma of misery, topped with a soupcon of fear and a smattering of foreboding insurance letters, but as a time when I went up against scary, bewildering, painful things, and came out on top. As evidence of grit and bounce-back-ativeness, and not the suckiness that is achievable in this life.

In honor of this, and of the book by Cheryl Richardson which I just picked up at the used bookstore that instructs me to do so, I will now write a list of 25 things I have accomplished in the past year.

1. Managed newfound chronic illness and attendant insurance mazes, pill regimens, doctor's appointments, dietary restrictions, symptom tracking, and medical bills. (Guess what, I pay off the hospital stay this month!! Now all that's left is the ER visit and the butt-scopes :/) In fact, let's make that an entirely separate accomplishment:
2.Paid off majority of attendant medical bills.
3.Quit soul-sucking job despite unknown outcomes.
4. Did so in a classy and non-spineless way.
5.Dealt with fallout from remarkably crap-tastic year of catastrophe.
6.Joined a writing group.
7.Took an art class.
8.Re-discovered my enjoyment of working at Eastern State.
9.Turned down offer to return to soul-sucking temp job.
10.Discovered my new favorite Ethiopian restaurant with Spangles.
11.Graduated from Celebrant school.
12.Landed 3 celebrant gigs, including one with a couple I'm not friends with!
13. Downloaded free screenwriting software.
14. Became obsessed with, and inspired by, the tv show ballykissangel.
15. Found and signed lease on a new apartment with Spangles.
16. Learned some things about West Philadelphia's history.
17. Spent a lot of quality time at family events.
18. Made medium-firm plans to attend graduate school.
19.Got a new computer.
20.Learned to cook some new dishes.
21. Began collecting songs for my happiness playlists.
22.Spent time with old and new friends.
23. Began collaging with magazine cutouts.
24.Started writing in this blog.
25. Survived. Didn't give up. Kept trying.

So, there I go. Not bad for a rebound year.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How to Pull Up A Thistle

A lesson from MamaBear, with whom I was weeding yesterday in preparation for planting vegetables in the garden:

If you go in tentatively, uncertain, the prickles on the leaves will stick you in a painful fashion. The thing to do is go for the base, firmly, with confidence, and the prickles don't hurt you. Miraculous, and mataphorical.

Or, as MamaBear then pointed out, some people just wear gloves.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Good (Enough) Life

Today I got up early and took myself to the library as a special treat. On the way, I listened to my hand-picked happyish songs, and mused, as I am wont to do. Some lyrics that stood out, from Natasha Beddingfield's song Happy:

Got my dreams, got my life, got my love
Got my friends got the sunshine above
Why am I making this hard on myself
When there’s so many beautiful reasons I have to be happy

At the library I picked out the book Learning from the Heart, by His Wiseness Dan Gottlieb, Philly's favorite therapist-author-columnist-radio personality-quadriplegic. One section that stood out is about wanting. How we human beans are so good at it - the arrival fallacy, the belief that if we can just bark up the right tree then finally...fill in the blank. Finally we will be OK, be secure, be happy, etc.

And of course, sometimes we get what we want, and sometimes (often) we don't. And even when we do, sneakily, the wanting doesn't go away. It just affixes itself to something new, like a virus settling into a new host.

Dan Gottlieb is very mature and zen-like on this topic, and doesn't come up with a tidy take-home point with respect to our wantyness. He basically just says, yup, we often want things, sometimes really badly. Comes with the territory. And with desire frequently comes disappointment, and you're still there, and then what?

He encourages us to loosen our grasp a little bit. And that's where I'm trying, with reasonable success, today, to be.

It goes deeper than just counting your blessings, although whenever I do get around to it the results are always encouraging. It includes, but is not limited to, appreciation for a roof and regular meals and enough money to live on and loved ones intact for now. It also includes accepting that your life, today, is not different than it is. It's not what it was at some point in the past, and it's not the way it might be if all your wants were satisfied, it just is the way it is right now. These are the materials you have to work with... so let's see what you can create.

So if there is some philosophy of happyish, which I'm not sure there is, I think it includes the good (enough) life. An outlook that acknowledges wanting and wishing and desire that may or may not be vanquished with Siddhartha-like discipline; as well as how much you already have that, if you didn't have it, you would want. You can say thank you, or not; you can appreciate it, or not; you can enjoy it, or not. But if you are at a party, and they're serving hors d'oeuvres that you like reasonably well, why not eat up, instead of hoping for a different kind of party that may or may not materialize and may or may not, in fact, be better or even exist?

And for that matter, why aren't you out there on the dance floor?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another quote from Oprah:

"You are responsible for the energy you bring."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

To the Progress-Toward

It's graduation season, parents are out in full force, cameras in hand, students are in dresses and collared shirts, the sun is shining, the tents are up.

Here is a link to a commencement address given by Her Wiseness, Oprah. I like the way she lays it out. Basically, her secrets to living are:

1)Follow your feelings. Check your gut. If it doesn't feel right don't do it.

2)The biggest lessons in life come dressed as detours, obstacles, or full-blown crises. Ask every failture, every crisis, every difficult time: what is this here to teach me?

3)To move forward, you have to give back.

I also liked this advice: When you don't know what to do, get still, get very still, until you do know what to do.

And I also really dug this: "Difficulties come when you don't listen to life's whisper. If you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you'll get a scream."

That pretty much sums up a good half of my troubles of the year 2009.

A year ago I was in a place that didn't feel right, working with people who, contrary to Oprah's advice, did not trust or cherish or treasure me, or vice versa. And I was about to take a job that felt not right at all, (ignored the whisper) and I took it and I was right, it wasn't right, and I got the scream. (It came out my butthole in the form of ulcerative colitis.) It screamed, "Girlfriend, your life ain't right!"

So maybe, just maybe the lesson I can learn is to listen to myself better, and do what I know to do. This year for "graduation" I want to move closer to where I'm supposed to be. I want to get my life right. And I want to be BFFS with Oprah.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quotes of the Day: Uncertainty

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.
--Agnes De Mille

When we are not sure, we are alive.
--Graham Greene

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Life I Imagine

Every now and again, usually by accident, I have a day in the life of the kind of life I would like to have every day. Today was one such:

-First, on a rather momentous note, Spangles and I signed our lease!!! We are now contractually obligated to move into our beautiful new place come July!

-I made good headway on some work on a beautiful day while sitting in a coffee shop watching the world go by. It's always nice to feel like an effective human being in a pleasant location.

-The Twin called me and we caught up a little, which was lovely (although some lily-livered cur stole her bike wheel today)

-I poked around in the thrift store and purchased a couple celebratory knickknacks for cheap.

-Spangles and I went and got tofu hoagies and then ate them in Clark Park, when we randomly ran into two of my favorite people, let's call them Smiley and Squeak.

-Smiley, in addition to being an all-round good guy, also had just the info I needed relating to a project I've been whimsying about in my head for a while. A most fortuitous coincidence.

-We sat there and chatted and joked throughout the golden hours, watching the dogs jump and the kids play soccer and the tree leaves flutter. What a day.

The unexpected gift of a lovely day. To whom it may concern: thank you!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lost or just wandering?

Yesterday, I achieved a milestone along my personal pursuit of well, something, that was a long time coming: I graduated from the Celebrant Institute. This was two years in the making, involving some falling off course and climbing back on, the churning out of last minute papers, the application of small, steady effort over the course of many weeks.

I feel proud, grateful, and uncertain. Proud that I managed to finish what I started, come back from behind, get back on the horse. Grateful to my family who came to the graduation to support what I've done and who have supported me through everything I've ever attempted in life. And I don't just mean support like, clap as the parade goes by. Support like showing up with construction supplies and snacks and getting in there to help build the float.

And I also feel uncertain. There are still more legal and organizational challenges to surmount. Without the structure of a weekly class, I feel less secure, less confident about my abilities to make incremental progress. Without my routine of which days I do my reading and homework, which days I go to online "class," suddenly my week has a whole lot more amorphous time. The goal I had been looking forward to accomplishing has arrived and passed. And now where am I? Still more goals, more future moments to be arrived at.

And I feel uncertainty about the whole endeavor. At times I think, what an odd thing to have tried to do. I think, maybe I would be better off doing something "normal" and traditional, keeping my head down, going unnoticed. I want to retreat and hide, pass through the back staircases like a servant, behind the scenes.

This is probably just all part of it, these wacky ocean waves we ride as we try to chart our course.

The student speaker at graduation spoke of deciding to be celebrant in terms of a small voice, a whisper that said "celebrant!" and that's something I can relate too. I think what I have to do at a time, like now, when I start to fret about the Big Picture, is just to pay attention to the small voice. Trust that she knows what she's talking about, and that she'll not lead me astray.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poetry Corner

Now for something a little different. Here is a comment I posted in response to a question on another blog which I didn't expect to get so fired up about, but I did. A reader was asking for suggestions, in honor of National Poetry month, of poems that were somewhat intelligible and accessible. Here's what I ended up writing:


@Poems - As someone who ostensibly had an undergrad concentration in poetry, I share your impatience with inaccessible poems. Over the past few years I've started collecting poems/poets who I tend to be able to make heads or tails of and enjoy. Always eager to find a real-world application for this rather specialized knowledge, here are some of my findings:


-Where You Go When She Sleeps - T. R. Hummer
-Summer Without Summering - Teresa Cader (this was recently on Poetry Daily [] which can be fun to check although their choices trend toward the highfalutin. Occasionally easily intelligible ones do pop up.)
-Faint Music by Robert Hass. I've found most of his poetry kinda hard to read but I adore this poem in particular.
-Night by Louise Bogan
-Asking for Directions by Linda Gregg
-In a U-Haul North of Damascus by David Bottoms (the best divorce poem ever?)


-"Confessional" poets Sharon Olds, Kim Addonizzio, and and Dorianne Laux were quite popular when I was in undergrad, I think because a) their poems are often somewhat autobiographical and therefore somewhat intelligible, and b) because some of the poems had sex scenes!

-Denise Levertov and Jane Kenyon always struck me as classy ladies whose poems were both accessible and beautiful and deep. (Donald Hall was married to Jane Kenyon and his book of poems, Without, about her death from cancer, is a particularly heartbreaking one. And speaking of heartbreaking death poems, Kenyon's "Let Evening Come", written as she was dying, is right up there.)

-Charles Bukowski's poems are good if you're in the mood for some curmodgeonly, depressive musings about like, hard drinking and hard living. His poem Bluebird I think is relatively well-known and I like its kind of grudging optimism...shows his softer side.

-I remember having my mind blown by Gregory Corso's poem Marriage in my AP English class - upon revisiting him, he's still good for an anti-establishment Beat poet-y mood. The other Beat poet I don't think I saw mentioned yet was Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who is usually a good time.

-All my professors were nutty over Elizabeth Bishop. And if they had studied with her, it was more like an obsessive cult. I haven't read that much of her but I do remember having my mind blown (again) when studying formal poetry by her villanelle "One Art".

-Edna St. Vincent Millay I find a little harder to get into what with the forms and the rhyming and lots of dust and brows and grass and weeping and the like, but definitely check out "Sonnet XLII, What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why"and "Dirge Without Music" (neither are real pick-me-ups, if you can believe it, but still great)

-Ted Kooser is another good, down-to-earth poet laureate. His Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison is a lovely book of short, post-card length poems.

-Come to think of it, googling a list of the poet laureates of the united states is probably a good way to come across good poets to check out who are at the very least well-respected and somewhat popular (well, as popular as a contemporary poet can be said to be.)

-Linda Pastan. Many lovely poems about family and relationships.

-Wendell Berry. Lovely, nature-oriented poems, many about farming and like, the soil, but often with a kicky, damn-the-Man environmentalist bent. Definitely check out "The Peace of Wild Things", "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front", and "Do Not Be Ashamed".

-Mary Oliver. Many gorgeous poems about nature and spirituality. In particular check out the poem "Wild Geese".


Whew! I really got into writing that. Most of these poems/poets can be found by googling. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Can't Please Everyone

At work, important wisdom from my boss and mom: "You have to please yourself." My desire to please everyone at all times at all costs is something I bump up against quite frequently, and there's a lesson there I have to keep relearning. To put it in the words of musical artist India Arie:

Just for today
I will not worry what tomorrow will bring, no
I’m gonna try something new and walk through this day
Like I’ve got nothing to prove, yeah
Although I have the best intentions
I can't predict anyone's reactions
So I’ll just do my best

Words to live by. I hope I can. I hope I do.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Briefly, on giving

Yesterday was Spangles' birthday. As I was preparing a few things to make the day special for him, I was reminded of how fun and rewarding it is to do things for people you love.

In How We Choose To Be Happy, one of my favorite happiness tomes, one of those choices is Giving. Giving can be tricky, because I think there are ways of doing it that can make you less happy (the embittered, put-upon "I give, and I give, and I give..."). If you give of yourself indiscriminately, you could end up with nothing left of yourself for...yourself. "Burnout," as they say in the helping fields. You can't get water from an empty well, and so on.

One of the things I've been trying to learn this year is that being happy is not a selfish act. Her Wiseness Aunt Jane once said something along the lines of "One of the best things you can do for others is live well and be happy."

That's if it's real happy, not putting on a cheery face for the sake of appearances happy. And same with giving... it's good if it adds something to your life, bad if it feels like it's taking something away.

It is possible to give too much. One of the many messages that people, and I think women in particular, get, is that you should be a martyr, always put other people's needs first, take your lumps and be quiet about it, don't ask for what you want. Giving because you feel like you should is the kind that empties your pockets and wears down your goodwill toward man. Giving because you want to, because you can't help yourself, your cup runneth over and you want to find someone to share with - that's where it's at.

You have to fill yourself up first - see to it that you have enough energy, time, sanity to cover your own withdrawals. Once you care for yourself, once you've filled yourself up, then it can naturally, easily spill over onto the people around you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Problem with Peacefulness

I had a thought-provoking talk with my spiritual advisor yesterday. I realized that there is a worry balloon in my mind and I tend to prefer it inflated. As I have alluded to ad nauseum already, certain events of the recent past did in fact merit an all-out orange alert. But now that things have settled down, I find that I am still dutifully inflating the worry balloon, only with things that probably don't merit all that real estate. It's like I have one of those cartoon accordion puffer thingies for fireplaces, and I'm just puffing away, trying to keep the logs blazing: Taxes! Work! Money! Apartment! Car! Medecines!Bug bite! Rash! Roof leak! Big worry, little worry, I don't discriminate, just as long as I can keep the home fire burning.

Because in a certain sense, a state of constant worry has come to feel like home. I'm not saying the year of bad luck like traumatized me for life or anything, but yeah, it did scare me. I mean sh*t got scary, and we did the human thing - we started running screaming.

It was like "AAAAAhhhhhhhhhh!!!! Arterycancerdespairbrokencolon Monster!!! RUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN!!!"

Which was totally the reasonable, evolutionarily-programmed thing to do. The issue is that now, there have been no signs of the monster behind me, but I am continuing to run, scared by every rustle I hear.

Now it's like "AAAAAAhhhhhhhh!!!!! A cockroach! And my taxes are due! RUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN!!!!!"

And eventually you get to this panting, bent over position, and maybe you recognize that those things can't hurt you the way the monster can, but the thing is now you know what's out there in the forest. You've seen it up close and smelled its breath and you know the way he pops out at you out of nowhere, without even the courtesy of sinister cello music, you could just be minding your own business riding the bus.

And now that you know, you don't want to let your guard down. The monster could come back at any time. You know this.

And so it seems reasonable to try to keep the adrenaline up, keep the proverbial baseball bat by the bed, as it were. What it comes down to is, you've had quite a scare and you want to protect yourself.

So in fact it's peacefulness and relaxation that feels dangerous, because you've let your guard down, exposed your soft underbelly to any passing predator.

Now, I understand that being constantly on an adrenaline buzz has its drawbacks. I still maintain that having a constant barrage of stress hormones coursing through me contributed to my ulcerative colitis. As someone, I forget who, maybe Martha Beck, pointed out, we don't really need the same equipment to fight today's modern-day foes as we did in the days when we had to run from charging mastodons. Today poise and clear-headedness and keen problem-solving techniques are more likely to rescue you.

Unfortunately, my body has not caught up yet with my big ole' brain, and my body still says "Run!!! Bad stuff out there! Get the hell out of Dodge!"

I think there's a reason I've been sleeping at Spangles' house so much lately, why I started needing to turn on fans for background noise to fall asleep, why, when I am home alone I have keep the mental decibel level fairly high with movies or dumb internet gossip sites or overblown anxieties. It's because I don't feel safe in my own home - it's like, listen guys, the ceiling fell down . That sh*t can happen.

And is it Jungians who believe that the house is symbolic of the self? Because I'll be honest, I don't feel safe here, in my own life. What a sad thing to hear myself say.

Perhaps this explains my recent obsession with interior design (interior design) and my obsessive apartment hunting and my recent subscription to Country Living. I do want to rebuild, remodel, redecorate. I want to start again.

All this is to say, I have a problem with being peaceful. In my pursuit of happyishness, this is probably something to think about. I read a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh in my high school soul searching days, and even though I knew that the whole peace-is-every-step, smile gently at the universe thing was what I was supposed to want, there was a voice in me that said "Thich, my man, this all sounds really groovy and everything, but isn't kind of...boring?"

I wanted, and I still want, passion, whitewater, fireworks, windswept adventure. I want to be ravished and tossed out of airplanes and to be clinging to sides of Six Flags rides. I want rush, and thrill, and drama. By comparison, my idea of peacefulness and contentment - puttering around the house like a retiree, watering plants, gazing with Buddha-like serenity at a blade of grass - I mean, isn't that all a little anti-climactic?

I mean what's wrong with the inside of my brain being like a cracked out illegal rave?

I guess the thing is, as tumultous as it sometimes is inside my head, it's not like I'm actually on safari or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or anything. I'm getting my panties all in a twist about like, paperwork and home (dis)repair.

Perhaps if I could get my insides to be more peaceful, I could direct some of that penchant for drama toward something more fun - like writing a sweeping, passionate book, for example. Maybe it's not a matter of giving up excitement for a life of staid flower-watering and contentment, but choosing whether the excitement will come from chasing big dreams and taking on ambitious projects and doing works of daring and creativity - or from chewing my fingernails to the nubs over the cable bill and a traffic ticket and the exorbitant price of soy nuggets.

Maybe I can serve the world with my desire for excitement and liveliness, rather than my fear of bad things happening.

The truth is, bad things do happen, they happen all the time. But in my experience, whatever it is will probably be far more f*ed up than your tiny little anxious imagination could've come up with, and if it does hit, it'll happen whenever it happens, whether you're cowering in fear or not. So when the giant meteor hits, you might as well be reclined on a chaise lounge sipping a margarita.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

It was all going reasonably well yesterday. I led a challenging meeting with some clients which, when I put it that way, sounds really awesome and grown-up. I was feeling pretty good, driving home from the HQ, put on my happiness playlist, was grooving out to a gospel song called "The Storm Is Over Now," ruminating again on this time last year.

This time last year, unbeknownst to me, I was about to get kick in the crotch from my reasonably well-intentioned but damagingly scatterbrained boss at the Rich People Foundation. I had been hired as a temp to be her assistant, and also apparently the assistant to the anal-to-the-point-of-psychosis events manager, and oh, by the way, could I please run around and get everything ready for these two crazy people without leaving the front desk because while I was at it could I be the receptionist and answer and direct fifty calls a day and distribute a bin full of mail every day because we just laid of the person who used to do that.

Nevertheless, plucky little worker that I was, I did my best, because the words temp-to-hire (and by association, salary and benefits and vacation days) had been bandied about... of course, there were hiring protocols to be followed, so would I mind calling the numbers on all these resumes and setting up interviews (and then re-re-scheduling once Flighty McBosslady changed plans at the last minute)... for the very position that I was hoping to get which I had been busting my patootie at for four months.

Until one day as I was distributing Flighty McBosslady's interoffice mail, and distributed a girl's resume to the President, with a post-it on it that said "I'd like to make her an offer." And then later, while filing in the little file room next to her office, I heard her actually make the offer (MY job) to the girl, on speakerphone, office door wide open.

I don't think I can (or at least want to) put into words what that felt like, but I suppose the words betrayal and murderous rage are a start. And pain, and deep injustice.

The next day I scheduled myself into her calendar for ten minutes between meetings, attempted to give her the quietly indignant yet sublimely classy speech I'd been crafting in my head all night, which never come out quite like you imagine them, do they? But, I hope I said enough to preserve a small, stained shred of personal dignity.

Flighty McAssface's response was basically "ooooopppssssssssss". Then she changed the subject to asking me what I "really" want to do in life, you know like in my heart of hearts blah blah chatty now-that-I've-driven-a-garbage-truck-through-your-self-worth-I'll-spend-five-minutes-getting-to-know-you-as-a-person-after-spending-four-months-taking-you-completely-for-granted spread my wings and fly. I sort of wish I'd told her to eat shit and die. But, I kept it civil for better or worse, gave her notice that my last day would be after two big events we were planning were over which frankly was more than they deserved but I feared the wrath of the unstable Events Planner.

On my last day a bouquet of flowers in a glass vase appeared on my desk with a note in Bossy's handwriting "thanking" me for my good work. (Yet another opportunity to invite her to eat shit and die that I passed up.) I remember walking home down Broad Street with the vase in my hands, and it slipped but I caught it, and I was seized with the urge to slam it down onto the sidewalk, hopefully shattering it, and walk on without looking back. I reigned myself in though, and the empty glass vase sits to this day on top of my kitchen cupboards in case I need it one day, like a bag of office supplies a disgruntled worker might steal and hoard, as if a stapler and some cheap pens would somehow make it all the bitter heartache come out equal.

Never mind. It was a year ago, and I'm in a better place now, having more or less worked through the feelings of inadequacy and chumpyness and the homicidal urges the experience engendered, and I have accepted the fact that it wasn't me, it was them.

The point was, I said to myself as I hit the button in the car to repeat "The Storm Is Over Now", that the whole thing is behind me. As Whitney Houston's song goes, I fell down, and I stumbled, but I did not crumble. The point is to keep on moving forward.

Maybe it was the day spent with the clients, who happen to be nuns, but somehow the idea of forgiveness floated into my head. A sign outside of a church said in bold letters "Healing".

I have loved self-help and personal growth type books ever since I was a teenager. I remember being fifteen, maybe sixteen, and reading on subjects like forgiveness and healing, and not really being able to grasp them. The concepts were too abstract, I couldn't really wrap my brain around them. I realize now that at fifteen and sixteen, mercifully, I didn't have anything much to forgive, or to heal. September 11 wouldn't happen until the following year; the various illnesses that would spring up in my family hadn't yet sprung; I was still under the safe awning of my childhood home, blissfully unaware that just beyond the edge of the awning enormous seagulls of bad luck circled, waiting to take gigantic dumps on passersby unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, as I reflect on, among other things, MamaBear's surgery-versary, as we call her one year milestone on the other end of illness, and other crappy stuff that happened a year ago, I am better able to understand an idea like forgiveness. Not necessarily practice it, mind you, but understand it.

In the case of MamaBear, there is nobody tangible to forgive. I have to direct my efforts toward forgiving, I don't know, the universe or something. Whatever unknowable forces led to that frightening, painful experience. The fates, or life in general.

In the case of my idiot former boss, and all of the clueless windbags that made my life miserable while I was at the Rich People Foundation, it's harder. Why would I want to give them anything, much less a deep philosophical gift?

Of course, I realize that forgiveness is not for other people, it's for me. It's so that I don't keep accidentally expending energy feeling wounded on account of the actions of someone who, it's pretty evident, is not, nor really ever was, doing any thinking about me.

I know it's about letting go and releasing the past and stepping into the future and taking the next step forward. I know, in my head at least, that life is short and you can't spend it lugging around people who dicked you over, intentionally or not - for one thing, they're not worth it.

Part of me doesn't want to let go. Righteous indignation has it's own special pleasure to it, to feel wronged, to feel like a victim. It hurts so good, the way binging on cheese fries or picking a scab or talking smack on somebody does. It feels fiendishly, secretly, mean-spiritedly under-the-trenchcoat good, like "Ha ha, see world, I know this is bad and WATCH ME do it!"

I guess ultimately it's just a choice you make, or have to keep making. You just have to decide that you don't want to be that kind of person, mired in the past, unable to move forward. It's the decision to count your blessings, for what they're worth, rather than the many diverse and creative ways you've been humped by the dog of injustice over the years.

Why? I don't know why. Maybe clinging to crappy stuff in your past is a shield, in way, an excuse not to turn toward wide open and scary future. I guess what non-forgiving does is prevent you from seeing the present with clear eyes, keeps you from living life as you imagine, as the best version of yourself and so on. Keeps you from being clear and happy and peaceful.

...These were the profound and spiritual thoughts I was having when I noticed flashing lights in the rearview. I got pulled over and ticketed for running a red light (by the way it was a YELLOW, which turned red as I was driving under it, in a section of road where the two poorly timed traffic lights are about a hundred feet apart, by the way, but that's beside the point. Actually I think it was some kind of ticket trap, because I saw three other police cars on the same block, one of which had pulled over a car traveling the opposite direction. The borough trying to line its coffers, perhaps, with the proceeds from questionable tickets. Anyway...)

My first instinct was to be like "WHY! Every time I try to enter some kind of zen-like, life-affirming mental space something happens to completely take the spit out of me. AS SOON as I have a little money in place something drastic and car-related and tripled digit comes up to wreck it all." This was followed by blind, shaking rage at the officer who had pulled me over but couldn't explain what I was supposed to do with the ticket once I got it other than "read the back," while I watched another car run through the exact same yellow-to-red light without being pulled over. Followed by the urge to throw things, which lasted all the way to Spangles' house, where I experienced the urge to take it all out on him.

In a Herculean effort not to hurt his feelings with my misplaced anger, I took myself back out for a teary-eyed, rage-filled walk around the block. It turned into several blocks, while I frantically flipped through the mental rolodex of my hodgepodge accumulation of tips and techniques for dealing with all my feeeeeeeeelings.

There was the technique of just allowing the feeling to inhabit my body, not to fight but let it be "a guest in the house" as Rumi puts it. To really focus in on it, "listen" to it, describe how it feels. (Blackness in the lungs and a flaming scowl-mask, if you're wondering.) The phrase "the only way out is through" floated through my head. Then I thought of Anne Lammott, who has written that "Help me help me help me" and "Thank you thank you thank you" are the two best prayers she knows. I don't know how I feel about prayer, but I figured I would send out a big mental "Help!" to whatever benevolent forces might be out there, just to cover my bases.

The pythons started to deconstrict, and my frantic pace slowed a little. Then I tried examining these thoughts about how EVERY time I do this or that something bad happens, to see if they held water. They didn't really, as I'm sure you're shocked to hear.

By the final block, I realized that giving me the stupid ticket almost definitely was not ruining Officer Assface's evening, so why should it ruin mine. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

Then I realized that in all that psychologizing myself I had really worked up an appetite, so I went to go get Spangles. A plate of Ethiopian food and a glass of red wine later, I was like "what ticket?"

So there it stands. And I have the following message for the world at large:

Listen, bad stuff that happens, I don't like your methods, and if that was your idea of a joke I think your sense of humor is a pile of steaming doody. I just want you to know that I refuse to consider this some kind of test. The only test I give an eyelash about it my own evaluation of myself.

So bad luck in the world, and any and every person or force that would conspire to bring me down: you can suck it. I will swing back. I will write long angry updates to my blog. I will find a way to make meaning out of you and weave you into my rich tapestry of human effin' experience, and I will win. I will be happy. I will be content. I will live a good life, I will love people, I will enjoy the snot out of everything that I can, I will continue to grow incensed about injustice, and I will fight, and if I go down, I will go down with my arms swinging. I will not stand by and be a passenger in my own life. I will not let circumstances dictate my frame of mind, I will suck the ever-living bright side and silver lining out of every batch of mouldering lemons that I can, and I will survive, and I will live to tell the tale.

Also, neener neener neener, you're a poopoohead and a buttface, go fly a kite, and I hope you choke. Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Recipe for Happiness (this one's a quickie)

-Irish TV show from the 1990's about life in a rural village, streamed instantly from Netflix (It's called Ballykissangel - I was almost put off by the fruity opening credits music, but by now I'm totally engrossed, at the expense of all other outside activities)


-Mrs. T's 4-cheese and potato pierogies (available from the frozen foods aisle).

Serve hot. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On The Good Fight (this one has a surprise twist)

Today, my car got almost-towed, and in the process of running around crazy to find an atm to pay the extortionist, i mean tow-truck driver, i apparently lost my house keys, which i didn't realize until i got to my door, eagerly awaiting a cool drink of water and the ability to lick my wounds in the comfort of my big blue easy chair. It was not my finest hour.

And yes, as I drove back across town, abundant tears did i shed, doing that rhythmic hysteria thing with my lower lip, sucking in air uncontrollably. and yes, profanity did tumble from my mouth, and curseth i did the name of Lew Blum towing.

But you know what? Forget it. There was an incredibly sad article in the New York Times the other day about a palliative care doctor who herself faced cancer, and besides being incredibly sad, it was also a reminder that some people only get to live to be 41. for some people, that's all you get. some people even less.

so i'm not going to waste one extra moment crying about my bad parking luck. even if Lew Blum took my last penny (which they basically did, but that's beside the point), I know I will never starve, I will never be roof-less, I will never have to make my way alone through the ugly stuff. the important thing is i have my people, and i have their love, and unpleasant circumstances of this variety are easily remedied with a little sympathy and some ice cream and a walk to the dog park to watch the animals play. one thing that having scary illnesses and other life and family crises in your past does is help you realize, once the initial shock has worn off, that tow trucks and lost keys and bad days ain't nothin'.

what's something is the fact that we get to be alive right now, that we get to go through our lives, that we have the energy and capacity to deal with unexpected turd deposits on the road of life and come out of it fine, eventually. what's something is that i got to sit with Spangles today in the sun and gaze at the river. what's something is the out-of-control blossoming on the trees around here, the pink ones that look like they're made of cotton candy. what's something is that we're the ones who get to survive, try to make life lessons out of it, who get to laugh and watch tv and eat stuff and plan things and kiss people and try to make our lives the way we want them.

!!!!!!!! BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!! Gentle readers, as I was typing this, whatever sinister forces i stumbled into today clearly didn't want things to get too Pollyanna over here, because A GIANT. COCKROACH. JUST. CRAWLED ON ME. ON ME. ON MY ACTUAL, PHYSICAL SKIN. WHILE I WAS IN MY BED. THEN SCURRIED AWAY TO UNDER THE BED, ITS WHEREABOUTS NOW UNKNOWN, REPEAT, NOW UNKNOWN. ONE OF MY DARKEST FEARS HAS JUST BEEN REALIZED.

I will never cease to be amazed by what I find I can survive.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Home Remedy for Dullness, Torpor, or Sloth

"Quit moping and get going!"

Use as needed.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

An Ordinary Easter Miracle

I feel all filled up again. Over the weekend the Twin and I worked on getting the house ready for Easter. The weather was stunning; spring is really clobbering me over the head with a frying pan this year. As I was scurrying to and fro, readying things, cutting branches of brilliant forsythia to decorate, I realized that the gloom was gone and I felt light, energetic, even giggly.

Since I've been keeping this blog I've become more aware of moments like that, and perhaps more prone to dissecting them. Was it the idea of a project with an outcome that would be pleasing to others? Was it just the pleasure of movement again after feeling stagnant, goal oriented activity? Looking forward to seeing the whole clan together again?

But perhaps there's something to be said for not looking a gift horse in the mouth and just going with it. Our Easter was gorgeous. Family, flowers, sunlight, the deck, lots of food, watching Neph's golf moves in the backyard and cuddling Niecey. It was an event that felt like the good old days, except we are living them right now.

A year ago now, I was (and we, my family, were) right in the middle of what I didn't know at the time was a cluster of painful occurrences that was not yet over.

But it is now. And even though I am still gun-shy and tend, more than I used to, to think that every zit is symptomatic of a horrible disease and every stray sound in the house is impending structural collapse... no bad stuff has happened in a while now. And I'm beginning to be able to believe that in fact a personal armageddon has not occurred, rather, a tidal wave of crises swept through but now I'm coming down the other side. And things are ok. On days like today, even great. If nothing else, my year of yucky has brought into sharp relief the delicious and savory moments of normalcy.

And to those, I toast.