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.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dissapointment, Malaise, and Pulling Myself Out of It (Again)

I was in an inexplicable slump the past few days. It's harder to write here (or at all) when I'm feeling down. My spiritual advisor Leslie suggested the word inertia. All I wanted to do is get under the covers and watch many back to back episodes of Intervention on the internet.

It might've had to do with the news that Spangles and I didn't get the apartment we applied for. Of course, I dealt with it maturely and moved on quickly, except maybe I didn't, and what was inexplicable was actually my disappointment sneaking to the surface anyway. As much as I wanted to roll with the punches, the news touched a tender spot for me: the fear that even if you work and plan for a desirable life/future, forces beyond your control will eventually use your hopes and dreams as a port-a-potty. So why even try? (Thus, the mouldering dishes in the sink, the tsunami of clothes strewn carelessly about the apartment, the half-hearted and not very successful attempts at, you know, doing anything.)

I know I have to fight this inclination. I have to talk myself out of it, say "Listen, disappointments come but great apartments are plentiful and the great life you imagined in this one didn't come from the apartment, it came from you." I'm also sort of toying with the belief that life is unfurling according to a higher logic that I can't necessarily understand from my vantage point but ultimately makes things work out OK. It's a comforting thought, but I really don't know if I believe it or not.

When I feel myself get down I also get panicky, because I'm like "oh no happinessFAIL" and I have a really hard time tolerating it and reminding myself of what I really do know, that I won't be stuck there forever. That's the problem, my panic makes my mind slow and I can't remember to do the things I know to do.

Finally I did, though. I called The Twin, and she told me to just accomplish one productive thing, because that usually makes you feel in control of the universe again. I walked my rent check over and it did in fact make me feel like at least a minimally effective human being. I took a shower. Then Spangles called and said F-Money and friends were grilling, and you know I was in a bad place because I didn't even really feel like going. The Twin convinced me, however, to put on civilian clothes and a little makeup and get out there anyway. Fake it till you make it, as they say.

And then I remembered my cache of inspirational books, and grabbed one to read on the trolley. I opened it up to a page where they author was basically like "Hey, you think nobody ever has bad days, gets scattered, makes mistakes? You think everyone else has it all together? 'Cause they don't. We're all perfectly imperfect, all the time." And I did that old familiar inner forehead slap and some of the pressure eased.

And then at F-Money's I drank sun tea and talked of other things, and by the time dark had fallen and the tiki torches were lit and we had supped and drank wine, the panic had slipped away completely.

And a lovely coincidence also helped me. Several months ago, as I was crawling out of the rubble of my bout with colitis and hopelessness, I bought myself a pretty little ring as a reminder that I am responsible for my own happiness. I had lost track of it for several weeks, but as I was dumping out a purse to get ready to go, it fell right out onto the floor like a gift.

I picked it up and put it on my finger, a reminder, a message I'd left for myself from a more enlightened time.