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.