Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Zen and Beer.

To the two drunk guys who wandered into my gym this morning and harassed the trainer before getting kicked out and proceeding to go through my car, recline my front seats, dump what I assume (and hope!) was water all over my console, and then steal my yoga mat out of my back seat,

First of all, yes, that was the longest open I have ever written in any letter.

Second, there was a time in my life where your little stunt would have pissed me off for days. I have a pathological sort of issue with any of my personal space being invaded in any way by anyone. Throw alcohol, obnoxious behavior, and the fact that I don't even know your names into the mix, and the old me would have been crying "victim" while I hunted you down just so I could have you arrested for what I am sure was way-over-the-legal-limit drunk driving. My only goal: to eff up your day as hard and for as long-term as possible.

But you caught me mid-transformation, you little asshats. (Note: My transformation does not preclude me from calling an asshat an asshat when the label fits), and on this day, at this moment, here is my message to you:

I hate to break it to you, but if selling my stuff for liquor and drug money was your goal, the mat and carrying bag together are probably worth about $20.

So instead of engaging in what I am assuming is your typical "F*%$ the world and everyone in it" mentality (if what I saw of your behavior this morning was any indication) try this:

Remove my cherished yoga mat from it's carrying case. The carrying case I searched for for 8 months, until I finally found one that slung perfectly over my bad shoulder at just the right angle and landed in just the right spot to allow me to lug it from yoga place to yoga place. Once you've removed my mat, unroll it with a quick snap, and listen to the sound it makes as it hits the air and then settles onto the floor. I always loved being in that particular moment, that familiar sound that told me I was about to begin something amazing and necessary.

After you've placed my mat on the floor, look at it. See the words "Peace" and "Joy" and "Love" printed on it. Know that I have been looking down at those words for the past 5 years, every time I've stepped on my mat in search of comfort and in search of some deeper, more loving part of myself. In search of healing and truth. In search of compassion for myself and for others. Next, take off your shoes and socks (this is non-negotiable), then stand on my mat. Picture my bare feet - my little, pale, post-ballet shoes/bunion covered feet, stepping around the words. Or standing on them. Whatever I needed at the time.

Then close your eyes. And breathe deeply. And stop listening to everything around you. Listen only to whatever it is you hear when you go inside yourself. Because in moments like this, you are what you hear. And if you hear nothing, as I suspect is the case, then you, my friends, have a whole lot of work to do. And my mat can help you with that.

Now move your feet until they land on either side of the word that represents the thing thing you most want and need. Is it peace? Or Joy? Or Love? My guess is, you want and need all three. But guess what? So do I. So does everyone. Acting out doesn't make you any different - well, I mean, it makes you dumber, of course. And like ... a walking felony waiting to happen. But inside, we are all the same. We all want and need the same things, and for pretty much the same reasons.

When you open your eyes, know this single truth: You didn't steal anything from me this morning. I certainly have $20. I am not so attached to a piece of rubber and a piece of cloth than I can't easily replace my stuff at Target. And you didn't even steal my belief in humanity, or anything like that. Because I know how dark and ugly the world can be, so crap like this never surprises me any more. Even when it happens inisde my carefully constructed little "personal space bubble." These days, it only unsettles me for a short while, and then I move on. Without anger. Without sadness. WIthout much of anything. Including ... as you well know ... my yoga mat.

What you stole this morning was much bigger than my yoga mat, and cost way more than $20. And you stole it from yourselves. Because when I first saw you from across the gym, you looked to me to be two sad, empty drunk guys without much to look forward to today, other than blowing donuts in the gym parking lot and taking off with a used yoga mat in a faded shoulder bag. I bet no one else on earth even wondered where you were this morning. I suspect no one even cared. And it's possible that I am wrong, but you robbed yourselves and each other of the opportunity to ever prove me wrong. You lived up to my first impression assumptions about who you were. And who you weren't. (I'm guessing you were too smashed to wonder if I was a writer. With a few social media accounts. And clearly a little more work to do with the "letting go of grudges" part of my personal transformation. Yet one more way sobreity could have benefitted you at 4am on a Tuesday morning.)

So, To the two drunk guys who wandered into my gym this morning and harassed the trainer before getting kicked out and proceeding to go through my car, recline my front seats, dump what I assume (and hope!) was water all over my console, and then steal my yoga mat out of my back seat,

My yoga mat is now your yoga mat. Because I have decided to give it to you. Since you won't make any money selling it, maybe you'll take up a daily practice instead. Crazier things have happened. Should you find your way to that path, I would encourage you to wash your mat in warm water on the gentle cycle about every two weeks, and - very important - you must not put it in the dryer or it will melt. Just drape it over a chair, then, when it is dry, roll a Downy dryer sheet inside it before you put it back in its bag - a little yoga mat trick to keep it smelling fresh.

Dukkha muccantu. Namaste.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bitter is Not a Genre

I don't ever write about my "romantic" life, a decision I made years ago, when I realized that

1. memoir was my natural landing place as a writer, and

2. just about every memoirist was writing and/or had written some version of something (and very often several versions of several somethings) either condemning or adoring current, former, even fantasy future lovers.

Whether full of venom or syrupy sweet blind - and blinding – love, the pieces I was reading left me feeling unsettled, since I had no desire to similarly expose the life of anyone I had ever loved, and I didn’t want to dwell on the life of anyone who had hurt me. So writing about current and ex relationships simply slid of my topics list. And since I don’t spend time imagining or looking for the perfect (read: nonexistent) mate of my dreams, the potential lovers of the future were out, too.

The thing about all this, of course, is that I didn’t consciously make these decisions or reason all this out at the time. It just sort of happened organically, so that, over the years, whenever people have asked me if I’ve ever written anything along these lines, I’ve literally had to stop and think about why I am one of few writers I know who has never penned a love story or a breakup story. Hell, I’ve never even written a sex scene. When I think about the reasons behind all this, all I can come up with is: Because I don’t want to. I find pretty much every detail of this aspect of my life either utterly uneventful, or too private and painful to dredge up, or too joyful to confine to a page, or too boring to mean anything to anyone but me.

And then there are the others. The “thems.” The exes and the priors and the ones who took me from “I” to “we” and then back to “I” again. The people with whom I have shared the most intimate aspects of my life. Just because I write and they don’t, does that give me the right to put all of our stuff out there for public consumption, as if I’m some kind of gossip soup kitchen willing to feed anyone who is starved for a juicy “love gone wrong” story? Although not every past relationship inspires feelings of romance and light when I think about them, no matter how much time and self-growth I like to think has happened between the “It’s over” and the now, my exes have lives too, and investing in the memories of our time together, committing to the moments we shared for long enough to shape a coherent essay or story or catchy little limerick (Ok, so I confess – there have been a few “Here’s why I hate you” limericks over the years. I’m not proud of that.), just pulls me back into a life that obviously didn’t work for me, even if I fell apart when all the bad stuff ended.

Few dumps feel good, especially since they are usually accompanied by endless iterations of “When God closes a door he opens a window” comments and emails and bookmarks from everyone who feels bad and doesn’t know what else to say. My solution to closed doors has always been to put on storm windows and buy really thick curtains to keep the garbage from getting in that way. Yet most of my past relationships share many commonalities, which, quite obviously, is why they all fall into the “past relationships” category. Of course, life became much richer and more fulfilling when I started to realize that so many of these commonalities go no further than my own mirror.

At some point, probably after the ugly demise of yet another pairing left me reeking of self-pity and the “woe is me” kind of victim talk that marks the recently cheated on, recently dumped best of us (hey, I’m not judging you for wallowing, and you shouldn’t judge yourself either – we’ve all been there, so group hugs all around), I started to take an honest look in that persistent mirror and ask "What did I do to get here and what am I going to do to make "here" a better place to live and work and play? ‘Cause, today’s truth is this: It’s dinner for one now. Again. Still. And no one but me is gonna make my life worth living.”

So, for better and worse, I have refused to combine my love life with my writing life, despite their shared ability to inspire feelings of happy and sad, fulfilled and drained, hopeful and despondent. I guess I've always felt that to write honestly about my romantic life, a few things would have to happen:

1. I'd have to reveal parts of myself that I don't want to reveal;

2. I'd have to reveal things about people I once loved – and people I believed loved me back - that could result in emotional collateral damage to others I have no business damaging;

3. In at least a few cases, I would be using my writing purely as a weapon of retaliation, which is something I promised myself -and still promise myself - I would/will never do.

Because Bitter is not a genre.

Still, over the years, I have been tempted to approach all this on paper, especially when people ask what my "deal" is. Do I date? Do I ever want to get married again? What about kids? What about growing old alone … doesn't that scare me? Typical questions I ask myself often, usually at 2am when I have nothing better to do than spin myself into a sort of abandonment-fueled panic attack. And writing is often the place where I can unload such worries and work through the logistics.

But the logistics went to hell when I ran into an ex over Thanksgiving weekend. And not just an ex. The ex. The one I think about when I examine my current lack of relationship, my perpetual state of lingering heartache, my refusal to commit to another relationship with the potential to wreak similar havoc on my life, with no guarantee that it will bring anything positive before the inevitable crash.

Oh the drama, right?

The actual passing moment the ex and I shared was quick. Uneventful. Anyone who didn’t know us, who saw us pass each other, who watched the ex nod, who heard me say “Oh. Hey.” as casually as if I were ordering my daily decaf tea from the barista who knows me by name, would have thought that perhaps the ex and I were coworkers. Or former classmates. Or perhaps slightly antisocial neighbors who rarely saw one another. No one would have guessed that I was facing the one person for whom I had been willing to degrade and humiliate myself. The being for whom I had changed into someone I didn’t much like, and into someone by whom I was embarrassed most of the time.

No one would have guessed that the brief exchange actually followed over six years of painful soul searching, or that, had my search not uncovered some sense of personal dignity worth preserving, I would have used this unexpected opportunity to simultaneously unleash my angry inner child and my pissed off inner adult, regardless of the spectacle it would have caused. But most of all, no one would have guessed that, after the encounter, I took to Facebook and wrote my first ever public words about this aspect of my life.  And it went like this:

"That beautiful moment when you unexpectedly come face to face with an ex who you thought broke you beyond repair, and are able to honestly think "Your loss" even as you say "Oh. Hey." and keep walking because ... you truly have better things to do now. #moveon.org."

A few of my closest friends got it. In fact, one read it and immediately sent me a rapid series of test messages:

“Which ex?”

“Are you ok?”

“You seem ok. Good for you!”

The final text simply said:

“And PS: it's weird to see you saying anything about your love life, by the way ... I guess I forget that you ever had one”.

Oddly, this ex of mine, the one who inspired the Facebook status, the one whose love and approval was once so monumental that the loss of it could have filled an epic novel (and that actually did result in volumes of bad poetry), has - apparently - finally become insignificant enough to break my “No writing about my love life” code of silence. And yet, I still have no desire to write much more than a 48-word Facebook post. Partly because this person still has a life. And because there would still be collateral emotional damage to the people who love this ex. The people this ex currently professes to love back. But the biggest, most important reason is actually quite simple: I have neither the desire nor the energy to commit to writing about someone who would not commit to loving me.

Sometimes I still cry when I remember how hard I fell from this particular relationship, not because of the ex I lost - a person I never really had to begin with -  but because of the parts of myself I threw away in the process. Although I fell out of love many, many years ago, the scars remained, in the form of questions: Why wasn't I a good enough person? What did I have to do to be lovable? What was wrong with me and how could I fix it? Only when I tired of not finding answers did I decide to break up with the illusion of love and allow my ex to truly be part of my past.

Perhaps it seems as if I’ve accomplished nothing since this person walked out of my life almost six Valentines Days ago, but coming face to face with the person who last saw me as a bitter and broken failure felt like a pretty significant success. In fact, it took that moment, that unplanned, unscripted thirty seconds in a brightly lit, people-filled hallway for me to realize just how much healing I have done. Apparently, the weight of grief lifted so gradually, so quietly, that I had to see the source of the pain to know, without a doubt, that it had actually left me. And I feel much lighter now that I have unpacked some of the relationship’s baggage and tossed its contents.  Sure, my heart still raced and my legs still shook at the mere sight of the ex, and at the realization that, whether or not I spoke or ignored, laughed or cried, stopped walking or sprinted wildly down that seemingly endless hallway, the moment was unavoidably in front of me, and the choice to interact - or not - was finally mine.

So I did what I wanted to do - not what I thought I should do, or believed I had to do, or imagined I shouldn't do.  I was simply myself.  Clearly I still have baggage, but it is my baggae to carry. I am glad I didn’t get rid of it altogether, because lugging it around all these years has made me stronger, and has taught me that I am perfectly capable of managing it on my own.  And  as long as I hang onto this lightened load, I can remember just how heavy and burdensome the baggage can get, if I let it. Even better, I can fill my baggage with the stuff I need, with the things that serve me and the moments that make life easier, happier, and more enjoyable, no matter the journey. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blog Talk: Dancing With the Stars, 'To Do' list addictions, and bladder situations. Among other things.

So here’s today’s randomness:

  1. Maybe it’s just because I’m feeling old these days, but I am officially out of patience with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and the whole hip and happening crop of body grinding, cleavage bearing, butt-crack flaunting young female singers. I guess that’s why I hate myself a little more each time I realize that the awesome song stuck in my head, the one I can’t stop singing over and over, the one that makes me wish I still taught spinning class so I could use it for hill climbs and flat sprints, happens to belong to one of these … kids.  Why oh why must their music actually be … good?!  (And saying that I simply like the songs for their catchy beats and great rhythms makes me no better than the beer-bellied, middle-aged men who say they read Playboy for the articles.)
  2. We got our first real snow of the season last night.  Can somebody please tell me why, with every year’s first snowfall, I act shocked and dismayed, as if I didn’t know snow was coming, before I proceed to whine and complain, to anyone who will listen (and many who won’t), about the slick roads, the backed up traffic, and my soaking wet socks? Time to bundle up for the next six months.
  3. I’ve been watching “Dancing with the Stars” this season and I’ve pretty much fallen in love with the entire cast. I ‘m not a reality show person, but I do love dance, and, in the privacy of my own home, I often convince myself that, had I stuck with the weekly tap/jazz/ballet classes of my youth, I, too, could have been flipping and leaping and spinning around the dance floor with Derek or Maks.  Also, I would very much like to tell Len Goodman where to stick it.  And I’d also like to have a mani/pedi day with Bruno Tonioli .
  4. Even though I am an introvert by nature, lately I have been wanting to resurrect two former passions: my yoga practice and my involvement in community theater.  Since I belong to Meetup.com (even though my schedule rarely leaves me available to attend many events), I actually went to the site in search of something that looked ether yogic or theatrical in nature.  So how lucky did I feel when I found an upcoming meetup called “Yoga for Singers” being offered nearby, on a day/time that worked for me?!  I quickly RSVP’d “Yes” before I could talk myself out of going.  Turns out, I’ve found another reason why skimming quickly instead of reading carefully often creates more problems than it solves: I just received my confirmation for “Yoga for SINGLES” this Saturday afternoon.  Um, no thanks.  If I want to flaunt my single status, I’ll go to a wedding and sit at the kiddie table until I get hit on by drunk Uncle Ned, the  close-talking taxidermist-by-day, adult-movie-theater-owner by night who has never met an ass he didn’t grab or an onion he didn’t like.
  5. Today’s “to do” list included the following item:
    1. Make tomorrow’s “to do” list
I wish I was kidding.
  1. Today at work, a colleague asked a group of us what we liked best about Thanksgiving.
Me: (Jumping in first) Watching the parades and seeing all the floats and performances in Times Square!
Other coworker: Being with family and friends and feeling gratitude for another opportunity to spend time with the people I love most in the world.
Me: Wait  … Can I change my answer?
  1. Today when my doctor asked whether or not my generalized anxiety symptoms had improved, I responded: “I don’t know. Sometimes when I’m at home, I do wonder who would find me if I fell down my staircase and knocked myself unconscious.”    I’m gonna title this book:  “Coming Over to the Dark Side: How My Honesty Turned My Holistic Health Practitioner into a Zoloft Pusher.”
  2. I work in a cubicle environment, which makes for a very close and intimate space-sharing situation, whether or not you’re into that sort of thing. Sometimes I feel guilty overhearing office conversations, so I put on my headphones and blast the jam while I work. Other times, like now, I become so totally immersed in eavesdropping on the pieces of a conversation about what someone’s eighth grade daughter saw in biology class when she looked at a hot dog under a microscope that I simply can’t bring myself to do anything other than Google “hot dogs” and silently thank God for soy and legumes.
  3. What’s the medical term for “I’m worried that I may have hypochondria”?  I’m wondering if my copay would cover a quick office visit to either confirm or rule this out.
  4. Now that I’m 40, I answer to one of two masters at all times: Shy Bladder and Overactive Bladder. The real heel kickin’ fun comes when they team up and work together in an “I have to, but I can’t, but I have to, but I can’t, but I have to, but I can’t” sorta way.  Just another of nature’s reminders that self-control is the ultimate unattainable goal.

That's all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blog Talk: William Shakespeare, Wabi-sabi, and Boone's Farm

So here’s this week’s randomness:
  1. I value Lifetime Television for its ability to summarize an entire movie in a title:
    1. 'Crimes of Passion: She Woke Pregnant'
    2. 'Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life'
    3. 'My Stepson, My Lover'
With titles like those, you need not spend two hours watching the movie.  And although most people choose to veg out on a Sunday afternoon with a snack and a blanket and watch the movies anyway, Lifetime could be on to something.  For example, I am imagining how much more palatable Shakespeare might seem to high school English students if he’d had the Lifetime titling staff at his disposal. 
a.    The Blood Shall Remain on the Hands of the Killer (MacBeth)
b.    The Poison Drinkers Who Totally Made the Wrong Call (Romeo & Juliet)
c.    You Only Thought I Was Crazy But Guess What? I Win!  (Hamlet)
  1. Yesterday, when doing research on my novel, I came across the term wabi-sabi, which the Japanese use to express the combination of joy and sorrow.  I think that’s pretty beautiful. Though it is not to be confused with Wasabi, an extremely hot Japanese sauce usually eaten with rice or sushi. The one and only time I ever (accidentally) ate wasabi, I did feel a moment of joy, followed by a hybrid sort of sorrowpanicpainhorror. Followed by copious amounts of water. But I think wabi-sabi is expressing an entirely different kind of joy and sorrow, and not the kind that requires immediate hydration.
  2. I keep hearing about “agreements” between the US and Iran.  And all I can say is this:  Every single thing about Iran scares me.
  3. I’ve started something new (and I encourage you to try it): Before I go to bed each night, I write down three things that went well for me that day.  I don’t analyze them or try to repeat them the next day, I simply acknowledge them for what they were, and for how they made me feel.  Kinda makes going to bed more relaxing, and I seem to be getting up each day feeling a little more hopeful.
  4. I submitted an essay to a local arts/writing program called Bookmarks, where writers can send in work on various selected topics to be judged -- and hopefully accepted -- for a community reading.  I just found out that my piece “Recipes” was selected in the "Eat the Past" category and that I will be reading it at the Arts Center on January 6.  I submitted this particular piece for two reasons:
    1. It was an excerpt from my thesis, and I cut it down from 3,467 words to the required 750, which was a fantastic writing exercise and an achievement in and of itself. I'm finding that a thesis is a lot like a bridesmaid dress -- you’d like to invest in something you’ll be able to wear more than once. And (if you're lucky and have a few tailoring skills), you hope to mix and match and hem and bedazzle and accessorize the hell out of it, to turn it into a sort of all-occasion, or perhaps multi-occasion ensemble that works for just about any event or venue.  So, three cheers for a repurposed thesis!
    2. “Eat the Past” was looking for essays about the ways in which food has figured into our former selves and families to shape our current selves and identities.  I had the option of sending in a lovely piece about learning to make cookies with my mother, or taking the road less travelled and sending in piece that was painful to write, is still difficult for me to read, and that proudly refuses to end on a happy note.  So I guess I’m thankful to food for giving me the big ol’ gut that never leads me astray as long as I listen to it.
  5. I turned 40 a few weeks ago, and sometimes I am overwhelmed by how sad I think I should feel about not having a biological child.  Can it possibly ok to be ok with my lack of progeny?   Society says “No.”
  6. I’ve done a lot of Christmas shopping this year. I started early, and I bought really thoughtful gifts for people – things that have personal significance, one-of-a-kind things I had to order in advance and have specially made. Even so, I’m recalling the Christmases of my childhood, when I often got tee shirts and underwear folded inside a recycled Barbie box, or socks and dance tights folded inside a festive looking cookie tin. Yes, I got all the nice stuff too, but those red herring wrappings made for some bittersweet gift opening moments. I think I’ll resurrect that tradition this year. Anyone got an empty 1869 Château Lafite bottle big enough to hold 60 ounces of apple flavored Boone’s Farm?
  7. We’re expecting a N’oreaster the day before Thanksgiving.  It may snow two feet. Or not at all.  But instead of fretting over whether or not I’ll be able to head North as intended, I’m doing something I never do and have often thought would result in a painful, spontaneous death: I’m playing things by ear. If it doesn’t snow – great.  I’ll pack myself and Beckett into the car and follow through with our plans.  If it snows us in, no big thing.  I’ll go serve food at the local food kitchen and then take Beckett to the nursing home to do pet visits with people who are truly confined and alone.  Either way is a win for everyone – myself included. So suck it, Mother Nature. You’ve got about as much power here as the Wicked Witch of the West sans the ruby slippers.
  8. Moment of self-disclosure: I horde elastic hairbands and avoid mirrors. You see, I can’t remember the last time I had a good hair day from morning til night, a sad fact that seems truly unfair and unfortunate.   Granted, the first ten minutes after I finish styling and spraying everything into place in the perfect lighting of my bathroom leave me looking supermodel-perfect.  But by 10am, my formerly flawless coif has turned into supermodel-used-to-be.  This whole phenomenon seems a trivial thing to worry and write about, which is why I horde elastic hairbands and avoid mirrors.
  9.  The world consists of two kinds of people: Those who enjoy whistling, and those who hate listening to others whistle. Don’t believe me?  Try finishing your hour long treadmill run at the gym next to the guy whose workout music consists of his own whistled versions of Broadway show tunes and all six verses of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”  On repeat.
That’s all.

Blog Talk: Lifetime Television, Boone's Farm, and Wabi-Sabi

So here’s this week’s randomness:
  1. I value Lifetime Television for its ability to summarize an entire movie in a title:
    1. 'Crimes of Passion: She Woke Pregnant'
    2. 'Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life'
    3. 'My Stepson, My Lover'
With titles like those, you need not spend two hours watching the movie.  And although most people choose to veg out on a Sunday afternoon with a snack and a blanket and watch the movies anyway, Lifetime could be on to something.  For example, I am imagining how much more palatable Shakespeare might seem to high school English students if he’d had the Lifetime titling staff at his disposal. 
a.    The Blood Shall Remain on the Hands of the Killer (MacBeth)
b.    The Poison Drinkers Who Totally Made the Wrong Call (Romeo & Juliet)
c.    You Only Thought I Was Crazy But Guess What? I Win!  (Hamlet)
  1. Yesterday, when doing research on my novel, I came across the term wabi-sabi, which the Japanese use to express the combination of joy and sorrow.  I think that’s pretty beautiful. Though it is not to be confused with Wasabi, an extremely hot Japanese sauce usually eaten with rice or sushi. The one and only time I ever (accidentally) ate wasabi, I did feel a moment of joy, followed by a hybrid sort of sorrowpanicpainhorror. Followed by copious amounts of water. But I think wabi-sabi is expressing an entirely different kind of joy and sorrow, and not the kind that requires immediate hydration.
  2. I keep hearing about “agreements” between the US and Iran.  And all I can say is this:  Every single thing about Iran scares me.
  3. I’ve started something new (and I encourage you to try it): Before I go to bed each night, I write down three things that went well for me that day.  I don’t analyze them or try to repeat them the next day, I simply acknowledge them for what they were, and for how they made me feel.  Kinda makes going to bed more relaxing, and I seem to be getting up each day feeling a little more hopeful.
  4. I submitted an essay to a local arts/writing program called Bookmarks, where writers can send in work on various selected topics to be judged -- and hopefully accepted -- for a community reading.  I just found out that my piece “Recipes” was selected in the "Eat the Past" category and that I will be reading it at the Arts Center on January 6.  I submitted this particular piece for two reasons:
    1. It was an excerpt from my thesis, and I cut it down from 3,467 words to the required 750, which was a fantastic writing exercise and an achievement in and of itself. I'm finding that a thesis is a lot like a bridesmaid dress -- you’d like to invest in something you’ll be able to wear more than once. And (if you're lucky and have a few tailoring skills), you hope to mix and match and hem and bedazzle and accessorize the hell out of it, to turn it into a sort of all-occasion, or perhaps multi-occasion ensemble that works for just about any event or venue.  So, three cheers for a repurposed thesis!
    2. “Eat the Past” was looking for essays about the ways in which food has figured into our former selves and families to shape our current selves and identities.  I had the option of sending in a lovely piece about learning to make cookies with my mother, or taking the road less travelled and sending in piece that was painful to write, is still difficult for me to read, and that proudly refuses to end on a happy note.  So I guess I’m thankful to food for giving me the big ol’ gut that never leads me astray as long as I listen to it.
  5. I turned 40 a few weeks ago, and sometimes I am overwhelmed by how sad I think I should feel about not having a biological child.  Can it possibly ok to be ok with my lack of progeny?   Society says “No.”
  6. I’ve done a lot of Christmas shopping this year. I started early, and I bought really thoughtful gifts for people – things that have personal significance, one-of-a-kind things I had to order in advance and have specially made. Even so, I’m recalling the Christmases of my childhood, when I often got tee shirts and underwear folded inside a recycled Barbie box, or socks and dance tights folded inside a festive looking cookie tin. Yes, I got all the nice stuff too, but those red herring wrappings made for some bittersweet gift opening moments. I think I’ll resurrect that tradition this year. Anyone got an empty 1869 Château Lafite bottle big enough to hold 60 ounces of apple flavored Boone’s Farm?
  7. We’re expecting a N’oreaster the day before Thanksgiving.  It may snow two feet. Or not at all.  But instead of fretting over whether or not I’ll be able to head North as intended, I’m doing something I never do and have often thought would result in a painful, spontaneous death: I’m playing things by ear. If it doesn’t snow – great.  I’ll pack myself and Beckett into the car and follow through with our plans.  If it snows us in, no big thing.  I’ll go serve food at the local food kitchen and then take Beckett to the nursing home to do pet visits with people who are truly confined and alone.  Either way is a win for everyone – myself included. So suck it, Mother Nature. You’ve got about as much power here as the Wicked Witch of the West sans the ruby slippers.
  8. Moment of self-disclosure: I horde elastic hairbands and avoid mirrors. You see, I can’t remember the last time I had a good hair day from morning til night, a sad fact that seems truly unfair and unfortunate.   Granted, the first ten minutes after I finish styling and spraying everything into place in the perfect lighting of my bathroom leave me looking supermodel-perfect.  But by 10am, my formerly flawless coif has turned into supermodel-used-to-be.  This whole phenomenon seems a trivial thing to worry and write about, which is why I horde elastic hairbands and avoid mirrors.
  9.  The world consists of two kinds of people: Those who enjoy whistling, and those who hate listening to others whistle. Don’t believe me?  Try finishing your hour long treadmill run at the gym next to the guy whose workout music consists of his own whistled versions of Broadway show tunes and all six verses of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”  On repeat.
That’s all.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Blog Thoughts: 11/18/13-11/24/13


 
So here’s this week’s randomness:

1.    I blame Shonda Rhimes for my Friday morning exhaustion.  #ScandalHangovers

2.    Perspective, in a nutshell:

a.    Pimple at age 14: End. Of. The. World.

b.    Pimple at age 40: Yup. Still got it.

3.    Most recent “reason to hate townhouse living”:  Next door neighbors who never say “No” to garlic.

4.    I think my dog Beckett is having some anxiety issues.  Or perhaps he is once again sublimating his rage by literally eating my home. Either way, this (below) used to be my upstairs carpet. (Note, if you are able, the plethora of chew toys, rawhide bones, and the long, blue unnamed rubber thing he has at his disposal all day.  And yet, he prefers the taste and texture that only a finely laid carpet can provide.)

5.    I've been trying like hell to fictionalize my memoir. Which was originally my MFA thesis. In general, memoirs just don't sell - not unless people already know who you are because you've either written a bunch of other stuff or achieved some kind of "celebrity" status or have managed to pull a well-timed Britney Spears in public. I don’t generally work in outlines, and I don’t generally prefer to work in outlines, but the truth is this: if how you work and how you generally prefer to work is getting you nowhere, then you may want to make a change. Unless Nowhere is the place you intend to hang your beret.

6.   
rs" could mean so many things. All of them bad, but all of them helpful in terms of publicity).

Anyway, I've been fighting the inevitable, and today -- I am choosing to embrace it. I. Am. Outlining. Chapter by chapter. Character by character. Plot point by plot point. The whole lot of it. It's not how I generally work, and not how I like to work, but the life lesson here is this: If how you generally work and how you like to work has gotten you nowehere, you may want to make a change. Unless Nowhere is the place you want to be.

Lesson learned. But just know this: I'm going in kicking and screaming and hoping to make it out alive.

My writing room wall is now covered with fresh, bare white poster board and I am armed with my index cards and highlighters and markers and post-its.

Bring it on, Left Brain.
I don’t believe in using words like “Never” and “Always.”  That said, I will never be a skilled user of emoticons.  And I will always rely too heavily on the “LOL” and the “Haha” in most of my electronic communications, just to make sure people don’t mistake my sarcasm for angrybitchy.  Even when angrybitchy is precisely what I’m going for.

7.    This morning, I saw a commercial ThiThis morning I saw a commercial for a drug whose name I can’t recall, but whose main side effect is Gynecomastia, which, loosely translated, means “the development of breasts in men.”  I don’t know what this drug is used to treat or what it’s other complications are, but I would like to order a year’s supply of the C-cup formula for myself. So $20 and my collection of training bras goes to the first person who can locate this medication by name and secure me a refillable prescription.

8.    It snowed last night. Not a lot.  I think there’s about an inch on the ground.  Even so, I hate it.  Or at least I did, until I watched Beckett frolic through it as if he’d never seen it before.  This is his third winter, but it doesn’t matter – everything with him is a new experience with a very simple message: I need to frolic more.

9.    I’ve started writing for a fantastic publication called Elephant Journal.  They posted one of my pieces yesterday and I have three more in the hopper waiting to go live. I write for the sake of writing. I am my own audience.  I have no aspirations to become a world famous novelist or a nonstop book touring, book signing phenomenon. That said, it’s nice to see my work existing outside the bowels of my own hard drive.

10. At some point in my life, I was told, or overheard, that a good way to “save” a really ripe banana was to peel and slice it, and then pop it in the freezer, where it would stop ripening and would last for a really long time.  Most people use the frozen slices in smoothies or breads. I just generally pop a few in my mouth when I want a quick bite of something sweet.  Problem is: at any given moment, my freezer is home to no less than ten ziplock baggies full of peeled banana slices. This is part of my selective hoarding condition that extends to a odd few food items (think: bananas, canisters of oatmeal, and cans of low sodium chick peas), several cleaning products, and, apparently, the multiple bottles of mouthwash taking up space on the bottom shelf of my bathroom closet.

That's all.

 

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Miss America brings out our true colors.




am so out of the beauty pageant loop that when I am interested enough in Miss America to Google "Miss America" something big better be happening.

For starters, I'm pissed that I just Googled "Miss America" at all, because I absolutely abhor every single thing these pageants represent. They are NOT "scholarship programs" or "enrichment opportunities" and the bottom line is, after a post-win appearance on the next day's Kelly Ripa show (target audience: no one), Miss America vanishes into obscurity until the following year, when we must all endure an interruption in our regular network programming so that yet another crop of beauties can parade around in butt glue and bra inserts in pursuit of the almighty crown. The only exceptions are the Miss Americas who end up busted on a drunken charge (a la Rima Fakih) or the ones who occasionally appear at children's hospitals or animal shelters for photo ops, even though no one remembers what their platforms were or what versions of world peace they promised to achieve (though such promises almost always involve some iteration of the phrase: "because looking better leads to doing better.")


But since everyone has been talking about the racist responses to this latest crowned beauty, I was interested in the story, and yeah, it is pretty awful. Aren't we all from "somewhere else"? My family is from Ireland and England, but neither I, nor my parents, nor their parents, nor THEIR parents ever lived in Ireland or England. It's just where we're "from." On another note, I, myself, was born in Germany. My father was stationed there in the Army, and I was born in an American Army hospital on "American soil" and am 100% American. So does where one was born impact whether one should be able to call him/herself American?


If you're going to hate on this woman - or any of these women - hate her because she makes a living, and a name for herself, by exploiting her body to win something that should be based on brains and values alone. Hate her because she is, by virtue of her "beauty queen" status, a natural role model for young girls everywhere, and she is using that power to perpetuate a patriarchal ritual that puts women on display, assembly line style, where they all look the same, with no size or shape variation, no age variations, no crooked noses or flat chests or bow legs or cellulite.


Or, better yet, wait a year, then look at what she's done with her title. See whether she is even worth hating.
Because maybe, just maybe, she'll be the first Miss America to ever actually help (not just take photographs with) sick children, or support literacy programs, or put on a pair of boots and work pants and hand out food to the poor.. Or maybe, just maybe, she will achieve world peace. And then won't all the haters feel stupid.


After all, this is the country where Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson and George Zimmerman got fair trials and, ultimately, their freedom. And they all killed people. Miss America, whoever she happens to be at any given moment, is not a public safety threat. She is merely a pastime. And sadly, this latest one is really bringing out America's true colors.