Tag Archives: Life

Taking some time off

Just so you know where I’ve gone, I’m taking a bit of time off.  I foresee a couple of weeks doing the trick.

I have gotten quite addicted to my internet activities, blogging most of all.  I love to read and I love to write.  Probably my favorite aspect is getting and leaving comments, just because that means we really cared about and/or enjoyed what the other person had to say and took the time to respond.  That means the world to me.

But I am losing more than a few marbles at the present moment because of the weight I feel on my head.  For the sake of my sanity, I fear I have to ditch all the priorities that I can, which means not my family or my familial duties, but everything else, no matter how important a part of my day it is, in order to relieve the pressure I feel.  Come at it again hopefully refreshed and eager for more.

I might just be taking everything a bit too seriously.  (Ya think?)

It makes me sad even thinking about it because I do love these words, I do love to sit here and imagine you reading them, I very much love visiting your sites and seeing what is new in your world and what you make me ponder or remember or dream.  It feeds my brain, my social self and my soul.

From my overwhelmed position under the mountain of life that has fallen on my head, I don’t know what else to do right now.

Sorry, too dramatic.  You can see why I need to back off and get a grip.  Or maybe let go.  Whatever gets me where I need to be.

I will see you, or rather, read you all soon.  

Take care, my friends.

17 Comments

Filed under Life

There Are Things Worse Than Death

Sometimes the news gives you a story that you just can’t shake.

A woman accused of trying to suffocate her 11 month old.

Not your run of the mill child abuser, though. A loving mother who has cared for her child, born with severe physical defects that she can never hope to recover from. A devoted parent who has had to watch her child suffer her entire life, with no end in sight to the suffering.

Not just suffer, but have to be resuscitated over and over again.

To me this is the deciding factor. This baby’s body has been trying to die. It is done. But our ability to perform medical miracles keeps the poor soul alive to continue its agony.

Why can we not learn to use our skills wisely? Why have we not established a really good process for determining the situations when it is an imperative of humaneness to just let a person go when it is obvious that death would be the best thing?

I’m not talking about euthanasia here, which is what it sounds like this mother was allegedly attempting, perhaps after a mental breakdown. Although I do think there are extremely rare occasions that might call for euthanasia, (I approve of Oregon’s Right to Die Law), I think in this circumstance a more appropriate concept is Do Not Resuscitate.

From what I’ve heard it is even difficult for an old person to have their DNR instructions respected.

There are things worse than death.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of our amazing techniques to bring someone back from the brink of death. Had this baby been in a car accident, obviously any extreme measures would be most welcome to keep her alive long enough for her body to heal and regain function.

But this baby’s body is not going to heal. Her brain stem will never grow. It will never function properly, according to the doctors’ own diagnosis. And yet they perpetuate this body’s life.

People comment that it is up to God, not us, to take a body. But God HAS BEEN trying to take her body. I am not saying that our medical abilities exceed the power of God, but if you believe in prayer, then aren’t actions a very concrete expression of our will, what we wish to see happening? Are we very naively asking for a person’s life to continue, and perhaps God is “allowing” our prayer to be answered, the way God “allows” all sorts of horrible things like murder, rape, torture. “Allowing” us to exercise our free will and then deal with the consequences later.

And if found guilty, this mother will have to deal with the consequences of what she’s done, legally and otherwise. I would never attempt to condone or make excuses for her alleged actions, but I also believe that the way a person has lived counts for something. There is ample evidence that she has been a devoted mother to both this baby and her 3 year old son, including this online website that she has maintained. It appears that she herself has suffered through a situation that few of us could handle and come out the other side with our sanity intact.

I can’t help but wonder, in the event that this crime really was committed, how her community might also be held responsible: was anyone making sure she got enough sleep, enough to eat? Was anyone making sure she didn’t need some mental health care? Is the medical establishment in any way responsible for having developed the ability to diagnose permanent defects, having developed procedures for keeping humans alive when their bodies are failing, but then refusing to resolve these two aspects so that families do not get caught in a nightmare of suffering?

2 Comments

Filed under Life

Reason and Imagination

Note: I can no longer make the spaces between the paragraphs, so now it just looks like one big squished text… sigh.  Just thought I’d warn you, dear readers.  If anyone is having this same problem and fixes it, will you let me know how?

He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.
  – Sir William Drummond
Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
  – H. L. Mencken
I like these two quotes next to each other.  
On the one hand, we are reminded of the necessity of thinking.  If we will not or cannot use our human ability to reason then we can never invent anything, we cannot avoid fascism, we cannot solve the daily challenges we face that are overcome with simple logic.
On the other hand, if everything is logical judgment, if every person in our lives must pass through the reasoning machine, then our lives become gray and tiresome.  We need the magic of imagination to get us over those hurdles that cannot be reasoned with.  Why did my loved one die?  Why did my child lie to me?  Why didn’t I get that job?  Sometimes we have to take the leap and forgive, turn off our thinking and just love, even if it is just our own self that needs the loving.
Love can’t be logical; none of us is perfect enough to deserve the adoration that we seek and crave, that drives us mad when we feel ourselves alone in the dark, out of the spotlight of someone’s eyes shining with love for us.  The species would never survive if we did not have enough imagination to see the angelic resemblance on the face of an infant who had just screamed through all our sleeping time, spit sour milk on our best pajamas and caused us to clean up foul excrement.
To love someone unconditionally might be to say: Let us use our reason to resolve a problem one of us has or a conflict between us, and let us use our imagination to build for ourselves that common ground called peace.

3 Comments

Filed under Life

Regret

When I was a teenager, acutely aware of the life-altering impact of every choice I faced, I adopted a decision-making strategy which, though it has not lessened my anxiety, has nevertheless served me well.

I decided that, when I was paralyzed by indecision and needed to snap out of it, I would imagine myself on my death bed, then look my options squarely in the face and determine which would cause me the least regret from that future position.

This method has mostly caused me to do kind of crazy, out-of-the-box kinds of things: sell all my possessions and move to Ireland with two small children, quit a Master’s program to move across the country, homeschool my kids, sell my car and become a cyclist.  And I regret almost none of them.  As the old song goes, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”

But it occurs to me that I should have expanded this policy beyond the momentous decisions to include the small habitual choices I make everyday without even thinking about it.  I realized this when I suddenly became aware of how much I regret and will regret all the worrying I’ve done in my life.  I’m not entirely sure that this is a choice, or if I might choose to break the habit and live differently.

But these small acts of extreme stress and discomfort color my life’s journey just as much as a decision to marry or change jobs.  Day after day accepting my tendency to panic and refusing to take on the project of learning a new approach to conflict and challenge is just as essential to forming who I am and what my life is about as moving house or cultivating a friendship.

I choose now to devote time and energy to this goal: of becoming more emotionally stable, of learning to relax and see how small most obstacles truly are in the Big Picture, of finding the fun in a challenge instead of going into fight or flight mode against an insurmountable enemy such as a bank error or burnt toast.  I choose to remember that the attitude I choose to have throughout an average day is just as important a detail of my life as my address or my level of education.

I know that even if I don’t ever totally succeed, at least this is one decision I will never regret.

5 Comments

Filed under Life

Altered States

Sometimes I feel the need to make sense of our society’s drug policy.  For a brief moment in the ’60s (or so I’ve heard, having not made my entrance into this world until 1970) there was a subculture of people experimenting with altered states of consciousness, often induced chemically.  But besides that, we have all kinds of factions fighting against each other, none of them going anywhere except to hell in a handbasket: the “cool” drug counterculture, the illegal drug making/selling economy, the drug war economy, the poor souls fighting addiction, the puritan idealism that inevitably adopts a hypocritical position of condemning some chemicals utterly while accepting others without question, the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry, the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, etc.

Okay, well, the legalized industries are doing fine.  But we often excuse their products as harmless, though in the last few decades we have been leaning the other way with alcohol and tobacco.

But we still allow people, including children, to walk around souped up on caffeine and sugar and few of us recognize these effects as altered states.  (I don’t know about you, but the most positive and productive I am all day is the hour or so when I’m flying on my morning caffeine fix.) We are only  just beginning to see them as powerful.  And our inevitable response seems to be to condemn them.

Are we capable of a more intelligent handling of the issue?

No matter where we stand on whatever drug issue, legal or otherwise, we all seem to be operating under the same common assumption: altered states are secretly fun, to some degree dangerous and always carry at least a small stigma of shamefulness.   Even with coffee, aren’t we addicts all at least a little sheepish when admitting our fixation?  Sobriety is held as the ultimate righteous state.

But might altered consciousness be something humans need?  Is it ever beneficial?  We might admire a Native American peyote ceremony for the soul searching and mystical insight it provides, but none of us is allowed to do it.  How would someone’s reputation change in your eyes if you found out they’d done acid?  

We allow, “I was just experimenting in college” and “I didn’t inhale.”  We’ve gotten to where we allow people to be reformed users, like George W., for example.

But for someone to be a respected member of mainstream society who proves their worth on a daily basis and is also a known pot smoker?  Nope.

We all have understandable fears based on anecdotal evidence of some type of chemical destroying someone we know and/or love.  We may even decide to buck the present trend and be against alcohol consumption.  But cars and motorcycles maim and kill lots of people, and isn’t that an altered state for a lot of people?  The power, speed, independence, road rage, status symbol possession… Most of the time we drive in a fairly sober, utilitarian manner, but who among us doesn’t ever floor it or take that corner just a little faster than necessary?  We definitely are not in our natural state, feet on the ground, head surrounded by sky.  Our heavy metal boxes put us in a certain frame of mind.

But we would never dream of outlawing them.

Our tv watching puts us in an altered state, a passive, drooling spectatorship.  How are the hours wasted and life energy atrophied away any different in front of the tube than passed out with painkillers?

Okay.  Granted they are different.  I’m just being dramatic in an attempt to make the point that we try to avoid sobriety in many different ways, some of them demonized as too dangerous and others labeled as simply “entertainment” or “transportation” or “java” some other moniker that makes them untouchable.

What would happen if we said, yes, we need to escape.  Yes, grownups are going to be allowed to choose their method of altering with no legislating and then they will be held responsible for any consequences of their choices.  The pluses and minuses of every method could be discussed freely.  We could openly admit that lots of things we do everyday, even something so innocuous as having a drama queen fit, are forays out of our “right minds.”  We could talk without shame about what we are looking for outside of our sobriety, about what we find there.

Or should we just continue to behave as though stone cold sobriety were the only way to be, ever.  That there is no time or place for getting out of your head or your day to day perspective, unless perhaps you choose Zen meditation, prayer, yogic breathing.  Newsflash — these things are seen as a little bit crazy, too.  Innocuously so, but nevertheless.

I hope this article did not induce any sort of altering in the reader’s awareness of reality as they’ve always assumed it to be — any effects of change in point of view, feelings of lightheadedness or hallucinations were purely unintentional.  Unless you go for that sort of thing.  In which case, you’re welcome. 

4 Comments

Filed under society

“What is the What”

Since I have almost zero time free to read, when I do read something it had better be good!

The book I just finished fit the bill.  What is the What by Dave Eggers is part autobiography and part fiction, recounting the life of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese man who survived the civil war that destroyed so much of his homeland.

I find the mixture of truth and fiction intriguing, but as Mr. Deng explains in the preface, “It should be known to the readers that I was very young when some of the events in the book took place, and as a result we simply had to pronounce What is the What a novel.”  But he goes on to assure readers, “The book is historically accurate, and the world I have known is not different from the one depicted within these pages.”

It is also interesting that Mr. Eggers helped him write it, and is the only author listed on the cover.  One might ask, whose story is it, really?

Having studied in college the genre of testimonio, a category of writing that includes texts which tell the true story of individuals who have survived oppression and hardship, I am sure that theorists would go nuts over the truth/fiction blend going on in this book.

For me, I find it worth reading for the history as well as for the perspective of a person who has lived in both the US and Africa and can inform us of the contrast.

It is a story that never stops for a moment.  It will take you out of wherever you are and move you through a world that few of us, thankfully, will experience otherwise.  

It was worth reading just for the moment when my husband was watching a rerun of a goofy sitcom while I had my nose in the book, and I could hear the characters on the TV joking about their party-gone-sour while in the book young Achak is riding in the back of a military truck with a load of dead bodies… I had to stop reading.  Just to let it all digest, that we are all on this planet together but our realities are separated by light years.  Just to feel that moment when our realities existed, paradoxically, in the same space, when they came together in my conscious mind.

If you get a chance, join Mr. Deng’s reality for a moment.  How can we resist someone who wants so badly for us to hear his story?  As he says in the book, talking to us, the readers, about his storytelling, “…I speak to you because I cannot help it.  It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there.  I covet your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us.  How blessed are we to have each other?  I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words.”

2 Comments

Filed under literature

Top Five: Historical Figures

Okay, you’ve found a genie in a bottle, and instead of three wishes you get five!  

Unfortunately, the only thing you are allowed to wish for is a visit with a person from history (you would also be able to understand each other, no matter if they spoke English or not).

Which five is it going to be?

Mine:

1. Mark Twain (he just HAD to be an entertaining guy to hang out with – and I’d love to know what he thinks about what’s been happening in the world since he stopped being able to comment on it…)

2. Beryl Markham (famous aviator/ bush pilot in Africa – I’ll bet she has even more great stories than what I read in her autobiography)

3. Leonardo DaVinci (I’d want him to show me around all his inventions and sketches and everything, just hear in person what was going on in his head)

4. Josephine Baker (entertainer and fascinating personality – I’d want her to show me around the castle she owned in France and answer about a million questions I have about her wild life)

5. Jesus – I mean, who could resist the chance to be face to face in our clay vessels.

What about you?

7 Comments

Filed under Top Five

Laziness is not civilized!

Okay people, por favor, don’t let’s get completely pathetic.

I was walking through the parking lot at Target yesterday and I saw a perfectly able-bodied woman who, having loaded her SUV with Christmas surplus, was standing there watching the hatch close itself!!!  

I am disgusted.  This is not an awesome use of technology, people!  This is an example of why we are a flabby, soft, lazy, weak population!

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting a little.  Maybe having to close the hatch of her SUV is the bane of her existence.  I know if I could get something that would make it so I never had to touch a dirty dish again as long as I lived, I would buy it in a heartbeat. 

And really, there are lots of contraptions helping us out.  I haven’t beat my clothes against a rock in the creek in quite some time.  But seriously.  When will it stop?  When will we take some pride in having strength, agility, endurance?

When will we see “automatic hatch closer” on the list of car features and say, “Honestly, no, see the flab hanging off my upper arms?  I think I’d better close the hatch myself, thanks.”

Considering the economic state of our country, we’ve got a lot of work to do.  I suspect it is the roll-up-your-sleeves, elbow grease kind of work that makes you sweat, and not something for which if one pushes the correct sequence of buttons one might remotely signal the economy to restart itself.

Let’s stop being proud of our new laze-crazy devices and start being proud of ourselves and each other for our genuine human abilities.

6 Comments

Filed under society

More Facebook Insights…

Every once in a while a few new observations occur to me about this social networking site.

Or maybe the observations are simply about my own life.

For example, you can organize your friends into categories.  I currently have five: people from high school, people from college, friends my husband and I met through his job in the last town we lived in, people I have met in our current town, and family.  

What is most interesting is that these categories do not overlap one iota.  Most likely none of these people will ever meet each other.  It is as though there are completely separate pockets to my life story that are totally unrelated.  There are even more pockets than these five, but I haven’t met up with anyone from the others.

I have discovered friend surfing.  If you aren’t friends with a person, they almost always have their profile set to private so you can’t see any of their information.  BUT you can see their friends!  Thusly, I can surf the friends of a friend, and from there find someone I know, or used to know, and surf their friends, ad nauseum.  It is a strange journey down a bizarre garden path where names and faces from the past bloom amongst the unfamiliar flora.  

When a certain person comes into view, it is as though the memory of them casts a light on a part of me that had been asleep since I last held them in my mind or saw them before me.  I am not completely me without all the people that have shaped my existence.

My final thought of the day is to meditate on the act of “catching up” on the last 20 years with someone who was only ever an acquaintance.  Of course any story we tell, no matter how many facts it relates, is in some way a lie due to all that we decide to leave out.  So which version do I tell to whom?  It is kind of fun to think about, really.  I can highlight a particular chapter of my crazy journey to give a certain impression.  I can turn my face slightly and appear a writer, a housewife, or a clown.

I know it’s a bit of a waste of time, commenting on someone’s status that isn’t even in my immediate vicinity just to make a witty joke or empathize with a human I once knew.  I know it’s a bit extravagant to send them good karma or pass them a drink, poke them, throw snowballs at them, or buy them a fish for their aquarium.  All kind of silly, really.

Yet, it apparently feeds me in some way since I keep going back to see what’s going on with everyone.  And occasionally, it is also food for thought.

5 Comments

Filed under Life

Language and Psychology

They say we are what we eat, but is it also true that we are what we say?

As I sit here pondering how to integrate all our techniques for grounding and calming, how to develop habits to overcome my tendency to panic and to face life with an attitude that results in capable, adult handling of situations rather than my usual babyish crying and tantrum throwing, I am reminded of how the English language might affect us.

Often, I am afraid.

In French, J’ai peur.  Literally, that means “I have fear.”

In Spanish, Tengo miedo.  Literally, “I have fear.”

How come in English I AM afraid?  I AM the fear?  When you HAVE something, isn’t it much easier to get rid of it?  Race down the highway and toss it out the window?  Bye bye fear?  I have fear in my pocket, pick it out and throw it in the trash.  Worst case scenario, I throw out the pants.

I AM afraid.  That’s part of my being.  That’s essential to my existence.  I AM Elena, I AM a Mama, I AM afraid.  

I can say, I FEEL afraid or I EXPERIENCE fear, I suppose.  But that is not my go-to expression.  No, I AM hungry, tired, overwhelmed, sad.  Okay, none of those things right this minute, but I just mean when I feel something, I AM it.

At least in Spanish, they may say “I am sad,” but they have two forms of the verb “to be,” one indicates a temporary state, one is a permanent state of being.  Guess which one is used for emotions?  They give themselves a way out!  Do we?

Does our use of verbs have any psychological effect, or AM I just trippin’?

3 Comments

Filed under psychology

“Each instant…”

dsc06055

“Each instant is a place we’ve never been.” — Mark Strand

And here you are with me.

Even though as you read this, I have gone off somewhere else, to another place.  But I was here in this moment of now once, as you are.  I was aware of the letters on the screen, how they were coalescing neatly into words that you recognize, that trigger “Aha!” because we’ve seen them all before.

The familiarity of the words does not prevent them causing an almost imperceptible shiver down the spine at the moment we realize the mysterious dance of human communication.

Each word I write has been used countless times before, worn along the edges so that they slide effortlessly into your mind and fall into the groove of understanding, but you’ve never heard them exactly as I say them to you now.  Each time is the first time that you look at the screen today, at this hour, with the new experience you have acquired since yesterday.

This instant now is another place we’ve never been, many thoughts away from the first sentence, where you took my hand and I yours and we walked a ways.  We ended up here, in this other place, this new instant, looking each other briefly, perhaps affectionately, catching the awareness there inside the eye, before saying farewell, until next time.

May the places you go and the instants you live today feed your soul.

6 Comments

Filed under writing

A place in the world

Yesterday I got the idea in my little head that it would be fun to be an online moderator for a new site I joined for mothers in my local area.  They have all kinds of forums that have eaten up more of my day than blogging lately.  One of the forums is called “Natural Living and Attachment Parenting” and they had an announcement about needing a moderator.  I emailed the woman in charge of the site, and she informed me that the position has been filled.

I may live a pretty straight and narrow life these days, but I’ve been known to hang out in alternative-land.

I was a vegetarian for about five years, and would still be now if it weren’t for all these carnivores I live with clamoring for charred flesh.

I lived without a car, using my bike and bike trailer or the bus for all my transportation, for 9 windy rainy wonderful years.

I’ve baked my own bread, fried my own tortillas, made my own clothes, costumes, quilts, cloth bags to carry groceries in, even went so far as to crochet some little bags to put veggies in so I didn’t have to use the plastic ones from the produce section.

I breastfed each of my kids for three years (it’s sad that this is considered alternative.)

I shared sleeping quarters with each kid for at least three years.

I homeschooled my first child until 8th grade, my second until 5th grade, and my third is now homeschooling “first grade.”

I had natural childbirth with midwives and lived dirt poor so I could stay home with my babies.

I’ve lived without tv, phone, bank account or credit cards, I even lived for a time in a house whose only heat was a woodstove, and then I lived for a few days in February without wood.  No better way to wax alternative than not to be able to feel your toes.

I shopped and worked at health food stores for years, trying out all the funky “new” foods that the rest of the world considers staple but Americans find so fascinating, like millet and tofu.

I recycled, reduced, and reused, including finding half-broken furniture and such and repairing it with materials bought at a thrift store or yard sale.

I’ve had an organic garden, composted, grew veggies, mulched with my lawn clippings.

I’ve used a clothesline, canned my own jam with blackberries I picked, crocheted my own afghans and cured illness with home remedies.

And I drank microbrews as long as I could afford to!

And that doesn’t even include all the weird things I’ve done in the name of following my bliss.

I got it into my head when I saw that announcement that I might have a place to share all this, to make my experience be useful to someone, to be needed.  I might have an incentive to stop my slow slide into the disposable convenience of mainstream complacency and regain some of the habits, skills and attitudes that made me feel so self-sufficient and conscientious.  

Of course, I can still post and comment in the forum.  The truth comes out that I just wanted a bit of spotlight, I wanted to alleviate a bit of my new-in-town floatiness by having a place I belong.  I feel way too  much disappointment for a fleeting idea that just came to me yesterday.

So I look at all the projects that I have neglected in the past couple of weeks, developing conversation classes, translation, studying to qualify as an interpreter, and I decide to attack them with renewed vigor.  

Here I go, clicking to put a check mark in the box next to “vigor” and pushing the “renew” button.

And here comes the inspiration…

Wait for it…

Wait…

4 Comments

Filed under work

Never the twain shall meet…

I’ve been inspired by a post I read over at Idea Jump! and wanted to describe the garden path I ended up wandering down.

I have long pondered the split between one’s public and private life.  My parents have always held this divide as sacred.  Heaven forbid anyone should know what color the couch is.  It’s nobody’s damn business.

If my Dad had been born into the tribal life, where the community was by necessity a cohesive, intimately entwined group, he’d have been the village idiot, either from genuinely going insane due to all that touchy-feely closeness or just as a ruse to scare people off so they’d leave him in peace.

But we’ve evolved from tribal life to urban facelessness into the suburban carbon copy lifestyle and beyond… to what may be the pinnacle of anonymity: the internet.  I could have a blog wherein I am an old man who hates everyone.  I could have a Facebook page where I am a 20-something woman who flirts shamelessly.  I could join one of those online RPGs and have a totally new life.  There is no limit to who I can be and how many whos I can be.

But after this thrill has worn off, what shall we do next?  Shall the ultimate act of daring be to reveal our truth?  I know it’s dangerous.  There are stalkers and serial killers and identity thieves.  For all my excitement about truth-telling I still don’t ever reveal my home address.  There are, obviously, common sense limits.

And if you enjoy professing some radical belief, say you passionately believe that Northern California, Oregon and Washington state should secede from the union to start an independent nation of hippified, pot-smoking free-thinkers, but you happen to work for the school system in LA, perhaps you’re going to want an alter ego so the mortgage gets paid.

And so the split between public and private persists.  

We’ve only lived in this area for five months now, so I am still meeting people.  I sit at a public park while my kids make new friends on the playground and I dance along the surface of my private life with a mom I just met.  When I give a detail, “I lived in Oregon for 15 years,” I am acutely aware of how paper-thin this statement is.  It is a sticky label on a drawer of days lived whose events are an intricate memory-sculpture of streets and faces and smells.  But the mom says “oh” and nods her head.  We move on to discuss how cute it is that my toddler son is trying to wipe sand off his tongue with his sandy hand.

Maybe this will be one of the projects I save for when I’m old: in addition to telling strangers on the street exactly what I think, good or bad, I’ll make it my goal to bridge the divide between my own public and private selves, to politely decline the possibility of anonymity and instead embrace the project of total integrity, consequences be damned.

For now, I guess it’s best to practice juggling the flaming torch details of my life and hope I don’t drop one on the wrong head.

5 Comments

Filed under internet

When I’m 88…

Have you seen the movie Big Fish?  Brilliant flick.  A must-see, if ever there was one.

Anywho, inspired by this movie, I love the idea of “knowing” when you are going to die, although I DO NOT actually want to KNOW that information.

Allow me to elaborate.

I am one of those people who is mindful of the impending event of death to an excruciating degree.  Whenever I hear that wise advice, “Don’t forget, we are all mortal, enjoy every day as if it were your last… blah blah blah” I think to myself, “Welcome to my life.”

So on the positive side, death is not going to catch me without having appreciated every second of every day.

On the negative side, I think there is a damn good reason that most people live blissfully unappreciative lives, and that is because it makes you INSANE to think about death all the time.

Let’s put it this way: the joy I felt surrounding the birth of each of my children was painfully tempered by the realization that… 

  1. I was going to be afraid every day not only of my own death but of my children’s death, and…
  2. In giving them birth I was simultaneously giving them their eventual death, as well as all the suffering they might experience in between those two events.

So I was able to appreciate the father character in Big Fish, after he’d seen his own death in the witch’s eye, as he went through his adventures, starting to feel afraid and then remembering, “Wait!  This isn’t how I go!”

I have decided that I “know” I am going to die in my sleep when I’m 88.  (Anyone who’s suffered through enough of my blog knows that I am partial to the number 8.)

Now, whether this is what really happens or not, who cares.  The point is, I won’t face every single, day-to-day perilous situation, like, say, driving down the road in the car, with so much fear.  I can look the oncoming semis confidently in the headlights and say to myself, “Don’t panic!  This isn’t how I go!”  I am absolutely exhausted of being afraid all the time.

(There’s no chance that I will actually put myself in a dangerous situation with a false sense of immortality… you can’t erase 38 years of paranoia THAT easily.)

But if I could only convince myself to play along, to believe against all reason that everything is okay… I might at least add a couple of years on to my life with lower stress levels.  It’s worth a shot, anyway.

7 Comments

Filed under Life

Longing

“God picks up the reed-flute world and blows.
Each note is a need coming through one of us, a passion, a longing-pain.
Remember the lips
where the wind-breath originated,
and let your note be clear.
Don’t try to end it.
Be your note.”
— The Essential Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks

 

So often when I feel needy I try to be tough, an admirable goal.  Nobody likes a whiner.  It is good to remember how tough some people have it.  In comparison I am a spoiled brat.

But there are some longings that are not just materialistic pithering.  There is desire for respect, for achievement, for intimate connection, for love.  There is the longing to be useful, to be needed, to be recognized, to belong.

These passions may drive us in positive directions, not to acquire and hoard but to give and connect.

These desires define us, inspire us to commit to relationships and actions that shape our existence.  They are the wind of our self-fulfilling destiny blowing through us.  We can embrace our longing and sing our own note loud and clear.

The Harmony will be incomplete without us.

3 Comments

Filed under Life

“Life is a Shipwreck”

“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” –Voltaire

Just a brief reminder… it’s not all going to work out all the time.  We’re all doing our best to stay afloat, navigating as best we can the often treacherous sea of life, and sometimes as we attempt to sail to our goal an unforeseen storm will threaten our stability, sometimes the rocks of circumstance will dash our hopes and plans.

When you feel like all hope is lost, look around at those in your lifeboat, which might also be called Plan B or Still Trying or the line at the bank or the bus in commuter traffic.  Observe for a moment, then try to harmonize.

Look at the scenery, watch for land, a pelican, a whale spout.  Sing about where you are.

If you feel trapped on some desolate island with nothing to eat but coconuts, make coconut cream pie or macaroons.

When you find a compass, treasure it.  It might be a principle, a passion or driving interest.  Keep it handy, use it wisely.

Remember, as you quickly would if you were lost at sea, to appreciate the simple things that feed your body and soul: fresh water, warmth, good food, companionship, laughter.

Sometimes keeping your spirits up and turning your mind to constructive thoughts is the only thing keeping you from the utter despair that makes you jump overboard to become shark food.  Cultivate these abilities.

The world is as it is, containing both good and bad, and sometimes just moving to stand in a different spot causes us to have a better angle, to see an advantage, to discover that our hoped-for destination has just become visible over the horizon.

And then what a song we’ll have to sing.

5 Comments

Filed under Life

Writing your own legend

My kids and I have been watching “The Grizzly Man Diaries” on Animal Planet.  I absolutely love it.

I’d seen the movie about him a few years ago, but this series gives me the chance to get a continuous drip of it.

First, I love to watch tv when I feel like my kids and I are educating ourselves at the same time: seeing the animals’ life cycles, ecology, food chain, behavior, etc.  That in itself gives the activity about 20 points right off the bat.  We have DVR, so we record the show and replay it whenever the time is right, and we constantly pause it so we can discuss things or share our thoughts.  

I love the show because it is an ongoing investigation of the idea of objective observer vs. meddler in a natural process.  This is one of the most important fundamental issues in the documentary genre as well as in the scientific community:  how much does an “objective” observer interfere with and change what they are observing, and how much should they participate in the events they are witnessing?  Most documentary filmmakers would say you should participate as little as possible, so that we usually observe from a distance things that might be heartwrenching, like a cute little bunny being eaten by a wolf or an orphaned cub starving to death.  It is generally accepted that this is the way things are and they should not be tampered with by humans.

But the Grizzly Man, Timothy Treadwell, has a completely different take.  We saw him get up out of his tent in the middle of the night to scare the wolves away from his fox family.  We also saw him move rocks in a too-shallow creek (not enough rain that year) and create a deep channel so that some of the salmon could make it up to the lake to spawn.  He spoke to the camera and reasoned, Humans are already interfering through our development, industrialization, pollution, etc. to such a great extent, that there is no point in pretending that our hands aren’t already dirty.  Why not step in when we see things we think we could help with.  

Why not indeed.

This is perhaps the part I love most about the show:  Timothy Treadwell is very aware of what he is doing, of what his life is about, of his goals, feelings and priorities.  He submits his actions to us all on camera.  He does not appear to have a hidden agenda, he does not seem to have any dreams that he puts off for a rainy day, he does not seem to be trying to manipulate the audience.  His words and actions seem genuine and personal.  He appears to live spontaneously whatever his brain and/or heart say to him.  He knows that he is part of the story he is telling, and he is not going to conceal any of it.

He wrote his own legend.  From his diaries and videos and still photographs, the producers of the show are constructing stories, which cannot be exactly the same as how Treadwell would have put them together, which cannot be exactly the same as how the bears would have related them, which cannot be exactly the same as the story of nature without us in it, which story we can never know.  We can only know the story through our own eyes, even if we are sitting quietly and watching it on tv, we are still filtering it.  We are understanding it by making it our own.  

I myself have no desire to document every second of an ecological niche the way he did, but I am inspired by the idea of giving up the pretension that I can be objective, of accepting that I am going to have to participate in what I am observing if only by being another body in the room staring.  I am intrigued by the idea of steering my life according to what I am most passionate about, of leaving behind the things that society insists require my attention but which I no longer have time for.

I love the idea of writing my own legend, with eyes and heart open.

2 Comments

Filed under Life

Phone-a-phobia

Not many people are aware of one of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to face in this starting-a-business thing, I would venture to say, bigger than the utter scarcity of capital, the lack of self-confidence and initiative, bigger even than the total absence of any business sense.

I’m scared of phones.

I’m convinced that it all started when I was a young’un living at home, back in the dark ages before answering machines.  (Since my parents staunchly refuse to buy any new technology until the cooties wear off of it, there may very well have been answering machines around then, but you’d never have known at my house.)

Now those folks who read my rants know that I am generally opposed to blaming parents once you are out of your twenties.  And since my twenties are but a distant and embarrassing blot on the horizon at this point, you’d think I would fall into the responsibility-claiming category.

But honestly, credit where credit is due.

The awful, dark, horrible truth:  my Dad used to make me answer the phone.

Now I bet you are going to think that there were horrible people calling, creditors or some such, swearing and threatening removal of limbs to whoever answered the phone.

Well, no.  No one horrible ever called.  It’s just that, well, he hated talking on the phone, (could such a thing be genetic?) and so he wanted me to… you, know… how can I put this delicately… LIE.

Now I’m pretty sure there’s a commandment or something about not lying.  But there he’d be right next to me, shaking his head so hard his ears were waggling, waving me off like a swarm of wasps were attacking, while I said into the phone, “Yeah, he’s right here, just a minute.”

Now you’re going to think that he beat me or didn’t let me eat for a week as a punishment.  Not exactly.  I think he just looked at me sternly and said, “From NOW ON, I am AT THE STORE.  Do. You. Under. Stand. ?”

Of course I said yes.  But then the next time it would be like 9 pm when the phone rang, and it would be someone asking for him, and there would be like 45 minutes of silence while the two halves of my brain conversed.

“Don’t forget!  He’s at the store.”

“He’s not at the store, idiot.  He’s in the bathroom.”

“Just say it already.  It’s not hard! C’mon… ‘No, he’s at the store.’ ”

“Who the hell goes to the store at 9 pm?  We never leave the house after like 3:30.”

And then inevitably I’d go get him to tell him someone was waiting on the phone for him.

And as soon as he hung up with them, I’d start to dread the next time the phone might ring.

Ever since I was a kid and had to live through this psychological trauma, I’ve hated to answer the phone, even my own phone at my own home, you know, with like my own number, under my own name, so that they are calling for ME and never for my DAD.  Caller ID made it a little better, because at least then I knew what I was in for ahead of time.

But I figured I should never get a cell phone.  If the home phone ringing makes my heart race, my hands shake and my ears bleed, then surely lugging around that kind of potential horror would be a bad thing.

But I think I went about it the right way, accidentally.  The Pavlovian Dog training kind of way.  For the first couple of months after I got my cell, the only people who called me were my husband and my sister, both of whom I love dearly and am always eager to talk to.  Hence, the particular happy chime I picked out has now been imprinted in my neurotic brain as the precursor to a happy, non-horror movie conversation.

Now when a client calls asking about tutoring or a class, and I see an unfamiliar number show up on the phone, my first instinct is still not to answer it.  Just hurl the phone as hard as you can, preferably TOWARD a hard surface, and then run and hide under the first piece of furniture you come to!

But then, for reasons beyond my understanding, I answer it anyway.  And I’m not freaking out, only pleasantly curious as to who it might be and what they might want.

Is this how phones have been for you people your whole lives?

I’ve entered a whole new magical world of communication.

5 Comments

Filed under psychology

Jealousy is definitely green

Because it makes me want to puke.

Jealousy feels strong enough to make me weak, big enough to make me small, green enough to make me red with rage.

Jealousy feels like everything I love is speeding away from me, back turned, ears closed to my pathetic cries for attention.  It makes me want to slam the door fast enough to hit them in the ass, since they are obviously leaving anyway.  It makes me want to drop out of the competition I don’t remember signing up for but suddenly find myself struggling to win.

Jealousy makes me simultaneously want to elevate myself to an untouchable height, from which the world can see that I am clearly the greatest human that ever lived, and crawl under a rock, embed my lowly self in the cold mud to hide away my shame and pain.

I cannot see any healthy use for the feeling of jealousy and would love nothing better than to find a way to kill it. Drive the dagger of faith or trust or reason into its nasty little face and banish it from my heart forever.  Drink the antidote to its debilitating poison so that it never again runs icy through my veins.

Never leave that point of view that I can get to sometimes, the one where I relax and feel strong in the midst of an understanding that there is nothing to fear.  Even if the worst things were to happen, I am still in control of my own selfsoul, who retains her value no matter how much evidence is presented that I am not the best, no matter how little attention I might receive from those whose attention I crave, no matter how low I might feel.

Green is such a wonderful color, the color of life and growth and spring.  Heck, the color of money.  But Jealousy is that bile green that comes up when you’ve wretched all day and there’s nothing left, just your insides trying to jump ship.  Useless, painful, self-defeating.  

I hate it and I refuse to go there ever again.

(Wish me luck.)

8 Comments

Filed under psychology

An update from outside the box

I realize that starting a business is technically NOT considered operating outside the box.  Probably more like creating another box, really.  My box is going to have to fit somewhere inside of or at least next to other boxes already in existence.

But I’ve never had a box before.  I feel like a toddler who, upon opening an awesome new present, only wants to play with the box.  Mostly because there isn’t much inside my box right now, there’s pretty much only the cardboard walls and a couple of flaps to twiddle with at this point.

What happened was, I went to the local rec center to propose a Spanish conversation class, and the director loved the idea.  He gave me an instructor application which I brought home and proceeded to fill out.

Turns out I need a license from the city.  

So okay, I look up “business privilege license” on the web (“privilege:” presumably they don’t want you to forget that earning a living is not a right) and get to the appropriate form which I download and print.  I dutifully begin to fill in the blanks on that form.

Turns out I need something called a “Federal Tax ID,” which I again look up online and am directed to the IRS site on which one may get an “Employer Identification Number,” which is essentially starting a new business and getting the little number that you will put on your tax return.

The really cool part about all this is that it was fun.  I’m learning that I know when I’m on the right track when my enthusiasm mounts rather than dwindles as I encounter twists in the road.  Instead of sobbing hysterically and wailing “Why meeeeee?” in my most pathetic voice, which is my M.O. when ambushed by red tape, I was getting jazzed.  My own business, huh?  Pick out a name, pick out some goals, allow your inspiration to coalesce around a box, inside which you can put your brilliant ideas, then your efforts, and maybe someday your accomplishments?

Yeah, alright.  Let’s do it.

It’s still only in the embryonic stage.  If I showed you the ultrasound it wouldn’t even look like a box, it would just be a lump in the form of a tax identification number stuck to a dream.

But someday maybe it will be a lovely strong box, oak, perhaps stained a warm brown in homage to the cups of coffee that inspired it, with forest green trim, and it will have little ribbons connecting outward to tutoring clients and language classes, to translation jobs and writing projects, and it will be bubbling happily with words.

That’s the plan, anyhow.

I’ll keep you posted.

5 Comments

Filed under work