Monday, January 31, 2011

OF YOURSELF TO YOURSELF

The mature Emerson would look back on his voluminous journals as his savings bank. The phrase from the world of money seems feeble; it lacks the disastrous felicity—as Kenneth Burke called it—of say, William James's insistence on the "cash value of an idea," but Emerson's journals served a more vital purpose when he was just starting out. "Keep a journal . . . for the habit of rendering account of yourself to yourself and at more certain intervals than mere conversation."

Robert D. Richardson, First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process

I don't think of this blog as a journal at all. Really. I scarcely tell anything here. I keep my rambling and whining (believe me) to a minimum. I do hope that, like my journals, I will look back and see evidence of patterns, growth, insight, and a bit of a history of what I was up to.

I do feel I have hit a level of something ... accomplishment? here ... what with the consistency of daily writing and the newfound ability to empty the dishwasher and keep the counters neater. And I do want to grow, writing-wise, yoga-wise (hahahaha)  in some way, some direction.

This is where I often get lost. Sometimes it is first steps. More often it is next steps. I am not even sure how to suss out what the next step(s) is/are. In this case, I see my immediate options for this writing space to


  • return to more study and philosophy
  • write more about my past/history
  • write more about my current real life
  • do creative writing assignments and post them here

In the meantime, I am going to muse on Emerson's suggestion to render an account of myself to myself ... somewhere if not here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

ONE HUNDRED AND ONE

That's the number of this post.

I haven't had the time today, when I actually realized I had hit 100 posts, to do the kind of revisiting and recommitment that I thought I might. I feel like I have not focussed on any practice beyond daily blogging ... and that feels a tad self-indulgent of me. On the other hand, I have had some lovely comments, lots of encouragement at times when I really needed it, and it seems I have even inspired a few folks to do and think things out of their immediate routine and/or comfort zone.

So, I think I will continue.

And my celebratory act for tonight will be a short post, followed by either a hot bath or straight to bed. The kitchen is clean and gleaming, except for the floor, the dishwasher is a-running, and I cooked all those vegetables that were going to be on their last legs.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

NICE AND EASY DOES IT EVERY TIME

You know, I think they try to wean we Americans off of this idea, but relaxing is an excellent way to while away a wintry afternoon. Some prefer a day spent in nightclothes, (nightgowns highly recommended). I had the dignity and wherewithal to get dressed (after a lengthy reading session in the bath). This did not however, keep me out of bed.

As I mentioned on FB, I find that reading mysteries has similarities to having the flu. Once they are started, you just have to let them go their course. I can watch a movie, even one like Inception, over the course of a few days (forgive me Kevin Worth and Mike Wilson). I have no trouble stopping and starting. But a mystery demands my attention. Like a pizza that calls to you until it is all eaten, a mystery demands reading.

This is not very lofty thinking, I know. I did have a lovely time though. Just to laze on the bed and do nothing but curl up with the kitty and listen to music with my eyes closed. When was the last time I allowed myself that?

Take it from the Chairman of the Board.

Maybe I am learning to be nicer to myself?

Friday, January 28, 2011

A GOOD DAY FOR CONNECTING

This is why I try to avoid reading mysteries, I stop doing anything else. For the most part, that's another addiction overcome as I am quite sparing in my reading of them. But when my erudite and well-read friend, CXC, said that Tana French was the bomb, I couldn't resist. I'm near halfway through The Likeness and although it is almost 500 pages, I'll bet I am finished by the end of the weekend.


Today, I took a deep breath, bit the bullet, and plunged into the deep end (!). I steeled myself for calling NJ unemployment to find out WTF with my last check. And also to see how long my unemployment would last. It takes focus and dedication to get through to such a popular bureaucracy. If you work at it enough, even pushing random extensions, you MIGHT get to be on hold. Then it is just a matter of waiting for at least 30 minutes. They make the hold music as bad as they can: some low-rent Jersey hair band music. Truly. You daren't put down the received for fear of losing the connection and finding yourself back at square one. Frightening. Not a task for the weak of resolve.


I got through! Got my missing check (or a promise of it)! And found out that I have about 25 weeks of unemployment ahead. We will all, (right?), be focused on that not being necessary.


And instead of a celebratory drink, I am treating myself to a pizza and a guilt-free read. Now, I have to get Miep out of the reading chair again.


Dreamfarm had this to add about my last post:

Loneliness does not come from being alone, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important, said Carl Jung.


I do think there is something to that. Not being able to be "met" or connected with makes you feel lonely and alone, even in a a crowd. Of course, depression casts a nothingness over life wherein all seems unimportant. Except, perhaps your pain.


Thanks to my good friends out there, I am not feeling too depressed tonight. Back to County Wicklow, Ireland. There's a place there called Crone Beg.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

FLOATING IN THE LAND OF QUESTION AND ANSWER

It is always gratifying when you pour out your heart and what you get back is love, affection, sympathy, camaraderie, and support. So, thank you. 


I will share, anonymously, as I did not ask permission, the comments I got on my email ...


"Come back to your breath, Sally Anne, and to your feet on the ground.  Try this every time you doubt, every time you float off into the land of question and answer.  

I see myself with shopping cart as well sometimes and in the deep pit of alone-ness in a world of couples.  It feels as if living alone is so very against my nature, as if I am missing some big of chunk of soul and of life experience.  I would change that aspect of my life if I were able.  I left a really lovely paycheck back in southern California and moved here knowing that my income would be much reduced.  Although I did not realize the extent of reduction at the time, I would not resume my old career nor would I choose to leave this little Camelot of H County.  I'm learning to look at the difference between what truly feeds my life and my older ideas of how my life is supposed look.  The shifting of gears is not easy, my clutch slips. 

I've been reading some Buddhist teaching and can understand that my wanting, craving this and that is what causes my pain and my fear of this of that my anxiety.  I've even tried to put the teaching into practice, like tonight, crying in the bathtub bemoaning what I perceive to be my unmet needs I realized that I was totally engrossed in a fantasy of self pity and missing out on the sheer pleasure of a hot bath. 

Our evolution as humans, my evolution as a human, is at times a burden I feel unwilling to bear and other times it sits me down laughing. 

What Bob Marley meant was that every little thing is going to be."



Rather than continue in my musings about life today, I chose to focus on how snow transforms the world. Given that I grew up in a Mediterranean climate where the vagaries of weather are kind of flatlined, snow and other forms of real changes in environment are miraculous. I'll revel in that for awhile.


This just in. My mom said that Dr. Phil said that if you are looking for a job you should ask everyone you know. So I am starting with you. Know of any jobs?



Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"FINDING A REASON TO LIVE AND STUFF"

"Good luck with the therapy and the yoga and finding a reason to live and stuff."


That was a comment from yesterday. I don't know why but it makes me kind of smile. I am positive it is entirely well-meant, but it just compresses so much of my angst into one sentence. Or does it reduce it? 


This round of uncertainty and unhappiness is likely largely financial underneath it all. But as this situation happens to me quite often, I continue to search for underlying causes (besides the collapse of the economy and other social factors) so that maybe I can change my future behavior, alter my collision course with a shopping cart on the streets of Brooklyn.


As I have alluded, it was a rough weekend for me, kicked-off by inconsiderate alcoholics (is that oxymoronic?) keeping me awake, making me angry and frustrated and feeling helpless. That led to immoderate drinking (white wine, thankfully, so I didn't really torture myself), a hangover, and then the precipice of big depression.


Here's what I wrote on Sunday night before I turned out the lights:





Did you ever, do you ever have the feeling that it is NOT going to all be okay? There you are flossing your teeth thinking that you got through another day, more or less intact, but maybe you are less intact than you really know. Especially if you have lapses of consciousness and attention.

Maybe it was growing up in California in the 'fifties and 'sixties when things were groovy. Maybe it was hearing Bob Marley sing "don't worry 'bout a thing/'cause every little thing gonna be allright" at a tender age. I have always thought or assumed that things would work out. I would be okay. Maybe even something close to happy.

I don't see it happening.

How did it get to be this way? What was I missing? Didn't I have the merge gene? What about the get ahead gene? Was I just floating along in the Book of Later Or Whatever? Or was it some flaw of self-esteem that kept me from seeing what else was going on out there.

How do they do it? How do you do it? How do you get married? Choose a college? Have a career? Make good career moving choices? Figure out how to get dressed?

I am utterly baffled.

By the way, RT is Richard Thompson.


Everthing's gonna be all right?

FEELING OBZOCKY

When we last left our hero, she was climbing back on the wagon and the road. Sleep has been easier than sometimes but it doesn't happen in an instant. I can't be sure what is going on, but I feel like I am dreaming and awake at the same time ... weird dream-images and all, but not really resting. Then I just wake myself.

And how is that I was nearly unconscious at 6:00 and still awake now? (Well, we can thank FMB for pointing out an RT live download site. Can't pass that up for mere depression.)

Somedays being in therapy is walking into a wall of your own pain. And you are not sure how it got thrown up, or appeared, quite suddenly, right in front of you as you are on a full-speed rage, or grappling with the slick handrail of a difficult topic. I feel as if I cried for hours, but I know I did not.

I suppose I might have happened upon (another!!) mother lode of psychic pain.

Given my current circling of despair and feeling generally obzocky, maybe this okay. Maybe I will get through these frustrations and failures.

Five things I did today:
1) Unloaded dishwasher
2) Downloaded RT
3) Straightened kitchen before bed
4) Left the house to go to therapy
5) Mailed stuff.
6) Finished reading a book (number six for the year)
7) Listened to a lot of music

(Not all that productive.)

Things I didn't do:
1) spend any money
2) drink
3) eat too much
4) get a parking ticket
5) take a nap
6) yoga ;-(

Monday, January 24, 2011

LAPTOPS, SLACKERS, AND LADIES

Do ya ever get tired of being stupid in the same ways? Doesn't it make you crazy at yourself? I mean, I think I am smarter (though perhaps not as cunning as) than Homer Simpson, I still do very poorly thought out things, things that make you wanna go D'oh.

In this case, rather than spending 50 cents, wasting two valuable quarters, and not getting a ticket for an expired meter, well ... the meter expired by about two minutes, et! voila! un autre billet du parking. Et encore beaucoup du fric.

As if this has not happened to me 100 times before. This is miscalculation and wrong thinking. This, in a way, is not being on my own side. If a friend had asked me, I would have, of course, advised for the extra money. Duh.

And so we stress ourselves in little ways with inattentiveness. I suppose I shouldn't speak for the others out there who are more prone to paying attention to these "little" things ... that turn into big ones.

Fighting the blues. Not working is more difficult than it might sound. An unemployed person starts every day in a "one down" position. You get to fight to feel useful, fight to get motivated, fight to brainstorm about how to even look for a job in this economy at this advanced age.

Just sayin' that it's not all laptops and slackers in the coffee bar or ladies who lunch.

(Although that does sound like a good name for a Cher remake of Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

JUST ONE LOOK

Le weekend est fini.

My friend Erika was in town from Boston. She told an anecdote about being told she was too judgmental. My brother David thinks that not only am I too judgmental and critical, but way too willing to broadcast my opinions. And I as sat down to write, and thought about le weekend and the day today, parsing it into successes and failures to add up my experience, it occurred to me that maybe I am too judgmental.

As a producer and as a sometime editor, being critical and judging ARE my job. Assessing, examining, eyeing, weighing, projecting outcomes ... all of those skills have become habits that I realize I bring to bear on myself a little too harshly. (I am not as good at projecting outcomes for myself.)

Rick Hanson has a newsletter titled Just One Thing. Yesterday's post was about being for yourself.


Are you on your own side?
 
The Practice
 
Be for yourself.
Why?
To tell others what you really need, or to take any steps toward your own well-being - like the practices in the Just One Thing newsletter - you have got to be on your own side. Not against others, but for yourself.

For many people, that's harder than it sounds. Maybe you were raised to think you didn't matter as much as other people. Maybe when you've tried to stick up for yourself, you've been blocked or knocked down. Maybe deep down you feel you don't deserve to be happy.

Whatever the reason, many people are not strong advocates for themselves.

As a result, they are harshly self-critical, even mean toward themselves. Or indifferent to their own pain, lax about protecting themselves from mistreatment, or lazy about doing those things - both inside their head and outside, in the outer world - to make their life better.

So it's a good idea to make sure you are on your own side.

Then you can figure out whatever would be good to do. And now it will have real oomph behind it!


I find some truth in this. Harshly self-critical. Yep.

So, I will not list a litany of my transgressions against myself this weekend. Mistakes were made. But so was a great rosemary-garlic roast chicken. And so was progress in my on-going house-organization.

This reminded me of Doris Troy's Just One Look.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

WITH A CIRCUS MIND RUNNING

Woods behind Jason's house.
M asked the other day: I am curious why a really great work session made you tired rather than energizing you?


Robert, Christine, and I were going over storyboards, checking the narrative, adding storyboards, renumbering, and then thinking about the whole production. It was great and it was fun, but it was tiring. A lot of concentration on small details is exhausting. 


Laurie, I definitely suffer from SAD. I did get out today and dig the car out of the snow (it wasn't that bad) to drive to the grocery store. The sun was out for awhile. Cooder and I did a bit of basking. The day ended up quite windy and cold. There will probably be a lot of ice tomorrow. (And sorry you found the RT track to be too sad.)


Kira, here are some pics from Connecticut in the snow.
Woods next to Jason's house.

I did feel better today. Of course, I did not get enough done. I think the non-drinking helped quite a bit. It will be a bit of a challenge, again, this weekend, as an old friend is in town. I am more of a drinker than she, but the temptation will be there. It is my plan to avoid. But one doesn't want to be rude.


I am considering challenging myself to a day without computers. No email. No Netflix. Maybe not even a post. I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty daunting to me. I might have to hide my Blackberry.


My friend Beth has a ritual "Day of Silence" fairly regularly. She doesn't even allow herself to swear at her pets or anything. No writing email. No telephoning. You would probably learn a lot and be surprised by the day. 


Maybe I will practice my "day without computers" when I go
Looking SW in Ledyard, CT.

TRY A LITTLE TENDERNESS

Hey, thanks for your comments and support. I have to figure out a better way to address them.

Many of the middle-school kids here in NYC are having giant midterms that they are studying hard for. I think their stress must be permeating the neighborhood as I had school-anxiety-non-studying dreams last night. Or is there something I am supposed to be studying that I am missing?

Mood-wise, I took a pretty big dip in the middle of the day. I wondered how far toward the Big D Depression I was headed. Then I remembered that I had been drinking, not-Conehead amounts, but pretty much every day for the last five or so. I decided to hold off on the Declaration of Depression for a couple of days and see if getting rid of some of those toxins might cheer me.

No alcohol tonight, and no real desire to have any, which is even better. And although I did not make any great strides into solving the big problem of my life:  a) what to do; b) how to make money, I did do my own laundry (folded but not put away), ironed (reducing that mountain), and made some progress on MW.

I'm heading for bed in an okay mood, not too many regrets or bad feelings about the day or myself.

As I was wandering around the apartment hassling myself I remembered this song and thought it might be good advice for me to me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

LEARNING TO WIN

Work with Robert and Christine today was excellent. We were all focussed, got a lot done, and it was fun, which is what we always want. A comfortable team always makes a job better. Of course, I came home and fell dead asleep for 90 minutes.

My dream cycle is unusual for me. I am not suffering from so much insomnia, which is great, of course. However, my dreams are quite agitated. Nightmares that are not scary so much as anxious or challenging. I woke myself up from one or two last night. And I want to sleep and sleep and sleep once I get there.

Once I am weaned from alcohol again, it might be interesting to see if I sleep so readily and if the dreams are as troubled ... more hazzerai.

I try to remember that all of this, life, job hunting, food consciousness, breaking a daily alcohol habit, ironing, laundry, organization, all of these things are processes. I do not have to finish them all at once if that is daunting. Better to make progress, and focus on accomplishment.

So, I did work, nap, iron, and clean the kitchen today, as well as pay a lot of attention to Cooder. I will try to sleep on this as "winning."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

BITING YOUR OWN HOOK

"Follow the Yellow Brick Road" is the soundtrack in my head this evening. I wonder what that represents?

The day wasn't really an actual bad one for me, but land o'goshen, it was a struggle struggle struggle for me. I might have had an epiphany, though. All this practice of consciousness and being in the moment can really help when you bite on your own hook of negative thinking and get caught in your own line of ... well, your stuff, your bs, your challenges ... however you would like to say it.

I played dodge ball all day long with my mental garbage, and I was doing the heaving as well as the dodging. And all that hazzerai and sturm und drang gets in the way of getting down to what I feel and think. Or be.

I made several (relatively small) decisions and just agonized over them, using my indecision as a way to flood myself with negative information, fear, and just other general crap and static.

I cannot imagine that other, more well-adjusted folks, can work themselves into a state of mini-agitation about what to eat for lunch or whether to head into the city in inclement weather. I am quite sure there are more important things in life, even for me.

I tussled and wrassled  through. Kathleen helped. I am still in an emotionally discomfited mental space, but I feel I have an approach to dealing with it. The Susannah-suggested breathing did help, and I did remember to do it.

Best now to get some rest and do good work tomorrow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

WHEW.

The 2010 holiday season is over. I had my last, planned, slightly-holiday-related event this weekend. I don't have any more away or weekend plans until President's Day (hello, Adirondacks) ... I can hole up in my apartment on weekends! I can concentrate on those New Years' resolutions I haven't quite written down. I can think more creatively about finding actual serious work. I can attend to my mountain of ironing. Don't I sound excited? Motivated?

I'm not really. I'm circleskirting around depression, or at least bummed-out-ness. I could stumble or sink into that mire. I could buy that description of how I am feeling. I could just feel like a failure on the eating and drinking paths. I could feel like even more of a professional failure. The possibilities are danged near endless there.

I am a bit lost and out of my rhythm from the travel and the cold and the cold, dark winter, too. There is some significant illness and loss around me, too, although no one in my immediate family (blessings and gratitude for that).

I need to rest and generate some energy and life traction. I need to remember to feel accomplishment and satisfaction for what I did/do. (Another stellar evening of pizza making.) Prepare to go back to my reasonable eating and non-drinking. And not get anxious or panicked or negative when I lose myself.

On another note, while I was in California, Susannah B., told me a breathing exercise which has really helped me when I can remember to do it. Spend a few minutes making your breath equal, counts of four on inhale, hold, exhale, hold, and repeat. It is surprisingly helpful when I do it.

And always remember that cats are cute.

THE WRASSLER


Have you ever hated Microsoft word?
I made a lot of pizzas tonight.
I spent some hours today fighting/wrassling with my sense of direction
and dyslexia about direction.

The largest issue there is the wrassling with myself. If I know my prejudices and the mistakes I am going to make, why do I continue to act as if I have no better information.

Yes, this is short tonight.
Xo

Sunday, January 16, 2011

PUSHIN' TOO HARD?

A day of indulgences? I (sort of) feel as if I wasted the day. I didn't go out any further than the apartment door to put the trash in the hallway. I did get dressed. I didn't nap. I did load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, and clean the litter boxes.

I finished a YA fantasy book that was quite well-plotted, unusual, and not terribly written. That's research for Monsterwood, really. And I spent most of the rest of the day listening to Room by Emma Donoghue. My book group is discussing it on Tuesday, although I won't be able to go, I am trying to keep up. (Really catching up will involve reading The Red and The Black. I read it a long time ago. I started it again and found it amusing. But very long.)

Tomorrow is a pizza making day up in Brewster with the Alcott Family. So there go any dreams of accomplishing things such as desk or "creative materiel"  organization.

But, I think if I were less tough on myself, I did accomplish a few things. I AM still recovering from the cold. I did get a lot of reading and cat-cuddling done. I ate reasonably. I didn't spend any money. And, notwithstanding the remaining bottles of Trader Joe's wine barking in the corner of the kitchen, I refrained from any drinking. Not because I am giving up alcohol. But I am giving up the habit of alcohol.

I think it's all my expectation of myself. And then I go into a little spiral, or a whirl at least, of rebellion and self-destructive thought. I did fine. I made some progress. I enjoyed my reading and listening to an audiobook. Why can't I glory in that a bit?

Pushin' too hard? (The video is great!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

HOW TO COMPLICATE SIMPLICITY

Yeah. So the challenge is on. It's 6pm. I'm going out to a friend's for dinner, where I know there will be wine. And I think, "Well, why not just kick back and sip a little before you go?" Big sigh. I'm writing this and drinking a MASH instead.


Anyone who knows me well will laugh when I say this: I need to simplify. I overwhelm my damn self. I do believe I mentioned it here awhile back that one of my resolutions was to spend more time creating things and less time managing the matériel of my life. I should photograph my desk just to out myself. It is piled with books, telephones, dvds, yarn, computers, knitting needles, cards, scissors, jewelry, paper(s), cds, and pens. There are so many books I feel as if I am in a fortress. 


And, on another note, I am rethinking the grooviness of multi-tasking. I mean, doing two things at once is probably okay, like knitting and watching a movie, but I really think I should limit myself to that, two things at once. Reading and taking a bath. Chewing gum and walking. This thing of having lots of windows and applications and books and movies and art projects all going at the same time is likely keeping me from ever feeling really completed on anything. And probably adding to the frustration level. The "need to be somewhere else/something else/ someone else.


I wonder if there are simplicity mantras? This is the first link I found. Not what I was looking for. It's funny though.


Maybe wanting a simplicity mantra is just another way to complicate things. Maybe all I need to do is find a space for some yoga breathing (even here in this chair! I don't have to go anywhere.) and spend a few minutes getting all the way back into my body. 


Okay, off to breathe.


You can download a Richard Thompson song here: http://www.sendspace.com/file/9yzpvi



Thursday, January 13, 2011

BOTTLE OF RED WINE =

Well, kind of a loaded gun for me.

Besides struggling with food, I wrestle pretty seriously with alcohol. For the last two years, my relationship with alcohol has improved greatly. For the last six months or so, I haven't had alcohol in my house on a regular basis. The rule has been no alcohol in the house unless there is a dinner party.

For whatever reason, I broke that rule this week. I was at Trader Joe's in Manahattan where there is a wine store attached. I bought a stock. That was Monday. I drank one bottle with my friend, John V. But tonight I opened a bottle of red. I have consumed most of it. Reminding me, that I cannot have red wine in the house when I am tout seul, all by myself.

I thought perhaps documenting the experience might help me understand it. And maybe I will document a couple of episodes, here, too.

During the holiday, I relaxed my non-drinking to allow it in a general sense. During that time, I was never really DRUNK, although I consumed enough to disrupt my sleep now and again. But none of that hangover nonsense. This alone constituted an accomplishment for me. When I am in California, I generally do not hesitate to drink and carry on with over indulgence. And, although I was not entirely sober, I was reasonable and restrained.

However, it has been a l-i-t-t-l-e bit challenging for me to kick the alcohol habit since I have been back. Again, I have not found myself in any regrettable or remorseful situations, but I have been drinking more than I would like to.

Net result to tonight: drank more than I really planned to, and thinking about that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

ON THE SIDE

Here's a tidbit I find interesting, and I wonder if it a side benefit from the writing/yoga/consciousness.

Since my teens, I have struggled with eating and weight issues. There are always all kinds of reasons, self-esteem, relationship ambivalence, etc. What I am finding lately is that I have less anxiety around food and eating. More often than was previously the case, I hear the "I've had enough" signal from my body. I can sit down with the expectation that I am going to eat a bunch and then find that I abruptly stop. I don't want or need any more. And that moment is a reasonable one. Even when I allow myself a third cookie, I find that two or maybe even one is sufficient for the moment. A snack is a snack, not a gorge fest.

This will be a short one as I am tired beyond worlds.                                                                                  

PRAYERS AND GRATITUDE

Yes! It is winter here on the East Coast. Another snowstorm. And all the quiet that is so nice. Until the snow ploughs have at it.


Added 30 minutes a day of reading about writing to the "practice." Today I was meandering through The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction: Building Blocks


Here is Ethan Canin on aging.


"... I'm present often at the moment of reckoning in their [old people's] lives. It's the moment from which their lives diverge. In other words, it was one way before that day and it will be different after that day. You see a lot of people at that kind of juncture where they're thinking about what they've done and that's brought on what's happened to them."


There's been a lot of cancer cropping up around me lately. There is even that moment before you know someone is ill, perhaps fatally, and then you do know, and everything changes. The mother of my dear friend, John V., is one of these people who is ill. John wrote this poem yesterday and allowed me to share. No time like the present for both prayers and gratitude.




CANCER SCHTICK


in the end
we are dust.

easy to say
with your back
against the wall.

taking it as it comes
we won't know anything 
until the last tests are in.
hollow words to placate ourselves
from the inevitable.

she says
i'm not what i was
i'm slowing down
my time is come
i'm here on overtime
as your father used to say.

he joked
the first hundred years
are the hardest.
brave words
in the face of the unknown.

she says
here's where the will is
here's the key to the drawer
your sister won't know where to find it
so you remember to.

i'm numb
this is the end
but not before
we tip the garbage men.

i lived in this house
i'll die in this house

and so you will mom
so you will.

the new stove is a problem
the new sofas are not right
the old wallpaper is failing
the carpet needs cleaning
it's always something.

i can't take care of a cat.

life gets in the way
its meaning is lost on us
and when least expected
it rubs our noses in it

we hesitate
between emotions
because 
we don't understand
the punchline.

Monday, January 10, 2011

TO TAKE A TRAIN

Back to Elizabeth Janeway. There are lots of things I like about this quote (and this book). Notwithstanding some seriously flawed ideas about women and men. I took some of Daisy Kenyon with a mine of salt given when it was written. So here is the full quote:

"Getting on a train is one of the few acts of our mechanized civilization which retains its full emotional and symbolic value. Ever since the division of labor became a cardinal principle of human life, living has been cut up into the same snippets as work. The constant repetition of small meaningless acts leads us imperceptibly past the crises of our journey without our being aware of them. Only when the evidence has piled up and become overwhelming, when our own disappointed searching hearts have finally convinced us that we must have passed the expected landmark, do we turn and look back; to find the fork in the road irretrievably behind us; to discover we have fallen in or out of love, grown old, committed ourselves to a marriage or a profession from which we cannot escape or retreat.


No one stops us on the way. No priest, no medicine man, no traditional masked figure of the Tempter requires us to spend a night in celebration at an inn, or praying alone, or fasting until our visions reveal our true names and natures. One day runs into another. We are given a five-dollar raise and learn to run the new punch press. The children grow up so fast! Vacations are uneasy, and often we go to the same resort year after year. Sometimes, of course, between one season and the next something happens even to the most charming place—a new bus line, the incursion of an undesirable element, a hurricane which sweeps all the sand off the beach, submarine warfare that fills the sea with oil and makes bathing quite out of the question.


Try as we will, these uncertainties remain. When we are young, indeed, we look forward to them. We speak of romance and dream of the wild disorder of emotions we subsume under the name. But it is often hard to know romance when we meet it. There are so few enormous events, so few great men. We are forever discovering, too late, that abstract nouns when they clothe themselves in flesh are almost indistinguishable from one's brother-in-law or the president of the Ladies' Aid.


But to take a train—no disguise can cover the act itself. Actually and inevitably one steps off the platform into the vestibule of the car. The station porter stacks one's luggage exactly where it proves to be most in the way and departs with a handful of silver. There may be time to smoke a cigarette and repeat good-byes to friends who have been buying one drinks. But the actual dividing moment in time exists, slides out of the future, and takes possession of the terminal. It is necessary for one person to step into the train and others to remain without. Men cry hoarsely. The train jerks as motion beings to run through its iron veins. Not relatively but absolutely it leaves the station behind, clattering in the dark over the points that some mysterious agency has set for this journey and no other. One place has been left behind, and the unknown is rushing toward us, crying as it comes with the voice of the locomotive."


 Elizabeth Janeway, Daisy Kenyon, An Historical Novel 1940-1942


There are choices that lead us in specific directions from which there is no going back. That is not to say that courses cannot be adjusted and changed. But train and airplane travel are like that. Once you are on, you are on. Getting off the road, the train, the plane is usually no simple feat of stopping.

GETTING ON A TRAIN

Back to Brooklyn. It is cold and messy here. All that snow looked so pretty in Connecticut.

Cold devolving into a cough, and still on the mend. But I am pretty close to normal brain function. I hope I can sleep.

As usual, it takes me a little bit of hanging around to get back into my groove. In some ways, because of being sick and all, it seems like I have been gone for a month.

I have a fondness for reading out-of-fashion novels, particularly those I remember tossed about people's homes when I was a child. Novels like The View from Pompey's Head and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit were titles I can still see. I stumbled across  Revolutionary Road in the library and read it aeons before Leonardo and Kate made their film version.

So, I ended up reading Daisy Kenyon which was a Joan Crawford movie in 1947. (It is actually pretty interesting and was directed by Otto Preminger, so it had something extra going for it.)

"Getting on a train is one of the few acts of our mechanized civilization which retains its full emotional and symbolic value. Ever since the division of labor became a cardinal principle of human life, living has been cut up into the same snippets as work. The constant repetition of small meaningless acts leads us imperceptibly past the crises of our journey without our being aware of them. Only when the evidence has piled up and become overwhelming, when our own disappointed searching hearts have finally convinced us that we must have passed the expected landmark, do we turn and look back; to find the fork in the road irretrievably behind us; to discover we have fallen in or out of love, grown old, committed ourselves to a marriage or a profession from which we cannot escape or retreat."


 Elizabeth Janeway, Daisy Kenyon, An Historical Novel 1940-1942


There is more to this passage, but for tonight I am going to stop here (right, stopping?). Train travel does lend itself to musing about being on the move and leaving the world in a specific and faraway place.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

SNOWMISTING IN CONNECTICUT

Still snowmisting in Connecticut. Glad I didn't drive after all.

Jason and I have been slugging it out for seven hours. Let's hear it for the creative process! No blood has been drawn. No names have been called. And we are tired. But we did get some excellent work done. I imagine when we are less tired and really emotionally exhausted, we will feel a bit more accomplished. Right now, it mostly feels scary and overwhelming.

Hmmm ... like lots of the rest of life.

Both Jason and Maria are interested in Buddhism and the various spiritual paths for artists. I happened upon another Buddhist book, Buddhism for Beginners by Thubten Chodron.

Must we be a Buddhist to practice what the Buddha taught?
No. The Buddha gave a wide variety of instructions, and if some of them help us to live better, to solve our problems and become kinder, then we are free to practice them. There is no need to call ourselves Buddhists. The purpose of the Buddha's teachings is to benefit us, and if putting some of them into practice helps us live more peacefully with ourselves and others, that is what is important.


That's pretty much my philosophy. Use what works. I realize that that is a bit facile, naive,  and perhaps superficial, but seems like getting through life in a good way is damn difficult and whatever helps us is a tool we should use.

Now for a musical interlude unrelated to anything in this post but did come up earlier when I tried to write this: The Gap Band, Early in the Morning.

Also, words that didn't fit: jejune and disingenuous.

Friday, January 7, 2011

DO NOT SHAMATHA ON (HABIT) TRACKS

Caveat: I am still not feeling very well and I am having trouble thinking. Apologies if this writing is not as elegant as you have come to expect. 

I came across The Heart of The Buddha's Teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh on Jason's couch down here in the boy cave.

"Buddhist meditation has two aspects — shamatha and vipashyana. We tend to stress the importance of viashyana ("looking deeply") because it can bring us insight and liberate us from suffering and afflictions. But the practice of shamatha ("stopping") is fundamental. If we cannot stop, we cannot have insight.


There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts. "Where are you going?" and the first man replies, "I don't know! Ask the horse!" This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don't know where we are going and we can't stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves, and we can easily start a war with others."

Habit energy. Oh yeah. Always running. Yeah.

Stopping to break habits of thought. Like I don't like unloading the dishwasher. I realized I didn't like putting away dishes because of the kitchen organization made it somewhat clumsy (especially when one is always wrangling interested cats hanging around).
I stopped (see above) and remembered that I had reorganized the cupboards. Maybe I should give unloading the dishwasher another shot?

Rather than the auto pilot, "I hate doing that, therefore I will avoid it," I decided I would try again. I could always going back to detesting unloading the dishwasher. I risked 5 minutes of being uncomfortable to see what I found something else.

And I did. Habit of not unloading dishwasher vanished.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

STRANGE STATE

Greetings from Connecticut. A strange state in more ways than one.

A week back in my current homeland, all of it spent ill, yet satisfyingly productive. I managed to work, make progress in my apartment, got to an early train tonight ... watch me now! (i thought that was a line from Jumping Jack Flash, but apparently not.)

I'm neither yogic nor writingic having been up since 7:00 am (shocking for me), worked, and traveled by train (not high on cocaine), and now through a couple of slow shots of Patron.

I trust I will be a better writer and a better person tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

COOL YOUR JETS

Raise your hands if you like to start things, but aren't so skilled or keen on finishing them. Really. What IS up with that?

I don't mind loading the dishwasher, but I don't like unloading it. I also need to have about five books in rotation most of the time, even though I will occasionally get pulled into one and be book monogamous for awhile. I will save further musings for later, but I am pretty sure this is related to a unwillingness to be in THIS moment, and a rush to get to the next.

As an example of being in this moment, for real, is Miep chasing her tail. I think she might have found the catnip.

I really was feeling better. I managed to walk to the bank, pick up a few things at the grocery store, go to the pharmacy, pay my rent, drop off the laundry, work, and lug a big box up stairs. I think my brain is ready to go. My body, however, has a different message. That message is "Cool your jets."

And so to bed, as has been said.

LOOK WITHIN, BE STILL

It is a truth universally acknowledged that being sick is not fun.
I'm sure Jane Austen will forgive me for stealing her opening line, or part of it.

I'm in the on-and-off feverish, sneezing and nose-blowing, crappy-feeling-but-still-can't-sleep-or-read-or-sometimes-even-watch-movies mode. Mayhap tomorrow will be a better day. Feel on the edge of slippin' into darkness ...

I spent a little time in the angry and dismayed zone today, too. That can't be good for recuperation. That energy gets ahold of one and rationality and kindness and even self-preservation go by the wayside pretty quickly. I am thankful to myself for tempering myself to not act immediately.

As my old friend Kirk Foster once remarked, "Our first reactions are often regrettable."

I think the Buddha suggested that we "look within" and "be still."

Monday, January 3, 2011

KINDLY EYES

"Anger, fear, conflict, and resentment arise from our fear. When we are afraid, our body tightens, our heart is constricted, our mind is possessed. We cannot live wisely.
Forgiveness releases us from the power of fear. It allows us to see with kindly eyes and rest in a wise heart."
Jack Kornfield, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace

I don't know about that, but I do know that when I get stressed and angry, I often get sick. I had a mini-meltdown yesterday, which is what led me to think maybe anger would be a good topic for focus in therapy. And that mini-melt also led me to have a relapse in post-holiday illness.

I had purchased the book in Oakland a couple of weeks before, without really thinking that I might REALLY put it to use. The "mind is possessed" seems particularly relevant when you think you have been slighted or hurt and want revenge or something. In my shot of anger and frustration yesterday, I was fortunate to have the presence of mind to temper my communications with a little bit of compassion. Even though I was feeling quite injured and annoyed, I forced myself to think of those on the receiving end, their situations, etc.

I re-wrote the email to be more about how I was feeling than what the other person had done. We had a little exchange, both apologized, problem solved, friendship intact. And in the other case, we negotiated and came to an understanding that will hold until we have time to talk it out more fully. Also, no hard feelings, no extra drama.

The benefit was that I actually felt better and hadn't hurt anyone. Yeah, I have a stress cold now, but maybe it will pass. And at least I won't have that unfinished business over my head.

Kindly eyes. I tried to see my "adversaries" with kindly eyes.

Consideration is an under-utilized emotional/psychological filter.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

TO MAKE AN END IS TO MAKE A BEGINNING

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding, Quartet No. 4


That nifty quote was nipped from another blog, but it fits my current state of mind.


One of the best things about the New Year's Holiday is the restart button. Anyone who wants to can, openly and without shame or embarrassment, declare their intention to start over, fix things, change, evolve, and even be somehow born anew. The guffawing and cynicism are at a minimum and some  support might be proffered. Some people share their resolutions/aspirations and even try to help one another. That all sounds good to me.


Resolution, to resolve, it a tough thing. Getting caught in one's own mire about expectations, self-sabotage, and that well of worms is easy, and can even deter one from thinking change is possible. This year I am making aspirations, things I would like to work on, patterns that trip me up, maybe even a step or two toward making a dream that much more realized. 


 Setting out the New Year with some things I would like to accomplish or experience has worked for me. Last year, one big one was to be better about being on time. I was often late and flurried because of it, putting myself in a "one down" position because I came in apologizing and/or at a disadvantage. I am not yet in complete control of my procrastination and propensity for tardiness, but I am much improved. That has been a big one.


I haven't made a whole list (and I wouldn't post them here anyway). This year I think I am going to work on anger and my fear of it. I've already begun experimenting and although it hasn't been easy or comfortable, I've already been able to let some go. 


I'd be interested in what others of you are doing with the resolution/aspiration possibility.



THE END OF INSOMNIA?

Instead of "ringing in" the New Year, try "sleeping in" the New Year.

Didn't Thomas Hardy have a novel titled Return of the Sleep Slave? I haven't enjoyed or participated in "round the clock" sleeping in ages. Although not particularly, or obviously, productive, it is kind of fun to be all snuggly with cat butts and pillows and the whiishpks of car tires on melting snow. Cooder moves every time there is a siren as it is loud when the windows are wide open to 1) aid the snow melt, 2) do my part for global warming, 3) keep me from drying to a crisp.

So far the New Years' News is reading reading reading. Sleeping sleeping sleeping. I finished the first Tana French book, In the Woods, which I think I mentioned in yesterday's spaced missal. (Some beautiful writing and great phrases such as "getting banjoed" for drunk.) Today I read Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing up Cult by Jayanti Tamm. I watched The Kids Are All Right (what a flawed movie) and the end of Therese Raquin with Simone Signoret (did she ever do a bad movie?). And mixed in a generous portion of sleep.

I don't know what to make of my utter exhaustion after the trip. I was more than reasonably well-behaved when it came to drinking and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. (Although I felt I existed on a diet of rich breakfasts and other butter-laden  meals, I lost a half a pound.)

I am feeling better though. I could barely form a sentence today and am not much good at answering questions. Hopefully, when I wake up from my upcoming long nap (estimated time of departure, 45 minutes from now), I will be more conscious and productive.

And ready to go.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

NOUVELLE ANNEE

So much for the pre-NY resolution to post some serious resolutions tonight. My red-eye landed at 6:10 am. I am always one of the last folks off the airplane as I always sit in the back. Once I finally disembarked, I realized I did not have my new hat. After much waiting, Jet Blue informed me that they could not find it, leading me to think I spaced out trying to get on the airplane in Oakland and left it. When I finally got to the baggage claim, I could not find the right carousel. After much running back and forth and heaving my other heavy bag, I finally found my suitcase (and I only almost started crying once). I got  a cab. I arrived at home to clamber over snow hills. I came in, changed out of my clothes and have pretty much been in bed since. About 14 hours ago. And am headed back.

So, the reflection will have to wait. I don't feel as if I am getting any sicker, which is good. I am just exhausted. Plus, I am halfway through In the Woods and have two fat kittehs to warm me.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.