Friday, May 28, 2010

Confusion Runs Deep

So I’m listening to yet another book on tape, and this one is a Stephen Covey course, of sorts, on how to focus. Whether personally or professionally, the idea is that you want to make sure you’re focused on the right things – you want to spend your time and energy on those things. To do this, you need first to identify your values and make sure your priorities are clear.

Hmmm. So what are my values? Seems like a simple question. And yet I find myself struggling a little. I can’t tell if it’s because I don’t know what they are, or I don’t know what it will mean to define my actions around them, or because I’m worried that some of them will contradict each other. I think the latter used to be more the case, especially when I was younger (and oh so much more immature). I wanted to be healthy so I’d run, but then I’d totally go out and party like a rock star with friends (quality time spent building relationships?), followed by a day of horrible eating to take care of the hangover. Mostly I think I was just winging things – whatever felt good at the time. Which I think there is also come benefit to? Ugh. Figuring all this out is hard. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s good to spend all this time working on myself, or if I’m really just adding to the confusion in my head. Sheesh.

Quiet would be nice – some simplicity and quiet. It’s hard to sort out MY values when meanwhile I’m bombarded by messages telling me what my values ought to be. Be thin! But love who you are! Be an independent woman! But build a good home and put your family first! Exercise! But make sure it’s the right kind! Do what you want! But not THAT! Ack! It’s no wonder I’m so damn confused.

I guess that to figure out my values I’d do myself a favor to shut out some of the noise for awhile. I don’t want other people’s opinions on my list of values – it’s MY list. So go make your own.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Perfect "O"

I think a lot of us who are parents really have one primary goal: Not to screw up our kids. I mean, its not like they come with a manual or anything, and God knows I often have no idea what I'm doing as a parent. But at the end of the day if our son can just be a happy, good person, that works for me.

Anyway, someone once told me this story with regard to good parenting. There was a kid in elementary school, and every time he did his homework his handwriting was a mess. His parents kept telling him to do better, made him practice, and drilled him endlessly to no avail. Finally his parents came into school to see his teacher. His father held up a sheet of the kid's homework. "Look at what a mess this is!" The teacher looked at it thoughtfully, and then pointed to a single letter on the page. "That," he said pointedly, "is a perfect 'O'."

The point? We spent so much time focusing on what's wrong that its hard sometimes to make ourselves see what's right. I try to keep reminding myself of that story, especially when my son is being a crazy toddler who intentionally seems to be trying to make me nuts.

Beyond that - I think its important that we look for our own "perfect 'O'" too. Right now, most areas of my house are kind of a mess. The garage is a disaster, my office needs a complete cleaning, and the cabinets are a tragedy. BUT, I cleaned my clothes closet this weekend, and it looks awesome. That is my "perfect 'O'" right now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So a Priest and a Rabbi Walk into a Bar.....

Its kind of amazing how much I learn from my kid. He's 5, and a constant source of fresh perspective and frank wisdom. Yesterday we were at the pediatrician. Max had to get 2 shots - never a fun thing to hear.

His response? He jumped up on the table and told me he'd distract himself by being silly. As the nurse stuck needles in his legs, he laid there telling her jokes.
"What's got 4 wheels and flies? A garbage truck!!!" Followed by ridiculous laughter. "Why couldn't the kid get into the pirate movie? It was rated ARGGHHH!" More giggles. The nurse was kind of floored. I think she's more used to tears and kicking. I was pretty amazed myself.

Lesson of the day? You have a choice in how you approach anything. And I for one hope that I can be awesome enough to tell jokes the next time someone needs to stick needles in my legs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Where's My Pony?

We are funny creatures. We have the blueprints for so many things that we want. Want to lose weight? You know what to eat and what not to eat. Want to have muscles? You know how to exercise. Want a promotion? You know what you need to do. And yet - we don't do it. Or at least, I don't. Or I do for a period of time and then I totally slack off. Followed by a bitch session about why I'm not seeing whatever result I'm looking for.

WHY do we do this? I can't figure it out, honestly. I can't figure out if its laziness, self-sabotage, or if I just get tired and find comfort in things that don't mesh with the goal. Sometimes I'm cool with it - I tell myself life is short and that glass of wine and rich dinner is totally worth it. As are the 3 glasses of wine after. ;-) And then the breakfast tacos are necessary to recover from the wine. Well, you get my drift.

Anyway, then there are days when I straighten up, eat perfectly, do all the stuff I'm supposed to, and generally just kick ass. And that feels good. Its just hard to keep up all the time, I guess. But do I have to?

At the risk of sounding resigned, I really have no reason other than vanity to want to look like a supermodel in a bikini. I don't need to attract guys (I got one!), I'm happy, and I get to eat, which I think many supermodels can't do. ;-) In terms of exercise, I'm pretty fit, and get probably more exercise than the average American. Career-wise, I'm doing pretty good. I want success, but I don't want my career to be my whole life, and there are limits to what I'll sacrifice for it. I guess what I'm saying is that things are good. So I can probably stop beating myself up for not perfectly following the blueprints I have.

We hold ourselves to some crazy standards. I think, perhaps, its time that I reset mine a bit and aim mainly for just a smile, a good quality of life, and warm moments with friends and family. Really, there's not a whole lot more to need.

Except for maybe a pony.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Get Up, Stand Up

I always hated being tall. For me, it stems from Junior High – I shot up ahead of most other girls, just at the time when I was being picked on and bullied. I wanted to disappear, but nature forced me head and shoulders above. There’s probably a lesson in that, but whatever. Not my point.

I hunched and wore flats for years and years. Mom tried to get me to stand up straight. I wanted so badly to be petite and cute, like so many other girls I knew. Even my older sister was shorter and more petite than I was.

Then I went to Peace Corps. I showed up in the Dominican Republic with a suitcase of hiking boots and Birkenstocks, khakis and t-shirts. I had been a field archaeologist – I knew what was up when it came to roughing it in the third world. Another girl in my group, Kristi, showed up with a far different suitcase. Hers was full of cocktail dresses and heels, lacy underwear, dressy shirts, makeup. My first thought was that she didn’t have a clue.

Here’s the thing – when you go out at night in a city or even a small town in the Dominican Republic, you’re going out to dance. And you dress up. A LOT. Suddenly, I was the one without a clue. Kristi saved me. We were the exact same size, height, even had the same hair. She dressed me up, did my makeup, and got me ready to go. When she grabbed a pair of heels for me, I started to draw the line. No WAY. I didn’t wear heels in the states, much less in the DR, where most of the population is easily a head shorter than me! Kristi shook her head and thrust the heels at me as I complained about my height. “Own it. Love it. It’s who you are.”

Wise words indeed. That night Kristi and I headed out like the twin towers, cocktail dresses and heels and all. There was no way to ignore us – we were the tallest people on the street, not to mention the whitest. The attention was uncomfortable for me, but with Kristi by my side, head tall and completely comfortable with herself, I was able to relax. And across those 2 years we spent many a night out dancing together and each time, I felt more and more at ease. Plus, it’s actually easier to dance in heels than flats. Who knew?

So I left the Peace Corps with the first pair of heels I had ever owned, several cocktail dresses, and straighter shoulders, all because of a sweet girl from Georgia with a penchant for dressing up.

Thanks, Kristi. I owe you one.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Ain’t The Autobahn

I’ve heard all my life phrases like “it’s the journey that counts and not the destination.” I’ve listened, and I thought I got it. But I think as I get older it’s one of those things that I keep understanding more.

I’ve often spent time looking forward to when certain goals are achieved. Buying a house. Having a kid. Hitting a certain salary. Being a certain weight. The thing is, none of these goals are end points. What’s the point of rushing through things just to get there? There’s never a place to stop, sit down and say – I’m done! I did it and now I can relax and do nothing. Also, I really suck at doing nothing. It’s too boring.

Thinking about that, I realize that I need to generally just slow the heck down. Life is busy and all, but I’m the one who’s been setting the pace. And while I have great friends, a great husband, an awesome kid…all these things take a level of work and attention. And it should be relaxed, thoughtful attention. Even the house stuff (like the infamous junk drawers) – why not try to actually enjoy the process of those things, of creating order from the chaos. (OK, I’m not sure how to enjoy the process of laundry yet, but let me know if you have ideas.) And definitely not last on the list, I also deserve time and attention. Things are busy, but spending time on me, whether that means exercising, taking a bath, writing – it’s all necessary to the care and feeding of myself. And as much as I beat myself up, I am worth it. ;-)

My garden is doing really, really well this year (and given my lack of a green thumb in the past, I secretly think my gardening grandmother who passed away last year is behind it!). Like all that other stuff, it’s not about the end, the harvest. It’s about the care and feeding of the plants, the cultivation and the process of tending to the garden. The harvest is the reward of all that work, but it’s not nearly the whole story.

So it’s time to put on the brakes and stop being so focused on getting somewhere. Time to enjoy where I am and move forward at a slower, more thoughtful pace. It’s probably wise to do so before I spin out and crash into a side rail.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Lies Beneath

So another book that I’m reading (yes, I read many books at the same time) is called Simple Abundance. It has a short piece written for each day of the year, mostly about living simply, pausing to appreciate things, etc. It’s kind of a nice, short peaceful read at the beginning or end of each day.

Anyway, the last couple days in the book have covered organization and caring for your home space. Specifically junk drawers. I felt all exposed reading it, as though this writer could see through the pages to the various drawers and closets in my house stuffed with stuff. All kinds of stuff. Honestly, some of those drawers haven’t been opened since we moved into the house two and a half years ago. And when I do look in and/or attempt to clean one of them out, I find myself pulling out various objects and thinking “oh, that’s cool!” or “that will be handy to have around”! Silly me. It will NOT ever come in handy. It will remain in that drawer to rot until I finally just THROW IT OUT. This is why we have Goodwill, people.

I respond well to organization. When I’m stressed or upset, my husband knows because he comes home to a whirling dervish of a wife, cleaning and clearing every surface and chair. He slowly backs away and retreats to his office until I have cleaned myself into calm.

But even with the surfaces clean, I know deep in my heart what lies beneath – the hidden places overflowing with junk. Two year old seed packets (I’m sure I’ll use them next year!), corks I was saving for a friend, batteries that might have some juice left, a card someone gave me, a broken can opener….and on and on. Even though this stuff isn’t in my face, it’s there – like the heartbeat under the floorboards in The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s pulsing and present and apt to drive me nuts.

So it’s time. Get out the trash bags and the donation boxes. I’m going in.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Call Me Esther Williams

So back to the book I’ve been (slowly) reading, called Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting (which apparently is very similar to The Secret, but I haven’t read the latter so I can’t vouch for that). Anyway, in the book, the author talks about how the Law of Attraction means that for positive change to occur in your life you need to shift gears to feel good, and put that good feeling energy out there. She’s really emphatic that you have to generally FEEL it, not just think good thoughts.

So I’m struggling here. Sounds great in theory, but how are you supposed to ignore something big, like say unemployment or the prospect of losing your house? She’s insistent though, that you have to stop thinking about whatever the IT is that is stressing you out, hard as that might be, and reach in to find things that make you actually feel, physically and emotionally, good and positive. Tough to do. She literally is suggesting that we put on rose-colored glasses, ignore the problems at hand and go all Grateful Dead, spinning around the lawn barefoot on a warm summer night feeling awesome.

Not that I've done that. Ahem.

Anyway, I experimented last night, trying to just play with my brain and see what kind of visualizations made me happy, relaxed, and joyful. There were some that are kind of expected. Watching my son sleep at night, sharing something special with my husband, etc. But one that surprised me was water. I love to swim, granted. I grew up on a lake, so swimming and swim teams were a constant in my life. Specifically though, I was thinking about playing in the water. Jumping as high as possible, doing as many underwater somersaults as you can, handstands – that kind of thing. And it made me really joyful and happy to think about. I love the sensations of the water, the physical effort, the way you have to move to get the water to work with you, and just the pure FUN of it.

It also struck me how rarely we allow those elements of play in our lives, now that we’re all mature older and such. I’ll go swim laps, but unless I’m playing with some kids (and yes, I have TOTALLY borrowed children for this express purpose) I won’t just PLAY. And given how much joy even the thought of it gives me, I should probably do it more.

I’m still having a hard time believing that simply thinking about (and feeling joy about) underwater somersaults will result in tons of good results in my life. But I guess I’ll never know unless I try, eh?

Monday, May 17, 2010

We Need a Weather Forecast for People

They say everything moves in cycles, and I know for a fact that I have some pretty clear cycles of my own, both good and bad. My husband is all too aware of them. Its weird - I have no idea what triggers the bad ones, but I'll go from feeling like I can take on the world to feeling like everything is going wrong. After whatever period of time, I get sick of the funk and give myself a good kick in the butt, shake it off and head back to it.

You can imagine what a joy I was while pregnant. My husband should probably be sainted. Lucky for him I only broke one door during those 9 months, during a short lived hormonal rage. True story.

Anyway, in thinking about these cycles I ended up thinking about hurricanes. Quite a perfect parallel actually. To form and sustain, hurricanes need:
1. Favorable conditions to form
2. A way to feed themselves and grow stronger

Also worth noting is that when an energy source is changed or removed, it can stop the cycle. On the flip side, one large system can trigger other cycles. I've watched a lot of hurricanes heading towards the Gulf, closely monitoring the news as they moved and changed. I was even in a Category 4 once (Hurricane Georges) in the Dominican Republic. The sheer power of being in a storm like that was incredibly humbling and left me feeling pretty powerless myself. The destruction it left in its wake was horrible.

Its kind of the same thing for us too, I think. We all have things that set us off, or that trigger us in a good way. Conditions are set up, the means for it to spiral is set, and it grows and expands, and lays either a path of destruction or a path of creation. I guess the thing to know is that with whatever kind of cycle we're in, it can be interrupted and changed - if we know how to do that. And with the bad cycles, I definitely want that power.

Mainly though, I want to get a handle on how to trigger, maintain and feed those good cycles. They're way more fun, and certainly cause less damage to my doors.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mrs. Yehaskel, Tear Down This Wall!

Its still weird to me that I'm a "Mrs.". And a mom, for that matter. I didn't even have to get a license for that one. But that's neither here nor there.

I'm super, super stubborn. It can be a great quality and it can also be a really dumb and negative one. Honestly, I don't know how some people in my life put up with me. When I'm feeling defensive (like, lets say for the last week or so) I have an amazing talent for putting up a huge wall, locking my arms across my chest and going into hyper-protective mode. I can do that for a long time. The intensity builds up and up until things just hit a breaking point. But once I start to let the wall crumble, it falls fast and everything is so much better. Resolution starts, and healing begins.

I honestly never know why I let things escalate and get that far. Its painful, unpleasant, and it can be stopped. I can stop it. But I don't. Its like I'm a total glutton for pain and tension and heartbreak. Sheesh. Why don't I just whack myself over the head with a club? Drive a nail through my arm?

The good news is that I'm recognizing what I do and the patterns I fall into. And in the iconic words of the GI Joe cartoons I grew up with, "knowing is half the battle." Indeed.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the knowing. I'll be 37 years old tomorrow (sorry, WHAT????) and I still feel like I don't have a clue most days. Maybe the beauty in aging is that each year I'm better at accepting that I don't know squat.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm Miserable, Thanks for Asking

I blogged before about how things that are scary and hard are good, that they are things to be sought after. Except this week, I've been in the midst of some seriously HARD crapola, and it did not feel good or like something I wanted to seek or deal with or anything. Frankly, it sucked.

Its not over yet, but here's something good that has come out of it so far.(And trust me, I'm still amazed that I managed to get to a place where I could see any good in anything this week.) I don't like to open up much. I like to give the impression of being calm and easygoing - I want to be someone that people admire and see as a generally happy person, not a miserable mess of a person. I don't like to bring my problems to people. But this week, I caved. I leaned, hard, on friends this week. I called people up and said I need to talk, badly. I asked for advice. I cried. While I didn't go into detail with people I'm not close to, I didn't fake it when they asked how I was. "I'm not great. Having a hard week."

It's tough to do that. But boy, fear quickly gave way to massive amounts of gratitude. Arms opened to me, literally and figuratively. I've felt supported and loved, and I've had some people call me out on things where I needed some perspective. I've cried. A lot.

I guess what I'm learning here is that opening yourself up is really tough and scary. Its hard to make yourself that vulnerable, not knowing how people will react. Back to the image of standing in the center of a medieval courtyard waiting for people to pelt you with rotting food.(Is it sad that I keep using that example to describe my life?) BUT, its also proved to be incredibly worthwhile, inspiring and helpful. And this week in particular, its just been really, really nice to feel loved.

Oh, and my mom started to read my blog. Hopefully she'll keep me even though she can now see what a freak unique person I am. (Edit made at mom's request.) Hi mom!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Still Wishing for the Wisdom of Yoda

I'm probably pretty selfish. In fact, this whole blog is selfish. Talking about myself, my needs, my wants and my dreams. All about me. I have a need to fill my life with lots of rich experiences, and I get incalculable joy from small moments. I revel in things like hiking on a gorgeous day and stopping suddenly to breath deep some pungent mountain laurel that I stumbled across, or getting really, really dirty gardening or doing something outside and then having the best shower ever, thoroughly enjoying the clean aftermath with cozy clothes on and a glass of wine in hand. I need these experiential, sensual events, and I need to share them with people I love. The more often I can get them the better. And I want people to do them with.

Maybe that makes me selfish. I don't know. It can't be fair to expect people to enjoy what I enjoy or want what I want. But is it also fair to sacrifice those things myself? At what point is a person selfish, and at what point are they simply doing what's right for them so they can be happier and better for the people around them? At what point does sacrifice move from being a noble thing to something negative and damaging in the long-term?

I wish Yoda lived next door. He probably knows.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dream a Little Dream

Remember when you were little and would dream and fantasize about all the things you would do and have and be when you were older? Those dreams were exciting and full of hope and promise. Anything was possible. Now, I’m finding that dreaming is a lot scarier. If you give voice to dreams, let yourself want them, you’re opening yourself to the chance of them being denied, stomped on, broken, never achieved. That’s a lot to risk.
I’m reading all these books that tell me that one key to happiness is reigniting that ability to dream and want things – all kinds of things. They can range from wanting to have fancy houses and private jets to having a big, loud happy family, or just traveling the world. I want desperately to keep dreaming – I WANT to want things, set goals, and go for them. But there are some goals that I know I can’t have, or I can’t possibly figure out how in this universe they can happen. And that makes me sad.
I certainly haven’t given up. And I want to kick complacency straight in the crotch. If I settle, I will only resent it later. I have dreams, even if it will take me awhile to calm the fears and give voice to them.  As we’ve already established in this blog, I’m terrified all the time. In this moment, I’m terrified of opening up that Pandora’s box of dreams and wants, only to not be able to have them. But I’m more terrified of pushing my dreams out of the way and stuffing them in a closet.
Not sure what any of this means, really. But wish me luck while I figure it out. God knows I’ll need it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Channeling My Inner Rap Star

I was listening to Jay-Z and Alicia Keys "Empire State of Mind."  Good song.  But it also makes me uncomfortable and squirmy, though I didn't immediately know why. Alicia Keys is amazing, singing the chorus - I've always loved her.  Then there's the other part of the song.  Jay-Z sings about how he's the greatest thing ever, sells more Yankee caps than a Yankee can, gets floor seats for any basketball game, and on and on.  I don't know about you guys, but I learned that bragging and having a big ego was a bad thing.  And when I hear it from someone else, I don't know what to do with that.  I'm uncomfortable  I mean, what a jerk!  He's not supposed to say those things, or even think them!  What right does that person have to think they're so great?  (OK, so like, a billion dollars and a huge career, but whatever.)

I can barely take a compliment - I have to fight with myself to squeak out a simple "thank you" instead of arguing with the person about how actually, I really suck.  I can't even give MYSELF a compliment in secret.  If I think to myself that I've done something really, really well, I feel insanely guilty because even though I didn't say it, I thought it - and that makes me vain and egotistical. 

So where is the happy medium between being a total wimp and a cocky jerk?  Beyonce Knowles actually has a pretty awesome solution to this situation.  According to those celebrity magazines I no longer read she has an alternate stage personality she uses when she performs or does interviews or whatever.  She felt too uncomfortable wearing that attitude just as herself, so she created "Sasha Fierce", another version of herself who takes the reins in those situations.  That makes sense to me. Though I don't think I could pull off what she can, either as herself or as Sasha Fierce.  Yow.  I am truly a white girl with no rhythm. 

However it works out, what I do know is that I need a little more of that Jay-Z attitude.  Madonna's got it pretty well down too.  Maybe its time to play with my own alternate personality.  The question of the day is, what's she called?  The good names are all taken....

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Presents are Common Sense

So I'm a parent.  Some of you are too.  It's not easy - though it is easy to feel inadequate/incapable/dumb/frustrated etc. as you try to not screw up your kids.  Fortunately, a quick trip to someplace like Wal-Mart is usually enough to remind me that we're doing pretty ok, comparatively speaking. 

That said, it's easy to forget that common sense is one of the best parenting tools we have.  Want your kid not to sample medicines on their own?  Put them out of reach.  Basic stuff.  When I was writing about the Dominican Republic yesterday, I remembered yet another gem of a moment.  My friend Idalia was cooking in her dirt-floor hut, and I stood in the doorway chatting.  Her not-yet walking baby, about 10-12 months old, was sitting up on a goat-skin chair. The chair was straight backed and without arms.  I kept glancing over, nervous as the baby squirmed.  Finally I asked Idalia, "Aren't you afraid she's going to fall off?"  Idalia's response?  "She did.  Once." 

Common sense - even babies have it.  I have to remind myself of it for my own sanity and that of my family.  Its so easy and natural for me to complicate things.  Surely if its simple, its not right?!  So on this Mother's Day weekend, lets all try to remember that whether parenting or just living, common sense probably deserves more credit and attention than it gets.

And also, if you're not sure, common sense dictates that moms like presents on Mother's Day.  Just sayin'.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Yoda Knows More Than Me

After college I spent 2 years living in a small village in the Dominican Republic, right on the border with Haiti.  The village, called Las Rosas (only occasionally have I found it on a map), was an amazing, gorgeous place.  It was nestled in the mountains and the main dirt rode wove down into a lush river valley, fertile and green.  There was no running water or electricity and I woke up every morning and fetched water, carrying it on my head back from the aqueduct (yes I did, and yes I spilled it once.  The villagers laughed their heads off at me - with love, of course.).  Every afternoon I bathed in a mountain stream behind my very, very rustic little shack of a house.  I loved it.

I learned an amazing amount from the people who lived there, and who became my friends and family. For some reason though, I've been thinking a lot in particular about one tiny incident. 

In a village with no electricity, full moon nights are bright and active.  The whole village is out wandering and being social.  New moon nights, however, it's pitch black and you can't see a thing.  Everyone goes to bed when darkness hits as many don't have lamps.  This was a new moon night, and my friend Felo and I were in my house playing cards.  Felo lit a cigarette and made a move to flick the used match through a hole in my shoddy front door.  He was at least ten feet away, and the hole was no more than a 3" square.  "You really think you can make that shot?"  Felo looked up at me, surprised.  "You think I can't?"  In that moment I realized that it had never occurred to Felo whether he could or couldn't - he was just going to do it.  I was the one who brought the question into the room - and I felt bad that I did.

I think about that - what if we all just went about things without being consumed by the ideas and the fears that come along with "success" and "failure".  It makes me think about Yoda (no, really).  "Do or do not, there is no try."  That's one sharp little green dude. 

And for the record, Felo totally made the shot.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

One Couch to Rule Them All

So remember when I wrote about how I have no idea what my talents are? Well, I lied.  Because I am excellent (gifted, even) at getting in my own way.

Here's the thing.  I know what I need to do to achieve my goals.  Want to lose weight?  Exercise more and eat less.  Want to have more responsibility in your job?  Take more on.  I like to think I'm a smart person.  Yet I've clocked years on the couch eating Triscuits while flipping through catalogs picking out outfits for the day that I would be 20 pounds lighter. Yeah, I get the contradiction.

I think many of us are hoping for the fantasy.  The "greatness thrust upon us" scenario that characters like Harry Potter and Frodo got to experience.  I fantasize about a knock on the door from a publisher (who ideally looks like Viggo Mortensen) holding a book contract, requesting that I quit my job and immediately start writing a series of novels that they are certain will sell millions of copies.  Here's the thing - I don't HAVE a finished novel.  So, ummmm - how exactly do I expect this publisher to find me if I don't finish something and submit it?  Right.

So we have the formula.  We know what to do - and yet so many of us either don't do the work (and then complain we're not getting what we want) or we start doing it and ironically just before we get there, we stop.  My theory?  Fear of success. Or maybe fear of what happens after you achieve the goal - the scary unknown.  I do know that its weird.  This quote from Emerson keeps coming up in my life lately:  "Do the thing and you'll have the power."  Interesting, eh?  Do the thing you want to achieve and guess what - you win.  That's it.

And yet I must have stared at that "start" button for eons before I actually pushed it.   Jeez, we are an odd species.

I still have the fantasy of being plucked from obscurity and dropped into something amazing and special.  But in between daydreaming I'm "doing the things".  And you know what - I'm having a blast and so far it's way better than Triscuits on the couch.  Though if Viggo ever shows up to sit on said couch, that option might start to win out again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nothing Like a Swift Kick in the A**

You know all those inspirational phrases about dancing like nobody's watching and living like its your last day on earth and all that?  OK - I confess I've always been a sucker for a good quote.  Sue me.  Regardless, though I loved to read all these nice things I didn't really get it.

Now I do.

Last year sucked in a lot of ways.  After a life in which I pretty much coasted past any big tragedies, my dad and my grandmother both died just about a month apart.  My grandmother was 101 (I know, right??!!!) but my dad was only 67 and perfectly healthy, or so we thought.  Turns out cancer was brewing in his liver and once it made itself known he only lasted a couple weeks.  Boy, was I sick of hospitals and hand sanitizer.

I promise I have a happy, positive point - just stick with me here.

Despite the obvious bad stuff, all that crap triggered some pretty amazing things.  At first it triggered the intake of lots and lots of wine.  However, after that haze eased up I started to really think about all that had happened.  My grandmother had lived a super long time - she'd met 6 great-grandchildren, and watched the advent of the automobile, televisions, computers.  As for my dad, he had built a great life.  He was a self-made man who wrapped a career as a communications executive and then started his own company.  He had retired 2 weeks before he got sick, and when I was cleaning up his desk there was a to-do list that included "Plan trip to Paris."  That hurt.  BUT - he had also traveled the world with my mom, seen his kids build their own families, played a great golf game, loved his work and had a lot of people who loved him.  He was an awesome guy.  He lived well.

I didn't get it right away.  Dad died March 20th.  My grandmother died May 2.  It took until November for me to react to the kick in the ass. And at that point it was like someone grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me silly, screaming "Wake the hell up!" in my face.  You know all those things that you plan to do someday?  Travel, write a book, start exercising, whatever?  Well, newsflash:  there is no someday.  And there is no guarantee that there will be a tomorrow.  This is IT.  Life is happening right now. 

Despite the obvious sadness of the loss, I can honestly say that the wisdom those two people gave me as part of their passing might be one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.  Those cheesy quotes - well, they're right.  And you know what else?  We don't need to take it all quite so seriously.  Yeah, sh*t happens.  But mostly there's a lot of joy to be appreciated if you let yourself see it.

So I'm trying not to beat myself (or others) up over little things.  Remembering to hug people I love.  And I'm trying to get off my butt and do something I'm proud of.

Thanks, Dad and Nanny. I get it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ruthless People

You know, people aren't very nice.  Not you - you're lovely.  I mean everyone else.  Aside from the general loss of old-fashioned manners, it seems like its more common than ever for people to get a laugh or debate a point at the expense of others.  Don't get me wrong, I'm right there with my snarky remarks, looking for a laugh or sometimes just trying to make myself look or feel better.  But then I think about Cristoph.

Christoph is a good friend from college.  He's one of those rare people who is just truly authentic, often blissfully unaware of trends or what others are doing.  He's just busy being Cristoph.  Which at the moment means, as I recall, getting a doctorate in underwater archaeology at Oxford or something along those lines.  Anyway, a group of us were on vacation at the beach, hanging out on the porch enjoying many beers and a lot of laughs.  I relayed a story I'd heard recently about the winner of a Darwin Award, a kid who had died after a series of what could be perceived as ridiculously dumb moves.  I relayed the story now anticipating the typical uproar of laughter.  And most of the people on the porch did chuckle - except Cristoph.  "That isn't funny at all."  He paused, staring at me. I froze, really not expecting this reaction.  "At all."  He nearly started to tear up.  "That was someone's son, someones brother, someone's friend.  And now they're dead."  He shook his head.  "I don't see any humor in that at all."

I felt like I had dropped the F-bomb in front of the Pope. Cristoph was right - how could I find it funny?  Yet we're so desensitized to that perspective and so trained to talk down to or rudely about others that we assume its OK. We hear it from political pundits and humorists, its part of our conversations and part of the funny, snappy items we put on Twitter or Facebook.  I do it, we all do it.  But I like to remember Cristoph's perspective and remind myself that just because everyone's doing it doesn't make it right.

So I don't know about you, but I'm trying to curb my tongue and reel in the risk of bad karma.  Surely we're smart enough to find other ways to be funny, right?  And if not, we'll just have a few drinks and eventually everything will seem hilarious.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

You Can't Handle the Truth!

I listen to random audiobooks in my car all the time now.  If its cheap and looks intriguing, I'll get it and give it a whirl. This is how I started listening to a book by Geneen Roth.  She's a spunky, warm speaker/writer who works with food issues and people's relationship with food.  I wasn't sure what to expect from the book I grabbed, but it was $4 used so I popped it in.  And I'm so happy I did!

So you know those moments when you hear something and suddenly it's like the clouds part and some aspect of your life just makes sense?  She was talking about telling the truth, and how so many of us don't do that.  We are too embarrassed or worried what others think to really be honest and let people know what's going on with us.  Even just being honest about little things and saying "I don't want to talk about that" if people ask you personal questions, or "I don't like that" when someone else is expressing how much they DO love it.  These aren't overly harmful lies or anything - but we're not being honest.  And if we're not honest with people, then when they express like or love for us we don't give it credit because we know we haven't been honest and it makes their feelings about us null and void.  I nearly crashed my car on that one.  I've been trying to figure out why I can't just accept it when someone is like - "hey, you're cool!"  Even if I don't say it, I'm definitely thinking "yeah, right" and blowing the comment off.  I WANT to believe it, but I can't.  Its like I think I'm some Academy Award winning actress and I'm fooling everyone by pretending I care about whatever is cool, or something, and that nobody really knows me. (I can hear my husband rolling his eyes.  "Yeah babe, that's totally it.")

I want so much to be honest instead.  I'm tired of trying to be cool or hip.  Even if the "hot" thing is being a foodie, or being really into political debates, or whatever  - working to sound witty and knowledgeable about that stuff just isn't genuine for me. So here it is:   I've read every Twilight book.  I watch American Idol.  I don't like rap - unless I'm working out.  I really don't like skinny jeans. I often listen to instrumental movie soundtracks when I work.  And though I want to be super into music and live shows (this is Austin, after all) most nights I really would rather read a book in my bathtub, or have a glass of wine and a great conversation with a friend. And I really don't get watching sports - including football (a dangerous statement to make when you live in Texas).  You know those medieval movies where the guy is chained in the courtyard with his arms spread out wide and the villagers are all throwing rotting food at him?  Being honest sometimes feels like that, I think.   

I was in DSW the other day and I found myself browsing through all these cool shoes.  I desperately wanted to feel comfortable in so many that I saw.  There were some funky sandals, some fancy, pretty heels, some tough belted black shoes, some bright colored sneakers.  I tried a bunch of different ones on.  I was secretly hoping that I would be like Cinderella and when the perfect pair of shoes were slipped on my feet I'd transform and suddenly my true personality would be clear. But you know what?  I walked out with white running shoes, plain neutral colored flipflops, and brown slip on sandals.  And I love them all - they are ME.  

So I'm not a pair of cool, gorgeous pumps or hip sandals.  I'm a simple, sensible shoe.  And I can honestly say that these days, I'm cool with that. ;-)