November 16, 2013

To Resist?


Resistance may try to detour me....but I am on red alert.
 I am kicking my own ass by reading The War of Art.
I originally got the book as a gift from another author and read it several years ago. When a friend recommended it to me again last week, I took that as a sign and scoured until I found the copy and set it at the top of my bedside table heap.
Two nights ago I couldn’t sleep, stressing about the things I needed to do but would be too tired to do if I didn’t get to sleep. That is a handy little worry cycle, guaranteed to keep you awake. I decided to make use of my quiet time, so I turned the light on and read.
This book is intended for artists, or people who work in a craft that involves creativity and being somewhat of your own boss, but it applies to everyone who has ever procrastinated or plodded along. Typically creative people are usually not clock-slaves or list-makers, so the idea of enforcing goals and deadlines can be somewhat daunting. I’m pretty sure my brain fires equally right and left, yet I sometimes struggle with keeping my own office hours. Especially when I’m between big projects and actually need the diligence and discipline to focus and find my next path.
The author talks about Resistance, even capitalizes it, as the force that stops us from doing the very thing we need to do. Whether that means create, or something else, we are blocked by things like laziness, inertia, and fear. I totally get that! There is something real and formidable blocking us from doing the very things that would bless us.
Think about it. A new running goal, fitness goal, health goal, professional goal, relational goal, family goal, financial goal, time management goal, career goal, spiritual or intellectual growth goal – whatever it is, initially we may have trouble getting our plan off the ground. Or once we get moving, we may come up against Resistance again, precisely when we need the endurance to keep going. And we may face it yet again, when we are within site of the finish line – close enough to see the fruit of our effort or experience the realization of our pursuit – and we sputter out, wander off, or quit entirely.
 No matter who is watching or paying the paycheck, we are ultimately each our own boss. We choose whether we are going to make it happen or going through the motions. We know whether the pilot light of our passion is on or off. We know if we are succumbing to Resistance, or resisting the pull of mediocrity and rationalization. We know if we are engaged or disengaged, proactive or reactive, playing around or playing for keeps.
Might be time to get back to the blog.....

May 14, 2013

courage...and choices


I have been considering courage often these days. It has come up in my writing, my conversations, my thoughts, and my prayers. 

When I was young I thought courage was big, like the strong fireman who breaks down the door of a burning building and saves the cowering, coughing child. Or the soldier who storms across enemy lines to rescue a dusty, longhaired prisoner of war.   But the older I get and the more I know, the more I am beginning to understand that courage is vast and varied.

Courage is not only manifested in major moments. Sometimes it is quieter. Sometimes it is a series of small moments or choices that brand the brave. Sometimes it is not big or flashy at all.  Sometimes courage is exhibited in people who simply do the right thing. People who do the ordinary with great character. Some of the bravest people simply do what they need to do and never consider anything special or unique about it. Courage is all around us, yet because bravery and bravado are not the same thing, it often goes unseen, or seen but unrecognized. 

Being afraid does nothing to minimize courage. In fact, moving forward in spite of the fear you feel might be the bravest act of all. Courage is not reserved for special people, or special circumstances.  Courage calls each of us, right now, today, to do the next right thing whether seen or unseen.

What does courage look like for you? Where are you being called higher?

The theme of my week is steadiness.  

Maybe some of you are craving it too? Life gets painful sometimes.

When everything is moving and shifting, the only way to counteract chaos is stillness. When things feel extraordinary, strive for ordinary. When the surface is wavy, dive deeper for quieter waters. When the storm swirls, seek shelter. Oppose crumbling with comfort. When you don’t know what to do, return to the basics.
Normal is what you make it.  I am not in training mode. I am not in sprint mode, not focused on the finish line. I’m more in self-preservation mode. Not thinking about the miles ahead, only on the mile of the moment. I am pacing myself, nourishing myself, and checking in periodically to ensure I am steady as I go. I don’t want to feel better, stronger, more at peace “when…” I want to feel it now, for all the miles in between. The funny thing is that it is actually a choice. We tend to forget that, or at least I’m prone to anyway. 

The unplanned. The unimaginable. The sucker punches thrown, when we don’t even get a breath to squeeze and brace for it. How do we go on with the routine of life? How do we muster the courage to love deeply when love can cause so much pain? How do we best share our strength to ease another’s burden?

We can never prepare for sucker punches. No, we will never be ready when a left hook jabs us out of nowhere and renders us windless and reeling. But we can make a deliberate decision to get stronger. We can choose the challenging route. We can choose friends who call us higher, the right ones to have by our side who support integrity. We can surround ourselves with growth minded people, seekers, try-ers. We can choose to nurture and nourish our spirits. We can fix our minds on worthy thoughts and pursuits. We can take steps in the direction of fortitude, even before we are called to endure. 

I’m choosing peace, and once chosen, it’s decided.


March 4, 2013

Social Media + Anxiety = Chaos



I may or may not have mentioned that I feel very strongly about a lot of things.

For example, I'll begin by liking something a whole lot.  Like right off the bat, it strikes me as a completely batshit crazy wonderful thing.  It makes me ecstatic and I get obsessed with it.  <cough *pizzaria locale* cough>   And then certain aspects of whatever it is bring me down and then I'm really sad.  And sometimes maybe angry.  Or small and weak. I haven't gotten to these stages with Pizzeria Locale yet.  But I do swing up and down and back and forth a fair bit.  The Rollercoaster of Love.  I mean, I'm told that my version of these experiences is more intense than normal.   Really?  Then maybe we should dial "normal" up two clicks because that doesn't sound very fun at all.

Oddly, though it's all I seem to experience, I don't handle change very well.  I don't relish it.  I fear it.  Case in point:  Timeline.  I had to try to adjust to a whole new format that is wildly different from what I'd been used to in my Facebook page; this caused me great anxiety.   What will my page look like in the new medium?  How will I get my message across?  Will my wit and wisdom come shining through?  Or will the swirling chaos of the page overpower the swirling chaos in my mind?

My shrink says that chaos is not good for me.   I need structure imposed from the outside to corral the tangential thinking that can get really out of control at times.  Facebook as it was constructed worked really well for me.   I look at the Timeline, though, and I get dizzy.  Where is my video going to show up?  What happened to the really cool blog I linked to last week?  Why is that photo still there after I deleted it three times?  There are no answers to these imponderable questions. 

So there's that.  F***ing Timeline.  We have the luxury of complaining about our problems with Facebook, when, let's face it  (see what I did there?), they didn't *have* to make a social app that links over a half a billion people and gives self-absorbed latter-day hipsters like me an open mike 24/7.  They could (and probably do) sell my soul through the next seven rotations of the karmic wheel and I wouldn't *really* complain.  It's Woody Allen in the Catskills.

So you see how it works in my head?  It is all part of the big chaos that swirls like joy and hostility, guilt and rage, humility and terror, self-loathing and superiority.   How am I going to make sense of it all in the Timeline, which, like experience, isn't really linear at all?

Don't even get me started with Daylight Savings Time.  I'm pretty sure they are trying to kill me with all this superfluous change they keep throwing at me like the Christmas trees in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Don't be afraid to admit that you got that reference.   Think you're not able to keep up?   We both know better.  Embrace your randomness.  And buckle up.  Here comes Timeline.

February 21, 2013

anniversaries, memories and the heart

"Sometimes I feel like there is a hole inside of me,
an emptiness that at times seems to burn.
I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean.
I have this dream of being whole.
Of not going to sleep each night, wanting.
But still sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing...
I dream of a love that even time will lie down and be still for.
I just want someone to love me.
I want to be seen."
-- Practical Magic ---

Today my thoughts have been consumed with my mother, Nancy. Today marks the day she died, 27 years ago. I've been without my mother for much longer than I had her.

My memories come as isolated snapshots now. A kaleidoscope of colorful fragments that somehow add up to a woman I once called "Mom". She's a foggy image I can't quite bring into focus and a gentle spirit that infuses all my days. She exists in the background of my life, hovering, suspended, shapeless, like familiar air. I can no longer hear her voice, and the few examples I have of her handwriting have begun to look foreign to me. I am losing her a little more each day. How is it then, I've wondered, that she still has such a hold on me.    How can a woman in her early 40's .... me .... still truly be so lost?

Well....sometimes it happens like this: I have an 11am business meeting and I am trying to decide what to wear.  One one side of my closet is a stack of ripped jeans and a row of men's work shirts; on the other is a line of monochromatic sweaters and dark wool suits.  I try on skirts and sweaters, but in the mirror every combination appears drab.  Nothing sparkling.  I don't know how to make this fit.  Shouldn't a woman know this?

And sometime it happens like this: I'm invited to a dinner party hosted by an older woman.  Because I remember, from some distant conversation with my mother, never to arrive at someone's home empty-handed, I pick up a bouquet of flowers on the way. Days later, another guest who attended the party mentions the thank you note she mailed in a manner that reveals the hostess commented on the absence of mine.  A thank you note?, I ask.  A thank you note, this woman repeats.  I'm confused. And, immediately, ashamed.  I want to rush to a phone to call the hostess and explain.  I'm terribly sorry, I would say, but I don't know about these things.  And though it feels like a pathetic excuse and a dramatic response to such a small oversight, I have the impulse to tell her, "You see, I never learned about this. My mother died when I was fourteen".

And, sometimes, it happens like this:  I am spending an evening with a friend and his sister's two young children.  The little girls eye me from a cautious distance, wary of this stranger who kisses their uncle hello.  Slowly, they approach me, displaying their toys, and by the time we finish dinner and sit down to play a game, they both insist on being on my team.  They tug at my skirt, they want to hold my hands, they want to brush my hair.  I see in their eyes what I once I once felt thirty-five years ago, that fascination with an older female who's young enough to be accessible yet distant enough to represent some future self.  She is, you think, the woman you will one day become.  I look at the girls looking and me and feel a brief surge of responsibility, but I also feel slightly absurd.  Like an imposter who didn't plan to fool this town.  Because really, I'm not sure what it means to be a woman, at all.

My mother died on the eve of her 48th birthday. So young. It had been thirteen months since she returned from the doctors office with news of malignancy in her breast, thirteen months of chemotherapy and CAT scans and desperate attempts to hang onto the little rituals that amounted to normalcy in our day. We still took our orange juice and vitamins together in the morning, but then she swallowed the small white oval pills that were supposed to help prevent the cancer's spread. After school I would go with her to her oncology appointments and on the way home in the car she promised me she would live. Because I wanted so badly to believe her I did, even as I watched her lose her hair, and then her mobility, and finally her hope.

When my mother died, I knew no woman my age who had experienced mother loss. Also, too, I was an only child. I felt utterly and irrevocably alone.  In my early twenties I searched local bookstores for writings about mother loss. In each book I found about mother-daughter relationships, I quickly flipped ahead to the chapter about a mother's death, but discovered they all assumed the reader would be in her forties or fifties when her mother dies. I was fourteen.  With a maternal void in my life for most of it, it's a wonder I'm not more screwed up than I am. :) When your window to mimicry closes - how do you learn?

Sometimes....sometimes...I am honest with my spirit.  I admit how hard things are without her.  I missed my mother, terribly, when I graduated from college and no one was there.  I missed her when I got my first job promotion and wanted to share the news with someone who'd be proud. I miss her when the Holiday season rolls around again and have my annual frozen pizza dinner, alone.  I miss her when I'm sick and when I'm lonely and when I can't remember what works best on insect bites, and when nobody else cares how rude the clerk in the store was to me.  Whether she actually would have fed me homemade chicken soup or mailed me cotton balls with calamine lotion if she were alive isn't really the issue.  To be honest, my mother never cooked me soup that didn't come from the Lipton's box.  It's the fact that I have no mother to ask for these things that makes me miss her all over again.  Every time.

I am fooling only myself when I say that my mother exists now only in a photograph or in the outline of my hand or in the armful of memories I still hold tight. She lives on beneath everything I do.  Her presence influenced who I was and her absence influences who I am. From the fourteen years with her I learned to be fun loving, enthusiastic and devoted. Since her death I've learned to be independent, self sufficient and strong.

I often ask myself: Am I as I am - who I am, what I am - because my mother lived or because my mother died?

The answer, I decide, is both.

Love you and miss you, Mom - forever my hero.
See you in Heaven.

February 17, 2013

Steadiness....courage.and calm.

I have been considering courage often these days. It has come up in my writing, my conversations, my thoughts, and my prayers. 

When I was young I thought courage was big, like the strong fireman who breaks down the door of a burning building and saves the cowering, coughing child. Or the soldier who storms across enemy lines to rescue a dusty, longhaired prisoner of war.   But the older I get and the more I know, the more I am beginning to understand that courage is vast and varied.

Courage is not only manifested in major moments. Sometimes it is quieter. Sometimes it is a series of small moments or choices that brand the brave. Sometimes it is not big or flashy at all.  Sometimes courage is exhibited in people who simply do the right thing. People who do the ordinary with great character. Some of the bravest people simply do what they need to do and never consider anything special or unique about it. Courage is all around us, yet because bravery and bravado are not the same thing, it often goes unseen, or seen but unrecognized. 

Being afraid does nothing to minimize courage. In fact, moving forward in spite of the fear you feel might be the bravest act of all. Courage is not reserved for special people, or special circumstances.  Courage calls each of us, right now, today, to do the next right thing whether seen or unseen. 

What does courage look like for you? Where are you being called higher?

The theme right now is steadiness.
Maybe some of you are craving it too? Life gets painful sometimes.

When everything is moving and shifting, the only way to counteract chaos is stillness. When things feel extraordinary, strive for ordinary. When the surface is wavy, dive deeper for quieter waters. When the storm swirls, seek shelter. When you have little people in your ship, navigate carefully and teach as you go. Oppose crumbling with comfort. When you don’t know what to do, return to the basics.

Normal is what you make it.  I am not in training mode. I am not in sprint mode, not focused on the finish line. I’m more in self-preservation mode. Not thinking about the miles ahead, only on the mile of the moment. I am pacing myself, nourishing myself, and checking in periodically to ensure I am steady as I go. I don’t want to feel better, stronger, more at peace “when…” I want to feel it now, for all the miles in between. The funny thing is that it is actually a choice. We tend to forget that, or at least I’m prone to anyway.  

The unplanned. The unimaginable. The sucker punches thrown, when we don’t even get a breath to squeeze and brace for it. How do we go on with the routine of life? How do we muster the courage to love deeply when love can cause so much pain?  "Don't fear the enemy that attacks you, fear the fake friend that hugs you."

We can never prepare for sucker punches.  We will never be ready when a left hook jabs us out of nowhere and renders us windless and reeling.  But we can make a deliberate decision to get stronger. We can choose the challenging route. We can choose friends who call us higher. We can surround ourselves with growth minded people, seekers, try-ers. We can choose to nurture and nourish our spirits. We can fix our minds on worthy thoughts and pursuits. We can take steps in the direction of fortitude, even before we are called to endure.

Our resulting strength might even offer shelter and respite for others.  At some point, someday, these choices will matter to someone.

December 14, 2012

Cyber Upgrades?

For the most part I ignore the Spam folder in my gmail (an email address that will remain forever sacred because, hello, have you ever been online-stalked by a foot-obsessed podiatrist? I have and it's not as fun as you'd think). But today I got a wild hair up my ass, an expression I am just now contemplating and realizing is a bit disturbing. I'm picturing rotund buttocks with mutant fur that grows steadily into the rectum, all in fast-forward video. It is not pretty. And neither is my Spam folder.


As you can see, quite a lot of people are encouraging me to update my penis.

First, let's talk about the random capitalization of letters. Why is Penis capitalized, but not Your? I mean, this is a perfectly good imperative independent clause. Implied subject, verb, noun, the whole bit. What kind of significance are they placing here? It's like saying "Clean your Room!" or "Change your Underwear!"

Second, how does one go about updating a body part? I mean, I love makeover shows, but the thought of giving a weiner a new set of earrings or a stylish new hair-do is just plain un-American. Updating is what you do to your wardrobe or nail polish, it's not what you do to your wangalang.