Saturday, November 5, 2011
So the other day, I had something bad happen to me. Not horrible, not emotionally crippling, just bad. The details might be TMI,* though you're welcome to highlight the text below if you really must know.
In a cruel confluence of allergies and hormones, I sneezed hard enough to shift my tampon. Which was tremendously unpleasant, not to mention panic-inducing.
Moving on: After I bleated out my pain, the Songwriter said: "Could be worse. You could be on a Ferris wheel." And we laughed, because, well, yeah.
And over the next couple of days, anytime something went wrong, we responded to it with "Could be worse. It could be happening on a Ferris wheel." Which was still funny, because we're goofballs. But it was also still true. How bad we feel about a given moment or situation is so much about perception. And we're in control of our perspective.
My perspective? Most day-to-day bad things that happen to me would, indeed, be worse on a Ferris wheel. Some of them, MUCH worse. So I am grateful that, whatever else is wrong, I am not trying to deal with it in a swaying bucket, 50 ft in the air. Days when I remember that are happier all around.
The next time a piece of found wisdom falls from your lips, write it down somewhere - on a post-it, in your Twitter feed, wherever. Just the act of doing that will help you remember it, help you use it to make life a little funnier and maybe a little less painful.
*How have I had a blog this long and only JUST NOW needed a TMI tag?! I have been supremely disciplined up to now. Thank god that's over!
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Firstly, we share a birthday, and we used to freelance for the same newspaper. Secondly, I enjoy the hell out of his books and his company, in person and online. And thirdly, he moved from SoCal to Southwest Ohio, while I did the reverse. Frankly, Ohio got the better end of that trade. California just got me and about fifty of writers-to-be-named later.
Relevant to interests around these parts, he's doing 30 days of gratitude for the month of November. From his always-entertaining blog:
I’m a lucky bastard, and sometimes it annoys me when people don’t acknowledge that fact. ... What is luck? At the end of the day, it’s the good things that happen to you that you simply don’t or can’t control. Stepping away from a curb the second before a car you didn’t see barrels right over where you just were. Finding a $20 bill on the sidewalk. Stepping into a restaurant for a bite to eat and seeing an old friend you lost contact with years ago just before she steps out the door.He goes on to lay out all the tiny occurrences that had to line up just so in order for him to have the (admittedly pretty awesome) life he has now. The chain of happenstance that led his first novel, Old Man's War, getting published is pretty crazy. But even more jaw-dropping is the unlikely sequence of chance moments that ended with him meeting his wife, Krissy. There a bonus link to the first song they danced to (spoilers: awww!).
I often reflect on how damn lucky I have been. The child of an unwed teenage mother, raised in violence and poverty, a high school dropout from the sweaty backside of the rust belt. And here I stand, a happily married, college graduate, pursuing my career of choice in a city I used to think was a pipe dream. Sure, I worked hard. But I have also been incredibly fucking lucky. And one doesn't take anything away from the other.
Putting in the work is noble and needed. It allows us to hold our heads up and sleep soundly at night. But luck plays a part in all our lives, and it's good to step back, look at how unlikely it all is, and say. "Wow. I'm really grateful things turned out this way." When you look at it that way, we're all lucky bastards.
The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day 3: Luck [Whatever]
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
[Check out This Side of Typical's Dia de los Muertos post. Beautiful. Just like the altars she builds every year.]
Today I reflect on those souls that I love and miss, and give thanks for their time in my life.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
|We went to an art show in a hair salon, because,|
well, why not. And discovered this little guy.
Photo by Steven Gullett, art by Kelsey Dyer.
But as we get older,we become set in what we know we do and don't like. Or rather, what we think we know. We let our capacity for novelty slip away, we take fewer and fewer risks, and our sense of wonder and joy begins to atrophy.
Maybe you still don't like it. Once a year, the Songwriter confirms all over again that mushrooms are an invention of Satan himself. But maybe you'll discover something new about yourself or your friends or the the world, and either way, that's good enough for today.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
As you can probably tell from the cobwebs and dust around here, I've been insanely busy in other parts of my life. Which is good, because it means our little family business has been booking work and keeping the kitties in high-end organic treats, now with extra calming compounds. Manuscript got formatted. Books got edited. Websites got built. Rock shows were attended and Zombie Radio went to Vegas.
|WZMB LIVE, NOT UNDEAD: Craig Sabin, Barri Willerford, moi, and James Mathers|
At any rate, I've missed the blog, and I've missed all of you, and I've been thinking about TONS of things to post about. So I am happy to report that regular posting will hereby resume. In the meantime, have a 2-minute rock song.
The Henry Clay People - The Honey Love He Sells from Jam in the Van on Vimeo.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Back when I was a wee little tot, they brought a bunch of Commodore PET computers into my tiny Catholic school. We were the first class in the history of Corpus Christi to be learn computer programming, the wave of the future!(TM)
Once a week, we learned to do simple problems and animations in BASIC (we saved our work to cassette tapes, that's how old school I am - none of your fancy floppy diskettes here!), and to be honest I only remember two things. Every line of code must begin with a multiple of 10, and how to construct an "if/then" statement.
- If I get a promotion, then I'll be able to work on that project/issue/area I really care about.
If you care so much, why don't you try to work on that project/issue/area now, promotion be damned? Seriously, you're going to spend AT LEAST 25% of your entire time on this planet engaged in "work." And if you drop dead of work or stress related ailments, that number only goes up. Maybe you should think about how you could be happier there, rather than dreading it.
- If I make $X-thousand a year, then I'll think about having kids.
I know kids are expensive. I really do get it. And I would never in a million years want to raise a kid the way I was, in poverty and worse. But life is crazy. And uncertain. And no time is the right time, no reason is the right reason. If you want something as demanding and fulfilling as children in your life, and you feel like you're psychologically and emotionally as ready as you can be, just freaking do it. The money, the house, the vacations - that stuff will come or it won't, but you'll always have your kids and you'll always be their parent. Trying to put a financial metric on jumping off a cliff is crazy-talk.
- If I could just get a chunk of time off, then I could write that book I've always talked about.
This one is particularly debilitating, and really, fill in the fulfilling pursuit of your choice: painting, acting, learning Japanese, building custom hot rods. It's one of those lies that feels true. I know, because I clung to it for a long time. Too long. Life is short. We all have to make choices about what to do with our time. Choose your choice. If what you're doing is more important than what you say you want to do, great. Awesome. Own that and stop arguing with reality. But if the other thing, the thing you keep putting off, if that is really what you want to be in the world, then for the love of all that's holy, do it. And not when someone hands you the time; when you TAKE the time with your bare hands, like some sort of creative Viking marauder. You'll feel better, you'll live better, and you'll love better. Trust me on this.
- If I get married, then I'll think about where I want to live and in what kind of home.
I know that this may sound skewed towards women, but I have known a number of men who used the same logic to live in miserable squalor. Contrary to stereotypes, they didn't revel in it, either - it dragged them down, body and soul. But I've also known women who put off seeking their highest ambitions because quote-I don't know where my husband's job might take us-unquote. Some of these women were married. Some of them weren't even seeing anyone. The mind, it boggles. This life, this is the one you have. The only one. Planning is good. I love to plan. But planning will only take you so far. Sometimes, you have to plunge or you risk being carried away on someone else's current. Create the life you want now, and when change comes, you won't have to mourn that you never had it.
You can see how destructive this kind of thinking is. But it's so a part of us, so crucial to the ways we justify putting off our own happiness, that most of the time we shy away from it, like a horse wearing blinders.
The second half of each of those statements is a thing you could actually have, if you just stopped fiddle-farting around and got out of your own way. The first half? Sure, those would all be nice. But what do they all have in common? They are things that, to one degree or another, are NOT within your control. So what you've done is ceded your heart's desire to outside circumstances. And when you don't get the promotion, or the time off, or meet the perfect partner tomorrow, you haven't just lost out on one life-enriching thing; you've lost part of your deepest dream. And that, my friends, is corrosive. It eats away at all the good things in your life. You know that spiel about a dream deferred? Turns out he wasn't kidding.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
- Simone de Beauvoir
Today's quote comes courtesy of Project Angel Food, whose mission is to deliver free and nutritious food to people facing devastating illness. It is one less way they have to face it alone.
The shared grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre
Cimetierie du Montparnasse, Paris
Photo by Angelle Haney Gullett, March 2009
Sunday, July 24, 2011
It won't make us rich, but we try to break even so we can keep making more art. It's like a little cottage industry, really. He writes, plays and records the thing. We both pitch in to do promo work. And then he plays the gigs and hawks the record there, too. Here in the House of DIY, we do it all. And what we can't do, we have to ask for as a favor.
Now, I'm not so awesome at asking for help. This is because I secretly believe I am a missing X-Man whose mutant superpower is being able to do every single solitary thing that crosses my path and do it perfectly or nearly so, without a smidgen of help from anyone ever. I help them, you see, not the other way around.
This belief has not been so beneficial to me, as you might imagine.
So I have had to try and teach myself to ask for favors, and I've come up with some internal guidelines that might be useful to other folks, possibly those afflicted with similar X-Men style delusions.
- Be relaxed and cultivate an atmosphere where it is okay for your friend to say no. Better to get a 'no' and stay friends and move on than to get a 'yes' that colors your relationship with resentment and obligation.
- When someone does say yes, experience and express sincere gratitude. This is good for both of you.
- Never ask somebody to do for free what they do for a living unless its a very good cause, it also benefits them in some way, or they owe you one.
You've probably noticed that these are all about drawing boundaries. There's a reason for that. Boundaries help. I'm not saying boundaries are always awesome and made of ice cream and butterscotch and should never be challenged. But they should always be clear, so if you are going to break them, you have a pretty strong idea why. They make everybody more secure and more comfortable. Good fences, good neighbors, etc. And good friends and neighbors are the kind that might be willing to do you a favor.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Participants were told they could eat as much cake as they wanted. But first, they had to indulge in a little mental exercise. One group was told to focus on the pride they would feel if they did not eat the cake. The second group thought about the shame they would feel if they ate the cake. And the control group was told to cake it up to their heart's content.
Guess which group ate the least cake?
We discovered that the study subjects who anticipated pride at resisting the cake consumed far less than those who focused on the shame of succumbing. They also ate less than the control group. In other words, when it comes to self-regulation, anticipated pride outperformed anticipated shame as well as unconsidered, heedless consumption.Pretty cool, no? Feeling good about yourself is stronger than feeling bad!
But the part I find the most compelling is this:
Our research also indicated that not all bad feelings are equal when it comes to undermining self-control. For example, when we asked subjects to anticipate guilt instead of shame, it made them eat more cake. Guilt, it turns out, carries a triple whammy: It concentrates thoughts on the temptation rather than on self-control; it makes you generally feel bad, weakening resistance; and it heightens the expected pleasure from being bad, which makes the temptation more tempting.What MacInnis found, and the thing that bears more looking into, is that the most effective way to do what you want (in this case, to not eat too much cake) is to focus on yourself - your strengths, your potential to feel good, rather than something outside of yourself that you don't have any control over, like the deliciousness of chocolate cake.
Also, I mean, come on: Cake! For Science!
Human behavior: To resist temptation, forget guilt or shame and think positive (L.A. Times)
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
One day, not long after we had moved from the Little City to the Big City, the Songwriter got into a car accident. He wasn't hurt, but our trusty little $1600 Nissan was crunched beyond repair.
Now, thanks to Big City amenities, this wasn't a total tragedy. We could both take public transit to work, we had a grocery and a coffee place and a Jamba Juice within walking distance, not to mention the fine SoCal weather to make it all practical.
So we did the unthinkable in L.A. We lived without a car.
If we wanted to go to the desert or Ikea, we rented a car for the weekend (thank you, ASCAP discount!)
We talked about getting a car. We talked about whether we even wanted a car (most days, not really). We talked about seeing just how long we could go, like it was some sort of sustainable living Survivor challenge. And eventually, the days when we really did wish we had a car started to stack up.
But it was kind of miserable, scouring Craigslist, day after freaking day, trying to find something in our price range that a) wasn't on its last wheels or b) didn't smell like decomposing socks or c) need some major mechanical system replaced (Dear CL sellers: There is no such thing as "just a new transmission").
Also, it would be nice if it looked cool. Or at least not embarrassing.
At last, our patience was rewarded. The Songwriter found something. Something special.
*I originally named* the car for the Dogs D'Amour song "Lady Nicotine," because it is the warm color of a white guitar that has been in too many smoky bars. The Songwriter liked this in concept, but pointed to the great hulk of steel and said, "Look at it! That is NO lady!" I had to agree. So now he's just Nic.
*What do you mean you don't name your cars?! You're weird.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
In the last entry, I wrote about not being able to deny your way to happiness. This is an idea that's been lingering around the edges of my conscious thoughts for a while, but it wasn't until I started writing about these things that it crystallized for me. (As another important mentor, Dr. Cynthia King, told me, "If you want to know what you think about it, WRITE about it!" She was dead-on, as usual.)
At the end of that post, I touched on the idea that there is a difference between self-denial and self sacrifice.
Self-denial is giving up chocolate for Lent. At best, it's a test of our wills, to see what we can do when we really put our minds to it. People who report strong positive feelings after a period of fasting or a juice cleanse are getting the psychological boost that comes from meeting a personal commitment and achieving something through sheer force of will.
But at its worst, self-denial can degenerate into martyrdom and exhibitionism, a desperate performance that says, "Hey, look at me, see how GOOD I'm being by not allowing myself to have/do this thing?" This might be followed by "Don't you feel SORRY for me?" or "Aren't you IMPRESSED?" or, most usually, "Doesn't that make you LOVE me more?"
These aren't said out loud (usually). But we've all gotten the message, loud and clear.
And after all that, you feel needy and (possibly) pathetic, as well as grumpy that you didn't have any chocolate or bacon or whatever. And everybody feels awkward and put-upon and (possibly) uncomfortable around you. They stop returning your e-mails. They avoid your calls. And you end up even less happy than when you started.
So, if that's self-denial, what's self-sacrifice? I define the difference this way. Self-denial is for its own sake. There's no reason to do other than the act of denial. Self-sacrifice involves giving up something we want or that matters to us in service of a higher good.
And the highest good in the human experience is the well-being of others. And it doesn't matter if it's big or small. I give up eating the last of the Thin Mints so the Songwriter can have them at the end of a bad day. My grandfather gives up his every waking hour (seriously, three jobs) to put his six girls through private school. Millions of everyday people give their time, money, and sometimes their lives to create better communities or a safer world.
We recognize self-sacrifice and we respond to it. That's why it's so popular in movies and fiction. It moves us.
It's when we give up something that matters, to us, or someone else, or preferably both, that we create meaning. We're humans. We like meaning. We're wired for it. We search for it. And if we can't find any, we'll try and make something up, to get us through the night.
Look, I'm not saying we all need to be Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama. Just that we should quit pretending that self-denial is about anything other than ourselves and our own egos. That isn't going to make us feel any better. But thinking about meaningful ways to give something to others, instead of giving something up, just might.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
- It's too much trouble to cook just for me.
- These PJs are worn out/ill-fitting/uncomfortable, but it's okay; it's not like anybody important sees them.
- This tool/appliance/software doesn't do a very good job at what I bought it for, but it would be wasteful/self-indulgent/selfish to spend the money to replace it.
- I love the way I look in this dress, but all the other girls at the bar will probably be in jeans. I don't want to feel out of place. (N.B. - this is an interchangeable dilemma; if I choose jeans, the other girls will all be rockabilly dolls, etc.)
- I have always wanted to go to New York (or L.A., or Berlin, or Ankor Wat) but it seems like a pipe dream. I should be more realistic.
- I would love to learn to speak Japanese (or Russian or play the cello or snowboard or write code) but I don't really have a good reason to learn it. It would just be a waste of time and money.
Take a second with that. Let it sink in.
An brilliant friend and mentor of mine, Annette Oxindine, introduced me to the Victorian concept of the Angel in the House, or rather, Virginia Woolf's spoof of it:
She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed daily. If there was a chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it ...
[A feminist aside, of which I have many: If you think we've progressed in the intervening century or so, if we've come so far, if we've left the Angel in the House so far behind, what is Superwoman Syndrome? What sets us up for The Mommy Wars?]
But I think our girl Ginny got it wrong on one of her particulars above. (Please don't hurt me, Annette!)
There is a fundamental difference between self-DENIAL and self-SACRIFICE. That, however, is a whole 'nother post ...
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
- Gratitude. We live in a time of unprecedented abundance. I am not kidding. Un-fucking-precendented. Someday, historians will prove that the average high school girl in 2011 owned more dresses than Cleopatra. And while this isn't always a universal good, the truth is that most of us have a whole hell of a lot, relative to most of humankind throughout most of history. We are the lucky ones. It does us good to stop and reflect on that. It can put a little bit of shine back into our lives.
- Self-Worth. Oh, guilt. Where would Western Judeo-Christian civilization be without your self-hating embrace? More generous and kind, maybe? More at peace, perhaps? Nah. Surely not. But, lemme ask you: Why don't we think more critically about the way we approach ur lives and the stuff we surround ourselves with? Because many of us (fellow recovering Catholics, I'm looking at you) have been reared and socialized to feel guilty when we think of our own needs, guilty when we ask for what we want, guilty when we want to steer our lives in a direction contrary to those around us. Guilt is a feeling of being unclean and unworthy. Self-worth and joy are its opposites and its antidotes.
- Pleasure. If the guilt industrial complex has cornered the market on self-loathing, it has ordered a hit on pleasure. Pleasure is forbidden, which can make everything sweeter, from the taste of hot fudge as you lick it off your lips to the sensation of warm sand against your skin (or someone else's!). But pleasure is more than just being "bad." Pleasure is important, in all kinds of ways and for a plethora of reasons. It reconnects us to our own bodies and helps us be fully present in the moment. An expanded definition of pleasure and its enthusiastic embrace is something I'm gonna talk about a lot.
- Generosity. Growing up in violence and poverty put a chip on my shoulder and sent me out into the world with a heightened sense of my own difference. No matter how nice people were to me, I found it hard to shake the feeling that I had my nose pressed against the glass of life's better restaurants, and that everyone else had it easier, not to mention was having more fun. When I started practicing generosity, mainly of the emotional/spiritual kind, everything changed. The imaginary window that separated me just dissolved and not only did I get to eat the food and enjoy the company, I got to invite other people to join the fun.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
For reasons that seem obvious. The Songwriter rescued him when he was a wee spastic kitten and brought him home to me one night after band practice.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Thursday, June 30, 2011
When I was a little girl, I thought I was going to be a rock star.
Monday, June 27, 2011
- I will blithely pay $10 for a single cocktail, but balk at paying $20 for a pair of shoes.
- I express the pain that a family member has caused me and then immediately feel guilty, because other people have actual narcissists/psychopaths/Republicans in their families, and I could have it so much worse, ergo I don't have any business complaining about it.
- I hoarded every book I ever came in contact with (this became several thousand; regardless of whether I liked it, regardless whether I had the room) in case I suddenly become dirt poor again. Because under those conditions, obviously not being able to buy BOOKS would be my biggest worry.
- I apologize. Compulsively. In almost every situation. I apologize for eating the last of the sour cream. I apologize for standing in the grocery aisle if someone else even looks like they want to come through. And of course, I apologize for apologizing too much.
- I didn't wear sleeveless shirts in my 20s, on the theory that my upper arms were too ugly to force other people to look at, but they somehow might be BETTER when I was older.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
- stop trying to live in the future, when the work will be here
- be present - right here, right now
- take a shower
- send a (friendly) email to the client, reminding them I'm ready when they are
- head to my favorite coffee shop to work on my screenplay
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Saturday, January 1, 2011
I have an aunt who won't do the dishes on New Year's Day, because she doesn't want to spend her year in drudgery. Given the state of her kitchen, that little piece of magic seems to be working.
But I wondered if I could turn that same energy into a force for good? I mean, somebody's gotta do the dishes. But what if I could make every New Year's Day an idealized miniversion of the year to come?
It's not a terribly original idea. Whether it's legumes, greens, or chocolate coins, most cultures invoke riches on New Year's Day as a way of laying out to the Universe, clearly and succinctly, what they'd like to have happen in the next cycle around the sun, thankyouverymuch.
So far, it seems to be working for me too.
Think about it. What would you like to have the next year? Not in terms of stuff or money, but in terms of you? What do you want to spend the next year of your life doing?
Do it today.
All of it, even if it’s just little, symbolic pieces. It’s a way for you to tell yourself, your family, and whatever higher power you believe is listening, “Hey! This! This is what matters to me.”
My to-do list for New Year's Day, 2011:
I will eat good food. Some of it rich, some of it very fresh, all of it designed to make me feel good about myself and happy in my body.
I will read some fiction. It doesn’t have to be new, maybe it’ll be a short story, or a passage from a book I know like an old friend. Just a reminder of the power and truth in story.
I will write something. I work on a script or a story, to strengthen my connection to the value of my work. This can be hard when, to the casual observer, your heart’s labor looks suspiciously similar to commenting on I Can Has Cheezburger?
I will be affectionate with my husband. Because hey, I like my marriage a lot. I want to nurture it and appreciate it. I want it to last not just this next year but for the rest of my life.
I will drink, but not too much. A glass of wine or an aperitif reminds me that there are more levels consciousness than just the alpha-achiever mode. However, I do NOT want to spend the next year with a headache, so moderation is in order.
I will meditate. I’m really good at going. Not so good at stopping. Developing a meditation practice has been on my list for a while, and a little NYD stillness lets me keep the faith.
I will exercise. Newsflash: I am not Mila Jovovich. And that’s okay. But this body is the only body I’m going to get. I need to make it feel good, keep it strong and capable. So exercise, but from a place of pleasure, not punishment.
I will call or write an old friend. Relationships sustain me, even when I’m being a grouchy hermit. People I love were incredibly supportive when I moved 2,000 miles away, and I want to nurture them, too.
Crazy list, I know. A full day, to create a full year, strung one after another to create a full life. That’s the goal, and I’m going to fail at some of it, but not failing means you aren’t trying anything worthwhile.
So. What are you going to do today?