11.28.2008

Life vs. the Living

I can’t write myself out of unhappiness. Trust me, I’ve tried, for I’ve believed happiness lies at the end of a sentence. So on the days that I didn’t write, couldn’t write, I berated myself for creating my gloom, believing that transformation – my transformation – lay in my words and my diligence and my follow through.

What I haven’t wanted to admit is that my happiness lies outside the words, or in parallel to them. My happiness lies in the living.

In the past few years as I’ve turned inward, away from external work and into the stories of my mind, the opinions in my heart, the look and feel of a sentence, my joy has walked away. Now I sit in tune with struggle and out of tune with pleasure, out of tune with the fun of life.

I need to turn it around.

I don’t fault the writing but the way in which I’ve lived the writing life, cloistered in my bedroom, laptop poised, determination scrawled on my face. But in this process, I’ve omitted the necessary step of being in life, of being outside that room. Others can’t see this. They see me on the go, in the world, living. But I can tell you I haven’t been, not in the true sense of participation.

I’ve put enormous weight on writing, how accomplishment in that area would give me the life I want, the one I need, a sense of purpose and belonging. But under all that weight falls the reality of life delayed, the proclamation that only when I get there, (there, of course, being a completely unattainable destination for it moves faster than you can chase it) will my life begin.

Life begins now. Declaration. Proclamation.

So I am accepting a job, a teeny tiny job of a week or so, a chance to be outside myself and in a project that has nothing to do with me except in the way I translate its goals. And I’m excited because it takes me out of the center, gives each day a destination beyond my choosing. I am racing towards what so very recently I ran from.

Curious how life works, eh?

And I’m hoping this dip into life will remind me how to be in the world, how to give to it and take from it. I’m hoping it will fill me with fuel to nourish my depleted projects, the ones running – no, slogging – on empty. I’m hoping I will have conversations with people I’ve yet to meet because the conversations with self and Chihuahua are circling back on themselves leading to the title of Boring.

But most of all, I’m hoping for hope, the commodity that when missing makes every day a challenge.

11.20.2008

Calling Inspector Clouseau

My son lost his breakfast somewhere between the kitchen and the car this morning. We both assumed that as he piled up all the necessary belongings that accompany him to school, that the breakfast simply got left behind, neglected on the kitchen table. I pictured my dog salivating, wondering how he could leap three times his height to gain access to the luscious smelling toasted manchego upon everything bagel.

Imagine my surprise when I returned home hours later and saw no sign of my son’s breakfast. No abandoned bagel, no abandoned bagel plate, no signs of anything. My Chihuahua didn’t look guilty, so I know he didn’t pull off a Houdini stunt.

I march through the three rooms of our small home certain that teenaged brain syndrome transported breakfast to the most unlikely of locations like upon the toilet tank or adjacent to his toothbrush. But no. Nothing.

Mystery.

I’ve seen the times when straight out of a stop at Starbucks, motorists place freshly purchased brew atop car and speed away allowing coffee cup the most elegant of journeys through air only to land sad and forgotten upon oil-stained pavement. This could be us, I think. But when I returned to our garage, there was no breakfast strew upon the cement.

My only fear is finding the food weeks from now, when the stench provides the missing clue to the treasure hunt.

11.17.2008

Promises

Today the wind blows wickedly as if to challenge my request for colder weather, and I think of the carrot danglers, those who make promises they don’t keep. The proclamations can be tiny, almost insignificant, like, “I’ll call you right back,” times when I smile broadly, make a note on the calendar, wait by the phone. And when follow-through doesn’t come, my trust wilts. After each disappointment I believe less and less in what people say.

“It’s about them, not you,” others tell me, and I say, “That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if their intentions are real and pure. It makes me not believe their words and as a result I push these people away bit by bit.”

The cycle makes me feel ‘word literal,’ but I don’t know how else to process language. I don’t know how to live if words don’t have the meaning I’ve been taught they do.

Everyone these days is so overwhelmed, I hear, that promises now equal stated desires, intentions. Not following through is as much a disappointment to the promiser as the promised. But I don’t see it because, the thing is, I’m able to distinguish between “I’ll try” and “I will.” When I’m stretched, I know it.

The wind whistles down my chimney, joins me in my living room, moves the palm fronds. It creates a musical backdrop to my thoughts, offers an available deterrent to slipping into running shoes and taking a step outside.

I promised myself I would run first thing in the morning, and the clock already reads 11 a.m. with my running shoes still by the door. I promised myself I’d return to the shaky pages of my novel and push past doubt, but the novel file remains unopened.

So I do break promises, only they are promises I make to myself. And that’s terrible, tragic, because these are the promises I can control.

As I step away from judgment, I discover my greatest disappointment lies within, that I am no better than those who don’t honor words spoken to me. Through the years I’ve wallowed in pain by blaming those who haven’t come through, but the truth is that if I honored my pledges to self, I would care less about the broken promises of others. They would fall to the back of the line of things I’m waiting for.

As I walk towards my running shoes, I think of enduring the wind-whipping run, the action that tries to knock me over and push me back, the goal that challenges my resolve. This will become my touchstone, the way I will keep promises to myself.

11.12.2008

Dollars and Sense

Because I’m superstitious, I tip better than custom dictates. I factor in how long I occupied the booth at my favorite diner and tack on a bonus for keeping others from sitting in my spot even if there was no one waiting. If the bill is particularly small, my baseline 20% has been known to bump up to 50%.

I come at this from all the woo woo proclamations of abundance, thinking if I give a little extra maybe I’m upping my chances for good karma. Yes, I know that’s contrary to the concept of giving without expecting return. Yes, I know. But still. It’s like all those people who attach disclaimers to the chain letters they forward. They know it’s wrong but they keep doing it. At least those who wait on me in restaurants benefit from my neurosis.

And then there's my guilt of not needing to stand in a breadline, which prompts further generosity. While I currently wear the label of ‘Increasingly Downwardly Mobile,’ I still have it better than most. I have options, the freedom to chase dreams, the knowledge that when push comes to shove, I can plunk down a credit card and deal with it later. Luckily, at this point, later is usually just when the credit card bill arrives. I really don’t live beyond my means.

But all the muttering of financial fear is chipping away at my notion of security. It helps when I think of friends living with enormous debt and rationalize that if they can stay afloat so can I. But that’s insensitive and na├»ve of me. We can all sink together. But to get philosophical, if everyone sinks, is it still sinking? How about, ‘Sinking is the new normal’?

Trying to live freelance in a panicked economy is comical. Can I really go forward and promote a new photography business designed to supplement my pittance of earnings as a writer? I don’t even believe my sales pitches of why it is critical that I take your holiday card photo. (Holiday cards…yeah, right. Have you seen the price of postage and ink and paper and pens??)

But I also must discuss those whining about the economy who have such an abundance of cash and resources that the only way their daily lives are being affected by this downturn is in their conversations and the fluctuation of their heart rate when they open their investment statements. They can still afford every dream they’ve ever had. They have not even come close to being knocked down to normal, but many of them are the ones complaining the loudest. Am I really to believe that those with millions in the bank can’t afford Christmas this year? I’m no economist (obviously) but I simply want to holler at those crying poor who are anything but.

It is the charities that these often generous folks give to that I pity. They’re the real losers as philanthropists see their resources shrink and thus must pull back on giving. And of course I think of the trickle down effect, of the employees of struggling corporations, those facing all the layoffs.

But if you’re one of the ones with excess money in the bank (my definition of ‘excess,’ not yours; my blog, my rules) go out and do some spending. Help that small business or even that large one with a long list of employees. Fuel this ailing economy. Consider it your call to duty.

And if you need some photos…

‘Nough said.

11.07.2008

In the Quiet

The quiet. I am thinking of the quiet, of the writing in the writing, the wondering when I’ll find my way back to the writing, the wordplay I enjoy, the thoughts expressed, the desire to communicate.

I am thinking of the quiet that has taken my voice, the quiet that has become me as I’ve ceased to want to speak, the voice that has left, gone on the road like a young runaway boy of a storybook era, clothing bundled up and tied at the end of a stick, held high above a shoulder.

The voice craves liberty from obligation, but if I let the voice leave, watch it walk down a dirt path, say, “I understand. All has not gone as we thought,” what am I left with?

I’m left with a pile of debris, the words swirling around in my computer, attached to files, residing in documents. Words that want to leap and flee, to find new options of expression. I want to let them go because I don’t want to hold them hostage in my virtual computer world. The words deserve escape.

Each day I wonder if I’ll want to speak again, and each day slides into the next and the next and the next.

And I want to believe this is a glitch in my system, the barrier I must push through to prove my worthiness.

My worthiness. I’m always aiming to prove my worthiness, for somehow, somewhere deep inside, I don’t feel worthy. And no matter how I phrase the question, I don’t receive the answer as to why. I don’t know from where crept in undeserving, but now it is my roommate, the companion that follows me, through my life, through my day, whispering in my ear, taunting. It accuses me of grandiosity when I strive to make change and chase a dream. It tells me I’m not special enough or have not paid off an unknown debt.

I’ll pay. I swear I will. Tell me when and how, and I’ll cross off that burden to allow me to reach the heights I crave, to become the someone that I know is huddled inside of me eager to see light and life.

Those who snarl at doubt and push through, how do they do it? How? My youthful confidence has stepped aside to make room for doubt born of experience, the experience that has humbled me, made me shier, more timid, more unbelieving.

This is not the me of my birth, the one who eagerly reinvented the wheel if it didn’t turn the way I wanted.

A glitch, I say. Just a glitch, a temporary station to allow me the vision to see how others struggle and overcome because, really, truthfully, I was spared struggle in earlier days. I grew confident and certain. Cocky even. Yes, cocky.

Cocky enough to dismiss a secure path to vault into the unknown. Cocky enough to believe that perseverance would reward.

And maybe it still will. Maybe I’m closer to the beginning of the journey than I know, even though I feel so far in. Maybe I haven’t hit the real heart of struggle.

You see, I don’t do well with patience. I want it yesterday. I want the guarantee, the promise. The hard work doesn’t scare me, but the mystery does, the ‘maybe it will never happen.’

Someone asked me if I wanted to go back, back to the past of safety. And even the question robbed me of my breath, the thought of living the life that felt so very wrong. No, I can’t go there. But can I really be here? Can I?

Can I not?

I will give it today. And tomorrow. Okay, another week. Or a month. Till the end of the year. Okay, a bit longer. Yes, a bit longer. I got here for a reason. I just must trust enough to stay.

11.05.2008

Clarity

I suspected it, but I couldn’t have known for sure, not until the veil lifted, not until the deed was done, not until the declaration of President-elect was announced.

I’d felt this election was holding me hostage, sucking up all my energy and setting my imagination to inert, but only upon waking the day after can I confirm my suspicions.

For the first time in months my mind slipped into creative meditation leaving the gnawing realities to wait patiently for my more wakened state. I saw images of fairy tale walks, heard characters telling me their stories revealing where I must take them and why. I stopped despairing over all that hasn’t been working and set a plan for the next step forward, how one foot in front of the other can be enough.

The part of my brain conditioned to worry is still frightened, untrusting, uncertain. It doesn’t believe that I’ll hold this energized view for longer than it takes to type this sentence. It has a bit of experience with how these moods can come and go.

But I’m tired of how I’ve been living, how I’ve not been living but simply staying alive. And I figure if Obama can rise up to become president, I can manage to type a few words upon the page each day, can line up a photo job here and there, can plan a dinner party to gather friends who will want to insist that the traffic to cross town is too heavy, that there’s work to be done or sleep to be had.

But I will insist.

If nothing else, hosting a small election party reminded me of the power of shared experience, how we can all get by in singularity, but that the quality of certain moments can be so very heightened when in the company of others.

Of course the right others, not just any others.

By the way, I’m looking to line up a few more right others.

I’m done with shallow breaths, wanting once again to fill my lungs to their fullest. And I want others to do the same, because there’s been too much aching occupying our days, too much focus on what we can’t control over what we can, too much hopelessness. I’ve been the guiltiest of all. I know it. But it’s time to embrace the new chapter. Please come along.

11.04.2008

Optimism

Today I woke with optimism, optimism that has been missing for so long, optimism that had vanished like a friend who goes on a roadtrip promising to call upon return only return never happens and instead silence and alone becomes your companion.

And waiting. There’s all that waiting.

I’ve been waiting for optimism because it’s been so lonely without it.

Without optimism my days have felt long and tedious and repetitive. 
Without optimism I haven’t felt like seeking companionship because my words were too quiet and thin, uninspiring, on the brink of bitter at all times.
Without optimism I couldn’t imagine a future any different from today, and with today reeking of dissatisfaction that just wasn’t a place I wanted to consider.
Without optimism I lost faith in myself, in my ability to change and progress, to become, to inhabit, to embody any feeling beside disinterest.

So of course I feel joyous upon optimism’s return, because with it comes the sensation of a grand shift, of a day packed with full thoughts, richer thoughts, of possibility.



As I stood in line to vote, in the first line I’ve ever encountered at my polling place, I joined the conversation around me. I met neighbors I’ve never seen, people who live within a block of my front door. And I looked to the lunch tables at my side and wished I’d anticipated this moment, had brought cookies and pastries and treats for a post-vote slice of community. And I said, “We should have a block party,” and I meant it.

And maybe we will, and maybe I’ll be the organizer, my first act of optimism after voting.