Water, Water Everywhere

I wake up and stumble into my bathroom, sleep in my eyes, teeth coated with morning residue, and turn on the faucet to discover a trickle of water that disappears into nothingness. Grungy and sweaty, I feel a surge of panic. I need a shower, a cleansing, the morning ritual that launches my day.

I see why they say the next war will be fought for water.

Today isn’t a camping trip of planned dirtiness. It isn’t the carefully timed water shut off with twenty-four hours notice that our building requires. This is the mystery of, “Where the hell is our water?”

After a little investigation courtesy of the telephone – another relationship I count on without question – I discover that the fault doesn’t lie with a negligent property management company and an unpaid bill but rather a burst pipe at the end of my street that has left the entire block of homes dry.

And when the Department of Water and Power explains, “We’re on it and won’t leave until it is fixed” but they can’t say when that might be, I envision a life of not knowing where or when you can find clean water, a life of being unsure whether the liquid pooled in front of you offers relief or disease.

I have the luxury of walking to the kitchen and brushing my teeth courtesy of the three-gallon Sparkletts bottle perched on my counter. I can take that water, splash it on a wash cloth, add a little soap, and pass myself off as clean. I can do this until the delivery trucks stop driving or the money runs dry.

I know my water is coming back. I feel calm. There is nothing like loss to teach you gratitude.

When all is stable, when basic needs are met, the usual result is not contentment but an invitation to dissatisfaction. Wants see an opportunity to speak up, to demand recognition, to creep into your subconscious and plant themselves in a corner to prod and harass.

And I question, ‘What in my life is want and what in my life is need?’

In looking at need, we default to food and water. To shelter and sufficient clothing. We need sleep. And when we get to the end of that list and feel the urge to add more, we feel greedy as we envision the impoverished, the homeless, children dodging bombs, and all the other ills we can call up at will.

But are we wrong to list more, to include, let’s say, purpose as a need? Love? Community? In the hierarchy of survival, why does the physical trump the emotional? To keep the body alive without care for the heart and soul is a mighty compromise.

In a land of abundance, it seems as if we should be able to do both, but despite all my resources I’ve been struggling a lot lately, unsure of my place, unsure of my future, feeling isolated and without community. And this has shamed me. A lot. Left me feeling both ungrateful and undeserving.

But as I travel and read and listen and observe, I realize I'm not unique in my feelings. I realize how many crave love and community they can’t find.

In growing up in a neighborhood where children gathered in the streets eager to play, in attending college where dorms offered up constant playmates of a different variety, I never imagined life could be so isolating. I never knew understanding one’s place and purpose would be so challenging.

Emotional pain still carries a stigma in this society. We roll our eyes at those secure in their physical wellbeing if they moan about anything lacking in their lives. We admonish ourselves for wanting too much, for needing too much.

And maybe we should, but maybe we should also feel okay with admitting the challenges.

My hairdresser recently showed me a stone he keeps in his pocket. “A gratitude stone. I touch it and it reminds me to be grateful.”

In a land of abundance, sometimes we need reminders to prompt gratitude. I’d like to say that I will never again take water or love or friendship for granted, but I know that’s not the case. I am not unlike my hairdresser. He turns to a stone and I turn to a showerless morning to remind me of how much I have to be thankful for on an average day.


Shifting Gears

‘I’m bored.’

For two days, this phrase leaks from my son’s nearly teenaged mouth more times than in all his previous twelve and 7/8’s years combined. I list all he can do sprawled across the backseat as we motor from Los Angeles to Zion National Park, Utah – via a stop in Las Vegas where I also hear, ‘I’m bored’ in the hotel room as we recharge car-cramped bodies – and I think, “Is this it? Is this the arrival of the trying teen years that has been promised since my son’s birth?”

I nudged us towards nature for our last adventure of summer, eager for my son to see different scenery, a different lifestyle, to consider worlds away from freeways and media saturation, with both of us untethered to the computer. But as he grumbles past stunning scenery of towering red cliffs and vast open landscapes that he dismisses as “just boring desert,” pining to be back in the commercial chaos of Vegas where money leaked from my pockets, my disappointment and annoyance build, and I fantasize about shipping him home and venturing onward alone. After all, this is my vacation, too.

“We live pretty unplugged,” a new acquaintance tells me as we sit in her Springdale, Utah home beside our mutual friend, a home designed with views of red sandstone and rock from every room, kids free to roam the entwined small town life, the entrance to Zion National Park just a hop up the road. And I think how opposite I live, how completely ‘plugged’ in I am, how every ill seems to sneak into my ear canal and whisper its woe. How I listen and feel powerless and wonder how the human species can be so cruel.

And suddenly being unplugged sounds so nice even though in the past I thought such a life seemed irresponsible and selfish. But in this setting it appears calm and reasonable and a fine way to achieve sanity.

I said to my son, “Imagine living here,” when we arrived in Springdale and drove down the quiet main road dotted with an occasional home, a few hotels, and small shops and diners. Looking out the window he responded, “It seems like people only live this way in the movies,” and he sneered with disinterest.

I first came to Springdale and Zion in 1992 to visit a couple I’d met on the 1988 Soviet-American Peace Walk through the Ukraine, the walk that introduced me to my son’s father. Returning fourteen years later, a son in tow and greeting my now married friends and their two sons, we couldn’t help but compare lives.

“What a luxury to be able to pick you friends,” my friend tells me. “Here you’re given who there is and you learn to like each other.”

“Kind of like an arranged marriage,” I say, but she doesn’t hear me because some neighbor kid charges through the room looking for the peers hanging out somewhere.

And within one day of arriving, my son runs with these kids and I no longer hear ‘bored.’ Instead my son confesses that he’s a little jealous because all the kids in this town know each other so well, know each other’s siblings and parents and homes.

Within one day.

Before my son’s turnaround, before he asks to stay an extra day despite my offer to return to Vegas early, I was ready to call this our last roadtrip together forever, battered by his teenage lack of enthusiasm. At my peak of anger and frustration, weary from shouldering all the responsibility for the trip and my son’s complaining entitlement, I suddenly wanted a stern dad to appear in the car beside me telling my son to quit moaning and be appreciative, spewing some 50’s slogan that kept kids in their place.

And when my son grew uncomfortable and disinterested on our first hike as we waded upriver nestled by high rock walls, protecting us from sun and civilization, I imagined myself as that stern father not yielding to the child’s request to turn back but forcing him to keep moving as the adult desired and in order to make a man of the son.

But I’m not that stern man, and I can’t enjoy myself if my company is miserable. So I agree to turn around. And when I do, my son asks if I’m sad and I say, “A little because I was really enjoying it.”

And despite my fantasy that I’d earned the right to bypass the tough teen years with all my parental preventative medicine of open discussion and interests shared, I realize that I’m just like every parent who has greeted thirteen. There is no free pass.

But then there’s the teenage turnaround.

Day three. We venture up a trail, and faced with a cliff and a narrow path and a metal chain to grab for security, I must decide whether or not to go to the end. I must decide whether thirteen is when I trust my son’s feet and judgment to steady him along the trail. I must shift from protective parent to trusting parent.

We go on.

And after we make it to the end and look out on the view, we start back, and my son says to me, “Usually you say you’re proud of me, but this time I’m proud of you.” And I imagine he thinks I was scared and that I’d been brave, but what he doesn’t understand is that any fear I’d had had been for him.

When we meet my friend and her kids a couple hours later, she tells me someone died in the park that day. A twenty-nine-year-old woman went off the top of Angel’s Landing and fell 1200 feet as she and her husband prepared to take a celebratory photo near the edge.

“People come here thinking it’s Disneyland,” my friend tells me sadly.

And I think of my son’s feet on the trail and how I trusted him and how hard that was. And I think of how difficult the trip has been, all the transitions, all the near fights, the harsh words I swallowed and the harsh words that spilled out. I think of how angry I’d been with my son for acting his age rather than meeting me at my own.

On our last day I push my son to go a bit further than he wants. It’s hot, but an easy climb. No drop offs. Nothing too steep. Just sun and red dust and the promise of an emerald pool at the end.

We arrive at the top, hot and sweaty. And as we make our final descent in Zion, my son thanks me for bringing him. I don’t clarify whether he means on this particular hike or the trip in general. It doesn’t really matter.

Finally I see that this vacation wasn’t about fun and escape. My son and I tested each other and learned how much change lies ahead for both of us. Ultimately we both found a way to shift gears, but without pushing each other, we never could have done it.

Next week I welcome thirteen with my son. I’ll be sure to wear my seat belt.


A Bedtime Tale

The boy could sleep anywhere except in silence. This presented his father with a grand dilemma for how could he keep the presence of sound so that his child could sleep while at the same time allowing himself to drift off?

In search of a solution, the father bought sound machines and multi-CD players, but nothing soothed the boy like the sound of his father’s flute.

“Play for me, Papa,” he demanded, and before his father had hit five minutes, the boy’s eyes grew heavy and he found a spot to call his bed.

Soon the father could go nowhere without his flute for fear his son would tire yet have no means to achieve sleep. His friends started calling him the Pied Piper and he countered with, “Perhaps. But I have only a following of one.”

The bond between father and son grew stronger and stronger, yet eventually the love felt like a prison, for one could not venture off from the other. And while both desired moments of independence, the body’s need for sleep always pulled them back together.

“We must break this habit,” the father told his son as tears filled the boy’s eyes. And they tried, but nothing could take the place of the father’s flute. No recording. No stand-in.

“Just another year,” the boy pleaded, and the loving father nodded.

And when the anniversary of that request arrived, the father gathered his friends as witnesses. “A party,” he called it, “to celebrate a bond of love and the loosening of that bond so that my son can find his own way.”

After cake and ice cream and a sharing of stories around the room, the father reached for his flute. The boy climbed upon his lap, and as the father began to play, his arms encircling his son, the boy closed his eyes and leaned against his father’s shoulder and fell asleep to the music for the last time.

The next several nights were torture for both father and son as the boy thrashed in bed searching for sleep.

“What have I created?” the father asked his friends. “How did I let this go on for so long?”

But they had no answer.

The following night as the father hid away from his sleepless son, he heard a sound, a sound of music coming through the crack below his son’s door. The boy, in finding his own way, was singing to himself, a self-made lullaby.



My dog has slept on the floor the past two nights, and I’m feeling oddly rejected. I didn’t kick him off the bed. He chose the floor over his previously protected spot next to me.

“Is he mad at you?” a friend asks.

“I don’t know. He saw the suitcases so he knows I’m going away.”

My dog usually holds a grudge over my departures but not preemptively. He’s never been one to anticipate. But after two nights of sleeping alone, I can’t help but think he’s trying to tell me something. Like, maybe, ‘Get a boyfriend!’

Ah, if only it were that easy, I want to tell him. But maybe my dog already knows and is trying to help the process along by getting out of the way. I’d never imagined his being that selfless and considerate.

In the lonely periods, I admit I turn to my dog to lap up his admiration. And maybe it’s pathetic and maybe it’s a healthy sign of the survival instinct. But now that he’s decided I must look elsewhere for love, I’m a bit at a loss.

He and I have gone on field trips together, a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone tactic. My Chihuahua gets a walk and I get to sightsee. We’ve made small talk along the Venice boardwalk. We’ve run on the grassy bluff in nearby Santa Monica. We’ve visited the dog park, but the small dog pen is usually the equivalent of a women’s tea party, and I find myself longingly looking through the fence to the wide-open pasture where the shepherds, huskies, large mutts, and men romp. In a loving act of self-sacrifice, I remain in the safe zone as my eleven-pounder paces the perimeter watching the other small dogs play. (I do wish he’d at least try for a little action since if I’m not going to get any.)

In first bringing home my puppy, I thought he might assume the role of man magnet until I realized that women are expected to play that part all by themselves. Unsuspecting women might fall for the lure of a puppy, but men fall for – I need not finish the sentence.

Mostly, my dog has gotten between me and my dates. Speck – eager for all the lovin’ – flirts and jumps on laps and only will retire to his spot across the room when he realizes he’s come in second. And on the occasions when I have an overnight guest, he lobbies hard to remain on the bed through the night. Only with real determination do I succeed in banishing him to the floor, so he must be pretty desperate to see a smile on my face if he’s now moved himself there voluntarily.

I want to believe that my dog is onto something. Not wanting to disappoint him, I figure I must come up with a new game plan in my love search, however at this point I’m stumped. But if Speck’s willing to relocate to the floor to make room for my mate, I figure I better at least do my part and keep trying. And maybe as a reward for my attempts, Speck will take me back. At least for a little while.


What's In a Smile

For the past week life hasn’t been talking to me. In this state, I become dramatically introverted, moving through space with a wax-like expression on my face. Most unnerving is that no one seems to notice. ‘Time to flex those facial muscles,’ I tell myself, to give those I encounter a fighting chance of deciphering my mood. But mostly, today I need something mystical to fly in and nudge me along.

Two weeks ago I’d overlooked a dental cleaning appointment and was forced to reschedule for today.

“Unfortunately, Pam isn’t available,” the receptionist explains. “How about Hank?”

“Hank? I don’t know him.”

“He’s new. Just been here a little while.”

As long as he's not a sadist, I don’t much care. Or a chatterbox. I’ve never understood the hygienist who fills your mouth with fingers and instruments and then asks you the meaning of life. I mean, even if you know, how are you supposed to answer?

Once, after suffering through a particularly painful session with Sally, both a lecturer about the perils of insufficient dental hygiene and a talkative little mouse who gave me explicit details about her children, I vowed to launch a campaign for a Zen-like dental atmosphere. No small talk. No Barry Manilow over the speakers. Move in the soothing green walls, a delicately placed bamboo plant, and barely audible instrumental tracks designed as white noise.

But had I gotten my wish, I wouldn’t have gotten Hank.

Before settling me into the chair, Hank asks about my weekend, and in telling him that I went to a reunion performance of a bunch of punk-era bands, I don’t get a blank stare in return. This is my kind of dental associate.

The initial exam. The finger moving around my gums, exploring ever so delicately. And something about Hank’s touch, the way he holds my chin with his hand, is oddly erotic. Clearly it’s been too long, and I think to myself, ‘Damn, I’m sick.’

But I discover I’m not alone in my insanity.
Hank: Do you have any kids?
DeeZee: Yeah, one son. Almost 13.
H: One was enough? (and we both laugh while I mutter, uh huh.)
Moving onto recreation…
H: Any trips planned?
DZ: Heading away this weekend.
H: Just the two of you? (I grunt, uh huh, the cleaning well underway at this point.) Not married?
DZ: No.
H: Been dating? (this from Hank the hygienist!)
DZ: It’s been a dry summer (I choke out sheepishly.)
H: For the past two years, all my friends have been getting married. Guess I didn’t get the memo (he laughs.) I’ve been officially single for a year now (and without missing a beat…) So, what’s your type?
Has your dental hygienist ever flirted with you? Mid cleaning, gums retracted, vacuum tube sucking the saliva from your mouth? If I had tried I couldn’t have imagined a more unlikely setting for a seduction, but I’ve also never had a male hygienist before, and let me tell you, this conversation definitely beats all previous small talk I’ve been forced into in a dental chair.
DZ: Uh, can’t really say, in that I never seem to end up with my type. Guess I’m experimental (I sense THAT got his attention!)
I can’t get a look at Hank because my mouth is full of his fingers and he’s over my shoulder and this is definitely the weirdest situation I’ve ever been in. And not being sure what’s going on, along with Hank’s fingers and that horrid metal scraping tool in my mouth, I find my head spinning, but not in that creepy-get-me-out-of-here way but more along the lines of I-certainly-didn’t-expect-this.

Hank presses on…
H: So do you date older or younger?
And I keep wondering when my nice, silver-haired dentist is going to waltz into the room and bust us because I can’t believe how overt this whole conversation is getting. I repeat to Hank that it’s been a dry summer, but regardless, I am done with older. “Not since my teen years,” I explain, undoubtedly upping the ante.
H: So, you mean your age or younger?
DZ: Yeah.
H: What was the youngest?
I want to be funny and point out that that’s kind of a moving target, but subtle humor cannot be achieved mid-cleaning where one must be very precise with language, squeaking out a few words post saliva suck before the scraping renews.
DZ: Last minimal entanglement was 27.
H: Why minimal?
DZ: Uh, we were too different. He was really conservative.
It’s definitely the abridged version. If Hank wants the finer details of my last failed romance, he’s going to have to buy me a drink or at least give me a mouthwash break.
H: And how old are you?
Boom! Just like that. My answer sounds old, and I think, ‘What was he hoping to hear?’ I also worry that I may have axed out Hank in this exchange – what if he’s not even 27? – so I add how I tried having dinner with a 23-year-old but that it didn’t go well because he kept referring to his friends turning 21 and going out for their first legal drunk, and he’s talking about something he did the previous week. And I sound frenetic and odd and would love for the scraping to resume so I’d be forced to shut up.

I fear our conversation has taken a weird – er, weirder – turn and I’m actually sad as I see Hank slipping away. But I also can’t figure out how appropriate it is to want to date the guy who’s cleaning my teeth – doesn’t that break some kind of code? – and I wonder if he really could have asked me out with all the other dental bees buzzing around. But, hey, I wasn’t imagining the flirting, I don’t think, unless male dental hygienists are just really friendly.

Beyond the oddness of it all, this is the least painful teeth cleaning I’ve ever had, and when the polishing is done and the little green bib is removed, I say so. “I didn’t jump once.” And he replies, “I’m good,” and I say, “Either that or my teeth are still real dirty,” and we both laugh.

Hank tells me he’ll be right back, that he’s going to get my toothbrush and all, and he returns with three color choices – blue, red, and aqua-green. I reach for the greenish hued without hesitation, and Hank says, “I knew you were going to take that one,” and I say, “Really?” And he says, “Yeah, cuz you’re not conservative,” adding, “which is a good thing.”

I let that linger. I figure he hasn’t given up on me completely. He escorts me to see the dentist in the next room. As I take a seat, Hank puts out his hand. “Nice meeting you.” “Yeah,” I reply.

And he’s gone.

As much as I’d like to find a way to talk with Hank outside the confines of the dental office, I know that this isn’t about that. Hank was my angel in odd clothing today, a reminder that somewhere someone can make me laugh and squirm a little – metal probe aside – and with that ounce of hope injected into my day, I can’t help but smile with my now sparkling pearly whites.

(names changed to protect the oh so guilty.)


Just Maybe...

I climb on one of those childhood merry-go-rounds, the kind you find in an old fashioned playground where metal made scorching hot from the sun ruled, metal that burned your hands where you grabbed on and the back of your legs as you squatted down.

And I spin fast and fast as a team of children run, propelling the spinning machine in motion. I lose myself in the spin, the blur going by. Unable to focus, I see more deeply, within and beyond.

I lean back tempting my body to fall, clutching the hot metal bars with outstretched arms, eyes pointed to the sky. And I start to read the clouds for the messages, convinced a language lives there beyond shapes and colors. I figure if I can learn to read the clouds, I can learn the untold secrets of our life.

The children watch me, the grown-up in silent play. They study my body language and I see them and invite them to stop their running and climb upon the spinning merry-go-round. Together we lie down on our backs, our legs outstretched, feet touching in the center, our bodies like spokes of a bicycle wheel.

All the children look to the clouds and I ask them, “What do the clouds say?” and one by one they start shouting out their answers.

And I strain to hear, the wind somehow blocking sound from getting to my ears. But I don’t mind because I see the children shouting and I know they can read the clouds, can speak the language, and it’s more important for them than for me. They have more time to teach the world of the clouds. I was just to bring them here.


Send in the Experts

Growing up I never saw a parent hold a hammer or screwdriver or stand over a running toilet fidgeting, saying, “Hmmm,” trying to fix it. The level of handy-ness in our home was my mom reaching for the phone to call a repairman.

In such an environment, I was trained to believe that each problem has its own personal guru assigned to come to the rescue. Only in fleeing home and landing in a college dorm did I see how others navigated everyday malfunctions, that regular civilians could face a gurgling toilet, adjust a few levers, and, Voila!, silence and functionality. I envied my dorm mates’ self-reliance and soon became gadget friendly, proud of what I could fix with my own hands and deductive reasoning.

Moving into my first solo post-college dwelling, a grungy yet charming beachside shed managed by a landlord with no interest in fixing anything, I was on my own. When the toilet ran and ran and refused to flush or refused to stop flushing, depending upon how you look at it, my mom nonchalantly told me to call a plumber. And I actually got angry because I hate that I was born into a home that taught me I couldn’t do-it-myself.

In an act of defiance, I lifted the lid of the tank and saw some broken piece before me. Bypassing a plumber, I went straight to the source and called the hardware store and described the problem. The man on the line told me it was an easy fix, that all I needed was a new ballcock for my tank.

“A what?” I asked.

“Ballcock,” the hardware store man repeated. At that moment I understood why women traditionally stay out of hardware stores. I hopped in my car and drove, sympathizing with men sent to buy tampons.

Years later, I now know my way around a toilet, an odd way to phrase what I’ve learned. I haven’t called a plumber in years, saving both time and money. I also now wield a hammer and screwdriver impressively, can tutor friends through computer woes, assemble furniture, spackle, prime, and paint, and connect electronics. None of this is going to earn me handyman status, but I’m doing pretty well given my early training.

However, my default is still set to believe in experts. Seeing a glitch in the system – traffic signals so poorly aligned that cars remain at a standstill cycle after cycle of changing lights, wars building with no one negotiating a peace, escalating gas prices – I automatically assume a pro is shirking responsibility. And like my mom, I want to reach for the phone.

But what do you do when the experts turn their backs on the solution?

The other night I saw the film, ‘Who Killed The Electric Car?’ During the 90s, I didn’t pay attention to the electric vehicles as they hummed around my city. At best, they were a novelty, a curiosity, and their charging stations occupied prime parking spots.

But now, enlightened by the scandal revealed in ‘Who Killed The Electric Car?’, I kick myself. I wish I’d been better informed. I wish I’d sought to inform myself. And as I watch politicians jockey for position in front of TV cameras to deliver sound bites on energy policy, I cringe.

If these experts are voting on our energy bills and deciding to drill in the Arctic or send soldiers to war to protect oil supplies or divert research and development funds to the hydrogen cell, they should all be escorted off stage and forced to watch ‘Who Killed The Electric Car?’ They should know what we walked away from in abandoning this functioning technology. We all should. And then armed with this information, we should march on Congress or our state capitals. We should gather outside car dealerships and refuse to leave until something is done. Left to the experts, things have gotten ugly.

It’s time for each of us to recognize our ability to affect policy and demand action, to stop believing others hold the solution. We can start with energy policy or any of our personal pet peeves and passions, for we all have expert up our sleeve. We just haven’t been properly raised to see it. It was pretty empowering to enter that hardware store and ask for a ballcock with a straight face. If I could do that, imagine what we all can accomplish.


Keep It Smart

My father thinks I’m stubborn. He comes to that conclusion whenever I don’t agree with him. That is his sole criteria.

I won’t accept stubborn, but I will own rebellious. And lately, I’ve been turning my rebellion on exercise because I hate the place exercise now occupies. I hate that in coffee house chatter I hear endless comparisons of Yoga and Pilates and Boot Camp and the Barre Method. I hate that exercise has become a pawn of the beauty culture rather than a result of health concerns, that exercise is now the equivalent of a fashion accessory.

As a child I was a hardcore athlete, a tomboy of my era when few girls pursued athletics. For me it was all about the love of sport, the game, the play, the movement through space, the power of training and work and determination.

Just when I was at my peak, approaching seventeen as a tournament tennis player, my body rebelled. Within three days, I couldn’t lift my arm. Pain radiated down my neck and back. Plagued by headaches, I iced and heated, rested and massaged. I visited orthopedists, acupuncturists, chiropractors. My body was poked and adjusted, injected and manipulated. But it wouldn’t give. My body had had enough.

“I’m sorry I used that extreme grip for my serve. If I return to a more traditional one, can I have my shoulder back?” I negotiated.

But my body remained silent, answering only with continued pain.

Aimless, robbed of my athlete identity, and in constant agony, I became a sloth. Arriving home each day from school, I parked myself in front of the TV, ambled through my homework, and ate ice cream straight from the container.

Seven months and fifteen pounds later, I woke up in a foreign shell. Thanks to the prompting of an accidental encounter with the book Long Run Solution, I began to run. A lot. I started at four miles as only an obsessive competitor would. Within two months, I was up to between seven and eleven miles per day and was running on my high school’s cross-country team. Three days per week I added a morning training run before school. I was possessed.

Within six months I was hobbling around on aching knees. I clearly have no relationship with moderation.

The world of sport has changed dramatically since my youth. The term ‘tomboy’ has virtually faded away, at least in referring to an athletically inclined girl, as women and girls now participate widely. So this is all good, right? Hmmm.

In the adult world, the emphasis of exercise is on appearance over health. Accomplishments aren’t measured by mile times or pounds of weights but by pant sizes and pounds on scales.

I see this broadening of exercise as an odd ‘dumbing down’ of the modern woman. It’s one thing to choose to exercise for whatever your reasons are, but how many would put in the disproportionate time – and then talk about it incessantly afterwards – if it weren’t for the outrageous emphasis on beauty and appearance in today’s society? Through the mass marketing of exercise and the elusive perfect body, women are encouraged to focus on the shape of their thighs and the fluctuations of their weight with far greater passion than art or music or literature or anything. If we got the same praise and attention for books read as we do for our form, would we all be racing to libraries?

Exercise and sport are a good thing. My participation in athletics gave me structure and confidence as a youth. The fact that playing sports is now easily available and socially acceptable for girls and women is wonderful, but the obsession with which many women now focus on exercise makes me avoid every conversation on the topic that I can. Call me rebellious, but I prefer the solitary run with no one to talk to, where I can sweat and think and tell no one about it.


Reset, Restart, and Repeat

I’m tired. Tired of hearing about all that is bad, tired of reading about how sad people are. Tired of anger and hating and hurting. Tired of whining and tired of tirades.

In this state, my voice quiets, and my rant goes on vacation. I invite all to join, only I’m not sure who will come because it seems as if the world has become addicted to misery, as if the world feels better when it’s fighting. And I no longer want to participate, not at this time.

Is this the emergence of peace or of my intolerance?

Everyone can find a reason to be sad. Hell, I do it, but lately it seems as if this has become our collective unconscious. Shared complaints, downturns, sorrow. We bond over the bad rather than over the good. How rarely do I get a call from someone lit up with good news. Do I just run in a sad crowd or are people more comfortable sharing bad news, as if sharing the good is the equivalent of boasting? Or is it that with so much tragedy in the world, we just feel guilty feeling happy?

Or have we forgotten how?

While we’re all entitled to our bumps and bruises and occasional tantrums, we seem to have lost the art of appreciation. As a result of the marketing to America – lives paraded before us that we’ll never have – we have evolved to a species drowning in unfulfilled desire. The more we have, the more we want. And we support each other in our cravings rather than knocking each other up the side of our heads and saying, “Get over it!”

And this is becoming a complaint, but it doesn’t want to. It wants to be a celebration.

I propose a challenge. Organize a dinner party and have everyone come with a positive tale. Share stimulating clippings or funny anecdotes or a fantastic piece of art. Encourage conversation around the best things in your lives rather than the worst. Make something together. Invite me. And flex this weakened muscle regularly until it becomes habit.

I bet it will take work because frustration has become our most common dinner companion. But in all the whining, we give sorrow a welcome entrée into our homes and our lives. There is a big difference between being aware and active and wallowing in that which we cannot change. Take it from an expert, someone who knows something about wallowing.

In taking life seriously, I thought I was being noble, respecting the world’s ills, showing proper reverence. But now I question that practice. I hardly think I've helped those in pain by joining them.

So, in the spirit of summer, I'm taking a vacation from worry. I figure that if you’re lucky enough to be graced with a life absent of evils, it’s your duty to appreciate it. And while I’m lounging on the beach or taking a hike, I’ll try to reset my thinking patterns. Hopefully happiness can get a solid foothold and then spread because I'd like to launch a worldwide epidemic right now.


Lead By Example

In the current climate of broadening warfare, it’s hard not to comment. It’s hard not to feel overwhelming sadness. It’s hard not to be angry.

I seldom watch any TV news, but today I saw images of what’s happened thus far in Lebanon and the resulting protests Israel’s actions have launched. If I can believe what I read, Israel initially had sympathy when Hezbollah crossed its border. For a nanosecond. Just like the U.S. after 9/11, Israel squandered a momentary advantage.

How can democracies claim to own the best form of government if we resort to overblown killing that overshadows the provocation? Whatever happened to ‘Lead by Example’?

I’m sure if I lived in a country that was threatened daily, I would have a short fuse. I’m sure I would feel insurmountable anger. I’m sure I would be convinced that retaliation and a demonstration of strength are necessary to show we won’t be extinguished. But how we feel need not govern how we act.

How can a country possibly hope to improve its standing in a hostile region by handing over ammunition for hatred to its enemies? Morality aside, is this really smart politics? And now, Israel presents its supporters with a dilemma: how can you stand behind a country whose actions you find inexcusable?

I feel as if I’m watching children fight on a playground where the defense boils down to, “He started it!”

When is this world going to grow up? Until someone is willing to break the cycle and engage a new way of thinking, this violence and hatred will never end.