Thursday, December 31, 2009

Girl Griot interviews me

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to participate in a terrific interview experiment and met the truly lovely Mosey Along.

I had my turn at the microphone, held in front of me by Stacie at Girl Griot. I have really enjoyed getting to know Stacie through her blog and in the emails we exchanged; she asked me very thoughtful questions and treated both me and my blog with respect.

As she mentions, we really don't have much in common; we are in different parts of the country, with different careers, and different paths in life. But when I read her blog I feel myself nodding my head and shouting, "Yes! That's totally it!".

And I think that's the point of Neil's experiment: everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has something to say, and it is important. As soon as I started reading Stacie's blog, I instantly cared about her family, her students, her thoughts. She has an important story to tell and, for a few minutes, she's helping me tell mine.

Check her out. Read her interview of me; read her blog. She's got an amazing voice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On being criticised

I had an impromptu meeting with an employee yesterday, and I got something I wasn't expecting: criticism. The constructive kind. The I'm-talking-to-you-as-a-person-and-not-a-subordinate kind.

Do you know how often I get constructive criticism? Go ahead, guess.

It's never; okay, it's hardly ever. I get criticism a lot, or more-ish. I have at least one employee who doesn't think much of me as a manager and I get a lot of critical observations from her. I try to extract something valuable from it, but often I feel that she's just venting at me because she disapproves of my management style. That's okay with me, people are allowed to both vent and not like me at the same time.

Eunice (okay, not really, but isn't that the coolest name you ever heard?) was a little nervous to be speaking so bluntly and she rarely lets a negative words pass her lips about me (she loves me, can you imagine?) so when she asked if she could say something to me girl-to-girl without rank and authority in the way I was both pleased and surprised.

She was polite about it, showing respect to me as a person and as her superior (in the professional way, not the better-than-her way), but she was blunt and honest with me. It isn't often that any of my subordinates will be so frank with me about things they think I'm doing wrong, especially if they like me. The people who do not like me aren't so straight-forward because they do not think I will do the right thing, and the people who like me aren't so straight-forward because they don't want to criticise me and they end up excusing or justifying my actions because they know how busy I am and how hard I work, and on and on.

To have someone just lay out their observations about me in such a blunt way was a welcome change. I am a pretty blunt person myself, and unless someone tells me they have a problem it doesn't occur to me to ask. This attitude has some merit, and I'm certainly comfortable with it, but I am learning (again? still? for the eleventy-billionth time?) that it may not be the most conducive attitude in work-force management. There is a balance to be had there, but I have not found it yet.

I think it is hard to provide such criticism towards one's manager. Unless your company has specific policies and practices that are encouraged and followed, I'm sure that most employers don't provide a safe space for employees to speak in such a manner.

Something I have worked hard for is providing such a safe place - a place where my employee's experiences and opinions are valued, a place where they can tell me if they think I am screwing up without fear of backlash or discrimination for their honesty. I didn't think I was succeeding, until yesterday.

I still have a lot to learn, but I think I am headed in the right direction. Also, Eunice is my favourite. Don't tell the others, okay?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Broken pieces

I was chatting with a friend a few weeks ago about nothing in particular, when she surprised me by asking me if I felt like a part of me would always be in love with Colin.

The question surprised me in the very best way. I love these types of conversations, because the questions always challenge me. I do not fully understand why, but they do.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Colin's death and my life and how all of it related. Even so, questions like this come out of nowhere and sometimes even I am surprised by the answers I come up with.

I said the first thing that came into my head, which is that I have always felt like the part of me that feels "in love" was broken. Broken in a way that deceives me, tricks me and blinds me to reality. Being in love back then was a little bit scary for me, and sort of unreliable. I fell in love with all the wrong people, over and over again. So imagine how I mistrusted Colin, because I was in love with him. I was sure that something had to be wrong with him, because I wanted him, and everyone I'd wanted up to that point had been like a train wreck.

When he turned out not to be a train wreck I was really relieved. Maybe I wasn't so broken after all.

And then, really, he turned out to be the biggest train wreck of all. He healed me in the few years we were together before his death. And with his death, he broke me all over again.

So when I was asked if I would always be in love with him, in that moment I knew I wasn't in love with him anymore, and hadn't been for a long time. It's true, what they say: you really can get another husband.

What they don't tell you is that you can never replace your first real love; you can't ever replace the person who taught you how to love and laugh and cherish life. The unique interaction with someone who loves you and gives so freely of their heart just can't be replicated, no matter how many such people enter your life. There is no healing salve for a broken soul. Time helps, but that old saying about time healing all wounds... turns out that's a little bit of bullshit. At least, it is for me. Time just teaches you to go numb in places. Open up that wound, and it's just as fresh as the day you got it. You just get good at hiding how much it hurts.

I haven't thought about Colin in terms of "love" for a long time. You do learn to love again. You learn to laugh again, and to cherish life again. He was my best friend in so many ways and he changed my life; those are the parts that I miss. I miss his personality, and his heart. His bigger-than-life-ness.

I don't miss him as a husband or a lover. But as a friend... no matter how many I have there's a little space in my soul that remains empty, and always will.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Interview: Mosey Along

This year I participated in Great Interview Experiment (about which I would not have known had MPJ not participated, so thanks MPJ!) and had the good fortune to get to peek inside the mind of the lovely lady behind Mosey Along.

I'd like to start first with a big 'thank you' to my interviewee for allowing me to ask such deeply personal questions and for participating in this process. I had a lot of fun reading this blog and getting to know her. If you don't follow Mosey Along, I recommend checking her out. She has a fresh, creative outlook on life, and the grace I found in her blog was moving for me.

I find myself curious about what makes people 'tick', and my questions leaned toward the deeper, more personal issues she touches on very lightly in her blog. She answered my questions with a dignity that I hope to share with all of you.

That said, read on!

***
You have alluded to melancholy in your blog; do you find that blogging about such feelings has helped you to deal with any negativity you have surrounding the reasons for your melancholy?


I've heard many bloggers refer to their blogs as free therapy, and pretty much that's what it is for me too. It's not like a personal diary or journal necessarily - I mean people are reading this, including my parents! - but although I'm aware there is an audience, small as it is, I do try to at least acknowledge where I'm at and what I'm feeling so it's out there, without letting it *all* hang out. I'm pretty conscious of where my melancholy comes from, and although being mired in those feelings is not pleasant, I don't look at it from a negative position, if that's possible to understand. Because I always come out the other side with new insight, or at least a renewed appreciation for the life I've got.

I really get this perspective. Our ability to assimilate information and analyse it can provide us with the tools to better enrich our own lives (and that of our children).

***
My own mother suffered from depression to varying degrees when I was growing up, but she never talked about what her challenges were; what are the biggest challenges you face with regard to your melancholy, and raising a young child?


You pretty much hit it right there - the biggest challenge is being a good mother. My daughter has definitely borne the brunt of it - I'm a stay-at-home mother so she's always been right here when it hits. I'm sorry you had to experience it yourself with your own mother. I feel gratitude that I have never had to be hospitalized or medicated, although I support whatever therapy works for an individual, and when I read about families dealing with any degree of mental illness that impacts the lives of every member of the family, that biblical quote "there but for the grace of God go I" resonates deeply.

***
Do you share your feelings of sadness with your daughter, or talk with her the nature of your melancholy?


When I have my periods of melancholy, as I call them, she's a witness to them. I hate that part of it. But I've been fortunate that there seems to be a time limit on those periods, and when I'm able we always talk about it or acknowledge it in some way. I've had to apologize to her many times for my behaviour, and also reassure her that no matter what she is loved completely and absolutely. She is remarkably mature and compassionate for a six year old, and I'm so grateful that she seems able to state her feelings very clearly and honestly, and perhaps she's had to be.

I think a parents' ability to acknowledge and/or apologise for behaviour they regret is what makes a child really aware of their own actions. Showing your daughter that you are aware of your actions, and aware of her feelings seems to me an invaluable lesson. We can't be perfect, or always as good as we want to be, but if we can be honest about ourselves we can teach our children how to be honest and caring in their own lives.

***
What brought you to the US?


Work! I graduated with a degree in animation and was very fortunate to be hired by a renowned visual effects company in the Bay Area - twice. First as an intern after graduation, and the second time a few years later on a more permanent basis. That's where I met English hubby, who still works there, although I do not.

***
Are there significant differences in culture between your Canadian heritage and your husband’s British roots, and how does your family blend them in your home?


No major cultural differences, I think the similarities are actually what worked for us in our initial attraction and in our lives together now. I get his jokes (and usually have to explain them to others who can't cope with his accent), he gets mine, and although we've had other differences that we've had to deal with, nothing that has caused us any major trauma. Both of us have trouble nailing down what is so similar other than we spell words the same way and have many of the same social and pop-culture references.

***
You have mentioned something of an emotional discomfort with the faith of your childhood; has blogging affected your faith and your feelings toward it?


No, other than the fact that it is another outlet for expressing those feelings on occasion. The honest truth is that I feel a very deep connection to that faith, even though I don't walk it in my daily life now. And I think the reason why I feel that discomfort is because it feels disloyal, both to my upbringing and to my parents who raised me. Everything I am as a person was instilled in me by them, and it's hard to feel that I am disappointing them by straying from the path they set me on. Not that I've strayed far, my moral character and compassion and knowledge of my place in the world are who I am.

***
Do you raise your daughter in a particular faith, or teach her any philosophical path?


English hubby and I want her to grow up with an awareness of God within her, but we don't go to church except when I'm with my family in Canada, and don't follow a particular philosophical path. He and I do not share the same beliefs, or didn't when we first met, but have since found a language that works for us and honours both our spiritual journeys. But we talk about and educate Sweetpea as much as we can about what faith is. She definitely has a deep spirituality, and frequently surprises me with her questions and requests. She will ask to pray, even though that isn't something I've necessarily taught her how to do. She knows how to meditate to relax and settle herself. I'm exposing her to the story of Christmas by reading it throughout Advent, and love her observations of that amazing story. (for example, "Jesus is the King of Being Nice") :)

Reading your descriptions of your daughter and how she thinks was quite fun for me. I think she's absolutely brilliant! I think it is wonderful that she knows how to meditate to relax herself - I wish more children knew about this!

***
Is there anything you'd like to share that I haven't asked?


I guess the only thing I'd like to clarify is why I call my melancholy that, instead of depression. I don't want to lessen the impact of what depression means for anyone else - it can be incredibly debilitating and effects everyone around the person who is suffering from it. Other than post-partum depression for which I sought treatment, I've never been formally diagnosed. I know people who suffer horribly from depression and I have done a lot of reading about it, and I know that when someone is in the middle of a depressive episode, it feels like you will never come out of it - that there is no escape from it. For me, even when I've hit what for me is rock bottom, I'm still aware of the light at the end of the tunnel. In one post back in April I talked about how I'm touched lightly by melancholy for the most part, and that it isn't necessarily a negative word. It's just life.

Also, because of the type of questions you asked, I do want people to know how happy and grateful I am in my everyday life. Melancholy is just a small piece of the puzzle.

I am glad you mention this. I don't think I have done a very good job of highlighting the many facets of your life as you describe it on your blog. Maybe you'll indulge me for round two? ;)

It is evident to me that I would make a terrible reporter, but I have to say... I had a lot of fun with this interview experiment. As the people in my life will attest, I am forever questioning them about their lives, and how they feel about certain things. My mom instilled in me a thirst for knowledge and a deeply ingrained curiosity about how other people live, so this interview process was big fun for me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dear Santa, please bring me a camera (and a Kitchenaid. and a book about cooking. and that nifty pen that records what you write.)

Somewhere in the middle of my soul a secret desire sits: I want to take pretty pictures.

Also, I want to be a ninja and maybe a Malibu Barbie Doll but those are secret secret desires.

I will often describe, with words that boil out of my brain, the things I see in life. Lately, I want to take pictures of them too.

I want this yesterday. Like everything else that I want I'm ready for it to happen right now. The waiting hates me, like something ticklish inside me.

My favourite library is moving to a new building and I went to take pictures of it with my cell-phone a couple weeks ago. It wasn't enough. I want more. I want to capture, somehow, the pure haven-like quality that library had for me when I was growing up.

So, stay tuned. Pretty pictures may be stopping by from time to time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Imagine what I'd do with a kid...

Mr. J and I brought Zoe and Emma home as wee six month old kittens. We (and by "we" I mean mostly "me") tormented them outrageously. Mr. J taught me about putting socks over their heads. The first time he did this, it was quite possibly the funniest thing I'd ever seen. I nearly peed myself, I laughed so hard.

The description of Zoe's reaction would probably have PETA howling for my head, and that was before I had a cell phone that was capable of taking pictures, let alone video. So, sorry.

These days, Zoe simply removes the sock from off his head within seconds. It's not as funny, but I made a ridiculous video just for you. While I supposed to be cleaning and packing for our beach trip tomorrow. Oops.

Wednesday whimsy

Do you ever feel like you really, really want to write, but have nothing that needs to be written? Today my word confusion is not persistent or frustrating; I have words that need to get out, but they're sort of a mess.

I am going to the beach tomorrow. This always sends my thoughts flittering about. Can I tell you how much I am looking forward to a weekend at the beach with my best friends? I met my newest BFF this time last year at the beach. I loved her straight away. This is unusual for me; I traditionally lean towards neutrality (if not outright hatred) upon meeting someone for the first time. I can be nice enough, if I have to, but I like to spend some time getting to know a person before deciding if I like them.

With Eula, I knew the moment I saw her. Partly she's just so cheerful. She smiled at me, big and happy, and I wanted to take her home and make her my little sister. She is dating another close friend of mine, and she makes him happy. How can you not love someone who makes your friend so happy?

I went shopping with my dad last weekend. This is sort of a tradition with us, and one we haven't participated in for the last several years.

Do you know about my dad? I have talked a little about my relationship with him when I was young, but I don't think I have talked about how much I have enjoyed getting to know him as an adult. We've had some extreme ups and downs, but my dad is one of the most loving, supportive, encouraging people I have in my life.

I was a daddy's girl when I was a child. I emulated him at every opportunity. I craved his attention and his approval. I have grown into a person who no longer looks for approval from others, sometimes even going to extremes and rejecting it when I encounter it, but when I get encouragement from my dad it really pleases me.

Dad told me that my writing is good, and that I should write more.
So, here I am. Writing, without one important thing to say.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Unicorns did not visit me today

    People will disappoint me.
    The same people will make me endlessly proud.
    Others never behave as I think they should.
    I rarely take my own advice.
    Sometimes people surprise me.
    I have no patience with repetitious noises.

I learned these lessons today. Again, and for no reason. While working, talking with co-workers, musing in my head (cause that's where I do it). They leap out at me, jumping up and down, these lessons.

Lookit! Over here. They demand. You're not looking! When I keep my mind averted, they become insistent and bouncy. Whispering at me in their thunderous voices.

You're not learning right. They say. This catches my attention. I can learn right. I think I read a book on that once. I'll learn my lessons up good.

And I did. I learned about breathing deeply (again) and waiting for the other person to finish speaking before I began talking (so rude) and about remembering that they only have one me, and I need to be available for them when they need me.

Bloody demanding lessons.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Painful perfection

Sitting on the floor, my back to the sun.
My kittens are sprawled around me, kitten-like.

A cup of hot coffee, from yesterday, spiked with Peppermint Mocha creamer.
It tastes like perfection going down, but it leaves a horrible after-taste in my mouth.

I am anxious to get dressed: I have library books waiting for me. Twilight and New Moon. Again. Because I'm hooked.

Reading Twilight is like my Peppermint Mocha coffee in reverse: it tastes gritty going down (totally holding back from being snotty about Stephenie Meyer's writing, see how I'm growing?) but leaves a delicious, silky after-taste once I've swallowed it.

I don't quite understand this. I dislike so much about these books even as I love them.

I suppose it's like my coffee creamer: I continue sipping even though it makes me want to gag after I swallow it.

I should go, get started on my day. But I've waited this long, and the sun feels good on my back. My kittens are soft under my hand, and my head is throbbing with a perfectly vicious headache that threatens to tear my skull apart the moment I move.

So I sit, enjoying the sun and the fur and yummy-horrible coffee and a terrible headache. For just a few minutes before I have to face the partly sunny with a slight wind day outside.

Hooked

It's happened. The thing I thought wouldn't happened. I stayed away for so long, but it got me: The Twilight Saga.

I wrote the series off as kid books when they first came out. I was at the theatre the day Twilight premiered and one thousand screaming thirteen year old girls convinced me I wanted no part of it.

Now? My inner screaming thirteen year old has been dragged from the depths of my psyche and now ponders that same burning question: Team Jacob or Team Edward?

Me? I want them both. Why should I have to choose? But then, I've always wanted it all.

Jacob is certainly very sexy business, with his heartbreaking smile and perfectly perfect musculature. With his endearing promises to Bella: to always love her, to never leave her or hurt her. With his ability to protect her from harm. And, let's face it, who wouldn't want her own cuddly wolf to keep her feet warm on cold Washington winter nights? Jacob is earnest and open and... well, you get it.

But Edward... certainly not as sexy and he doesn't turn into a giant-sized wolf. The mystery of him, with his tortured eyes and his deep soul-burning secrets. I've always had a problem with the mysterious type who doesn't quite treat you right.

The messy triangle between those three reminds me of the two serious boyfriends I had in high school. Not precisely, but a little tiny bit.

My first, and my second-first. The first was the all-American type: boy scout, blonde-haired, blue eyed. His father worked, his mother ran a day care. He didn't turn into a wolf, but he was endearingly earnest and mostly-honest.

The second-first was the exact opposite of that. He was mysterious and intriguing and I was absolutely smitten with him. He had no deep secret like lust for human blood or anything, but he was into drugs and I loved the danger of that.

I was smitten with them both, really, for different reasons. They were both bad for me, for different reasons. And I didn't choose between them, until they made me.

So, not exactly like Jacob vs. Edward but I know for certain: if I was Bella, I wouldn't choose. I'd find a way to get them both.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Control freaking

I was watching a television program tonight (not my favourite thing), one of those clever FBI dramas. I heart me some FBI dramas, especially the kind with David Boreanaz as the star actor. The show seems to be about a team of FBI agents and their cases; they also have a psychologist who counsels the agents.

One scene in particular showed an agent and the psychologist waiting for another member of the team to join a meeting. When he joins them, late, the psychologist says, "Chronic lateness is often used as a tool to exert control over a situation or a person."

Or something like that.

It immediately occurred to me that I am chronically late to my weekly staff meetings. I have also been accused of being a control freak. (Freak. Me. I know.)

It's true that I am often in control of, you know, everything. I am seen as controlling. But (you knew there was a but, didn't you?) I have good reasons. It is important to me to make sure things are done correctly, that mistakes don't happen if they are avoidable, and that people know what is expected of them.

To me, being in control means being responsible. It means being accountable for myself and living up to the expectations of the people who make decisions about my future. In the workplace, this means having my finger on the pulse of all the details (how's that for a metaphoric brick wall?); it means making sure everyone knows what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

I am not controlling because I want others to fail. It's not malicious, nor born of a desire to hurt or manipulate those around me. But I have discovered through my experiences that my true desire -to do a good job and maintain success- doesn't come through. When I control details I am trying to say, this is important to me, let's do a good job. But what my employees hear is, I don't trust you to do this right so I'm going to remind you for the eleventy-billionth time how important these details are.

I have learned a lot in the past few years, and one of the things I have learned is that I totally don't know as much as I think I do. I learned that certain management styles don't work with everyone, and I tried a new approach.

I experienced something very close to physical pain the first time I delegated an important project to one of my team members. I wanted to throw up and die when two hours went by and I didn't get a status update or any questions. I am not a micro-manager by nature and I hate to hover so I refrained (miraculously) from doing anything annoying or embarrassing but it was hard.

And it worked. When I backed off and just trusted that it would work out, it did. When I trusted people to make the right decisions, they did. My employees became more reliable, more accountable. They made better decisions, based on logic and fact, and their confidence in themselves increased.

Tomorrow I think I'll make a point to be on-time to my staff meeting. Because even if I don't mean for my lateness to be a means of exerting control, maybe it appears that way to the people I rely on the most.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On being girly

I was a bit of a tom-boy as a girl. Not to an extreme, but certainly a little bit. I'm pretty sure my dad wanted a son instead of a daughter, so he taught me stuff he would have taught a boy. My mom very much wanted a little girl, so I was dressed up like a dolly while playing with my army men and pretending to hammer stuff.

I was encouraged to pursue endeavors characteristic of both genders. Wood and metal shop, which I thought made me a total bad-ass. And poetry and calligraphy, which was a little embarrassing (what with it being all girly) even though I secretly enjoyed writing crap about love with a really expensive pen. I learned mechanical stuff, practical things like how to change the oil in a car as well as sissy stuff like sewing and crocheting.

As a teenager, I shunned most things that I considered to be weak and overly feminine. I wore dresses, but only paired with combat boots. I didn't carry a purse, but had a wallet on a chain.

I wasn't allowed to wear makeup or use a curling iron. Hair spray and styling gel were strictly prohibited and my waist-length hair did not feel the heat of a blow-dryer until I was grown and out of the house.

(by the way, it is absolute fucking hell to have waist-length hair in the Pacific Northwest when your mom won't let you use a blow-dryer, you know what I'm saying?)

I had jobs in my teens and into my early twenties that didn't call for wearing fancy, dress-up clothes. Not really the dress-and-heels type, I gravitated toward the sort of work where jeans and boots were acceptable, even encouraged, attire. From dispatching at a towing company (where nearly every surface was covered in a fine film of motor oil and dirt) to physical labour (you try pushing a cart loaded with about 200 pounds of computer equipment in a dress, I dare you).

In my mind, "feminine" and "weak" were interchangeable. Being female and very, very tiny, people have often viewed me as helpless. Too short to do anything useful and too pretty to have a fully-functioning brain, I was often treated, by the people who didn't know me, as useless and stupid.

I hated being a girl and I was far too stubborn to be helpless. I ignored my femininity and worked to eradicate everything that I thought made me girly and sissified.

Overcoming that skewed perception of what it means to be feminine has been a big challenge for me. I have devoted a lot of energy towards correcting that skewed image and embracing that which is "feminine".

One of the things I have really enjoyed about being a girl in the past few years is make-up. I still prefer Doc Martens with my skirts most of the time, but I am rarely without my pretty face on.

So while window-shopping this weekend I found a perfectly-perfect make-up kit with 42 different eye shadows and oodles of lip glosses and things to make me shiny and glowy and rosey and I absolutely had to have it.

I wheedled and begged and pouted and pointed out how it's on sale and it's in pursuit of my spiritual practice until The Husband rolled his eyes and gave in.

See how I'm totally embracing my femininity?

Meditating my way to sleep

I can't get comfortable.
Breathe in, breathe out.

My clothes are too tight.
Let go.

I am too warm.
Open the door of your heart.

I am tangled up in sheets and pillows and warm bodies.
Give up.

The Husband and Zoe the Cat crowding close to me.
Stop trying to control.

I can't calm my mind.
Let the mind wander.

There's knitting to be done.
Focus on the intent.

I go back to work tomorrow. I have to make a list.
Focus on the journey.

I am trying to relax. Trying not to think too far ahead.
Focus on the breath.

I breathe deeply, counting breaths. Trying to calm myself.
Focus on the mind.

I'm doing it wrong. I can't ever get this part right.
Be imperfect.

What number am I on?
Let go of expectations.

I start counting again.
Focus on love.

One...
Focus.

Two...
Focus.

Three...
Focus...

These are the words Ajahn Brahm would say to me, if he said words to me.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I dreamt of a church(ish)

I am in a large auditorium, inside a church. The seats are like movie-theatre seats: the bolted to the floor fold-down kind with upholstered seats and seat-backs. The auditorium has a stage in front and holds hundreds of people. This church has seating arrangements and we're all given tickets at the door telling us which seat is ours for the sermon.

I am the only pagan in the church, and everyone knows about me. They watch me, whispering and wondering. They're waiting for me to do something wrong. To take the lord's name in vain or sacrifice a goat.

I ignore their stares and go about the business of finding my seat; in the process I discover that the first row of chairs is bolted to the floor near a pole. The last chair in the row is so close to the pole that the seat won't fold down. The pole is blocking the seat and no one can sit there.

I examine the seat, looking for a way to fix it. Maybe if I could force the seat down, or move that chair somehow. I get down on hands and knees to see if it is indeed bolted to the floor, or maybe see if I can loose it from its moorings...

They watch me, the non-pagans, and they become irritated with my fixation on the seat.

"What're you doing?" one asks me. "Is there something wrong with your seat?"

Not mine, I say. But this one... it's all wonky.

"What's the problem? It looks fine to me." She rolls her eyes at me, and her companion next to her titters a little giggle. "Maybe you're not doing it right."

But the seat doesn't fold down. I demonstrate. It's not a functioning seat. I pull on the seat, showing her how it's not folding down.

"I don't see what trouble is," she repeats.

How can you not see? I demonstrate again. Don't you see how it's broken?

She ignores me, and the two walk away. They cast glances over their shoulders and laugh when they see me staring after them in frustration. How can they ignore empirical evidence like that? Silly bints...

I realise I have to go to the bathroom so I approach a small group of women and ask if any of them can direct me to the nearest restroom. They stare at me blankly.

"Sorry," an older woman speaks up. "I'm not sure where the bathroom is."

I set off in a huff, wondering how a woman -any woman- doesn't know where a bathroom is in a church. I exit the auditorium and find myself in a long hallway. No doors off the hallway, no signs, no clues as to where a bathroom might be. The only thing in the hallway is a long banquet table with chairs around it. The table is set for dinner, food steaming in serving dishes in the centre.

I wander down the hallway and find an elevator. On the closed doors a large "13" is painted in bright yellow. I was certain this building was single-level. Why would a single level building need an elevator?

As I approach, the doors woosh open and I step inside. There are no buttons inside, no panel allowing me to choose where to go. The doors open and I cautiously step out. A woman rushes past me wearing hospital scrubs and a net cap over her hair.

Excuse me! I call to the woman. Can you tell me where I am?

"Floor 13. Hospital level."

Hospital level. Now that's really odd. I go about my search, seriously needing to pee, following a twisted maze of hallways until I find myself in a supermarket. People are shopping inside a church. Just down the hallway from a hospital. In a building that's a single level from the outside but has at least 13 floors inside.

Another hallway and another elevator, this one with "42C" painted on its doors. I skip that one, knowing I don't really want to go up. I find another, marked "4A", and ride it down. I step out into a large corridor with windows showing classrooms. I'm on a school level. A bell rings and doors slam open; children pour into the corridor and bounce and scream past me.

I snag one, sure that a child will know the way to the potty. She points, and I see a stick figure wearing a skirt.

Finally. I'd sure hate to pee in my dress in front of a bunch of third-graders in a school-church-hospital-supermarket.

After I take care of that business, I realise the sermon will start soon and suddenly it is very important that I be there for that. Miraculously I find my way back down to the first floor (1F, Church Level) and enter the auditorium with relief.

I make my way to my seat to find it occupied. Hi there. Excuse me, I think you're in my seat. I show my ticket to the girl in my seat. She sniffs and looks away.

Miss, that's my seat. I show my ticket again, and she glares at me.

"I think you're wrong."

But it says, right here. Why won't you look?

I look around and see that all the seats are full apart from the one with the dysfunctional seat that won't fold down. Everyone has taken their place (and mine) and I have nowhere to sit.

I go back out into the hallway and snag one of the chairs from around the banquet table and drag it, bouncing and clattering, into the auditorium and down to the front of the room.

I sit, waiting for the sermon to start. Waiting for someone to notice the broken chair and the girl in my seat and the rude women who wouldn't direct me to the bathroom. Waiting for them to notice that it's not normal to have a hospital inside a church and a table-full of food that no one is eating.

Waiting for God to strike me dead.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I'm not codependent (except when I am)

image photo credit

I've been behind on my blog-reading lately. In catching up, I have been able to spend many glorious hours reading, to my absolute delight, the most talented, insightful writers on the internet. Among my absolute favourites, MPJ.

As a side note I kind of feel like an annoying little sister, following her around and hanging on her every word. I can't help it, I have a total crush on her brain.

When I finally caught up with her recent posts, I started going through her side-bar and ran across her post What is Codependence? I always liked that one. Reading it again today, something clicked in my brain. Like pieces coming together, a cotter pin sliding into place and fastening my thoughts in the right order...

I have always enjoyed the light-hearted manner in which MPJ jokes about her own co-dependency, poking fun at herself and her actions -- it's an incredibly subtle illness and can be as damaging and dangerous as substance abuse, but she has a way of looking at it that makes it less scary, less shameful.

I grew up in a highly co-dependent family. A family where some members aggressively ignored each others' needs while others went out of their way to over-compensate. Where sometimes my own needs were met before I even knew I had a need, others would not recognise that a need was going unmet.

I watched people in my family give up their own needs, their own desires and wishes and hopes, to maintain others' standards. I watched family members strive to fix that which others had broken, control situations that couldn't be controlled, lie when tempers flared and fists flew. And then become hurt, rejected, and bitter when their sacrifices were not recognised.

And I associated all that with "family". Somehow, I came to think of having children as the circumstance that forces you to put anothers' needs before your own, to the detriment of your own health; to be constantly looking for a need that must be met, to be perpetually guarding against danger or pain. To protect one's own rigid, tightly-maintained control of every situation, every circumstance, every environment. To give up one's own happiness for that of another, and to experience feelings of sadness and rejection when the very people being protected and cared-for and loved did not make the same sacrifices, didn't appreciate what was being done for them. That's what I thought it meant to raise a family. And I wanted no part of that.

To this day, when my husband suggests I take a sweater so I don't get cold I lose my mind. When he asks me if I need anything I want to scream at him. He hovers when I don't feel well and I want nothing more than for him to go away. (After he brings me soup. And a glass of juice. And a book. And all 42 remotes for the TV. And rubs my feet and goes to the store for some ginger ale and a chocolate bar. After THAT, I totally want him to go away and leave me alone until I need him again.)

What is the opposite of co-dependent? An unhealthy approach toward the opposite extreme? Whatever that is, that's me. I am aggressively not-co-dependent. Sometimes to such a degree that I will suffer just to prove my own point.

Huh. Oops.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Movie review: New Moon

Warning! This post contains plot spoilers and bitter opinions!



Went to see New Moon earlier this week. I've just finished reading all four books. It's a funny sort of thing... I really, really, really hate the way Meyers writes. Her use of casual and/or incorrect grammar and structure would not offend me so deeply if she would stick to using it as a dialogue tool to demonstrate a character's "voice"; as it is, the way the entire book(s) is written in that way makes me want to get my red pen out and mark up the entire manuscript.

(Don't worry, local public library, I totally didn't.)

That said, I found myself completely lost in the world she created. It isn't often that I will love/hate a book in the way that I really loved/hated each book in this series. I was glued to the couch for weeks straight, reading late into the night. Captivated by the characters, and often muttering in disgust.

Those of you who have heard me bitch about Janet Evanovich will recognise this unreasoning hatred of useless, stupid, banal female characters, even as I want them to have everything they ever needed.

Speaking of everything she ever needed, I was quite gratified to read that I'm not the only one who thought Bella was the epitome of a co-dependent girl. It's a good thing she gets vamped later, or she'd be the typical battered woman when Edward tired of her insipid whining and pleas for love and started beating her for her constant lack of smiling.

The thing that made the movie totally worth seeing was the collective gasp that went up among the entire teenaged audience when Taylor Lautner removed his shirt for the first time. If he didn't make me feel like a complete pervert, I'm sure I would find him scrumptious.

And, because Wired rocks so much:

Making it up as I go

When I was a girl the thing I wanted second-most was to be a grown up.

(The thing I wanted first-most was to be a warrior woman.)

I knew, in the way that kids know, that my mom made up a lot along the way. But I also knew that she had answers to everything. Even when I hated the answers, she had them. They were hers, and so they were mine. There was no arguing with her.

I wanted to be just like that, making it up as I went.

It seemed to be that adults had answers for everything. They always had the last word, the final say. Even when I made my mom lose her temper and blurt out the next thing that came to her mind, she always had something.

She never seemed confused or lost. She never had nothing to say.

My friend's parents had their routines and their structure. My teachers had their composure (except for my Spanish teacher, sophomore year, who used to turn red in the face and scream at us).

Everywhere - rules, regulations, sentence structure, paychecks, health insurance - all controlled and maintained by the grown ups.

When I got there, I also had all the answers. I held the schedule. I maintained the routine. There was nothing I didn't know. No situation to which I did not know how to respond. I made it up as I went and I knew exactly what I was doing.

Until I didn't. One day last week or ten minutes ago or five years ago I forgot how to know everything.

I have no schedule, no routine. In fact, I hate routine. I no longer know what I'm doing. Still making it up as I go, but suddenly so.terribly.unsure.

This business of being a grown up is a lot harder than it used to look. But it's Thanksgiving and I have food in the oven and I'm going to a Gwar show tomorrow, so for today I am letting it go.

And I am eternally grateful that I now know how to do so.

Giving Thanks

My family. My mom and dad who don't crowd me and don't judge my decisions. They leave me alone with my choices, offering only support or love if I need it. They taught me how to take responsibility for myself.

Mr. J's family. They accept me as I am, and they don't place expectations on me. They love me for me and they really listen when I have something to say.

My step-daughter. She taught me how to be an adult, far more than she knows. She taught me how to think about my words before I spoke them. She taught me how to love without condition, and what it means to be so proud of another person I could burst. I love her as though she were own daughter.

My employees. They teach me how to express myself honestly without losing my temper. They allow me to be wrong and make mistakes and they challenge me to do better.

My friends. Friends who are like family, they have seen the best and the worst of me and they still choose to love me.

My boss. She supports me and guides me; she helps me work through decisions and lets me find me own way. She gives me room to grow.

Ajahn Brahm. The world is a better place for him in it. I'm quite certain I owe him my sanity.

The beach. The place I escape to. The place where I am surrounded by those who protect me and love me and feed me. The place that doesn't judge me or hate me or cut me off on the motorway. The place where I see God, without having to look too hard.

My blog. It has brought me solace when I needed it, and friends I otherwise never would have the privilege of knowing. If you have ever commented on my blog, know that your words have encouraged and fortified me.

Green bean casserole. The first time I had this dish was my first Thanksgiving with my husband's family. It reminds me of his grandmother, now departed, who hugged me the first time I met her. Of the children, now grown, laughing and happy and playing. Of his parents, warm and loving, with whom I was immediately bonded.

You. I love you for making my life a better one. For your friendship, your love, and your compassion. I love you for your kindness, and for your bad attitude; for offering me advice, for flipping me off while driving, and for making such good lattes. I love you for talking during movies, and for offering me a smile on the day I needed it the most.

Joyous Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You're doing it wrong

What if there were no wrong choices?

Get married young. Have a baby out of wedlock. Marry an older man. Be a lesbian. Have an abortion.

What if there were no right choices?

Take a job overseas. Follow through with that urge to drive your car off the bridge. Skip the road for home and keep driving until you run out of pavement. Study a religion for a whole year.

What if there were only choices?

Get a divorce. Give your kid up for adoption. Get a tattoo. Pierce your butt-cheek.

Any choice you want, just waiting for you to make it.

Sell all your possessions. Become a monk. Start your own business. Drop out of high school. Learn a language.

What if you had the freedom to do anything you wanted, without people telling you that you were making a mistake? What if you were simply encouraged to try new things?

What would you do? Where would you go?

I'm going to write a book. And then ride a unicorn bare-back to the North Pole and get drunk with Santa Clause.

Ex-restaurant

My favourite spot for ribs has closed down. I am a little bit heartbroken.

The good stuff happens at night

I'm up late, even though I am tired. I have been up late for days, because I am on vacation and I wanna.

My eyes are gritty with fatigue, dry from staring at a crochet project for hours and then my monitor for more hours. Why am I not in bed?

I am certain, absolutely positive that after I go to bed is when the magic happens.

The funniest joke I never heard.
Spiritual awakening.
Earth-shattering news.
Unicorns and Santa Clause.

The precise moment when everything in my world makes sense will strike, and I won't be awake to recognise it.

I want to do yoga; to run outside in the cold and rain; to beat the hell out of a heavy-bag (I don't have a heavy-bag, dammit. Dear Santa...)

Mostly, I just want the secrets of the night.

And, I really want a cigarette.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thoughts named Sahara

There is a desert in my mind. Thoughts of sand, white as bone.

Dry, disintegrating thoughts. Baked and crumbled in the sun; blown to the four quarters by hot winds.

A memory: intangible, sliding across the surface of my mind; as smooth as glass, it holds nothing. Betrays nothing.

I do not exist in this mind. I have been stripped of this place, like the skin of a freshly killed deer. Carved away and discarded.

This mind only knows you.
It only shows you... you.

You, reflected back at you.
You, and you again.

Your face.
Your mind.Your thoughts and wants and desires...
Reflected over and over again.

Was that what you want?
Was that your desire?

If you could have chosen the thing you would leave me with, would it really have been you?

Should it, really, have been you?

Princess Peppermint in a castle of confusion

I am fifteen years old. Again.

Angry.

Stubborn.

Unreasonable.

Tangled.

For No. Good. Reason.

I want to cry and listen to loud music and punch someone.

Until their teeth break.

Until their skin splits.

Until my skin splits.

Until my knuckle snaps and I'm punching my bones into their bones.

I feel like I'm in the wrong skin. Again. Everything hurts, between the top of my head and bottoms of my feet.

When I was fifteen, I would sneak down to the kitchen and find my mom's bottle of vodka. She kept it behind the crock pot, shoved way to the back of the cupboard.

I would crawl out my bedroom window and sit on the roof with a plastic cup of vodka and smoke cigarettes.

I keep my vodka in the freezer these days, and the only cigarettes I have are from the day I sort-of quit smoking five years ago. Grody.

Where has this fight been? Why have I been wearing this suit?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alone in the dark

Your saliva hits my chin before my tears start. Above me, sweating, your face is still; in shadow. Darkness pooling behind your eyes.

My fingertips against the stubbled hair on your cheek.
Wet and smooth; rough like sandpaper and soft as silk.

My fingers come away wet. Is this blood or is this sweat?
Between my breasts and across my belly. Damp, between my legs.
Blood or sweat or tears or brains.

I look a question up to you, and you frown as the top of your scalp slides off your head and lands on the pillow beside me with a small, wet splash.

And you say, "Sorry."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Judging Betty

I have just got around to watching Mad Men, and I have to say - I really like it. I like Don Draper and all his tight-lipped mystery. I like that he has the suburbanite lifestyle with the kids and the house and the pretty blonde wife, yet he pursues other women. Darker, emotionally complex women who have their own lives and their own interests; independent women who are their own bosses and don't sit at the table waiting for him to arrive at the end of the day.

I really don't like the character of his wife. I think she is meant to be a character for whom we are supposed to feel sympathy; it seems as though we are supposed to like her and feel angry that she is taken advantage of. Her feelings are dismissed, she is accused (wrongly) of lewd behaviour, and she is generally ignored and mistreated. But really, I just hate her.

She is lonely, and sad, and extremely insecure. Certain not the personality faults of the century, but she expresses it by being snide and judgmental towards others. She is passive aggressive. I look at her character and I see a doormat.

Is that what others see? Do you look at a woman who concedes to her husband, raises his children, keeps his house, and entertains his friends and feel sorry for her because her husband is such an ass? Or do you see her and hate her?

I like to think that if I were a twenty-something woman in the 60s that I would sooner be at a dirty little bar in the Village, smoking clove cigarettes and listening to bad poetry than be married to a man who left me alone with his children to keep company with the trollops in the Village.

Really, I just wish I had January Jones' hair.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Desolation and consolation

I came home from work early today, not feeling well. I turned on the television, which I almost never do (except for those times when I do) and caught an old episode of Joan of Arcadia. Do you remember that show?

I watched it when it was on new, and I really liked it. There was some stuff I didn't like so much. Like how when Joan did what God told her to do and good things happened. I got the message, but I didn't like it.

Something I really did like was her mother's struggle with the question of faith, and her dad's discomfort with religious indoctrination. The episode I caught today was toward the end of the show, I think, and Joan's mom went to a church and spoke with the priest about faith and disbelief and all the rest.

Later, when she was telling her husband about it, she described faith (or the crisis thereof) as consolation and desolation. Consolation was when things were going well, when a person felt serene and happy, right down to the bottom of their wriggly little toes. Consoled, right?

Desolation was the opposite of all of that. When faith leaves us and we're empty; when tragedy happens and we rail and shake our fists heavenward. When we flail around, useless and scared and sad, and blame "god" for making such an ass-hat world for us to live in. Then we're desolate, barren of faith and void of optimism.

These two opposing ideas made me think of the little angel and demon, the ones who sit on our shoulders and tell us what to do. The demon whispers of fun, naughty things and the angel admonishes us, begging us to be good and filled up with virtue.

I have never had that angel and demon, perched on my shoulders and whispering opposing instructions. But I've had consolation and desolation. Both go bone deep, and they take turns burning me from the inside out.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Girl implodes brain conjuring clever titles

I was watching a TV show this evening, an episode in which one of the main supporting characters dies. As the main character of the show was taken over by grief and trauma, and while the other supporting characters were helpless and trying hard not to be, I recalled so vividly what I felt like after Colin died.

The all-consuming importance of having the right clothes on, of choosing the words to a death announcement so carefully... that thing we do where we focus on the most ridiculous, mundane details as though they are suddenly so very important.

My heart was pounding as the main character faced the question of how to carry on with life after a death. My heart pounded just the way it did when I faced that same question: what next?

I wanted to cry feeling that old anxiety, that breath-stealing fear.

Why would I choose to remember that fear? Of all the things I felt back then, why did I pick the fear to recall?

And I thought about a conversation I had with a friend recently, about carrying trauma around and how it take a lot of emotional effort to keep our traumas so fresh in our minds.

I watched the characters on television flail helplessly around not knowing how to express their grief and I sat sweating, holding my breath for fear I would fly apart, feeling my heart pound in my chest, and I let it go. I saw it for the choice it was, and I chose to let it go.

And then I focused on the dialogue, 'cause Joss Whedon is just damn funny.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Raveled

I am at a loss about what to do in this moment. It is barely a real day yet, just after 6AM. My cats are still sleeping, The Husband is at work, and my apartment is oddly quiet.

It is raining. It comes down loudly on the tin carports in the parking lot. It sounds like handfuls of nails dropped on a shed roof by an angry god. I usually enjoy a steaming mug of coffee and a book while listening to this sound, but today I can't decide.

There is so much I want to do today, so many things that I have planned, and I can't decide where to start. It seems so simple to just pick one. You'd laugh if you could hear the thoughts in my head, the arguments I have with myself about why I don't just go do something on my list.

I should have been a scientist. Then I would have a lab in my house I could go to and work on experiments and draw conclusions and make legitimate lists.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Un-Sunday

I had plans today. Fun plans, plans to which I had looked forward for weeks. Roller-blading in the park with Eula today, maybe lunch and a drink or two. Definitely laughing.

But I cancelled. No roller-blading. No lunch. Certainly no laughing.

I woke up at 7am feeling like I was in someone elses' skin. I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling for two hours trying to convince myself that I just needed more sleep or some coffee or less activity in my brain.

Sleep and coffee didn't help and the only ways I know of to shut off my brain are either too permanent or the sort of thing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

So I cancelled my plans and went back to sleep.

I feel bad, but I'm really terrible company today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Eating leads to heart burn

A week ago I ruined a box of macaroni and cheese. I grew up making mac-n-cheese for myself. Standing at the stove, I'd stir the noodles constantly while reading a book. I would test the noodles, sucking them into my mouth off a wooden spoon, chewing them fast so they didn't burn.

I never timed the noodles. I don't know what the instructions on the box say.

Last Sunday, I timed the noodles. I used the timer on my iPhone, cause it's still brand new and shiny and it is far sexier to use that timer than the old boring one that is stuck to the stove.

I set the timer for ten minutes and walked away. Probably playing with my phone like a child with a new toy; I didn't stir. I didn't even set foot back into the kitchen until the timer went off, the horrible buzzing alarm that I'd chosen as an alert clanging in my ears.

I had ruined the mac-n-cheese. Soft, soggy noodles made me think of over-cooked bits of brain. I ate it, because I'm like that, but every bite was like chewing up squishy cheese-flavoured maggots.

Today I wanted a sandwich. Or fresh, hot pizza. Or home-made chili. I have none of these things, but I have more mac-n-cheese.

I stood at the stove, reading Carlucci's Edge and stirring my noodles like a good girl. I put the stopwatch on my phone on, so I could determine exactly how long to cook my noodles.

It turns out, I like them at right about three and a half minutes.

I ate my food too fast, and now I have something like heartburn.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bad words

I don't know what my words are doing. I sit before a blank page, willing words onto it.

But they are all stopped up inside me. How do you say it? Blogstipation.

Half the time I can't stop them. They bounce around in my head, like unruly brats hungry for dinner. They wail lustily at me, eyes scrunched up, tugging at my shirt-sleeves.

Begging for attention.

Other times... they're more like sullen teenagers hiding in their rooms with headphones on. Refusing to come join the rest of the family. Moping and rude, ignoring chores and shirking responsibilities.

Ungrateful words. I'm grounding you. No TV for a month!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Leaking crazy

Other people's words light fires in my soul. I wish I had my own sometimes, words that would flow out of me, like a giggling stream. Or a stream of giggling.

I think poetical thoughts in my head, clever phrases dressed up like a princess. But they don't make it outside my brain.

They get trapped there, stuck in my head like something too large to fit down a drain. They swirl and flirt, dancing in their pretty pink dresses in the dirty water of my mind.

Never going down. Never finishing up. I can't shut them up, and I can't wash them away.

Dirty, unwashed thoughts inside my dirty, unwashed brain.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A new sort of Sunday

The Husband started a new schedule at work recently, working weekends for the next six months. Today was his first Sunday at the office. I was looking forward to the time to myself, the quiet solitude. I had many big plans for today which included yoga, maybe a run (yah, right) or weight training in my gym-ling, a haircut, some knitting, and grocery shopping. I traded the workout and haircut for laundry and WoW and spent most of the day a small state of confusion.

Even though I was looking forward to the solitude it was a little more difficult to get accustomed to than I anticipated. It reminded me of what Ajahn Brahm says about letting go of expectations. He tells me to let go of circumstances for the sake of the circumstance, and experience what is right in front of me in this moment instead of focusing on what is missing, or what may have existed here in the past. Or, even worse, focusing on what might be here in the future. I spend enough time focusing on what will happen in the future...

I missed The Husband today because I enjoy spending time with him but I was also happy to have the entire apartment to myself for a day. I felt almost guilty enjoying myself today, because I don't not want to be around him. But I did enjoy filling up the space here with only my sounds.

It's an odd dichotomy and makes me feel weird inside. Like everything else inside me, I'm not entirely sure what to do with that.

Next weekend, more yoga. I could have used the grounding today. At least I got some laundry done and now there's food in the house.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Food decisions make me cranky

Food is a big problem for me. I haven't been able to figure out why, in years of trying to sort it out, that planning meals puts me in such a bad mood. I recently admitted to Mr. J. that the nightly discussions of what to eat for dinner make me want to run away from home.

It was sort of a shock to hear myself say it, and I'm sure it was a little bit of a surprise for him too. I felt badly about that, but it's the truth.

When I was growing up, mealtimes were serious business. My mom did lots of cooking and freezing, so dinner was always cooked even if she was at work or home late. Breakfast was always hot, lunch was always brown-bagged, and dinner had most of the necessary food groups. Even though money was tight and schedules conflicted for much of my childhood, we had that meal-time problem sorted out.

I don't remember having a lot of input on what we ate as a child. I was given choices if I didn't like what was prepared, but mostly food just showed up on the table and I ate it.

And maybe that's where my frustration comes from: maybe I just don't want to have to make decisions about it. Maybe I just want the food to magically appear for me. One facet of my marriage is that neither of us make unilateral decisions. Which, really, is perfect half the time. Some decisions, though, I honestly don't care about and can't bear to have conversations about them.

I know this makes me incredibly unreasonable. I am trying to figure it out, but mostly I don't know where to start.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yoga, interrupted

I went to yoga yesterday, for the first time in a long time. I took my step-daughter with me and we had a blast. I'm not as limber as I used to be, and certainly not as centred. I felt off-balance, physically and emotionally.

Not helping my sense of balance and compassion was the woman who came in fifteen minutes late, her thongs clap-slapping the floor and her children giggling and whispering. She took her time setting up, instructing her girls where to put their mats. They unrolled said mats, and not quietly. As each of the three mats slapped down on the floor all at once, I had to fight not to scream. They settled, eventually, and just as I started getting back to my zen-place the mother began whispering instructions at one of the girls.

This is such a difficult situation for me. I want to be all happy and peaceful and understanding about how I have to share the world with others. I want to stay grounded in my bubble, not letting others intrude on my space. I really, really want to disassociate from reacting based on my environment. I try to have compassion and understanding; I try to let my heart fill up with good-will towards others; but really, I just wanted to yell at them until they cried and fled the studio.

Clearly, I have a long way to go.

Please, please, if you are going to bring your kids to yoga at least be on-time and considerate of others.

Also, don't wear shorts that gape at the leg if you aren't washed and shaved.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Perspective

When your eyes are an inch above your path, how do you gain perspective? Is it better to hover above your path so you can see in all directions, then choose a course based on some data? Or is it better to keep your eyes an inch above your path and simply deal with whatever you encounter?

What if we could rise above our paths and see the obstacles and lessons that lie in each direction, and choose based on what we thought we could handle?

If you could have your choice, if you could know ahead of time, would you? Would you fly far above and search out your futures, or would you stay closer to the earth and let it all come at you at its own pace?

I read a story about a grasshopper today. It was five sentences, and I can't remember it. Profound though, and thought-provoking. I felt blissful and alive just reading it, and then I promptly forgot it.

The really great thing about being me though, is that I hold onto that blissful feeling even if I don't remember the reason for it, or the words behind it.

Some days I really love being me.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ruby Red and a case of the I-don't-knows

Old friends make my heart hurt, in the very best of ways.

Remembering me, before I became who I am today. Was I ever so naive? So unfettered and free and skinny?

If I could go back and talk to her, I'd tell her so many things. Don't act like a tard, I'd say to myself. And stop eating doughnuts for breakfast and lunch.

If only she knew how to look beyond tomorrow. The long, awkward afternoon of her teenage-hood would set the pace for years to come and she wouldn't be able to find her way back to that girl who used to be so much nicer. Whose heart used to be so much lighter.

She was so busy looking ahead, she forgot to enjoy her right-now. She's been doing that for a very, very long time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A way of writing

"Instead of composing, they [writers] seem to construct, feeling that they need to be correct and find each right word before they are able to go on to the next."

Ralph L. Walstrom wrote that in The Tao of Writing. When I read this, it hit me: I don't have writer's block. I have writer's block! I am carrying around a brick of rules and conventional styles; the rules of writing have so weighed me down that I never learned to simply put my pen to the paper and let the words write themselves. Free-form writing exercises in school were tortuous for me. Where others dread The Essay, I dreaded free-form writing.

I was talking with Mantra the other day about writing, and she described that magical moment where her characters unfold on the page before her, practically writing themselves. I was jealous (in a very Tao Buddhist sort of way) at what she described. I want that too! I want the words to flow out of me without me having to agonise and re-write and push and pull and struggle with them. I want to forget the rules, forget about acceptable punctuation and proper grammar and just write. For the sake of writing, of telling a story and making people feel something.

Still a huge fan of Strunk and White, I'll try to forget about convention and suitable words usements. The truth is, as much as I love writing I think I'd make a much better editor than writer.

Tonight's goal: write without editing myself as I go. Ugh.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm not ready for summer

I bought a new... piece of clothing today. I'm not exactly sure what it is... maybe it's a shirt; maybe it's a dress. Whatever it is, it's cute. It reminded me of all the cute clothes I have packed away. Packed away for when I get rid of those last few pesky lumpy spots. Packed away for summer.

Well, summer is here and those last few pesky lumpy spots? Also here. I had a great plan where they were gone, where I looked like Angelina Jolie or Kate Moss or one of those waif-like girls who look great in anything and probably has a heart condition from the throwing up, but whatever.

I dug out my box of packed-away cute clothes and decided to see where I was. I won't tell you, because it wasn't pretty. I am equal parts thoroughly depressed and totally motivated. I am going to exercise and eat right and before you know it I'll be able to pull my skinny jeans all the way up without having to pour olive oil on my thighs, or having all the fat squish out over the top (which I have recently learned is totally not sexy). And I'm getting started... well, not right away. Tomorrow. I swear.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Writer's block or word slavery?

I stayed up late one night, and now I can't sleep. I close my eyes, lying in bed, listening to everyone else breathe deeply around me, and I can't sleep.

Words float through my mind. They are gentle at first, lazily swirling around and barely taking shape. Rapidly, rudely, they become more demanding. Crashing into one another, and the edges of my brain, they chant and stomp inside my head.

Write me, they command. You know you must.

Because I can never find balance there. I either have words, or I have no words. They don't come at me slowly, measured over time. They either crash in on my awareness and demand full attention like a baby with an empty belly or they dry up inside me and blow away like a dandelion's parachute ball in the wind.

(see how I'm practicing my metaphors? how'm I doin'?)

So, I write. I write until my hand cramps and I run out of lead in my mechanical pencil. I write about an author, and a business woman. The two become friends. I think they want to be lovers.

I have just begun reading The Tao of Writing; it's supposed to help writers write. I had been feeling like I have a block, the dreaded writer's block, and I realised that I've never not had that block.

I lament this block and its unfairness. I shut my book and turn off the light, and as soon as I do the words start their seductive dance inside my head. I thought about opening the gates of creativity, and then it happened. How cool is that?

Now, Universe, about that million dollars and the good night's rest I've been seeking...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I forgot to go to bed

I sit curled on the couch with my Tinkerbelle blanket (don't laugh at me, Internet, I know you heart Tinkerbelle too) draped across my lap. I am reading Loose Girl: a memoir of promiscuity.

It is 2am, and I can't stop reading.

My kitten burrows under the blanket and presses himself as close to me as he can get. I pet him, because I don't know what else to do.

We're comfortable, reading our book under a warm blanket and drinking frosty cold Mtn Dew. We wish we were in bed with Mr. J.

We're not ready to put the book away yet though, so Mr. J will have to wait.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Paying attention (or not)

I got really mad at an employee today. A mistake was made on Monday that came to light today: someone forgot to attach the whosits to the whirlygigs, and instead sent the lot off to the doohickey factory without all the right components. It was quite a problem: I got a call from Mr. Foreman who couldn't reconcile his thingamajigs, therefore wasn't paying his bill, and he needs his whirlygigs RIGHT NOW. It was a big fucking deal.

Aside from causing a problem for a customer, I really felt like whoever made the mistake should have known better. I mean, I'm a responsible manager and I have worked very hard at providing information to my group so that these types of mistakes do not happen. I have spreadsheets to help people do their jobs better, what more can a person need?

So I do that manager thing where I breathe deeply to get the murder out of my brain and then I start creating documentation. I figure out who made the mistake -then I had to do some more deep breathing because that person has worked for me in the same capacity for close to five years and why in the name of all that is right in the world would she suddenly forget how attach the whosits and whatnot?- and I start filling out forms. I furiously type of the nature of the incident, filling in dates and employee numbers and what is expected of a person in her position, and so on.

As I do this I prepare myself mentally for the conversation I will have with her: I will explain why her mistake is such an incredible problem for me, and for us all. I will elucidate the sort of research she should do in the future when she performs the same task -the task she has performed a thousand Mondays in a row. I will outline for her, both verbally and in writing, what I expect of her (attention to detail, thankyouverymuch and god-dammit) when I expect it and what will happen if she doesn't straighten herself up, posthaste.

Attention to detail is among the most important factors of what my group does. There isn't a mistake that I cannot fix; there isn't one thing, no matter how bad, that anyone who works for me can do that I haven't already fucked up royally. I have made the worst mistakes of anyone and I know how to fix them all. And from it I have learned that the majority of the mistakes I have made were from lack of attention to detail. Follow the rules, clarify what you don't understand, and pay attention to what you're doing and why you're doing it, and everything will work out fine. I drill this into their heads, have been repeating it for years. Imagine my frustration.

Because I'm such a busy little bee (or maybe just disorganised), I can rarely complete any task before getting interrupted. I don't get to finish my forms before someone comes to remind me that I'm late (again) to my weekly meeting with my core support staff. So I leave my half-finished forms and head into the conference room.

Straight off one of my (favourite, shhh) employees says to me, "You know, I think I made a mistake last week when I was putting the whosits with the whirlygigs, and the more I think about it the more I'm sure I didn't do it right. Can you help me figure that out when we're done here?"

Imagine my blank stare. This isn't the person I was boiling mad at. I was certain it was a different employee. After the meeting I went back to my desk and double checked who made the mistake and I had the employee all wrong. I was looking at a different column when I was doing my initial research and almost jumped down the throat of the wrong person. The girl who actually made the mistake? Well, she's new to that task so the mistake is suddenly a lot more forgivable.

Some attention to detail I've got, huh? Oops.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dying kitten inspires Buddhist monk

I was reading in the bath tonight about mettā. That's loving-kindness meditation for those of us who don't speak Pāli. Ajahn Brahm -quite possibly the coolest man ever (sorry honey, he updates more often than you do)- tells us to start our mettā meditation with an object towards which we can feel immediate loving-kindness.

He chooses a kitten (how perfect is that?). A broken, hungry, mangy, cold, rejected, bloody, half-dead kitten.

I get what he's doing: find something you can project your love at without hesitation, something that inspires feelings of compassion and love without question or doubt, without judgment or a second thought. And what better object than a kitten which needs his love, and his kindness?

Even so, it tickles me that he describes in such detail the horrible, scared, lonely death his imaginary kitten will suffer, and that's how he reaches that loving-kindness inside himself. It tickles me that his style of teaching and writing isn't all head-in-the-clouds enlightenment talk that only other totally evolved supreme-being types would get. It's real stuff that even I can relate to.

Ajahn Brahm uses the word "frigging" when he talks about awareness of the breath in meditation. Not words one would expect from a Buddhist monk, but words I can relate to.

Plus he giggles when he talks about how we're all going to die some day. How can you not love that?

I've been thinking about this mettā business, trying to decide what object I'll use. I thought about borrowing Brahm's dying kitten, but that just makes me think of Pet Cemetery then I can't control the giggling. I'm far too morbid to actually focus on something that might be dying, and not nearly compassionate enough to focus on something that actually needs me to nurture it. I'm too critical to focus on myself, and too bitchy to focus on anyone else. What does that leave me?

I think, for now at least, that I won't be reaching Jhāna anytime soon.

What do you focus your loving-kindness meditation on?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I sing in the shower

Cyndi Lauper keeps me company while I get ready for the day. Together we sing about our hat full of stars. I think we might cry a little, and I'm not sure why.

I multi-task, cleaning my contacts while doing silly exercises to slim down my butt. Twenty-five leg lifts for twenty-five seconds of rubbing solution onto my contacts.

I can't stop singing while I do it, and then I discover something new: I can visualise numbers. I have never been able to do that before, not while doing anything else.

So we sing together, Cyndi and I, and we cry and clean our contacts and visualise numbers while exercising. I feel rather productive, doing all that stuff at once.

Now I won't have to take time out of the rest of my day to cry or meditate or sing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

There's a stranger inside me

Five minutes ago I sat down to write my life story.

Only, it wasn't five minutes ago and it wasn't my life. It is the life of the woman who wears my skin. She's sort of a bitch, distant and mean.

She closes herself off and shuts others out. She makes up stories in her head, and the people in her brain never act the way she wants them to.

She never acts the way she wants to. She doesn't know how, and watching her try to learn is like watching a small child try to turn a screw with a hammer.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Confession

I need a confessional. With a priest and some Hail Marys. I have sins, badness inside me. Most of the time I am okay with my badness but sometimes... oh, sometimes it just claws up my insides, like a cat trying desperately to cover up its own shit with too little sand, it claws and scratches and tears at the inside of my soul.

I have mean thoughts about people, wish misfortune on people who irritate me in traffic; I do not practice loving-kindness all the time. I take God's name in vain. I have lustful thoughts about my neighbour's wife.

Frustration, like the badness inside me, wells up out of nowhere today. I have no patience, only mean-spirited thoughts. I have even less compassion than normal. I want to cry and pull my hair out of my scalp. I want to grind something fat under my heel until it bursts into a bloody mess.

Only I won't do any of that. Look at how I'm practicing such good self-control.

My fans