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?

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