Tuesday, January 30, 2007
at the Worse Possible Time
I hate airports. I can tell you why. I have never managed the logistics of handling my purse, license, ticket, luggage and carry on bag all at once. I did better before the self serve ticket counters insisted that I become even more self sufficient, but I have always been totally capable of losing, finding, and losing again anything: including my cellphone and my work folders. Once I left my large suitcase just outside of one of those disgusting bathroom stalls. It was still there when I went back 20 minutes later but by then the two stalls on either side were so gross it was all I could do to pull the bag toward me and hightail it out of there.
This is another reason I hate airports. I don’t expect that much in life, well maybe I do, but please sweet jesus, let me have a clean place to pee. Let it be clean, let the toilet be flushed empty, let the goddamn seat be dry, and let my miserable minutes before I board the plane smell ok. All this is clearly too much to ask. I am waiting for the day I chase down some oblivious nonchalant woman for not wiping the seat. I plan to confront her and insist she return to dry things out. I’ve been thinking about doing this for 20 years.
So this August, when I expected to be home floating in the Clairion pool by morning, finishing my book by afternoon, and hanging out in my sweet sanctuary of a home by night, I am instead sitting at the airport in Dallas, waiting for a flight to Boston that has now been delayed twice. The gate is overflowed and if it weren’t for the clicks of keyboards and the rude rumbles of cell phones everywhere, it would be obvious that the frustration level has overtaken all polite semblance of patience.
This is the third reason I hate airports. Some people like the fascination and diversity of all these comings and goings, the drama of people greeting or leaving eachother. Some people like the quiet time sitting in those not-really-leather chairs with only grey walls to look at. None of these things interest me at all. My life is already fascinating, diverse, dramatic and quiet when I need it to be. I don’t need a false environment to entertain me.
Oh yes. And I’m also terrified of flying. I almost forgot that.
I’m tucked into my own little version of the chair I love to hate. I have checked my bag twice to be sure I still have my wallet. My airline ticket is in flapping from the outer sleeve of my purse, and behind it is my appointment book, which would be distasterous to lose. My cell phone is in my lap and my carry-on is to my left on the floor. I am my own air traffic controller keeping track of all this.
This Filipino woman has sat beside me, initially smiling and taking care not to overextend herself and her possessions into my chair space. She is about 5 feet 4 and meticulously attired. Her hair is jet black and falls just over her ears. She wears pearl earrings and a string of pearls around her neck, followed by a jet black running suit with a thin white stripe down each pant leg. She has new Adias sneakers and carries a Dell laptop, which she is balancing on both legs and is preparing to dive into it. I catch her eye.
“Are you on this flight to Boston?”, I ask.
“No”, she says gently. “If I were flying I would not be dressed like this. I am waiting for my husband to arrive from Phoenix. His flight is now 3 hours late because of this electrical storm”.
“I’m late too”. I said. “I’m flying back to Boston and I’m not happy”.
“Oooh” she said, “That is ok. You can talk to me”.
In my work I meet all kinds of people. I am a closet introvert with extrovert skills and I’m easy to talk to. I run feel-good workshops that make it easy for folks to feel like they know me. It gets alittle boring after a while—there’s actually a little hero worship in the way I am often treated , but I take it in stride and don’t let on how very private and self contained I really am.
I looked at her face as she spoke to me. She was trying to soothe me.
“Hey”, I said, “That’s alright. You look like your laptop is waiting for you.”
“I blog”, she said. “Do you?”
“No, I don’t. But I am a writer”
“Really” she said, “what do you write about?”
“I write about people like you and me. I write about love."
She laughed. “You write about the heart. That is not what I do. I am a mental person. I like rules."
When I am amused I throw my head back slightly and my mouth widens before its obvious I’m smiling. “Rules!” I said. “I hate them. What attracts you to rules?”
“Well”, she said slowly, “I am a wild stallion. If there is not a fence somewhere in the pasture, I will roam free and find myself in trouble,”
I laughed again. Then she said, “I am called the Rules Queen at work. I am a Medical Analyst and I write rules. I love my work.”
“I like mine too” I said, “Most of the time. Except I hate to travel and I especially hate airports and here I am”.
“Yes”, she said, “Airports have too many rules and are filled with too many strange people who ignore them.”
I laughed again. “You have a good attitude.”
“Oh yes”, she said, “I have a serene simple life and a kind husband who is affectionate, protective, and altruistic. I have beautiful children. What do I have to complain about?”
“Well, you could complain that you are hungry. Are you?” I asked.
“Yes” she said.
“Do you have any interest in joining me for a drink and maybe a sandwich or salad? You can tell me all about rules and I will tell you how to break every single one. Then maybe we can talk about where we’re from and why we’re in Dallas.”
She smiled. “Yes” she said. “ I would like that."
To be continued......
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Jean-Paul Sarte (1905-1980)
T F An unhappy child is likely to become an unhappy adult
T F People become less happy as they age
T F Financial security contributes to happiness
T F Having close friends increases happiness more than having children
T F College graduates are less happy than high school graduates
T F Happy and unhappy people have an equal amount of misfortune in their lives
Half of these statements are true and half are false..........
This little quiz falls somewhere in the beginning of my book on happiness, which i put aside a couple of years ago and won't return to until I am very sure I can write it. This little introduction also falls somewhere in the beginning:
Long ago a panel of Gods and Goddesses held an emergency meeting to find ways to protect the secret of life. They were concerned that as humankind expanded its knowledge and reach, human beings would one day be able to access the knowledge known only to the highest Gods. One God said, “Let’s hide the secret at the bottom of the deepest ocean.” “No”, said another, “They will one day have submarines.” Another said, “Let’s hide it at the top of the highest mountain”. “No”, said another. “They will one day have airplanes and helicopters.” There was silence for a long time. Then, the youngest among them said, to the great relief of all, “Why don’t we hide it inside them? They’ll never think to look there.”
Every now and then I take a look at either the first draft manuscript or my book proposal for what I call " my happiness book". My favorite thing is always reviewing and rediscovering the facts and research that validate certain aspects and characteristics of happiness. For example:
1. Jessica receives a 10% raise at work. She is thrilled with the extra money and recognition that she has done a good job. Then she hears that Victor received a 15% raise. This information makes her immediately unhappy. What will happen the next time she finds that someone else is doing better? Even if Jessica manages to surpass Victor, her reference is likely to drift upward to Laura, and then she will feel unhappy again. (Social comparisons impede lasting happiness).
2. A passion for order and control is inconsistent with scientific findings that chaos is essential to the survival of life. A healthy heartbeat is more chaotic than a diseased heartbeat, and the normal brain is more chaotic than the dysfunctional brain.
3. From 1950 through the 1970’s, a controversial scientist at the University of Wisconsin brutally raised infant rhesus monkeys without mothers. Totally isolated at birth, he gave them a choice of two types of artificial “surrogate” mothers. One had a monkey head made of wood and a wire mesh torso to which a bottle of milk was attached. The other surrogate mother had a similar head and torso, but instead of a milk bottle, this one’s torso was wrapped in terry cloth. The baby monkeys chose the terry cloth mothers. (Nuturing contact is more important than life sustaining nutrition)
4. Simply touching someone’s arm or hand lowers their blood pressure. One study of victims of heart attacks found that pet owners survived the longest: petting and stroking a pet was the most calming thing a patient or former patient could do. (If the rhesus monkeys didn't convince you...)
5. Myth #1 When you’re happy, everything goes smoothly.
In a study of over thirteen thousand people, 96 percent of subjects rated their satisfaction with life typically no higher than “fairly positive”. The satisfied life was not one of the extremes but steady, generally positive feelings (Diener and Diener 1995).
6. Among people who say they are satisfied with their life as a whole, 50 percent report frequent worries (Glatzer and Zapf 1984).
7. The work of Mihaly Cikszetmihalyi has been a breakthrough in introducing the concept of “flow”—the moments in life when you are so involved in what you are doing that nothing else seems to matter. In those moments you are fully alive and masterfully content. (People who live in the present moment are happier than people who are pre-occupied with the past or future)
8. Describe the two most intense hours of your life. Then choose three words about those two hours that say it all (It's my nature: I have to ask intense questions....it's a teaching tool, really.)
9. In a study on adult self-esteem, researchers found that people who are happy with themselves take defeat and explain it away, treating it as an isolated incident that indicates nothing about their ability. People who are unhappy take defeat and enlarge it, making it stand for who they are and using it to predict the outcome of future events (Brown and Dutton 1995).
I could so easily go on. If I had time right now, I would include another dozen of these facts and findings. What I like most about them is that they add scientific, not just "emotional", credibility to one of the most important things in all the world--a happy life.
That's all for now. My adrenalin is happily flowing.
And by the way, is this interesting?
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
When I told Ryan's parents that jb and I would someday let him have ice cream for breakfast, they both gave me a very strong look of disapproval. So I explained that he had to have something besides m & m's that early in the morning.
I think these are the hands of a concert pianist or a painter. My son-in-law thinks they are the hands of a baseball shortstop or a football quarterback.
It is beyond my comprehension that active and busy adults would spend hours staring into this sleeping face. But love trumps comprehension. Watching this little doll of a boy is as good as meditation, and maybe as good as __________ (fill in your own blank).
Jess spent months planning Ryan's wardrobe. His closet is filled with clothes ranging in sizes from newborn through the first year. But all that went out the window when he was born: here you see the hospital's standard baby hat and a recycled blanket. Fashion will no doubt resurface, but really, who needs it?
Here we are: Ryan is less than a hour old and Jess looks like she just left the beauty parlor. There's not much to say about me at 2 am since I had the same clothes on for far too long. As if there were any doubt, I totally absolutely heartwarmingly LOVE this daughter of mine. She is unique in all the world. I would give her both my eyes, not just one. BTW: jb will not allow me to post her photo on this blog. But I can confirm that her joy at this event, after spending every night before bed reading about how to care for babies, because she was nervous about being a new grandmother, is boundless.
This boy will be loved and cared for. I know that is not true of all children, and I pray that I will never pass up an opportunity to change that. I hope you won't either. It's not right that kids get stuck with the luck of the draw when parents are assigned. I wish every child had a second family to watch over him/her, as a safety net.
I can remember Jess' birth as if it were yesterday. I can tell you every detail about breastfeeding her, entering her room at midnight just to smell her and then stand there and cry, the moment in the back seat of the car when she said her first word ("light"), her little birthday parties, the baby food I made and froze myself, the time she got hit in the face with a soccer ball, the first time she brought a boy home for dinner,...
I could go on straight through age 29, which is today. I would end at today by saying that my daughter is now Ryan's mother, and every bone in her body is good and decent and caring and spunky and kind.
How did I get so lucky to be able to say that? All I did was love her, afterall. For her part, she forgave my mistakes, she kept me honest, she insisted I be present, and she loved me back.
That, Mr. Ryan, is what you can look forward to.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The prompt for my Monday night writing group was an egg. I arrived late, when everyone else was already writing. Nerissa placed an egg in my hand. I whispered to her, "Can I throw it?". She whispered back, "No". So instead I felt its weight and shape and all around space inside my fingers. When I sat down to write, I was thinking about circles that weren't quite circles. I was thinking of the first moments of birth when this precious baby boy was rocked awake. And I was well aware of the unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable stretching and questioning and growing that the universe has in store for me and a couple of people I dearly love.
In any case, what began as "The Egg that Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be" ended as:
The (Irregular) Circle of Life
You’d have to say the beginning
starts when you
first notice light,
squinting your eyes
strained in the first minutes to make
sense of voices and those five small crevices
set in those bobbing circles
that want you to know,
and try to reach you from within.
From the beginning your turns are
every which way,
on how hard you hit the walls
and how softly you bounce off them.
The same creviced bobbing circles protect
or abandon you during those bounces.
It makes a difference
because the hardest bounces don’t heal well
and the soft ones push you forward.
Those turns and bounces
spiral and build upon eachother
until maybe when you are 12
you smoke a cigarette or
sneak that candy bar in your knapsack
and that’s another beginning
because you have begun
little deceptions you can call your own.
In those moments you know
but can’t describe the sweetness and light
you will revisit for all of your life.
In those moments
the shape of the circle--
the vessel really—
that will carry you home.
Some of your turns
are as wide as every possible outcome
you squeeze by,
your breath compacted so tightly,
that when it cannot expand
you know you just have to move
or you will be in that space forever.
The day your boundaries blur
and you find yourself drifting downstream
with others around you—
on that day another beginning
carries you to the spot where
destiny meets opportunity.
And there you are,
who wants you to know,
and why it matters.
When you grow up,
by some standard anyway,
your circle may be closed shut
so your community and beliefs
are safe and firm.
Or by then you have had
the misfortune, if it is that,
where little point a and little point b
fail to reach each other.
When that happens
you are born again,
again noticing light,
and squinting your eyes,
straining in the first minutes to make
sense of voices and crevices
that want you to know,
that want to reach you from within.
And at that moment, if you are lucky enough,
the irregular circle that lacks a beginning
and lacks an end
and fails to protect,
this circle that is broken —
this irregular circle--
becomes a portal for
every step you will now take,
for every mystery and
that every person
who ever loved you
will tell you
if they could
is the truest straightest
to guide your way home.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Building this cooperative took somebody else's initial vision, handed to me in the form of time and modest start up money, and my own style of researching how successful coops run, recruiting and wooing local artisans to fork over $100 and 20 hours a month for a venue and community to showcase their art, and in the end, training 15 talented and feisty folks in making art and making a living.
For this concept to work, the coop had to function as a democracy. And democracies are messy. Allowing me the privilege of servicing as their "Director" for the first two years, members met once a month as a group, where they juried new applications, learned about sales and marketing skills, learned formulas on how to price one's work , and (begrudgingly) sat through communication training (by yours truly) on how to deal with conflict and talk to eachother without heat. They agreed on and wrote up Membership Rules and Guidelines, they voted on officers and set up five committees--Membership and Jurying, Display, Promotion, Quality Control, and Finance --each of which had the final say in how their areas would be conducted. They shared lunch, they decorated, they had demonstrations about how a certain craft was done, and they learned how to understand pricing and budgets and customer service and sales.
In short, the Co-op became a community. It is that sense of community, sometimes even beyond the real or hopeful income potential, that seemed to matter most. The co-op members were always making suggestions to other members about their shared creative ideas, what was selling and why, where they could find the best glue or the best stock or the best web designer. Community. It's like love: it all starts at the same place.
I left the coop now approaching two years ago. It's had some up and down times, but if you find yourself in Provincetown on Cape Cod, on the east coast of Massachusetts, in Whalers Wharf, past the rotunda to the ocean's edge, you will still find some of the most orignal and 100% hand made art and crafts anywhere.
Here comes my first transition in this post.When I starting blogging, even before I found a community of writers, I was drawn to Artists and Illustrators. Now everyday I marvel at the work Ces and Andrea and Carla and Rramone and Joy Elizabeth and Melissa and Cherrypie and WW and HE and Jessie and Hildegarde, and so many others. Like the Provincetown Artisan Cooperative, I see an evolving community--this time, not just artists, but writers and photo historians and other talented imaginative people who support eachother and cheer for their collective success.
So it is in this vein that I offer the following advice to anyone beginning or continuing the path of making art and making a living.
1. Figure out a way to earn your first $ 75. Your outlook on yourself as a "commercial" artist will change once you experience the satisfaction of selling your work. For many, including myself, that $ 75 might feel like $ 75 hundred.
2. Don't let lack of confidence underprice your work. There are pretty good formulas you can use to come with your initial pricing. If you need a hand with this, let me know and I'll shoot you an idea or two.
3. Your creative self is not an indulgence. It is not optional. When you relegate it to last on your life lists of chores and responsibilities, coming dead last after emptying the kitty litter box or cleaning the garage, you are denying your very core its right to exist, to express, to create, to share. You are messing around with your happiness if you do this.
4. Find a local buddy. My inclusion in a weekly writing group has made an incredible difference in the space and place writing now has in my life. jb may be more likely to complete the 3-5 clothing prototypes she dreams about if she has another fashion designer working along side her. The creative process is a lonely road. It helps to have a small fan club rooting you on and/or holding you accountable.
5. Get comfortable with sales and marketing and don't apologize for it. When it comes to promoting and selling your work, don't apron wring! There are a few principles that can really help in this area--but the most obvious and the most difficult is to push through and let your work get "out there" even when you want to crawl under a rock. This might hooking up with retail stores, or gallery shows, or online Esty or E-Bay, or the local high school, or self publishing or a local craft fair, but start somewhere. Make your first $ 75. Then keep going.
A Case in Point: My Pal CES
OK: here's an example of making art, making a living in action. Yours truly has been granted the distinct honor of serving as the unofficial art agent for an artist you may already be familiar with (smile). Her paintings speak for themselves. If you haven't seen Ces' body of work in a while, take a look at C.P.Adorio
Soooooo. Listen up! If you have an interest in one of Ces' paintings living and breathing in your own home, this could be the time. They are currently available at pre-gallery prices. Ces has asked that any of her blog friends also receive a 15 % discount, so all this combined makes this the deal of the century. This is not to mention the sheer joy and neverending glee of owning and viewing a Ces painting every day.
If you may need to pay in monthly installments (affectionately termed Lay-a-Way by the less articulate among us), that can be arranged. And since the artist-in-question (Ces) has asked her dear friend kj (me) to spare her the pain of having to deal with all this, you can contact me directly for information or--squeal, wow, yay--if you want to talk about owning one of Ces' available paintings. Just leave a note on my blog and we'll figure the rest out.
Making art, making a living. It's reachable. In this case I get to represent a talented friend simply by being a grateful friend. More deep love, except this time, if you're also a friend or fan of Ces' work anyway, you and I get a life long present in the process......
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
My friend Jackie said this as she's telling me about leaving her purse on a New York City train. She realized her mistake within minutes and ran down an up escalator to reach the train before it left the station. But her purse was gone.
This was a special weekend for her: it was the first time in a year she had two days to herself since her husband sustained a head injury that impaired his judgment and left him, permanently, unable to be alone. She was in the City with a friend, emotionally hungry and ready to experience 48 hours without responsibility. Her purse, her credit cards, and her $ 300 in cash, were gone.
Jackie told me this: “I refused to accept my purse was gone. I had too much at stake. I had looked forward to this weekend for months. They told me to cancel my credit cards but I said, ‘no, why should I complicate everything when I know I will get my purse back?' ”
And sure enough, Jackie was walking the sidewalks of New York City when her boss called her from West Chester PA. Her purse had been found. It was being held by a conductor who agreed to meet her back on the train track. He refused to accept the fifty dollars she wanted to give him in gratitude.
Then Jackie says to me, “The truth believed is a lie”.
I am stopped cold. “Jackie” I say, “What does that mean?"
She is quick to answer. “It’s one of my favorite sayings. It means don’t abuse your personal power. The universe will kick in for you, like it did for my purse, but it doesn’t appreciate you taking advantage.”
“Like what, Jackie?” I ask
“Like being dishonest strictly for your own benefit, or taking people or things for granted, or re-inventing the truth to how you want it to be instead of what it is. For example, I may want you to be a certain way because I think I’m right. But when I’m so strict about what is true and right I make it all wrong. You probably have your own way of seeing things. I’m taking this course on prosperity and I’ve discovered how meticulous I am in making double payments to pay off my car loan but at the same time I’m buying things on my credit card. I’m attentive and conscious on one hand and careless and thoughtless on the other.”
"Jackie", I say, "This sounds like one of my favorite sayings: 'Trust in God but tie up your camel'”
"Exactly!" Jackie exclaims. "The truth believed is a lie."
I hang up the phone and put my hand to my head. That is a sure sign that Jackie has said something important to me tonight.
Would my purse have been returned to me because I believed in my power to manifest that without abusing that power? Do I really believe the universe will be there for me when I need it most? And do I deserve abundance in any form because I do my best to be an honorable responsible person? Am I an honorable and responsible person—do my actions make sure that I protect you as well as myself from being harmed? And if I am an honorable responsible person, can I let go of the steering wheel and let faith and fate take over?
These are my questions as 2007 begins its unfolding. My path is not clear. I am grounded to a base of love and I believe in prosperity, abundance, faith, and fate. I know that much. But tonight, as I hang up the phone from my friend who has just finished a year from hell and tells me she is “determined that 2007 will be a good year”, I wonder what I believe? Do I trust in God? Have I tied up my camel? Have I secured my house and bank account? Do I understand that when I cling to a “truth”, even when I am sure it is “right”, it may work for me but not for you?
Can I, kj in 2007, be both attentive and conscious in my precious life? Can I be both judicious and expansive with the love I give and the love I gratefully receive? Can I trust and attend at the same time?
I’m walking forward, knowing better than to piss off the universe for petty reasons, and deep down I pray I understand that the truth believed is a lie.....
Sunday, January 14, 2007
would I do it anyway?
If I couldn't find your house
would I still find my way?
If I needed to be there
would I still be here?
If I made the effort and failed
would I still succeed?
If it's because of love
would I dare think otherwise?
If I accept what's true
will I still be me?
Thursday, January 11, 2007
son of Jessica and Michael,
grandson of kj and jb, and Patricia and Malcolm,
great-grandson of Rose and Betty,
child of great promise ,
and one day, man of peace.
I don't post too many pictures of myself, but if ever there were an exception, it's this shot of our four generations.
I know every baby is a doll, but really, I think he's a doll. So are his parents. Ryan's dad, Mike, is not included in these shots only because I could not figure out how to upload, download, or inside-out load
All I can say for now is thank you for this healthy baby boy, who will be deeply loved all of his life.
Monday, January 08, 2007
2. I have a little "character" inside me named Emily Rabbit. She is a friend of jb's and she is both an imp and a troublemaker, but because she is little, she gets away with a lot. Sometimes Emily crosses my name off a card I am giving to jb and writes her own name instead (Jessica, forgive me: I know you are shaking your head at this point. I can only say you are not alone in your concerns about my overall sanity...) Please, if any of my blog friends are willing to admit they also have a character or two within them, it will spare me ridicule. And if you do admit to this, details please......!
3. I hate discussions of bodily functions. I can't stand jokes about farting and things like that. They offend me. I am not a prude; I'm right in there when the subject matter is interesting or sensual or provocative, but spare me anything gross.
4. I would give anything to be able to sing. Really I'd settle for being able to carry a tune. Just once I wish I could belt out a few tunes on stage, get a rousing round of applause, and then I would retire my singing career. The liklihood of this happening is zilch.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
So if reading any part of this post helps you as much as it helped me to write it, I'm glad. And if not, that's ok too!
Catch a break
Give and take
Steady your chin
Don’t give in
It’s not sin
Have it your way
It’s not too late
So your fate
Then it’ll be
With pieces back
And what you lack
Will fill again
And in the end
You will suspend
Concern and care
Instead you’ll dare
Toward brave and true
And wonder who
Could not renew
Every loving act
Jeez. I’m coasting along in this internal existence where time is on my side and I’ve mastered the important details. I know how to squeeze my privileged budget to drip out that trip to Italy and freely partake of the should-be smoky ambiance of the hole in the wall Smithsonian restaurant. .I meet my friends there almost every Friday night and we laugh and catch up like the family we are becoming. I also know how to navigate the prickle of practical and craft of creative: I get the damn chores and requirements done first on those sometimes grey and sometimes stunning early mornings and then I write. Sometimes I doodle, or walk around this sanctuary of a house with my little canon one shot and click on the words and colors around me. In these times, and some others, I have learned to see the details--details like the woody path in Look Park, just before I turn to the small person-made lake where these happy safe ducks float and bob and occasionally there is a wedding or some other celebration in the smallest open air wooden chapel that always strikes me as a sacred place. I haven’t yet but I would go there to pray in a jam.
I’ve had six months of this good life. Exactly on June 3oth I stopped my billable hour schedule and let my own rhythm put me to bed and wake me through the brightness of the sun or the damp of the rain. I hasten to add that I live this way because my lifelong partner is supporting me: working and keeping track of it all so I can ease into this transition of the writing life. “Ease” is a too safe and not fully honest verb here: I am feeling my way along an unknown wall. It is pitch black and I count on the wall to guide me, one step after another, and it does, but don’t ask me where I’m exactly headed. Somedays I am moderately shocked that I don’t know. And some days I am significantly shocked that it doesn’t matter.
So this is the context, the framework, the landscape upon which I have encountered deep love. How is it that it is so easy for anyone I say that to so easily understands what I mean? Sometimes I say that it is the kind of love that makes you cry, just leaves you standing there wiping your eyes with your sleeve because you never saw it coming.
Other times I say it is the kind of love that leaves you depleted by the sheer volume of its size and scope. Have I not loved like this before, where I can hand it over in the quickest moment and find myself soaring from my generosity simply by the reciprocal look on your face or the wonderous comfort of your voice? How is it that I’ve lived these years, been mostly good and kind to my family and friends, that I’ve excited and elevated the people around me through my uncommon work slant and my enthusiastic energy, and not until now accepted deep love? Deep love: the kind that pays dividends on every emotional deposit—even the quickest glance in the grocery line, even my hand on an unsteady shoulder, even my decision to care and protect someone—not just anyone—who stands outside myself but not just so—who also listens with sacred ears and will stand up at the alter with and before me too?
I am surprised that this is not an easy existence. My heart is equipped with these little toothpicks, ready to protect itself should someone particular try for entry I cannot handle, Little toothpicks: now that’s a fortified defense. This might be the problem. I don’t have a fortified defense. I don’t have much of a defense at all. I am walking along, strolling the crunchy streets of Northampton, planting my sun garden with wide hope and even wider grins, writing poems and painting words with my buddy soul mate, and I am loving deeply. So deeply that I deplete and refill and expand and deplete almost every day.
It should probably be said outloud: it’s not always an easy life. Death, drought, deception and disarray do not escape me. They swirl around like foreign objects—particles of dust descending on the blue pearl of the kundelini itself—but falling only on the surface, never beyond. The blue pearl is protected. I know this from faith. Mostly these days I walk around stunned by the love around me. Sometimes it is quiet, like a prayer, other times it spikes up my spine and I gasp, sometimes I am overwhelmed by it for no other reason than I now understand what it is.
And what I understand is that my path starts with my heart and ends with someone elses. I have been diverted and misguided and several tragic times dead dead wrong. I have twice committed the most unforgiveable crime of betrayal when only love was needed, and I have watched my ego dance around every stupid purposeless question asked and expected of me: Am I right? Do I have power? Will I come in first? Am I strong enough? Smart enough? Full enough? Do you love me enough?
But that was then. That is not today, because today I am breathing and writing on Nerissa’s green covered couch. I am looking at her determined thoughtful face as she also writes and I am seeing her little daugther’s smile wallpapered on her full expression and especially in her kind and fortified lower lip. I am looking around and seeing faces that offer me a place and purpose to be heard, who will treat me kindly, who will take the time, and who will hear the rhythms too. It is not difficult to be right here right now.
But none of this relieves me of the weight of deep love. Living and loving this way means that I have not only diminished my ego, but I have dropped my defenses and cast open my full and fragile heart. Not the defenses you would expect of someone who does not want to be taken advantage of, or misled, or underappreciated, but the defenses that size up and then respond to trust faith and value and virtue. And not the defenses that guard the bank account or strive for the promotion or protect hurt feelings, but the defenses that for all these years have also fortified me--the ones that do not allow entry unless you come bearing gifts. The ones that measure friendship and connection first by what is given and received and only later by what is real and true.
These are first line defenses and most of them are now gone. They melted. Or maybe they shriveled from too little use. Or they recognized the little toothpicks of my heart would give it all up anyway, so what’s the use.
If you asked me what all this means to me day-to-day, I would tell you that I am way more vulnerable than ever before. I am quite unprotected and quite unanchored. I cannot tell you what my life will look like tomorrow or next week or next year. I would tell you I no longer know how to operate my arsenal of protection, and yet I feel more protected in general, not less.
I would also tell you that I now cry at the drop of a hat or the sound of a gentle word, and I don’t try as hard anymore not to. A friend whispers “I love you” and I am in the arms of the angels because I know it is true. My daughter’s voice carries a calm wisdom I have never heard before—she talks about this baby she will soon deliver and I know in the deepest safest place that she is happy— enough of her life has been right that she has taken her place in the circle of life with grace and substance. I would tell you that my partner walks out the back door and I swallow hard knowing she will help me find myself even when it looks like some of me will be lost to her. And I would tell you I look in my mother’s eyes and I know I have the deepest special honor of helping her prepare to say goodbye.
I am transformed. I am transformed by deep love. That’s what it is. Am I happier because of it? No. Am I wealthier, or wiser, or clearer or safer? No.
It’s not any of that. This is all it is, I think all it may ever be: I get up each morning, I put on my red fuzz slippers and my purple silk nightshirt, I make the coffee, feed the dog, skim the paper, greet my family, and I do what is expected of me, and I do what is not expected of me. i look for and welcome opportunities to love, to connect, to work, to create, to share, to understand, to see rightly and laugh my head off.
What has changed—I think forever—is that I now know I am reliable. I can count on deep love. And because I have so much to give, I can count on getting so much back that I will never ever be alone again. Maybe lonely here and there, but never alone.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
A is for age: 38 years old. This is not my actual age but it is how old I would be if I didn’t know how old I am.
B is for beer of choice: I don’t drink. I can’t drink. That’s another story. But if I did drink, I wouldn’t drink beer. I was a fine wine and zambuca girl….
C is for career: I’m a self employed counselor/consultant/trainer who is happily becoming a writer.
D is for favorite Drink: hands down, my favorite is Italian Roast Coffee. Every morning I squeal with delight while it’s brewing.
E is for Essential item(s) you use everyday: Ok, no lipstick, no pearl necklace for me. It’s a pen and paper. I’d be lost and longing without them.
F is for Favorite song at the moment: Eva Cassidy’s Fields of Gold.
H is for How About Whatever Favorite I Choose: Ok, I choose my favorite color. It is green, like grass.
G is for favorite Game: I hate games. I try to avoid board games especially. I will play poker or whist but that’s all. Please don’t ask me to play board games. Please.
I is for Instruments played: Guitar, piano, tuba, trumpet, violin, drums, and sax. No, none of this is true. I made it up to impress for a fleeting second.
J is for favorite Juice: Fresh squeezed orange juice.
K is for Kids: I have one darling daughter of my own and I love kids of all ages and sizes.
L is for last kiss: This afternoon to jb before she left for Newport.
M is for marriage: Yes. 19 years unofficially. 2 years legally. 21 years in all Happily.
N is for full Name: Karen Marie. Not my favorite, but my parents must have liked it.
O is for Overnight hospital stays: one at age 5 when my tonsils were removed; one at age 30 with the birth of my daughter; one at age 33 for a scary biopsy, and one this summer for back surgery.
P is for phobias: I have my share: the worse are being alone at airports, driving in snow and ice, and public speaking (all of which my work requires).
Q is for quote: I like Ces’ "Hell No" or "Hell Yes", I also like “What the frick..”, which I picked up also from guess who.
R is for biggest Regret: hmm. I wish I had saved more money faster. But then again, I’m not sure I would change anything either. If I have to sell shoes at Macy’s when I’m 85, I just hope I don’t have to touch strange feet.
S is for sports: I love baseball. It is mystical and magical. I believe I am an expert on the game.
T is for Time you wake up: varies: sometimes 7:30, sometimes 8, occasionally 6 am.
U is for color underwear: most often black. And they match.
V is for Vegetable you love: Is an artichoke a vegetable? I love artichokes, especially reaching the heart and dipping it in lemon butter or hollidaise sauce.
W is for Worst Habit: I can perseverate and nag in an attempt to have it my way.
X is for X-rays you’ve had: Because I think this is a stupid question, I decline to answer it.
Y is for Yummy food you make: I make a mean garlic and cheese bread, my dad’s spaghetti sauce, and I just
mastered turkey gravy—after at least 300 attempts.
Z is for Zodiac sign: Leo the Lion, but please be aware even though I am regal I have learned humility.
I'm tagging WW and HE: I don't like tags but I'm hungry for information....
Friday, January 05, 2007
It helps to have a special talented artist and friend in high places.
Yes, I am as elegant, colorful, and classy as I appear in this elegant, colorful and classy avatar.
But don't ask if or when I wear pearls and polka dots. Some things are best left to the imagination.
(Thank you so much, Ces: I love it)
Thursday, January 04, 2007
A couple of years ago I kicked and screamed my way into a life circumstance that required, insisted, demanded that I not only accept my own vulnerability but that I live my life without so much effort to hide it. In counseling lingo, this is called congruence: being the same person on the outside that you are on the inside.
The result, for me—I can only speak for myself—has been a giant relief. I am a happier and more relaxed person these days. My ego is in check most of the time—I don’t need to be right, recognized or special. I am not as afraid to cry or have my feelings hurt or let it be known that I sometimes don’t have a clue what I’m doing or why. I can see that I am kinder and gentler to other people. I am a better listener. I understand more what it means to be grateful and alive.
HOWEVER: there are mornings when I wake up and don’t know if I’m happy or sad. There are times when I’m re-evaluating my choices and options over and over again. And there are times when fear freezes me shut and my insecurities scream at me that I am a lousy counselor, that I will never be a real writer or a loving partner and mother and friend, or for that matter, a worthy person. There are moments when I am clueless, afraid, consumed, confused, lost, selfish, and pathetic.
With the start of a new year, I’m prone to take a deeper look inside and hope that I can and will navigate my life honorably and purposefully. I am clearly a fortunate person: I live in a free country, I have comfortable means, I love deeply and am loved back, I have a career, I know about wonder and grace, and I don't often overlook the miracle of sunrises and sunsets, flying geese, and, now even, petrichor.
With all these thoughts in my head this week, I arrive at my mother's, who is soon to be 91, who lives in the house my father and his father built with their own hands. My weekly visits have become harder for me because my mother is failing. Her memory is less every time I see her and she has recently begun to say aloud that “something just doesn’t feel right”. She is determined to stay in this little Cape Cod house for the rest of her life, and I am trying to help pull this off for her.
So the context of all of this, as I’m gathering and dealing with the weekly bills and paperwork that accumulate on my mother’s kitchen table, I come across a hokey little inspirational flyer sent to her by the hearing aid company where she just purchased, and just as quickly misplaced, her new hearing aids.
I’m ready to throw this hokey little flyer away as I skim it. But I don’t throw it away. I have it in front of me right now because it says things, even hokey things, that I know are true—things that make a difference in how my days go and when and whether I am content.
I imagine this little flyer, entitled “Natural Highs”, was written for older people. But because it ding-a-ling-rings true for me, and because I know from my own experience that life is not always easy or understandable, even when everything seems to be ok, I am sharing it with you too. Perhaps, like me, it may help you appreciate what really matters when you most need to know that:
Laughing so hard your face hurts
Seeing a rainbow
A hot shower
Falling in love
A special glance
Finding no lines at your favorite place to shop
Getting personal mail/email
Ice cream on a hot day in the shade
Taking a ride on back roads
Hearing your favorite song
Lying in bed listening to the rain outside
Hot towels out of the dryer
Finding that special item you want on sale for half price
Having a child tell you that you are awesome
A good conversation
Receiving a letter or a care package
Finding a $ 20 bill in your coat from last winter
Overhearing someone say something nice about you
Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours to sleep
Receiving home-made baked goods from someone
A back rub
Finishing a great book or movie
Getting invited somewhere special
Laughing at an inside joke
I could add another dozen or more experiences or events that make me take notice that I am happy. I’ll bet you could too. Please add any you'd like! All I can say is I think it’s a good good thing to seek out and have as many “natural highs” in life as possible. Sometimes you just have to notice and there they are. Sometimes they don’t take away my tears or questions, but they do remind me that perhaps life at its core is actually very simple……………
Monday, January 01, 2007
So today, before I sit down to write out my new year goals and resolutions, I am cleaning and organizing my writing room (until July, called my 'office'). I want to start with as clean a slate as possible. I'm going through papers and paper bags and boxes and files from years past, tossing what I can, and lovingly holding on to so many letters and photos and cards and memories that piece together in some chaotic way to reveal my life.
The treasure of the day has been reading my daughter Jessica's letters, written to me when she was not yet out of elementary school. I can't simulate her little girl handwriting, but have a look at this little girl who is still my very favorite daughter and who will be giving birth to a baby boy in the next few weeks.
You deserve it!
Roses are Red
Violets are blue
The Lord only knows
How much I love you!
I know I’m a brat
I’m so proud of you
Cause your not fat…
(Not that you were)
I love U
x’s a Million!
Having a nice time. I wish you where here today
And many more. If you want go to jim and Debbies
And look at there postcard, fell free
I love you!
I’m having a nice time. Dad
sent me a letter about our
trip. OH I got your letter
on Tuesday. How did you like
my mom sign? I made it in art
with salt and chalk, I have
some others hanging up in my
bunk. I miss you a
lot (A very lot). I have all
the stuff that I need
for 2 weeks. See you
soon. PS I’ve meet a lot
of new people.
All my Love,
Mom we, wait a minnet sit
Down for this “ok” We just
Won 2nd place in a lip sink
Contsest. (I was a boy). Tomorrow is
The 4th of July and were
having Fireworks and then the
next night is the Dance.
About the lipsink everyone
says the judging
wasen’t fair and that
we shoud be first place.
All my Love,
I’m still on the porch,
This letter will be
written on the porch, in
the car, and in Cape Cod.
I will tri to remember to
write you more than once. You
know dad is late. Well I
will write more in the car.
My Birthday Party was
one of the best. I think
I hear a cricket out in
the porch. Well now I’m in
the car. Well, I’m on
my way. I’m here in the
camp. We are in 114 land. Well
I miss you a lot. Hope
to see you soon. Like I
said I miss you. Now I
gave to write to Great
All my love,
PS I’m home
(Note: Written on Mom’s work stationery)
Subject: Mrs. Kj
She works in options Associates.
She is a very nice person. But
today she went off on a very
long trip for 3 days in New York.
I really do love her. She is a
very nice woman and a very
nice mom. We live in a
large house with a dog
two cats and one bird and
J___. My dad lives in a one
room house (he rents). I miss
him a lot a lot of
the time, I love them both very
Note: Written on Mom’s work stationary, put in an addressed envelope, and mailed to me
I think that you should
look at the envelope and see
the mark. Told you I could
do it HAHA. I hope that
you bring me to your office
All my Love,
F Block Junior High Poetry Assignment
The night was somber, the air was cold.
I was young, and Shakespeare was old.
We sat down, poetry on our minds,
Looking for the right words, that we never could find.
The year was about 1596, and ready to write I was,
So we continued writing and writing, because that’s
what a writer does.
Finally a poem came out of our stress, and our work
Now that I look back upon it, I think to myself that
it was almost fun.
The very next night again it happened, a poem came
out of our heads.
That’s why now I get so sad, when I think that
Shakespeare is dead.
In my mind Shakepeare still lives, and for everlong
What I would do for his writing talent, for that I
So, next time you read a Shakespeare poem, think of
the work that went in.
I will always remember Shakespeare, because he was my
The power of love: all by itself it really can move mountains, solve any problem, create peace on earth, and remind you again and again of the clearest and most important reason for being alive.
P.S. I love you, Jess.