addiction · deprivation · effort

“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

2.15.19.jpgIt’s been quite the run this past week, and I bring myself to my computer by the strictest of force.  I’d really like to start on grading the 55 papers I have waiting for me.  Or, I’d really like to take a long luxurious shower, instead of my quickies on the blogging mornings.  I’d really like to avoid the page right now.

When I get out of my habit of sitting at this page, I rebel.  I am much the same with other healthy habits, and as I’ve heard, “[We’re] the kind of people who find something that works and stop doing it”!  And I very much fit that assessment.

My week has legitimately been packed with actions related a significant upcoming work assignment for which I’m the point-person.  I spent the majority of Sunday working on the presentation I’d lead about it Monday morning, and thus spent little of Sunday night sleeping.  In fact, since Sunday night’s fitful rest, I haven’t slept one night through.

And the only action I’ve yet found to counter my brand of insomnia is regular (read: near-daily) exercise.

But. With the “exhaustion” on Monday after school, I didn’t go to the gym.  On Tuesday, I was “too tired,” too.  Wednesday, they don’t have my workout class at a “good” time for me, and yesterday, I told J (to no convincing at all) that the road back from class might be flooded and since we were going out in the evening, I didn’t want to risk not being back in time.  (eye roll)

On Sunday night, I shared some of my story of recovering from my cycle of financial distress, and found myself admitting that “deprivation” is still a way I undermine (and torture) myself.  No matter my level of earning, I can find ways to feel deprived (e.g. putting it all into savings so that my spending cash feels like pennies I have to hoard).

I reflect on my habit of “avoiding” my writing and my physical health (because you can be SURE that between the not sleeping, no gym, and malaise around creativity, I have mindlessly gorged on the trays of pastries set out at work).  There is surely no “gain” from denying myself the activities that (only afterward!!!) give me self-esteem, pleasure, groundedness and sanity.

But perhaps it is the “only afterward” piece that is the hurdle.

Waking up at 5am and “using”/”spending” 30 minutes typing a blog that, well, may or may not be significant to the world…  Rushing to the gym after a long day of teaching to spend/use another hour of “on” time…

None of these activities really benefits anybody except me.  And none of them “take” anything from anybody except me.  It’s this self-contained little circle of output and intake.  I am the engine that expels, and I am the gas tank that is refilled.

The only piece that makes any of this at all worthwhile is my deciding that it is.  For my own benefit, for my own life, for my own soul.

And for a person with a quasi addiction to deprivation of the soul, you can imagine that I fight multiple demons on my way to this page.

Though, on this morning, they can go fuck themselves.

 

authenticity · goals · theater

How to talk so the Universe will listen & listen so the Universe will talk.

2.6.19In a bout of manifesty goodness (or plain coincidence, if you’re feeling cranky), performance has been floating to the top of my experience again.  Last Thursday morning, my blog was about how I was feeling itchy for performance, feeling isolated in my creative endeavors, and that I wanted more engagement in the theater or music realms.

On my drive in that morning, after having told you all about that, I was on the phone with a friend and told her the same.  So: I spoke my intention in writing, then I spoke it aloud.

That afternoon, I received an email from a theater company I’d auditioned for several years ago inviting me to participate in their audition workshop.  Eeek.  Um. Well, I don’t have anything prepared right now!  I haven’t auditioned in years, and I certainly don’t have a piece ready to go.  “So,” I replied, “could I come to audit the workshop?”  It would be great for me to be around theater again, the language again, to glean what I could–and I’m happy to pay the cost;)

And he replied, Yes.

Later on Thursday, in preparation for an upcoming trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my 7th graders, my boss reminded me that we have an in-house Shakespeare expert in our drama teacher!  And while she’ll be instrumental in helping me form ideas for my curriculum and our trip… “Well,” I asked the drama teacher, “do you ever do audition coaching?”

And she said, Yes.

I am humbled and reminded that when I am specific and intentional about my goals, they repeatedly rise to the top of my experience.  I forget that sometimes it’s as simple as letting people know that I have such dreams and goals.  There’s a host of helpers, seen and unseen, just waiting for me to take ownership of them.

Even if it feels silly or embarrassing or I’m not ready or I’m good enough, that’s none of my business, frankly!  My only role is to tell the truth.  Show up.  And play this ongoing game of Fluxx.

 

faith · light · nihilism

The Scientific Philosopher

IMG-5463.JPGA quote attributed to Albert Einstein (that the internet calls unconfirmed) is as follows: “There are only two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as if everything is.”

While I’ve been dallying in the realm of nihilism, contemplating the ineffectuality of all our toils, I’ve felt pretty unenthused.  hashtag surprise.

I’m reminded of several years ago when I sat in a circle of women sharing about their spiritual journeys and one older woman said that sometimes she felt that as she prayed, she was talking into a phone that wasn’t connected to anything.  She didn’t know if her prayers were heard, if they mattered.

But.

She said that she felt better inside herself when she did that act of praying anyway.  Whether it was “received” or not, whether there were any “thing” on the other end of her prayer, she felt better.

So it begins to dawn on me that whether or not the seas are rising, the permafrost is melting, and swaths of earth are prey to fire, famine, drought, and flood…

If I believe in nothing, that nothing is a miracle, it feels too burdensome.

Perhaps religion is the opiate of the masses, but if the alternative is to see that squarely and soberly the world is an inevitable plane of demise, then I’ll take a hit of faith!

If to make meaning out of life means that I feel more engaged in it, then I moreso feel that I’m not wasting the time I do have on this planet.  If to make it all meaningless and a hollow marking of time means that I feel less engaged in life, then I really do feel that I miss the mark.

Whatever the result of the “kids/no kids” decision, I know that I have to come to the light again, for my own heart and also for the impact I have (actually or energetically) on those around me.

Whether or not there is someone on the other end of the phone, I must allow myself to believe in connection.  Whether or not there are indeed miracles in the world… well, I saw a double rainbow on the drive to work yesterday, and I can call that whatever I want, but calling it awe-inspiring and a gift of this life, brings levity to my soul.

 

meditation · nature · procreation

Asking Mother Nature the Question.

2.4.19.jpgin middle earth

she plants.

a sphere of molten darkness

she walks hunched continuously

planting step, planting step

But what if none of your seeds bloom?

The earth, the temperature, the noxious?

but this is her job, to plant

to lay the seeds and leave

nature fate eventuality

do its own work

she’s unconcerned for the future

because her part is

to plant them.

not judge or

maneuver or fret:

Seeds must be sown

simply

because they must.

And she is content.

 

meaning · nihilism · philosophy

Rainbows & Permafrost, Anthrax and Lollipops

2.1.19.gif“I’m having a mini-existential crisis… Erm, No, make that a full-blown existential crisis.”

Anthrax reindeer?

“Anthrax reindeer.  And, you know, I’m kind of excited about it; I’ve never had an existential crisis before.”

The end result of questioning what I want my legacy to be—and therefore what I want my life to be—in concert with the dawning awareness of the inevitable degradation of our planet is leading me into my first true existential crisis.

While surely there have been points in my life when the chips were terribly down and I questioned the point of putting myself through any further days, mainly those were of the stereotypical, “Life is awful, may as well end it,” crisis.  Whereas this is more of a, “Life is perfectly fine, if not really good, but so what?”

I’ve never had a ‘Life is Good’ existential crisis before.  I’m pretty curious about it!

I never studied philosophy; never read Man’s Search for Meaning; never read Sartre or Goethe or James.  What did they have to say about all this “sound and fury”?

I begin to apprehend Macbeth’s meaning when he intones after his wife’s suicide:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Whatever the “meaning” of the life we make now, whatever the legacy, whatever the impact (positive, negative, or neutral) we have on the world and those around us, in a few millennia or sooner, it’s all a dust bin anyway.

So, why bother?

Just the very human search for meaning is meaningless.  The narcissism of humans to think that it “means” anything at all!

I can be and am curious, I can be and am grateful.  I can laugh and love and enjoy and squee… but there is no “point” except the doing of it.

In the Deepak/Oprah meditation today, they said there is no beauty or awe or wonder until we create it.  A sunset is meaningless unless my consciousness gives it meaning.  They further underlined the “centering thought” for the day: My being embraces life with gratitude.  And I agree that there is merit to the idea that simply by being alive we are impelled to find the goodness in it, that by my being alive I am impelled to improve my own life, the lives of those around me, and the future humans of this planet by making choices that align with my moral and ethical values.

Yes, making positive choices since I’m here anyway is fine.  But.

Short of self-harm, let’s see what else I can discover in this nihilistic chapter that I’ve opened.

 

collaboration · dissatisfaction · performance

“And suddenly solitude fell across his heart like a dusty reflection…”

10348598_10204752582560629_6563317244555255994_n
2014.  Way too long ago. 

He closed his eyes. The dark doors within him opened and he entered. The next performance in the theater of Grenouille’s soul was beginning. ~ Patrick Süskind

Maybe it’s the staid nature of the neighborhood around here, the increasing pressure on some time-sensitive projects at work, or the subtle undercurrent of the kids question, but I’ve been feeling itchy.

Since I began at this school two school years ago, I haven’t participated in any theater.  I had to give up my folk duo’s monthly performance because it’s staged late on Sunday evenings, which also meant giving up my weekly practice sessions with my music partner.  My piano buddy and I haven’t met since I moved up north.  And my own piano stand is in Oakland, while the keyboard is in the attic.

While writing is a creative outlet—and when I blog regularly, it surely helps to calm the brain gremlins—I’ve realized that writing is a pretty solo and solitary venture.  When I’ve felt most engaged, I’ve also been a part of something performative or collaborative.  Something where I get to create with other people.

And I feel kinda itchy and lonely for that.

What happens when I neglect those social, collaborative arenas is that I begin to pick out the flaws in everything else.  And, if you’re living with me, you’re probably going to get the lion’s share of that!  And that’s not fair, because it’s also not reality; it’s a microscoped circle of vision about an aspect of my life since others are atrophied.

My energy gets low, my irritation gets high, and it’s easy to lummox into a myopic spiral.

It’s unclear to me at present the exact action steps to take toward broadening my creative and productive vivacity, but noticing that I’m teetering on the edge of Limited Perspective is a start.

 

children · legacy · mortality

Yes: Jump. But Where?

1.29.19.jpgAt a women’s meditation retreat a decade ago, the question of “legacy” was posed.  In answer to, “What do you want your legacy to be?,” a trend emerged around the circle: the women who had children nearly all said their children were their legacy.  Done and done.

At the time, I felt that was such a cop-out.  That’s not a legacy!  Where’s the “you” in it?  Where’s the manifestation of the gifts and talents that only you can bring to the world?  That’s about your kids, not about you!

Clearly, I had/have some issues with judgment;P

But, as I consider kids myself, I’m brought up short on what I want my answer to the legacy question to be.

As I pondered yesterday the idea of not having children, suddenly it made the idea of death seem all the more looming and permanent.  That’s it.  Out, out, brief candle.  Poof.

So, what do you do with the time that you have?

For the first time, I began to see things the way J had before we’d met, before he’d considered having kids: a life of far-flung adventure, outdoorsiness, travel.  A life — as it was looking to me then — of filling the hours.

To me, as I imagined it yesterday, it looked like a manic, pell-mell careening through my years.  A “must do before death” muttering below my breath.  A panicked, gobbling up, blind and blindered race against the clock.  It didn’t look balanced at all.  It didn’t seem intentional at all.  It looked like it may often look: a willful dervish to drown out the immediacy of death.

Because kids or no kids, I’m gonna die.  (SPOILER!)

I’m in the habit of pouring my days through the hourglass unmet, unnoticed, unintentional.  Kids or no kids, that’s no way to live life!

I know that sending my progeny into the future is in itself a legacy.  But I also see that I need an answer to the question of the worth and effect and meaning of my life, whether or not they’re there.

What do I want the sum of my days to mean?  In what activities, and to what end, do I want my hours to be spent?

Being intentional with these answers will offer me solace, ground, and purpose, regardless of my uterus’ status.

 

children · ecology · quandary

To be or not to be?

1.28.19.jpgAt the risk of getting pulled off course (whatever course that may be!), my thoughts have been returning lately to the question of whether or not to have children.

There are many detractions or concerns that, written in a “no” category, could persuade me toward not procreating.  Reasons such as financial concerns, time concerns, fears and worries about the physical, emotional, and mental health of potential children, concerns of how my past chemo treatment and my and J’s moderately advanced ages might affect the genetic viability of children, awareness that we both have mental health and addiction issues in our family trees…

So, Yeah!  There are plenty of reasons to feel trepidatious about having kids!  But none of the above is the one that really brings me pause right now.  It’s a crap shoot, and yes, those kinds of challenges could possibly be real, but the one that I know IS real is the possibility of bringing a child into a planet that is not going to be able to meet the needs of the people on it.

I was reading about the melting “permafrost” after watching an episode of “Madam Secretary” (which I love) where an eco-warrior was infected with smallpox after doing work in Siberia.  And while the smallpox infection wasn’t based on true events yet… anthrax was.  A person was infected with anthrax after the thaw exposed an anthrax-infected reindeer!  The melting of this layer of frost will release more CO2 and methane than humans have produced in all of our history.

Add to this: the insect apocalypse, polar vortex in NY, drought in CA.  Draining the (literal) swamp for human building releases CO2 that plants had been holding on to; continued degradation of the rainforests that keep our planet stable; increasing hardscapes that reflect heat back into the atmosphere… and I begin to feel increasingly selfish about having children.

Do you bring an unwitting person into a planet that is not doing so well?  Do you place this burden onto another generation?

Of course the optimists around (or within) me say, “Well, maybe you’ll produce a scientist who will help forestall the inevitable.”  Yeah, maybe.  But what about that inevitable part?

There are many reasons to have children, some more selfish and selfless than others.

Is.

It.

Fair.

to ask a new human and potential line of humans to take up the mantle, too?

 

economy · finance · savings

Don’t get mad; get informed.

1.24.19A little over a year ago, the penny dropped on the concept of “inflation.”  For several years now, I’d been able to save a little money each month and the number in my savings account was slowly rising a few pennies a month.  I’d had my money in my regular bank’s savings account and had considered that the “right” thing to do.

Then, I was walking in a park with J, and for reasons which are lost to time, he wound up explaining the following:

A cup of coffee that today costs one of my dollars will next year cost a dollar two.  But I will still only have the same thing called one dollar.  Meaning that conceptually, even if I save that dollar, I’ll only have 98cents where this year I have a whole dollar.

What this idea sent me into was a panic.

Because for more than five years, I’d diligently been siphoning off money every month into my savings account — but now realized that there was a hole in the bottom of that bucket called “inflation.”

No matter the fact that it was in a savings account (and yes, technically I was “saving”), that money was also leaking out a sieve with every moment it sat in a near-no-yield account.

I was appalled.  I literally dropped his hand, stopped walking in the middle of the path, and was aghast.  WHAT?!  Wait, what?!  Explain this again.

And he did.  And I didn’t move.  He eventually nudged me on as I felt the foundation of savings I’d been building crumple to sand beneath me.

If the price of everything goes up about 2% a year, but my dollar in the bank is not growing at that same rate, I am losing money. (sort of)

Nearly immediately, I researched savings accounts that could rival the rate of inflation and found Synchrony Bank and Marcus Savings, each of which now have savings rates of over 2%.  The 2018 rate of inflation (CPI, in this case) was 1.9%, meaning by putting my money in those savings accounts, they ARE actually earning money, which is what I had thought my savings account was doing in the first place!

I had imagined that by putting my money in a savings account, that each month those little additions of a dollar here and a dollar there were EARNINGS.  It turns out that, because they weren’t keeping up with the rate of inflation, they were not only NOT earnings, they were indicating a LOSS.

Forchrissake.

For years, I had felt self-esteem about saving every month.  Which is great, and well and good, and I continue to think that it is important.

However, with the penny, nickel, DOLLAR drop that I had last year, I realized that all of that hard earned money was actually a drain.

So, I suppose this is a cautionary tale about ignorance of the financial system — because understand it or not, like it or not, want to be in the “system” or not, I am a part of it.  And, I DO want to be in the system, because that can be where benefits are.  If there are options for me to increase (or at least HOLD) my teeny weeny wealth while I SLEEP, then I should do everything I can do to that.

And while I also later made other choices that increase that yield, starting with moving my savings to a sturdier bucket was a start.

 

fun · habits · renewal

Spinning Yarn.

1.23.19.jpgThe Deepak/Oprah meditation I was listening to this morning, from their “Manifesting Grace Through Gratitude” series, spoke of the idea of being the author of your own story.

Now, as a good “Once Upon a Time” TV show nerd, the idea of being The Author appeals to me!  But, so does it appeal to me the idea of renewing my story every day.

The meditation spoke about how repetition makes life stale, and that’s not only in the “same breakfast, same job” kind of way, but also in the “same attitudes, same thoughts” kind of way.  What kind of thought habits do I have?  And moreover, what kind of thought habits do I want?

Many of my thought patterns center around the idea of my being stagnant, procrastinating, far from my goals even when I know what they are.  (The irony is that thought itself is stagnant!)  So this morning during the quiet meditation portion of the recording, I tried something called “Mental Dress Rehearsal,” as it’s called in my Executive Functioning training at school.

To really run through a scene how I want it to play out.  To feel the skin sensations, the emotions, the engagement and presence I want to feel.  Whether that’s inhabiting the idea of playing the piano or trying something new in the boudoir, seeing it happen and living it in my imagination feels much better than haranguing myself for not doing or getting or having the experiences that I want.

There’s a tongue-in-cheek line J likes to throw out occasionally: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”  I’m pretty sure we all know this one from our internal dialogues, harassing ourselves to do, be, or think something different.  And, clearly, it not only doesn’t seem to work well for me, but it saps my energy so that it’s difficult to rise above those thoughts.

If, by the opposite tack, I can begin to use my mental power to envision what it is I do want, spinning those positive stories, crafting the exact and enlivening nature of those experiences, and creating a narrative that lifts me up, inspires me, and sparks my spirit, then those are the kinds of mental habits to strengthen.

Imagine on, reader.