three things: mirrors, growing, and zen

FEED: When my little family and I lived in New Britain, CT almost 30 years ago, in what was clearly the ghetto part of that otherwise-rich place, I got a chance to get away for a bit. We had three tiny kids at the time, all under the age of 5, and we were planning to move to Virginia. My then-husband had already been there scouting places to rent, and he suggested that I go, that he would stay with our kids.

even after driving over that bridge hundreds of times, the view of Manhattan never fails to take my breath away

This was such a glorious thing—just me, after such terrible hardship, a solo road trip (and I adore road trips). And not only that, I would drive through New York City for the first time in my life. I left around 4am, I think, and as I came down through the scary (to me then, and in the dark) Bronx and went over the beautiful George Washington Bridge, with all of Manhattan spreading out to my left, this song came on the radio.

It was popular at the time and I really loved it, and I think it probably came on the radio a dozen times on the 6.5-hour drive, or at least it felt that way. So even now, when I hear the song I just get filled with the same soaring sense of freedom, and the lyrics poke at me too. If you wanna make the world a better place, you’ve got to look at yourself and make a change. Lots to think about there. But at the moment I am just being fed by the beat and urgency of the song, and by the memories it holds for me.

SEED: Over the last couple of very easy years of my life, I’ve often written about feeling the complacency of it, and about wanting to use that easy time to challenge myself, to get out of my comfort zone, maybe to learn something new.

Well. Then the presidential campaign came along and all that ease went away, and now the fact that he’s in office and trying to destroy everything — no more complacency here, or anywhere else. As it all started unfolding, I often felt so many levels of terrible, including some inner levels, some frustration and personal hopelessness: I don’t know what to do! I don’t know how to do anything about any of this! I’m not an organizer! I don’t know anything about lobbying, I don’t know how to do any of this! I don’t know how the details of the government work! How can I / what do I / where do I / I can’t!

At one of the marches a speaker said something about this, that it doesn’t matter if we don’t know what to do, learn how to do it. It’s all learnable. Dig in, investigate, read, ask, poke around, assume roles, make things happen! I had to keep reminding myself of that because it’s not my instinct at all. Hell, after I had already made a sophisticated quilt by hand I thought I didn’t know how to quilt so I took a beginner’s quilting class. THAT IS SO ME.

It has been very frustrating, having all those feelings going on at the same time the frustration and fears about what was happening in the government were so overwhelming. It was just too much, too many sources of fear and upset, and yet there was nothing to do but keep flailing in the muck.

Yesterday I realized that I’ve learned a lot. I have really gotten somewhere with how to do these things. It’s less confusing, it’s less impossible-feeling. I have yet to organize a march, and still wouldn’t even know how to begin, but I do now know that I could figure it out. My understanding of things has become more sophisticated. I’ve paid attention somehow, in the midst of all the overwhelm.

And so this terribleness was also an opportunity, as terribleness usually is. And I guess the other thing about terribleness opportunities is that no matter how many times you go through that process, the terribleness feels so terrible that you can’t remember the opportunity part. That’s true for me, anyway. I’m by no means anywhere with it except to say that I’ve noticed the opportunity of it now. There is a very real ALIVENESS to being confused, to doing something new, to having to figure out a new language and new modes and slowly seeing that you have changed as a result.

READ: My friend George gave me a daily Zen calendar for Christmas — the only Christmas gift I received, actually — and as I pulled off all the days’ pages that passed while I was in NYC, two caught my attention:

“Nothing is more real than nothing.” ~Samuel Beckett

“Just try to feel your own weight, in your own seat, in your own feet. Okay? So if you can feel that weight in your body, if you can come back into the most personal identification, a very personal identification, which is: I am. This is me now. Here I am, right now. This is me now. Then you don’t feel like you have to leave, and be over there, or look over there. You don’t feel like you have to rush off and be somewhere.” ~Bill Murray

That Beckett is so Beckett, right? It’s the kind of thing you can say to yourself and then pause to see what it means and then just get kind of lost. Is nothing real? Is there a realness to nothing? AAARGH! And I don’t know if the second quote is by that Bill Murray, but doesn’t it just give you a sense of calm?

I’m off to babysit wee Lucy this morning, so my day is off to a great start, and I hope you have something wonderful in your day too. xoxox

lots of stuff

I thought I was going to write a post about intimacy, but I’ll have to set that aside and get this one down for myself. I’ve got such a huge lot of tabs I can’t seem to close so I save them here, and hope that one or two interests you:

  • Flavorwire posted 17 essays by [female] writers that everyone should read. Adrienne Rich, Jamaica Kincaid, Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates, great great company.
  • And just for fun, Flavorwire also posted 10 obscure punctuation marks that should get more play. I kind of like the sarc mark, but the interrobang also wins for its fun name.
  • Here’s a recording of Flannery O’Connor herself reading A Good Man is Hard to Find. Amazing to hear her voice from way back in 1959.
  • I just want to read all the links on this post from the Paris Review about unreliable narrators and fictional memoirs.
  • How you resist these 8 little things to do every day that will make you happier?
  • This is a sweet little video of what happens what random strangers sit together in a ball pit. They’re given questions (written on the balls) that ask the big questions, not the stupid small talk questions. If you watch it, watch it through to the end. I love it.
  • This isn’t a link, but something I read this week:  It is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis. ~Henry Miller, in Of Art and the Future.  You are so very right, Henry Miller.
  • If you like seeing the players crack themselves up on SNL, you’ll like the video in this link. I always love to see Bill Hader crack up. And I learned that the writer puts surprise cue cards in for Stefon that Bill Hader never sees until he’s performing, which contributes to his breathless laughing.
  • A gorgeous conversation with George Saunders, one of my favorite writers ever. And for fun, the stylesheet his copyeditors used for Tenth of December.
  • A healthy closing note: eat certain grains and beans at room temperature for good colon health! Covering all the bases this morning. 🙂

Whew, with that my browser is now much more manageable. We’re crossing our fingers for some rain here in Central Texas — hope you get what you want today, too.

good thing of the day: pecan pancakes. with real maple syrup.