I Have a Time Machine

Here’s a poem I really like. It’s by Brenda Shaughness.

I Have a Time Machine

But unfortunately it can only travel into the future
at a rate of one second per second,

which seems slow to the physicists and to the grant
committees and even to me.

But I manage to get there, time after time, to the next
moment and to the next.

Thing is, I can’t turn it off. I keep zipping ahead—
well, not zipping—And if I try

to get out of this time machine, open the latch,
I’ll fall into space, unconscious,

then desiccated! And I’m pretty sure I’m afraid of that.
So I stay inside.

There’s a window, though. It shows the past.
It’s like a television or fish tank

but it’s never live, it’s always over. The fish swim
in backward circles.

Sometimes it’s like a rearview mirror, another chance
to see what I’m leaving behind,

and sometimes like blackout, all that time
wasted sleeping.

Myself age eight, whole head burnt with embarrassment
at having lost a library book.

Myself lurking in a candled corner expecting
to be found charming.

Me holding a rose though I want to put it down
so I can smoke.

Me exploding at my mother who explodes at me
because the explosion

of some dark star all the way back struck hard
at mother’s mother’s mother.

I turn away from the window, anticipating a blow.
I thought I’d find myself

an old woman by now, travelling so light in time.
But I haven’t gotten far at all.

Strange not to be able to pick up the pace as I’d like;
the past is so horribly fast.

Pretty great no? It’s funny how some poems feel like they were written just for us, as if the author knew exactly where we’d find it and what it would do to us, hitting us in the gut in a coffee shop! Or heart. Our insides somewhere. I love this part of poetry. How fast it is. How in just a minute or two you can cosmically connect with a total stranger, dead or alive, and feel more seen or heard than you have by actual people. That’s powerful stuff!

I’ve recently been reading Anne Sexton–her history and her poems–and both are intense and curious and heartbreaking, but deeply resonant and I’m eager to read more. I plan to order someones cheap, used copy off of Amazon, and hopefully I’ll find parts that are underlined or circled with little notes in the margin. This is one of my favorite perks of reading (used) tangible books as opposed to electronic, kindle types; the human mark on the pages. They’re like little visceral clues of other life, but exceptionally personal. More confidential than say, finding someones grocery list, although there are treasures to find in that too. Maybe I am just an alien from another planet seeking signs of life and getting way too caught up in casual life leftovers. But somehow I feel less alone when I see a persons scribbles to the side of a page. Their unique handwriting next to that flat text against the page– It heightens the effects of the words. It brings the whole thing to life. It always makes me think that someone else sat alone somewhere, reading these same words and they were compelled enough to write themselves. Maybe it was there way of writing back, hoping someone somewhere along the way would read what they wrote and feel something. I don’t know, but there’s just something…nice, about that.  Anyway, I think I will start with The Awful Rowing Towards God. Or maybe Live or Die and go from there. Did you know that Anne Sexton had two sisters, and one was named Elizabeth Jane, and the other one was named Blanche Dingley? BLANCHE DINGLEY?! I wonder if Elizabeth Jane gave Dingley shit about that.

Health, Happiness, and Poetry. Pure Poetry. 

10 Books You Should Read With Me

Going to the bookstore is one of my favorite mid-day activities. I’ve been under the weather lately so it was nice to get out and see real life. I felt like Bell from Beauty and the Beast in that library singing. Sadly there’s no ladders at Barnes and Noble but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I left with my next TEN books to submerge in for however long it takes. I’m watching ice-skating and that Olympic music they play when they cut to the commercials is so inspiring it makes me feel like I could become the president. Which is even more reason to read. So here’s the list! Cue the music.

1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? -Maria Semple

I remember picking this book up and flipping through it at my last bookstore outing and for some reason didn’t end up buying it. When I spotted those big black fly-type eyes on the cover I grabbed it immediately before I could back out. Shameful fact: I really love this books cover and that played a big part. I know the cardinal rule, but it’s also sustained positive reviews for a very long while, and Jonathan Franzen loved it and so in the pile it went. Mostly though, I loved the cover.

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Ding Ding

2. Dance Dance Dance -Haruki Murakami

So the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles was one of my favorite and most adventurous reads last year and discovering the many other “Masterpiece Novels” he’s authored I was way excited to dive into another one. I like that his books keep your imagination and consciousness running. I’ve got high hopes. I know it will be good.

3. Why Sh*t Happens (The Science of a Really Bad Day) -Peter J Bentley

I liked the title. And the subtitle. Also it was on the bargain rack. It’s probably stupid.

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Ugh, birdshit

4.Oneness With All Life -Eckhart Tolle

This is a bite-sized version of A New Earth, which I’ve read and re-read and loved. But I forget the teachings often. I go back and reread passages that I’ve felt I’ve never read before. I think it’s one of those that stay on your bed stand for life and by the time you die the entire book is highlighted. Anyway this smaller dosed version is made of “inspirational selections” to be read maybe one or two pages per day and to reflect on. Think of it more as a daily meditation. Since it’s so easy to forget the big stuff, I like to have something in the morning or before sleep that gets my head right. It’ll go on the nightstand.

 

5. The Illuminaries -Eleanor Catton

Do you ever feel like the Universe is talking to you? Well this book came up three times in three days and I took it as a sign that I gotta get in on it. It’s also a gargantuan read (over 800 pages) so it will be my friend for a long time. Or enemy.

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Also I have no idea what it’s about.

6. Proof of Heaven -Mary Curran Hackett

I’m unfamiliar with this author but crudely, I fell for the optimism implied in the title. Even though it’s a novel among hundreds of actual accounts of Heaven, the back summary drew me in as well as the first two pages and I was like “Cool, I’m IN!” and now that I’m reflecting on that I really hope I didn’t say it out loud because that happens sometimes. Anyway, this is not to be confused with Proof of Heaven the memoir by a neurologist who died, went to heaven, and returned. I’ve heard really good things and watched his account in interviews. Pretty amazing stuff. That read is next in this Heavenly genre. (Mom, you said you have it. Give it to me!) But this one was on the bargain rack. Girls gotta eat.

7. Born Under a Lucky Moon -Dana Precious

Complete blind buy. Liked the cover. Like the summary. And the price. It’s Olympic Season so I’m really going for things.

8. The Almost Moon -Alice Sebold

Moons are so #trendy! I hadn’t heard of this one either but it was a #1 National Bestseller and the author also wrote The Lovely Bones which I read long ago and really loved. And it was on the bargain rack. OK you know what? I’ll just tell you when it wasn’t. 

...

9. The Four Agreements -Don Miguel Ruiz

I have been hearing about this book for a long time now. It was published in 1997 but stayed on The New York Times Bestseller list for 7 years and sold 4 million copies. The premise of the book is simple but beautiful– in lieu of agreements and rigid beliefs we try to adhere to but often end up limiting our happiness, Ruiz suggests a personal code of conduct he calls The Four Agreements. Wanna hear em? Sure you do.

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best.

I don’t really love “gimmicks” for life type of books, but this one seems much deeper and substantial while sustaining its worth for years. Furthermore, it just sounds like a refreshing and happy way to live. Can you imagine never taking anything personally? Sounds awesome. I want to know more, so it’s going on the night stand. And it was FULL PRICE!

10. The Leftovers -Tom Perrotta

OK yes it was on the bargain rack again and no I’ve never heard of it or the author. But it’s a post-apocalyptic thriller type of novel which I don’t read often (like never) and I wanted to mix it up. I threw it in the bag because while the subject matter is dark, it’s also wrough with dark humor (my other best friend). It follows the survivors in the wake of the “Sudden Departure” as they try to go on with life keeping normalcy in mind but, you know, people are missing and the world is all messy. In my small confined life, it felt good to take a risk.

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artwork via NYT book review

Health, Happiness, and 10 New Friends.

Join me won’t you?

The Great Indoors

I’ve spent most of this last week in bed, or in and out of sleep on respective furniture that I turn into a bed. But mostly in bed. During crash periods I have a lot of time to sit around and think and do nothing. And while “doing nothing” sounds a little worthless and at least a little depressing, I’ve gotten pretty good at feeling bad. That is, I’ve found ways not to succumb to complete boredom while spending my days and nights in the supine position. But I have to be decisive and proactive when it comes to mental stimulation. It’s easy to do nothing and think nothing and waste away hours watching cats on the internet. I’ve done a lot of that too.

fartheraway
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Currently I’m reading “Further Away”– a book of essays by author Jonathan Franzen. It was given to me by my brother Nick, who wrote on the note inside to add it to our virtual book club. Nick and I don’t live in the same city and considering how poorly I keep in social contact even with people I care most about, we don’t talk so often. But we have similar taste in things and it’s true that I trust any literature from him will be enjoyable. Like the others this one doesn’t disappoint. I gave him the book “Why Does the Universe Exist?” and said it might be a good starter for the club. Nick is a full-time professor of architecture with multiple side projects and is a husband and father. I’ll be impressed if he has the time to finish it. I have nothing but time but in retrospect, I can think of at least three books in the last year I’ve simply left unfinished with less than 100 pages left. For whatever reason– It might be a commitment problem on my end. Because oddly enough I enjoyed the books I left undone. (Except 50 Shades of Grey. I just couldn’t do that one, even from a humorous standpoint. It was just so bad.) At any rate, I like that we’re trying. I know I need to read more and it is truly one thing, a gift even, that I can do whether or not I’m sick. I could read for hours and feel somehow refreshed at the end. TV and the internet are bottomless. I could be dead tired but watch more, click more, disengage more. It’s far too easy to fall in and at the end I never feel great. I’m like where am I? What time is it? How long have I been watching Tosh.0? I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the Kardashians and rolled my eyes thinking to myself that it’s the stupidest show on TV. And yet when it shows up on the guide, I almost unconsciously go straight to the channel. It’s like mindless auto-pilot in the way of my brain. I think it’s their hair that keeps me coming back. It’s just so pretty.

Speaking of the Kardashians, did you see the photo of baby North West? I think she’s cute. Wait, why do I know what their baby looks like? Because if you watched TV or were on the internet yesterday, it was everywhere. As well as mass hysteria about Ben Affleck becoming Batman. Maybe that says something about the places where I get information. But it also says something about the things that gain momentum and attention and a dialogue. Meanwhile, my state is sinking. I don’t totally understand the nature of a sinkhole. Except that I’m pretty sure it’s unnatural.  And it’s a problem when entire trees are being swallowed whole. Something about salt domes? But why take the more effort-requiring time to find out when I could just look at a tumblr that makes fun of what Kanye’s baby looks like? It’s so easy to just lay back and look at what’s easy to look at and make fun of what’s easy to make fun of. But it’s not very wise for someone like me to do too much of that. I constantly have to remind myself to be careful with how I spend my time. I truly have a lot of it.

Anyway, maybe by the next post I’ll be much more knowledgeable about sinkholes. Or I’ll have a lot more photos of baby Nori. Anyway, I’ll continue my quest to be at least a half-way informed citizen and spend my horizontal time wisely. I love being outside but on weeks like this one, I’ve mostly been inside which can be wearing too. But don’t get me wrong, I’ll still watch internet cat videos because come on, that stuff is funny. And laughter is important. And if we spent all our days indulging in bad news we could succumb to despondency and boredom just as much as if we watched TV and internet videos nonstop. It’s all a balance and I’m always in search of the middle. So far, 29 has been just fine.

Health, Happiness, and Wouldn’t You Think Sinkhole Would Be Two Words? Me too.

Fame or Peace

I’ve read this excerpt of Marc Nepo’s book at least a couple of times. I know this because I’ve underlined some things in blue and starred others in black–And even this morning while reading it for what is evidently the third time, I still felt inclined to mark parts of it. So I thought I’d share the whole excerpt here, because it really speaks to me, and I think it will to you too. Here it is. Have a beautiful day.

Rather the flying bird, leaving no trace,

than the going beast, marking the earth

-Fernando Pessoa

Much of our anxiety and inner turmoil comes from living in a global culture whose values drive us from the essence of what matters. At the heart of this is the conflict between the outer definition of success and the inner value of peace. 

Unfortunately, we are encouraged, even trained to get attention when the renewing secret of life is to give attention. From performing well on tests to positioning ourselves for promotions, we are schooled to believe that to succeed we must get attention and be recognized as special, when the threshold to all that is extraordinary in life opens only when we devote ourselves to giving attention, not getting it. Things come alive for us only when we dare to see and recognize everything as special. 

The longer we try to get attention instead of giving it, the deeper our unhappiness. It leads us to move through the world dreaming of greatness, needing to be verified at every turn, when feelings of oneness grace us only when we verify the life around us. It makes us desperate to be loved, when we sorely need the medicine of being loving. 

One reason so many of us are lonely in our dream of success is that instead of looking for what is clear and true, we learn to covet what is great and powerful. One reason we live so far from peace is that instead of loving our way into the nameless joy of spirit, we think fame will soothe us. And while we are busy dreaming of being a celebrity, we stifle our need to see and give and love, all of which opens us to the true health of celebration. 

It leaves us with these choices: fame or peace, be a celebrity or celebrate being, work all our days to be seen or devote ourselves to seeing, build our identity on the attention we can get or find our place in the beauty of things by the attention we can give. 

Health, Happiness,
1348638108_peace-sign-coloring-pages-31

Art!!!!!!!

Since my genuine exposure to the “old times” has been either black and white photos or black and white film, these color photographs that have emerged of life in the 30’s and 40’s have found their way into every corner of the intweb and are a real gem. Every time I look at them I feel like I am glimpsing a reality that I’ve never truly felt connected with. The olden days have been described to me by my grandparents and in magazine articles and I’ve laughed at the way actors speak in old movies and their gay, wordy advertisements– but for some reason it’s just always seemed like a story. It never quite felt personal. I know it was real, because my grandpa used to tell me war stories and I’ve sat through history class since 3rd grade, never truly appreciating that there really was life before me. So it’s funny to me that something as simple as color could bring something so distant to life for me, but these really do that. It’s like looking at thousands of paintings of Jesus and then being handed a headshot.

A Man Named Jack and His Family, October 1940
A Man Named Jack and His Family, October 1940

Basically, the disconnect between then and now was broken, and I dove right in. The prints were taken on Kodachrome by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information throughout the 30’s and 40’s respectively. They were then released by the Library of Congress in 2006 for an exhibition called Bound For Glory; America in Color. I don’t know why the element of color has upped the real factor to such a high degree, but I never get tired of looking at them. I have to remind myself constantly that they aren’t actors and  they aren’t in costume.

Homesteaders Faro and Doris, Pie Town New Mexico, 1940
Homesteaders “Faro and Doris” Pie Town, New Mexico 1940
Woman Aircraft Worker- Burbank,  California 1942
Woman Aircraft Worker- Burbank, California 1942
Bayou Borbeau Plantation- Natchitoches, Louisiana 1940
Bayou Borbeau Plantation- Natchitoches, Louisiana 1940

For as long ago as the “old days” have always felt to me, something about these color prints remind me it really wasn’t that long ago. Can you imagine showing the people in these photos an iphone? Or trying to explain the premise of Facebook? (Kind of makes me feel disdain for the times we’re living in) So much has changed and yet inside, I don’t feel we’re as far apart as we think. Then again when I looked at Facebook a few minutes ago, I may have changed my mind.

I think a lot about the “records” we’re leaving behind for the generations who will come after us. Looking for clues as to what life was like in our day, for the strands of humanity that tie us all together no matter how many years have passed. Will there be Facebook 100 years? How will our grandchildren study us? It hit me a few days ago that this blog is somewhat of a record itself- a sick girls life and her dog and yada yada. It then occurred to me that if I die tomorrow..the blog would live on. It has its own shelf life now. Unless I leave someone in charge to disassemble it once I’ve gone on. But I think I’m fine with it living without me. It’s turned into a community of sorts and that’s something I hope will live…forever? But my Facebook page– Maybe somebody should kill that.

So it was cloudy and California’s version of cold today and since it was one of those days that a normal person might go to a gallery..I brought the gallery to me and started looking at art online and some of this stuff was just too good not to share. It made me wish I was an artist. But the only art I’ve made lately is this drawing of Mario Lopez  from December.

Pen on Paper. $50,000 or best offer.
Pen on Paper. $50,000 “Or best offer”

Maybe I should stick to writing. Or sharing actual artists work in this case. Here’s what really stuck with me today.

Price Tags
Price Tags

So this conceptual artist Rachel Perry Welty uses everyday items in sequence or on repeat per se to construe American “middle class minertia” as she puts it. In her show “Lost in My Life” she uses the byproducts of her domestic life to make for some unusual and beautiful prints. I couldn’t get over the stunning visuals and patterns brought on by tiny objects I see all the time.

Bread Tags
Bread Tags
Twisty Ties
Twisty Ties

I love how she never shows her face and how the small pieces become part of her apparel. Awesome stuff! You can read more about her and her exhibition here or here. For me the most inspiring part to hear was that she didn’t even enter the world of art until she was 36, and her work and ideas emerged out of lack of materials and time as she was a full-time working mother when she began. Word.

OK and then there’s this:

Chairs.
Chairs, Istanbul 2003

How effing cool is this? Artist Doris Salcedo filled a gap between two buildings in Central Istanbul with roughly 1,550 chairs and her intent was to create a “topography of war” embedded in everyday life. Whatever you deduce from it, you can’t deny that visually it’s just spectacular and the simplicity of materials with such a complex and poignant result is surprising, not to mention its impressive scale.

Lower view
Lower view

You can read more about the artist here or here.

OK last and not least I discovered a poem today that I found so incredibly enjoyable that I realized poetry can be fun and good modern poetry does exist. My friend Giselle, a ceramic artist, hates poetry mostly and I understand why, and a lot of the time I hate it too. (It doesn’t stop me from writing it or reading others) But this poem today, well it just really stuck with me and reminded me how much fun an often sad art form can be. It’s a little lengthy so click here to read it. It’s called Tap Water and is written by Mathew Yaeger. Job well done dude! A few favorite lines are:

What good is it
polishing to a shine the pile of dimes on which your life
has turned. You feel blessed or you feel regrets.

and also

When a woman has entered your life and then
left it you are changed and while you may change
forward into something resembling what you once were
you most certainly do not change back.

So, I guess that’s enough art for our cloudy cold Tuesday. Monty is bored. I’ll see you next time.

Health, Happiness, Art Gallery Day

Life at the Window.

I spent last Spring in a playground called New York City. My brother and sister-in-law had this great apartment in TriBeCa with huge windows and a doorman. As newly jobless, apartment-less, boyfriend-less- New York City felt like the perfect place to spend some time and  get to know myself again. I had lost all of my “identifiers ” and it was time to get in touch and adapt.  It was truly a treat  staying there while I reconfigured what my life was going to look like. My brother spent most the week in Boston teaching at MIT and Estee worked full-time, so I had this great little cube in the city to myself a lot.

Our cube with the light on.
Our cube with the light on.

My only responsibility as a guest there was to walk the dog, Lilly. Lilly was cool. Sweet and low maintenance, she was happy to spend day after day sitting on top of the heater with me and looking out the window to life below. I wrote, read, and occasionally played music super loud and danced alone in the living room. (One day I danced “the Dougie” too hard and exhausted myself for a week) If anyone were watching from the building across the street, it would have been quite a show. Lilly sometimes barked at a dog below or a UPS man unloading boxes, but mostly we just watched. It was a perfect, small existence for me at that window. New York City had a way of making me feel intricately connected to the pulse of life, even though I was sick and on the outskirts, and my only participation was mostly observation from the 4th floor. I never felt isolated in New York. Sometimes I ended the day feeling like I had interacted with so many people and in fact I hadn’t actually talked to anyone. There’s something so involved there, that even as a spectator I felt implicitly a part. I would watch the people walking their dogs or babies in strollers, laughing or yelling on their cell phones, entering restaurants and hugging friends hello, and it all made me feel incredibly human again. I could watch life from that window all day and never get tired of the sights. And most days, that’s all I did.

Life at the window.
Life at the window.

I really had to get used to the “free time.” I know that sounds like an illegitimate complaint, but going from working to not was hard to navigate. To strangers it sounds fun..”You’re so lucky! You don’t have to work.!”  But that’s kind of like telling someone in a wheelchair “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to walk!” Truthfully it can be extremely lonely and isolating having absolutely nothing but time on your hands, but possessing none of the means in which to do the things you used to. It took me a long time to adjust to not having a typical day schedule to follow. Such is life. We notice things more once they go missing.

It was surprising how responsible I had to be with my free time. You can’t just do nothing. Nothing is the gift you give yourself after you’ve done something. But if you’re not actually doing anything, the nothing part becomes completely sad. You have to be responsible. It occurs to me now how much security and diligence there was in my fulltime job. A schedule is basically simple. Follow the rules 5 days a week, get paid, go home. There are things you say in an office and things you don’t say. Wear and don’t wear. I worked at that gallery because that was the progressive step after college. It was safe there. I knew exactly what was expected of me and I was good at what I did. And on the 1st and 15th of every month I was paid 1,060 dollars for following the rules and doing my work dutifully. There was a time work began and ended. And there were two entire days a week you had to yourself. It didn’t matter what you did on those days. It only mattered that you showed up on the right days and were on time if not early.  Then all that was left was following the rules. Performing tasks. I do miss the stability of that old life. The one where at least I felt  like I knew what I was doing and where I was headed and what was coming my way. Now there is none of that routine or structure. There isn’t really anything expected of me now.  No tasks to check off, no paycheck twice a month. There’s no real order, and it’s a strange thing to very quickly lose something like that. There is ease in order.

As easy as it is to complain about work, to dislike your boss or co-workers, there is something very essential in human beings that gets fulfilled in just getting dressed and going to work every day; contributing  to the “whole” some way and getting paid to do it. Even if the work is  mundane or repetitive. Even if your co-workers are punks or your boss is a turd-sandwich, there’s something gratifying about good old fashioned compensated  labor. Life becomes pretty different without it.

Part of my biggest adjustment in getting sick has been surrendering to a schedule that I can’t control. I don’t know how I’ll feel one day to the next, what I’ll be capable of. I don’t know if Ill sleep at night for 12 hours or 10 minutes. (Or if I’ll be up at 2 am writing this blog like I am now)  So in a very bizarre way, the illness has literally forced me to live one day at a time. One moment at a time. What am I capable of right now? OK, I’ll do that. It has become that specific.  And I think after nearly two years of no “real” job and crashing my siblings couches, I am finally understanding and accepting life without schedule, rules, tasks, and order. Or what I was perceiving to be order. The funny thing is  now I see that even in my highly organized, scheduled life, I still wasn’t in total control. It only felt that way. It looked that way. I still got sick. Life still “got to me.” My life is no more or less in control now than two years ago. It is truly, just perspective.

My brother Nick encouraged me to read while I had so much downtime, and that was good advice.  Here I was writing all the time, but never reading what was done before me. And you need context in everything, especially literature. I still have a ton of reading to do, but I’m really glad I discovered the real joy of it. Growing up it always felt like labor– a requirement that didn’t interest me. Now I find real freedom in it. There is nothing like getting lost in a story. I admit it’s more fun to read than to write. There is anxiety in me sitting down to write. But there is total surrender in sitting down and investing in a story.

Anyway now that I didn’t have a schedule to adhere to or  specific tasks to perform every day,  I was now up to my own devices. I realize that sounds like a really spicy thing to say. But mostly it was  me in and out of dreamworld on the couch or sitting on the heater, looking out that window, and drinking coffee with Lilly.  Every once in a while we mixed it up. Like when I dressed her up in my hat.

Lilly wearing my hat with attached scarf.
Lilly wearing my hat with attached scarf.

Or put her in my laundry basket.

Say cheese!
Why are you doing this.

Or if it was a healthy day we’d walk to the piers and watch the joggers and boats.

..
Contemplation.

As nice as our walks were, I think I was most content at that window. In general, I am happiest by windows. I gravitate in every house to the room with the most light. I like to see outside. Hopefully one day, I won’t be the girl at the window, but the participant outside. The subject of someone else’s observation. But truly, I ‘ve become happy with this spectator form of my life. I don’t think it will always be this way, but it has granted me a unique perspective. It has made me step back and examine. It’s given me stillness in a very fast world. Even sick in bed, I can still examine life, ask my questions, read and write for the answers. None of this could happen in my old busy life. There was simply no time for it. There was work during the week, and sick recovery on the weekends. Now I have a new kind of work. It doesn’t pay well (as in, it doesn’t pay) but my boss is cool (that’s me) and every day is “Bring Your Dog to Work” day. Maybe the best part is, I am never too far from a window. For me, for now, that is enough.

“Participate with joy in the sorrows of the world.” -J Campbell

Health, Happiness, Windows

My friend Gabe took this picture of me at the NY window at night. Thanks Gabe!

Night.
Night.

How to Hang On.

I came across these words in the middle of the night last week when I was really sick and couldn’t sleep. I was feeling scared and anxious–of what I wasn’t exactly sure, but there was some sort of doom over my head and I didn’t know how to relieve it. This passage helped. Today my mom read to me the same excerpt out loud while discussing life and love and hardship. I figure twice in seven days is enough of a sign for me to pay attention to the words, so I thought I would share them here as well. They are written by the mystic Joseph Cambpell.

The loss of a love and the pain of a broken relationship is an overload of projection. That’s all it is. In youth, your whole life is this wonderful dream that “This is It”: this relationship is the fulfillment of my fantasy and I can’t imagine life otherwise. No argument can quell this feeling of total projection, of everything in the other one. I guess we can all recall an episode of an adolescent relationship that seemed to be the all-in-all and then went to pieces for some reason.

When a relationship breaks off, it takes a person a little while to settle and find a new commitment. It’s after the breakoff, when there is no new commitment and life has been divested of all of its potentials, that this painful reaction takes place. For some people this is a dangerous period.

The psyche knows how to heal, but it hurts. Sometimes the healing hurts more than the initial injury, but if you can survive it, you’ll be stronger, because you’ve found a larger base. Every commitment is a narrowing and when that commitment fails, you have to get back to a larger base and have the strength to hold to it.

Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called “the love of your fate.” Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment – not discouragement – you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing that can happen to you is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.

The dark night of the soul
comes just before revelation.

When everything is lost,
and all seems darkness,
then comes the new life
and all that is needed.

Health, Happiness, Hang On.

One Thing, Once a Day.

I love getting late birthday presents in the mail. Wait, I love getting mail period. For one thing, I think the art of letter writing is becoming extinct, so it’s always pretty special to get something written in one of a kind hand-writing, written just for you. Dear Mary… Anyway, late birthday presents are like those blooper scenes they show during the credits of a movie you liked. Just when you thought it was over–bam! My brother Nick and his wife Estee sent me two new shirts and a skirt and a necklace with a hand-written card, the best! And my sister brought me shopping at Nordstrom. Her and Keegan have kind of adopted me as their 28-year-old child. Keegan even sent me to my room yesterday. I also unpacked my suitcase at their house two weeks ago, the first time I’ve really not lived out of my suitcase since February. All my siblings are like extra parents, each pitching in to help in their own ways and I am really thankful for that. It’s easy for me to forget that my situation could be a lot worse. They have all encouraged me to visit them, and that is a real gift. Anyway, I love shopping and I love new clothes, but it has turned into such a silly thing for me to love, mostly because I never wear normal clothes anymore. I never really go anywhere and I hardly see people besides Monty and my family. My uniform has evolved into leggings and t-shirts–every guys fantasy.

Last week and all weekend was a sick week. Like a sick day, but you know, times 7. I once wrote that I was the mayor of Migraine City, but I am upgrading myself this week to Governor because my head is super angry about something and apparently wants the world to know. Here’s your shot head, let it all out! Every day I keep telling myself I will get dressed in my new clothes and I will go somewhere and I’ll do my hair and makeup and look like someone who has her shit together. But, that has yet to happen. “Tomorrow” I tell myself. Then the song from Annie starts playing in my mind and I bet my bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun, and I will go out in it! Since I’m in Cali, there is always sun, but when you have a migraine, it feels like if you were to go outside under that bright sun you’d start melting like the witch from the Wizard of Oz. Anyway, the migraine cycle continues, but why am I talking about migraine cycles? I’m even boring myself.

When I’m in the throes of a sick week, I can start to get down. And also start to go stir crazy. So there are a few things I do and a few things I don’t do. Maybe most importantly, I do not watch TV during the day. There is just something undeniably sad about daytime television, and sunlight coming in through the blinds..maybe reflecting off the TV screen? Yuck. The only time I don’t find a sunlights’ reflection on a TV screen depressing is on the weekends when we’re watching football. Exceptions to every rule.

First, I keep a book on hand and I read. I swear it’s like I’ve discovered the joy of reading only last year..at age 27. Pretty ridiculous since I discovered the joy of writing at around age 9. I feel like I’m catching up on all the years that I began books and never finished them. I always associated reading a book with homework, something I had to do. It never felt like I had a choice in the matter. As soon as book reports became part of my schooling in 6th grade, it became my goal to see how little of the book I could read and how high a grade on the report I could get. Unfortunately, I work really well under pressure–so the night before it was due I’d skim through the book, find the important parts, and write a flowery report. I almost always received A’s on them. I was actually proud of myself for being able to complete the work this way! What an idiot. Anyway, now that I have really experienced what getting lost in a book is like, I feel like I have years of catching up to do. So that’s partly what I’m doing. Especially because it’s not sad at all to read while sunlight is coming through the window. In fact it’s the most fun to go outside and read. Monty and I had been going to the park daily, but I crashed mid-week and we haven’t been back yet. Anyway, right now I’m reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A true story about a woman who lost her way and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself, with no experience. Truthfully, it’s a little difficult to read because she is in a lot of physical and emotional pain so far, and I like reading to carry me away from real life, so in that light it’s not been as fun to read as Gone Girl but I’m just about 1/3 in, so I’ll see how the next 50 pages go.

The second thing I do is create something. It can be anything from a four line poem to a line drawing. The goal is not to create a masterpiece work of art. The goal is to let your soul do some talking. Sometimes what you make will be crappy and sometimes you’ll surprise yourself. But the thing is, now no matter how sick or worthless I felt today or the fact that I never got dressed in real clothes, at least when someone asks me what I did today I can say “I wrote a poem,” or “I drew a picture of a stupid cat.” So now today was not a complete waste. Here are some simple rhyming poems.

*I am tired
But do not sleep
I am sad
But do not weep
I close my eyes
And count to 10
If I still feel it
I’ll do it again
Until the clouds part
And the dark clears
I’ll think of my loves
And not of my fears.

*In the corners of my mind
In the absence of a dime
I think about home
In a house that isn’t mine.

*At night I roam
through consciousness alone
Would I have chosen this
If I would have known!

*At least at the end of day
Where I never got dressed
I can say I wrote a poem
And that’s something I guess.

Normally I hate rhyming poems, and I don’t necessarily love these. But, they’re what came out. So I let them. Because that’s what my soul had to say today, and it doesn’t really matter whether it’s good or bad. It’s the fear of making something good or bad that is dangerous. Once I let that fear go, I kind of free myself. The worst that can happen is you write a shitty poem or you draw a shitty picture. Certainly there are worse things! Either way, you’ve got something to look back on or laugh at or talk about, and you weren’t completely at the mercy of illness.

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I drew the above drawing a few days ago. It turned out to be one of my favorites…drawn on a sick day where I never got dressed. It started with a very simple shape; a leaf. Then I repeated the pattern and this is what turned up. I had no idea what I was sitting down to draw that day, but it’s another example of letting your soul speak. Or stillness speak. I just know that when I designate time to letting things come through me, I am usually surprised. I end up creating something I never could have thought of myself. It’s strange, the way sometimes your dreams can be insanely more creative or smarter than you are in real life. I guess it’s the subconscious at work. This one is titled “I Don’t Normally Look Like This” and is for sale for $10.

Anyway, that’s been the last 7 days. Fingers crossed that tomorrow is migraine free and filled with more energy and I get to wear some happy clothes and run errands like humans do. If not, well then…it’s back to the drawing board.

Health, Happiness, One Thing a Day.

Book Review: Gone Girl

I’ve been on a non-fiction kick for a while now. But in Barnes and Noble the other day, I saw this black book..a simple cover with what appeared to be loose lines across the dust cover. On closer examination I saw that it was hair, wrapped around the book spine with wisps across the front. I don’t know what made me pick it up other than the fact that I am completely guilty of judging a book by its cover and  I do it all the time. (Books. I’m talking books.) Like usual, I read the back, then I read the flap, and then the first few sentences of chapter 1. It was enough. I went for it. I didn’t let my typical indecisive nature get the best of me even though I’ve never been one for murder mysteries or suspense thrillers. It also then struck me I’ve never actually read a murder mystery or suspense thriller–they’ve just never really appealed to me. But I’m trying to challenge my uniformed notions about things. Something about this one grabbed me, so I grabbed it back.

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I don’t know exactly how to do a review of literary suspense without giving things away, and there are so many things I could give away. Muah hah hah. But don’t worry I won’t. That’d be irresponsible so I won’t go far into detail. All I know is I took Monty to the park, sat on a towel in the sun and began reading. And even though I’m in sunny California, I could feel some kind of anxiousness growing in me, a glimmer of discomfort. It felt like it had gotten cloudy, like it was about to storm and I should go indoors. But reading the book indoors didn’t make me feel any more secure. It also didn’t stop me from reading every chance I had. I couldn’t put it down. Half of this book was read at 2 am with one eye open, because I was so tired that when both eyes were open I saw double. With one eye closed I could keep reading without double vision and without falling asleep. I was so exhausted night after night and I love sleep. I’m really good at it. But I needed to know what happened to Amy Dunne. She went missing on her and her husbands 5th wedding anniversary; not quite a “poof, gone” type of thing, but close. A strange trail of evidence and clues leftover, leaving me and most of the book characters scratching their heads. All but one.

The story is told through two voices; Nick Dunne, the husband, and via the missing Amy Dunne’s journal entries where we learn about their life together: how they met, their losses, and their recent move from New York City to the midwest along the Mississippi River. Both characters resonated quickly with me. I’ve had similar conversations and conflicts in my relationships, and I knew a lot of the feelings Amy Dunne was describing. But I also knew I was going to be thrown off simply because I was barely half way through the book and yet Amy had been missing 7 days, the cops had their killer, and something about Nick Dunne’s story felt wrong, and yet I wanted to believe him. Sometimes. And then I’d change my mind. It’s pretty classic in the “Crime rocks a small town” type of setup; the community gathering for support, the good cop/bad cop routine, press conferences with Amy’s parents in tears, and t-shirts and flyers with a pretty, missing wife on them. It’s all reminiscent of those stories we see on the news; Lacy Peterson, Natalie Holloway. The ones that sort of dominate our TV’s for a while, make Nancy Grace’s vains pop out, and then, kind of like Amy Dunne…leave, unresolved. Come to think of it, I need to google what happened in the cases of those women, because I only remember the sudden onslaught of news and anger and finger pointing, but I don’t actually remember hearing how it ends. America loves a pretty, missing woman. And the book touches on this phenomena too.

The most interesting part of the story for me is that the reader is no longer what we normally are in cases like this; the spectators. The jury. We’re used to seeing the stories on TV, seeing the pictures, hearing the accusations, and we often makes up our minds quickly about who’s at fault and who to feel sorry for. This time, we’re on the other end. We get to hear how police go about business like this. How reporters and the media can shift the people’s minds over night, if not faster. (It’s like being on the inside of a presidential campaign, I imagine.) We also get to hear the advice and rules a lawyer will give you when a country of strangers has their minds made up. The lawyer was my favorite character. I could see and hear him perfectly. I’ve seen commercials with this man, to a T. You probably have, too.

I finished the book about an hour ago. I have to say, I’m glad it’s over. I was getting tired. Not tired of the book, but tired from staying up so late every night trying to finish it. And a little tired from the unnerving nature of the story. I’d been talking about the book to my sister since I was only a few pages in. I tried to finish it before she left on a business trip this morning so she’d have something to read, and I really tried. I almost made it. But I didn’t. I told her to just buy her own copy at the airport. “It’s worth it.”  I don’t know how I feel about the ending. I just know I’m ready to go back to the park with Monty and actually enjoy the sun this time. There was something about reading that story amid green grass and perfect weather that didn’t add up. It’s like playing Radiohead at brunch. It just doesn’t match. I wouldn’t call getting lost in this book particularly pleasurable in the normal sense. It was uncomfortable at times, upsetting, unsettling. But so good, so well written, utterly surprising and disturbingly real. I don’t know how author Gillian Flynn did it, but props to her, because it rocked me, and a few million other readers. It got under my skin and stayed there, and probably will for a while. As uncomfortable as it could be, it was really fun to read, fun to think about it even when I was doing other things. It kept me coming back for more more more and I kept wondering how how HOW in the hell it would end. I’d assembled at least 10 potential conclusions; none of them were right. I admit though I rarely get these things right. I only know it made me fear women and it made me fear men. It is a work of fiction, but the parts that stick have delivered something very true, very real. I get the feeling that even when I sleep tonight, finally able to shut both of my eyes at a normal hour, this book will still be swirling around in there. (Amy Dunne is also a restless sleeper!) It’s that good. It sticks. Even after it’s…gone. Get it? Yeah, you get it.

Health, Happiness, Gone Girl.

*P.S. Rumor has it Hollywood bought the rights to this story. Read it before they kill it!