"If writers possess a common temperament, it's that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave." Gail Caldwell, from her book "Let's Take The Long Way Around"

"To look life in the face, always to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. . .always the years. Always the love. Always the hours." From the movie "The Hours", based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)"

"A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibility of their own souls." Walt Whitman

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant or talented?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Good Bye, 2015

This year wasn’t ideal.

Well, that doesn’t make sense. What would it take for an entire year to be ideal? It’s one thing for a day to not be ideal. Perhaps you wake up late (or too early), you forget you have to stop and get gas. Or the first thing that happens when you get to work is chaos and you have to sort it all out, tired, in want of coffee.

Or maybe you fight with your husband and your dog won’t leave you alone even though you just took him out for a walk an hour ago (what does he want?).

Probably your dog – and your spouse, for that matter – just wants attention. The good kind of attention. The affectionate kind, where you just spend time being with them. Maybe that’s all I need from myself. Maybe if I had given myself enough attention this last year that would be all it would have taken to make it ideal.

Paying attention takes patience. It takes the ability to put down everything and not be completely irritated about it. And why should I be irritated? Pretty much everything I do can wait a few minutes, an hour, sometimes even days. I let my housekeeping go for days at a time so why not The Amazing Race, especially when I am watching it on Hulu? The good part will still be there in 15 minutes. Or tomorrow.

I started 2015 with Big Plans. I found out in January that the major retail store that I managed was closing my location, which actually coincided well with my Big Plan to move out of state with my husband to parts of this country unknown. It was going to be an adventure after living 15 years in Phoenix, Arizona, suffering six months of summer temperatures so that we could enjoy the really lovely two or three months of ideal weather (there’s that word again). After spending a year of living at my mother’s house to save money and help afford us our adventure, we were finally going to be able to be on our own again. Keep in mind that we are quite grown so while I truly appreciate the time spent being close to my mom, I was really looking forward to having a place of my own again.

Closing my store was difficult in the way, I think, that teachers and parents experience sending their kids off to college or at least to find a place in the world. It was also like having the wind knocked out of you for some of my coworkers. A world turned upside down. Perhaps this is why I am struggling with paying attention now. Everyone in my work life in the first 4 months of this year needed my attention. And maybe that’s why I created an unhealthy mantra of “everybody wants something from me.”

That’s definitely not ideal.

I’ve tended to live my life propelled by what’s going to – or might – happen next. Or rather what I anticipate is going to happen next, and by that I mean that what happens next is going to be something great, something better than what is happening right now. As a child, this was a coping mechanism. As an adult, consciously or not, it has become a habit and an excuse not to attend to the present. This is why having Big Plans propelled me through the first half of 2015. I brought my store to a very satisfying close, all pats on the back for a job well done. I extricated myself from deeply unsatisfying and sometimes destructive relationships. I moved on, for there were literally unseen landscapes ahead of me, a new life full of promise and what I naively expected to be something akin to magic.

Some of it was magical. The verdant green of Tennessee foliage and what I could only imagine (for I'd never seen any) were copses and thickets were breathtaking as we drove I-40. North Carolina was our destination, a place we had only just decided on a month before leaving the dry, monochromatic concrete desert of Phoenix. Even as a California girl (both southern and northern), I had never seen anything like the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

We settled in Winston Salem (here I prefer to take license and not use the “dash” which I have learned is a point of controversy to locals; hence the name of the local minor league baseball team, The Winston Salem Dash.). Potential still held thick here because of Winston Salem's history of culture and arts; my husband, retired ballet dancer and teacher, had sent many a student to the North Carolina School of the Arts here in Winston. Possibility abounded.

And then reality set in. By that I mean that Big Plans or no, we carry with us who we are, no matter where we go. I should know this by now; I’ve started over at least four times over the last four decades (is it any coincidence that I turned 45 this year?). This is not to say that our Big Plan was for naught or that there is any regret in the choices we made. It’s just that perhaps, finally, the lesson is that one should not put such great stock into Big Plans.

Big Plans are great. They’re phenomenal. They can be life changing. My Big Plans were life changing, literally, but not in the way that I wanted my life to change.

I realize now that it was not my life that I wanted to change; it was me. I wanted a miracle, but not just any miracle. I wanted a miracle handed to me like the special red plate some families use on birthdays - if you’re not familiar with this tradition, go ahead and look it up – inscribed with instructions on how to use it. The miracle, that is, not the birthday plate. Too many metaphors – let me get to my point.

My point. My point in writing this is that 2015 has ended on a rather disappointing note, compared to how it started, and I’m okay with that now. Today, that is; I finally realized this today, December 31, 2015.

Today, I realized that I’m okay if I don’t know what’s going to happen next week or in a month or two months or next year. Well, at least today, I’m okay with that. Remember, I have a habit or two I need to work on breaking; but my hope for 2016 is this: that I pay attention. I intend to pay attention to today. Tomorrow I will pay attention to tomorrow. At this moment, I am paying attention to the fact that my sweet puppy is sitting very closely to me and resting his head against my elbow, tolerating the fact that I am typing at the same time. I am paying attention to the fact that I have a job, I have a roof over my head, food in my refrigerator and the best man I could ever wish to have love me as my partner in all my Big Plans, even if they just end up being "big plans" going forward.

As a child and an adult, I have always found stashed in my mom's bookcase a copy of Ram Dass’ book “Be Here Now.” I’ve never read it although I have a vague understanding of what it’s about – spirituality and yoga and meditation. For me, the title is enough. It’s another way to say pay attention.

Be here now. That’s a way better mantra than my old one. 

Good bye, 2015.