Wednesday, November 30, 2011

dreams are like that

We have a rule in our house. Actually, it's more accurate to say I have a rule in our house, a personal rule that I've imposed, making it a defacto house rule: if you absolutely must talk about a dream you had, then you have 15 seconds, no more no less, in which to do so. Fifteen seconds, I'm not kidding.  The clock is ticking. Go.

This forces the speaker to drop all superfluous "it was our house but it wasn't our house," "woah, it was so weird, it was my childhood street but the houses were all different" description that doesn't contribute to the point of the dream.  Fifteen seconds forces the speaker to cut to the chase.  It's simply a waste of words and valuable time to talk about how the dream was different from real life. That's a given.  As Marianne once famously said, "Dreams are like that.  They're not real."

This wonderful rule has imposed a discipline that we adhere to now.  No longer do I cringe when Joe says, "I had the weirdest dream last night," not knowing how long the tale will take, how long I will spend waiting for something to come across in words which allows me to form a picture, any picture, of what he's talking about. Maybe this makes me a horrible person.  I think it just makes me efficient.

Today was one of those rare mornings on which we both had fifteen-second narratives to exchange.

Courtesy of my dream, I woke up angry at Joe at 4:28 am.  I was also cold and uncomfortable.  Even though we'd left Mr Burns sacked out on the couch when we went to bed, he had found his way to us, homing his way in between us and doing his usual expansion-to-three-times-normal-size trick in the dark of the night.  The snuggling is very cute, but also something we are going to have to deal with stat, unless we want another 14 years of interrupted sleep.

Anyway, in the dream Joe had left the front gate open while putting stuff in his truck and, in a moment of inattention, had allowed Mr Burns not only to scamper out but to dart across our busy street.  From where I stood frozen in the dream, I could make out Burns's legs across traffic, the rest of him obscured by the cars whizzing by, across the street where he'd gone to greet another dog.  I felt both scared and angry, since angry is my go-to emotion, the way most of my not-happy emotions come out, whether I've started out angry or not.  That's a whole other story though...

Probably I had this dream because Joe had told me just the day before that Mr Burns had actually darted out of the shop and across the street IN REAL LIFE.  With this puppy, in a way I don't remember experiencing with Jasper, both Joe and I are incredible worriers.  Maybe because the heartbreak of our loss of Jas is still keen, we are both delighted by every Burnsy detail but also nutty with fear about anything being wrong with him, hurting him, killing him.  Seriously, we're like new and nervous parents constantly checking: is he still breathing?

Joe's dream was that he saved me from drowning.  I jumped off a dock into clear water in an uninflated snorkeling vest and sank as he watched.  I was blowing into it, trying to inflate it, as I sank.  Managed to almost break the surface but then sank again, my hands in frustrated fists.  At which point he jumped in to get me and woke up.

Maybe this dream harks back to his memories of my night-dive vertigo experience in which I really did sink like a stone out of sight in the darkness, plummeting toward the bottom of that little bay in the Channel Islands.  Then too Joe went after me, though ultimately it was our dive instructor who grabbed me, understanding what had happened, why I was completely freaked out, feeling like I was spinning when I was absolutely still, sucking air, panicked eyes popping out of my head.  Or maybe the dream was just, as one of my Russian professors used to say in his thickly-accented English, "mental garrrrbage." Or maybe it really has to do with me sinking, being pissed off about my efforts to save myself not working, and sinking again.

Or not.

That's the thing.  Dreams are like that, they're not real.  It takes me a while to shake off their influence some days, when they're particularly weird.  This morning I'm stewing in them a little bit for what they reveal about our inner states.

Or not.

Monday, November 28, 2011

totem du mois

I am going to do everything possible to keep these words right in front of my eyes for the next few weeks, keep the image in my pocket like a rabbit's foot and pet it periodically,  its furry comfort at my fingertips.

Even if you think horoscopes are crap, right now this is so working for me.  Really, really just SO on the money.

gnats, not elephants

It's not the elephants that'll kill you. It's the gnats.

So goes the punchline of a story I carry around inside me, a story told to me by someone to whom it was told. I don't think I read it somewhere, but honestly, after all this time I don't even know any more. A friend returns from safari in Africa and, asked about the dangers of the wild, responds, "it's not the elephants that'll kill you.  It's the gnats."

If I've been quiet for a while, it's because I have been engulfed in a maelstrom of gnats, unable to see, do or think anything beyond the very immediate task of meeting sequential utterly insane deadlines at work.  The November holidays -- Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and the day following -- are theoretically lovely; unfortunately, the deadlines I labor under have no care for holidays.  They piss on holidays, in fact.  So I've wound up in my office the last two Sundays, in my desperate quest for gnat-free air.

The job is gnats right now.  Pesky. In my face. Inescapable but for moments.  Its real value to me right now -- other than supporting us in the reduced style to which we have become accustomed -- is that it is such a constant reminder of how much this is not the end-all for me. It keeps my determination, when I'm not exhausted, clearly focused on something else.

The gnats have been eating my brain lately, it's true, sucking every ounce of my energy.  Which makes me pretty boring.

So I've been reading, trying to fill my head with some sound other than the buzzing, pretty words on the 925 pages of 1Q84 and now The Phantom Tollbooth.

I feel a wind coming, a wind that will blast the bugs away.  In the meantime, I'm sitting here, resisting the temptation to swat wildly at them, conserving forces, making plans.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

"it's my job to write everything down, to take obsessive notes..."

As anyone with kids can attest, they are somehow magically their very neediest in the morning if you have a hang-over. Or morning sickness. It's like some kind of irritating prescience they have. At the point at which you are your weakest, your very own neediest, there they go with their pain-in-the-ass demands for attention and breakfast.

So it was this morning with Puppy. Normally he gets up, he eats, he does the business, he plays a smidge, we walk, then he curls up fast asleep and I write and stare and do my own morning stuff. This morning, because I was tired from being out on a school night to see David Sedaris in a packed house at the Marin Veterans Auditorium, Puppy didn't sleep even one wink. We went for a walk, we played, he bit the shit out of everything in sight. Finally, I had to bribe him into his crate with a peanut-butter smeared toy so I could have a moment's respite and peace, head in hands.

Admittedly, going to see someone read their stories on a school night does for most people a wild late-night make. But I remind me that we also had to go to Safeway afterward to pick up our respective breakfasts for today (since, typically, we were out of food). Adding that errand for cereal, milk, half and half and bread means I got to bed two hours past my bedtime. And completely amped and wound up at that, mind racing, replaying the sounds.

Because seeing Sedaris read was really and truly great. So inspiring. I didn't know what to expect, never having seen him read before, having only heard him on the radio or read his words at my leisure on the page. So when he strode out, papers in hand, blue keds on feet and opened his mouth, for a moment I was a little stunned by the sound of his voice. And then I started laughing.

And laughing.

I was happily aware of three things for the next two hours:1) that I was probably laughing too loud (and long and lingeringly and anticipatorily), 2) that, man, that Sedaris can put a story together, and 3) that damn, wouldn't he be just the kind of person I could hang out with forever?

He started with a story called, "I'm not running for President," written last summer. He also read, "Atta Boy," which I think I also read in The New Yorker. He read, "You're Trash. You're Trash. You're Family's Trash." He read entries from his diary, jokes he'd heard at book-signings, adventures in airports. There was more, but I can't remember it all right now, all blurred up as it is by the tears running down my face, their droplets all over the inside of my glasses. There were times I wished for Pause, Replay, because a sentence was so delightful. I wished for the lights to be on so I could scribble. But instead I just listened and laughed and laughed, swept up in the communal laughter of 300 or so people packing the house.

And only a little distracted by the woman sitting to our right who felt it necessary to explain exactly who Monica Lewinsky was to her 12-year-old daughter, right in the middle of the joke. Really, that can wait. Given the enormous cock also featured in that joke, and Lorena Bobbitt, and the knife, Monica’s the least of your issues.

Sedaris took a few questions at the end of his reading. My favorite thing he said was in response to a question about whether he ever exaggerated in his stories. He responded that the things he wrote were true even if people don't believe that they happened the way he said they did or that so-and-so said what's in the story. It's his job, he said, to be observant, to write everything down, to take obsessive notes on what happens every day. When you write every single day and you write down the crazy things that happen to you, that you overhear, that people say to you, well, there it is: who needs exaggeration? I’m paraphrasing, but that's what I took away. I mean, that’s what I wrote down, since that’s the precise point at which I started scribbling. I basically scribbled all night in my head, his reading just setting me off. It’s self-serving, really, to remember that part of what he said, but I selfishly need and want that reinforcement of my own tendency to scribble. For whatever it's worth.

Interesting that he chose to recommend a book about China as he was closing his remarks, interesting only because of the flack he got recently about what he’d written about China. People were unhappy with his descriptions, with what seemed to be a basic derision. Interesting.

I also loved something he read, a line in one of his diaries, about how what if the people we are at the airport is really who we are? That cracks me up so much.

I want to read and re-read everything he's ever written. His stories are so well-crafted, their arc so elegant. So much to learn there. And so much funny.

Wow, it was good to laugh last night, to listen to someone's brilliance in his own voice. Completely worth the pain-in-the-ass neediness this morning. Completely.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Panchito preciosito

me and my brother
Not so long ago I got this idea to have my chart read. I'm of mixed emotions about this -- on the one hand, it's funny to live here and not have had it done, since it's the sort of thing one hears mentioned in normal, everyday conversation fairly regularly (I know, a function of my particular environment); on the other, while I am sure there is something to be gained from it even if it’s just blog-fodder, I still maintain a dose of skepticism. To know what was happening in the universe at the precise moment of my entry will certainly be interesting, and not at all like the time I went to the Dickens Fair and had my palm read. It will tell me things about myself that could be very helpful.  Regardless, I’m just a little reticent. But still curious.

To have your chart done, you need to know your exact time of birth. Which meant that I had to send my parents digging, since all those years later they couldn't remember what time of day I was born. Which meant my father had to carry to ladder up to the second floor, climb up into the storage space above the closet in the tv room, bring down box after box of family photos and memorabilia, searching for the one baby photo, taken minutes after birth, that includes the details that the birth certificate omits.

So now we know that I was born at 2:18pm, 6 lbs 6 oz, 17 1/2 inches.

While you're digging around in the photos, I asked my mother, could you see if you have any photos of Pancho? Since losing Jasper in March, I'd often thought about Panchito, my first dog, the brother my parents got me when pregnant with me. For four years it was just the two of us, no little sisters, just me and gentle and sweet Pancho who knew all of his commands in Spanish. I loved him so much, speaking long rolling endearments for him, Panchito preciosito, amorcito, that still roll through my memory when I see a certain kind of dog or even when murmuring to Mr Burns. Panchito disappointed me only once and not for long, when he refused to perform even one trick years later when we put on a circus on the Kanights' deck on Liberty Street. I left the stage, head down, in time for the Three Ms to start their act, surprised and disappointed. But for the rest, for long childhood years, he was the very model of a good dog, a perfect brother: gentle, sweet, loving.

It's amazing that when I finally found pictures of him, after hours of digging through those same boxes at my parents, he is so much smaller than I remember. And brindle! I remembered the warmth of his brown coat, but brindle? I didn’t know it. But those eyes, those I knew so well: always so warm, looking at me with so much tenderness. It's such a pleasure to see him again, to add the image, refreshed, to the load of sensory memory I carry around inside.

wow, Sari, my mother: gorgeous! but i only have eyes for panchito
later, older: so cute!
I still haven’t had my chart done, even though the exact time of birth went off, by email, to the astrologer in question. I may still do it, but really looking at Panchito, holding the treasure of these photos in my hands, I feel like I already know everything I need to about how the circumstances of my birth made me who I am and how the path will unfold.

Ay, perrito preciosito: so much love to you, even now.


Friday, November 11, 2011


photo credit: The Baltimore Chop
I was going to write a whole thing about 11/11/11 11:11 since it's apparently de rigueur, but then, as things go when I'm awake in the middle of the night and reading and eating toast, stumbled on something that I think is more interesting. Related and more interesting.

So today is supposed to be a super-auspicious and romantic day. Tons of people apparently are marrying today to take advantage of the good luck (or so I'm told) connected with this date. In Chinese apparently, "The numbers rhyme with one husband, one wife and one soul ... and signifies a marriage that would last a lifetime." If nothing else, marrying on 11/11/11 guarantees an anniversary date that's easy to remember.

Personally I will be marking the date by initiating a new habit of taking Elevenses -- taking on some refreshment late-morning, between breakfast and lunch. If I were a hobbit, naturally Elevenses would come between second breakfast and luncheon.  I'll skip second breakfast.

While thinking about all this -- that is, during first breakfast -- I'm reading the NY Times on-line, after a quick scan of the SF Chronicle.  That's always the sequence: check email and Facebook, check SF Gate for local "news" and celebrity gossip, check NY Times for what's really going on and for inspiration.  Insomnia and getting up really early are what make it possible for me to do this -- buy me the time to let my mind run, to just drift and click from one idea to the next, see what turns up.

Because I was already thinking about all the 11/11 marriages, of course I could not resist the attraction of "Bound by Love and Disability, and Keeping a Vow Until the End,"  the sweet love story of a couple with cerebral palsy who met at 7, eloped at 37, and were together until the wife Noemi's death this week at 53.  Edwin, her husband, took care of her until the end, to the best of his abilities, with a lot of help naturally, as we all do.  Everybody wants this -- to love and be loved, to be with the beloved and care for him or her.  It's fundamental to who we are, I think.  No matter what day of the man-made calendar we tie the knot, there it is: we're knot-tiers.

Edwin and Noemi reminded me that in the mid-80s I worked for a couple with cerebral palsy, when I was a graduate student in Russian Language and Literature at SF State.  Stephen and Ethel Dunn were brilliant scholars who'd set up their own research non-profit and operated out of their gorgeous house in Kensington.  I'd ride the BART, then the bus, to their place from my flat in the grimy pre-gentrified Mission, disembarking finally in the Berkeley hills, in trees and green and quiet, and walk the remaining mile to their house.  I did mostly word processing for the for-profit side of their business, and transcription of Stephen's translations from audio tapes for the non-profit side.  Both Stephen and Ethel had this huge range of expertise and creativity, their minds completely unbound by the wheelchairs their bodies lived in.  They were smart and funny and sweet - I was always inspired by the steel-trap of their two minds and their love for each other.

And, I digress, they also had one of those libraries with the rolling shelves, just stocked with reference books in Russian and English.  Poetry, too.  I'd turn the little steering wheel to open the shelves and fetch whatever was needed.  So covet(ed) that shelving!

Naturally, because it's Let Your Mind Roam Free time, I Googled Stephen and Ethel.  Stephen passed away in 1999 I was sorry to read in Ethel's lovely memorial piece.  I emailed Ethel immediately after reading this news -- it's disconcerting that my message bounced back a minute later, the victim of a "permanent fatal error."

Those two, Stephen and Ethel, loved each other madly.  Edwin and Noemi, too, loved each other madly.  Who could ask for anything more?  Surely to find each other and love each other: that's the best luck there is, right?

On 11/11/11, may we take a little tea and a savory snack between breakfast and luncheon and use the time to think about love, to appreciate the love we have, to scheme ways to make more.  At 11:11 as I lift a cup to my lips, I will be doing just that, grateful and inspired to consider how my own love story will live on after me.  


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Twenty Four

Twenty four years ago, when I myself was 24, I was in my last days of being extremely pregnant. I was absolutely side-show enormous, pushing past the very outer limits of maternity wear. By then, I think I lived in one of my Uncle Ben's large plaid shirts, an XL long-sleeve thermal top and black leggings with a forgiving waistband. I also lived in my Uncle Ben's former house near San Francisco State University, thanks to my parents, so it was always gray and cool, perfect weather for me when insulated by an extra 25 pounds, 9 of which, though I didn't know it at the time, were all baby.

It pleases me to count the days, to know that in just a couple, I will cross a big boundary: I will have been someone's mother for half my life. And then, every day after that, for MORE than half my life.

Other than breathing perhaps, I can't think of many other things I've done for 24 years straight, for half my life or more. OK, drinking coffee: sure, that's true. And reading books and being friends with people I've known since 8th grade (Scott, that's you) and high school (Old Joe, Frances, Lisa and more): OK, those are true, too. But still, half a life is a long, long time to be one thing, to be someone's mom, to know that that creature over there is half me, half someone-else, connected and also free, of the same cloth and yet completely individual.

There's a lot of delight in that.

Twenty four years ago I thought I was prepared for what is, essentially, something for which nothing can prepare you. I thought I knew; I didn't know shit. And yet, everything turned out great. Knowing is not essential. Preparation is helpful, but also not essential. I'm still learning to be unprepared, to leave room to be stunned, left wordless and breathless, by all that I don't know, that I can't know.

On Monday night I'll go through my annual ritual of reliving the whole experience: the slow start to the contractions, their insistence throughout the night, the early morning ride in my parents' VW camper to the hospital, The Kid's sunny birth at 2:16pm. I'll re-feel echoes of that long-ago pain, and celebrate the moment I first saw my boy with my own eyes, all 22" of him, all 9 pounds, purple feet and hands in fists, drawing that first long breath and wailing his arrival.

Happy 24th to my sweet child. Happy 24 years of motherhood to me.

It's good to be here, half a life later. So good.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

a little something i love...

This week's assignment from writing class is to write about little things we love. We were asked, on our call on Monday, to make a list of tiny objects we love. Strangely, I got a little hung up after Jasper's tag, my blue lotus earrings, my notebook, the photo of The Kid at a May Day celebration at Waldorf School, his grinning baby face wreathed in flowers. This morning the little thing I am particularly loving is The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith, latest in the series of Isabel Dalhousie novels.

For my birthday a few years ago, my mother sent me a package. No doubt she was impatient with how difficult it is to make plans with us, always so busy, but also what a delightful impulse. Who doesn't love the prospect of a surprise, the receipt of a box containing who knows what? She sent me all of the Dalhousie books, the first 4 in paperback, the last hardback. I knew McCall Smith from the Ladies Detective Agency books, but didn't know anything about these stories. I read the five books in a week. They're lovely little things, light, delightful. They make me dream of Scotland.

After a workshop in a bookstore on Sunday past, I allowed myself one purchase and one only. A bookstore is a place of huge temptation for me -- so easy for me to spend hours and dollars, leave with bags and bags of books, more books than I can possibly accomodate either physically or in space and time, feeding my greedy little inner collector as much as my voracious reader. From the sale table, I selected the latest Dalhousie, on remainder for $6.99.

I started it yesterday, loathe to drag the Murakami to the chair. Although I'm on page 224 of 1Q84 and loving it, I am still a little oppressed by its heft. Finding a comfortable supine position in which to hold it is a bit challenging.

So instead I grabbed the Dalhousie, headed for the big chair, dog in lap, and started in.

It's wonderful. There are moments, phrases, that make me laugh out loud. There has been, also, at least one occasion on which I've audibly gasped, causing Joe to look up and over from whatever he was reading (the paper, I think). It's written in such a smooth, engaging manner, so old-fashioned in just the right way.

Nowadays while reading, I am super conscious of how stories are put together. Well, to be fair, that's something I am always aware of, something that I'm tracking even as I'm engrossed in the story. I spent too many years studying literature to be able to just read without marveling at the artistry required to build the structure. But now, really, I'm reading more keenly, knowing that it's coming, the time when I will be putting together the book. This makes me super conscious of the skeleton beneath the fur.

How wonderful that just now I was on McCall Smith's website and discovered that this book I'm reading now is not the last in the series. There are two more for me to devour in short order as soon as possible, sitting curled up in the big chair, indulging myself in the name of research!

Truly, truly: a good little story is something I really love.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pap de Q

If there's one thing I hate to shop for, it's definitely toilet paper. I tend to avoid it, but this past weekend was so proud of myself that I managed to buy more *before* we ran out, something which probably doesn't seem like it should rank as any kind of achievement when you're nearing 50 years of age, but in my case, unfortunately, does. There's just something about standing in that row in the supermarket, all those shelves stocked with variations on thickness, softness, ply, scent, that I strongly dislike.

It has nothing to do with any kind of prudery re bodily functions. Raised in a family of 5 with one bathroom, through which my parents regularly paraded and hung out at the double-sinks naked and in which the very desire for privacy was considered an act of insubordination, I don't think I ever developed any kind of squeamishness about these matters. I'm an animal that way, I suppose.

No, the thing that gets me every time I'm facing those plastic wrapped packages of ass-wipe, is how much I feel I SHOULD buy the recycled paper and yet how much I DESPISE the recycled paper. Seriously, I realize it's made with post-consumer waste-paper, but does it have to universally just suck?

There was the one day, such a giant relief, when I couldn't put off the ass-paper purchase any longer, went to the store and found the shelves mysteriously empty of the crappy recycled crap-paper. I was delightfully off the hook and free to buy whatever was on sale or struck my fancy.

This was after the time when I used to order recycled toilet paper, before it was available at places like Safeway, direct from a catalog. Huge cardboard boxes would show up on our porch, containing nothing more exciting than individually-wrapped rolls of that grayish, miserable, fall-apart paper. In those days, I was more hell-bent, and also the mail-order saved me from even entering that aisle, from having to imagine what it might be like to get a satisfying, absorbent wipe out of a handful of the "real," not recycled ass paper. I was also strongly influenced -- and indeed still think about -- an article I read in some eco-warrior 'zine in the early 90s, about how grotesque it is that we cut down trees in order to have something with which to clean our bottoms. I will say that I never did, never would, go as far as the author, who advocated the use and re-use of cloth for this purpose. That is truly vile.

A note on ass paper: in my family we always refer to toilet paper as "papier cul," which translates as ass paper, paper for the ass, what-have-you. Joe translates this phonetically, in his form of French, as Pap de Q, hence the title of our elevating post today.

So, standing in the toilet paper aisle always brings me back to this essential conundrum of my middle-aged being: how much I care about the environment and yet how much I enjoy simple things like the satisfaction of an effective wipe. There's a part of me that can get really wound up about this, pissed even, like god damn it, I've been doing my part for so long, can someone take over being all self-righteous and shit, so I can just sit down and have some comfort in my old age? I know: kind of ridiculous.

But there it is. I do really feel this way, like we've carried this torch for so long, have been so committed for such long stretches of time, like being vegan (yes, seriously) for about 7 years from 1988 to 1997-ish when there was nothing out there, the eating landscape a wasteland (going to Disneyland with The Kid and ordering hamburgers without the meat, subsisting on what was available, french fries and bread with lettuce and tomato). We were eco-warriors for ages, riding our bikes, pulling said-Kid in the trailer to school, Joe once even banishing someone in his band from eating his dinner of hot dog in our house. Oh, crazy, ridiculous, eco-fascist days of youth. Still, to this day, so many practices are integrated into our life, things I love like composting, things that are total reflex like avoiding plastic whenever possible.

I used to imagine it like shark-teeth. You know how they say that sharks have these rows and rows of teeth in their cartilaginous jaws -- one falls out and another moves up to take its place. I'd like to be that shark-tooth that delicately steps aside, letting other sharper teeth come take my place, please. Sometimes I'm just too tired and small to carry the whole burden of whether the polar bears live or die. Sometimes I just want to take a ride in a fan-boat and really, truly enjoy it without stressing about the consequences.

Not so long ago, I declared an end to my recycled ass-paper buying ways. The first time, the good stuff was on super-sale and we were on a tight budget, or so I rationalized the purchase. But now I just buy what I want, and know that I do what I can where I can and try to banish the Should. I'm a whole lot happier that way. I still feel the struggle in the toilet paper aisle, but now I reach for what I want and try to let go of the rest. So much happier that way.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

sunday? sunday!

favorite things

Perhaps because we changed the clocks back to Real Time last night [daylight "savings" time is a pet peeve], I am having the most luxurious, languid Sunday.  Woke up on my own, before 7, and it was light out.  I could see the marvel of our yard, the morning light on Jasper's stone across from our room.  Mr Burns was curled up between us on the bed.  I felt fine.

When's the last time I felt fine on awakening?  

Seriously, a long time.

Just felt fine.  Great.  Slight buzz of a headache and sore as hell from yoga.  But fine.

In other words: happy.

Had breakfast with Joe, then off he went to ride for hours.  Mr Burns had his first experience of the Roomba (strong dislike).  He curled up on the ottoman in the sun.  I sat in the big chair  next to him and read, for hours, enjoying coffee #2 which somehow, inexplicably, tasted better than it had in days.  Just so rich, complex on the tongue, excellent.  

At a certain point, I looked up from my book and had no idea what day it was.  I sat there for a minute convinced it was a weekday, that I'd called in sick just to have a chance to savor being in the dazzle of my home in the morning.  The moment just had that feeling of standing suspended outside the rush of everything.  Then slowly, Sunday came shimmering back. 

What?  That just doesn't happen.  That I lost track of where we are on the calendar, of where I stand precisely on the rocketing-forward momentum of my trajectory through time, now THAT is something, something really good.  The total ease of that moment, my comfort in the chair, the sun on Mr Burns' gorgeous sable coat -- perfection.

And then puppy stretched and turned and, as I thought he might, tumbled from the ottoman onto the carpeted floor at my feet.  Then stretched some more and yawned merely as an excuse to close his teeth around my ankle.  So we went for a walk, still inside this sparkly little bubble outside of time, me and the dog enjoying Sunday in all its glory.

I can't shake the feeling that I did something really right to bring me to this day, to this sensation, to this amnesia of the day's name. At some point, when I shake off the glamour, I'll try and reconstruct the recipe, see if I can't reproduce this delicious dream. In the meantime, just completely inside it, relishing every moment.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

we were on a break.

It took about one minute. All of one minute for me to realize what an idiot I'd been.

We were on a break. I admit it was one-sided. It was all me deciding for this break, needing some space, some distance, some breathing room. I'd had a few unsettling experiences of observing myself going through the motions. Oh dear. Really? It all seemed so silly, laughable even. What was I doing? So the break: I made it happen.

At first the break was great. I felt more free, more un-scheduled, more spontaneous, more present. But as time went on, I started to question my choice. Was this new state better? Had I made a mistake? I kind of missed you, but I wasn't sure. It was confusing. I felt increasingly muddled, unclear.

And then yesterday, it hit me. In one minute.

One minute of sitting on my mat, guided by a skillful teacher (thank you, DownDogDave), and like a lightning bolt came the realization:

Yoga reminds me of who I really am.

Sitting there, everything came rushing back: my sense of my self as a creative being, not as an exhausted body; my delight in my own physical systems and strength, not just a bag of ailments.  The foggy mirror got wiped clean, and suddenly I could see again.  I could see Me.  In one minute.

So even though I broke up with you for a while, Yoga, I realized yesterday that that was a delusion on my part. I mistakenly thought I could break up with you but that's impossible, because you're a part of me. I can no more separate myself from you than from my lungs or opposable thumbs or eyeballs.  You're not outside me.  You're an inexhaustible source of well-being that I carry around inside. You are me.

This realization makes me feel had -- or I could say, saddy, or any other combination of happy + sad.  I'm happy because I feel good and content in a way I didn't for the weeks of the break, happy to be brought back to where I belong, solid in this knowing of who and what I am.  And also, a little strangely sad, knowing that this, yoga, asana, practice, is something I don't have a choice about doing anymore.  Maybe I never did, it's just that now I have full awareness that this is it.  The yoga is my dharma.  I can quail and fret and eat potato chips, but that doesn't change the fact: it's my dharma, so I just need to do it.

Do your dharma.  Fuck the rest.

Everything else is noise.  All the chatter, all the yoga gossip, all the names we call ourselves: noise.  All that matters is practice, is devotion, is the act of coming back, again and again, in a simple attitude of gratitude for this body, for this life.

Of course, you, Yoga, you knew this all along.  You let me break up with you so that I would figure this out on my own.  You'd been telling me so for years, but clearly, I forgot and needed the wake-up.

Thank you.  I get it now.  I'm all in, more so than before, clear-headed, resolute and ready for class.


Thank you, Jenn Graham!

Friday, November 4, 2011

fat for me

My delightful friend Jen uses this expression, "fat for me."  She's a yoga teacher and personal trainer and someone who is starting her own wellness coaching business, and is all-around gorgeous -- and yet she, like the rest of us, struggles with weight and body image, etc.  One day as we were driving to yoga together, she was telling a story and described her sense of herself at that moment as "fat for me." As in not necessarily really and truly fat, but just fatter than I want to be, fatter than is comfortable for me.  Fat for me.

I'm thinking about this expression this morning a lot as I prepare to go have lunch with a friend who has been on a weight-loss kick *and* daily yoga binge for months, even as I have been on break from practice and eating whatever I want, even as my jeans have gotten tighter.  I am definitely fat for me right now, so I'm feeling nervous about seeing her.

So lame, right?

I'm totally happy for her, of course.  I know she feels great, which is wonderful.  But it's strange to be so idle, to observe the loss of definition, to know that it's going to be a bitch of an uphill battle to get back what I had so recently.

And to be so fat for me.

But there it is.  I know this is just a phase I'm going through, this particular period of fat for me, but if I'm being honest, it does hold me back, make me want to stay home, want me want to avoid people because I am not comfortable in my own skin.

Naturally, we're going out for sandwiches, which will represent a departure from her current regimen of  not eating carbs.  Hah, no change for me in my current carbotarian ways.  But seriously, I think I've hit the outer limit of fat for me today.  And there's no way I'm going clothes-shopping right now so it's high-time to reverse this expanding trend and start contracting.

So, yes to sandwiches today, and then I'm done with the fat for me for now.  To yoga at 6 and back on the routine.  It's going to be challenging at first, but that's ok: I miss feeling great.  Can't wait to get that back.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

homework for life

We just got home from puppy class and I'm sitting here feeling sad that our six-week course is already over.  The full truth is that that hour has been the highlight of my week for the last few weeks. I have more thoroughly enjoyed that hour-long experience of being in a room with other puppies and their people and our genial teacher Erica than really truly anything that's happened to me for a long time.

That probably seems kind of sad, right?

But really, it isn't. What I love about puppy class is that while I'm in it, I am utterly incapable of multi-tasking.  It takes every bit of attention to focus on what Erica is saying over the noise of other people and their dogs and their kids and every ounce of coordination to manage the verbal cue, the hand gesture, the delivery of the treat at the precise moment.  It's thoroughly engrossing and also so very entertaining.  I know there are moments when I'm enjoying myself too much, laughing with too much abandon, having to remind myself to close my mouth while I'm listening to all of the instructions.

I love it.

Honestly what could be bad about being in a room with 6 or 7 puppies, especially because there are intervals in which we let them go, off-leash, and they run and roll and bite and play.  Being with dogs, being with puppies, always feels like such a treat to me.  It's so deeply pleasing to watch how they do things, and even more so to put my hands on them, pet their sweet heads, feel their bony skulls under my fingers.

Mr Burns was a little crazy in class tonight.  We're not supposed to feed our dogs before class so that they'll be more treat-motivated.  He was particularly nuts for treats tonight, a little nippy as I was handing them off to him, pumping him with goodies and Good Boy as he held his relaxed position in sit or down.  His main strategy when playing with the other puppies is to throw himself on his back, offering up his belly and neck, then rabbit-kicking his playmate in the head. He's good at some things, and on others he needs a lot more practice.

I guess that's one of the reasons I love puppy class so much-- it's that it really and truly makes a difference.  What we do in this class, what we do as homework, the constant repetition of the commands and gestures, the insistence on good behavior, matters.  It will make the difference between an out-of-control 70-pound monster or a docile giant we can take everywhere with us, not straining at every bit of stimulation, begging for food.

And of course, the training is mostly us.  We knew this going into it, having learned this lesson with Jasper oh-so-many years ago.  The training is mostly of the people, supporting us in being in the lead, in being consistent, in using positive reinforcement to reward the behavior we want, minimize if not eliminate that which we don't.

It's homework for life.

For a lifelong school-nerd, this is pretty much nirvana.

Our six weeks in class flew by, but we're already making plans to take the next session, beginning December 15th, on our way to ensuring that Mr Burns grows into a vgb [very good boy].  It's the least we can do for him.  And for ourselves.