Saturday, December 31, 2011

all ready for 2012

Whatever 2012 brings, I'm ready.  I've got my new Moleskin all set to start the year bright and early tomorrow morning, ready to go with awesome semi-rad sticker occupying prime real estate on the front cover.  And yes, Eunice, I'm back to Moleskin, despite the Prop 65 warning that popped up on these notebooks on-line recently.  If my notebook gives me cancer, so freakin' be it.

Someone posted this L. M. Montgomery quote this morning -- L. M. Montgomery being the author of "Anne of Green Gables," which I'll be reading pronto:

Isn't it nice to think tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?

I'm feeling that way about the entire coming year, a whole new year with no mistakes in it yet, just 240 lined chlorine-free pages ready to soak up all the thoughts, all the adventures, rad and semi-rad.

This is the real rapture, this anticipation at the eve of something fresh and new.  A whole new year with no mistakes in it yet.

And that is full-on, not just semi-, rad.


maybe it's wrong

Maybe it's wrong, but:

- I can't help how much I fall in love with people when they use really good words easily in a sentence.  I am still thinking about the fabulous Nicole, working magic with my hair, discussing her favorite books of 2011, trotting out métier re Patti Smith and poetry. I didn't hear the two sentences after that, dizzy with delight, savoring the word. Delicious.

- I also can't help saying Thank You when Good Words Happen, so grateful to hear something unusual, so fresh and delightful on the ears! Probably this is because I spend so much time on dog-training in which positive reinforcement is everything... But naturally, instead of Good Girl or Boy in response to the wielding of excellent vocab (which I think would universally be taken wrong), my response is the unimaginative but oh-so happy, flexible and expressive Fuck Yeah! Fuck Yeah to good words and the people who use them!

- I can't help doing whatever it takes, despite my current injury, to spend an hour in the woods every day with puppy.  Mr Burns is just so much happier if he has time to run free, crash through the brush, jump over downed trees, sniff wild poops, be a little wolf in sable clothing.  And I, too, am so much genuinely happier, more at peace, if I've been in the trees for some part of the morning.  We dogs need this, so if it means I need to dose up on Advil and maybe a pain killer to make it possible to ramble up and down the trails, then so be it.

Maybe all that is wrong, but whatevs, I don't need to be right.  

Meanwhile, AC/DC is playing on Pandora, Mr Burns is sacked out on the big chair in the sun, I'm about to start final-day-of-the-year work for the business while Joe is out on his bike.  It's New Year's Eve, bitches, and all I want to do is sit around and think about what the last year has meant, but duty calls.  Fun is for later on -- right now, it's time to work.  

That's OK, though, honestly, because I am still coasting on métier and this morning's traipse in the forest with pup.  Fuck yeah!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

silly for special treatment

if only it read, AdvanceD Reader's...
A few weeks ago, I was invited to join to the From Left to Write book club as a contributor. By "invited to join" I mean that they accepted my application -- it's not as though I was discovered...  That would be sweet, but instead the truth is that I heard about them via a Martha Beck post on Facebook and, intrigued by what I read on their site, applied.  

Of course I applied: they are -- I mean, we are -- an online book club of over 100 bloggers who read books together and then, inspired by our reading, write and share our own stories on our own blogs.  Many of the titles we read are available to us before they appear in bookstores -- we get them in galley-form, something which thrills me.

Looking back as is my habit at year-end, it seems I've been trying on venues, trying to find a place to associate with writing-wise, to write for. It started with applying to be a blogger on YogaJournal (I was not selected, such a good thing).  Since then I've written for Elephant Journal, a local Anusara Yoga-focused site called Bay Shakti, had a piece on the More magazine website, and several pieces as a Local Voice on the San Rafael Patch news site.  In a weird way, somehow I've been looking for a home for my writing, someplace besides this-here my own blog.  It has been an interesting process at the end of which I had my Come-to-Kansas moment: there's no place like home.  It's enough, and probably better, to write my own blog.

And at precisely that moment, I discovered From Left to Write.

Yesterday I received my very first selection, which will be published on January 24, 2012.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking is already right up my alley.  I'm only on page 12 but am already super-inspired by the content, taking notes, getting ready for our club session with the author in January.  So great! 

Naturally, because I'm silly for special treatment -- for getting to stand in the VIP line, having the backstage pass, knowing the author -- I am delighted that this book is an Advance Reader's Edition, uncorrected proof.  I love the feel of its rough gray cover in my hands and knowing that I'm reading it first, before everyone else.

Except the other 100 bloggers in my book club.

Stay tuned: I'm feeling as though this match-up will work better than my other recent attempts to branch out and write for other venues.  This will still be my own blog, my own stories written for my own people, but connected to this larger group of passionate readers and writers.  I'm so looking forward to it.  

Meanwhile, I'm excited to dig into this first book, my first opportunity as a contributor to From Left to Write.  How not to love a book about introverts -- about people who'd rather skip the dinner party in favor of curling up with a book?  I'm feeling like I'm in the right place, reading those particular words, at exactly the right time.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Juxta Pose

That these two titles arrived on my doorstep in the same box makes me pretty happy.  Of course I am the one who placed the order, so it wasn't a surprise, rather something I've been looking forward to since last week.  Something about pushing back the cardboard flaps of their container and seeing them, tucked in together sweetly, harmoniously sharing an essential color scheme, really made me feel deeply glad.

Beautiful stories, yes.  Oppressive theology, no.

Having everything mixed up on one plate: delicious.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Among the things I do that my spouse finds incomprehensible, possibly reprehensible, is the purchasing, collecting and display of stuffed animals.  Animals skulls, that's OK, but toys are gross somehow.

For a while, my menagerie was lined up along the window seat in our room, next to my side of the bed, where I could look at them arrayed just so, otter next to hippo next to goat next to gorilla.  I also admit that there is one, Baby Dog, that has slept in the bed with me a LOT, especially in the interval between Jasper and Mr Burns.  He is missing a nose, thanks to Jas, and his fur is well-loved and matted.

One or two of my animals are hand-me-ups, toys of The Kid's that became mine somehow.  Others I did buy, on visits to aquaria or zoos or what-have-you.  Like the sloth purchased following a field trip with my Mammalogy class a year ago, after spending an incredulous 20 minutes watching a two-toed sloth hang around and eat.  The toy was too funny to pass up, too cute with its goofy three-toed paws.  I held it in my lap all the way home.

Now Sloth and the rest are all piled up in a basket on the shelf in my closet.  Mr Burns is unable to distinguish between my toys and his toys and it simply became too tiresome to be constantly vigilant lest I should find him, guilty, hippo between his teeth.  

But last night Sloth came down for a visit.  I found him a new spot, perched on top of my stack of 2011 Books, out of reach of inquisitive flesh-and-blood animals.

I had to take the risk.  We'd just watched an absolutely ridiculous show about a sloth sanctuary entitled, appropriately, "Too Cute, Baby Sloths."   Sloths are so weird and wonderful and adorable, I want to go straight to Costa Rica every time I see an image of one or think about the possibility of those funny claws holding on to me, long long arms draped around my neck.  In my way of thinking, you need your Grinch checked if you don't think this is cute:

And I'm feeling inspired by sloths this morning, thinking of their super slo-mo movements as I myself move around slowly, nursing this monstrous problem in my low back that makes sitting up in bed a twenty-minute operation.  I cry tears of pain but mostly of frustration, crying because it hurts but also out of an acute desperate mourning of my agile, rapid self, lost to me for now.  Instead I'm like Sloth, carefully extending one limb, pause, then the next, pause, trying to keep a goofy smile on my face.

I won't lie: it does make me happy to open my eyes and see an array of silly stuffed animals placed just-so, reminding me of how amazing animals are in real life, how lucky we are to share this space with them.  The stuffed animals, and the animal skulls, and the books -- all of it in front of my eyes, standing in for everything I love most: the world around us and the creatures in it, our human capacity to take it in, interpret it, give it back in the form of toys and stories. How great is that?

If you have a moment, click through and watch a baby sloth video or two, pay a visit to the slothpital.  Seeing so much cuteness is bound to be good for you. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa your Self

Every December, as I stand and watch, jumping around, possibly clapping, Joe brings down the red and white Christmas box from the rafters in the garage.   Without a child in the house and now that I've decided for all time that I can't kill a tree for the holiday, the Christmas display is decidedly smaller, more compact, distilled to its very essence. Gone are the days of a 6-foot tree, draped in ornaments and lights.  The "tree" we have now is intended as a centerpiece, but its size is ideal for our circumstances.

And really, since the Christmas display is just my seasonal altar to Santa, the little LED lights in place of flickering votives, the tree doesn't need to take center stage.  Now the little centerpiece tree serves as a twinkling backdrop to what's really important to me: the little statue of St. Nick.

Every December, I pay tribute to the enduring sweetness that is Santa in my life.  Every year I trace how Santa has made me who I am, how he brings me back to what's essential, how he serves as a constant reason to be good and to keep track of being good.  There is no amount of cynicism, no Bad Santa, no snark that can tarnish my adoration of Santa. 

Santa is my only god.

No other god can hold a candle to Santa in my book.  He's the real deal.  I worship him with my whole heart, in a way I could never give it up for Jesus or even Shiva who is seriously kick-ass when it comes to mythical beings.  Nope, for me it's Team Santa until death do us part.  And it's not even about the presents.

It's so much more than that.  Santa is not just Father Christmas, but the Father of Lists.  From him did my life-long habit of writing things down, and checking them twice, derive.  As did my habit of using December to look back on the year and think about how I was good (and how I was not), and begin making plans for the coming year.  Santa sits at the head of this whole process for me, a benevolent goodness that cheers my own. My Santa is not a lump of coal Santa.  That's so Grinch.

There is also something for me about this annual conspiracy of goodness, of willful wishful belief in the big man in the red suit, that calls out the best in all of us, that makes us all wide-eyed hopeful children again.  All in the interest of dazzling some wide-eyed hopeful children.  Something about that makes me so glad every year, the way in which adults are willing to create magic for children, even just for a few years, to induct them into this beautiful vision so that they can, when it's their turn, create it for others.  I wish everyone to have this, regardless of religion.  Santa is such a rewarding myth for all people, all the time.

These days, since I don't have a child around anymore, I Santa my self.  I go shopping at the mall and get happy seeing the supremely well-appointed Santa outside the Macy's.  I make my lists and wrap presents, hiding them from puppy teeth.  I watch "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Elf "and make cookies.  Without a kid around, I write a letter to Santa in my head, knowing I'm writing just to me, and think about all the ways I was very, very good this year.  On Christmas morning, I wake up, before dawn, filled with excitement, remembering sitting at the top of the stairs with my sisters in our robes and slippers, waiting for our parents to be done with their interminable ablutions so that we could run downstairs, throw open the doors to the living room and see traces of the big guy's magic. Remembering The Kid's happy face, taking down the stocking, unwrapping the Santa surprises.

I don't need any other god but Santa, Santa of the reindeer and cookies and good cheer, wanting to know what we want, how we've been good.

Santa's coming. Jump around!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

glasses are for poseurs

I just had my annual eye exam on my one-year anniversary of needing and wearing glasses.  Everyone my family wears glasses; my kid wears glasses, but I thought I'd go through life without them, forever.  Not so.  Last year, motivated by my father's macular degeneration and my sudden inability to see the words I myself was writing on a Mammalogy final exam, I sat myself down at Lenscrafters, let them dilate my pupils, and wound up with smart new glasses.

The good news is that today's anniversary exam reveals no trace of any issues with my macula.  Nerves look good.  All is a-OK with the ojos.

Except that they continue to get old and my near-vision has gotten worse.  Which I knew was true going into the exam since I've felt the recent need to mess with my glasses, take them off, put them back on, squint, while reading.

READING is all that matters to me, honestly.  My poor father has lost the ability to read thanks to his degenerated macula.  Frankly, I wonder what point I would have in continuing to exist on this earth if I couldn't pick up a book and read it, sit in front of the computer and write and read, watch my hands make words with a pencil in my notebook.  I would die a little death, I think. I read something yesterday about Christopher Hitchens in which he defended his lifelong smoking and hard drinking by saying that for him all that mattered was WRITING, that anything that facilitated that process, that prolonged his ability to debate with people, he would gladly continue to do regardless of its effects on him.  [Note that in his final year of living dyingly, he did give both up.]  Anyway, I think I might be a little that way with the reading.


Because I just spent an absurd amount of money on a new pair of progressive specs, with a stronger prescription, even on the distance-vision now.  They're cute as hell -- important since they'll be on my face every day.  But god damn it, I feel like a bit of an asshole for spending so much money on them.

Here they are:

Here's another view, of a feature that I love:

Sweet details, right?  Better be.

Researching them now, in the cool quiet of my kitchen, does it make me feel better that the manufacturer describes the Seraphin line of frames as "vintage luxury," "the Romantic Hero for our time.  The Seraphin collection embodies the essence of nouveau-retro luxury while keeping its commitment to affordability."

Nouveau-retro: are you fucking kidding me?

Yes, they're perfect on me and I love them.  But this seals it for all time: I am such a poseur asshole.  But at least I'm a poseur asshole who can keep reading and THAT, besides looking cute, is all I care about.


Friday, December 16, 2011

i want cake: inquiry + bliss

A dear friend posted the following quote, which I adore, to commemorate the passing of Christopher Hitchens, formidable thinker and prolific writer:
We have the same job we always had: to say that there are no final solutions; there is no absolute truth; there is no supreme leader; there is no totalitarian solution that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would simply abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss can be yours.
He spoke those words in October 2011 while accepting the Freethinker of the Year Award from the Atheist Alliance of America.  He was dying of cancer, something which many thought would force a religious awakening in him, a turning toward god.

Nope.  Not a chance.

His words resonate deeply for me.  I love a man who writes a book called, "god is not great: How religion poisons everything."

But here's the thing about that quote.  As much as I know how true his words are -- how accurately they posit the choice that religion puts in front of people, think on your own or give up -- I also know they're not totally true, at least not for me.  I know that it's not necessary to give up bliss, even a bliss that can feel idiotic, for the sake of reason.  Inside me is a sense that we can have both, that we ARE both, consciousness AND bliss.  Even before I was a yogi, I felt this pull of satcitananda -- this point of all being: truth, consciousness and, yes, bliss.

The kind of bliss I'm talking about really and truly can sometimes feel idiotic.  I'm not kidding.  There are moments when I'm reading something or thinking about something or picking up a newt in the damp woods or seeing my husband's face first thing in the morning, moments in which I am unreasonably happy -- completely giddy at the marvel of the world around me, the people in it, the potential for greatness which so often finds expression all around, in big and tiny ways.  I am not setting my reason aside when I feel this sweep of joy.  That bright arc very often has its source in reason itself, in thinking deeply on my own, in examining the orderly and chaotic creative genius of evolution that has landed us right here right now in this remarkable life we lead.

I have my cake and I eat it, too.  It's not an either/or.  To eat it, you gots to have it.  If you have it, don't be stupid: eat it!

Hitchens ate cake to the very end, reveling in the glory of his critical faculties, resolute, fearless, honest.  A few months ago he said, "My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends."  Not Jesus.  Friends, yo.  Real ones.

That's cake, people.  That's recognizing reality with all the lights on AND savoring every smidge of sweetness on the plate we've been served.  That's satcitananda, baby, every single bite.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

up through the ground came a bubblin' crude

Oh my goodness. Goodness. Good. 

This is this morning's refrain, the words and sensations circulating through me as I reflect on yesterday's visit with my sister and her family. It was so much better than I expected, so good in so many ways, so simple and easy.

And oh my goodness, my niece Elizabeth is exactly like Carla was at her age: adorable, open, playful, affectionate, chatty, impish, sweet and smart. A little bubbling force of nature, happy happy happy.  It was so good to see her and to see, especially, how obviously The Kid was genuinely delighted by her. Truly, truly it was so good to see the next generation take to each other, his patience at Elizabeth's tiny-fingered attempts to pull his whiskers, his willing participation as human jungle-gym, his big and real smiles.

It's as though for two hours, we were all of us at our best, just like Elizabeth -- at our most human, our most open, our most good.

At our very goodest.

The three of us showed up around 1, as promised, with lunch. My stomach was in a knot as we waited outside the door of their apartment, hearing the sound of the locks turning. What awaited us? After so long and such recent bad news from the doctors, what would we see? Would we get along? Would there be any of the bitter, angry attacks on my parents from my brother-in-law that broke us up in the first place? Would we feel horribly uncomfortable with their religiosity, judged and mystified?

And then my sister opened the door, and all of that vanished completely. She was changed obviously, her movements tentative, her speech slurred, but she's still herself. For two hours we were in Elizabeth's world. At our goodest.

My sister and family live in a ground floor two-bedroom apartment with a little shared paved yard behind. A Christmas tree, too tall according to Elizabeth, occupies a corner by the front window. We used the four drinking glasses + two mugs of my sister's making for our lunch at the coffee table in front of the couch. A computer with a Madonna screensaver (the Virgin Mary, not Madonna Louise) dominates the kitchen table. A copy of Who's Who in the Bible sits on top of a guide to wine in a stack of books on a shelf. Rosaries and images of Jesus are all over. For most of our visit, my brother-in-law is on the phone, wrangling with insurance and doctor's office representatives to ensure that my sister's next round of chemo is covered.

We don't talk about it so much, the cancer. We eat burgers and drink Coke, laugh at Elizabeth, catch up on what we've missed. We watch my sister go through the album I've brought her, mostly pictures of herself when she was little, something I thought she would particularly love to share with her daughter.  Mostly we are entertained by Elizabeth herself, whose perpetual motion and good cheer keep us rooted in the present, stop us being swept up in any past or future concerns.  I am grateful for the opportunity to see my sister, to hear her voice, to hang around with Elizabeth, to be with their family. 

 It's good.

Everything is all at once so complicated and so simple, so painful and so beautiful.  But I realize that if I make like Elizabeth, remain in the right now right now, if I stop telling myself the story of what's happening (god damn it, my sister is dying), then everything stays simple and lovely and funny.

And good. Bubbling up through everything, goodness, like an effervescent Elizabeth, keeping us clear and present with what's right in front of us.  Good.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

the watch, the robot, the fuck-yeah early-early wake up time

thanks, new super-functional watch!
Last Friday I inaugurated a new personal practice, launched a bold new initiative which so far is yielding tremendous results: I started getting up on the weekdays at 4:30 am.  

This is not a huge change -- for years I've gotten up at 5:30 -- so for all you shaking your heads and groaning and feeling a little ill, I tell you that for me, a confirmed life-long cheerful little early bird, it's not a dramatic reduction in bed-time.  And hot damn, it's making me so happy that I'm even wondering if 4 am would be better.  Probably demented, but I'm all giddy with accomplishment, drunk on the quiet of my house in the early-early morning hours.

I've been trying to figure Time out for ages, but most especially since Mr Burns came home to live with us mid-September, trying to figure out how to load everything I want and need to do into each day.  Trying to engineer a schedule into which everything fits with less stress, now that there's dog-walks folded back into the mix, now that writing on a daily basis is the new normal.  And since I realized that I'm a total lazy sack of shit in the evenings, that by 7pm I am done with being in charge of my life and just want to do my equivalent of big fat nothing, starting earlier in the morning seemed like the logical way to go.

And it's completely awesome.

Indirectly, the robot vacuum is to thank for this.  A month or so ago, in her* ongoing campaign against inelegant old school appliances tethered to the wall for power, she unplugged the clock-radio in our room.  Thanks to her, I realized how much I prefer there to be absolutely zero light in my sleeping area.  I'd already placed the clock-radio as far from my eyes as possible, moving it from my side of the bed to across the room.  To see it, I'd have to sit up, or at least do a curl to see over the mountain of covers, and squint.  It's not like the light from that clock was bothering me, but a completely dark room just seemed right to me.  I just like it.  And really, that old clock radio wasn't delivering on most of its promises -- the radio was hard to tune, and we didn't even use it for wake-up purposes.  Instead we relied on Joe's Timex wristwatch, chirping its wake-up at us from very close by. The robot had it right.

That's how, after years of resistance to wearing a watch -- I find it difficult to commit to the look of the thing, I rely on my phone -- I got all excited about getting my own.  It didn't seem fair, really, to place all of the responsibility for wake-up onto Joe's wrist (even though I'd done so for years). So I got my own.  I have my own alarms set now: weekdays, weekends, special occasions, yay!  It's not the most beautiful watch on the planet, but it has so many features.  Hell, I might even start running since it can time things.

Which leads me back to getting up at 4:30.  Yes, it's completely awesome.  This is my third morning of this new experiment, and let me just say that it's the best idea I've had in a while.  I get to capitalize on the fact that Mr Burns is a slug-a-bed who will only get up when he hears the kibble hit the bowl, so I can control how long I have to just sit here, read and write, before the bundle of energy takes over the house.  I don't have to choose between what I want to do and interacting with the creatures I live with since they're asleep.  I don't have to choose. The best.

Strangely, it almost seems too short an interval of solitude.  And so 4:00 am beckons, whispering about even more time.  But for now I'm just going to keep checking out the 4:30 am, enjoying that little beep-beep-beep on my wrist under the covers, the way it pulls me gently from sleep and into robe and slippers and office and the quiet of my own mind. 

My new fuck-yeah early-early wake-up time is enough for now.  I know I can always set a new alarm if it gets to that point.  Thanks to the robot, I've got the power.  Thanks to the watch, I've got the time. 

* Please note that the gender of the robot was established by the men in my house, solely for the purpose of mocking me in my love for said-robot.  Fuck them.  She rules.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Number Nine

Carla and baby Elizabeth, 2008
Three years ago my little sister Carla took her place as Number Nine on the list of people with brain tumors on my mother's side, the Ortiz-Argumedo Karg side, of the family.  I scribbled down this list on my aunt Monina's birthday a month ago, a day spent with Monina and my parents, hanging around, asking questions, listening to them talk, pawing through boxes and boxes of family photos.  Such a lovely day.  So many great stories in my family, so many bold adventurers on both sides.  I felt wrapped in history, integrated in a way that I needed, essential to the telling of the story.

The Karg Cancer list begins in 1943 with Cordelia, who lived into her 60s, and includes La Gogi, baby Olga, who died in 1953 at age 3, aunt Monina (1989), her own daughter (1981).  And my mother (1997), whose incidental findings qualify her for the list although she scoffs.  After all, she says, even the doctors called them "incidental."

In fairness to the Ortiz-Argumedo Karg stock, Carla's cancer isn't genetic, has an altogether different origin.  But since she has 8 precedessors on this goddamn tumor road and she's family, she's Number Nine.

Clearly, it's not paranoia but more like pretty well-founded possibility, that makes me view every headache as a suspected tumor, every unreasonable change in weight as brain cancer.  Crap, am I talking complete nonsense?  That's a symptom, too, the thing that got my aunt diagnosed.  We are ever watchful, sensitive to the smallest change, especially since Carla's devastating glioblastoma diagnosis in 2008.

Yesterday I spoke to Carla, heard her voice, for the first time in at least two years.  Her husband texted could I please call.  When I did, he shared the bad news, the news Carla's doctors had given that morning, reading the results of her latest MRI.  Get your affairs in order, they said.  Doomsday words.  They're trying one last-ditch effort from the sound of things, but the cancer's gotten more aggressive lately, invading Carlita's corpus callosum, breaking down her cognitive abilities, impairing her judgment, eating her memory.  It won't be long now, they say.  It's time to consider quality of life, they say, balanced against the ravages of treatment.

And so the ban has been lifted.  After years of lock-out, we're suddenly allowed back in, and I'm so glad.  For so long I've worried that I'd read about my sister's death in a (poorly written) obituary with no opportunity to see her, be with her, say goodbye beforehand.  I think we've all wondered how we'd hear about it, since news has been so sporadic.  But now none of that matters.  I see her tomorrow.

I'm preparing myself, making her an album of family photos (photos culled from that month-ago visit and list-making), baking cookies, cutting roses, picking up lunch on the way.  Thinking about what I could bring her that would be Christmas-y and would delight not just her, but her almost five-year-old daughter.  I'm loading the car with boxes of kleenex for the ride home, knowing that seeing her will be sweet and also devastating.  You can hear the change in her voice, the way she forms her words as if her mouth cannot keep up with the forms it needs to make, like she's talking through a long-distance connection with delays and odd pauses.  

You never, never know what might happen, what you might lose, who you might lose, from one day to the next. None of us know who is next on the list. Don't wait.  Make the call.  Write the email.  Send the flowers.  Do it right now.

Love your people hard while you can.  The rest will take care of itself.  


Friday, December 9, 2011

15,000 little steps

This week I devoted around an hour, ignoring the complaints of my spouse, to watching "The Biggest Loser" on TiVo.  An ad for it must have come on while I was watching the evening news or something; intrigued and horrified, I set it to record.  And I'm so glad I did.  Look, sure: I could have done something possibly more "productive" with that hour of my life. I could have read a book, which I did immediately thereafter, or made a list, or put something away, or paid some bills.  Sure, I could have.

Instead I spent an hour stewing in a blend of compassion and inspiration, brought to me courtesy of my local cable provider.  As a confirmed fat-ist, I needed that.

I'm not saying I'm proud of being a fat-ist.  I could say I blame my mother and her constant dieting throughout my youth.  The bookcase next to the table in our kitchen growing up contained more diet books than cookbooks.  Name a whack 70s diet and she tried it: eating so many eggs that she broke out in a rash, surviving on pineapple, drinking cases of diet chocolate soda, going proto-vegan with Atkins.  There were boxes of Dexatrim in the junk drawer, boxes, open, no thought that curious kids might swallow them.  It's not her fault, of course.  I jest.  The culture contributed, as did my competitive running and my friends -- we thought nothing of running 7 miles in the morning, then counting our way through 500 calories for the rest of the day.  I would visualize roughly what a cup of food would look like on the plate and endeavor to serve myself and eat only that much -- just a cup, think of how small your stomach actually is.  It's a wonder I could walk around those days, let alone run, nutritionally-deprived teen zombie egghead.

It's probably because I come from that place of trying on every get-thin-quick fad, doing whatever it takes to stop the creep of the big ass, that I have such a terrible judgy thing about The Fat. Believe me, I know this is true because that terrible judgy thing gets turned on my own self the most, especially now that I'm perimenopausal and this body is responding in unexpected, novel ways.

I am not proud of it, but I admit it: I'm a fat-ist.  I'm always working on it.

So, "The Biggest Loser."  Such a funny American phenomenon, don't you agree: competitive weight loss.  And remarkable to see men who were over 400 pounds become healthy, strong shadows of their former physical selves, pumped up with excitement about what their remarkable bodies can do.  The exercise in compassion has been hearing the stories of how they ended up so big, how long they've been that way, all the ways in which it has impacted their lives and their health.  The opportunity for inspiration has been their re-discovery of their physical selves, their love affair with their muscles and strength and will.  That part makes me cry -- to see a formerly enormous unhealthy unhappy person yield way to a compact smiling dynamo ready to take on the world.  With all that extra stuff melted away, how clearly they radiate out their playful excitement!  It's like they're high on their own fitter selves, giddy, adorable.

It's a sad testimony to the epidemic of obesity in this country, too -- the prevalence of bad food choices, the ignorance of the self -- and yet holds up a mirror and the possibility.  Where these people go, so can you.

That hour did me good, I'm not kidding, even with Joe joking in the background that he wants to be on "The Smallest Loser."  In a way, it's one of the greatest things about tv, the way it drops into the middle of your life something you'd otherwise never see with your own eyes, some experience you yourself haven't personally had which, watching it, you take in. It becomes you.

Like the 15,000 steps, a little factoid that's been with me since the other night's viewing.  Did you know that we used to walk around 15,000 steps in a day and now we walk around 3,000?   This is a huge contributor to how unhealthy people are, this reduction in just basic human movement.  Since hearing that, I'm seriously thinking about all of my steps and particularly savoring the morning walk with Mr Burns which gets me a large way toward the daily goal.  But without being obsessy about it.

It really is constant work and care, having this body, and constant celebration, too.  Yeah, you can pooh-pooh me for my lowbrow tv intake, but whatevs, I know that actually, I'm better for that hour -- more in love with people and with the gift of this physical incarnation.  That's a really great feeling.

One I'll take with me out the door right now, as I head out for the first of many thousands of steps today, carrying in my mind the image of others and their suffering and triumphs.  Oh, it's so great to be alive.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

what a difference not eating for 40 hours makes...

Generally, I don't go 40 hours between meals. But in preparation for yesterday morning's combo-platter of endoscopy and colonoscopy, I went without food for a long time. And naturally, as anyone who's experienced this personally knows, I also had the fun of drinking 4 liters of purgative swill. It was a singularly disgusting experience, one I wouldn't wish on anyone else, friend or enemy. I had chills and slept only fitfully, wrapped around a hot water bottle. The worst part was the final liter at 4am the day of the procedures. Utterly disgusting.

In truth, I'd felt lousy all weekend. We went away Friday night with 15 friends to a rental house on the beach in Stinson. We had unbelievable weather -- 80 degrees on Friday, in December! Unfortunately, my insides weren't as sunny -- I felt physically off, sluggish. Four hours sleep Friday night set me up for a persistent, nagging headache all day Saturday, a sleeplessness hangover that lingered into Sunday because meds were off-limits as part of the prep.

In a way it was a relief to start the purge at 4pm on Sunday, to hand myself over 100%, surrender to feeling as crappy (ha ha ha) as I felt, for 4 hours. Throughout, I thought about people who never get enough to eat, about how much I probably generally over-eat, about how mostly easy it was to skip meals, how much more time and brain-space I felt like I had when I didn't have to worry about what and when we would eat next. The lack of food and mostly dehydration were definitely affecting me by Monday morning. I had to put my head down before leaving for the hospital, so dizzy and faint.

As soon as I got there, though, I relaxed. The staff at Kaiser were ridiculously good and funny as usual, making me feel well taken care of in every way. They talked to me about my tattoos, naturally, and asked me about what I planned on eating first, when the procedures were over and I was free to eat again. [Toast and coffee, if you must know.] I appreciated their goofy jokes, and also really appreciated them starting the IV right away, as they put it, to take the edge off. It was conscious sedation, but that was no kinda consciousness I generally operate in. All I know is that I woke up feeling so refreshed, like I'd had the best night's sleep I'd had in months. Ok, I do recall one weird dream-like experience of the endoscope coming back up, but really I slept so deeply and well.

What's crazy is that ever since the procedures were done, I have felt GREAT. I don't think it could possibly be residual drugs in my system. I feel clearer than I have in ages, which is literally true thanks to those 4 liters of bilge. My head feels good and I just feel completely comfortable. How weird: did I need that?

It's like I hit the re-set button and am starting fresh.

I've followed friends who've done cleanses of one kind or another, read about them, considered doing them, and yet have never taken the plunge. I did juice-fasts in the early 80s (yes, before you were born), but they haven't held much appeal for me since. But now that I've had my own brutal high-speed cleanse on doctor's orders and I feel fantastic, I kind of get it, what everyone's so excited about with these crackpot lemon juice and cayenne pepper regimens. Assuming they have the same (just more gradual) effect.

Whatever, I'm certainly being super conscious of what I put in my mouth, really thinking about every food choice. I am just relishing feeling SO good right now and wanting it to last and last as long as possible. After forty hours and four liters, I think I earned it.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Preach it, Louis CK

Honestly, I adore Louis CK.  So funny and so consistently on the mark.  He's so right: everything's amazing, nobody's happy.

Next time you're on an airplane, consider that you're sitting in a chair IN THE SKY.  Amazing!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

strangers sometimes make me cry

When I first moved to the suburbs all those years ago, I had some difficulty adjusting to strangers talking to me in the supermarket.  I'm not saying I had such a hard-ass urban upbringing, but really, it wasn't something I was used to, this total strangers saying things to me, things like Good Morning or Can you believe this heat we're having?  My initial reaction was bristly, my hedgehog spines inclining ever so slightly.  Why are you talking to me?  Do I know you?

Over time, of course, I adapted.  I relaxed, let my guard down, set aside this trueism of urban fauna that eye contact is an invitation to trouble.  I became one of those people who chats with the person in line behind me, the person making conversation to break down the stranger-barrier.

An even more unexpected thing happened, which is that random people now tell me their funny little stories pretty much everywhere I go, unsolicited.  I must have cultivated, unbeknownst even to my own self, some kind of look which says, please, tell me your truth.  Somehow people know I want to know, that I need to scribble down their strange tale of the 1,700 pieces of Beatles memorabilia in their apartment in Terra Linda and how they stashed the collector edition Beatles book behind some boxes in the cereal aisle so that they can come back in a few weeks and buy it.   And did you know this checker is my personal favorite?  She's amazing.

Somewhere along the way I became approachable.

To look at me, of course, you'd probably never even formulate the thought that I was ever unapproachable.  How much effort did I expend in earlier stages erecting tall battlements of ferocity around my innate chattiness and curiosity.  What a waste!  I've heard such amazing stories from total strangers now that I'm this kind of person who calls out Good Morning first in a clear, ringing voice, owning my piece of the community I live in, inviting connection.

So it is that this morning a man I've seen for years on my almost daily walks around the neighborhood, a man I haven't bumped into in 8 months, totally made me cry.

He saw me walking with Mr Burns and called out, from his front yard, "Did you get a new one?"  When I answered Yes, he responded, "What happened to the old one?"  I let him know our Jasper had died, and he cried out, full-throated, "Oh, I am so sorry he has moved on.  He was a magnificent animal." He then rushed across the street to meet the puppy, to comment on how great Burns's friendliness is, how he adopted a dog from a shelter and it took her two years not to be afraid of every little sound. He wished me a good day and then was off, and tears poured down my face for the next few blocks.

This guy, this neighbor of mine, I don't know his name. I know where he lives, naturally, in a corner house a few streets over, with a tangled overgrown yard and shabby curtains in the windows. When passing his place, I am generally engaged in mental pruning, trimming back the weeds that climb as high as the front windows, wondering about how some of us are yard-keepers and others are not. Do they just not see it?

For all the years he saw me with Jasper, he would go out of his way to greet him. Sometimes he'd be striding toward us, purposefully, very early in the morning with a plastic bag containing who knows what in his hand. I'd wonder where he was coming from or going to at that hour and what he was carrying. He'd call out that Jasper was the very definition of Dog, just beautiful. I was a little uncomfortable with his effusion, at the same time that I deeply appreciated his appreciation. He was right, after all: Jasper was a magnificent animal.

Walking home this morning, Mr Burns prancing and sniffing at the end of the leash, I had time to really consider how much better it is to now be the kind of person that strangers can make cry. Most of the time, they delight me - they regale me with their little stories, make me laugh with their choice of words, with how they see things. Most of the time, I'm laughing, but then there are times, like today, when I cry. I cry and truly celebrate how precious it is to have that exchange with someone whose name I don't know, whose name I will probably never know. A reaching-across the strangerness, into something companionable that doesn't require that we know each other's names.

The names don't matter. All that matters is that we're here in the same place at the same time, witnessing the remarkable unfolding of our lives around us. Telling our stories. Some days making strangers cry.