Category Archives: Attitude

Unexpected Casualties

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Today, on my way to work, I hit a bird with my car.  It was bizarre and traumatic.  I was driving along, cursing how hot it was in my car and wishing the blasting air would start to cool it, and then it happened.  A small bird flew out from the brush to my right and was right in front of me.  I didn’t see it pass my bumper, and as I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw it tumble down to the road.  I screamed and was so confused about how I had run a bird over with my car.  I felt horrible!

I forgot all about the bird as my hectic day went on.  I got back into my car, tired and ready to be home, and left work.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I remembered the bird.  I was saddened as I thought about it and, because my mind is frequently in hyper mode, thought about the implications.

It was weird and a (hopefully) once in a life time accident.  But it happened.  We do harm when we don’t intend to, or even understand that we are about to.  We say and do things that seem small, that appear to be innocuous, but they break and kill and wound.  You expect to hit a cat or skunk with your car, but not a bird.  They have defenses, the upper hand.  The odds were against me taking out a flyer, but I did.  So much of what we say or do has no evil intent.  We shouldn’t be able to hurt others with the little jabs, but they leave scars that never fade.  It catches us by surprise how powerful we are, how destructive we are, how fragile we are.

This should be an epiphany.  I should know that I have the ability to change others with small actions, to devastate with my words.  I should remember that the smallest gestures matter, that sticks and stones may shatter bones, but words go after the soul.  I affect others, and may not even realize when it happens.  And yet, the snarky remarks will slip (or spew) out.  The eye rolls will sneak in.  I am me, in all my cruelty and callousness.  I am more than just that: I am kind and considerate, loving and loyal.  But the darkness is there too, defines me just as much as the good.  It is also just as powerful.  If nothing else, this will hopefully cross my mind from time to time and remind me that there are big consequences to all that I do, even when it’s a little accident.

“We’re all damaged, it seems.  Some of us more than others.  We carry the damage with us from childhood, then as grown-ups, we give as good as we get.  Ultimately, we all do damage.  And then, we set about the business of fixing whatever we can.” Gray’s Anatomy, “Damage Case”

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Cautious Optimism

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“Hope itself is a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords; but, like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain.”  –Samuel Johnson

Tomorrow I begin work towards a new job.  I have finished the application process and now am working on training/orientation which will (hopefully) lead to a new job.  It won’t pay enough or be predictable enough to rescue me from the grasp of retail, but it’s a start.

Last year I got really excited about a job posting that I found that was made for me.  It fit my interests and talents perfectly, but it never developed into anything, not even a rejection letter.  I let my imagination get the best of me.  I began to see a life away from retail, away from coworkers that I cannot stand the sight of and customers who make me want to throw myself from a bridge.  I imagined a fulfilling job, one that I wouldn’t hang my head in shame when I admitted to.  I let myself hope.

Tonight I am nervous.  I am worried that I will botch this online teleconference.  I worry that I will put time into this, and never get a job.  I worry that this will have been another tease, a crueler one because it came closer to reality.  I am anxious and will be happy when four o’clock comes tomorrow and it’s all over.

But I can’t help but feel a little hopeful.  I am trying so, so hard not to, but I am hopeful that this will be a step in the right direction.  It will be the death sentence to my retail life and lead to another job, a bigger step, a world that I feel more at home in.  I hope that it will bring me joy.  I hope that I love working with students online, working with writing, working on something that is not calculating coupons.  I hope that it will mean that retail no longer defines (or confines) me.  It will broaden the picture of who I am, for others and myself.  I hope that finding fulfillment somewhere will make dissatisfaction at work more bearable.  I hope that the money will make me independent, make me comfortable.  I hope that this is a sign of good things to come.

As I look at all this, I realize that it is not too much to ask and hope for.  But I am not a lucky girl, and things tend to go any way but mine.  I feel my throat knot as I try to leave those hopes on this screen, let them out of my heart and forget that they were ever there.  I need to let go of them so they don’t haunt me when they are dashed.  I am trying to get a good night of sleep, trying to clear my mind and kitchen table for tomorrow, but I can’t help but feel a tiny flutter deep inside.  I can’t help but, with an abundance of caution, feel like tomorrow will be different and better and a new start.  I am trying to ignore and release it, but for the first time in a long, long time, I am actually hopeful.

“Every so often we long to steal/ To the land of what-might-have-been/ But that doesn’t soften the ache we feel/ When reality sets back in… Don’t wish, don’t start/ Wishing only wounds the heart”Wicked

Weddings and Flowers

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“The best things in life are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”  –Robert Louis Stevenson

This is delayed, but tonight I collect my thoughts about the royal wedding.  I admit, I was more than happy to wake up in the middle of my night to watch two strangers marry.  I was excited, not sure of what to expect.  I just knew, as I went to bed, that I wanted to wake up and be a part of something historic, to watch with millions around the world. 

I was sad, when I flipped on the television, that I had missed most of the ceremony.  I thought I had calculated everything right, but I was misinformed.  I was hoping to see Kate walk into the church and barely got to see the couple walk out.  But I stuck with the newlyweds.  I watched them leave the church, ride away, kiss, and begin life, husband and wife.  I did this with a joyful heart.  The much-anticipated dress was lovely, but so unexpectedly ordinary.  It could be on any bride, fit any ceremony.  The two walked down the aisle and the future king gave side glances and small smiles as he met familiar eyes.  They invited friends and family and the people who sell them candy. 

The thing that I loved so much about the wedding, what made waking up more than worthwhile, was the splendid ordinariness of it all.  Yes, they are royalty now.  Yes, it was expensive and pretty.  But they were a happy young couple committing to life together.  The now historic second kiss they snuck was incredibly unrefined and loving.  The stories of Prince Harry’s “survivors’ breakfast” for the guests who could stay up all night was exactly what a best man/brother should have done.  The queen, after the royal reception, left the castle to the couple and friends.  Yes, it was a castle, but it was not much different from the wedding of my friends.  It was beautifully, refreshingly normal. 

That same week I went to see the famous flower fields of Carlsbad.  I had wanted to visit them last year, but did not make it out before they closed for the summer.  I was so excited to go see these acres of blooms.  I wanted to practice a little photography and see if I could get a good shot or two.  I woke up early, made the drive, paid my entrance, and excitedly entered the fields.

The fields were pretty.  There were a lot of flowers.

There were many kinds of flowers there. 

I am glad that I went.  I wish that I had gone a little earlier in the season because some of the flowers were starting to wilt and die, but it was nice.  It just wasn’t the overwhelming experience I thought that it would be.  Perhaps I had built it up too much in my mind, but I expected…more.  I expected breathtaking.  I expected.  I may have expected too much.  I liked the flowers, but had thought I would be inspired, I would fall in love, I would rave about it and never want to leave.  I was satisfied rather quickly, much faster than the driving I did to get there and back.  These famous fields simply were not as great as I thought that they would be.  In fact, possibly my favorite part of the field was a mistake, something only I seemed to notice:

It struck my, on the way home, that it was the ordinary, the unexpected that moved me.  This magnificent flower patch was pretty, but it did not make me feel like I had hoped it would.  Instead, I thought about the yellow flowers (okay, weeds) that line my route to and from work.  The wall of yellow against the freeway, following the river bank, makes me happier than most things these days.  They are my flowers, my spring, my joy.  Today I spotted this poking through the parking lot fence:

I made sure to return and take a quick picture of it on my way home from the grocery store.  These are the things that I love deeply.  They are the everyday.  They are the common beauty.  They make this city of concrete and this world of pain a little more friendly and beautiful.  They are the free, accidental gifts of life.  They are quiet and simple.  This is what made the wedding great, the flowers stunning: the unremarkable.  The simplest things bring the most awe.

Happiness is just outside my window/ Thought it’d crash blowing 80-miles an hour?/ But happiness a little more like knocking/ On your door, and you just let it in?”  –The Fray, “Happiness”

Malignant Anger

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“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”  –Friedrich Nietzsche

Again, I planned to write about something different today.  And I still might.  But what was going to be a nice, quiet day off before my week begins started with indignation. 

I rolled over and checked my phone after hearing a text message arrive.  It was an unknown number from my home area code.  Because my brothers are in flux and their numbers could very well change, I immediately read it.  I will forever regret that I did.  The message told me to flip open and read the message inside my phone.  This happens when the message is more than 160 characters, so I assumed it was just a long text.  It also happens when I receive a photo, which I forgot.

I opened my phone to see a beaten, bloody face of Osama bin Laden and the caption, “Say hi to Allah.”  I was sickened.  I was mad.  I was horrified.  This is something I would have, and will continue to, go out of my way not to see.  This is what bothered me so much last night as I watched the news.  This is something I should not have had to see.  This is something I will never un-see.

I texted back that I didn’t know who the sender was, but that this was disgusting and offensive, all of which was true.  The response was that they typed a wrong number.  I let my fury get the better of me and  typed back that they should be proud to have sunk to bin Laden’s sadistic level.  I now feel bad about letting my anger take over.  I was about to follow that with a “but…” statement, but there is no but.  I feel bad.  There is no explanation of my thoughts or feelings that justifies acting rashly in anger.

“Anger is a killing thing:  it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him.”  –Louis L’Armour

And that is the whole point.  We are cheering and celebrating more death.  We are happy that yet another life has been taken because of bin Laden’s hatred.  The United States is partying in honor of murder.  Our anger is animalizing.  It sinks us below justice to vengeance.  I do sympathize with the fact that there are still families mourning lost loved ones.  There is justifiable outrage over the destruction that bin Laden caused.  However, there is a gross baseness, an indignity to the gloating, the joy over his death.  Call it self-righteousness, call it hypocrisy, call it illogical, but I feel a distinction between a resignation that this killing needed to happen, acceptance of it, and the elation and revelry filling the midday news.  I am disappointed that we are treating his death not as closure, but as fodder for jokes.

And this disappointment, this unease, is what has been churning inside me.  But my anger was less with my unknown texter’s callousness.  It was not with their racist caption or macabre glee.  It was their carelessness.  Perhaps it is an emotional dehumanization that comes with texting.  Perhaps it is because they could not see a person’s face as they read it or hear their voice.  Perhaps it is a boldness that comes with anonymity, hiding behind phone lines and screens.  Perhaps they are just distasteful and could not care less if they said this out loud too.  I was mad because this all happened with so little care, so little thought for the consequences. 

 What I saw this morning I can’t take back.  I don’t get back that time before I saw that bloody face.  I don’t get to return to a morning where I didn’t have physical proof of the depravity of humanity.  I don’t get to reclaim my mind.  I did not want to see and read that.  I did not choose to indulge the darkness that others are enjoying.  It was forced upon me.  I was pulled into this by someone who didn’t care enough to get the right number before passing on a battered corpse’s photo.  They didn’t think enough before writing an offensive, anti-Muslim message to type the right number.  They didn’t care.  They changed me.  I am different now.  I am haunted.  I am jaded.  My day is ruined and I can’t shake the dirty feeling that photo rooted in me.  And this sender didn’t care.  That indifference, that indiscretion, that general disregard for the consequences of their actions– that, that is why I am angry today.

“What I want to do and what I do are two separate things. If we all went around doing what we wanted all the time, there’d be chaos.”  —Simon Birch

some very small things

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“Our lives are made in these small hours/ These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate/ Time falls away, but these small hours,/ These small hours still remain…”  –Rob Thomas, “Little Wonders”

I tend to return from a trip home to see my parents with a certain loneliness.  It’s sad to go back to my empty apartment, listening to the roar of the freeways instead of the wind rustling in the trees.  My laptop is warm on my knees, but not as cozy as our dog curled at my side.  It can be a bit hard to pull out of this funk because I miss my parents, miss my home, and am floundering on my own right now.  I miss the security and companionship and comfort of home. 

Yesterday I decided, in order to help myself feel a little more upbeat, I would make and send some Easter packages to my brothers, who are now both away from our home for the first time.  I had the best of intentions and picked out things to remind them of our childhood Easter baskets and the excitement of that morning.  I even spent the better part of the afternoon tracking down ingredients and testing recipes for some cookies one had asked our mom for.  I didn’t make it to the post office.  I couldn’t find packaging tape.  I made some gross cookies before getting the right recipe from our Grandma and making some good ones.  And I felt like a failure.  My good intentions and high hopes were ruined and I couldn’t pull it all together.  I was disappointed and saddened, but amidst this, little things brightened my day.

I have come to really, really enjoy PassiveAggressiveNotes.com.  A lot. My best friend introduced me to it, ironically, after we reminisced about how we lived with a girl in college who only communicated through rude post-it notes.  Now I love checking in on the stellar communication skills demonstrated on the site.  As I struggled to haul my bags up to my apartment, I was greeted by a wonderful example of my own:

The envelope was clearly one sent for returning an invoice or something else to a sender.  The ample scotch tape is classic.  I love that someone else saw the note and decided to add, in different writing and ink, who the note was “From:”  And the kicker is the paper towels, torn up and tucked inside!  I should have been disgusted, for sure, and probably annoyed with my neighbors.  But I was tickled!  I laughed out loud and, clearly, felt the need to photograph it.  I loved it!  This literally made my day.

Then I dyed eggs.  I have no one to hide them for, no one to hide them for me.  I will probably not get around to eating all of them before they go bad.  But I realized that I had not dyed eggs since I was in high school, and I desperately wanted to.  So I bought some vinegar and a cheap dye kit and got to work.  I wish I could say that they were stunning.  They should be artistic, impressive, something far superior to those of my youth.  Martha has taught me better than this.  But they were nothing special, nothing exciting.

Yes, I cracked some eggs boiling them.  No, they were not spectacular.  But they made me so happy.  Knowing that they are sitting in my fridge makes me happy even now.  I am excited for egg salad sandwiches next week, because that’s part of Easter, but I’m also sad to think about the fact that once these are gone, my eggs will be white again. 

I’ve tried to find little things to make my day because the big ones seem to be few and too far between.  While creeping on a friend’s facebook page, I saw that one of her friends recommended a blog to her.  The title sounded promising, so I browsed through it.  I now love it.  I loved the pictures first, because I wish I could take good photos.  And I wish I had beautiful little girls to dress up.  Now I love reading the posts, hearing her thoughts, sometimes nearly my own, sometimes very far from them.  I highly recommend a look at Enjoying the Small Things.  If nothing else, it brings a smile and reminds me to keep looking for the little moments, the things that make days good. 

Until the big things come along with some certainty, the little things will have to do.  And that’s okay, because big things can be overwhelming and confusing.  I’m not sure what I will do with a new job or relationship or home.  I am sure that my Easter eggs make me smile.  For today, in this tiny moment, that is enough to be sure of.

“Human felicity is produced not as much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day.” –Benjamin Franklin

Mirror, Mirror…

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“It’s no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy/ ‘Cause every now and then I kick the living sh!t out of me…”  –Lit, “My Own Worst Enemy”

There is a trend in music that has caught my attention lately.  I didn’t think much of it at first, but now I am struck, saddened, uplifted and fascinated by it when I listen to the radio. 

Artists are pleading, challenging, and encouraging their listeners to see themselves as worthy, as beautiful, as lovable.

I noticed it first in Bruno Mars’ sweet “Just the Way You Are.”  While the love song has been in heavy rotation and is tottering on the edge of overplayed, it still brings a smile to my face.  But flattering love songs are nothing new.  Every crooner and songbird has lauded their adored, extolled their beauty and charisma.  The part of this song that stopped me, that was sweet in such a tragic way, was the first time I heard him sing “Yeah I know, I know/ When I compliment her/ She won’t believe me/ And, it’s so, it’s so/ Sad to think she don’t see what I see…”

The next time my ears pricked up was when Katy Perry’s “Firework” picked up air time.  I am disinclined to listen to her songs, not really wanting to hear about how hot “California Girls” are or think about “Teenage Dream” intimacy, but this one was different.  The first lines caught my dissatisfied attention in that eerie, unexpected way that  feels invasive, like someone has dug too deep and knows too much.  She sings, “You don’t have to feel like a waste of space/ You’re original, cannot be replaced/ If you only knew what the future holds… Cause baby you’re a firework/ Come on show ’em what you’re worth.”  The same reassurance, same words of wisdom echo: you’re worth more than you know.  You don’t see what everyone else does.  You are special.

And then Pink hit the airwaves.  Her cleaned up lyrics hit home the same painful, imploring message in “Pretty Pretty Please (F*ckin’ Perfect).”  “You’re so mean/ When you talk/ About yourself/ You are wrong/ Change the voices/ In your head/ Make them like you/ Instead/ So complicated/ Look how big you’ll make it/ Filled with so much hatred/ Such a tired game/ It’s enough/ I’ve done all I can think of/ Chased down all my demons/ See you do same/ Pretty, pretty please/ Don’t you ever, ever feel/ Like you’re less than/ [Less than] perfect/ Pretty, pretty please/ If you ever, ever feel/ Like you’re nothing/ You [are] perfect to me.” 

These singles top the charts surrounding a heartbreaking, albeit unsurprising, poll that Glamour conducted.  Women are mean, catty, cruel and judgemental.  They are critical and superficial.  They know how to hit where it hurts and they are relentless.  And all of this brutality is aimed at themselves.  We berate and tear down daily, telling ourselves over and over again that we are not enough, we are not okay.  It’s the scene from Mean Girls when Cady watches her new friends stand in front of the mirror after school and dissect what they see.  She says, ” I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s lots of things that can be wrong on your body.”  From early on, everything and everyone around us tells us to take a close look at our appearances.  A harsh look.

This is why, I think, the songs are so poignant to me.  I am one of the 97% of women who are self-haters.  I know what it is to think that I am not good enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not tan enough, not short enough, not blond enough, not everything enough.  Not enough to be beautiful, to be liked, to be loved, to be popular, to be noticed, to be acceptable.  I know those thoughts, the ones that trickle down, seep in, and become a part of my being, pulsing through my vein.  Those thoughts that we call “realistic,” we accept as normal, and apparently are, are stifling.  They are heavy, a darkness that weighs down the light and confidence that we try to project.

The irony is that, while I may snip or gossip, my hatred is mainly turned inward.  I don’t pick at the size of a stranger’s pores or their hair frizzing or their thighs or chipped nails or crooked teeth.  They are just fine, pretty, acceptable.  They don’t live under the microscope that I do.  This is why Bruno Mars’ lyrics pierce so deep: my girl friends are gorgeous.  They are funny and smart, compassionate and interesting.  They are objectively beautiful.  And the odds are against them.  They criticize too.  It breaks my heart to think that these women I love don’t see how wonderful they are, see what I see.  And like Pink sings, it is an old game; self-deprecation is overrated.  We’ve survived the brutality of adolescence and have come to know who we are.  While that is always changing, we should be comfortable now, embrace these people we have discovered and become.  We should rest easy in these bodies that have grown out of their awkward stages.  And yet, at 26, I am just as self-conscious and insecure about my body as I was at 12.  I am not the only one.

These songs are everywhere because they are needed.  Needed by the artists who write and perform them.  Needed by the young girls and boys who idolize the stars and loathe themselves.  They are a small reminder that there are people who see us better than we see ourselves.  There are people who want to remind us that there is beauty where we don’t see it, worth where we can’t find it.  There are voices from outside our own heads, voices that do more than criticize and tear down.  Sometimes we are wrong when we hate.  We are myopic, but someone sees the big picture.  And if you, if I, still refuse to believe these assurances, then the songs do something else.  They remind us that other people feel this way too.  We aren’t alone.

“Sometimes it seems like we’re all living in some kind of prison. And the crime is how much we hate ourselves. It’s good to get really dressed up once in a while. And admit the truth: that when you really look closely, people are so strange and so complicated that they’re actually…beautiful. Possibly even me.”My So-Called Life

One Good Day

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“Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.”  —J.M. Barrie

I hate my job.  I have been unhappy since the second day.  I have wanted to do more, to be more from the very beginning.  I am sore, degraded, frustrated, bored and annoyed by the end of each day.  I wake up and dread getting out of bed because I hate what’s coming.  Days off are ruined because I know what comes next.  This is a huge reason why I am in need of a life change, why I write, why I named this what I did.  My job makes me hate the general public and want to move to Antarctica and avoid people.  And I had a good day at work on Friday–perhaps my first one ever. 

Very small things added up to one of the best days I’ve had at this job, by far the happiest.  I have had days where I have been productive, days that weren’t miserable, but I can’t actually think of another day where I left happy, not because the day was done, but because the day was happy.  Nothing was particularly noteworthy, but the little things made the day,  little things that caught my attention in a big way. 

I got a free cup!  This job takes everything out of me.  My energy, my patience, my drive, my hope.  It gives so little back: no satisfaction, no challenges, no growth, not nearly enough pay.  And I got a free cup!  Apparently my manager had a stash of cups that he was supposed to give out to all of the employees for a year or so.  He kept them in his office, I would like to think out of laziness or indifference, not malice.  I would like to think that he just didn’t think that we would enjoy a tiny little perk, not that he intentionally kept a little trinket from all of us.  It is a nice cup, one that I have considered buying.  It saves me ten dollars!  I expect very, very little from my employer, and this was the most generous they have ever been.  Who doesn’t love getting something for free?

I got a compliment!  It is incredibly, unbelievably rare that anyone compliments anything.  Customers complain.  Managers complain.  Coworkers are petty.  I try to do good work and every once in a while someone will speak up to a manager, but my efforts go largely unnoticed, or at least unrecognized.  But it wasn’t my hard work that was complimented.  It was me!  I feel like a failure more often than not these days.  I feel pretty darn worthless at the end of a long day on my feet and I, like many, don’t see much that I like when I look in the mirror.  But my customer complimented me!  Not my accuracy or politeness or attentiveness.  She told me I had “the most soothing voice.”  She liked how I sound.  She liked something that is me, that is unchangeable, undeniably me.  It’s not something that I worked at or practiced or could try to improve.  It’s just who I am.  Who I am was enough, was enjoyable, was worth complimenting.

I witnessed true love!  We see newly weds and engaged couples all the time.  I see people moving in together, parents shopping for children, children shopping for parents.  I see love and affection all around me and it is rarely refreshing.  Mostly it is depressing or annoying or frighteningly insincere.  With just a few minutes left in my day, a customer came up with his phone to his ear.  This annoys me and is an incredibly rude message that I am invisible, unimportant and not worth acknowledging.  As he listened to his phone, he asked me, “Do you want to hear something funny?”  Sure, why not.  He grinned and told me that his fiancée had accidentally called him and didn’t notice.  He told me he could hear her driving and singing in the car.  He said that she never lets him hear her sing, so he was just “soakin’ it in.”  He had been on the phone for more than a half hour just listening to her sing.  It was a smile, a gesture, an indulgence of pure, sincere love and adoration.  He left with the phone still to his head, a small smile fixed on his face.  He was happy.  He encouraged me, reminded me that romance is real and love is simple.   

I had a good day.  It was unexpected, unprecedented, and unimpressive.  There is nothing about that day that, to an outsider, would appear spectacular.  It was.  It was refreshing, like the chill of walking into an ice cream shop on a hot day in the middle of summer.  I want a job and a life where this is everyday, the norm, not the exception.  This is not nearly enough to make the job worthwhile or pleasant.  It is enough, however, to remind me that the little things are important, are everything, and that they beg to savored.  Good days really can happen, if I am open to them. 

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”  –Anne Lamott

One Red Heart

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OR: A DEFENSE OF VALENTINE’S DAY AND THE POSTAL SERVICE

“And none will hear the postman’s knock/ Without a quickening of the heart./For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?” —W.H. Auden

(It’s been much too long since I have written anything and there has been so much that I have thought about since July.  But internet was spotty and time was wasted and the longer I wait to write, the more daunting it becomes.  So I’m diving back in because I feel and think better when I write.  I write better when I write.)

I used to consider myself a romantic.  I was a sucker for any film starring Drew Barrymore or Freddy Prinze Jr.  I gushed over boy band lyrics and was convinced that Prince Charming was just waiting to make his move.  Now I fear that I am a garden-variety cynic.  Love stories are too neat and cliché.  Declarations of love are too optimistic and blind.  And I hate Valentine’s Day.  It’s a day to remind me that love remains elusive, romance a stranger, and affection distant.  That being said, deep inside, a small flicker of the optimist remains and fights to reclaim her territory.

I am a fan of the ease technology lends to communication.  Living far from my family and old friends, it’s nice and convenient to go online and send a message, to email when I have the time, to text when I can’t talk.  However, I embrace these only because the world has moved so fast that it leaves me no choice.  I highly prefer a phone conversation to the 160-character limit of a text message.  I like the nuances of voice much more than an emoticon.  I’d rather have lunch than repeatedly message that we should.  I will never, ever, EVER embrace the electronic reader.  I find photo prints far superior to clicking through a flickr file.  Going to college gave me a new appreciation for mail.  To get a care package or letter from home rivaled any e-Card forwarded to me. 

Loving the physicality of mail, the weight of a card, the feel of tearing into an envelope lingered after graduation.  I have continued to try hard to get cards in the mail for holidays, send home a little reminder that my family and friends are on my mind.  I spend time searching for the right card for each person, choosing humor or sincerity, addressing and decorating each envelope.  I love getting mail, but I have come to love sending it just as much.  Just before Valentine’s day I was waiting in line at the Post Office to buy stamps.  Losing precious minutes on my day off, I stood in line for what everyone knows is far too long.  As I neared the front of the line, I saw an older woman leaning over the counter addressing an envelope.  She then turned it over and with a red marker, drew a large red heart over the sealed tab and colored it in.  This is why I love mail.  I almost cried, overcome with emotion watching her.  I was filled with love for her, for whomever that letter was meant for, for my family and friends I was mailing. 

Mail is time.  It is money.  It is effort.  I have to pick out a card, or at least find paper.  I have to put my hand to the paper, write out my own thoughts, articulate my own feelings.  I leave a piece of me on the paper, my handwriting, my words.  I put the writing in an envelope.  I lick it, tasting the glue and feeling the rough paper on my tongue.  I line up an address label and stamp.  Mail is intentional: one card to one person.  No Cc or BCc.  No mass forwarding.  No Tweeting to the masses.  I then spend time putting stickers and colors all over the envelopes, making my letters special.  I want my people, my loves, to stand out and be unique.  I can be impatient, but I also appreciate that mail is not instant– it goes on a journey, taking time to arrive.  Mail is anticipated, delivered, discovered.  Junk mail is annoying and wasteful, but it’s worth wading through for the good stuff.

This incident at the Post Office reassured me that perhaps the hopeless romantic I bragged about being in Junior High isn’t gone.  She’s wounded and scared, but she’s in there.  Like Bukowski’s blue bird, my optimist survives quietly.  If she weren’t, I wouldn’t send Valentines.  If she weren’t, that woman and her heart-sealed letter would not have been on my mind for more than a month.  I wouldn’t be bitter and resent romantic holidays if I didn’t believe in romance, feel that I am missing something.  I go out of my way to show my love, even if it is a small gesture.  Watching that little old woman with her red marker, it was clear to me how much I value the written word, communication, and love.  True love, strong and simple, is not grand gestures and big romances.  It is small devotions, simple reminders, and hand-drawn Valentines.  You can see it, touch it, read it, and send it– it is very, very real. 

“Christian, you may see me only as a drunken, vice-ridden gnome whose friends are just pimps and girls from the brothels. But I know about art and love, if only because I long for it with every fiber of my being.” –Toulouse-Lautrec, Moulin Rouge!

A glimmer of hope

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Yesterday I spent time at the beach.  I sat alone on the sand, read and watched, and then went to a movie.  By myself.  While I was hesitant to do this, I ignored the voice telling me I should feel lonely and listened to the one telling me to do what I wanted.  I felt the cold ocean on my feet and watched people parasailing, and then settled into the sand for some reading.  As I tried to get through a chapter, I couldn’t help but watch all that was going on around me. 

I had started in a fairly empty stretch of beach, but people began to close in around me.  I was close to midway between the two piers that stretch into the water and mark off the beaches.  I was immediately back in my childhood.  On a visit down here, I took off on a walk with a friend.  We rarely saw each other, but managed to have fun when we did.  Maybe it’s just the way kids are.  We walked along down the beach, talking I’m sure.  The next thing we knew we had rounded a bend and were nowhere near our parents’ sight.  In my mind we walked for hours, but I’m sure it was no where near that long.  I just remember walking, no destination in sight, no fear, no timetable.  We were probably 10 or 11, and despite how beautiful she always has been, I can oddly remember feeling no insecurity as we walked along in our swimsuits.  We had an adventure, inadvertently, and that quite afternoon is both fuzzy and salient in my memory.  I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, what we saw, but the feeling of setting out, of going, of disappearing, is more vivid than my lunch yesterday.

As I left this memory, I noticed two things I have never seen before.  I saw a seagull in the water.  It was not flying above the waves, or pecking through the sand, but standing in foam that rolled in.  It let the water wash over its feet and lifted them to stay in place as the sand rushed back out with the wave.  It stayed in the water, something I have never seen before.  Another gull joined it, and then they both flew away, but for that one moment, I was seeing something completely new and unknown to me.  Then, moments later, an orange balloon rolled through the foam.  An orange, inflated, latex balloon just rolled along and then out of the water.  It blew across the sand and down the beach.  I wonder if anyone else saw that balloon.  It sounds like something Alice would have seen, beckoning her to a land of imagination.  Nevertheless, I have never seen a balloon at the beach before.

As I sat and watched the water, I noticed a young boy out in the waves.  He stood, letting them wash up onto his torso.  I am in middle school, standing in the water with my mom and youngest brother, raising onto tiptoes as each wave broke on my knees.  I watch him alone in the water and feel for him.  Then he’s joined by another boy, neither of which could have been more than 11 or 12.  They stood in the waves together, pulling long strands of seaweed out and whipping each other.  They twirl them around and jostle each other in the surf.  Then I notice a man on the shore.  He’s taking a picture of them out there, of the moment.  I can’t explain why, but it brought tears to my eyes.  It wasn’t a baby’s first day at the shore.  It wasn’t an engagement shoot.  It was simple and quiet–unextraordinary.  It was a desire to capture this moment, this day, this child, just as it was.  I can’t explain why, but I have such deep love for those children and that dad even now.

After the beach I went to the mall to see a movie.  I have not done this on my own before and it is something I have dreaded.  I have feared the loneliness and embarrassment that would come from sitting alone, worried that everyone would stare.  Poor, pathetic girl who has no friends.  Poor thing has to go to movies alone.  So sad.  On the contrary, I was much less anxious than I thought I would be.  At the mall, parking areas were blocked off for a skateboarding expedition.  While it made maneuvering the area a little tricky, I was less annoyed than normal.  This was something else, something new, that I have not seen before.  I watched for a moment before going into the movie.

All of this is to say that, as I sat and let my mind wander, I realized that I am every so slightly closer to my goal.  I had plenty of road rage and almost slapped a couple of people in the movie, but I saw new things.  I know, deep inside, that I want to continue to see new things.  I want to experience more, to see more, to know more.  I want to see New Orleans at Mardi Gras and Time Square on New Year’s.  I want to see the glow of the Vegas Strip and the Northern Lights.  I want to cook and sew and plant a garden.  I want to do and be more.  I started writing to change my attitude, to get some perspective.  I wanted to learn to love people again, to find joy in the world.  I’m still dissatisfied with my job.  I’m still lonely in my crappy, over-priced apartment.  I still don’t really feel like the me I used to be happy with.  Yesterday I really enjoyed being here.  I have a long way to come, but I have hope.  I have seen a glimpse of what life can be like, of the adventure and joy it can bring.  I have been reminded that this process and road are long, but there is progress.  Somewhere, in some way, my attitude is changing.  That’s really all I can hope for. 

“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”The Shawshank Redemption

You gotta fight for your right to… what?

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Though violence tends to make me a bit squeamish, I devoured Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club this past week.  The vivid images he creates of fights, of the wounds inflicted, are easier to digest in words than they will be in images.  I am one of the few who has not seen the blockbuster based on the novel, though the big “shocking” revelation was ruined for me.  Despite knowing the secret of Tyler Durden, I fell into the world and lost myself in the violent freedom that is Fight Club.

The narrator drew me in with his utter restlessness.  There is nothing wrong with his life and, yet, there is nothing not wrong with it.  When he meets Tyler, his “life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.”  There is a stagnation, albeit in a comfortable home and job, that can lead to insanity.  The apathy somehow is intricately tied to rage.  I say this not as some refined literary critic, but as someone who knows this. 

Typically a “guy’s book,” this one is so familiar to me.  Not in the blood filled basements and mayhem, but in the restlessness.  There is a deep need to release all that builds up in the ordinary life.  I have a gratitude for my life, appreciation for my fortune and blessings, but also a desire to break things down.  I don’t know if it is about power, or anger, or just a need to release energy, but somewhere in the most animalistic recesses of my brain, I can identify with that need to hit, to break, to destroy.  He explains, “If you’ve never been in a fight, you wonder.  About getting hurt, about what you’re capable of doing… Tyler explained it all, about not wanting to die without any scars…”  Now, I have perhaps the lowest pain threshold on earth and absolutely no desire to get into a physical altercation, but I understand the desire to know.  I understand what he means about wanting to feel it, to experience this moment in life, to see how you hold up.  I don’t know what my correlating experience might be, if not a fight, but I do know that this made as much sense to me as one plus one equalling two.

While there are so many brilliant things that Palahniuk wrote about, the other thing that has stuck in my mind is Tyler’s justification for Project Mayhem.  He explains, “You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something.  Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need.  Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need.  We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression, but we do, we have a great war of the spirit.  We have a great revolution against the culture.  The great depression is our lives.  We have a spiritual depression.”  I know these words ring a little less true since the War on Terror began and the economy took a dive, but they still resonate.  The war is divisive, not something the nation rallies behind like they did in our history.  The economy seems to breaking spirits, but not building character.  They are not drawing us together.  They are not mobilizing us.  They simply hurt, making life harder.  We want to feel passion, feel something is worth fighting for, or against.  We want to move, to be strong, to defend and protect.  We just need something to call us. 

So we fight.  Life is easy and comfy, even when it’s hard.  We move in slow motion and need anything to pull us into real-time, to be uncomfortable.  We fight the haze that covers our day-to-day life and want nothing more to see the sun, in its blazing, burning, blinding glory.  It’s a fight to live, instead of just exist.  I get that.  I understand the desire to be pulled into the moment, out of the past and future.  I want to know how it feels to stand when I think I can’t, to bear the marks of my battles for others to admire.  I want scars to prove that I went through it, I fought and took blows, but I came out the other side; I am stronger than anything they threw at me. 

“What I’m gonna live for/ What I’m gonna die for/ What you gonna fight for/ I can’t answer that…” –Bryn Christopher, “The Question”