Thursday, December 29, 2005

Zen Meditating, or yet another exercise on Living in the Moment

Tonight I went to Zen Meditation. It was me and four men, none of them of the *eligible variety* I might add. I was just discussing with Joan (my person who helps me try to be sane) tonight, the lack of eligible men in my life. Primarily working with women does not bode well for meeting men and possibly having a date. You would think that with all the stuff I’ve been doing, one would wander my way in the real world, as opposed to the Internet world, but nooo. That would be way too easy.

Despite the lack of eligible men at Zen tonight, it was still pretty cool. I don’t think that my daughter would have enjoyed it, nor my mother. It was just a little too *eastern* for their tastes. Things of this nature appeal to me these days as I seem to be just slightly off center. Which is fine with me…life is so much more interesting when you view it from a different angle. Now that I’ve made it through Christmas and almost to the New Year, I can get back to my normal-abnormal self. ….the self that I still don’t recognize, but who is becoming more and more familiar to me as time passes.

You have to be able to sit still in order to Zen Meditate. After 20 minutes, fidgeting is something that I longed to do. It’s mind over matter though. There’s bowing in the beginning and then the difficult choice of sitting on pillows on the floor, or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, back straight, hands folded in the *Zen manner*, as if holding the world on your lap. Then there is the recitation of a prayer of sorts, done in chant style, which is just something that I am not good at. I just do not get the whole chanting thing. Possibly if I do this enough times though, the chanting will begin to make sense. After the chanting is over, you must concentrate on looking at the spot you’ve picked out in front of you, feel yourself breath in….and then out…counting 1….then 2…..then 1….then 2…with the idea of not having a thought in your head. Do you have any idea how difficult this is to do?? Each time your mind wanders, and mine wandered a lot, you are supposed to bring yourself back by concentrating on your breathing, and counting, until you are not thinking about anything again. I am NEVER not thinking about anything. Which is probably one of my problems and possibly why Zen Meditation might actually benefit me. It’s all about being in the moment. A theme that shows up throughout this blog from time to time…. if you’ve been paying attention.

I made it through the first 25 minutes of sitting and breathing and trying not to think, and trying not to fidget, and trying not to scratch the itch on my finger, and trying to relax the muscles in my back, and then in my jaw (of all places). I managed it fairly well…managed to continually stop myself from thinking and figured out how to relax my muscles. After 25 minutes, two wooden blocks were slapped together to indicated that we should get up and proceed to follow the Zen leader (I’m sure there’s some special name for him). We walked very slowly out of the room, through the door and out into the main area of the house that doubles as a church. Very slowly, almost like bridesmaids walking down a church isle, we made two circuits of the front foyer and two other attached rooms…this is where my concentration waned….I can never resist reading the titles on books sitting on bookshelves. As we very slowly walked by a floor to ceiling book shelf, I peeked at the titles, glanced at the pictures of sunsets hanging on the walls, saw the baskets with little signs asking for coffee donation money, admired the evergreen and candle centerpiece on the sideboard, the wreath on the door to the restroom and the handmade ornaments on the Christmas tree in the front foyer. I also could not resist looking at the information stuck on bulletin boards, pictures of Martin Luther King Jr., articles about The Women In Black and how their silence speaks louder than words (my article I think), and right smack in the middle of one of those boards, the very large article on the Victorian Tea that I wrote as well. It was a little cool to see my writing on display, but not as cool as having one of the Zen men tell me that he loved the way I wrote.

After the two very slow circuits of the outer rooms, it was back into the main room, for more sitting. By this time I was already writing this piece in my head and had difficulty staying in the moment. I glanced around to see what the other guys were doing, already feeling as if we were buddies. They were much better at the sitting than I was, all of them in the Lotus position, and so very still, except for their breathing. All I could think about was that by then, I would have had pins and needles in my feet, were I sitting in that position. I did however, manage to get myself back into the breathing and clear my mind, even if only for the last minute or two.

All in all, it was an interesting evening and I think I’ll go back. Anything that helps me to focus on being in the moment, even if it is only sporadically, is a good thing to do….and I just love the Unitarian Universalists….but that will be the subject of another blog post. This one is already way to long……..

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Don't You Just Love Andy Rooney??

I have no idea if this is fact something that Andy Rooney said, but I do love it. It makes being close to 50 pretty damn cool....

Since I have had no time to write I decided that I'll let Andy speak for me in this post.

Women Over 50 By Andy Rooney - CBS 60 Minutes.

As I grow in age, I value women who are over 50 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:
A woman over 50 will not lay next to you in bed and ask, "What are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you think.

If a woman over 50 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And, it's usually something more interesting.

A woman over 50 knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of 50 give a damn what you might think about her or what she's doing.

Women over 50 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.

Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated.

A woman over 50 has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn't trust the guy with other women. Women over 50 couldn't care less if you're attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won't betray her.

Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 50. They always know.

A woman over 50 looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women or drag queens. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 50 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk or if you are acting like one! You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

Yes, we praise women over 50 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of 50+, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 18-year-old waitress. Ladies, I apologize.

For all those men who say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free. Here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why?
Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage.

Friday, November 11, 2005

No Time!!

NO...I have not forgotten about this web blog. I have just been very busy with things like work, school and getting the new life....but I am thinking, writing stuff in my head and jotting ideas down on little scraps of paper.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Scent of a Bookstore

What is it about the scent of a bookstore that is so appealing for me I wonder? I just love the way bookstores smell and could just go inside to browse, and to take very deep breaths, inhaling the scent of all the written words that exist in them. Maybe it’s because they smell like libraries that I like them so much. From the time I was very young I have also loved libraries. There weren’t too many bookstores around when I was growing up, so when it came to reading books, the library was the place to go.

My siblings and I grew up with a mother who read to us. We would sit on the couch at night next to my mother, who would read us all kinds of stories. We would often beg, “Please, just read one more chapter…please.” Fairy tales, nursery rhymes, short story collections, children’s novels, my mother read them all. I can vividly remember sitting snuggled up right next to her, tears streaming down my face as she read for probably the twentieth time, The Little Match Girl. I would plead with her to read that story, even knowing that the outcome always made me cry.

The Little Match Girl was part of a Christmas short story collection that we had in our home when we were growing up. It was the story of a little girl who was so poor, she had to sell matches to survive and how one night… she didn’t…. survive that is. I would cry as I listened to my mother read how this little girl gazed longingly into windows where families sat in warm homes, with food on the table and she had none. I would sob when suddenly she felt warm and before her, appeared her grandmother, taking her hand and leading her off. Initially I had no idea exactly what had happened, until my mother explained that in fact, the little girl had died and gone to heaven to live with her grandmother, where she would never feel cold or hungry again…..that’s when the sobbing began. Even knowing the outcome of the story, I would cry over and over again. Looking back on this, it must have been torture for my mother to have to read this story that always made me cry. That was not the only story I cried through though, there were others….and often I think my mother was probably inclined to cry a little bit too.

Every summer we joined the summer reading club at our local library. Weekly and sometime even daily trips there were common for us during the summer months. Take out books, run home and read them, write the report, then back to the library to hand in the report and earn your points toward the prize of your choice and the end of summer party. I would often lie on my bed in my hot bedroom and read hour after hour. But even without the prizes and the parties, I would have been in the library. Because of my mother, I learned to appreciated written words at a young age and have loved them ever since….as well as the scent of those words as written into books.

I’m not sure when, but at some point book clubs became popular and still may be. For a penny you could join and order ten books, along with committing yourself to purchasing four or five more at full price in a one or two year period. Purchasing the additional books at full price was never a problem for me. The problem would be purchasing too many of them and then having to come up with the money to pay for them all.

Book clubs were when my book collecting really started. By then I had a part time job, so I could afford to actually buy books, as long as I was able to limit myself…it was for me, a little like being a drug addict….I was addicted to books. Over the years, my book collecting tastes have changed. Most of the books that I bought when I was much younger are gone, having been sold in yard sales or donated, or been given away. I have held on to a few of my childhood books that amazingly enough, are on a book shelf in my transition home right now. One day I’m hoping to sit on a couch somewhere and read them to my grandchildren. They now sit among my collection of mysteries, thrillers, novels, books on how to garden, home medical books, true crime books, the Harry Potter books, cook books, how to teach yourself *whatever* books, social work books, text books and history books…..and I just love the way they smell.

Currently I have forbidden myself from purchasing any more books. I do not go down the book aisle at Costco if I can help it, nor do I venture into bookstores of any kind…..well, almost. I try to remind myself that one day in the hopefully not to distant future, I will have to move all these books that I own to a home of my own again…even if it is the size of a closet. Moving them to this transition home was a monumental task as they were so damn heavy! As I was struggling to lug box after box of them up the stairs, I was asking myself why the hell I needed all these books. Why couldn’t I collect something lighter? Since I never seem to do anything the easy way though, it makes sense that I collect books. Nothing that I do seems to be easy, so of course I would collect the heavy things… and then have to haul them around with me in the course of getting a new life. With the exception of my clothes, my books were the first things that I unpacked. Boxes and boxes of my stuff remains, piled in empty bedrooms, waiting for a permanent home in order to be unpacked, but the books, they sit on shelves in the living room, waiting too for a permanent home, but not left in boxes to languish in the dark until that time arrives. Somehow, looking at them gives me hope that not only will they have a permanent home again one day, but so will I.

I fell off the wagon today and went into a bookstore. I’ve held out since Bargain Books opened a few weeks ago, but my car drove it self there today…it was like it had a mind of its own. One minute I was on the road, the next I was in the bookstore….and how wonderful it was to stand there and just inhale the scent of all those books. Of course they did not have the particular book that I was looking to purchase, but I did manager to buy four of them for other people. How perplexing that I had to go home and order my book from…a bookstore with no scent at all.

They say that our sense of smell is a strong memory trigger. When I inhale the scent of books in a library or a bookstore, I remember sitting on the couch, snuggled up against my mother while she read us story after wonderful story, even the ones that made me cry. What a wonderful gift that was that she gave to my siblings and I…the gift of how written words can take you to so many places and teach you so many things. I remember my children when they were little, snuggled up against my side while we read scary stories and stories about *very bad bunnies* and Shel Silverstein poems. Just walking into a bookstore and smelling the scent in the air, brings those memories and those moments in time, to life again. I think I’m finally getting the idea that not matter where I am, all those very special moments in time will continue to live in my memories, no matter where I end up……

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Walking Down Pathways

A childhood friend of her daughter’s got married today. A young woman she had watched grow up since the age of 6 months old. This is the second of her daughter’s friends to get married this year. Another of her “from birth,” friends got married last December. If she weren’t so cynical about marriage right now, would she feel differently about these young women getting married so young? Probably not. She’s happy that her daughter is not even close to getting married. Having gotten married just prior to her 21st birthday, she thinks people should spend some time getting lives, prior to attaching themselves to others. Then, should things not work out, 1 year, or 5 years, or 20+ years later, one would remember that they did have an independent life of their own at one time. Maybe the struggle to get an independent life would not seem so great if at one time in the past, you actually had one. It might be like riding a bike, or *other things*…… activities that even if you haven’t done them in a while, you still remember what they were like.

The Minister at the wedding spoke about taking pathways through life. Of course he was speaking in the context of two people entering the church from two different entrances and both leaving together, using one. This metaphor aptly describe the journey into marriage that these two people will take together. Despite the fact that she’s in the process of becoming *un-attached* the symbolism of traveling down pathways was not lost on her.

She realized while sitting in that church this afternoon that she too, is on a journey. Not one that she really wants to be on, but is on nonetheless. For 20+ years she careened down a path, going top speed, with no thought to where she was going, or why. Now, she has to carefully make her way down a pathway that at times is blocked by large boulders, rivers of tears, fallen trees, uneven sidewalks, traffic jams and classes like Statistics. She’s hoping that there are no forks in this pathway since then a major debate would ensue….and God only knows for how long that might go on.

Yup, she’s on the pathway…that much she does know. Where it’s going to lead is a mystery. She’ll just have to keep walking and hope there are some 7-11’s along the way. Diet Coke and Iced Coffee are very important when you’re walking down a path to who knows where…….

Saturday, September 17, 2005

To wallow, or not to wallow....

To wallow, or not to wallow, that is the choice. This past week has been a major wallowing week….and boy, does she know how to wallow. If wallowing were an Olympic sport, she would be a gold medal winner.

Most of this past week she has spent either sitting in her computer chair, crying…..or laying in her bed…..crying……or sitting on friend’s couches…… crying. Now it’s freakin’ time to be done crying. Certainly in her mind, she has plenty to cry about. After all, getting a new life is hard. She does feel guilty about all the crying though. Certainly she hasn’t lost all her worldly possessions or any of her family members in the aftermath of the biggest natural disaster to ever occur in US history, Hurricane Katrina. That would surely be a reason to cry. So why couldn’t she stop herself she wonders? Maybe it was the birthday, or the job interview that only paid a pittance, maybe it was her ability to over-think her life, or just the time of year it is. The time of year when her life as she knew it, started to unravel…. when she finally woke up and didn’t recognize where she was. Maybe it was because she didn’t go to the gym this past week. The gym functions as her mood stabilizer. For about five minutes she thought maybe she did indeed, need a prescription. That thought seems to have past, especially since she’s made it to the gym the past two days….and really does feel better. Maybe it was just *all of the above.*

Wallowing is a choice. She can choose to do it, or not. She has instead decided to follow the *thinking positively for 15 minutes per day* plan, the *going to the gym as often as possible* plan, the *planning fun things to do with people you like* plan, the *you must stop projecting yourself two years into the future and worrying about it* plan, and the *let’s maybe have a small glass of red wine before bed* plan. Then there’s also writing all this stuff down as a means to remind her about all the plans she’s made. It’s good to write it all down; this way when you’re wallowing you have somewhere to go that will remind you how to stop the insanity. She thinks there’s a chapter on that topic in the “Living in the Moment” manual…you remember, the manual she doesn’t have but that she’s still looking for…..

(If she were any kind of computer genius she would be able to insert a link back to the “Where Is the Manual” piece, but she is no computer genius, which is why this blog sounds like her, but does not *look* like her…it is a huge dilemma…)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

September 14th, 2005

Today was my birthday. Thank God the day is almost over. It’s not the actual *having of a birthday* that I mind, or even the age that I’m at. It’s the continued feeling of disruption, of feeling homeless and lonely and unsettled.

Goals for the coming days, weeks, months and year:

To spend at least 15 minutes tomorrow, thinking positively about the many good things there are in my life, and there are many.

To spend at least 15 minutes each day next week, thinking positively about the many good things in my life, and there are many.

To spend 15 minutes each day for a month, thinking positively about the many good things in my life, and there are many.

To spend *time* each day, for the next 12 months, thinking positively about the many good things in my life, and there are many.

In the next year, to stop having to consciously think about thinking good things and just be able to enjoy them.

(Do you think repeatedly writing about thinking positively, will work? I guess we’ll see.)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Stuck in a Hallway

Tonight she is so grateful to have gown up in this small town that she still lives in. This truly is small town America. A town that could be describe in novels by writers much better than she. Tonight the sights, sounds and smells overwhelm her with joy and a little bit of nostalgia, tinged with some sadness too.

Walking across Smith Street she hears the crack of a bat hitting a ball at the ballpark and hears, before she sees, the cheering as men run around bases. This is baseball playoff weekend for the leagues that play on this field. Picnic things are laying all about the grass as she power walks on by. Women, children and older couples sit in the bleachers watching, talking and laughing while the ballplayers continue to play this game that to her at times seem boring. Not tonight though, tonight she can feel the excitement in the air as she hears the sounds of the game and smells the dust in the air as a player slides on into home.

She heads further into the park, past the playground filled with young children and families…..children running, jumping, and squealing with laughter and delight as they fly toward the moon on a swing or zipped down to the ground on a slide. As she walks onto the track at the park, she takes it past the 9-11 Memorial, a place she will sometimes stop and sit for a minute. It is a very small garden area connected, yet separate, from the walking track that winds its way in a quarter mile circle through the shore front park. Two benches, in the shade of newly planted young trees, sit, looking out across the bay at Fire Island on the other side. In front of the benches are two big native granite boulders, sitting in the middle of bunches of Montauk daisies. The boulders are inscribed in memory of not just the two men that she knew who died, but all the others who perished on that day as well. On occasion she has been down here and seen the elderly parents of one of the men in whose memory this little garden memorial is dedicated, sitting on a bench, gazing out over the water. She knows the story and knows that there is no cemetery for them to go to, as their son just never came home that day, like so many others...... like so many others, he vanished, like vapor into the air.

She hears the deep droning sound of the engines on the ferry as it makes its way across the bay and listens to the waves as they slap against the bulkhead. A light southwest wind whistles through the rigging of the sailboats docked nearby and she remembers what it was like to sail out onto the bay with her family. She always had mixed feeling about sailing with her father, who at times might rival Captain Bligh. Leaving from, and returning to, the dock was always a challenge, with orders begin bark at people who initially, had no freakin’ idea what they meant. After a couple of years of sailing, they all sort of got with the program and were able to do a half way decent job of knowing what to do. Recently she covered a sailing story for the newspaper she works for and decided that maybe next summer, she will think about treating herself to sailing lessons. It might be fun to relive that experience again, only with a more patient skipper this time.

She winds her way out onto the L- Dock, a place that has been in her life forever, the place where her brother once caught 40 blowfish. She wonders whatever happened to the blowfish; it seems that no one catches them anymore. Incredibly odd creatures they were. After being caught, they would puff themselves up like small balls in order to be more intimidating to others. She doubts that it ever worked as a defense mechanism against fishermen, but thinks that in the world of fish it might very well have been effective at keeping the larger ones at bay. It bothers her to know that now they’re gone. Just like the clammers that use dot the bay as far as the eye could see. When exactly did they disappear she wonders?

As she walks back up the dock she looks in the pails of water as she passes, seeing fish and crabs of varying sorts and sizes. She’s never been one for fishing and only likes the idea of it, but not the reality of it. Her way of fishing would consist of sitting on the dock with a fishing pole in her hand and gazing out over the water. It would not include baiting a hook, or even actually hoping to catch a fish. She would be hoping not to catch a fish and would just enjoy the scenery. It’s lovely out on the dock in the early evening and she finds it very relaxing to watch the stars as they start to appear gradually in the darkening night sky. She has difficulty *relaxing* these days as her mind tends to go into over-thinking mode quite easily. Sitting on the dock with an un-baited fishing pole, might just do the trick.

Up past the large French restaurant where a wedding is taking place and to Nancy’s Crab Shack she goes. Small and quaint with outdoor tables and a snack bar to sit at, Nancy’s is the place to be in the summer. The smell of grilled hot dogs and burgers mingled with the salt smell in the air is the scent of summer to her; a scent that on certain days in the winter when you stand on the porch with your eyes closed, you can almost still catch a whiff of. A guy with a guitar is playing for the diners and she chats with people that she knows as she walks on past. Nancy’s is the place to go to chat with all the people you know from your neighborhood that you don’t see anymore, because everyone is too busy to stop and enjoy their lives….but for a few minutes at Nancy’s they do.

Now on into the quieter parts of the neighborhoods, with the smells of the back yard grills cooking burgers, and the sounds of televisions and radios, cars and motorcycles, the ice cream man in his truck that now plays that annoying electronic music. She dislikes that electronic music and the way the tunes become stuck in her brain, to play over and over and over again. The jingling of the bells on the old ice cream trucks was so much less invasive to the mind. Softer and almost joyful she thinks. So what if the old fashioned style bells can only be heard from three blocks away. Children can hear the ice cream truck from wherever they are, so why not play something that does not irritate most of the population in a ten block radius.

She slows herself down now as she continues past the house that has a Gargoyle on the roof and the one that always flies the very interesting flags, many of which she has no idea of their meaning. Back in July that house flew the Union Jack right after the London subway and bus bombings. At the time, she thought about what a wonderful show of support that was. She wonders where these flags all come from and thinks about how she use to have a house that she flew flags from.

By now the fire flies are lighting up the air around her and she heads on past the house she use to live in, a house where the lawn and her beautiful flower beds have not been watered once during this very hot and dry summer. She thinks about how she would have been out there every day, watering the beautiful plants that use to live there. The fragrant miniature lilac bushes she had planted, the azalea that she bought 20 years ago in the grocery store and that survived all this time, until she moved away. The mass of black-eyed Susan’s, with yellow petals and brown centers, the purple cone daises and the large clematis, that over the course of the summer would have wound it’s way up past the dining room window, and in the late summer would be covered in small, fragrant white flowers that she could smell through the open window. She could have taken some of these things with her when she moved, but she just did not have the energy, or the heart, to do so. Now she is sorry as she mourns the loose of all these beautiful things that use to live in her garden. Now they are dry and brown and dead. It makes her sad to walk by there, but it’s not her house anymore. Maybe she’ll garden somewhere else one day, or maybe she’ll never garden again….who knows.

She finishes her walk at the house she now lives in. A place that she’s grateful to have, but cannot view as more than a place of transition. A place where she continues to stand in the hallway, with the door behind her closed and the door in front of her, not yet open. She hates standing in this hallway. How many moments, hours, days or years will she stand in this hallway she wonders, until the door in front of her finally opens so that she can walk through it….

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

In One Year......

In one year…….she,

Lost a car…. got a car back
Gave a car back….bought a car
Left a home
Left her children……
…but not really
Lost her patience…..found her patience…..lost her patience….found her patience….a never ending saga...
Found a gym….lost a bunch of weight
Lost sleep...and still hasn't found it...
Found some very interesting new friends
Lost the rest of her stuff ….it went elsewhere to live
Lost three cats…kept one (the whiner)…
Lost her mind...found her sanity...maybe
Lost her groove…found her groove (Thank You God!)
Found her *Twinkle*
Found school
Found a *sort of* new career
Needs a much better paying job
Lost her whole entire life as she knew it..
Needs to find a whole new one...
Lost herself…found herself…lost herself…found herself... a never ending battle…with her mind...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Doing Stupid Things

Not often, but occasionally, she does things that are really stupid.

Last week she went to a psychic. Two hours prior to the appointment her intuition told her not to go. It was whispering in her ear, “Susan, don’t go….you know you’ll be sorry…. you know you’ll believe whatever this person tells you…you know you won’t be able to think about anything else.” Her intuition knows her quite well and as a rule, she pays attention. This time, she did not. The *grasping at straws* nature of her personality overruled her intuition ….but never again. She has decided that *grasping at straws* is not a particularly good way to live your life. She is also thankful for good friends like Harry.

Without Harry, she would still be thinking about the prophecies that the psychic foretold. “You're too bright to believe what a psychic sees over what your eyes see....or your heart...," he said. How cool a statement was that? She’s keeping Harry as her friend because she needs people who will kick her in the butt once in a while, in order to keep her on track, and because she likes him. She has a number of very good friends. One day she’ll have to throw a really big party for them all in order to thank them for sticking it out with her. The *Drama Queen* in her can really take over and rule her life at times. She’s very thankful to have all these good friends as they help her to keep the *Queen* at bay.

Three lessons were learned from this particular stupid act: First, always listen to your intuition. Secondly, always be a good to your friends because those are the people that will continue to support you, even when you’re functioning in *Drama Queen* mode.
And lastly, maybe if you learn a lesson from doing something stupid, it wasn’t really stupid to do it after all. She thinks about all the different kinds of moments in time that have occurred over this past year…..even the stupid ones…and she smiles.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Thoughts from the Treadmill

She was 55 minutes into her 60 minute, hill climbing treadmill hour when she caught the scent of him. Walking with your eyes closed prevents you from being distracted by the numbers on the treadmill and also by those people around you. She’s noticed that as a rule most people working out, look straight ahead, at the TV’s on their treadmills, bikes and stair climbers. She just closes her eyes and lets the Goo Goo Dolls or Matchbox Twenty sing into her ears…but you can’t help smelling.

The fans from the gym brought the scent of his cologne her way. Immediately her eyes opened and she wondered where this really good smelling man was. He had to be close by. There was no one to her left, but as she looked to her right, she saw him. Young and very hot and very good smelling. He was in his mid-twenties, dark closely shaved hair, scruff on his face, tattoos from his wrist up his arm, until his large bicep disappeared into the sleeve of his black tee shirt. He was also wearing black horn rimmed glasses, camouflage shorts and an Ipod. He had that *dangerous* look about him. She finds herself mildly attracted to danger these days, but only in theory. She’s way too conservative in most ways for dangerous men to have any appeal for her… that is unless they smell really good.

It has been one entire year of gym going. She decided to go to the gym last August when she was waking up at 4:30 in the morning and just needed to go somewhere by 6:00. It might seem odd, deciding to join a gym while wearing an air cast on one leg from your toes to your knee, but she couldn’t think of anything better to do at the time. She learned how to use the scary weight equipment and did all that she could, that did not involve using her bad left Achilles tendon…the one with the tear in it.

The first gym she went to was a work in progress. It was not particularly clean or well maintained, but the other gym-goers were pretty interesting. Eventually the cast came off and she made her way to the treadmill. She always wore headphones in order to avoid having to talk to anyone who might be tempted to speak to her. Especially the “gym guys.”

In particular there where three gym guys that she watched. One she referred to as “Gumby.” He had a runner’s body and was tall and lean. She could tell he wanted to be a powerhouse weight lifter. He would strut into the gym, lift and pose…. and look around to see if anyone was watching him “lift and pose.” From way up on the treadmill, he had no idea she was watching. Up there, one could remain anonymous. As a rule, Gumby would meet up with two others. She did not really have any snappy creative names for the other two, although one she sort of referred to in her mind as “Small Italian Gym Guy” because he was short and dark and had a mustache. Her friend Terrance has a theory about men who have facial hair, but she has yet to hear what that theory is…she can only imagine what it might be. Her imagination is a dangerous place to go these days though, therefore that might be a better topic for another blog post.

The third member of the group was just “Regular Gym Guy,” which pretty much summed him up…just regular. They became “the trio” in her mind. She often thought while walking and sweating, that a paper on “Male Gym Behavior” might make an interesting research topic. So from atop her treadmill, she would watch the trio lift, pose, and spot each other…and glance around to see if there were any chicks watching them.

Small Italian Guy once did speak to her. She made the mistake of taking the headphones out of her ears prior to walking past him and out the door. He gave her the thumbs-up and said “Lookin’ pretty good.” She nodded thanks and practiced smiling. From that point on, whenever she went to the gym and saw him there, she was obligated to nod and smile. It even eventually became sort of normal. Now that she’s a freelance reporter, and much more confident in her socialization abilities, she thinks it might be interesting to go back and interview “the trio”. But of course she won’t. She’ll maybe save that for the research paper.

The new gym she belongs to is very clean, bright and high-tech. She is particularly fond of the “clean” part. She is not fond of the television screens on every treadmill though. It blocks her view of all the new gym guys she could be watching.

She’s walked a long way in the past year, both literally and figuratively. She still has a ways to go, but as long as there are nice smelling “gym guys” out there, the walking will continue to be fun.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Yellow Bracelets

Lance Armstrong won his seventh Tour de France today. She wears his yellow bracelet to remind her of what she needs to do, after having gotten it as a gift from her daughter. “LiveStrong” is written on it and it is a concrete reminder to her of what she needs to do, to make a new life for herself.

The wearing of the yellow bracelet is also an important reminder to her of the very roundabout way that she came to this point in her life. She’s been moving in this direction for a long time, only she just had no conscious realization of it.

Many years ago she had a sister. When she was thirty, her sister died after trying to beat the hell out of Hodgkin’s disease. If anyone could have cured themselves on will alone, it was her sister Regina. There was no negative talk about not surviving, there were no final *good-bye’s*…. as she wasn’t leaving. She had chemo up until the day before she died, always with the hope that it would change the course of this disease that was killing her. Her sister was one of the first people ever to have had her bone marrow harvested while it was still healthy, and given back to her in the form of a bone marrow transplant when she did not respond to conventional treatment; when it became apparent that she was not in the 98% of people who were treated and cured of Hodgkin’s.

Her sister’s death was one of the single most defining moments in her life, when she thinks that subconsciously she realized that she didn’t have a life, not really. Sure, she was someone's wife, but that wasn’t going very well at the time…and yes, she was the mother of two children who she cared for and loved dearly….but who was she really? What defined her as a person? This defining moment in her life set her on a course that has lead her to where she is today. Sometimes a mess because she’s impatient with the process, certainly lonely at times, occasionally overwhelmed, and yet, still oddly happy. She’s amazed as she sits here and writes this, that she can say she is “oddly happy”. Especially tonight, when being “oddly happy” is a struggle. She is still hoping to be completely happy one day too, and knows its part of this process that she dislikes so very much.

According to her counselor, she should be enjoying this whole *getting a new life* process. Joan tells her that people make the most progress when they are trying to work out these dramatic changes…make these transitions and come to places that they can then be happy in. When that happens, she wants to sit back and coast for a while….because she thinks this is way too much work. Right now, she just wants it all to be done and she wants the *happy life*…she wishes it just wasn’t so hard to get. Sure, as compared to the lives of many other people, she should feel grateful. After all, she’s alive…. and she’s in good health…. and her family loves her and supports her…but she still needs the yellow bracelet as a reminder that no matter how hard this is, she needs to “LiveStrong”.

After the death of her sister she found her way to hospice. It became an outlet for her grief. Her work with hospice lead her back to school; back to a college career she had pretty much flunky out of many years earlier. It’s amazing what a few more years of maturity and a concrete goal can do for your GPA. If not for her first college career, she would have graduated with her two year degree and a 3.9 GPA. Not too shabby she thinks.

Going back to college is where the transformation to becoming this person she is today began. It gave her confidence that she had never had in the past. It made her realize that she had opinions that mattered to people. It made her realize that she was bright, and that she could do things that would never have occurred to her in previous years. It made her feel like she existed in the world. It was, and is, an amazing feeling, even today.

Her sister’s death just shy of age 24 made her realize that she wanted more in her life, and it gave her the confidence that she needed in order to go out and find it. She still wants more in her life. Hell, she wants it all….she wants everything. After all, let us not forget that she is also a *Goth Woman* and they are “single minded in their quest for whatever it is they seek”. But, this Goth Woman still needs the symbolism the yellow “LiveStrong” bracelet provides for her. It reminds her that she still needs to go to the gym, even when she doesn’t really feel like it. It reminds her that when things are not going her way, she needs to find a way to deal with them and move on. It will help her focus on getting through Statistics, which she needs in order to finally obtain her Bachelor’s Degree...and finally, it reminds her of how hard her sister fought to live and that what she is doing now, is nothing compared to that.

Today Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, won his seventh Tour de France. If Lance could accomplish a feat such as this, with the help of his yellow bracelet, she should be able to make her new life a reality too. She just wishes that her new life would happen sooner…oops…she keeps forgetting, this is her new life, bumps, bruises and all…’s a good thing she has this yellow bracelet.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Indelible Ink

She sits on the dock at the end of the street, watching as the sky to the west darkens into night. The pinkish-purple hue fades into dark blue and then black as the lights from the boats out on the bay, twinkle like red, green and white stars, dancing on the water. For so many years of her life she’s come to watch this show and this year, even though it’s a *getting a new life* year, is no exception.

As far back as she can remember, the community she lives in had some sort of summer fireworks display. Many years ago, the show always took place on the 4th of July. She grew up on a dead end street with neighbors that had all lived there for years. They bar-b-qu-ed together, helped each other build sheds and were just generally supportive of each other, but not in an obnoxious way. People knew how to mind their own business too.

Toward evening when the out-of-towners would start to arrive her neighbors would spread lawn chairs across the street and park themselves there for the show. That was long ago, before the trees grew so tall that they blocked the view.

She remembers climbing out onto her neighbor Sara’s roof one year in order to have a better view…that was after they had walked almost to the bay and decided the roof offered a better vantage point. She does not remember what the view was like from the roof; just the idea that she was up there at all, was quite an overwhelming moment. That was the first and last roof she ever ventured up onto. She does believe that in order to qualify as a roof-sitting event, one should have to climb out a window to get here……that taking an elevator does not count.

When first married in her twenties, she stopped paying attention to the fireworks. She didn’t go to the bay, her neighbors who sat in the middle of the street, were not sitting there any more because of the big trees, and she was busy with other things. She did find it entertaining however, to watch all the cars and what seemed like thousands of people, all trying to get down into this small area of her community, and then back out again. A moving mass of people, all walking in the middle of the street, while cars tried to maneuver around them. It was amazing that as a rule, no yelling and shouting ensued. Of course, that’s because these were all fireworks watchers; she thinks they don’t yell and shout at each to begin with.

For a number of years, the fireworks stopped. She almost didn’t notice, until one year, when they started again. By then her first child had been born and exposing her to this wonderful display became very important. She found that fireworks still held their original awesome beauty for her and realized that not only had she missed them, but felt a need to pass along this tradition to her child and then to both of her children.

Some people complain about the mess, the crowds, the traffic that these shows bring to the community. She thinks those are the people who don’t actually watch the fireworks; they just like to complain. People, who enjoy them, watch with enthusiasm. They watch with awe. They watch with the wonder of children. Among all the hundreds of people she sat among tonight, she did not hear one word said in anger, or complaint. They were happy to sit and watch and “ooh”, and “ah”, as fireworks that looked like waterfalls and dandelion puffs, came to life in the air.

She sat on the dock tonight in the dark, lovingly surrounded by her family. Her daughter who is now a young woman, but who first came to that dock as a baby, her son, happily perched atop of fire truck nearby, her brothers and their families, her mother…. and her father, who was off riding his bike somewhere. She looked out over the water and watched the boat lights out on the bay, bobbing red and green and white….And as she watched these beautiful fireworks light up the night sky, she thought about how one day, she might not live here anymore. She felt time moving on and wondered where a new life might take her. But no matter the future, she knows that these moments are etched in indelible ink, right into her heart.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

She Wants to be a Goth Girl

Yes, she wants to be a *Goth Girl*. For some time now she’s suspected that there’s a Goth girl hidden inside of her, just screaming… well maybe not screaming… maybe moaning would be more the right word…to get out.

One day, she stumbled upon a Goth girl by the name of Moliere. It was through her interaction, or really indirect interaction, with Moliere, that she discovered her inner Goth girl. Of course now at her age pulling off Goth girl is probably not a possibility, but she’s pretty confident she’d be able to pull off *Goth woman*.

She’s always loved wearing black. She thinks it’s cool and sexy and elegant. Goth girls and women wear a lot of black. She would love to wear a long black tulle skirt, with black combat boots. Goth girls would be wearing black fishnet stockings as well (and very probably a black thong), but not Goth women… thigh-highs might work very well for them though.

Her version of Goth Woman would not include the pasty white skin and black hair, or the requisite tattoos. She might be able to manage a few new piercing though….maybe a small diamond stud in her nose…but then again, since she will be needing a new job in the near future, maybe not. She could also not pull off the black hair. She’s a Goth woman with the cool black clothing, long auburn hair and a tan. She does on occasion wear three earrings in each ear, a toe ring and ankle bracelets….a hint to those who pay attention, that there very well might be a Goth woman lurking inside.

It’s really more about the attitude she thinks. Goth women have a certain mind-set. They are somewhat unconventional in nature. They have a certain *twinkle* about them. She loves her *twinkle* and is so very happy to have discovered that she has one.

Goth girls and women she thinks are fearless. They see what they want and they go after it. The hell with what anyone else thinks. They are single minded in their quest for whatever it is they seek. At least that’s her take on being Goth. She actually hasn’t done much research into the whole Goth thing….she’s just making all this up as she goes….but she does think the clothes are cool and she really likes the attitude. You know what they say, attitude is everything…….

Update September 13, 2006: This Goth Woman got her nose pierced for her birthday. And how cool and hot it is.....

Monday, July 04, 2005

A Kiss at a Parade

Her son threw her a kiss in the middle of a parade he was marching in today. How unexpected and lovely a kiss it was, too. She went to the parade with the expectation of seeing him march with the fire department that he belongs to. A little wave and maybe a smile was all she was expecting, the kiss threw her for a loop. It brought back home to her all the things that are wonderful about this child of hers. He is a *care taker* only she doesn’t think he realizes it.

From the time he was a little boy he has always been aware of the feeling of others. Watching him walk by she is reminded of the little boy who in third or fourth grade, started asking her to make an extra sandwich for one of his classmates, who he reported would come to school each day with no lunch. At that time she remembers thinking about what a wonderful little kid he was. She made the extra sandwich for three or four days and then the light dawned on her. Why didn’t the teacher notice that this child had no lunch? Why wasn’t this child eligible for reduced, or free lunch? Of course she made a call to the teacher that day. The teacher was so moved by the kindness of her child, that he became student of the month. She’s not sure if he actually remembers this, or realized what a big deal it really was.

Her son has been *a man on the go* from the moment he took his first steps. From the moment he took off she’s has been saying “Nick, stop running”…. “Nick, slow down”. She’s come to the conclusion after all these years that Nick will always be running. She wonders if he has the capacity to slow down. He is ever working on one thing or another….going one place or another. She hopes that her *mother voice* plays in his head when he’s involved in something she would consider *iffy*. She hopes that when he’s out with his friends, he hears her voice saying “Please, never drink and drive”. Sayings “Please, never get in a car with someone who has been drinking”. She remembers telling him once that if anything bad were to ever happen to either himself, or his sister, she would never be able to recover. Her life as she knew it would be forever over. That she would never be able to survive. She hopes he listens and she hopes the *mother voice* will continue to play in his head, forever.

She has tried for all these years to go to anything that her children are involved in, even now that they’re pretty much grown. Her son is a drummer, among many other things. Currently he is in two different rock bands. A *Death Metal Band* as she and his sister refer to one , and a much mellower rock band….she likes the mellow one much better. She’s pretty good at listening to *Death Metal Rock* too though. From all the years of traveling in the car with him she actually developed a taste for some of it….but certainly not all. Needless to say, if either band is playing in the area, she tries her best to attend. Her son tells her that when his band gets signed to a record contract, he’s going to buy her a condo. She thinks he feels a need to take care of her, even though she’s getting a new life, one in which she wants and needs to take care of herself. But she is happy that he thinks of her.

She remembers over the years, talking to other mothers, mothers of the kids her son was friends with. She remembers hearing them say how their adolescent sons wanted nothing to do with them….didn’t want to be seen with their mothers…didn’t want to be seen being dropped off at school by their mothers…..didn’t want anyone to know they had mothers. That was so NOT her son. Sure, he hated it when she would scream from the sidelines at a soccer game. She thought she was being supportive, he didn’t always see it that way though. He knows that she speaks her mind and would sometimes have a problem if she spoke it in front of others, but often she couldn’t help herself. Sometimes saying things in front of others was the only way to get his attention. Her son was the young adolescent who would give her a kiss good-bye in the car when she dropped him off at school, no matter who was watching, right up until he drove himself to school. That’s who her son was, and still is.

She stood at the corner of this small town that she lives in…small town America. She watched as her son came by, marching with the fire department that he belongs to, carrying a flag, tattoos on his arm….and she watched as he raised his hand to his mouth and threw her a kiss. How lucky is she to be the mother of this remarkable son? She thinks about what a wonderful moment that was to just be in……

Friday, July 01, 2005

Where is the Manual??

She wonders where she can buy a copy of the “Learning How to live in the Moment” manual. Her very good friend Susan told her that it should come with the book on “Raising Children” …..You know, the one you’re supposed to get upon bringing a newborn home from the hospital, but that nobody ever seems to actually come home with.

Somehow she seemed to muddle through the *raising of the children* part, at least so far neither of them has become an axe murderer….and she did it without the instruction manual. Yes, one is into tattooing himself rather extensively, but so far, it’s been confined to one arm and part of a leg. She’s even recently asked him if his need to tattoo has anything to do with the fact that his parents were breaking up. She’s still concerned about scarring her children for life, even though they are pretty much adults now. As far as tattooing himself goes, it’s been something he’s talked about for years and she believes him when he assures her it has nothing to do with herself and his father.

She wonders how one *lives in the moment* when she can’t seem to concentrate on a moment long enough to do so? She thinks that maybe she has temporary Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Temporary since she has only been experiencing it since last summer. She’s hopeful that maybe someday it will cure itself, that since she didn’t always have ADD, one day it will be gone and she’ll be back to normal.

What is normal anyway? She’s forgotten what normal use to be and thinks that maybe she never really was *normal*. She thinks that *normal* probably changes given whatever situations life throws your way. Her situations have been pretty intense of late, at least to her. She could deal with not feeling normal if there weren’t drama of one kind or another involved. If she could learn to live in the moment, then maybe the drama would subside and she could just…. be.

How do you stop your mind from going a million miles per minute? Unless she can stop herself from constantly thinking, she will never recognize the moments she’s trying to live in. This is where a manual would come in handy. One could go to the Table of Contents, find the chapter on “Slowing Down Your Mind” and follow the directions. She’s a visual learner and likes to see things in writing; they make better sense to her that way. Having your mind going at top speed, always looking toward the future and the long term goals she has, as opposed to the short term goals, is exhausting and sometimes even makes her cry. The ability to live moment to moment and enjoy each and every one of them would be such a relief for her at this point.

Currently she’s reading “The Complete Idiots Guide to Zen Living”, hoping that it will assist her in recognizing *the moments* so that she can take the time to live them. Unfortunately she has still not gotten past Chapter 2 yet, but she’s working on it. Her concentration has not been the best lately, so getting through “Zen Living” has been a bit of a trial.

Her goal for today is to try and at least recognize some *moments* in her day and maybe even enjoy one or two of them. She is going to plan to enjoy posting this piece on line, at the very moment it appears. If she can anticipate the moments prior to them appearing, then maybe she’ll have a better chance of living in them. She wonders if this will qualify as *living in the moment*? Maybe not, but she might be a little closer. She’s still going to search for the manual though. It must be here somewhere…….

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

It begins.... now it begins. The *getting of a new life*, at least in the blogging world. The new life has already begun, this is just a new phase of it. More will follow......