Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Energizers

What are the objects, activities or qualities that help you feel energized? This is the question in Week 32 of The 52 Lists Project.

As I considered the question, I found myself confusing "feeling energized" with "being soothed." While there may be overlap between the two, there are substantial differences,

On my list of things that energize me, are objects, activities and qualities that legitimately cause me to feel excited and motivated to spend time with others, or to continue to the next "to do" item on my list or turn the page to the next chapter in my book.

This list includes:
  1. A delicious cuppa coffee
  2. Healthy, delicious food in just the right portions
  3. Exploring - through travel, reading, discussion
  4. Researching new ideas and learning new things
  5. Crossing things off my list (because they've been completed)
  6. Honesty and authenticity
  7. Crying
  8. A great workout
  9. Healthy and respectful debate
10. Anger
11. A good night's sleep
12. Weeding
13, Grocery shopping
14. Helping others, although largely on my terms
15. Dancing
16. Binge watching or reading a great mystery or thriller series

And what about the converse? What depletes my energy?
  1. Engaging in social niceties
  2. Fried food
  3. Uncontrolled emotional expression, if it isn't paired with an effort to try to understand oneself better
  4. Managing others' irrational thoughts and behaviors
  5. Hoppy beer
  6. Nagging

What's on your list?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ojala

I remember learning a unique verb tense in my high school Spanish class - Ojala. It is used to mean "May God grant that..."

As in: "Ojala que mi madre tenia un viaje seguro en Alemania" - "May God grant that my mother has a safe trip to Germany."

Or

I've long forgotten most of the Spanish I learned all those years ago.

But I remember "Ojala que."

In those moments when other might pray, I find myself using the phrase in a unique form of meditative Spanglish.

"Ojala que mi pais can make a rational and safe decision in the 2016 Presidential election."

"Ojala que la gente de Turkey remain safe and under Democratic rule."

"Ojala que mi esposo is no longer so sick."

Feel better BMG. 

Ojala.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Cherry Pitter

I live in a tiny house. A tiny house with a tiny amount of storage space.

This tiny amount of storage space, combined with my natural propensity for simple living, are the reasons why I tend to shy away from single use kitchen gadgets. Things like egg slicers (knives work just great), grapefruit spoons, and spaghetti servers. Yeah, nope. Don't need 'em. Don't want 'em.

But, I *do* have a cherry pitter.


This is a tool that expels the pit of a cherry into a small chute, and then with a poof, pops it into a waiting vessel (like a hand or a bowl). The sound of the pit being forced out of the fruit sounds like a gnome-sized nail gun to me. And the part of device that presses into the cherry to push out the pit looks like a gnome sized pick-axe.

The result of the pitter's work is tiny piece of stone fruit with a gaping flesh wound that looks as if a bullet has passed through it. While it is no longer gorgeous, but it is also free of the tiny pit you need to awkwardly and ungracefully dispose of every time you consume one cherry.  

I've owned mine for three years. And I've used it maybe four times. It takes up precious real estate in my limited drawer space. By all rights, it is not the sort of thing I would ever own.

But I'll never get rid of it.

Because every time I use it, I'm reminded of my father-in-law.

In the short time I knew him, he introduced me to the magic of the cherry pitter.

It was a weekend day, long before BMG and I were actually married, and I was visiting with him and my mother-in-law. As I chatted with them, my father-in-law was discreetly flexing his hand and causing a small popping sound.

"What are you doing?" I remember asking.

And he explained the cherry pitter, even letting me take the reins of the device and giving it a squeeze.

I may have scoffed at the need for a cherry pitter, perhaps extolling the diverse virtues of the knife or asking "How hard is it to eat around the pit?"

I remember my father-in-law laughing and telling me the cherries were much more delicious when they were pitted. And that was that.

A couple of years later, after he passed from this earth, BMG and I were planning our wedding. I insisted on putting a cherry pitter on our registry. BMG raised his eyebrows at me (he knows me well), but I insisted. And that was that.

*****

I much prefer to infuse everyday objects with meaning and memories, rather than holding onto other types of mementos. Doing so gives me regular opportunities to reflect on the person or event that I associate with the object. The size of my home makes it harder for me to display or interact with other types of memory devices, like photos stored on Facebook or in print albums or souvenirs from trips,

And I don't need them. I don't need a photo of my father-in-law to remember what made him such a special person. I don't need to hang onto every gift he ever gave me to make I don't forget him. Nope. All I need is to pit a few cherries and boom, I'm reminded of how much I hold him in my heart.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I Killed My Cat (Was it Just a Dream?)

I dreamed last night that the fur ball I was trying to remove from the hindquarters of my faux Himalayan cat was in fact a hernia. And as I gently tugged on the mat of long white hair, I started pulling her innards out. She screeched and ran away, leaving a trail of kitty blood in her wake. Panicked, I searched for her in all of her favorite hiding spots. Instead of finding a trembling cat, I instead found pools of flesh and blood, evidence that she was leaking from the inside out. 

In my dream, I remember weeping.  

And I never found my cat. 

***** 
Care to interpret? 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Dervish

Is there something you love to do, that, either due to laziness or fear, you never do?

For me its dancing. But not any kind of dancing. I love a type of dancing known as "trance dance" or its cousin, "ecstatic dance." There are no steps to memorize, and no rules to follow. There is simply deeply rhythmic music and occasional structures to help guide the dance.

Trance dance is a form of meditation for me. I nearly always dance with my eyes gently closed. It helps me shut down my consciousness and simply feel. When I'm trance dancing, my consciousness falls away and I just become a mass of body and spirit. It is deeply spiritual in a way that no sermon or Bible story or memorized prayer or mass can ever touch for me. I love this type of dancing so much, I've looked into becoming a whirling dervish, which is a sect within the mystical branch of Islam known as Sufi. 

I learned about trance dance through the magic of Kripalu Danskinetics, and its spinoffs Journey Dance and Shake Your Soul. I used to Journey Dance once a month at a Unitarian church about 30 minutes from my home.

And then I moved an additional hour away from the class.

And then the instructor moved. To Canada.

That was more than six years ago. And I haven't danced since.

I recently met a woman who leads monthly ecstatic dance sessions 90 minutes away from my home. On Friday nights. Starting at 8:00 PM. Ugh.

To get to a session I would need to:
  • Overcome the sluggishness that I put on every Friday when I get home at 3:30 PM; my typical end-of-the-week sluggishness is compounded by the fact that I get up at 4:30 in the morning to exercise before I'm due at my desk at 7:00 AM. 
  • Once I actually make it out of the house, fight weekend commuter traffic for 90 minutes to get there
  • Manage the exhaustion I predict I'd feel throughout the weekend after being active for at least 19 hours of the day (see "overcome sluggishness" note above)
  • Overcome the fear that I would put all the effort to get to the class, and it would be a bust. Either because the music or energy weren't right, or the other dancers were too handsy or geeky, or cliquey. 
Laziness? That I can overcome. But that social fear can be paralyzing. 

PAR-A-LY-ZING.

Breathe.

Take a step back.

If I can remember that the WHOLE POINT of dancing is to have the experience of being filled with the light of God. And then if I can remember that the worst that can happen is I waste an entire evening at an event that does not fill me with the light of God. And the best that can happen is I have an amazing experience and feel light enough to float home when it is over, and inspired to go back the next month. 

Then.

I can probably will the fear away. At least long enough to get myself to try. 

Luckily, Ecstatic Dance Providence has been on hiatus all summer, so I've had months to perseverate on this. The next dance is on the third Friday in October. My challenge until then? To focus on the possibility of love, rather than fear.

Wish me luck. 










Cookie Monster: An unrequited love story

I love cookies. Chocolate chip cookies to be exact. In fact, I love them so much, they made my Facebook list of 10 foods I would want with me if I were stranded on a desert island, (The others are turkey, eggs, olive oil, rice, spinach, lemons, coconut, cheddar cheese, and coffee,)

But chocolate chip cookies don't love me back.

Consider this checklist of qualities that the Kelley and Thibault model of relationship commitment, as described by Psychology Today, suggests are essential to a successful long-term relationship:  

Both consistently meet and do not frustrate our needs
FAIL. Chocolate chip cookies DO meet my needs for the delicious combination of sugar and fat, particularly when I'm feeling sad, hormonal, or have low blood sugar. HOWEVER, they do not care enough about me to minimize the way they frustrate my efforts to be fit, sleep well at night, and not feel like an out-of-control pig. 

Are more attractive than other potential relationships or ways of spending our time
FAIL. I love chocolate chip cookies. But, they have not done enough in our relationship to prevent me from cheating on them with potato chips, dark chocolate-covered anything, or commercially prepared peanut butter. And none of the Ashley Madison foods I have in my Rolodex are doing me any favors. In fact, if I were to cheat on chocolate chip cookies, I'd be better off cheating with a trip to the gym, a brisk walk, or a phone call to one of my sisters.

Would lead one to lose valuable resources if the relationship were to end
FAIL. Again, What am I going to lose if I were to leave my love affair with the chocolate chip cookie? I would guess about 15 pounds.

This checklist makes it clear that chocolate chip cookies are doing nothing but hurting me. For more than 45 years, I've continued to turn to them in times of joy, sorrow and anger, only to have my short term needs fulfilled with no promise of a fulfilling, long-term relationship

So, chocolate chip cookies, in the interest of my health, I am breaking up with you.

(Unless, of course, you'd be willing to hook up every now and again, maybe at parties or other special events. I mean, I'd be open to that.)

Friday, June 24, 2016

An Even More Perfect Union

I leave work at 3:00 on Fridays, which means instead of being getting my evening news fix from my pal Robert Siegel on NPR's All Things Considered, I'm forced tlisten to PRI's The World

Today, on my 25-minute commute, I heard global perspectives on the outcomes of yesterday's Brexit vote. 

During the drive, I stared out the front window of my station wagon thinking not about the predictable traffic and roadways between me and my home, but instead thinking about the 17 million Britons who decided yesterday to leave the EU. 

The reasons for this too complicated for me to understand and certainly too complicated for me to explain. If you don't understand the Brexit vote, I invite you to read coverage in the New York Times and The Economist for two among the thousands of media perspectives on this historic decision by the people, for the people of the United Kingdom. 

One of the rationales given for the "leave" decision was the EU's demand that member nations comply with an open borders policy, making it possible for residents and workers to easily migrate between countries to live and work. And for older, less educated Britons who, like their American counterparts are suffering professional and economically, immigration became the easy scapegoat. One commentator on The World said a "leave the EU" campaign slogan was "Make Great Britain Great Again." 

This is a familiar refrain here in the U.S.

Which got me to thinking. 

What if we simply swapped voters? 

Think about it. The "Leave the EU" voters are kindred spirits of Donald Trump's base of support, while the "Remain in the EU" voters might be compared to Hillary Clinton supporters in their rational appreciation for the benefits that come with a nation state's investment in the collective whole. 

What if we invited the "Leave the EU" people to come live in America, hassle-free, and gave the Hillary supporters the same hassle-free option to move to the UK? 

Don't think about it. Just react. If you are a Hillary supporter, would you take the free pass to Europe? I know I would. 

Post your vote in the comments section. As with Brexit, we'll figure out the details later.