Tag: birthday

My Place In Everything is Small, but Absolute

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My step sister Stephanie took this picture of me and my brother Zeke and it’s one of my favorites of all time. That’s our dad in the background.

I have just turned 45 years old. I may not know that much, but I have a lot of thoughts about what I DO know:

People who are outwardly weird and unwholesome haven’t got as much to gain by hiding their darkness as outwardly wholesome people do. People intent on shining a light on their own wholesomeness nearly always have a dismembered body in a freezer in the basement.

My place in everything is small but absolute.

Even so, my hope that humans will delight and surprise me rises fresh every single morning no matter how hard I’ve sworn the night before that we should be lit on fire in a magnificent purifying funereal pyre.

Humans are highest on the food chain but also highest on the virus chain. We’re definitely not “ALL THAT”

My opinion of humans as a species has never been lower than it is today.

Balance in all things would be my religion if I had to claim one. So if I want to find enlightenment I must try to achieve balance. This presents many challenges to a person of exuberant opinion who shrinks inwardly at confrontation in spite of seeing the truth and the heart of things excruciatingly clearly and knowing my place in everything.

Your place in everything is small but absolute too.

Everything that happens was meant to happen or it wouldn’t have happened. I’m not saying there’s necessarily reasons for everything, just that if you think there’s such a thing as intention in the universe or God, AT ALL, then you can’t simultaneously believe that someone “wasn’t meant to die” or that someone “shouldn’t have struggled the way they did”. What you really mean is that you’re super fucking sad that something happened and you don’t want to accept the reality.

Swearing is a brilliant pressure valve. I will evolve my swearing as I age to take advantage of the most cutting edge way of blunting my rage and having a good time with it. I will also periodically plumb language history to dig up and use ridiculous ancient expressions of rage and coarseness.

The least lovable human trait is bigotry. The most lovable human trait is non-violent expressions of protest to stand up for what is honorable and empathetic.

WRONG. The most lovable human trait is love itself.

You are me and I am you. We are all of us inextricably linked together via mitochondrial DNA. Get the fuck over it already.

I can see worms in the hearts of humans, and where there are worms there is rot. I would like strew sweet herbs across us all to dry out the rot and heal the wound.

I am a person forged of wild contradictions of spirit. I believe in peace and nonviolence with all of my skin and bones yet I also see myself as a warrior.

The passion and rawness with which I might describe my wishes and feelings is not always the same force that dictates my actions. Give more weight to my actions than my words.

I’ve met people who act as flashlights on the darkest nights, though they rarely know it. People whose smile alone can make a room incandescent with hope and love, though they rarely know it because they aren’t smiling for themselves but for YOU. They’re smiling because they see your potential straight through your skin, right through your heart.

That’s the person I want to be, the one lighting the way through the dark for others.

I might be too soggy to provide fire for the shivering but I’d like to think I might have a warm enough blanket to wrap them in.

That is all.

Peace, my friends.

But more than that, LOVE.

Number 44

orange tabby saying hi

Thought while shopping at Trader Joe’s:  Everyone should thank me for not wearing tights as “pants”.

Thought while stopping at a stop sign a half a block from my house: I don’t want to be one of those people who die on their birthday.

Back on the repeat track:  Life is not life if it alters with alteration… (remember that old brain tick?)*

While sitting alone at La Rosa I “accidentally” listened to the conversation at a table near me and thought: That man is uncomfortable and feels this place is a little out of his league but he wants to impress his date and is interrogating the waitress like a policeman.**

Heard at the table behind Max and me at Adele’s: “I’ve killed all my boyfriends” She drank chablis, reeked of hard living, and wore a workman’s hat with metal studs in it.

So today I’m 44 years old.  I don’t have that much to say about the age itself.  I don’t have any particular feelings about the number 44.  Wait, no, I do.  44 is a pretty nice looking number.  Very crisp.  Very sharp.  44 needs to wear ghillie brogues.  Good thing I already own a pair.  44 begs for an ascot or diamonds.  Now that I’m really looking at it – 44 is a pretty shiny number.  43 was much softer and home-bound and gut-spilling.  43 was all about the knits and the sweaters and pyjamas.  43 sleeps in but 44 is up at the crack of dawn.  43 wears slippers to the grocery store and 44 makes fun of it.

This is the year to get out the kinks, sharpen focus, tighten routines, power down and then power the fucking hell UP and UP and UP.  This is the year to establish a new rhythm and reclaim so much lost highway.  This is the year to punch holes in old lies and wear boss sunglasses.

There’s still time to die today.

*No?  It’s a misquote of Shakespeare that my head repeats over and over and over and over sometimes.  Or sometimes it just pops up randomly.  I think the frequency with which my brain burps this one up is indication of how distressed it is.

**La Rosa isn’t fancy.  I don’t feel comfortable at fancy places.  But this guy was more of an Outback dude who orders onion flowers and who balks at the idea that the world has over 100 varieties of tequilas and La Rosa has them ALL.

Wisdom I’m Old Enough To Share Today

Last night I discovered that I had two fingers completely impaled by open tweezers and I couldn’t figure out if I needed to go to the doctor to get them out – if there would be too much blood or if I could even bring myself to remove them and I wanted some kind of anesthetic to make it easier but suddenly I found myself pulling them out painfully slowly – and painfully.  I didn’t have time to rejoice because I had to go to the school auditorium to see a performance but I couldn’t find a seat I could stand to sit in – I needed to be able to see everyone coming and going – and I couldn’t find anyone I knew.  Which is just as well because I had to leave early anyway to attend a meeting in my crisp white prim fifties dress and heels and red lipstick which I immediately regretted when I realized who the meeting was with.

A total snake oil salesman trying to convince me and another male teacher to engage in some nefarious scheme.  We watched his presenting with gathering outrage that he would think we would be involved in such a scheme.  We were especially horrified when he wouldn’t stop trying to convince us to get on board even after we realized that zombies were headed for the building.  Other people took shelter in the big room and some of us were trying to close windows and lock them and I was having difficulty with some of them and those who weren’t helping at all were criticizing how I was trying to jimmy the locks shut and the blinds down and I was getting angry and telling them they should get off their asses and help because THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING YOU GODDAMN SIMPLETONS!

The two doors to the room weren’t working properly either and no one would help me figure out how to secure them so the room would be safe at least for a while and then things were a blur and the zombies came and everyone was terrified and I stopped caring if the idiots who didn’t help were killed or not and then I was outside down the hill because I’d managed to get out to help someone else and now I had to come back but I couldn’t see any zombies even though I knew they had to be there somewhere and I couldn’t figure out where to take cover and my attire was ridiculous and I wondered if anyone had been left alive.

I counted my change at the bus stop.  I couldn’t find the right change.  I dug in my bag, in my pockets, in my coin purse.  I couldn’t find enough dollars and I could see the bus turning onto the street…

That’s how I spent the first several hours of being 43.  I woke up looking a bit haggard but I managed to get a couple extra hours of dreamless sleep between 8am and 10:30am.  It’s my birthday today and I have been married for 20 years!

It is the custom, once you get this far in both life and (happy) marriages to have accumulated some wisdom and to think everyone wants to hear it.  I’m no fool and I figure you all have your own hard-won wisdom and don’t need mine, but this is MY blog so I’m going to list whatever wisdom I can scrape from the cranial cave today.

Wisdom that I am now old enough to share:

  • No matter how far you fall from your own expectations, never give up on yourself.
  • Don’t let other people’s expectations of you influence you more than your own.
  • Don’t measure your success by anyone else’s yardstick.  Develop your own yardstick for what success means and stick to it come hell or high fucking water.
  • Be kind to yourself.  It’s the only way you’ll encourage yourself to become even better.  I have to work on this one every single day.
  • No matter what kind of relationships you have in your life – you always share the responsibility for their quality and nature and outcome.
  • If you are in a relationship that is destructive – you have the power to get out. It might be the hardest thing you ever do, it might be the scariest thing you ever do – but if you’re an adult you have the POWER.  Use it.
  • Staying married “for the sake of the kid(s)” is never good for the kids.
  • Don’t marry someone you don’t respect.  Don’t marry someone you don’t LIKE.  Sex is such a small part of partnership.  Romance is insignificant compared to good companionship and shared interests.
  • If you hate your life – change it.
  • Wear the best shoes you can afford.
  • Accept help and support from others when you need it and it is offered.  You will have plenty of opportunity to repay the kindness.
  • Don’t keep score.  Only assholes keep score.  The need to keep score is almost always a sign of a heart grown small through calcification.  The more you keep score the more unhappy you’ll become, the smaller your heart will get.
  • Learn to let go: of expectations, of stuff, of bitterness, of the past, of ideas, of garbage, of fear, of unhealthy relationships (friends, family, partners, any unhealthy relationship), of places, of ideals, of prejudices, of broken chairs, of hurt, of self doubt, of habit, of weight on your shoulders, of need, of desire, of dreams, of fabric, of hate, of hesitation.
  • Learn to set boundaries even when it makes you uncomfortable to do it.  You’ll become a lot less uncomfortable once you have good boundaries set up.
  • Always keep fun in your life – whatever that means to you.  You don’t have to like games, balloons, limericks, dirty jokes, parlour games, clowns, or confetti – but if those things are fun to you – ENJOY THEM OFTEN!*
  • Laugh.  Do it often.  From the gut.  If your life is no laughing matter right now – I suggest you find shows or music that makes you laugh.  Saturday Night Live and Mob music does it for me.  My kid also makes me laugh often.
  • Learn to listen to others.
  • If you have emotional or mental challenges – get help.  You get to decide how to manage your own mental and emotional health but it will be infinitely easier to discover what tools will work for you if you know what you’re dealing with.  Getting a diagnosis and getting help doesn’t diminish you as a person: it empowers you.
  • If you hate where you live: MOVE.
  • Wear your favorite color often.
  • Always be honest with yourself.  Even if you can’t be honest with everyone else – always be honest with yourself.  It will simplify your life and help you make better decisions.
  • Have a Pippa in your life.
  • Don’t evangelize any aspect of your life.  Inspire people by example, don’t preach.
  • It’s okay not to read or listen to any news.
  • Cultivate forgiveness.  Of yourself and of others.
  • Be awake to possibilities.
  • Live in the present as much as possible.  Unpack your boxes and hang your pictures.  Plant your garden and make friends as though you’re never going to move.
  • Don’t worry about enjoying EVERY MINUTE of parenting, or work, or vacations, or adventures.  No one needs that kind of pressure.  Enjoy the enjoyable and complain about the dismal.  It’s your right as a human being to experience whatever you experience honestly.  You don’t owe it to anyone to be happy all the time.
  • It’s okay to enjoy dressing up or owning diamonds.  No amount of frivolous fun can diminish the quality of your spirit.  Loving frills doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist or a scientist or an athlete or a businessperson or anything you want to be.
  • Conversely – not liking frills or jewels doesn’t make you any less of a woman.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • If zombies are headed for your house – don’t argue about how to properly shut the windows – just nail those fuckers closed!

It’s 2pm and I’m still in my pyjamas.  It’s time to get dressed, get made up, and open some champagne to celebrate!

Cheers to 43!!

*Those things are my personal definition of MISERY, but not everyone can hate games like I do.

41 and 18 are Very Good Numbers

I turned 41 years old today.  Turning 41 is infinitely better than turning 10.  Or 20.  Or 35.  Thirty five was a very stupid year for me.  Also incredibly painful what with breaking my acetabulum (first bone I ever broke) and then getting a colposcopy immediately followed by a biopsy.

I have to say that while 40 has had some pretty intense challenges it has also been a year of breaking through, pulling up, lightening up, growing strength, and some real fun.  I am physically stronger than I was a year ago by quite a lot- I’m not much thinner (I gained back some of what I lost 6 months ago) but I can do full push-ups for the first time in years.  I can kick higher and stronger, I can punch harder and tighter, I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was 35.  I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was 84 pounds lighter.

That’s another great choke-hold released this year: changing my medications last June was absolutely one of the best things I did all year and I can thank my family physician for taking such good and thoughtful care of me.  Proper medication for people with lifelong clinical depression and anxiety is essential to overall health.

The result is that now when I take care of my body and stop drinking so much beer and eating so much damn cheese and get my ass moving with exercise- my body actually responds, just as it should.  I lost 20 pounds last year and then in the last few months of slacking off on in my self discipline I gained back 12 pounds.  I’m not panicking.  I’m not depressed.  I am responsible for that weight gain.  Me.  Not my medications.  I have gone without beer for three days, no cheese besides a modest amount of feta, eaten really well, no snacking that wasn’t a piece of fruit… the result is that in three days I lost 2 pounds.

That’s how my body used to react before Paxil.  If I put in the effort and the time exercising, eating well, and not snacking on cheese and crackers late at night, I lose weight.  For the last three years this was not true.  I would work hard and see NO results.  In fact, I would work hard and then gain weight.  I would give up for a while, and gain weight.  Then I would pull myself up again and work even harder, and gain weight.  Never lose.

It’s difficult to maintain your energy, your motivation, and your will to even try when you see NO results.  I didn’t expect anything spectacular at any point.  Just that I would see some small progress.

Now my body is doing exactly what it should be doing when I reduce my daily calories for three days by about a thousand a day and get a total of two hours of exercise in that same time- shedding a couple of pounds.

This, my peoples, this is an incredible thing to me.

Can you imagine how amazing and strong my kicks could be if I wasn’t lugging around this extra 84 pounds?

My intention for this year is to get down to 200 pounds and get my blue belt in Kung Fu.  This year I actually have a chance of achieving that goal.

I’m going to finish my first novel this year too.  There is a contest going on between Penguin Books, Creative Space, and Amazon for a breakout novel and I’m going to enter it.  I have nothing to lose and it will at the very least start preparing me for the other thing I have to do this year: start querying publishers and literary agents.

I really truly deeply suck at making pitches so if anyone can coach me on that I will not say no to help.  I need to learn to make a fantastic pitch.  This is the equivalent of selling stuff and you all know my mad selling skills.

I know a lot of people have ideas about what they’re going to have accomplished by certain ages but I think that might be too much pressure.  There are no time limits on what you can accomplish in your life, except for death itself.  As long as you’re not dead you can achieve amazing things at almost any age.  I know people perceive time limits such as having to have children before the egg factory closes up, but if you really truly want children because you want them in your life you can adopt a child at almost any age provided you can show you can care for them.  You might want to become a marathon runner but then you aged and got rheumatoid arthritis, it’s not too late.  Did you know that?  You can race in wheel chairs.  You can do sports in wheel chairs.

My cousin Nick is a paraplegic from a snow boarding accident.  A lot of people would just give the hell up on themselves.  He was only in his early twenties.  The Christmas letter I got from my cousins this year had a picture of Nick skiing in his wheel chair.

For the person who is willing to let their desires change shape to fit with reality, there is no limit to what you can do.

Most unhappiness, I think, comes from expectations we develop about who we’re supposed to be, what we should be able to accomplish, and not being willing to find creative ways to fulfill our desires and dreams when life has changed us irrevocably.  I don’t believe in miracles.  I do believe in determination and flexibility.

Today is also my 18th wedding anniversary.  I am going to share with you all my number one tip for a good relationship:

Don’t keep score.  If you’re keeping score on hurts, insults, annoyances, inadequacies, arguments, bad decisions, or anything else- you’re relationship is corrosive.  You may not think so now, but it is and eventually it will either implode or slowly sicken you both with unhappiness.

So don’t do it.

Who said what or did what last year doesn’t matter.  If you care that much about who said what last year or last month or last week then you are stuck in a ditch and need to get the hell out.  Let go of it.  What matters is what YOU say or do next.  Those bad moments need to be dealt with within a very short period of time and then let go of.

If you keep bringing up how your spouse disappointed you in the past it’s like sticking a needle in their heart over and over.  You have not got over things and if you haven’t it means you haven’t got what you need from your spouse and that needs to be addressed.  If your spouse is incapable of giving you what you need, then you need to end the relationship.

What I’ve noticed is that a lot of couples who keep score don’t ever really tell each other what they need in the first place.  Most people cannot read each other’s minds.  What I’ve noticed a lot of couples do is to drag their mutual baggage around for years and assume that if their spouse can’t SEE what the matter is without being told then they are just that much deeper in the shit-hole they’ve both spent so much time digging.

Score-keeping is toxic.

A lot of people do it.  A lot of couples I know do it.

Another thing is that it really does take two to make a relationship either good or bad.  If it’s good then it’s because both of you are working at it, maintaining it, and putting your best into it.  If it’s bad it’s both of you.  If you are constantly complaining about your spouse and every day are annoyed and finding them not living up to your standards then either your standards are for fictional people only, OR (and this is way more likely) you aren’t living up to theirs either.  If you are deeply unhappy with your marriage it is absolutely just as much your responsibility as theirs.  You contribute to it just the same.

The only situation in which I see anything even slightly skewed from what I have said above is in an abusive relationship.  But here the hard truth is hardest of all and always sounds unkind but the truth is that adults who are in abusive relationships and stay in them are contributing to that relationship as well.  Allowing someone to abuse you continually is giving them permission, it is being complicit.  Children have no power to leave abusive situations but adults do.  If you’re in an abusive situation then you have to get out.  And then you need to stop choosing abusive partnerships.  To be clear: I’m not saying there is ever a situation where a person DESERVES to be abused.  I am only saying that everyone is personally responsible for the relationship choices they make.  If you find you were mistaken in your partner and didn’t know they were abusive, you must get out.  Staying in the relationship will not fix the abuser and it will only further hurt yourself.  You most likely need therapy to work on your self esteem and to learn what a healthy relationship is.  But mostly you need to not stay because staying is being complicit with abuse.

I have learned a lot about maintaining a relationship and one of the biggest things I’ve learned and continue to work on all the time is looking at myself every time I point a finger at Philip.  I may be unhappy with something he’s done but a lot of the time there is something I’ve done that has contributed to a misunderstanding or a piece of unhappiness.  I have to be willing to honestly look at how I’m treating him all the time because what I do, how I treat him, and what kind of spouse I’m being is what I have the most control over.

Listening is also very very important.  Talking to each other.  And listening.

People say I’m lucky to have “found” Philip.  There really wasn’t a lot of luck involved so I always get annoyed.  Good partners don’t drop into your lap from the sky.  You have to be able to see a person beyond your hormonal reaction to them.  “Finding” a good partner is about recognizing one when you see one and going for it.

So I’m 41 and been married 18 years and have a 10 year old son and am writing the second draft of my first novel.

Plus I have a great right hook.

If I die today I will be happy with what I’ve accomplished and not worry about all the things I haven’t yet achieved like: being really rich, being published, living in Scotland, becoming a Canadian, keeping my house, getting my old pink house back, or being a black belt in Kung Fu.

Those are the things I will keep working at until my time runs out or I achieve them and have new goals and hopes.

I can’t know how this next year is going to unfold but I’m not scared.