Apr 2, 2015

hazy shade of winter

A friend of mine, the other day, in considering a romantic quandary, poised the question to me,
"but won't that be wasting my time"

Well, now, there are some questions you just can't answer for another person.
But, I, in general, and certainly as I get older ,find I have hard time quantifying the value of time. Which is to say: I am not sure time can be wasted, because times value is in its spending.

I mean, sure, get in the wrong line and you could argue you might be wasting a few precious moments waiting accomplishing less than you planned. But, I mean, maybe not. Maybe you had your headphones on it was all more time with the Beatles. Or maybe it was not the most joyous and productive use of your time to spin your wheels, and now you will need to give up spending time doing something more fun. Clearly, in as much as some tasks are more enjoyable than others, time can be "wasted".

But that is where things get more murky. In the case of my friend she was pondering that eternal question of whether time in a relationship that did not, ultimately, flourish and end up where you thought it might is "wasted time".

 Again, a question I could never answer for another person.

But I proffer this, often, as an answer for "did you waste your time".

Did you enjoy that time?
Did you learn something?
Are you who you are today because of that time and do you appreciate who you are?

Understand: I have been in more than one unfulfilling relationship. I have, in fact, been in balls out destructive, ridiculous, should I change my social security number now perhaps types of romantic foibles. I have walked out and holy shit what was I doing and how did I think that would work and why did I think that for so long?

But did they waste my time? Did they ultimately take time away from something more important or more fulfilling? And in the end, do I wish I were somewhere else because of that time spent?

I don't think so.

I mean,  if ones goals were to only fill life with beautiful experiences and mentally healthy examples of mutual support and love, perhaps such years would be considered wasted time. But if one were to make a point of only having positive experiences I am also pretty sure one would slowly find oneself shaking alone in a padded room of ones choosing, unpredictable as life may be.

So the reality is that we are going to choose to spend time in jobs, relationships, social engagements, perhaps musical festivals, in which the learning experience is not entirely pleasant.  Hopefully most of these experiences will inform our understanding of what we want from the present, maybe some of them will simply make us shake from relief when we are over.

But I suspect, if you want to be grateful for the time you have, then you also learn to enjoy the way life tends to hand you joyous and amazing experiences sandwiched right between total shit storms, and you stop considering time as a means to another end and begin to evaluate it in terms of where you want to be, and what you can absorb while you are there. 

Because being grateful for what you have managed to emerge from, the good and the bad, helps foster the kind of joy and self esteem that helps you spend time more appropriately in the future.

Which is to say: time is the one thing you have to spend, whether you like it or not. It is best to spend it where you and when you want, but to understand,  it leaves behind a pile of dust either way. Compress it into a diamond, sweep it under the carpet, consider the future topography it might some day become. You can't reshape the past, but you can use your past to shape your future.

Your choice.

Feb 11, 2015

Mother Teresa and the organism

If you get your news from Facebook like I do, perhaps you have been newly privy to the various exposes on Mother Teresa and how she wasn't the saint everyone thought her to be.

I want to care. I do. But I don't.
I want to be surprised. But I am not.

Mostly I don't see why it should really, truly matter.

That is the thing about saints. Role models. Even loved politicians. Everyone wants them to be perfect. Amazing. Beyond reproach and above us on every level.
I used to think this was fine and that the world needed heroes to provide aspiration, and that the very thought of beautiful humans like Gandhi and Mother Teresa inspired people to do good, to imagine a piece of that beauty in them too.
Now I am not sure. Especially when their fall leaves so many people feeling dirty and disillusioned and looking for a new perfect thing to tear apart.

But that isn't even the real issue for me. The real issue, for me, is found in the extremism attributed to "good deeds" in the first place. The need to ascribe altruism to the societal contract in order to justify the work. The need to look at things like caring for the sick and helping the poor as "charity" and not "necessary work" to help society function more effectively. Because then it becomes the thing good people do. The thing saints and heroes do. They look out for the less fortunate because they are magically more caring and empathetic than you, and you, because you cringe when a homeless man tries to touch you or you want to move away when you see a sick person, assume you aren't the type to do such work, and so distance yourself, and think of it as another persons problem, another saints mission.

This, to me, is relatively akin to how people these days engage with diet and exercise. Break your diet and go on a binge! Eat some sugar and you've blow the whole thing! Can't look like a super model? Why bother? Cross fit or go home! It is ludicrous and unhealthy and deprives you of happiness and rest. It is akin to starting a walking regimen, and you feel better and sleep better and suddenly can go out later and have more fun and wow! it is small and simple and life is nicer. the organism you are part of is beginning to thrive! and then you notice that your ass is still big and you aren't any closer to loving your body in a bikini. so you try to jog. and hate it. so you throw it all away, because exercise is for athletes anyway. beautiful unnaturally strong people move! not you! and so you spend that time drinking instead. And buying shit. And die 10 years earlier and in debt, hating life that much more and the skin suit you live in the whole time. It completely misses the point around adding healthy choices to your world: that you become HEALTHIER, and generally happier in the process.

And I increasingly find myself thinking of our society as an organism. And having sick, poor, starving, homeless people isn't healthy for that organism. So you don't help people move towards self sufficiency just because you have a saintly heart and a gallon of empathy. You do it for the same reason that you don't just moisturize half of your body. You do it because it is your job. Everyone's job in some manner. And it will make you and everyone happier. Because we are failing, as a society, if we succeed on the backs of others. Not just because it is cruel and unfair, but because those backs will collapse, and leave us in a muddy bloody heap. So you participate in the process of finding ways to help more and more people live happy healthy lives so you don't have to fear your neighbor and their understandable angry desperation, so you don't have to become a shut in behind your big shiny door to keep the sick away. So you don't have to crush down, constantly, the worry that you are the next victim to societal inequity and uncaring cruelty.

And so it doesn't matter if Mother Teresa helped the poor because she was a saint or a sadist. It doesn't matter if she helped them at all. It matters if you help them. And If your neighbor, who cheats on his wife and taxes still helps them...well then he is helping. Get it? And yes, he should probably stop cheating on his wife and pay his taxes too, but it doesn't make his positive participation in society any less meaningful or any less compelling.

So worry less about that donut you picket up yesterday and enjoy your walk. And also, consider the aim of your work and life: are you participating in the betterment of the world you live in? Do your actions find a connection to the street you walk down and the forests your gaze upon? Because I think that is really what should be making facebook headlines: sum gains through sociatal participation in it's own betterment. Not the continuous searching, extolling and then tearing down of heroes



Jan 31, 2015

all ears

Being a parent is hard. You hear that all the time. You hear how it is hard on the parent. How it is takes its toll on their sleep, their creativity, their career. No doubt. Try performing a financial analysis on 3 hours sleep and you'll know this to be true.

But it is also hard on their community, their friends, their lovers, the rest of their family, those who require their love and attention and sensitivity.

I have often maintained that there is no limit to the love you can give and receive and I still believe this to be mostly true. Life has a way of making room for one more when it really matters, and  getting and giving love has a way of expanding ones loving capacity. So I don't think it is can be said that being a parent uses up the love one has to give, I think that would be simplistic, and in the end, a bit nihilistic.


I do, however, that one can only do so much active listening without expending significant effort, and being a parent involves a lot of listening. Empathy.  Honing your input levels to understand a human being that cannot yet express themselves well, be it through limits in language, or simple immaturity. WHAT do they want? Why do they want it? Should we give it to them? How do we express what we are doing and why we want them to do certain things and why some things are "NO" and others are "YAY"?

And these questions are not terribly dissimilar to the questions one might ask oneself about those they care about if they wish to be a good friend, because part of being a good friend is, in the end, being a good listener...taking things in, analyzing what others are saying and wanting, and finding way to be help, even if helping is just understanding.

But at the end of the day I think many new parents are done with listening. All day they were trying to figure out why their kid suddenly hates blueberries and why that one puppet made them cry and do they really hurt when they say "owie" or are they just exploring a new way to get attention. They are also listening for deeper cues: is their child happy? Well rested? Did they hear the beginnings of a cold or a sad note where they shouldn't have? Is their child listening in kind? It is a crash course on multiple levels of communication and it can be draining.

I think this is why you see those gross article on how to treat a new parent that imply you should expect your new parent friends to be, basically, selfish assholes who have no room for you and your problems. I don't like those articles. They aren't helpful and they aren't fair. They put child rearing outside the normal flow of life and issue directives on how to treat people like they are sick or needy, or children themselves. They grant permission for people to become poor friends, bad neighbors. A friend is a friend, and sometimes friendships are uneven, but there is rarely a situation that should issue a directive that one friend does all the work, especially one so common as parenting.

I think, in the end, it would be more helpful to explore how to handle the saturation that occurs from opening your mind and heart to input all day, and how to harness that so that we can all have families, and still nurture other meaningful relationships.

I also think understanding the source of the exhaustion can be helpful in defining what is truly draining, vs that which might just be challenging, but ultimately rewarding.

That being said, I frequently feel like apologizing these days when I find myself directing inward in the company of adults, when I find myself tuning out, or getting frustrated that an adult is having a hard to efficiently communicating a need. I realize that this is just part of being a human, interacting with other humans, and I do no one a service by refusing to listen. In fact, all I do is make myself work harder in the long run to maintain the love and environment I want.

One of my favorite things about having a child is that it is an ongoing lesson in the many facets of what makes love and life work (or not work). Some of the lessons are easier to understand, and simpler to integrate. Some simply restate an ongoing challenge you have struggled with your whole life.

Either way you grow, if you allow yourself.

Sep 17, 2014

mirror mirror

one look in their eyes and you know you look as tired, as old, as worn as you feel
and you feel so stupid the moment you notice,  that it is a surprise, even though you have seen the pictures, felt the loose skins, own a damn mirror
and you feel even worse for caring, because in the long line of things that matter to you, things you hold dear and love, you know this is not the most important thing, or even, probably an IMPORTANT THING, but it still stings, it still haunts
and part of you also knows there are, most likely, things you could do...take vitamins, moisturize, sleep more, eat better, exercise more, buy a damn bra
but you also know that is just not gonna happen because in your down time you will be sinking into the couch instead and possibly beating yourself up for not having enough time or making more nutritious food for the new love of your life, the teeny tiny creature with the enormous soul that swallows your heart whole every time you see her, for the betterment of your life, if not necessarily your ass

Sep 11, 2014

Happy

I've always felt a little guilty, but I shudder when posed with unendingly positive people.
The "don't worry, be happy" mindset makes me want to gag, or giggle, or both.

Don't get me wrong, I want to be happy. I am, at heart, positive, hopeful. My chosen profession, in fact, depends upon the optimistic and hopeful belief that everyone can be healthier and happier, with work and resources well distributed.

I also cherish the notion of less weighty, more euphoric experiences. A day on the beach, and night on the town? Sign me up! I'd love to giggle until dawn.

But no, I am not always happy, and no, I don't feel like I should expose myself only to driven positive ideas that push me to be all that I can be. I don't believe every day will be beautiful, I don't believe every door closed is an open window (well, umm, maybe, perhaps). Sometimes things are hard or the weather is shit or I am exhausted and I don't believe that I should ignore every nagging sad or confusing or frustrating thought as dead weight.

I used to feel weird about this. Wonder if it was rooted in some kind of fear driven cynicism, caused by the sarcastic hipster demeanor that was letting everyone know I was too smart to hope, too wise to believe.

I no longer believe that.
Because I am not cynical all the time and I DO want to today and any day that can be to be peaceful and happy and gorgeous and fun.

But I do not believe every day can be. And that is fine. And I am not always happy. And that is fine.

And here is why: because I believe all emotions, all honestly rendered and critically examined reactions have value?

Jealousy? That can be a sign of things missing in your life, elements you need and have not been focusing on. Or maybe it draws attention to something you did not realize you valued.

Anger? Maybe something or someone is not working in your life. Maybe you were truly, deeply wronged, and need to work on that not happening again? Maybe your intrinsic sense of self worth is asking you to look around and figure out how to be more at peace, and maybe that is a voice worth listening?

Sad? well, there are a million different reasons this might be the case, many legitimate. Perhaps you are mourning a loss, maybe you are experiencing a trauma, or simply finding things difficult.  Integrating and understanding the things that are making you less than happy allows you to acknowledge the value of things you might have lost or be missing.

And on and on.

But to put it another way: When I was young, life felt much more like a battle. Between good and bad, between happy and sad, negating one with another in a holy war that would end, I imagine, with my walking on sunshine with health, wealth and a beautiful family.
Now I recognize things are not black and white, not that this or that. These things take their texture from the full range of human emotions and reactions, and that peace and beauty has more to do with balance and integration, than rejection and negation.
And so I have come to find intense determined happiness, smiling when we are down, insistence of rejection of the less fair emotions as a negative experience, indeed, an ugly instinct. A head in the sand instinct, intrinsically false, and finally, one that guides one away from growth, discovery, and yes, true happiness.

Saved

I've listened time and again to their stories of the people they have saved...the sad, lost souls, drug addicts, what have you, who were lost, screwed, just totally fucked until they stepped in and showed them a better way of life and led them away from their imminent demised. Some of them truly are saved, they go on to live richer lives, grateful for their riches, grateful. Others, less so. They falter, they fall, they go back, or change, or move on. They are ungrateful, they are ingrates. They do not feel the sacrifices made to bring them out of their destitute lives, they do not understand the love and struggle their benefactor endured to change them.

No. I am not talking about a priest. I am not talking about a missionary. I am not talking about a deity.

Oh the ugly American. Oh the hidden superhero, driven to save instead of help, fancied, in their own mine, a hero and victor.

Understand, I think the desire to help people in beautiful. The desire to be part of a solution in world in which there are so many ways to be part of a problem is important, moving and I wish I saw it even more often than I do.
There are a great many ways people need help and a great many ways you can be there for people in need.

But that help needs to be rooted in respect, driven by less a selfless desire to give than a driving need to better your world and help everyone reach their potential. It needs to begin with the understanding that there is no saving, no trash grabbed before it reaches the incinerator, no soul pinched before it descends to hell in your holy little hands. Help begins with allowing people the tools they need to move themselves where they need and want to be. And that is it.

To save someone is an entirely different manner. To fancy oneself a savior, inherently ugly. It is a patriarchal step towards ruin, in which you see yourself as not just equipped with the tools to help, but somehow better, somehow inherently in the position to offer grace on your own terms, in scape of your own value system.

There is a Vonnegut quote that postulates that evil lives in mans desire to hate and believe that G-d hates along with him. It is that ego that allows man to make war gladly, to punish without reserve or limit.
I'd postulate that the need to believe that your works, your love, your desires are equally holy, equally without question and endowed with unending power is just as ugly. And that it is ego, unadulterated, to want a minion of those who are eternally gracious, who owe your their happiness, or who owe you at all.
And finally, that you should always question, you should always know: you might be strong, you might be lucky, but you are just that, a strong lucky human, and it is nice of you to help.

Or, to put it better.

We don't need another hero.

Do you work, and do it well. Then go home, relax, and find peace in the good you do and the gratitude you owe, as well.

Aug 25, 2014

Don't hate the player, hate the game

What I hated most about it was the game...the gimmicky bait and twist aspect of it all.
The make up and heels and maybe I am interested and it is my job to make you interested even if I am not to prove that I am worth something to myself and others game.

I am talking about dating of course.

And, ofcourse, I never played it like that. I was more a knee high boots and a grimace and I don't fucking care if you call me tomorrow sort of player, but I guess, in the end, I played it, if somewhat poorly, none the less.

The thing I could never get around were the subtextual rules. On the surface it should have been obvious that we were all just there to meet new people and hopefully someone we could love or like and make new friends and lovers.
But there was always something more than that, because where egos are fragile other agendas were bound to brew. And for every lovely (or not so lovely, lets be honest) person just looking to interview and select a new partner or friend, there were others looking for followers, looking for fans.

And so I find myself in the dating game once again.
Only it is different this time. It is the new mom dating game where we try to meet and greet and seduce new moms into being your new BFFs so you have someone to call in the middle of the night when your kid won't sleep or someone to meet at the park and drink beer out of coffee mugs while wave at your adorable littles (actually, I have never done, that, but now I am wonderying whhhyyyy)

And this is just as hard, because what I lack in charm I make up for in breastilage, and in the past that got me about as far as I can go.

But lets face it, in this new crowd cleavage only goes so far (hell, all new moms have cleavage, right, if even for a scant time) and figuring out what will bond and amuse is even farther as we discuss strollers and baby carries and books and naptimes.

But what gets me still are the collectors, the prancers, and the namecard carriers.
For every well exposed set of legs that stole the show back in the day there are now the high end diaper bags and DIY wraps and hand made snacks that show you are even more super mom than the rest.  And these people aren't looking for friends. They aren't looking for kindred spirits to soar and topple with, to gossip with and to show up, at the park, in yesterdays clothing and some whacked out hair and a gallon of coffee while they giggle as their kids toddle about the yard. They are looking for fans. Admirers of their parenting style and accomplishments.

But like a singles club it is hard to resist their lure as they collect your number and throw it on the pile and you wonder: was a genuine collection made or is this mom just looking for another name to know, another person to wave to in a group... and, worse, it is hard not, just a bit, to compete with creatures, dressing your baby just so, feeding them organic snackies and showing just how much you care.

So here is the thing. I am looking for love. And maybe a few one night stands. Metaphorically, of course.
I don't need any fans and I need, even less, someone to envy and emulate.
You'll find me at the play yard. Amazing beautiful ridiculous toddler climbing everything and anything as I try to stop her while not spilling my coffee and keeping most of her clothing on. That is me, and I'm not much to look at, but my intentions are pure.

Jun 19, 2014


If I were to ask you to drop one thing to day it would be the qualified apology.

 

That is the “I am sorry, but”

 

I mean, unless it is in the vein of “I am sorry, but I need to ask you to move so I can get my wheelchair around…”

Or something of the ilk.

 

But the next time you find yourself muttering an apology, followed by the word “but”…

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the “but?”

 

Are you giving context for your transgression? If so, perhaps you might consider dropping the “but” and making it clear your apology is authentic by simply using “and” or nothing at all.

NOT: I am sorry I am late, but I  was caught in traffic (thereby absolving oneself of blame and clarifying a certain lack of personal concern) BUT: I am sorry I was late. I got caught in traffic and next time will allow more time to get here.

NOT: I am sorry I was rude, but I am having a bad day (thereby clarifying that your behavior is outside of your own jurisdiction and quite actually the fault of an outside party, not to mention that you are not willing to mitigate such behavior in order to prevent another person from having the same bad day) BUT: I am sorry I was rude, I am having a bad day and should not have taken that out on you”

 

See the distinction.


Or better yet, if context provides little comfort or clarity, just drop the details, after all.

“I am sorry I was late, I should have planned for traffic”

“I am sorry I was rude, I shouldn’t take my bad day out on other people”

 

AND, more saliently, if you are not sorry, best not to utter words that mean that. If sorry if being used as a disclaimer (I am sorry for violating this societal norm, but as you can see, even though I am aware of it, I actually just don’t give a fuck about it it!) then just drop it entirely. Wear your devil may care attitude proudly, because at that point by apologizing you are just clarifying that another’s possible discomfort is their own problem, one you are aware probably exists, but which comes secondarily to your own and you are being patronizing by letting them know you considered their feelings, then decided not to care.