here it comes. . .

Since I quoted Fiona Apple yesterday, I listened to Extraordinary Machine and Tidal in my car today driving to and from my “big” gig.

Many great songs, many great lines, but the one that caught my attention, as it has many times in the past is:

Here it comes, a better version of me.

Such a layered line. Cynical voice comments:

  • Promises, promises.
  • What’s wrong with the present version?
  • Ah, yes, the continuing striving for self-improvement. Good for you.
  • Yeah, yeah, heard that before.

And it reminds me of what I’m writing about here.

When is what you see as your “issue” YOU, and when is it the rest of the world?

If other people misinterpret what I mean, or what I say, or the expression that I wear, is that my “problem,” or theirs?

When do I take advantage of “learning from my mistakes” and when do I take the lesson to be one of self-acceptance?

I spent a lot of years with my head down, trying to keep my mouth shut and the voices in my head* clamoring with all of the reasons I should be happy. What I’ve learned from it is that one should hesitate to pass a verdict on how “happy” one is, or how much of a “waste” a certain job or situation might be — because really, unless you’re dying, you don’t really know how it’s going to turn out, and if there’s a possibility that you might learn something valuable, or let something unfold, there might be something really really amazing this particular crappy situation is leading you toward, and you just can’t see it yet.

Now I’m certainly not saying that we should all sit around with our heads down and our hands folded — I only managed to find happiness by initiating a divorce from a kind and responsible man (with whom I had nothing in common, and for whom I still feel a great deal of affection and fondness); buying a house in a town I really wanted to live in; building a career that could support me and my family; and then eventually marrying the man I had been looking for in my 20s and had decided didn’t exist. A lot of upheaval, a lot of tears in pools on the floor in the back of my closet (I used to think this was just a line in a song, but I have actually done this, cried pools of tears; the good news is I haven’t cried in the back of a closet for at least 5 years),

Happiness, peace, contentment, joy, all need to be fought for; but sometimes the “fight” consists of waiting, and sometimes it consists of throwing everything you know into the air and reorganizing it all as it lands.

But EVERY day I will strive for a better version of me.

*I hope you all know what I mean by “the voices in my head.” I am not suffering from any diagnosable mental illness, although I have been heard on occasion to say: “The only difference between schizophrenics and the rest of us is that we know all of those voices in our head are ours.”

with a little help from Yeats. . .

A Coat

I made my song a coat
covered with embroideries
out of old mythologies
from heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
wore it in the world’s eyes
as though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
for there’s more enterprise
in walking naked.

******

I started a poem late last night, about an occasional wish to weave myself a new skin to wear — for those days when I wish I were someone else, when I worry that years of loss and disappointment and, well, just age, maybe don’t “hang” so well on my face; when I believe that the face I show the world does not reflect that which is really inside.

And dreams can be deceiving,
like faces are to hearts. . . (Fiona Apple)


My poem’s current state is a lot of snippets with nothing coherent to hold it together yet. But then I ran across this today, and it reminded me of it. So this will stand in its stead, at least for now.

talking with strangers

Husband claims that I can, and quite likely will, talk to anyone.

He also wonders, on occasion, if I’m not performing, just a little. Going for the big laugh, or maybe a little bit of extra attention.

The laugh definitely, the attention, maybe. (I am the 6th of 8 children; “Me! Me! Pay attention to me!)  (Hmmm, maybe it’s the other way around.)

But really I just enjoy talking to people.

*****

I was looking through a catalogue once on an airplane, of flowers and plants. A striking, beautifully dressed, elderly woman was sitting next to me, and asked me if I liked to garden. We chatted about perennials and annuals and vegetables and butterflies, and when the plane was approaching our destination she reached into her carryon and brought out a beautiful tropical flower (hibiscus? gardenia? I’m afraid I don’t remember) that she had clipped from her garden as she left her Florida home behind to head north for the summer. This bloom was resting on a dampened square of paper towel and lovingly zipped into a ziploc bag. She handed it to me, with a sweet, gentle smile, “From one gardener to another.”

*****

From when First Son was first aware of people around him until around preschool age, he was quite gregarious. Sure that everyone we met would be delighted to meet him, and to hear what he had to say. He walked smilingly up to a grumpy looking old man in a mall once, caught his eye and said “HI!” And the man grumbled at him, and turned away, and First Son looked both puzzled and completely crushed. The first time in his awareness that he wasn’t met with absolute welcome and joy.

*****

I was waiting for the “accessories” battery in my car to be replaced today (the one that starts the car, and which has been failing me way too frequently and way too easily lately). It was taking a bit longer than I expected, and people were coming and going, ebbing and flowing. One woman commented, as another of the customers was brought the bad news (Ma’am, I hate to tell you, but your water pump is leaking. Oh, and by the way, your brakes are bad) that it was a bit like sitting in the waiting room at a hospital waiting for the diagnosis/prognosis. Then another started talking about her dogs, and her now-gay ex-husband, her daughters, her saggy neck. . .

It continued from there.

I was greatly amused.

We had a veritable kaffee-klatsch going, but without the coffee. (There had been a man there, but he had left; I think when I left there were 6 women in the room. It did give me the opportunity to quote the Morgan Freeman tweet: “Women pay attention to what they hear, and men to what they see. This is why women always wear makeup, and men always lie.”)(I did get the big laugh.)

*****

I’ve been thinking all day about how easy it is to close ourselves off from people. People are inconsiderate on the road, inconsiderate in lines or blocking entrances into buildings or texting while you’re stuck behind them in auditorium seating so that you can’t get out while the entire rest of the audience gets between you and the exit door. We stop smiling, stop chatting, stop meeting people with the expectation that they will be happy to meet us; and there is so much to lose.

I’ve heard the joke made that “There’s only one kind of person I don’t like. . . (Wait for it). . . . Others.” And everybody laughs. But I think it’s maybe a bit more true for most of us than we would like, or at least than is good for society, although I suppose if you’re a complete and hopeless misanthrope, keeping to yourself might be better for everybody.

There was a study done recently, where a change in policy was presented in two different ways — in one description, it was good for YOU, your freedom, your choices, your liberty; in the other description, it was good for society. The one that is good for you always wins.

This doesn’t necessarily surprise me, but it does sadden and worry me just a little. Even questions regarding environmental policy, or gun control.

Maybe we don’t look out for, or to, each other because we don’t feel anyone is looking out for us.

*****

I had a long and tedious and frightening recovery from head surgery 17 years ago. It was at least 8 weeks before I felt anything close to normal. I had few visitors to my hospital room, where I was stuck for a week; no meals delivered to my house by any friends or students or neighbors. My mom and one of my sisters came and helped for a couple of weeks. That was nice. My husband-at-the-time felt an incredible obligation to put his 10 hours in at work every day no matter what the situation was at home, and my sons were 3 and 6.

I have never felt so alone.

*****

We need to reach out to people. Yes, sometimes it’s easier to stick our noses in our book or pretend to talk on our cell phone or not volunteer to help at the spaghetti dinner.

But think about what that costs.

There are people out there to talk with, to laugh with.

And who knows, (and even though it goes right back to the “but what’s in it for me?” question), they might even give you a gardenia.

Hmmmmm. . . . or is that Ommmmmm. . .

Been making my way through a very un-Zen like day, watching for my “Enlightened” moment.

Didn’t find it when the coffee grinder was still broken (which was a really big surprise, given that Husband and I tried for almost an hour to fix it last night, and it was still broken when we went to bed. Thought maybe the coffee-grinder fairie would come and fix it while we were sleeping, given what good people we are, and how much we like our espresso in the morning). (He/she did not.)

Definitely didn’t find it when I left for work knowing that Husband was heading out of town in a few hours for four days.

Had an almost moment while working with a particularly receptive and hard-working student, but lost it when I had to rush home to beat Only Daughter’s bus by just a few moments.

Certainly didn’t find it when my car wouldn’t start because the Prius 12-volt “accessories” battery is a Big Fat Baby and completely gives up the ghost if you accidentally leave your lights on for even so short a time span as LESS THAN SIX MINUTES!!!

Found it almost kind of maybe for a little while Only Daughter and I sat in the cold car, waiting for the tow-truck guy and each reading our respective books, and smelling our takeout dinner sitting in its little shopping bag on the seat next to me.

Lost the little I had kind of maybe for a little while found at the realization that, while we were cold and hungry and could have Made the Most of Things by enjoying our takeout dinner in the car, I had REFUSED CUTLERY because WE WERE GOING RIGHT HOME TO EAT.

Definitely lost it when we finally got home and discovered that the wonderful-smelling meal was a disappointing imitation of what used to be pretty-good-despite-being-a-chain-Asian food.

(This reminds me of the “And that was a good thing because. . . . And that was a bad thing because. . . .” book that I can’t actually remember the name of, nor even exactly how that line goes. Little help anyone?)

But all of it’s external circumstances, so none of it really has anything to do with Finding True Happiness. That Relentless Ember of Happiness Which Burns Within no matter What Crap is Happening Without. (REHWBWNMWCHW? Maybe not. Despite its striking similarity to the last name of someone from Croatia, as acronyms go, I think this one needs some work.)

A reader of My Other Blog as well as this one, takes issue with a posted list of 22 Things Happy People Do Differently, because it “puts the onus on us” to be happy.

But isn’t that where it is?

If we allow ourselves to be buffeted around (Buff-it-ed, not Buff-ayed you hungry people out there) like a dinghy on a stormy sea, our emotions at the mercy of whatever random weather happens to be churning our way, well, that’s really not a very reliable place to find happiness, is it? (Especially if you live anywhere in the north-eastern quadrant of the United States, which has apparently not received the memo that Spring Started Yesterday!?!? So um could you like Please Stop Snowing?!?)

Think about the game Crack – the – Whip. On which end of the line do you want to be standing?

How I usually feel

How I usually feel

How I'd like to feel

How I’d like to feel

All I know is it’s an imperfect system.

I’d ask if I got any points for looking, but that’s not really a very Enlightened question, is it?

I’m going to make the best use of my time, and spend some important time with Only Daughter, and try not to become a quivering mass of loneliness in the almost 4 days Husband is away. I think for me, right now, that’s as close as I’m going to get.

The artist (still) known as I Am Morley

One of my favorite bloggers, who goes by the nom de plume Quieter Elephant had posted something from the artist known as I  Am Morley. He is quirky and self-reflective and in many ways a lot like me, including his need for outside approval and his questioning his role/mission as seer/”poet”/commentator.

Morley makes posters, which include an image of him writing or painting the poster, and hangs them everywhere. Some of them get painted over right away. All are cool, insightful. I am now a fan. Just spent (not wasted, spent) an entertaining and enlightening 45 minutes going through the first 10 or so pages of his blog and adding him to my list of blogs I follow (which is getting quite long — I may have to rethink my work load if I’m even to pretend to keep up with all this reading, especially with the Sunday NYTimes, my weekly New Yorkers and the 2 or 3 books I’m usually reading at the same time).

The most recent post on his blog shows him distributing medals he made awarding people for “the distinguished act of behaving like a real person and practicing basic consideration for others instead of just being an asshole all the time.” He hung them on signs and from buildings and around mannequin’s necks (is that really how one spells “mannequin”? Weird), and gave some to people he saw on the street, and ends the video with this: “To whoever finds the medals, try to do your best to deserve them.”

Anyway, this poster in particular seemed to speak to my guru project:

Morley:awake

In case it’s hard for you to read:
“With the sea to our backs, and tomorrow at the breach of our lips,
we ride at the highest speed, laugh like our souls have never known hunger
and live our lives awake.”

Spot on.

what I am vs. what I clearly am not

I, as I have quite openly stated here and elsewhere, am clearly not a guru.

I am searching for enlightenment, which is ironic, given that most of the time I can’t find my phone.

At this moment, I think I know where my phone is, but I can’t find my driver’s license. I actually remember finding it in my coat pocket (where I put it when I drove to yoga class yesterday and didn’t want to take my whole wallet) and thinking that this really wasn’t a good nor reasonable place for a driver’s license, so I promptly removed it. And put it. Well. Somewhere.

Grrr.

Yesterday I forgot to go to something that was really important for one of my students. I’m still kicking myself, which really goes against the spirit of my post from yesterday, during which I vowed not to harbor negative thoughts and to realize that at any given moment I was doing my best.

But I forgot something important, regarding someone I care quite a bit about and who was counting on me, and my best, frankly, was Not. Good. Enough.

So this brings me to what I am:

A flake.

I have too many things in my head and too many balls in the air Every Single Moment, even when I vow to sit on the couch and watch mindless television. Instead I’m ordering Tshirts for stepson’s birthday and butterfly bell chimes for our back yard if it ever decides to stop snowing and become spring and summer and a beautiful stained glass lamp for my piano room that I will build as soon as I get my inheritance and the bank stops dinking around on our home equity loan.

Not feeling very guru like, but am feeling very happy — is that ironic?

I’m flaky, and disorganized, and I’m always trying to do too many things (including keeping up two blogs), and to pay attention to my Husband whomIlovemorethananything and Only Daughter who is the girl I always wanted and so incredibly adolescent either Husband or I or both will probably have run away from home by the time she is 14.

And I am incredibly, blissfully happy.

I also recently discovered that two of my favorite bloggers: Sarah at the Good Life Farm and Sarah at Redamancy Lit, are actually the same people. I don’t know why this makes me so happy, but it does. Here is someone who is raising a daughter on a farm and posts wonderful, delicious, healthful recipes THAT ALWAYS TURN OUT and who posts beautiful snippets of writing from some of the best authors of all time AND SHE’S THE SAME PERSON.

I want to make friends with her, but I’m afraid she’s going to think I’m a stalker.

Any suggestions?

Anyway, she has this excerpt from a Chinese poem that has popped up repeatedly for me over the past few weeks, and I think it is suitable to our exercise (you all remember what that is, right?) I will include it in its entirety:

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted “Peaches.”

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

To take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

– Li-Young Lee, From Blossoms 

Read it slowly out loud to someone you love. And try not to cry.
Or cry. Either one is fine. Either one is good. Either one.

when not quite your best is still good enough

I always try to do my best — those of you who have been reading me at Just Sayin’ or who have known me for a while probably already know this.

I always thought that doing my best was kind of the bare minimum. The least I could do. You know.

But sometimes I look back at something, and realize I could have done better.

Except I couldn’t, and I didn’t.

Not at the time.

And not berating myself for how I failed is the most grueling exercise I can come up with — kind of like when you’re in labor and they’re telling you not to push yet because you’re not quite dilated enough and your whole body is pushing anyway and it takes everything you have (and a lot of panting) not to.

BUT I DIDN’T DO MY BEST!!!

Except, at that moment, you probably did.

I was talking once with a friend and fellow pianist about the really common and annoying situation pianists face where we arrive at our performance venue and the instrument is, shall we say, lacking. He has a saying: “It is what it is when you get there.”

I liked this quite a lot, and have adopted it for the condition of the piece itself — you practice hard, you prepare as much and as well as you can, and when it is time to perform, It is what it is when you get there.

music:glacier

And I have decided that this also applies to life.

You do your best, except when you can’t, and then you do the best you can do at the time, which is, in fact, your best, so there it is.

Good enough.

See?