Wednesday, August 12, 2015
"Inspiring you to reinvent yourself"
I’ve written five new posts in my imagination since the last one that actually made it to you. (Each brilliant in its own way.) Today, I want to open up a bit of my character for our collective inspection, reflect on the reinvention I’ve been sharing since February, and let you know why I paused.
“It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.” Just like the giddily playing kids whose parent must yell this cliché, I began my journey of reinvention with little idea of the risks. For one thing, it did not dawn on me, though it should have, that this blog and my FB pages would be stalked by someone without my best interest in mind. As I hope you’ve figured out, there are aspects of my life that I do keep private, writing nothing about here or on Facebook. Besides simple discretion and courtesy to others involved in my “reinvention,” I am sensitive to the idea, developed in social science, that to observe something is to change it in some way. So, I share with you what I am open to your influence over – you, meaning the innumerable people, currently known to me or not, who may ultimately read these musings. By opening myself to your observation, I know that my experiences themselves are somehow altered. All the more so, as I am describing my life to you with intent and choices; of course I’m aware of and influenced by your presence.
This blog is about growth, learning, joy, gratitude and excitement. In these areas, the more the merrier! Come on in for a swim in these pools of my mind; splash around; make some noise; run, even, if you wish. It’s safe and I welcome it.
Why did I start the blog this year? Because I have illnesses that have forced me to change direction; because I was too ill to work and what on earth was I going to do with myself? Because I have financial and familial circumstances that one could consider dire. (Okay, that are dire.) Because I am much lesser abled than I ever was, in life-critical ways. Because everything must change because everything has changed.
My response to those truths is to dwell as much as possible on these equally available truths: that there are also good circumstances in my life, that I have plenty of blessings to count, and that to a great extent, I get to choose my private and public responses to the losses. (Jewish tradition includes very sensible distinctions between public and private mourning.) It is not the circumstance that defines one, but the response.
My cyber-stalker – yes, someone I know – believes that if one is true the other must be a lie. Either I am in dire straits or I am joyful. If I write about joy and good fortune here, that belies my “claim” of difficult circumstances. If my physical and financial difficulties are true, then – obviously – I am lying to you in this blog and on Facebook. This person has decided that I lie habitually and that I have little integrity.
So I paused. To ponder. To give the stalker less fodder for misinterpretation. To wonder, am I being truthful with you? After much deliberation, I came to this thought:
It may be harder to burst with joy when counting too few pennies or when feeling knocked off one’s feet, but it is by no means impossible. A stimulating conversation may do it, as may evoking an infant’s smile.
Watching a cat choose the posies’ planter as a cat bed has done it. Seeing FB photos of former students loving life does it. Chocolate ice cream does it (duh!), as does linguistic and philosophical discourse with a new FB friend.
I don’t yet have the answers to my fiscal well-being, and I don’t know how I will live a productive life with the ailments that limit me. I don’t. I grieve plenty, in private and to my closest confidantes. It scares me not to control the outcome, not even to know it.
What I do know is that for me, joy is the antidote to fear. Laughter pushes stress away. Creative expression lightens the burden. Loving family and friends soothe my achy soul. And that, my dears, is no lie.
So, after this, back we go: to aspirations, inspiration, and the occasional stinky perspiration. Back to joy, growth, and beauty. Back to learning, reinvention, naysayers be damned.
Thanks for reading!
Friday, May 15, 2015
"Inspiring You to Reinvent Yourself"
Years ago, I asked two colleagues to stop talking about their sex lives in front of me: "Don't you understand," I said, in mock exasperation, "I'm unintentionally celibate!"
They chuckled, left my office, and we went about our week. Except that Sandy giggled every time she saw me, returning repeatedly to the concept of "unintentionally celibate."
Just as a staff meeting was about to begin, Sandy and I made eye contact across the table; muttering, "unintentionally celibate," she began to laugh again.
|Here's a nice picture of a nice cucumber. No reason. Why?|
"Sandy," I said in mock exasperation, "Don't you understand? It wouldn't be funny if it weren't true!"
"Oh!" she responded, thought a minute, nodding her head slowly.
It was an odd concept. Celibacy, as opposed to “not getting any” or “in a dry spell,” connotes choice, virtue. To be celibate is to be well-behaved, disciplined, pure and strong. In control of one’s destiny. I was unintentionally strong and in control? Yes! I'd much rather have been impulsively screwing up a storm every night and bow-legged with exhaustion every morning. It was my age-right, my birthright. I was racking up virtue points when I should have been racking up notches on a bedpost. It was frustrating. And funny.
I often burst out laughing when I recount my frustrations, and, as I saw clearly this week, so do my friends. I’ve been in NYC, down from Albany for a divorce mediation session that took place on Wednesday. I planned 1.5 days free and close by on either side of the stressful event, in case of debilitating potential Fibro flare-ups. (Thanks to the Have Computer Will Work strategy, I am able to be as productive in borrowed digs as I am at home.)
Making time to connect with friends through the week, I had lunch at a café, dusk beside the Central Park Reservoir and dinner at a corner Italian place. After each get-together, my abs ached and my cells felt over-oxygenated from belly laughter. The stories were the sort that are over-the-top funny because, well, they aren’t really funny at all. Self-deprecating slapstick: Not so-and-so slipped on a banana peel; rather, that’s me slipping on the damned banana peel that I threw down to begin with!
My friends and I laughed about grunting like old, arthritic men every time we move, the relationships that went insanely south, the most bizarre moments of those relationships, and the grief of lost love and trashed dreams. Conversation sloshed between sharing real pain and giggling over it, being worried and being giddy and strategizing and caricaturizing.
I could barely catch my breath or hold my bladder. At the café, the woman behind us could barely hear herself think. At the reservoir, self-satisfied runners just barely managed to ignore us. No matter – we were thoroughly enjoying the fruits of our failures.
Often, I describe my body with Fibro as a carnival fun house mirror – everything’s warped and unreal. “It would be hysterically funny if it weren’t true,” I say. But enjoying this week so much and remembering back to “unintentionally celibate,” I now see that if it weren’t true, it wouldn’t be funny.
Are you enjoying these posts? Please do share them. It’s fun to see what new countries people are reading me in. I don’t have anyone in Africa or Scandinavia yet. Let’s go, people!
PS. Need writing or editing help? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
“Inspiring you to reinvent yourself”
I bought a blender this month, the kind that crushes everything with blades of steel. Not the insanely expensive brand that produces so much friction, COSTCO hawkers make soup in it. I dreamed about that one, imagining it would change my life forever. I love soup, and if I make frozen margaritas, surely beautifully plumed people would flit around me like hummingbirds to nectar? Nah.
I rejected the TV miracle one that looks like a mortar shell and is likely to send smoothie gloop-shrapnel all over my kitchen. On the other hand, I loved my Ginzu knives, so maybe this is good quality. Still, too utilitarian; I wouldn't love it.
No, I bought the Jackie Chan of blenders, the one that chops board-hard carrots like butter. It was love at first blend. Amazing! Kale tastes great with pears, ginger and raspberries, and with carrots, apples, protein powder and chocolate chips. It’s remarkable how kale, almond oil, parmesan and pine nuts turn into pesto with the push of a finger. I have eaten more iron, Vitamin C and fiber than my intestinal track knows what to do with. It’s like after a week at Kripalu, eating vegan foods in bulk.
Though it might be hard to discern, this post is about the languages of love – or more specifically, my languages of love. My new friend Anna, a fictional representation of a real person (I am helping a beloved client writing a Roman à Clef—fictionalized tell-all—and this is a good warm-up), mentioned love at her kitchen table Monday.
I had just sealed a deal with her daughter, Rebecca, to work for me this summer, and Anna and I had just agreed to collaborate on a writing project. We had also just conspired to get more food-based iron into her oldest daughter, Callie, who babysits at my house three afternoons a week. My role? Make her smoothies with kale hidden within, of course. Kale for Callie. (The alliteration works with Callie’s real name, too, but if I told you, I'd have to..., well, you know.) Anna had just texted back to Rebecca, who texted her mom from the basement that she wanted to go hang out with her boyfriend. And I had just told Anna that her ex-husband Bernard, who is my fictional friend and financial advisor, has been trying to get me to stop buying people gifts. “The languages of love,” Anna murmured, in a moment of intellectual flight that hooked me and carried it with me.
What are my languages of love? I am a love polyglot! I do speak gift. How could I not buy the What da Cluck T-shirt for a friend who raises chickens? A spring jacket for a toddler niece? A hand-painted mug in her favorite colors for a friend who turned 50?
I also speak a hybrid of schoolmarm, Jewish mother and soft-bosomed auntie. I see to your education and that there are childproof locks on the cabinets. I scold you for talking trash and kvell over your every achievement. (Kvelling is Yiddish for celebrating a loved one’s/student’s accomplishments in a joyfully connected “And s/he’s mine!” sort of way.) I hug you, coo at you and rub your back. I laugh at your jokes and listen to your music. I use endearments and touch your hair or shoulder when I walk by. I say and text “I love you” often. If you are an infant, toddler, dog, cat, goat or alpaca, I talk a stream of pleasant sounding nonsense to you, often responding to your garbled verbiage with, “I know, baby. I agree with you completely. What do you think about X (world peace, those Mets, etc.)?” If you’re a teenager, I meet your ideas with wondering questions – you sparked my curiosity! I cook you soup.
Speaking of soup, I was trained from birth to speak food: smoothies with iron; pesto in little jars for everyone; a Passover seder for non-Jewish friends replete with brisket, Moroccan chicken, fresh-made horseradish and beets, matzo ball soup and innumerable kugels; brunch out; ice cream. Coffee fixed the way you like it. And I am also an avid listener to the language of Food.
I can listen and jabber on for days in Daughter, Friend, Lover and Sister.
|Parents Fran and David. Taught me many love languages|
I speak resume and cover letter and their parent language, editing. I speak Stay at my House, Borrow my Car and What do You Need beautifully, along with Breathlessly Funny Shared Story-Telling. I am fluent in Hold on, You’re Safe, though much less so in I’m Letting Go Now. I overuse the cyber love language, Facebook, and cannot get enough of I Love Hearing Your Love Languages.
When alone, I use my ESL–extra-sensory love–to scan the well-being of those with whom I have not spoken today, this week, this month, and sometimes even, this year. I use this vibratory language to wish them into greater well-being, celebrate with them, ease their fear or grief, and let them know that I miss and love them. In many cases, a greeting card would do better, but I speak post office haltingly and have never quite gotten the rhythms of Remember My Birthday or Happy Anniversary.
Languages of love:so satisfying to think about this morning! Thank you, fictional Anna, for sparking this train of thought. I’ve loved it. Now off either to make my breakfast smoothie or take my early morning nap. Probably the nap; I love naps.