The Power of Special

They say (they who?) absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Maybe, but only when a reunion is inevitable. Otherwise, it just stirs anger and hurt. It’s the one thing in this world that I just don’t see myself ever coming to peace with. Oh, I know, everything and every life is temporary, our attachments cause us to suffer, there is a season for blah blah blah, and all that jazz. None of it makes it easier.

I just can’t make it easier on myself. Maybe I don’t want to because it’s not supposed to be easier. Maybe keeping grief is a good punishment for all the wrong we’ve done throughout our lives. Maybe it’s a fight against the worst part of the universe in the names of those we’ve loved.

It’s a gesture that says, “I will never give up on their existence, no matter how much time passes, no matter how many I lose to death, they will never not exist to me. And thank you for this pain you’ve lent me, but I think I will keep it, for it makes me stronger and it reminds me of what I have yet to lose.”

Grief is more powerful than happiness. It is stronger than acceptance. When you get tired of the despair eroding you, you will either use it or lose it.

Whoa, that was an unexpected tangent. Moving on:

There’s a reason we consider certain people/things special: because they aren’t the norm. They aren’t usual. They don’t happen or exist often enough for us to get used to them.

Albuquerque’s first tattoo convention was special. It sucked, it was mediocre, a mere wisp of a good time, but it was special because it was the first. It excited the city because it was about damn time.

Then, there was another six months later. Then another, and it wasn’t so special. In a city this size, having barely average tattoo conventions several times a year just strips out the special. Anticipation flatlines.

Now well-organized and out of its infancy, held annually, it is special. Any more than that would be shoving anti-special right down our throats.

There are, of course, certain situations and instances that no matter how much they exist never cease to be extraordinary. Like sex with your love. Like love with your love. Nightmares are always special, no matter how many nights in a row over the course of your life you have them. Star Wars also enjoys undying specialness.

Caviar at every meal, an anniversary every week, a cloudy sky every day, sleep for ten hours in a row (!), an “I love you” in every sentence, and a thousand other things would all grow too normal. There wouldn’t be even a hint of special left to savor.

Hold on to whatever is special to you for as long as possible. Then, appreciate the absence of it until it returns. Enjoy the anticipation. Look forward to that sweet moment when you can celebrate its return.

There is reason to enjoy not having what you want. If we can focus on that, the wait will be easy.

 

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Arguers and Acceptors

Photo Credit: takomabibelot via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: takomabibelot via Compfight cc

Some people are arguers. Others are acceptors.

Sometimes I wish I had more of an accepting nature.

Sometimes.

Since childhood, I have protested, argued, defended, offended, clawed, kicked, and pushed against anyone or thing with the slightest scent of oppressor.

Thankfully, the oppressing world has shrunk considerably over the years. That could be because of the whole growing up thing I did.

I still believe in standing up for yourself and others, getting what you want, and defending truth as well as imagination. I will and do fight for those things. While I fight, others are calm and agreeable and generally take what comes. Like it or not, they make the best of it.

They are the acceptors.

For a long time, I misunderstood the acceptors. To me, they were lie-down-and-diers, too passive, missers of opportunities, betrayers of self, too quick to give up on what’s right and true, and in need of a good shake. While some acceptors do fit into these categories, most are not what I thought.

They deserve so much more credit for what they do and don’t do, and for just being their kind of happy, than I’ve given them.

Now I know, now I see, that it takes strength and endurance to accept things. To put your nose down, do what needs doing, and accept things as they are because you are an adult, because it’s in your nature, because you are an acceptor is not weak. There is a low-lying grace as well as a sort of sad finesse in acceptance, where in protest there is chaos and boastfulness.

Without acceptors, the world couldn’t tolerate people like me, the arguers. There would be no balance. One needs the other. One drives the other. One allows the other to exist and flourish.

My husband is a battle-picker. He is quite adept at knowing which fights matter most and which ones are time wasters. Most are time wasters. I do not have his skill. He does what needs doing, as long as it needs doing, while I go out, argue against, and shake my fist at the need itself, dammit.

Acceptors are not lie-down-and-diers. They are silent foundation heroes, stepping aside so that our voices may be elevated. They toil in silence, doing the necessary (and rolling their eyes) while we scream and fight. They are who they are so that we can be who we are, and vice versa.

We all have roles. One is not more or less important than the other is.

Acceptors change the world as much as the arguers do. Whether acceptors accept because they have to or want to, I accept and respect the acceptors.

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Efforts, Results, and Wee Gripes

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

I want to know the ending without suffering through the boring parts.

I want coffee without having to brew it.

I want a book without having to edit.

I want to feel strong and relaxed without yoga. Actually, I really dig yoga.

I want this to show up for the person who needs it exactly when they need it, without me having to write it or them having to find it.

I want to love without losing and grieving.

I want a paycheck in my pocket without having to show up.

Just like everyone else, right?

What or who would I be if I had everything I wanted just as I wanted it, as easy as I could get it? False happiness would shroud me against reality. Loneliness would settle in deep.

I think I would be weak, bored, uninformed, empty, unfulfilled, spoiled, and self-involved. And I don’t think those things feel so nice.

I would never savor the joy, nor learn from the rejection, that is the result of real effort. I would never know the satisfaction that comes with hard work, survival, and perseverance.

So on I go, just like everyone else.

One more word/sentence/paragraph. One more brew. One more pose.
One more effort. One more result.

I consider it very adult, very human, very natural to want, wish, and fantasize about ease and fairness, as long as we drift back to our senses.

Posted in Motivation, Responsibility, Success, The Way | Tagged , , ,

The Truth About Doing What You Love

sunflower

 

“Do what you love and never work a day in your life.” Whoever first sold us that line had it all wrong, and we have been buying that lie ever since.

Have you ever loved something so much you just want to wrap yourself up in it, let it flood your veins, let it crawl over your life like ivy on a stucco wall? That’s how I feel about writing. I am my best self when I write. That’s why I became a writer.

I received my novel back from my editor. The critique did not crush me into bits of pathetic dust, as I was afraid it would. Overall, I feel good about it. Yay.

I hoped she would return it with a simple note: “Don’t change a thing. Bestseller!” Even just, “F**k yes!” would be music to these ears.

Instead, I have a little more work to do. I just want it done, but it’s not that easy. If I want it done right and well, I must work. In between work on the book, I have to write, edit, and sell articles about how one might keep their dogs alive and happy in cold-winter states or why bringing a tool kit on a motorcycle ride is a good idea.

My job is wonderful and I love it, but it’s hard work. It’s damn hard. It’s beautiful, enlightening, cathartic beyond measure, and uplifting. But it’s also frustrating, disheartening, confidence splitting, impossible to break from, and damn hard.

Some may say, “Well, the point is it doesn’t feel like work, because you love it.” To that I say yes, yes it does feel like work.

If you make a living doing what you love, you will love what you do for a living. That’s the real truth.

To be successful at anything you have to work, and work hard. And if you love it 90% of the time, there’s still that 10% that sucks.

If I loved gardening as much as I love writing, I wouldn’t expect to sit amongst the sunflowers all day conversing with bees and smelling the sweet lilac on the wind. I would expect to till the earth, pull the weeds, mow some big-ass lawns under the hot sun, and pour sweat while doing it.

Love doesn’t make the work less difficult, just more worth it.

Posted in Love, The job | Tagged , , ,

If The Shoe Fits, Wear It All Day Every Day

vans

Star Wars and Vans shoes. Together. What kind of heaven is this? I found my first pair sitting outside my front door, which no one except the postman and solicitors use. The slender box barely disturbed the dust and the cicada body that had blown into the corner. A giddy peak to my anticipation washed over me.

Some people are collecting these shoes and vowing to never wear them. Unless that is some sort of long-term financial investment, I don’t recommend it.

My husband came home, saw the footwear, with pristine rubber soles and stiff painted canvas, and asked if I was going to go tuck them away in the closet in the original box, for safekeeping.

“F*ck no,” I said. Honestly though, I had thought about it. I could get two pairs of each and wear one, but that was a fleeting (and expensive) thought. It fleeted fast, too.

In my head, I played out the images of a future. It began with me exiling the shoes to a dark closet, upon a high shelf next to a box of beanies or tucked away in a corner next to the hamper.

I lived a long life. In all that time, the shoes hadn’t moved. A thin, stale layer of dust coated the box top, but that was the only change. Through the years, when mention of Star Wars came up, I would say, “I’ve got some really cool shoes,” and that would be it. I hadn’t actually enjoyed the shoes. I never felt them on my feet. I never saw them as I walked through my days.

After my death, the person charged with rifling through my worldly things would find them and either sell them or donate them. What a stinking shame. What purpose did those shoes ever serve me? Was the satisfaction of knowing I owned them enough enjoyment?

Not for me.

So I will wear these shoes, as I am prone to do, until they tatter and fray. I might be more tender with them than I have been with others, but they will not live life on a shelf.

I will not live a life of admiration without action or usage. That would be a sad waste of my days. Not only is it a waste of opportunity to enjoy something, it is a waste of my time and efforts. How did I get the money to purchase the shoes? I worked. Not enjoying the shoes is pretty much throwing out that time and effort.

I just cannot squeeze enough pleasure out of simply knowing I have something; I must also pay attention to, appreciate, and use what I have.

All of life is the same. All things, and especially all people, that are important to us we must appreciate, play with, love, enjoy, and use, not just admire them from afar. Otherwise, what is the point of having them in our lives at all?

Just like shoes, not enjoying the people you love is throwing out time and effort and is a horrendous waste of life.

 

Posted in Full life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Finding Balance

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

Siddhartha found and then spent his life teaching The Middle Way. To all of us non-enlightened beings, The Middle Way, basically, is riding out life in the center of extremes instead of adhering ourselves to one or the other.

Siddhartha came to The Middle Way through years of causing himself to suffer. He tortured his body with starvation and deprivation. He lived an ascetic life, denying himself all pleasure. For many years, he was convinced that this was the best way to live.

Lucky for him, and his followers, he put some rice in his belly and discovered what we know now: skipping breakfast makes for an undernourished body and mind.

No matter your belief system, The Middle Way is a wise way for a full and happy life. We can apply it to most areas of life. Don’t gorge yourself on food, but don’t starve yourself either. Don’t visit the pub every night, but don’t stay completely away. Don’t keep twenty cats in your home, maybe just two.

With all of the habits, vices, and conveniences, overindulgence and even under indulgence is too common amongst us.

There are some instances in which extreme is good (never smoking another cigarette) or at the very worst a harmless matter of taste (full body tattoos). Mostly though, our lives could benefit from us easing up on the extremes.

Finding moderation is easier said than done, right? Yep, as are most things. Assuming you don’t have a condition that requires professional attention, you can make the choice. With everyday things, cookies, video games, lip balm, calling your mom, or going to the dentist, you have the power. Enjoy but don’t obsess. Do just enough but don’t totally avoid. Really. If we can find The Middle Way, we can live happy, balanced lives.

Even when it comes to changing our ways, we should follow the middle way. Don’t try to do it all at once. Change one thing at a time. Look for the areas in your life where you tend to drift toward an extreme. Pick one thing and do it a little less, or a little more.

Say you have an obsession that drives you to scrub your toilet three times a day. Try swirling the brush around twice a day instead. From there, slowly whittle down your toilet-polishing time to what is necessary, not obsessive. There, that feels better. On the other hand, perhaps you rarely, if ever, clean the toilet, ooh funky. Invest in a tank tablet.

Goldilocks knew what was up. For her, nothing too hard, soft, cold, hot, big, or small. Everything was just right.

I recommend getting as close to The Middle Way in as many areas of your life as possible. Learn to recognize when the road crowns you over to one side or the other, and then correct your course. You may find yourself a healthier, happier person at peace with the fullness and balance of life.

 

 

Posted in Full life, Happiness, The Way | Tagged , , , , ,

Start Something

salitllo
When we get overwhelmed with options and to-dos, sometimes we choose not to choose. It’s the easiest thing to do, but it leaves life unlived. Many things wait, untouched, sometimes forever, because we don’t know where to start.

How do we overcome it? How do we start? The answer is amazing. It’s simple.

A few days ago, I began work at my former place of employment as a temporary consultant/trainer/fire extinguisher.

Gazing upon a vast sea of paperwork rippling with error and neglect, I felt overwhelmed. For the first day, I didn’t know where to look or what to pick up. I spent hours shuffling papers around without direction or purpose. I accomplished little because I couldn’t pinpoint a good place to start. The truth is there were too many good places to start. The heap was too big, its shadow spread wide.

After all that, I had to come home and find time and energy to write articles for websites, essays for anthologies, lists for editors, posts for blogs, and lists for grocery shopping. I wanted to stop. I wanted to do nothing because it’s too big, too much, and I didn’t know where to start.

How could I keep from being stunned into inaction?

The thing is I didn’t need to start at the beginning. I just had to start. I was looking at Everest in a wide shot when I should have focused on just one step at a time.
The next day, I picked up one paper, decided what to do with it, did it, and repeated.

Instead of seeing a list, see one item on the list. Pick one thing and do it. That’s the answer.

I knew it all along. We all know it. I just needed a little reminder. It’s always such a freeing experience to realize and create your own relief, to answer your own questions.

My husband and I remodeled our kitchen a few years ago. We wanted a new kitchen, but waited for a long time because the enormity of the project overwhelmed us. Flooring, walls, counters, cabinets, fixtures, curtains, etc. all make for a large, expensive, time-consuming project. kitchen2

But one thing at a time isn’t overwhelming. Instead of seeing the kitchen, we saw only the floor. We ripped it up. The walls came into view. I tore one down and painted the others. We uprooted cabinets and counter tops. I sanded, stained, and lacquered new cabinets, one by one. We called a friend who flattened piles of Saltillo into a beautiful floor.

Then, it was all done. The stress melted when we focused on one piece of the picture at a time. Like a puzzle. Put one piece in, then the next, until it’s complete. So it is with everything.

I implore you not to ignore the things you want to do, be, learn, or have because they are too big or involve too much. Because they aren’t and they don’t. You don’t have to know where to start. It doesn’t matter if you start at the beginning or in the middle. Just start with one piece. If you don’t, your life will never get done, and then it’ll be over.

 
 

Posted in Full life, Simpler Life, Stress | Tagged , , , ,

Navigating the Twisty Roads of Change

 

irish road

Hey you, afraid of change, pissed off that you were ripped from a happy place and thrown into a pit of muck swirling with uncertainties . . . You who stares at the black ceiling in the darkest hours of night, with not even enough hope left in your system to wish for sleep . . . I have something to say to you.

When one window closes, another door opens, and all that jazz. No, that’s not it.

As difficult as it is, we must be receptive to the results of change. The best way to do that is to manipulate them. You see, what matters isn’t the change but the result of that change. And the result is up to us.

You’ve been smacked around and blown to pieces by the winds of change. It comes at you from all angles. You’ve been told too many times that this is the way things are now, so deal with it.

We get scared of the unknown, which is natural, but why can’t we be the boss of the unknown instead?

Take a sucky situation and turn it into something that you want it to be. You can’t see it when you’re so close to it, when it’s so fresh. You have to let it settle around you and get used to the truth of it: it’s inevitable. Everything is temporary. It sucks, but it is. If I think too hard about it, I’m terrified by how temporary my situation could be; but my terror won’t erase the truth.

So when change happens, go ahead and grieve for what was. After you’ve taken some time to evaluate your past comforts, look toward what’s next. Find a new possibility that excites you. Do something or go somewhere different. See what opportunities have unveiled. Make something wonderful out of them.

Change forces us to be on our toes, to adapt, to get uncomfortable. Turn it around and make something good happen. It’s up to you where you go from here. You can wallow and try your best to claw back to the place you were, or you can stand up straight and own what happens next. When you hate where change has dropped you, move.

Remember the freedom of choice. Remember the ownership of self. Remember the power you have over your life. Even when the world you live in looks bleak, when it’s turned upside down, know there is something amazing out there, and you are in charge of getting it. When the road gets twisty, lean in.

Stop telling yourself you can’t, that it’s too bad, or that you haven’t another option/choice. Take the reins. Do something great. I believe in you.

 

Get some sleep.

 

Posted in Bad days, Change, Full life, Happiness | Tagged , ,

What Others Think is Not Your Problem

Photo Credit: James Whitesmith via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: James Whitesmith via Compfight cc

Last night I had a dream in which I sat at a table across from a little girl. Her father loomed near as she asked me if I go to church. I thought for a second about how to respond. Then I said, “I don’t believe in God.”

She gasped in surprise, as if it was unheard of. To her, it probably was. I looked at her father for his reaction, thinking that perhaps it was an inappropriate honesty for such a young child unschooled in the existence of non-believers. He nodded his head at me in a way that told me he was okay with it.

When I woke, I wondered to myself why it is that I avoid expressing my belief, or more aptly my disbelief. It may have to do with where I live and its deep seeded layers of culture and heavy religion. Am I afraid of being an outcast? A metaphorical leper? I never have been before. It may have something to do with the years I spent fearing, studying, loving, worshiping, and hating the Christian god before I opened my eyes. Habits are hard to break, even after your belief system already has.

On the other hand, who goes around saying, “I’m an atheist, just so you know”? Not me. Not anyone. But even when religion comes up in conversation, I mostly remain tight-lipped about my stance. When someone uses “God bless you,” as a farewell, I say thank you because it is one of those niceties I appreciate someone passing out to me, even if I don’t share their beliefs. Even if I didn’t appreciate the kindness, I wouldn’t comment against it and risk outing myself.

There is a sense that I am smudged in the eyes of others because I don’t have a god. I don’t think I’ve ever realized just how intimidating that is. It’s been more of a subconscious weight. Now that I’ve identified the issue, time to get over it. Not by telling everyone I see that, gasp, I’m an atheist, but by just not being afraid to admit it. Whether or not I actually do say something is irrelevant. Just not being afraid is enough.

Perhaps afraid is too strong a word. I think I’m looking for something like uncomfortable or intimidated, definitely not ashamed. I am uncomfortable with admitting that particular part of who I am because of the reactions I may solicit. I don’t want to cause others to feel uncomfortable. I’m afraid of disappointing them. I’ve noticed two major feelings aimed at non-believers by some religious folks: anger and pity. I do not want to be on the receiving end of that pity stick.

What I’m learning from all this is what I’ve known all along. We all should feel comfortable with who we are, as well as comfortable admitting it. When we are not, there is no one to blame other than ourselves. What others think is their problem. If they are uncomfortable, it’s their problem. We must embrace all parts of ourselves even if others won’t.

 

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Act Your Shoe Size, Not Your Age

Photo Credit: guzzphoto via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: guzzphoto via Compfight cc

When we reach adulthood, too often we forget the wonders of being a child. We lose the best parts. We’re always so busy making and living by our own grown-up rules that we forget the magic of simpler ideas. Society tends to beat the greatest lessons of childhood out of us as we mature. We should re-learn a few things from our children.

Be silly.
I’ve talked about this before because, really, it’s important. Children are silly creatures. They laugh, play, and don’t care if people see them as foolish. They want fun and happiness, and so they make it and inject it into everything. We overlook opportunities to play and be silly, opting instead to worry and regret. There are times and places for seriousness, but too many people scratch out merriment from too many areas of life. So sad. Play, have fun, and pay less attention to what people think of you. It will make those serious times easier to deal with.

Dream and believe.
Not only do children dream fantastical, sometimes impossible, things, they also believe they can happen. They harbor an honest faith that they can do anything, and that everything is possible. They aren’t born with the idea of impossible; we teach them the idea of possible. Then they grow up and become us.

Of course, as an adult, believing everything is possible is a bit far off. I’m sure we all know that growing a pine tree from a watermelon seed is pretty impossible. But as we grow, we push away our dreams. We admire them and wish for them from afar. Then we fill ourselves with regret. Not enough of us keep our heads in the clouds long enough to believe in the possibility of achieving our dreams. Keep your dreams close, believe in them, and use your adulthood smarts to go after them.

Have confidence.
Children are awesome and they know it. They have no problem letting us know how awesome they are. They tout how super fast, smart, pretty, funny, and strong they are. As we age, the world does nothing to encourage our awesomeness. In fact, we do a good job of telling each other how deficient we are. If we don’t comply with what is acceptable, we put each other and ourselves into categories: stupid, ugly, eccentric, delinquent, outcast. We learn not to love ourselves too much (or at all) and to downplay our worth. But there is a difference between confidence and arrogance. We need to value ourselves the way children value themselves.

Posted in Full life, Happiness, Lessons, Simpler Life | Tagged , , | 4 Comments