Wednesday, March 05, 2014

I love you, Newt Gingrich

About 15 years ago, just after officially becoming a Christian with a Capital C, I tried an experiment for Lent - my first official Lent as a baptized Christian. I decided to give up saying mean things about people. This happened to coincide with starting a new job at Talbots World Headquarters - that's a story in and of itself - with a bunch of people who didn't know me from Eve. And so a curious thing happened. In refraining from being a snarky, gossipy bitch around this new group of colleagues, everyone at work started to assume that I was a really nice person. And not really nice in the way that I already am (and was) really nice. Really nice in that almost saintly way. The "oh she wouldn't say a bad word about anybody" way. And it was WEIRD. I didn't even say mean things about Newt Gingrich. At first I had to bite my tongue so hard I'm surprised there is anything left of it. Of course, eventually, the practice became a habit and then the habit became just a natural way of being, and I got really good at refraining from joining in when the conversation got gossipy or mean. I was highly skilled at steering the topic in a different direction, or finding a way to excuse myself. The unintended consequence of my Lenten Practice was that people I worked with were forming opinions about me - and my true self - that weren't exactly true. I felt like an impostor, and that left me feeling at times uncomfortable. But overall I really enjoyed not talking shit about people. It was - liberating.

And of course, just as easily as that all started to come to me, when Lent was over, I slowly slipped back into my bitchy ways. I have no idea what my new friends at Talbots thought about my transformation - or if they even noticed it. I must have told some of my new friends what I was doing, over-sharer that I am, but I don't really remember. What I do remember are those six sort of magical weeks when I refrained from unkindnesses. And what I've wondered ever since is why I didn't just keep going.

This year I'm taking that same practice but stepping it up a notch. Honestly, I'm not exactly sure how it will work, or what it will look like on a daily basis, but here's the basic concept which I will probably have to write down and post everywhere around me to keep myself on course:

"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"
- Matthew 5:44

I don't know what this looks like exactly, but I do know it's more active than passive. It's not refraining, it's loving. It's not withholding, it's praying for. And I like that. We'll see how it goes.

I'm also giving up meat.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Ash Wednesday

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 
- Mary Oliver

Every year, as spring is just barely announcing itself, I get up early and head to church. I step into the aisle between the pews. I walk up to the priest. She dips her finger in the ashes, makes the mark of the cross on my forehead, and says to me, with a smile, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Remember. Not learn. Not understand. Remember. Because the knowledge of our own mortality is embedded. It’s part of being human. It’s a remembrance. We push it away, but we know it to be true: Life is ridiculously, beautifully, painfully short.

I mean, I forget that all the time. Don’t you?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My inner voice is a total asshole


"Why are you even bothering? You have nothing new or interesting to say. What are you, a mommy blogger? That's so extra lame. Stick to your day job, you're a shitty writer. If you MUST blog or whatever, you should at least have a niche. What's your niche? Life? Single parenthood? The Internet? SOCIAL MEDIA? Your hair looks horrible and you have bags under your eyes. You're old and ugly! And a hack! And you're just looking for attention. Stop bothering. You won't succeed at this anyway."

I actually spent about three years in therapy talking - not exclusively, but a whole lot - about this asshole who lives in my head and says hateful things to me all day long. By the end of three years I had learned how to talk back to the asshole, and the asshole got a lot quieter. It turns out that the asshole in my head mostly just wants a hug and a cookie, and needs to be reminded that assholes should be quiet and sit down and let the grown ups handle things. I'm just out of practice, and the asshole has been slowly taking advantage and moving into more and more rooms in my head.

The asshole is just scared, that's all.

Have a cookie, asshole.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


See? Flowers!

I'm doing this Apartment Therapy "January Cure," where you let them boss you around for a month, and then on February 1st you open your eyes and go OH MY GOD IS THIS MY HOUSE? WHAT HAPPENED?!?!! Or so I'm led to believe. There's all kinds of nifty projects with cute names like Landing Strip and Outbox. You clean your kitchen and bring in flowers. There are corners and closets to investigate, decluttering to do, keys to organize, pictures to be framed and hung. At the end of the month, your space is miraculously transformed into a home plucked straight from the pages of Architectural Digest. I don't mean to sound snarky, it's actually lots of fun. Also, they told me to go out and buy flowers. I love flowers!

Today the challenge was "try a media fast." Turn off all of your devices. Maybe read a book? Take a nap? Make eye contact? Just be there in your house, and let the rest of the world fade away for a while. I felt a creeping panic from the minute I skimmed the email this morning, because once dinner is over and the dishes are taken care of, I typically plug myself into a Hulu marathon or I do a deep dive into Failblog or I spend way too much time chasing Internet rabbits down holes because distraction is my calling, and that's what I do until I sleep. I am an expert at self-distraction. It's a gift.

Yet I'm committed to this daily Apartment Therapy deal, whatever the cost. I WILL ENDURE THE EVENING WITHOUT THE PLEASURE OF MEME-BASED GIFS! I say to myself.

At about 8 pm I read the assignment to Jack, my oldest, who seemed skeptical but intrigued. And I figured, okay, I'll give it an hour. What will you do? He asked. Maybe I'll read a book, I said, knowing I will not read a book. Maybe I'll get out my sketch book and draw those lilies, I said, knowing that any attempts at drawing will just leave me feeling like a really bad artist. I didn't know what to do, is the truth. I felt this crazy pressure to do something creative or intellectual with my free time, as though just sitting still and talking were somehow not worthwhile. But also? I'm tired. And maybe even partly tired of people telling me to unplug, for the good of my health, and the good of society. Even though I know they're right, and civility matters, and blah blah blah, brainwaves. It's a tiresome theme.

Jack, who would usually retreat to his room at this point in the day, stayed in the living room with me. Coincidentally enough, his phone was at about 7%, his charger was lost, and he was about to go through an involuntary media fast of his own. There we were, marooned on a media-free island. And guess what happened?

My soon-to-be 16-year-old kid (HOLY FUCK, that's just not possible) and I spent two and a half hours talking about sex, and drugs, and religion, and politics, and navigating high school friendships, and surviving crazy families, and college, and career choices, and anxiety.

Two. And a half. Hours.

I'd go into the details of the conversation, but that would embarrass the hell out of my kid, and violate his privacy, and I know better. But I honestly feel closer to that boy tonight than I have ever felt in 16 years. Which is pretty astonishing.

So thanks, Apartment Therapy, for that. Thanks for that, and for the flowers.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Buckets, Lists, Resolutions and Cowboys

My bucket list, such as it is, written well over a year ago, includes "blog every day for 365 days." Which in retrospect seems like both a really dumb and really brilliant idea, and I'm not sure what it's doing there. I'm even more shocked that it's number four on the list, since you'd think the top 10 or so would be reserved for Very Important Items (like buying a house, my number one goal), not for the dead and pointless realm of blogging.

So this being the 14th of January, and resolutions still hanging in the air like so much pollen from a cedar tree, I think I'll give it a shot.

The cowboy is from just outside the Roswell UFO Museum, a strange and sort of sad place devoted to the one day in 1945 when a weather balloon crashed on a ranch in New Mexico. Inside is a compilation of newspaper clippings, bad art, alien statues, and misleading quotes from dignitaries implying their belief in the existence of extra terrestrials among us. Plainly obvious, although not stated anywhere, is the severe dropoff in reports of aliens, UFO sightings, and abductions, after about 1979. It was around that time that I think we moved on to Satanic Cults and past life regression. Let's all have a collective shudder about that.

Anyway, Roswell was the first stop on our recent grand tour of New Mexico and Southern Colorado - just me and the kids - which by the way allowed me to cross out #19 on the list. I still want to take everyone on an even longer trip, but I have a feeling the older boys will object to ever getting in a car with me again for more than 30 minutes. We shall see.

Actual resolutions for 2014:

  • Nourish my inner creative 
  • Save more than I spend 
  • Spend more individual time with each of my children
  • Make the dog's life happier

I see my record for # of posts in a single year is 134, so 365 is probably more than a stretch. But it's not really about that. It's about finding my voice. Again. Let's get to it, then.