Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve - Crack the Champagne?

I have a bottle, and I'm making a list of reasons to raise a glass.

It is quite amazing to me the things I learn about life from writing, in the act of finding language to create meaning and sensation. Here is one I'm pondering today: in editing, I often spend too much time trying to correct symptoms of underlying issues. For example, I'll say that a section of dialogue is stilted, when the real problem is that the character is underdeveloped. That sort of thing. Guess what...I do that in life, too. I react to symptoms and try to fix them, instead of taking that single breath and step backward to be sure I'm correcting the right thing. I've been working on this pretty hard in 2007, and I've made a lot of progress but dammmmmmit...I keep slipping up.

I forgive myself...but I really wish I would stop it. No: I will stop it.

Here is how I slip up most: not measuring opportunities FIRST against how they match with my priorities, and THEN by what else they might offer me. I'm very lucky in many ways - opportunities come to me. People who love me say that's because I work hard. Ehhh...I think it's some sort of balancing act for the crappy stuff that's been thrown in my direction. Either way - when opportunities arrive, it is hard not to be persuaded by the priorities that OTHERS have for me. More salary, more "prestige" - these aren't on my priority list. More time, more focus, the time and energy to write and to care for my body - these are on my list.

Oh, wait. Maybe how I slip up most is in overbooking myself, overcommitting my time. No. I'm getting better about that. Progress.

So, I'm withdrawing from consideration for a job that has a great title and pays better (and does get me to the side of the country I'd prefer living in) - but that advances none of my priorities. Whew. I'm getting better at this.

It occurs to me that if my priorities are attained...I'll likely find myself a healthy, fit, poor-but-happy writer. That's okay - I'll still have my shoes. It will be better than okay. It will be perfect. :)

That 12 week thing started today. So this morning, after a healthy breakfast, only ONE cup of coffee and a couple of glasses of water, I bundled up and went out to walk my 4 miles (including the breath-stealing hill!) in the chill air. It felt great. And now I'm here...and soon I'll go give myself a pedicure and get semi-snazzily dressed to ring in the new year. I'm wearing the shoes, I think...even if they are a super impractical choice for the quieter celebration we're planning.

And today, tonight, tomorrow - I'll be making my list of things to be grateful for, 2007 milestones and great moments, people to thank and connect with. And I will also be working on my plans for next year.

Be safe and joyous!

~ patti

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Cormac McCarthy

This morning, around 9, I started reading No Country For Old Men, a novel by Cormac McCarthy. He is a brilliant writer, and his prose thrills me even when his material troubles me. But it's Christmas Eve, so I expected to read a few chapters, then set the book aside and read something else. Something Christmasy. Lighter. Like, say, maybe...Dante.

Oh, my. Nope. Read the whole book in one sitting. Straight through. What a novel. It raises big questions about the nature of faith, the aims of our country, the aims of each one of us - questions it doesn't answer and that it raises without approaching preachiness. The characters are complex and simple, honorable and flawed. Lovely. You will, if you know me, hear about this book for a while. But tonight, I am moved to quote one section.

So as not to ruin the book's lovely and quiet surprises, I'll not say where this section is from, or who the speaker is. He's smart, tough, and wise. He is not educated, and is, as they apparently say in Texas with great reverence, "common as dirt." He has not had an easy life, and he is speaking to another character about the nature of regret in a life. He says this:
"I ain't got that many regrets. I could imagine lots of things you might think would make a man happier. . . You can make up your own list. You might even have one. I think by the time you're grown up you're as happy as you're goin to be. You'll have good times and bad times, but in the end you'll be about as happy as you was before. Or as unhappy. I've knowed people that just never did get the hang of it."

My, yes. I've known people who never got the hang of it, either, and this passage rang with such immense and simple truth to me. I've known people, smart people, who sniffed at happiness as the playground for the simple-minded. But in the end, that's just not true. It may be, arguably, harder to stay happy when you can see the complexities of the world's problems. But in the end, you're going to find a way to be happy with today if you are so wired. You're going to smile at some touch of nature in your life, or the sweet smile of a child, or the taste of something simply delicious. And it will not matter, really, if you do that from a chair surrounded by sunshine and daisies, or from a place that is darker. Because for happy people the darkness is transitory. It simply is.

I'll tell you, this gives me pause. You have to try to place yourself when you read something like that, don't you? Out walking tonight, in the cold and clear darkness, I thought hard about this. I have had a series of hard times, unrelated to one another, but piled on top of one another, such that I became an essentially happy person who began to doubt that the darkness was transitory. Or, as one of my friends says, the "little donkey burdens all added up." I didn't even really know that I was losing my faith in the light. And then, then a lot of things conspired to lift my head up. I was reminded that the darkness could be lifted. I remembered, and I believed. That memory made me kick for the light, in a way that reminds me, still, of kicking for the surface of a lake when my lungs ache for air. One never knows what you'll find at the surface, or in the clarity of bright light, but the happy person is certain it will be better than burning for air, or fumbling in darkness. Rediscovering the light has been such a gift - it's hope and happiness all in one.

Merry almost-Christmas to all those who helped me to find my light this year, and those who waited while I did. Thank you, a thousand thousand times over.

~ Patti

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Snow Falls on ChainLink....

My house sits on a corner, across the street from an old, private golf course. I always say I have the cheap seats - the lush open space spread out and filling the view from my windows...just across a rather busy street, and on the other side of a chain link fence that is almost invisible. Until the snow outlines each rectangle with teeny drifts of white that glisten in moonlight.'s nice, almost decadent, that expanse of groomed earth. In summer it's too green for this desert climate, and in winter it feels like a private park.

It snowed last night when I was out walking. First it was that icy kind of sleety rain-snow, and I was laughing to myself about being so hard-headed that I was 1.75 miles from home, in the dark, in the sleet, without a hat but with both an Ipod and a cell phone. Nice. But then...the snow changed to the heavy, dense curtain of flakes - the kind that falls straight down in a silent press of white. And I smiled at it, tipped my face up to let it strike my skin and thanked the universe for sending it. It made me MUCH less homesick to have the snow falling. I might have dialed my cell to share the news with someone...but it was as sweet, I think, to send my thoughts out into the dark night sky and trust that they would be felt, if not heard.

Yeah, this 12-week thing? Uhm....I'm thinking maybe I started with a four week maintenance warm-up kind of plan, and then I'll leap right into the 12 week weight loss cycle. Yeah. I have changed my habits a lot, and I'm no longer at risk of just piling on pounds when I let my guard down. I have habits that involve uh...vegi burgers and whole grains, instead of my old standbys of french cheese and delightful breads. Thus - it is okay to be in a maintenance loop for a few weeks - it IS. It is a long road, this life road. And I'm under direct orders to treat myself with love and respect. To which I say...whatever...and then try to honor that request, because it came out of love and care.

Love and peace to us all - it's just a few hours from Christmas Eve day here, and I'm enjoying the silence and the glow of my late-decorated but lovely Christmas tree.

Peace and love ~ Patti

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Twelve Weeks

I was manhandled by one of those "free gift" offers into buying a book titled Body for Life for Women. The book is a little inspirational (galleries of before and after photos, success stories) and quite blunt. If you're over 40, you are on a fast track to a higher percentage of body fat and less lean muscle unless you work hard at reversing the process. Ugh.

One element I like quite a lot is one that I've followed rather unconsciously the last few years as I worked to lose the pounds I'd piled on: 12 weeks of focused weight loss effort, and then 12 weeks of maintenance at the new lower weight before losing more. I like this. It works for me, and it makes sense to me.

So, today is day 1 of a 12 week weight loss segment.

I ate wisely, drank lots of water (that part's always easy for me) and, joy of joys...walked my 4 mile loop, though without taking the hill that steals my breath. It felt awesome. Yay, me.

Happy December.

Peace to all ~ patti