Sunday, December 14, 2008


It's snowing in Boise! We had a little skiff of snow yesterday when I went out for my walk, just enough to blow about a little. But when I was a block from home it began snowing more heavily, and soon I was abominable snow Patti. I stopped every half-mile or so to brush off the flakes and shake out my hair, and it was very smile-worthy. And I walked 8000 steps, which is a bit over 4 miles for me. Today the snow is really falling, we have accumulation and the world is frosted in white. Sigh.

Yes....I have a step counter. I'm not sure I mentioned that here. I'm wearing this bodybugg thing that measures your calorie burn and steps (which for the most part is not all that effective for me). The very accurate step counter IS motivating.

So. On the deck at the moment is my Christmas tree. It is a fake. I'm mildly morally opposed to fake Christmas trees, but I'm also very very aware of not pushing myself too hard. As a result, I went Christmas tree shopping yesterday, and came home not with the fresh smelling fir that I normally select, but with an artificial, pre-lit fir in a big box. I was trying to wrestle the damned thing into my Explorer in the parking lot when a nice guy nearby came and saved me. Probably he was laughing on the inside, but he was just plain helpful on the outside. And that experience made me smile, too.

Don't overcommit. That is my current motto. Choose. It's hard to do that everywhere, maybe hardest to do at work. At work there are so many competing needs, and I am relatively certain that those needs would not be equally prioritized by everyone who might want to vote. But...I still need to choose. And I am. In my personal life, choosing is clearer, if I stay mindful of the fact that a choice exists. Fancy dinner, or take that time to exercise? Read a book or watch a movie? Decorate for Christmas, or not? It is amazing how the awareness of choice calms me. Amazing.

My bellydance classes are now at the studio. We are putting together step combinations, not so much a scripted dance (though that will come, I am told) but step combinations that work. It's so very much fun. I find myself dancing all the time now, hearing the correct rhythm pattern in a song on my iPod and dancing - three-quarter shimmy to Melissa Etheridge, or Bryan Adams, or....well, almost anything. It is goooood.

But I digress. The studio classes are smaller, and that means more chitchat with the other dancers. The woman who knocked me down last week is 28, it turns out. She was surprised by my age, and the other (supertense!) woman standing nearby said "you don't have kids - and anyone who doesn't have kids has no idea how hard life can be." My eyebrows hit my hairline, and I opened my mouth but did not say anything. Supertense woman is an interesting case. She is in her 40's, married, very tense and her parents buy her things that she shows us - like her new Cadillac SUV. She is...unhappy. Visually, clearly and in every line of her body unhappy.

Her comment reminded me of a Thanksgiving I once spent with my friend Carol, her mother and her now-ex husband. I was in a great mood, and I was making everyone laugh. He was laughing as hard as anyone, but at some point he said - "only someone who is deeply unhappy can be as funny as you are." And I felt defensive, and then I felt sad for him. The truth is something else, I think. Difficult things happen to you, and you can choose to stretch your schema a bit. You can either shift your whole "potential for happiness" range down, to allow for the new bad thing that has happened to fit in your range, or you can stretch your range. In other words, if something that bad can happen, there must be an even higher high that can happen. That is what I believe. I think my earliest life, with parents who truly believed I could do anything (except sports!) and who made me believe it, too - that set me up to be the person I am. And, too, I am of the opinion that the experience of loss or hurt or pain can give you a fresh and sharp perspective on what is at risk, what you should celebrate having in your life. Nothing is permanent, everything changes. That hurts, and at the very same instant it reveals opportunity and joy in every tiny shift.

So, to that cranky now-ex-husband I say - I'm sorry that you could not believe sadness could transform someone into having a greater capacity for pure joy. To supertense woman I say - stretch a little and own some of your unhappiness, so that you can change it. To the charming 28-year-old-with-THREE-left feet I say - life will send you dificult things, deal with them and let them sharpen your appreciation of good things. And to the universe? I'm thankful that my experiences have made me perhaps sometimes-tired, but not bitter. I'm grateful that somehow, despite everything, the way I look seems to suggest to others that I've led a life without pain or loss.

So while it has been a very rough year for everyone, I am very very lucky in many ways. So while I'm decorating my well-lit and unscented Christmas tree, I'll light a "glistening snow" candle and practice some threequarter shimmies to Celtic harp music. I'll wish I could hug the people I love who are far away, and bake them brown sugar shortbread cookies, or other buttery delights. I'll send them good thoughts.

Hug 'em if you've got 'em. :)

~ patti

Friday, December 5, 2008

Clearing the Fog

Four signs that your life needs to be reordered:

  • You feel as though your life is seriously out of sorts, but you can't find even an evening, or an afternoon, to sort it.
  • The bookshelf has a stack of unread and promising titles, and you literally cannot choose one.
  • You find yourself so frustrated that you well up.
  • You can't remember the last time you didn't feel behind. Very behind.
This was a week that had many many many moments of frustration at work. And...I'm quite sick and tired of work dominating my waking hours and my thoughts. So I'm not going to write about it here.

What was important about this week? I accepted a few things that I cannot change. I made time to walk, and made moving my body a priority. I danced, and it was fabulous, and bought music for my Ipod so I can dance with abandon wherever I might be, whenever I care to. My black boots that were once too tight are now not. Yay. My shimmies are faster and more sure, and my egyptian basic steps are snappppy now that the swivel feels easy. Yay.

Last weekend I watched the Kurosawa film "Ran" - it's very interesting. It's a retelling of King Lear, in Japan, with amazing costumes and complicated, bloody battle scenes...and quieter, more chilling scenes of a scheming woman who brings the brothers to their deaths. The film feels long, but certainly worth the investment of minutes. What I am still thinking about, a week later, is the intense and impressive way that Kurosawa used colors - the scenes are saturated with the colors of the landscape, the uniforms of the armies, the blood of the fallen.

This week I went to the orthodontist to have him do impressions of my teeth. I have this gap, see. And of course, he sees other issues, and he wants to make my mouth perfect. Which would require two years of braces, probably. Ehh. I made him laugh (he reads literature! I quizzed him!) and by the end of the appointment he agreed that he would give me not two quotes/treatment options, but three. The right way, the maybe not so perfect but still clinically pretty great way, and "a twist and orthodontic bondo." See - I kind of like my gap. But I don't like that it has become crooked since one of my wisdom teeth was extracted. It should be interesting, both hearing the options and whether I go for it or not.

Have you ever had someone thoughtlessly hurt your feelings, unintentionally, and had a flash of shame that YOU had certainly done that to someone else at some point? Something in my personality makes people feel comfortable enough with me to let down their guard, and let me just say, sometimes that's not all that great for ME. With some people, I'd like to see that guard stay up. High. Because the things that come out of their mouths make me like them less, or make me like me less, or make me like the reality of my life less - well, you see the pattern. For some reason, I do not always kick those people out of my life. Do I keep them around to remind me to be careful with the feelings of others? I truly do not know. But I'm not sure that it's a healthy habit.

It seems to me that my criteria for allowing people into my life is skewed, that I need to rethink the process I use to decide who will be invited into my life, to gift with my time and care. Basic "niceness" aside, these are essentially decisions about how we spend our lives. Those decisions should be active - people I choose to give my minutes should be selected, the way I once decided actively how to spend my days at work, and after. The people who only take, who remember to give only when prompted, who are too insecure or greedy to give until they get - they may be familiar personalities to me, but they are not good for me. Not at all.

The clarity of that realization was my gift this week. Something in the way Kurosawa aimed his camera, the unblinking and relentless view of truth - it reminded me that not looking is a decision we can't afford to make. Clearing the fog, recognizing the truly required and what only clamors to be so - that was my gift.

Have I mentioned that it was a brutal week?

This weekend is going to be one to recharge and regroup. Wish me luck!

~ patti