Sometimes, what to do next becomes quite clear.
February 17th, 2008 - 10 Comments
First, my mom got on the line. I recognized her right away although she sounded old and frail. It was so good to hear her.
“We’re coming out,” she said. I understood that she and dad were getting in the car and starting to drive all the way from Texas to California.
“It will take awhile,” she said, “because we have to stop at the pharmacies.”
Somehow that made sense to me. Then my dad spoke.
“Hi honey.” I could tell he was smiling in his weary way. “Are you sure you want us to come?”
I was remembering all this the next day when I drove down Santa Anita Avenue and I saw an old man in the crosswalk. He was stoop shouldered. The breeze made his white hair flare out behind his ears like wings. From the back, he looked exactly like my dad, who died two years ago. Mom went first; soon it will be seven years.
Here’s the thing: I said yes. I really do want them to come, and they’re on their way.
Dreams are not dreams, you know. They are no more dreams than any other dreams we live while we’re awake.
I’m dreaming with my eyes wide open. And I’m watching for what comes.
February 15th, 2008 - 4 Comments
This was my daughter, yesterday, at that hysterical place where well-laid plans go postal. Dear friends from Texas were about to board the plane for a weekend at our place when the flu bug arose in that most irrefutable indication up out of your gut and onto your Air Jordans. Our friends are now where they should be: still at home and on the mend. That’s where we are too, on the mend, facing a few days suddenly free and undone. She and I will find it, too, the fresh direction in just the two of us, holding hands, nursing root beer floats and indulging in what will be no small amount of retail therapy.
Friendship is like that, so reliable and yet still so unexpected. Pictures arrived in the mail of my most beguiling baby Claire Georgia, all smiles and growing up before we dare blink; please go see. As I write I’m playing the angel voice and sacred songs sent forth by my friend Sally Dworsky, who wrote her love hymns as our children romped in a shaded schoolyard like a litter of kittens, pure life and joy; be sure you have a listen. And then a secret heart, a handmade valentine arrived in the post from Beth, so faraway and yet her magic is today here in my grip; it is my ticket and I am using it right now, sending love to everyone, everyone by return mail, and with this solemn pledge.
Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Love the one you’re with.
February 13th, 2008 - 15 Comments
I’ve been out of touch for a while. I used to imagine you, worship you, and cry my eyes out for you every day. But that was before you left for the last time.
I’ve learned a lot about myself since you’ve been gone. I admit I’ve changed. I learned, for instance, that there is a time and season for everything. There’s a time for flirting with that cute waiter at the breakfast place even though he’s 10 years younger, doesn’t own a car, needs to borrow money and he’ll pay you back this time for sure. A time for composing all-night sonnets to the old high-school heartthrob who doesn’t realize he’s just using you to get over his divorce. There is a time for booking a first-class ticket to spend a romantic weekend, at your own expense, with the handsome stranger who will one day soon drive down from Denver, move into your house, barely ever get out of bed, never get another job, and tell you everything that’s wrong with you and your life before he moves out again.
Then there’s a time to sort the whites from the colors.
I’ve learned, too, that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. That Mars can be light-years away from clearing the dinner dishes from the table, putting the shoes in the closet, and making the coffee in the morning, but that Mars is nearly always inches away from a flat screen.
The washer and dryer are on Venus.
I’ve seen and felt my share of love. In some ways, I consider myself an expert. I’ve seen a man’s face tremble in awe and, yes, fear, as I walked down an aisle toward him. I’ve seen a man weep at the sight of his baby girl. I’ve seen the walls quake and the floor tilt with the immensity of our anger, then fall instantly still with an apology. I’ve seen an entire home built and rebuilt on love alone, sometimes in a single day.
I’ve seen the washer overflow and the fuse short out.
Love comes into my life everyday now, Cupid. It comes in denim, khaki, in cotton underwear, in hand wash, machine wash and rarely, rarely in dry clean only. It comes in dainty piles of pink and purple, and massive stacks of towels and sheets. Love comes by the basketful in my house, Cupid, but it doesn’t come from you. It never did.
Dear Cupid: I’m into my third load today, but I’m just not that into you.
Inspired just in time for Happy Valentine’s and another lovely group writing project at Between the Lines.
February 12th, 2008 - 5 Comments
In 2003 – March 16, 2003 to be exact, because I still have the paper– I drew a Wheel of Life as I described in yesterday’s post. My daughter was then two and a half years old. Under my “Career” aspect I wrote “Power of Pen.” I can recall being uncertain and inhibited about my ambition, but I was asking for something invigorating to come from my writing. I drew a quick sketch of an open book with little squiggly lines and a pen on top. The next day, a former PR client called me and asked if I’d be interested in writing a book with a man whose last name happened to be Power.
I had never written a book. I had written many things – articles, papers, brochures, websites, speeches, business plans – but I had never written anything published in my own name so that I could credibly call myself an author. Awed by the coincidence, I said yes to the invitation. Over the next weeks and months, I met and spoke to a series of people involved in the project so they could assess my ability. It was a very long shot, but each presentation was the opportunity for me to believe my own b-s about myself. In the end, not surprisingly, we didn’t do a book together. But by the end, I knew that there was a book to be done by myself. The little power trip was to empower myself.
This is the kind of thing that comes out of the wheel. Not always so immediately, so glaringly, but in its own time and fashion. Everything, you see, turns on the wheel. Just this weekend as I was fomenting this topic, it came to me how psychically and spiritually powerful the circle is. Familiar with the enneagram? Fascinating. The Celtic wheel? The labyrinth? The bagua? A mandala? We all know the wheel of the zodiac. How about the dharma wheel? And then there’s that little cheerio close to my heart, the enso. The list goes on and on, and it isn’t a list, but a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
It’s your life in motion.
I would write more but I’m already inspired to move beyond. And you are too.
February 11th, 2008 - 9 Comments
2. Eyeball the center of the circle and make a dot there. Don’t trouble yourself to get the exact center.
3. Use a ruler or straightedge to divide the circle into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Don’t worry about the equidistance of the lines.
4. Now you have a pie with eight roughly equivalent wedges. Don’t quibble about how equal they are.
5. Quick, without thinking, label the top edge of each wedge with a word for one aspect of your life. For instance, I might write, “Work,” “Family,” “Finances,” “Health,” “Practice,” “Travel,” “Marriage,” “Fitness,” etc. Don’t study or ponder what your eight aspects are. Just jot them in as they come to you. They change over time and with circumstances.
6. Without stopping, look at each of the labeled parts and write a word or two that describes exactly what you would like to see occur in each of those areas in your life. Write these words at the bottom on each wedge, near the center of the pie, as you rotate it around. Leave most of the wedge empty and white. Try to avoid time spent in formulating the words you write. Just let them materialize without self-editing.
7. Remind yourself to use an immediate and short-term perspective. Be daring, but be specific. That means, for instance, instead of writing in the “Work” section “Successful Internet Gazillionaire,” write something like “Breakthrough Idea.” Later on, after you have an idea, develop a business plan, attract investors and design and program your enterprise, you can collect your gazillions.
8. Just as fast, look at each section and quickly sketch a visual to represent the outcome that you’ve described. It doesn’t matter how much accuracy or detail you use in your drawing. Do not judge or even think about this. The point is to take a dreamy concept and convert it into raw physical form using your intuitive eye.
9. This is not simply a list of things to do, which is itself a miraculous potion. This creation is your Wheel of Life. Label it with your name in one corner of the paper, like I do, “Karen’s Wheel of Life” and date it. We call it a wheel because wheels turn.
10. Place this somewhere it will be in sight everyday. I put mine on the top of my printer, which sits on the top of my desk at eye level. The point is to have visual access to this diagram automatically, without dwelling on it, and let the aspirations magically penetrate your thought and behavior patterns.
I began this practice, drawing a pie and turning it into my wheel of life, about 12 or 15 years ago. I don’t know where the instructions came from. It was about the time I was hungry and thirsty for everything, so I taught myself palmistry, astrology, and tarot cards. Get the picture? It was all about getting the picture.
I offer it now because of the conversations I keep running into about long-distance life planning and all such things about how to really do what we otherwise only talk or think about doing. Sometimes I re-draw the wheel every two or three months. There have been times, for instance, like in the early part of my daughter’s life, when I fell completely off track, and didn’t draw a wheel for years. Looking back, I can see that those years were indeed when I fell off track, wondering all the while where my life went!
I can’t emphasize enough that this exercise is to articulate immediate intention and action, rather than extract a list of “100 things” that can veer off into the inexhaustible and unimaginable future. Let the things you put into the pie be the things you wouldn’t think would happen tomorrow, but in some subtle and unpredictable way, could happen tomorrow. The way this practice works is that it brings your own readiness and aptitude for growth into manifest form, out of the smoke and dust of mere wishful musings.
All this week, I’m going to tell you more about why I believe this works, and what transcendental company you keep when you call forth a picture of your own pi of life*.
*Humbly inspired by the genius of Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi”, which will convince you that we are indeed the authors of a mysterious truth that is indistinguishable from fiction.
February 7th, 2008 - 13 Comments
So last night my husband stuck his head into the office where I was filling out the Scholastic Book order form and all such things I like to do in my spare time said, “Did you get Georgia some different floss sticks?” Then she wandered in holding up the offending specimen and said:
Mommy, these are really hard to use.
I whipped my head around to look at the both of them and said YES I GOT SOME DIFFERENT ONES BECAUSE I DIDN’T MAKE A SPECIAL TRIP TO TARGET.
The thing is, I’m conscientiously avoiding Target for incidentals since they usually extract $200 or more from me before I leave. I’ve written about the peculiar devotion I have for flossing, and my wicked bliss to see my daughter favorably habituated toward dental hygiene because of our early introduction of candy-colored flossing sticks, but criminy guys, HOW ABOUT TRANSITIONING TO SOME NEW FLOSS STICKS BECAUSE I DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TIME TO MAKE SPECIAL TRIPS TO ALL THESE SPECIAL PLACES FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED THINGS LIKE SPECIAL FLOSS STICKS THAT THEY DON’T SELL AT THE GROCERY STORE.
And Georgia looks at me and says:
Mommy, these are really easy to use.
February 6th, 2008 - 13 Comments
“Mommy, make your next book not about Zen. The whole idea of Zen is bogus.”
Pause here before you rush in to soothe my bruise; to bolster my case. There is no purer truth than what she uttered here. No finer precision, nothing clearer. If only I could do it, really do it, then I would earn my place as the dimwit ancestor of the wisest, choicest, sassy ass eight-year-old Master of the Milky Way.
You go, girl! Show me the back door straight out of bogus, as you always do. Truth is more beautiful than beauty treatments.
This is Not to Be Forgotten Week on the Road, where we share Some Things Said.
February 5th, 2008 - 10 Comments
Mommy, I’m OK with it.
These four words, I’m OK with it, which jarred so offensively on first hearing, sounding so preternaturally teen, can be useful when the mother in question buys an overpriced jacket from a mall retailer with disturbingly oversexed girl’s clothing, washes it once in cold and extracts its shrunken form from the dryer’s delicate cycle, then shrewdly purchases an oversized and durable black nylon replacement which is worn to the weekly “Totally Girly” after-school club where daughter cultivates self-confidence through the liberal application of nail polish, then arrives home with a streak of non-soluble color down the front of her new jacket, an adornment that proves resistant to her mother’s gasps and shrieks as well as to heavy dosing in acetone, detergent and full-blown maternal hysteria, unleashing a noxious cloud of fear, shame, sobbing and mutual post-traumatic regret.
I’m OK with it. Honest. The alternative is too savage for anyone to bear.
“If you really understand the condition of emptiness that underlies all phenomenal existence, you will be content no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing. This contentment itself is to be Buddha. The real meaning of attaining enlightenment is to attain this state of mind.” – Yasutani Roshi
This is Not to Be Forgotten Week on the Road, where we share Some Things Said.
February 4th, 2008 - 9 Comments
Mommy, do you know how hard it is to live with two giants?
Instantly I recall recurring childhood nightmares of being chased by a colossus. Dark, haunted, heart-pounding doom and with no escape.
I will lighten my step! I will lighten it right now. I will shrink back in size! I’ve shrunk already.
No tender bones will be ground to make this bread.
This is Not to Be Forgotten Week on the Road, where we share Some Things Said.
February 3rd, 2008 - 1 Comment
Thank you friends and visitors for playing along in the Bloggy Giveaway.
Now eat your soup.
January 31st, 2008 - 20 Comments
The other week my h-u-s-b-a-n-d stayed home on a Friday. What? Turns out his office closes every other Friday. What? But he’s usually either out of town or so busy that he can’t spare the day at home. What?
But on this day he’s home working, and I’m home working and he seems happy enough and then he looks up, a little disoriented, and asks what time our daughter gets out of school. I tell him 2:15. Then he says,
Maybe I’ll just go to a movie.
Now in all the nearly five years since my daughter started preschool, it has never once occurred to me to go to a movie during the daytime, during a weekday, when I could have stayed home and slaved like a worn-out washerwoman.
So I looked up at him dumbstruck and I thought, What is wrong with me? Why hasn’t it ever occurred to me to enjoy myself on a Friday before 2:15? But what I said was,
You could clean the rain gutters.
Cleaning the rain gutters, like nearly everything I do around here, is a job I don’t particularly like doing but a job I like to get done. In my first marriage, we paid someone to come around once a year and do the job for us. But that was before I took so seriously all those vows of worse and sickness and poorer. For all the years Ned and I have been together I’ve done the gutters on my own.
So he looked up at me and without even a sideways glance or a rolled eye, he said,
This is all I have to offer you. In a month when LA County has recorded about 55,000 inches of rainfall, he said OK, climbed up to the roof and rooted the mushy guck from the swollen gutters, and this is my testament, my only secret to a happy marriage.
We’ve plumb run out of fun with marriage this week. But you can still claim your chance to win an autographed copy of my book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by leaving a comment on Monday’s post. The winner will be drawn after 12 noon PST on Sunday, Feb. 3. Good luck!
January 30th, 2008 - 14 Comments
I’ve written before about the kind of work my h-u-s-b-a-n-d does. He’s in the long-distance business, the very long-distance business. Outer space.
Specifically, now he’s working on Mars. Seriously. When you work on Mars it involves daily side trips to the far reaches of Pasadena and occasional launches to Los Alamos, Washington and France. Before he worked on Mars, he worked on a couple of asteroids, which was a kind of a code word for Italy and Germany. When we met on that fateful evening in Florence, Italy, 13 years ago he was actually working on Saturn.
So you think it’s a surprise to me that I find myself alone so much? I always say the same thing to my friends in a similar circumstance, although it’s nubby comfort: Every mother is a single mother.
Now careful: I mean no offense to the single mothers who are fathers, or to the single mothers who really are single mothers. I do not know the depth of fear or frustration or anxiety, the financial hardship, the personal sacrifice, the sadness, the isolation or the inconsolable straits you may find yourself in, I only sense that most of us are in these things alone.
To his credit, Ned tries to interest me in the curious question of the composition, age and origin of the dust on the surface of the red planet, but that is not the aim of my life’s mission. My mission is to uncover the truth of my life on Earth, a mission that in my earlier days I had no earthly interest in at all. And so I know that I am indeed lucky to have this field to roam so freely on my own, to resolve my questions, to find the deep source of life and love right where I stand.
Even so, Ned’s absence gives me time and space to make trouble; it lets me boil and burn in my own flaming grievance; it invariably wears out my welcoming heart. He’s always happy to come home, and I am usually quite pissy about it. He has this habit of stopping near the airport and picking up two doughnuts as a coming home prize for Georgia and me. How is it that I can hate when he does that, but love when he does that? I eat mine promptly that night or next morning.
When I eat that doughnut, mind you, it only looks like a doughnut. What I am eating is my own clogged heart and deep-fried resentment. I’m swallowing residual anger and bad attitude. I’m chomping that ever-living ego of mine back to a manageable size so we can start over.
The search for intelligent life involves a lot of starting over and an advanced form of mathematics. As my daughter wrote in an email to her dad last night: YOU + ME + MOM + MOLLY (the dog) = 1.
Join me for more fun with marriage all week. And just for grins, here’s your chance to win an autographed copy of my book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by leaving a comment on Monday’s post. The winner will be drawn after 12 noon PST on Sunday, Feb. 3. Good luck!