Archive for the ‘Self-Discovery’ Category

Through Your Eyes

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

The way you look at someone–and smile–will affect them in ways you may never know.

Some of us take a lot of trouble with our appearance–to present the best possible countenance to the rest of the world. We gaze in the mirror and refine our looks with gadgets and beauty products, preening and posing until we are satisfied with the way we look. Sometimes we even smile at the reflection we see…and guess what…it smiles back! We leave feeling good about ourselves.

But what about the “look” we give the rest of our fellow travelers in our daily rounds? Are we as generous with each of them–as pleased with what we see in their faces? Maybe some of us are not even pleased with the image we last saw in the mirror. Bad hair day? Acne? Didn’t get the makeup quite right? And, oh no–wrinkles!

Remember that the most perfect “look” you show the rest of the world is the way you look at others, the way you see them, and the way they see themselves reflected in your eyes.

Don’t forget to smile.

A flat tire changed me

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

It’s Sunday. A good day to express gratitude if you take a traditional approach to these things. Actually, I take time every day to be grateful. It is part of my spiritual practice.

I have a lot to be grateful for this week. For one, I started a new job at the beginning of the week. In a job market that has more than 12% unemployment, it’s no small thing. That the job is actually a good fit for my skills and something I’m interested in is even better. As if that is not enough, the company culture, the benefits and not least of all, my boss and fellow employees, are all wonderful. I’m exceedingly grateful for this job.

But beyond that, and all of the friends and family who populate my life, I want to express gratitude for the California Highway Patrol who stopped when he saw I had a flat tire last Monday night. I had pulled over on a difficult stretch of the Interstate through the Sierra Nevadas where I could not even get out of the car to look at the tire. He reassured me and stayed behind my car until the tow truck arrived an hour later to change the tire. He said it was no big deal: he was just doing his job.

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I see the highway patrol, I get nervous. Why that should be, I don’t know. I rarely exceed the speed limit by more than 5 miles an hour, and I have a valid drivers license, car insurance and registration. I’m not a criminal. But for some reason, cops have made me nervous since I was a kid. Maybe it has something to do with my parents’ admonition when I was young that “if you’re bad, the policeman will come and take you away.” That was pretty scary for a little kid. I guess the fear stuck. So much of what we hear as children dominates our belief system for the rest of our lives. It makes it impossible for us to listen to reason sometimes.

Maybe this blog is about fear more than gratitude, but I think it’s about how an act of common decency can go a long way to change deep-seated limiting beliefs. Actually, it’s just about how silly some of those fears are. We all have them.

Because of the unfortunate incident of a flat tire, I have an altered, and more balanced perspective of something I’ve feared my whole life. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could have an opportunity to examine our fears and find them unsubstantiated long enough to experience a different viewpoint?

If nothing else, it’s Sunday. Think about it.

Whose Suffering Is It Anyway?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

copy-of-natasha-july-09-0131copy-of-natasha-july-09-0251

In the final days of my cat, Natasha’s life, was human comfort or feline comfort my priority?

Already a spectral presence, frighteningly thin, weak, and silent, my dying cat took up residence under the bed exactly far enough from either side that she could not be reached. I lay on the floor, my arm outstretched towards her as far as possible, begging her to please come out where I could stroke her. Those great liquid eyes stared back from a place I couldn’t go, a place where pain and exhaustion took her when they became her new mistress. It was a contest I couldn’t win.

I cried to her to please not die under  my bed where I couldn’t touch her.  Again, those big, empty eyes turned towards me at the sound of her name: the end of her tail flicked. I still don’t know whether her tail registered happiness that I was near or annoyance. Like most of my species, I needed to believe my life made a profound difference to hers.

In the end it did. I chose to stop her suffering prematurely…and mine. Always the supposedly good human, I had to take control of her death as I’d always had control of her life.

I have to remind myself now of the times when I was sure I made a happy difference in Natasha’s 16 years, of the affectionate head butts, the late night snuggles, even the cold shoulders I received when I was away too long: the rejection that seemed to say Hey Human, pay more homage to your cat next time!

For the last two-and-a half years of Natasha’s life I measured every day in 100 ml dosages of the subcutaneous fluids I painstakingly administered to her, giving her failing kidneys another 24 hours of usefulness and another day of the pleasure of my company. Eventually the fluids strained her failing heart.

Did she want to live? Did she want to die? I’ll never really know, will I?

In the end the decision was a human one. The only feline input was the big void of her eyes staring back already near the other side of life, the place we humans have a really hard time with. I pleaded with her not to die under my bed, and finally when her weakened body couldn’t fight me off, I overpowered her and whisked her off to the vet for a professional analysis of what I already knew.

Did she want a quick release from her suffering, or was it human suffering I was more interested in ending?

I only know her suffering presence is gone from under the bed. For me now, imprinted in my mind’s eye is the slender, regal gray cat whose whole tail shuddered with joy, I’m certain, the moment I entered the room.

We humans  interpret the world so full of our own importance.

Health care reform: A poem

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

I took a break this morning from writing a humorous novel. The story of a dying man, told to me last week by a member of his community, ironically insisted on being born as this poem.

not-your-story

A peak a week

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I live in a region of the country where outdoor recreational activities abound. Last night I overheard a couple of young men standing behind me at an open-air concert discussing their hiking plans for the summer. Not wanting to turn around and stare, I could just imagine two strapping, healthy youths sporting robust backpacks and hiking boots. One was telling the other, “It’s my plan to hike one new peak every weekend.” He began mentioning the names of various local mountains. I could just imagine the breathtaking vistas to which he would treat himself along the way.

Even in my younger years I was not a mountain goat, so scaling peaks is not in my game plan. Negotiating the cable car hills of San Francisco when I lived there a few years ago was a good enough challenge at sea level.  I am still proud to say I succeeded at climbing some hill or other each week when I belonged to a city hiking group. I still do a 3-mile walk occasionally, up and down the hills of my current neighborhood nestled in the Sierra Nevadas.

These days my real challenges are more sedate, but nonetheless steep. The hills and valleys of writing a novel keep me fretting over whether I “can make it.” When the terrain gets a bit rugged and I can’t catch my breath, I sometimes stop to rest and to consider my next step carefully.  Turning back before I reach the pinnacle, however, is seldom an option. I know it’s too beautiful to miss the view at every milestone of the climb, and if the interim vistas are this good, I can’t wait to see the view from the top.

I’m glad I overheard that hiker’s declaration last night. It encouraged me, too, to set my goals “a peak a week.”

When is nature not theatrical enough?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Yosemite is practically in my backyard since I moved west in 2004;  so yesterday, with no advance planning at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, my friend and I drove the 2 1/2 hours to get there, and I saw Yosemite for the first time in my 57 years. Years of exposure to Ansel Adams’ stunning black and white photos and Sierra Club calendars did nothing to diminish my joy and delight at actually being in one of nature’s finest temples. I am ready to return in a heartbeat, so please don’t take what I’m about to say as a put down of nature’s majesty. I’m a huge fan. I’m just curious about how constant exposure to movies, TV, Internet and other media affect our real life experiences of those same things.

On the drive home, we decided to take a longer route through a narrow mountain pass. At midnight, we were still negotiating hairpin turns and trying to avoid a) hitting deer which were roaming all over the one-lane road, or b) plunging over steep inclines to our certain death. The thought of stopping to stretch our legs in the thick of what could only be described as the “forest primeval” (or “prime evil” depending on how many slasher movies you’ve seen), filled me with visions of chainsaw toting, hockey-masked killers or giant grizzly bears lurking behind every tree.

When we finally did stop to use a campground latrine, the only thing looming was silence and the milky way so resplendent you couldn’t count the stars. Can you believe it was something of a let-down? My pooling adrenaline was left unsatisfied!

I recall as we drove on and on and on through miles of towering trees (reminiscent of Hollywood or Broadway fairy tale sets) that in the headlights, those trees looked too pristine, too perfect to be real. The deer were too placid, the night too peaceful without a menacing soundtrack.

I hate to think after my nearly six decades of exposure to movies, theater and TV that life doesn’t imitate art well enough! I really don’t want to believe that what was millions of years in the making isn’t thrilling enough for those of us who have witnessed feats of technology in the last few years to make one’s head spin.

I keep remembering those trees lit by our headlights as we drove through the night and how I wondered whether they were real enough.

One sentence at a time

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Shaking off the shackles of writer’s block (as any writer knows) is not easy, but I’ve learned that anything worth doing is rarely as easy as it seems when you start out. Occasionally, just starting out is the difficult part.

I decided to use the strategy my own coach, Scott Lewis, taught me when I first complained to him that I wanted to write–knew I could write–if only I knew how to get myself to do it. He asked me to commit to two minutes of writing a day and report back to him the following week.

Two minutes of writing a day? “Are you kidding?” I thought. “Anyone can do that!” I took the challenge. The first night I stared at the computer blankly. What to write? Being one of those people who takes her commitments very seriously, I looked around my room and decided whatever my eye landed on at the moment would be good enough to morph into the opening, and probably closing, sentence. (After all, two minutes isn’t much time to write more than a couple of sentences.) From the second night, I was writing for 10 minutes, and after that, I was pounding the keyboard in oblivion for two hours, not two minutes, a night.

I wrote my way out of my block the last couple of days by just sitting down and writing the next sentence, and then another. I figured if I didn’t like the direction it went, I’d be revising it sooner or later anyway.

It worked. That and a little help from some tunes of my favorite divas of ’80s dance music–Tina Turner and The Pointer Sisters. Why not? I left my plucky boomer protagonist, Chicken Cacciatore, in a quandry about pole dancing in public. All she really needed was some inspiration!

Writers’ Block, or Fear?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

It was destined to happen sooner or later, that dreaded affliction of every writer–block!

Here I was, steaming along at a locomotive clip when I slowed down to see the track ahead better and eventually slammed on the brakes. Now I’m sitting on the rails reluctant to stoke the engine fire for fear (yes, there’s that word again–a definite clue to the problem) of what might be lurking up ahead and around the bend.

My protagonist is in a pickle–well, not literally, although being a wacky story that is a possibility–and my imagination has not yet found her a way out, but that’s not what I’m afraid of.

What I’m afraid of is not finding her the perfect and most hilarious resolution. I can’t be content to just chug along, continuing to make progress. I have to camp overnight in the middle of writer’s block land and lose faith in my ability to spin this yarn altogether.

It’s a trick my mind is playing out. Like my protagonist, Chicken Cacciatore, I’m thwarted by menacing forces that are, in reality, my own inner obstacles, and like my “plucky” protagonist I have to just keep going with the flow, seeing where it takes me and making the most of where I end up.

I can’t wait to see what happens next, whatever it is!

Doin’ What I Love

Friday, May 1st, 2009

I’ve always loved to write for 3 reasons: words flow easily for me, I love to entertain others, and I suffer from a need to express myself!

I started writing creatively when I was only 8 years old. Everyone told me I should be a writer, and I did write poetry, articles and essays over the years, some of which have been published. It didn’t occur to me to write a full-length novel until I discovered the NaNoWriMo challenge last November–to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Not even believing I could do it, I jumped in and amazed myself by creating a rough draft of a pretty good story (if I do say so myself.)

Now I’m hooked. I realized that I can express my need to entertain and amuse a wider audience than just my immediate friends if I can write, publish and market a humorous novel. So, last month I began writing a novel about a zany NY baby boomer gal with a bit of a body image issue (to put it mildly). On a road trip to visit her best friend Esther the Bod, she encounters some women with their own issues, and together they find out you may want to be careful what you wish for!

I’m 12,000 words into the book and having the time of my life writing it. I look forward to finishing, publishing and marketing so I can make all 3 of my reasons for writing a reality. And if I fall on my face? Well, that’s another comedy style altogether, but you know what happens next, right? I’ll pick myself up and get knocked down as many times as it takes to realize I can chase down whatever keeps hitting me!

Down The Internet Rabbit Hole

Monday, April 20th, 2009

My friend emailed me this morning to say she had gone down another “rabbit hole” on the Internet.

I know exactly what she means. When you are easily distracted by a wide variety of ideas, as I am, it is easy to forget what you started looking for and end up getting excited by something that leads you away from your reason for getting online in the first place.

I’m beginning to think I could benefit from a support group for souls lost on the Internet, if I could only find one without winding up responding to other people’s blogs for a couple of hours or joining another online Baby Boomers group found while following bread crumbs on Twitter.

I wonder if I actually did stop surfing long enough to find an online group for networking-holics, whether I’d be tempted to surreptitiously surf while participating in the group,thus dooming myself to complete and utter failure.

I might as well face facts. If I’m procrastinating this afternoon by answering a survey from a social networking website about why I use social networking websites, I have a bit of a problem. I mean, taking 3 Facebook quizzes a day that analyze what I already know about myself so I can agree with the results is no longer serving my original purpose for networking!