Monday, May 2, 2022

7ToM: a pretty boring update

1. Doug's last day as an admin at our hospital was Friday. He is now officially semi-retired. We had a couple of really fun celebrations over the weekend, and our daughter and her fiancé came to town. It was great. Doug will still be working half-time in a different position so he's not completely free, but it's a definite step-down in terms of stress.

2. Our current dilemma is what to do with our pets. We bought a small new-to-us camper over the winter and we'd like to take it out quite a bit now that Doug has more time. We can take the dog with us, and maybe even the cat if we get her acclimated to the camper, but we can't take the chickens. How do you get rid of chickens that there is absolutely no chance we are going to eat, but that are too old to produce many eggs? We have six chickens and they produce 1-2 eggs a day. It's plenty for us, but for someone who actually wants to raise chickens, probably not very appealing. We might even just let them roam free and join the local food chain. Our neighborhood fox hasn't been around much recently but that might bring her back.

3. Did I tell you our daughter is getting married in September? My social anxiety kicks into maximum overdrive every time I think about it, but fortunately she is very socially adept and also a terrific organizer so she's doing the bulk of the work. We've made most of the reservations we need to make, now I just have to find a damn dress. Ugh.

4. Health update: I don't usually post about my health issues-- for example, I don't think I've mentioned that I've been getting botox treatments for migraines (I've had three now and they don't seem to be helping much). I don't really care that people know, it just never occurs to me to post about private stuff like that. But here you go for the next two items. Welcome to my paranoia.

5. Since I said awhile back that I didn't think I would ever have plastic surgery, I feel like I need to say this. For sure someone is going to see me coming out of the plastic surgery office and assume I'm getting it all done-- and maybe I will someday, maybe I will surprise you and myself and get a total makeover. But for now, I'm just going to have breast reduction surgery this summer. It's scheduled, so unless I chicken out (which is possible, surgery scares me), it's going to happen mid-July. The main impetus is, again, headache relief, but I definitely will not be sorry to be back to the size I was before I had kids. I see pictures of myself and the girls and it just doesn't look like me. Plus it has lots of other consequences-- it's impossible to find clothes that fit, it's hard to do any activity that requires any kind of, um, bouncing, etc. Now that I've said this, I guess I will have to report back about whether or not it worked, so I'll let you know.

6. Have you ever been a victim of the gossip mill? We live in a small town, although definitely not as small as it used to be, and this has happened to me twice now. Once years ago for something I never clearly understood, and once more recently for something that is not true, or only sort-of true from one skewed perspective. In both cases, it has surprised me how easily people believe the worst. It apparently hasn't occurred to anyone to think, huh, I wonder if there's another side to this story. I wonder if her version of this story would be different than the one I'm hearing. For sure no one has actually come out and asked me. 

But the other thing that has not just surprised but stunned me is how much it affects me. Apparently I am incapable of just brushing it off, even when I know it's not true. And in both cases--this time and the one 20 years ago-- I can look back over things I said, having no idea what was going on, and accidentally encouraged the gossip, because if people are looking for confirmation of what they want to believe, they'll twist whatever you say into what they want to hear. It started because someone threw me under the bus, but I can't defend myself without throwing that person under the bus in return. And it's someone I love and I just can't bring myself to do it, no matter how well-deserved it is. There's this weird martyr part of me that thinks, well, I'm strong enough to live through this but the other person isn't.

I didn't know how to handle it years ago when it happened and I don't know how to handle it now. Last time I just waited it out-- it was months before I could walk into a social situation without feeling people side-eye me (that's how I knew it wasn't all in my head, it definitely ended). This time I just want to move. Get me the fuck out of here.

7. I think this happens because I am so reserved. I don't project much personality, so people believe whatever they want about me. Alternatively, since I tend to project a fake persona in social situations where I don't know many people and I'm nervous, people think they're getting the real me (and that's on me, totally my fault for not developing better social skills). It has really made me think about how I present myself, but I don't know what I can do about it. I'm a pretty terrifically boring person, at least in terms of what I can share while standing around with a drink in my hand at a party-- which is when I tend to go fake, because I have to talk about something and few things I'm interested in make good party talk.

Good Lord is that ever more than you wanted to know. Forgive me for navel gazing. I did go back and edit this after I published it so this is a slightly different version, which makes me feel a little better. I probably shouldn't have published it at all, but I did, and I only regret it to the extent that it leaves me vulnerable if someone local reads it. But I don't think I have many (any?) local readers, so I'm not deleting it, which is possibly a mistake. 

Gah. Have had to re-publish twice now because I keep finding typos, which makes me insane. Apologies to the email subscribed, I don't think it makes any difference to anyone else. I'll be out of town for two weeks out of the next three so you won't hear from me for awhile.

Friday, April 1, 2022

7ToF: what a drag it isn't getting old

1. I like being 60. My fifties were transitional, and I'm not someone who deals well with change. 60 feels like I have arrived at something, although my friends who are already in their 60s seem a little mystified by this. I've written quite a bit about coming to terms with being a senior citizen and of course I'm not entirely there yet-- but once I made some semblance of a shift to thinking of myself as an elder, a crone, an old person, I really like it.

2. Which is why I've twice recently gotten myself into (briefly) tense situations. A couple of months ago, I was watching a movie with friends and when we paused for intermission (ie, snacks), one of them said, I refuse to say that I'm old. I don't feel old. and of course I couldn't keep my mouth shut about that, and I said I am embracing being old. That's one of the reasons our society has such a fixation with youth, I went on, because those of us who are old continue to chase after youth. If even those of us who are old are saying, ewwww, being old stinks! why should younger people think any different? Unsurprisingly, she was not convinced.

3. The next time was a few weeks ago when we were at a dinner party where everyone was about the same age (early sixties), but technically, I was the youngest one at the table. It was the week of Doug's 61st birthday, so I teased him that turning 60 is cool, but turning 61 is just old. There was this frozen half-second of silence (during which we can pause and recognize that I am sometimes a complete bonehead), and then one of the other women said with a fair amount of heat, why do you always have to remind us that you're the youngest one here? 

Which honestly kind of stunned me. First of all, I think of us as being the same age, because I'm 60 and the oldest person at the table is 63. Who the hell is worried about a two-and-a-half year age difference? I am as old as they are. And secondly, it's not insulting (in my opinion) to be old, although I reserve the right to tease and complain about it. I am continually surprised that people are so touchy about this. Why are we so brittle and sensitive around something that is a) inevitable, and b) not so bad?

4. My conclusion (besides the one about me being an insensitive idiot) is that our culture is just flat-out weird about aging, which we all already knew, so why am I even telling you these stories. I don't know. I guess I have to write about something.

5. Another thing people can be so touchy about: when someone asks me if I've seen whatever the latest TV sensation is, and I say I don't watch much TV because I'd rather read, a perfectly appropriate response would be: oh, that's too bad, you're missing some really great shows. Because that is true, and I know it. I'd still rather read, but I don't say it to be a snob, it's just my preference. The immediate assumption is that I'm bragging because somehow reading has a reputation for being intellectual and grandiose, while watching TV is supposedly pedestrian and dumb. 

6. Anyone who follows along here knows that I hardly have high-brow taste in reading. Among other things, I read cozy mysteries and romance novels and sci-fi (I'm in the middle of a Star Wars novel right now) and all sorts of genre fiction, some of which is fairly literary and some of which is really, uh, lightweight. But it's impossible to say, "I'd rather read than watch TV," without people assuming you're being a snob. So mostly I avoid  talking about it. A friend: Have you seen Killing Eve? (which I understand is seriously well-written and -acted), me: No, tell me about it!

7. This week's worthwhile listens:
- "How to Lose a War" on the SmartyPants podcast- an interview with Elizabeth D. Samet, who teaches English at West Point and has a unique window into the minds of people in the military. I was fascinated. (SmartyPants is the podcast of The American Scholar magazine.)
- "From Evangelical Pastor to Buddhist Nun" on the Ten Percent Happier podcast- if you're interested in either Evangelicalism or Buddhism, this one is also interesting. Probably you need to have a little basic knowledge about Buddhism to follow the conversation, but the general outline of her movement from Evangelicalism to Buddhism is pretty clear.
- I'm hit or miss on Gretchen Rubin's podcast Happier, but their episode on Burnout was thought-provoking. There's a difference between burnout and exhaustion, and the solutions to each are different, too.
- And of course I always plug the only podcast that I've continually listened to since I discovered podcasts: What Should I Read Next? hosted by Anne Bogel, which is usually just Anne interviewing some normal person about what they read and why, and then she recommends three books she thinks they might like. It's so much a part of my Tuesday morning routine that when she skips a week (as she did this week for spring break), my whole day feels off. Darn it, Anne.

I just realized that this will post on April Fool's Day and I spent about 30 seconds trying to think of a way to prank you, but that's never been my thing. Be careful out there.

Friday, February 25, 2022

placeholder of randomness

I wish I had something wise and helpful to say to you, but I don't. I've been playing too many word games, and worrying too much, and wondering if any of us really knows, let alone understands, what's going on. I'm going to be out of town the next two Fridays, so maybe I will just take a break and start posting again later. 

Random recs: We watched Dune Sunday night (for the 3rd time, our son is a huge fan), and it is a surprisingly good adaptation (I'm always surprised when adaptations are good). If you liked the book when you read it 30 years ago, you'll probably like the movie now. I'm reading The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich's Pulitzer prize winner, and Jane Austen at Home, which started slowly and now is interesting. But I'm so distracted that I'm only managing a few pages a day. If you're a literature nerd (and I am), the Mr. Difficult podcast, about Jonathan Franzen, is fascinating and sometimes ridiculous, as suits its subject. And I'm reading Kate Bowler's new book of devotions, Good Enough, and I am not good enough to be reading them every day, so maybe I will finish that by summer.

I was going to say something along the lines of let it be new, but I knew I'd said it before, so I went and found the old post and I phrased it way better in 2019 that what I just wrote. Skip it if you're not feeling it today. And while I was looking for that post, I found this one, which made me laugh, so I'm linking to it, too. I warned you in the post title that this would be random. I wish you peace and some small breaks from the crazy, whenever you can manage them.

Behold, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.  Isaiah 43.19

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum

Awhile back I posted a two-page story I wrote in a creative writing class, and told you I would post another. But I never did, because my fellow class members didn't like this one, didn't like the ending, didn't like the title, thought it was kinda boring, etc, and I was going to fix it before I posted it. And then I could never figure out what would fix it. But I went back and read the original this morning and I like it better than any of the versions I tried to "fix," so here you go. 

From a writing standpoint, the interesting thing I learned is that even though it is somewhat autobiographical (I started playing drums in my 50s), as soon as I made her a clarinet player, she became someone else, someone not me (I play flute). First hand experience of what authors mean when they say a story is based on their own experience, but not autobiographical. 


When Judy Warren had been playing drums for about a year, her teacher told her she was ready to play in the community band. Judy looked at him doubtfully. She might be in her fifties, but she was still a beginner, and the community band was good. The music they played was hard.

But her teacher was persuasive. And he was the leader of the percussion section, so he promised he wouldn’t assign her any parts that were beyond her skills. She finally decided to do it, because she could always play triangle. Anybody can play the triangle, right? Ding!

Judy was ahead of some beginning musicians because she knew how to read music. She had played clarinet for decades, since she was eight years old at a public school in Dallas. She had picked clarinet because her grandmother had told her she should. Her grandmother had a shelf of Benny Goodman albums and thought he could do no wrong. In Judy’s eyes, her grandmother could do no wrong.

Nearly fifty years later, Judy hadn’t played her clarinet since she couldn’t remember when. In fact, she wasn’t exactly sure where it was. But her children were off at college, and she needed a new challenge, and one day at the library she saw a flyer advertising drum lessons. She remembered being envious of the drummers, who played at the back of the band and always seemed to be having fun. The clarinets sat right under the director’s nose and could never get away with anything.

So she called the number on the flyer, and started to learn. She was awful. At age fifty-four, you don’t very often do things that make you look bad, especially in front of people. It was embarrassing, showing up for her lesson every week and knowing that she wasn’t as good as the fifteen-year-old that had the lesson before her, or even the twelve-year-old that had the lesson after. But she kept going. Soon she was no longer awful, just mediocre.

Her friends thought she was crazy. She spent hours a week practicing, and no one she knew was doing anything similar. None of them knew how to play any musical instrument at all (except she found out her friend Liz had minored in piano performance in college but didn’t even own a piano anymore). They couldn’t understand why she would want to spend hours every week banging on drums like a teenager.

It wasn’t until she showed up for her first community band rehearsal that she realized why she had wanted to do this. Making music, each of you reading black marks on a page and playing your part, was miraculous. There was nothing else like it in her life. It was three months until their first concert, but even with all the rough edges of early rehearsals, there were moments that lifted her soul. She remembered what it was like to make something beautiful with a group of people who had nothing else in common.

Playing clarinet in her high school marching band had been her life. They sweated and practiced under the August sun. They stood nervously together under the lights waiting for half-time to start. They traveled (oh, those school buses) and won competitions. They banded together and thumbed their band nerd noses at their high school’s strict social hierarchy. It had been a place where she belonged.

Percussionists don’t play just one single instrument. There are snare drums and tom-toms, the big bass drum and the tiny triangle, marimbas and bells, cymbals and wood blocks and maracas and chimes. And tympani. There was one woman whose only job was to play the tympani.

As the newcomer, Judy played all the parts that no one else wanted to play. She counted and counted, then crashed the cymbals at the climax of the first movement. She played the wood blocks at the beginning of another piece, and dinged the triangle on the second and fourth beat of each measure for nearly a page in another. By the end of the first rehearsal, she was exhausted.

But it was fun. And the second rehearsal was even better—she was starting to learn her way around. She made the comforting realization that even experienced drummers get lost while sight-reading. She came home and told her husband that playing in the community band was the best thing she’d done in years.

During her third rehearsal, right in the middle of a tense moment in the hardest piece they played, she whizzed by the percussion table to grab the crash cymbals and her hip caught the black flannel tablecloth. Maracas, wind chimes, wood blocks, and two sizes of triangles went crashing down. She wanted to sink through the floor, because everyone turned around to see what had happened.

But after that initial turning of heads, no one said a word. The conductor didn’t even pause. One by one, for the rest of the rehearsal, the other drummers came by with amusement in their eyes and whispered their own mistakes. One had knocked over a similar table of instruments during a competition. One had dropped a pair of cymbals in the middle of a concert. Another simply said, “Welcome to the percussion section! We’ve all done it!” She suddenly, deeply understood why drummers were so fiercely loyal to each other. And she determined, just as fiercely, not to let them down.

Friday, February 11, 2022

7ToF: I find your lack of faith disturbing

We're headed out of town this weekend to go cross-country skiing a few hours from here. The place we're going is out of cell range--in fact, it's off grid-- so I'm writing this on Wednesday. If I remember how to schedule it correctly, this will work, right?

1. We are, as always, watching the Olympics in the evenings. I get addicted, every time. Before it started this year, though, I wasn't sure I would watch because like everything, it turns out the Olympics are problematic and awkward right now. But finally I just decided to go with it. I'm tired of making decisions because of the principle of the thing. Really, really tired. I love the Olympics. I'm watching.

2. This was fascinating: The Dissenters Trying to Save Evangelicalism from Itself by David Brooks. It's in the NYTimes, which is usually behind a paywall, but I used the "gift an article" feature so maybe it will work. It's long, but if you're interested in evangelicalism either as a friend or a foe, it's worth a read. It gave me some hope that maybe Evangelicals are finally starting to come out of the reactionary thinking that has defined them for the past (half dozen? forty?) years, but what gave me even more hope was reading some of the reactions. Sure, there were some who intentionally misrepresented what Brooks said, but there were also many who were either agreeing, or thinking about it in intelligent ways.

3. Another interesting read on an entirely different subject: Ezra Klein on whether or not policy really matters.

4. Skip to #5 if you're not a Star Wars fan. One of my pet peeves in movies is when someone walks up to a computer they've never seen before, sometimes even a computer belonging to aliens, and they know exactly what to do to save the planet or the human race or whatever. It happens in Independence Day, it happens in Rogue One. We watched Rogue One last week, and although I did like it better than I have other times we've seen it, it's just absurd at the end. But you know what I loved this time? Darth Vader in the final sequence. That's one of the few times the presentation of Vader on screen has lived up to the reputation he is supposed to have as the fiercest, most skilled warrior of the empire. It's terrific.

5. I'm having trouble reading right now. I know I'm not alone, but it's messing with my understanding of the universe.

6. I walked into Target today without a mask, and it felt weird. It was the first time in months I'd been in an enclosed public space without a mask. The store policy, which they announce over the loudspeaker every ten minutes or so, is that you should wear a mask if you are unvaccinated, but I'm pretty sure the people who are unvaccinated aren't wearing masks. I've had two vaccines, plus the booster, plus I've had covid. I'm pretty sure I'm as covered as you can get. But it still felt weird-- and oddly, I felt like I was betraying the other people who are still wearing masks. I'll tell you what, though: I'm not interested in wearing a mask forever. *shrugs* But when I went to Costco later, I put my mask back on. Baby steps. 

(For the record, Montana doesn't have a mask mandate. I'd guess the percentage of people wearing masks in public spaces runs 10-20% in our town, higher in some of the larger towns, and zero in the more rural areas.)(Our county has a population of about 100k divided up among four towns, making it one of the more populous areas of the state. One of my favorite Montana moments occurred after we'd lived here for several years when a co-worker told me she wanted to move back home to a more rural area because she didn't like living in a big city.)

7. I might wear a mask on airplanes forever, though. It's so nice not to find out you have a cold two days after you get home from vacation.

That's all. Have a nice weekend.

(for the non-Star Wars nerds, the title is a Darth Vader quote.)

Friday, February 4, 2022

take a bite of this nice shiny apple and learn to see

I was raised Evangelical. My dad was an ordained Baptist minister, although he chose to go into academia instead of the pastorate. I spent my childhood going to church every time our church was open. I went to Christian camps in the summer, I sang in the youth choir, I listened to Christian music and studied my Bible, and I prayed a lot. When it came time to choose a college, I chose an Evangelical Christian one, because of course.

I believed. I bought the whole thing, the whole ball of wax, the whole shooting match, every cliché you can think of. I did all the things, and I had a lot of cool experiences as a result. I went to Explo '76 in Dallas with my parents and heard Billy Graham and Andrae Crouch, and we seriously believed the world was being changed. I attended concerts by Second Chapter of Acts and Amy Grant and others I can't even remember that left me feeling joyously transcendent; I went to fireside talks at camp (and even gave a couple when I was in college) that felt meaningful, like we were really making a difference. I believed it was all about love, God's love, and as Christians, our love for each other. They'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.

But the chinks in my faith were already starting to show, because (of course) Christians don't always act in loving ways, and Evangelical theology usually ends up more about whether or not you've got it Right, whether or not you are correctly supporting the party line, than whether or not you are acting out of love. Going off to a Christian college didn't help. I thought it was going to be like four years of going to my beloved summer camp, but it was just like high school. There were cliques and popular people, and the kids who came from wealthy families or famous Christian families were more popular than the rest of us. 

I had some great experiences there, and I will never regret going. But it didn't help my frustration with the limitations of the theology I was being taught, the theology that we weren't allowed to question. There were certain ways of thinking about the Bible and heaven and hell and salvation that weren't optional. You couldn't say, "The Bible is an amazingly varied historical document with the wisdom of the ancients embedded in it, the history of the Jewish people, and the start of a new religion as described in the Christian New Testament, but I don't believe it contains literal, word-for-word instructions for right now." If you said something like that, you were wrong. Not just a polite disagreement over the dinner table, but you-are-going-to-hell Wrong.

I didn't know there were any alternatives. I thought you either were a Christian (which for me, back then, was synonymous with being an Evangelical Christian), or you were going to hell. I didn't find out until I started visiting other churches in college that there were people--millions of them-- who considered themselves to be Christian, but who didn't believe in the Bible the way I was raised to believe. I thought it was either believe the whole thing, or you're out. And being out was unthinkable, because I had a whole life of sweet, lovely, transcendent spiritual experiences that I equated with being Evangelical. 

But by the time I was 23 or 24, I just couldn't make it work anymore. I started attending one of those other churches, and I gradually extricated myself from the way I was raised. It's a long, slow process that involves a lot of grieving for the way you thought the world was, and the people you wanted to belong to, not to mention a fair amount of self-judgment because why couldn't I make it work? If you're going through it, all I can say is: just keep going. It gets better. But you never entirely get over it. My heart still lifts when I hear those old Evangelical songs.

Then the Moral Majority came along, and Evangelicalism became even less recognizable as the religion of Jesus who transformed the world through subversive acts of love. It became the religion of purity, the religion of 1950s sexuality, the religion of outward acts of moral conformity that had nothing to do with what was happening in your heart and mind. And then Trump happened, and I just can't even begin to figure out how the religion I believed in so deeply when I was growing up has turned into the mass of lies and delusions and the judgmental lack of mercy that characterizes the far religious right today. It breaks my heart that good-hearted people are being preyed upon by power mongers and conspiracy theorists who get a charge out of proving that they can delude people into believing whatever they make up. ---------

-------- This is another one from my drafts folder. I think I felt like people who are new might need some background, but it is surprisingly difficult to believe that this is interesting to anyone but me, so it has been sitting there for months. Also, I compressed a very long, convoluted process into a handful of paragraphs, so if it sounds ridiculously over-simplified, that's because it is. I spent a couple of years in my old blog writing about the process of leaving my childhood faith behind, and even that wasn't enough to really describe it. But at least it gives you a bit of context.

This week's nostalgia listens: Peace of Mind by Boston, and Jet Airliner by Steve Miller Band. I think after this week I will let you find your own nostalgia listens, because the ones that take me right back are going to be different than the ones that take you back. The trick to finding a good one is to find one that you haven't heard much in the meantime. I went through a Led Zeppelin phase when I was in my 40s, so "D'Yer Mak'er"-- which used to take me straight back to the summer between fourth and fifth grade (for very specific but boring reasons)-- now reminds me more of being 44 than it does of being ten.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, January 28, 2022

anger, part one

I've been sick this week-- not deathly ill, just viral yuckiness. I did finally get a covid test yesterday, which came back negative today, so at least it isn't that. But I spent an outsize amount of time sleeping and sitting on the couch, and not enough time thinking about what I wanted to write this week. So I'm pulling this one out of the drafts folder at 11pm on Thursday night, even though I'm not sure exactly where it's going. If I ever get around to writing part 2, we can both find out.

I've been thinking about anger, lots. Both thinking about it and also feeling lots of anger. I'm angry about so many things right now-- social injustices, lack of change, anti-vaxxers, corporations who are making millions off lies and "misinformation," things in my personal life, and of course there's always the hulking, looming shadow of the pandemic in the background. 

How can you be angry about a pandemic? It's completely out of my individual control, although of course I'm doing my part to stop the spread, and it's no one's fault. What a waste of energy, to be mad about a virus. It's just out there, doing what viruses do. And yet, I am mad about it. I'm mad that I haven't been able to travel freely in two years, I'm mad about events that have been canceled and plans that have had to be changed, social occasions that didn't happen, community groups that have acrimoniously split over covid arguments-- it just goes on and on. 

What to do with all this anger? Where to direct it? I don't know. I'm working on it. Maybe I'll have answers in part 2, but probably not. The thing I've been thinking about this week, though, is the frequent disconnect between anger and having a spiritual life.

Having a spiritual life is an integral part of feeling healthy for me, but it's hard to find a spiritual "path" (sorry, I know it's a cliché) that makes room for anger. Being "spiritual" is supposed to be the same thing as being calm and serene, right? It's supposed to be about floating through life on a fluffy cloud of unwavering trust that God is in charge (if you're theist), or peacefully (smugly) observing the crazy swirl of emotions and over-reactions of the less spiritual (if you're not). 

And that's just not going to work for me right now. Maybe it is because I'm immature and unevolved. But a spiritual life that's founded on dishonesty is hardly worth the effort, not to mention that it's pretty much the definition of hypocrisy. And if I pretend I'm not mad, or frustrated, or even sometimes despairing, I'm lying. I want to believe spirituality is about being real, being grounded in myself, in authenticity (hmmm, lots of buzzwords there). 

Maybe it's because traditionally, spirituality has been connected with various religious paths, and institutionalized religion has a vested interest in keeping its people wrapped in cotton wool, not asking questions, and not thinking about the ways you're being coached into supporting the status quo. 

No. I want a spiritual path that can deal with my anger. I want to be set free to feel what I feel rather than herded into following along. And that's complicated to figure out, because of course acting blindly out of uncontrolled rage isn't a great idea, either. I'm having a hard time right now untangling the beauty of a fully-present life, a life that includes anger and fear and jealousy and pain as well as joy and peace, from my own preconception of what a spiritual person should be like. And a spiritual person doesn't get angry??? That can't be right. 

Huh. That's where the draft post ended. No wonder I hadn't published it yet, because it's like half a thought. It may not even have made much sense. But maybe you will grant me a little leeway since I'm still feeling a bit sickly and I will try to explain better in part 2. 

In other news, one of the things that made me angry this week was watching women my age chase after youth. Give it up. Good grief. Why the hell do we care if a 16-year-old thinks skinny jeans have gone out of style? Why do we want to look like we're 35 again? (well, OK, you got me there.) but since it's not possible, why are we wasting time and money chasing after something we can't have?

Which is one of the reasons I post the nostalgia listens. It's a way of celebrating the things we know, the things we've experienced, that those teenagers haven't and never will. They do not know what it was like to hear "Sweet Baby James" when it was brand new, or "I Just Called to Say I Love You," or "I'll Take You There." And we do. So there. (We're also super mature. ha.) I'm adding links to those songs and they can be this week's nostalgia listens.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Twitterpated, part one

Like most of us who use social media, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I've written about this plenty before, it's not a new topic. My goal has been to "get a handle on" my usage, learn how to steel myself against the addictive qualities of The Scroll, and have a healthier relationship with my phone. Um, yeah. 

In the meantime, while I was figuring out how to be a Social Media Superwoman, I fell into a pattern. I would find myself doom-scrolling Twitter at 11pm, unable to stop. So I would delete it. For a few days, it would be such a relief. Then for a few days, I would miss the interaction, but not much. Then after a few more days, I would re-install the app, and think, why did I delete this? It's so much fun! I love these people! And for a week or two, I would healthily manage my social media interactions and everything would be great. And then after a few more days, I'd be doom-scrolling at midnight again. Repeat.

A few weeks ago it occurred to me, wait, maybe this is the way I healthily manage social media. I don't have to be all-in, I don't have to be all-out. I don't have to figure out what way smarter, more savvy people than me have been unable to figure out (how to resist the addictive qualities of The Scroll, which are purposely programmed in by evil geniuses). Maybe if I reframe the way I think about the cycle, this is how I do it.

So I've been through it a couple more times, and you know what? It works pretty well. I use my social media apps (mainly Twitter), making judicious use of iOS 15's productivity features (more about that another time). When I get to the point where it feels unhealthy, I delete it for a few days or a week. When I start to miss it, I reinstall it and start over. It doesn't seem right to manage it that way-- it seems like I should totally conquer my unhealthy habits, or if I can't, I should abstain 100%. And maybe that's the way it works for some people, and maybe that's the way it will work for me at some later date. But for now, this is the way I "manage" my social media. 

This was going to be a lot longer, but I'm out of time, and I always say I'm going to start writing shorter posts, right? So here you go. A short one. 

p.s. I remember my mom used to use the word "twitterpated," but I had no idea where it came from until I just googled. It is a song from the old Disney movie Bambi. Who knew? And since I didn't, that can't be this week's nostalgia listen, so hmmm.

OK, this week's nostalgia listen: "Jazzman" by Carole King. Listen here. She is a goddess. For extra amazingness, click here for "So Far Away." I wonder if I could find my Tapestry CD.

Monday, January 17, 2022

post-Beatles Beatlemania

If you were born in the fifties or early sixties, and you haven't watched Get Back: The Beatles yet, put it on your must-watch list. It's tedious at times, sometimes for long stretches of time, and we've fast forwarded over, um, a bit of it. But mostly it's fascinating. 

I will confess I was never a huge Beatles fan, at least partly because believe it or not, I was a bit young for Beatlemania--I was eight when they split up. But their music was everywhere in the sixties, the playlist of my childhood. They were so much a part of pop culture that everyone knew who John, Paul, George, and Ringo were. 

But it turns out, they--the four Beatles-- aren't who I expected them to be. Watching them interact with Linda's daughter Heather is just sweet, there's no other word for it. And I've always thought that John was sort of self-consciously art-y and pretentious, so that if I'd known them, I would have been more on Paul's side. But if I'd had to listen to Paul's long-winded, half-whiny lectures for ten years, I'd have wanted to exit stage left, too. Immediately. Good lord. 

Interestingly, even though he's easily the one who talks the most, he rarely wins out-- witness his long argument about why they shouldn't do a rooftop concert (ha). And however arty and avant-garde John and Yoko were, John is also kind of hilarious. He's the one who's always goofing around, trying to lighten the mood.

Watching them work, you wonder that they ever got anything done, they spend so much time clowning around and goofing off and trying this and trying that. It's probably exactly the way musicians write songs, I've just never watched it happen. You can tell that the whole enterprise is frequently in danger of completely coming apart (and it did, a year later, but this is not the last album they recorded--that would be Abbey Road-- even though it was the last to be released, so they lasted through at least one more set of studio sessions). But you can also tell that they are deeply, deeply embedded in each other's lives, the irritating teenage best friends that you can't quite live without.

When they're working on one of their iconic songs and they don't have the words or the melody quite right yet, you want to yell at the screen, No, you dummies!! That's not how it goes!! It's "attracts me like no other lover," not "attracts me like a cauliflower" (granted they're joking around with the cauliflower but they haven't yet come up with the words we all know by heart, and it seems like it should be so obvious). 

And then suddenly they get it "right," i.e., the way we know it's supposed to go, and it's like the finicky car engine you've been fiddling around with for days suddenly starts up and runs smoothly. I confess, I've been a bit obsessed. In case you couldn't tell.

Get Back is only on Disney+ right now but I suppose eventually it will be released more widely.

Friday, January 14, 2022

the right write

For a very long time, when I was in college and into my twenties and thirties, I thought My Destiny was to be a novelist. I like to write, and I love to read novels, and I was convinced that meant that I should be a novelist.

But two things happened to change that. One was that I discovered that I hated writing fiction. I sit down to write a blog post with a fair amount of enjoyment, but writing fiction never, ever felt like anything other than having my fingernails pulled out one by one, or whatever other form of medieval torture you want to imagine here.

The other thing that happened was that I read two or three novels that were the kind of thing that I dreamed of writing, but were far better than anything I had ever managed to produce. I don't even remember what they were at this late date, but I remember several times putting a novel aside with a sigh of satisfaction/admiration/envy and thinking, No one needs me to do this because other people are already doing it better than I ever could. Who needs another coming of age novel by a middle class straight white woman who loves to read?

Then I had kids, and writing became something I only did in emails and book reviews and contributions to the comments of various forums. It wasn't until our younger child was in elementary school that I started writing again. At that point, I was still trying to write a novel, but I never made it past thirty or forty thousand words during National Novel Writing Month, and the rest of the year, all I felt was relief that I wasn't trying to write a novel. 

I started a blog in 2003 (several iterations back from the one you're reading now), and for a long time, that was enough to keep me happy, because whatever else I can or can't do, I do love to write. 

But I sometimes wish I'd had the grit and determination to actually commit to a big, publishable writing project, whether fiction or non, and stick with it to the end. I tried again last summer, but I don't think I ever made it past about 5,000 words. 

It's hard to know exactly how to interpret this. Our culture, especially the writing subculture, is so full of easy wisdom that assures you that you can do whatever you want to do, that all you need to succeed is the previously mentioned grit and determination, all you have to do is believe in yourself and keep trying and you'll succeed.

Seriously, at least three times in the past year I've seen tearfully joyful Instagram posts from first-time authors, sobbing, I've been dreaming of this since I was ten! All of you out there who are dreaming of publishing your first book, I'm proof that you can do it! Just keep writing! And yet, not everyone gets published. Not everyone has the writing chops, or the of-the-moment thing to say, or the built-in audience from podcasting or blogging or social media followers. 

I know that sounds like sour grapes, and you're absolutely right, it is. But my point isn't to whine (even though I am), but to state the obvious dilemma: is it really just not "meant to be"? should I stop even thinking about trying to write a book-length project? or have I not tried hard enough, persevered long enough, worked my ass off long enough?

There were another three paragraphs along these lines, which I have no deleted, because they were boring. You get the message. What the hell am I doing here.

I'm working my way through the half-written posts in my Drafts folder. Who knows what will be next. Have a great weekend.