Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lonely Girl

    “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.” 
 Thomas Wolfe

      I used to think that loneliness was a bad thing.  Something to be avoided.  More recently I am thinking that loneliness is part of the human condition.  The existentialist school of thought suggests that loneliness is the essence of being human.  After all, we each come into the world alone, and we travel our unique path through life, and we die alone.  And this is the human condition.

      Loneliness is that time when a person feels cut off, disconnected, not a part of the whole.  I remember from as far back as middle school, reading and thinking about the John Donne quote:

        “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” 
― John Donne, No Man Is An Island

   Interesting fact:  the man who introduced this quote to me was Father O'Leary. Father O' Leary  was the young (in my 12 year old eyes) assistant pastor in the parish and took over my 7th grade class for one month when the regular teacher had some sort of emergency.  One of the different things he required of us, was to memorize various poetic selections, including this one.  This one never left my brain.  It makes sense to me.  He was an Irishman, far from home.  Perhaps he was lonely and this selection spoke to him.  Oddly enough, it spoke to me, a 12 year old.  I could feel it in a way that still surprises me.

   Another interesting fact:  I often feel lonely. I often feel disconnected from the world, from my peeps. It is not anything they did.  It's something about me.  Perhaps a genetic quirk.  I have that Irish melancholy about me too often,  Whether I like it or not, I seem to have a deep well of emotion.  I am an expert at being the professional during the work day.  You will seldom see me lose my professional persona at work.  But, in the blue black hours of the morning, while walking the dogs, or in the tired hours of the evening, when feeling depleted and empty, my pal, Ms Melancholy joins me.  She reminds me that life can be lonely at times.  It has to be, doesn't it?  Life is lived alone but there are people on whom you can lean and with whom you can laugh and cry.  But in the end?  In the end, you are alone in this world.  Get used to it.

Hey There, Lonely Girl

    There is something very passionate and beautiful about this song.  I suppose it is a romantic piece but that's not how I hear it.  I hear it as a painful song.  There is something very haunting to me about his voice.  I don't really pay attention to the lyrics, more to the melody and the depth of his voice. And it is beautiful in that touching sort of way.  But I know nothing about music.  Only that some selections make me feel alive.  And this one does.

   What do you think?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012


   Whatever it really a handy word.  I forget when it entered our language so conspicuously - perhaps in the 1990's? - but I find it useful and prevalent in my vocabulary these days.  It puzzles me.

    I have wanted to change out the countertops in the kitchen for several years in favor of something much more colorful.  RR thinks it is not the best use of our money.  I stop saying anything about it.  Whatever.

   The brace I use to support my knee is unraveling. I keep wearing it and figure what will be will be. Whatever.

   A science teacher is mad at me because she does not like the composition of her 6th period class.  I can't really adjust it much - it's a numbers thing.  Whatever.

   It's the first day back for kids.  My summer is over.  Whatever.

   My extended family is gathering at my home in two weeks to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday.  The yard needs attention, the menu needs adjusting.  Just tell me what you want me to do and I will take care of it.  Whatever.

   I am losing at WWF all over the place.  I get discouraged and I think it's just a game.  Whatever.

   Dinner?  Whatever.

   The national political scene scares me and overwhelms me.  I am angry and yet I say,  "Whatever".

   My portion of the health insurance costs has gone up again this year.  Whatever.

  Our city council just approved a project that, in my opinion, will affect the town negatively for years to come.  Whatever.

   The word "whatever" implies that the speaker has given up.  Another way to look at it is that it opens options.  If "whatever" means, I am curious and open to what is coming next, then to that I say, "Whatever."

  Whatever works until it no longer works.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Talking to the Heart

“Don't give in to your fears. If you do, you won't be able to talk to your heart.” 

 Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I have been thinking about fear and all the ways fear manifests itself in our lives.  Then I ran across this quote.  I love the way it sounds but I don't understand what it means.  Can you tell me what it means to you?  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Call Me Cynical

      I attended a meeting last night at our local police station.  The chief had issued an invitation to about  35 community members who have invested in the youth of our town.  The attendees were primarily the middle and high school administrators, representatives from the local non profit counseling agency, members of law enforcement, a couple of church leaders, several students from the high school, and a smattering of local business owners/service club members.

   The stated purpose of this meeting?  "To review, discuss, and seek solutions to issues facing our youth, including drug and alcohol use and other harmful behaviors, in order to better support the health and well being or our Sebastopol area youth and families".

   Noble purpose, yes?

   So why so cynical?

   Three things: parents, environment, and money.

     The first assignment that  the group was given was to brainstorm what would be essential in order that a child could grow into a successful, healthy adult.  My immediate response is that every child needs an intact, involved parental unit.  My bias is that each child have two parents.  I know from first hand experience how tough the job can be and you are stressing the system with single parent families.  But, failing that, a parental unit in which the parents do not live together can work for the child IF (and this is huge) the parents have a respectful relationship and a relationship in which the child's needs come first.  So my cynicism starts peeking out here because I know that there are way too many children who don't even have this and all the counseling and social services and educational programs are going to have a tough time filling the shoes of two responsible and INVOLVED parents.

    Cynicism begins to chortle at me when I consider the social climate in this town.  First, you need to know that Sebastopol is in the center of one of the finest wine producing regions in the world.  Our town's economy is, in good part, fed by the growth of grapes and the production of wine.  We are also a hot spot for breweries and becoming more and more of a foodie's paradise. Now, make no mistake about it. I do enjoy my glass of red wine.  Yes, I do.  I am simply aware that kids in town grow up with alcohol all over the place.  Add to that the two medical marijuana dispensaries in town and you now have cynicism giggling hysterically.  I have no problem with ADULTS using marijuana.  I have a huge problem with kids interfering with their own brain development by escaping into marijuana nirvana.  Thing is, there is a sense of permissiveness in this area.  Parents share their weed and their alcohol with their kids.  I know a family where dad grows weed and his kid buys it from him(for personal use).  And these kids are supposed to not try this stuff?  NO, everyone does not have to use it, kiddo.  But kids in town have easy access.  Those in the know say it is easier for a kid to get weed than to get booze.

 And then there is the money thing.  The truancy board for local districts was just cut from the budget last week.  This is painful since this program is a powerful force in getting kids to school.  It's one thing when the truant child is 16 or 17.  The board can make lots of recommendations and suggestions but , by that time, it most often too late to save a kid.  Our target the past few years has been the younger age truant - the 7, 8, 9 year old who is not going to school because the parent can't/won't deal with it.  Every child deserves an education and it is wrong for parents to shortchange their child because it is inconvenient for them to get the child to school.  Wrong.    Sadly, this is just the most recent example of funding gone amuck.  Services and opportunities for kids are gone.  Forty years ago, CA schools provided kids with wonderful summer school programs (remedial and enrichment).  The Parks and Recreation programs ran rich summer and after school programs FOR FREE.  After school sports programs and art and music programs in the schools (and out of the schools) have disappeared.

   Whatever.  I'm just angry and tired.  I'm angry about the strange priorities in our country today.  I'm angry that people have children and  simply step away from the hard work of parenting when something else comes along.  I look at the media and the messages and I think it's hopeless for many of our kids.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ms Melancholy Revisited

     Over a year ago, I introduced my readers to Ms. Melancholy.  As noted in that post, Ms Melancholy has been a resident in my head since at least adolescence.  There really is no understanding her, only acknowledging that she seems to like hanging out with me.  Go figure.

    What I notice is that she is back and back in an unusual way.  She must have developed a night life because these days she is not sitting on the couch next to me at night but rather is climbing out of bed with me in the morning.   It used to be that she was an early morning sleepy  head and I could get my day started without her obnoxious presence.  But now?  Now she is happy to push me out of bed and hang around, hovering over me as I attempt to get my day on track.  She smothers me while I do my exercise routine, and scowls when I complete the walk or the crunches.   She gleefully jumps when she sees that the house is a mess and I am chastising myself for not staying on top of the housework.  She smiles big time when I sigh in discouragement at the long day ahead or the frigging fog hanging in the oak tree.  She LOVES it when I trudge out to the garage, backpack on and shoulders stooped, pull out my bike and head off to work.  This is her quintessentially joyful moment.

   Odd thing is,  she doesn't actually come to work with me.  She tries.  I know she tries.  But I think is afraid of that place.  Or something.  Maybe there just isn't room for her there.  There is so much activity, so many people to whom I need to answer,  so much going on and she can't find me in the busy-ness of work.  Ha!  I disappear from her view!  I wonder where she goes during the workday.

   And after work?  After work, she must be bugging someone else  because she leaves me alone.  When I get home from work, I can chillax without her. Yes, she is still makes me her biggest priority on Sundays after about noontime.  Ugh.  But I know her and I actually make room for her on the couch.  How do you shove someone away who has been there on Sundays since you were in second grade?

      I am going to watch her this fall.  I am going to see if anything changes about her.  She still wears that funky dress and really should be wearing a bra.  Those old lady shoes need to go.  I wonder if I can persuade her to try some cool boots?  Maybe I just need to accept her just the way she is.

       Some recent art work:

Blood, Skin, and Bones #1

Blood, Skin, and Bones #2

Water Play

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Be Silent

Back here again.
Wanting to disappear.
Can't understand why
anyone would want to socialize.
Except with family.
Family doesn't count.
I can always see family.
I believe they can see me.

I want to do my job
because I have to do my job.
At the moment,
I can't understand why
people want to be light
and make with the chit chat.

I am trapped by the future.
Shoved into a box.
Afraid for the country.
Afraid for the world.

It's actually comfortable in the box.
Safe. Silent. Just me.
Pay attention.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hope Springs

         It was hot here in NorCal today and a new movie was out so I asked RR it he wanted to catch the matinee of Hope Springs.  Shocker!  He said yes.  Mind you, we seldom get to the movies - lots of reasons, the biggest one being that there is very little out there that I want to see.  But this movie, billed as a comedy, has Merle Streep,   Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell in it.  How can you go wrong?  Let me count the ways.

          It is billed as a comedy / drama  but I saw it as  more of a drama with some funny lines. Steve Carell plays an objective therapist.  There really is nothing funny about his role at all.  He doesn't act goofy or weirdo.   Some  people who are not familiar and/or are frightened by therapy might think some of what he says is funny but really?  it's not. He asks questions and makes an occasional observation.  His character is simply a mellow, believable therapist who asks questions.   Of course, the premise is skewed.  A marriage of 31 years is not going to be fixed in three sessions with a marriage counselor.   A lot of the movie plays  on the notion of sex as the cure all for long term marriage. Sex can be made into a funny topic.  It can also play out its identity as an uncomfortable topic that makes people laugh at what might be true.  What is emphatically not funny is the loneliness that Meryl Streep's character feels and the palatable distance in that marriage.  The character played by Tommy Lee Jones is not so far off the mark as far as being oblivious.  Streep's character is an extreme but so is the character played by Tommy Lee Jones.  But Tommy Lee's character is more    believable to me.  I think I know him.  Streep's character is painfully  sad.  Her loneliness actually gets named. Her invisibility is so oddly clear.

         Of course, everything wraps up unrealistically and predictably at the end.  It is Hollywood after all.  I don't think it's uplifting.  It wasn't a huge bummer or anything, mostly just a disappointment or not what I was expecting.  As with movies everywhere and all the time, it takes a very complex topic and brings it to its simplest form.  There is tragedy in a long term marriage that has grown distant and I am upset that the movie makes this marriage a target of humor.  How is the loneliness and emptiness funny?  I suppose I also need to acknowledge that I may be too close to the topic...

Anyway, that's my movie review for the year.  If you've seen it, tell me what you think.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What Waits

    The previous post spoke to that which I will miss as summer vacation's door softly closes.  Melancholy reigns. And, indeed, life goes on.  What is waiting as the 2012/2013 school year comes creeping in?

     For one thing, over 500 hundred children are waiting.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I get a kick out of the kids at my school.  There is some powerful connection between children and me.  The little kids (say, grades K though 5) are easy for me.  I'm not their teacher, I'm not their parent.  Mostly, for little kids, I am the good cop.  I am a friendly adult who smiles a lot and is uber enthusiastic about their accomplishments.  I also really hammer my role as safe keeper.  That is a powerful position to hold in the world of children.  I take that responsibility seriously and am very public about it.  I will follow up with any concern from any child, no matter how ludicrous it might seem.  I like making the world feel safe for little kids.

     I also look forward to interacting with the older kids (grades 6-8).  Here I am not always the good cop but I am for sure the keeper of safety and they know that.  I can be trusted with secrets.  I can be reassuring.  I solve problems.  I also greet them by name and ask, "How was your weekend?" I ask it and they know I am not just asking to be asking.  I am interested in them.  I like them.  I enjoy walking around the campus at lunchtime.  Yes, I am the yard duty supervisor for that hour but, more than that, I am an observer and a friendly adult (who does sometimes have to pull out the cop voice.  Oh well). I solve scheduling problems, I deal with truancy issues, I advocate for students with  parents or teachers when necessary.  I also tell kids the truth, including, "You, kiddo, need to get your act together".  I repeat, I like making the world feel safe for kids.

    One of my favorite responsibilities is as the staff advisor to the GSA (Gay/Straight Alliance).  We have an active group of kids who want to make our campus comfortable for all students, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, athletic or scholastic abilities, "coolness", whatever.  It is a blast to work with them.  I mostly use my role to educate the group and to facilitate projects on which the kids want to focus.  They have three goals:  to educate themselves and others around issues of tolerance, to support all students but especially those who might feel disenfranchised, and to have fun.  We meet at least weekly at lunchtime and I look forward to the new year with them.

   These things with kids make sense but what else waits?  There are political issues on the horizon (including a parcel tax on the November ballot).  There are more funding issues and tricky concerns like the declining student population. There are committees that deal with drug and alcohol use among kids in our town or who address truancy issues for kids in this county.  Clearly, there are lots of meetings ahead.  These meetings can be interesting and they can feed my need for involvement and creating change.  I get frustrated and discouraged with the world today but often meeting with like minded adults to work towards change can be uplifting.  I look forward to that.

  What else?  There is something pleasing about having a scheduled work week.  Each day has its own pluses and minuses (though not so many minuses come with Fridays).  I have a cadre of pals among the office staff and the teaching staff is generally a friendly bunch.  There is humor on the campus and support in times of stress.  The give and take among the adults offers intelligent comment, laugher, warmth, and  cheerfulness.  It's not always like that but, overall, the balance always seems to come back to those places .  I keep this  reminder on the wall near my computer for the times when all hell is breaking lose: Amused Detachment.  I do look forward to the banter and the discussions.

    As tough as Monday mornings are, there is a big sigh at the end of that day.  The balance to getting up and getting going, is walking out of the office and home to a glass of wine, some downtime, and the realization that you've knocked one more Monday down.  If Monday afternoons are good, imagine how that works through the week, each afternoon feeling more and more rich with accomplishment.  Friday afternoons cannot be beat.  Everyone (kids, teachers, office staff, parents)  on campus feels it and celebrates its arrival.  Friday afternoons are lovely - so much more cherished than Fridays in the summertime!

   So goodbye, summer vacation, hello productive new school year.  I am grateful that I have a job that satisfies me, that presents me with a monthly paycheck, one that allows me to indulge a few interests as well as pay the bills.  I am grateful to have a job that also allows me some breaks, some opportunities to refresh and renew.  Stepping off the solid ground of summer and onto the treadmill of productivity and responsibility, I remain


Monday, August 6, 2012

What I Will Miss

       Summer vacation is closing its door for me this week.  It was only about eight weeks ago when the door opened wide and I thankfully danced through it.  Everything changes and so, yes, I will shut summer's door and be curious about what the new school year will bring.  The softly closing door will, however, remind me of all the things I will miss.

      I will miss waking up to my own rhythm.  I always wake up early but during the treadmill days getting out of bed can be painful.  I don't get enough sleep and it is demanding to step out of the warm cocoon and onto the cold treadmill.  During summer vacation days, I wake up early but slip out of bed with ease, always ready to find out what the new day wants from me.

     I will greatly miss the sounds of summer silence.  I will miss the days when I can leisurely write during the mid morning and not hear anything but the voices in my head.  I will miss the afternoon breezes when I paint in silence.


       I will miss the extra sleep.  Very concrete this one.  When the treadmill is running, weekday naps can only happen after work and cat naps at 5:00 pm are so much less satisfying than crawling under the covers for an hour or longer snooze on a foggy late morning.  I need to be out of bed consistently by 4:30 on treadmill days and so I am generally falling an hour or two short of my personal requirement of eight and and a half hours of sleep daily.   Less daily sleep makes for a challenging day.

      I will miss reading.  Summer days bring novels and non fiction.  They bring the chance to do internet research on so many topics.  They bring the pleasure of a relaxing walk through  periodicals like The Sun and Atlantic Monthly.  I get the periodicals during the treadmill days, true, but they often pile up on the dining room table, patiently waiting for my attention.  In summer, they get read immediately.

    I will miss tomatoes, basil, strawberries, berries, corn and more from the garden.  I will miss the chance to play a bit more with food because I have the time to experiment more and the tasty produce with which to experiment.

      I will miss the beach.  Treadmill days make it tough to get over there on any kind of regular basis.  Even summer days are such that beach adventures are still strangers to me but, if you count vacation days in Ft Bragg or Monterey, as well as the easy 25 minute drive over to the Sonoma County beaches, then you will see that beach days are more a part of summer days than treadmill days.

     I will miss the time to leisurely exercise.  Don't get me wrong.  I will exercise daily on treadmill days because I like to do that.  I am a weirdo who enjoys starting her days with an hour of solitary physical exercise of one kind or another.  But summer days afford a few extra minutes every day to extend the walk, take a morning bike ride, do additional stretching, or lift a few weights just for fun.  I will do the basics but won't get to enjoy the extra moments of deep breathing and feeling my body thrive.

   Now, lest you get the impression that there is nothing good about treadmill days, I leave you with a hint about another day's post.  Treadmill days bring pleasures of their own.  I'll let you know about those later.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Out. Loud.

  Damn!  I am the funniest thing in the world.  Sometimes I amuse myself so much that I laugh out loud.  That's it!   It's the out loud part that makes me so funny.  I talk to myself.  All. The. Time. Out. Loud.

   I mean we all run tapes in our head - messages to ourselves about what needs to be done or what looks good or who is treating us well or who is being mean.  But conversations with yourself that you inadvertently share with those around you?  Too funny.   It hit me this morning.  RR is often the last out of bed so he generally makes the bed (sort of, anyway).  With the warmer weather, we usually take the beautiful hand made quilt off the bed at bedtime and lay it gently on the cedar chest for the night.  Once again this morning, I saw that RR had not returned the quilt to the bed but rather left it folded and draped over the cedar chest.  So, as I was completing the bed making job,  I promptly began reminding him (he was rooms away) that you need to replace the quilt on the bed in the morning because it is the prettiest part of our room... except when I am in there!  Which made me giggle because it so not true yet it is something he would say and I laugh to hear me say it.

    Later, I am getting ready to go out the door to an appointment and I catch a glimpse of my goofy hair in the dining room mirror.  Ha! Ha!.  Let's just say, I go for the unkempt, natural look - so goofy .  So I catch this glimpse and I chastise myself and say, out loud,  "Geez, you can't really be leaving like THAT, can you?"  and I tell myself to get myself in there and fix that messy hair.  "Oh, and while you're at it?  Why don't you find your phone and pull out the jacket you'll need later. And maybe you need to do something about that hair."  Like I really have to say those things out loud?  It's just quirky.

   At work, I generally leave my office door open unless I am with someone.  My office is directly across from the staff mailboxes.  Way too often is the occasion when someone at the mailboxes will poke their head in with a "Are you talking to me?" and I just have to laugh and admit to reminding myself out loud how to go about the process of whatever task (typically technological task) that I am attempting to do.  Talking to myself out loud, I suppose, is one way of staying focused on the steps in the task?  I don't know.  But I can laugh.

   Do you talk out loud?  If you do, do you think it's funny?  If others who are close to you talk to themselves out loud, do you ever say anything to them?  Do you think they are a bit weird?  RR ignores me much of the time - I think he just tunes me out - not in mean way but he has some of his own attention issues going on so he doesn't even know he's tuning me out.  It's okay with me.  I just tell myself whatever I need or want to hear.....