Philosophy

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Eras ending

Published April 25, 2017 by livinggraciously

I’ve wrapped up the last birthday I’ll ever have for an age that begins with a 5. A year from now, I move on into the 6s.

That’s not weird AT ALL.

Age is an odd thing. I think it was Jim Gaffigan (if not, excuse my senility) who recently said that a generation ago when someone approached 60, people solicitously guided them to a rocking chair; now, they are given a mountain bike and told to get going.

For the most part, I’m all for that mountain bike (crap, I own three bikes; I’d better be enthusiastic). But there are days when I long, a bit, for the solicitous guidance, the gentle pat on the back of my–so far unmarred by age spots–hand, and the voice to tell me to slow the hell down.

It’s not that I want to get old–hell, you line me up a dozen random virgins with the promise that drinking their blood will restore me to my thirties and those bitches are going *down*–but there is a lot of balance to be sought in the reality of this point of life. I spent an hour gardening today. I went to the gym. I am fighting the good fight against the ravages of time and reality.

In the end, ravaging reality will win. Maybe not for another 20, 30 years. But we haven’t found a cure for age yet.

So here I am, dancing on the balance. I can’t get 30 back (for the record, no, I don’t want 20–those years were still WAY too hormonal). I can’t get 40. I can’t even get 58.

What I’ve got is 59, and how to use it best. How to use it smartest. One of the most humbling decisions I ever made was buying myself a walker for Star Wars Celebration. Did I need the walker for support? Not at all. But degenerative disc disease and the inability to stand for long periods of time means that I *did* need that flip-down seat and the ability to plant my ass for the long hours we had to wait in some lines.

As a woman with a walker, I could have cruised right up to the Medical Disability station, gotten myself a special sticker for my badge, and had some advantages as far was getting into lines. I did not do this. I had a walker because I needed a doggone chair whenever I needed a chair. Not because I am disabled. I felt like taking advantage of a visible piece of equipment to get special treatment would have been dishonest.

By Celebration 2019? I might not feel that way. One of the things I did today, my birthday, was take time to get to the gym. It wasn’t a great workout. But I did show up. And it means something to me. Not that I will ever be thin–because I fought for that for decades and fuck it, I end up fatter every damned time–but that I can stay mobile. I can stay able. I can keep walking, and moving, and lifting. And planting, and pulling up the goddamn weeds that will just keep growing no matter how much I loathe them. And harvesting. And reaching for the stars, howling at the moon, bursting warm, ripe tomatoes with my teeth, scrounging the dirt for carrots and onions, swinging a lightsaber in the moonlight, juggling balls my dog can’t believe aren’t for her, swinging on my porch swing, riding my bike through the park, dyeing and sewing fabric into new treasures for the future and just existing. On a thousand levels.

Tomorrow morning, it’s editing books. In the evening, it may be plunging cotton fabric into purples and greens it never knew could exist. Or spying for that first curling sprout that promises a pound of snap peas. Or riding to the river to just listen to it sing. I have a thousand miles of everything, calling to me. Let’s see whose song is sweetest.

 

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The Ultimate Hope in “Turn Away the Gay” legislation

Published March 4, 2014 by livinggraciously

Last month states like Kansas and Arizona made John Stewart’s life so easy. The Daily Show practically wrote itself, thanks to the appalling behavior of legislatures whose elected officials have a distorted view of what constitutes religious freedom.

And it would be natural to look at their behavior and be depressed. But instead, I celebrate it. Because it means that we actually are winning.

In the years after the Second World War, when African-American soldiers returned from serving their country and refused to return to the subservient role that they had left, the push for civil rights could no longer just be swept under the rug. So in the south, the state legislatures and city councils reacted in a very predictable way: Jim Crow laws were proposed and passed right and left. What little wasn’t already regulated was by gosh regulated now! Those in power clutched at that power with everything they had.

And they lost. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of time, and a lot of bloodshed, but they lost. All those laws were overturned.

What we are seeing now? That same, final panicky grasp at the status quo. The turnaround on these changes is a lot faster–after all, neither state actually enacted these laws. But what we are seeing, and what we saw back in 2008 when a bunch of states passed constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex marriage, is a final bodice-clutching, fan-wafting, smell-salts-fueled hysteria.

They’ll lose. It’ll take a little more time, hopefully no more bloodshed, but they will lose.

The poison of always and never

Published March 3, 2014 by livinggraciously

Ferrett and I are passionate people who get along wonderfully until that unfortunate moment when we aren’t getting along. We will never be one of those couples who says, “Oh, we never argue about anything!” We are both stubborn and convinced that we are right.

But one of the things we have tried to do over the years is to learn to fight fairly. To use “I” language, to step back when discussion turns into yelling, to trust that if one of us says, “I need a minute to calm down” that doesn’t mean “I’m going to stomp off and fume and not speak to you anymore.”

And to deal with “always” and “never” language. We are both given to hyperbole. And high emotion in our worst moments. And so at one point we would readily throw around those two words: “You always assume I’m trying to control you!” “You never show me any respect!” These statements had nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with the mental state we were in at that moment, where the world narrows down to the grievance at hand.

But once the disagreement at hand was resolved, there would be a secondary tension based on the accused hurt at being told that he or she was “always” or “never” doing something that they knew was unfair. And that lower-key tension could be carried as a deep hurt for hours or even days, waiting its moment to erupt into an echoing argument, leaving the other person–who had generally forgotten entirely about the moment–suddenly blindsided with hurt that felt like it was coming out of nowhere. And, frankly, ridiculous to the one party while monumental to the other.

So we reached an agreement. We would both do our best to stay away from “always” and “never.”

And you know what? We both fail at it dismally.

In the midst of a disagreement, those terrible words still erupt from our mouths on occasion. But there is a big difference now. Usually, we are aware enough to catch ourselves doing it. And if the other of us points out what we’ve said, we take a step back, acknowledge that we are in error, and start again with calmer, more realistic language.

But even if we don’t manage that, we each know that the other didn’t mean it and we don’t carry it around with us for days. Our dialogue is healthier for it.

And now? I’m working at removing those dreaded words from my internal dialogue. We are our own harshest critics, and we say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to our friends. Example: last night at the Oscar party I ate WAY too much junk food. I woke up this morning feeling bloated and logy. In my head, I started scolding myself: you always do this. You never have any self-control around snack food.

And then I made me stop. It was a party. I had fun. I have plenty of self-control, in that these snack foods only enter my house about 4 times a year, but I’m at the grocery store every week and I don’t buy them. I am, in fact, a competent person who is capable of taking good care of myself. I deserve my own love and respect.

Here’s the one always I need to internalize: I am always worthy.

My insanity: let me show you it

Published February 28, 2014 by livinggraciously

I am about to embark on a completely crazy project, and the only way to do it properly is to put it out to the world so that I have nailed my trousers to the mast (“don’t you mean your colors to the mast?” “No, trousers; that way I can’t crawl back down”)*

I am starting a project that I’m calling “100 Days of All The Things.” From March 1 until June 8, I am committing myself to:

  • Go to the gym daily
  • Cook healthy meals (except for days when we are specifically going out or doing something that takes me away from the kitchen, but no, “Eh, don’t wanna cook; let’s get Chinese.”)
  • Read
  • Practice Italian
  • Journal (and not endlessly about this experience; actual, substantive journaling)
  • Do something crafty

I fully expect that by day 2 I will be wondering what the hell I was thinking. But if I can do this, I hope that I will develop some good habits that will stick. I feel like I’m doing too much “drifting” through my days. I want to live more intentionally. I will also continue working, and keeping house, and having time with Ferrett, and walking my dog, throughout this.

And now y’all know. So you can help keep me honest. Wish me luck.

*Extra Brownie Points of Extremely Impressed-ness for anyone who knows the original source of that slightly-rewritten exchange!

Dear Xenophobic Hate-Mongerers: The Coca Cola Company thanks you for your support

Published February 4, 2014 by livinggraciously

On a relatively mild Sunday afternoon in early February, during a ball game that people continued to watch mostly because it was like unto Christians being fed to lions, the Coca Cola company aired a commercial in which people of many nationalities appears and “America the Beautiful” was sung in numerous languages.

At which point, the Internet went batshit crazy.

I will not recount the spewings of hatred aimed at the Coca Cola company as a segment of the population vented their spleen over the taking of “Our National Anthem” in vain. Instead, I will try to reimagine the reaction at the Coca Cola headquarters when the first of those Tweets and YouTube comments came pouring in:

Several people in suits, drinks in hand, leap from their chairs, cheering. Fist bumps, chest bumps, and mimicry of spiking a football follow. After the initial cheers, toasts are drunk and the suits all settle back to their computers, watching the insanity unfold, reading aloud the most ridiculous complaints and laughing, laughing, laughing.

You see, dear redneck ‘Murican, the Coca Cola people did not make that ad to try and get your dollars. They know very well that your soda dollars will be returning their way in a few days when some other outrage has come along to blow up your proverbial skirts. No, the Coca Cola people were not surprised by your vitriol. They were, in fact counting on it.

For a few million dollars, they made and placed an ad in the Superbowl time slot that, without you, might have had a minor branding bump to their label. But thanks to you, that ad is worth millions more in the outrage of the greater population at your despicable, hate-filled behavior. People who don’t buy Coke are suddenly feeling a need to defend the label for their bravery in taking on bigots like you. And how better to display loyalty that to buy a Coke and stand with this brave company against the embarrassment caused by your rude and appalling — and frequently misspelled and ungrammatical — spewings on the internet.

Yes, dear racist, your own disgusting attitude is selling cola to the rest of the country in ways that one mere ad could never accomplish. And if you don’t think that the Coca Cola ad executives counted on your reaction to that ad, then you are even stupider than your internet rantings make you sound.

The philosophy of an unmade bed

Published January 21, 2014 by livinggraciously

Every “clean up your home” book tells you to make your bed every day. And for a long time I thought that was silly. In fact, I started this post almost a year ago from the presumption that it was silly.

Notice that “a year ago” thing. That’s important. Because two years is about how long this journal has lain fallow, gathering cobwebs.

It’s not that a lot hasn’t happened. 2013 was one of the most eventful years of my life. Some of it good, much of it bad.

I ran a bunch of 5ks. I completed 2 triathlons. We went to Hawaii. We got a dog.

Ferrett had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery. A number of family members died. Our 5-year-old goddaughter was diagnosed with brain cancer.

And I had pretty much stopped journaling. Some of these events are recorded in my almost-equally-neglected Live Journal, but most of my internet interaction had moved over to the quicker but less permanent annals of Facebook and Spark People.I felt sort of bad about not following through here, but it was too much work, and took too much concentration. I was spending way too much time on the computer, and not really getting much constructive out of it. It was casually addicting, letting the hours slip by.

I wasn’t baking bread. I wasn’t quilting. I wasn’t reading books. I wasn’t gardening or doing as much cooking as I’d wish. I was, honestly, in the face of many crises, sort of just holding on. Getting enough work done to keep getting paid, but letting a lot else that made my life a good place just slide.

Then sometime in November, I started making the bed. Every morning. If I was out of the house before Ferrett was up, when I got home I would go and make the bed. It was suddenly, after many, many years, important to me. On the morning after my stepdad died, I made the bed. On Christmas morning, when we were all in crisis because my 6-year-old niece had seized the evening before and was lying unconscious in a hospital, I made the bed. On the morning when we got the good word that she was going to recover, I made the bed.

And then other things started happening in life. I began putting together menus again so that I can actually do the cooking I want to do to keep Ferrett and me healthy. I started quilting again. My workouts got more consistent. I have the next bread in the BBA Challenge, French bread, rising in the kitchen right now.

I can’t say for certain that it isn’t me kind of recovering from a tough year and regaining the energy to do all these things, but I know that starting the day with that one small ritual of making the bed causes me to then pick up any laundry or detritus in the bedroom, and I come out of it with a feeling that I’m starting out on the right foot. Now excuse me, I have French bread to make.

Looking back; looking forward

Published December 28, 2012 by livinggraciously

Christmas Day is, in some ways, the last day of the old year. Yes, there is another week left of the year, but it is a fallow time in which we finish up the last bits of the dying year and begin to look at and plan for the coming year. Some say that there is no good reason for this divide, that one day is just the same as another. I don’t think that’s true. Our lives are marked out by meetings and partings, by ritual and expectation, and I think the new year is one of those marks by which we measure and in which we can find inspiration.

Over the last few days, I’ve found myself reflecting. The last year was on the whole successful for me. I lost 50 pounds, biked over 2000 miles, and began taking the first steps toward running right at the end of the year. I made a lot of delicious bread and other food, I spent quality time with family and friends, and I did some good fundraising for an excellent cause.

There were some parts of the year that weren’t as successful. There were people I love with whom I didn’t get spend nearly enough time. I spent way too much time on the computer and didn’t read nearly enough books. I let my yard and garden run to wild. I didn’t get a single quilt or piece of jewelry made. I barely practiced juggling, or spinning poi, both skills I want to learn/improve. I feel like I handled the basics but let a lot of time slip by me around the edges that could have been put to much more fruitful use.

So my biggest resolution for the coming year is to take back my life from the computer. It’s a wonderful tool, and I don’t intend to abandon social networking and all the support it’s given me. The reality, however, is that I haven’t even been using this tool very well. I’ve barely journaled at all, one of the things I seriously regret. I mostly sit refreshing Facebook and Spark People and not actually accomplishing much. There are too many evening hours spent just frittering away my time, time I could be making something creative and beautiful, or tending to my garden, or practicing, or reading a book.

I’ve known this was an issue for a while, and I’ve tried to change it without much success. This time I need to take it more seriously. I need to set a timer to limit my social networking, and when it goes off I need to get off the computer and on to something more productive. I’m going to have to experiment a bit with determining how much time I should spend online.

And then I have to get offline. My life doesn’t need to be lived electronically. I have better things to do with it.

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