Thursday, September 27, 2007

Grudgingly Grateful

Where am I? Here. And how exactly did I get here? I would guess that the responsible and correct answer to that question would be through a series of decisions and events, some of which I had control over and some which I did not. Have control over. Glad I cleared that up. I'm in a funk. And this funk, it would seem, is a self-inflicted one. I don't even know what that is. How the hell could I be in the middle of a self-inflicted funk if I don't know what one is? I'll have to give that one some thought and get back to you later. A little over two weeks ago I got a lousy haircut. Actually, it's not that bad, it may turn out to be pretty okay, it's just that she took off at least two inches instead of the one inch I requested and cut the layers way too high up. The result is that the curl has gone completely nuts and it's not quite long enough to pull back in a ponytail when it gets unruly. Not that my hair is ever particularly ruly. Anyway, it's calmed down quite a bit and I've received a number of compliments on it. Which totally defeats the purpose of being annoyed by it. It's just hair, and at least on me, it will grow back. So the recent haircut must not be the root of my funkiness. Whenever I feel this way I remind myself that I have a tremendous number of things to be grateful about. And then I get annoyed because that begins to spoil the self-centered pissypityparty I'm slipping into and I have to work at it a little. That's it! A funk may come over me at times for seemingly no real reason but I make an effort to pull myself out of it. So then it requires a conscious effort to fling myself back into it! Thus is born the self-inflicted funk! I think we have a breakthrough! The climb back out of the funk then becomes an exercise in being grudgingly grateful. I remember something I am truly grateful for, like the fact that I love being a mother, even when my sons do things that make me crazy, but I really, really do love them...and so on. It would seem that everything I'm grateful for has the teeniest bit of a downside. Usually the downside portion is hardly worth mentioning. But I mention it anyway. Like I said, I'm grudgingly grateful! Then I might possibly laugh at myself, resulting in an even further departure of the funk I'm now desperately trying to hang onto for reasons I can't remember. When I'm through with the grudging part it's likely I'll end up in a state of genuine gratitude. When I reach this particular state I am able to recognize that I'm actually happy about most of the things in my life. My kids. My friends. My home. My job. My health. Writing. My cats. Even if Newton has lately developed an affection for peeing on my bed. Can I whine just a little because I don't have a man in my life right now? He'd likely end up being just one more thing that I'm grudgingly grateful for. Come to think of it, the only thing I'm wholly grateful for is chocolate. And Christmas. Maybe going out for lunch. Certainly getting to sleep late on weekends. If I'm not careful I'm going to slip right out of this self-inflicted funk.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I'm Distracted

There's this guy. Really? Yeah. Really. And for a number of reasons, quite reasonable ones, actually, he is absolutely and completely unavailable to me. Which I guess is okay. So I tell myself that as long as I realize this fact it's perfectly alright to contemplate inappropriate things about him. Like what he might look like naked. Or how it might feel to be engaged in serious lip-lock with him. Or how his skin smells up close, specifically on that little area of his neck just below his ear and just above his shirt collar. This is safe, I tell myself, as long as these musings remain inside my head. I have no intention of acting on any of them, so, just for fun, I'm giving the monkeys free rein with all these little fantasies. Right now they're fueled with chocolate and hormones and they're running around like crazy, doing frenzied gymnastic maneuvers to a Frank Sinatra soundtrack. He has this twinkly-eyed thing going when he smiles. The guy, not the monkeys, we're back to him again. I have actually caught myself positioning my point of view in such a manner so that I can look at his ass! Which is fine. His ass, not the fact that I'm looking at it. And the sexiest thing that he does that nearly makes me swoon (I can't believe that I typed the word swoon!) is that he is a terrific listener. Whenever I have occasion to speak to him, he sets aside whatever he may be doing at the moment, gives me his full attention, makes clear and unwavering eye contact, and listens to me. I have noticed that when he speaks to others, the same thing happens! And if possible, the fact that he does this with others is even more appealing than when he does the same with me. On one level, that may sound deeply disturbed and voyeuristic. But that's just fine. It also makes twenty or so of the monkeys do backflips on their trampoline. For just a moment yesterday, something odd happened. We were having a conversation and for one tiny millisecond of time, I felt like he looked right through me. That he saw all the darkest thoughts running through my brain that center around him. And I felt a chill inside as though my secret had been revealed. But no. It was just my imagination. But sometimes I wonder if there really are any secrets, any really good ones, that can be kept for very long.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Acceptance vs Understanding

For a number of years I've been engaged in a quest for spiritual wholeness. At least that's the best way I have of describing the concept. I was baptized, Sunday schooled and confirmed in the Lutheran church under the care of a doubting mother and an atheist Southern-Baptist-raised father. But it didn't take on me. So in one way or another I've been searching for something to fill that spiritual void inside. Along the way I've run across a number of interesting concepts that I like for their sheer logic and simplicity. Consider acceptance versus understanding. It's an Eastern notion that I have made a real effort to incorporate into my everyday thought process since I first became aware of it eight or so years ago. A vs E is incredibly simple and has given me a deeper sense of peace when pondering life's various issues. It goes like this. In the Western, or more specifically, American mindset, we don't just ask for, we often demand the understanding of something before we are willing to accept it. In Eastern thinking we are introduced to the idea that often, if we will only accept, understanding follows. And the understanding that comes to an open, accepting mind is clearer and easier to incorporate into your life than the up-front variety that is colored by stubbornness and preconceived notions. I have found that this way of thinking is a tremendous stress reducer. It's calming and rational and meditative. Not the easiest thing for us to wrap our American brains around, but worth the effort. Try it. But you'll have to accept the idea before you can truly understand and benefit from it. And if you think that sounds like a catch-22, you just might be right. Then again, being right isn't necessarily the road to happiness.

Monday, September 10, 2007

September Meanderings

Yes, it is September. A between seasons sort of month. Evidenced by the fact that I have just taken an hour-long bubble bath and donned my fleece and flannel jammies with the penguins decorating the pants and have just now finished a warm, sweet and rich cup of hot chocolate, and have a pair of recently cast-off pair sandals nearby and I really, really need to mow the lawn before the ash trees in the front yard dump their annual load of leaves there. The autumnal equinox approaches in just over a week. Which is also the pagan holiday Mabon where we honor the crones of our tribes. A celebration I am heartily in favor of since cronehood could descend upon me at pretty much any time. Although I was recently told by a very nice young man that he couldn't believe that I'm fifty, citing my relative lack of decrepitness. I'm not entirely sure if decrepitness is a word, but it does sound kind of cool for something that in reality is rather icky. I know so many adjectives, so many infinitely better ones than icky, but icky just seemed to fit. Tomorrow I need to hit the snooze only once and get out of bed a few minutes earlier. We are taking a group staff photo at work so I must make more than my normal minimal efforts in the primping department. Since I got my hair trimmed this evening I have no idea what it will do tomorrow, so much depends on the relative humidity and the hair-tousling wind force between the car and the door to the building. Nothing a little water or a tress-taming scrunchie can't handle. I have just been seized by a craving for an orange scone, the likes of which are available at Panera bakeries. Alas, the nearest Panera is fifty miles away in Sioux Falls, so I shall have to tuck this craving away until my next trip south. I also have been wondering of late how it is that I have become entangled repeatedly with Libra musicians who live in Rapid City. I really need to find a new rut. Possibly involving sharing Panera pastries with a guy who doesn't live hundreds of miles away and worships me while I sleep in on weekend mornings. I'd let him call me his goddess. Or his crone. As long as he shows up with an orange scone he may call me whatever he likes.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

To Read. Or Not

Three years ago my friend Sue invited me to join the book group she participated in. I said sure. She loaned me the book that had been chosen for reading and discussion, a collection of three short stories by Willa Cather. The first meeting I attended fazed me just a little. This was a group of smart women. Very, very smart, very educated women. Librarians and English professors. I was certain that as soon as I opened my mouth I would be found out for the undereducated, slothful, pea-brain that I am. I was pleasantly surprised. These were smart, educated women to be sure. But they were also into opening a few bottles of wine and serving wonderful food. We had much more in common than not in common and I was comfortable almost immediately. There are even a couple of potty-mouthed ladies in addition to moi. Salty language flying about is normal and colorful metaphors are appreciated. In the last three years I have read a number of books that I otherwise would not have read. Most of them I enjoyed, only a couple I did not so much enjoy. I always enjoyed the discussion at our monthly meetings. Sometimes the group was evenly divided over the like/dislike issue. This resulted in lively and sometimes heated exchanges of opinion, but there was always respect despite the difference. Only a couple of times was the group enthusiastically in unison in loving a particular selection, and never was any one book completely dissed. I regret that I have missed attending for an entire year now! I hate it when working full time intrudes upon my fun! When I received the email last week announcing the September book choice and who was hosting, I wandered out of the computer room to the bookcases in the family room. I actually had a dusty paperback copy of Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. And I've had it for a long time! I bought it new and it bears the staggering price of one dollar and fifty cents. I remembered little about it and began reading it that evening. I'd forgotten so much about the story it was almost as if I was reading it for the first time. I'm nearly halfway finished with it now, and have discovered that I won't be able to attend this Wednesday's group. I have a work function to attend and regret that once more I will miss the book group meeting. I am going to keep reading the monthly selections, though, and maybe this winter I'll manage to show up for book group. Sort of like doing the homework but never making it to class. A classy class of very smart women complemented by food and wine.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The List

Last winter I made this list. Even before I read the book that recommended that I should make such a list. Much in the same way that I framed and displayed my children's artwork and stacked old suitcases to make a bedside table before, yes, before such ideas appeared in Martha Stewart Living. Sometimes I'm ahead of the curve. So I made this list because I was feeling thoughtful about the qualities that I admired and appreciated in a man. And maybe if I listed these qualities it would help me make healthy decisions in the future should an interesting man worthy of my attention wander into view. The list in its final form contains twenty-two points, all of which are important to me, but only three or four are deal-breakers. Meaning that a man who encompasses all twenty-two qualities would likely be a miracle, so some of them are just nice touches, things that would make him terribly endearing at the get-go, but may not be evident initially, or could be things he would aspire to if he became aware of their importance to me. The few that are deal-breakers are probably things so entrenched in a person that they are not likely to change, and at this point in my life I don't have the energy or time to invest in such a cause. One woman's fixer-upper is another woman's move-in condition. Or something like that. So here's my list. For your perusal and entertainment. If you see such a man, do send him my way.

Bellona’s Grown-Up Wish List For a Man

That She Could Love

1. Healthy, or at least working on it, in mind, body, and spirit.

2. He should smile not just with his mouth but also with his eyes.

3. Doesn’t have to have a regular day job but should be responsible with money.

4. Not too neat and buttoned-up appearance-wise, a little rumpled and goofy is so sexy!

5. He must read! And interested in all kinds of ideas and be able to discuss without lecturing.

6. He must have a creative outlet. Music, painting, drawing, writing. I would love to have someone to sing and/or write with.

7. He must have some sort of spiritual calling, belief in a higher power, feel a connection to the earth as well as the stars.

8. No addictions! Well, coffee’s okay. Nicotine or any tobacco use not okay! Drug or alcohol abuse not okay, but if in the past a history of sobriety essential.

9. Not rigid or negative or angry in thought, anal or overly critical.

10. Able to talk about and express feelings.

11. Must be kind, love animals, laugh easily.

12. Must be comfortable and content at home but also be up for travel, adventure, shared experiences.

13. Must appreciate simple pleasures like cheeseburgers, naps, garden tomatoes, a lovely glass of wine, holding hands, reading to a child, bubble baths and massages.

14. Must be comfortable with affection.

15. Would it be too much to ask if he would rub my feet?

16. Must be confident enough in our bond to let me have my own time and interests away from him.

17. He must love my sons! And my cats.

18. Maybe we could live together in the mountains or near water, build a house that is ours, not mine or his.

19. He must be a grown-up! So I don’t have to be all the time.

20. We must be able to tell each other, in a kind and constructive way, about things that bother/irritate us about each other.

21. He’ll have to dance with me.

22. He must be able to commit to a faithful and monogamous relationship.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor of Love

Labor Day. It's a holiday. And while I'm a little whiney about going back to work full time and full throttle this week, I got paid for today because I'm full time once again and get paid for holidays! I also have a batch of banana walnut muffins in the oven. I've taken a brief leave of the kitchen to give the dish faeries an opportunity to clean up after me. I sincerely believe in them and one of these days they will indeed show up. I thought I met the Queen of the dish faeries a few years ago. Our friend Jon had shown up with his friend Christine to spend a few days with us. Christine was a tall, twinkly-eyed, red-haired young lady from Ireland. Jon had met her a few years earlier on a trip over to the Emerald Isle and they had kept in touch. He invited her over for a tour of the USA, including golf, Mount Rushmore, fishing and, a stop at our house. Christine was so very, very cool. We couldn't bear to tell Jon that he was not even the tiniest bit close to her league. We were just happy that he brought her across the Atlantic to spend a few days with us! I cooked up a storm for our guests, just a little thing that I do, and after dinner I had left a few things to clean up the next morning. I don't know about you, but I'd rather sit on the deck with a glass of wine in my hand after dinner and watch the sun set with friends than polish up the kitchen and miss all the fun. To my surprise and delight, the next morning I heard cleaning-up sounds emanating from the kitchen. Christine, Christine, Dish Faerie Queen, was washing up the few things from the night before. She flashed me a smile and put a cup of coffee in my hand. Cleaning up after your family is something of a labor of love. Christine was cleaning up my mess and I adored her for it. Maybe it was just her lilting Irish accent that made her seem akin to the faeries to me. She remains in my heart though the time we spent together was short. It's funny how you can spend just a few days, sometimes just a few hours with someone, and you immediately connect. And even if you never see each other again, you're left with lingering, lovely memories and swear you had known them for years. I'm still just a little annoyed with Jon for not being cool enough for Christine to marry him. But I'm forever grateful to Christine for helping me believe in the faeries.