February 26, 2012

Sunday Morning Stream of Consciousness

It’s 5:36 a.m. on a Sunday morning and I’m staring at a blank computer screen with too much to say and the inability to say it.  The wind is howling, blowing in a warm front, and I’m overheated.  My cat won’t stop rubbing up against me, probably because he’s hungry and I should feed him.  But my mouth is parched and I’m too lazy to make myself tea, so I don’t feel like feeding my cat now either.  I’m in one of those moods where I have a lot to say, but I don’t know how to say it, because if I do it will come out like verbal diarrhea, with no particular rhyme or reason.  So, today’s blog will be a themeless one.  Please stop now if you had any higher expectations.

It’s now 5:42 a.m. on a Sunday morning and I’m both wide awake and overtired.  I long to be back in bed relishing in the fact that I have the luxury of being able to sleep in today, but I can’t, because my mind keeps spinning.  (Sunday afternoon naps are always kind of nice anyway.)  That happens sometimes, usually when I have an issue that I’ve yet to resolve.  It’s not a particularly big one, but nevertheless one that I need to work through.  Overall, I have to say that life right now is really, really great – I daresay almost perfect.  Just yesterday I turned to my husband as we were eating pizza (how I love pizza and I hardly ever have it!), and I said, “We have so much to be thankful for – so much.”  He agreed.  We both have each other, our health, good jobs, the freedom to participate in the things we love, a great house – life is really, really good. 

But even when life is so good, there can still be some things that you struggle with, when you don’t quite know how to deal with a situation, whether it’s something someone said that hurt you or whether you are just trying to figure out how to respond to something that needs fixing.  I guess it boils down to there always being something in life that needs a little check and adjust or simply just talking it through.  I'm a firm believer in solving a lot of issues simply by talking it through, or in some cases, writing it through.  In life, something is always a little out of whack, and that is okay, because that’s what makes it interesting, right?  I like to think so.

I’m going to end with this quote, because the sun is rising behind me and I don't want to miss it:

 Need and struggle are what excite and inspire us.” – William James

Image: Pinterest

February 20, 2012

"Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets." - Anonymous

Last week my high school classmate, Sylvan, passed away from a horrific snowboarding accident.  While I hadn’t seen Sylvan in many years, I, among the rest of his peers, I'm sure, remember him as the nicest guy in school who always had an enthusiastic smile and a friendly hello whenever you passed him in the hallway.  He was friendly to anyone, never seemingly motivated by the need to be popular or well liked.  Sylvan was just kind, with a genuinely sunny disposition and a positive outlook every time I spoke to him. 

I remember the first time I met him as a high school freshman, after having just moved back to town in the middle of the school year.  I recall thinking what a strikingly handsome guy he was with his bleach-blond hair, dark eyebrows, and big toothy smile.  I also remember being surprised at his easy friendliness for such a good-looking guy, because good-looking guys aren’t usually so nice. 

During our junior year, I got to know Sylvan better because he was part of the “basement crew,” a small group of us who partied in my basement.  He liked to affectionately call a few of us girls “Baby” during our parties, and we teased him for it.  I instinctively remember my friend Kate and I saying to him in our drunken stupor, “Sylvan, stop calling us baby,” and he would say back, “I’m sorry, Baby!  I’m sorry!”  “It’s okay, Sylvan,” I remember saying, adding teasingly, “Just don’t do it again."

While I regrettably didn’t stay in touch with him through the years, I am not surprised by the fanfare that has surrounded his unexpected and tragic passing, but am nevertheless amazed by it.  So many of his peers – close friends, acquaintances, and classmates  -- have all have risen to mourn the passing of a young man who left the world decades too soon, who was not only in the prime of his life but who ironically happened to have been killed doing something he loved so fearlessly and passionately.  Sylvan was living life to the fullest.

I know I am not alone as I reflect on Sylvan’s kind spirit and my short-lived memories of him from high school, but also on the kind of legacy that he left at such a young age.  I’m sure part of it has to do because of the tragic way his life was taken, but primarily I believe the fanfare ensuing from his unexpected death is the result of Sylvan being such a great person – the kind of rare individual who was friendly and kind to every person he met, never in order to gain something from it, be it friends or popularity or attention, but because he was so goodhearted and genuine, because quite simply that’s the only way he knew how to be.  While this is my perception of Sylvan based on knowing him from high school, I can only imagine that this rare quality had only ripened as he grew older and matured into a young man.  I’m sure that in his late 20s, Sylvan was an even better version of himself than when he was a teenager. 

All of this has gotten me reflecting on not only the kind of legacy we leave behind when we die, but also about the importance of living your best life every day.  “Life is short, and it is also long,” as my best friend CB says.  While having this awareness can create inner struggles with achieving the balance between a seemingly short life and a long one, we must find ways to indulge in life’s pleasures and continually seek means for self-betterment and self-growth for the long run. 

I believe the ultimate path to pursuing both is to look at the bigger picture, which I believe to be the gift of life.  Every day, every week, every month is a gift of life, don’t you agree?  If you were to die tomorrow, how would you live your life today?  Probably the fullest, most meaningful way possible, right?  That’s how Sylvan lived his life, and how we need to remind ourselves to lead our own lives too.  

Humble Review - Aloe Blacc's "Loving You Is Killing Me"

I may be a few months (or a year) behind on the Aloe Blacc fan track, but hot damn.  He's got a throwback sound with a hip new swagger, and I love how his voice is reminiscent of one of my very favorite R&B/soul singers -- Bill Withers.  Discovering good new music (especially when it's soul) always makes my day. 

Herewith is a standout track -- "Loving You Is Killing Me" -- that I've had on repeat all weekend.  Not only is the song sexy and upbeat, but I'm mesmorized by the video with its clean white backdrop and Blacc and a little afro'd boy dancing like it's no one's business.  It makes me want to dance like that too! 


February 12, 2012

This Valentine's Day, How about Making an Homage to Your Best Friend?

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner I thought, What better time than to write an homage to my best friend?  I am just like many of you – Valentine’s Day is just another Hallmark holiday.  That’s not to say that I don’t love the range of pink and red colors associated with it, Conversation Hearts, and the hope of getting a card from my lover, but otherwise there is too much commercialism surrounding the day.  I think we should try and celebrate the people we love every day, but nevertheless, it’s a good reminder to communicate that appreciation to the people we may not always think to tell, like our best friends. 

With the exception of my college years when navigating that strange social sphere seems to preclude the need for a best friend, since the age of three, I have pretty much maintained a best friend at each phase of my life.  I am the kind of girl who prefers one close friend to many.  I have a predilection for deep, intense conversations over milling around a crowd at a party, sharing brief small talk with one group to the next, so I consider best friendships to be vitally important.  If you are fortunate enough to have kept the same best friend since childhood, consider yourself lucky, because finding a best friend as an adult is not always easy.  In many ways, I liken it to dating. 

I met CB the first day of grad school orientation.  She sat next to me in Teaching College Composition, a class we were both taking to learn the ins and outs of teaching English 101 as graduate teaching assistants.  Upon discovering we had both been assigned to the same office, we became fast friends.  CB and I both happen to be INFJs, the rarest of the 16 Meyers-Briggs’ personality types, Kiersey referred to as “Counselors.”  Despite the fact that INFJs “are guarded in expressing their own feelings, especially to new people, and so tend to establish close relationships slowly" (Wikipedia), there was an unspoken comfort between CB and me that made the friendship ripen very quickly, consequently leading the friendship to best-friend caliber within a few short months. 

It helps that we both enjoy the same kinds of things – a love of writing and reading, a passion for food and reality TV, and talking about our feelings.  We also both have daddy issues, although of a different variety, have family members who have suffered from addiction, and generally feel misunderstood by most people.  At the same time, we are both very different.  She is more outgoing, more self-assured and self-accepting in many ways, and is generally more likable than me.  In sum, she’s pretty awesome in every way possible, which makes me pretty lucky to have such a great chick for a best friend.  She’s also much cheaper than therapy.  All I buy her is a meal on her birthday, and bam, there you have it.  But seriously, I owe her much more than that for her friendship.  Her only flaw, really, is that some of her musical choices are questionable, but I’m sure she’d feel the same about me.  And who am I to say that Michael Bublé is a manufactured act made to appear more talented than he is?  Really, I have no qualifications, because I happen to listen to and like Katy Perry, who some may also consider a manufactured act also. 

CB (right) and me at Maine Maple Sunday last year.

For a year and a half after grad school, CB and I worked at the same company.  I’m not lying when I say that I went through a depression for a solid month when she left for the gig of her dreams, a full-time teaching position at the local community college.  Luckily, we have girls’ nights at least once every week; otherwise, I would probably be in a mental institution right now. Oftentimes, our girls’ nights consist of getting together for dinner; other times we go shopping at places like Target where we push the cart together like a lesbian couple discussing the merits of cold cream and Arm & Hammer laundry detergent.  We also enjoy going to the drive-thru at Dairy Queen so we can hang out in the dark parking lot, licking our soft-serve ice cream cones, fogging up the windows, and talking about the meaning of life, sex, et al.  As I write this, it occurs to me that we probably really do seem like the lesbian couple I'm joking about, except that we have no sexual relationship and are not attracted to each other, but aside from that, and if we were both single, I would totally marry her!  (And I’m only part kidding about that.)

CB understands me like very few people do.  I might even venture to say that, without wanting to offend my husband or my mother, she might understand me better than anyone.  She certainly knows more about me than anyone does, which, if you read above, that’s saying a lot, because I’m not a big show-and-tell-to-every-Tom-Dick-and-Harry kind of gal.  This past Thursday, we had dinner at one of our favorite places, Buen Apetito.  I was having a moment where I couldn’t stop obsessing about something that I couldn’t get out of my head.  She said, wisely to me (pardon the paraphrasing), “Why do you feel the need to fix everything?  If you just accept [the thing you’re obsessing about] you’ll likely stop obsessing about it anyway.”  As a perpetual self-fixer, this was a progressive revelation to me.  Accept and relish in the obsession?  What a concept!  But she was right.  As soon as I accepted what I couldn’t stop thinking about, I intrinsically began obsessing about it less. 

In the past few years that I’ve known CB, I feel like I’ve become a better person, which I can only hope is the same for her.  She is only a handful of years older than me, but she’s got the wisdom of an 80-year-old Buddhist monk – or at least I think so.  Most important, though, is the deep connection we have and the intense mutual understanding that we have of each other.  When I think of family, she is as much a part of that unit as my parents, siblings, and my husband, so much so that if I had my choice and if she didn't have her own familial unit, I’d mandate her presence at every holiday. 

If you have a CB in your life whom you cherish as much as I do, take this Valentine’s Day to tell her (or him) how much you appreciate their friendship.  The good ones are very hard to find and can be taken from you at any time. 

February 5, 2012

Every time I shop at Walmart a small part of me dies.

Walmart is a grim place to be any day of the week, but it is especially so on the first Friday afternoon of the month, I’ve come to learn.  I experienced this the other day, when I, needing to purchase practical things like TP and paper towels, ventured in at 4 PM.  I, like the rest of middle class Americans, prefer Target, but sometimes Walmart, grim and filthy and annoying as it can be, is generally the least expensive option for these kinds of goods, and besides, I don’t happen to have a Target in my town anyway.

So, in my effort to be more budget-conscious on such goods, Walmart is a practical option, even if I feel a little bit soulless whenever I exit the store, armed with flimsy white bags containing the most cheaply produced products possible.  

On this particular Friday afternoon, I had a very specific list with me.  On it were these fine items:
  • Birthday and V-Day cards
  • Hair conditioner
  • Scrunchies
  • Hard candy
  • V-Day candy
  • Two boxes of Balance bars
  • Wastebaskets (3)
  • Wall clock
  • Nylons
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels

All of these items totaled approximately $102, which is pretty fair considering the extent of my list, and the fact that I went with the jumbo packs of paper towel and toilet paper.  It also helped that I saved 65 cents per box on the Balance bars and a dollar on the pack of scrunchies, which I can’t stop talking about because I think it’s hilarious that you can still buy scrunchies in 2012, not to mention the fact that I still wear scrunchies in 2012.

It’s not necessarily going to Walmart, the store, that makes me feel so icky, because if you think about it, every store where things like toilet paper and conditioner are sold is a big-box, chain bang these days.  We are not living in a day and age where mom-and-pop grocery stores even exist anymore.  It’s also not the employees who necessarily create the foreboding atmosphere.  They are typically friendly, hardworking folk, who are doing what they need to do to make a living in America.  Ya can’t knock the hustle, as Jay-Z says.  Many of its patrons, on the other hand, are a different story, because that place – every single time I go there – is a little like being at the National Dregs of Society Convention.  But, let me qualify this statement: I'm not referring to such folks who are Walmart shoppers merely because they are poor or are simply being budget-conscious (as I am), but rather those, who in my personal experience, happen to comprise the general demographic of shoppers who are generally rude, pushy, and in some cases, high on drugs of the prescription or street variety. 

In the checkout line, I had a This-Is-What’s-Wrong-With-America moment while observing the overweight family of three checking out in front of me.  Before I embark on my observation of this family it should be noted that they appeared to be a nice-enough family, not visibly on drugs or not particularly pushy or rude, but nevertheless still showcasing the kinds of dire issues that are plaguing our American culture today, namely that of which stems from overindulgence, lending itself to such issues as obesity, disease, as well as a whole slew of other issues. 

Judging from the long skirts, adorned by both the mother and daughter, paired with slippers, they were probably of the Pentecostal faith.  They weren’t the only ones with this kind of footwear -- I actually saw a lot of people wearing slippers that afternoon.  The daughter was maybe 13, but could’ve easily passed for a 34 year old if you blurred your eyes because of the 100 or so extra pounds she was carrying.  “I want some Reese's,” she said to her mom, debating on whether she should get multiple packs of the candy or a king-size.  Her mother responded, “Why don’t you get two packs so you can have variety?”  The girl settled on the king-size pack. 

Continuing on with business, the mother and father hefted their goods one by one onto the conveyer belt so slowly I had to fight the urge to just take over and do it myself.  Their goods consisted of the following iconic American fare: two sausage pizzas, a stick of pepperoni, a canister of sugar-free Carnation Instant Breakfast, one out-of-season watermelon, several boxes of pudding (various flavors), some other stuff that I can’t remember, and a quarter-drunk plastic jug of water.  The mother said the cashier, “That’s opened because I got thirsty.”  Her daughter added, “She has diabetes.”*

As soon as there was enough space, I mounted my items to the conveyor belt.  An incredible sweet old lady waiting in line behind me – a stark contrast to all the folks around us and an example of What’s Right With America – said to me with a smile, “We’ll get through this line eventually.”  After my items (which amount to as many as the family before me) were already on the conveyor belt I realized she only had one item, a navy blue sweatshirt (size: Medium).  Suddenly, it occured to me that I should’ve taken notice that she had one item to my 20, and that I too, am yet another case of This is What’s Wrong With America.

Finally, I was expelled through the exit doors, and not only did my soul feel a bit depleted, but I felt filthy and my eyes were burning from the poorly recycled air.  And, for what?  Just to save a few bucks on some cheap paper and plastic wares.  But I suspect that, just like that feeling when you’ve eaten too much Chinese food and you vow never to eat it again, you know you’ll be back.  I hate to admit it, but I’m sure I’ll be.

*This is a true story.  The dialogue was not edited in any way for the purpose of entertainment value.
Photo Credit: PeopleofWalmart.com.