Monday, November 15, 2010

Is anyone still out there?

To all of my family, friends, faithful readers and drop-in visitors:

I am not trapped under something heavy nor rendered mute.  I am still well and alive and writing, but simply veered onto a new course.  I am now working on a book, which surprisingly is quite a bit harder than sitting down to write blog articles, and therefore haven’t been entertaining/boring/updating you all on this site. 

I will continue to post my writing from time to time, for those of you who are interested. 

Also, if anyone were eagerly raising their hand as volunteer readers/editors/critics – hopefully of the constructive nature, I would love to send you some pieces for feedback. 

Know that I am forever grateful for anyone who read my words and smiled, cried, nodded, scowled, or simply took the time to stop and read.  In the vein of trees falling and no one hearing, I am a writer regardless, but all of you made me feel like a Writer.  So thank you and stay tuned for future musings.

With love,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

very productive day...

So I want to write a book.  I have written over 120 articles in the past 6 months.  I have a life story that more people can’t claim and yet, I have no idea what to write.  Somehow I’ve gotten out the habit of writing every morning.  How did that happen? There was the trip to Canada in august and then mold fiascos and then apartment hunting and then packing and moving.  And now? I’ve been living here over a month, and yet, somehow puttering in the garden and painting furniture and searching thrift stores for the right night table and meandering on craigslist’s free listings and the day has slipped away.  What happened? Could this be why I’ve been feeling so crabby, skin is bristling to the world that keeps tossing out barbs? Am I craving writing that I was starting my day with for so many months? Or maybe, am I missing the praise and the feedback and the self-ego boosts about what a great writer I am? It seems like there was a rush of rainbows – articles published, newspaper journalist, websites eager to post my words for payment – first timer’s luck? Random blessings? Too much good news building up a false sense of confidence?

Because now, six months later, I find my words have curled away from inspiration and scatter in gusts of doubt when I run in pursuit.  I wonder how much is simply I have let myself get out of the habit of composing, let myself build new routines of inane errands and superfluous tasks that sweep away creativity and suck time thru a meaningless vortex.  I know that I am uniquely gifted at wasting time until I’m late, filling spaces with dusting and organizing, pruning and the “home” aisles at tj maxx.  I’ve been gardening and going to appointments, painting and reorganizing. There was a visit from my parents and three blind dates.  There was the planning of the parental visit, thanksgiving plans, and a looming future without a steady paycheck.  There’s always something I can distract myself with.

 I would never have said that I procrastinate.  Rather, I’m the opposite – give me a task, an assignment, an essay to write, and I feel anxious until I can get it done – hence the depositing the check the moment I receive it, buying the birthday gift when I notice it at the bottom of my list.  And yet, my wise friend pointed out – that is exactly procrastination masked as productivity.  I can run around all day, home depot, the grocery store, the park, planting, vacuuming, walking the dog, doing laundry...very productive...and not least not in the quantity that I do them.  This is how I put off crafting an introduction, mulling over plot, and avoiding outlines of chapters.  This is how I fritter hours away because there are always library books to return days before they're due, milk to buy without the apples I'll need tomorrow, and towels to launder the moment they soak up a spill.  A vision of “Don’ts” in time management and productivity.  I don’t want the title of procrastinator.  Don’t like it.  And yet, I zip it up snugly as my book remains a plan rather than a work in progress.

It’s easy to talk about writing, plan to write, create space to write, graph budgets and brainstorm titles.  But still there is the blank page and days have passed.

Write what you know – that’s what all of the authors say.  Classes aren’t essential – the best medicine for writing is daily writing and read as much as you can.  Ok – so I’ve got the reading under control and the daily writing – I can get back there.  So I’m supposed to make a plan – a business venture to propose – does it include classes? Is it arrogant to assume that I don’t need education in writing before trying to draft my story? But more than the plan – because I’m good at plans and numbered outlines and excel spreadsheets...more than the plan is the bigger question: what kind of book to write?

I could write fiction; a thinly veiled memoir with artistic freedom to speak for my loved ones, disclose family trauma without splashing ‘nonfiction’ across the cover.  But with fiction, there must be a plot and a climax, a storyline and an ending.  And how to begin the story of my family? Is it a generational saga? No – I’m not really a fan of those.  So I think I’d want it to be written from the different characters perspectives.  Is that overdone? Would I be able to write fiction? I’ve never really tried. And what would be the ending? I have no good ending – but I wouldn’t want a story wrapped up in a bow anyway.  And then I feel like I’d need to do some research – reread some of my favorite novels – but then I’ve read that’s a bad idea – don’t over think, don’t look for inspiration in old dog-eared novels because you’ll end up stuck in their genius and unable to write with your own voice.  Can I tell I story that others would want to read without the support of true-life accounts?

So I could write nonfiction – which is what I at least know, read more of, and have been doing for the past six months, not to mention fifteen years.  But memoirs seem tired – and for sure addiction memoirs are passé –but what is my story without that? More I want to write a compilation of articles, thoughts on life, and various insights like what I’ve blogged on – but what would keep the reader’s attention? There still needs to be a storyline, characters revisited, history explained, albeit slowly, that keeps it from being forever closed after a few chapters.  How would my family react? How do I make it unique? Something undone?

I feel like that’s impossible – I want to make it like Sabrina ward Harrison in “spilling open”, like “encyclopedia of an ordinary life”, like ‘plan b: further thoughts on faith’ by Anne lamott, like ‘bird by bird’.  What is my angle that’s undone? What makes my story worth reading? What’s the catch? The specialness?

And then I know – I’ve fallen into the old trap, prey to the quicksand of silence until I find my talent, my specialness, the one thing that I am the best at. 

There it is – that’s where I start –

“Potential at my heels” – I start writing without a plot fully planned, without an outline, without knowing exactly what the book is about.  

Or is that totally wrong?

Why all of a sudden do I feel lost in the pages of vanishing prose, unsteady balancing atop piles of journals, blindly wandering aisles of novels with a pen as my white cane? I don’t know the best way to write a book.  So I would turn to more advice – more articles and books on writing, but I promise you, I could spend a year doing that and I’m not sure I’d be anymore clear. 

Perhaps if I had a mentor – someone to pile my articles and journals and artwork and musings and say, help! Show me how to string this together. Help me create art from stale tears and thread stories to knit a cloak of prose. Help me figure out how to use all of these writings, what order to put them in, if I need a plot and a neatly outlined direction, or if I just put pen to paper? Help me tease apart my melodies and flesh out the orchestra. Guide me as I lug my words upon my shoulders.

Well, I don’t know if I’ve figured anything out- but at least I wrote. I wrote without a plan, for hours, just a rush of worries laid down and words spilling over the prior days of silence. I just wrote. That’s enough for today. 

a very productive day...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

8 minutes

8 minutes.  8 minutes away and it’s been 9 months since I’ve made the trip.  It’s not polite to broadcast, rude to rub in the fact that I live a hop and a skip away from the ocean, so I’ll murmur it above the breeze and inhale sandy toes.

I used to walk on the beach every morning, one of the ‘regulars’ collecting sand dollars and able to cite exact timings of low tides.  When I lived walking distance away, I couldn’t imagine how anyone California resident would pass up the chance to stroll at the water’s edge.  It was easy and familiar, dug into my safety zone with plastic shovels.

But then I moved, moved, and moved again.  New routines built small boundaries as I shirked the unfamiliar and strayed from the different.  The beach was too far.  There’d be nowhere to park.  It would be too crowded.  I didn’t know how to get there.  All fine lies to keep me stuck inland and falsely safe as the balm of crashing waves ebbed from my memory. This is usually how my trail goes: widening before narrowing, trampled with guests and picnic remnants leading to fallen leaves and missing footsteps.  But always, slowly, the worn path reappears, opening up with laughter and exploration.  New growth rooted in risk.

So it’s been a week of unfurling petals and stretching familiar zones, poking holes in routines and remember the sound of sea gulls.  8 minutes away and I even managed to parallel park for free street parking.  It wasn’t far, crowded, or hard to find – merely new.  New, looming large if enclosed in the dark, turns out to be exciting, added joy to the salty sunshine as I made sand angels by the shore, welcoming the sandy sprinkles I knew I would find later in my scalp.  And just to seal add confirmation to my spontaneity, the moment I sat up, 7 dolphins frolicked by for a free show in playfulness. 

It’s not polite to rub it in, and if it helps, traffic coming home added half an hour.  Of course I have my sore spots and mud holes, but for today I am where I need to be, 8 minutes from sandy toes and a routine with gaping arches. 

For today I’ll whisper out of respect: Waves are my murals and life is good.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For no good reason

Tucked amidst the ‘wrong side of the bed’ days, gray weeks, and ‘bang your head against the wall’ moments, are those days where minutes flow easily tinged with joy.

It’s one of those days where nothing is particularly good or exciting, no big plans or special celebrations, but simply a morning spent smiling.  I wish I could figure out what makes the difference – wish I were in on the secret, could bottle up my contentedness, and reproduce the simple joy when the world is rubbing me raw. But rather than analyze the whys and hows, rather than squander the day making lists of possible factors: good night sleep, entertaining phone chat with new friend, baby tomatoes beginning to grow...and I’m reigning my obsessiveness in....done.... really.

Rather than make lists, I feel like I should do something. Be out; enjoy the happiness, live life to the fullest. And that’s just a recipe for an abrupt end to my peace of mind, because now there’s pressure to have the ‘best day’ or do something great – like New Year’s Eve plans or Valentine’s Day.

And really, there’s nothing pressing to run off to – no crucial errands or important business to take care. It’s not a beach day or warm enough to frolic in the park.  But even so, I have to train myself to sit still, not to fill the seconds with cleaning and re-cleaning, organizing, errands, and lists – not to be scared of space stretched ahead, and to recognize that perhaps the sweet balance of the day sneaks in only when I’m still long enough for it to catch me.

So I’m just going to enjoy it, without stress to maximize or pressure to achieve.  I’ll write and I’ll work, I’ll putter under fresh mint blooms and curl up with a warm puppy and a book.  I’ll go about my normal day.  And there’s the beauty – sometimes the best days are just the normal, ho-hum days, the blessings that only occur in the absence of crisis. 

Leaving behind the reasons and wishes to capture and save, I wish you all a normal day of smiling over nothing and that sense that it’s “A Good to be Alive” day.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Crashing through polite boundaries

It is entirely possible that I have become the annoying stranger bulldozing polite social boundaries.  Or put another way, I am exuberantly friendly with important gems to share...

Sitting in a waiting room, I catch my seat neighbor pulling out an Anna Quindlen book.  Looking down, I bite my tongue until self-control slips under the chair and I lean over to proclaim my love for said author. And before I know it, I’m jotting down other favorite ‘must-reads’ for her and trading thoughts on past loved pages.  Ah, my job is done.  Reader gold star for Lauren.

Apparently, she missed my inappropriate social behavior, and we continue to chat amidst the much-appreciated ultra air conditioning, covering preciousness of the library, tips on parallel parking, cheaper parking lots, book clubs, and our growing displeasure with doctors who triple book.  By the time my name is called, Roz and I are now well acquainted and on our way to best buds. 

It’s partly a sickness; this welcoming enthusiasm that nabs innocents and displays ‘potential friend’ signs in neon above random strangers’ heads. I’m sure that the guy buying milk doesn’t always want to strike up a philosophical debate.  Or the dog walkers who are just looking for a quick potty trip rather than a budding connection.

However, I would rather live in a world with too many smiles, extra ‘good mornings’ and friendly waves.  I would rather hear the tips and recommendations, the secrets of the city, and get the added bonus of a distance shortened; the isolation ebbing back to reveal kind hearts and gentle footsteps.  Given the choice, I’d opt for occasional annoyances if it meant more bodies without masks and a corner of the world where I feel at home. 

So I pass along the crossroads of the best dog park, and trade gardening tips with my upstairs apartment dweller.  I nestle into my community, and collect compassionate hands to hold and faces that mark the familiar.  And if the friendliness turns sour and boundaries are crushed, I hope that they will remember my face and choose another seat the next time...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Decorator Extraordinaire

I stepped back, giving myself a decorating pat on the back as I surveyed my work.  Yes, my writing area was off to a good start, a lovely combination of calming lake photos, inspirational quotes, and the tree house painting that I dream of residing in.  Perfect. 

As I rifled through the un-hung art, planning on adding to my creation, I noticed a slight snag.  Within on 6’x6’ wall, I had just placed almost my entire wall decor, leaving at least 9 walls pristinely white.  Martha Stewart would not be pleased.  

I pondered undoing my hammering and spreading out the beauty, tailoring the decor for an outsider’s eye.  How much did I care about Their opinion? Who is the one actually living here, enjoying the view? All of a sudden the placement of my bulletin board was about more than what height to put the nail, and all about owning my own life, believing in myself, and yanking up my confident adult underpants. 

It’s a radical move – catering to my own taste – especially because I’m learning on the fly, defining preferences as I go.  Its un-trodden snow to opt based on intuition, to follow my own leanings rather than through the filer of others who I assume know better than I.  I brush aside the nudge of Nora Ephron in ‘When Harry Met Sally’, “Everybody thinks they have good taste but they can’t all possibly have good taste...” and hope that my art maintains no resemblance to the aforementioned wagon-wheel coffee table.  I’m choosing not to care today.  It’s my sense of peace that these walls are charged with unearthing, and my personal nook in the world that needs to spur an exhale as I unlock the door. 

I leave things where they are, and for now, breathe easy wherever my gaze falls.  That shall be the new measure of success.  So lets make my walls ooze with balance, reflect motivation, and draw me close with the scent of Home.  Let my eyes rest upon tree houses that nudge easy smiles and frames twinkling with memories of laughter and sweetness. 

Welcome to adulthood, Lauren, where I get to be queen, master of my domain, and the judge of good taste.  I think I could learn to like this...

Friday, September 24, 2010

It would be funnier if...

JTA: Ahmadinejad tells U.N. - U.S. was behind 9/11 attacks

It would be funnier on the big screen with popcorn and a credit reel.  It would be laughable if the genre fell on the fiction shelves.  Not so funny at the podium of the U.N. General Assembly. 

According to Iranian Present Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, its time to set the record straight, informing us all that the U.S. arranged the 9/11 attacks to “save the Zionist regime”.  He then called on the United Nations to establish an “independent fact-finding group” to investigate the attacks. Were I there, I would have followed the footsteps of the U.S. delegation who walked out of his speech, along with all 27 European Union delegations, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Costa Rica.  I’m wondering who was left? Did he finish his ranting to an audience of reporters?

Were I a reporter at the General Assembly, I might have a few questions for Mr. Ahmadinejad. 
A) If this is true, wouldn’t it have been wiser for us to stage the mass murders on foreign soil so have our own citizens? Or at least set the attacks at a location that wouldn’t cause so much chaos and the middle of nowhere?  B) How exactly do the 9/11 attacks relate in any way to Israel and supporting them? I’m not the most politically savvy, but I’m failing to see the connection.  C) Is he not aware that there were extensive ‘fact-finding groups’ following 9/11, which led to a war that we are still fighting (we’ll leave the discussion of the accuracy of those groups for another day...) D) Could you comment on the irony of your speech taking place not far from where Islamist terror attacks destroyed the World Trade Center towers 9 years ago?

 E) Were you dropped on your head as a small child, or take medication for the voices you must hear in your head??

The outrageousness would make me laugh were he not the president of a state with nuclear powers and sitting too close for comfort to Israel.  It would be funnier if this weren’t real life...

I’m not laughing. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Something Furry

It was the ‘something furry’ that gave me pause; furry not being the usual texture my toes met on the kitchen floor.  Stumbling out of bed at 4 am for some milk, I figured the ‘something furry’ warranted lights. 

And it was a bat.  Dead, I hoped.  Half asleep, I simply put a mug over it on the floor with a note: “Bat Inside. Dead.” And promptly went back to bed.

But it you thought we’d just toss it in the trash come sunrise and carry on merrily, you just earned a lecture in bat safety and the Bottner mishagas.  No, no. There were rushed trips to the department of health, calls to the department of public safety, and debates over who might need the series of painful rabies shots. Worse was the all-consuming obsession with exactly how said bat ended up on our kitchen floor. 

Perhaps I’m not the most cautious.  I struggle to remember to buckle my seat belt, never wash my apples, and only started locking my car after my iPod got stolen earlier this year.  But I wasn’t concerned so much about the bat.  No one was foaming at the mouth, no fang bite marks – we’re fine! Plus, we were out last night, hence opened the front door when we returned – problem solved! Bat came in when we did. 

I was voted off the island with these opinions.  Seeing as how I’ve learned to pick my battles and my doctor father knew far better about the dangers of rabies than I, I kept my 2 cents to myself and enjoyed the sun by the lake.  As the bat was sent to the lab, tested and analyzed, my dad enlisted neighbors to help seal up all potential cracks in the cottage frame with duct tape. 

End result: no rabies.  No more bats.  And I started turning on the lights during my midnight treks for milk, lest the ‘something furry’ be not so dead next time. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Facebook Memo

This perhaps is the funniest thing I've read all month...
       If Historical Events had Facebook Statuses

I must have missed the memo, lost among the other phases I bypassed, i.e. boy-crazy, love of malls, love of drinking, and fascination with reality TV. I’m sure there was a memo: “Don’t delay! Facebook is only way to survive in the world!”

To be fair, I do have an account, set up years ago by my hipper, cooler sibling.  And there are the occasional thrills of reconnecting with friends or seeing new baby photos from a long-distance birth. I do post links to my writing, just in case it slips onto the screen of a new fan.

However, this is where my use abruptly halts.  I have no desire to join the bandwagon of daily status updates:

8 am: am walk...yawn...still waking up
8:05: nice poop Gracie. Good Girl!!!
8:30: still grey outside
8:40: vacuuming...
9 am: mail time!

Really? Would anyone’s day be enriched by this extra special glimpse into my life? Or was that just 10 seconds of your life you’ll never get back?

Then there are the late night musings I’ve read, which I have at various moments related to, but now would spur me to enact a “No posting after midnight” statute.
1 am: pondering point of it all...rooftop is looking good
1:05: or just a bottle of tequila.
1:06: hate my life

Thank goodness I’m never reading these in real-time as I’d opt for dialing 911 over the usual comments I normally see:
            RS: what’s up?
            TZ: sooooo with u!

Moving on, I do have a number of Facebook friends. Some actually people I see in the flesh or at least know the sound of their voice, and the rest are “friends”. Try explaining that: well, mostly they’re my friends from the past but we don’t really ever get together or talk or basically we say hi and then I’m privy to all of their updates, photos, ‘likes’ and links...think voyeuristic without the creepy pedophilic undertones. And you can be ‘de-friended’ on the heels of an argument, flinging you back to the high school pettiness of “we don’t like her today”.  Or if you prefer, you can trade a friend in for a virtual hamburger, which is only slightly more insulting.

Which brings me to my personal favorite: the Facebook gift.  Over the past months, I have received, plants, bumper stickers, roses, teddy bears, and I believe a pasta dinner – none of which I could smell, cuddle, or taste, begging the question, what the hell is the point? Just for the record, in case you were wondering come birthday/Hanukah/just because I love you, I choose items that don’t rely on an Internet connection.

So all in all, I’m just a Facebook lost cause.  I enjoy the ease of keeping in touch and the always-accessible ocean of connections, but the rest of the territory remains unexplored. 

Of course this is all ridiculously ironic should you be reading this from my link I posted on Facebook...ah, I get lost in my own hypocrisy! 

Friday, September 17, 2010

I ask forgiveness

I deeply apologize.  I could have done better.

For the sharp comments and irritable retorts. 
For the cranky mornings and frustrating indecisiveness, I’m sorry. 
For the moments of impatience, cutting off without really listening, and assuming without hearing, I could have done better.

For the unanswered emails, forgotten birthday cards, and delayed calls to keep in touch.  For the friendships that slipped behind errands and plans unmade due to laziness, I apologize.  For the times when you needed an ear, a hug, a hand to hold, and I wasn’t there.  For the connections lost without required tending and support asked for that I didn’t hear, I’m sorry. 

For the fear, panic, worry and heartache I’ve caused.  For the times together marred by my worn-out craziness; for the rigidity I can carry in my wake, I could have done better.

For tossing aside the blessing of life, invincible faith to choose familiar over right, I’m sorry.  For the expired rules I blindly follow and the childhood fears I grasp without reason.  For the anxiety over the mundane as I miss the sweet blossoms; for the aimless obsessiveness and automatic rituals, I apologize.  For the doubts that halt my footsteps and the self-criticisms that mute my voice; for the lip service to ideals and the promises absent of action, I could have done better.

For the wasted minutes of worry and the pits of overwhelm I easily slide down.  For taking for granted the blessing of breath, limbs that move, and a beating heart.  For misplacing priorities in favor of tired habits and putting off growth for tomorrow, I could have done better.

For all of the ways I may have hurt you, known and those I don’t even realize, I ask for your forgiveness.
For all of the ways I have cut myself off from bliss, abused my blessings, and lost sight of my dreams, I ask for my own forgiveness.
I could have done better. 
I hope, plan, and intend to do better in the coming year.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Case for Fasting

I used to argue my case for fasting, fervently citing ritual and tractate, claiming spirituality as my motivation rather than an excuse to have a calorie-free day.  It wasn’t all a life.  I wanted to be a member of my tribe, beat my chest remorsefully along with my community and share the hunger pains of late Yom Kippur afternoon. I believed that fasting could be holy, a setting apart, a focusing on the holy rather than the mundane.  But for me, the larger truth was that I wanted an anorexic’s freebie day.

I was 20 the last Yom Kippur I fasted, already a veteran patient at eating disorder treatment centers and hospitals.  I was 20 and home from college for the High Holidays, arguing with parents who feared for my life on a daily basis.  As I pled my case, they rebutted with worries that fasting would in fact keep me out of the book of life, that not eating was choosing a slow death rather than opting for another year of life.  I knew the allowances for the sick, elderly and children, that fasting didn’t apply if health was an issue.  My parents were right.  If fasting symbolized a sacrifice, a step away from the norm in the direction of holiness, then for me, eating was more meaningful than fasting.  But at the age of 20, I was to starved and stubborn to concede their points or admit the reasons behind my staunch desire to fast.  I held my self-destructive ground and spent the day light-headed in shul, bowing and remorseful, chanting communal sins while beating my bony chest. 

And so, aside from the services, it was no different from any other day.

My light-bulb moment wasn’t at the blast of the shofar or the closing Nehila prayers.  It wasn’t the sermon that moved me to tears but rather the break-fast later among family and friend.  It had been a bitter day for me, knowing the insane hypocrisy of begging for another year of life while having spent the past 365 days actively tossing aside that very precious gift.  I was afraid to pray for healing, too ashamed to make vows of recovery as I stood on too many years of broken promises and identical Yom Kippur reflections.  But as I stood from the sidelines and watched my family fill plates with warm kugel, bagels and lox, and all the Jewish comfort foods I loved, a small light flickered within.  My personal fast never ended.  There was no break-fast celebration for me.  There was no end date where my inner calculator shut off and my starving dictator was muted.  There was no meal where I freely filled my plate and rejoined the land of the living.  I listened to the laughter and praises to the chef as I cried out my first true prayer of the day.

Please Hashem, help me choose life.  Guide me toward healing and end this perpetual fast that keeps me far away from you, locked in a tiny life. With gratitude for the million second chances, please grant me this moment, this chance to taste freedom, this opportunity to take a bite of my mother’s kugel as a step toward life.

This year I’ll be at services with my community, making my amends and atoning for my sins.  This year I’ll beat my chest and desperately plead for my name to be sealed in the book of life. This year I still need to do better, take bigger bites and farther steps. 

This year I’ll find my holiness in a full belly and experience as much spirituality in the sounding of the shofar as in the taste of my lunch. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Balancing in an extroverted world

There are stories swapped easily and smiles tucked between glances; layers erasing distance and an ease of side by side silence.  We are strangers, children of friends, dock neighbors extending our own line of connection.  It’s rare to meet a friend where the initial meeting is absent of small talk.  I tend to shun cocktail party shallowness and mark escape routes during aimless chatter.  I often reach my human interaction limit long before those whose genes I share.  And yet, always a good student, I can hold my own, having been well schooled in the art of extroversion from a magnetic father who reigns at the hub of the party.  

We operate on different gears, he and I.  He happily stacks plans upon activities, is calm with a full table, and has the energy of a five year old.  I come via a solo train, introverted by default, preferring groups to dot the day rather than be the norm.  Still, I laugh at the jokes and join the debates, surprising myself at times with my enjoyment of the crowd.  But after an hour or two, I’m done; finding the extra bodies more draining than energizing, I long to retreat to recharge in the stillness.  It’s a balancing game – avoiding the gentle slope into isolation, integrating friendship with mindfulness and connections with calm.  It’s a learning process as I examine my comfort zone and learn where I need to step away in favor of shared laughter and fun.

I will never be the party girl with an overflowing date book and more friends that I can count.  I can happily spent a Sunday writing, reading, going to the park, calling friends, and never getting out of my pajamas. And yet, I still fight against the extroverted judgments, the labels: not normal, nerd, loser, boring, pathetic.  I practice allowing myself to have my own rules for living and standards of joy, struggling against the childish biases that no longer apply. 

So when I find a kindred spirit whose smile also turns stale upon the bell of midnight, I link arms with relief that there are others just like me.  However, even as I learn who I am and create my own grown up life, I watch my dad in his splendor, a table full of friends, and I take notes.  I watch, simply grateful to have been taught the tools of connection by a master.  I slip in and out of his overflowing calendar, but am always welcomed with a genuine smile and an outstretched hand as he pulls me by his side.  And just as I stretch myself to dance in his world, his shining compliment is when he shrinks to intimacy, carving shared moments of just the two of us sitting on the dock, trading thoughts upon the wind.  He glows in a bustle, but gives a gift to my introverted soul, as he makes clear that our family of four is all the party he needs. 

I continue to learn.  I learn what I need, want, and wish for.  I learn how to slip into family without unleashing old shadows but rather filling my shoes with a love that cushions until the next time.  I learn how to appreciate the din of the crowd along with the stillness, loud laughter along with deep talks over coffee.  I learn when to stretch and when to swing in quiet peace.  I learn to appreciate the differences, to cherish family, and to keep close friends who also understand interaction limits and grown up time outs. 

And so I made a new friend on the dock this summer, and for a few days, we swapped book lists and laughter, pages of history shared under the sun.  Despite the distance between us, I look forward to seeing her next summer, and I remember the ease of her company as a fellow introvert lost in a community of extroverts. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dirt-filled Bliss

I never knew that bliss was covered with dirt.  In all the corners I’ve searched for balance, in the teachers I’ve sought for peace or the books I’ve read hoping for calmness, I didn’t expect to find it on my patio.  And yet, for someone who vacuums obsessively and runs late to do last minute dusting, I’m reveling in a love of soil. 

I’ve always wanted a garden with plants to sprinkle with hope and whisper sweet dreams.  I’ve always envisioned fresh herbs and green shoots tended by my hand.  I linger upon lush yards during my walks with my puppy, drooling over tomato plants and gardenia bushes that seem to never fall out of season.  And yet, I haven’t had a backyard, or a patio, or even a ledge to plant my seeds.  And I haven’t had the best luck with indoor plants – usually my downfall is overwatering, anxiously peering in soil and determining that more is better until they drown with my protection.  I’ve been limiting myself to cacti, which you actually have to have murderous intentions in order to spur their demise. 

With all of that, I am a gardener at heart. I just know it.  I love the pruning and the mothering. I love the morning checks for new leaves and glimpse of a miracle as seeds sprout into splashes of color.  So the clincher on my new apartment was the patio with a small bed of soil and ample ledges for things of green.  I wandered up aisles in the nursery, swirling with possibilities and unlimited by any knowledge of practicalities, seasons, or space requirements.  Admittedly, I missed a few items: planters, topsoil, and a watering can... But I was too distracted by the basil, cilantro, rosemary, strawberry plant, and various beauties to remember the basics.  It didn’t matter.  Yesterday I became a gardener as I left my gloves in the kitchen and dug with bare hands to create room for roots, whispering prayers for growth and strength for all of us.

Amidst the din of daily life traffic, for a few moments, I found my balance.  Something about new possibilities sprinkled with nurturance and warm breezes allowed me to breathe in the calm and settle into simple contentment.  Protective of their fragile roots, I steadied my feet in my own life.

I run on overwhelmed, with a default setting of anxiety.  I forget inhale, to prioritize, and to grasp that a to-do item doesn’t demand immediate attention simply by appearing on the list.  I wobble with change, and squirm until the last picture is hung on the wall.  I struggle to schedule fun before errands and relaxation in the face of emails unanswered.  And yet, filthy under a lazy Sunday sky, joy superseded groceries and my head ceased its 90 mph roaming to match my feet in the dirt. 

Maybe my plants will shrivel or my green thumb never appears.  Maybe.  But it won’t change the fact that I am a gardener, permanently imprinted with the sweet glee of my hands in the earth, taking deep breathes and gratefully balanced in my new home.