(almost) back, baby!

It was a difficult winter – physically and emotionally – and it kind of set me on a path of self-examination that has been both illuminating and burdensome. That’s my excuse for not writing in I’m-not-going-to-check-how-many-months. I put this out there now to let you (singular? plural?) know that I’m still here and would really like to discuss some things with you in the near future. You up for it?

Ben is still here, too, but I can’t speak to his plans.

Best to all,

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How Winter Kills*

winterWoman & Guy go out for dinner & a movie at the art museum. Pleasant conversation follows – good film, bad audience; good food, bad waiter – as they join the line of cars waiting to exit the parking lot. Woman, sitting in the passenger seat due to her low tolerance for alcohol, looks at her sideview mirror and remembers she got the car – finally, right?! – washed today. Did the mirror get moved? She asks the man if he can see out of her mirror. He doesn’t answer. She waits. She calls his name. He responds with mild defensiveness. She sighs, “it’s just … exhausting!” She presses her palms against her face, hard, and wills herself not to cry.

And just like that – winter depression makes its grand entrance! Continue reading “How Winter Kills*”

App vs. Enlightenment

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sorry for the crap image; our phones have terrible cameras & WordPress is TESTING ME

Early on, I mentioned my meditation app in passing. Since then, I’ve been forced to confront some spiritually materialistic tempations of the app, temptations in the lure of which I was a squirrel on an unsustainable California almond farm.

The good news is that the app has corrected itself! I no longer have to be strong (or start being strong)- the poisoned nut has been removed.

Here’s the deal. Continue reading “App vs. Enlightenment”

Ritual (Christmas)

openThe sky was fucking gorgeous this morning – ice blue with a smattering of fluffy white clouds, stained golden yellow where the light of the rising sun illuminated them from below. Sub-zero, though. The coldest Minnesota winter in decades, they say, and I had forgotten V’s coat, with the sudden 20 degree drop, so we weren’t out long.

This year is forcing me out of my Christmas rituals. For a decade now, I have made the longish trek to one of the handful of restaurants in the Twin Cities open during the day, luckily one of my favorites, and indulged in a long breakfast with lots of coffee and a good book. But the Jewish owner has betrayed the chosen people and the ritualistic weirdos (I’m somewhere in there), and is no longer honoring his sacred responsibility. Even if it were open, it would border on dangerous to walk there in this weather, especially since I recently moved several miles further away than I had been for the duration of this ritual.

Why, anyway? I have no religion, no contiguous family songs or habits or food passed down from generation to generation. I am almost a cartoon of the American Individualist, if not by choice. And Xmas has never meant much to me, for those reasons and others. I decided to stop coming home for the holidays my Sophomore year of college, in which I spent my first Xmas on the cold beach in Southern California. I liked it. It was crisp and quiet and empty, and what life there was was friendly and respectful. I tried to make that into a ritual, but it didn’t always work out. When I was married, we decided that we were not going to either family’s houses during the latter-year holidays, and we announced as much to both, so there wouldn’t be any expectations. We spent Xmas in a very Jewishy manner, except for the presents and, typically, a tree, with a slow morning, dinner out, and a movie. It was a ritual of sorts, a nice one, and one I wanted to wipe clean once we divorced.

Once alone, I spent a few years traveling to see friends during the holidays, then settled into what seemed an important pattern: spending the opening scene of the day alone, and part in the company of unknown others. I can explain the meaning, though I’m sure it’s fairly obvious. I wanted to reinforce to myself that I didn’t need a partner to make the day special, to be content, or to feel at home in the world. I don’t doubt this often, but nonetheless it seemed important to act it out on this day, every year.

I still could, of course. There are a few (I think my hundreds of facebook friends have come up with 3) restaurants in the Twitties© open on Xmas day. But they’re far, and I can make some good French Toast with a loaf of brioche I bought yesterday, and we’ve got some delicious fake bacon that I hoarded when it was on sale a few weeks ago. I ‘m mid-way through an excellent novel and have plenty of time to be alone – the bf wakes up 4-6 hours after I do – and the world is there for me if I want it.

And the sun is shining! You can’t bask in it for fear of frostbite, but you can see it and maybe feel it melt some of the icy winter depression, even through the storm windows. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

What Coffee Means to Me

coffeeThanksgiving was not all that long ago, and I suppose I was supposed to write something about gratitude. I didn’t. It is too much with me. It overwhelms me. Hourly, sometimes. Certainly daily, when I haven’t cultivated a shitty day. And I feel it, you know? Like, I feeeeeeeeel it. It surrounds me with spicy, vibrant air and fills me like hot coffee on a cold morning.

And really, I am most grateful for coffee.

Not really. But yes, really. Continue reading “What Coffee Means to Me”

Death from Another Life

deadOne of my best friends from high school died last week. It was shocking – we’re far too young. Shocking, too, how many of my small social circle then have died. I feel for those who know him now, those who knew him well, and the loss of him in the world. But it’s so freakishly distant from me. I moved to the town where I lived then at the beginning of my senior year, knowing no one, and said goodbye the following June to the best group of friends I’d ever had. Most of the people who befriended me had known each other for years, some since they were kids, and many went on knowing each other after I left the state. Other than for a wedding that December, I never really went back. The magic door opened, the music played, mountain pine and pot filled the air, I was loved and given a family and a wondrous & challenging year, and then it was gone. It’s the cleanest break I’ve ever had. Not that I wanted it that way, and I definitely suffered the loss of some of those people, but college engulfed me and soon enough I was swept up in another world. Continue reading “Death from Another Life”

Flu Shot

flu1I got a flu shot last month. This was, like, a BIG THING. And yes, goddamnit, I am going to connect it to spirituality.

I have heretofore not had a flu shot as an adult. I assume I was required to get them as a kid, by my public school if no one else, but that makes well over two decades of no immunization and no illness. I cling to that fact with a pride that suggests I have some control over it.

Why fix what ain’t broken, I have said when asked why I don’t take advantage of the now free flu shots offered by my health insurance. As though that should apply to the complex nature of disease and infection. For all I know, I could already be broken, sloppily duck-taped together just beneath the surface, days from the snapping of the last frayed, sticky thread.

Folksy logic, combined with the mild aversion to immunizations embedded by my father, who was passively opposed to most Western medicine, has informed my choices for many years. Despite knowing the science. I know there is virtually no evidence that getting a flu shot can give me the flu or lower my immunity. I know that my erstwhile resilience probably has nothing to do with my avoidance of the needle and everything to do with luck and a naturally strong immune system (developed by the bacteria-embracing habits of same father?). I know there’s no evidence that beloved immune system will be weakened by a flu shot. When I try to figure out what in my informed brain pushes me to resist this lifesaving miracle, what emerges is some weird stew of colloquial belief and independence, with a dash of government mistrust. In other words, I am apparently an American Christian Fundamentalist.

And then there’s this: we adorable, pathetic humans favor narrative over facts. Even one story can tip the scales over thousands of facts. We are far more likely to believe our cousin who says that immunizations caused John Jr’s autism than we are the mountains of research that show there is no scientific connection between the two. I have read studies that demonstrate this irrational tendency. I am aware, even on alert for this tendency in my own adorable, pathetic brain. But you know what got me to get a flu shot this year? A story.

A friend around my age, who, like me, had never made the choice to get a flu shot and never had the flu … GOT THE FLU last year. She described it to me in graphic detail. She thought she was going to die. She has made her tale of woe into a pro-immunization mission. And it totally worked. Since my immunity to illness has not built my immunity to the state of being ill, I don’t handle illness well. I don’t know how to have a fever. I’ve never even had food poisoning. Worse than the physical discomfort, I become both self-critical and self-pitying when I’m even a little sick. Chances of me dying from influenza are slim, but I don’t know if I could emotionally survive a full-on case of the flu. I vowed to seek out and accept the plunge.

Disappointing, I know. But narratives can defend any line of thinking. This one supported scientific evidence, and encouraged my efforts to decrease personal hypocrisy, loosen my attachment to identity, and let go of long-held fears. For me, it required considerably more effort than the energy it took to bike to Walgreens, but it got done. A weird, tiny victory.