But the point is that the second I begin comparing my pace to his, my life to his, I'm vacating my own experience of that spring day and ejecting myself into a sort of limbo of life that is neither mine nor his.
I have been reading A Cup of Jo for many years now, and almost always with a constant low level irritation. I think I can suddenly hazard a guess of why it irritates me and why I still go back...
it is reminiscent of the English authors I used to read as a child, where the coloured-skinned experience was as vivid as a city born and bred walking thru a national park... where Fatty put a towel on his head to disguise as an Indian, where, and I still can't believe it, when a person is dark it is their hair they are talking about! It is only when I was reading Mary Robinette Kowal that I realised that London, even at that time, was far more cosmopolitan than anything I have ever read from that time! Conan Doyle, PG Wodehouse, Agatha Christie. Enid Blyton, of course, was the worst!
So while Obama's family (or more precisely, his mother's family) looks like a UN council, Cup of Jo, even with a famous Indian-origin brother-in-law is far more reminiscent of books coming out of regency England with even the same interest in being French.
It is a blog that is at once comforting, as it reminds me of a childhood that had unlimited optimism, and also white washes me out of the world. I am sure I deserve better!
Hope is looking at the moon and when the dark shadows on its surface leap to the eye, it is noticing the cool white brilliance; it is noticing the twinkling stars when the sun has set and appreciating that night has a beauty so original that the day cannot claim it – hope is revelling in that beauty even when darkness is scary. Hope is putting failure and defeat and despair and longing in perspective when it threatens to take over our entire being. Hope is finding something more significant than ourselves – so that our individual failure and defeat and despair and longing fade into insignificance.
Hope is humility to accept, hope is defiance and courage to be alive!
Hope is when Marie Curie says, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
Hope makes us generous with our strengths and towards our and everyone else’s weakness, but more than anything it makes us own up to our humanity – its frailty and its strength. And I think humans are not strong like a mountain, we have strength like water, should we choose to use it we might tire, we might rest but we will not despair.
I have generalised anxiety, it is not really at the stage of a disorder – but I know what it feels like when your breath seems to hang at the back of your throat and your jaw is clenched and your mouth feels dry – and you generally feel like it would be wonderful if you could dig a hole in the ground and hide there.
Recently, however, I have been observing an interesting relationship between feeling anxious and drinking coffee. Drinking coffee revs your body up and then, as a consequence, your mind, reading your body, starts to rev up as well – but as there is nothing to rev up about, you get a bout of generalised anxiety.
I'm sure other factors contribute. For instance, I was trying to figure out what I was so worried about, and I realised that I am not excelling in ANYTHING – and that is my problem. So, being a list-o-holic, this is really what I am trying so hard to excel at:
0) My Career - **
a) Music – I really want to play music, on my violin, really absolutely want to play music on my violin
b) Fitness – I want to move my body and do things with it, like flip on a sling, or climb up a rock, or swim, or ride; I want it to continue doing things when I am about to have a baby, when I have a baby and when I am old.
c) Journalism – I really absolutely want to do my course – and then I want to talk to people and write.
d) Flirt – I want to flirt, I want to take people’s opinions less seriously, I want to take myself less seriously, I want to take life less seriously – strange as this sounds, but in lot of ways, I want to live like my dog does – he doesn’t love everyone (no, that is far less demonstrative and that is reserved for me :-) but he is an incorrigible flirt. He’ll jump, kiss and generally make a huge hoo-ha about anyone he likes, but if they pass on he’ll usually not care too much either. By default he will assume people really enjoy having him around, but sometimes they don’t and he doesn’t try to reason why, he is too occupied to be enjoying the world for that! Note: In lots of ways I am being a human, but in lots of ways I really wouldn’t mind being my dog.
I realise for all of this I need to self-care (somehow that sounds better than care for myself), so I need to
a) Eat properly
b) Sleep properly
f) Clean beautiful home
** I was listening to a podcast where Patrick Rothfuss speak with one of designers of Cards against Humanity, I think it was Max Temkin. And much as I have enjoyed PR's books - I would not recommend listening to these pod-casts - they are too long and not that very amazing. I would recommend Writing Excuses or maybe even Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast series Big Magic but ONLY if you promise to skip every second episode and only listen when she speaks with other experts. They seem to convey good sense, in spite of her.
Anyway, the point of all these podcasts is about authors or creative people doing what they enjoy doing. In Unattended Consequences, Max says something like, "I am an expert at taking something I love and turning into a chore." The reason this sentiment was like a shot in the arm for me is because I grew up believing it and IT IS A LIE! To be fair, these guys were probably joking about it - but anyway, it is a lie - things you love don't turn into a chore, they add sparkle to the dullest of things, as long as you continue to match your goals with your purpose.
EG is not doing a great job being a mentor, I'm sure you need to get off that horse sometimes. She does have some very amazing friends, and I really enjoyed listening to them speak.
Writing excuses is by far the best - these people have been doing this for a long time and seem quite comfortable in their skin. Even if you are not planning on writing a book, it is interesting to listen to them. They only speak for about 15-20 minutes claiming, "fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart." I particularly enjoyed the episode on Newton's Law of Writing.
I was looking at C, my 6 month old chocolate Labrador, who i already call an old soul, and wondering about all the knowledge he is born with.
He has an ease of spirit when he accepts love and a stoicism with which he accepts that humans lose their mind and do irrational stuff - like making a HUGE big deal about where a dog pees or poos. He'll playfully mouth me if knows I am teasing but sit patiently if he knows he is going to get a smack or a scolding. He understands play but doesn’t understand why you'd keep throwing away a ball we were happily playing with. "Surely" he thinks to himself, "if you are going to be a fuss pot about not wanting a ball, i can learn to play with others."
He knows how to sing - and I really stuffed up with his head, when i recorded him singing and re-played it. He jumped up - incredulous, amazed, unbelieving and yet believing, yet blissful beyond words, yet anxious to not even wait a second - to meet his soul mate. to meet someone who could sing his song back to him. for a moment he looked at the phone, then as if dismissing it, he looked at me, as if i were a dog wearing a human skin (how he knew that all along!) and he was about to pull it away from me like removing a blanket from the top of a toy, when looking into my eyes he dismissed that idea too. he noticed that the singing had stopped, realised that i had probably done some trick. and i, realising that if i continue doing these kinds of things he will lose confidence in his instincts, and thinking about what i had led him to believe, felt terrible.
for a moment, C thought this world contained someone who would sing his song back to him. but it doesn’t. it broke my heart in a way that only living with C everyday does - when you see innocent confidence in this world turning doubtful, and grandest hopes that come crashing down being dealt with nothing more than a shrug.
i often sing to C, gradually learning what engages him and what doesn't, and he is learning to understand what my songs mean. it is sometimes very difficult to believe that this is only the first summer he has known (tho i try to tell him it has been much wetter than usual and there was a drought not very long ago) and all these experiences that he is experiencing with me are completely brand new in a way I forget to appreciate, even if there is hope that i could.
yesterday he saw his first kangaroo and then whimpered when i told him he had to sit and not chase them; a few weeks ago he swam in a lake for the first time. he goes digging his nose in bushes to find crickets that are hiding there after the rain. he hurt himself, the other day and loved the dry turmeric powder that i gave him as an antiseptic, even tho it is terribly bitter - and again, he is attracted to native animal poo in a way that is (obviously) inexplicable to me!
he is still trying to figure out what to do when i come interrupting his blissful sleep in the middle of the night - should he come and sleepily sit at attention (something he has been doing till recently) or should he simply keep lying? i don’t seem to mind his lying, and frankly, getting up 200 million times a night is a bit crazy. Should he roll over and ask for a belly rub?
my little wise soul, he'll figure out the best ways. and i am grateful beyond words to share that journey with him.
What if... I turn my living area into my studio? and my study into my guest room? the guests can have their bed and tv and cupboard and all? and all my dinner parties involve having a dog around, doing some thing with your hand and sitting on the floor! I would have the following in the room:
- a potters wheel;
- a laptop to write on;
- a violin to play;
- a table to generally much around with paints and all;
- a music system to listen to podcasts;
- lots of art on the wall;
- lots of books on the shelf;
- some nice comfortable spots to sit;
- LOTS of room to walk about.
on agenda this year are:
- journalism: article in either the monthly, or the inside story - oh lord! both!
- a boy - tho, that has to be a miracle, I've given up without even trying!
- my 6 day hike!
The thing that I love most about my dog is: that he is grounded in the present; he has memories of the past but he doesn't live in the past. he is incapable of judging how fat or thin or old you are, or how rich or poor, or how many awards you might have won - but he knows how attentive you are, what games you play best and it is impossible to be an imposter around him - with him around you can only be authentic.
He doesn't mind hugs at all, even when I am nearly strangling him in that hug, but he will not sit with me for a long time because it is just so much more spacious being at my feet, just lightly touching me. I find it hilarious that he aims as he pees (he has to use the pet potty and he gets it on the spot by millimetres!), I love that he can pace himself exactly to run at my speed, I am ridiculously grateful that he doesn't bark and is SUPER NICE and generally enjoys when everyone is happy, and as a small aside I wish he didn't scratch me as much as he does and we would know how to walk like a normal people! - aaaaaarrrh! I might have not enrolled him at school and that is terrible!!
"There are no big tragedies, there are only small tragedies," my brother likes to quote Swami Vivekanand.
So, what were my small tragedies and big accomplishments this year?
in that order, they were:
that i didnt get to work on time; that i did not eat three meals a day for most of the year; that i have not been regular with taking C for walks; that I stopped my night time routine of giving my face a gentle relaxing scrub and flossing my teeth; that my apartment has been an absolute mess practically the whole long year! (and my regret of last year about trying to work during my long service leave is pretty up there too! i hate myself for the promises not kept!)
that i met most deadlines at work; that i grew at work; that i was true to my self and i took encouragement from the wise and kind and truly loving; that i was true to myself and i started the renovation (however daunting i anticipated it to be and truly disrupting i am finding it in hindsight) and i bought a car (with a fat lot of help in learning how to communicate with the rather unhelpful sexist car salesman) in time for my parent's visit and how i love it now and i learnt a term of pottery and enrolled in the journalism course and of course, that i dared bring chicory home. That i stuck to my commitments and that I tried to make my decisions count.