Monday, January 30, 2017

No words today. But a feeling worth mentioning.

I had a pretty good post planned for today. 

But I'm sad and worried about what's happening to our country, and I need to stay in this mindset for now, while I consider people who are living lives I'm not sure I could survive, much less survive whole and unhaunted. 

I don't want to write political posts, as I've said before. But this is not about politics.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

We lost more than Mary Tyler Moore

I miss you already.

Mary Tyler Moore has died. Just when we needed Mary Richards most.

Mary Richards was more than a role model.
She was a signpost for growing girls and teenagers: Here's where to head when you're lost.
In my anxious teens, she was confident and optimistic.
In my late twenties, when my first marriage was leaking air, even the reruns were inspiring.
She was funny when I was depressed.
She was as nice as everyone should be.

She made it look easy.

She had trouble with confrontation, but stood up when she had to.
She liked her parents.
She kept Phyllis in perspective.
She inspired Rhoda.
She never got on Mr.Grant about his drinking.
She lived and let live.

She was a feminist.
She didn't use her femininity for position.
Nor did she trade it to make it in a "man's world."
She behaved as though her potential was not limited by anything but her own choice.
She climbed the ladder at WJM in heels and Evan Picone.
She didn't treat anyone like the enemy.

Even Ted.

She was simply a nice person who knew what she wanted and deserved, and expected to work for it.

We should all be more Mary Richards.

At a time when so many are bitter and combative and frustrated and drawing from the meanest parts of themselves to express it, I consider what Mary Richards would do with her tools of confidence, elegance, smarts and class.

Mary Tyler Moore has died.

But I already miss Mary Richards, just as much.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tall Order

This would have been an  impossible
 thing to picture six months ago.
My cat Gus has been my constant companion for four years and our arrangement suits us perfectly. I write all day, he sleeps in a spot near my laptop. 
A month ago, we adopted our dog, Abby. I felt that with guidance, Gus who is serene and clever, might share space with Abby, who is excitable and pleasing, in my office. 
What else could he do? 
What he did was go as far as he could to the other end of the house and stay there for days while I wondered, unhappily, what I'd do without him.  
Last week, my husband suggested I write a post encouraging people who can't stand Trump to give his presidency a chance nonetheless, because: 
What else can we do? 

I wanted to get as far from that idea as I could and stay there. My instincts are good. Trump's words and deeds have moved him from obnoxious to abominable in my view. The mocking of the disabled reporter was enough, the pussy-grabbing video made me ill. 
When Trump won the election, I went into plain avoidance. I didn't want to see his face, hear his voice, or see him make that stupid "O" with his finger and thumb again. I'd given this playground bully enough time to grow out of his dysfunction. I would stay in for recess, now. 
What else could I do?
Columnist Kathleen Parker, who is no fan of Trump, used a lot of ink over the weekend to rehash the things we already know we don't like about him, but ended with this: 
"Even with all of that, Donald Trump is our president. He deserves a chance to prove us doubters wrong; to create a government that he thinks will bring jobs and money back to the United States; to enhance educational opportunities for the less-privileged; to enhance our military defense without yearning to test it; to reform the tax and regulatory codes with deference to economic realities." 

I'm struggling now. It is counter-intuitive to give Trump a chance. He has a way of pitting those who are trying to remain openhearted and fair-minded against themselves, because in the next interview, or tweet, he behaves like a mean girl who wishes to be more powerful than admired. 

Here's what else.

I can protect my own mental health. I can try to cope with the intolerable, while recognizing the acceptable. I can practice coping with what is, over hoping for what won't be. 

I know I can't be angry for four years.  

"However people feel about him and how the press reports on him," said my husband, "In six months, we'll have new information. Because in six months, he'll either have done something good for the country, or we'll know he's a disaster." 

Trump's election left me and other lemonade-makers between keeping faith in the potential for something to go right as well as wrong, and learned helplessness, when attempts to object to a bad situation are no longer made because you no longer think it will make any difference. 

I know I can't do that.

Last week, Gus's desire to be in my company trumped his distaste for sharing it.  He marched in, took his spot and fell asleep while the dog watched from across the room and kept her distance. 
It's a tall order, but I am going to put my skeptical nature in the same room with my capacity to be surprised, and ask them to share the space, while I follow Trump's progress. 

That's all I can do.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Love your inner idiot.

Here is a summer image of the Hooksett
Rest area, where inner idiots have
plenty of room to run loose.
As happens to everyone, from time to time my inner idiot gets loose and I do a thing I hope nobody saw me do, like falling up the stairs.

Inner idiots can live inside smart people.

It's one of the best things about maturity to realize that you can do a stupid thing without being stupid, and that it's better to be unthinking than thinking hard when your inner idiot gets away from you.

Loving your inner idiot is essential for two reasons. First, because we all have one, and second, because you risk becoming intellectually obnoxious  if every once in a while you don't repeatedly "push" the "pull" door at the tire store. Or, wonder why the nozzle at the pump won't fit your tank before you realize it's because you're trying to put diesel fuel in your car. Or, drive your vehicle with low clearance over a short snow bank because you feel your will alone will keep it from getting stuck midway which it won't.

Loving your inner idiot assures you'll have sympathy and not contempt for yourself when you have to have your car towed off the bigger-than-it-looked snow bank.

Inner idiots are usually specialized. Mine is a car specialist and almost every stupid thing I do involves my vehicle, despite how I adore it. Otherwise, my common sense is fully engaged and operates without problems. 

Last weekend, I left New Hampshire for a shop day in Boston with my daughter. We'd had snow the night before which left the roads wet, which means you should expect to use your washer fluid every five or six seconds.

Right before I hit the highway, I ran out of washer fluid, which I know is blue. No problem, I thought, I'll stop at the Hooksett Rest Area where they sell everything, or something that looks like it, in one of their many stores that take up the area of a small town, and are unsightly even if they are useful.

Inside the plaza was a pyramid of about 200 hundred jugs of washer fluid which I passed on my way to ask the information man at the desk if he knew where I could buy any. 

He frowned, "Well, there's some right there," he said, pointing.

Back inside the car, I began to look for the hood release which I'd never used in two years.  It was nowhere, not on the underside of the seat, not on the steering column, not hidden discreetly on the inside of the door. Furthermore, I'd taken the owner's manual out to make room for something else, never mind what.

I googled and found instructions. The first, very secretive step of two required I pull an unmarked, small flap until I heard the hood pop. If I traveled to the front of the car next, I would easily locate the latch to complete the raising of the hood. This part was true.

Under the hood lay a foreign land of cables and hoses and other things I don't know the name of but nothing that looked like a washer fluid reservoir. There was only one fluid receptacle at all, and the fluid in it was pink, not blue. In several spots on the container were tiny warnings and danger icons.

Back inside the car, I googled and found a picture of what the reservoir looked like. Here it is:

Back outside though, I found nothing under the hood that looked like a oddly shaped milk jug with a blue hat. 

It was eight degrees, the wind had picked up, I had no gloves on, and I'd parked where I wouldn't attract attention. But looking around now, I hoped I would. In front of the car I stood with my jug, looking ridiculous.

A car pulled over. The window came down and a man leaned forward.

"Excuse me," he said, "do you know where to put that?" 

And here is why it's good to love your inner idiot. You're not embarrassed to introduce it to others.

"I don't have any idea,"  I said to the man. "I can't find it."
He got out of the car, walked over and said, "Let's see, maybe it's tucked away somewhere. With a little brush of his glove, he located it under some snow.

"I'll tell you what," he said. "You hold my glasses – they're too expensive to drop again, and I'll take care of this." 

Possibly the man had an experience where he left his expensive glasses in a place he couldn't remember. Possibly they fell off his head when he was looking down into a canyon. Possibly his inner idiot specializes in losing things.

But all of us have one, and they're all really good at something. 

And just the same, we can be pretty good people. Just the same.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Pet Peeves #6: Finally, it's time for the rest of the year.

This person probably also parks
in front of supermarket entrances
and works someplace where he or she
isn't familiar with his or her own inventory.
We're putting our realistic tree away today. I came downstairs this morning and felt about its presence the way I would about a guest who was supposed to leave a few days ago, but is still on the couch. 
Two things happen right after Thanksgiving. The tree goes up, and debate begins over when to start the music. There is usually agreement that music before December 1 is too soon. Then, we consider that stores have been decorated for days, and, that having the tree up for a week with no seasonal background music is like trying to have a romantic dinner without candles. 
Our collection of holiday CDs is mixed, from the Rat Pack to the Vienna Children's Choir, which I like to play the way we did in Christmases of olde – on a five-disc carousel that offers a shuffle feature. By mid-December, it's no longer strange that Ave Maria is followed by the soundtrack to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Every year, the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year's progresses like a vacation that goes a few days too long. You become your most sentimental self while you marinate in memories, hear poignant stories of humanity and loosen your heart to make people know they're loved. You let up on your diet, take the high road, and let everything go that might normally irritate you.
Until you can't stand it anymore. 
And then it's not time to put the tree away, it's "When are we taking that thing down?" It's not time to pack up the CDs with a sweet sigh, it's "Jesus God, if I hear Silent Night one more time I'm going to have to take a walk." 
It's time for Pet Peeves, is what it is. 
1. People who don't shovel the roof of their car after a big storm. Is it because they don't need to see through the roof to drive? Or is it just that they have never been behind a vehicle on the highway wearing several inches of snow which doesn't fall off, but flies off by the sheet into the windshield of the car behind them? 
2. Error messages you don't understand and never will like this: "Failed to initialize Microsoft. Please reinstall the platform." If you do, that's fantastic. If you're like me you reboot and pretend it never happened.

3. People who park in front of the entrance to a supermarket to wait for someone who is inside shopping, and has probably run into their best friend from high school. It's correlational, but they also seem to drive massive trucks that impede two way traffic and make it necessary for shoppers to approach the little ramp into the lot single file.

4. Unmanned or unwomaned departments in stores. At Petco-where-the-pets-go I wandered around for several minutes one day, helpless. There were only one or two customers in Birds and Fish and the only employee I saw was taking off an apron and walking into a rest room. I was not there to buy new filters for Gus's fountain, I was there to ask someone several dozen questions about puppies. This happens in other large stores, of course. You're left to hunt for a while before you find someone hiding behind their inventory project, hoping you don't need them because they're busy.

5. This expression: "Pick your brain." I will never hear that without conjuring a visual that is very unpleasant.
And this one: "Keep your eyes peeled." I will never hear that without thinking of eyes that look like grapes.

6. Facebook memes that say things like, "What would you accomplish if fear were not in your way?" I get it, but fear is sprawling and vague and rooted in myriad experiences. Getting rid of it leads to happier living which leads to possibilities, but it's not choosing the right shoes to wear on the path. It is the path. 

7. Perfumed trash bags. It's confusing. You will never like the smell of trash better, and you will likely hate the smell of lavender forever after you've paired it with the smell of trash. 
8. Store employees who answer the question: "Do you carry (whatever)?" with the answer: "I don't think so, I've never heard of it." And then, because you're still standing there, say, "Wait, what does it look like?" And then, after you explain that you don't know because it's an ingredient you've never used, do one of two things: offer to ask their manager which is the supermarket version of "No, but we can order it," or, seize the opportunity to leave their boring task and help you hunt. "Let's try Asian spices, maybe it's there." 

That's actually not a peeve, that's just worth mentioning.  

In hopes that you have found your own safe exit from the snow globe of the past six weeks, and encounter as few of these peeves as possible, but will write about other ones you do encounter so I can keep my eyes peeled, I thank you for visiting and wish you a great day and fearless year.


Monday, January 2, 2017

A tap on the glass

2017 might begin like 2016 did
but it will end differently
if I can get off track enough.

A while back, I waited at a doctor's office to be seen for something likely brought on by stress, because little goes wrong with me that doesn't start with stress.

There was an enormous fish tank in the corner with a prominently placed sign that read:

I love schedules. I love lists with little boxes next to a task. I love them so much, I've made my own weekly spreadsheet so that I can slide a finished task under the "Done" line. It's fun. 
They make me feel I've utilized my time and capacity the way I should. They make me feel productive and useful and satisfied that I've made the most of a day. They make me feel I won't be T-boned by a forgotten priority, and that I'm maintaining control over my life. 
They make me restless and preoccupied when I don't follow them. I half-listen to people while I'm wondering how to get back on track. I feel neglectful if a couple of weeks go by without posting something relevant on the blog. If a month has passed and I've not submitted to at least two good targets, I start to wonder what's wrong with me. 

I get stressed. 
Life has been tapping on my glass. Life has been asking why I'm editing an essay that I don't really like that much. Or why I've submitted a piece that needed to go in the drawer for another week. Or why I'm not amending my schedule to add short-story writing, or why I even say "I gave up fiction," when I still miss it like people miss old lovers who treated them like doo-doo. 
Life has been asking why I haven't purposely built in time for frivolous stuff like researching best recipes for homemade dog food, a thing I'm not doing because I have to, but want to. Or where to hang a painting that will make my office more inviting.  Life has been saying: Gestalt, Susan. Sum, not parts.
I expected to  produce a "Sixteen things worth mentioning" post to wrap up the blog like I did in 2014 and 2015. I expected to submit a marriage article at least once before the year ended. I expected to start the collection of observations that will comprise a book I'm thinking about. 
Life said, "Here, have a puppy. Her name is Abby." 
With Abby's help, I've separated from my normal schedule enough to scrutinize 2016 in terms of how satisfied I felt, over what I accomplished.  
2017 will be more about the painting, less about brush strokes. 
It will be a year of building, I've decided, and not just finishing. 
It will be a year of mindful creation, and not rushed completion. 
This will be a year of understanding that "unfinished" does not mean "late." 
I will work on believing that if I'm doing one thing, when I should be doing another, the one thing is probably more important. 
And this year, I will learn, even though I thought I was practicing it, that mindful living doesn't happen when you're engaged in one activity while thinking about the next one. 
It will not be easy, but I will start to look at my schedule as a suggestion, and not a collection of "have-to's." 
I expect this change in outlook will be difficult before it becomes satisfying. When I think of the happiest, most meaningful and truthful  things that have happened in my life, I can't say any of them came free.  
It's worth mentioning, however, that they all started with a tap on the glass. 

Happy New Year, to you all. Thank you for your visits and shares. And may your glass be tapped at the right times, to move you off track, when you need it most.