Friday, December 30, 2011

Journal 104 The Book List

As I'd hoped, the questionnaire entry helped me focus on some more writing that wasn't complaint-related.
It asked about the best book read. Well, I've read alot this year.
These are the shortlist of the gripping books, the ones that wouldn't let me go, the ones that made me close them, sometimes
mid-sentence, and take time for a tear, for a new thought, for a pause in this revolving door life. Ones that I won't soon forget.

Here's a quick synopsis, in no particular order, of the books' year in review:

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
Just finished this one. Loved it. Go read Autobiography of a Face, too. It's the book that inspired this one.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion
I've written about this one before. It's so intangible it defies description. If you don't like this book after you read it, call me and I'll tell you why you should.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
DIdion's pre-cursor to Blue Nights, chronicling the sudden death of her husband after almost 40 years of marriage, and documenting the year that followed.

Thunder and Lightning by Natalie Goldberg
About writing and writers and why we write, read, seek.

Your Voice in my Head by Emma Forrest
A troubled woman's relationship with a treasured therapist. Page turner.

Lit by Mary Karr
Karr's follow up to the Liars' book--her adult memoir of struggling to write, find herself, and become sober. All set against the back drop of her southern, impoverished roots, and her complex parental relationships.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Very close to Karr's book in subject, inspiration, and sheer grit. However, Lit dealt more with Karr's adulthood; Walls deals with her childhood and early adulthood.

Blackbird and Still Waters by Jennifer Lauck
Blackbird is Lauck's childhood memoir, Still Waters her grown-up one. Both wrenching but I was compelled to keep reading.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
A crazy family (is there any other kind) and the bond between all of its members.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L'Engle
Book 3 of The Crosswicks Journals. Big themes: Life, death, belief, religion, love. She wrote in a time without email, blogging, texting. Without DISTRACTION.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis-A Life by Donald Spoto
What can I say? This woman was a spoiled princess and the Kennedys are f*cked up beyond belief. Sorry. My opinion.

Just Kids by Patti Smith
I should have had my late adolescence/early adulthood in the seventies with the vibe of freedom, individual expression, and going against the grain was considered laudable. We really need to bring some of these qualities back to life. I know we THINK we are expressing ourselves individually but are we? Really? Are we?

Must You Go? by Lady Antonia Fraser
Memoir of a marriage, by a very talented biographist. Journal style, short entries, to the point, honest.

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman
As I mentioned, fiction hasn't figured too much in my recent reading, but this was plot-driven and insanely satisfying.
Like a whole bag of popcorn.

Le Freak by Nile Rodgers
Another crazy life, dictated by a passion for music that Rodgers was clearly born with. I like hearing from the people in this world who have a true calling. My sister once told me only 3% of the earth's population are born with that, a true calling. (How do they figure this stuff out?)

Hero of the Underground by Jason Peter
A good upbringing, a talent for a sport, and disciplined training may not be enough to stop a lonely person from turning to drugs for comfort. Page-turning. Peter played for the NFL, was seriously injured, and retired early. What is it like to peak at twenty-one? This book outlines that. Interesting to me that I googled the author afterward and there was an article in a sports journal about him that described his career, dismissingly, as "not amounting to very much". Ouch. Who wrote that? Mean.

Open by Andre Agassi
I'm still mid-book but can't stop reading. A domineering father forced Agassi into the tennis life. It doesn't border on child abuse, it was child abuse, and I was discussing with Mike how this type of upbringing is how serial killers are made. Agassi, on the other hand, seems to be more of a sensitive type, and went in the other direction. Compelling so far.

I would love some book recommendations for 2012. Note that none of the 'best sellers' are on this list, ie, The Help, that genre, no bookclub picks. But I do occasionally read some mainstream books and enjoy them. Throw me some titles.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year in Review

It's not just lists that can stimulate that thing often called "writer's block" which, for me, when blogging, can also be called "laziness" or "I-can't-write-about-a-certain-thing-because-I'll-be-fired/ostracized/called out-etc." which is pretty much every topic I really have wanted to write about over the past couple of months or so...
So I found this questionnaire, a kind of year in review, if you will, and this is my project for today. Some of the questions are hopelessly stupid (I'll asterisk them) and some are thought-provoking. Ah yes, blogging: to provoke thoughts. Ones that are less-than-vapid.
That said, this is the blog that posted the questions:

And here they are, in all their end-of-year glory, with my answers:

What did you do in 2011 that you've never done before?
-delivered a eulogy, planned a funeral. god awful.

Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
-didn't have 'resolutions' so to speak, but I did promise myself to absolutely not read the paper, and for the most part, (99%) I've kept that promise. Let me explain: I LOVE reading the paper, any paper, any time, any where, but I simply can't take the news stories, the bias, the spin, the slant. I want to know about an issue, via osmosis, and find my own way to an opinion, one that I formed, outside of the media stream.
So, in a nutshell, no, no resolutions. I did, however, give up criticizing my parents for lent. Turned out to be a very pragmatic move, based on events that began around that time of year...

Did anyone close to you give birth?
-endlessly. as a child-free-by-choice I marvel at it. Then I roll over in bed and go right back to sleep.

Did anyone close to you die?
-yes. My Dad. Despite any other event that occurred this year (ie, getting engaged), 2011 will forever be defined by this, I'm sad to say. I can't even look at the year in review without tripping over June.

What countries did you visit?
-the US, as always.

What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
-more peace of mind, less fear, more confidence, less trepidation, more stubborn-ness, less compromise.

What dates from 2011 will remain etched on your memory, and why?
-March 13th--my dad's hospital stay, coinciding with the Japanese earthquake, which I did not find out about until days later
-June 13th--my dad's last day
-June 17th--his funeral
-June 19th--father's day. realizing how much I loathe "hallmark holidays".
-September 7th--engagement

What was your biggest achievement in 2011?
-for the most part, it was keeping my mouth shut when it counted. This saved me countless times--with friends, at work, with family.
I quote my beloved therapist: "Sometimes silence is the best answer".

What was your biggest failure?
-in contrast to the question above--not telling it like it was. Sometimes people just need to hear how stupidly they are behaving.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
-chronic anxiety. I suffer it every day--but I will never stop trying to manage and control it.

What was the best thing you bought?
-it's always running shoes. The money I spend on shoes is sacred.

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
-my sister, for always telling it like it is, even when words fail me to do so. My mother, for her strength, even when I sometimes see weakness. Mike, for putting it all in perspective.

Whose behaviour appalled and depressed you?
-the list is really endless. I've written about my father's extended family here, and their collective behaviour surrounding his death still shocks and saddens me. I've never cut anyone out of my life like that before, blood relatives (for the most part) and I've never not tried to mend fences. Yes, it's sad, and yes, it hurts, but I would not change it. I know it's for the best.

Where did most of your money go?
-into savings.

What did you get really excited about?
-being engaged, and about not doing the 'traditional' white-wedding, which, at this point in my life, is a big YAWN.

What song(s) will always remind you of 2011?
-wow. I guess anything on my running playlist of this year.

Compared to this time last year are you:
-I'll say this, quoting John Dunne: It all evens out in the end. (it always seems to for me).

What do you wish you did more of?
-more running. I know it seems impossible, but I did miss the entire springtime of running due to extenuating circumstances.

What do you wish you did less of?
-worrying. Hands down. I have to stop. I HAVE TO.

How did you spend Christmas?

Did you fall in love in 2011?
-more in love, yes

What was your favourite tv program of 2011?
-I say this without shame the Real Housewives--New York and Beverly Hills specifically. My sister and I love it. My most treasured gift from my shower was the Real Housewives hardcover book that my sister bought me. She later admitted she found it at the dollar store for 2 bucks. That makes me love it MORE.
-football. At least it makes sense (unlike hockey, which has descended to the level of common brutality and brute stupidity).

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't this time last year?
-my grandfather told me when I was little that "hate is a strong word". So, no hate. I have strong feelings of repellant towards certain people, and alot of that is un-bloggable. For now.

What was the best book you read?
-I read at least twenty-five "couldn't put it down if the building was on fire and I only had one chance to be saved" amazing books this year. Joan Didion's Blue Nights tops the list I think. I couldn't really talk about this book to too many people, because it is about the author losing a child, albeit an adult child, and people immediately react and label it 'depressing'. Well, I say, bring it on. Send in the depressed clowns. Right where I want to be.
Jennifer Lauck's memoir "Still Waters" was another great one, as was Mary Karr's Lit. I finally read Jeanette Walls The Glass Castle and loved it. The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman was the best fiction book I read (I don't read much fiction anymore. It's mostly memoir/biography). Thunder and Lightning by Natalie Goldberg was another insanely intelligent book. In it, she talks about how all the major writers in the US come from the South. Mike and I went down a long list. She's right. And the reasons are compelling and moving. Read the book to find out more. I also really enjoyed Julia Cameron's Floor Sample, her memoir.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
-Adele. Not that I discovered her. I think it was my sister who turned me onto her, in a conversation that went like this:
Me: "I just heard this great song called "Set Fire to the Rain!"
My sister; (eye roll): "Oh my God. That's only been out for like years. I have the first album".
Me: (chagrined) "It's still really good! It's new to me."

What did you want, and get?
-peace of mind. It's something I chase, ever-elusivse, but I don't stop running after it.

What was your favourite film of the year?
-I realized, proudly, that as I read this question, I have not seen a single movie in the theatre this year. This year, too, like other years, I have not seen any of the 'oscar contenders' (War Horse. Are they kidding?).
As you know, movies are not my thing. I know it sounds nuts, but I don't have the attention span, despite my ability to read a book in a couple of days.
I did really like The Machinist with Christian Bale, I think I've written about it. Dark, disturbing, confusing, and original. All the things I aspire to in a movie. And in a book. And in myself.

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
-I turned 38 on August 24th. There was a tornado warning that day so I couldn't go to my mom's, which was the plan. I spent the evening reading Mary Karr's LIT (another insanely good book I read this year) in the Richmond Rogue across the street from my condo, eating wings and drinking chardonnay. Very me.

What one thing would have made your life immeasurably more satisfying?
-who doesn't want/wish for more money, to be independently wealthy, to have more time, to be more creative...all of those things. Time would top the list.

*How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
-this to me is one of the 'stupid' questions that I talked about in my intro. I'm not answering it on the grounds that it's stupid.

What kept you sane?
-not so much what but who. My sister. My friends L. and A. The ones who email back.

*Which celebrity/public figure did you facny the most?
-fancy is a stupid word to me. It's like they threw this in there to sound British. Well, I'm here to tell you--it just sounds ridiculous. I don't fancy celebrities. Most of the time I just pity them. Yes, there are stirrings of envy too. But mostly pity. Especially all the hungry actresses.

Which political issue stirred you the most?
-since I don't read the paper and get most of my news from Twitter, that's a tough one to answer. World debt crisis was what I woke up to every morning. Hearing about any crime against a child still reminds me that we are a race of people whose priorities are so out of whack we should all be bitch-slapped. Hard.

Who did you miss?
-myself, for parts of the year. For most of the spring/summer.

*Who was the best new person you met?
-I didn't meet alot of new people, to be honest. My crowd-avoidance and aversion to most overly social situations in 2011 guaranteed that. I think that the people I do know continue to develop (the smart ones, anyway) and getting to know the new parts of them is fascinating.

Tell us a valuable life lesson learned in 2011?
-plan ahead. I'll leave it at that.

Quote a song lyric that sums up the year?
"Christ you know it ain't easy" (Ballad of John and Yoko)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Journal 103 Hermit Mode

..not Hermit in a BAD way (to me, there is no such thing).
Just me, at home, alone, the day unfolding, schedule-less.
Curling my hair with my new curling iron. Ok, not really curling--bending. Waving. Loving it.
Finding a hotel on line for Mike's parents and sister and nephew (yes, they are coming to the wedding! I'm happy.)
Reading the book I got out of the library on marathon training (I have such a long way to go).
Walking to the grocery store in the middle of the day. (Very few people. Very few cars).
Watching daytime tv, no not soaps. (Intervention. Football highlights. Criminal Minds. Under a blanket).
Thinking about cleaning my condo, renting a movie, making my dinner. In the abstract. As things I CAN do, things I DO have time for.
Talking on the phone, and NOT on my bluetooth.

I'm getting married in a week, not really hermit behaviour (I went for a quick dose of vitamin D today, and as I was lying in the tanning bed, I thought--woah. I'm getting married. Does everyone who is getting married feel this way? That strange blend of...wait..I'm going to have a HUSBAND? Keep in mind--an independent adult life, one of 'unmarried bliss' is dictating these thoughts. I'm excited, but yea, we're citizens of two different, but bordering, countries. It's going to mean paperwork. Paperwork. The bane of my existence).

But I'm still also stuck in the name game. What am I going to do? I'm of two schools of thought--I don't mind telling you.
One. My name, my lifelong name--it's the last vestige of my family name. My father was the youngest of three, two sons, one daughter. So, naturally (in the seventies, pre the real feminist era), his sister took her husband's name. And had a daughter. Then my dad had two daughters, me and my sister. And his brother didn't have kids.
Thus, my aunt's daughter had her father's name. And when my sister got married, she took her husband's name, too. My mother had also conceded her own last name when she married my dad. So I'm left, now, as the last Bignell in my father's family. It's a bit of a mantle. What of my name-choice? What about wanting to take Mike's name? What about joining forces with him? Yes, I like the hyphenating idea. But it has its own complications. I guess, though, any name-change does. I have a lovely neat new box of business cards at work--black and white, my name in a tight font, and now, they will be garbage. My email digital signature will be easier to change.
Then there's my driver's license, my passport, all those pieces of ID. The bills, what have you. Mike is of the opinion that it's more trouble than it's worth.
But I work at a job where I deal with alot of married couples. Let's face it--you can identify them instantly when they have the same last name. Is it wrong to want to fit in a box? I know. I've spent my whole life dreaming outside the box. And now, a desire to crawl into it (no matter how non-life-changing and how much I will keep my own identity) seems out of character for me, I know.
But I feel like I'm starting a new phase of my life. One that I wasn't sure I was ever going to embark upon.
It's taken alot for me to get this far, I guess I'm wondering why I shouldn't keep going....
(I'll keep you posted. And I welcome opinions...)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Journal 102 Merry (Sleepy) Christmas

It's 5:30 am, Christmas Day, I've awoken for what feels like the thosandth night in a row, at just before 4 am. A noise, a creak, the wind I'm sure, the heat coming on, then cycling off again. And the strange, uneasy sense that someone is 'here'. I switch on the light, put on my glasses, get water, settle back in, read. I'm very tired.
Read a book about a football player turned heroin/crack addict. Then, in between, I continued reading "Truth and Beauty" by Ann Patchett, a recent purchase. It's a memoir of a friendship, and I have the sense that I have read it before, probably many years ago, but it still reads like a new book for me. The friendship she writes of is with a fellow writer, Lucy Grealy, author of "Autobiography of a Face" which I read, loved, and once owned, and will re-purchase to add back to my collection (I lent it out, never saw it again. It featured a most disturbing, unfortunate cover, of a small girl holding a black piece of plastic in front of her face, but it belied the smashing impact of the words contained within the book. Coiled, quiet, but devestating--a memoir of cancer, yes, but also of that very rarely explored topic: childhood depression, the depression spawned by years of treatments, surgeries, and long boring hospital stays, and I instantly identified with her situation, on account of my own, long, medical history, already fully formed by the time I was around fourteen).
Anyway, it's Christmas Day, I'm not hungover, but I'm awake way too early. I'm in pajamas, drinking tea, and I don't have to be at work for a long while. I almost feel like it's not just 'time-off-get-married-go-on-honeymoon-time' but recovery time. Me-time. Mike-time. Sleep, read, run, rest time. Time ot take stock, free of a commute and a job with a stress level that never seems to abate.

Christmas Eve was nice, my mom was upset, marginally, my sister and I seem to say the wrong things. She's raw, I get that, but I can't stop, sometimes, how things play out. We're all just releasing right now. Realizing. That today, with all of the Christmas hopefulness we're supposed to feel, is a bit of a sham.
Anyway, I'm rambling, can you see how tired I am?
The most interesting thing to note of my early morning wake ups of the recent weeks is the absence of my heart pounding and my mind racing. Sometimes I manage to go back to sleep with minimal effort. Other times I do what I'm doing right now--read, write, tire myself back out, and drift off.
When I look back on the upside-down-ness of 2011, books and writing will remain the wondrous 'cure all' to me. I've read so many books this year, all of them timely gifts, all of them thought-provoking, stimulating me to think about something other than catastrophe. It seems to be key to unlocking my anxiety, to freeing me from feeling that weight all the time.
That, and running to help me want to sleep, to help me stay asleep.

Signing off....merry (sleepy) Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Journal 102 Me, Myself, and I

"Yes, in January"
(That's right NOT June. I know. Hard to wrap the mind around. Try)

"No, I'm not pregnant"
(this is because of the speed from engagement-to-wedding. I've already
watched the long engagements go on around me. One word: HELL)

"No, not in a church"
(Sorry people!)

"No, I'm not wearing white"
(Sorry mom)

"No, not a big wedding"
(It's been an upside-down year)

"It's just It's not what we want"
(Being the centre of attention: So Not Me)

"Nope, not planning on kids"
(Sorry to dash your hopes everyone. No, not just one either)

"Yes, he knows. He doesn't want them either"
(He admits he 'missed the window'. If it was ten years ago we might have done
it. But it's not, and it ain't gonna be)

"No idea where we're going to live."
(It's like that Facebook relationship status they used to have: It's complicated)

Never have I felt more like "myself" than I have in the past little while.
That feeling when you are doing things to please YOU and not OTHER PEOPLE.
It feels great.
My boss is currently trying to deal with the fact that I will be off work for close to three weeks, all in, wedding, honeymoon, and visiting Mike's family in the States.
And for once, I've managed to get past some of the stress of the 'end of work' for vackay time, and remember that I am entitled to time to myself too, and that sixty-hour workweeks have their time and place. And that the train stops tomorrow, mid-day, and I get to get off the ride for a little bit of time, live life, experience some happiness, and stop worrying about everything.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Journal 101 Another

"Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married?"
--Vanity Fair, "Topic of Cancer", September, 2010

I read today, sadly, online, of Christopher Hitchens' death, from esophegeal cancer, the same kind my father had, the same time line, a similar experience, I'm sure, to what our family went through, and then the finality of death, even though you're waiting for it; never not a surprise.

My sister emailed me a couple of weeks ago to tell me she was having a bad "Dad" week, like he had just died, not like six months had passed. I tried to offer reassurance, but it's tough. Family members often don't grieve together--it's too sad, it hurts too much, you're too busy putting up a front of being strong and together to let yourself go limp in their presence. My sister and I did share a couple of warm, lovely summer nights on her back deck, wine a-plenty, letting ourselves do just that. But for the sake of our mother, we play it strong, we tough it out.
I haven't had a bad "Dad" week this week, but the marking of the six-month anniversary, his ashes still sitting forlornly in my apartment, the sudden realization Tuesday night that I hadn't spoken to my father in six months, (obviously, but nothing is ever obvious about grief), and the thought that I hadn't been able to "hear" his true voice, before it was affected by the cancer and the treatment, for about a year. His strong, often sarcastic baritone, telling me the latest on current events, his estimations unaffected by popular rhetoric.
Sardonic. That is the word I would most closely associate with his voice, his tone. Not directed at me--directed at an imperfect world, one that often provoked his mild criticism, his worthy opinions.
I think that's what I miss most right now.

As always when his spirit hovers near, I dreamt about him that night, and the following night, after having a bout of unnecessary self-pity (many suffer far more than I do) about not having both my parents at my wedding ceremony coming up in early January. In my second dream, he was at my wedding, which was being held, in the odd world of dreams, in a school, and he was dressed to the nines, waiting patiently for the ceremony to start, as he didn't have alot of time, that much he communicated, in that way that we communicate in dreams--without speaking, without speech, we seem to (in my dreams anyway) to transmit what we need to, somehow. Things are just understood--even in the most confusing of scenarios.

This post is clunky. It's lacks depth, it doesn't have alot of 'flowers', news to report, graceful pictures to post.

But it's what I have to say today.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Journal 100 Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee was the name of a now-lost novella I wrote on my first computer, wayyy back in the early 90s. Just came to me as I down my first cup, Italian blend, by Starbucks, in my favourite cup that Mike bought me last year when we were leaving New York City, after visiting my dear friend L., whom I talked to on the phone last night for over an hour. So I have New York on the brain, especially after missing my visit with L. in August due to a certain storm bearing down on NYC the exact weekend I had planned to go. Anyway. We will see each other sooner rather than later, I think.

What else can I tell you?

I made an amazing chicken curry last night, watching Kitchen Nightmares and other shows about New Jersey (New Jersey seems like a VERY scary place to me with some of these characters), and I finished re-reading Blue Nights.

I've been up since 5 am. After going to bed after midnight. After the Blue Nights, I started reading the Nile Rodgers memoir last night, Le Freak,
as I promised myself I would, as soon as it could have my full attention.
I can't put it down. I'm about a third of the way through, smack in the middle of Rodgers' account of being on the brink of making it really big. His childhood stories were brilliant. One thing in memoir, I often don't like reading about people's childhoods, maybe because I'm so reluctant to re-visit my own, but Rodger's is riveting. New York in the fifties, moving to LA, then back and forth between the 2coasts, a simple, straightforward writing style, not unlike Julia Cameron's Floor Sample--meaning, telling it 'as it happened' no flowers. Didion does the flowers, and the craft, and I have to say, jumping into this book after Blue Nights is like jumping into cold bright water after sitting and staring at it for a long time.

What I'm saying is that I have been very lucky with my reading choices this year--the books, as they always seem to, choose me.

Ok what else.

Talked to L. as I mentioned, for a long time. Don't judge me, and I don't mean this as a knock to all my wonderful friends with kids, but the child-free woman I am loves talking to another child-free woman. Talking about our lives, not the lives of the little people that someone is mothering. And I support and respect all choices, but I'm just saying.
It was nice. What we want, what the next move is, how it's gonna play out. Making life happen.

It's possible I want to wear black to my wedding. Is this allowed? Not in a 'goth bride' kind of way, but in a 'I like wearing black and not white' kind of way.
L. told her roommate while we were on the phone, and he was somewhat alarmed.

L. then proceeded to send me some black dress ideas.
I hate to admit this. I love EVERY SINGLE ONE on her tumblr.
I mean it.

I wrote this morning, earlier. Not in my blog, but in my fawn-lark journal, paying homage to December the 10th. It's strange. It's not a birthday of anyone I know, but it's an anniversary of sorts. Of lost love, of old friends. It's hard to describe, and it's journal material. Let me just say this; my imminent wedding to Mike does bring me back to all the "Mr. Wrongs" as I mentioned in my posting yesterday.
I think of my years as a quirky alone, but always enjoying male company, as the training ground for me to be able to have the type of relationship I can now have with Mike.

That's about it for a Saturday morning.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Journal 99 Mr. Right

So happy for all the Mr. Wrongs.
You brought me to my Mr. Right.
And without naming names, you'all know who you are.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Journal 98 Gray Area

It's mid-week, we have now had our Xmas party at work, and Christmas lies within sight, full-steam ahead.
As I've noted on virtually EVERY blog entry from September on, work is never-ending, and it will continue to be (I can tell...) until I finish work for my time off December 23rd.
I'm still tired all the time.
I've been really weepy this week, listening to Christmas songs last night with Mike, their new flavour, the flavour of dread, filled me with melancholy.
I still have the feeling of observing life, rather than really being 'in it', the type of feeling you get in dreams sometimes. It's you, but it's not really you. It's the other person, but it's not really them either.
Reading, reflecting, poring over Joan Didion's Blue Nights. I was reading it last night in bed, after having a frustrating discussion with Mike over how stressed I feel sometimes, trying to 'take care' of my mother, and not being ready for that, and not wanting to do it sometimes, and how unprepared I was, at this stage, to even BE here--thirty-eight, with one parent alive, on their own, after a forty-year run, with no idea whatsoever about what re-building is going to take.
Even this post is frustrating me, I've been working on it for two days and it's going nowhere.
Are lists all I have left?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Journal 97 Another December

Christmas shopping.
Sleeping in way too late on the weekends.
Feeling lazy.
Getting annoyed in store line-ups waiting for what feels like forever.
Trying to find parking.
Gifts people want.
Trying to plan my wedding. Oh god. Ok. I've made some headway on this.
For one, Mike and I booked our honeymoon (much more important than actually planning the ceremony. Sure).
We filled out a marriage license (the joys of doing things online). We do still have to go to the registry office and present ID. Not sure when to do that. Most likely we are getting married
January 3rd, in the dead of winter, at City Hall, with our families, weather permitting (please please please let 2012 be the year that I start escaping "weather curses". See previous posts about not being able to go to NYC in August due to Hurricane Irene. And see last winter getting the LAST plane out to Boston before a crippling snowstorm on December 26th. And then read about the flu that I suffered through for the entire time while in Maine, through New Years and it all). Oh and I still don't have a dress. I know that's not much and I have absolutely nothing to complain about--I know how sweet my January will be, compared to the all around hangover-holiday feeling January normally arises in me.....but I also know what it's like when you're looking for a certain something and how impossible it can be.

But all in all, December is not going to be an easy month. I already feel a kind of sinking feeling when I envision our Christmas Day, and I get that anxious feeling I know so well, too, and then the panicky one. I still don't have alot of energy or cheerleader-type 'love of life' right now to spread around to people. Sure, I can muster it up once in a while but I can't whip it up on cue.
Social commitments can leave me feeling scared and wanting more 'alone time'. I know, it sounds crazy. To me most of all. I remember Decembers past when I always had dinner parties, where I threw myself into shopping, wrapping, cooking. But not so much this year, I can feel.
I did some Christmas shopping today, for my niece and nephew, and just being in the stores was exhausting. The crowds, all the decorations, the pointless-ness of it all...and I know it's not, I do know that. It means alot to people. They see family, they get some time off work, and they just take time out to ENJOY life. Which is really something I've lacked a commitment to this year. It's just felt like an effort, everything.

I just compare and contrast Christmases past I guess. As Joan Didion says, the first Christmas after, she mentally did a 'this is what I was doing on this day last year'; before her own life went off the rails. I do the same thing--I always have. She talks about the time after that first year as the 'time to relinquish the dead--to let them be that photograph on the table.' I think it's that unending unknowing that keeps us from really ever doing that. Where where are they...where?

Today has been a sad day for other reasons too, it's another sad anniversary marking a terrible event, and today even the weather even seemed to observe the regret and sadness that went along with it.
Mike and I drove off the beaten path to the cemetery, to put down some flowers, we wiped the leaves off the stone, we wiped away our tears. We stood, for the most part, quietly, Mike said We love you, Mike said We miss you and I said nothing, my voice not working, my head just nodding along. What I really wanted to say was thank you, thank you for being in my life and Mike's life, and somehow, maybe doing something only you could do to make all this happen in both our lives. For giving us each someone to love.

So another December marches along. The time of year for some reflection, some soul-searching, and some serious gratitude.
Thank you.
For everything.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Journal 96 Lists and the Count

I've been reading alot of poetry this week, specifically by Naomi Shihab Nye, an American poet form Missouri, whose poem, Kindness, I posted on my blog a few months ago, after reading it in the Oprah magazine.

I've read a few more this week, all of them stellar, lines like "If mystery was never your friend",
another poem called "Always Bring a Pencil", and one called "The List" which of course I was intrigued about, being a list-lover myself.

The poem's premise is that a man calculates all the books he will have time to read in his lifetime, and makes a list of them--she, Naomi, laments the 'forgotten' books, the ones that won't get read. Mike and I then had a discussion about the number of books that are read in a lifetime, the meter of a 'real' reader being 10, 000 books as gauged by Henry Miller, a true scholar 20,000.

Do the math--I read about a book a week, and if I do that for fifty years, I will still only get to about 2500. So far, it feels like way more. However, there is also my tendency to re-read, which probably sets me back a bit. Think about it--I am reading Magical Thinking for I think the fourth time. I am practically into the memorization stage with this book, learning how it works, as Didion explains as the reason her husband used to re-read books.

Suppose I live to be seventy, I started reading, seriously, at six, that gives me sixty-four years of an average book-a-week, and that still only brings me to 3328. Wow. That is really falling short of the 10,000 marker. And again, as I said, it feels like I'm reading, and have read, way more than that. You have to read a book a day for over thirty years to achieve this number, and although there are times when I do read a book a day (vacations, weekends, Christmas holidays, etc.) I don't do that every day, all year long. It's like running--I would love to run 10 k every day, every other day, but real life invades. The real life that involves my commute, my job, and all the time invested in that.

I would love to start cataloguing them, but somehow I think I would lose interest in this--it's the act of reading that I love, the escape, the 'high activity of the mind'.
"Because of Libraries We Can Say These Things" is how Naomi describes a young person's developing love of reading:

Story without corners.
She will have two families.
They will eat at different hours.

she will not be alone.
She will have a book to open
and open and open.
Her life starts here.

Journal 95 Running Playlist Re-tooled

I re-tooled my running playlist this week, adding some new itunes, and switching around some other ones.
I do this every few weeks so I don't memorize it and tailor my run too much to the next song that is coming up.
Since my foot has healed, I've had three amazing runs in the last week (the latest being 10 km this morning, in a skirt, despite the slight chill of December--the weather has still been fall-ish and unbelievable).

Here are the first few songs:
Rolling in the Deep--Adele
Rhythm Divine--Enrique (do not judge me, this is a GREAT running song)
I Wanna Go--Britney (again. No judgment)
Higher--Taio Cruz & Kylie Minogue mix (this is the fourth song for a strategic reason)
Stereo Hearts--Gym Class Heroes ft. Adam Levine (I was doubtful of this when I added it on Thursday but it proved itself today)
Tonight (I'm Loving You)--Enrique again. Sorry.
Animal--Neon Trees. Great running song with a good backbeat.
We Found Love--Rhianna ft. Calvin Harris. (no explanation needed, I know).
Papa was a Rolling Stone--George Michael. This was another random, odd choice, but it really works.
More--Usher-RedOne Jimmy Joker Remix
What You See--Madonna
Touch me in the Morning--Cassandra Fox-Mike Kogli remix
Take you on a Cruise--Interpol

That batch takes me to the end of my 10 km.

Even though I wore my lulu lemon skirt and it wasn't that cold, I did leave my gloves on my whole run, and I normally take them off.

A great run.