Sunday, June 21, 2009

Alone Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be (edited and reposted)

I started reading a new book about a week ago called A Party of One by Anneli Rufus; I got it from my newly discovered bookstore, Paperbacks Unlimited. The title of the book is what caught my eye and after a few minutes of scanning I determined that it would make for a great read. Thus far it has . . . and it hasn't.

It's not that I don't enjoy the book, because I do, but I'm learning that I'm not the lone-wolf I thought I was. Actually, what I've discovered is that I'm not so much a lone wolf as I am someone lacking in a few social skills. **too funny** And I find that I'm not so anxious to join the "lone wolf" club.

There have been times, when I have waved my banner of solitude and "alone-ness" high and quite often in the collective faces of family and friends. I have pushed aside requests or invitations to join in or celebrate with them under the guise of that aforementioned banner. I emphatically believed that my "personal space" could not be sacrificed and I would not abide any attempts to disturb or interfere with my "alone-ness."

I'm on page 79 and I have 194 pages left. What I have learned thus far about being a loner is that -- I am no true loner. I do not have the caliber of alone-ness that is characteristic of Emily Dickinson, "who stayed home for sixteen years and wrote two thousand poems of startling passion." Or the quantitative loner genius of Albert Einstein, who wrote "although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice keeps me from feeling isolated." Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Sir Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes are but a handful "for whom two was a crowd." They produced astounding works of art, brilliant mathematical calculations and literary greatness in their alone-ness.

I surmise that the author, Anneli Rufus, writes in regards for those whom would retreat from the world at large if they could, but who do not, because they cannot all become absolute hermits and recluses. Even a true loner must, out of sheer survival, interact with the world at large at some point. To be a true loner is to have the consciousness of wanting to escape merely because others are present. So, where does that put me? Am I chomping at the bit just waiting to get away from everyone?

Alas, I must reconcile myself to the fact that I am not the loner I thought myself to be. I do not (often) desire to remove myself from those that inhabit the world around me. I do not (often) walk among my fellow beings all the while searching for a means of escape. I do not (always) stand alone because I cannot bear to be in the midst of a crowd. Therefore, I am not a true loner.

Rufus writes of one John Fairfax, who set off alone to row across the Atlantic in 1969. Fairfax had lived an extravagant life, but felt his "struggle against humanity" was all too much to bear. While he did at times need to interact with others, he felt that "loneliness" was "not a specter to be feared, but more a cherished companion."

While I may certainly prefer the solitude of my own walls, and acknowledge that I can carry interesting and lively conversations with myself; I equally acknowledge that sometimes I find my own company boring and relish the need for human companionship. And as such, I am grateful for my family and friends . . . for they accept me with all my crazy quirks and eccentricities.

**originally posted on 2/20/09

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Emily Dickinson Syndrome...but without the poetry

Emily wrote in her diary, "It was baking day . . . While my hands work, my mind sets off for wider parts. If it returns with treasures, I inscribe them on whatever is at hand." In another entry she wrote, "Tonight the needle exhausted my fingers -- while my mind flew away. The flight gave them no pause!"

It's the self thought, the reflective, the contemplative possibility of doing something more than what is seen. I often find my mind strolling through a daydream while my hands or body have a different task to complete. I am mutely aware of what I am doing rather than how I am doing it, and when it's done -- I laugh at my attempt.

Emily wrote about writing letters to her friends that she hadn't spoken to in weeks. "As the conversation progresses, my thoughts -- impatient -- speed on -- too quick for my pen. Then I fear they will scatter to the corners and escape to Eternity!"

The physical act of writing use to thrill me when I would set my pen onto my paper and watch as words would flow, then trickle, then dribble, then pause. But it's true, what Emily wrote about her "impatient" thoughts speeding, sometimes I lost them in the act of trying to write it down. My pen used to be able to keep up with my thoughts, but now -- I have to contend with a cramped wrist and pen imprints on my finger. Typing, ahh, now there's a skill everyone should acquire or aspire to obtain. Now, my fingers are quicker than my thoughts. My problem now is . . . spelling.

Emily wrote that she did not go to church on Sunday, but used "the morning of the Lord for writing while the others [sought] his presence in the pews." She had issues. "We two have been at odds --" she wrote. But, even when she was at odds, she admits "I feel as if 'grace is poured into my mouth' and I write what is too sacred to speak."

It is a complicated relationship. God. Christ. The Holy Spirit. Me. Sometimes, I find myself all over the place bumping into things and knocking them over or knocking myself over. Everyone else (God, Christ, The Holy Spirit) is still in the same place, except for me. Right now . . . I'm standing a little off center of everyone.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Writing Prompt Exercise

I've been taking a creative writing course online, sort of a refresher; it's been really helpful. I had a writing prompt exercise where I chose a random phrase for the beginning of a sentence and then, I had to complete the sentence. I chose, "My father is . . . ." I think I chose it because I haven't thought about dad in a while. I mean, he flutters in and out of my thoughts often, but I haven't had a real good deep pondering thought about him. So, I chose, "My father is . . ." After an hour, all I came up with was "My father is -- dead." Finally, here's the rest of what I wrote:

My father is -- dead. He has been dead for over four years. Every now and then, when I forget to remember him, I think that is when he is dead to me, too. I hate that. I hate that because I don't want him to be dead. Instead, I want the reason that I haven't thought about him or spoken to him to simply be because I forgot to call. Like maybe, I forgot to call and ask if his knees were still bothering him, and then listen to him say he wished I were there to massage them. Or that I forgot how I came home after a hard day's work and laughed at all the ridiculous messages he left on my answering machine. And then, without a thought, I deleted those messages knowing that tomorrow or the next day there would be more messages from him.

I want the reason that I didn't pick up the phone and say, "Happy birthday, dad" to be because I forgot to call and wish him a happy birthday or that I forgot to send his father's day card on Father's day because I had put off going to the post office for a stamp. I want "inspiration" to be the reason that I sent him a letter out of the blue and included a twenty dollar bill with a note saying, 'Here's your lunch money. Don't spend it all at once.' I don't want the reason that I can't do any of these things to be because he's dead. I don't want that to be the reason, but it is . . . because he is.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Was It Just a Dream?

**I had a conversation with dad today. I asked him if he wanted to go home to Hawaii. Dad said if I had asked him that question before he died, he would have said yes. But he's gone now and his priorities are not relevant to the world that I or the rest of the family live in. Where his body lies is just fine here in California as it would be if it were in Hawaii.

I told dad that mom won't go to Hawaii if he's here in California. He shrugged his shoulders and gestured with his arms and hands outstretched and said, "Well, whatever your mom wants."

So, I guess the three of us are staying here in California.**

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Just throwin' it out there

I was just reading through Cheri Block Sabraw's blog about grammer. The topic may not be attention grabbing, but Cheri makes learning grammer a lot more fun than I ever remember it being. Ipo, you need to check out Cheri's blog. You'll love her!

She told the story of how her 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Whooton, had thrown an eraser at her during class! Granted, it was told as a means to get the attention of her students, but it got me thinking . . . about the time my 7th grade science teacher, Sister Eva, threw an eraser at me.

Actually, Sister Eva threw the eraser at my girlfriend Leonelle (our desks were grouped together in fours), who was talking to me. But, I still remember feeling the swoosh of air as that eraser went sailing by and hit the back wall of the classroom. Man, did that get our attention. Sister Eva, stood poised at the front of the class and said ever so sweetly, "I meant to miss."

She could be deadly when she wanted.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Diggin' on it...

I'm totally diggin' on this concept of blogging. Truly . . . I am. It lets me get in a lot of writing time, time that I always say I'll put aside to actually write, but I never do. Which is weird, because I love writing. I have always loved writing. I love writing in the same manner that I love reading.

When I was about seven years old, I read . . . voraciously. I can't remember a time when I didn't enjoy reading. My parents had purchased a collection of children's literature books, as well as volumes of Reader's Digest (you know, the hard cover type that was sold door-to-door) and I read them. All of them. And when I read them all, I read them again.

Then, I read everything else we had in the house. I read the medical books we had (the pictures were gross), the business books we had (taught myself how to type on a typewriter), my mother's music books (taught myself how to play the piano...not very well), my father's auto mechanic books (learned the basics of how to change the oil and fix a flat), and if I went to the library, I was like a kid in a candy store.

I've read a lot of different articles that give advice about how to blog, what to blog, how to be a better blogger, how to write a better blog, how to sell your blog, how to sell your time to blog, and all that stuff. I thought maybe that was the best route . . . you know, the best way to learn how to blog. But now, I'm not so sure. I've always had my own style, and I didn't really get into blogging just to see who was going to read my stuff; it was more for me. More of an outlet, for me.

So, I'm diggin' the blogging. I'm diggin' on the fact that I'm finding my voice through writing my blog. And that I'm writing. Yea, me!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Did you know or do you care...part II

**I did this a while ago, thought I'd add to the already useless information rolling around inside your heads....**

The correct response to the Irish greeting, "Top of the morning to you," is "and the rest of the day to yourself." (Can't wait to meet an Irishman.)

Hacky-sack was invented in Turkey.

The southern most city in the United States is Na'alehu, Hawaii.

...more?? Okay.

The older we get, the more slowly we breathe. (Great, just one more thing to look forward to.)

It never occurred to the inventor of cornflakes to put milk on them.

Just one more....

The only place in the universe where a flag flies all day, never goes up or comes down, never flies at half-mast and does not get saluted, is the moon.

And now you know . . .

How Much Pomp, Is Too Much?

I attended my nephews high school graduation. There was a lot of hootin' and hollerin' going on . . . mainly from our section in the stands. But we had good reason, this kid had literally worked his tail off to get to graduation. And, his mother was on that tail to make sure he made it to graduation. So, there was a lot to celebrate. As we watched them enter the field marching to that familiar Pomp and Circumstance tune, it was like a collective sigh from every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, and teacher breathed out over that senior class.

And then, the talks began and to be honest they were boring. Truly, boring.

The two student speakers were nervous, and it showed, but that was expected.

The principal spoke on two ideas: relationships and having an edge. Her topic on relationships actually had an additional 3 R's, of which I cannot tell you because, well, I stopped listening to her. (That's just a whole different kind of irritation. When you say your going to speak on Relationships and then come up with additional sub-topics that also start with the letter R, for the love of Pete! Why not just say you've got 4 R's and be done with it!? Ugh!!!) When she moved on to point 2: having an edge, I started to listen again. But zoned out when she started reading off an endless list about people and places that would help these graduates gain the upper hand and have an edge in life. (Again, another level of irritant. When you list more than four or five things, it then becomes a shopping list, hello! A very boring shopping list.) Then she made the most ridiculous comment about how students in China have a higher rate of test scores than students in the United States, "but they have over a billion people, so really how fair is that?" she said. I thought to myself, "Really, is that the comment you want to make, really?"

Isn't there a rule about school administrators being qualified to make public speeches? There should be!

Then a representative of the School Board spoke about -- honestly, I can't tell you what he spoke about. But, I can tell you that he spoke too long and it wasn't at all interesting.

So, here's my take on school administrators speaking at high school graduations . . . if your not a good public speaker, than do us all a favor and pass on the Pomp and leave us to enjoy the Circumstances.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Let me 'splain. (pause) No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

What is the total summation of a life? I spent most of the evening going through photos. Photos to organize, photos to email, photos to crop, photos that needed more color, photos that needed less color, photos that needed more clarity, old photos that needed to look new, new photos that needed to look old . . . stuff like that. And I came across these two photos. One is a compilation of photos of my aunt that passed away last December. The other photo is a collection of her favorite things: the Lakers and the Raiders.

A few days ago, I was at my cousin's house and she showed me a talk that my aunt had written to present to her Buddhist group. The talk detailed how she first learned about Buddhism, and the course her life was on prior to joining, and the course her life took once she had joined. After giving in to a friend's invitation she finally decided to attend a meeting. That was in June of 1983. She went to the meeting thinking, "What the hell -- if it doesn't change a thing, then oh well!" But that night was a start. That night was the beginning of a philosophy of life that gave her meaning and a sense of purpose; it gave her a reason. For the first time in a long time, she felt peaceful and calm, and she knew that happiness was on it's way.

So, let me ask you again, what is the total summation of a life? When my youngest brother passed away in 2001, I was riddled with guilt because I knew that I was not the sister that I should have been to him. For all the struggles he had in his life, for the all the mistakes that he made, for all the trouble that he caused, his life's course brought him to a point where he was at peace with himself and the person he was becoming. And all the people that traveled so far to say farewell to him was a testament to the man he had become.

Again, I pose the question, what is the total summation of a life? When my father passed away in 2004, I thought my world could not possibly exist as it had before. He was the core of our family, if he was gone then what would become of us? My father, opened himself up to a different way of believing. He stepped outside his tenured beliefs and began to walk and live a new faith. He changed his life for us, for himself. I didn't think it was fair that he was no longer with us. And because of that, I have been upset with God for quite some time now. But I know that dad wouldn't want me to throw away all the things that I know out of spite. I learned more about myself from him than I realized. I learned more about life; more about my mother; more about what I should expect of myself, what he expects of me, and what he expects me to do about it.

Photographs, mementos, journals, and letters, are merely things left by those who come in and out of our lives. But it's the person, it's the life that person lived, the lessons that person taught, the foundations that person established, the love that person represents . . . what is the total summation of a life?