Tag Archives: writing

aurora


aurora noun, the dawn (literary)

FullSizeRender

“But tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”

-The Beatles

Oh the sleep I used to get. There were some Sundays when I wouldn’t get out of bed until 1 pm. I would just lay in those crisp sheets letting their cool wrinkles enfold my rapturous laziness until my body and mind felt it was just the right time to rise, shower and go out for a mimosa filled brunch on Smith Street. And I had the nerve to complain during those days – of how hard I was working and how stressed I was – all while getting 20 hours of sleep every weekend. I was a seasoned, professional sleeper. I slept so deeply I couldn’t hear the garbage trucks driving down the street at 4 am picking up all of the garbage from the restaurants around us. I used to not go out on a Friday night just so I could sleep.

This past week, I was up at 4 am because I couldn’t sleep. There must have been some sort of sound that woke me up or dream I can’t remember that bothered me. Since it was 4 am, I just got up, went downstairs, did some cleaning, answered some emails and began my day. There just was no point in rolling around in the bed, thinking too much, wide awake. The sheets that once were such heaven are often heavy and bothersome. Sometimes it’s the kids randomly waking up or utility work being done in the street, but it is most often my mind which won’t stop racing that wakes me up and keeps me from dreaming about those brunch filled days of my Brooklyn youth.

So the other morning my restlessness inspired me to go for a walk in the neighborhood. We are blessed to live on a cove off of Narragansett Bay and the sunrise is almost always divine. The other morning, it didn’t disappoint, with the bands of dawn reflecting off of the calm water and turning the bay a soft pink color. The sails from the boats at the yacht club casting a perfect reflection in the waters ripples while cranes and cormorants gracefully glided past casting their own shadows in the water. If I could sleep, I would have missed all of it. I found myself very thankful for not being able to sleep and to have seen the sun rise another day.

How life changes in ways you can never predict.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

convenience


convenience noun, the state of being able to proceed with something with little effort or difficulty

record player

I’ve been turning over a blog post in my brain for several weeks now and am finally writing these few words down after such a long hiatus from this site. I toyed with the word “analog” after using my old typewriter a few weeks ago for an unrelated project…and then the other morning I was rather peeved on the drive into work so I wanted to write a post about wanting to be Kanye West. Then this morning I was in the shower using a bar of lavender soap and thinking to myself about the pros and cons of shower gel versus bar soap. My brain jumped back to my thoughts about analog and I realized that I didn’t want to write about analog at all. The word I was searching for was convenience…and so here we are. (I still want to write about being Kanye though.)

I’m an odd bird, which you will know if you really get to know me – or just talk to me for an hour over a bottle of wine. I collect antiques and watch a lot of PBS. I paint and sketch. I like, and work, in jewelry but not because I like the glamour but rather because I crave the tradition, process of fabricating and long history of jewelry. I’m addicted to the making of things in general. Sometimes I wonder if I watched the crayon factory video on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood too many times and it created too much of an impression. I appreciate the process, the history and the story behind physical objects – to the point where I can’t sleep some nights because I think about the details of things too much. I haven’t discovered what I am meant to create in this world or what the culmination of my obsessions might be. I’ve been a part of the back story for many things that people purchase and enjoy, but cannot take credit for their entire creation. In a lot of ways, I am a mother to the products I have worked on much in the way I am the mother of my children. I have ushered them through their troubles and tough spots until they have grown into adulthood and landed on Amazon or a store shelf somewhere.  I haven’t decided if that is enough of an accomplishment yet. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Anyway – I like the time and attention it takes to make a physical thing.

So when I think about the world today and the things we use the theme I most often happen upon is convenience. We use shower gel instead of soap because it’s easier to lather and friendlier than a hard rectangle of lard that you glaze your body with and then rinse off. We type on keyboards now and rarely write in handwriting so much so that schools have ceased to teach cursive or penmanship. Baby food comes in easy to squeeze pouches instead of jars and you can buy entire meals chopped to arrive at your home to make an authentic home cooked dinner easily and fast. We are creatures of convenience. Even as a working mom, I often wonder why we feel the need to save so much time. For more stalking time on Facebook and Instagram, judging by the world’s obsession with social media. We don’t seem to be connecting with people more with all of this time we have gained. Sometimes I think that it’s the greatest marketing ploy of all time – to get us all to think we are too, too busy and that we need all of these things to save us time when what we actually need is to use our time actually doing something. Using our senses or hands or brains instead of focusing on efficiency and convenience.

Some things are greatly lost in this quest for convenience. The process, the details, the work – all of those things that make great things great – are lost in making some things easier. Take oil painting for an example. There is acrylic paint now that dries faster and blends easier than what the great masters used, but there is something lost in that medium when you compare it to traditional oil painting. The color is not as rich and the texture is like plastic – because that is what it is – plastic. Painting in oil requires patience. You can only load so much paint onto a canvas until everything blends and turns brown. You have to thin it with Gamsol – but not too much or you lose the thickness for building it up and creating that impressionistic texture. You have to wait for the first layer to dry to add the second, more accurate and refined attempt. And there is the key – the waiting. In that waiting – in which if you were to try and continue hard headedly to fix the layer you’ve put down you would only make things worse – you learn what you must do that will make the painting good. Because you are forced for days to look at your errors in the shadows and light, in tones, you figure it out. You reach a different perspective and in reaching it are able to approach things in a better more enlightened way. The convenience of the paint drying quickly eliminates the most important element of oil painting – the standing and looking back. The reflection on what you’ve done. The reassessing and having another go at it. That is what makes the painting better.

The record player is another example. I have had one since we purchased our first home in Pawtucket over a decade ago. My husband thought I was crazy when I brought it home from the Homegoods for $50 with an old record of traditional Italian music from the Salvation Army. But once he heard the crackles and pops, the imperfections, the way it sounded bouncing off the walls of our new house, he was hooked as well – more so than me at this point. Now, streaming music is a beautiful thing that I enjoy, especially when listening to very loud Notorious B.I.G. on the way to work on a Monday morning. However, it never makes you listen to an entire album the way a record does. You gain the convenience of hearing any song you want to at any moment, but you don’t get to know that artist in the same way that a record forces you to. For example, Radiohead –the bends. Radiohead is pure genius listened to on any format, but when you listen to it on vinyl and it’s not convenient to skip past your least favorite track, the music becomes a statement that the artist is making rather than a few songs that are great. In the case of the bends, Radiohead creates a mood that is only captured when listened to as an inclusive album.  It changes your perspective on what it was you thought you were liking and captures a rainy day with a beauty that cannot be described with words. It also makes you appreciate how amazing their music really is.

My last example is probably my favorite – the Moleskine notebook. I have for many years, and always will, take my work notes in a Moleskine notebook. I have all of my old ones from my many jobs piled up in the furnace room of our home. Sometimes, when I am struggling to remember why I do what I do or I see something that was a project I worked on at a store or online, I will go down to my stacks and pull an old Moleskine. I almost always remember which one it is in. They are a history of my career. I’ve never been able to journal in a book but can and will only take work notes in one of these durable, black leather books. This blog is the closest I have come to chronicling anything digitally, but my Moleskines record the winding and odd journey of my career from my very first job here in Rhode Island. I find it magical to flip through the pages and remember where I was when I was writing those notes and how my handwriting changes from page to page, year to year. Sometimes there are sketches or other peoples writing – you know those times where your coworker wants to tell you something but has to write it on your page? Sometimes I remember what those comments were about. Other times I can’t remember who wrote them or what they were about, but they are always amusing nevertheless.  All of those moments, thoughts and places are in these black leather books in a way that typing something on a computer will never be. More convenient to type? Of course. But not nearly as important or as special in my life.

I saw that our local bookstore is selling records and the record stores we visit are all bustling with customers where not too long ago I was the only one there. I also saw a Moleskine store at the Short Hills mall during a recent visit. (I’m not so sure about bar soap vs. shower gel as I am still on the fence about that one.) I think that people like convenience and the ease it adds to their life and I do as well.  But I also think that people secretly crave and need something else. They need the experience, time, perspective and manual work that only analog, old things and tradition can offer to fill in the details of life.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

scaramouch


scaramouch noun, a boastful but cowardly person

scaramouch

“I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me”

– Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Today I opened up the old OED the way I used to when I started this silly blog and flipped around looking for a word. I landed on scaramouch and am pretty happy with it. I have heard, like everyone else in the world, the song Bohemian Rhapsody a few hundred times throughout my life, I am sure. I always glazed over this word and didn’t think much about it. I wasn’t even really sure it was a word until I found it today. I thought maybe Freddy Mercury just made it up. Naturally I went to Google and looked up the lyrics because now I was intrigued. I may be wrong but I took the singer, the subject of the song, to be the scaramouch and I ended up reading the lyrics as if they were poetry…and my mind opened up for me this beautiful morning.

I am not a huge Queen fan. I enjoy Queen here and there but am not an aficionado in any way. They are part of a large collection of music I enjoy. Until today I did not appreciate this song for what it was, which is a mini opera in 6 minutes. It is a work of genius. I have always known that it was because everyone told me it was. Forgive my naiveté. I am not musical in a way that musicians are and I have never studied music. I am merely someone who enjoys listening. I have never approached music the way I would a book or a poem but now I see that I should have. I suppose it’s harder for me to do that with music because the enjoyment is two fold. The lyrics may be amazing, but if the music or voice is not quite right, well then I have no patience. With a book, if it is written well and the story is compelling, I will happily read along. With music, I have no patience if it doesn’t hit my sweet spot.

I also find that I am more willing to forgive a song if it is catchy. I’ve listened to “Call Me Maybe” a few thousand times and it’s a horrible, gibberish song…but it makes me energetic and empty brained for a few minutes, and sometimes that just feels good. The problem that I am seeing now is that because I don’t have the patience sometimes to give some music a chance to develop or to listen more closely to the lyrics and forgive the less than perfect instrumental, I am contributing to the rise of Justin Beiber and his ilk. It scares me to think that my children will be listening to the music that I have listened to my whole life and not their own generation of musicians . Or even worse, listening to Justin Beiber and Selena Gomes vocally gyrating and thinking it’s good music.

I’ve watched David Bowie and Prince die so far this year. Along with many other things declining in the world right now, I feel like music is also in a bad state. The radio is dismal and filled with manufactured pop stars. One really has to dig deep into Google Play or Spotify to find something inspiring. I don’t mean good, or catchy or enjoyable. There are plenty of songs like that. I mean something different. Music that can change your life, mix genres and blur the lines between instrumental and art. There are only a few people like that born every hundred years or so. I just hope we find out who they are soon so as to take the sting out of watching the ones we know and love die without replacement.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

anopisthographic


anopisthographic  adj. having writing or printing on one side only

desk

“The only thing that makes one an artist is making art. And that requires the precise opposite of hanging out; a deeply lonely and unglamorous task of tolerating oneself long enough to push something out.”
― David Rackoff, Half Empty

I have to admit that lately I haven’t been scouring the OED as much to find words. I cheat a bit here and there and look at sites on the web that list strange or rarely used words. Anopisthographic is one such word that was found in this manner.  When I found this word, it made me recall what it was like to physically write on paper with a pen…for pages and pages…and how I rarely, if ever, do that any longer. It is in the physical “pen in hand” practice of writing that I feel I am working the hardest at creating something. Typing just doesn’t match up. If you are writing with a pen and you make a mistake, you have to work to remove it. You really have to think about what you are going to put down on the paper as it isn’t very easy to remove or rearrange it. In a way, you physically live your story. If you want to move a paragraph, you have to cut the paper and move it. If you misspell a word, you have to scratch it out or erase it. It leaves a mark as a reminder of your mistake.  If your pencil breaks or your pen runs out you have to sharpen or find a new one. I often think about the fact that I rarely physically write and if I did that it might strengthen my words that same way exercise strengthens my muscles, gives me stamina.

The act of writing on paper is also quite therapeutic. About a year ago I started “The Artist’s Way” because I was suffering from a creative block and just general malaise caused by being a stay at home suburban mom. The first thing you do when you start the Artist’s Way is wake up and write. You basically rise from a dead sleep, open a notebook and just write whatever it is that comes to mind. They are called “morning pages.”  At first it starts out as gibberish and doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you keep thinking of the same word over and over again, then you just write it. You’re not supposed to judge it.  It’s supposed to be a sort of cleansing of your “artist soul.” Sometimes it felt like a continuation of my dream and I would start in one place and end up in another. Other times, it was a struggle and made me angry. Rarely, a phrase or sentence would happen and start the creative journey. I haven’t gone back to read what I wrote in some time and I probably should. I didn’t get through the entire process of the Artists Way. I never created a masterpiece.

When I wrote my morning pages I filled up both sides of the page. Not writing on the other side felt wasteful and this has always been my feeling about writing on paper in general. I suppose it comes from a desire to fill up a page or pages the same way I do so many things in my life – my fridge, my closet, my brain. Having all of the pages embossed with lines of penmanship makes me feel accomplished, like I reached my creative quota, tangible proof that I made something.  I love pressing hard enough on the page so that the lines create a relief map on the other side and crinkle the paper, making it look worked over.

This word also makes me think about the old wooden school desks we used to write on when I was in elementary school. Every student was assigned their own, permanent desk each year and they were quite old. Each was like a time capsule from all of the other students who had sat at that desk before. Despite the constant warnings from teachers not to vandalize them, we still did. We had to leave our own mark. Random carvings on the wooden tops, crusty dried up bubble gum caked along the underside that looked like little upside down mountain ranges when you stuck your head under and looked up. Secret messages and love notes scribbled in permanent marker, sometimes in hidden places. We’d always have to write on top of workbooks or stacks of loose leaf to avoid inadvertent impressions on our vocabulary exercises. The surface of the desk was almost like the other side of the page coming through the one we were writing on. Like secret messages the desk was sending us about its history, its life story.

It makes me sad to think that my son won’t know a desk in the same way. That a white screen with buttons will be his most familiar definition of a page. It is up to me to ensure he  experiences the physical act of writing on paper despite the fact that the world we live in is making it obsolete. I want him to know and understand the meaning of “page” outside of an LCD screen. I want him to know how to create them in his own hand and have his own style of handwriting the way I have mine. I want him to have both sides to write on.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

imbroglio


imbroglio n. an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation

Image

I am a champion eavesdropper and general observer of people. I do it often, especially on the morning train. It is a bit of a game for me, to overhear conversations, on the phone or actively between two people. If I was a novelist I think I might ride the train just to gather ideas for character sketches. It’s more than just a few moments of a conversation. It’s the way that particular person talks. Their speech pattern and intonation, the overall cadence of their speech, what they are talking about and the emotion they are audibly emitting. Piece it together with what they’re wearing, the bag they’re carrying, their ID badge hanging off of their zipper. It all creates an invented persona and I am a detective trying to solve who they are to place them in my own story. When I am lucky enough to catch someone lamenting on an imbroglio, it ties it all together – but I am rarely so lucky. Instead I watch and create my version of them in my head.

I picture myself as a hack impersonation of Ernest Hemingway in “A Moveable Feast:”

…A girl came into the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair black as crow’s wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.

I looked at her and she disturbed me and made me very excited. I wished I could put her in the story, or anywhere, but she had placed herself so she could watch the street and the entry and I knew she was waiting for someone. So I went on writing.

The thought of Ernest Hemingway writing in a café, observing people and turning them into his characters inspires me. I don’t know if I’ll ever write a novel, or anything deemed publishable for that matter, but I can still create the story to pass the time. Here are some of my favorite, frequent characters.

The Fun, Fearless Female

She is one of my favorites and I hate when she sits in a car farther down the line and I don’t have the chance to observe her. She works for Cosmopolitan Magazine, or at least I think she does because she is always carrying tote bags that have bedazzled sayings like “Fun, Fearless Female” with fake kissy marks- the kind they give away at workplace events. She surely looks fun with her honey highlighted bob, a hint of cleavage showing through her light, acrylic Forever 21 sweater in the Spring and Summer. 100% fun. The most notable thing about her, though, is that she is always telling some long, drawn out, exquisitely animated imbroglio to at least 3 or 4 men – most of them bald and overweight, but nonetheless gathered around like a moth to a flame. She comes across as young, peppy and seductive in a very suburban way, but if you look close you see the tiny creases of crows feet, her foundation and powder caked there signaling a clue to her age. She must be mid 40’s going on 17. I wonder if she’s writes those sordidly famous Cosmo sexual advice columns. Or if she’s just a functionary, a cog in the wheel of the smut publishing universe.  

Kate Spade

The girl that all of the men stare at on the platform. The perfect hair, the clear complexion. She always carries a Kate Spade bag and has work friends that she sometimes talks to on the train. She has an immature taste in clothing…like this morning when she wore espadrilles and a tailored jean blazer on this rainy, 40 degree day. She smiles with her mouth closed because her teeth are crooked. It seems like a source of embarrassment for her. At first glance, you would think she has it all together, but if you look closer you see that the strap on one of her handbags is torn and taped discreetly back together. That her iPhone screen is so marred with cracks that I wonder how she uses it without slicing her fingertips. The day she sat next to me on the train she stabbed me with her bony elbow at least three times because of her feverish texting. She was whispering on the phone, gossiping about work and about her upcoming trip to LA. She is married, the standard large, flawed diamond solitaire and channel set wedding band combo. I wonder what her other half is like. If he’s like her, clean looking and popular or if he’s a nerd.  I always pair her with “Tom Brady”, the good looking tall guy who carries the Coach diaper bag as a man purse who always stands near her on the platform. They would go so well together – Kate Spade and Tom, walking side by side, she in suede ankle boots, he in grey loafers (no socks). But she is uninteresting, not because she has to be, though. I feel like she’s just looking the part, playing the role. Maybe she doesn’t have the courage to be anything else or maybe she just wants to be the pretty girl on the platform, and that is enough for her.

Bob

Sometimes I take the train from a different town, with different people crowding the platform. Sometimes I see Bob, and he doesn’t know it, but I listen to his music. Sometimes it’s Jay Z or Kanye. Other times it’s something I can’t place but wish I could. Usually when I hear a song I like, I try to remember a line or two to Google later and then download it. But I can’t hear the words through Bob’s ear buds, tucked behind his long dread locks. It makes me sad to catch a beat and not know what the song is. He drinks Dunkin Donuts coffee – not flavored, medium – and wears a suit under his overcoat.  Sometimes he stands next to me and we wait, I with my purple Beats, he with his white ear buds, and we share the platform in our own individual, music laced bubbles. I wonder what the probability is that we have ever listened to the same song at the same time, our headphones secretly communicating our comradely in static code.

The Twin Beaks

They both look amazing from behind. Him in a brown tweed overcoat, her in a smart red trench. They hold hands, they talk with their heads close together and you think to yourself – wow – what a great looking, loving couple. You expect them to turn around and blow you away, like in some cheesy rom com movie where the music queues up and the wind blows their hair just so. Instead you notice that they both have strangely large noses. Everything else about them is perfection – except for their twin beaks. I suppose it’s not very nice to say that perhaps it is their facial protuberance that brought them together, but I would bet it was, even if it was only subconsciously. I wonder if they ever think about how big their noses are, perhaps even laugh about it together over glasses of wine and pate. What would happen if one day one of them decided to fix their nose, or would they do it together? Would they argue about it? It’s funny how something so small like a nose can change your perception of an entire face that might otherwise be quite beautiful. If in focusing so much on a large nose can cause you to miss the perfect mouth and hazel blue eyes. Maybe that is why they belong together, because they share their noses and can see beyond it when a regular nosed person may not be able to. I suppose it might be rather liberating, to find a counterpart that doesn’t accentuate your flaw, but shares it and intimately understands it. In a way, I envy the twin beaks.

I am, indeed, no Hemingway, but he was possessed of many vices the same as I. I too have the girl in the café who looks away for another and is unaware of me, staring clandestinely, making up a story about her. There is always the temptation to want to break that line, to reach out across and meet these characters, these personas that I have invented. To know if what I am making up is in any way accurate. But that would ruin the magic of it all. I know that it is better to never know so that I can fill my mornings with these people and to pretend I am Hemingway, waiting for the train with my music and coffee.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

jibe


jibe v. to be compatible with or similar to

Realistic

There’s a song that they sing when they take to the highway,
a song that they sing when they take to the sea,
a song that they sing of their home in the sky, maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep,
but singing works just fine for me.

-James Taylor, Sweet Baby James

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve heard this word a number of times in my life and not exactly known what it meant…well not enough to explain it with words. I sort of knew, but I think I thought it was “jive” and didn’t realize it was a B instead of a V. It always reminded me of dancing or catching some musical vibe. In a way, jibe is a combination of jive and vibe and I consider it a pretty musical word.

I listen to music a lot. With my depressive personality, it’s pretty much a form of self-medication. I love wine and I love music, and I love them together, but I would give up wine before music. I don’t think I could ever do without music…ever. I think I’d rather die. There are a few things in life that serve as fuel for my melancholy soul – music, exercise and books are three of them and in order to “jibe” with me, you need to agree with at least one of them. If it’s music, you’d be considered a close friend.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t have an abundance of friends. My parents didn’t have to time to drive me back and forth to school, so I walked a lot. It wasn’t a short walk either. My first “Walkman” was not a Sony, but a Radio Shack Realistic brand that was about the size and weight of a VHS tape. It had a cassette player and AM/FM receiver and it came with a pair of cheap foam covered, tinny sounding headphones that didn’t fold up and broke in a week. The kind with the metal adjustment sliders that caught your hair in them and hurt like a bitch. Nonetheless, I’d tape my favorite songs off of Z100  or HOT97 and keep that cassette in it or I would sometimes buy a single cassette from time to time to change things up. Sometimes I’d listen to the radio, but for the most part it was pretty homogenous and there wasn’t a lot to listen to. Whatever it was I was listening to created the soundtrack in my head as I walked. When I first started this practice, I listened to a lot of Belinda Carlisle and the GoGos. Later, I was really into hip hop and rap. Whatever the genre,  I would walk a daydream set to my soundtrack the entire way home. It relaxed and balanced me for all that I had to face. I still walk this way to and from work every day. Those foam headphones have been replaced by purple Beats and it’s my Iphone playing a curated playlist or shuffle instead of that old brick of a Realistic. I’m a seasoned practitioner now, but my tunes still get me through whatever the day holds.

My memories are also cataloged according to music and some days when I feel like the world is just being a bitch, I can pull them out like shelved records and play one to feel better. Just the other day someone was describing how Billy Joel no longer sings “Uptown Girl” because he divorced Christy Brinkley. I really didn’t want to hear this conversation so I just took that single down from the shelf in my brain. In my mind I was transported to my living room, to around 7 years old, listening to that song and getting ready for school, dancing around in my plaid uniform and knee socks. I remember having seen the video on television with Christy Brinkley in a sleeveless black dress dancing cheesily around with Billy Joel.  I wanted to be the uptown girl. Sometimes I still do.

Then there’s the Barbara Streisand, Barry Gibb “What Kind of Fool” memory of what I believe was my brother’s christening party at my Grandmother’s house in Bergenfield. It was in the basement – which was awesomely disco. It must have been around 1981.  I remember hearing this duet while watching the purple, plastic, beaded curtain sway amongst cocktail carrying relatives wearing fabulously large polyester collars. I can still see the red velvet wallpapered walls and burgundy sombreros that my aunt used as decoration. (She loved Acapulco.) I was playing with one of those plastic slot machine toys that squirted water in your face when you hit the jackpot and remember faintly of someone trying to explain to me what the party was all about. I apparently had a brother…or whatever that meant. Years later I heard this song in my head while we packed up that old basement and I carried away crates of old records that are now a personal prized possession. I feel authentically 70’s when I reminisce on this one.

But my most treasured, catalogued song is by James Taylor, whom my husband hates. It doesn’t bother me that he hates him and doesn’t enjoy this particular song, though. This song belongs to my father and I and I’m not interested in sharing it with anyone, so it’s fine that we don’t particularly jibe on this tune. When I listen to it, I feel like he’s with me the way he used to be, driving along in our beat up old Isuzu Trooper singing along on the way to who knows where. The sound and the sentiment embody who my dad was and listening to it feels more like a hug than a collection of harmonically pleasant notes.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

joy


joy n. a feeling of great pleasure and happiness

ravi-shankar-horizontal-gallery

The word joy is inevitably being said more these days as it is the holiday season. “Joy to the world” yadda yadda yadda. I was thinking about joy today while eating lunch. I must have heard it on some Target commercial or perhaps on a sign somewhere. In my mind, joy has a more profound meaning than just “great pleasure.” I feel like I often feel happiness or, more often contentment, but joy seems somehow more pure and untainted. I think we all have moments of happiness in our lives, but our moments of joy are far, far fewer and yet more crystalized in our memories.

I think the OED may have fallen short in defining this word so broadly. I associate joy with childhood. It is happiness that knows no cynicism – pleasure in its purest form. When we are children, we find joy in simple things – like climbing trees or being tickled. The idyllic childhood has you feeling this happiness in an unfettered, unspoiled way. The longer your span of enjoying this joy – or untainted happiness – the happier your childhood. When we are young, we haven’t experienced a lot of evil yet – hopefully. We are naive. We aren’t looking around the corner for the catch or the ghost that spoils it all. It’s a lot like the way a child runs – with complete abandon – because they don’t know to expect fatigue or pain yet. The moment is singular and completely in the present.

When we grow older, we collect the moments when our joy was abbreviated, either by the course of nature or by other people. We become cynical, hardened, expecting our happiness to be short lived or false. We are far likelier to experience contentment – joy’s smug, adult counterpart. Contentment is what we settle for when we are adults because joy is so fleeting and hard to attain intentionally. In this day and age childhood has been expanded far into the twenties, but I don’t think that childhood joy endures. It morphs into a strange hipster irony – almost a reflection of joy – that mocks its existence because it’s easier to be cool and impress people than to get to the unattainable joy.

There are moments in my adulthood when I have experienced joy like I used to as a child. It was not on the day my son was born. Watching him fly out of my body into the arms of my doctor while my husband held my left leg and stared in horror is not what I would describe as joyous. It was a wonderful moment in some ways, but there was too much fear and surprise involved to call it joy. I most often find joy in music…and I’m not talking Beethoven or a Puccini opera…although those would work. I find joy in just listening to all sorts of music and just being there, in the moment…or sometimes singing in the car while Graham bops around. It could be Katy Perry or Metallica, there’s just something about music that brings on a moment of joy for me.

Today marks the passing of a great musician, Ravi Shankar, who I became familiar with when I was 19 years old. My father was very sick from radiation treatment for his brain tumor and I had a job working in a factory soldering circuit boards. I was supposed to be a freshman at Providence College but had to stay back a semester because my father’s health was so precarious, as was our financial situation. I used to go to the public library after work and check out CDs from the basement music department. I had heard sitar and raag in the Beatles music I sometimes listened to so one day I checked out a Ravi Shankar CD. I brought it home and listened to it over and over. There was something very relaxing and quietly joyful in the strings, something I really, really needed during that difficult time.

My father’s tumor was in the occipital lobe of his brain and he had lost a great deal of his eye sight when they removed the tumor and could no longer read books – which was one of the ways I am convinced that my father found joy. I remember sitting in our small living room listening to my CD on a set of headphones when my father asked to hear what I was listening to. So I played him the Ravi Shankar music that I was so fond of. I like to think that that moment was one of joy for my father – just existing in the music the way he used to escape in his books. We played it many times after that and it became our habit to listen to music in the same way we used to share books. There was something about the sound of the sitar that healed both of our pain. It was like listening to audible peace. The memory brings me joy whenever I hear those strings.

R.I.P Ravi Shankar

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

nostalgia


nostalgia n. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

I think that I have Nostalgic Personality Disorder. I have a profoundly difficult time living in the moment. In fact, most of the time I rarely enjoy the present. Take for instance all of my past homes. When I was living in Providence, Rhode Island, all I wanted to do was move somewhere else. These days I would give anything to spend a few months back in my old home. Same thing with Brooklyn. I had just about had enough of pretending to be cool in the “other borough” when I was pregnant, and so we moved to Maplewood, New Jersey. Now I simply hate my new home and long to wander the littered, Brownstone streets of my former abode.

My nostalgia isn’t even accurate. I think about past periods of time quite a bit and my memory embellishes them, making them sweeter than they actually were. I know I didn’t love high school and those were some tough years, but I often find myself longing to go back for a few days. I’d like to think it may be because I have changed, or evolved, so very much since then that I would like to go back and remind myself who I was at that point. I’d like to get some of my old, good habits back…talk to myself and get some advice from the person who I used to be. I think it would be good to go back so I could prove to myself that my memories aren’t honest and that things have gotten exponentially better in my life since then…that I have accomplished things and grown. My former self could sit me down and say “Listen asshole! You’ve done so much since now. Why would you want to return like some psychotic ‘Back to the Future’ wannabe?”

I recently read an article in Psychology Today about nostalgic personalities. I am surprised I was even able to get past the first few lines as it began with a reference to Proust and his “buttery madeleines.” Suffering through Swann’s Way was not my finest hour in college. It was a very painful read…but I digress. Here is a link to the article if you are interested…and this quote which made me take particular note:

“For some people, reminiscing about good times can trigger painful emotions. Recalling a career triumph can make you feel like a has-been, and thinking back to cozy weekends with grandma might be a poignant reminder that she’s gone.

But it needn’t be that way. “It’s what you focus on,” says Lyubomirsky. “Do you focus on how positive it was then, or that it’s over now?” People who see each good experience as permanently enriching are more likely to get a mood boost. But a person who mainly focuses on the contrast between past and present damns every good experience with the attitude that nothing in the future can ever live up to it.”

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200605/nostalgia-sweet-remembrance

And just like that EUREKA. I do this everyday, thus damning my present state of being. Now the advice that this article doled out was to make a “Greatest Hits” of your past list…but I think the more useful thing for me would be to make a Greatest Hits of TODAY list – since that is what I tend to take for granted the most. Perhaps I can trick my nostalgic mind or at least shorten the time period for which I long. Today’s list would look like this so far:

  1. Drank 3 cups of wonderful coffee.
  2. Rocky Raccoon by the Beatles randomly came on my iPod while driving.
  3. Graham looked particularly dashing in his new cable – knit old man/baby cardigan.
  4. I’ve managed to get off my ass and write something this morning.

…and so on. So perhaps tomorrow I will be nostalgic for today – but since it was only yesterday all of those greatest hits will be easily achievable again thus tricking myself into loving my present state.

OR – I could make the Ungreatest Hits of my past so I remember the truth about the things which I remember as so awesome. This might also be a fantastic, yet painful exercise. If I choose to write this particular list I won’t make it a list at all. I will write in the style of Marcel Proust – agonizing over every second in detail so that I will never forget the tragedy and can convert my false nostalgia into the truth about my past. Instead of an agonizing 20 pages of rolling over in bed or the taste of little French crumbly cookies, I can describe the time I went on a job interview in Coventry, Rhode Island which turned out to be a clandestine door to door salesman job. After I told my pimply faced escort I wasn’t interested and that I had been lied to, he left me in the middle of the 30 degree New England woods – no car, no phone, no cash – and I walked around crying and knocking on doors until a lovely family took pity on me and drove me back to my Geo Tracker – whose lights had been left on and whose battery was dead.

Sure – I laugh now and there are some bright spots to this story – but in reminding myself of this tarnished moment of my past I can see clearly how much better things are here in my sleepy, privileged suburban mommy life.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

beezer


beezer adj. excellent

As you can imagine, I subscribe to the OED online. I bought a small version of the dictionary for $40 and it came with a free subscription. It’s fun to play on the site and today I found a way to look up British / English words. “Beezer” is a British adjective meaning excellent and I just love it because it’s so happy sounding. It really embodies “so very good” in a way that “excellent” doesn’t. Excellent has the connotation of excelling or beating someone or something else. Same thing as outstanding – I feel like it has to be so great that it “out – stands” the rest of everything.

Beezer reminds me of Beezus Quimby from the Beverly Cleary books that I absolutely loved as a kid. She was the next door neighbor of Henry who had the annoying little sister Ramona. However, I think it a bit ironic because Beezus was the wall flower older sister who was out shined by Ramona. So this is probably a bad reference for recalling the meaning of beezer…good books though.

The problem with looking up British words is that when you say them with an American accent they sound completely un charming. I found myself saying beezer with a fake British accent which is pretty sad. But when I said it with my normal accent, it just sounded like some thug frat boy language. Imagine it in a Boston accent – beezah! (I almost want to go to Boston and start a trend.)

Anyway, back to beezer’s counterparts – excellent and outstanding. Does something have to stand out amongst everything or beat out all else to be considered very, very great? Do we decide what is wonderful only through comparison or can something be intrinsically great just because it is – with out reference to something else that has or had existed? I don’t think it can. Which would mean if we are constantly striving for excellence we are in constant competition…and where is the day to day happiness in this?

When I think about an excellent day it doesn’t depend on just one element. To me a beezer moment could be a rainy morning where the Keurig machine spit out an unexpectedly sublime cup of coffee and I enjoyed hearing the raindrops hit the windowpane in such a way that they sound musical. Maybe I picked up a Harpers and flipped to a poem I didn’t expect to find while sipping my coffee and found a new poet that quickly became my favorite. Even on the small scale – even if I am talking about just a beezer 5 minutes – is it not excellent because it was better than the five minutes before? Or the 5 minutes I had at exactly the same time yesterday morning- perhaps it was sunny but my coffee sucked and I stared off into space worrying about what the day beheld…

Today I shall use beezer to humble my competitive nature. Competition is good…great perhaps, but it’s where you set the bar. If you set it high – perhaps someday you will reach the height of beezerness. But what’s the point if the road to get there is miserable and unhappy because you are constantly trying to out do yourself. It could be a century of unhappiness and disappointment before you get to your excellence.

I’ll take my excellence in small doses each day. Minute to minute and hour to hour…and when things get gradually more and more wonderful I’ll have had a beezer journey instead of just one excellent day.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

cacoethes


cacoethes noun an irresistible urge to do something inadvisable

At first I thought, “Oh…this word is the same as spontaneous” and then I stopped to really think about it and it isn’t the same at all. I think the key to the difference is “the irresistible urge.” Like an itch you cannot help but scratch. I feel like that in spontaneity there is not an urge, you simply just do something…and it could be inconsequential. Cacoethes has two friends – the urge and consequence – that make something totally different.

I think a cacoethes is a bit like an out of body experience that occurs in adulthood, but is discovered in childhood. In kindergarten I bit a girl because she was reaching over my arm to take the rotary phone I was playing with away. I just had this irresistible urge to hurt her and so I bent my head down and bit her forearm. I was fully aware of the fact that I was going to pay dearly by missing recess and having to stand in the corner for a week, but I couldn’t help myself. For one split second it felt so good to be bad.

If you’re going to talk about cacoethes, than you have to talk about that evil split second of delectable urge. It is really at the center of why people love to be bad. It’s that short moment that feels like a match striking in your chest causing a momentary, wondrous burst of flame. In that moment, you feel incredible, rebellious, powerful…and then it goes out as quickly as it lit. You marvel at the embers and smoke of sweet, sweet rebellion and then the air just clears…and the consequences begin. Much like an orgasm or binge, you do something reprehensible to achieve that feeling knowing that you most likely will regret it later.

Cacoethes has a lot to do with addiction as well. It would seem to me that if you come to the consequential portion of the “cacoethan cycle” and launch right back into the urge – not taking the time to acknowledge the consequences – you are some sort of addict, always chasing that evil split second of bliss. The consequences just continue to pile up like undone laundry until you have nothing left to wear, naked and exposed. I suppose when you get this far into it you make a decision to live or die – to end the cycle and face that pile of dirty laundry…or to stay naked in the world chasing that urge until you die.

At least I didn’t become a biting addict. But I still remember the girl’s name who I bit that day. This song reminds me of my first memorable cacoethes. So perhaps I am still paying a small consequence to this day…

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
The Electric Oracle

NEW POSTS EVERY FRIDAY

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

Carter and Toby

a 'tail' of two friends

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

The Grumpy Aristotelian

Unearthing truth, virtue, beauty and joy amidst the dreck

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

Bri Bruce Productions

Design | Publishing | Photography | Art

seoheekoh

Life full of Jewelry and cats

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

Perfection Pending

Stories of Perfectly Real Moms

Black. Bunched. Mass. Mom.

Raising Two Bi-Racial Boys in Suburban Massachusetts.

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

The Overstand Podcast

"Overstand the definition, then write your own."

The INSIDE

Delving Further

Momamorphosis

Adventures in Motherhood

Mum's the word

a blog about real life. the good, bad and ugly.

A Small Press Life

Not just a blog, a philosophy