Tag Archives: youth

remembrance


remembrance n.  the action of remembering something

remembrance

Rosemary is for remembrance. I know this because we gave out small potted plants of rosemary as favors at my wedding. I’m coming up on my 11th wedding anniversary so it’s fitting that I chose this word. There was quite a drama over our photographs that day and although it is almost laughable now, 11 years later, I still have the same hang ups about photos. Photographs are totems of remembrance. When I think of this word, I recall the scent of musty photo albums and boxes of photographs all curled together in stacks that you peel apart, revealing a moment, a second in infinite time, long forgotten. When I find these boxes in the back of a closet, I could sit for hours sifting through them, looking at the people and trying to remember them. Remember the smells, the noises, the feeling of that polyester cat face sweatshirt I was wearing at that birthday party in the 5th grade. What I notice most, though, are that most of the photos, the best ones, are not posed, arm-over-shoulder -types. They’re more candid, casual, in the moment. These in my opinion are the very best photos.

Photos are sacred to me and so is the act of taking them. My father was a photographer and I lived amongst his Hasselblads and Minoltas and all their accoutrements which existed in the time before digital. You used to have to work much harder to take a photo back then. You had to know how to manually focus a lens. Just getting the roll of film into the camera was difficult because you could expose it, let alone the difficulties of developing it. There was a sense of waiting that used to exist when you took a photo. If you went on a trip you would have to sometimes wait weeks to see how your photos came out, praying that you at least got one or two good ones. Taking photos required patience, perseverance, and sometimes, luck alone. I remember all of my cameras with nostalgia. My first camera was a purple Le Clic that I got as a gift for my very first trip without my parents to Washington DC with my girl scout troop. My favorite camera was my pink Polaroid that I would bring to school and sneak photos of everyone with, especially my secret crushes. My most treasured is my father’s manual Minolta 35mm he gave to me when I wanted to “get serious” and I struggled with it for a good while learning how to use it, getting used to its ticks. These days I wield a 6 year old Nikon D60 digital camera. I like to switch it to manual and make myself work for my photos just to see if I remember all that my father taught me.

A month or so ago we took my son to an Easter egg hunt at our parish. When we arrived there weren’t many people there and my son was hell bent and determined to eat as many of the free munchkins he could grab. But as people arrived rapidly I began to notice something that really bothered me. Instead of letting the children roam and play, their parents were grouping them together in front of things and taking posed photos….dozens and dozens of posed photos – in front of brick walls, next to trees, with friends, with family, with the creepy girl/guy in the Easter bunny costume…constant clicking and so little living in the moment. It made me sad to see that they were ruining the natural beauty of children just having fun.

It set me to thinking about how we remember moments and how photographs stand for so much. Wouldn’t a picture be worth so much more if it captured the intangible seconds of time that aren’t perfectly set or posed? A photo should be a queue for the memory – an icon that sets our brains wild with memory, filling in the gaps that the photo doesn’t show. And so what if we remember it not so perfectly?  Remembrance isn’t something you can hold in your hands anyway.  The beauty of a photo is its ability to capture a second of time forever for you to return to whenever you want. With such power why would you choose to control it with posing, standing, and rigid smiles? You miss so much living with incessant clicking and directing. Life isn’t a movie, its life – breathing, screaming and laughing living. If a photo is blurry it’s because it should be.

There is a photo of my wedding that was taken on the porch of the house we rented for our reception. It’s a huge photo of my husband’s entire family with us, the happy couple. I don’t think I’ve looked at it since I received it from a family member shortly after the wedding. Months before I had specifically asked that the posed photography be kept to a minimum. We felt very strongly about it, but despite my wishes on my wedding day, the gathering still occurred. If it had been the only instance, I wouldn’t have cared. But it wasn’t. A few guests even stood next to the actual hired photographer and took the same pictures he was taking. It doesn’t make me sad any more that this happened. To be honest, I was not at all surprised. Yet sitting next to the rosemary plants on each table were disposable cameras for the guests to use to take their own photos of the day. Although many of them are blurred and some of them just didn’t develop, those are my favorite photos – and the ones I cherish above all the posed and professional photos. When you put them all together, they may be blurred and I don’t always look the way I would choose, but you get a sense of how much fun we had that day, how young we all were and how much was going on.  They give me many more minutes of remembrance than any posed, family picture. In those blurs and imperfections, I let my memories step in and fill in the spaces between. That’s what a good photo should do.

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They’re all that’s left you.

 

 

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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.

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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…

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muliebrity


muliebrity n. womanly qualities; womanhood

 

 

Muliebrity

by Sujata Bhatt

I have thought so much about the girl

who gathered cow-dung in a wide, round basket

along the main road passing by our house

and the Radhavallabh temple in Maninagar.

I have thought so much about the way she                                             5

moved her hands and her waist

and the smell of cow-dung and road-dust and wet canna lilies,

the smell of monkey breath and freshly washed clothes

and the dust from crows’ wings which smells different –

and again the smell of cow-dung as the girl scoops                             10

it up, all these smells surrounding me separately

and simultaneously – I have thought so much

but have been unwilling to use her for a metaphor,

for a nice image – but most of all unwilling

to forget her or to explain to anyone the greatness                                15

and the power glistening through her cheekbones

each time she found a particularly promising

mound of dung –

Many times when I begin these posts I will use a Google search to get myself motivated or to generate some ideas. I had never read this poet before today, but I can say that this poem captures the full meaning of the word. When I chose the word, I started thinking about what makes a woman “womanly” – outside of physical appearances and the ability to bear children. Is there a grace that women possess simply because they are just women? What exactly makes a woman “womanly”?

 There is a huge difference between being pretty, pink and girly and being womanly – and it has nothing to do with body weight. I find it interesting that our society labels clothing for females above a size 12 a woman – and everything under her as juniors or misses. As if having a larger ass means you are more mature and matronly. However, it raises an interesting point about the relationship between female anatomy and this idea of womanhood. Larger breasts and hips used to be what defined beauty. A young lady was deemed a woman once she passed out of puberty and developed the trademarks of her sex. Even until the 1950’s, “t & a” were essential to being considered the height of womanly beauty. Today there is no doubting that the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren were women – not girls. I’m not going to make the analogy to our current societal predilections of beauty – you already know what there is to say about that. I just think it’s a little sad that the feminist movement is most likely to blame for this drastic change.

I drive around with my son a lot and I see these bumper stickers everywhere that say “Save the Tatas.” I know breast cancer is a devastating disease and one that I might have to face in my lifetime if statistics say anything, but these bumper stickers offend me. It’s like having a bumper sticker on my car for testicular cancer that says “Save the Sacks” or “Don’t Bust My Balls.” I doubt the man with testicular cancer would find it funny. It’s not that I think that breasts have super powers, but God did give them to only women so we should probably honor them. We have Playboy, the plastic surgery industry and Victoria’s Secret to exploit them already. Can we please not degrade them further by calling them “tatas” on the same vehicles we shuttle around the future of women of America in?

There is something more to womanhood than boobs, though. A certain grace  (regardless of how clumsy they are) that women possess in their movements, actions and auras. Maybe it’s in our eyes or the sway of our walk or the fact that we can give birth to a child. I’m not quite sure there’s any way to pin exactly what it is down, and I think that it’s better that way. We need to keep it secret so no one exploits it and gives it a goofy name.

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diaphanous


diaphanous adj. (of fabric) light, delicate or translucent

Image

I don’t think of babies as being light, airy and delicate. Perhaps it is because my own son is a toddler now and destruction seems always in his wake. Sure. Babies are delicate and “diaphanous” in some ways. In the grand scheme of life, however, I believe that at birth we are our strongest…let me explain.

When we are born, we are new. All of our parts have been oiled and our bones and skin have never been used. We are taken out of our packaging and arrive into the world in a most dramatic way. Even our lungs have never breathed air before. And from that day of birth, we grow to be more and more used. When my son walks around, he seems so solid and strong – like his legs are made of steel – but each day they learn a pattern, a gait. They get worn in.

It is as if the world erodes us and makes us more light and delicate as we journey through life. “Diaphanous” makes me think of the delicate, translucent skin of an old woman’s hands…or the thinning white, wispy hair of my long deceased grandmothers. And why cannot this be as beautiful as birth and youth? The fact the the world has washed away the newness of a person the same way the ocean waters erode the land and shores? I think it is just as beautiful, if not more so.

I think it best to live life in quest of losing more and more of yourself. Life is to let the world take of you what it will until there is nothing left. Sometimes perhaps it will be pain that leaves a permanent scar, but other times it will be the joy of laughter that will force a dozen breaths from your lungs…never to return again – permanent and beautiful all the same.

We are born with the strength of steel, and if we are lucky die with the delicate lightness of lace.

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abscission


abscission n. the process by which parts of a plant break off naturally, e.g. dead leaves

I suppose I could wax poetic about the beauty of fallen leaves and autumn. I could dig up some obscure Robert Frost poem and post it on here – and I do love me some Robert Frost – but that’s not what came to mind when I chose this word. I instantly thought of this scene from one of my favorite martial arts movies, Hero. Kung Fu movies are good for Fridays and this particular scene is marvelously beautiful.

There is a certain beauty in the life of a leaf. Right now as I write this I am looking out of my window into the yard and there are thousands of leaves blooming. They start out as little white flowers on some trees and big, stinky purple flowers on others. Spring is their youthful, child stage. Then the summer comes and they turn tough and green to withstand the heat and thunderstorms – like adults. They find employment in the Summer giving shade to people and children. Then as the Autumn approaches they turn wonderful, mature colors – unlike the delicate pinks and whites of the Spring. They are older, wiser and approaching their abscission. Then they fall and carpet the ground, seeding the earth for the next Spring. We go through months of cold without the company of leaves. Even the trees look sad to be so barren. But then they return in the Spring. It’s amazing how we overlook the beauty of such an amazing thing because it is in such abundance. Makes me wonder how much I don’t pay attention to everyday.

This word also makes me thing about this White Stripes song.

 

 

 

 

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opine


opine v. hold and state as ones opinion

I have been bad and haven’t written in a few days as I have been interviewing for a job. My head has not been in the game of learning words recently, but I am back with the word of today.

Opinions are a wonderful thing and, just like assholes, everyone has one. To be quite honest, I am really weary of opinions and politics. I feel like my whole life I have either been talking about what I believe and what everyone else believes, etc. Opinions are complex things. They make or break friendships, they get you fired, they cause dissent. I have always been an opinionated person but lately I have been refraining from opining.

My reasoning is that life is a little more pleasant NOT standing on my soap box. My head is so full of information that I pick up that it’s hard for me to decide what to think sometimes. I also find that my opinion changes over time as I experience and live through more difficulties and good times. As I grow older, I am less likely to opine and more likely to examine my thoughts and keep my opinions personal until I am sure of how I really feel.

At this rate, I hope to have some decisions made about what I really believe by the time I am old and gray. At that time, I will dust off the soap box, get back on it and tell you what I think.

Call me wishy washy, a coward or a loner, but I am tired of being self righteous and determined to have my voice heard. I have to do some research and learning. I want to be fair. Instead of being seen as opinionated and strong I am more interested in being a decent and good person. I want to enjoy life as much as I can and absorb the world around me – for better or for worse.

I have spent my life trying to be something, trying to collect all of the things to use to build a picture of who I am or want to be. I have always had a strong opinion. I have never just let me be me. So instead of looking at things and forming opinions I am going to focus on acceptance and learning to take in all of the world around me without the pressure of having to say what I think. Maybe some meditation…perhaps a few sun salutations…hopefully a prayer or two.

Let’s see how long this lasts…

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rodomontade


rodomontade n. boastful or inflated talk or behaviour

Dorothy Parker is one of my favorite poets because of her sarcasm and cynicism. She has the ability to wrap these two qualities into a rhyme. This word reminded me of her poem ‘Braggart’…

Braggart

by Dorothy Parker 

The days will rally, wreathing
Their crazy tarantelle;
And you must go on breathing,
But I’ll be safe in hell.

Like January weather,
The years will bite and smart,
And pull your bones together
To wrap your chattering heart.

The pretty stuff you’re made of
Will crack and crease and dry.
The thing you are afraid of
Will look from every eye.

You will go faltering after
The bright, imperious line,
And split your throat on laughter,
And burn your eyes with brine.

You will be frail and musty
With peering, furtive head,
Whilst I am young and lusty
Among the roaring dead.

Rodomontade is one of my least favorite things in the world. I find braggarts to be the most insufferable of all individuals. I like the poem above because it captures the caustic emotions that one feels having to listen to a rodomontade.

In pondering the act of bragging and its relation to narcissism, I’ve come to thinking upon self esteem. Every one these days talks about how self esteem is so very important to living a happy life. Attending Catholic school in my younger years led me to believe that self esteem was very similar to pride…even hubris if taken to extremes. I was taught to avoid too much of it and to strive for humility. However, too much humility can make you a pretty sad kid, unless of course you are a saint (which is rare.)

So how much self esteem is the right amount? It’s not a good thing to have none at all as you become a door mat and most likely depressed. Having too much makes you an insufferable narcissist. Like everything else in this world, we have to walk a fine line and find the balance. The world needs braggarts and narcissists as much as it needs martyrs and saints. Without the contrasting personalities we would not be able to appreciate the truly good and the shockingly evil. Everyone needs both the angel and the devil on their shoulders.

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midland


midland n. the middle part of a country

“It’s middle earth, you dumb ass…not midland earth,” she said with a mocking grin.

“But technically shouldn’t Tolkien have called it Midland Earth since it was in the middle of the country? Isn’t that really what he meant?,” I said trying to sound intelligent having never read any Tolkien.

“No, not at all. Tolkien used the term Middle Earth as a reflection of time in the earths history, not a physical place on the earth. If he meant the midland of earth it would have been somewhere in the Atlantic…the nearest country being Ghana”, she said matter-of-factly. “To clarify, the midland of North America would be Nebraska or Kansas, roughly.”

“Also the “midland” of nowhere,” I laughed. She smirked and giggled slightly with her face quickly returning to a serious expression underneath her horn rimmed glasses and ruddy face. We went on pulling out the lawn and staring down.

It was an unusual March. I say unusual because the seasons seemed to have mixed themselves up and instead of Lion marching in, the Lamb lounged in the unseasonable 70 degree heat. Short sleeves and flip flops abounded as we enjoyed the uncanny weather that hinted at the splendor the Spring and Summer had in store. School was out early for conferences and we sat on my front lawn tearing out the grass my father had toiled so hard to cultivate yet remained patchy nonetheless.

I never pretended to be smart nor did I want to be. If I could really be anything it would have been athletic or popular, by no means smart. Smart was for people like Agnes with her library of dog eared Tolkien stories and coke bottle glasses. I could have been smart. I had the genes…I just always strove for the unattainable…the intangible quality that I had no chance of attaining. So at the age of 12, I achieved a profound level of mediocrity striving to be something special. If mediocrity was a country, I most certainly would have been it’s midland…

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