Monthly Archives: September 2006

Thought bubbles… common sense… struggles with imperfection… & a new friend

My husband returned from a trip to England at the beginning of this week toting a cold. Regardless of consuming large quantities of Airborne tablets (straight up… “Oh, I let them dissolve on my tongue… they fizzle… I ate a whole containerful and bought another one over there… maybe that’s why I’m farting like a horse…”) he managed to catch the cold that everyone seems to be ailing from, including about half of the folks in my office. I’m hoping that this is the strain that I caught middle of August and that I will be spared from a second round.

Thought bubbles—
…coughing, incessant coughing… and some snorting, too
“Are you going to take anything for that?” I ask.
“I dunno what to take… what should I take?” he inquires.
(I dunno… we have a medicine cabinet-ful of potential options… do like I do—and that you invariably make pointed, rather unkind remarks about—and read the fucking labels after you figure out what ails you)
“Well… how do you feel? Is your nose stuffy? Does your throat hurt? Are you achey?”
“Yeah, my nose is stuffy… my throat hurts… I’m coughing… but I’m not achey…”
(Okay… something with a decongestant, an antihistamine but no pain/fever reliever…)

Common sense—
Well, I’d like to say that I have it, but it eludes even me sometimes… As I lay in bed last night, after being awakened by an assault of into-my-face-coughing … uh-oh… I feel another thought bubble coming on… (if I manage to avert the possibility of catching this cold, it will be a fucking miracle)… I wonder why I can’t fall back asleep again, even after Steve leaves the bed to sleep on the LaZboy… my heart’s pounding like nobody’s business. It feels like there’s a rollercoaster in there and my heart muscles are having a grand old time… then I remember… I’ve had altogether TOO much caffeine during the day… a get-me-going morning cup of Peet’s coffee at the office… a cup of coffee at the Daily Grill (my bosses took me to lunch today just ‘cuz)… a glass of Diet Coke with my Indian dinner and the last batch of caffeine consumption was after our Barnes & Noble/Starbucks stop, when I picked up a chai tea latte. I really need to limit myself to one cup… I’ve been doing okay with that.

A new friend—
On the other hand, my Barnes and Noble visit bore fruit… not only of the book variety (yes, I did previously mention that I’m a book whore… that has not changed), but I also made a new acquaintance. During my wandering about the store I meandered into the Eastern Philosophy aisle and was welcomed by a woman sitting in the middle of it, with a collection of Dalai Lama books strewn about her. I couldn’t resist asking her whether she’d heard him speak at the California Governor’s Conference for Women earlier this week.
She said “No! Did you? Did you go to see heem?” (note the French accent)
I said “No, I didn’t go, but it was webcast, and I watched that from my computer at home.”
“What did he speak about?” she asked.
“He is so funny! He made me laugh! He did not share any deep teachings. It was mostly common sense things… general life counseling.” I said.
Noting the accent and never one to deny myself this query…
“Do you speak French?” I asked.
“Yes! I’m from Switzerland.” she replied.

We continued on with our conversation, switching back and forth between French and English, and I discovered that she has been a student of buddhism for about a decade. I am rather new to buddhism. Essentially, the fundamental philosophies are based on the Vedas, the same ancient sanskrit writings that the many facets of hinduism are based upon. I always wonder why one way would be preferable (in a spiritual sense) to another way. The fundaments of all teachings are very similar. It’s when you get into the esotherica that it becomes more complicated and consequently more rewarding and/or taxing on the follower. I’ve always been one to refuse to be mired down by dogma… I can’t imagine how eating with one hand and not the other will make a difference to God… or that I will disgrace myself before God by not covering my head because I am a woman.

I’d never heard the Dalai Lama speak before. He is the funniest person! He had a spritely look about him… a mischievous smile that was infectious. Maria Shriver asked him several questions throughout his forty-five minute address to the crowd, and his replies were simple… common sense. I marvel at our modern-day inability to distill a situation down to its simplest element. We are so bogged down by the “reality” of life that we can’t cut through all the bullshit and find a simple answer to our basic needs.

Fabienne and I talk some more, and she asks me what it is that I am looking for. Quite honestly, I’m not sure. When I left home at eighteen for an ashram, my intention was to become a brahmin… I wanted to wear the string and the priviledge of knowing the gyatri mantra. I wanted liberation from this bodily experience… I wanted off this karma ride. I studied the Bhagavad Gita, the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, attended artis and even performed the Tulasi arti myself on some days. But, during this whole time, something kept gnawing at me. I’d not only adapted the philosophy, I’d adopted the way of life down to the threads (I wore a sari). Living in a Western community, this somehow did not make any sense. Secluded, essentially, from the rest of the population (or “karmis” as non-believers were addressed amongst ourselves), it was not so difficult to uphold the precepts of the philosphy. However, I’d decided that I needed to walk away from that… that if I could not live my life, and find a way to integrate this philosophy into it, then I was not ready to dance among the gopis on Krishna Goloka. So I left.

Last week my Amazon order showed up (yes, there’s the book issue again…) and in it the movie The Little Buddha. Apart from the fact that Keanu plays a role in the movie, and as my son kindly announced to the grocery store last night after seeing the DVD display of A Lake House, “My mom LIKES Keanu…” and then turning to me and saying “Aren’t you going to buy this movie? Don’t you want every Keanu movie?” …to which I replied “No…” I did want to see The Little Buddha. I was delighted with the portrayal of Siddartha. When I’d read about buddhism in my earlier years, I was quite miffed with Siddartha. How could he possibly leave his wife and newborn baby behind to follow the road to enlightenment? I still think that he should have taken responsibility for the raising of his son, though given the cultural circumstances, the child would not have had a whole lot of parental nurturing anyway. So… back to the movie… I watch as Siddartha becomes an ascetic monk, until he comes to the realization, as I did, that we are here in this body for a reason, and we need to deal with it as much as we do with our mind and spirit. It needs to be honored, not ignored. The middle way was born. How profound. Now I must read on, and see if it makes sense to me.

For the longest time I’d been resentful of being here, on this world, in this body. I’ve done just about everything to this body… abused it mercilessly… and yet it is still here. I don’t always like it, and it certainly isn’t the embodiment of perfection, but it’s stuck with me and by this virtue has shown itself to be quite indispensible. While I do imagine that if I was given the choice of getting off the wheel of Samsara, I would choose not to return… but then, perhaps, I would feel a sense of obligation to the world and its souls and want to return, just so that perhaps I can reach the one person who really needs to hear what I have to say.

Spinning wildly out of control…

Yup, that’s me. And I’d like to attribute the sprained back muscle to the wild spinning, but the truth of the matter is that I did it in a most undignified manner… bending over in the john to pick up one of those cowboy hats (otherwise known as toilet seat covers) that had fallen onto the floor, with my knickers pooled around my ankles. Yeah, too much information, I know.

So… back to the wild spinning. Although I overheard a suggestion for a trip to Magic Mountain this weekend, this has nothing to do with an amusement park ride. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I get so frustrated with myself sometimes… The Critic shows up (uninvited) and proceeds to wreak havoc to what little confidence I’ve managed to muster up with regard to my skill as an artist (or writer). I sit before the blank sheets of paper and balk. My stomach churns. I break out in a sweat. I think of the myriad other things I need to take care of instead of focusing on the task at hand. My mind wanders. I fantasize about Keanu Reeeves (did I just say that? I was kidding…). I think of the laundry that needs to be sorted by color and weight, schlepped out onto the balcony and loaded into the washer, then the dryer… then schlepped back inside and folded and put away. I think about the laps on the treadmill I ought to be doing (not to mention the crunches).

I decide that watching the Matrix movie with my kid is much more appealing than to sit down and draw something, particularly when it’s due to someone in a few days. Researching the mythology embedded into the movie seems to make far better use of my time than to work on anything substantive (like the story I was going to write and stopped writing half a year or so ago)… particularly when I discover that The Merovingian links that I unearth scream “conspiracy” and this sucks me in like a vacuum, as I trail from one weblink to the next, and finally go to bed with my head feeling like a bowl stuffed full of wet cottonballs. I lay down alone, as I’ve been doing for the better part of twelve of my thirteen years of marriage (unless of course it’s one of “those” nights [wink, wink] which for the most part is a less desirable option at times than the half empty bed part, because even on those nights I end up drifting off to sleep by myself once the deed is done. It’s a cruel form of pay-back for every one night stand that I initiated which resulted in my partners feeling cheap and used.

And then I wake before the crack of dawn, after hitting the snooze button more times than I ought to, which renders me late to work, and hence leaving the office later at the tail end of my work day, and starts the whole maniacal cycle over again.

Truth of the matter is (I say that often, don’t I?) I’m not feeling particularly inspired these days. I haven’t been for a while, and I feel so full of shit when I try to drum something up that really isn’t authentic, if you know what I mean? Truth of the matter is… I am bored. My life is like a scene out of Groundhog Day (only different)… same shit, different day… and I just can’t seem to shake that gad-awful feeling and get worked up about something enough to overcome that dreadful sinking feeling.

I’m stuck in the black hole of The Corporate World, at the lowliest end of it, right along with the bottom feeders of the deep. We’re a necessary and useful group, to be sure, but don’t make much of an impression, and the grand entrances are carried out by the bigger fish. Nobody really gives a shit about you, except when you don’t follow the rules. And lordy, there certainly are a litany of rules… a whole “employee’s manual”-worth, biblical in breadth (yeah, so what if I’m exaggerating a wee bit).

There are days I just feel like running away… far, far, away. I remember reading about a fugue state in one of Dean Koontz’ books, where folks run, saliva foaming at the mouth and everything, until they finally collapse. I imagine, at times, that that would be a preferable state. And then feel horribly guilty about even thinking about running away, because I do, after all, have a smallish child (though I can attest that he has a disproportionally BIG mouth at times). The phrase “freedom of choice” smacks of oxymoron to me. Do I have a choice? Well… yeah… between a rock and a hard place, and in my most humble opinion, that isn’t much of a choice at all.

Piece of (my) mind…

For many years now, I’ve been trying (and I think largely succeeding) in consolidating the different aspects of my personality so that I am as authentic at all times as I can possibly be, with all people. It’s taken a lot of work… constant effort and diligence in questioning my actions, my motivations, and wondering whether I’m behaving in a certain way because of what my innermost workings subscribe, or because of exterior circumstances. If it’s the latter, then I need to reexamine myself and make sure to behave in a manner consistent with who I am on a core level when faced with a similar choice in the future.

Today was a trying day. There are days when I marvel at the world. I marvel at how we naively assume that peace can be achieved worldwide when peace, in the smallest of microcosms (one department of a large corporation… or within a family unit), seems to elude us. We continue to be preoccupied with such artifice as what brand of clothes we wear, whether we are thin or not, worry about the number of wrinkles and old age spots we sport, what neighborhood we live in, (amongst various and sundry equally vapid considerations) and measure all others against these set of ‘rules’ and our personal interpretation of what is and is not acceptable. We are so full of shit.

Once, a great man said “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what can you do for your country.” This theory works on a smaller scale as well. We are so preoccupied as to whether we are being equitably treated that we forget how to treat those around us equitably. My gauge has always been “would I like to be treated in this way?” when I’m saying or doing something. Apparently, the golden rule, though many of us proclaim to be Christians, somehow has lost its relevance, particularly when it comes to gauging our own actions. It seems it only applies in a single direction. Really, I believe that it is the ONE rule that should be upheld, as it is the simplest to embrace, and encompasses all. Don’t do it if hurts.

I’d never heard President Kennedy’s inaugural speech. It occurred several years before I was born, and being a Canadian, it was not something that was requisite course material throughout my schooling. I finally read the whole thing and was moved. The same issues that affected the world then are still pertinent now. How is it that most of half a century has elapsed and we still have only marginally progressed toward achieving the very noble goals listed in this speech, either on a personal, national or global level?

So here is that famous January 20, 1961 inaugural address, in its entirety:

Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom – symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning – signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

This much we pledge – and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do – for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom – and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required – not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge – to convert our good words into good deeds – in a new alliance for progress – to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbours know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support – to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective – to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak – and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course – both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.

So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms – and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah – to “undo the heavy burdens -. and to let the oppressed go free.”

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavour, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again – not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation” – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shank from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

And so… think on it… what if greed was replaced by charity… if hatred was replaced with love… if desolation was replaced with hope and faith, not in our respective Gods, but in each other? Imagine…

Keanu take two…

Pencil sketch

Ever the perfectionist, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. My earlier sketch of Keanu wasn’t very accurate… it was missing his spirit. Something was off… his eyes… something. So I decided to try my hand at it again, and came up with the above. Much better. The first one was rendered using an image directly on the computer… the second one was a printed image. It appears the latter, in my case, yields superior results. Still not perfect… but close enough.

The need for speed…

Photo circa 1967
(Click to see enlarged view in separate window)

The need for speed isn’t a new thing with me (witness the photo above, at the ripe old age of three). My first motorcycle ride was when I was five, during a trip to Hungary. I was already mightily impressed with my big cousin, Dani, but after a ride on his motorcycle, I became a permanent fixture by his side. He plopped me, helmetless, on top of the gas tank, and off we went. I still remember the exhilaration I felt as the wind blew at my face and whipped my hair around, but I felt safe leaning into Dani with my back. I have no idea what type of motorcycle it was (see photo… Vera, Dani’s wife, Edit, my cousin and Dani’s sister and Dani).

Dani passed away several years ago, a victim to cancer (of the lung, if I’m not mistaken… he was a smoker). I’ve lost many to cancer in my family… many cousins and aunts and uncles on my mother’s side, and my father as well. Some of it could have been avoided, perhaps, as in the case of my father, who got lung cancer as well. He smoked Camel plain, and worked at MacDonald Tobacco, a Canadian subsidiary for RJ Reynolds, as a machine fitter. I often wonder whether cancer is mostly a genetic ailment, or whether it is a by-product of the environment.

Well, wouldn’t you know it?

Pencil sketch

I find myself alone this weekend, seeing that Steve’s parents came to pick Gabriel up this morning and spirited him away to Hemet for the next couple of days. Steve, as usual, is gone to cover a race, this time in Philly. So I’m home, alone, with a sprained lumbar muscle. What kind of trouble can I get myself into do you think?

Well, I’ve finally lost it. I’m about to air my deepest, darkest, most annoyingly embarassing secret… I have a crush on Keanu Reeves. I haven’t the foggiest idea when it started, or how, but alas, there it is. My friend Bonnie tells me that it’s normal… she used to fantasize about bumping into Ringo Starr in an elevator, and carrying on a conversation with him. She also tells me that it’s because I’m bored and need an escapist fantasy… something to pull me out of the mundane that is my life. I’ve no doubt that’s true.

During my first year of college my sister had a similar thing going on with George Harrison during a particular trying time of her first marriage. Copious amounts of cheap wine was consumed while listening to old Beatles and George Harrison albums. She took it as a divine sign that she had received an invitation to the Hare Krishna temple for Sunday feast and dragged me along with her. Funny thing is, I got sucked in, hook, line and sinker, and on the eve of my eighteenth birthday, left home with my record albums, make-up and clothes to move into the temple ashram. This was, of course, while my parents were conveniently away on a Hawaiian vacation.

During my time there, my sister reconsidered this whole Hare Krishna business, left her husband, donned a pair of fushia lycra pants, went discoing and found herself a real live fixation instead of an imaginary one. She stopped going to the temple and couldn’t figure out what it was that kept me there. I eventually left, almost half a year later, of my own accord… but not after causing much grief and angst within the family (my mom was ready to consult the Yellow Pages for a deprogrammer… hahahha… now that’s funny!). I left the temple, but kept the nose ring, at least for a while. This was before facial piercings on white people was considered “normal”, and my mom, never one to keep an opinion to herself, told me I looked like a pig that was about to be led to the market for sale and slaughter. I finally took it out, figuring I’d never find a boyfriend if I kept it in, and a boyfriend was mostly what I wanted out of life. I was an eighteen year old virgin. That had to be fixed.

So… back from my tangent to Keanu… I think I feel a sort of kinship with him, I suppose. Though he, I’m sure (and unlike myself), has no shortage of people vying for his attention, he seems to be a self-inflicted loner. I’ve been one for most of my life, and although it was not my intention to be this way, that is pretty much the long and short of it. Why? Well, mostly my choice in companions, I suppose, and the fact that I lack the social graces required of someone with an active social life (I think the BS gene skipped me, and though that has a potentially negative aspect, I am for the most part grateful for it). However, how I managed to pick a mate that is forever absent, both physically (a whole lot) and emotionally (more so), I can not say. My greatest joy and companion remains my son, who will someday grow up and move on with the rest of his life, and I will need to contend with what is left of mine. I wasn’t asking for a whole lot out of a mate… or perhaps I was hoping for the impossible. Respect. Love. Affection. Cooperation. Mutual spiritual growth. A sort of communion of the body and soul.

Instead, I have a husband who largely leaves me to my own devices, because I’m not sure he really knows (or cares to know) what else to do with me. It’s a good thing my libido sucks, because I would certainly have the time and opportunity to become a floosy. It’s a good thing that my retail therapy issues have largely been curbed, because we’d have even less money than we do, and an apartment-ful of useless shit to prove it. Nope… I prefer to a) pour my heart and soul into my art (call it art therapy) or b) delve into a book (call it escapism). As the third option, if I had a motorcycle, and I could actually shift it out of first gear AND not drop it, I’d probably be out riding.

Okay… back from my second tangent to Keanu… I marvel at how someone such as he can be alone. Heck, if I could find someone willing to hang out with me, how is it possible that he has not? Is it that he’s made some poor choices in mates? Is it that he has a huge bundle of baggage that no self-respecting, sane, person is willing to tackle (so he’s left with just the nut-jobs who turn his life into a living hell)? Does he have some annoying or gross habits that no one is willing to put up with? Is he a lousy lover? I suppose, collectively or separately, I could have qualified for any one of these points at some point in my life… but not now.

And so finally… yesterday was Keanu’s 42nd birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. Reeves… soulful wishes that you will find what your heart most desires this coming year.

Kim Starett’s Sisters of the Soul Journal

Sisters of the Soul Journal Round Robin
Pencil, Pen & Ink and watercolor
(Click to see enlarged view in separate window)

I received this book a while ago, and had been ruminating on what to add for some time now. The book itself is a 12 x 12 scrapbook album, with plastic sleeves into which pages have been added. The directive by the originator, Kim Starett, was to depict what was in our soul… or what moved our souls. My heart and soul work together as one, and so I chose to depict that. Both this book and Winter Wren’s book will be heading out on Tuesday, to the next person.