Category: Philosophy

Joy to the World

Driving home today, i passed 2 houses with decorated Christmas trees in their windows. It’s not even 2 weeks past Halloween. I don’t know why i’m surprised. There is a station here that has already gone to playing exclusively Christmas songs. Like, 24/7 Peggy Lee and the Chipmunks. And it makes me so sad.

Don’t get me wrong, i love Christmas. It’s just that there is a whole lot happening between now and then. Concentrating on something that is still a month and a half away somehow makes me wonder if we aren’t wasting all the days until then.

The most obvious potential loss is Thanksgiving. I mean, a holiday completely centered on gratitude and food… How absolutely wonderful is that? True, it has it’s origins in a terribly euro-centric and racist period in our history (John Stewart once put it perfectly: “I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”) But over the years, as we examine the errors of our past, the holiday has come to be less about our stomping on the rights of indigenous peoples and more about being thankful for all that we have. For one whole day, we all stop whining and griping. I love it. But even excluding Turkey Day, there are Chanukah, the Solstice, Diwali, and probably a bunch of other holidays that i could google up that come before Rudolph charges his nose light.

Perhaps more important than the holidays, though, are all the things that will happen that aren’t pre-marked on the calendar by Hallmark. There will be birthdays. Children will come home with report cards, and science and art projects, and exams that deserve praise and celebration. There will be sports games, and sappy movies, and toasted marshmallows. There will be hugs and kisses from people important to you. There will be comforting snuggles from your pets and children. There will be delicious meals, happy coincidences, days that sing with the beauty of autumn. Perfect cups of coffee, nights spent in freshly washed sheets, and once-a-year notes from people of your past. The list goes on and on.

If we spend all our time wishing and preparing for something in the future, it will be easy for us to miss the great things in the present.

And before you say it, i do realize that this year brings its own challenges in finding joy. Gatherings with family and friends will be much smaller this year, and some will have to forgo it entirely. Kissing under the mistletoe will be exclusively with the one you’ve been kissing already (If you are lucky enough to have had someone to kiss.) And it’s hard to smell the fragrant smoke of a firepit if you have a mask on. Global pandemics suck. But they shouldn’t, and mustn’t, rob every bit of happiness from our lives. As humans, our souls needs those moments as much as our bodies need air to breathe. For those of us who suffer from depression, those moments are even more important. When we are stuck in a pit of despair, sometimes a clear night sky full of stars, a languorous bath, or a giggle from baby is all we need to get one foot on a ledge to climb out of that hole.

Little happy moments are magic.

So before you start going full-throttle into holiday preparations, take a moment to reflect and enjoy all the small morsels of joy that will happen between now and then. Maybe even create some of those moments for others. Write a note, take a walk with a friend, smile at a stranger. Make and take joy in those moments that are gifted to us each day. I can’t promise that every day will be grand, but even if your day has only one little silver lining, it’s a nugget that would have been missed if your mind were on next month. Just like the pocket coins that you keep in a big jar to turn in, the small change, small moments, add up to a whole lot after a while. Keep them.

Live well, my friends. Savor each moment. Christmas will come soon enough.

You Can Name Your Dog “Giraffe”, But He’s Still Gonna Bark

I was out dress shopping today. My niece is getting married, and my closet shrunk my tuxedo. (I hate when it does that.) I will eventually get another, but they aren’t easy to find, so i decided to get a dress for the occasion.

Off i go to a department store that i knew would have some options.

I’m not a fan of clothes shopping, and even less so of crowded department stores. Thankfully, after 52 years on this earth, i know what i like and what generally works for me. So i make a circular pass of the “special occasion” section and grab about a dozen potentials. I don’t look at brands or tags. Just grab what “looks like me” and seems about the right size.

Into the changing room. I take the corner stall. The other two are occupied by teenagers shopping for homecoming.

I really wish Chattanooga had a Nordstroms or something. Far too many of the options were decidedly stuck in “Bible Belt Grandmother” zone. Between my currently blue hair and the ink scattered about my body, it’s pretty obvious that most of these styles would probably jump off my body like a socialite off the Titanic. But i tried to make the best of it. You know, i mean, sometimes things that look like your Aunt Gertrude’s favorite tablecloth on the hanger might look better on a body. And polyester isn’t ALL bad.

I start trying them on, one by one. Well, except for the one that got stuck halfway over the ducks. I damned near had to ask one of the highschool girls for help… Except that my arms were stuck in the dress too, so i don’t know how i would have let them in. I did manage to get it off without ripping a seam. I should win a Houdini award for my efforts.

If i ever go truly bonkers, instead of a straightjacket, just shove a sequined grandma dress over my head in a size 6. That should keep me contained for a while.

By the time i got to the very last dress, i was D O N E. Disheartened, disenchanted, and disgusted. I felt lumpy and dumpy and frumpy. Thankfully, my mood was about to be spared.

The last dress didn’t look like much on the hanger. A knit blush-colored sheath with silver sparkles. A bit generic, but i liked the sparkles. (I refuse to offer up an excuse for that.) So i unzip and step into it. It’s about a half-size too big, but given my recurring cravings for ice cream lately, that isn’t a bad thing. I checked it out in the 3 way mirror. Belly bulge is only about a 2  or 3 on a 10 scale, cleavage is barely within “appropriate for church”, and it even makes me look like i have an ass that isn’t a husband or boyfriend. Not bad! I can do this!

I check the price tag. Redline. And today’s sale means another 50% off that.


I’m pretty sure i giggled out loud as i went back into the changing room to finish up. I took off the dress and put it back on the hanger.

That’s when i saw it.

The size tag.

Now, just 15 minutes before, i had been talking with the young girls in the other room and reassuring them that they looked beautiful. That they weren’t too big. Or bumpy. Or unsightly. They were just right and their dates were sure to be pleased. (And not just because i had seen both in other dresses that barely covered their underoos.) I gave them the whole feminist momma view. And i meant it. For them.

For me, however, that was different. I’ve been a size 8 for the last 5 years. A 10 if it won’t stretch to cover the ducks. But this dress was a 14!


The intellectual in my head knows that a tag is just a tag. Heaven knows where they get their fit models, or if they are even remotely industry standard. My desk job has me bigger than my old size 6, but i am still healthy and vital and well within acceptable BMI for my age.

But the diva in me was horrified.

How could i have let this happen? I mean, yes, i’ve been eating Hagen Daz every night, but only a third of a pint. That’s moderation, right? I mean, my only other vice lately has been a jumbo bag of black licorice. (Side note: Don’t eat a dozen pieces in one sitting. It ends badly. Trust me on this one. ) I haven’t been gorging on cheese or bacon. I haven’t been drinking. And i haven’t been any more lazy than usual. It’s hard enough being 52 and single. But 52 and 3 sizes up from my usual?

The world must never know. I can’t get the dress. I can’t. Because it would be admitting i wasn’t what i thought i was. Even as i thought it, i knew it was garbage, but i couldn’t shake it.

Mind you, the reality that no one was likely to ever see the inside of that dress, regardless of the tag, never crossed my mind. This isn’t a Vince Vaughn movie. I’ll be disrobing in the dark with my dog. And doggie can’t read. And doggie don’t care anyway.

Like i said, i wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking that if i purchased a size 14 dress, i was somehow devaluing myself.

But then i thought about the likelihood of finding one i liked as much, and finding it at such a bargain besides… All within the next 2 weeks… Sigh. I knew i was going to have to swallow my pride. So i started giving myself the same lecture i gave the girls earlier. I can’t honestly say it made it any easier, even if i knew i was right. There is something about a tag that can destroy a person’s self-confidence. Even when we know the number is meaningless.

I often shop at a store called Chico’s. They size their clothes much differently. In their line, i wear a 0 or 0.5. And yes, it does kind of make me feel special to be able to go straight to the “Size 0” rack. But the reality is, the pants that i bought there last week fit as well as the size 14 dress i bought today. Obviously, the number is just a number and bears no consistent definition when it comes to clothing. Neither the 0, nor the 14. They are, obviously, essentially the same, since my same body can fit into them. Just like a “natural” label on a carton of eggs, or “fair and honest” on a political ad, those numbers are just constructs with little concrete meaning. Infusing them with importance is just, well, daft.

Labels, in general, are meant to be guides as to where things fit. Clothes, countries, people… We slap them with tags in an effort to find a place for them in our brains’ file cabinets. That size is big. That country is backward. That person is different. But the labels really have very little meaning. There is no industry standard. All of our measuring sticks are in different units of measure, and we all use different fit models. “Civilized” by your standards may not be the same as “civilized” by mine. “Eccentric” by my standards is probably different from yours. Hell, even more concrete terms like “dark” and “light”… Other than the extremes, the rest is just opinion.

So why do we place so much importance in them?

As usual, i don’t really have an answer. Someone in some prestigious psych / sociology program is probably spending more hours than i have to study and figure it out. I’ll leave it to them. But i hope the next time a label hits you in the face like a dirty diaper, you will be able to calm yourself by remembering that “label” doesn’t equal “truth”. Either something fits, or it doesn’t. The label doesn’t change that.

You can name your dog “Giraffe”, but he’s still gonna bark.

Ruminating on Luminating

I decided a couple of days ago that it was time to buckle down hard on the self-care. Ok, truth be told, i’ve been telling myself that for months, but i haven’t been good about doing it. As a result, i am exhausted. Flat out burnt. I haven’t any energy to do anything good, but i can’t seem to sleep through the night either. And it’s my own fault. I haven’t spent enough time outdoors. I haven’t been exercising. I’ve been spending far too much time in front of the laptop. And i’ve not been making time for much fun. I’ve made small efforts here and there, but not consistently. It has been like a very badly played game of hopscotch.

The day i had finally had enough, i decided that, to help myself sleep better, i would try to stretch and meditate. And of course, that was a dismal failure. I don’t meditate well when my brain is fresh, so it is never going to work when my brain is a piece of gluten-free, whole grain bread that’s been left unbagged on the counter for months.

That night, as i lay in bed trying to decide if the noise in my head is the frogs and crickets outside my window or just terrible tinnitus, i promised myself that i would so something spiritual this weekend.

Fast forward to this morning, when i woke from a night of tossing and turning, showered, dressed and headed to  the Friends meeting across town. I hadn’t been in a couple years, so i was a little nervous. But the Quaker gathering is the one type of church where i never feel misplaced. In general, it is a very accepting group, dedicated to simplicity and service to fellow man. In fact, i doubt i was the only one there who wasn’t, strictly speaking, Christian. But we all share the common bond of knowing that the particulars aren’t important. The meeting in Chattanooga is unprogrammed, which means that there is no preacher. This isn’t a place where you go to confess, or recite, or be granted forgiveness. This is a place where the Light of each of us as individuals binds together and becomes exponentially stronger. Spiritually ennervating. Meditative. We wait in silence until someone feels moved to speak. Sometimes no one speaks and we all just take in the Peace – The Light that we seek.

The first half of today’s meeting was spent in silence. I closed my eyes and wished my thoughts away. My thoughts, however, had other ideas…

I can’t seem to settle down. I need to relax. Let me do that yoga thing… I tighten and release one muscle group at a time, starting with my toes. I made it all the way to my head and then took in one of those “Deep, cleansing breaths” that is supposed to maintain the stillness. Yah……. Nope.

They’ve changed the light fixtures since i was here last. I think they’ve painted in here too. C’mon Hol, you’re supposed to be quiet. But all the little noises are distracting. I can hear the children upstairs. And the birds outside. Someone is starting coffee. Wait. Did someone just fart? Oh God, that must be so embarrassing. Oh no. Was it me? Did i just fart during a freaking prayer meeting??? I mean, i don’t think it was me. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.It’s so hard not to giggle. C’mon Hol,what are you? 5?  Everyone else is ignoring it, so just move on. Holy hell! There is a wasp in the room! Weird, tho… It doesn’t seem to be interested in bothering anyone. Maybe he knows Friends are pacifists. Doesn’t mean someone won’t squash him, tho. That coffee smells good. Man, i really suck at this meditation thing. I feel like that lemur in that meme where he is sitting there saying, “C’mon inner peace…. I don’t have all day!” I need to restart.

I start that thing where you count your breath as it goes in and out. That lasted for maybe 5 breaths.

Dideedideedideedoooooooo… My brain is a big lump of jelllllloooooooo…. Maybe today wasn’t the best day for me to come. I can’t seem to get into my Spiritual Space. Probably because it has grown a hard shell from disuse. Well, i supposed i have used it, but only superficially. I wonder if that counts? Or does the Universe even keep count? Oh! Sounds like someone is standing….

One of the members begins to speak about how awesome it is that we can meet like this and combine our collective light.  Then another member speaks nostalgically about the history of the church for a couple minutes. Then comes the period when we can all offer up people who need to be held in the Light. Then it is over.

I stuck around long enough to reintroduce myself to a couple people i remembered, and to make new acquaintance with ones i didn’t know. Then i had to head out. I did feel a bit better. Just a bit more energetic. Enough that i actually went outside and did a little gardening after my Sunday chores and a meeting for work. Now i am out on the porch writing this. Maybe it’s not a landmark day, but it’s an improvement. Especially if i am able to get in a little exercise tonight.

Lots of us are in this same spot lately. We are doing a lot, but not the kinds of things that are good for us. We are trudging on with the dailies, while time passes us by and leaves us in the dust. We need to keep reminding ourselves:

If i am busy, i want it to be with fulfilling things, not trivialities.

If i am heavy, i want it to be from good food, not junk food.

If i have wrinkles, i want them to be from laughing, not frowning.

If i have aches and pains, i want them to be from doing things i love, not from allowing myself to get stiff and rusty. 

If i must advance in age, i at least don’t have to get “old”.

And if i die tomorrow, i want to leave behind a life of Love, Light, and Laughter.

Here’s to remembering that daily.




Nadia, Frankie, and Reverend Jim

I am having a love affair with Nadia Bolz-Weber. Not literally, but spiritually.

Like many of us, i have spent much of my life searching for what i believe in. Or rather, refining what i believe in. I often find myself walking that fine line between “I need to work harder to be a better person” and “God/Goddess/ Universe loves me just as i am”. They are not mutually exclusive, but there isn’t a whole lot of crossover. I mean, if i am good enough, then why would i make myself nuts trying to be perfect? But conversely, if the goal is to be someone so far removed from myself that, short of shock-treatment-style exorcism, i don’t stand a chance in hell (literally) of attaining it; i would be a fool not to give up before i started.

I posed this problem to my priest once, decades ago. His response, before hugging me and kissing me on the top of my head,  was, “Why do you do this to me?”

So it seems that even for the clergy, this isn’t an easy issue.

Nor is it solely the issue of any one religion. The contradiction of G/G/U’s love and the striving to live up to the examples of the Holy Books is one that transcends the rivalries between churches. Trying to make a life of doing what is right and knowing you will fail a lot of the time is problematic even for the science-minded, the aesthete, and the apatheist. We all want to be better than we are. And we all know we won’t get to where we want to be. It’s like a supreme, cosmic, existential joke.

If you think about it too much, you will go insane.

But the appearance of people like Bolz-Weber, an improbably coarse but unusually honest Lutheran pastor, make it a little less painful, if only because they assure us that we aren’t alone in our confusion.

There is something comforting in a pastor, particularly a Christian one, admitting that they are in the same quandary that we are. It somehow makes it a bit less lonely and frustrating. After all, if the professionals can’t always make sense of it, then we certainly can’t be expected to!

I am fascinated by the spiritual paths that people take. Christian, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Pagan, Jedi… Matters little to me… It is the way you set your compass and how you deal with times when the path gets overgrown or flooded that intrigue me. Because regardless of what code you follow, there will be times when it isn’t enough. Or when you aren’t enough. And at that moment, we are all the same. Small fragile creatures looking for forgiveness and/or punishment and reassurance.

Life can be grand and funny and transcendental technicolor. But it can also be hard and frustrating and painful. No one gets through it alive, and no one gets through it alone. And whatever kind of pole you need to help you balance while you walk that tightrope of personal and spiritual expectation, more power to you. As His Musical Holiness, Frank Sinatra once said, “Whatever gets you through the night.”

As for me, i’ll keep writing and questioning. Taking it all in and picking out the common thread that binds us all. That thread is what keeps me motivated. That thread is where i find my personal truth, the balance between my self and my goal. And yes, i will waver and fall on occasion. So will you. But as long as we get back on the rope and keep walking, we’ll be ok. As long as we keep reaching out to help others when we see them wobble, it is going to be alright. As long as we are never so sure of the path that we stop watching where we’re going, we will continue to improve.

And whether you pastor is Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, or Jim Ignatowski, i like to think that they all would agree.

I Question, Therefore, I Am… I Think

Sometimes i lay awake at night wondering how much of this is real.

Is all of life like The Matrix , an image that is planted in our brain to give us the illusion of a full life? Do i really have three amazing children? Has it really been nearly 52 years since i was born? Are there really such things as blue skies and flowers and beaches and waterfalls? Am i really human? Is this mattress really so shot that i need to replace it, or is someone manipulating controls in a central processing area that makes me think the surface underneath me is starting to get lumpy?

To the controllers i say, would it kill you to conjure up Liam Neeson at my doorstep?

Or is this all a dream? Am i really still an infant in a crib, and the last 51 years have been nothing but a 5 hour night vision? Am i projecting my own future in some fierce REM state?Will i wake up soon and discover that i am just an insanely prolific and virulent dreamer? And if that is the case, does that make me something special? Some person of previously unseen depth and talent?

Am i some 6 month old future DaVinci?

Maybe i am delusional. I’m really 32. Or 102. And i live in an old shack by the beach. The life that i have is a creation of my own mind. Some kind of daydream i thought up to distract me from a pitiful and lonely existence. A way to escape the fact that i don’t even have 20 cats to keep me company. Maybe this decent, but often frustrating, life is merely my coping mechanism.

If i imagined all this, then why the hell didn’t i make myself a little more financially solid?

Are we characters in some larger beings’ computer game? Or maybe they are really tiny, and we only feel full size because that is how we were programmed. All of our movements and actions are controlled by someone in pajama pants who has had a really crappy day and just needs to escape. Maybe we are SIMS, and our day-to-day is just some 12 year old’s imagination.

In which case, that 12 year old needs to get out more.

And could use a good psychologist.

Maybe i am schizophrenic and all of this is a hallucination. Maybe i am really some mousey brown man who just has brain waves so different that it forked off into a boisterous white female in order to cope with all the dichotomy and chemical imbalance and cross-circuitry. Maybe i have another self that this self isn’t aware of. Two distinct selves unaware of each other – And probably better off that way, as awareness of each other would, i think, be a daily fight for control. Maybe all of us have more than one self, but only the stronger one ever gets the chance to be in the lead. How would we know?

It really makes me question those bouts of short-term memory loss, like forgetting what i came into the room for. Maybe it was the other self that needed something from the kitchen.

Now you are wondering the same thing, aren’t you?

Maybe this is all just a single dimension in a very multifaceted whole. Like in Richard Bach’s One, or in one of Heinlein’s novels. Maybe there is another me in another time who leads a very different life. Who is both the most sought-after ME and much-loved author. Maybe there is another thread in time where i look like a beautiful and exotic version of me, and have a life of such love and adventure, that it is the stuff of my wildest dreams.

But then again, that would also mean there is a thread where i am angry and disconsolate and totally hideous. That thought makes this me really sad.

Am i the only one who wonders about this? Whose mind is full of theories on being and life? I’ve always done it… Pondered what is real. It isn’t like i’m some kind of philosophical genius… It’s more that i like, i need, explanation. I need to know why. Why do people behave like they do? Why do i behave like i do? Why do we, as humans, do so many irrational things? Why do i keep making the same mistakes? Why are things the way they are? And why are bacon and salami and full-fat ice cream so delicious, when they are the worst things for our waistlines? And how high were the creators of all this when they designed the aardvark?

Maybe the atheists are right and this is all there is. All of this is real and our perceptions are all there is to reality. I really have been on this earth for 51 years. My budget really has consequences, it isn’t just an educational computer game. There is not another me somewhere who has accomplished all i set out to,  or looks like i do in my best dreams. I will not wake up and discover i have another chance to do it all differently. I am not all i could be, and Liam Neeson doesn’t know i exist. These things are true. This is my reality.

But on the flip side, that means that i really do have three amazing weedlings who are going to make this world a better place. I have really worked for years in a field that saves and improves people’s lives. I have rescued some animals from euthanasia by taking them in. Tho not the exotic beauty of my dreams, I have an esoteric beauty of spirit. I have loved and been loved.  I have given comfort and laughter to many. I might not have made the biggest difference, but i have made some difference. This is also my reality.

And very little of it makes any sense to me.

For someone who needs to know “why”, reality will always be a question. Life itself makes very little sense, even to the most pragmatic of people, so it is understandable that we don’t accept it as fact. People who don’t question it, it seems to me, are people who don’t question much of anything. (In case you haven’t noticed, i don’t advocate that.) I am thankful that most of the people who surround me do question. I am not alone in these swirling thoughts that are probably both madness and genius. Or maybe neither. What do i know?

Hell, i don’t even know that i’m real.

From The Hair On Your Head To The Hair On Your Toes

So i’ve been reading a lot of articles on natural beauty. Part and parcel with the whole “Give up meat, use less plastic, be less fake” philosophy that has been growing on me. And it has me thinking… We women put a whole lot of money and effort into being “beautiful”, and even more so when we are trying to be “natural”, if for no other reason than “natural” products and services take more money and effort and to find.

I mean, i know there is a growing movement of women out there who don’t shave, wax, or pluck. I know plenty of women who don’t wear makeup. I know women who don’t care about their pores or their split ends or their scratchy heels. We are born with that hair on our legs, and our eyelids weren’t meant to be gold gilded. But most of us, when we talk about “natural beauty” are talking about doing the same beauty rituals we have always done, only with more earth-friendly products. Definitely better than mass-market beauty, and certainly better than the days of lead-based face powder and carcinogen-laden hair products. But still not really “natural”.

That being said, i can’t see myself going wholly “natural” regardless.

I DO care about the wrinkles over my lip and the lack of color in my cheeks as i get older. I DON’T like when my leg hair grows out and wiry spikes sprout halfway between my eyebrow and temple, like spearmint springing from the ground 3 feet from the rest of the herb garden. I DO like some opalescent sparkle on my face. And for the life of me, i can’t truthfully tell you why.

There is the age-old argument that we do it for men. But i will be honest here, even furless, accentuating my best body features, and spending time on makeup every morning, i still have no need for a social calendar. Dates come as rarely for me as oases spring up in the desert. So either the man theory isn’t true, or it just ain’t working.

Then there is the argument that we are brainwashed by the media. I grew up loving fashion magazines. I still do, tho i get a bit depressed at the lack of older women in them. And i take the photos with a grain of salt. We all know that these images are unrealistic; the models genetically gifted, and photo-shopped within an inch of their lives. I know that i can’t wear a dress to work that contains an actual, living fish. And no one wants to see my ass hanging out of my 3-inch rise dress slacks. But even still, i love the photography, the artistry, and the illusion of grandeur… Even if i will never master the Manolo-esque stiletto.

So maybe i do it because it is ingrained in me. Growing up, all the women in my life de-fuzzed, dyed their hair, and worked hard to look comely. Very few went without makeup, and even fewer let their grey hair or pit hair run wild. So it isn’t like i had a bunch of earthy-crunchy women setting the standard. I have to say, tho, that no one in my family ever barked at me for whatever macquillage i was sporting at any stage. When i took to wearing men’s clothes, or all black, or my combat boots with everything, my family accepted it. When my hair was short, blue, and combed into a perfect DA, my family made no more notice of it than they did when it was long and the black of my youth. Truth be told, my family has been supportive of nearly all of my appearance conventions – The lone exception being my decision, after 40, to let my white hair grow out. That caused all kinds of controversy.

Nothing having to do with me, i think; and everything to do with it making others feel old.

So why, then? Why do i do what i do to alter my appearance? Is it any of those things i mentioned? Is it all of those things i mentioned? I think it is at least partially the latter; and not just for me, but for all women. After all, it’s not like we see the bulk of men worrying about the sparseness of their eyelashes. Or giving themselves bunions and broken sesamoid bones so they can rock a slut shoe. Or paying money to have someone rub acid on their face, in hopes it will make them look 10 years younger. Hell, men score extra points just for wearing the right amount of cologne. So, obviously, there is a gender bias.

But even knowing that, i can’t imagine myself not going to at least some length of primping.  I can’t imagine being comfortable in public with a completely unadorned face unless forced. I can’t imagine going to the beach unshaved and not worrying i looked like i was smuggling rabbis under my arms. I can’t imagine going out on a (painfully) rare date and not putting in some effort…


Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the act of putting in effort. Not necessarily what i do to make myself look “my best”, but the fact that i am willing to go to lengths. For my (phantom) date. For my coworkers. For myself. Proof that i care enough to do something. I do less now than i did when i was young: I no longer spend an hour on my makeup, and if a shoe isn’t comfortable, i won’t wear it. (Unless it’s for Liam Neeson. I’d wear them for Liam Neeson.) So i guess you can say that the amount of effort is relative. If you are male or female, young or old, city born or country raised, meeting a mere mortal or meeting Liam Neeson; the bar for acceptable effort moves.

I know that we as women should be content with the lot God/Goddess/Universe gave us. He didn’t make me to look like a model for a reason. Maybe because GGU knew that, as depressing as it is thinking no one is looking at you, it is far worse to think everyone is looking at you. Even if i get caught at the market with jacked up hair, the number of people who will find out is only marginally larger than the single digit number of people who will give a damn. If i had the level of objective beauty i pine after, my bad hair day would become the conversation piece for more blogs and websites than my ego could handle.

Thank you, Universe, for not making me a starlet.

So back to my original thoughts… Tho buying cosmetics that are made of beet juice and and free-range, wild-harvested sea grass is better for the environment than the chemical compounds marketed by the taste makers, i’m not sure it’s any better for our psyche. The implied message is still that we need this stuff to be “pretty enough”. And while it may be true that there are very few “natural beauties” in this world, each of us possesses our own “natural beauty”. Yes, we are all beautiful in our own way. Even unshaven and un-powdered and unadulterated. The Universe and the ones who love us see that beauty, and any adornment is unnecessary. Heaven only knows if we will all learn to see ourselves that same way, to love ourselves as we are and do the primping just for fun. (Tho i can’t imagine anyone waxing just for fun. That shit hurts!) And would it still be fun if it wasn’t considered more beautiful? I don’t know.

As for me, i know better than to think i’ll ever get to that point. I get more comfortable with myself with each passing year, but i doubt i will ever be satisfied. I will likely always strive to be more. Because, you know, there’s always that slim chance i could score a date.

I’m still holding out hope for Liam Neeson.


A Spirit By Any Other Name

Elohim, Adonai

Jehovah and Allah

Akal Purakh, Father, Peace

Krishna and Zeus

God, Goddess, Universe, Science

The Force, The Love and The Light…

See It in others.

Find It in ourselves.

This is the day your Lord has made.

Named or nameless.

Formed or Formless.

All together or all One.

Let us rejoice and be glad.

Rafiki and Einstein

One of my besties has a good friend who is in the midst of dying. At our age, though not a common thing yet, we will see it more and more. But like so much of getting older, there is no book that tells us how to deal with it.

Family is gathered close around her friend, as well they should be, keeping outsiders, germs, and stresses away from their cherished member as she makes the transition. But my bestie is one of those who absorbs people into her soul more than most. She wants – needs – to touch. It’s visceral for her, a primal need since watching her own mother take the journey when we were in our adolescence. She doesn’t want to intrude. Doesn’t even have to actually see her. Just wants her to know that there are hands and hearts along the bridge who will give her strength when she needs it. On one level, it is a gesture of love and friendship. On another, it is a grasp at a connection with the ones who are already on the other side.

We aren’t kids anymore. We understand that life as we know it comes to an end. We realize death is part of life. We’ve seen The Lion King. But it is hard to remember that life is a circle when your friend is on the exact opposite side of it.

Even if you were standing next to them, you know you can’t pull them back. It’s their time. God/Goddess/Universe’s choice, not ours, and we are in no position to disagree. We aren’t reaching out to pull them back into the circle permanently… We just want one more minute. One more chance to feel what we felt with them. Love. Friendship. Humanity. And to remind us that we are not permanent. A jumpstart, if you will, to our resolution for living each day to the fullest.

Perhaps that last is the most important.

My Ma died a long time ago. I think of her often, of course, and for many reasons. But more often than not, i am thinking of her because i want to tell her about something. Something i am planning, or doing, or have done, that is benchmark.

Benchmark = Proof that i am really living. 

With the holidays approaching, memories of lost loved ones are, for many of us, closer than any other time of the year. It’s easy for us to get caught up in sadness, loneliness and longing for times and people since passed. To get out of it, i sometimes talk to those memories. Like, “He Ma, do you see your namesake in there cooking up a storm? Is she amazing, or what?” Or, “Gram, someone just brought in homemade raisin bread to work. Lets toast some and spread it with cream cheese just like you always liked…”

Yes, i talk to dead people. What of it? If Einstein was right (And i dare you to say he wasn’t..) nothing new is ever created. All the energy that ever was is still here – Just in a different form. Who is to say that the energy, the soul plasma, that was our loved ones isn’t all around us all the time? Or that i won’t still be around my loved ones after this pasty, wrinkled, old broad of a body is long since gone? I choose to believe that the best part of us lingers, like a faint whiff of Shalimar after the theater closes, for anyone who chooses to breathe it in and remember.

Yes, i talk to dead people and i am a hopeless, romantic dork. So sue me.

Regardless, as the insanity of the holidays approaches, and the memories come flooding in… Or if you are someone who must face a loved one becoming a memory amidst all the merriment… Breathe them in. Talk with them. Talk about them to others. Bring them into moments where you are truly living. Keep it all alive so that they may continue being relevent. In a way, become legend. Don’t let the laws of biology stop it. Our physical time on this Earth is fleeting, but our soul can go on forever. Just ask my friend, Albert. He is an expert on energy. And really, isn’t that all we humans are?

First World Health Care

Looking at bills from my recent surgery, i have to wonder how so many do it. Manage to take care of themselves without going into bankruptcy.

I work for a hospital. Tho not in any danger of living a life of luxury, i am well compensated enough that i am able to pay my bills without juggling them. (Something i never had til recently.) I have commercial insurance that my employer subsidizes, and truly, my cost per month isn’t terrible. I had a short-term disability benefit to cover my salary while i was recovering. And yet, i am having to engage a payment plan to pay for surgery that was a necessity.

At just under $5,000, my out-of-pocket is manageable over time for me. And i am grateful. But what if it had been my daughter who needed it?

She is an hourly worker. A florist. Works her tail off managing a flower shop at a modest rate of pay that is likely a bit above average in her industry (A testament to her talent and diligence.) But her employer offers no benefits. She makes too much to qualify for a government plan, but not enough to afford a commercial one. She isn’t a slacker – She works hard, tries to live within her budget, pays her taxes – Everything we expect of an upstanding citizen. And yet, if she were injured, she would lose everything. The $25,000 of overall medical costs would break her for more than half a decade, especially considering the amount of work time she would lose during recovery.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if she had a child.

Everyone has an issue with those who are capable, but choose not to work and remain on the dole. But there are millions of people in this country who ARE working. Working their asses off. Doing what they are supposed to do. Not spending money on a bunch of frillies or drugs. Just getting by with the essentials.  And health care is off-limits to them financially. Yes, there are funds available. There are private benefactors who contribute to funding as well. And that is wonderful. But it isn’t enough to cover the gap. We have some government representatives who are fighting for people like my daughter. But not enough of them. We have health care providers who make exceptions and volunteer services on a regular basis. But they can’t cover it all.

We are trying hard, but still failing.

I have heard arguments for and against government healthcare, single-payor plans, pocket-pay and free market systems. None of them is a cure-all.

Yet another instance where we know what doesn’t work, but don’t really know what will. Or at least i don’t.

All i know is, having grown up without the money to have the kind of healthcare i enjoy now… Hell, the kind of life i enjoy now… to know how blessed i am, even as i realize that i am still far closer to the bottom of the food chain than the top… I want to be part of a society that provides help for those who are struggling in spite of their strong efforts. I want to be part of a country that says, “If you are working hard, i’ll help you any way that i can.” A country where children and the elderly receive what they need.

And a country where those of us who are able to manage without help remember that not everyone is as lucky. And we have to help look out for them.

My Teacher, Hank

“Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”  ~  Henry David Thoreau

I think Thoreau would be pleased that my copy of Walden; Or, Life In The Woods is marked with highlighted passages and margin notes. The book is my go-to when things get difficult or complicated. As reference for myself, i have adorned my copy like a college textbook, marking each sentence that has an important lesson for me…

To remind me to take a step back and see the truth: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation… But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

To remember to keep it simple: “(To be a philosopher is) so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates; a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.”

To not live in the past: “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.”

To be kind: ” The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.”

To resist the urge to rush and waste life: “Time is but the sandy stream I go  a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink, I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

To enjoy the expanse of nature and life: “There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon.”

And to fight my urge to accumulate “stuff”:  “In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with the truth, we are immortal, and need fear no change nor accident.”

Those are not all of the best passages, of course… Just the ones that jumped out at me today. On a different day, with different needs, some of the other passages will jump out. And i admit, i have similar markings and notes in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the writings of Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, and Robert Heinlein (among others, mostly fellow pantheists), and numerous holy books from a variety of religions. There is wisdom everywhere, if you look for it.

I love finding new sources of wisdom as well. I am forever asking people what books molded and shaped them. (Feel free to leave your favorite source of life-knowledge in the comments.) How else am i to find other springs from which to drink?

But more often than not, i am looking back to my pal, Hank. Philosophically and spiritually, we are in sync. I love his therapeutic writing style. And not for nothing, the man is a fellow Masshole. It makes sense that i am drawn to him. He has filled my head and heart and spirit with ideas that became the backbone of my soul.

I can only hope, that at the end of my life, if someone asks me if i have made my peace with God, i can respond as HDT did…

“I did not know we had ever quarreled.”