31 August 2004

stupid

Today I feel wonderfully, gloriously sore. What started with a simple walk around the park turned into a weekend of walking, yoga, and—gasp—aerobics. Can you imagine me, previously the most under-active person ever, actually enjoying a weekend of moving? It felt so good to move. I always thought of where to find time to exercise, and instead just did it. Turned off the television and went outside. And you know, I feel better. I feel skinnier, tighter, straighter and taller already. All in my head I know, but that’s okay.

Oh, and guess what else I did this weekend. I bought a delicate, flowered cotton skirt, pink and brown and cream. With. Ruffles. Something made me try it on, and I fell in love. It was so feminine and lovely. But so unlike anything I would ever wear. So, I put it back and continued trying on sensible skirts and shirts. But there was nothing that I liked so much as that skirt. And I promised myself a while back that I wouldn’t buy anything that i didn’t completely adore, and I figured it should go both ways. That if I totally fell in love with something, wasn’t I obligated to bring it home? So I did.

And normally that skirt would hang in my closet and I would silently love it and try it on and always take it off before leaving the house and eventually give it away. But this time, I put that skirt on and twirled in front of the mirror and felt pretty. I didn’t worry about not having anything to match it, I just put on a tank top and sandals and left the house. I stopped myself from asking, do I look stupid? Because the truth is, no one cares what I’m wearing, and what’s the worse they can do anyway? Think that I look stupid? And what does that matter if I think I look pretty and if I feel pretty? So, all day I floated around in that skirt. The thin cotton was perfect for the hot summer day; the ruffles swirled around me as I walked. And when I entered a restaurant for lunch, a girl whispered to her friend, oh, look how cute her skirt is!

And I think of all the simple pleasure I missed from trying so hard to make sure no one notices me or what I’m wearing. And I will never again hesitate to wear something I love and feel good in for fear of what others might think.

30 August 2004

starfish

I thought about whether or not to write her, and I decided for it. I wanted to remember what I had felt and also just to share it with someone.

This is what I wrote: Dear Kate, I visited the shelter this weekend for orientation. It was heartbreaking to think about all of the cats and dogs living in cages and not knowing what their life will become. I thought it would be too much for me to take and I came knowing that this might be the first and only time, but that I had to at least try. But the funny thing is I left feeling sad and angry of course, but also feeling empowered. Feeling needed. And feeling like I could make a difference, maybe not a huge one to the state’s animal welfare, but a huge one for a few dogs and cats who might otherwise not make it out of their cages that week. So, thanks. Shanna

And she sent me back this story: Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean. As he got closer he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?” The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish in the ocean.” “I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?” “The sun is up, and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die.” “But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach, and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!” The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”

And that is exactly the feeling that I wanted to remember.

29 August 2004

vacation


I knew it would be a good weekend and I was right. Rain was expected, but it waited for us. We went on a real date. Walking around the French Quarter, I remember why I used to like it so much. We rode the streetcar, drank margaritas, ate shrimp burritos. You wouldn’t have guessed we lived here. Me with my camera and fancy ruffled skirt, oohing and ahhing over the fern-covered balconies, their wrought iron details, and the funny things people put out on them—an armored knight for instance, and a stuffed snowman. Setting the self-timer in front of Andrew Jackson, making sure St. Louis Cathedral is in the background. We walked through the local artists’ galleries. We looked at oil paintings that cost a quarter of what my house costs, and actually listened to sales pitches on them. I fell in love with a fairy-tale painting by a Russian woman. When I’m rich I will find it again. We bought sugarcane from the farmer’s market and pralines from the gift shop and organic donuts for the dog that looked nicer than the human treats. I thought I needed a vacation, but pretending was just as good.

26 August 2004

confessions

Today, I did something that I’ve been saying I would do for at least two years, and never doing, and always feeling like shit about not doing.

Nevermind that I’m tired, cranky, school started, and I would have preferred taking a nice long bath instead. I went for a long walk. I didn’t worry about the getting dark and maybe getting raped, robbed, killed. I didn’t worry about the heat being 90 plus (feels like it anyway).

And I felt free. And I enjoyed the feel of my muscles working. And breathing hard and fast. And being outside for a change. And feeling that I was doing something good for myself. And not having to feel like shit anymore about saying and never doing.

Confession. I wrote the beginning of this entry this morning before work.

And on the way home I kept reminding myself to stick to it. But, I was starving so I made a lttle bit to eat first. Then I sat a while with the cats and dog. Then I got into my running shorts but couldn’t find my tennis shoes. Anywhere. I looked and looked. So, I couldn’t go. And I was upset, so I got under the covers feeling like shit. i turned on the television and laid there for twenty minutes.

Then I thought, dammit, I will walk today. So, I put on an old pair of fake tennis, the kind that’s for looks only and I walked in those. Now, I know it’s just a walk and nothing special, but it was really more than that to me.

And while I was walking I noticed a few things. The way the moon looked tonight as though through a fogged up window and the crisp black sillouhette of the cypress trees in contrast. The chirping sounds ducks can make when there huddle together. Lower than quacks, sounding like nighttime crickets. The way the air in New Orleans summer feels more like water. Only damp not quite wet, your arms and legs cutting through thickness as you move. The air like you are breathing something tangible, something tasting like wet grass, newly cut.

And I’m learning that I can do the things that I want to do. That I have will power and determination. I’m learning that visualizing something clearly and writing it down helps you make it real, makes it true. Would I have gotten out of bed this evening if I hadn’t written anything this morning. Perhaps, but I don’t think so.

And now, I’m going to have that nice long bath before I go back to bed for good.

(Unrelated note: I tried to send an email today and I got a lecture from my computer. It called itself a mood warning. It asked me if I really wanted to send something that should get keyboard washed out with soap. This is too much for me.)

25 August 2004

strangers

I smile at strangers. Sometimes they pretend not to notice, but mostly they smile back. If find that the better I look, the less people pretend not to see me. And I’m just talking about the difference between lipstick and how my hair is fixed. It’s sad how judgmental people are without even trying to be.

So, I was walking down the hallway today trying to find lunch and I heard this roaring jazz voice making its way down the hall. Hi, sugar. Hey, dawling. Hey, sugar. Hi, dawling. And sometimes, man, the heat for a change. Fast steps and a big smile for everyone in his path.

And as he got closer I felt myself starting to avert my eyes, the way I’ve learned to do around here. Because if you show any acknowledgement, they come closer. Even the smallest and slightest encouragement can change a hello into what’s your name and how bout a kiss/two dollars/a ride/your number. And I’ve learned that a sorry, no can change a friendly stranger into a mean beligerent threat.

But I caught myself and looked back into his face just as he passed with my greeting. I smiled and nodded. And I watched as everyone else smiled too. And from a distance, you would think he was friends with everyone in the world. And I thought of the good feeling you get from smiling at strangers and how most people never expect that it’s coming and wonder why you did it and feel sort of special. And I thought how happy he must be to treat the whole world like an old friend.

24 August 2004

rush

I’m starting to see beauty in the simple things all around me—the sky, fallen leaves, and old building—rather than letting the ugly overwhelm me. And already my life is better for it. I’m enjoying the ride home instead of dreading it and drowning in rock music. I pull over to write a thought down or take an interesting picture. Because really, what am I rushing for? What’s better than now?

23 August 2004

beginning drawing

I decided to drop beginning drawing. I said because I want to spend the time instead on personal growth and development.

I said it like a joke, but I meant it. Signing up for drawing was going to be a baby step, but when I thought about it, it would just be pressure, two nights a week sitting in class, and I know I'm no good at anything with everyone watching. So, I will have some time to myself. To learn and do some things I want to do. And he said, but will you really do anything? And I will.

I will paint, try to learn how to anyway. Something I've always
wanted to do. I’ll try watercolors. I’ve had the paints
for years and never used them even though I’ve always wanted
to. Why? I don’t know. But I’m going to get a book and
learn. And I will go ahead and buy some other
books I want
and read them to. I will write, I’ve been
spending time doing it lately and I will spend more. I will plan
my January vacation (and less importantly try to sell an article
or two about Honduras before I go). I will get an internship so
that I can finally get out of school. I will collect my work and
make some sort of a portfolio of it. I will volunteer at the animal
shelter like I’ve always wanted to do. At least once, and if
I hate it I’ll stop. Because most of all, I will not do anything
that I really don’t want to do.



Why am I writing this? To make it real. This
guy
describes it perfectly, I read this the other day and it
was exactly what I meant:



Sometimes, when we only talk to ourselves, we do not hold ourselves
accountable for the changes that need to take place in our lives
to make us happier people... Its not as though you are becoming
the town crier announcing every event and all the small details,
its more like putting your inner emotions out on the page, but a
page where others can see. in that way, you and I, are more inclined
to do something about it.
(excerpt from his blog, hope that’s
ok.)

20 August 2004

advice

Recently, I gave a piece of advice to a friend. All you need to be happy is to decide what you want and go after it. I’ve been wondering a lot whether I would listen to the same advice. And, I know I wouldn’t. But I believe it one hundred percent. I’ve just been too stupid, too scared, too whatever, to listen. But I’m going to start living this. Baby steps at first and hope that it grows.

I’ve done a few little things to get closer to where I want to be. Secretly, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, an artist. To do something creative, fun, original. But I’ve always thought that I couldn’t, that I hadn’t learned enough, wasn’t outgoing enough, or good enough. And I’ve been so sure that I couldn’t that I haven’t tried. But I’m tired of quietly wishing what if.

A wonderful, inspiring lady told me once, think big, and then you can decide if you want to stay small. And I thought then it was funny, she said it like I had a choice. But I realize now that it is a choice. And I’ll never do anything if I don’t start doing something. So, my first baby step: getting this website. And not worrying who sees what I’m thinking, because so what? People might like it, might not, probably won’t even see it, but it doesn’t matter because I need it. Another one: sending a letter in for a side job that I’d really love to do, and not caring whether I’ll get it. Usually I’d worry over it until the deadline was past, and at least choose the rejection that way. Not anymore.

It’s not that I’m doing bad, because the truth is, I’ve had a lot of accomplishments. Things people would look at and think that I have it together. But there’s a song that it reminds me of, I’m feeling miles away, you think I’ve got it made, I don’t belong here. ├énd that’s sort of how I feel. Exactly, actually. Because most of it doesn’t mean much to me.

I read a while back about a lawyer who moved permanently from New York City to a primitive African villiage where she had to haul her water like 50 miles everyday. And I seriously envied her. So, I know I need to make a change before I end up unhappy. Life’s very short. And I’d be the only one to blame for it.

19 August 2004

clouds

We had cotton candy clouds today. They were everywhere, making the city magical. I thought they would touch down if I drove far enough. I wished for sunset to paint them pinks, oranges and reds. I had to keep stopping, pulling over and getting out of my car to look at the sky. My pictures don’t begin to show the spectacularness and beauty. I’ve never seen clouds like this before. I was entranced on the way home, I know people thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care.

It reminded me of how easy it is to miss things if you aren’t looking for them. I’ve been looking close these days... He says there are remarkable things all the time, right in front of us, but our eyes have like the clouds over the sun and our lives are paler and poorer if we do not see them for what they are. He says, if nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable? (From If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. Read it. You will not be sorry. It may be the best book I’ve ever read, and I’m only being slightly dramatic by saying that.)

18 August 2004

shopping

I’m feeling the shopping urge hit hard this week. I’ve been in sort of a bad spell, very moody, and all the back-to-school ads are hitting. And whatever it is, acquiring goodies usually snaps me out of this funk. But I’ve been trying to simplify lately and I’m going to stick to this little scenario to help keep the material things in check: if I were leaving forever and could only take one suitcase, would this make it in? Assuming it’s a fairly large suitcase, of course. So, from now on everything I see and want has to pass this little test in order to make it home with me. I’ll let you know how it works out.

16 August 2004

little dogs


Yesterday was the most glorious weather I’ve ever seen in an August. I think it was actually a record-breaking weekend. The sky was gorgeous blue and you could tell everybody wanted to be playing. We went to the Redfish Cup. I stayed out of the way because I didn’t want to be on ESPN.

But the sun was shining and the food was so good (crawfish beingets and crawfish cakes and crawfish rice and snowballs and beer), and everyone was happy and excited to see who had the biggest fish. They held up each fish one by one and everybody gasped and clapped, whether they were big or little. And the fish wriggled and tried to get back in the water and were very alive because they let them go afterwards.

The really fun thing was to watch the people, because I always love those kinds of people. They were all tan and nice and smiling with their black or gold labrador retrievers. Fishermen and women and their children. Eating and laughing and playing in the hay. (Yes, they had hay and that is honestly one of my favorite things.)

And they also had some bikers with tattoos and leather jackets even though it’s August. And instead of the big air jumping dogs, they had a tiny dog in a black bag wearing rose-colored John Lennon glasses and a tiara. Isn’t that wonderful?

14 August 2004

everything i need to know


My niece is more insightful at age two than most people are in their entire lifetimes. It’s funny to hear her say oh, no when she can see something is not going right. She knows that a kiss will make any hurts disappear. I’ve seen her kiss her own bo-bos if she thinks no one’s around and then resume playing.

At McDonald’s she chooses lettuce and tomatoes over her french fries and burger. And at toy stores, she plays with the toys and reads each book, but doesn’t feel the need to buy any of them and bring them home, even when I offer. She smiles at strangers and knows how to take a compliment. She knows that everything deserves a name, and treats boy, girl, black, white, and everything else exactly the same.

13 August 2004

life

I was talking to a friend the other day about life. It’s funny how two people can make completely different decisions in life and take opposite paths and still find themselves in sort of the same place at the end (or the middle?). And all anybody really needs is to be happy and loved. For the happy part, I told him all you need to be happy is to decide what you want and go after it.

Sounds so simple and I think it should be simple, but sometimes it’s the most complicated thing to do. Because there’s the whole problem of what do you want, and then are you sure, and even if you’re so sure it hurts, there’s still the problem of what to do with your life when you start to go after it. Just pick up and leave? And what about bills and a place to live and boring details like that? So, if anybody knows the proper way to go about this, for God’s sake, let me know.

12 August 2004

hurricanes

I always know when a hurricane is coming. I don’t watch the news, but at the supermarket, the aisles are purged of bottled water and canned tuna. That’s how you know what the weather man has been predicting. You start to think about pets and photographs and the other things you wouldn’t want to lose. You think about whether you have candles at home and an axe in the attic just in case. Panic flutters up and you know it is stupid and nothing will happen, but sometimes it does and how do you know?

The first day the heat is so oppressive you think you might pass out. You can taste the air. You can reach up and touch it, heavy on your shoulders. You walk one block and the back of your shirt clings to you, soaked with sweat and your hair is damp. You wonder about construction workers and gardeners and how they must hate it.

The next day feels like springtime. You can almost see the air spiraling in circles, lifting your hair, the wind rushing through the treetops, rattling the leaves down the street mingling with trash, litter that can no longer lie still on the ground. You think about how it must be to live somewhere other than New Orleans in the summer, Maine or Canada or somewhere you imagine stays cold year-round.

And that night you wake up to thunder and heat again, and rain like it will never stop. And you light candles, you open windows, you sleep without pajamas, you enjoy the silence and the electricity in the air and you watch the rain, water rising in the street and you imagine that boats are rising in the backyards.

You step barefoot in the puddles. You smell the hurricane air. You wonder how they lived without electricity for so many years and wonder if it wasn’t better that way. You take a candle-lit bath in cold water. You heat a can of soup on the stove because you don’t want to open the refridgerator and let the last freezing breaths out. You wonder how long it will last. You pick up the phone to see if it is still working.

And you secretly like these little breaks from real life, these hurricanes. And you wonder when the next one will come.

11 August 2004

office


Okay, I know this is really awful and horribly embarrassing, but this is my office at home. I’m having a serious problem keeping it straight. I swear the rest of my house doesn’t look like this, you might not believe me but I really doesn’t. I thought maybe having this picture public might inspire me to do something about it. I just have too much stuff and too many papers and nowhere to put everything and not enought time to even begin getting organized.

10 August 2004

southern thing

I grew up hating iced tea. It’s such a southern thing I know and I’m the only one I know who refuses to drink it. I just never could put up with the taste. I thought I hated tea in general, but recently I discovered that there’s a whole other world out there besides Luzianne. Now I enjoy a nice mug of steaming tea with cream and sugar in the morning instead of coffee, or just whenever I need a pick-me-up. I feel so elegant drinking hot tea, I don’t know why. And I adore the smell of it steeping.

But what prompted this is that I’m drinking the best cup of tea I’ve ever had right now. I bought a Good Earth Variety Pack in the grocery today and just made a cup of sweet and spicy herb tea blend, decaf—it’s almost bedtime. Ever since I discovered that I like some teas, I’ve been experimenting. I know I like chamomile, dislike Earl Gray, like vanilla, dislike peppermint, and so on. And don’t forget Lebonese iced tea with pine nuts at the mediterranean restaurant, and jasmine lime iced tea at the Vietnamese restaurant.

09 August 2004

quiddity

Every day I get an email from the dictionary with a different word. Usually I read and the delete the words because most are obscure and would be difficult to remember and ridiculous to use in everyday conversation. But sometimes words come along that make me think, or make me happy, or that I just want to remember and share.

Here’s one: quiddity. It’s crazy to me that one word can mean two things so completely opposite from each other. Meaning one is whatever makes something the type that it is: essence and number two is a trifling point. How everything and nothing can be contained in the same word is beyond me, but it’s kind of a satisfying and disturbing thought.

08 August 2004

camping

Our little camphouse was completely charming and quaint. The back door opened to a porch and steps down to water alive with minnows and turtles. Like something on the Discovery channel. At night, we went swimming under a sky full of stars and sat around a fire talking, roasting marshmellows and making s’mores. I’m ready to go back.

06 August 2004

packing

We’re off for a camping weekend. I haven’t been really camping in many years, and haven’t been on a vacation with just friends since 1998. Long time, I know, but it sure went fast. So we have the bug spray, camera, flashlight, beer and assorted other things packed away. I went very light on clothes for the first time in my life, so we’ll see how that goes.

04 August 2004

you think

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”—George Eliot

03 August 2004

funerals

I went to a memorial service yesterday for a man I had never met. For some reason‚ it reminded me of when I was younger‚ when I couldn’t go to a funeral without becoming completely hysterical. Even if I was just there to comfort a friend. I think it gave too tangible of a face to the feelings of fear‚ death and not knowing what the world is all about.

Forces you to confront all of the unknowns and what ifs and feelings of inadequacy. And for someone close to you‚ you have the added guilt of not doing‚ not saying‚ not remembering. And feeling bad for feeling guilty‚ for thinking of yourself instead of them. And knowing you’ve lost them forever. That’s the scary part‚ how quickly we forget. How quickly the world resumes spinning‚ and something takes the place you felt would stay empty forever.

I think I would like the same sort of service‚ simple church ceremony‚ some songs and hardly any mention of the deceased. Over almost before you have time to tear up‚ and long before any hysterics. No coffin‚ no body‚ no ashes. People leaving and feeling like they can go on with their morning‚ like the world is supposed to keep going. Of course‚ I do want a gravesite. There’s something comforting about visiting a cemetery‚ even though you know the people aren’t there anymore. Nice for the leftovers to be able to make a tradition of it‚ mother’s day‚ father’s day‚ birthday or whatever‚ to visit with some flowers and feel like you have someplace set aside in the world for that person‚ a place where they won’t be forgotten.

How different cemeteries are from funerals. And I want one of those little picture frames with a picture of me in it‚ from when I’m still young. I made a special point to remember a line from one of the songs they played at the service‚ The Christian Life‚ it was something about time erasing the days until memories are long gone. But something about it was ironic. And now I can’t remember it for anything.