Monday, April 20, 2015

This AND That. April Showers, Monday Mornings and TWO YEARS HERE!

It’s rainy, cold and raw outside. If Mondays had a weather pattern, this would be it as far as the common, traditionally-collectively-accepted idea of Mondays, goes. Today—right now—I am that common. (On other days, of course, you’d better believe I am absolutely un-fucking-common!).

In my constant effort (and I say that because sometimes that’s what it feels like—even though I know better) to learn, be grateful for everything and be happy, I will not call today a bad day. Despite momentary emotions, I know that it’s not. Today is a this and that day. You can’t know this without knowing that. One of those days that make you appreciate other things better.

For some of us writing is a form of expression. We write what we feel, think and believe. I know that I can come across as preachy, snarky, bitchy, pissy, pathetic, fun, mildly (!!!) opinionated, sexy, ridiculous (my favorite) and foolishly-to-many optimistic (never say die!). It’s all true; it’s all me. Some days I’m a fucking ray of sunshine and other days … well, on other days it’s obvious that this fucking cheerleader has dropped her pom-poms. Right now, I’m looking at them lying in a heap on the floor and thinking about kicking them across the room.

Before I go on (and because it has to do with part of my subject today and because it’s a happy thought): Today is an anniversary! This blog is two years old! I’m going to take a moment out of my whining to celebrate this auspicious occasion. I am a writer (and I still love saying that), and I’ve known this formally since I was 10 but only recently gave myself permission to be one. The response I’ve received has really been overwhelming. Not that I need outside validation here; I do this because I have to. It has opened up some doors and provided me with opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t put myself out there. (More proof that following your passion works). Plus, if I ever get lonely, I have the options of accepting the numerous offers of the internet trolls who see my best-out-of-three-taken (had to make sure the hair showed right) profile picture, tell me I’m “intriguing” (is that a fucking buzzword nowadays?—I hate it, by the way; ‘intrigued’ is a temporary condition, regarding anything) and ask me to “write a book” with them. (Yes, pick-up lines are now vocationally focused.)

Either way, I have options!

I write what is true for me, whatever it is at the moment. And I am as long-winded as I feel (got that, Mom?). I try to be positive, even when I’m not fully feeling it. I’ve actually tried to just write pissy, and couldn’t. It HAS to end on a better note. That is not a strategic maneuver, it is what I need to do for me. People with rose-colored glasses, the fucking cheerleaders, live that way. No one even has to read what I write, but I’m putting it out there; I’m putting myself out there. This is how I entertain myself and work things through. Simple journaling isn’t enough anymore (although I still do it); journaling is private, and allows me to continue to hide and pretend. I’m not doing that anymore. I don’t have to be anyone’s cup of tea other than my own.  I have to admit that I am proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone many times, here and outside, and being a little more real each time. All of it. The good, the bad and the ugly. I have to balance things, too. What I put out can’t just be my highest thoughts, because there is more to me than that. And I am learning to fully accept all of me, unshaven legs and all.

Yesterday I was just saying that I love the little reminders I get on FB about what I was doing “on this day” over the past couple of years. Not that I need reminders (I remember a lot), but they can be fun, and sometimes there are pictures! And sometimes there are pictures … sigh. Some days, I don’t like them too much.

The reason for this morning’s … nostalgic introspection doesn’t matter. The less I focus on the reason, the less I will feel these lower-based energies and the sooner I can pull my head out of my ass—out of the darkness and into the light, so to speak. Situations, circumstances and other people are what they are. Their “meanings” are what we believe them to be and our feelings about them are determined by those meanings we’ve given them. People, places, things and events don’t make us feel a certain way, we decide how we feel about something, and we react. How we react is our own choice. Paying attention to the beliefs and perceptions we have about something and being able to figure out why we believe or feel a certain way will help us understand our own reactions and help us re-direct them. I’m not telling you that; I am telling me.

I am telling myself that it is okay to feel this way. To not just like myself when I’m ballsy and obnoxious. This and that. Total acceptance. The more I accept and allow all of me, the better I can do that for everyone around me, right? And by validating the feelings that I have (even the lower ones) I am showing myself the love that I deserve, not from anyone other than myself. Unconditionally. Everything will be okay, baby.

--No. It’s all good now.

The clouds will break to allow the sunlight in, cold will recede and allow warmth to seep in, Monday will give way to Tuesday, April paves the way for May, and the way I am feeling now will transform into something else. Something better.

Telling you has helped already. Thank you.

(I’ll pick up those pom-poms in a few minutes.)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How to Fall Down

I came across an article on Upworthy that featured a short video from a series called “I Am What’s Underneath” in which participants talk about themselves while removing their clothing to “honor how style is not the clothes you wear.” As soon as I saw 87 year old photojournalist Lisl Steiner in her floppy hat with a short, curly bob exploding underneath it, green eyeshadow and red lipstick, draped in flowing browns, oranges and greens, cane, one suede boot adorned with jewels at the toe, and multitude of bracelets that jangled with every gesture she made, I was smitten with her. She called her style “no style” and referred to her makeup as the “look of a madam in a whorehouse.” 45 seconds into the video she talks about the accolades she receives when people find out her photographs were featured in Life Magazine and her response is, “And that’s all bullshit!” dropping her bag loudly on the floor (*mic drop). At this point I’m in love. She talked about her friends trying to get her on “fucking Facebook” and referred to Mark Zuckerberg as “creepy.”—the “fucking Facebook” comment did me in. When she said, “The first thing I do in the morning is put my war paint on. … But who cares at this point? It’s what I am and not what I look like. And, excuse me, but go fuck yourself if that’s a consideration.” That did it; she was my hero.

She had much to say, and gave me a lot to think about. I’ll more than likely be writing about her again, as well as the video series. I couldn’t watch any of the other videos yet because I was already getting distracted from what I was sitting down to write right now! As it is, I’ve already spent more time talking about her than planned. I’m off-topic, and I haven’t even started yet.

Ms. Steiner spoke about her age and the fact that she has to be careful of her frail bones because “her next fall could be her last.” She talked about having to walk like a duck for balance, and then mentioned one thing that has helped her considerably:

“When I was 16, I had dramatic art lessons. The first thing you learn is how to fall down.”

I know what she was talking about, but it was the way she said it that jogged a thought in my head:

How to fall down.

And I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was taught how to fall down. Not in the physical sense, but in the psychological sense. In sports and in other various activities, athletes and participants are taught a correct way to fall; it is not to prevent it, but to allow it to happen while at the same time minimizing the chance of any serious injury. Could there be a way to learn something like that about the life-falls? We learn early that we will have troubles, get hurt, be disappointed, fall down. And then we are taught to get back up. My own father told me many times, “no matter how many times you get knocked down, you keep getting back up.” This was for both an actual fighting situation and for life.

But what about when you are falling? Is there a way to “learn how to fall down” that would lessen the potential for serious hurt and make it easier to get back up? To accept the fall and go with the momentum of it? Wouldn’t it be nicer to not have to feel really deep pain, and just get by with a short-lived sample of it?

I realize we have to fall sometimes. Without those experiences we would never fully know the good. One can’t happen without the other. There is perceived good and bad in everyone, everything. Without the bad, we would never see the good for being good and never have anything to enjoy.

Is it possible to teach something like that? I’m not talking about preventative measures; we can’t prevent the falls. Many try, though. They close themselves off from people, avoid new experiences, and write prenuptual agreements. They take few chances, unless they feel they have some type of guarantee or measure of protection. They live life almost in a flat line; no real lows, but no real joys either. In the end, they may have been safer, but they’ve definitely missed out on having a full life.

And then I realize my own contradiction in what I was just saying. I basically just said we need the lows to appreciate the highs right after I said I wanted to be able to learn how not to have such lows in life. The lower we go, the higher our potential is. I’m not talking about everyone’s idea of the strength we learn by going through hardships; I’m talking about the appreciation and enjoyment we enable ourselves to receive when good things happen. The lower we’ve sunk, the greater our enjoyment during the higher moments. We increase our capacity for feeling the appreciation of good things happening which makes us happier. The good moments are better, the better moments are wonderful. We feel more.

I’m aware of both sides of the coin. Life is not about this or that; it is this and that. There is nothing we perceive to be negative without there being a measure of the positive. And there is no good without bad. How could there be? If it weren’t for the contrast of each side we would not be able to see either side. I guess I’m being reminded that not only is the contrast necessary, but the measure of contrast as well. If I stare at my mental image of the flat line I can see that there is balance; the high points are as far away from the baseline as the low points. I enjoy those high points, and I wouldn’t be able to reach those heights if I didn’t go the same distance in the other direction.

With regard to attempting to teach anything about falling, I guess we just need to teach (and learn) what we see that we have been struggling with for generations: a sense of self, and the appreciation of our own wonderful uniqueness. Let them know they will fall, let them know to get up afterwards, but teach them the reason to.  When we suffer pain, we are not learning strength to be able to withstand more pain. That whole philosophy paints a grim picture of life in general, and only encourages people to avoid taking chances, trying new things, living a full life. The pain we experience reveals the depth of the joy we can have in everything else; it increases the pleasure we receive from the good things that happen. We would never know how good something is unless we are aware of how bad something can be. This and that. The contrast is necessary. We have to bless the contrast, all of it, and be thankful for the awareness of happiness.

When I’m 87, I want to be just as colorful and content (and as badass) as Lisl Steiner. I'll learn to walk like a duck and let my troubles roll off me like water off that duck's back.  I have 40 years to work on my appreciation of both this and that. I can only be as happy as I choose to be, and I'm grateful for more awareness of the choices I have.