my youngest son, "Thing 3," uttered "Grass Oil" to describe what i once made for dinner. what is the Grass Oil blog? my observations about life from my cheap seats where everyone looks like ants. i'm funny, candid and i try to be nice, with some snark for flavor. Grass Oil: simple. random. elegant. there it is. ps – "Things" is a moniker to keep my kids off search engines.
I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.
Here is the quote:
October 13 — How you talk to yourself matters. Our beliefs create a filter through which we see the world. To become free of their power, today pay attention to what you say. Instead of saying “I can’t” say “I’m having difficulty right now.” This will create a space between the present and your beliefs about the present.
I try to do this with myself but I find it’s harder when I’m not actually saying the words out loud. When I speak with others, I hear myself correct myself: “can be” or “might” or “have a tendency” or “can be difficult to do…” that kind of stuff.
The insidious self-damage comes of what we say to ourselves, when no one is around, or what we say silently to ourselves.
I’m a loser.
I suck at this.
My face is ugly.
I’m a fraud.
Me + this moment = failure.
Of all of these statements, I would say that the most nagging of my own, is “I’m a fraud.”
It’s a horrid statement. Yet I feel it deeply, and often. I can’t explain why; it’s primitive and very likely completely irrational and untrue, yet it’s there. Sitting in a chaise lounge beside me, with its fake tan, acrylic nails, smoking an e-cigarette, drinking a non-alcoholic beer, teasing its frosted tips, reading and highlighting a Cliff’s Notes on Hamlet; its half-eaten McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese resting on top of the hour-old services invoice for a botox injection.
Who the hell is that? I don’t know, but I do know I want to base a book on her.
Personal example. I’m almost 47. I love to scull:
sculling: two oars, one in each hand.
It’s a serene experience and it makes me feel free. It also does this to my hands:
yeah. … i’m 46. can you tell where this discussion is about to go?
So for the longest time, I heard the dialogue “gloves are for losers” when it comes to rowing.
I even posted this image of my hand on my Facebook wall and a friend commented, “Gloves?” and I commented back, “Gloves are for losers.” Even though in my head, I knew that saying such a thing was complete bullshit. My hands were injured.
So, I believed this narrative: That gloves are for losers and I let it seep into my consciousness. Until later in the day when I washed my hands and they burned. And I tried to walk my dogs and my hands burned. And I tried to drive my car, and my hands burned. And I tried to do a downward facing dog and my hands burned.
Then I said to myself, “Self… you are almost 47 years old. You are a successful mother of three. You are NOT an olympic hopeful. You are NOT on a collegiate crew. You’re not even remotely interested in competing. You are NOT infallible. You’re hurt. You can’t even wash your hands without pain. Get y’self some damned gloves, y’damned fool…”
And so I did. They arrived today. If using these gloves makes me a loser, then I’m good with that. If the technology exists to make our lives easier and we can afford it, take advantage of the technology…
Anyway, we are hardest on ourselves. This quote above is from a yoga book, about yoga in daily life. The aspect of “Living Your Yoga” means to just be present and to be complete because “yoga” is the sanskrit word for “union” which to me means “complete” or “balanced.”
Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert recently wrote on her Facebook wall a screed against the word “Balance” and how it’s become (in her mind anyway, so every freakin’ female incapable of independent thought should get in line behind her — baaah-aaaaah) synonymous with “perfection.”
Eff that. Eff Gilbert.
I couldn’t disagree more and here’s why: “balance” to me simply means: NOT FALLING OVER. It doesn’t mean perfection. It doesn’t mean “flawless” — it means maintaining your stability amidst the tempest. Not your BEST stability. Not your PERFECT stability; just freakin’ maintaining it: not falling down.
I’m really surprised by her take on this actually. It sounded so whiney. I believe, with all my heart, that achieving some semblance of balance — no matter what the context — is winning at life. It’s not “fake it ’til you make it” bullshit (which is absolutely the most horrid advice ever), it’s about standing in the storm and learning how to dance in the rain.
Heaven forbid Gilbert become the next Oprah. (I call dibs on first predicting this. I will be the Nostradamus of flawed popular prophets.)
Gilbert is far from self-actualized (and then I am too when I get mad about this) when she spouts off about balance.
Balance is our friend. Balance is our barometer. When you feel off-balance, you get to slow down and check out where you’re heavier or lighter on a matter. If you feel pulled-upon or put-upon. It’s good… Balance is … ugh.
Gilbert. NnnnNNNnnnnnn. Shut up.
Back to the quote (speaking of being off-balance): self-talk. Be nicer to yourself.
See if you can get yourself to speak the ugly things about yourself out loud. And then look around you at all you have and all you are and all you have achieved, and laugh at the ugly thoughts.
That inner talk, that ugly talk is garbage. Set it out on Tuesdays and Fridays and leave it for the truck. Seriously: write it down, then tear it up and leave it for the trash service.
(ps – this was way more than 500 words. i blame liz gilbert.)
My email box “ding!’ed” this morning with a message from WordPress telling me it was time to meet my blog’s weekly posting goal.
Would I like to write more often? Of course. Can I? Sure. Do I feel like I can do it whenever the moments strikes me? No. Oftentimes, I’m washing dishes or driving to a lesson or in the middle of sleep when inspiration strikes. I need to get better about writing things down.
I have a dear friend whose beloved gently mocks her for keeping a journal in their restroom because it’s often in the middle of the night when she gets an idea, which is so brilliant, that she also has to evacuate her bladder. This is the way it goes for some of us.
I am often roused from a brilliant dream or deep sleep with inventions or stories or insights and I SWEAR allegiance to the ideas, murmuring, “no, no, I’ve got it, the dusty suede shoes are a metaphor for Nnngngngnnzznznzngnggg growth along with the inner nnnnngngnngzzzng and then it’s all over, everyone thrives!” and it’s gone.
I may as well just bolt upright, point and laugh at my muses the thin air saying, “You’re wasting your time! Go tell Elizabeth Gilbert! Is Updike still alive? I won’t remember this at all!” and then flop back onto my down pillow, thrusting reluctant feathers into the air.
Feathers. Woo-woo people like me believe feathers are a sign that our angels are near. If they’re near when I have those nocturnal insights, they are legion, trust me. I found out two weeks ago that I have six angels or guides or whatever by my side, but is that a good thing? Maybe I’m totally lost and am a mess. Don’t go near Molly, she’s got SIX guides… she can’t find her way out of a paper bag much less an existential crisis…
What do I do with it all? All these ideas, these insights? I can change: I can allow myself to wake up, just for a moment, write down what’s going on and hope to the chocolate gods I can read it in the morning and go with it. I can do what others do: wake up completely in the middle of the night. Go with it, set my fanny on my yoga ball chair and put my laptop on dim and start tapping away. I’ve never tried it. It’s spring break, I could try. I don’t want to disturb my husband or kids though.
Thus, it’s occurred to me that famous writers must *have* to be total narcissists. I mean, how else can you decide to wake in the middle of the night, put on a robe, pour yourself a scotch, light a cigarette, shuffle off to where your perch is and start tapping or scribbling away without a care in the world about whether you wake someone. Just you, and your method, and your muses.
Children need to eat, to be seen and embraced. Dogs need to be let out, groomed, fed, talked to.
On the advice of my therapist last year, I read a New Yorker column, “Sins of the Father” by James Wood about a modest collection of memoirs written by the children of famous father writers, William Styron, Saul Bellow and someone else I can’t recall (sorry!) and how these now-adult children are faring in the long shadows of their dads. Being a child of a writerly father, I could identify with a good amount of the column. The need for quiet, the temperamental (I’m being nice) personalities and their “I CAN’T WORK LIKE THIS, PEOPLE!” tendencies. It’s not that my father is a famous writer; it’s that he is a serious writer and a serious personality. I don’t write about him much here because I do feel it’s necessary to keep the boundaries clear. I will say this however: being the child of a dedicated writer / artist / scholar / any interest the adult has of its own that doesn’t involve family time, can be very challenging.
Buuuuut …. we WANT people to have lives. We WANT people to continue their pursuits. It’s very important for people of all ages and stages to have SOMETHING of their own that is truly separate and nourishing to their spirit. Does it matter if it doesn’t earn an income? Eventually, yes, to the practitioner, it does.
At first, it’s something the avocationist pursues for mental growth, but after a while, the question of “purpose” comes walking into the room, gently standing over you while you type, paint, read, hum… nudging you, “say… what are you going to DO with all of this?” and then your sense of value / your ego comes into play, “yeah… what AM I going to do with all this?” and before too long, you’re Daffy Duck arguing with yourself after being outsmarted by Bugs Bunny.
Or … you start to percolate and wonder clearly as yourself, “there should be something bigger, right?”
That’s human nature.
I’m in Good Hands.
About four years ago, I met a woman who is now a very good friend. She is a “non-predictive palm reader”; she’s not the gypsy with the magic glitter and finger cymbals. She’s a math-y, skeptic, scientific, hard data person. She runs successful businesses and she’s not at all a flake. She’s also one of the funniest people I know and that’s saying a lot because I know some really funny people.
She read my palms. I have the prints upstairs in my bedroom. I remember her saying, but I forgot it after several years, when she first met me, and looked at my hands, just for an instant, and searched in me asking, “What if it could be easier? What if it didn’t have to be so hard?” That moment haunted me then, and reading it again last night, it swept me away again. Indeed, ‘what if it could be easier.’ I sit here wondering just that. Still. I fight myself all the time.
I audio recorded our first and only full palm-reading session. I transcribed the recording and I went back last night, for the first time in several years, and read what she had to say. This time, I believe I am ready to really hear her and hear what my hands had to say about me then and look at how my prints have changed since then.
I am left handed. I have strong Mercury lines on each of my hands. Mercury is the communication / messenger god in palmistry. I also have on my left pinkie my purpose marker, a “whorl” which looks like a swirl. Quoting directly from our session, this is what Peggie had to say,
My purpose is on my left pinkie: the whorl – it stands out: my purpose is to help other people transform. I hold the safe spaces – I’m the healer and I have healer gift markings. Healer is life purpose and markings – I’m to clear out my own stuff and do my own thing and then help other people. Here’s where you are and here’s where I am, here’s my life story and I’m telling you this so that you can learn too. That’s my life purpose. To inspire to others that if I can do it, they can do it too. That’s where the healing comes from. Inspiring to others.
What have I done since that reading? I put it away. I thought about it and put it away. I thought I’d moved on, that I wasn’t doing anything with the information. But as we say, “you can’t un-ring a bell” and I heard the peal, even though I thought I hadn’t.
Well, it turns out I heard her, I just still need to keep hearing her.
I started this blog about four months later. I remember consciously thinking, “this is me stepping into my purpose a bit. This is me taking a chance, telling my story (somewhat) and trying it out.”
I find, when I let me out, I can hold that space for others. But I can’t let that be my only space. I need to step into my space too, which requires that I get out of my own way.
Order from the Chaos.
It’s been quite a month for me. I’ve taken over three yoga classes from people who were over-scheduled, started a new one from scratch, ended an eight-week session, got fingerprinted and background checked, filed for insurance, filed for yoga alliance registry, created lesson plans, taken in checks, accounted for students, shifted pick-up and drop-off of my kids for various lessons, school dismissals, practices and the like, attended my yoga classes where I get to be told what to do, gutted a freezer, folded laundry, made dinners (sometimes woefully), walked the dogs, volunteered at school for other stuff, blown out my hair, colored my roots, gone to angel healers, eaten and slept, attended a children’s book signing, put on make-up and have done my best to maintain a level head. I’ve done more downward facing dogs and triangle poses in the last month than I’ve done in one year, I’m sure of it.
My friend from high school is an airline pilot. He has a blog in which he shares amazing photos from the cockpit and writes a little bit (juuuust enough to keep the gears turning after you finish) about each photo and the impression it leaves on him. I have always thought highly of this friend. He would boldly wear bow ties in high school. He’s an old soul and he’s very bright and clever. When my freezer died about three weeks ago, I pretty much lost my mind for a few hours. The timing simply and ineloquetly “sucked.” It was totally in the throes of this new yoga teaching I was beginning and it was one of those moments when I was certain, I just didn’t have the time, or the mental bandwidth to deal with it. But deal with these things we must, yes?
This friend wrote to me about my chaos in that moment. He posted his comments on the blog post itself.
In retrospect (and two days later) I let soak in what he had to say and it made sense. I even paraphrased it as a quote to be read at the end of my yoga classes:
Chaos and disorder are the natural order of a mind seeking an enlightened path and reason. Chaos, and the sense of hope it can eventually yield, show us that there is a path for everything and it rarely begins with perfection.
Those who would have us believe the opposite, that everything is “wireable” don’t help us to understand and grow from the wisdom of chaos.
However at the time, I saw what he said and at the moment I was all defiant, “piffle” I thought; “so insightful of you from your 30,000 feet view to see the serendipity of this moment of total eff-upedness in my life.” I laugh about my reaction now. I wasn’t nasty internally about it, I just couldn’t deal at the time with his compassion. I was still caught up in the moment of it, so angry about it all: the loss of food, the tossing of food into the trash, and of course the re-spending of funds for both a new freezer and the restocking of the food. Ugh.
These are the things we do to ourselves: these first-world problems and I know it’s exactly what that is, and I caught a little bit of flack for bitching about the truth of that, but you know: stress is stress and I was literally in a fit to be tied at that moment. “That’s a nice problem to have” is a phrase that can OFTEN be heard streaming from my lips and people reluctantly nod; that’s how I see the world: there’s silver in every cloud, but sometimes it takes longer than others to see it.
While I don’t have “money issues” per sé, I grew up with parents who really did (it was nuts) and so naturally, there’s a tape that runs through my head whenever a big purchase occurs or something of monetary value is inherited, or lost. Here’s how I see money: it’s constantly in flow, but I feel there must be a purpose to it: I would rather give away $100 to someone in need than set $100 on fire. So at the time, I saw all of that: the whole shebang, as setting $100 on fire.
But there is order now, the lesson in that chaos that my friend so eloquently shared and taught me.
And I am not a little humbled by the events which have unfolded in my life in recent weeks that have brought me to this realization now: that looking back on my palm reading with my dear friend that I’ve got some work to do, some new lines have appeared along my Mercury lines, “stars” or “lessons” as they’re known.
Despite the fact that I’ve done a lot already, I haven’t done The Thing; I haven’t sat and written The Book. The Story. The Memoir. The Lessons. I already have a title. “Hang Nail.” Ha! No, that’s the name of an emo-rock band I would create. I’m not going to share the title here. It’s not yet written.
We have the new freezer. It was delivered Monday. I had to leave the room. I can’t be present when people install large things in my house. I have some issue with fingers being pinched or toes being crushed; or people being pinned against walls because it’s hard to negotiate the piece in my home. It’s quite entertaining, this issue of mine and my husband has asked me to write about it. I will. All in good time, my pretty.
I posted this on my Facebook page about the new freezer,
Our freezer never recovered. It was at least 15 years old. It had been left open too long one too many times. Today, we bid farewell to that freezer.
And got a new one. With a light. With baskets. With control buttons in a panel on the outer door. With an alarm. With a tax rebate for its energy efficiency. It went from 76 degrees to 33 degrees in 30 minutes.
I love this country.
Many people took the comment in the spirit in which it was intended. As a comical, ironic reference to my first-world hubris and sick sense of entitlement. One friend asked what it is about us Americans and our freezers and second refrigerators in the garages, etc., and what it’s all for.
I had to nod with her question. I mean, what is it? Half defensive because of my consumerism and half defensive because I’m a shitty planner, I blame my extra freezer on my growing children’s appetites and my utter disdain for grocery shopping. If you want to bore any living hell out of me, send me to a grocery store. Really. Some people love it. I want to stab myself with pencil erasers.
So I ask, can a freezer be glorious? Or is it going to be a constant reminder to me of overconsumption and self-indulgence?
At this point, I simply can’t be bothered to wonder or judge myself for it. I’m American. It’s here, in my house, plugged in and preserving my sanity much like Han Solo when he was captured by Jabba the Hut. In fact, I just put a little bag of water in there marked, “Mom’s sanity — keep frozen.” Maybe I will go to it when I wake in the middle of the night and it will inspire me. We will see what happens.