My Seven Links


I have been nominated for this initiative (I refuse to refer to this one as a meme.) by the exquisite Michi who only recently added her voice to the grand blogger chorus. For this, I am grateful. I dare you read her personal manifesto. Inspiring. And so, I am immensely pleased to be included amidst the talent pool of this particularly project. The rules for the 7 links prompt is found here on Tripbase.


The Categories
  • My most beautiful post 
  •  My most popular post 
  •  My most controversial post 
  •  My most helpful post 
  •  My post whose success surprised me 
  •  My post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved 
  •  My post of which I am most proud 
Let me take a moment here to discuss the opportune moment this particularly challenge presented itself to me. As you can tell, not much has been happening on these pages of late. Not much at all. I have reached a point in my life where, for the moment, Living a Quotable Life is no longer serving its purpose in my life… not that I was ever capable of defining that purpose. There was never a common theme or direction. It is time to quit. Here. For now. Perhaps one day I will be back. 


I will begin with a few modified posts that will be very familiar to long time readers of this blog… while I work on new content… and we will see where it leads. I hope, that by visiting my past, there will be renewal in my present. African Tomboy should also serve as some sort of legacy for my boys. I find it fitting to go on hiatus from Living a Quotable Life with the following list of posts as they are all a piece of who I am and what this blog has been to me. 


MY MOST BEAUTIFUL POST
Where I Am From. (October 15, 2009)
I don’t wax poetic often and when I do it is usually dark and tragic. This piece, of which the template is adapted from a poem to be used in the classroom, is one of the most beautiful compositions I have written. At least, it is beautiful to me. Two years later and I wouldn’t change a word. 


MY MOST POPULAR POST
Top Ten Fictional Places (March 30, 2009)
I love this post. In truth, it is in my top 5 most popular posts of all time; however, since #1 is also the most controversial, I saved it for the next point. One of my most brilliant science fiction geek moments lives in this post. You will know it as soon as you read it
.


MY MOST CONTROVERSIAL POST 
To Love And Be Loved… (December 13, 2007)The question was simple: “Do you prefer to love or be loved?” This post has the single most hits of any other post I have ever written and the count increases daily; however, my mention of Godly ‘Agape Love’ has caused me to receive more than one angry email on how God does not exist or how posts about love should not be fictionalized or that it had no place in the words I was writing. In retrospect, it is not the most eloquent of posts. My own answer to the question still rings true… which is why I have likely remained single since my divorce. 


MY MOST HELPFUL POST 
Resolutely Silly (January 6, 2009) 
This post is, by an incredibly wide margin, the best New Year’s Resolution list I ever did write. You would think that only I was helped by this list; but, I had an email or two or a few from those (some who found it years later) thanking me for reminding them that resolutions should not be so stressful and that new beginning can begin at any time. There is likely one that is for more applicable to this topic but this one came to mind first and I was instructed not to over-think such things. 


MY POST WHOSE SUCCESS SURPRISED ME 
An Alton Apprentice (or two) (November 30, 2007) 
Ah, the early days. This post has one comment. Not so “successful” by blogging standards. It did, however, get routed to Food Network personality Alton Brown’s production company… and I got a response from them asking for my address. He wanted to send something to my boys. He did. He sent an autographed cookbook with a note to “K & K” (my boys) telling them, “Keep cooking but let mom help!” There were also a few kitchen accessories and some Cutlery Induced Epidermal Repair Strips (aka: Alton Brown Band-Aids®). 


MY POST I FEEL DIDN’T GET THE ATTENTION IT DESERVED 
Dark Frontier or New World (June 20, 2008) 
The problem with a personal blog is that worrying about a personal post not receiving enough recognition seems ridiculously more self-indulgent than even the concept of… yes… writing a personal blog. Early on I decided I was writing this for me and if someone liked what I wrote or learned something from my mistakes then that was success enough for me… even if they never told me. Comments are good. Links are great. But, I’ve never demanded them or judge the worth of a post or of my writing by either of those things. Occasionally, I have a bit of a rant concerning a topic of some import. This was one of those rants. Few read it. Oh well. 


MY POST OF WHICH I AM MOST PROUD 
Origins (January 6, 2008) 
Me, a history… the short but multi-faceted version. 

Now, the writers I recommend for this exercise are (forgive me if I nominate someone who has already participated):
Mark Stratton - Poet, Writer, Renaissance Man
Jason Benoit - Soul Bearing Truth Teller
Patti Murphy - Totally Doesn't Suck At This. Might Still Be A Buddhist Tomorrow.
J.N. Sciolino-Moore - Simple. Because she's awesome.



"There’s a trick to the 'graceful exit.' It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out." ~Ellen Goodman



  

Driftwood Cottage: A Book Review



A Moment of Perspective: With my penchant for classic or highly acclaimed English literature it may come as a surprise to most that my first book review on this site is a novel from the romance genre. My reasoning is two-fold. First: I was asked. Given the opportunity, I chose not to decline. Second: I have a respect for the writers of the genre. After two years of university and then two years off from university in which I got pregnant, got married and gave birth to my eldest son (in that order)… I went back to school. It was there, in the midst of brain strain from simultaneously reading Chaucer for one literature class, Shakespeare for the next, Tennyson for poetry class, Sophocles for drama and Aristotle for literary criticism, that a friend suggested I pick up romance novels as “light reading” to rest my mind in between assignments. I scoffed. Then I followed her advice. What I discovered is that romance writers (most of them, anyway) have a ridiculously astounding grasp on humanity… emotions, fears, motives, etc. They also have a gift for composing dialogue. Yes, sometimes that dialogue is incredibly cheesy. Yes, sometimes the stories are over-the-top; but, very often they are real and tangible, though fictional, character driven tales of life.

Driftwood Cottage: A Chesapeake Shores Novel
Author: Sherryl Woods
Publisher: MIRA Books


Single mom Heather Donovan’s dreams of home and family are tantalizingly within reach when she settles in Chesapeake Shores. The welcoming arms of the boisterous, loving O’Brien clan embrace her and her son. But accepting their support seems to further alienate her son’s father, Connor O’Brien. His parents’ divorce and his career as a high-powered divorce attorney have left him jaded about marriage.


Then everything changes. Will the possibility of a future without Heather make Connor look at love and his career differently? Heather’s just about given up on her old dreams—of love, of family and especially of Driftwood Cottage, the home she secretly wishes were hers. It’s going to take a lot of persuasion—and some help from the O’Brien family—to make Heather believe that some dreams are worth fighting for.

Heather is a woman who has given up on her version of Happily-Ever-After once realizing she wants more than Connor O’Brien, long time love and father of her son, is willing to give. Despite becoming involved with him knowing Connor’s strong negative feelings toward marriage, reinforced by his career as a divorce attorney, Heather decides that she does want the wedding ring… and so she walks away to make a life on her own in Chesapeake Shores, the town where Connor was raised, and where his family opens their lives and sometimes meddlesome hearts to Heather and little Mick. She opens a quilt shop and lives in the apartment above. Connor’s visits to see his family and his son strain the resilience both he and Heather have to their own stubborn viewpoints.

Driftwood Cottage has two major strengths: characters and location. Connor comes from a large family and the presence of someone in the O’Brien clan becomes expected in almost every scene. Each appearance draws more information, good and bad, about Heather and Connor onto the page while simultaneously feeding the reader snippets of family history or teasing with enticingly delightful future stories. Every character has a background due to the charming world Sherryl Woods has created in Chesapeake Shores. Despite being the fifth book of the Chesapeake Shores series, Driftwood Cottage manages to keep new readers from feeling entirely detached from preceding story lines... which is no mean feat for the author.

Sheryl Woods has a gift for painting a picture with words and for making the reader genuinely care for the characters in her pages. I intend to spend some more time in Chesapeake Shores in the near future. Had Driftwood Cottage been a stand alone novel it would have been good but it is the power of a completely thought out and realistic community that gives this book its magic. And, just because it’s a romance novel and the preconceived notion is always there that things will all work out in the end doesn’t mean Driftwood Cottage doesn’t have a surprise or two hidden between the front and back cover. Overall, it was a lovely escape to a seaside town where I got to visit for a short time with one amazing family.

My one major disconnect? The cover art. It does not work for me... or the story.

On a traditional rating scale, I give Driftwood Cottage 4/5 stars… or hearts, as it were.

“Though there were a lot of words on the tip of his tongue, things he wanted to say but knew he shouldn’t, Connor turned and walked away. Unlike so many times when they’d parted, for some reason this time felt a whole lot more like goodbye.” ~Sherryl Woods, Driftwood Cottage


Musings from Barnes & Noble Café



“Well I’m just people watching the other people watching me; and, we’re all people watching the other people watching we.” ~Jack Johnson


Does anyone really need a book titled The Secret Language of Cats? Lady, your cat is indifferent. If you do not understand your cat then your cat does not want to be understood.


There is a middle-aged schoolteacher type and her mousy elderly mother (the resemblance is simply too stark for the relationship to be anything but as stated) discussing a book titled Good Girls Just Don’t Get It. Uh… research?


A child throwing a tantrum in French is just as frustrating to the parent and as irritating to the “audience” as a child throwing one in English. “Angry Child” needs no translation.


Why share a dessert when you are both drinking your own Vente Mocha Frappuccino? You have maxed your caloric intake for the entire day with one beverage. Why sweat those of a whole brownie vs. a half?


There is a woman with a stack of magazines. I don’t think she intends to purchase a single one. (She didn’t.)


There is only one person with a laptop. She is also the only person in the café (minus the baristas) who is younger than me.


I should start a book club.


Order the spinach quiche. It looks and smells divine. Not to mention, the woman consuming it clearly looks as though she is having a special foodgasm moment.


People still read V.C. Andrews.


I should write more “thank you” notes like this chick next to me. I envy her dedication… or I am pissed at her for making us non-note writers look bad. It’s one of the two.


I am guilty of always thinking someone in a crowded public place looks familiar to me.


Some people should be banned from having the opening to The Lion King’s “Circle of Life” as a ring tone. Those very same people need to remember there are places where a phone should be on silent.


If your pen dies in a Barnes & Noble Café… the baristas will likely loan (or give) you a spare. Common occurrence, me thinks.

Two Months More


“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” ~Mark Twain

There is a small Mexican restaurant located in a strip mall somewhere in Pine Bluff, Arkansas called “El” something or other (I could ask or look it up but I do not feel so inclined.).

The food is lovely. Authentic. Not Tex-Mex. The colors are bright. The staff is very friendly and glad to greet each guest come to dine. And… there are more varieties of Patrón on the counter at the bar than I have ever seen in one place before.

A waiter there thinks I am beautiful.

He said so… to my cousin as she paid and I was walking through the door.

“She is beautiful,” he said once with a nod in my direction and then, with a bit more urgency as if to emphasize his point, “She is BEAUTIFUL!”

My cousin inquired if I heard the compliment as we neared the car. I had not. I really was not too far out of earshot… not at all considering how acute my hearing.

I think, in truth, I simply wasn’t listening.

Self-Talk


"Every waking moment we talk to ourselves about the things we experience. Our self-talk, the thoughts we communicate to ourselves, in turn control the way we feel and act." ~John Lembo

I have decided, sitting in this Barnes & Noble Café with not one starving artist but a lot of individuals substantially older than I (the others must all be at Starbucks), that I must do something different with my life. My days are far too ordinary. Not boring. Ordinary. Really. There is too much work to be done… never-ending parenting, chaos and, oh yes, the job. These things do not allow for an over-abundance of boredom. Not to mention, I find those who suffer greatly from being bored are as such because they are ultimately boring. I am not boring.

What?

What do you mean, "What?"

What do you want to do that is so different from what you are doing now?

I have absolutely no idea.

You better figure it out before you become bored or, worse, boring.

Perceptions


“I am surprised at the way people seem to perceive me, and sometimes I read stories and hear things about me and I go ‘ugh.’ I wouldn't like her either. It's so unlike what I think I am or what my friends think I am.” ~Hillary Rodham Clinton

Facebook Status (July 9, 2011): “Describe me using (3) adjectives. (I'm curious to see if a particular one shows up... at all.) A n d... GO!”

It appears much like a vanity quest. It isn’t. I was discussing with a friend my very, very real lack of dating life and the word “intimidating” came up. Granted, I brought it up… but only because it has been mentioned before by others… over and over and over again. I simply wanted to see if that one word surfaced in a random poll. It didn’t. Included in the responses are:

Poetic. African. Witty. Pretty. Smart. Awesome. Maternal. Beautiful. Passionate. Cerebral. Cultural. Sarcastic. Multifarious. Forthright. Kenyan. Jedi. Supermom.

They were generous. Yes, I am flattered. But… intimidating? Not so much.

At least, I do not think I am intimidating… but I am me. My perception is different than the individual perception of my friends, acquaintances and coworkers; and, quite clearly, I have no idea how I come across to the rest of the human species.

The Wanderlust


"Travel is like adultery: one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one's own country. To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live." ~Anatole Broyard


I haven’t set foot out of the United States of America in more than nine years. Which, seeing as I am a born American and vote in American elections and carry an American passport, doesn’t appear as shocking in nature to my casual acquaintances as it really is. In fact, I live and work in an area where people are born, raised and die without ever setting foot outside the state… let alone the country. They don’t understand me and my flippant, yet deeply seriously, remarks about needing to leave the USA from time to time, if not permanently. I am okay with that. I certainly don’t understand why they feel the need to live within a stones throw of all their “kinfolk” from the time they enter this world until the time they leave but I don’t judge them for it and, for the most part, I am not judged in return. Traveling, it appears, is not for everyone. For me it is vital.

The first time I was on an airplane I didn’t even have to set foot on it. Seeing as I was a mere four months old and incapable of walking, my parents did that for me… stepping on board with me in their arms or cradled in a piece of cloth and slung across my mother’s back African style. That’s where we were headed, by the way: Africa. Kenya, to be exact. My parents and older brother had already spent four years making a home there as missionaries. I was simply the new addition. In the month between December 1, 1974 and January 1, 1975 I was initiated into the ranks of world travelers around the globe. We trekked through five states, six countries and nine airports. I spent my first New Year’s Eve on an airplane over the Sahara Desert between Rome, Italy and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

From that month of my life until age twenty I was a regular globe nomad. Every four years we returned to the States for a year (give or take a month or two). My father arranged our itineraries so that we stopped in different countries leaving and returning to Kenya. We also never seemed to spend that period of time in the same state. I have come home from school in Mississippi (Kindergarten), West Virginia (Fifth Grade) and Louisiana (Tenth Grade). To me, a childhood of perpetual motion was a gift and I will be forever grateful to my parents for it; however, those memories and experiences often serve to heighten the discontent I experience in my current all but stationary life.

My last trip home to Kenya was over sixteen years ago.

Eleven years ago I became a travel agent. I did it in part because I knew I would be good at the job, partly because I could live vicariously through my clients and partly because I thought it would also afford me the opportunity to get on an airplane or a boat or a train and go anywhere. But travel agents don’t receive the perks that people seem to think they are afforded simply for doing the job. There are a few… here and there… but the perceived floodgate of free travel for agents is a myth.

In 2001 a bunch of religious radicals decided to hijack several airplanes and use them as missiles against Americans. In the midst of the carnage, anger and pain I shared with my fellow Americans, I also had to cope with the realization that my time in the travel industry needed to come to an end before the agency where I worked closed its doors. In 2002, two months before leaving the agency, I took advantage of my one and only travel perk and went to Bermuda for three days. It was a business trip, a familiarization tour of the island in order to better sell it to my clients, which left little downtime for exploring the off-the-tourist-trail parts of a new destination that I adore discovering. But, I did get to enjoy the country and it was another stamp in my passport. It was also the last.

My passport expired in 2003. I didn’t renew it because future travel was not a blip on the radar of my life and I preferred to have an expired passport with visa stamps from varying countries than a valid passport which would have remained blank. An empty passport is just sad. The other stark reality? I simply couldn’t afford the renewal cost.

NOTE: The above was composed as the beginning to a potential autobiographical travel journal rediscovering, as an adult, the places I had explored in childhood. I was planning a trip to much beloved England at the time and the entire piece was constructed solidly in my mind... before the trip fell through. Therefore, my passport remains expired and I remain stateside and the book remains 3.15 chapters long and entirely unfinished. 

From This Too, I Rest


“Do not push so fast ahead, do slow down a bit! Otherwise you won't catch up with yourselves.” ~Franz Grillparzer

Yesterday was my final day of work for this week. Oh, I will return on the very same day next week; but, for a time, albeit brief, I will have some rest.

From this too, I shall abstain.

I need to feel pen on paper again. I type quickly enough that my fingers can almost pace my stream of consciousness and, though often useful when I am feeling rushed or when a topic flows easily, that gift can suppress the mind. Thinking on paper give freedom to scattered thought. There is no [Backspace] key.

It is a good time for reflection.

Not to mention, I do not have the convenience of an unlimited data plan on my cell and my parents have satellite internet and a non-working wireless router… and that is where I will be for a few days. The boys crave grandparent time.

See? It is a good time.
Consider me unplugged.

We That Never Was Us



“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”
~William Butler Yeats, Among School Children


Why do we dance this charade?


You cloak your words amid the blindingly beautiful plumage of a peacock’s narcissistic strut. Tapping around innuendo, I coerce from you one feather… then two… masquerading behind false confidence.


You taunt with promise.
I feign indifference.


We tease the unknown.


I curtsy.
My eyes seduce from behind veil of steel.


You bow.
Your hand extending with burning anticipation.


We touch… Fire to Ice.


I melt.
You mock.


We pause…


Footsteps echo far.
Illumination dims.
I waltz alone behind the curtain.


We that never was Us deteriorates in dark silence.



Bittersweet Aftertaste

Mount Kenya Safari Club - June 23, 1993

"I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can." ~Beryl Markham, West with the Night

I have been asked, on many occasions, what my choice would be in terms of a “dream job”. My answer changes depending on mood but it always includes travel. It wasn’t always so. At one time I intended to be an English teacher for high school students in their senior year… British Literature. Lucky(?) for me, life intervened and I didn’t finish my university degree. Had I completed on time then I would have been in the classroom before I realized that I really do abhor teenagers. (Oh, I love my own. Sort of. I’ll get back to you on that one.)

I have had a taste of this travel job or that one from time to time. In fact, I was a travel agent for a while. I thought my agency was going to go out of business (It didn’t, but it came close.) so I left. In my professional career… that’s the closest to “dream job” I have had the pleasure to come near; but, while quite tasty, it wasn’t the ideal daily meal either. I survived off the concept of “those who cannot go… send”. One should not live vicariously through one’s clients but I find myself doing it again as I now work in a resort.

The summer after my first year at university, however, I had the “job” of a lifetime though I didn’t get paid… monetarily. There was a professor from the U.S. Midwest who used to come teach classes at the seminary my father helped to found in Kenya. That summer he came to Kenya for a much different purpose. He had put together a tour group… made all the arrangements… planned the agenda, etc. He asked if I would be available, since I had returned to Kenya for the summer, to go along and be the group’s unofficial tour guide.

It was delectable.

That opportunity taught me a lot about people and about myself and even about my Kenya… as we visited places I had never been before and I had to do a bit of research after I received the itinerary. I remember vowing to take my “job” seriously despite having no professional experience and that is what I did. I also kept a journal. I dug it out as I began writing this post to discover that, after a few days, I simply stopped writing. Odd; however, what there is I now find extremely disjointed and juvenile. I enjoy the prompt of memories it evokes though reading it is quite painful.

I should have realized years ago how pleasing that particular two weeks of that particular summer was to my palate and changed the course of my life accordingly. Upon returning to school I should have switched career paths, studied anthropology or international business or something less I-adore-English-literature and more I-have-to-get-back-to-Kenya.

Oh, how I sometimes wish an aftertaste was as sweet as the original bite.

"But, for a little while, this is the place for us -- a good place too--a place of good omen, a place of beginning things--and of ending things I never thought would end." ~Beryl Markham, West with the Night


A Mild Jolt

Diani Beach - Mombasa, Kenya - 1992

The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival of Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life. ~Robert M. Maclver, Sociologist

My father is a firm believer in vacations. It has taken every day of my life until today to realize that fact. Ridiculous, really, because he took them as often as possible. I do remember seeing him study Hebrew under a palm tree or reading a memo or two… always a little bit of work along for the ride; but, work on the beach is highly different than work in an office.

This realization has brought about an even greater longing for a “real” vacation than I had earlier this morning. Reason being? I haven’t had one in a ridiculous amount of time... a vacation... not the longing. That's standard. And, I have always been bothered by the fact that I did not have the means or opportunity to take my children on vacations like I took with my parents.

While growing up, our vacation location of choice was Mombasa, or sometimes Malindi, Kenya. There is no predicting what deal I would make with the devil to be in Mombasa right now. But, since I cannot be there, I have managed a very little time off (2 work days + a 3-day holiday weekend) next week. As I work in a resort and it is our busy season... it feels like a coup. It also won’t be enough but, at this point, I have no clue what would be enough. I also will not be on a beach or in a European cathedral or at a Broadway musical. I definitely won’t be in Mombasa or Rome or experiencing any form of wildness; but, I will be with my boys at my parent’s home.

It is time off… a brief excursion... a very mild jolt.
For this I am grateful.
I’m sure everyone at work is grateful too.
I am getting kind of stabby.
They should probably hide all sharp objects until I leave.



Not Unhappy


Click the book to access the author's page.


“Never being happy isn't the same as being unhappy, is it?” ~Fame, Film (1980)

I am not unhappy.

I realize, in reading recent posts, that it must seem as though I am a rather miserable human being but that is not the case. Tired? Yes. In dire need a vacation that will not be coming any time in the near future? Yes. A little frazzled? Yes. But… not unhappy.

I purge my feelings on paper or… on blog. It’s what I do. I write and then say, “Whew! I feel better.” You should see my journals.

One of my favorite books on the planet (I think I have referenced it before.) is Eric G. Wilson’s Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy. It is exactly what it sounds like. He points out that without melancholy we wouldn’t have the paintings of Van Gogh or any number of other amazing artists. Without melancholy we wouldn’t have the music of Beethoven or the poetry of Keats. I do not know how you feel about it… but, Hooray melancholy! If you ever read my poetry then it will be clear to you that I never write “happy” poetry. I have tried. It does not work. I am not comparing myself to Keats or Poe or Byron. Not at all; but, creatively, melancholy works for me.

There is a difference between normal human melancholia and put-me-on-death-watch depression. I am getting pretty darn good at recognizing the difference. Or, if I feel the latter coming my way, I tell those around me. They begin to watch my behaviors. If things don’t change for me then I jaunt of to the hot doctor and beg for new meds. It’s a cycle. Woo bipolarity. But, if things do improve with a little time, then I know I just needed a little time to let it improve. Profound, huh?

Americans are impatient. They don’t like to wait for things to get better; hence… this country is ridiculously over-medicated. Read here what Wilson has to say:

Surely all this happiness can’t be for real. How can so many people be happy in the midst of all the problems that beset our globe—not only the collective and apocalyptic ills just mentioned but also those particular irritations that bedevil our everyday existences, those money issues and marital spats, those stifling vocations and lonely dawns? Are we to believe that four out of every five Americans can be content amid the general woe? Are some people lying, or are they simply afraid to be honest in a culture in which the status quo is nothing short of manic bliss? Aren’t we suspicious of this statistic? Aren’t we further troubled by our culture’s overemphasis on happiness? Don’t we fear that this rabid focus on exuberance leads to half-lives, to bland existences, to wastelands of mechanistic behavior?

I for one am afraid that our American culture’s overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am wary in the face of this possibility: to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful over or society’s efforts to expunge melancholia from the system. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?

I want to get to the bottom of these fears, to see if they’re legitimate or just neurotic grumblings. My feeling right now is that they are valid. This sense grows out of my suspicion that the predominant form of American happiness breeds blandness. This kind of happiness appears to entertain a craven disregard for the value of sadness. This brand of supposed joy, moreover, seems to foster an ongoing ignorance of life’s enduring and vital polarity between agony and ecstasy, dejection and ebullience. Trying to forget sadness and its integral place in the great rhythm of the cosmos, this sort of happiness insinuates in the end that the blues are an aberrant state that should be cursed as weakness of will or removed with the help of a little pink pill.

Let me be clear. I’m right now thinking only of this specific American type of happiness. I’m not questioning joy in general. For instance, I’m not challenging that unbearable exuberance that suddenly emerges from long suffering. I’m not troubled by that hard-earned tranquility that comes from long meditation on the world’s sorrows. I’m not criticizing that slow-burning bliss that issues from a life spent helping those who hurt.

Likewise, I’d like to be clear about this: I don’t want to romanticize clinical depression. I realize that there are many lost souls out there who require medication to keep from killing themselves or harming their friends and families. I don’t want to question the pharmaceutical therapies of the depressed. Not only am I not qualified to do this (I’m not a psychotherapist marshaling evidence, but a literary humanist searching for a deeper life), I’m also not willing to argue against medication that simply make existence bearable for so many with biochemical disorders.

I do, however, wonder why so many people experiencing melancholia are now taking pills meant simply to ease the pain, to turn scowls once more into smiles. Of course there is a fine line between what I’m calling melancholia and what society calls depression. In my mind, what separates the two is a degree of activity. Both forms are more or less chronic sadness that leads to ongoing unease with how things are—persistent feelings that the world as it is is not quite right, that it is a place of suffering, stupidity, and evil. Depression (as I see it, at least) causes apathy in the face of this unease, lethargy approaching total paralysis, an inability to feel much of anything one way or another. In contrast, melancholia (in my eyes) generates a deep feeling in regard to this same anxiety, a turbulence of heart that results in an active questioning of the status quo, a perpetual longing to create new ways of being and seeing.

Our culture seems to confuse these two and thus treat melancholia as an aberrant state, a vile threat to our pervasive notions of happiness—happiness as immediate gratification, happiness as superficial comfort, happiness as static contentment. Of course the question immediately arises: Who wouldn’t question this apparently hollow form of American happiness? Aren’t all of us late at night, when we’re honest with ourselves, opposed to shallow happiness? Most likely we are, but isn’t it possible that many of us fall into superficiality without knowing it? Aren’t some of us so smitten with the American dream that we have become brainwashed into believing that our sole purpose on this earth is to be happy? Doesn’t this unwitting affection for happiness over sadness lead us to a one-sided life, to bliss without discomfort, bright noon with no night?

My sense is that most of us have been duped by the American craze for happiness. We might thing that we’re leading a truly honest existence, one attuned to vivid realities and blooded hearts, when we’re really just behaving as predictably and artificially as robots, falling easily into well-worn “happy” behaviors, into the convention of contentment, into obvious grins. Deceived, we miss out on the great interplay of the living cosmos, its luminous gloom, its terrible beauty.

The American dream may be a nightmare. What passes for bliss could well be a dystopia of flaccid grins. Our passion for felicity hints at an ominous hatred for all that grows and thrives and then dies—for all those curious thrushes moving among autumn’s brownish indolence, for those blue dahlias seemingly hollowed with sorrow, for all those gloomy souls who long for clouds above high windows. I’d hate for us to awaken one morning and regret what we’ve done in the name of untroubled enjoyment. I’d hate for us to crawl out of our beds and walk out into a country denuded of gorgeous lonely roads and the grandeur of desolate hotels, of half-cracked geniuses and their frantic poems. I’d hate for us to come to consciousness when it’s too late to live.

I thought to try and edit down that passage but I feel the world at large, and Americans in particular, need to be aware of how wrong we are to fear our melancholia. It is not to be feared. It is to be harnessed… and I am taking the time to tap into it while it is present.

I may be a tad more melancholic than my friends would like me to be at the moment, but I am not (and you know me to be true to my word) unhappy.


For more of Eric G. Wilson’s work you can visit HIS BLOG or purchase his books from Amazon. His latest is My Business Is To Create: Blake's Infinite Writing which garnered a reaction from me akin to… Gasp! Blake! I do so adore William Blake.

Brain Questing


A friend of mine was leaving work this afternoon when, in the course of the usual “see you later” discussion, I blatantly suggested we go out for dinner. She accepted. I don’t really have the money for dinner… not after this past weekend when I treated another good friend and fellow single mom to a night out. She needed it. And, quite apparently, I must look like I need dinner tonight for my friend offered to pay. 

Then this happened:


Yep, I announced to my entire Twitter feed that I had no desire to be alone with myself. Awesome. I always have been brutally honest to a fault. Someone should stop me. Maybe. Okay… not, but a filter would be nice.

And then, before I could complete my post, this happened:


With my boys staying with their father for the bulk of the summer, I have more time on my hands. It is not time I am particularly fond of having. When they are here I don’t get much time to be overly cerebral. The sheer madness and cacophony of motherhood prevents it. When I am alone… it comes at me regardless of what I am doing… from every angle. I can be cooking, writing, reading, walking, working out (more of that should be happening), watching TV or any other manner of activity and my brain will find an opening and start to over ponder, well, everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!

Dang brain questing.

“Where does it come from—this quest, this need to solve life's mysteries when the simplest of questions can never be answered? Why are we here? What is the soul? Why do we dream? Perhaps we'd be better off not looking at all. Not delving, not yearning. But that's not human nature. Not the human heart. That is not why we are here.” ~Heroes 1.1, TV Show



Conquering Everest(s)



There are a lot of things in this world with which I don’t deal too particularly well. Some, such as racism and blatant ignorance, rile my anger and I make no effort to hide it. Others, especially those that are ridiculously personal or hit me on a much despised emotional level, end up internalized and running amok within my psyche. Two of those in the latter category have taken over this week: Hope & Insecurity.

I know. You are wondering why I have a problem dealing with Hope. It’s a positive thing, right? In theory? Yes. But Hope, falsely given, is… I’m trying to find a word more severe than “cruel”, but it seems to be the only one coming to mind. False Hope is cruel. And, over the course of adulthood, I have been presented with Hope, falsely so, over and over again. Unfortunately, false Hope looks exactly like Hope until far too late. People wonder why I am wary and jaded. I am told I have to take down my barriers, let people in and be vulnerable. I am glad that works for most people and some day it may work for me; but, as of yet, I have found that the positives do not outweigh the negatives for me.

Inability to deal with insecurity is a lot easier for most individuals to understand. It seems we all have them in some form or another. My insecurities are raging right now. Recent events have compounded some of the more deeply embedded vulnerabilities. More misplaced trust in false Hope has even created or revealed insecurities I was unaware I had. But, now they are here.

I deal… as best I can… with what confidence I have left.

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ~Sir Edmund Hillary


[In case you were wondering… I bailed on the #Trust30 writing challenge. I found myself suddenly much uninspired by the prompts. I still enjoy reading the responses by others but, personally, it is not for me any more. C’est la vie.]

15: One Thing


Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

[In celebration of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 208th birthday… we pledge to write... #Trust30.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Take a moment, step back from your concerns, and focus on one thing: You have one life to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted. Sounds simple, but when you really focus on it, let it seep into your consciousness; you realize you only have about 100 years to get every single thing you’ve ever wanted to do. No second chances. This is your only shot. Suddenly, this means you should have started yesterday. No more waiting for permission or resources to start. Today is the day you make the rest of your life happen. Write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do and how you will achieve that goal. Don’t be afraid to be very specific in how you’ll achieve it: once you start achieving, your goals will get bigger and your capability to meet them will grow.

(Author: Colin Wright)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is, to date, the most difficult prompt for me to address. There are far too many “one thing(s)” in my life…all equally important. Some are selfish. Others are ridiculously unselfish. And… one would probably save my life. How to choose?

[elevator music]

This is the part where I tell you I was able to decide on one thing but it is something I am not quite ready to share with the world… yet. But, I’ve started a project to document my “one thing” and someday, when I am ready, I’ll make it public.

I promise you will all be the first to know.



14: Hidden Paths


When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name; the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

[In celebration of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 208th birthday… we pledge to write... #Trust30.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The world buzzes about goals and visions. Focus. Create a vivid picture of exactly where you want to go. Dream big, then don’t let anything or anyone stop you. The problem, as Daniel Gilbert wrote in Stumbling Upon Happiness, is that we’re horrible at forecasting how we’ll really feel 10 or 20 years from now – once we’ve gotten what we dreamed of. Often, we get there only to say, “That’s not what I thought it would be,” and ask, “What now?” Ambition is good. Blind ambition is not. It blocks out not only distraction, but the many opportunities that might take you off course but that may also lead you in a new direction. Consistent daily action is only a virtue when bundled with a willingness to remain open to the unknown. In this exercise, look at your current quest and ask, “What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?” They’re always there, but you’ve got to choose to see them.

(Author: Jonathan Fieldsl)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Pulsing Heart vs. The Logical Mind: In the struggle for purpose, each perceives itself as the more powerful… the one to be heeded… the one that is right.

Are they both not correct?
Why the battle?

Can the yearning of the heart and the reasoning of the mind not call a truce and converge into a clearly distinguishable common path of life? We of the human species pick sides. Some of us listen to our hearts. Others are ruled by good sense. In my experience it is a rare occurrence, though not impossible, for a person to listen to both.

It is my nature to long to follow my heart. I don’t.

Living in this chemically imbalanced body, which habitually adapts to each new medication within a matter of months, forces to me to question the validity of every “natural” impulse. In truth, there has probably been many a path I chose not to walk down because I questioned my own judgment. Hopefully I saved myself from making terrible mistakes… most of the time. Odds are one or more of those paths should have been followed.

“What alternative opportunities, interpretations and paths am I not seeing?”
I don’t have a clue. I don't allow myself to see them.

My current path is to bring up my boys to be modern day knights. That is the goal. That is what I do every single day. I'm raising my kids and preparing for the me I really want to be once they are grown. In the meantime, I work in hospitality. Time for me will come. True, more preparation should be taking place. I need to take off the single-minded blinders and start letting my peripheral vision pick up on what I may have been missing.

Problem is… those blinders will probably require a crowbar.



LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin