Something Old, Something New

A lot can change in a year.  Somebody who was your friend now isn’t, somebody you called your spouse now isn’t, the place you called your home now belongs to a bank, the job for which you were paid every Friday no longer exists, things that you thought were going to happen that didn’t, things that you were looking forward to did not fall into place, places you thought you were going that you did not visit, things that you thought were going to get better that got worse…or of course the reverse of all of these things can be true for some too…somebody who was your boyfriend is now your husband and the father of your infant, changes in fortune that you never could have imagined, fell right into your lap, the job that you never thought would come through, did, the wishes that you made last December 31st that you knew were sort of immature and silly, actually came true…some of us had a wonderful year and some of us had a less than wonderful year.  BUT…those of us reading this HAD a year and are still vertical, still on this side of the dirt, still riding on this big blue ball…

Our brains are wired, oddly, I mean what’s the point?!, to focus on the negative and not the positive…why this is true perplexes me but science has shown evidence, repeatedly proved in studies, that this is simply the way it is and it is up to US to rewire the way our brain tissues connect if we want to be the kind of person who seeks out the silver lining, who looks for sunshine on a cloudy day, who finds a reason to smile when things are falling apart in every which way…

So my wish for you as this year comes to a close, and a new year is wide open for all of us, is that if you are one of those souls who has trouble seeing a silver lining, then toss that old habit for a new one, lock it up and throw away the key…find something good, ANYthing positive, any little thing at all, about everything, everyone, everyday, EVERY SINGLE DAY…and if you are one of the fortunate ones who remains hopelessly optimistic, even in the most dire of circumstances, then keep on doing that, and spread that like the flu.

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the songs remain the same

My grandchildren have had quite a year…they left for the vacation of a lifetime last year on December 26th with their Mom and Dad to Disney World for eight days, but less than six weeks after they arrived home from such a magical trip, their father announced to their mother that he was no longer interested in being her husband and was no longer in love with her or their relationship, no longer interested in sharing a home with her and their children, and that he was done with the life they had been creating for just shy of ten years.  Watching your adult daughter sob inconsolably on your living room chair and mourn for the dreams she had for the family that she had created, which were now dashed, is more painful than you might imagine.  As a mother, you can only say so much, and you can only do so much, and you can only comfort so much…because you know that we all have to find our way out of the muck; sort out our thoughts our own way, on our own time, but it hurts so much to know that it is YOUR child you will watch suffer as she figures this out…

Rocking your long-legged granddaughter on your lap on your sofa while she heaves and chokes with tears and sadness because she misses her daddy is more painful than you might imagine.  Stroking the hair of your cherub blonde wonder of a granddaughter while she leans into you as tightly as she can on your couch and cries because she is sad that her mommy is crying is more painful than you might imagine.  As a nana, you can only say so much, and you can only do so much, and you can only comfort so much…because you know that children are amazingly resilient and that they will be fine soon enough, but it hurts so much to know that YOUR grandchildren are not at all fine right now…

BUT that was in the winter…and everything is different now…your daughter got set up on a blind date around Memorial Day weekend, with a boyishly handsome and very successful man who is the father of two extremely bright and adorably charming boys…and since that time the six of them have meshed and melded in a way that you never expected but have enjoyed watching.  A couple of weeks ago, on a warm November afternoon, I stood at my sliding glass door and watched the group of them; my daughter doing duck walk squats up the driveway with a body bar on her shoulders, her boyfriend riding my granddaughter’s RipStik and zig-zagging up the lane, his eldest son on my daughter’s mountain bike, his youngest son on my youngest granddaughter’s skateboard, my granddaughter on her razor scooter, and my youngest wee-one riding her bike, no longer burdened by bulky training wheels, because my boyfriend got her riding on two wheels the weekend before…and I felt so happy…a comforting warmth washed over me, watching the six of them interact…and seeing how affectionately this man looks at my daughter, and how her eyes positively sparkle every time she looks at him, and how beautifully these two little boys and two little girls have connected and the friendship and camaraderie that is developing between the four of them…and when I go next door to my daughter’s house it is not unusual to now find two dogs, four children, and two adults laughing together, playing together, and creating memories…I’m sitting here in my office, listening to Christmas music, the same playlists from last year, and thinking that all the songs remain the same, but nothing is the same, at all…

Scents of a Woman

I used to have a “signature” scent, three times; one in high school, one throughout college, and one later in my thirties.  In high school my best friend used to joke that she would always know if I had been in a classroom the session hour before, or in somebody’s car the day before she was, because she could smell me.  In college it was not unusual to be told in line at the store or cafeteria or walking through a corridor that I smelled “so good,” or to be stopped at least a few times a month by somebody asking me “what are you wearing? it’s wonderful!”  Later in my mid thirties I found a unisex scent that I loved and started to wear it regularly, but at that same time I also learned about Bath and Body Works sprays, so while I used some sort of fragrance every day, I no longer had just one.  For my birthday this past November my Mom bought me a new fragrance by Lalique in a stunningly beautiful purple bottle, that she indeed bought BECAUSE OF the bottle, but also she said because she knew I was looking again for a new scent and she figured she’d gift me one to try.  I like it very much and have worn it almost every day for nearly two months, but it does not “feel” like it wants to be “my” new signature scent, even though it is spicy and peppery and has, according to the Lalique web site, top notes and base notes that I love.  I am on a journey of essence discovery so to speak, ready for a change, and looking for notes and undertones that somehow feel, or smell,  like they define who I am right now.

When my sister was in high school she had a girlfriend who smelled so good, all the time; like fresh soap, or sun dried fresh air sheets, just a clean and pure and fresh and delightful smell.  AND she always smelled the same way to me, and I never knew or asked what it WAS, and maybe it was just ‘her,’ and honestly over the years I have thought about her when sniffing around for a new fragrance or body spray, and am sure if ever I smell anything even remotely similar to it, my olfactory memory will go off like a siren!  Years ago when I worked in retail, one of my regular customers also had a scent about her that I just loved, and  every time she walked into the shop I felt happy by the aroma, sounds silly but almost like a high, and after so many years of waiting on her, finally one fall weekend, remarked to her that for years I had been enjoying her signature scent and asked what did she wear?  She told me it was Bob Mackie and that she bought it at Bloomingdale’s in the city.  AND the next time she came into the store, she told me that she had recently bought a fresh bottle, and from her ridiculously expensive French handbag, pulled out a bottle of perfume about 1/4 full and gave it to me.  I was so excited!!  …and so the next day I spritzed it on for work, and NOTHING.  NO joy, NO whiff of wonderfulness, NO feeling good, NO high…it was, on me, nothing special.  AND I was terribly disappointed, but of course used it up until it was gone, but that was when I fully understood that our own individual body chemistry has more to do with a fragrance than perhaps anything else!

I read an article in Women’s Health Magazine last year that explained that our sense of smell diminishes as we age and that this fact alone can determine what scents appeal to us at different times of our lives.  I have taken quizzes in Oprah Magazine on how to pick a fragrance and have taken personality questionnaires which are supposed to determine, based on a variety of seemingly unrelated and insignificant questions, what bases and aromas and top notes appeal to me.  It’s all well and good to take a sniff of somebody and ask what they wear, but if it does not jive with my brand of soap, or my skin, it doesn’t really matter how much it costs or where it is sold, if it is not the “right” scent for me, it’s just not a good fit.

I frequently use a bar soap from India called Chandrika, and a few times a week use Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castille liquid soap,  and I often use plain old Ivory soap too.  All three of them get me clean, smell good, and I use them equally as much, but although the bathroom smells wonderful when I am sudsing, none of them linger on my skin.  There are some smells in nature that I LOVE, like jasmine, vetiver, orange zest, cedar, red wine, and good clean fresh soil.  I love how my house smells when I am baking apples or roasting a chicken covered in fresh rosemary, but I don’t want to smell like my oven.  There are some smells in nature that I really dislike too, such as roses and Asiatic lilies, so I know I don’t want to smell like them either!  It is somewhat difficult to “find” a new signature scent when you are a woman who no longer goes to school, or works in retail, and seldom goes out socially.  While I work a job that has me often dirty, I do wear lipgloss EVERY single day, and more often than not I also wear earrings, even if I am in jeans with the knees blown out and a Sherwin Williams t-shirt that, while once was white, now has a clear color sample example of every single room or house I have painted in the last three years, and I do wear fragrance every day…I joke that since I work a job typically associated with men, I try to get my *girlie on* any way I can…SO I am simply at a point in time that it is time to find a new scent that says, ‘oh, R* was here’ …time to get my sniffer sniffing.

Want * Need * Wish

As a year nears its end, I feel much as I do when reading a really wonderful book… and I see that my bookmark is nearly at the back cover, and I see so few pages LEFT  and that I’ve only a chapter or so to go, and I just WANT SO BAD for the last pages to have a climactic event or profoundly perfect paragraph, clear up any confusion in the story line, tie together all the loose ends of character development, bring closure to anything uncertain or unclear or incomplete, that has me closing the book after the last sentence and just contentedly sighing with joy…I LOVE, positively adore it, when I finish a book and feel like this…and as another year comes to a close, it seems an appropriate time for any of us to think what should be different, or could be different, in the next 365 days to come.  Much like the end of a book, wanting all the loose ends to be neatly tied, a year ending to me is a closure and a fresh start all rolled up in one neat package.  I know people who make these really detailed & succinct resolutions at the end of a year, with definitive wants, needs, and wishes, but who, as I, seldom if ever achieve them, or even diligently maintain them through Valentine’s Day!…so  I have not made “resolutions” in the formal sense for many years, I do however think it feels really good, and might matter very much, to make choices in the coming year that better reflect what I claim to care so much about.  I am all about that Free Will business, particularly this time of year, when a whole year of living boils down to a recognition of where things went wrong and where things went right, and what to do about any of it.

It’s perfectly fine to say that I want to lead a healthier lifestyle so that I can better, and more likely, enjoy as many years as possible watching my granddaughters evolve into young ladies and grow into women, but if the only thing good I do for myself on any random day is get plenty of antioxidants by consuming copious mugs of coffee…it’s not really doing anything whatsoever to achieve this desire.  It’s fine to say that I want to make a more secure financial status for myself,  but if I keep buying things that I don’t really need, I am no closer to that goal with every billing statement.  I am very fond of talking and writing about change, but seldom if ever am particularly fond of changing…it’s a pattern, but at least one that I recognize, so there’s that…

I have just weeks left of the year and I have thought a lot about what I wish I had done differently these past 343 days, what I need to do better next year, and what I really want to change or to happen in these next 12 months.  I have been thinking about choices that I made and things that I’ve done, things I’ve neglected,  and wondering, deeply reflecting really, on whether any of my behavior leads me closer to what I want, what I need, and what I wish for.  Let me be clear, in my cogitation I determined and I can honestly write, that nothing I did this last year has gotten me any closer, at all, to what I think I want, need, or wish for.  That’s a hard f**king pill to swallow friends.  It’s a mighty hard row to how.  It’s a hard rain on my parade, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Can you ‘yadda yadda yadda’ your future?  Is making changes that lead you nearer to your goals really yadda-yadda-yadda worthy?  If my ruminations were worth any of the time I devoted to them, I guess I’ve concluded that I strongly feel, or BELIEVE, that if one thing, or one issue, is so multifaceted, that it is a want a need and a wish, then it MUST be addressed, fully, head on and a follow through is in order…it’s that “gut feeling” that “little voice” that we so often hear about, and are, in every “self help” book we read, reminded that we ought to pay attention to, but seldom do…or we talk ourselves OUT of listening…tell ourselves we are being ridiculous…but the gut knows, that little voice is sometimes the most important voice of our lives…those things that *feel* off or not quite right…if you have one of those, or many, a new year is a good place to begin to make the choices and the changes that you think will lead you to satisfying those desires and quieting that voice.

I get so many fabulous catalogs this time of year, filled with page after page after page of glossy photos of colorful beautiful needless things…I can finger through these catalogs and think I want several of the items, but know in my heart I really don’t need any of them, and could if I had to, narrow it all down to one item I really would wish for if I was told to “pick one.”  So it is a reminder really of how little there is out there that I could honestly use and that I honestly want or need.  I saw this morning a candle, featured in a list of hot Christmas giftsGifts for a cheery fragrant colorful season that had a fabulous Roy Lichtenstein like design on the glass, but was just filled with some scented wax and a wick, like any other candle…but it cost $495…and I wondered to myself, as burning candles is  really just like lighting money on fire; sure the house smells good for a bit, but basically you are just spending money on temporary olfactory pleasure, and I wondered, how much could I possibly want THAT candle, no matter how fabulous the vessel might be, that I could justify $495 for it, even if I HAD that kind of money or even if it was a gift to me and I was allowed to pick anything??!!

I remember, more than twenty years ago, when my daughter was little, reading The Little House on the Prairie series to her at bedtime over many weeks.  One of the stories took place at Christmas time and the Ingalls children were so excited that they got an orange and a peppermint stick in their stockings, and my daughter looked at me positively aghast, and said something like, “that is why they were so happy, over an orange and a candy cane?!”  and I remember thinking and explaining to her that yes, to them that was a REALLY big deal, to have a piece of fresh fruit in the winter, and to have a piece of candy, but I don’t think she “got” it and perhaps I didn’t either, as I spoiled her as much as I could over all the years of her life, and my family spoiled her more, and we are spoiling her children now, especially this time of year, indulging their every want and wish and trying to quiet the voices in our heads that scream out that ‘they need nothing’…I feel like the start of a new year would be a great time to help my daughter’s children understand more clearly the differences between wants and wishes and needs, but we live in a world where even “average” kids need nothing…even poor kids have ipods and playstations and bikes…if I gave the girls some fruit and a candy cane in their stocking I can’t image what they would think!  I know there is a lesson here just dying to be taught, but I can’t quite figure out how to execute it…perhaps I need to change my own way of thinking about wants needs and wishes before I try to school the next generation on the matter…that seems as good a resolution as any…

 

O Christmas Card, Christmas Card, wherefore art thou Christmas Card?

The rise of social media has created the fall of Christmas cards.  There.  I wrote it.  I have known it was true as evidenced by my sparsely stuffed mailbox these last few years, but continually tried to deny it.  I miss holiday cards.  Anybody who knows me knows that I have enjoyed the social media experience, very much, maybe too much, since I first learned it even existed in 2007.  Ironically, I learned about Facebook from an actual Christmas Card, made of paper and mailed through the USPS; my friend, who always included a photograph of her stunningly beautiful daughters taken in some sweet tropical place, wrote in her note, “look me up, I’m on facebook” and I walked downstairs that winter day, rather puzzled,  and asked my hippie scientist boyfriend, with whom I lived at the time, “what is facebook?”

I’ve thought about it over the last several holiday seasons, and have watched as my *winter*solstice*season*mail* life went from, in the 1990’s, so many cards that I would have them strung on satin grosgrain ribbon across a ten foot span of my dining room door jamb, down to a decorative metal, and in the shape of a Christmas tree,  -‘over the door card holder’-  in the 2000’s, reduced to last year, four.  FOUR cards mailed for Christmas received in my rural route mailbox.  It’s our own fault.  I used to love to write a lovely letter and enclose it in a glittery shimmery card.  I would buy all new pens in metallic inks and fresh markers to decorate the envelopes with holly leaves and berries and swirls, (a silly thing to some I’m sure, but something left over from my years in retail, making decorative signs throughout the store at Christmas time, and a nice little personal embellishment on a blank envelope) and sometimes I’d include a photograph, back then of my daughter, and more recently of her daughters, but now, what’s the point?!

I used to love to order at least one box of cards from the MOMA catalog, always artsy and fabulously adorned and unique, and I would send those to my good friends and people I really loved, or people I knew would hang it up and it would be used decoratively, as opposed to being tossed right in the trash.  I would have more generic “winter” cards for my friends who were Jewish or were not particularly participatory in the whole Santa/Christ experience, and then I would have a more youthful design to send to friends with little ones.  I put a lot of effort into the Christmas card sending process over most of the years of my adult life.  Right now, on my desk upstairs, sitting since Thanksgiving, I have four boxes of cards, the same four boxes that I pulled from the attic last year and did not send.  I have lovely stamps with poinsettias on them and I have a drawer full of metallic gel pens that would be terrific, but I just don’t have the same desire I used to, to write and mail, which is odd, since my living room is totally transformed into a panoply of shiny glittery Christmas regalia…I mean, it’s obvious to anybody who walks through my door that I engage in the entire holiday season experience…and yet, here the boxes of cards sit, unopened and unwritten…

All of my friends or acquaintances know everything that I would possibly share in a Christmas card note because of social media.  I shove pictures of my beautiful granddaughters into their eyeballs several times a month, all year-long!!!  I am far worse really than some Cashmere Bouquet scented old lady with a shiny leather wallet clutch who unfurls her photos in line at the grocery store, because I don’t ask, as the old grandma would, “would you like to see a picture of the girls?”  I just jam it into your face.  My handful of friends who do not live near me no longer need a lovely handwritten note to ‘catch up’ because they know from both my blog and from my Facebook page, and now my instagram link, that I am living HERE, working THERE, doing THIS, wishing for THAT.  It’s my own fault that there are no more Christmas cards, we did it to ourselves.

“lest they be angels in disguise”

I recently read an article in Vanity Fair about Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, (why yes,  it’s been on my bucket list since I first learned of its existence, maybe in an Anais Nin biography eons ago, and maybe then again when I saw it in a Woody Allen movie, –Midnight in Paris–  a few years back, so yes, it’s on *The List* ) and in this VF piece there was a photo of an arched doorway in the shop on which was painted a quote, wrongly, it was noted, attributed to the poet John Keats, “Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest they be Angels in Disguise” and my heart skipped a beat when I read these words… I have often thought about this very thing…how you never really know who you are talking to, or why you meet certain people, or why some interactions leave you feeling infinitely better about life or love or just existing on this earth.   I have had a few experiences where I’ve been made aware that there are people on the planet who have, or seem to exhibit,  qualities not of this earth…I don’t mean to sound Sci-Fi silly, like when I watch one of my favorite t.v. shows, Ancient Aliens, but I do mean to sound deeply thoughtful of the fact that I believe there are people all around us who have a “gift” or a light, or a sense of things…that are much deeper and much more profound than my gifts, light, or sense.

I have had interactions with a handful of people over my life who “knew” of, or felt things about me, that they could not possibly -know- because I did not know these people, but they read me like a book so to speak; they zoned in on aspects of who I am, and how I think, and what matters to me in ways that ‘regular’ people would not know.  Stuff that is visible on the outside is not always at all representative of what is on the inside…but there is a comfort in believing, or knowing, that some of these strangers we meet or communicate with COULD be something ‘more.’   What?  I don’t know…but something other than what we think we understand…I think of it much like a story I read on the internet a couple of years ago; where a preacher, who thought he was surrounded by “good Christians” in his congregation, people to whom he preached every Sunday and who claimed to be Bible following people, who walked the walk and talked the talk, dressed like a homeless man (and got himself to stink and be unshaven and unkempt like one too) to conduct an experiment, and was horrified that these supposedly kind & good & Godly people acted so coolly and heartlessly and indifferent towards him when he was in this ‘disguise.’  The story was disheartening really, in pointing out to me, or any reader, how unbelievably judgmental and awful we humans can be to others who are “them” and not “us.”

And…much like I wrote the other day about Thanksgiving, so many people suffer from this bizarre delusion that they are SO much better, or SO much better off, and SO far away from being a “them,” when in reality, it is not much more than some missed paychecks, or loss of a job, or terrible diagnosis, that brings one from an ‘us’ to a them in no time…ANYway, I often have thought about those people who see things, who feel things, who are somehow more in tune with the universe than I, and I also kind of like that song, ‘what if God was one of us?’  I mean, what if, honestly, God was real and one of us, or some dirty scruffy smelly homeless man was really an angel, or some haggard frizzy haired toothless horrid woman was really a blessing in disguise, some sort of universal messengers, and we just dismissed them as worthless, as losers, as has-beens, as not-so-special, as insignificant…what if?  Wouldn’t you feel like total shit if you were awful to such a person and then realized, A-Ha!!  it was a trick…a test…this is an angel among mortals, this is a magical mystery goddess in tattered clothes, this is God in some confusing form…and you failed???

I read the quote that day in Vanity Fair and felt like it was something that could be a mantra for me…I try to, or aspire to be, one of the least judgmental people on the planet, and I am highly comforted by the fact that there might actually be a god, or might actually be angels among us.  I have been told at times in my life that I was a sap, a patsy, or too empathetic, or not tough enough…and all of those things might very well be true.  But I have to wonder, can you be too kind??  Can you be too compassionate??  Maybe.  BUT, I think somebody like Pema Chodron or Mother Teresa would disagree.  NOT in any way, AT ALL, to imply my efforts to be kind, and to be nice to people is in any way whatsoever relatable to Christian or Buddhist like behavior and goodness, but I really do think it matters to be nice before you be anything else…and when you can, understand, and when you can, empathize, and when you can, comfort, and when you can, love.  It seems like if there is a choice about how to act and what to act upon, and how to choose your words, and how to behave towards others, and how to BE in the company of other human beings, would it not be so much better to be good to a potential angel, than not?