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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life In Exile: The Future’s So Bright (but only because it will just never rain in the desert)

You know the problem with being human, right? The problem is the past is so much more vivid to us than the future. And we only nominally live in the present. In actuality, we are living in the present, thinking about past things we liked and projecting those things on the way the future should be. And since we are all Revisionist Historians, the past is way better or worse in our heads than it actually was, depending on your perspective. We are creating now what we imagined was so great about then for later. (“Who’s on first?” – if you understood that joke then you are either way old dude, or a totally cool/geeky film nerd).

Except somehow it just doesn’t seem to work. Because of this whole present, real time, you can only be where you are stuff (thanks a lot Eckhart Tolle!), things don’t get accomplished except if you are focusing on now, and that’s hard. The mind wanders. Being one with, say, filing, is slightly more difficult than being one with nature. OK, OK, they are both technically in the universe, but seriously. Dictation – running amongst the lilies? Folding laundry – dipping toes in the cool ocean. Which one is clearer? Number one – number two.

Maybe the real problem is getting older. Allow me to expound. When you are say, early 20s, you can spend a little time doing mundane tasks. I’m not saying you don’t gripe about it but you’ve got all the time in the world. And that’s the thing, it feels like you have all the time in the world. The future is out there, you can see it, clearly envision how it’s going to be! All you have to do is one-mundane-task-at-a-time your way to it! But then you get older. And not only is there less time left, but you have clearly become cynical. Yeah, right, you can power your way to positive thinking all you want but the fact is we all get jaded. It is as inevitable as thick hips, chin hair, monkey arms, you name it. Because you have done the ‘imagining your future’ thing and then you passed through it. And guess what? That future when you got there, was not like you imagined it a bit, if at all. But you can bet that later, when you are in the present thinking about the past, that future you imagined but didn’t work out like you had planned, will actually seem a lot better than it actually was. In retrospect. Or worse, if you are that sort.

How many of us have kids, raise you hands. Now tell me, is this just like the adorable, yet familial controlled chaos you (in movie fashion) imagined your family life would be? Who among us can say they made their 5 Year Plan and it turned out just that way, and it is swell!

See, I’ve made those 5 year plans. I’ve done the self-help-y, The Secret-y, Oprah-y thing and it doesn’t really work so much. You work towards a goal and when you get there, or to the marker point where ‘it’ is supposed to be, it’s not. Something else entirely is. The future looks bright when you can imagine good things happening to yourself without the Negative Nelly in your head going “Yeah, right, like that’s gonna happen”. After having been through a few decades worth of 5 year plans, and wandering around aimlessly in the desert, in my beautiful prison, and not getting pretty much anywhere I wanted to be in my career or my life in general, all the while accomplishing amazing feats, one wonders – is it even possible to imagine a reasonable future, an obtainable future? Is it even wise to try?

I could totally slip into a couple of icky platitudes here – hope for a miracle but plan for reality – learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow – think big but relish small pleasures (hmmmm, relish…) – but I hate platitudes. They’re all so quipy and cute and begging to be repeated and meaningful and stuff… Platitudes, so self aggrandizing… Maybe the thing is to just stop planning, be happy to wake up to a new day (and if you need sunny sunshine every day, day after bloody flipping relentlessly sunny day! - move to the desert), do what the hell you want, and stop watching Oprah… No, the money will not come if you follow your passion. The only thing that will happen is you will be looking at the ass-end of your passion…

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Life In Exile: In Isolation

We just got a dog. I know, what does that have to do with anything. Besides cuteness you mean? Well, I tell ya, a dog is by nature a pack animal, yes? Likes the other dogs around, likes the other warm bodies and playful paws and camaraderie. And if a dog likes to be alone, or goes off alone, then something is definitely up.

So I've been thinking about isolating recently - even before the dog - and doing a little navel gazing 'bout it, and I realize that I have been doing this for years. And generally, when I do it, it is because something is wrong (not because I'm looking for a secret place to pee, I know that was what you were thinking!). That something is usually along the lines of 'things not working out they way I'd planned' or 'feeling ostracized/criticized/terrorized'-pretty much any of the cizes will do. And we humans, OK certainly at least me, are also pack animals. We like the warm paws too and if we isolate too long getting back into the swing is problematic.

Simple small, one on one or two interactions I'm fine with mostly. But when I have to go back to the cave and try to fit in, I get a little bile of panic. Ick. "So don't do it" says brain. Which is entirely unhelpful. The fear is, of course, not fitting in, not being liked, or worse invisible. People like to say that kids will take any attention, even if its negative, over no attention. But as adults we learn to skew all attention. It somehow just seems easier that way.

I know that I particularly feel like crawling under my bed (except there are too many candy wrappers under there from my sneaky kids!) when I've been accused or lambasted, particularly for something that either I didn't do or wasn't entirely my fault. (Sometimes I wish I too had the mighty high opinion of myself that I could control all under my purview.) And this just makes one jumpy, ready to be thwacked at any moment - skittish doggie. I get to the point, in that perfect circular storm of criticism, isolation, and awkwardness where it just seems natural, expected, that people (read: anyone other than me and a few close friends and my children) will look at my and react badly - "Wrong! Whatever you're doing, and I don't know what you're doing but I'm certain it's wrong". I'm way beyond "why me?", which is not good because beyond the Forrest of why me lies the desert of "of course" despair. I just don't expect good things to happen... to me, anyway... anymore... and that is bad.

I'm trying to teach my puppy (Buttercup) and my children (and husband by osmosis - because he hates when I try to teach him stuff directly) that good things still can happen - even though number one son might have a hard time believing that one. His fish died today. Remember that kind of 8 year old sad? That is a bummer and a quarter, because he's super sad right now and probably his whole day will be ruined. But hopefully not his attitude or his whole life... can't let him isolate - 'cause 'whole life' and 'nothing ever good' only comes of that.

Deep breath, stick out a paw. Ruff!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Life in Exile: The Long Hot Summer of My Discontent

As the stores start putting out the down jackets and corduroy, we here in the desert look forward to dipping into the upper 90s. While you all out there are experiencing sweater weather we are still months away. And even in December we may get temperatures so mild that really a long sleeve shirt will do. No need to get all crazy and don pants people.

As summers here go this one was not too bad. We have birthday parties in May and June for our kids and usually by June it is just too hot to be outside, so by about 2 o'clock everyone migrates indoors. But this year we spent all day outside, adults under the covered patio, cool drinks in hand, kids on the slippy slide. And even during the true summer months it was still cool enough in the early mornings to sit on the patio.

See that is the thing that gets to you. In other parts it may get to high 80s or even 90s in the day but by nightfall it gets cool again. And one off-shore or northern breeze can sweep the whole thing away. But not here. Sure temps may dip by 20 or so degrees at night but if you're starting at 110, well...

I used to say 104 was my threshold, that after that point I was disgruntled and everyone might as well just stay away, leave me alone because I was going to grumble till October (yes, non-desert dwellers OUR summer is from roughly mid-May through the end of September, sometimes October so eat that June complainers!). OK, that last comment was grumbly, and I apologize, because what I was going to say is that my threshold seems to have risen. Either that or the mildness of this summer's temps have not thrust me over to the dark side.

Or maybe it could be that I have a plan. I'm not saying it's a good one. I don't know that I've ever made a good plan for my life, and at this point in my life I'm not gonna go getting all cocky about it. By normal weights and measures it may not actually turn out to be a good plan, but it is a plan nonetheless. I am getting a teaching credential so that I can teach to my degrees (see, I told you it was not necessarily a good plan). Where, you may ask, could I possibly teach something having to do with theatre and or film and television in the desert! (Don't you dare say, "You should move to LA" or I will roll my eyes so hard at you!)

Well, though this may not be the mecca of media innovation and creativity (although we have a Mecca in this valley, I just don't know what it is a mecca of... sand possibly, or trailer parks, boasting the largest welfare check rolls per capita... I know stop me now, and it's not even hot today! Only about 95!) there are a number of colleges and universities within shooting distance, well long-commuting distance. And though I have never really wanted to commute, or teach necessarily (I attribute that last comment to high school peer pressure, you remember, the old "those who can't do teach" saw that only makes sense to 16 year olds) I am thrilled at the prospect of thinking about and researching theatre, film, and television or any combination thereof.

Or maybe I am maturing. Or maybe it is my forays into raw food eating (and subsequent "oh my god I lost how much without even trying!" weight loss) and focusing on getting healthier. I am a relatively old mom afterall. I will need to be a fit bird if I want to live to see and pester my grandchildren. I also may be working well into my 70s since there is no pension waiting for me on the other side - I just better not get to the other side! (of working, not death, relax) So if I am to possibly be the oldest living waitress at Sherman's then I'd better get ready. Or maybe all those self help and new spirituality books finally kicked in.

Or maybe you can only be grumpy for so long, particularly if it is not in your nature, which I don't think it is in mine. Mine is circumstantial grumpy. Although to be honest I can hang on for long periods of time. And you know I did have 7 whole days off in a row, how you say, vuh... cau... vay... va-ca-shun? which I haven't had since 2006. And I did get to drive to LA-ish for my friend's babyshower and spend some time with her and another friend. That made me happy. I could still be riding those oh-you-mean-there-is-intelligent-life-somewhere wave.

Or most probably, my kids are 8 and 6 and that has an impact. No longer can I fool myself into thinking that I am not influencing who they hope to become with my mood. Especially my daughter. I see my kids trying on their parent's behavior for size quite often now and it is scary when it is your darker moods they are emulating. So, there you go, a slap in the face by your adorable children. Snap out of it Ryan! Fhhhhwack!

So life gives you lemons you make lemonade. Or if you drink too much lemonade - there are lots of lemon trees growing in the desert - the summer drink of choice, and since summer here JUST NEVER ENDS, maybe a nice meringue pie? Oh, or what about a lemon chiffon cake with lemon icing! Oh you know what would be good, shrimp sauteed in lots of butter and lemon juice... lemon curd on toasted brioche, yum....