A Confession to Start the Year Off Right

Category: Small Stones

Roll out the red carpet for the V word because vulnerability is where your true strength and glory resides.
– Kris Carr - The Myth of Finding Your Purpose

“I’m plenty vulnerable in every day life, I don’t really think I need to be vulnerable online too” is ‘zackly what I thought when I read Crazy-Sexy wellness guru Kris Carr’s blog post. Except. Well, that was my first reaction and it was a few days ago and the more I think about it, the more I believe I do. I do need it. Not writing freely here in my own online living room, and by that I mean being open about who I am and my situation in life, is getting in my way, blocking my growth as a writer, stopping me from going out on important limbs.

I am standing on my own tail.

I started blogging in 2002 at in-visible.de. This week I rescued a lot of those posts and brought them into the archives here. While I was copying and pasting I had plenty of time to look back at that young and hopeful me, the one who thought this daily diary-log thingy could turn out to be a way to share with my family and friends, to keep in touch from far away, maybe even to recapture in some small way the feeling of community we have when we are all together in the same place.

Oh, but there was a dragon in my calculations. Turns out I was the only enthusiastic internet user I knew.

Since then, I have made many-several attempts to join the online conversation each of which have kind-of dümpelt along, limping first on one leg, then on the other before drawing up and coming to a complete stop. Then, like an old dog who just remembered where she was going, I’d pick up a thought and off we go again–for awhile.

Like everything I have ever tried multiple times, blogging just got harder for me, more complicated as time went by. My writing lost its fresh voice, it’s enthusiasm. I forgot how to “speak” to people I know and I never did know how to speak to strangers. Pretty soon, privacy became an issue as it wasn’t “just us chickens” hanging around the internet anymore. The less I said, the safer I felt.

Safer, yes, also lonelier, further removed and not disconnected, I was unconnected.

The next thing I knew, in order to be a blogger I needed a “brand” and a “platform”. An area of expertise was required and I must post on schedule. And join Facebook. That was the last time I tried, and when, predictably, I walked away again, I was shaking my head at how it all seemed so hard-edged, so repetitive, so done. What could I bring to the conversation that I had, like a voyeur observed in relative silence. Seemed like everything worth saying had already been said and safely indexed by Jeeves and his buddies, Uncle Google and the Yahoo. Move along, Maus. Nothin’ left to do here…

So, there it was: I lived through the revolution but it hadn’t lived through me. That made me sad.

Then the blessed and beautiful Crazy Sexy Kris Carr reminded me that Vulnerability is the root of the Good Things. It’s where we can connect, where we find our best friends. It is the impetus for my most honest voice, my enthusiasm, my courage, my love. And so, here I am again, nothing if not stubborn. I know there is a pony in here somewhere.

I have no idea what will come of crawling out on this particular limb again, but it must be done.

The Little Things Through a Magnifying Glass

Category: Unexpected Encouragement

My physical therapist, Nina comes to my home for my weekly verbretzlung [1]. Often, she also simply by-the-way changes the fitted sheet on my bed. I still have the strength for it, but it is difficult for me to do and she knows it. Sometimes I ask her to help me, other times she spies a clean sheet lying around nearby and she just starts stripping the old one off.

This morning, I asked her if she’d mind and thanked her. She smiled on her way through the door saying “So much thanks for such a little thing.”

But here’s the thing, those little things get unreasonably big when you can’t, for whatever reason, do them for yourself anymore. The more I need help with all those little things the harder it gets to ask for it, and I find out that I have a break-point. Oh it varies from day to day and situation to situation but it is always there, deeply buried, most of the time until it’s not and my usually pragmatic self takes a swan dive, arms spread wide, toes pointed, right off a cliff and suddenly I’m a walking, talking psychological short-circuit growing long horns, hooves, and just looking for a red flag.

Left! Right! There! Come on… Wave it. I dare you.

I know that the Swan Dive Moment is prowling about in the wings and care must be taken when I start to feel like every other sentence I utter is a request for someone to do something that I’d really love to simply do for myself. But I can’t. Or I can, but the effort I’d expend to do it makes the silly little task (that really needs to be done) simply too much. Or maybe I find myself in the middle of a long-winded explanation of how and why something that I’d really love to just do, quietly, is even necessary; important enough for me to ask for help.

Everyone says, “That must be frustrating”. Yes. But it’s much worse than that. It’s repetitive. And dare I say it? Boring. Ack!

Repetition is a form of self-inflicted boredom. A sure Swan Dive situation.

I guess what I want to say is that I am incredibly grateful to be surrounded by kind folks who are pleased to lend me a hand and happy that I have asked. My wonderful friends, you are there for me when I call, you are irreplaceable and almost always exactly what I need. Occasionally though, when the moon is full, or dark, or blue and the sky is gray, and I’m wobbling on the edge, I need one of those exceptional moments when someone simply notices what needs to be done and does it; my team-mate in every sense of the word.

I don’t fall on the floor and kiss your feet. But I want to. You have saved me from myself.

[1] verbretzlung is a Mausisch, a verb, and it means to turn someone/something into a pretzel

I Can’t Afford to Hurry Anymore

Category: Thoughts From the Void

Photo Credit: Daikorax via Wikimedia Commons

When I was younger I believed that there was something tangible to be gained by doing all sorts of nebulous “things” more efficiently. It seemed logical to think that if I shaved a few minutes off each of the tasks that I did in a day, all I would have to do is move a little faster, think a bit in advance, never leave the room with empty hands, optimize my procedures, reduce the friction - then, well then after some time invested - I would learn the best way to wash my dishes, change my laundry, check my email and I would someday find myself with the aber-thousand hours I need to write a novel, wouldn’t I?

I’m willing. We all have to pay our dues.

Turns out the Productivity Trap is a hamster wheel for gamers. It is Sisyphusian to believe that a person for whom the whole “save time” racket makes sense, is the type of person who is actually be capable of using more time for something other than further “time saving”. I must have been crazy. The Germans call it Selbstzweck when something becomes it’s own reason for being.

And how easy it was to forget that the time I saved was intended for doing something grandiose and over-the-top challenging; something that I want to do so much the wanting alone terrifies me. So, I spent my saved time saving more time while my manuscripts lounged about my desk drawers doing nothing at all; like rich women on vacation.

Now I think, it makes a damn sight more sense to slow down than it does to hurry up. Besides the fact that I’m moving ever slower these days and fighting reality is about as much fun as jogging upstream. When I am moving slowly I have time for deliberation, time for choosing. It is seldom that that which I have conscientiously chosen is that which I regret.

Slowly, slowly I am finding my way. I am using deliberate action in consequence with my highest goals; like a small child, I ban myself to the sofa to sit on my hands until I can choose what to do next. Then I get up and do it, returning to the sofa the minute I notice my velocity increasing and whirling dervish spinning in my thoughts.

The whirling dervish must be a celebration not a castigation.

Will I ever finish this novel that I have been working on for years? Or another one? Yes, I believe I will. I don’t know when but keep your eyes on that slot at the bookstore right between Italo Calvino and Willa Cather. Someday, that’s where you’ll find my books.

I’m Calling From Windows Technical Support

Category: This is My Life

This morning I got The Call. The one I’d only read about all over the internet. It started with my telephone ringing but no number was displayed. Normally I don’t answer these calls in the first place, but I was expecting a call from a friend who keeps her number private.

“Hello?” I said. A long pause and a click - I was being connected to the next available operator - very subtle, guys.

A man with an Indian accent said “I would like to speak to {Garbled Name}.”

“I think you have the wrong number.” I said cheerfully, innocently, really. This stuff never happens to me.

“No!” he shouted urgently. “I am calling from Windows Technical Support! Understand you?”

Oh yes. Understood I. Immediately. Understood I that his tone and the implied imperative of his question was intended to startle me; to raise my adrenaline level and strike the first note of panic in my poor, user’s heart. That poisonous combination he hoped would keep me, concerned and pliable on the other end of the phone.

“Nope.” I said, still cheerful, in fact I was nearly flattered. After having been run around the bush by those smart guys at Ars Techinca the robot machine that picks telephone numbers for scammers picked me, me, lil-old me. You gotta love random.

In the US, the FTC began cracking down on these types of scams.

If you run Windows on your computer and you don’t know what I am talking about, please read the above linked articles and User, beware. You are your own gaping security hole and these guys want nothing less than full remote access to your computer. Once you click “run” and they have what they want, they will charge you a bundle of money to “remove the viruses” that are not there in the first place. If you refuse to pay, they will remind you that they have full remote access they can, and they will lock you out of your own machine.

Ars Technica advises:

if you have relatives and friends who lack the necessary dose of skepticism, and they receive unsolicited phone calls from people wanting to fix their computers, they should hang up and report the scam to the FTC or their PC security vendor.

A Birthday Concert for Daniel Barenboim

I love the French-German culture channel ARTE. It is one of the few channels today that brings vision to television. Last night they broadcast this wonderful concert for and with the great pianast and director Daniel Barenboim who turned 70 this year. Happy Birthday Mr. Barenboim! Here he is on the piano while his friend Zubin Mehta directs the Berliner Statskapelle.

The program is: Tschaikowskys’s 1st Piano Concerto, Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto and finally a piece Elliott Carter wrote for Daniel Barenboim called Dialogs II.

UPDATE: The video from ARTE is no longer available, so I removed the link. The concert was wonderful and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a DVD release…

The Something New I’ve Learned Today

Category: Thoughts From the Void

After all these years, you’d think this would not be new, but it is. Was. Or maybe I have to learn it more than once?

I thought a few minutes in a warm oven wouldn’t matter - would maybe make it better - soften the chocolate up a bit in my chocolate croissant that I bought an hour and a half before. The weather at the market was chilly still; I was there unusually early. Martina was still setting out cake but the coffee machine was in operation and I sat in the sun and waited for KC who arrived a bit later looking adorable in a hand-knit sweater all the colors of a Blue Spruce, making me think of Christmas too were the pumpkins at my farmer’s stand ready to be canned for pie later. When the snow flies and it’s dark and Advent candles.

I chatted with my neighbors. I bought everything: cauliflower, broccoli, porree, onions, slices of cheescake, tomatoes, cucumbers for pickling, persimmons, apples, chicken, eggs, ham, feta cheese and croissants. One Laugencroissant and one spoil-me-why-dontcha chocolate croissant.

When I came home I heated the oven while the water got hot then I shut the oven off and shoved my croissant in while my tea steeped. Green tea. Really, not longer than two minutes.

The first bite was fine-buttery and ever-so-slightly warm. Heavenly. The second bite too and impatiently I looked for the chocolate bite with it’s lightly softened creaminess – the bite that would prove what a stellar idea two-minutes in the oven was. Third bite: Score! Yummy-sweet chocolate dribbled down my chin, across my scarf, my shirt, my wrist, my thumb and on the carpet. Drip. Drip. Damn.

The Moral of the Story -and- The Something New I’ve Learned Today: If you manage to get yourself to the market early, the croissants are not only still there (not sold out) but they are extremely fresh. And even if you hang around in the chilly Autumn air for what feels like an eternity the croissant you bought is still so fresh the chocolate has not had time to harden in the first place.

Some Thoughts About Dance

Category: The Artist In Me

Photo Credit: Mike Fisher (BFS Man), via Flickr

The ballet was breathtaking. Dance is fascinating in the way it gives everything away. It burns itself up and afterwards I have nothing. The curtain goes down and I am changed but I have nothing to say. My language is not up to the task of “explaining” dance. Words like “breathtaking”, “graceful”, “athletic”, trite cliches and I can not believe they carry any communicative force when applied to dance. I am speechless in the face of this thing that dissects itself into a series of gestures demonstrated specifically one after the other and the application of lighting and music. The whole of it touches shadows in my experience and sows tears of recognition to be harvested in the second act.

It happened this time too but I’m not just talking about Eugin Onegin.

Dance is not at all like the circus where I witness feats of agility or daring-do and feel an “Ahhh! Ohhh!” rise in my throat. After a concert, I have a tune, a riff, a chorus for humming. After an evening at the theater I have a story, a funny line, a quote to share, but after the ballet? I have nothing. Not even a gesture that, taken out of context, is food for conversation with anyone who was not there. Dance is this perfect intersection between story, emotion, intuition and gesture that, by some astonishing form of magic, becomes much more than the sum of it’s parts. A think of it’s own and it teaches me, shows me, something, something invisible, I hadn’t known, never saw before and must now carry with me forever.

If I can’t communicate it, I can’t share it. If I can’t share it, I surely can’t give it away and I am bound. It holds me, not the other way ‘round .

And so now here we are after all. At the intersection of exactly what I love about dance; it’s directness, it’s here-and-nowness, it’s don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-itness, it’s entreaty mich hinzugeben, fallen zu lassen, fallen zulassen, einfach Zulassen und alles, alles, alles vergessen except the moment and that I am, we are, deeply human.

Now I see it; why language can’t go where dance can: That which plays itself out onstage is us.

Boris Eifman’s Onegin Ballet

Category: This Is My Life

Since giving my creative self over to ModPoPenn for ten weeks of modern and contemporary American poetry and the boundless poetic enthusiasm of our host and professor Al Filreis, the fifty-seven pointers on my creative compass are, for once, all pointing in roughly the same direction. My Muse is satisfied. I am not very productive, but I am very happy.

If you are looking for me this afternoon, I’ll be in my sofa reading Eugin Onegin and this evening, you can find me here:

Five Minute Friday: Wide

Category: Five Minute Fridays

Wide, the view, I can breathe in the mountains here sitting on the corner in the curve at the top of the road, the end of the mountain after this it’s feet or have a seat.

I choose the seat on the stone wall and wonder why there is a guard rail here at the end of the road. If you are coming down you’re going slow, if you are going up you’re going even slower.

Wide my thoughts wander and follow my eyes across the planes and crannies of the other side of the valley. There is a farmhouse below and I wonder who lives there and if Spring feels as far away to them in February as it does to me sitting in my concrete box settled on top of all the other concrete boxes in the city.

Special thanks to Lisa Jo Baker for organizing Five Minute Fridays and Marcy Pusey for telling me about it!

Poem for #Geeks @ModPoPenn

Category: ModPoPenn

This is for all the incredibly cool #leftbrainers out there taking #ModPoPenn because you want to understand poetry. Especially Scott Noye who wrote the forum post that inspired my poem.

Should you finally conceive
of writing the stuff,
the toolset you need
you know well enough:
Your language, your eye,
emacs or vi.