1.19.2017

the only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open

Days 16-19: 'happiness is', circle, mountain, new

Happiness is...
elusive.
temporary.
a cold, sour pickle after a good ham sandwich.
comfort.
relaxation.
surprise help with a chore.
sweet.
hugs.
a circle of friends.
new socks.
music.
a coworker insisting, "there are a lot of people around here who think you're terrific."
real mail.
toast.
sleep.
January rain.
confusing.
addictive.
a mountain of hot, seasoned French fries with a messy burger and good beer.
books.
hearing the laugh of an old friend.

Did I miss anything?

[the title quotation is by Chuck Palahniuk, from Invisible Monsters]

1.15.2017

beauty lay not in the thing, but in what the thing symbolized

Days 14-15: 'on the floor', 'movement'
  1. Do you own a record player? no, not for years. I know that's very unhipsterish of me.
  2. Do you use it? Uhm. No? I have no desire for one. If I were to buy something like that, a relatively expensive single-purpose item, it would likely be a bread machine.
  3. How easily do you make friends? not at all. On a scale of 1-10, maybe 3.

    My last couple of good friends have strongly wooed me. That's a different thing entirely.
  4. What is the difference between having character and being a character? to be a character is to behave in a cinematic or theatrical way, larger than life or peculiar or strangely memorable. To have character is to live life with dignity, composure, and responsibility.
  5. Are there any animals you flat-out refuse to touch? yeah, I think I'm beyond the whole lizard idea. Their movements are too erratic for me. Some of them are quite pretty and their lives are fascinating, but I don't want to touch them.
  6. Do you care about your weight? I do. By my next birthday, I'd like to reduce it by 21.875%.
  7. Did you/will you go to the prom? I did not. It was a big deal at the time, but through the intervening time, it's been revealed as inconsequential.
  8. Have you ever wanted to date twins? no, there's been neither opportunity nor desire
  9. What one thing would you change about high school if you could? It's going to sound a little stupid considering my answer to #7, but I would go to prom with the guy who asked me. Not because of the prom aspect, but because of the ramifications of having not gone with him. I regret that, sincerely.
  10. If you came with a warning label, what would it say? Non moveo in testimonium
  11. Are you artistic and creative? sort of? I'm not a hippie, and I can't draw to save my life, but...yeah.
  12. What were you (probably) doing on this date last year? the early part of last year was a very sad blur, and I spent a lot of time on the floor, head in hands, trying to get through the day
  13. What are you obsessed with? it varies. At the moment, I'm into reading and watching movies. Hoping to shift gears toward working out and writing letters soon.
  14. What was the last compliment you received? there were several on Friday night, a couple of which were accompanied by free drinks (which hasn't happened in long enough that it was a compliment in itself).

    The nicest thing I've heard in a while, though, is that I'm easy to talk to. That simple statement undid a whole lot of damage.
  15. Do you have any brothers or sisters? I do
  16. Who would you like to be alone with right now? it's Sunday night, a little later than I'd like to be writing this. There's an ice storm predicted over the next 36 hours, expected to affect travel for my next two work days. I've got two meetings tomorrow and one on Tuesday, dinner plans tomorrow and a house guest after, dinner out on Wednesday, lunch out on Thursday, an appointment after work Thursday, and I think something's planned for Friday but not on my calendar. In other words, the week has exhausted me and hasn't even started yet. So, really--being alone with someone else? No, thank you.
  17. Do you push people away when you really want them to come closer? that's prehaps the question of the hour
  18. Is a prenuptial agreement necessary or does it take the romance and trust out of marriage? I'm sure I'm not the one to ask that question.

    When I was young, I thought that keeping separate financials was a terrible idea, and that total trust and commingling was necessary for marriage--but what did I know about marriage? I've come to realize that different situations demand different responses. Inheritance, taxes, children, risk, illness: all of those can have an effect on the advisability of mixing funds, very much to the side of the 'romantic' aspects of marriage.

    And, anyway--marriage isn't just about romance. Anyone who thinks it is has a LOT to learn about it.
  19. Do you lie your way out of things? I do. I mean, I have and I can. Law school was not for nothing.
  20. Are you better at talking or listening? I'm better at writing than talking, and better at writing than listening. But better at listening than talking.
  21. What will only happen to you once in this lifetime? birth
  22. Know of any conspiracy theories you think might be credible? no
  23. What are the most beautiful words that have ever been spoken to you? "yes" and "there"
  24. If it were legal would you own a human slave (race unimportant)? uh, no
  25. Have you ever read your own writing at a poetry reading? yes. The reading was not terrible, but I think that the poems probably were.
  26. What is one simple thing that gives you the happy shivers? fresh lemonade
  27. What do you do for exercise? park further from the door than necessary (except at home)
  28. Would you rather have a strict teacher with a sense of humor or a lenient teacher that doesn't teach? strict, definitely. There's no point in taking a class where you won't learn anything.
  29. If you ever have a baby what might you want to name it? Omega
  30. If you won free tickets to a concert from a radio show and had to choose between INXS, Poison, Blondie, and Moby, which would you choose? INXS
  31. Are you a good cook? I get by. I wouldn't win any awards, but I also would not starve.
  32. Do you prefer when things come with no assembly required, even if they are a bit more expensive? the less expensive, build-it-yourself would probably be my choice unless it is vastly more complex. I'm a whiz with a hex key.
  33. Start a sentence with the words: what if... ... I'd stayed in the Science groove, rather than falling for History somewhere along the line? How different would my life be, then?
  34. Are you more spontaneous and unpredictable or loyal and routine? yes. My life has all sorts of routine on the surface, because of work and bills and habit. And I'm loyal, when it's deserved. But inside, I'm all kinds of spontaneous--which reveals itself in my peculiar buying habits--and unpredictable, as shown in my seemingly senseless romantic choices. So, really, I'm all of the above.
  35. What is the highest number you can count to in your head? I don't know? That's something I've never been bored, or strange, enough to find out.
  36. How do you go about losing weight? one finger at a time
  37. Do you have street smarts? more than you'd think, to look at me, but less than I'd like
  38. Do you have a lot of common sense? yup
  39. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? vanilla. I know, it's basic, but it's also the best conveyance for all sorts of wonderful other things.
  40. What's your favorite movie that involves dancing? Strictly Ballroom
  41. Would you ever want to become a guest on a talk show? If yes, what would the show's theme be? God no. (I would have liked to be an audience member for one of those "You win it all! You win it all! EVERYBODY WINS IT ALL!" shows, though.)
  42. Do you like the way you look naked? 'When all candles be out, all cats be grey.'
    [John Heywood {1546}]
  43. Have you ever dissected an animal? only with my mind--and he was probably doing the same thing to me, so we're even
  44. Who do you know who is brilliant? someone with whom I attended high school
  45. Who do you know who is dull? 'dull', as the opposite of brilliant? One of my current coworkers; her IQ is in the 75-85 range.
  46. Do you ever think about time travel? only in regards to speculative fiction
  47. What is one interesting fact you know? around a dozen baby possum can fit into a teaspoon
  48. Do you talk to yourself? not for extended periods. (The occasional verbal outburst while watching sports or driving is the exception.)
  49. Do you talk to your pets? definitely. Who's my Schmoopy Boy?
  50. Do you believe that humankind has a future in space (will we live there some day)? no
  51. Would you rather wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or more delicate outfits? I'm not a huge fan of doing laundry, nor of paying for dry cleaning, so I guess I would think of it from the other end--I would rather wear clothes that reject dirt or don't need special effort when they are need cleaning. But, given the choice, I'd rather wear comfortable clothes that can get dirty, with the occasional delicate outfit for special occasions. Friday evening, for the work Christmas party, I wore a velvet blouse that almost never makes it out of the back of the closet. It is big and soft and feels amazing. And I got whipped cream on it, so it's off to the dry cleaner we go....
  52. How do you 'live life to the fullest'? that's a goal, not a destination. Anyone who thinks that they're really doing that all of the time is either delusional or completely irresponsible.
[from the 5000-question meme, of which this is the middle of the fifth hundred; the title quotation is by Thomas Hardy, from Tess of the D'Urbervilles]

1.13.2017

the friends who met here and embraced are gone, Each to his own mistake

Days 10-13: door, hat, pet, frame

  1. Some say that high school is the best time of your life. Was that true for you? no. It wasn't the worst time of my life, but it also wasn't the best. For me, that period was not an end in itself, but more of a doorway into the next stage.
  2. What do you find yourself encouraging others to try? grace. Few concepts have made such an impact on me like the simple idea of grace.
  3. Which is better: Mel Brooks or Woody Allen? Mel Brooks by a long shot. I don't think I've ever seen an entire Woody Allen movie, because if I had, I think I'd have poked in my own ear drums. And anyhow, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are two of my favorite films ever made.
  4. When was the last time you were up all night? it's been a while. Now and then I'll go overboard while reading on a weekend, and very rarely I'll hang out with a friend talking until the wee hours of morning. Frame it that way, though, and I think it goes all the way back to some of those all-night conversations with Johnnie Walker.
  5. "__ is life. The rest is just details."  Fill in the blank. love! No: poetry. Or maybe music? Prehaps literature. Maybe bacon?
  6. Are people too complex and different to be categorized? nope. People are effectively categorized all the time. Children and adults. Blondes and brunettes. Lefties and righties. There are more and less important and useful categories, and of course more and less offensive ones. But categories are necessary in order to be descriptive. For instance, if you want to tell a friend about an item that you need them to pick up from your office, how do you describe it? With feelings, or with description? It's the same about people.
  7. Is it good to have pride in your own race or does that separate people from each other because it makes them think of everyone else as 'outsiders'? 'pride' may be a misguided way to think about it. There's a big stink going on in the media (on social media, anyway) lately about the backlash against the glamorization of ultra-thin fashion models, using the phrase "real women have curves." The backlash takes the form of this protest: "real women look however they look." Which is, of course, true. It isn't the point of the original argument, but what backlash ever is?

    Again, I don't know that "pride" is the term that I would use. It implies both a purity (which is both troubling and statistically...unlikely...) and an arrogance that is unpleasant and pointless.
  8. What fictional story would you like to live through? no, thank you. Fiction, for one thing, requires an arc through adversity before resolving into happily ever after. Having done some time slogging through the swamps, I would prefer instead to skip right into the blissful, thanks.
  9. Are cats or dogs smarter? with no disrespect intended toward anyone's beloved pets--cats are clearly superior to dogs in every way
  10. Have you ever guessed someone's password and broken into their diary? not that I recall? If I have--I'm sorry, belatedly.
  11. What teacher, if any, has affected you the most in your life? his name is Seymour, he taught me History, and he absolutely changed my life
  12. Are you more easily bored or excited? it's funny--I think I'm probably just as easily bored as I am excited, though obviously by vastly different things. My capacity for being interested is very high, but it is quite specific.
  13. What's the bravest or most daring thing you have ever done? loved, and lost, and loved again.
  14. "What's the point of robbery when nothing is worth taking?" (- Adam Ant) the Hell of it.

    “Perhaps our greatest distinction as a species is our capacity, unique among animals, to make counter-evolutionary choices.”
    [Jared Diamond, from
    Why Is Sex Fun?]
  15. If your man or woman served you breakfast in bed as a treat what would you want? something easy to eat. Oatmeal? Cereal, maybe?
  16. What do you do only when you are upset? cry in the shower
  17. What's the oddest CD in your collection? the Elbow EP from 2001, Newborn, which includes the incredibly strange song "Lucky with Disease."
  18. What's the best diary name you ever saw? I was totally unfamiliar with the idea of naming a diary until I saw this question. I had to Google it to get in the right frame of mind to answer it, in fact. Diaries and journals are, for me, just a place to write stuff, not a formal thing like that. No "Dear Diary" needed.
  19. What would your friends be surprised to learn about you? I'm on a quest to someday find a hat that I can wear, for real
  20. Who owes you an apology? my last love
  21. Who deserves an apology from you? D
  22. How would you like to treat your kids differently from the way your parents treated you? huh. Well, if I had kids...I suppose that some of the things that happened between my sister and me would be off the agenda, completely. That stuff made childhood pretty rough at times, and complicated. Considering that they were not "un-strict," she was allowed to run things for quite a while.
  23. Which do you like best: 60's, 70's or 80's fashion? ugh. Can I choose none of the above?

    If no, I'll go with the 80s, I guess? I think I could pick and choose a few things from that era that wouldn't run me too mad.
  24. What is the worst pick up line ever used on you? "Let's meet up and have sex."
  25. Of the following, which word best describes you: inventive, kinetic (energetic), light-hearted, mature? inventive

[Pulled from the 5000-question meme; this is the first piece of the fifth part. The title quotation is by W.H. Auden]

1.09.2017

the blessing of what neither says aloud

Day 9: 'I made this'

I made this blog, and I've filled it with what matters--to me.



Ten years together without yet a cloud,
They seek each other’s eyes at intervals
Of gratefulness to firelight and four walls
For love’s obliteration of the crowd.
Serenely and perennially endowed
And bowered as few may be, their joy recalls
No snake, no sword; and over them there falls
The blessing of what neither says aloud.

Wiser for silence, they were not so glad
Were she to read the graven tale of lines
On the wan face of one somewhere alone;
Nor were they more content could he have had
Her thoughts a moment since of one who shines
Apart, and would be hers if he had known.

[Edwin Arlington Robinson {1869–1935}, 'Firelight' {from The Three Taverns}, in Sonnets]

1.08.2017

desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world

Day 8: 'on my desk'

Is the desk a metaphor for life?

My work desk and cubicle are spartan in the extreme. Apart from the company-issued equipment for the job, I've decorated with one photograph in a frame (which is required) and a sticky note left by a former colleague. It doesn't look so empty most of the time--well, some of the time--because the job tends to pile up and take up the space remaining. But by comparison to my coworkers, it looks like I've yet to move in. 

Or like I'm moving out. 

I've been like this for a while. When I'm ready to be done, then I move toward that ending right away, before taking all the steps necessary to get there. I did it in my marriage (very little) and at the library (a whole lot) and with Nick (the Village Idiot) and now at the current job. There are also lots of smaller examples in between. It's not quite as sordid or crafty as it sounds, and maybe everyone does it and I just don't see the trait in anyone but me. 

I'm no stranger to keeping up appearances, and behaving like a professional in an environment that does not foster those feelings. I ought to be better capable of maintaining the persona until the very end. I should try harder to make the desk reflect the perception that I'm trying to keep up, a while longer.

And my home desk, too--is that a metaphor? It was purchased from TechLine Furniture in A2, just up and around the block from the Kaplan center. I got "the little one" and my former spouse got "the big one" (his desk was, therefore, a foot longer and six inches deeper than mine). It was typical of us to go from having none of something to having two of it, and fancy, and in an awkward permutation.

The desk is two planks at a right angle for each leg, with one plank across as a top. Maple veneer. Heavy as hell and hard to maneuver because of the angles. It's been broken (the legs from the top) a couple of times during moves, and this time around required a whole complex shoring-up process in order to take any weight on top. 

And so, it's been rebuilt...in the room where it's currently located. While planning this post, I realized that I'm not entirely certain that I can get it out of the room without disassembling it again. Which will be seriously annoying. But, hey, what's new? Since I bought it, it's been moved 
1. from the store to the apartment on WH Dr
2. from WH Dr to R St
3. from R St to KB Ct
4. from KB Ct to R Dr
5. from R Dr to S St
6. from S St to DK Ave
7. from DK Ave to M Ln
8. from M Ln to G Dr
9. from G Dr to W L (storage)
10. from W L (storage) to W (storage)
11. from W (storage) to its current location
(I wouldn't have believed all that either--and those "moves" are not all the moves that I've made, only those that this particular piece of furniture made!)

I used to use that desk every day. At some stages, I sat there for the majority of my waking hours. Drafting my thesis, sending email, doing research, poking around on FB, writing several thousand blog posts, typing papers for classes and letters to friends...working my way through a number of computers, working the finish off of a couple of areas when I was in "no mousepad" mode. 

Now, it's more of a staging area. I have a few works in progress set up there--photo sorting, a gift that I've been working on for a while, a small file of financial documents, and the eventual phasing out of my desktop computer. My new camera is there, too, newly arrived from the coast. If I actually needed to sit down and work at the desk, I'd need to move at least half of that off before I could start. 

Is it another metaphor? 
Disorder, multitasking, keeping busy. 
A return to the artistic. 
Generosity, and connection, and replacing the old with something new.

[the title quotation is by John le Carré]

1.07.2017

read a lot, write a lot is the great commandment

Day 7: 'pattern'
  1. Do you take most things others say seriously? I take some things that some others say very seriously. The opinions of my closest friends matter so much. And my family. The small things that they say, or even the expressions that they make, can have a big impact.

    Of course, there are others whose opinions--however heated--don't matter at all.
  2. Do you have a quick wit? I sometimes do all right
  3. Do you believe in the need for political correctness? no
  4. Do you have strong opinions and beliefs? oh, definitely. Some of them, I'm willing to share. Others, I keep to myself completely. I will very rarely talk or write about politics, religion, or sex in any substantive way. (Prehaps you've noticed, if you read the blog regularly.) It's not as if I do not care about those subjects, but I feel firmly that my opinions--strong as they are--are private.

    On law, though? Or music, movies, or books? Or some esoteric topics like restaurants in A2, fireworks as a date destination, or the pancakes v. french toast debate? Just get me started.
  5. If yes, can you still hang out with and be friends with people who disagree with you? sure. It's the rare person who would agree with me on everything, and I wouldn't likely believe them anyway.
  6. Are you uptight? I first read that as "upright," which I am not. And I really, really hope I'm not uptight, either.
  7. Do you sometimes do risky things? not as much anymore, though I still have my moments
  8. Could just about anyone hold your interest in a conversation for at least ten minutes? no. Proof: any. Goddamned. day. at work.
  9. Are you self-conscious? no--do I have reason to be?
  10. What would be your ideal destination for a Saturday afternoon? some weird, obscure store or museum or garage sale, I suppose? A hole in the wall with interesting stuff to look at and maybe to buy, with nearby lunch and things to photograph. If I could spend all my weekends doing such things, I'd be relaxed and happy.
  11. Does anyone have a video of you doing something embarrassing? um, maybe? The odds are pretty good. I'm not going to put a call out to ask, though, just in case I've gotten off lucky on that front.
  12. What is Kevin Smith’s best movie? the only movie of his that I've seen is Chasing Amy. I don't remember loving it? Maybe I should see it again.
  13. Where do you like to go on Friday or Saturday nights? on Friday nights, I prefer to have no plans at all. Lately, my job has been kind of wiping me out and by Friday I'm ready to be done with all social interaction. Saturday, I'm usually up for something. What that something entails is determined by the time of year and the availability of funds, among other things.
  14. Do you like your friends to act the same way all the time or do you accept their moods and changes? I accept theirs in rough balance with their acceptance of mine, I think. Trying to be fair but still protect myself.
  15. Do you often feel like other people are judging you? some people, yes. There's a bitchweasel at work who's all full of judgment and skulduggery. A couple of people who are connected to, but not an original part of, my family, tend to be this way as well. Always sure that they know what's best for everyone else--and sure that they have need to know everyone else's business because of it.
  16. What do you think other people judge you to be like? for some reason, this question brings to mind the Irish delightful blessing, which I wish upon anyone who's sitting in judgment at this time:

    May those that love us, love us.
    And those that don't love us,
    May God turn their hearts.
    And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
    May He turn their ankles
    So we will know them by their limping.
  17. Are you quick to judge others? ah, but you can tell that--am I limping?
  18. When you have a fight with someone do you want to talk about it right away or calm down first and then talk? interesting timing. The last time I was in a very big, very important fight, I was the cry-er, and the person with whom I was fighting was ferociously tight-lipped and angry. The result was no communication at all. In the intervening time, I've come to realize that we're both arrogant and ignorant.

    If something is worth fighting about, it's worth communicating about. And that requires getting over yourself long enough to stop crying, or simmer down, and start talking. And you know it's worth fighting about if you eventually do that.
  19. Some say love is a river (according to the old song). What do you say love is? according to what I've written in the blog before, love is...
    • pain
    • still out there...somewhere...
    • TBD
    That all works for me.
  20. What is the worst fault a person can have? to be small-minded
  21. Do you have it? God, I hope not
  22. Which do you think has more impact on a person’s character, genetics or environment? environment
  23. Who was your first best friend? Jennifer
  24. If you are not best friends anymore, what came between you? life and circumstances. We are still friends, though, which says something after all these very many years.
  25. Who have you read a biography about? an academic biography: Good-bye to All That by Robert Graves.
    Popular biography:
    The Sparkling-Eyed Boy by Amy Benson
  26. What would your own autobiography be called? I'm quite certain that any biography that I could write could not be published. The best I could hope for would be a novel "thinly-based on real events." And that's the best pattern, I think--that writing about something gets it out and over with, and clears the way for something new and better.
[from the 5000-question meme, part four; the title quotation is by Stephen King]

1.06.2017

mourning, I’ve learned, is just a moment, many, grief the long betrothal beyond

Day 6: 'looking up'

If you've been to see a doctor in the last couple of years, you know the brief mental health survey that is (or ought to be) given during the exam. The intention of the survey is to determine whether the patient is currently in need of mental health care that they are not receiving. 

It is a difficult set of questions to answer honestly, because there are ramifications beyond the simple yes/no responses. Everything in life has ramifications beyond the simple yes, or no, of course. These are about inefficiency and stigma, weakness and perception. 

I have, since Chris' death, lied my way through that survey at least a dozen times. I'm not saying that because I'm proud of it, or think it's the right thing to do. I don't believe that mental health is unimportant, or less important than physical medical treatment. It's not that it doesn't work for me. I will posit that it is somewhat different for me because of my background; I have a very firm knowledge of how much I can take, and what is too much. I know that I can deal with some things on my own, and what needs to be talked about, can be. I have people. Some of them hear some of this, sometimes. 

It's funny, in the sense of peculiar I suppose, maybe 'quaint', how you can take a little stab at approaching something, conversationally, to see if it is going to be all right to talk about it. When it works, it simply continues from there. When it cannot progress, the direction simply changes and the initiator (if sensitive to it) recognizes that it's not happening. Maybe just that day, maybe not ever. Adjusts. Moves on. 

What follows is a poem that I read about a month ago. It was written by Kevin Young, two-time winner of the Patterson Poetry Prize, Quill Award winner, and PEN/Open Book winner. One of the reasons that Mr. Young's poetry resonates so much for me is that he seems to write from a place that I can identify with very strongly, from grief and loss. Much of his most beautiful and affecting work is about, or at least came after, the death of his father.

This poem is called Wintering.





I am no longer ashamed
how for weeks, after, I wanted
to be deadnot to die,

mind you, or do
myself inbut to be there
already, walking amongst

all those I’d lost, to join
the throng singing,
if that’s what there is

or the nothing, the gnawing
So be it. I wished
to be warm& worn

like the quilt my grandmother
must have made, one side
a patchwork of color

blues, green like the underside
of a leafthe other
an old pattern of the dolls

of the world, never cut out
but sewn whole—if the world
were Scotsmen & sailors

in traditional uniforms.
Mourning, I’ve learned, is just
a moment, many,

grief the long betrothal
beyond. Grief what
we wed, ringing us

heirloom brought
from my father’s hot house
the quilt heavy tonight

at the foot of my marriage bed,
its weight months of needling
& thread. Each straightish,

pale, uneven stitch
like the white hairs I earned
all that hollowed yearpull one

& ten more will come,
wearing white, to its funeral
each a mourner, a winter,

gathering ash at my temple.

[Kevin Young {1970- }, 'Wintering', from Book of Hours]