Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Yes,

even when I don’t believe—

there is a place in me inaccessible to unbelief,

a patch of wild grace,

a stubborn preserve, impenetrable…

music that builds its nest in silence.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I was like an unfocused college student. I would read and watch all sorts of things, as long as they had already received high acclaim. I was studying great people and great works, but I wasn’t really making my own choices; I was just consuming information haphazardly. All that, I think, has started to change. Having minimized my material possessions, I’ve also started to minimize the information I take in. I no longer follow useless news, gossip, or random stand-up comedy. I don’t try to fill my conversations with things that other people have made or done. Instead of focusing on the voices of others, I focus on and believe in the voice that’s coming from me. What I often feel now is that I’m “returning” to myself. I used to feel that so many great things had already been produced in the world that there was nothing I could add. I was so worried about what other people would think that I developed an oversized fear of making mistakes. If I came up with a great idea, I’d reject it because it came from me. This is what I imagine. There used to be another “me” who lived inside me. He had the same size, shape, and form as my usual “self.” But the more concerned I became about the outside world, the smaller the inside me got. He was so battered that he could barely get back on his feet. But I now feel as though that little old me has finally gotten up. Minimalism has given me the focus to revive my inner me.

Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism


Portrait of Fumio Sasaki by Irwin Wong for The Sunday Times. “If you like it, chuck it: secrets of Japan’s most radical minimalist.”

All My Friends

This book is dedicated to the voices in my head, the most remarkable of my friends.

And to my wife, who lives with us.

Fredrik Backman, the opening dedication to his new book titled “Anxious People: A Novel” (Atria Books, September 8, 2020)


Notes:

when she looked in the mirror in the morning, she liked what she saw

Eudora Welty’s biographer, reports that Katherine Anne Porter said to Welty, “You will never know what it means to be a beautiful woman.” The comment reveals more about Porter’s conception of beauty than Welty’s appearance, though one hopes it earned Porter a few centuries in some lower level of Purgatory. And yet plenty of plain people partner and/ or marry. What’s going on here is something more profound than mere mien. Even in early photographs, Welty is radiant with her unabashed horse-toothed smile—somehow she found in her youth the self-possession to embrace it as her signature feature. In meeting her I felt overwhelmingly that, when she looked in the mirror in the morning, she liked what she saw, because what she saw she had consciously created. She was her own spouse.

— Fenton JohnsonAt the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life (W. W. Norton & Company, March 10, 2020)


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “I have been sick and I found out then, only then, how lonely I am. Is it too late? My heart puts up a struggle inside me, and you may have heard it, protesting against emptiness … It should be full, he would rush on to tell her, thinking of his heart now as a deep lake, it should be holding love like other hearts. It should be flooded with love… . Come and stand in my heart, whoever you are, and a whole river would cover your feet and rise higher and take your knees in whirlpools, and draw you down to itself, your whole body, your heart too.” — Eudora Welty, from “Death of a Traveling Salesman” in The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Feb 1, 1982)
  • Portrait of Eudora Welty, Nov 15, 1970, from the Paris Review via hottytoddy.com

Walking Cross Town. In the Big Apple.

Second train of the morning.

Arrive at Grand Central Station.

Traders, Bankers, Morning Hawks gather at the exit.

Car door slides open and the throng spills out.

I pick up the pace. Heart’s pumping. I’m passing Suits. And accelerating.

I Pass Harvard.

I Pass Yale.

I Pass MIT.

I Pass Lori’s Princeton.

I Pass Stanford.

I Pass Prep School boys from Choate, Exeter. Deerfield Academy.

I’m in front now, shoes tapping on the marble floors, Exit 500 feet ahead.

Boy from a 1 room, 3-grade public classroom in Ootischenia. Graduate of Northern Michigan University.

I step through the double doors to exit Grand Central onto Madison.

20° F wind gust roars down 47th street, eyes flood with water.

New York City! The Big Apple. You made it!

Cold bites, tears flow, and flow. And flow.

Cross walk sign turns.

I’m alone.

In front now.

Not done yet.

Not far enough ahead.

Not yet.


Photo: The city never sleeps, Atelier Olschinsky (via this isn’t happiness)

Flying Over I-40 N. And leaning in.

bear-plane

4:15 am. In Uber, bleary eyed. Please, no small talk. Absolute silence will score a larger tip. I think about letting him know, the thought vanishing in 3 seconds. Inhuman.

Air conditioning dries the skin, sticky from the early morning humidity. It’s summer in Dallas.

SiriusXM is set to Symphony Hall, playing Bach or Tchaikovsky or Chopin. Wrong side of 50, and you can’t tell one composer from the next. Kyo Maclear: “Die knowing something. Die knowing your knowing will be incomplete.” Makes Sense. I sit in the back seat wondering why this is so difficult, how I’m so badly twisted. Keep running, or Die ignorant.

AA1150, DFW to LGA. 6:00 a.m. boarding. 6:35 am departure, 11:09 am touch down in NYC. And beat the soul sucking rush hour traffic. Home. Soon. Weekend. Body tired, let’s go, and softens.

First flight out. Airport opening. TSA agents. Airport personnel. A youth soccer team from Argentina. I find a seat outside of the Admiral’s Club, which does not open until 5 a.m. A Google alert flashes flight delay to 10:30 a.m. No!

I rush to call American Airlines to find another flight – the automated message says due to inclement weather, hold times are longer. “We will return your call in an estimated 38 minutes.” 38 minutes. You’ve got to be kidding me.

A second Google alert flashes, my flight is now delayed to 10:45 a.m. It’s 4:55 a.m. now.

I’m first in line as the doors are unlocked to the Admirals Club.

“Is it weather? Or is the delay due to an aircraft maintenance problem.”

“Sir, it’s aircraft maintenance.” Oh, no. Estimates for departure times on maintenance problems are notoriously bad. [Read more…]

A Mind Divided

She’s a fellow blogger. She struggles with some ferocious demons. Here’s her story. I urge you to listen to the finish.

“A Reflection: Flickers in the Dark…How do you make a life out of ash? How do you move from the whole of the doily into the thread? For me, it started with flickers of light in my darkness…”

Moved…


Source: Sandy’s Blog @ A Mind Divided: “Flickers in the Dark” Reflection

 

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I fret about any piece of writing I get into, because nothing you do in the past is going to do the next thing, even when you’re in your 80s.

I would never sit down and think I was about to turn out something good.

Quite the opposite.

~ John McPhee, “What I Think: John McPhee” (Princeton University, September 17, 2017)

John McPhee, 86,  received the Pulitzer Prize for his book “Annals of the Former World” in 1999. In the same year, McPhee received the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching from Princeton. He was rejected by The New Yorker for 15 years and eventually became a staff writer for The New Yorker for over 50 years, where much of the content of his 32 books originally appeared.


Notes:

  • Source: Lori Ferguson – Princeton Grad. Word magician. Writer extraordinaire. Thank you for sharing this inspiration interview.
  • Portrait of John McPhee from Longreads

Pink

TS: “Seasoned rocker that she is, Pink knows how to work an arena.”

Pink: “If there are 10,000 people in an arena, I can pick out that one person that is the brother that had to drive his sister. 9,999 people are having a good time, I can pick out the one that isn’t.

~ Tracy Smith, “Pink”

Don’t miss the entire segment on CBS Sunday Morning (October 8, 2017)


Photo: Pink | Alecia Beth Moore | singer | portrait | glamor | ram2013

Walking Cross Town. And Doubt Farming.

Take 7.

Yep, 7th attempt to produce something, Anything, Something, Anything, that’s worthy.

I’m walking across Manhattan on 47th street and the weight bears down. Tuesday morning after a long weekend. Shoes feel heavy. Shoulders slouched. A Sherpa hauling a full load.

It’s 9 days and counting. I’ve run out of puppy pictures. I’ve finished Will Schwalbe’s Books for a Living and I’m finished with my quotidian shares of his wisdom.

So, I conduct an autopsy of the prior six attempts on partially completed blog posts:

  • Take 1: How I gained 10 lbs in 30 days and still feel good about me.
    • (23% complete. Tired topic.)
  • Take 2: How I, an introvert, primed a large group of employees at a networking event.
    • (83% complete, and Quit. Too anxious to finish, too anxious to share.)
  • Take 3: Favorite songs on 7 on 70’s on Sirius. The angelic voice of Karen Carpenter with Top of the World (’72)…I’m on the top of the world looking down on creation – – followed by Meatloaf with Paradise by the Dashboard (’77)…Though it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark nightI can see paradise by the dashboard lightAin’t no doubt about it…We were doubly blessed…Ain’t no doubt about it…
    • (17% complete. Despite a continuing irresistible urge to lip sync “Ain’t no doubt about it…we were doubly blessed…Tired theme. Deleted.)

[Read more…]

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

“People get up, they go to work, they have their lives, but you never see the headlines say, ‘Six billion people got along rather well today.’ You’ll have the headline about the 30 people who shot each other.”

~ John Malkovich


John Gavin Malkovich, 59, was born in Christopher, Illinois.  His paternal grandparents were Croatian. He is an American actor, producer, director, and fashion designer. Over the last 30 years of his career, Malkovich has appeared in more than 70 motion pictures. For his roles in Places in the Heart and In the Line of Fire, he received Academy Award nominations. He has also appeared in critically acclaimed films such as Empire of the SunThe Killing FieldsDangerous LiaisonsOf Mice and MenBeing John Malkovich, and RED, and has produced numerous films, including Juno and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.


Image Source: m.antena.ro portrait of John Malkovich

A sense of shame has never entirely departed

“If you grew up very self-conscious, feeling that you’re not as good as other people, I think that it defines you,” she said.

A sense of shame has never entirely departed. “Owning it, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing,” Ms. Walls said. “It’s important to tap into it and be in touch with it. For me, it’s part of process of storytelling.”

With the writing of her memoir, she let go of trying to bury the fact that she slept in a rope bed, defecated in a ditch and lived in ramshackle quarters whose ceilings and floorboards threatened to crumble at any hour.

“Somebody told me the secret to happiness is low expectations,” she said. “I still can’t believe that I have flush toilets, that I can go to a grocery store and buy whatever I want, which will never fail to amaze me.” […]

Nothing doing for Ms. Walls. “I wanted a place where I could go broke and still grow vegetables, bail water out of the creek and shoot deer,” she said. “If worse comes to worst, I’ll survive.”

~ Ruth La Ferla, excerpts from Jeannette Walls Settles Down Far From the Noise of New York, (The New York Times, August 5, 2017)


Notes: Jeannette Walls is the author of the best selling (and must read) memoir: The Glass Castle: A Memoir

It’s just doubt, that’s the biggest thing.

You’ve been doing stand-up since the late ‘80s. Do you remember your worst night?

Oh, there are so many of them. In the beginning, there are endless amounts of worst nights. But there was one, after “Everybody Loves Raymond” had been on for a year, out at the University of Florida’s Gator Growl. It’s in the stadium, like, 30,000 people, Dave Chappelle, Larry the Cable Guy and me. Five minutes in, I heard a woman yell out, “You better start getting funny.”

Anything you miss about those early days?

There was something gratifying about going up onstage in front of a room full of total strangers. They’ve never seen you in their life, and they’re kind of like, who is this guy? And then you win that crowd over. That will never happen again, only because somebody in the audience has seen me. Seinfeld said, they give you the first 10 minutes if you’re well known. But you still gotta be funny.

When you first started taking on dramatic roles, what was your biggest worry?

You wonder, are you any good? It’s just doubt, that’s the biggest thing. The desire is there. But then I also want to be a pro golfer, and that’s never gonna happen.

You still have worries like that?

Oh yeah. No matter how successful you are. I hear that from other comedians all the time. You’re just waiting for the funny police to come and arrest you as an impostor.

~ Robert Ito, excerpts from his interview with Ray Romano in “Ray Romano Still Fears the ‘Funny Police’” (NY Times, June 30, 2017)


Photo of Ray Romano: Aces Comedy

Walking Cross-Town. With Marrow.

It’s 6:38 pm and I’m rushing across town to catch the 7:12 at Grand Central.

It’s 6:38 pm. I note the coincidence – I boarded the 6:38 am morning train, must be some significance in that. Or absolutely none at all and you are delirious.

The thought evaporates like mist and the mind shifts to The Feet.  Still 75 minutes from home. The skin has been scraped raw off both heels from new shoes – I wince with each step. How about a few shots of Novocain Doc, hit me. Inject a few blasts in the forehead and let it slow drip, down the bloodstream, relieve the weight from the shoulders and back, and let it settle in my feet, just camp out right there.

The day ended with a semi-social event. Whatever marrow is left, is being sucked out of this introvert’s bones.  A career development event for twenty high potentials. I step in the restroom a few minutes before the session, splash cold water on my face, and look. There’s me in the mirror.  Thinning hair, and this is kind. Gray. Bags under the eyes, a raccoon  Shoulders slumped. Suit rumbled. And they’re looking for some secret sauce from you?  Try, please, try, not to repeat yourself. Try not to curse. Try not to be too authentic.   [Read more…]

No Shame

patti-smith
I’m going to promote myself exactly as I am,
with all my weak points and my strong ones.
My weak points are that I’m self-conscious and often insecure,
and my strong point is that I don’t feel any shame about it.

~ Patti Smith, from “Patti Smith: Somewhere, Over the Rimbaud,” by Susan Shapiro, Crawdaddy, December 1975


Notes:

Oh, of course we are.

above-average


Source: The New York Times Magazine

Lightly child, lightly.

balloon-upside-down

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”

~ Henry Miller, Sexus: The Rosy Crucifixion I

 


Notes:

  • Photo: Paul Apal’kin via Newthom. Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Blogger’s Creed

blog-post-funny


Source: Wasted Rita via this isn’t happiness

Light child, lightly (2)

bird-in-hand-kiss

I heard a bird congratulating itself
all day for being a jay.
Nobody cared. But it was glad
all over again, and said so, again

~ William Stafford, “News Every Day” from Passwords

 


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you Karl @ Mindfulbalance.
  • Photo: wsj.com – Youssef Badawi – A bird seller getting close to the merchandise at al-Shaalan market in Damascus, Syria.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

I’m not screwing around. It’s time.

patty-maher

I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”

~ Brené Brown, Living In the Questions


Sources: Quote – Your Eyes Blaze Out. Photo: Patty Maher – There is Always Hope (2015)

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