Sunday Morning (Wake-Up Call)

When the breakfast is finished, people gather in a large, loose circle around Charlie, wanting a moment of his attention before they go, wanting to make sure he knows they came. After all, he serves these people as well. He hugs them in the same way he hugged Ron and Sid, with gladness and acceptance. You are four days sober and I love you. You’re about to get in your BMW and I love you. You are not my problem to solve but my brother to love, all of you. We want to get close so we can convince ourselves that he is made of some rare and superior material that hasn’t been given to us, but it isn’t true. Calling him a saint is just a way of letting ourselves off the hook. After riding around with Charlie, I find it shocking to realize how simple it would be to see myself as a worthless servant, to find joy in the service of others, to open my heart and let it remain open to everyone, everyone, all the time. The trick is in the decision to wake up every morning and meet the world again with love.

Ann Patchett, from “My Year of No Shopping” in “These Precious Days: Essays” (Harper, November 23, 2021)


Photo: Ann Patchett, author of “These Precious Days,” with her dog Sparky, who’s one of the shop dogs at her bookstore, Parnassus. (Heidi Ross)

Black Friday

Elissa told me the story: After leaving India the year before, she decided she had enough stuff, or too much stuff. She made a pledge that for a year she wouldn’t buy shoes, clothes, purses, or jewelry.

I was impressed by her conviction, but she shrugged it off. “It wasn’t hard.” After that, I did some small-scale experiments of my own, giving up shopping for Lent for a few years. I was always surprised by how much better it made me feel. But it wasn’t until New Year’s Day 2017 that I decided to follow my friend’s example. At the end of 2016, our country had swung in the direction of gold leaf, an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionairedom that kept me up at night. I couldn’t settle down to read or write, and in my anxiety I found myself mindlessly scrolling through two particular shopping websites, numbing out with images of shoes, clothes, purses and jewelry. I was trying to distract myself, but the distraction left me feeling worse, the way a late night in a bar smoking Winstons and drinking gin leaves you feeling worse. The unspoken question of shopping is What do I need?, but I didn’t need anything. What I needed was less than what I had…

My few months of no-shopping were full of gleeful discoveries…Once I stopped looking for things to buy, I became tremendously grateful for things I received…

It doesn’t take so long for craving to subside. Once I got the hang of giving something up, it wasn’t much of a trick. The much harder part was living with the startling abundance that had been illuminated when I stopped trying to get more. Once I could see what I already had, and what actually mattered, I was left with a feeling that was somewhere between sickened and humbled. When did I amass so many things, and did someone else need them?

If you stop thinking about what you might want, it’s a whole lot easier to see what other people don’t have…. “I realized I had too many decisions to make that were actually important,” she said. “There were people to help, things to do. Not shopping frees up a lot of space in your brain.” …

The things we buy and buy and buy are like a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: we can see some shapes out there, light and dark, but in our constant craving for what we may still want, we miss too many of life’s details. It’s not as if I kept a ledger and took the money I didn’t spend on perfume and gave that money to the poor, but I came to a better understanding of money as something we earn and spend and save for the things we want and need. Once I was able to get past the want and be honest about the need, it was easier to let the money go. It was like Elissa had told me when she first explained the benefits of not shopping: “Our capacity for giving is huge.”

Ann Patchett, from “My Year of No Shopping” in “These Precious Days: Essays” (Harper, November 23, 2021)


Image: Los Angeles Times: Best New Books to Read November 2021

Weekend Plans


Photo of Rachel’s Sully.

Merry Christmas

The picture was taken last night. Part of a family tradition that Grandma started years and years ago —  Grandma sends her gifts which they open on Christmas Eve. It’s always pajamas. The ritual never grows old, and has travelled with us as we moved from city to city, and from house to house, chasing a Life.

It’s 5 a.m. It’s silent now, but for the high winds howling outside my window. The moment reminds me of their younger days, when we lived in much smaller quarters.

We call out good night to each other down the hall. How beautiful, the way that children sleep so deeply and peacefully that their parents’ voices do not wake them.” (Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World: A Memoir.”)

I sit, writing this post. It’s quiet but for my breathing. A tear slides down my cheek.

Martin Amis said that “Time has come to feel like a runaway train, flashing through station after station.”  Melancholy sweeps over me —  I wonder how many more Christmas moments are left before they move on with their lives.

Maybe one more. Please, give us at least one more…

Merry Christmas.

Yellow Paper (60 sec)


Dubbed “Yellow Paper,” the ad focuses on the homecoming of US military personnel for the holidays. It’s 60-seconds long, with the song “Welcome Home” by Joy Williams playing throughout. In it, a family drives to the airport in a snowstorm, hoping to get there on time. When they get to the airport, they pass out yellow paper and coordinate them into a ribbon shape.] The Yellow Ribbon program is part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It is the program that allows veterans to continue their education and enrich their lives by providing them tuition-free access to state universities. The yellow ribbon has come to symbolize US troops, Prisoners of War or Missing in Action persons, as well as the mental and physical health of our troops, among other things. The decision made by Toyota to use this symbol shows dedication to the people who protect and serve our country. (Source: Toyota Arlington)

For those with blocked youtube access, try this link.

Thanksgiving morn. House full of sleepers.

light-night-house-family

Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Notes: Photo: Mennyfox55

Merry Christmas!


Photo: Erin Vey (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Running Away. From the Salt Benediction.

 

We have a bad situation here. (Very)

One needs to take personal accountability. Yet, if I could, I would, find anyone, anything, to blame. 

The digital Nokia scale (Nokia Body Cardio WiFi Smart Scale in Black) was a Christmas gift from the kids last year. The gift wasn’t a subliminal message, but a blow with a blunt instrument. They see it, I can’t hide it. Man boobs. Pooch maturing to hang belly. And everything else, sliding, down, down, down.

So, for the next ~320 days, the morning ritual is the same. Step on the scale. Step off the scale. The Scale wirelessly sends the data to the iPhone app. The app fires off a notification:

“New weight measurement available.  Stepping on the scale every morning and opening Health Mate regularly will help you stay on track.” 

Right. Right.

Tuesday:

Nokia alert: “Good job. Your weight is up only 0.3 lbs from the day before.” Monday. Box of chocolates from colleague as a holiday gift along with a thank you note. A constant beckoning presence on my desk, a siren call. I put the conference call on mute. Pop a chocolate covered caramel in my mouth. Close my eyes. Let that blessing melt down my throat. [Read more…]

He’s coming…

Hundreds of racers dressed as Santa Claus race through the streets of Michendorf, near Berlin, as part of a Noel-themed 10K. (Michele Tantussi, Reuters, wsj.com December 9, 2018)

I love the dawn stillness (on Thanksgiving Day)

light-night-house-family

Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Notes: Photo: Mennyfox55

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