Riding Metro North. Romanticizing myself.

Thursday morning.

5:23 a.m.

Short on sleep, by several hours.

Short on time, rushing to catch the second morning train.

I’m on the platform, train cars pass, the train slows. I peer into one passing car, then the next, and the next. Options are limited: standing or middle seat.

Aisle seat occupants have their heads down, sending the commuter signal of not here, you aren’t welcome to the middle seat. Keep moving down the aisle.

I tap him on the shoulder. The Suit is irritated that I’ll be crowding him by taking the middle seat. I set my bag on the floor. Grab my smartphone. Tuck my elbows in, avoiding all possible contact.

Mind flips through the day’s appointments. Unfinished projects. And then the previous day, and things I shouldn’t have said, things I should have done, things I shouldn’t have done. I shift in my seat, nudging the occupant at the window, who shifts nervously.

Morning code: No contact. Absolutely no talking.

I can’t get comfortable. I adjust myself in place, careful to avoid contact. I’m tired. I’m edging to claustrophobia, and assessing whether I want, whether I need to exit and stand in vestibule. Not yet DK. Not yet. Settle. Just settle.

I set my smartphone down. I close my eyes.

It’s Make Believe Boutique in her post Kaleidoscope Shift that lands with a share from Chelsea D.G. Bartlett. “We may not always have that perfect mindset that we all chase…it can be difficult…especially when you’re constantly driving yourself forward…so lately I’ve been tricking myself myself into it.  I call this ‘romanticizing my life.’ I use this technique when I’m struggling to see the beauty in a situation, to add a little romance to the everyday frustrations and low moments that sometimes come up in life. It’s a perspective shift, more than anything else, paired with words that will take something that is often just a concept and true it into something more solid. Something actionable. It’s less effective to simply say, ‘I need to slow down and re-frame what I’m experiencing,’ than it is to force yourself to notice actual details and commit them to written words. Instead of, ‘I’m stuck on the bus, too exhausted after work even to concentrate on my creative goals, and all I want is to be at home,’ romanticize your life.’ “The bus rocks me gently through the city lights. Glimmers of ideas for stories and projects spark and sputter in my mind. I know I’ll be home soon, and it will be warm.[Read more…]

I carry my phone around with me as if it were an oxygen tank

I carry my phone around with me as if it were an oxygen tank. I stare at it while I make breakfast and take out the recycling, ruining what I prize most about working from home—the sense of control, the relative peace. I have tried all sorts of things to look at screens less often: I don’t get push notifications or use Facebook or watch Instagram stories; on my home computer, I have installed a browser plug-in called StayFocusd, which turns off Twitter after forty-five minutes of daily use. On my phone, I use an app called Freedom to block social media for much of the workday. If any of my digital chastity belts malfunction, I start scrolling like a junkie, pulling myself away just long enough to send frantic e-mails to the apps’ customer service with subject lines like “Freedom not working!” …

Nearly three-quarters of Americans have taken steps to distance themselves from Facebook. Entire families try to observe a “digital Sabbath.” Parents seek screen-time alternatives to the Jungian horrorscape that is children’s YouTubeAnd yet a mood of fidgety powerlessness continues to accumulate, like an acid snowfall on our collective mind…

One afternoon, I draped myself on my couch and felt an influx of mental silence that was both disturbing and hallucinatorily pleasurable. I didn’t want to learn how to fix or build anything, or start a book club. I wanted to experience myself as soft and loose and purposeless, three qualities that, in my adulthood, have always seemed economically risky. Nothing is harder to do than nothing,” Jenny Odell writes, in her new book,How to Do Nothing.” …Odell details, with earnest wonder, moments in her life when she was reoriented toward these values. After the 2016 election, she began feeding peanuts to two crows on her balcony, and found comfort in the fact that “these essentially wild animals recognized me, that I had some place in their universe.” …

On the first day of April, I took stock of my digital experiment. I had not become a different, better person. I had not acquired any high-value leisure activities. But I had felt a sort of persistent ache and wonder that pulled me back to a year that I spent in the Peace Corps, wandering in the dust at the foot of sky-high birch trees, terrified and thrilled at the sensation of being unknowable, mysterious to myself, unseen. I watered my plants, and I loosened my StayFocusd settings, back to forty-five daily minutes. I considered my Freedom parameters, which I had already learned to break, and let them be…

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” the philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, in 1654…

Sitting quietly in a room alone is for experts.

~ Jia Tolentino, excerpts from What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away The New Yorker, April 22, 2019


Notes: Essay – Thank you Sawsan for sharing! And publicly highlighting another addiction. Image: Nico Milk

Tuesday Morning Wake-up Call

Everything that she used to take for granted produces a sense of revelation, as if she were a child again. Tastes—the sweetness of a strawberry, its juice dripping onto her chin; a buttery pastry melting in her mouth. Smells—flowers on a front lawn, a colleague’s perfume, seaweed washed up on the shore, Matt’s sweaty body in bed at night. Sounds—the strings on a cello, the screech of a car, her nephew’s laughter. Experiences—dancing at a birthday party, people-watching at Starbucks, buying a cute dress, opening the mail. All of this, no matter how mundane, delights her to no end. She’s become hyper-present. When people delude themselves into believing they have all the time in the world, she’s noticed, they get lazy.

~ Lori Gottlieb, from her new book titled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Chosen as one of Amazon’s top 10 Books of the Month for April 2019.


Photo: via Newthom

T.G.I.F.: I wish. I do. I hope.

He starts singing. “‘Half my life is over, oh yeah. Half my life has passed me by.’” I roll my eyes, but he keeps going. It’s a bluesy tune and I’m trying to place it. Etta James? B. B. King?“ ‘I wish I could go back, change the past. Have more years, to get it right . . .’”

~ Lori Gottlieb, from her new book titled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Chosen as one of Amazon’s top 10 Books of the Month for April 2019.

I wonder how on earth we keep track of any of it

Bristling as well as warm breezes circulate among those people, and one may find oneself in a crosswind without knowing why. It must be connected to the density of memories in the room. Each person drags his past into a chair with him and then he sits down next to another person who has her past along with her as well—mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and friends and enemies and hometowns and roads and mailboxes and streets and diners and skyscrapers and bus stops are all there in the events that have stayed with him or her because the thing that happened caused pain or joy or fear or shame, and as I look back on the dinner party, I understand that the memories seated in the chairs along with the guests included dead people like Irma and Lindy and Ted Jr., yes, real ghosts borne into the present by each mind at the table—and when you multiply the pasts and memories and ghosts of everyone in the room, you understand they aren’t quiet or contained because they inevitably reappear in the conversation in one form or another, and then they begin to mingle and stir up the rest of the company, one blending into the other, and it’s not only the words of the conversation that count but the tone of voice each person uses when he or she talks, and then think of all the looking back and forth that goes on at a dinner table and the gesturing and all the visible information as well—faces that flush momentarily and tiny beads of sweat that form on upper lips and wrinkles that arrive on a face only in a smile, or the various pairs of eyes that appear cool and indifferent and other pairs that are alive with interest, or the same pair of eyes that seem far away one instant and focused the next, and every person is reading and rereading and interpreting all the big and small signals that are whirling about and that can’t be kept separate from the memories at all, and I wonder how on earth we keep track of any of it.

~ Siri Hustvedt, Memories of the Future (Simon & Schuster, March 19, 2019)


Notes: Portrait of Siri Hustvedt by Werner Pawlok

Resist the Rain

Patty Maher, “Resist the Rain

 

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)

Driving I-95 S. With Freddie.

Tuesday morning.

Early morning traffic is frictionless, commuters float down I-95 S.

It’s 42° F. It’s January.  Soft, light rain. Electronics somehow (?) sense that the windshield is damp, wipers flap intermittently. Miracle. All of it.

It’s quiet in the cabin.

No radio.

No talk shows.

No podcasts.

No playlists.

The soft hum of the engine. The shifting of the sole of my right shoe on the accelerator.

And, those pernicious bumpin’ Thoughts. [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly

Am I the sun inside me?

~ Kazim Ali, from “Dear Rumi,” The Far Mosque


Notes:

  • Photo: Kalie Garrett @ Design Cove (via see more). Poem: Chateau of my Heart
  • 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.”

Wisdom

I was racing back home from the computer store, busily doing my errands, trying to get things done. I noticed a restaurant and shopping center to my right, on the freeway. I’d been curious about this place for almost a year. Today, instead of driving by, I turned off the highway and pulled into the parking lot. I spent the next three hours browsing through the stores filled with antiques, trinkets, and gourmet foods. Then I enjoyed a leisurely dinner—a juicy hamburger and a chocolate malt—at the restaurant before returning home. The stores had always been there; I’d always driven past. Today I stopped, satisfied my curiosity, and enjoyed myself.

It’s easy to spend our lives working toward a goal, convinced that if we could only get there, we’d be truly happy then. Today is the only moment we have. If we wait until tomorrow to be happy, we’ll miss out on the beauty of today.

Have your plans. Set goals.

Let yourself be happy now.

~ Melody Beattie, from “Be Happy Now” & More Language of Letting Go


Photo Credit

%d bloggers like this: