Roadrunner Musings

A Virtual Book Club - What are YOU reading?!

Would you Like to Meet for Coffee?

“Coffeehouses allowed people to get together for conversations, entertainment, and business, inspiring agreements, poetry, and irreverence in equal measure. So important did the brew become in Turkey that a lack of sufficient coffee provided grounds for a woman to see a divorce.”

Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast

“Would you like to meet for coffee and talk?”

A question I love to hear directed at me, even complete strangers. There’s just something to exciting about the prospect. Little did I know how much it meant to me until this year.

What is it about sitting together in a busy coffeeshop, chatting together that just seems to stimulate ideas? I’ve always had the best conversations in these conditions. From reminiscing old times, or catching up on each other’s lives, to creating something together, so many things can happen over a cup of coffee.

The one thing I miss the most right now, after 9 months of bullshit, is going for coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I still go. And there are things I like about picking up coffee and a muffin and sitting in the car and chatting. It’s nice that I don’t have to watch my language or keep the conversation clean, but it’s not the same.

The energy is missing.

You can’t eye flirt with a stranger across the room. You can’t accidently bump into that cute person as you get back to your table. You can’t overhear someone else’s weird conversation and wonder what kind of craziness goes on between them. And what about people watching?!

There are no “warm-ups”. And what if I need another cookie or a piece of pie?

I know it may sound crazy, but I feel like a huge part of my life is dying out and it makes me sad beyond belief. How do we meet new people if we can’t sit at coffeehouse and chat?!

Life Changes in Big and Small Ways

“Sometimes your life changes so slowly and imperceptibly that you don’t notice at all until one day you wake up and think: How did I get here? But other times life changes in an instant, with a lightning strike of good or bad luck, with glorious or tragic consequences.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Life Changes
Roll with it or Get hit by it

Yeah…it’s a little cliché, I suppose. That doesn’t mean I can’t love it! To hell with your literary rules! Bwa ha ha!

When I look back on the past …gulp… 47 years, I see a slow changing landscape. And the current picture isn’t far from where it started. My life doesn’t feel that much different that it was thirty years ago, but I know some of my friends and family may disagree. Their point of reference is different from mine. Like seeing your nieces and nephews every six months, seemingly growing in leaps and bounds, the actual changes are slow and gradual.

Life is always changing. We all know that, but when we’re in the midst of things it can feel like this moment in time, this situation will last forever.

At 21 years old, I couldn’t have predicted where I would be at 47, weeks before my birthday. What would I have thought if a mythical creature had waved a hand over a still, reflective pool of water and shown this version of me? Would I have been horrified?

“I look so old! And…I’m not working at the park?! Kids?! Nooo!!!”

Probably not. I think I would have been excited to know that my life would slow down, become calm and stable. Hard personal work and a lot of good luck have paid off well. But who knows? Sometimes I wonder if I really remember what I was like back then or if I have created a romantic image of half memories. Where’s my mythical vision giver now?

Have I had any moments that have changed everything?

Strokes of lightning? A couple. Two that I saw clearly as dramatic life changers even as they were happening. Two that I only see now was a game changer. What direction would my life have gone if those scene changes never happened?

We just don’t know where our lives will go.

We can plot and plan every detail, only to have the whole thing scattered with the wind at any moment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like the Gambler, “you got to know when to hold ‘em.” And we don’t even really know what cards are in the deck. It’s probably better to wait and see what happens; play with the hand we’re dealt.

A Recorded Life: Restored Memories – a short story

Nearly five-hundred years ago there was a book that came across my path. I know you’re thinking I’m speaking figuratively here but I’m not. A book literally came across my path. I was walking in the woods along a well-worn and shaded path when a book stumbled out from the underbrush.

Yes, I was taken aback, astonished you might even say. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, you know. What kind of a book keeps itself in a wooded underbrush? It’s fraught with danger even for the hardiest books! Dampness being the least of his problems, there were mice looking for nesting material (they can’t read you know) and hungry beetles looking for a good snack (book bindings are nutritious).

This book had obviously been neglected. As it pulled itself out into the path, I could see its binding had indeed been recently chewed. Its cover, once pristine and gold pressed, was faded, and so worn I could not make out the title. Its pages dragged along the ground as it used its cover to pull itself to a slightly upright position directly in front of my feet.

I stopped, and withdrew in disgust, blindly blaming the book for its condition. What degeneracy could bring a once proud book to this level? But then it sighed and slumped to the ground as if dead right before my eyes. My heart softened at the sight. Stooping to the ground, I gently gathered the poor weak thing into my arms. As I stood and brought the book up, it nestled to my chest like a lost and exhausted child and sighed its covers shut.

I resolved to bring it home immediately, in the hope of restoring it to health. I didn’t have much hope for it though. It seemed so weak and frail, possibly already expiring in my arms as I hurried my step. By the time I got home, all that would be left to do was cremate the poor thing, use it as a fire starter to keep my cabin warm. At least it would be useful one last time.

I quickened my pace further at the thought and got home as fast as my feet could carry me. I tried my best not to shake or jostle the (hopefully) sleeping book in my arms as I went. It shifted its weight and rustled its pages in response each time I stumbled or jerked too suddenly to avoid a low branch or diving bird.

When I reached my cabin door, I knocked gently with my foot, hoping my elves would be alert to my presence and come pattering in to help me. The book was completely asleep in my arms and its dead weight needed both my arms to carry it. I didn’t want to shift its weight and disturb it.

They came running as I had hoped they would, and seeing me with the poor tattered and torn book fainted dead away in my arms, both were moved to compassion and jumped to assist me as best they could. Being so small, it took both to open the door, but they achieved the task as quiet as mice. They instinctively knew what to do and bustled about the cabin, stoking the fire and getting a good strong broth going on the stove.

I moved toward the couch and gently laid the book down upon the cushion so as not to wake it. Arranging a few small throw pillows so that if it did stir as it rested it might not roll off the couch to further injure it, I set myself up in the chair across the room to start my vigil.

“What could I do?” I thought to myself as I sat in rapt attention to its every ragged breath. “Is there something it needs? Some spell I could use to insure its quick recovery, or at least its peace?” My elves knew my thoughts, they always did. It wasn’t that they had some extra special sense, a telepathy to read my mind. They’d simply spent their whole lives in my presence and in several hundred years, you learn things. But they, being older than I, seemed to have seen this kind of thing before. They knew what the poor thing needed; a quiet, safe rest for now, and some attention once it had gathered some strength.

My watch dragged on into hours. I was already exhausted from my travels and was looking forward to a long and quiet rest myself when all this trouble began. What trouble, you ask? I mean, really, how much trouble can an old book be? You obviously haven’t read many books. One book can change your life, lead you to another that changes you yet again. One well-written line, one finely crafted paragraph, one poignant and timely chapter, can change the world. And this book looked like it had seen some action in its past. Why was it even here?

I sighed a tired breath as I watched it rest upon my couch, my sweet and worried elves bustling quietly in the kitchen and pattering back and forth between us and their duties about the cabin. “Where could it have been? What brought it to my path? And what would be in store for both of us?” My eyes fluttered, I leaned back in my chair, resting my head on as I pondered, and drifted off into sleep.

I dreamt some sweet and pleasant dreams of my early childhood. A fishing pond with my long since passed grandfather. My mother’s face as she presented my birthday cake. My father’s kiss on my head as drifted off to sleep. The dreams got darker as my mind went deeper into my subconscious. The man that broke my heart. The teacher that hurt my feelings. The friend that betrayed me. I shifted in my seat, opening my eyes a bit to gaze upon the book. The sun had finally set, the room had grown darker, but it was still there.

With a pat of a small elvish hand upon my knee and the smell of a strong kettle of stew in my nostrils, my mind went back to the past in my dreams once more.

Witchery school pranks and antics, lover’s spats, children born and raised or passed on before me; my life continued to roll by in pictures like a flickering film on a silver screen before my mind’s eye.

I suddenly woke with a start. What had happened? How long have I been asleep?

The cabin room was filled with morning light diffused by the gauzy curtains I had hung over the windows last year when the morning sun had begun to shift and blind me with its brilliance. Birds twittered outside and I could hear the chattering of my elves in the kitchen, the smell of breakfast wafting in.

Was it a dream that I found the book in the path yesterday afternoon? Had I imagined the whole affair? I was exhausted from my travels. I’m not as young as I used to be. Maybe I should start traveling with a companion for safety’s sake. And then I heard a soft sigh from the couch.

There it was, sitting up on my couch with a hot cup of tea sitting next to it as if it belonged there, as if it wasn’t breathing its last just a few hours previous. I sat up and stared and it stared back. It shook its covers and fluttered its pages in response to my stare, as if to say, “What did you expect? You can’t leave a story in the cold brush forever and expect it not to come crawling back for help!”

Confused by its signs of indignation, I quietly rose and approached it. Standing over it, it shrunk back into the couch. Did it sense my confusion as hostility? A rustling in the doorway alerted me to the presence of my elves. They had come when they heard the commotion. Worried about my state of mind, how I might react to the presence and attitude of the book, they came to reassure and console me in the hopes of…what?

I looked at them. I looked at the book. Why should I feel such confusion? It’s just a book with faded cover and tattered…wait a minute.

I sat down on the couch beside the book and took a closer look. It seemed that in the night the elves had ministered to the thing in a way I had not thought to do. Its cover was clean. The dirt gently brushed away. Its leaves shaken out and smoothed over. Its dampness dried out. It didn’t smell half bad either.

I smiled at it and it straightened itself back up, almost seeming to reach for me. My heart softened. I had known from the start that this was no ordinary book, but my exhaustion, the darkness, had started my imagination and fear had set in instead of curiosity.

What was so familiar about this book? I couldn’t put my finger on it. We sat across from each other almost as friends would when something strange began to happen. The longer I sat, the slower and deeper my breath became. The book seemed to “breathe” with me, the front cover gently rising and falling like a chest. I couldn’t tell who was affecting whom. Was the book relaxing and copying me or was it the other way around?

Time seemed to slow, as if I were dreaming, when images began to flicker through my mind. Far distant childhood memories, adolescent dreams and plans, more of the same, like my dreams the night before. The images startled me, and I looked back at the book beside me. For the first time since I had found it, I could almost make out the letters of its title. I reached for it and it came into my arms and settled down into my lap.

It lay closed upon my lap, warm and heavy like a cat. I still could not quite make out the letters on the cover, so I opened it and began leafing through its pages. The images that came to me were far more vivid now. Whole scenes played out in my mind. The time I fell in a well and was stuck there all night. The moment I first fell in love. The day my father passed away. It all played out, not in real time, we’d have been stuck there forever, but like I simply remembered every moment all at once.

When I looked at the pages and began to read the words, I realized they were my memories written out word for word. The first chapters were the most faded and the hardest to decipher. Some pieces were bold and in a large font, some smaller and printed more like a romantic script.

I flipped through the pages. Hundreds of years all written here. Was everything here? Would I find memories written here that were so far back in my subconscious that they seemed like someone else’s story? And what about the future? Was my life already written out? Was there such a thing as fate?

I started to thumb through the pages faster and the book, stiffening in my lap, tried to shut its covers against my curious eyes. My hands grasped it tighter and brought me to this moment, holding the book and turning a page.

The next words were there but faint and shimmering, getting more and more faint with every page I turned until there was nothing but blank paper.

My hands loosened their grip and the book quietly closed itself. It sighed in my lap. I looked up from it and my elves were there beside me. They were curious too, but not about what was in the book. I think they knew the whole time. I sensed their tension the moment we had come into the house. No, I believe they were more worried about my reaction. What did they think I would do?

When I looked back at the book, the cover was pristine as if it had just then been created. The leather cover was soft and the binding clean and tight. The letters of the title were once again embossed with gold and I could clearly read the title now.

“Your Life”

Happy Thanksgiving

I won’t be posting anything but this over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I have so many wonderful things to do that something needs to be put to the side so I can focus and enjoy the moment better. I hope you do too!

I will leave you all with this glorious and most precious Thanksgiving symbol…at least for our family!

There’s story that goes with it, of course. Maybe I’ll tell you sometime.

Enjoy your feasts, family, and friends. They are what life is all about.

Who Are You, Really?

“Carmel wasn’t wearing a body. It was so wonderful and relaxing not wearing a body. No thighs. No stomach. No bum. She was just Carmel, without her body.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by liane Moriarty

This book was one of those stories where the whole picture was beautiful. It has been difficult to pull out a quote and riff on it because it wasn’t the line that triggered my thinking, it was the whole chapter.

This quote is a perfect example. Just reading that line without the context probably wouldn’t have given me any of the feels whatsoever. I’ll elaborate on this one anyway and see if I can’t convey the idea through my own lens.

Who are you?
Are you a collection of traits and attributes?

I think we are far more than that.

With a bit of encouragement, we can easily wrap our minds around the idea that we are not the car we drive or the house we live in. But when we look in the mirror and see our strangely shaped nose, over-curly hair, or much too wide middle, we immediately thing, “I am hideous!”

And it’s not just a female thing. Men have a rough time when they feel like they don’t measure up or they’re getting older and feel less attractive.

But how we look is not who we are.

Who we are is much more elusive. The concept of “soul” or “spirit” is closer to who you are. Need proof that we are not our bodies? Identical twins look exactly the same, but are they not different people? I wonder…if we could clone an adult human, replicate one sci-fi style, would they not be different people? What would it be like to talk to that person?

We put on a physical body and use it.

We’re all born as that “person”, whole and complete the moment we enter the world. We put on a physical body, use it (wisely if possible), decorate it like a high school pee-chee folder, and when we die we leave it behind and move on to…who knows where.

That person that feels, makes decisions, considers, and stores up information…that’s YOU. What would it be like to just be you without the body, without the stuff? Hard to wrap my brain around, that’s for sure.

You Can Tame Your Thoughts with a Mediation Practice

“It wasn’t that she’d found any solutions or experienced any earth-shattering revelations, but the act of observing her looping thoughts seemed to slow them down, until at last they came to a complete stop, and she’d found that for moments of time she thought…nothing.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Meditation. When my sons were pre-school age, I started seeing a therapist and she urged me to give it a try. I fought against it for years. I wish I hadn’t.

About five years ago, I finally succumbed to peer-pressure, or Facebook advertising, and tried the 7-day free trial of a meditation app called Calm. It changed me. Delighted, I rolled right into the next 30-day trial and have been buying it every year since then.

Making Time for Meditation and Re-Focus

Lately, I’ve fallen away from daily mediation instead of increasing my sit time and I keep getting reminders like this one about why I should re-focus and make time for it.

Peace.

Meditation brings me a few minutes of peace from my looping, anxious thoughts. The instructions that the Calm app gave me were different than any other in that they didn’t ask me to clear my mind or stop thinking. They said focus on something simple, like my breath coming in and out of my chest. Every time I lost my focus, I’d take a deep breath and start again. I hadn’t failed. I had built up a practice. The point was to recognize that my mind had shifted focus and bring it back. The bringing it back was the practice. And I was getting good at it.

I’m a classic “over-thinker.”

It’s actually a sore spot for me. People that point out that I’m overthinking something usually get the nastier of reactions in my repertoire. My thoughts usually run immediately to, “Maybe if more people did SOME thinking, I wouldn’t have so much on my plate to consider!” It bugs me that most people shun any type of thinking, as if those that put time into considering options and the consequences of their actions are just crazy and need help.

I want to do a little justifying myself for a moment. One reason that I overthink some things is that I hate miscommunication. I tend to fly off the handle with people. I’m reactionary. But I don’t want people to think badly of me, so now I try to consider everyone’s point of view and ask a lot of questions. I’m trying to understand. Then people get offended, as if my quest to understand is questioning their choices. I get angry and defensive and then spend more time in my head wondering what I could have done better. How can I do that without asking more questions?! Anxiety builds.

Enter meditation. Like the quote says, I don’t have any blinding revelations while I meditate. What I gain is time.

Meditation has taught me to think in one direction, realize when I’ve stopped, and refocus.

It puts time between my impressions of people and my reaction to the things they do or bring up in me. It has created a space for me to think before I act.

Why do I get up in the Morning? Books!

Books!
That’s why I get up
so damn early in the morning!

Years ago, when my children were small, I developed a habit I still carry with me. It’s grown with time and I still wonder what I’ll do with it. I read books.

I used to wake up every morning, get a cup of coffee, and turn on the tv. I’d watch the news usually. Then I had children. I’d get them a “cup of coffee,” a sippy cup of warm milk with a touch of chocolate syrup in it, and they’d snuggle down on the couch with me and allow me a precious moment to have my coffee and wake up.

As they grew and started sleeping past the crack of dawn, I still rose early so that I could see my husband off to work and grab a bit of peace before the chaos. I’d sit on the couch with my coffee and watch an hour of tv, checking my email and then adding social media while it droned in the background.

In high school and college, I read a lot, mostly horror and sci-fi novels, but some classics for school. As I got older, I stopped making time for reading and with kids…well…I thought I’d never have the peace and quiet I needed to read again.

One day it dawned on me. What if I stopped turning on the tv when I got up in the morning and picked up a book? It started with about fifteen minutes of reading a day, in the wee quiet hours of the morning. I’d stumble out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and plop myself down with my current read. The moment the kids were up, reading time was over.

As the kids got older, I could read for at least an hour every morning before I needed to start my day. It was a great way to get my mind right. The kids almost always woke up to find me still in the corner of the couch, flipping pages.

These days, I’m typically in my place reading by 5am. I have a whole shelf dedicated to my TBR pile, and don’t allow myself to overflow it. No more space means I must hold off on ordering new books! I’ve kept a reading journal for years, making note of what I’ve read, title, author, and genre, when I read it, and how long it took me to read it. I spend about two hours a morning reading each day. And since we’re down to one “child” in the house that goes to college and works, I have started to build more time into the afternoon to read.

What will I do with all this information? I have no idea. I read a hefty amount of non-fiction: history, science, sociology, etc. I read classic literature and popular fiction. In the past, I think it has helped me think more clearly. Reading has given me a lot of peace, like meditation, it’s good “selfcare” for me. Homeschooling my sons was easier reading about education styles, history of education, and child development books. And now I’m starting to blog more about what I’m reading.

Who knows where I’ll go with it or what it will bring me in the future? Reading is the same as life. The outcome isn’t important. It’s the process; experiencing the moment. I read where my heart takes me and enjoy the time I spend in my books, taking what I need with me and leaving the rest.

Books: Another fine reason to get up in the morning.

Mental Health Opportunity?

“A well-managed breakdown can turn out to be a good thing. Try to see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow and learn about yourself.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Can we use a mental breakdown as an opportunity for growth?

Yeah! That’s the ticket! An opportunity!

I’m imagining Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live. Remember that skit?

Sometimes I swear I’m only lying to myself, trying to put a brave face or a good spin on terrible behavior. A meltdown is a meltdown and, dammit, at my age, shouldn’t I have already learned to keep my mouth shut and walk away?! I know better. I know better even as it’s happening. And yet, here I am again, losing my shit and taking everyone within earshot with me.

It’s just sad.

But…then again…don’t we all learn at our own pace? I am better today than I was in the past. Each time I live through a confrontation, I do learn something, and I respond better the next time. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Win or lose, climb or fall; since the day we were born, each time we interact with the world we learn a little more. Some of us are born farther ahead than others, some move more slowly, some gain ground more quickly, but we are all at least moving.

What happened? What could I have done better if anything? And my favorite, can I just let this setback go this time instead of holding onto it like a heavy anchor?

Relativity – The Speed of Time

“Time went by so fast these days. There was some sort of malfunction going on with how fast the earth was spinning. Decades went by as quick as years once did.”

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I loved this book. Seriously. It was beautiful. And, strangely, it came up from another reader in my Instagram feed just a few days ago. She hated it! I always find it fascinating that people have such completely different views about a book. It’s encouraging to a writer. Stories are subjective. It’s not that my story sucks rocks…it just hasn’t found its reader yet, the people that it speaks to best.

This quote. You’ve felt it, haven’t you?

Time is relative.

Time seems to speed by sometimes. Maybe it’s because you’re so busy with life that you lose track. Some months feel like they are creeping by but then when I look back…holy Toledo…it’s almost Christmas again. Honestly, summer does that to me every year. Maybe because I hate the heat so much. I’m trapped indoors and feel like it will never end and then BAM! Fall is over.

How do you slow time?

They say time speeds up as we get older. Maybe we realize our mortality and, in our rush to accomplish more before our time runs out, we miss the calendar changes. Would slowing down and savoring each day help? Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

If I slow down and do less each day, will I accomplish more? Probably not. I will actually be doing less with my time, but I might enjoy what I’m doing more. If I savor that dinner with my husband, enjoy the books I’m reading as if I have all the time in the universe to finish them, really be with the sewing, yard, or house project I’m working on, maybe I’ll experience more of them and stretch out time, metaphorically anyway.

That song by They Might Be Giants runs through my head constantly these days.

“You’re older than you’ve ever been and now you’re even older, now you’re even older, and now you’re even older. TIME is marching on.”

Like a fine meal, expertly prepared, we can’t save it for later, but we can savor each bite and share it with the people around us.

But I’m Not Arguing That With You!

“Refusing to put your time and energy into arguing, and ignoring someone completely, could be a better use of your resources.”

13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do” by Amy Morin

This will be the last post about this book, but there is so much more in it. I’m trying to limit myself to five short posts about each book, but I just couldn’t pass up this last one.

No Need To Argue

In person and online, 99% of the time there is no real need to argue with people. We waste our time and energy, two of our most precious resources. When we argue our point with words, all we do is set people around us on the defensive and create more drama to live through.

What can we do instead? Live our own lives the way we want to and walk away from arguments.

I can hear you already…but…but…what if people are wrong?!

You’re not going to change other people’s thoughts or behavior by arguing with them.

You’re just not. I’m sorry.

People are mostly social creatures though, and if your life is peaceful and joyful, they’ll want to be around you. And subtle daily influence changes hearts and minds, not social media comments and intense words about how wrong they are over lunch.

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