Roadrunner Musings

Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

The Tao of…Me

What is Tao? My understanding comes only from my initial reading of The Tao of Pooh, so it’s pretty limited, but Wikipedia says, “Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one’s intuition must discern to realize the potential for individual wisdom, as conceived in the context of East Asian philosophy, East Asian religions, or any other philosophy or religion that aligns to this principle. This intuitive knowing of life cannot be grasped as a concept. Rather, it is known through actual living experience of one’s everyday being. Its name, Tao, came from Chinese, where it signifies the way, path, route, road, or sometimes more loosely doctrine, principle, or holistic belief.”

I can be translated as “The Way” and I find it fascinating.

Yesterday’s epic adventure was unexpected, but highly satisfying. It started with a simple breakfast date and Target run but ended up with seeing my boys again, experiencing a bit of engine trouble (no worries, we got this), and getting home FAR later than expected. That last part, the driving home in the dark part, needs to not happen again until I get new glasses. Yikes!

The best part was…

Wait for it…

I have found my purpose!

Let me tell the story. Short version? Sure.

My son needed me, and I was available. That’s it. As we sat there in their kitchen eating burritos we’d picked up across the street, I told them, “I found my purpose.” My oldest chimes in, “Your Tao?”

Hmm…yes! I’ve been wondering for years, maybe my whole life, floating from one thing to the next, not really seeing the big picture. But yesterday, when my son called and I offered to come down and lend moral support, all the pieces fell into place.

I’m the friend that hosts the party. I’m the one that calls and texts to ask what you’re up to and if you’d like to meet for lunch or a hike. I’m the one that picks up the phone when you call and drops everything to make some cookies and visit. I’m here.

My youngest son says, “You’re Pooh, mom. You visit.”

I sighed and smiled. I guess I am. My copy of The Tao of Pooh that they had borrowed was sitting on the table nearby. They’d been reading it.

You’d think that wouldn’t be much of a purpose, but it is. It’s very important. And from now on, instead of grumbling that I have no real mission in this existence when I’m at home alone reading a book or working in the yard, I’ll sit back and realize that I’m resting between projects. At any moment, I may be called into action.

And what about this blog? Is it part of my purpose?

Yes. Listening to The Knowledge Project podcast on the way down to my breakfast date (which is a regular thing I very much look forward to), I heard Sarah Jones Simmer interviewed. I had such a plethora of notes on this podcast, but there were three that stood out to me as somehow connected. Before I went inside, I took a moment to capture the idea with some added commentary.

Note #1 “Just because you question things, doesn’t mean you have the answers or think you know better than others.”

I’ve withheld my thoughts, limited what I write here, because I don’t have the answers, but I question things. Curiosity and questioning (contrary to popular opinion right now) is a good thing. Gender identity, politics, war, public education, Covid…the list goes on and on, I have questions and concerns. Asking out loud things like, “Why are we doing this?” “Is this right?” “What will be the outcome of this kind of thinking?” “Is there some other way?” is not a subversive or malicious activity. The day we all just go along with everything that is happening around us and NOT question it, is the day we begin to lose everything.

New slogan: “Questions and curiosity are not a crime!”

Note #2 “Let’s not let the craziest and loudest of us take over all the conversation in the world. Keep speaking your thoughts and quit hiding your light.”

It’s terrifying to speak your mind (especially online) these days and more of us (including myself) need to start facing our fears. We cannot let the lunatics run this asylum.

Another podcast I was listening to last week mentioned “fringe ideas” and related them to garage bands. 99.99% of garage bands suck, but garage bands are where the great new music comes from. It’s the same with ideas. If we ban them, silence voices because we disagree, shut down people we don’t like, we miss discovering the .01% that results in awesome innovation. We need to allow people to speak their minds, throw ideas around, and be crazy, but we also need to know most of those ideas won’t work, they may even be really bad ideas, but if we ban them, ban books, ban speech, ban blogs, we end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I speak/write from a place of curiosity, empathy for others, and with positive intent to understand and respect others. Yes, sometimes I’ll hurt feelings, make someone mad, or even make a mistake in judgement. I am still a good person, and so are you.

Note #3 “Do I have coaches? Coaches help you arrive at your own decisions and create a safe space to talk thoughts and ideas out.”

If coaches can be books, magazines, blogs, and podcasts, yes, I do. For me, this blog counts as a relatively safe space to talk out some ideas. And I have a few very close friends and family that I can bounce ideas around with face to face and they mean the world to me.

These ideas are in no way fully formed, but they led me closer to understanding my Tao, my own personal way of taking up space in this world. So, even though things did not go as I had expected them to yesterday, it ended up being a very productive day and all because my son needed me.

Before I get the look from people about kids becoming adults… He didn’t call me because he isn’t smart, mature, or capable of taking care of himself, but because together is always better than alone. Interdependence is what works best. Community is more efficient. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Today I’m relaxing in the peaceful quiet of home and reading more of Disneyanity by Douglas Brode. I may even watch a Disney movie!

Storytelling in the Form of Movies

I’m 100% in love with Disneyanity by Douglas Brode, but I do have a few complaints. First of all, he uses the title or a character’s full name once and then abbreviates it for the rest of the essay and that drives me crazy. I’m constantly trying to remember who or what it stands for. It uses up brain energy, people. You’re typing, not writing it out by hand, please.

Second, I think he’s wrong in a lot of places. I know. Crazy. I could be wrong too, but I doubt it. (Read that in “sarcasm font.”) Honestly, though, I think he’s definitely reading into a lot, but it’s still fascinating to read. We all interpret movies and books from our own world view, seeing what we want to see, connecting the dots to create the picture we really want. We’re not scientists or historians! We’re artists and lovers of craft!

And what’s better than pulling apart and peering into the inner workings of a great story?!

“And yet numerous critics, professional as well as (in the age of the Internet and IMDB) amateur, complain that “Disney get the story all wrong.” Which is a naïve approach to the continuing art of storytelling. In fact, there is no original version of the Persephone tale in existence. During the Greek Golden Age, poets drew on oral versions of fables dating back to Mycenean and other early agricultural societies, existing long before anyone set down narratives in writing. What Disney achieved is what those storytellers earlier did; take a tale with ongoing/universal appeal for humanity itself and relate this so as to ring true for the citizenry of the artist’s own time.”

disneyanity by douglas brode

I’ve heard that complaint from people when new Disney movies came out and agreed with it. If you’re going to present movies about historical figures, shouldn’t they be as true to life as possible? Pocahontas was the first movie I heard people losing their minds about.

I guess it depends on why you’re making the movie, why you’re telling the story.

I mean, history books and biographies have already been written, probably a documentary has already been made. So why create another?

In the past I might have said because it hasn’t been told by you, in your words. But why are your words and images so important?

Disney isn’t teaching history. He’s creating mythology. He’s taking characters from our past and telling their story (and his own) in the context of our time. Not himself these days, since he died in 1966 (or did he), but his company of storytellers.

That’s what all movie makers are. Storytellers.

When we watch something, anything really, we need to remember who is telling the story and why, not simply digest everything we see on a screen as the gospel truth.

Instead of screaming to yourself, and the online community at large, “This is false! That’s not what that person did!” Try asking yourself, “What did the presenter of this try to tell me?” We can spend some time reading more about the real-life character or situation if we like, or we can take the entire thing as mythology, a story that attempts to convey a message about humanity and the world around us using names and places we already know.

As a sidenote, the Disney company should pay the author of this book for all the new subscriptions to Disney+ it is probably generating. Reading about each tv show and movie, I want to go back and watch some of them to see if I see what Douglas Brode is talking about. I can’t be the only one. Besides, there are so many new Disney movies that I haven’t seen.

Over the weekend, I watched Encanto while my husband was working on our bathroom remodel. He came in several times to find me cross-legged on the couch, bouncing along to the music like a child. Once, toward the end, when I heard him walk into the room, I shouted, “I’m not crying!”

That movie…oh, wow. Absolutely gorgeous and completely unexpected. I found myself talking back to the tv more than once, which isn’t unheard of around here. I tend to get a little excited about what I’m watching. One of the world’s most beautiful inventions? The pause button!

Week END? And a New Word!

I learned a new word today while reading a story in American Short Fiction magazine.

“escribitionist”
(Microsoft Word says it’s not a word, but oh…yes it is…)
:a person who keeps a diary or journal via electronic means, and in particular, publishes their entries on the world wide web.

The word was coined before weblogs.

I love it when I read a cool word and think, “Wow that just rolls around in head perfectly. I wonder what it means!” Then I look it up and find out it describes me or something I love to do. And then the whole world settles into place around me, and I think, “I’m not alone.”

Yeah…that happened today.

Chose that picture from Unsplash just because I LOVED the words! Do it!

AND
Happy Sunday, everyone!

At first, I was going to encourage you to get a rest day, or something like “restart the week” kind of message but then I thought, “Why today?” The workweek, I suppose, makes us think that the week starts on Monday, ends on Friday, with a cute little rest period we call Saturday and Sunday.

Since I homeschooled my kids and we never had a curriculum, lesson plan, semesters, or, well…anything school system related really, I had already begun to lose the sense of weekly cycles. My husband has worked from home so long that I barely notice that it’s the weekend at all, but he does because he’s free to work on whatever project HE decides on those days.

And now that the kids have moved out, and I’m essentially “retired,” things have changed again.

I do sense the week is passing. Monday is my cleaning day, my most productive. Wednesday I usually go meet friends. Friday is my neighborhood potluck and shooting pool on my porch. But there is no weekly start and end.

I just now realized that it’s all made up, a definition only needed in the industrial age of working at a factory or office. And schools are only more of the same, a training ground for that kind of work.

Hmm…interesting.

Reminds me of that scene in the first season of Downton Abbey when she asks, “What is a week end?”

Disneyanity: New Read

It’s been a while since I bought a book because I saw in advertised in a magazine, but when I saw Disneyanity: Of “Walt” and Religion by Douglas Brode in Reason magazine two months in a row, I had to have it.

Background: Just in case you don’t know this, I am an avid Disney fan. How do I explain this? Here is one photo from high school to shed just a little light.

This is my “backpack,” or what I called it back then, “my travelling locker.”

I had everything I needed in here. All my books, my binders, my pens, along with various high school sundries. I had a locker at school, yes, but using it would require forethought and planning. I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so I kept everything with me, just in case.

Me. Backstage as always. The “magic” maker.

Just in case what?

Well, what if I were in math class and already done with the assignment? I could work on history instead. And what if I were in the theater, which was where I was most of my day, and I found some downtime between rehearsals? I could work on whatever needed to be done…if I didn’t have to run to my locker and find it.

Knowing me, I’d forget what I was looking for while walking to my locker anyway, wander off and get a coke and a cookie instead.

Writing this I just realized something. This squirrel brain is not being caused by old age.

Like I was saying, I was (and still am) a huge Disney fan. You might even say more of a devout worshipper than a fan. I’ve fallen away at times, especially recently, but I always come back around. Don’t even get me started on the effects of the pandemic on my pilgrimages.

When I started working there, I was seventeen years old. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, “maybe I should take my shoes off” kind of awe in my whole being. When I was ceremoniously cast outside the gates (fired) at 20, I was a “lost toy,” one of the darkest moments of my life.

And again, when I returned at 26, and finally chose to be home with my kids at 30. And then today…

Well, let’s say I’m worshipping from afar, dreaming of the day I’ll be able to return to the source of the magic.

disneyanity

When I saw this book promising, “a cogent and thought-provoking meditation on Disney Magic as Religious Belief,” I swooned. Could that feeling I’ve had since I was kid be a real thing, not just something I created for myself? Could others feel this way? I had to know more.

I’m 67 pages into the book already and loving it. It’s not what I expected. I’m not sure how I’ll share pieces of it with you, but something will come up, I’m sure. As the religious say, the spirit (or the muse) will speak somehow, if I allow it room.

I’ll leave you with one quote for today, one that sums up my feelings about fantasy and storytelling.

“’Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality,’ philosopher Lloyd Alexander stated, rather a ‘way of understanding it.’ As Disney realized, most people find everyday reality so unbearable that they must seek what appears merely blithe escapism as an alternative. Then again, what’s wrong with that? ‘Why should a man be scorned,’ J.R.R. Tolkien asked, ‘if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out or go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls?’”

from Disneyanity by douglas brode

Does this sound familiar, dad? I’ve heard you say it a million times. “I don’t watch movies to see real life.”

In some ways, it is an escape. And there is nothing wrong with trying to move away from what is hurting you, to get some relief. In other ways, fantasy and story helps us explain our reality. It’s easier to hear the underlying problem and solutions offered if we’re talking about aliens instead of foreigners, talking trees instead of gods.

Disneyland was my escape in high school, my happy place where I wasn’t just another theater nerd, not another kid at school to be corralled and contained until I was old enough to be let loose on the world. I was a whole person there, especially once I started working there. Then I was “part of the magic” that millions came to see every year, one of the chosen.

So, yeah, I’m looking forward to reading this gem cover to cover. It feels like more of a collection of short essays about each film, so I may just pull out my favorite pieces, the ones that speak directly to issues that are dearest to me. I’ve found a few I completely disagree with already, so I’m sure you’ll read at least one where I disagree with Walt’s vision of the world.

…sigh…

It feels good to be back here. Thanks for reading with me!

Want read more posts about the book Disneyanity by Douglas Brode? Check out:
Storytelling in the Form of Movies

Something Wicked: New Read

Let’s talk about Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury for just a few minutes. Have you read it? Did you see the Disney movie back in the 80’s? I have done neither. In fact, I didn’t even know what the book was about. Why did I get it? It was all part of a meticulous plan!

something wicked
Here he is, in my hot little hands! 😀

Nope! You know me. I saw it at the bookstore, love Ray Bradbury, don’t have that one, and dropped on top of my pile at the bookstore in which I swore I’d only get a cup of coffee and maybe buy ONE book. I wrote about that glorious day where I made a modest attempt to brighten the world a bit.

Sheesh…just realized that was nearly two months ago. Time flies when you’re…which brings me right back around to this beautiful book!

I thought it was high time for a novel, so I grabbed the first one I had sitting on my TBR shelf, noted it down in my reading journal and settled down into my comfy spot on the couch.

Two hours later, chills running up and down my spine, and warily looking out the window into the dark wondering if a creepy carnival might set up in my town while I sleep, I closed the book and made a few notes.

“I can see the Music Man movie while I read this. Has that feel. Trouble with a capital T!”

And “Bradbury…the way he writes I fall into the story and can’t find my way out. How does he do that!?”

The next day, after reading for a straight hour and half, I got a text. “Good morning! Come have coffee with me!” Virtually. We’re online friends, states apart.

I reply, “Can’t! I’m in love with a book and I cannot leave it now!”

“Who?”

“Bradbury.”

“Shit. I can’t compete with that.”

“Writers! Put your pens down, this man cannot be beat!”

“Someone has a crush!”

“Shut up. I’m busy!”

I didn’t think I had a favorite author, but here we are. And you know what’s strange? I never was a big fan of Fahrenheit 451. Anyway…

Something Wicked This Way Comes! What is it about? Facing time and death, something I could really use wise words about right now, creative and poetic ones. I love the Stoics and the philosophy does speak to my mind, but sometimes you just need some beauty. You know?

Here’s what I mean.

“…the carnival feels ulcerated egos miles off and lopes to toast its hands at that ache. It smells boys ulcerating to be men, paining like great unwise wisdom teeth, twenty thousand miles away, summer abed in winter’s night. It feels the aggravation of middle-aged men like myself, who gibber after long-lost August afternoons to no avail. Need, want, desire, we burn those in our fluids, oxidize those in our souls, which jet streams out lips, nostrils, eyes, ears, broadcasts from antennae-fingers, long and short wave, God only knows, but the freak-masters perceive Itches and come crab-clustering to Scratch. It’s traveled a long way on an easy map, with people handy by every crossroad to lend it lustful pints of agony to power it on. So maybe the carnival survives, living off the poison of the sins we do to each other, and the ferment of our most terrible regrets.”

Did you get that? Did you look back and realize what poison we fill ourselves with, regretting the past, worrying about the unknowable future? We sit and waste what little time we have with that crap, all the while calling to ourselves more misery to lament tomorrow.

We only have today. This moment right now. Live it just the way it is.

And by that I don’t mean run out and get crazy, spend all your money, or leave what you have in the lurch. I mean actually be aware of the glory of this day.

There are times, too many, when I get angsty about time. I’m wasting it sitting reading this book, doing the dishes again, or laying on the couch watching a movie. Am I? Only if I’m grumbling about what I could be doing instead, pissing and moaning that life could be different. Instead, I take a deep breath and look around me. I have the money and leisure to read. I have made meals and shared them. I am with a person I love enjoying a program we love, making memories.

Anything you are doing is not time wasted if you love what you’re doing. My son told me that.

But what if you don’t? Then do something right now to love it or change it. Make that date, buy that thing, go to that place. Make a plan and do it because tomorrow may never come. It’s cliché, yes, but it’s true.

One more thing before I go. Why do we fear death so much? Everything on this planet dies. It is inescapable.

“Death doesn’t exist. It never did, it never will. But we’ve drawn so many pictures of it, so many years, trying to pin it down, comprehend it, we’ve got to thinking of it as an entity, strangely alive and greedy. All it is, however, is a stopped watch, a loss, an end, a darkness. Nothing. And the carnival wisely knows we’re more afraid of Nothing than we are of Something. You can fight Something. But…Nothing? Where do you hit it?”

The Stoics say, “Memento Mori.” Remember death. And it took me a long time to understand why. Humans try to forget there is an end to everything. We’ve built up whole words to explain away and hide the fact that this consciousness ends, as far as we know. How do you fight that Nothing? You can’t and that’s what’s so scary.

Or is it? The older I get, the more I start to see that it’s not death I fear, but a life not lived. When we come up to the end, we look back and realize how much we didn’t get to do. Reminds me of my dad’s story of dragging me out of Disneyland when I was little.

It’s the ultimate acceptance of something we cannot change. The end comes and we must face it. Time does not speed up or go in reverse, not without dire consequences.

If I could get across one thing to people younger than me, to everyone really, it would be to live. Do what you want to do, enjoy the moment you are in, because tomorrow we die. Sounds depressing? I don’t think so. It’s permission to live without regrets.

Oh…and let others do the same. They are not living their life for you and to make them do so would be a tragedy for you both.

Norse Mythology: New Read

What is mythology?

The dictionary says: A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes. But does that help define it? I don’t think so, so I’ll give you my definition of what mythology is.

Mythology is humanity attempting to describe, define, and explain their surroundings, where they came from, and why they are there, in creative and imaginative ways. All mythology expresses the creativity of the people in the context of where and when they are because humans love a great story.

And what are gods? Again, I’ll give you my definition.

The gods are our subconscious minds, swirling that context around in our heads and coming up with an explanation as to why things are happening. They speak to us in dreams and visions, tell us what we should do or which way to go.

Norse mythology

I picked up Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman because I am of Scandinavian and Irish decent and am not well-versed in the history or the mythology other than the Thor and Loki from Marvel comics, and that is just sad. I’ve been interested in heathenry and ancient religion for a few years now, only taking small forays into the subject, and it feels…real?

That’s not the right word though. It just resonates a bit, the whole acknowledgment of our natural surroundings, not worship in a godlike sense, but an awareness of it, acceptance of this reality instead of attempting to use spiritual means to change what is. It feels so human.

So why Neil Gaiman’s book instead of something more academic? Because I’m just getting started and I’d like to learn the stories in a similar way that children would have, around a campfire or hearth, through stories well-told. And Gaiman is the master of that.

I was not disappointed. This book is beautiful, and I highly recommend it, especially for kids. I can imagine reading this at bedtime with my sons, as we so often did. They would ask a million questions, come up with their own creative answers, and have vivid dreams to tell me in the morning all involving the imagery of the stories we had been reading about Loki’s cleverness and the Giants tricking the gods.

That reminds me…I mentioned in my post yesterday, I have a story to tell. The gods spoke to me in my dreams while I read this book.

My husband and I have been watching Outer Range in the evening. There’s another great story! I’ll be sitting here waiting as patiently as I can for the next season. Oh, there better be another season! Too many questions left unanswered! It’s like a western Twin Peaks.

But I digress.

In the morning, I read Norse Mythology. In the evening I watch Outer Range. Then my youngest son texts me, emotional and stressed: college semester ends in two weeks, work is overwhelming, relationship struggles. Teenage years have nothing on the early twenties. I went to bed that night wondering (in true Mom fashion) if there was anything I could do to help.

I have always had vivid dreams, even as a small child. I was a sleepwalker too, which led to some pretty funny family stories about my night adventures. This night, I dreamt as well.

My son fell into a wormhole of light in the ground and then it closed up behind him and I couldn’t reach him. I put my face to the ground and yelled to him. He could hear me; he would respond to my voice. I tried talking to him, asking him to describe what he saw and so I could possibly help him find his way back. It was so confusing.

After some time, I yelled to him that I was going to go find help, that I’d be back. I wasn’t deserting him. He didn’t respond and I was torn between staying there until he heard me and running for the help I knew I needed. Crying, I ran for help.

The next scene was my husband coming out of the shower. I frantically told him what happened, and he was completely non-plussed. In real life, that is his natural state, at least outwardly. His guiding principle is to let things go, relax, and see what happens. Only things that stick around are things you have to do anything about. And “do” usually means accept it and move on.

I kept explaining how upset he was and that we needed to get back there and help him. My husband smiled and went back to getting dressed. He said that our son would find his own way, he’s smart and capable. Besides, he can hear you for reassurance if he wants it.

That’s when I woke up. I got up, got my coffee and sat down next to my husband and told him the story. He laughed at the hole in the ground, just like Outer Range. Later, I texted the dream to my son. He thought it was bizarre too, sounded like a Twilight Zone. “It’s a big step, granted, but it’s just one.”

I went about my day, finished reading Norse Mythology, did my yoga practice, ate breakfast, and got in the shower. And that’s when it hit me. The gods have spoken.

In the night, my subconscious kept working on the problem. What can I do, what should I do, to help my son? It pulled in all kinds of imagery from my current physical reality, a tv show, a book, a conversation, and solved it the best way it could. Musing about it all morning, I finally heard the message.

Be there to listen and give advice if he asks, but ultimately, he’ll find his way. All of us find our way through life.

If I had been a Norse Viking, a medieval peasant, or an Arabian king, I would have seen much different images in my dreams. My gods would have spoken a different language. But the problem of what to do when your child is struggling with life would have been the same. Humanity just hasn’t changed that much.

I want to know more about the Norse people and what’s left of their culture, not because I want to emulate it, but because I want to honor where we came from. I want to put those pieces of my cultural puzzle in the box with the rest so that eventually I’ll be able to see as much of the big picture as I can.

A new online friend I’ve been chatting with on Boo (Yes, it says dating but it also says friends and I’ve met some fascinating people there) suggested I look into Jackson Crawford’s work. I’ve only taken a cursory look, but it does look promising and I’m excited to dive in. That is IF I can keep my squirrel brain on that track. For now, I’ve squirrelled the information away like a winter nut storage. The topic will come back around again, and then I’ll be ready to feast!

A “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” Kind of Story

Or “Why I Haven’t Written”

I apologize upfront for the plethora of complaining words you are about to be tortured with, but I did say I was sharing my journey and that means wherever it takes me, not JUST the happy/joy reading journey. This is my story and sometimes I just gotta purge the dark parts so that the light can shine back in.

story
Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Ok, my friends, here we go. I’ve been mulling over and putting off sitting down with this laptop all morning. I did get it out and sit down to write…something…but then checked my social media, became distracted, felt like I really should eat something, and then, I don’t even know what I want to say anyway, so I got up and put it away.

While I was eating breakfast (the one I got, not the one I probably should have eaten), I had a flash about what I wanted to say. I finished reading Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman on Monday morning, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, I did have some t

And it’s gone…dan walked in talking about propane and solar … like I have any idea what he’s talking about. This must be exactly how he feels when I walk in telling him what the cat just did while he’s working.

I cannot focus. It’s impossible.

Goes back and starts over again.

And a text now…

Let’s try this again. I turned the ringer off.

I did have some thoughts on mythology in general and a pretty neat story to tell about a dream I had.

I wrote down a note for myself and went to take a shower, came back only to feel like…what’s the point of any of this? I have at least a thousand things to do. I started reading another book yesterday and I’m so in love with it that I can’t put it down, but I can and do because I can’t focus on anything more than about 45 minutes at a stretch.

And then there’s the housework that needs to be done. The dishes are stacked up, I’m behind on my weekly chores because I was out of town the last two days. Laundry to do. AND the house is in general disarray because we’re remodeling the back bathroom and I haven’t finished repainting the guest room, the one filled with my sons’ extra clothes they didn’t take with them when they moved, along with a bunch of other crap I’m not sure what to do with. Stuff out of place makes my mind feel out of place, and now that it’s only my husband and I living here, it should be easier to downsize, clean up, and keep things in place. But it’s not.

I have a photo album I’m working on, several quilting projects, yard work that needs tending before it gets to0 hot, and I’m making two Viking shields to decorate the post where my driveway meets the road because…people need to see where I live.

Don’t even get me started on making better food choices, getting some exercise, and meditating to relax and put all this angst in its place. Oh…and I need to make plans to see family and friends and with gas prices going up again, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be trapped in this desert all summer with no relief.

And then there’s this blog. What happened? When I told myself that I had to write SOMETHING every day, I did, without trouble really. Sure, they weren’t all brilliant, but they were there. It made me feel good to get that done, see the writing streak grow, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I’m not building anything. I’m not sure what I’m doing anymore, or maybe I never did.

So here I sit…still wondering what to do. All these words and I haven’t even gotten to what I came to write about today in the first place.

I have an idea. A restart. Today, I’ll share these thoughts, set my books aside and clean the house up, go to the grocery store, make dinner, and then enjoy my evening. Tomorrow morning, I’ll add “write and post” back into my morning routine. It means more to me than anything else, even if it just goes on forever just the way it is. Letting it go is feeling overwhelming nasty and poisonous in my heart.

See you tomorrow. Bright eyed and bushy tailed. The gods have spoken!

The Game of Life: New Read

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I’m a little disappointed with The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn. “A little” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings, and of course I’m here to tell you why. I’ll start with the basics, how we got here and what I was thinking going into this book.

the game of life

This book was this month’s read for one of those book clubs I told you I joined recently, and I was excited to read it because I am a big fan of self-help books. Unpopular, I know. We’re all supposed to poo-poo them, but I love them, and I will not hide it. I especially love older ones, the tried and true that are still in print years later. They give me perspective, so many ideas and thoughts about how one can make their own lives a little better. What’s not to love?

When I saw the title, I thought it would be a fun read. I like the idea of looking at life as a game to play. My personal philosophy is similar, and I celebrate my birthday every year as a “level up” day, taking stock of the special skills I have accumulated and the companions I’ve chosen to help me along the way.

When I looked the book up online, I found that it was first published nearly 100 years ago and by a woman. That was intriguing. I wondered how her life must have been so different from mine and what kind of ideas she would have about the game.

The description had me excited to read as well. “First published in 1925, this book has inspired thousands of people around the world to find a sense of purpose and belonging. It asserts that life is not a battle but a game of giving and receiving, and that whatever we send out into the world will eventually be returned to us. This little book will help you discover how your mind and its imaging faculties play leading roles in the game of life.”

Yes, please!

But then I started to read it.

I did assume that the book would have a Christian point of view because of when and where it was written, but I didn’t realize that the whole basis of the book is to use Jesus as a magic wish machine. All you must do is think what you want, speak it to Jesus, and you will have it.

What?

I’m not going to unpack each chapter, but I will say that for me, this idea never really held water, even when I was feeling deeply religious. I’ve read the bible several times through, done many bible studies, and I never found the idea that God grants wishes. The best we could ever do was to pray to be aligned and accepting of God’s path for you. Peace comes from letting go of desires, accepting what is, much like the Buddha’s path of non-resistance.

After the first chapter, I felt like putting the book down and walking away, but then where would I be. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, clearly, and neither can you judge it by the first chapter. It’s only 111 pages long, so it’s not wasting too much time. Besides, I may find pieces that fit into my life, change my thinking, or at least come to understand someone else’s point of view.

So, like Adler said to do in How to Read a Book, I kept reading to understand.

I did find a few gems to hold on to. Things like, “Man has an ever a silent listener at his side – the subconscious mind.”

That’s very true. And how we speak to ourselves in our minds is how we perceive the world around us. Better to keep up the positive talk instead of shooting ourselves down before we even get started. Like reading this book, I can’t sit here grumbling. I have to take deep breath and listen to learn.

“You can control any situation if you first control yourself.”

I’ve found this not to be very helpful. I can’t control any situation, but I can control how I react to it and that makes all the difference.

I learned that the word “acme” means perfection. Acme is always the company the coyote gets his tools and contraptions from to catch the roadrunner. Funny.

“Life is a mirror, and we find only ourselves reflected in our associates.”

This…yes. All my life I’ve been so irritated with the people around me. That driver, that food service person, the post office guy…what the hell, people? But these days I find myself thinking, “Well, maybe there’s something wrong.” “I could have made that same mistake.” And “Everyone has bad days.”

What’s different is how I’ve been learning to treat myself. I’ve been talking to myself in new ways, learning to forgive mistakes and not have to be perfect, to allow myself to feel loved just the way I am. It’s made all the difference.

And then there was, “The robbers of time are the past and the future.”

Oh, wow. We know that! Right? Sitting here lamenting our past mistakes. Nothing we can really do now but move forward and do better. And spending all night worrying about what tomorrow will bring. Wastes the time we could be getting a good night’s rest so that we’re at our best no matter what happens.

See? I did find some little tidbits even though I felt repulsed at first. That’s what happens when you listen to people you don’t agree with, even fundamentally. We find common ground and move forward on it instead of staying at a stand-still.

No, I don’t believe that Jesus will put money in your bank account if you believe hard enough. But we can relax and know that things generally do work out eventually. Less attachment to outcomes, more acceptance of what is, does make life nicer.

No, mothers can’t attract illness to their children with worry. But mothers can make themselves sick with worry and cause their children to be nervous and timid because their protector seems so helpless.

There were more crazy things, like “death can be overcome by stamping the unconscious mind with the conviction of eternal youth and eternal life.”

And more great ideas, like “Real love is selfless and free from fear. It pours itself out upon the object of its affection, without demanding any return.”

Now my question is, what will the book club think about this book? Will they be in love with it? Are they going to be a group full of that kind of Christian? That’s me, worrying about the future, wasting time. Does it matter? Nope. I’ll go and enjoy whatever experience is presented to me because that’s what the game of life is all about.

Words on the Heading “Men’s Interests”

In search of literary magazines, something bugged me yesterday, and I HAVE to tell you about it. Let me start by saying, that I’m not that easily offended…usually. Come on, everyone has things that bug them! I tend to have knee-jerk reactions to some things, and then come back from them pretty quickly to see the bigger picture or someone else’s point of view. Even now, after this issue I’m about to report caused me to squint my eyes and think, “What the…?” I’m considering how I could have misinterpreted what I saw. And to be totally honest, it looks as if it were an oversight, one that could easily be resolved.

What got me so hot and bothered? What made me get back in my truck and text three different people the news? Do hear Clopin again?

literary magazines
Hush! And Clopin will tell you!

Yesterday, I was between friend visits. That sounds so funny. I went down into the city to have breakfast with one friend before he went to work, and then waited for another friend to get off from work so I could have dinner with her before I came back home.

What to do in between those times? THAT is the question. Go shopping, of course!

First, I stopped at Target for some essentials. We don’t have that store in my town, only a very crappy version of Walmart. I’m not opening a Walmart trash session. I love the place in other towns. It has always been one of my favorite stops when we are traveling with our trailer, but in California…I’m not sure what the deal is. But I digress!

Then I decided to get a cup of coffee and a delicious snack at Panera. I brought the book I just finished and my journal so I could sit there and read and write some notes, maybe plot out a blog post while I relaxed indoors. Ok, yes, it made me feel like one of the cool kids. I love seeing those people working on their laptops and tablets in coffee shops. I want to be them! But I don’t live in the city, so I have my quiet little porch, all the coffee I can drink, and pastries I make myself, so I don’t need a coffee shop.

But I still felt cool.

That’s when I realized I was right across the street from Barnes & Noble and I remember seeing a magazine rack there. Maybe I could browse through them and find something interesting to take home. I love magazines for short stories and articles far more than the internet. They are curated, printed, and (the best part) no comments!

When I pulled into the parking lot, there was a man thumbing through a book he had just bought, right in the middle of the road. We’ve all been there, right? You see it on the shelf, have to have it, make your purchase, and then crack it open as you walk to your car, only to be sucked into the smell, the words, the feel of it in your hands.

I smiled at him. He smiled at me. The connection. Hot.

Walking inside, I went straight to the magazine section at the front of the store. Where would I find literary magazines? Hmm…

I found them at the bottom of the section labeled “Men’s Interests.”

I knelt down to get a closer look shaking my head. I picked through them, finding one I used to subscribe to, Creative Nonfiction, along with a couple new ones, Oh Reader and American Short Fiction. Then I took a step back and looked at the display again. Maybe I was reading it wrong.

The shelf was labeled “Literary Magazines,” so maybe it was just thrown in at the bottom like this because it was only one shelf? But other shelves were labeled there as well, “Sports,” “Health,” and “Outdoors.” Over the top of the display was a different sign for “Men’s Interests.”

I’m not liking this. I think it’s bizarre that the two labels are even there, men’s and women’s interests. Why not just a shelf for sports, fashion, business, or writing and reading? It feels like a vestige from the past, a tail or gills in utero that has evolved away.

“Did you make a scene?” is the first thing my husband asked when I told him. No, that’s not like me. I’m too shy. I may have…if I were with friends or drinking. That’s funny: drunk bookstore shopping. Who’s in?!

And later, while telling my friend the story, I thought I should have asked where the literary magazines are and when they told me I could have made a face or some comment about how bizarre it was, especially since most of the names I see in those magazine look like female names.

Now I’m sitting here wondering if I should say something the next time I’m in there buying magazines. It’s a simple fix. There are several rows and sections of magazines, business, current affairs, food, etc. Why not get rid of men’s and women’s and just put fashion with fashion and sports with sports?

Am I being crazy here?

literary magazines

Oh, before I go. I swore I would only buy a couple magazines to check out and…maybe just walk around the store, browse the poetry section…and then I found this:

How to Live, What to Do: In Search of Ourselves in Life and Literature by Josh Cohen

How can I possibly pass that up!?

The Arts of Communication

Well…shit…

That was my final thought as I closed this book. I’m too tired and depressed now to even comment, so I leave you with this.

Where men lack the arts of communication, intelligent discussion must languish. Where there is no mastery of the medium for exchanging ideas, ideas cease to play a part in human life. When that happens, men are little better than the brutes they dominate by force or cunning, and they will soon try to dominate each other in the same way.

The loss of freedom follows. When men cannot live together as friends, when a whole society is not built on a real community of understanding, freedom cannot flourish. We can live freely only with our friends. With all others, we are constantly oppressed by every sort of dread, and checked in every movement by suspicion.”

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

Any ideas how we can fix this? I used to think homeschooling was the answer. Back then I was a part of a small group that read and discussed books with people of all ages. A small little spark still believes I could lead a discussion like this again, but it’s dying out fast.

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