Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Past, Present & Future

Christmas is probably the one holiday that can bring us the most joy and the most heartache. It’s a time of lost: the first Christmas without a loved one perhaps, the first Christmas away from home, the first Christmas alone. It’s a time of joy: being with family and loved ones, the sharing of memories, celebrating the birth of Christ. I was five in my Christmas past picture. (I’m the cute one with the big smile and Shirley Temple curls.) But I don’t recognize rest of the people in the picture. They were family and friends obviously. I moved away from California soon after that Christmas. I got a new family and friends in Iowa, then Mississippi, then Texas. I sometimes get depressed at Christmas. This Christmas I didn’t. Maybe it was because I realized that while families and friends may change over time, there’s always been love and that’s what Christmas is all about: love in the past, love now, and love to come. I hope you had a Merry Christmas, I did, and I wish you a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Perfection - Not

As usual, I’m never quite sure what I’m going to blog about it. When I started my blog originally, I had visions of my spending hours selecting and preparing the perfect message that I wanted to send – sort of like that perfect Christmas gift we work so hard to find each year. Thankfully for me, maybe not so much for my readers, that didn’t last. I found myself instead going with the flow. Now that meant sometimes there were errors in my blog because I hadn’t given myself time to find and correct. Some of those errors added to my blog rather than detracted and some I won’t admit were errors to begin with. They were all planned, David. lol.

One of my favorite blogs is Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. I just finished reading an interview she did a few days ago with Oliver Burkeman. I haven’t met this writer yet but plan to as soon his new book comes out in January titled, HELP! How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done. Below is an excerpt from her interview with him that was something I needed to be reminded of. Maybe you will too. Especially during the often stressful holiday seasons.

Question: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Answer: Among many, many other things: I no longer think of perfectionism as one of those traits you should be secretly quite proud to possess ("Oh, I'm a perfectionist, yes, I'm just not happy unless I'm producing brilliant work!"). Perfectionism is 100% bad and evil. As Anne Lamott says, it's "the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people; it will keep you cramped and insane your whole life". Working as a newspaper journalist on deadline has drummed much of it out of me — there's nothing like a screaming editor to make you abandon all hope of a perfect opening sentence — but it's an ongoing challenge. I guess I shouldn't be perfectionistic about getting rid of perfectionism, though.

Question: Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?

Answer: Stressing out about potential problems that haven't actually happened yet. Eckhart Tolle recommends asking yourself "Do you have a problem now?" — as in, right this very moment? The answer is almost always no. I need to get this tattooed somewhere prominent on my body.

Question: Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to "Identify the problem.”)

Answer: I love the late Japanese psychotherapist Shoma Morita's advice to stop trying to fix yourself and start living instead: "Give up on yourself. Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect, or a procrastinator, or unhealthy, or lazy, or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die." To some people this sounds depressing, but to me it's the exact opposite: utterly freeing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Android Techie

I bought myself a Christmas present this past week– an Android cell phone. Notice how I toss out “Android” like I’m trying to impress someone. Did it work? The only thing I know about an “Android” phone is that somehow it relates to Goggle and I like to goggle. In fact, I can goggle with the best of them. I haven’t figured out how to set up my Android to Goggle yet though. I sign on and it keeps rejecting me. But I’m sure once I figure it out, it will be an awesome experience.

Another reason I bought the new phone was so I can start texting. Now texting to me means “youth”. That I’m cool, hip, with it. (All terms that show how ancient I really am.) lol. The fact that I only have one friend who texts shouldn’t slow me down. Maybe I’ll make new friends texting? Or lose the one I have? Like a child with a new toy, I couldn’t wait to send Janet my first text from my new phone. A very profound message if I say so myself. “Hi. M”

I didn’t intend to hit send, only to try and erase the M but somehow I did. Now I had to send her an explanation text which turned out to be even more profound. “sry.cannot-”

Hopefully someone will show me where the space key is because it’s not by the send key that I accidently hit again. Thankfully Janet knows me well and understood what I was trying to do and say. But gee, did she have to be such a showoff with her texted response of “Good try. Keep practicing.”

I also wanted the high-quality camera my new Android offers. I’ve been reading a book on blogging and it seems that all the best bloggers are also talented photographers. Always wanting to improve myself and my blog, I got out my trusty Canon that was once a high-quality camera. It had had a technical breakdown the last time I tried to take pictures of the newest member of my pack. I pushed buttons, opened tiny doors, and finally got it working for a minute. But then I'd forget what combination of buttons I’d hit and I'd have to start all over again.

My new camera phone is wonderful. I’ve taken pictures of the dogs, the floor, the ceiling, my thumb, and my fireplace mantle that I decorated last night for Christmas. You just won’t see them on today’s blog. I need to go for a drive to try out the Android’s GPS, shop for a few apps, get it to goggle, and …. Say, can someone give me a quick call? I guess I ought to see if I can talk on the new phone as well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reading Buds

I’ve always been a voracious reader starting with Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales, the Hardy Boys series, Call of the Wild, and graduating to The Autobiography of a Yogi by the time I entered junior high school. Perhaps I read for escape from a not-perfect childhood or was just bored. Regardless of why, reading is the one addiction I have that I’m proud to claim. I also took pride in my selections, boasting about Ayn Rand’s Atlas Struggled and Fountainhead like I’d been the first to discover the literary prizes in the 60’s. I never considered myself a high-browed literary reader though. How could I when I stole my mother’s copy of Peyton Place, inhaled Gothic romance paperbacks until they started all reading the same and actually loved The Bridges of Madison County? Thankfully I advanced past the romance novels and most series genres a long time ago, except for the Harry Potter series, of course. Ya gotta love them.

My computer room has one full wall of book shelves. They are no longer crammed full for several reasons now: 1) one shelf has already cracked due to excessive weight and 2) I’m trying to downsize my life and belongings (with little progress unfortunately). What concerns me though about my reading addiction is that its favor has changed. This morning as I prepared to write today’s blog, I tried to remember my favorite fiction books that I read last year. The only one I could remember was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The year before only The Historian stands out in my memory block. I’ve been struggling with Freedom for over three months now and that scares me. Am I losing my love of reading and writing? Or am I losing brain cells? Will I have to give up my addiction?

Or is it simply that as I have aged my reading buds have changed? While I really worked to recall my fiction favorites of this year, my non-fiction favorites roll off my recall as fast as I can type. Lit by Mary Karr, a memoir of sobriety, The Happiness Project, Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell, Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog, Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections and Pack of Two, The Intricate Bond between People and Dogs. These are only a few but they all say something to me, make my cry or make me laugh. Maybe I no longer want to escape real life but relish it and all its emotions with others that have been down my road.