Writer’s Platitude for the Weekend

pens3“Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money.”  Huh. I thought it was like sex because it generally sucks the first time you do it, but gets better the more you practice.

Original quote (in quotes) by Virginia Woolf

Photograph by Churl © 2007 Creative Commons

 

Who is that woman in the mirror?

mirrorI saw a new picture of an old friend on Facebook last week. I’ve known him for ages, and see him every so often, so it wasn’t like the picture was a big surprise. It must have caught me off guard, however, because all I could think was, “Dude. You look like someone’s Dad. When the heck did that happen?”  I almost posted my reaction to his page, but thought better of it and kept the revelation to myself.

Getting older is like being the frog in slowly heating water. It’s a slow and gradual process, so slow that I don’t see the changes on a daily basis. I’ll see a new wrinkle here, a little sagging there, and I won’t even mention the real color of my hair these days.

For a while, I didn’t mind letting the silver show. After all, I had the face of a fifteen year old. When I booked honeymoon tickets for my husband and I,  the agent (tells you how long ago that was) said he couldn’t sell tickets to a minor. Once we got back and set up house, the rate of gray escalated logarithmically. Clearly it is husband’s fault. His hair loss, however, is hereditary. I’m not taking the blame for that one.

Recently my son saw a snapshot of me when I was in college. It was a Polaroid taken during my quasi-anorexic days, when I had masses of hair and contact lenses. He was sort of dumbfounded. I know it didn’t fit in with his image of me. The image looked strange to me as well, as if it had been shot through a Vaseline-covered lens. It is me, and yet really isn’t. Like the photo, that version of me was fuzzy and unclear, struggling to stay inside the lines.

I’m not sure when the balanced tipped and I found peace with myself. That happened slowly too.  Now, when I look in the mirror, I just see what I see, not what I wished were there.  I’ve found new lines and filled them in. When I grow out of those lines, I will do it again.

My son looked at the picture for a while,  then told me that I look exactly the same. He’s a smart child. I buy all of the groceries. So I showed him one of my husband. “Ha!” he said. “Dad–you had hair!”

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Noah Wood © 2005 Creative Commons

You can always turn around

chicken brothMy son got his learner’s permit in late October.  It has created an interesting shift in responsibilities. The dude chauffeurs me around for a change. Of course, he still wishes that we had a cooler car than a Prius, but beggars can’t be choosers. He keeps debating what kind of car his father and I should get him. He doesn’t seem to notice that he is only debating by himself.

I have to admit, the dude is a good driver. I was kind of worried what he’d be like. I’ve seen him play Need for Speed. I should have known, however, that his need to follow rules and regulations would trump all in the end. So now, he points out every time I’m speeding. He knows I can’t very well complain. I guess it’s better than having a reckless kid that sends my blood pressure soaring every time he get the keys in his hands, but he doesn’t have to be so self righteous about it. Apparently my husband doesn’t use his turn signal. My son is also a tattle-tale. It makes me feel better, so I don’t discourage it.

He was driving me to Dunkin’ Donuts on Saturday morning. This is a favorite destination of his. It takes us down a multi-lane road, generally filled with traffic. It’s good practice. As we’re driving home, a car slid over from the right lane into a barely car-sized slot between my son and the car ahead of him, then over into the left turn lane just as a the car ahead of us was merging into the same location. They avoided an accident, but my son was rattled by it.

“When you are driving,” I said, “there is little you can undo except for an accident. There’s always another route, and worst case, you can always turn around. It may take time, but burning time doesn’t hike your insurance rate and put you in traction.” I told him to take a deep breath. “The calmer you are, the more options you see.”

Later that day, as I was cooking dinner, distracted and stressed, instead of picking up my wine glass, I picked up the measuring cup and took a swig of chicken broth.  In the grand scheme of kitchen errors, this one was more unpalatable than disastrous. I can’t help but think, however, about my earlier advice, to just slow down.

Sometimes I wonder if we feel so rushed not because of how much time we spend doing things, but because of how we spend the time. If we were to relax and breathe through the moments of the day, how much less would we really accomplish? Perhaps even more. I certainly would know the difference between a measuring cup and a wine goblet. I didn’t know I could execute a spit take.

I want to accomplish a great deal this year. I have big plans. At the same time, however, I want to sow serenity. I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive. One is a matter of “what” and the other is a matter of “how.”

I’m not saying it will be easy. I move at a fast pace. I talk fast, I work fast, I move fast. I don’t walk, I run. Even when it hurts. It gets me home sooner. It also got me a mouthful of chicken broth.

There’s always another route.

You can always turn around.

The calmer you are, the more options you see.

Take a deep breath.

Dream big, take it slow, and look before you drink something.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by William Jones © 2009 Creative Commons

Fearlessness and Freeing the Anvil

fly

When I was a child, I was sure that I knew how to fly. I flew in my dreams all of the time. It was so effortless, so vivid, it had to be real. It was like swimming through air–as if I was so buoyant I couldn’t stay tethered by gravity. Something simple kept me bound to the earth. Once I figured it out, I’d undo the knot and head for the skies. If I could fly, surely I could do almost anything.

The almost got me. I learned about power and politics and started to see the limits of possibility. I learned time wasn’t infinite and that I could be lost and broken. I learned how to fear.

Every so often, I’d still dream of flying. When I’d wake up, I’d feel like I was missing a limb; some essential part of me had been replaced by an anvil that had “I can’t do that” etched in its side. I ached for weightlessness.

I have friends that choose a theme for the year, like hopeful, or gratitude or present. I suppose it’s like setting an intention after meditation. If you set a course for where you want to go, you’re more likely to get there. As I’ve said before, I’m a goal junkie. So I’ve chosen a theme for this year.

Fearlessness.

Embarking on any career in the shadow of turning 50 isn’t easy. Embarking on a writing career is lunacy. Doing both at once is a swan dive off a steep cliff. To write is to open up your soul every day, lay it out on a table and call the world over and ask for their opinion. Writing isn’t the only vocation with that property, but for me, writing exposes my vulnerabilities more than consulting or research did.

Yet, I feel more at peace.

I could be sensible. I’m an experienced business professional. I have connections, a solid resume, a history to draw from. Being sensible is the last thing I want. I’m tired of dragging that anvil around everywhere I go.  I will have the audacity to be fearless.

Eating a box of chocolates is my usual way to tell the world “screw you, I’ll do what I want.”  We all have a personal box of chocolates, that self-defeating, self-limiting thing we do to try to convince the world we aren’t afraid of what it was throwing our way. Instead, I vow to un-learn the lessons that hold me down, to remove the anvil of can’t and fly.

It’s a big sky out there. Join me.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Ken Bosma © 2008 Creative Commons