“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate—that’s my philosophy.” ~ Thornton Wilder

 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.” ~ Rainer Marie Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I haven’t done an update in a while, and since I am supposed to be filling out FAFSA applications for both Brett and Eamonn, I thought that this would be a good topic to keep me from completing more forms. So here goes.    

Twenty-five things:   

  1. This time ten years ago I was just beginning my relationship with Corey as friends and co-workers.
  2. Egret in Flight
  3. Five years ago I was miserably working for a real estate company as a marketing director.
  4. This time last year I was doing exactly what I’m doing now: frittering my life away, attempting to write, being a slug.
  5. One of my favorite moments at the museum was the time that I was at the shoot for our Monet exhibition, and there was a frog wrangler. Seriously.
  6. Corey and I were walking through the Botanical Garden when we decided to get married.
  7. My dad loved to go fishing late at night, and when I was a girl, it was always a treat when he took me with him.
  8. The part of my body that I hate the most is my neck. Second, my arms.
  9. I think that Gwyneth Paltrow has a lot of nerve complaining about her bat wings (upper arms) as she is skinny and knows nothing about real bat wings.
  10. When I was in the 6th grade, I pretended that the man in the picture was not my father. I am still ashamed of that.
  11. My cell phone was stolen out of my car by a man I let wash my car. I was so stupid, which is what the police pointed out in a neighborhood meeting about crimes committed by the men who went around and offered to wash cars.
  12. When I was a teenager, I cleaned my mother’s house every Saturday. No one made me. I just did it.
  13. I have a soft spot in my heart for short, elderly Filipino men.
  14. I think the reason that I am so intrigued by my dreams is that they are so much more interesting than my real life.
  15. I am afraid of snakes and centipedes but not spiders.
  16. I love to listen to the birds singing in the early morning, when the air is filled with many different songs, creating a natural harmony.
  17. Chickadee
  18. When I was little, I always wanted to have a sister, but not necessarily a brother.
  19. The most beautiful place Corey and I saw when were in Mexico was the Mayan ruins in Tulum. I much preferred the natural beauty of the ruins, the Iguanas,  and the blue water hitting the rocks to the crowded, touristy atmosphere of Cancun.
  20. The Mexican soldiers patrolling Tulum carry automatic weapons, which is quite a jarring sight in the midst of such natural beauty.
  21. I wish that elves and fairies were real.
  22. I have boxes and boxes of photographs that I have taken over the years but have never sorted or arranged. I also have several empty albums that I bought with the intention of putting the pictures into albums.
  23. I don’t think that there’s an episode of Law & Order that I haven’t seen, and the show has been on for 20 years.
  24. I still want to go back to graduate school to get my PhD.
  25. Is there such a thing as a family that isn’t dysfunctional?
  26. I have had three bosses for whom I would work again in a heartbeat—the City Editor at the newspaper where I cut my teeth, the marketing director at the Museum, and the Director of Marketing and Communications at GW.
  27. The worst boss I had was at the department store. He was a misogynist, and he had no sense of loyalty.

“Where am I? Who am I?
How did I come to be here?
What is this thing called the world?
How did I come into the world?
Why was I not consulted?
And If I am compelled to take part in it,
Where is the director?
I want to see him.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Twenty-five more things:  

  1. I once worked as a temp for a company that was so cheap that they counted paper clips.
  2. I used to clean my guy friends’ apartments whenever I visited.
  3. I used to dream of owning a muscle car. Now, I couldn’t bend down to get into one.
  4. Pelican at Sunset
  5. Someone once told me that my legs weren’t perfect and hers were because mine didn’t touch at the top.
  6. I wish that my legs still didn’t touch at the top.
  7. If I were a billionaire, after I paid for college for everyone in the family, I would set up a foundation specifically for young women in need of start-up funds. I would also start a foundation for unpublished writers to get the funds needed to work on their writing full time.
  8. If I were a billionaire, I would donate a chunk of change to the campaigns of whoever ran against Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and a handful of other extremists.
  9. One day I will go to Australia and Ireland.
  10. I sing to my dogs.
  11. I think that I’ve taught Tillie how to say I Love You, but she could be saying “I want cookies.”
  12. One of the most beautiful valentines I ever received was from a boy I was not dating. It was a hand painted butterfly, and in it he wrote a poem about me. I found out later that he killed himself the following year.
  13. I love pens but hate ball point stick pens that run on my fingers.
  14. When I was a little girl, I thought that I would help my mom with the ironing. I melted one of her blouses.
  15. I polished the floor of my grandmother’s house in the Philippines with coconut halves that were strapped to my feet. The dark floors were so smooth that it was like skating.
  16. I’ve always wished that I could draw.
  17. My parents had a tree on the side of their yard that I climbed and from which I could jump onto the roof.
  18. Cedar Waxwing
  19. I have wanted to live in Blacksburg ever since I went to grad school there, but I think that it’s more the idea of living in a college town.
  20. Corey and I want to go on another cruise one of these days.
  21. I remember returnable soda bottles.
  22. I have a vague memory of the shops on Portobello Road in England.
  23. The green grocer whose shop was just down the street from our apartment on Goldhawk Road in London was named Mr. Higgins. He gave me sweets.
  24. Two traditions that I think Americans should adopt are tea time and the siesta. Both make so much sense to me.
  25. I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes in over two years. I think that must be a record.
  26. Ideally, I would love to have a beach house and a house in the mountains. Then I could have the two environments that I love the most.
  27. I let my dogs steal the covers during the night.

“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” ~ Sam Keen

Twenty-Five Questions:   

  1. If you could have lunch with anyone in history, who would it be?  That’s hard. It’s a tossup between Thoreau, Einstein, or Anne Boleyn, all for different reasons
  2. What is the one thing you want more than anything else at this very moment? A haircut.
  3. What it the one thing you hope to accomplish this year? Work on my book idea to the point that I have something to show an agent.
  4. What do you hate the most? Intolerance, followed closely by a lie.
  5. What do you love the most? Love and being loved
  6. How old were you when you first encountered death in a real way? Twelve, when my mother’s father died
  7. What modern convenience would you miss the most: a computer, a cell phone, a television, a microwave? Definitely a computer.
  8. If you could do one thing for anyone in the world, what would it be? I would get a job for Corey.
  9. Which person that you do not know do you relate the most to? Virginia Woolf.
  10. What is your worst trait? Jealousy followed by insecurity.
  11. How do other people characterize you that doesn’t match how you see yourself? I am frequently told that I am confident, which I am not.
  12. What is the one thing in this world that you would eliminate if you could? Famine.
  13. Glass half empty or half full? Empty.
  14. Great Blue Heron
  15. Are people inherently evil or inherently good? Good.
  16. Do you keep secrets from those you love? No. Absolutely not.
  17. Where is the one place you return to again and again?  The cemetery where Caitlin is buried.
  18. Is there a place you go to when you need to clear your head? Barnes & Noble Booksellers
  19. Are you happy with your life? Not really. There are too many things I want to change.
  20. Which affects you more: smell or sound? Sound. Music has a way of playing into my moods.
  21. If you had the power to change one thing in your life, what would it be? I would have had another baby.
  22. What would your super power be? Flying
  23. Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way? If one of them is gay.
  24. If you could live in another country, where would it be? Australia or Finland.
  25. When you are away from home, what do you miss the most? My dogs.
  26. Do you believe in revenge? In concept.

Well that was harder than I had anticipated. More later. Peace.   

Damien Rice, “9 Crimes”   

   

    

 

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The Road Less Taken

Point Woronzof Park along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail AK

 Point Woronzof Park Along The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

edward-hopper-rooms-by-the-sea-1950
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

Today, my mind seems to be going in seventeen directions at once. I feel that I am being bombarded by thoughts and feelings too complex to unweave. Part of me is in Australia where a dear friend is going through some major life difficulties. To worsen things her daughter is also ill and experiencing ups and downs.

Another part of me is thinking about the wife of one of the writers whose site I visit. She, too, is ill and awaiting some kind of relief from her doctors.

Another blogger, one whose writing is just amazing, is anticipating the death of her beloved dog who has been with her for years.

A poet with whom I try to stay in contact has just lost her nephew. Her words are full of pain and sorrow, yet they are hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

Yet another compatriot is awaiting the birth of his daughter. The excitement that he is feeling is palpable, making me excited for him.

It’s so hard in some ways to be connected to so many people, to be intimately familiar with their lives and their loved ones. These connections bring me laughter, insight, opinions, joy, and sometimes, heartbreak.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 

It is the empathic side of me that feels too much, that perhaps delves too deeply into the pain and joy of others, leaving me bereft at times, and full of inner delight at other times. I have always been this way—too willing to take on the emotional burdens of others. I remember being a young girl and feeling such complete despair when one of my friend’s dogs was hit by a car, and then being filled with delight when a neighbor’s dog had puppies. Granted, these are probably normal childhood emotions, but it is hard to put into words the keenness I have always felt emotionally, the incisive way in which my emotions have held sway for as long as I can remember.

Henry County Indiana from When Worlds Collide
Henry County Indiana by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I remember being devastated when someone I worked with at the newspaper died after a bout with cancer. And how absolutely crushed I was when I heard that John Lennon died.

My emotions have always guided me, which is why, I suppose, I have the incredible highs and merciless lows in my life. I’m not suggesting that this is the preferred way to live. On the contrary: There have been many times when I have wished that I could simply turn a switch, turn off everything that I was feeling. There have been moments in which I would have given anything not to be able to feel. To be numb, completely without thought, emotion, or concern.

No one has ever accused me of being a Stoic. For me, nature is not rational and perfect. I do not see everything from a fatalistic viewpoint. In Stoicism, whatever happens, happens, and nothing can change that which is determined, so there is no point in questioning or trying to alter things that are not within the individual’s power. I would never have been able to converse with Zeno, the father of stoicism and his philosophers of the porch. For each statement made, I would have asked why.

But why? Why does this happen? Why didn’t that happen? Why? Why? Why?

For me, every change is felt, not just within my psyche, but by my corporeal self as well. It’s as if my body is a barometer to my soul.

Admittedly, pure elation is an emotion that eludes me much of the time. That’s not to say that I have not been elated many times in my life. Of course I have: when I first held each of my children, on the day that I graduated with my B.A., when I finally completed work on my publishing degree, whenever I finish a piece of writing that I feel certain has come together well, each time that Corey returned home safely after being on the water, each accomplishment in my children’s lives, to name only a few.

As I have mentioned, the beauty that I find in the smallest things—flowers, birds, beautiful images, music, words—brings me a tremendous sense of inner peace and can affect my mood and sometimes reverse an impending low.

But spontaneous elation? I am mystified by people who are like that. You know the ones—they are genuinely happy most of the time. Very little seems to penetrate their cheery dispositions.

To be honest, I am uncomfortable being around people who are like that. Something in me tries to find the falseness behind the cheer. But sometimes, there is no falsehood. These people are happy, with every fiber of their being they are happy. I don’t understand that, nor do I particularly care for it, or perhaps the more accurate statement would be believe it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish unhappiness for these people, but to have that much happiness all of the time? How does one go about feeling the inevitable calamities in life if everything is always good? Positive? When faced with tragedy, to speak homilies such as “well, it was probably meant to be,” or “you’ll feel better soon” seems to ignore the pain. And if pain is ignored, if the individual does not allow herself to move through it, embrace it, and come out on the other side, how can any knowledge be gained?

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 

Bear Lake Trail Everglades Fl by JJ
Bear Lake Trail, Everglades, Florida by Janson Jones

Admittedly, I am a cynic. I question everything, take nothing at face value, and tend not to accept glib explanations. Am I proposing that that is the way to live life? No. Sometimes, I wish that I could just enfold myself in the easy answers, ignore the nagging doubt. Wouldn’t that be easier?

But then, I would not be true to myself if I did so. I question. I doubt. I wonder. But once I believe in something, I will argue vehemently in support of whatever it is that I believe.

For me, the path isn’t always clear. Where it is going is never defined, but I would never change that. The not knowing is what allows for exploration, what encourages the soul to seek out the truth, even though the truth is not always what we desire or what we are prepared to accept.

The truth is such a complex animal. It changes with the wind. It is ephemeral. And that is why the search for it is usually not well-trodden nor lit with beacons pointing in the right direction.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

andrew-wyeth-easterly detail
"Easterly" (detail), by Andrew Wyeth

My life has been one long search for beacons pointing the way, but just as sailors have been misdirected by false light, I too have been misdirected: by believing the words of the wrong person, by holding dear to someone who was not worthy of my heart, by listening to misleading echoes.

And then the path becomes unclear, no boundaries, no borders. And at these times, I have become lost. Yet I have always made my way back, whether it was a friend who guided me, or my love for someone or their love for me, or just being attuned to my esse—I have always managed to find my way home.

For me, the lie is the worst thing. It rips apart the existing reality. It causes shifts in time and space, and as a result, things must be moved around until a new pattern can be formed, and the result is a grey spot where the truth used to be.

But then the opposite holds true: each new friendship, each new person who enters my life in a meaningful way also causes a shift, but the resulting move to accept these new people into the fold increases the beauty of the tapestry, enriches the colors, emboldens the pattern.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

Even though I may wish at times that I had it within me not to feel things so deeply, I know that that will never be. I have my peaks and my valleys, and the movement between the two is an amazing journey, regardless of the pull on my psyche or the taxing of my constitution. My emotions are my plinth: They bolster me and keep me buoyant. But more importantly, they allow me to open my heart to others, to sustain my empathy, to avow the truths of my soul.

Arctic Valley Chugach St Prk Anchorage by JJ
Arctic Valley, Chugach State Park, Anchorage by Janson Jones

Admittedly, the pinnacles of my highs and the chasms of my lows do not make me the easiest person with whom to live, or even, to love. But I hope that the ferocity of my loyalty and my unstinting willingness to follow those for whom I care into the breach help to compensate for my ever-shifting spirits.

And so it is my hope that all of those individuals who I mentioned in the beginning of this post know that even though many miles separate us, my heart and my thoughts encompass them as fully as if I were sitting across the table from them, sharing a cup of tea.

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” ~ Robert Frost
 

edward-hopper-houses-of-squam-light detail
"Houses of Squam Light" (detail), by Edward Hopper

I do not know where my path will continue to lead. I only know that I am willing to follow it to its end. I hope that along the way I continue to meet new people, to enter new lives, to touch those who seek comfort, to share in the great moments of bliss, to ease the way for those who will allow it, and to love and be able to call myself beloved.

It is these stops, these waysides that make that path more enthralling and that make me want to continue on this journey. I do not know the full purpose of my quest; I only know that it began years ago and that I still have a long way to go, many more observations to make, and more words to write before I reach my inn.

I’ll leave you with this track from Die Romantik. Haunting song.

 

More later. Peace.

 

The Road Less Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.