Friday, April 29, 2016

What Should I Do With My Life?

An article in today's paper woke me up with a jolt this morning with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance: "Prayer is in all action." The author went on to explain, "No farmer wakes at mid-morning and says, 'Gee, I wonder what I should do today.'"

That concept of mindful action hit close to home as I struggle with the quandary daily, being unemployed. (No matter how menial, a job does fill up one's time, which is one big reason why so many people want one even when they don't need the money.) And since I'm not given to prayer, at least not in the conventional sense -- dovening over a bible or counting my rosary beads -- I cast about for some sort of meaningful activity to justify my very existence.

Farmers may work hard, but in one sense they have it easy. Milk the cows, plant the crops, feed the chickens, harvest the corn. No need for yoga classes, YouTube or Game of Thrones when you've got a list of chores a mile long waiting for you each day.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thank Yelp

Jackson, are you singing?
As I do every now and then, I checked the Internet to see if Jackson Browne, my favorite performer of all time (except for all the dead ones) would be heading my way anytime soon and struck gold. Yes, in fact, he is giving a concert right here in Portland this June! Visa card in hand, I was eager to buy tickets while I still could, but then I stopped and considered the venue: The Maine State Pier? What's that?

Turns out to be an actual pier, "a municipal-owned deep-water marine facility and music venue" right on the water in downtown Portland, where they put out bridge chairs and erect a stage and jam it full of people, many of whom pay to be in what is called the "General Admission Standing Area." Thinking that could be iffy -- a sudden rainstorm, annoying seagulls overhead, drunken throngs lined up at the porta-potties, passing trucks belching pollutants all but obliterating the quiet troubadour's angelic voice and soft guitar -- I needed more information before I plunked down hundreds of dollars for a potentially disastrous experience.

That's where Yelp comes in, the tell-it-like-it-really-is website with reviews written by real people with no agenda. And what I learned was that, according to numerous reports (certainly enough to convince me), attending a concert at the Maine State Pier is fraught with problems, including all of my imagined worries and then some.

Unlike so many of our politicians, Yelp delivers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Country Life, In Case You Wondered

Garrison Keillor would have a field day around these parts. Like last week over at the college in Brunswick, just about ten miles from Freeport as the crow flies, a group of students had a tequila party. Some of the attendees got into the spirit of things and wore sombreros. That turned out to open up a hornet's nest, with several of the school's Hispanic students finding the sombreros to be offensive. Next thing you know the school officials are dreaming up punishments for the students who came up with the sombrero idea. Who knew hats could be racist?

The big news over in Yarmouth, seven miles south, is that the old Handy Andy's general store is now selling Holy Donuts. You might not know, but Holy Donuts are a real big deal down in Portland, a clear twenty miles away, so to be able to get them in Yarmouth is worth talking about. They put out about 250 donuts first thing in the morning and I'm not sure when the last one goes, but by noon there's not a donut in the place. The thing about Holy Donuts is that they're made from potatoes, which is what they grow up in Aroostook County here in Maine. Lots of potatoes. In fact, they grow so many that the schools close every year for a few days so the kids can help with the harvest. So it's lucky they can find a good use for them, especially since Mrs. Obama decided that French fries could no longer be included in school lunches.

We got about four inches of snow yesterday. It started at about nine in the morning and came down steady until almost three. Our vegetable garden, newly planted with peas and carrots, was completely under snow, and several of our blooming plants that were forgotten out on the screened porch didn't make it, what with the overnight freeze. But then today the sun came out and temperatures went up to where they should be this time of year, and finally the pansies and primroses that were buried under the snow poked out again, none the worse for wear.

One Teeny, Tiny Question for Hillary Supporters

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton scream at her supporters for close to an hour in what was supposed to be her victory speech after winning four out of five of yesterday's primaries in the Northeast. Shrieking is her first language, let's face it; around our house we call her Shrillary. It is beyond my comprehension how she is considered to be the one and only Democrat who could be our next president.

Hillary's entire televised rant was about how much things suck now and how much better they will be when she gets into office. Again and again she screeched about how bad life is for the poor, how pathetic things are for the middle class, how unfair it is that the wealthy get all the money. She will raise the minimum wage! College debts will disappear!! Everyone will have a job!!! Every last immigrant will be welcomed!!!!!! Instead of a wall keeping them out, she will install water slides at our borders so they can get in easier and have a damn good time doing it!!!!!!! The government will provide health care for every last person still breathing!!!!!! Social Security benefits will rise, every one of our students will be brilliant because all our teachers will be excellent, and best of all there will be no more racial bias, and in time under her rule we will all be the same color!!!!!!!!!!

As Brad Pitt so memorably asked of his Jewish recruits in the film "Inglorious Basterds," after describing how they were going to murder every last German they could find, "Sound good?" Sure does, except for one teeny, tiny detail: We already have a Democrat in office and have for the past eight years. In fact, Hillary herself was part of the current administration when she botched Benghazi as Secretary of State, and as a Senator before that. She helped create the very problems she now says she will eradicate.

So my question for the candidate and each of her compliant, complacent, cracked and confused followers is: Did you all forget that the very party Hillary claims will fix all our country's current ills is already in power and has been for the past eight years?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Please Call Me by My True Names

A poem by Thich Nhat Hanh

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow—even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, 
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, 
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up
and the door of my heart could be left open,
the door of compassion.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Finding Joy

Finding joy on Mt. Everest: She looks happy!
Today I tried two different approaches to improving my health. The first was calling my traditional, med-school-trained family physician to discuss the fact that I'm not any better than I was two weeks ago when he told me things might "resolve themselves." (Without going into the gory details, let it suffice we are in the realm of digestive issues.) Of course I never spoke to the doctor but instead recited my symptoms to the nurse who answered the phone, at least I assumed she was a nurse but she might have been part of the cleaning crew. She said she would tell the doctor what I said and then asked for the best number to reach me. Six hours later his annoyingly unctuous flunky called and said the doctor had gone home but he recommended I "cut back on dairy, beans and onions and take Miralax," which I have been taking religiously since the last time he told me to take Miralax.

The second was visiting my non-traditional, alternative medicine acupuncturist. He stuck needles in various places, and at least a couple were in the abdominal area so one could only hope. After leaving me on a table with needles here and there for about an hour or so, listening to odd Gregorian chants, he returned to discuss my current symptoms and possible treatments for a good long while, during which time I had his complete attention. Feeling slightly improved, I made another appointment. As I left, he gave me a homework assignment for the coming week: Find joy. In something. In anything, just find some joy, dammit!

Right away we can all agree that the acupuncturist trumped the physician hands down. However, he had given me a difficult prescription, not easily filled at the local CVS: Where the heck does one find joy these days? The last time I had a whole lot of it was when my son was born in 1987. Oh sure, I've had plenty of good times, fun vacations, lots of laughs, memorable evenings, etc. since then. But as for finding real joy, I'm stymied.

I can think of some paths to joy that will probably not happen. Like, for example, I could starve for two weeks and then finally have a decent meal. Even one week would do it. I bet I'd feel joy then. But since I have trouble fasting for the whole day on Yom Kippur, that's highly unlikely. Perhaps one of the seventeen literary agents yet to reject my manuscript will email and say they loved my latest novel and want to get it published and sell the movie rights.  I could rescue an abandoned kitten I find by the side of the road and nurse it back to health. Ditto a puppy. My son could get a recording contract or become exceedingly happy for any other reason. Hillary Clinton could quit the race and disappear. My dead shrink could come back to life and bring Freddie Mercury with him. I could summit Mt. Everest (if I were twenty years younger). I could go sky-diving (if I weren't so afraid of free-falling from great heights). All of these would work.

Or I could just find a new doctor.

Now Trending

Ever since I blocked the possibility of readers leaving comments on this blog, I feel so free. I should have done it long ago. Now if I could only figure out how to stop caring about what people think of me in person, I might really get somewhere.

It's got me wondering why we all worry about what other people think of us. Why everyone wears the clothes that are deemed "in" and watches the TV shows that are "must-see" and goes to such great lengths to be just like everyone else, especially when everyone else is doing the very same thing. Just who is everyone trying to be?

For fun, take a break and stop trending. Free yourself and just be yourself. Who knows, you might even like who you really are.