Saturday, January 30, 2010

Solitary Confinement

Isolation is an interesting thing. Unless Robert or the dog happens to wander in, no one sees me as I sit here communing with hundreds of people online. I don’t feel isolated because the Internet is so public and immediate, to the point where reading conversations without commenting feels like hiding.

Being someplace where there are lots of people who can actually see me doesn’t compare with online exposure-- mainly because in real life, no one either cares or notices. Ironic that where there are people I’m innocuous yet when I type in solitude, my words are both public and permanent.

Please don’t say “Big deal!”! Sure, it’s obvious, but it’s more interesting than that. Think about it this way, you adorable cynic: it’s not our physical presence that matters. It’s what we have to say.

A body in a crowd goes unnoticed unless there’s something noteworthy about what it’s doing or wearing. A presence online is significant vis a vis the statements it makes. This means one thing: words matter.

Our world overflows with banality, so I find that enormously comforting. Meaning stands out more than an exceptionally ugly outfit. The outfit might be good for a single wisecrack to your companion, but an apt post gets passed on to a multitude. Think about that the next time you forward a link to someone.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pitter Pattern

Put a line under two dots and your brain will turn it into a face. Two random events will make you edgily paranoid until the third happens. The song playing on the radio when you started your car this morning may have been chosen by some faceless marketing director, but if it ever had meaning for you, your day is made -- or ruined.

I’d say Life is like that, but it’s not Life. It’s us. We’re like that. I don’t know if we’re searching for meaning or what, but we make things matter simply by deciding that they do.

If you get all green lights going to work, it’s a blessing on your day. If something good happens, the socks you were wearing become your lucky socks. I’m trying to keep this positive because I am so damned superstitious, knock wood. Besides, we all know the other side, the dark side: the shirt we don’t want to put back on because of what happened the last time we wore it, the scent we associate with pain, that restaurant where… never mind.

We make these patterns ourselves. We associate things with events. And we use those patterns, not to duplicate the events, but the feelings associated with them.

This blog has its own patterns. Two recent posts received unexpected and lovely public comments, and that threw me off completely. I was bogged down trying to match the phenomena, trying to duplicate the pattern of successful expression. Since I can’t even remember what socks I was wearing when I wrote either of them, I was stuck. Then I remembered the subtitle, “Random musings” and whoosh! Here we are again. Welcome back.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


People say “rut” like it’s a bad thing. I say when I want a change I’ll go clockwise around the post instead of counter-clockwise. That hasn’t happened yet.

I saw a friend I haven’t seen or spoken to in thirty (yes, 30) years. Don’t say “Oh, Carole, I wasn’t even born then.” I know that. That’s part of why I’m ruminating now. (Get it? It’s a ruminant callback! I crack me up.)

Here’s my point, thou recalcitrant child. When I look back at a lifetime of adventure, misadventure, pratfalls and ultimate calm, there really isn’t much to say about it. I know because I didn’t say much. A few highlights relevant to my current work, but nothing else. No mention of 18 years going to Campo, nothing about my time at the dojo. About experiences and studies that comprise my identity and inform my daily life – zip, bubkes, nada.

I’ve forgotten things that mattered then. I’ve forgotten people I cared about, traumas from which I probably still bear the scars. I’ve built a life I love, with people who matter now. Like you. And no, this isn’t an “I love you, man” moment. This is a pep talk. Because you might not yet be where I am, and I want you to know that all the depression and angst and freak-out-level stress has a goal, and it’s one that can be reached. Happiness exists and you can have your share. Believe me, I am knocking on wood for both our sakes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Delayed Gratification

There is a book on the table in the next room. It’s just a book, nothing distinctive about it except for two things: it’s by my second-favorite author in the whole world and I haven’t read it yet.

Once upon a time, I read a book (different author) that was so good, that I was enjoying so much, that I stopped right in the middle of a page and flipped back a few pages and reread them. The anticipation was agonizing, but I knew that no matter how many times I read the book again (and I reread it every couple of years) I would never have that sense of discovery when I found out what happened next. I would know, you see. Forever after, I could still enjoy the story, but I would know what it was.

My memory isn’t what it used to be. I have the luxury of rereading mysteries and having no idea whodunit. I try new authors, sadly fewer of them as time goes by because I’ve lost patience with mediocrity, but I do try. It’s rare to find a story in any medium that has that power to subsume reality and give me the sense that not only am I in the midst of something Other, but it’s an Other where I want to be.

So the book sits there. Once I open it, I won’t put it down until it’s done. And then it will be over.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Another Name For A Rose

There was a genuinely beautiful woman on the treadmill to my left this morning. Not a speck of make-up, hair pulled back, her posture was excellent and her bones exquisite. She smelled like a cow pat on a hot day. The funny thing is, she was so pretty it didn’t occur to me that she was the source of the odor until she left and it stopped.

Now class, what do we learn from this? Not much, really. It’s a gym. People go there to sweat. Duh. I mean, Q.E.D.

Still, we can smack our preconceptions around a little. Our culture deifies prettiness, so we expect pretty people to be somehow superior. They’re not. They’re no different from the rest of us, but a lifetime of advertising makes us forget that. Subconsciously we expect our toothpaste to make people like us, our paper towels to improve our cooking and air freshener to make our families behave better. Don’t get me started on feminine hygiene products.

Similarly, we expect pretty people to be exempt from our indignities. I remind myself that the phrase “His shit don’t stink” was never meant as a compliment.