Happy New Year


Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck. —
Dalai Lama

A new year. Time for reflection. What do I want? What do I want to get rid of?

I drop two bags of unwanted items at Good Will. I wish it were as easy to discard bad habits and people. Just drive down the alley to the GW back door and plop, plop. Yes, I would like a receipt, proof against my taxing times.

My annual setting of goals in January evolved into guidelines a few years ago, and now, ideas. Free flowing, organic. I like to see them in my mind and on paper, but feel them more like helping hands, not ruling hands, subject to change with no recrimination.

I feel more hopeful than I have in two or three years.

Wait! Why does Mr. M keep popping into my head? We had only a few “friendship” dates and then he moved away. It was not a romance, but romance hovered as a possibility. To meet an interesting, attractive, available man is surprising and fun, especially after a certain age and after so many years alone.

I felt sad when Mr. M told me he was moving. (M is for last name and exotic place of birth.) Then even sadder when he didn’t answer emails. Gone already! Why not even some small acknowledgement? There was something there and I was calmed by his kind manner. Why just disappear? Perhaps he is not as kind or evolved as he appears. Perhaps he didn’t like me.

I decided to let it go and be thankful for the partial re-awakening. But here he is, reappearing and crowding into my Happy New Year thoughts. Oh yes, I remember, it is his birthday! One of the last things he told me – January 1.

I run the scenario by a few friends. Reactions span the gamut from cynic to romantic.

“I would never date a man from that country!”

“Sounds like he was using you.” (I helped him with work connections.)

“Most men are jerks.”

“You’ve been ghosted.”

“Have you emailed him more than once?”

“What did you say in your emails?”

“It’s not that far to drive.”

“Maybe he is worth the drive.”

“I wouldn’t give up if I were you.”

I’m somewhere in between these two extremes. Somehow, perhaps because my parents had a good marriage, I’ve held onto optimism and a sense of romance, while also letting go of naivete and unrealistic expectations. Most important, I’ve learned to honor my feelings, even if they are not returned.

My feelings tell me Mr. M was a good man, as far as I could tell in such a short time. Not great, because of the ghosting quality. And not close enough! I used to drive long distances to see men, joining other freeway bag ladies, as a friend called us. No more! I’d rather hang out with a man who lives nearby in this funky beach town and who likes to stroll by the ocean and the bay.

So, even though I feel a little sad on Happy New Year’s Day, that something I wanted didn’t materialize, I’m also grateful my hopeful ideas continue to flow.

love and hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Over the Moon

Super Blue Blood Moon lunar eclipse, Jan. 31, 2018

Enough of the magical moon already! I know this sounds terrible. Who doesn’t love beauty, mystery and symbolism of that shiny globe in the night sky? Who hasn’t cried, howled or swooned under its light? I like all that as much as anyone. “Moonstruck” is one of my favorite movies.

No, what I’ve had enough of is the idea that the moon itself (beyond its myths) has magical properties. That it can cure us, guide us, solve our problems. Instead of having to think for ourselves, we can bask in its light and believe the answers some from outside ourselves.

Magical thinking. Used in traditional religion, it is waning, especially among the young. But it’s waxing big time in new age belief systems. According to a recent article in The New York Times, belief in astrology is on the rise with millennials.

This moon-worship fever is invading yoga studios. Maybe because so many teachers are young? Almost every day I see a Facebook/Instagram post or email or flyer announcing a moon-themed workshop or series of classes based on phases of the moon. Here are just a few examples:

Full Moon Yoga

Full Moon Yoga at Waterfront Park

Full Moon Meditation

Balinese Full Moon Yoga

Half Moon Yoga (heal your trauma and live your dharma)

New Moon Goddess Gathering

New Moon Yoga Sequence

Heart Yoga and Reiki New Moon Ritual

Lunar Yoga

Boomerang Blood Moon Bonfire (bring special items to charge in the moon or ceremoniously burn in the fire)

Soothing Moon Salutations

Moon Cycle (11 yoga poses to harness the power of the full moon)

Sun and Moon yoga poses

Ohana Moon Yoga (activated healing moon water)

Mandala Moon (11th day lunar cycle experiences)

Unlock Your Inner Femininity: Women’s Moon Centers

So, why do I dislike these? For at least five overlapping, interrelated reasons.

First, the idea that the moon affects our behavior is false. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that people are crazier, turn into werewolves or have more accidents during the full moon. The beliefs that we or our body parts or “special items” or “activated water” can glean energy from the moon is wrong, untrue, unscientific!

Second, these pseudoscientific ideas contribute to the unthinking, dumbing down of so many citizens and our country. Do we really need more people who think dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago and that we are not contributing to overpopulation, climate change, pollution and destruction of our environment? Who think it’s okay to eat processed foods and saturated fact and not suffer consequences? Who cannot tell the difference between reality and lies?

Third, jumping on the moon magic marketing bandwagon is exploitation. Perhaps it is not done intentionally. Perhaps those who believe, for example, that they can help yogis coordinate with moon cycles and heal trauma are sincere. But still, they’re making money off people who are hurting or feel lacking in some way.

Fourth, by claiming to be healers, they are astoundingly arrogant. While some physicians might be arrogant, at least the arrogance is based on knowledge and experience. But most educated doctors and scientists I’ve met are the opposite of arrogant. They are humble, always questioning. They haven’t taken a five-week course called How to Mine Healing Moondust and Sprinkle It On the Unwoken.

Fifth, there are no magical, outside answers. The “answers” come from within! If we continue to look for magic in moons or planets or rocks, we avoid looking for real causes of problems. Whether the strife we feel is individual or global, we benefit more by seeing clearly, analyzing, discussing, weighing options. That is more difficult than basking in meditative moonlight. I do enjoy meditating, but I don’t have to pay anyone on my balcony under the moon. And I realize when I come back inside that the real work still awaits me. And it always will.

End of the lunar eclipse from my balcony. I did not levitate.

Feline Flow

I’ve always admired people who can exercise on their own at home. They are devoted to their routines and rarely miss a day. I have at least three women friends who do this and a family member who works out almost every morning in his home gym.

It’s so self-contained and convenient. Doesn’t require special clothes, driving, money, or having to talk other human beings on those days we’d rather not.

Many times, I’ve wanted to emulate my self-disciplined friends. But living and working alone, I’ve been afraid I’ll miss the inspiration of good teaching, group energy and companionship. So, until recently I stored this idea away in my mental files.

I became less happy with my yoga studio. Not particularly friendly, lackluster teaching, more money than I can afford and too much rubbing on of oils and the slippery woo-woo philosophy. I went on a quest for another studio and discovered two things: 1) most of the classes in our beach town are heated, and 2) they are powered by 20-something, bendy toothpicks.

After almost fainting in a smelly, cave-like, “hot” yoga class, I tried a couple of outdoor classes next to a temporary trailer where our new Y is being built. A good teacher, but I had to get used to my mat slipping on fake grass and tune out the “Express Circuit” class leaping around next to us. A young woman failed to complete the leap across a big tire and landed in a heap of pain. Cell phones came out and I thought for sure we’d have paramedics, but as soon as the coaches were able to hobble her across the field, all seemed okay. My teacher had to get up, grab a clipboard and “make a report,” but then returned to finish up our class. We both commented on how yoga allows us to calm down.

One morning I was rummaging around in my office closet, and, without thinking, I pulled out my large, thick yoga mat. Not the thinner one I carry to and from class. One I used to store for $5 a month at a fancy studio, too heavy to carry, but perfect for home practice!

I lay it out on my office floor and started moving. My office is peaceful, shaded by trees that cover the windows. I’ve practiced yoga long enough – 18 years – to be able to move from one pose to another and create my own sequence. The only guiding voice I need is my own. The only music I need is the soft wind pushing the branches and leaves into the glass panes.

And I don’t lack for company. My three tabby cats, who normally lie around day and night, have suddenly decided they need yoga too. This is new! Mom sits on couch or lies on bed and we snuggle in close, but this body swinging and bending and legs swinging in air is too much! Must investigate. Must emulate. Underfoot, yes, but graceful.

To my surprise, I love the feel of their little bodies and can move with and around them. Whereas a person’s foot on my mat in a class would annoy me, these little soft paws and bellies are comforting. So far, they have mastered Sphinx (what cat could not?), Puppy (like Sphinx, but with butt in air), Half-Assed Side Plank (not unlike mine) and, of course, Savasana (the cat’s natural state, resting).I now look forward to my routine every morning. I am pleased, not just that I stretch and feel good, but that I am stretching into a new way of being – freedom to move (in my pajamas!) at my convenience. I see myself doing this for the rest of my life, even if I’m away from home.

I also found another studio, a mellow one. Instead of signing up for a membership, I bought a class pack and can go as often or as little as I want. Say once a week. Or not. Depending. (For an overly conscientious person like me, this is HUGELY freeing.)

This morning a woman brought two kittens to class in a carrier. She couldn’t leave them alone with their dog. Brother and sister, Houdini and Magic, grey and white and calico. We took turns petting them. They were quiet during class.

“Welcome to Feline Flow,” said our creative teacher.

Yes, perfect name, I thought as I settled into my mat.

 

 

Defeating the iPhone Daemons

Recently 28,747 ghost emails showed up in my iPhone’s Mail Inbox. Ghosts because they are not really IN my Inbox, despite the notification hovering over the Mail icon saying they are. I managed to turn off the annoying apparition, but the grey number 28K still displays in my Mailbox menu.

These ghosts also haunt my Sent folder. Supposedly it contains 966 sent emails, none of which I can see.

According to my preliminary research, it’s a bug in the software – and it’s been bugging people without any resolution for at least a couple of years.Ghost email

Truthfully, I’ve been unable to read the long, online threads of threatening rants and obtuse explanations for more than a few minutes at a time. My eyes and brain fog over. (I can’t believe I spent 25 years as a technical writer without slipping into a coma.) My heart sinks when I see the same suggestion again and again: delete account and add back in. Sure, simple. Just let me locate my list of server settings and passwords. Of course, if I must do that, I will. But unlike with childbirth, when you forget the pain and do it again, I do remember how long I labored to set up the email account, how many people I had to call to obtain settings, how many buttons I toggled on and off before it magically worked. (Again, I marvel at my perverse ability to write about these maddening mind boggles – as a career!)

And now – another fun, twisting challenge. The ghosts must be pissed off at me for trying to yank them out of purgatory. All my Contacts disappeared! Names, addresses, phone numbers, emails. All my incoming calls appeared as Unknown Number.

This was my fault, as much as I’d like to blame cyber-demons. My fingers became possessed and in a fit of impatience, they pressed the secret code to open the gates to iCloud heaven. Once inside, they mindlessly decided, no we don’t need you anymore. Close down iCloud and take everything away (secretly hoping this might include ghosts).

Once I realized that the ghosts remained, but real people disappeared, I was able to re-open iCloud, bow down and ask for forgiveness. Prayers answered. All my contacts floated down from the clouds and reappeared on my phone.

Plus a few extra. Ones I deleted years ago! For reasons that could be the subject of future essays. I’ll have to be careful scrolling through them to re-delete. One slip of the finger or the stylus and I’m calling that born-again woman who refused to listen when I told her I could edit her book, but not run her personal errands. Or that handyman who became overly hand-y until I invented a boyfriend, a former NYC cop with a pet pit bull.  Ghost emails

As for the mysterious emails, are they real? Are they really emails I’ve sent and received for the last 10 years? Has a server somewhere decided, “Here, I don’t want these anymore, I’m sending them back. You’ll have to hire an exorcist or an engineer to get rid of them.”

I have a few ideas, I don’t give up easily. Did I mention I was a technical writer? And I have a software engineer son.

If the emails are real, and not ghosts, I hope I don’t have to see them again. As with old Contacts, I deleted them for a reason. They are free to die peacefully.

When Your Best Plans Take You for a Ride

A Facebook friend wanted to know what the best thing was we had planned for our day. And – NO sarcasm, please, only happy ideas.

(She is a rah-rah life coach.)

Geez, coach, my day is not complete without sarcasm, or at least some droll or semi-dark humor. In fact, I wouldn’t have made it this far, a few decades, without laughing at myself hanging onto the frayed, whiplashing rope of my life.

Some days the sun is shining, some days it is not. I have no control over that. I do my best to feel the sun and smell the air on warm days and walk tall and bundled up on damp, shivering days.

My plan for the day, after wrangling finances, was to return a book I didn’t like to the bookstore and exchange it for one I would like.

I had bought “12 Rules for Life” by Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist. I thought I liked his ideas, as much as I understood them on a Bill Maher TV interview as he rattled off suggestions such as “Stand up straight, Pick friends who want what’s best for you …”

I had a crush on his pleasant demeanor and accent, Canadian, being Canadian-born myself. Normally I read reviews before buying or checking out a book, but this time I didn’t, I just jumped in, like a fool in love with superficial good looks and too-good-to-be true ideas.

I was so disappointed! Conservative. In love with mythology. Anti-feminist. Crap!

Reminded me of the arrogant, condescending male poets I ran into at readings. They were so enthralled with their cleverness and intellect they couldn’t see or listen to anyone around them.

I threw the book in the trunk of my car where it lay for a few days. And so, today, an appointment cancelled, was the day to take it back.

I headed south down the road that crosses Mission Bay and the San Diego River. Was just over the first bridge that crosses the bay when I see slowing traffic and a white car turned sideways across the road, blocking access to the second bridge. It’s a Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) car. All cars were being forced to go to the right.

For a few seconds I wondered if it was a mistake and considered barreling straight through. You are not even real police! But because I did not want to hit other seniors or land in the bay, I was swept up in the caravan of vehicles shooting off the main road into a big circle east. The exits and entrances here loop around, diverge and converge quickly, and it’s hard to keep track of what direction you are driving in, especially if you don’t take the side roads often. Soon I was hurtling alongside the San Diego River, past Sea World with its other-worldly new roller coaster rising into the sky. It’s the Electric Eel, due to open in a few days, “… the tallest, fastest roller coaster in Sea World’s history, a multi-launch coaster with high-energy twists, electrifying loops and inversions,” according to their website.

Fly past that and the only way back around to my destination was to head into the beginnings of Mission Valley, turn into the Old Town Trolley Station, slow down for the tracks and pedestrians, and miraculously come out onto the street where the bookstore is located (but not before going down a dead-end street and having to turn around in a junk yard).

Heading home an hour later, I took a chance, hoping the road was clear on the south end. No such luck! This time, real police cars, several of them blocking the bridge over the river. And the only way to go was east on the 8 Freeway, into Mission Valley. I zoom-zoomed past the Mazda dealership where I had taken my RX-8 the day before, waving mentally at the woman service rep and wondered if she was enjoying the mystery novel I’d given her. Traffic was fast and heavy, and I couldn’t get off for a couple of exits, but once I did and got turned around, it was an easy, if long, drive home. What should have been about an hour’s outing took me almost three.

Would I describe this as a happy day with the best of plans? In a roundabout, rollercoaster way, yes. My day/ride took on a life of its own. Picked me up, tossed me around, but brought me safely back to ground zero.

And the new book I got made it all worthwhile: Trevor Noah’s “Born in Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.” Host of The Daily Show, he is known for his satire, surreal humor, black comedy. I was already an admirer of his mind and his looks, but now I’m in love for life. (Is that sarcasm?)

 

Slip Slidin’ Away, Slip Slidin’ Away

We work our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away

Paul Simon

Sears. Fading out after 131 years. Slip sliding into retail obscurity. Founded in 1886 in Chicago by Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck. Started as a mail order business, opening first retail stores in 1925. It was the largest retailer in the United States until 1989, surpassed by Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Home Depot.

Long before I ever saw the store, I was given an old catalog to play with. I was not much of a kid for dolls and playing house, preferred the outdoors, coveting playhouses, swings and pools as I turned the pages. However, I also loved clothes at an early age and so used my little scissors to cut out fashions I admired, filling my imaginary closet.

manekinsAnother ten years before I physically entered a Sears store with my parents and sister, after moving to Los Angeles. We drove miles inland to buy our first television, the only major purchase we needed since our rented beach house was fully furnished.

Another two years and we had our own house, Sears appliances, tools, and a beginning darkroom kit for me that my father helped me set up in the garage.

And then Sears soured in my mind. As a single, working mother trying to establish credit with Sears, I was turned down. Even with my mother co-signing with her 30-year account! A neighbor of hers, an older woman, had worked for Sears forever in the kitchen renovation department. She was gradually pushed out of her position and commission, given worse and worse projects, forcing her to fade away.

I seldom shopped there. A couple of times in 20 years, to buy specifically requested tools for my sons at Christmas or for birthdays.

The nearest Sears was an anchor for our local mall, and a landmark for my friends and family. Name clearly visible on the big stone building from half a mile away. Closest to an easy and spacious parking lot, close to major streets and freeways, next to the university my son attended, a convenient meeting place.

A few weeks ago, I stopped in to use the bathroom. I was shocked at how empty the store was, sales men and women clustering around racks of frumpy lumberjack shirts, directing me upstairs to a restroom hidden behind a maze of stoves and refrigerators.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I soon read the store was closing. Since 2010, Sears has slipped from 3,500 stores to 695.

Yesterday was its last day. And by chance I happened to be in the mall celebrating my birthday week with a friend. We both spotted the flapping plastic Closing! sign above the doors. She had a Sears appliance question, so suggested we go in.

A vast cavern, no answers here. A few rugs, forlorn pieces of clothing and piles of jewelry, mostly store shelves, bookcases, display cabinets, and manikins. The skeletal leftovers. Families and couples hovering and picking the bones. One woman hoisted a rolled rug on her shoulder and strolled out like she was carrying water jugs down to the riverbank. Vans and SUVs lined up outside the automatic doors to swallow the remnants.

The doors first opened in 1977, the year Paul Simon wrote his song about life’s plans slipping away from mere mortals.

Still, Sears had a good run. A flagship leading an era.

Tools for the handymen and busy women, dreams for the workers, immigrants and children.

I hope whatever comes next takes us farther down the highway.

In the News: Fear of Going Mad While Flying

Note: This is a repost from June 2013. Since I posted this essay three years ago, the flying experience has gotten even worse! Hardly a day passes now without some unpleasant airplane incident going viral and hitting the headlines.

The doctor who was dragged off an overbooked flight and injured after refusing to give up his seat.

Parents of a toddler wanting to hold onto his separate seat kicked off flight.

“Chaos erupts at Fort Lauderdale Airport when Spirit Airlines cancels flights.”

And today – “Passengers get into fistfight aboard Southwest flight.”

To be fair, passengers are not always well-behaved and flight crews do not have an easy job. But how responsible are the airlines for creating such stressful experiences? Should the airlines be regulated, as they were here until 1978? After that, several airlines competed for customers. Flying was fun! In the last decade or so, our 10 major airlines have merged or decreased to four. And the four are not fans of making anything fun.Flying

“I feel like shrieking,” I said to the woman next to me on the airplane. She was squirming even more than I was, squished in between me at the window and her husband on the aisle. “But, don’t worry, I won’t.”

We were three hours into our 5½-hour flight, which was an hour late taking off. We sat at the gate and then on the rainy runway at JFK Airport behind dozens of other jets before we were cleared for takeoff. The pilot kept saying, “Another 20 minutes, another 20 minutes …” while cell phones came out and people made calls to change their pick-up times.

She and I had exhausted almost all activities: reading, napping, checking phones and computers, looking out the window, watching a movie (she with headphones, me without, but I was desperate), getting up and bumping down the aisle to the teeny bathroom, drinking, eating.

Eating used to take more time on these flights.  Now that many airlines no longer serve free meals, at least in less than first class, there is not the fun of opening the little packages and trying to figure out what the globs are and gobbling them anyway. On my flight going east a few days earlier, I didn’t catch the flight attendant in time to order anything. (It takes them forever to get down the aisle, but if you look away for a few seconds, they are gone.) And my two connecting flights were so close together I didn’t have time to pick up anything at the airport, like a $10 granola bar.

This time, I was smarter and quicker in the airplane and I scored a $10 turkey sandwich with potato chips. I hadn’t eaten in about 12 hours and it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted in my life. I tried not to wolf it down, instead savoring every bite for the taste … and the filling of time.

The woman next to me whipped out something from her tote that looked and smelled delicious and I wondered where she got it, but I kept quiet, licking the salt and potato chip crumbs from the bag. Sometimes I prefer not to talk to my seatmates. Suffering in silence beats an onslaught of personal drama or incompatible political or religious philosophies. It’s the luck of the draw – or the airline’s software program.

I once sat next to The Bug Man, as his hat said. I asked what he did, thinking he might be an exterminator. Turns out he was an entomologist (bug scientist) and a well-known bug wrangler who works in Hollywood overseeing movies with bugs and insects (such as “Arachnophobia”). He was interesting and single! (But with rooms full of bugs at home, he said, not appealing to me, a bug phobe.) Later, I saw him interviewed on television and wondered why he didn’t fly first class.

Joking with the woman next to me broke the silence and we soon were off and running (mentally, not physically), sharing our love of yoga and how much we were looking forward to getting back to it. She had been away for five weeks, visiting her son in Spain and her daughter in New York. We discussed our work, children, cats. It was a pleasant conversation and before I knew it, the San Diego skyline appeared underneath us and we were swooping in for a landing.

I’ve always loved flying, especially the take-offs and landings. I’ve never had a fear of flying, but now I’m starting to dread it. In the past, I’ve flown to Australia and Europe with less discomfort and inconvenience than I’ve endured recently on shorter trips. These have included cancelled flights, delayed flights, arbitrarily reassigned seats and airport connections and lost luggage. And it gets worse each year as the airlines think of new ways to torture us.

If the airlines are cutting back to be competitive, why aren’t they offering better service, not worse? Fewer flights perhaps, but at least on time and maybe a little meal?

I cannot image a restaurant or store doing business this way and keeping customers. “You have a reservation for 7? Too bad. We won’t be serving dinner until 8:30. You wanted the booth by the window? Too bad. All we have left is the table by the back wall. You want to leave? Too bad. We locked the door and you can’t leave until we say so.”

How many of us would come back? If we want to travel quickly, do we have a choice? Would a covered wagon be better? I’m beginning to think so. There might by dysentery and wild Indians, but at least we could lie down and get comfortable for awhile, gnaw on buffalo jerky.