Musings


whilie i admit, this is not a totally uncommon occurrence, this sent me into a particularly heated frenzy of loathing and terror.

if someone could see inside my darkest nightmares, this is what they might see:

Flesh-eating fish give pedicures

remember when i mentioned my fear of fish

torture disguised as beauty treatment

well. it turns out IT IS HEREBY VINDICATED AND ETERNALLY JUSTIFIED. because, you see, fish DO want to eat you. they just usually cant. but these morons not only LET the fishes feast on their toeses, but they PAY for the privilege. holy mother of god, no. i mean forget masquerading waterboarding as “enhanced interrogation methods” this is torment couched as a beauty treatment*!

i had to change the channel before the segment was over so great was my panic and disgust. yet another sound reason to avoid Good Morning America


*in the interest of full-disclosure, some people claim to like this shit. these people are crazy and should be sterilized so as to keep that brand of crazy out of the gene pool.

i’m pretty famous for this. there’s the truth i know and then the truth i choose to attend to because it’s the truth i would prefer. it doesn’t help when the nudging seems to come from multiple directions and isn’t consistent. last week all was nine of cups and shiny. today its ace of swords and potentially sharp.

guess we’ll have to let the day unfold to find out just what we’re in for…

whenever that might be.

i used to know. i was pretty damn sure for a really long time. i was going to deliver babies and that was going to rule. i even had a plan: once i had my credentials, i was going to open a LUXURY BIRTHING SPA where families could come and have a 4 star hotel experience, except also, have a baby there. indirect lighting, comfortable spacious private rooms, spa treatments for mom and dad. a family inclusive care model. nutritionist and lactation consultant on site. cause, dude, after having HAD a baby, i can think of no time in my life i needed pampering more.

turns out though, i am BAD AT SCIENCE. no, really. i failed Anatomy & Physiology twice. physics i just curled into a ball crying within the first week of the term all THREE times i tried to take it. and though i managed to muddle through calculus, it was not an experience that really affirmed my faith in myself as a student.

and as it happens, you have to be at least tolerably good at these things for them to want to let you into medical school, or nursing school, or even any decent direct-entry midwifery program. (maybe not physics. everyone knows that stuff’s made up anyway)

so, what with all my academic flailing, it turns out i’m still pretty damn close to a degree. something called a “Bachelors of Science in Social Science” ironic for someone who’s REALLY BAD AT SCIENCE.

and this leaves me with the problem of what the hell does one DO with a social science degree anyway? i’ve thought about teaching, which i think i’d be pretty good at, all things considered, but someone told me i don’t have the temperament for it. which is code for: you swear too much. i could probably go into some sort of non-profit administrative role, but it’s sort of hard to muster a ton of verve over that idea: i’m going to be a mid-level FUNCTIONARY when i grow up!

so, i’m just kinda drifting. it seems like i’m far past the age at which i should have had these things figured out, and the $60K-odd student loan debt i have accrued thusfar is beginning to make me sort of systemically nervous.

and i know i should go talk to an advisor (i have an appointment tomorrow) but i still feel like an informal survey is SUCH A MORE ENTERTAINING WAY to determine one’s fate!!

so, here are some ideas i’ve been kicking around, in no particular order:

rockstar!1) Rock/Opera Star: I’m pretty sure, if i could read music, the Portland Symphonic Choir would jump on me like the last hot biscuit at the KFC but alas, i cannot. rock stars have no such prerequisite, but anyone who’s heard me sing knows full well there is nothing “rock” about it.

2) Teacher: i actually did this for a job for a couple years (yes after school, and yes only teaching debate, butstill) and i really enjoyed it. i like being the center of attention and talking alot and having people subject to my will, so, really, what could be better? except for the loteacher ladyw pay and my problem with epithets…

3) Amateur Humorist, Dilettante, and Book Dork: i already have this job. it doesn’t pay what it might.

4) Trophy Wife: i actually already had this job, and frankly, it sucked. but i suppose if i just found someone who was more deserving of a trophy than the last guy, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad*

5) Crusader for Reproductive Health in a Non-Science-Requisite Role: i can run a front desk like NOBODY! office mange the SHIT out of some place. so, maybe if i did that, but with pregant ladies and babies all over the place, i’d find my career path more rewarding. i think working for planned parenthood could be great if i had the right role. public relations, policy formation, advocacy for the program. and i do enjoy working in a clinical setting. as long as the patients don’t get mouthy.

6) Your answer here: come on. whaddaya got? what career path seems right for a moderately lazy smartass with lopsided people skills and a penchant for unnecessarily flowery speech?

*this is my mother’s choice for me. no, really.

i realize that most people probably have strange or irrational fears. i mean, you can only watch your friend assiduously avoid coming too close to the pool filter so many times before it becomes apparent this is no coincidence, and wonder to yourself “what the hell am i doing hanging around with someone who’s afraid of a bloody pool filter?” but these are deeper questions than i hope to address here today.

of course there are also the grander, more fantastic yet still utterly groundless fears. my best friend in high school was absolutely convinced that mothman was haunting greater Gresham and its environs. apart from pointing out that mothman was an east coast spook if ever i had heard of one, there didn’t seem a tactful way of expressing my skepticism, so i mostly kept quiet. even when she would suggest taking a walk in the woods in the pitch dark and work herself into a shrieking head-ducking frenzy when the slightest shiver of wind should pass. good times!

and i held my tongue, not only because i am a natural diplomat (HA!) but also because, when it comes to random irrational fears, i have no room to talk.

to be fair, at least in the case of one of these uncommon phobias, there is a clear definable moment to which i can point and say: yep, that’s when i started being afraid of birds. all i can say in my own defense is that i defy anyone to remain unflustered after having a parrot LAND ON THEIR FACE AND HOLD ON WITH ITS BEAK. yeah.


the fish thing i have a slightly harder time justifying. i can only point to the following two things: they have murder in their cold little hearts. they would eat you if only you held still long enough and, sturgeon. seriously, that species alone is enough to send me into the hills with the screaming me-mes vowing never to put my toes in anything deeper than a washtub ever again.

the crowd fear makes sense to pretty much everybody. no one seems inclined to argue that humanity en masse can be scary. not everyone is driven to elbow jabbing panic, but they don’t look at me like i’m a looney. likewise, being creeped out by moths (the lightbulb humping kind, not the 6ft mythical rooftop landing kind) also seems reasonable to most folks. but for some reason, i just can’t help feeling like i have to explain to people that i am not crazy or weird just because i’m afraid of birds and fishes.

so there.

i work in a doctors office and we have a handful of books in the reception area for the childlings to enjoy while they’re waiting. one of my coworkers picked up “The Gingerbread Man” and started flipping through it. glancing over at the pages a wave of nostalgia washed over me as i realized: this was the first book i ever read.

well, not this book. not even this version of this book, but it was The Gingerbread Man. i remember because much was made of this feat. i was not quite three, and pronounced a prodigy. my sister, who was three years older and had stage-mother syndrome and lots of time on her hands was the primary motive force behind this marvel, but i was happy enough to bask in the temporary glow of admiration being a smarty pants conferred.

who remembers their first time? of course, it doesn’t literally have to be the very first thing you ever read, but maybe, the first thing you read that left you with that sense of triumph (you know the one i mean) that you had read a whole book by yourself!

i was reluctant to bring the following examples up, but i feel i must.

from The Simpsons “That tastes like burning!” & “I’m so hungry, I could eat at Arbys” & “I’m learnding!”

i realize it is tired to quote the simpsons. i can only say in my defense that Ralphie is my alter ego, and i cannot but adore him. he is also the only character i can legitimately mimic. and he says such awesome things, i simply must put them to good use. he is also one of the few beings in creation who seems to sympathize with my disgust for all things Arby’s.

from The Princess Bride “You made one of the classic blunders, the first of which being, never get involved in a land war in Asia!”

again, from a source so rife with possibilities, this might seem an odd choice. but somehow, i find it useful in more situations than one might expect.

First Willie Nelson all morning. Soulful, lovely, winsome. I forget how deeply vintage country touches me. Now on OPB I’m watching Pete Seeger and he’s so wise and intelligent and political and gifted. It really does make me want to learn the banjo and sing heartwrenching songs about something light and true.

i have a fairly unsophisticated understanding of market forces and the delicate balance of the world economy. i also know that current trends are making survival more and more difficult for a great many people in the developing nations. hearing about the price of rice and grain skyrocketing, and the concomitant increase in food insecurity weighs heavily on my mind indeed.

yet, somehow, i feel this trend, as an overall tendency, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. in much the same way i feel the increase in gasoline prices are causing profound changes in our consciousness around how we consume energy, i want to believe the increase in food prices might bring about the same kind of evolution around how we consume other things.

while listening to NPR last week i heard a story about how the spike in the cost of grain is beginning to effect people in the rural areas of Afghanistan. how it is becoming more difficult for families to feed their children. and while this is hard to hear and makes me think we as a global community need to step in to address the immediate crisis, the side effect of the overall increase in food prices has made more profitable to grow wheat than opium poppies.

this delights me. there is something inherently noble, as far as i am concerned, in growing food. but more, it is beautiful to me that it is now a more practical choice to feed people than to feed a craving for oblivion.

most of human history has put us in the position of having to spend the greater proportion of our resources (time, physical energy, money) on the acquisition of food and shelter. in the relatively recent course of western culture, there has been a profound shift in that we have more and more resources to allocate toward other pursuits. it has not necessarily made for a more fulfilling human experience. we have become indolent and insensitive to the notion that toil in the pursuit of survival can be a rewarding thing in its own right. that greater freedom to reflect on all we do not have or need to have, has created an acute sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction in generations of people that seems only to be deepening the longer it goes on.

and so it seems to me that the rise in the price of food may cause us to begin to again reflect on the origins of our sustenance and all the ways we hope it will nourish us; what it is we value in our day to day lives and why we place such weight on certain components of our life and so little on others. food and eating are almost never just about food and eating these days, so perhaps we could begin to place a higher worth on this aspect of living, as not only what allows us to survive, but brings significant satisfaction and pleasure as well.

because i feel as though if we were to acknowledge the true worth of our food, that we would place a higher value on it than we have previously and that in so doing, we could acknowledge that it is appropriate to apportion a greater part of our means toward it. the notion being that we should be paying a high premium for food. we should place greater value on being able to feed people than to make our cars go. we should see providing food as a worthwhile investment which also serves to promote wise stewardship of resources.

and I realize this is probably a naïve and overly simplistic way of seeing the situation, but honestly it is one of the few comforts i can retain in an otherwise increasingly distressing atmosphere of scarcity. i think it serves me best to learn to value the things i fundamentally require and appreciate their true worth in my life.

i suppose it’s the socio-economic equivalent of “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”

i’ve been wondering lately if the notion of a “best friend” endures into adulthood. if you’d asked me this question a year ago, i would have answered with a resounding,
“uh-huh!”
however, the person who filled that role in my life since i was about 17 and
i haven’t even spoken in almost a year, and so now i am no longer sure.

the common wisdom tells us it becomes more difficult to make substantial social connections as we age. that intimacy becomes harder to establish, new friendships less likely to endure.

the way we forge connections changes radically as life goes on. our life circumstances, personalities, ethics, preferences, and degree of emotional competency take on distinct texture and permanence as we age. proximity is, then, no longer the defining characteristic of friendship. the accessibility of a playmate, once the cardinal trait of friendship, becomes largely irrelevant. our sensibilities evolve with our interests and we learn to make alliances based on hobbies, political leanings, fondness for drink, and countless other considerations.

and though these might seem to be a more sound and enduring basis upon which to form a lasting social connection, there are constraints presented by our maturity which can hamper the evolution of the emotional connection of the intensity and scope inherent to the “best friend” role. no longer can we hope to be as unaffected or vulnerable as when we were children. our actions are moderated and mitigated by our experience and politesse. the fear of revealing too much, or pressing upon the tolerance of another. we no longer possess the glorious insensitivity to the effect of our unbridled self upon others.

to my mind at least, it is in many ways the drama of our adolescence that makes the profound and enduring emotional and cognitive impressions upon us that allow us to feel as though we really, really know someone, deep down at their core. it is unusual to encounter a relationship, not romantic in nature, that can (or should) generate this same type of intensity once we are out of those tumultuous formative years. and perhaps if we don’t emerge from this time with a person who has run this gauntlet beside us, they cannot really know us; cannot appreciate our evolution and our constancy.

not to forget the logistical and practical constraints of adulthood. we don’t have time on our hands to devote to just being around to discover or communicate every damn thing.

and all of this being said, i have to admit, the conclusion i come to is that while it may be possible to have a best friend as an adult, it might not be possible to acquire one if you wrecked or lost the one you already had. and this makes me sad and lonesome and wistful. because that’s what seems to have happened. and there doesn’t seem to be anything i can do about it.


i woke up this morning in the same mood i’ve been in for days. it’s not a happy one. and yet, for some reason, as i walked past the lilac bush outside my front door, i plucked some blossoms and decided to breathe.

some time ago i was compelled to take a theology class. though it wasn’t necessarily a choice i would have made on my own, i found the class deeply rewarding. not least because of the reading material the sister required for the class. as pertinent to this; Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hahn. and though this is a simple book in every sense, it has offered some of the most practical and useful advice about life i have encountered. yet as simple as it is, i have been truly amazed at how easy it is to forget these truths.

Like:

breathe
smile
be gentle
attend to the smallest and most immediate pleasures
stay present in the moment

and i have not done as much of any of this as i should lately. and for some reason, on this soft grey spring day, i am finding it a little easier than usual. i think i can thank the lilacs…

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