Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Friends and Neighbors...and the Real World


What if we were next door neighbors instead of following each other on Twitter or Facebook?  
What if every action or word said was met with an equal or bigger reaction right next door every day?  Instead of measuring by likes, shares, comments and images, what if your neighborhood suddenly became a scoreboard for every exchange, good or bad?

It's true...if you grow weary of online battlegrounds, you can give yourself a break and shut it down for a day or two.  But in the real world, it’s hard to look someone in the eye each day and have an authentic conversation, without measuring your actions, words and intent...and weighing them carefully for a courteous and healthy exchange, mindful of the other person's feelings and viewpoints.

In the real world, if a neighbor accidentally bumps into your mailbox or says something out of turn, an apology is usually forthcoming.  I realize this is a simplistic example, but the principle is exactly the same.  

With amazing technology and constantly evolving new innovations, I wish we could slow down and take a moment to consider a few things:

Earth is just one big neighborhood, becoming more and more connected every day.

If we all treated each other like neighbors, our “neighborhood” would be a lot nicer.

We wouldn’t write graffiti on someone’s garage door or sidewalk…why do we think it’s okay to do it online?

We wouldn’t unfriend someone just because they said something we didn’t agree with.

Equally important, we would share and respect viewpoints without sounding a battle cry at the first sign of a disagreement.

Oh yeah, and hey guys, this is the real world J


M

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Sunday Squirrel and Seasonal Baker...Fixin' to Find the Holiday Spirit


I’m one of those seasonal bakers.  It happens every year around this time.  It begins with an otherwise disorganized kitchen and pantry, and is transformed into a well-oiled machine, with an assembly line-like set-up.  It’s like one of those pop-up shops coming to life as I unfold the banquet table and set it up alongside the window, where it will remain until after the holidays.

I guess it’s my way of welcoming and ushering in an otherwise melancholy march into a season that brings with it a holiday spirit that cannot be tamed or explained.  A spirit that is fickle and unpredictable…like when I am reflecting fondly on a memory of my Granny’s brown bread baked in vegetable tin cans…and then suddenly find myself too full of emotion and lost in thought as I stare beyond the glow of warm lights on a Christmas tree.  Holiday Spirit is indeed a mischievous one, but always finds the right time and place to reveal itself…not necessarily in the timing you would like, but like a willful child, you indulge it because you know there is a unique beauty and peace if you just go with it.  

I do wonder, though, why there is such a delicate balance and fine line between warm reflections of holiday memories and the point at which said reflections turn quickly into a quiet kind of sadness.

For me, Christmas has always brought great promise each year.  Not because I have led a charmed life or that I’ve never experienced heartache or disappointment.  I’ve had a little of both (as we all have).  I think the difference is that there is a part of me that has always had this fascination with magic and the belief that the impossible is achievable, and any setbacks along the way, are merely resting points in moving forward to reach greater heights. 

And no one leads the charge for lost causes better than Old Saint Nick.  As a kid, he was omnipotent, and always the Hail Mary I counted on for my Christmas wish list.  And he never disappointed…there was always at least one gift under the tree, for which I’d whispered to him, sitting in his lap at the local grocery store or mall. 

In my adult life, The Hallmark Channel has further helped to feed my passion for the holiday season, letting me join marathon movie nights where I can count on a flawless execution of happy endings.  I make no apologies for indulging in the cheesy nature of these plots, and find no shame in letting some of the emotion of the season spill over and onto my cheeks.  I actually think that Hallmark (like Bradbury) might have figured out the real “medicine for melancholy.”  

For more on Ray Bradbury’s version, go to   
https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/b/bradburys-short-stories/summary-and-analysis-medicine-for-melancholy/a-medicine-for-melancholy .  It starts and ends with love.  Doesn’t have to be the romantic kind, just a sense and general good will for everyone you meet (I think we could all use a little more of that right now).  Bradbury put it more eloquently in his illustration…and I love the literary nature of the dance.  Personally, I’m no Camillia, and so I’m perfectly content with living vicariously through the Hallmark characters and the wonderful memories and lessons shared every Saturday night.  For me, I happen to believe that the cure for melancholy can be found somewhere in my kitchen.  It’s somewhere between the flour and sugar, nestled between a few childhood memories of Christmas past…and still a few others I have shaped and re-shaped to turn into the kind of memories I was okay with keeping.  And the new memories, the ones I’m making right now...well these are the kind of traditions that leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, and a new kind of happy minus the melancholy of days gone by.  Those are the clearest and most accurate ones I know.

As to the true state of reality, I will concede that as a writer, at times I may blur the lines in my storytelling, imagining a better world than the one in which we live in.  But it is always with the best of intentions, aimed to support a positive attitude.  I still believe in the guy in the red suit…the key difference now, is that I know that we all have the opportunity to don that red finery, and make so much more out of what we started with.  

Thumbprint cookies are on my baking agenda today…with a new tradition this year.  I have my own homemade jam to fill them with, canned in my kitchen and shared from someone else’s garden…doesn’t get any simpler than that.  Try on the red suit…one size fits (and serves) all.


M

Saturday, November 12, 2016

You Again?

Backstory:  I chase her all the time, and
 can't shake my natural slant towards optimism and making
sugar cookies out of shit balls!

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow you snuck back in.  I told you we were through.  And I would not live in a world where you left me wide open. 

I distinctly remember closing off all entrances, and raising my defenses back up to a respectable level, leaving me impervious to future breaches or threats.

I know I set you aside in a permanent time out.  I consciously chose not to choose your path in the future, having been a frequent traveler with you in the past.

I’m pretty sure that when I finally decided to stop thinking and simply start living…well, I thought it was understood I would be doing so without your open game plan and personal engagement.

So when I stopped writing…and refused to go down any new wormholes of doubt, I thought it would have been obvious I’d chosen the proverbial door number two in the game show of life, so that the price would not only be right…but it would never be more than I had to lose.  Cue – “Tell her what she’s won Johnny!”  … you get the idea. 

And when I started having fun, without any pretense or apologies, well of course that was a sign I’d finally let you go and had chosen a different path forward.

I was sure I’d seen the last of you when I reclaimed my inner voice and laughed once more.  It should have been obvious, even to you, once I started watching the sun rise every morning…instead of dreading the start of another day.

And it would have been complete insanity for me to open up all the windows to my soul and not locked the front door. 

As for those fleeting moments…where I’d feel a twinge of anxiety or discomfort…I thought it was growing pains, with me letting go of dysfunctional traits I’d been carrying around since childhood.

My first misstep in this flawed state of logic was thinking I had a choice in any of this.  I should have recognized the tell tale signs of how you operate.  But you tricked me…probably because you knew I’d never come willingly.  You let me think I’d fortified my boundaries, preventing entrance from even a battering ram. 

You never let on that the massive wooden door I chose to keep you out was really only for decorative purposes and there was no real substance beyond my own mindset. 

Part of your charm is that you are immediately at ease, making your presence so effortless and comfortable that I hardly know you are there…until it’s too late.

I should have known those heavy, iron laden hinges from which my door has hung, were well oiled, making it easy to swing open and close silently, granting you entrance …completely undetected.

For me, self-awareness has always arrived in waves, after long bouts of blissful ignorance.  It’s like I move through life with curiosity, a love of learning, and yes, ignorance of the things that are happening around me…realizing the latter only after I’ve let curiosity lead me completely outside of my comfort zone.

Which is where I find myself today, conceding victory to the dark side, having lost once again to vulnerability. 

You win…for now (see Mary Poppins image for more perspective). 

P.S. Yes, I have already taken Brene Brown’s course on vulnerability…and I begrudgingly agree about 50% of the time with her methodology.  It’s that other 50% of the time I take issue with … entering the arena, instantly regretting it as the gates go up and the lions are released.  #survivor