Saturday, September 11, 2004

Tough day to live in NY

I feel sad today. Why? It started when I woke up. Why? Is it because of the day? Because so many people around here are sad today?

Ok, so I am sad. I guess I can be sad. I can just let it be. I don't have to change it or push it away. Sadness is not something to fear, something to resist, something to cure. I will just let it fill me. I will feel it. I am sad because there is suffering, there is unhappiness, there is striving that leads to nowhere, there is effort that falls down in vain.

Crying in Starbucks
I imagine someone asking me
"Why are you so sad. Did you lose someone in 9/11?"
No, I didn't lose anyone
And yes, I lost everyone
Everyone who died, I lost
Not even knowing I had them

My mother's portrait

Today I feel like
how I remember my mother
Sitting drinking
cup after cup of coffee
Smoking, elbow on the table
smoke drifting up
reluctant to depart
Her eyes
focused on a point infinitely far
Some place in the past
or the future
or, perhaps
nowhere at all
All alone

Friday, September 10, 2004

Gratitude leads to happiness

People who wrote a list of things they were grateful for were happier overall than people who wrote lists of upsetting or neutral events.

I came across this idea in the Oct. issue of shape last night while biking to nowhere at the gym. Being a total science geek with University library access, I looked up the original article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Basically they asked people to journal either weekly or daily about A-things they were grateful for B-things that annoyed them or C-just things that happened. The participants also rated how they felt about themselves, the world and the future. The groups that wrote gratitude journals had a more positive outlook, exercised more, and rated themselves more energetic, joyful, and enthusiastic than the other groups did.

I would like to try to put this idea to my own test but I haven't quite decided how to do it. Should I write my gratitude list here? Will that be too boring for people? Maybe I should just write it in a paper journal? I'll think about it and let you know.

I guess it is just human nature or our modern training that encourages us to focus on the negative rather than the positive, on complaining rather than being grateful. How many times did people hold a door for me today? How many times did they smile? 4 or 5 at the least. And yet, if one person had been rude, I would have thought about it, I would have told all my friends, I may even have written about here or someplace else. But about the many positive experiences I had with members of the human race - nada. But if you don't stop to appreciate the good things people do, you forget, they pass right through you and don't affect you, they don't change you, they don't impress themselves in you. You don't make them yours, add them to your heart, and tenderize it. Rather, we tend to take the hurtful things and cast them in bronze to wear around our necks. To harden our heart, to encase it in brittle bitterness. How many people were loving to me today? I can't even begin to count. My husband patted my head when we were stopped at a stoplight on the way home from work, a loving, joyful caress of love. Many people smiled at me at work starting with Max, our custodian who takes such pride in his work that I feel I should thank him everyday. I had a wonderful lunch with my dear friend C. She told me so many uplifting stories about her cousins. I thought about how wonderful it is that I have had to chance to know her, how much she has enriched my life. I could write for much longer and still would not describe all the gifts that today, a completely ordinary day, brought me. But without these few minutes of thought, without writing some words, I would have missed it all. It would have evaporated into nothingness while the other events, mundane or negative remained, like the a dirty bathtub ring after a perfectly pleasant and soothing bath. I wonder if it is because these events and feelings are higher and lighter that they tend to float away if we don't make an effort to grab them and really experience them and acknowledge them.

Thursday, September 9, 2004


A few days after my 40th birthday, I got an invitation to try More magazine, the magazine for women over 40. Well, that didn't take long. I was pretty upset about it actually. I wasn't ready to think of myself as an over 40 woman. I was ready to throw the envelope into the trash, uninspected but I couldn't. Curiosity caught me. What does a magazine for women over 40 look like, what kind of articles do they have? Maybe the will be more intelligent than the drivel in Cosmo or Glamour? I looked through it, like the overly curious girl that I am and they had 2 pictures of Jamie Lee Curtis (full article). One with her looking fabulous, like she always does, and one with her in underwear, no makeup, and flat hair. I looked at her and thought, wow she looks like me. I don't mean she looks like me really but she looks about as good as I look, give or take. She has some flab, she has some cellulite. She looks like a normal person. And she's smiling. I would hardly be able to keep from grimacing in her position. What a cool woman! I wanna buy that magazine. And I did. I know it's not good to read women's magazines, but I figured one that actually made me feel good about my body, might be ok.

I received the Sept. issue. I like the fall fashions. They look like I could wear them. There is an ok article about Stepmothers, nothing I didn't already know. And there is an article called Meditate or Medicate? Can the spritual approach really help those suffering from depression? Although it advocates meditation, the article cautions that a combination of medicine and meditation may be required. My personal experience is that when I meditate more regularly, I feel better emotionally. Another reason to stop avoiding the cushion.

Sometimes I hear my voice

I found this Natalie Goldberg quote on Whiskey River.

I write because I kept my mouth shut all my life. I write because I am alone and move through the world alone. No one will know what has passed through me, and even more amazing, I don't know.

- Natalie Goldberg
Writing Down The Bones

I copy it here because it is so true for me. I have always been afraid to speak, afraid of the sound of my own voice. In class, I was terrified to be called on, even though I knew the answer. I would sound stupid. To ask a question (as I knew a good student should (this is in college!) I would screw up my courage for minutes, rehearsing in my head, a nervous wreck the whole time and then still chicken out. When I first started to learn about chakras I had the feeling that my throat chakra was blocked (and still is). Lately, after a lot of personal work, I feel more comfortable speaking. There is still more work to do for me to become casual about speaking to more than one person. I still challenge myself. I am volunteering to teach (med students no less eek!) and as I have said before, I want to take acting lessons. It has always been easier for me to write than to speak. But still, showing what I write to the world, that hasn't been easy either. I think each one helps the other. The more I write here and find some kind of acceptance, the easier it is to speak up during meetings at work. The better conversations with strangers at parties turn out, the more my writing flows from my true heart. As Tori Amos sings:

"sometimes I hear my voice and it's been HERE silent all these years"

Wednesday, September 8, 2004


This is a poem I wrote more than 20 years ago. I think it relates to the feelings of uncertainty and loneliness that I described in yesterday's post.


Far away a dim light glows
Then the light rays bend
Now, more quickly, the small light goes
Never to be seen again


Why is it that when it's dusk
The world is so hard to see?
It seems that when the vision matters most
The light looks so dim to me


At an earlier age the time was bright
And the roses looked very different from the thorns
But now all the world is night
The dark air is damp from rain
And I often wonder if I am touching a flower
Or, are my fingers too numb to feel the pain?

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Searching for truth

From Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies & the Truth About Reality

But if you really thoroughly question everything, if you pursue your questions long enough and honestly enough, there will come a time when truth will wallop you upside the head and you will know.

Not knowing is what brought me to the spiritual path. As a child in church, I tried very hard to believe, like a good girl should (as I thought she should). I tried and tried and I never felt the knowing, the security, that I had read about others feeling. I was unsure, alone and scared. So then I turned to science. I thought if I could learn everything in the books, if I could become a real scientist, I would know things. But as all scientists learn, what you really find in science are more questions. And what you know, you don't really know because you have to be ready to change your hypothesis to fit any new data that may come along. You can't afford to be sure about anything. We talk to each other using terms like suggest and implicate not know and not certainty. We learn to couch our statements in may and might, to sprinkle words of caution between the statements of fact. Or maybe that's just me. Maybe I am not ready for knowing. The idea of knowing reminds me of my childhood fantasy of some man on a white horse saving me. At first, it was my father, his strong arms comforting me during scary movies and roller coaster rides. Later I hoped for a prince. But those ideas were fantasy. In reality, my father didn't save me, he got drunk and terrorized us. I learned to hope for a savior but at the same time, to save myself, always wishing I could relax, let go and be caught in someone's arms, and at the same time, sadly aware that there were no arms to catch me. I was on my own. I guess that's not too bad but it never seemed enough. Not secure enough, not safe enough. With me alone, there was no absolute, no independent measure. Am I kidding myself, deceiveing myself? How could I know? It was this nagging question that prodded me on this path and it is still pushing. And I am still walking, seeking, searching, and crawling. I hope Warner is right. I hope someday I will know, just simply know. Right now, I can't imagine anything better than that.