Thursday, November 28, 2013

And a Happy No-Golf Thanksgiving to You!

In my dream, I am greeting someone I haven't seen in years. I am very happy at this meeting, and I feel joy in the moment. Suddenly, the dream is interrupted by a golf game, presented as if it's on a television screen. Around the edge of the screen, a large border of light, grayish brown plaid includes three picture-in-picture shots of women commentators. One of them looks like me, but she is not talking much. The second I can't quite make out. The third is a tall, whip-thin, angular woman with her gray hair in a no-nonsense short style that looks fairly masculine. This woman is going on and on in a very serious way about golf. After a while, I get so bored and restless that I wake up.

This is my subconscious's way of telling me I'm not living up to my potential, though it took me a while to figure that out. Meanwhile, every night, in every dream, that golf game would show up and I would bore myself awake. To me, golf is one of the most boring activities on the planet--especially when viewed on television--and that light brown color is the most boring color on the planet. To listen to someone endlessly discuss golf is like hearing nails on a chalkboard. My apologies to anyone for whom golf is a fun hobby and/or obsession. It's not personal. I am sure some things I do that I love doing would make you want to tear your hair out in large clumps just so you're not bored anymore.

Me and my subconscious, we're talking a lot. No, better to say my subconscious is deluging me with information, mostly through dream elements. The same dream element will plague me night after night until I figure out what the message is. What's nice is that the message is always positive and uplifting. My subconscious is gentle with me, unlike my much more critical conscious. Boring me awake with golf was just a kind kick in the butt. "You're wasting too much time," my inner self tells me. "You know what you want to do and you're not doing it. Get going already! You know you're capable enough." It's great to know I believe in myself at the deepest of levels.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This is one of my favorite holidays. It combines all the joys of family, friends, great food, lots of laughter, and plenty of gratitude. There is also a distinct lack of stress that, for me, is very much associated with Christmas. I love the safe feeling of Thanksgiving, with everyone gathered in our home, talking and playing games and telling each other such funny jokes that someone inevitably snorts their drink through their nose. Far-flung relatives have traveled for hours to be here this afternoon. Cousins will reconnect and become engaged in fierce Lego building competitions. Adults will laugh together, and if the subject of politics is broached, we're all pretty much on the same page that way and there won't be any fierce arguments. If we're lucky, two of my brothers will give us a classical guitar concert and my daughters will sing. One of my nieces will play her new piano compositions for us, which are stunningly good for someone of her tender years. And at the end of the evening, everyone will sit back with full tummies, trying to figure out how to stuff a slice of my mother's delicious pumpkin or vanilla cream pies down their gullet.

I'm a lucky girl indeed to be surrounded by so much love and abundance. My cup runneth over. I thank my God for my blessings.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Gratuitous Self-Unburdening. Caveat Emptor.

What people think you are and what you actually are are sometimes two different things. I had a lengthy conversation with a friend yesterday, during which she praised me for a particular service I had performed for someone. She wondered why she wasn't more like me, more Christlike and giving. I started laughing. That question has come up once before with another friend, so I felt like I needed to set the record straight.

"I spent a lot of time doing that service," I said, "and while it was needed and I was glad to be able to help someone who needed it, it was hard for me. Sometimes it took hours a day, and I had to play frantic catch-up with my family and work. I wondered why I felt resentful sometimes. My family certainly resented all the hours I spent running errands, doing shopping, driving to doctors appointments, and driving over there whenever she called for my help. I wondered how someone can be Christlike if they feel resentful about serving someone else, so I don't give myself too many pats on the back for it."

My friend breathed a sigh of relief.

"You are human!" she exclaimed. "To me, you always appear to be so calm and put together, like you have everything under control."

When I stopped laughing, she said, "Do you have insecurities? Tell me about them. I'm interested to hear them."

Oof. Share my insecurities? Expose my weaknesses? It was because I know this woman is particularly humble in that area that I didn't change the subject, but did she have all day to listen to my laundry list of insecurities? I realized then just how much of a public persona I accidentally create. It's not because I am afraid that if someone sees me as less than superhuman they won't like me. I think superhumans are, perhaps, the hardest people to like because you are so tempted to compare yourself unfavorably to them and feel like a waste of space. Who enjoys that? It's far easier to blame the superhuman for your inadequacies than to accept yourself as worthwhile even with your warts and flaws. The people who know me don't see me as superhuman, I hope.

The reason I don't share more of my worries is because I don't feel like it would be an interesting subject to other people, not because I don't have them. Plus, I grew up as the listener, the one to whom my friends came to unburden their souls. I got so good at it that people I barely knew would unburden their souls to me. There was that time in the high school library when one of the popular girls I didn't particularly like plopped herself down at my table and launched into an unburdening about her boyfriend. As I quietly listened and nodded, I wondered to myself what strange stars had aligned that we were having this girl moment together, when the rest of the time our circles never crossed--even in a class of  forty kids. When she was finished, and as I was struggling to process this very personal information about two people I barely knew, she breezily grabbed her stuff and ran off to her next class. We never had a conversation like that again, though I kept her confidence out of a sense of personal integrity. In the years afterward, almost complete strangers would tell me all about something painful to them and walk away feeling better while leaving me slightly bewildered. But for the most part, I was glad to be the shoulder to cry on, the person who could help lighten an emotional load. I used my journal to unburden myself, spilling out my angst and worries and frequent teenage loneliness on the pages of numerous notebooks.

But even writing this in the open (so to speak) is hard for me, so I guess I do unconsciously craft a public persona of serenity. Thankfully, I am pretty optimistic and serene the majority of the time. I will go through periods of frantic depression and self-loathing, but I don't like to dwell on those thoughts because they have a tendency to become entrenched if they are given too much attention. Better to look forward, to rise above, to pray for strength to get through the dark tunnels and walk back into the light. I have a husband, children, family, and friends who know me very well and still love me, which is sometimes surprising but always gratifying as I return that love.

So, did I share my insecurities with my friend? I did share a couple, and they aren't too much different from what I think most women feel. "I always thought I was the only one who felt like that!" said my friend. No, I assured her, you are definitely not the only one. We are all of us light and shadow. We are all of us worried that we will never measure up, a little hesitant to accept that our best is good enough. I know this because I have heard so many others tell me. Because I frequently feel it myself.

I do like to serve others, and if I help one other person realize that I see her as a wonderful, glowing being of light (including the warts, because no none is exempt from warts), I will be happy. In that way, I am serene and Christlike, because I can see the good in others and accept them for exactly who they are. For everything else, all bets are off.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Conditional Birthday Cash

MIL and FIL know me too well. I just thought this was too funny not to share.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Secret Recipe for Carl's Jr.'s New Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich: Cut One Strawberry Pop-Tart in Half. Sandwich It Around a Scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. Freeze. Charge Money.

I have been buried in the manuscript I'm currently editing. "Let's get this done!" said my client excitedly on the phone last week. "I've got another book in my head."

"Get writing," I told him.

Bring it on.

He also spent some time praising me. "You're the best editor I've worked with. You're so intuitive, and you get exactly what I'm trying to say." I try to remember that when I feel like my eyes are going to explode from staring at the computer screen and my shoulders and neck feel all tight from sitting hunched over. The life of an editor is not glamorous.

Well, I take that back. Husband came home from work with some coupons for free Pop-Tart ice-cream sandwiches from Carl's Jr., so on Saturday, I took the boys to get one each. They stayed and played on the playground for a good two hours while I edited my way through a respectable chunk of words and concepts. Though I couldn't stomach the idea of a Pop-Tart and freezer-burned ice-cream sandwich for myself, the boys had a great time and I got out of the house. I could tell the other customers were impressed with how official I looked, as if I was pointing out that here I was making money right in front of them! It could have been millions, for all they knew, right there in a fast food restaurant! I'm a fast typer, you see, so that looks impressive and glamorous. And I think I had changed into a shirt that wasn't stained. And maybe I put on some makeup. I can't remember. The fact that Little Gary's neglected ice-cream was slowly melting into a puddle all over the table (which I didn't see for a while because it was behind my laptop) probably only enhanced my glamour.

I had a sweet moment with Joseph while we were there. He had come to sit by me while he took a rest from playing, and he asked what I was reading. I happened to be checking a poem for accuracy that my client had included in his text, and I was enjoying the poem immensely (and if you know my history with poetry, you'll know that I don't say that often). The poem was The Calf-Path, by Sam Walter Foss. I read it out loud to Joseph and asked him what he thought it meant. He wasn't sure, so I told him the story about a woman who always cut the end off the roast before she cooked it. She never knew why she did that except that her mother used to do it, and one day when her mother was there, she asked her why she always cut off the end of the roast. The mother didn't know either, except that her mother used to cook the roast like that. They called the young woman's grandmother and asked her why she cut the end of the roast off. Did it help the taste? Did it enhance the cooking? The grandmother laughed and said that she always cut off the end of the roast because her pan was too small to fit the entire roast into it in one piece.

Joseph threw his head back and laughed. "I get it now," he said. "A little wobbly calf made a path and everyone followed it for 300 years without knowing why." We talked about how some traditions that we hold sacred and untouchable can actually have been the result of an accident or an unconscious action on someone's part, but that time and/or ignorance have hidden the reason for its beginnings. In the poem, men who followed the twisting path cursed it as they traveled it back and forth, turning a one mile distance into three miles. But they never thought to change it or make it straighter, and eventually its very antiquity gave it a sacred aura, though its beginning was caused by nothing more spectacular than a little wobbly calf walking through the woods to get home. Joseph thought about it for a while, and then he hugged me and ran back into the play area while I got back to work.

At least my intuition is good for something.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I'm a Libra, So Maybe All of This Makes Sense in That Regard

I recently read The Book of Hyrum: Freemasonry, Venus, and the Secret Key to the Life of Jesus, by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas. I haven't read the previous books in the series, but I don't think my understanding of this particular book suffered much for it as the topic, though related to previous books, was not a direct continuation. It was an interesting book, but I was frustrated with the authors' conclusions for two reasons: a) even though they claimed not to, I believe they fell into the trap of considering all civilizations, societies, and individuals who lived previous to our time as primitive in intellect and understanding; and b) the information they unearthed about The Grooved Ware people and their reliance and reverence for the path of Venus in relation to the sun and moon was considered the basis for all types of religious worship. In other words, Venus worship formed the base of most (if not all) superstitions and religious methodologies from that point onward, including for Jesus Christ. The authors' research was phenomenal, and it was incredibly interesting to read, but I constantly wanted to argue that their conclusions were backwards.

But that's a blog post for another time.

What I really wanted to write about was something that has been slowly solidifying in my mind over time. The authors listed above heavily reference a book called The Astrological File, by Gunter Sachs, who set out to investigate in a thoroughly mathemetically sound way whether or not astrological signs seem to have any bearing on a variety of aspects of peoples' lives. Sachs and his team are not believers in astrology themselves, but they were curious to see if sound statistics taken from very large data sets could prove any correlation between what sign you were born under and who you were likely to marry, how likely you are to divorce, what career you might choose, how likely you were to be a criminal, and so forth. Turns out there are some very significant correlations, and Knight and Lomas used this information to bolster their theory that the stars do, indeed, play a large role in the formation and basis of ancient religions and spiritual beliefs. I decided I needed to get a copy of Sach's book and read it for myself.

When I was younger, in elementary school, I was curious about astrology and even read a few books about it. That's probably because I'm a Libra with strong Scorpio tendencies. The more I read, the more I felt that the information was too vague to be of any real use. I also have a healthy respect for individual agency, so running my life according to the stars seemed like a very silly thing to do. But I also believe (and that belief has been supported by my further research into quantum physics and energy) that each of us influences every other of us, from our own small bodies made of star dust to the great celestial bodies that float in the black of space. Therefore, to find that there are, indeed, significant correlations between signs of the zodiac and areas of our lives doesn't surprise or shock me even if I find the practice of astrological life predictions itself to be thoroughly inadequate.

Here's the picture that I think best explains my conclusions: I was remembering my youngest child watching the trees outside the window back when he was two years old. The wind was blowing very hard, and the tree limbs were moving around very energetically. "The trees are dancing!" he exclaimed in delight. In his mind, which was not yet very versed in how the wind works and in cause and effect, this was the most likely reason the trees were having such a party. He assumed the trees were acting independently of any other influence. Likewise, if you were an adult who had been raised entirely indoors and had never experienced any cause-and-effect from a breeze or wind, you might look out of the window and see individual grass blades bending in the wind and conclude that the grass blades were acting in concert, somehow communicating amongst each other when to bow and when to straighten. You might not consider that an outside force, invisible and unguessed, was working on all the grass blades simultaneously.

I think astrology is something like seeing the grass blades bending or the tree limbs dancing and assuming that they are acting on their own. We fail to see other as-yet invisible but completely natural forces that may be in play.  There is good evidence that something is happening here, that the grass blades are bending and the limbs dancing, but we don't know enough yet to know exactly what that force is or how it works, or even if there are multiple forces in operation.

And for me, the charm of life is knowing that there is so very much more to learn. I am very grateful for people who take the time to research, think, ponder, and write about what they learn, even if the result is very dry (you'd think a book on astrological correlations would be just a little more spunky and entertaining, wouldn't you?). Being a Big Picture kind of gal, I feel like I ingest all these pieces and details in order to learn more about what really is and how everything works. As the author of the manuscript I'm editing wisely stated (and I am paraphrasing here), education isn't about finding an answer and being done; it's about learning what new questions to ask. Asking the questions and finding the answers leads to finding new questions and revising the answers. It's all such fun!