Making a List

Six Unexpected Bonuses of Blogging (Thank You!)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Inspiration is Everywhere

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Nor do I know what’s coming next. But I do know that writing and sharing this blog have yielded some unanticipated dividends in the here and now.

The Joy of Affirmation: I entered the blogosphere feeling very exposed, daring myself to make an externalized exploration that those who know me well will tell you is outside my usual comfort zone. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my audience, which is small, intimate and mostly well known to me. I have wonderful friends and I wasn’t surprised that they would prove supportive of my adventure. I just didn’t anticipate how assertively affirming people would be.

One friend is an especially attentive copy editor, catching me before others see me fall. Another is a gleeful cheerleader, dishing up enthusiastic accolades that feel like Christmas and the Fourth of July rolled into one. People I don’t even know give me a thumbs up. Others send notes thanking me for an insight, for provoking a thought, for being brave, for giving voice, for making space.

How delightful that something that feels so self-indulgent can also be a gift to others!

Inspiration is everywhere: I’m not a kiss-and-tell blogger, but I confess there are all sorts of stories I want to share. I’m learning: everything has Blog Potential, tho’ not everything is Blog Worthy. God grant me the wisdom….

Blogging encourages me to see things and to ponder them. My imagination is tickled, my mind feels activated. I look for nuggets to string together, for images to illustrate a point I hope to make.

Blogging keeps me present.

The Power of Articulation: Ever since we each learned to talk, we’ve known the power of being able to put things into words, giving ideas forms, emotion voice. He Who Must Not be Named loomed all the more ominous precisely because he wasn’t named. I’ve found the dark lords of my new enterprise are much less daunting when I call them out, shed a light on them, dissect and scrutinize them. In identifying and describing my fears and small victories, I regain – or attain – a sense of proportion about them.

Honesty is the Best Policy: It’s tempting to get all glossy in a blog, to put a tidy sheen on things, make myself look good. But the most powerful entries to write are the ones that make me feel naked. For someone who likes things to be smooth and tidy, the discipline of “no varnish” is potent medicine. Vulnerability feels unexpectedly empowering.

It’s scary-good

The Comfort of Structure: Deadlines can get a bum rap, but I’m a fan. There’s nothing like knowing you need to show up with something — preferably at least moderately interesting and well-crafted — twice a week, to impose order on your days. Even when I might feel a little adrift, I still have a place I need to be, a promise to keep. The accountability is important, instructive; incentive.

(Re)Connecting: Turns out, a blog is like a welcome mat. Lynn is in and the door is open. Last week, a high school friend whom I have not seen in more than 30 years reached out, on the brink of a major life transition, wanting to compare notes. I’ve learned a thing or two about friends who reply “me too!” to one confession or another of mine. It’s as if I’m tossing a ball of twine out into space and its lose strands touch and connect me to countless others. A new twist on a “world wide web”!

So the big bonus is you. Thank you!

Back Story

Beach Reading, In Which We Celebrate Summer, Swimsuit Season and the Middle-Aged Female Form

A convergence: Dusty Essay, meet Start of Summer. 

Today we celebrate Memorial Day,  the (un)official start of summer, also known as the “swimsuit season” – and the bane of many women’s existence. And, on a related note, some time ago I worked with a photographer exploring the terrain of women’s bodies. The project seems to have stalled; I’ve never seen any of the images he took. But this week I came across the essay I provided as part of the project.

I figure at least something should see the light of day — and today seemed apt, as we all don the first bathing suits of the season (Plunge notwithstanding).

Here it is: My Body Image Statement, in honor of summer and middle-aged women everywhere.

~~~~~

This story begins on the day I realized those funky, undulating landscapes were actually paintings of my nude Great Aunt Faith.

At ten, I was none too sure how I felt about the idea that my elderly auntie had clearly posed (naked!) for these pictures as a younger woman, but I loved the lines and have never viewed hills and valleys the same way since.

So this project seemed like a natural thing to do. I like the idea of intentionally exploring the body landscape. It got me thinking about my own body lines and how I would describe my “body image”.

I’ve decided: a book.

My body—any body—tells a story. It has a narrative arc, a protagonist, and maybe a plot. It is a flesh tapestry that grows richer and more textured with time. Life events seem almost literally etched in. It tells others a little something about me.

I’ve never been particularly attentive to my body. It works pretty well; I take reasonable care of it; we’ve gotten along okay over the years. I’m not much inclined to body adornment, although I do love my earrings.

Like most women, I suppose, my body image has evolved. I’ve always thought of myself as short, but not always small. I was rounder in high school, slim since college. I’ve been more fit than I am now, for which there is really no excuse. I feel the effects of age, miss the invincibility of elastic skin. The relationship just isn’t that complicated.

But the story is great.

There is my first scar, imposed by tricycle and brick conspiring to split my chin. My wrist shows the faint trace of another scar inflicted at my first job out of college. My belly button, forever changed by a laparoscopic appendectomy. My hips, etched with stretch marks, silver tells of two beloved pregnancies and that rounder adolescence. I have my parents’ fair skin and the sun damage earned over all those days on rivers and lakes and open fields that I can’t regret.

Laugh lines and grey hair? I earned those stripes.

The crosswinds of sensuality and utility blow through my story, across my landscape, shaping me over time. I can live with that.

My body, my book.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

February 2014

UnComfort Zone

If “Drift Happens”, Is That Part of the Plan or Am I Just Bored?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Reflecting on Drift

“Don’t you get, you know, bored?” people ask with equal parts curiosity and skepticism.

It’s not an unfair question, given that I have so radically down-scaled my activity. I’m consulting maybe 10-12 hours a week for my former employer, down from the old 10-12 hours a day. I’m not chairing anything – no PTA, no board, no event. I’m not even taking any fun art classes right now. Nothin’.

The goal of this step-off-the-merry-go-round was to understand who I am when I’m not going a million miles a minute, when I’m not overextended. Not saying “yes” to nearly everything that comes at me. Which, as best I can tell, was my steady state for about the last 40 years.

I confess: I feel a little adrift.

The change in warp speed is unnerving. Not being at full speed feels like not moving at all.  Is that a bad thing? For now? And wasn’t that the plan – or am I stuck?

My urge is to get busy, find something to attach myself to. I resist calling that feeling an “instinct”, believing the impulse is learned — instilled, not innate — and trying to break free of old habits, or at least to understand them for what they really are.

So: drift happens.

I’m working on believing that’s a good thing, or at least not a bad thing, but it doesn’t feel normal. It isn’t hard to imagine it could come to feel great. Relaxed. Chill. Like floating down the river in an inner tube on a sultry summer afternoon. But I am not there yet. I still need to work on the whole just being thing.

And while I know I need to work on  just being, I also know that I miss complexity. My previous life was riddled with issues that needed close and immediate attention. I grew weary of the personal drama that accompanied much of it, but I appreciate now that I genuinely liked wrestling with needs and ideas that were in often desperate tension with one another. I liked finding the delicate balances, the elegant solutions, the hard-won compromises. I liked figuring things out.

E. had a wonderful insight on this as he thought about his own career path. He was able to distinguish between wanting work that is difficult (intellectually demanding, hard-to-solve technical problems) and something complicated (lots to keep track of but not necessarily breaking new ground). He, too, craves complexity. Not fidgety stuff, meaty stuff. Stuff you can sink your teeth into.

Can I have my cake and eat it too? Can I find a path that is both chill and complex? And if such a combination is possible, how do I cultivate it?

Is there such thing as drifting to a goal?

UnComfort Zone

My First Time: True Story, Told Live, No Notes

The anticipation was exquisite – and agonizing.  I had rehearsed it a hundred times in my head, imaging what I would say, how I would feel.

That night, I got a beer, hoping it would give me liquid courage. Two sips in I thought better of it, fearing nausea instead.

Then he flashed a gorgeous smile, said my name, extended his hand. I moved toward him…

There I was: the newbie, first up at the mic, center stage for The Moth’s Story Slam at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

Lynn on Hair

Fun Facts:

  • I told no one I was doing this. As we walked into World Cafe Live, I confessed to R. I might put my name into the hat. I wasn’t really counting on being first.
  • After the fact, everyone who heard I had told a story about hair had the same reaction: “of course!”   After all, I have so many hair-related stories to tell. Most people didn’t see this one coming.
  • My dad is maybe the only person who knew the whole tale. He nodded thoughtfully when I told him about my adventure. “You were so serious in that conversation,” he recalled. “You really wanted to think about what I was saying to you…  And, yeah, that kid was trouble.”

I would totally do this again. The vibe is terrific. The stories, some combination of charming, funny, moving and brave. And if you aren’t already a fan of The Moth, get thee to a pod cast or NPR.

Back Story, Making a List

Good Morning, Sunshine: My Attempt to Hack the Start of Each Day

The assignment was simple: make a list of all the things that would go into a Perfect Day – and then see how close I could come to living it.  The underlying impetus and theory: knowing what you’re looking for considerably increases the probability that you’ll actually find it.  Cue Alice and the Cheshire Cat.

Where to begin? Oatmeal, a cup of hot mint tea, a good walk, for starters. Those were obvious the moment D. suggested I try to script a Perfect Day. “Focus on the details,” she said. “Where are you? What are you doing? Who else is there?”

The assignment was simple, but deceptive – and illuminating. How well do we know ourselves and what actually makes for a good day, let alone a “perfect” one? Where are you? What are you doing? Who else is there?

To my considerable surprise, I realized that one of the things that most reliably sets the tone for my day is the casual ritual of exchanging smiles with total strangers. I really like that connection – that low cost, high yield mutual affirmation with people I don’t even know. That shy-at-first-then-full-blown-grin of Good-Morning!

I can feel the physiology at work. My endorphines awakening and racing, laughing, through my veins. My eyes crinkling, face muscles stretching and luxuriating in the exercise. My brain spinning out stories about each person’s coming day. It’s a full body experience.

39682_10150238674345302_4012710_nAll from a simple smile.

Which makes me think: what else? What small things can make big differences in our days and lives – and how do we do more of that?

So I’m going to work on a list. I’ll report back.

Making a List, Uncategorized

Coming Soon: Your Funland Type and Temperament Profile

What’s your type?  Myers-Briggs? (INTJ) DISC Profile? (C) Fascination Advantage? (Archer)

Frankly, I think the world needs a new theory of personality type and temperament, one based on people’s favorite games at Funland, the classic family entertainment Mecca of Rehoboth Beach.

I’m working on it.

There are so many games to choose from, so many quarters to be spent.  People clearly have their favorites. I’m just curious why….

Skeeball: you, your nine balls and the lane. A game of skill, arguably influenced by lane selection and general ambient distraction. Prizes vary by score and you can trade up.

Pony Races: you and as many as 11 others, casting balls in holes, racing against time and one another. A game combining skill, competition and luck. Guaranteed prizes, size depends on the number of contestants.

Wacky Gator: just you and the gators. A game of focus and speed. Small ticket yield – you don’t play this one for the prizes.

I’m a Wacky Gator girl. I become completely absorbed in the task at hand, whaling away on those chomping alligators as they emerge from their hiding places. I have long maintained every workplace should have this game in the break room for recreation and stress relief.

Does this make me an aggressive co-worker intent of colleagues’ annihilation? (I hope not.)  Does it reflect a penchant for laser focus and comfort with working alone? (Maybe.)  Do I take unseemly satisfaction in often being the high-scorer of the day?  (Yup, ‘fraid so.)

The summer is young yet. I figure I have time to work on my theory. But if you come to Funland, just know: I am watching you….

p.s. Happy Mothers Day to anyone who is or has a Mom. It’s a day for all of us!