Random Thoughts…and otherwise

Less Will Be More in 2017

Dec
26

At this moment, I am sitting on the balcony of my hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s midday and we have yet to leave our room. It may be awhile. We love it here, this room, this view. We are in Old Towne, which some might say a decrepit part of the city, but to me it’s beautiful. Regardless, fancy does not live here.

A man, a woman and toddler are riding down the street on their motorbike, and another man is trying with earnest to push his baby across the cobblestone in an umbrella stroller. There is a pile of black bagged garbage awaiting pick up on the sidewalk, and three chihuahuas are circling the roof across the street as they do most every hour.

The trees have grown now and I can’t peek in the glassless window below them anymore, but in past stays here I have been equally saddened and intrigued by a shrine on a table inside that appears to be for a baby lost. Now I don’t know it’s still there, so I wonder.

The Luncharia across the street is open today, Boxing Day, and the woman who runs it has just finished scrubbing the sidewalk with her broom and a bucket of fragrant soapy water. I love that scent, that smell: It is here, the smell of here. She has had no customers yet, but she’ll wait. She will. They always come.

Last night, walking through the neighbourhood after dark, we bought churros from a street vendor who fried and sugared them on the spot. They were a peso a piece, yet the most delectable treat to pass these lips in recent memory–warm, sweet, cinnamon deliciousness. Simple. “Felix Navidad, Gracias.”

I’d love to have more right now, but surely we’ll repeat tonight. My dream, more churros, washed down with coffee still warm in my cup from the morning sun.

Now, in my view, there is a man on a quad, the Lopez bus and a cow in the back of a truck. I think it’s paradise, as I look up the hill at the massive, distant houses, and wonder if Liz Taylor ever wistfully looked down through her gold gilded windows to the scene of this lovely, simple humanity below.

There he is! Down the block, the man who spends his day washing cars on the side of the street! He is friendly. “Hola, Amigos,” he always says when we walk by. “Hola,” we greet him in return.

He’ll make them, the many changing cars of his day, shinier than new with his ancient, wholly rag and a bucket of warm, dirty water. That’s him, the Car Washer, just down from the Luncharia Lady, the Mourning Mother, the Churro Seller, the Wannabe Rockstar walking, a ridiculously large boom box teetering on his shoulder, singing aloud random accented words as The Archies belt out Sugar, Sugar: The colourful people, woven together as a tapestry, the colourful, ever-charming world of this street.

Yesterday, on a walk in the Romantic District, after climbing what felt like 1,000 crumbling stairs from the beach to the street, I saw my car–a white Nissan Micra with Jalisco plates. Same year, same interior, same everything as Noreen’s (my car’s) Mexican cousin, waiting proudly on the edge of the cobblestone, and I wondered if one day, some time ago, on the ship from Japan they had sailed side by side, then parted, and now one is here and the other is there, where I live, chauffeuring my life. And I felt sad. Noreen, perhaps, missed out.

Our year together, Noreen’s and mine, has been a rather shitty, crappy affair, with the blessing of Prince P’s arrival and the innocent joy that he and Wee Man C and their mamas cast on our life, thrown in to sustain it: I will not be sad to see it soon go, 2016.

I lost my dad, and with him and his wisdom and humour and love. I was cast astray, left untether from my childhood. Without him and my long lost mother I am no one’s child: I’ve become an ancestor, a matriarch, an unprepared adult.

Add to that, the challenges of a world gone mad, fear and sadness, and endless worries about losing our grounding, our way of life, jobs, work, money, money, money.

Our visit to this country, my husband’s and mine, at this time, feels profound.

Our room has a bed, a shower, a toilet, an old dresser, a ceiling fan, a TV and this balcony, and aside from my people, Prince P, Wee Man C and their mamas, this is all I need. The contents of my backpack, my husband and his, our little kettle and its stories of our travels. Just this. And the metaphor of simplicity I watch and learn from my view, the moving picture, this art, this promise, off this balcony. Simple, joyful simplicity.

This morning I read a Swedish proverb: He who buys what he doesn’t need, steals from himself. I wonder as I look around at this, how self pillaged I’ve become. As, I also read Plato, who said, “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”

A paradox: Today, the people of my country, a world away from this, will be frantic in their pursuit of stuff as they line up early to beat the rush of Boxing Day sales, and I, in this moment, can’t wait to get home and purge mine.

Stuff and practices. Routines and cares.

We have this moment, and in mine I am grateful: I am here. Not just here on this balcony, in this neighbourhood, in this country, but here in this world. Alive and grateful.

We return home on New Years Eve–our plane lands at 11 PM and with customs and time to warm the car and make the 15 minute drive, we should arrive at our home, hopefully, shortly after midnight, in 2017. The slate will be fresh and this shitty, crappy year will be gone, finished, terminado.

We’ve designed that 2017 will be different, our focus will be changed, mindset tweaked: Simple, joyful, grateful. Pared down. Light.

And, practicing the wisdom of Plato, with this view etched in our memories, a new lease released, because fancy doesn’t need to live there either.

Fear vs Love?

Dec
11

Perhaps it’s winter, the overcast days that surrender their possibility to such early, daunting darkness, the absence of sunshine that nourishes our souls? Or, a subconscious anniversary of a time when this month brought great sadness? Still does?

Maybe it’s the political climate—the change and uncertainty of where our beautiful world, its people, is headed, the impetus that has razed such ugliness, such terrible, awful hate?

Maybe it’s closer than that—grief and sadness, worry and fraught, life’s many trials and tribulations compounded?

Maybe it’s a cocktail of it all?

Regardless of a definite root, this has been an ugly time, a time cloaked in ragged fear, unwelcomed, heavy. It’s exhausting and soul crushing and not for the living, the faint of heart, me, my nature. You?

St Augustine said, “Fear is the enemy of love.” While at most times it serves best to hold your enemies tight, it feels now is the time to push them away, eradicate, at best mask, them, it, fear and its ugly foes. Wave wand, close eyes, click heals, chant, will, “Be gone,” banish. Conjure happy thoughts, peaceful thoughts. Turn it off. Turn it in.

There are times when we have to act out. There are times when we have to act in. This is that time, to act in. Shut off. Be still. Very still.

“You cannot look after others if you first don’t look after yourself,” They say.

They, the possessors and professors of wisdom much greater than our own. They. Wisdom. Wise.

Fear is the enemy of love. Choose love. Love yourself. Small love, nourished deep and whole with gratitude, blooms.

Sometimes our world is too busy and noisy, its problems too deep and complex and tragic, that when we take it all in we can’t see the flower, the beauty, which still grows, still flourishes, in the wretched land.

Love, really, is all around us. We just need to shut off the noise, the static to see it. Disconnect. Turn it off.

Sometime ago, I worked with survivors of traumatic brain injury and was temporarily assigned to manage a group home for survivors who had suffered catastrophic effects. Inside this house the tribulations of the outside world didn’t really matter, exist: Life there, although tragic and consumed with attention to physical care, was joyous and lived completely in the moment.

One particularly chaotic morning, I was assisting the staff prepare breakfast for the residents, most of whom required a pureed diet.

Following the menu of the day—bagels with toppings, with yogurt and fruit—I was madly chopping dried bagels and jam and strawberries and bananas, throwing them and dollops of yogurt in a food processor and dousing them with milk, when a care aid named Gurpreet walked into the room, sat down at the table beside a resident, who was unable to talk, and began to take her order:

Would you like multigrain or raisin for your bagel? Butter? Cream cheese? Jam? Raspberry? Peach? Strawberries? Bananas? Yogurt? No? Milk? No? Water? Apple juice? Lovely! One minute, then!

Then Gurpreet walked over to the counter, carefully placed all of the requested ingredients into a small blender, pureed it, spooned it onto the plate, walked back to the table and placed it in front of the resident, sat beside her with a tender smile and began to spoon feed the resident.

Amidst the chaos that could have overwhelmed her, Gurpreet shut it off and served not just breakfast, but kindness, love on a plate. Love…on a plate!

Which is what, in these times, we all have to do for ourselves–love us. And to do so, we need to shut off or turn down the noise of the outside world, the sadness, the fear, the sickening fear—TV, social media, the Internet, the news, our smartphones, needless obligation, social pressures, family pressures, consumerism, the voice that tells us who we should be, be doing. We need to stop. We need to be. We need quiet. Love.

We need to find the flower in the wretched and take a moment to watch it grow. To banish fear, to conjure love. To be grateful. To be hope. To multiply and become effusive of that, love and gratitude and hope, the oppressors of fear. Fear’s greatest enemies: Hold them close, give them away.

Because, in the words of Hazif, the 14th century Persian poet who spoke dearly of the joy of love: “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would love to see you living in better conditions.” You and I, and all of mankind. Us.

Perhaps, the truth is, one-by-one-by-one-by-all, it is possible, to live in better conditions: Sometimes the means to moving is to shut it off, act in and ensure ourselves a time of fear-free love on our plates.

Creativity, Lost?

Dec
09

I am going to lose my mind, all because of this niggler in its background. I hate him. The Niggler. He has an awful voice—rather high pitched for a ‘him,’ coupled with a very, and I might add needless, mocking tone. He’s a bit elementary, too.

He’s making fun of my muse, and taunting me that she’s not coming back, has taken a permanent vacation.

So, after nearly TWO months of harassment, and countless fruitless attempts to write, I may have found a way to shut him up—down-size.

Rather than blather, I’ll blither: Drop my insistence of ‘talking long-windedly without making much sense’ and ‘talk foolishly without thought or regard,’ try random musings over relevant thoughts.

This, after the start of today.

This morning as I prepared to sneak quietly out of bed at 5 AM, the blankets rustled and my husband said, “Getting up?”

“Yes,” I whispered back, so as not to wake him in the event he was dreaming.

“Me, too!” he replied, with enthusiasm, while a piece of my little heart snapped off.

“Oh,” I sighed, as three thoughts simultaneously raced through my head: You’ve got to be kidding me; I could smother him with a pillow if I act quickly; and, kill me now, this day will never end.

I meant no offense, homicidally-speaking, but, really, one of us would have to go: As tragic and dramatic and full on bitch-faced as it may sound, 5 AM is MY time, the means to which I don’t smother anyone throughout the day.

I’m an introvert: The still and quiet and peacefulness and serenity of my house at 5 AM is more rejuvenating and energizing to me than sleep. It’s my tonic, my restraint. It’s when I can think, sort thoughts, conjure sanity. It’s when I used to write. Before my muse left for the Bahamas and the Niggler took up her post.

In the quiet of this morning, after my husband rolled over and went back to sleep, sensing all was not well, I decided instead to smack down the Niggler, that I’d try this:

Blithers. And this is a start. Blithers, which will hopefully be the emergency means to further, more fulfilling Blathers.

In the meantime, how do you banish your Niggler? Jumpstart your creativity? I’d be grateful to know…