Conspiracy

          I’m looking out the window at the overcast sky, listening to some melancholy music, and it’s making me happy.  Because it fits how I’m feeling today.  It’s strange how this can happen – just having the world around you join in your mood can make it better.  Whether there’s brilliant sunshine and you’re already feeling fine, or your down in the dumps and the sky is dumping rain, just having the weather agree makes things better.  I can’t say I know why.  I’m just glad it’s so.
          Once when I was driving through Arizona, on my way home to Kansas from a visit to my boyfriend in L.A., the clouds were gloriously moody, raining and then holding back but brooding overhead.  Just the way I felt leaving Marc behind.  Knowing I wouldn’t see him for months and aching over it.  I was so thankful for those clouds that day.  My insides brightened feeling that the world understood.  It wasn’t trying to fake me out.  Wasn’t pulling a “It’ll all be ok.”  It just let me be sad, and for that, I felt less so.
          I have a photo of myself in my parents’ backyard on graduation day from college.  I am laughing – my big, real, toothy laugh – and behind me that same boyfriend is walking up – blurry but you can tell he’s smiling, too.  The sun is shining and the light is bouncing off the new, green leaves; it looks like the world is smiling with us.  I remember I felt like it was.  My boyfriend was soon to be my fiance at that point, he was home to see me, I was a college graduate and we were celebrating.  It was a good day, and everyone – the sun, the trees, my family, Marc and me – agreed.
          There are certainly times when the rain or an overcast sky can worsen my mood – when my inclination is to be in a good one, but the weather is fighting against it.  There are studies that prove this phenomenon.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is due to, primarily, a lack of light.  Melatonin is produced, serotonin suppressed, and over time it leads to the doldrums, if not depression.  Cold temperatures make your system work harder to stay warm, lowering your immunity, making you vulnerable to illness, which is always a bummer.  And humidity can apparently make people feel worse (I know it does me).  There is ample evidence for crummy weather causing people’s mood’s to suffer.  But I’ve found nothing proving the “the weather matches my mood” theory.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe it’s not scientifically provable, like so many other things (love, God or no God, women’s love of shoes).  No matter really, whether I can prove it or not, there it is.  My brain likes it when the sky is as melancholy as me.
          On those days when the outside is fighting with my inside, I have to work to get out of my funk.  I have to listen to happy music (Josh Ritter, Mika, Mat Kearney, Beyonce, the Counting Crows’ Hard Candy album, the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, Paul Simon), take a walk, go to yoga, pray, read, have a boba, talk with a friend, watch a funny movie.  I have to make some effort.  But there are those serendipitous days when the humidity, the amount of light, the temperature and the cloud structure conspire with me to feel the same.  I’m glad this is one of those days.

One Step Closer

 

          We recently read The Book Thief, in my book club.  And to put it mildly, I loved it.  Technically it’s supposed to be “young adult fiction,” but I would like to propose that it isn’t.  It’s heavy, it’s scary, it’s nuanced, it’s beautifully written.  It’s brilliant – enough for any grown-up, and perhaps too much for
a “young adult”.  Regardless, it has some of the most creative, disturbing and lovely descriptive language I’ve heard.  Ever.  Let me give you some examples.
In describing the sky…
The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring. In some places it
was burned. There were black
crumbs and pepper, streaked across the redness.
***
Oh how the clouds stumbled in and assembled stupidly in the sky.
Great obese clouds.
Dark and plump.
Bumping into each other.  Apologizing.  Moving on and finding room.
In describing grieving, and war…
Somewhere in all that snow, she could see her broken heart, in two pieces.  Each half was
glowing and beating under all that white.  She realized her mother had come back for her only
when she felt the boniness of a hand on her shoulder.  She was being dragged away.  A warm
scream filled her throat.
***
Within minutes, mounds of concrete and earth were stacked and piled.  The streets were ruptured
veins.  Blood streamed till it was dried on the road, and the bodies were stuck there, like driftwood
after the flood.
They were glued down, every last one of them.  A packet of souls.
Was it fate?
Misfortune?
Is that what glued them down like that?
Of course not.
Let’s not be stupid.
It probably had more to do with the hurled bombs, thrown down by
humans hiding in the clouds.
In describing humanity…
A DEFINITION NOT FOUND
IN THE DICTIONARY
Not leaving: an act of trust and love,
often deciphered by children
***
I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and
brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to
explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do
I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious,
and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.
          I could go on and on.  If I could, I would inject you with the knowledge of the whole book so you could experience all it’s descriptions, it’s insight, it’s beautiful sadness.  Or you could just read it.  I think you should.
          By the way, I am not being paid or motivated to push this book for any other reason than pure adoration.  Actually, I am experiencing writer envy, and perhaps by saying it – by pointing the world toward it – it’s like confessing my jealousy and getting it out of my system.  Maybe not.  Regardless, I feel it must be done.  I wish I had written this book, or could.  It makes me want to make a go at writing a novel.  At letting loose and getting to describe things – the sky, a rainy day, people and their feelings – in full, poetic detail.  At letting characters take me where they want to go, watching them develop and change and live their literary lives.  Writing a personal essay is fun.  One of my favorite things to do, actually.  But I’m feeling the itch to break out of it’s parameters and do something different.  To use the other side of my writing brain and enjoy the fact, as Mark Zusak (the author of The Book Thief) says, “that words can be used in a way that’s like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around.”  I love that about writing.  It’s work sometimes, but it is certainly also play.
          Someday – maybe when my kids are all in school – I’ll get to try it out.  Until then I’ll have to enjoy other people’s novels, and, as I’m sure will happen, read The Book Thief again.  I’ll soak up the author’s juicy descriptions – both love and loathe them at the same time – and maybe get one step closer to writing some myself.

Here We Are

Some of the things I did today:

– three loads of laundry

– lots of dishes

– cleaned the kitchen sink

– swapped out summer clothes for winter ones

– participated in an epic battle between Lego good guys and bad guys

– took the kids to our awesome kinesiologist “voo-doo” doctor

– made a Costco run

– doled out allergy medication, Prednisolone and inhaler puffs for my poor, Asthmatic

little boy who hung out with me all day

 

Things I did not do today:

– take a shower until 9:00 PM

– eat dinner til after that

– feed Kevin the fish til after that (sorry, Kev)

– go to the gym, though I was dressed for it’s possibility all day long

– get to see my husband who’s out of town

– edit my very rough-drafted post for this week

Thus, here we are.  Another week, another missed bit of profundity.  But here are my thoughts for this Monday, for whatever it’s worth (I’m sorry, readers, it’s all I’ve got):

I have always loved fall.  It’s my favorite season, with Spring a close second.  The relief from the heat, the leaves’ final burst of color before disappearing for the winter, the smell of outdoors, the return of boots to my wardrobe.  But since having my son I love it a little less.  My poor little guy welcomes fall in his spirit, but his body protests.  Every year.  And it makes me awfully sad.

“It’s so nice out, you should go outside and play.

Oh wait.  Unless you can’t breathe when you do that.  Then you shouldn’t.  In fact, you’d better stay inside and we should close the windows.”

Dang it, Asthma, I hate you in every way.

I’m just thankful for modern medicine, and homeopathic remedies, and a little boy who keeps on breathing, even in the fall.

Good to Know

Written August, 2013
          I’ve spent the last three and a half days in San Francisco – meeting up with my husband on a work trip to avoid insanity from three weeks alone with the kids.  But because of his work, I’ve spent much of my time alone.  At first I was afraid of this.  I arrived, quickly realized we would not be sight-seeing together, thought maybe I didn’t want to take this trip after all, and freaked out for an hour or so.  But then I watched, almost as an outside observer, as my self-preservation instincts kicked in. I studied maps online and in good old paper form, began looking up area attractions, saw the bright side of some time alone and planned my days.  Writing time, shopping, a museum, the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, boba in Chinatown.  After a much-too-late dinner that first night, I awoke the next morning with a bit of uncertainty but a determination to have fun.
          The day began with French toast, then a celebrity sighting of a pot-reeking Bruce Willis, followed by a gentleman who apparently needed to adjust his boxers in Starbucks by unzipping a few feet away.  And then I settled in to write.  I worked and drank my tea and people-watched and smiled.  I was feeling very grown up, all alone in downtown San Francisco.  Granted, Marc was only a few blocks away, but he wasn’t with me and wasn’t going to be very much.  I was on my own and it felt just fine.
          You may be wondering what the big deal is.  I am, in fact, a grown up.  I do have three kids who I manage to feed and clothe daily, I have had plenty of jobs, I have functioned in society without hand-holding for many years.  Big deal, I’m hanging out on the city alone.  But I am, by nature, a worrier.  A first-born, cautious type.  I have not traveled the world alone like my brave friend Amy.  I do not have the independent spirit of my husband.  I like a plan, I like a friend, I like knowing what I’m dealing with.
I did travel to Taiwan with only a friend for the summer after I graduated from college, I’ve been separated from Marc in Bangkok and thought for an hour or so that I’d be returning a widow, I moved to L.A. after living in Kansas my whole life, so I do have an adventurous bone in my body.  It’s just smallish.  And it needs the company of another to truly be content.  In the case of this trip, I had the safety net of my husband nearby if disaster struck.  But for much of the time it was just me and my iphone getting around.  I exercised my adventure muscles a bit, and I gotta say, it felt good.
          The other part of being alone that made me nervous was, well, being alone.  No one to talk to (gasp), no one to help me decide whether the jeans fit or where to get boba,  no one to enjoy the city with.  As it turns out, I did get to see Marc some (breakfast and dinner, a lunch or two, a walk around Telegraph Hill ) so I was able to talk – a necessity for me.  And I had a chance to remember how much I like my own company.  I get along with myself quite well – we like the same food, have the same interests, don’t argue much.  I spent three days doing what I wanted, enjoyed being quiet, gave my mouth a break and used my leg muscles instead.  All in all a pretty good getaway for a stay-at-home mom.
          I wouldn’t want to live alone, but it served me well to be as such for a few days.  It reminded me that I am an adult, I do like hanging out with myself, and I can read a map.  I was glad to see my kids again, but partly because I’d had time to think and explore.  And answer only my own questions.  I still wouldn’t choose to travel alone – I’d rather go with my husband or a friend.  But I can do it, and have fun, too.  It’s just good to know.