Stream of Unconscious

Often I wake in the middle of the night with thoughts and visions that must be written. A lot of it may seem like mere rambling, but I am a born writer; I need to see what happens to my words once they stare back at me from the pages of my computer screen. Since I am ususally more than half-asleep when this happens, I jokingly entitled the original document: "Stream of Unconscious." Now that I am finally starting to publish in a blog (as so many people have suggested I should do!), I thought the title remained appropriate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

People Watching

After a long and particularly trying day at work, I knew that hitting the track would be the only healthy cure for my cynical lethargy, so I laced up my running shoes and headed out the door. Today was beautiful, in the lower 80's, with just enough cloud cover and breeze to keep the heat discomfort away.

I would say that running or walking is the best thing I know for clearing my head, but in all honesty, people watching helps me just as much, if not more. Today was no exception.

The first person I met on the track was a guy in his early 20's, his music up too loud (what's the point of headphones if I can still hear your music? Does that thought make me old??), and wearing a worn-out, holey, battered old T-shirt upon which he had magic markered: "100% recycled material." Right then, I knew this was not just a run, it was an adventure.

Not long after Recycle Boy, several people with tiny little dogs came to meander and enjoy the weather. I am what you would most definitely call a Cat Person, so although I love dearly a lot of Tiny Little Dog People, I cannot say that I will ever understand them. Night and day difference, is all I'm saying. (Side note) One thing I have learned: if you're trying to set a decent pace or get lost in your own thoughts, beware Tiny Little Dog People. If you make eye contact, or pretend not to be annoyed by their dogs taking too much interest in your ankles, they will talk to you! You have been warned.

Then came some girls I did my best to ignore, already fit and tan and young enough to not have to be out there running, but running nonetheless. I have to squash the urge to become Mean Girl, if only in my head. I suppose I was one of them, once, but had no awareness of it at the time. Truth be told, their presence probably makes me push myself a little harder than I would have before. I guess you can put a positive spin on just about anything. I do, however, secretly wish we could segregate certain spots for moderately attractive, pudgy people to work out in, where the Hot Gym People would be denied access. But I digress.

Last but certainly not least came a white-haired man who looked eerily like Dick Van Dyke, and kept grinning at me in a manner that was not entirely gentlemanly. Maybe it's just the writer in me, but when Dick Van Dyke starts checking you out, it's difficult not to begin pondering the ways of the world, and wondering whatever your purpose in it might be...

I didn't solve all of life's mysteries at the track, but I at least got to let go of the day and amuse myself wondering about all the folks I passed along the way, which in turn got my creative side going. On the way back to my car, I noticed one of the Already Hot Girls had entrusted her keys and water to a small patch of grass, and I was lost in a daydream involving grand theft auto as I started up my cranky old Honda and headed home.

I think life is full of adventure if you know how to look for it. I can find it in the everyday, running in circles, whether literal or figurative. A good dose of people watching, a run, a new book, a hearty meal, catching up with a friend... these things can help to balance out a bad day.

Here's hoping tomorrow's a better one, or at least, that the people watching will be good! If all else fails, I can always go to Wal-mart...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Musings

Snowfall always makes me dream...

The first snow of the year, pure and beautiful outside my window. I feel blessed to be warm and cozy inside, to have food in my fridge, a fuzzy blanket around my legs. I feel blessed to have these moments alone to think and wonder.

I feel stirred and strange, as if I am growing out of my own skin, as if soon I will need to shed it and become someone new.

Winter affects me this way every year, for certain. I feel restless, and weary of my everyday. I am exhausted from living without the magic. I fear the mediocre, methodical rhythm of my days... years passing, unremarkable. Of living only half-heartedly, until desire is dead.

And yet it is never really dead, is it? Only buried alive. And now it stirs again, as something broken yet alive, or struggling for life. Do I have the heart to push it down again, heaping dirt on infant dreams that never had a chance to be? Do I call it unreasonable, unlikely, snuff it out before it sparks a ruinous blaze?

Dare I even desire?

Can it be so simple as chasing your desire? I have always wanted to travel, and write, and drink deeply all the experience along the way. I have always wanted to live a great story. I have waited, and feared it may have passed me by. But what if it hasn't? What if I still get to go? What if there is hope yet, after all?

My thoughts are chaos, while the night is still. Snow drifting gently down, settling on some inch of Earth to make it beautiful.

Is it really so simple as that?

I want to go, too...

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Mean Reds. Also, Brownies.

Once upon a time there was a girl who cared a little too much about what people thought of her. This was a double-edged sword, making her deeply introspective and insightful, and yet much too self-conscious to actually publish any of her insightfulness, which just happened to be her dream job. So, life was complicated. Despite her worst fear of winding up a lonely cat lady, she found currently that she was happiest living alone, with a recently acquired kitten. And so goes the story of my life...

Today I felt like little more than a robot at a desk, churning out production with no conceivable end in sight. It was also cold, dark, and rainy, with a chance of recent conversation weighing heavily on my mind; the perfect combination for some hard-core blues. Or, as Holly Golightly would say:

“No. The blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The Mean Reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don't know what you're afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?” (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

Yes, I do. Today was a Mean Reds kind of day.

And so, I had to stop everything, read some scripture, burn some incense, play with my crazy cat and do some writing. These things soothe the soul. Also, brownies.

This past Sunday, we studied the beginning of Hebrews 12:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God...”

Author and finisher of our faith, huh? I don't envy Him that task. Especially on days like this. I have spent oh, so many of these days wondering what the day was there for. Wondering what I am supposed to be doing. Wondering if I'm somehow screwing everything up. And yet, if God is really the author of the story of faith that is my life, is there really anything I can do to ruin it? That seems extremely unlikely.

So here I am, a complicated mix of desire and emotion, fear and frustration, dreams and doubt. I have no idea where I'm going, only that I am to run with endurance, for the joy of the finish line, Mean Reds or not. It is as complicated and simple as that.

After some reflection, I now think that caring too much about what someone is (or in this case, isn't) thinking of me falls under "laying aside every weight." It is all too easy on this kind of day to forget that the growth of faith is a long, and often difficult journey. Endurance really is key. With that in mind, I'm going to take a deep breath and do some letting go of my need for approval. Lord knows I don't need anything else hindering me.

If you, also, happen to be suffering some haunting despair in the midst of your journey, read Hebrews, bake some brownies, and endure. I have faith that I'll meet you at the finish line someday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cheetos For Breakfast

Well, in classic Jo style, I am light years behind the rest of the world, trying Netflix for the first time this past weekend. It is bittersweet; welcoming the new me and saying goodbye to the old. I know I am a changed woman, and will never make it back to the mere girl I was before...

But seriously though, I feel like a new person! In the midst of a self-induced 30 Rock marathonic coma (I think I finished the entirety of season 2 in one day...oops), I ran out to Walgreens to buy coffee and Cheetos like a true 20-something, semi-professional. I finished half the bag last night, and only saved the rest so I could have breakfast this morning. And then it hit me: I am actually happily single.

It's true. I am finding these days that the only time I'm really that dissatisfied with singleness is when there's something mysteriously wrong with my car, or I can't open a jar by myself, etc. No really, I cannot get that thing open! I've tried the hot water trick, the air bubble upside-down trick, the butter knife, the rubber grippy-things... I think God may have put this unbudging jar of zesty bean dip in my life to remind me that there are some things I still can't do alone...

Okay, maybe that's borderline sacrilegious. But my blue corn chips just aren't the same without bean dip, and it seriously frustrates me!

Anyway, I realized recently that people have been giving me bad advice for quite some time now. I distinctly remember in college all the dreamy-eyed alumni giving my shoulder a knowing little squeeze and telling me those were the best years of my life, and that I should be enjoying them. Those people could not have been more wrong. True happiness, I am finding, is coming to accept yourself wherever you are. I am much happier now than I have ever been.

That's right, I like myself these days. Oh, I know all my faults, still. It's not like I'm delusional. But it seems I've been making peace with the girl in the mirror, and life is becoming a rich, fulfilling, exciting thing.

So what's next? People are always saying that you have to be happy single before you can be happy married. I wonder if that's more terrible advice or if it actually has some truth behind it? I finally opened up this year to the wonderful world of dating, and so far it hasn't been as disastrous as I thought. Though I was hoping to get some funny blog postings out of it. Ah, well.

Although it's bound to be hilarious if I do it, I have fought against the pressure to try online dating for a good long time now. I think deep down the writer in me is still hunting for a good love story, one that doesn't involve blissful hugging on a TV commercial under Neil Clark Warren's smirky gaze. Is that really too much to ask?

But really, if I'm happy there's no rush, right?

(Rabbit trail: I'm no feminist, but someone please explain to me why it is that when men choose to live as singles they are bachelors, and we are stuck with "old maid" or "cat lady"? This makes no sense to me! Then again, I have been seriously considering cat adoption. Hmm.)

Here's to cheese puff stains on my pajama pants, weeknights with Netflix and a glass of wine, and all the other ins and outs of living single! Remember kids, these are the best years of your life... ;)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Earl Grey Gets Me High and Other New Discoveries

After ten-odd years of drinking coffee every morning, nearly without fail, I got up today and thought: "I'd like some Earl Grey this morning, instead."

The change was inspired by two things, the first being that I discovered I had grown bored with life, which is unacceptable for a Creative like me. I had been thinking it was time to make some changes, try some new things, breathe life deeply again, and find the magic. The second, and probably foundational inspiration, is that I met a guy from Seattle who claims that tea is better. The mere suggestion that I may be missing out on the best was enough to unsettle my security about coffee. What if I was wrong?

This morning was cold, and clear, and deeply beautiful. In this city surrounded by mountains, all the leaves changing and dropping, the wind playful, the rain unpredictable, the sun and clouds fighting for rein over the sky, I can't help but fall in love with Autumn in it's height of glory. My heart responds without effort. It was just one of those mornings that called for a break from the usual, and so I decided to have a cup of tea.

I made it in my French press, because I don't yet own a strainer, and started work. It warmed my fingers, like the coffee, and tasted delicious. My morning felt complete. An hour and a half later, I felt the buzz.

As it turns out, the body processes caffeine differently in tea than it does in coffee. I did not know this. So, even after a decade of steady, daily caffeine, I overdosed on one large, strong cup of Earl Grey. I literally had to take a break from work until my head stopped spinning, and I quelled the urge to call random people and sing to them.

I am convinced, by now, that meeting new people and building relationship is one of the greatest joys we have on this earth. It is refreshing to see life from another perspective. I am curious now about Seattle, and all the sights and sounds of it. I am eager to try the fantastically wide variety of teas that I now notice on shelves I used to pass right by. I am learning about religions I had never thought to give a second thought to. I am discovering how to share all of the best and worst of myself with someone new. In the blink of an eye, from one simple introduction, I am changed, and growing into an even better me.

I am eager, now, for new experience, new friends, and new days. Taking a break from the ordinary, and opening up to beautiful new, might just be the best way to steer your life away from terrifying mediocrity. I invite you to try a new cup of tea, in a manner of speaking. You never know when it might be the best you've yet tasted.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Every Purpose Under Heaven

I watched a leaf fall today, the wind spinning and tossing it about before it finally reached ground, and skittered along the pavement to find a resting place beside my car. I suddenly felt solemn, as I often do in Autumn, viewing the blatant beauty of death, and weighing it against the promise of the life that is to come.

I have lived long enough, and seen enough seasons by now to know that Spring, and new life, always comes. It is no longer faith, but mere expectation. Growing older, you gain wisdom, you learn the way things are... but you have to be careful not to lose your sense of wonder in the process. I feel that mine is threatened at all times.

I like to read Ecclesiastes this time of year. It is a stunningly beautiful bit of literature. I am searching different translations to find the the one I love most. But I recommend sitting down and reading it, in it's entirety, while sitting outside letting the leaves let go of life around you.

I don't want to be one of those fragile old women who weeps at everything, but I will be brave enough to say that, on my break today, with the breeze, and the leaves, and the poetry of the Bible at my fingertips, I shed a few tears as I thought about it all... life, and death, and the changing seasons... toiling under the sun, and the vanity of it all. I desire so deeply to leave some fingerprints behind when I go. I fear that I may never learn how.

I often think of my grandmother these days. I suppose it only natural, this being the first full season without her. But I see her in everything. I remember her every time the sun clears the wall of trees outside my window, and for a few brief moments of the morning, reaches through to touch my face with warmth. Every now and again, for just a second, I will start to remind myself to call her, and then realize... and painful as it is, part of me dreads the day when I stop doing that, too.

To everything, there is a season...

What this season holds, or what it's purpose may be, I cannot fully guess. I know only that I am being shaped, that I am growing, that I can see myself a little more clearly these days. Once again, I open my heart to Autumn, I drink in all the sight and scent of it. I take a lesson from the leaves, and try to let go, and see where the wind will take me.

I must learn to let go... so that a few seasons away, I can see the new life growing freely. I think I have enough faith to trust that there really is a time for every purpose under heaven.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Blank Page

Well, here I am again, trying to write but not finding myself with the clarity, creativity, or perhaps the inspiration to. Sometimes I need to write, but the words won't come at all, and sometimes they spill over my fingers like too much water in a small glass. Most of the time I feel that I just can't get it all down quickly enough, before it disappears. I catch a glimpse of the creative, but then it vanishes before I can pin it down.

I have had a lot of people ask me, lately, what I am writing, and I try to dress up my answer and make it look pretty. I am tempted to say what they want to hear and not what's real. The truth of the matter is, that I used to see a blank page and I could fill it past the margins with potential. Now, when I see a blank page I see a reflection of the creative side of my mind, staring back at me.

Blank. Ready for action, but currently sporting only potential, and no words. Is it mere writer's block, a quarter-life crisis, a simple matter of being out of practice? I wish I knew. I wish, also, that I knew my way out.

I guess all writers have to pen a lot of nothing before they can reveal something of value. I have never really known if I have anything that is worth putting down into permanence. That is the beautiful and terrifying thing about writing... the potential for permanence.

Perhaps I am still searching for what needs to be said most. I need organization in my mind that I have never found. I tend to spill everything, and then edit to see if there is treasure buried under all that mess somewhere...

That seems like the theme of my life these days... trying to find the treasure among the mess. Here's to making messes, and hunting for buried treasure!