Without Limping

I had a border collie.

I named her Libby.

My first dog since I was a kid. And she loved me.

Whenever I would go out to the car, to leave the house on days when I felt ill or wrong-footed somehow ... she would limp.

Libby started limping after she suffered a broken leg, the result of trying to herd a moving car out on the road. She was tossed to the side of the road, and the people from the car came up to our house, distraught, apologetic, ready to write me a check for my foolishly optimistic border collie.

Her desire to herd wasn't their fault. I sent them on their way.

We drove to the vet, me in the back of the station wagon with my broken, patient, black and white dog with the big brown eyes. She kept lifting her broken leg for me to hold it. Her occasional whimpers sounded confused. She sounded like she was trying to be brave.

We brought her home in a cast.

She stayed on the back porch for weeks and weeks.

She was supposed to lie still so her leg could heal.

But every time we (I) ventured onto the back porch, she was overcome with happiness, and her tail and her body ... and her cast - wriggling, tap tap tapping on the cement - trying to stand - making it impossible to heal the broken bone. My husband used to say that if I'd let her, that dog would've gotten into my clothes with me just to be closer. She couldn't hold still because she loved me.

I finally went to a naturopathic vet and got some remedies, and Libby's leg - her front left - the same "arm" on her as the arm I broke a few years before when I fell on the ice - her broken leg finally healed.

But ever afterward, my dog limped whenever I didn't feel good.


This morning, my son drove away down the driveway, headed off into his life. I do not know if I've ever seen him quite so keyed up - taut - concentrating. He wanted to go. He is ready.

I have a lot in common with the dog named Libby. She couldn't help resonating to the human she loved. Today, the young man who used to be my little curly-headed boy headed into his life with a laser-like focus. I did not weep on his shoulder, or make a large, long good-bye. The part of me that begat him knew that he didn't need such a moment. I could feel his intention today. He was okay. I didn't limp when he went to the car.

But then, after I had shut the door ("Want an orange or something?" "I have some already." "Okay ... call us when you get there so we'll know you made it." "Bye.") I came back upstairs and opened the door to his room. Most of his stuff is still there. He will come back and get it when he has found a place to call his own. I stood in the middle of the room, his, but no longer his, and watched through his window as his car went down the driveway. This feels different from college. This feels permanent. The sign of the cross. On me, on him. ("God bless you. Godspeed. Goodbye.") When his car reached the bottom of the driveway, I burst into tears.


Please understand. I did not want him to stay. I raised my kids to find their lives and live them. Last night when I came home from work and my headlights moved across this young man and his dad headed up to the barn in the dark together, I started to think - without this moment, there can never be moments of grandchildren, families coming to visit, babies born, careers and adventures and travel and all of the things that will flood our home in the years ahead. He cannot stay here - none of them can. They - and we - all of us have futures to walk toward. And so far, nobody's limping.

How Western Diets Are Making The World Sick: A Doctor Talks about Afghan people, Inuits, and adipose fat that encases our organs

"Your body will forgive you for eating almost anything if you move enough."

In an essay published last November in Canada's Maisonneuve journal, physician Kevin Patterson described his experiences working as an internist-intensivist at the Canadian Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar, Afghanistan.


Ditto the hopes in Friedman's op-ed piece

Op-Ed Columnist
Looking for Luck in Libya
Published: March 29, 2011

Welcome to the Middle East of 2011! You want the truth about it? You can’t handle the truth. The truth is that it’s a dangerous, violent, hope-filled and potentially hugely positive or explosive mess — fraught with moral and political ambiguities. We have to build democracy in the Middle East we’ve got, not the one we want — and this is the one we’ve got.

That’s why I am proud of my president, really worried about him, and just praying that he’s lucky.
(Read the rest, HERE)

Tomorrow and the Next Day

The weather forecasters are saying that tomorrow and the next day will bring us bluer skies and dryer weather. For the sake of moving on with this thought, we'll just take that as stipulated by the witnesses, shall we? Evidential proof is utterly impossible in this absurdity of a storm. (And I like rain! But this year, even I am ready to remember what color the sky is above the clouds.)

I'm ready to move on. To see spring. To feel the sun on my face again. But today? Today the weather is a perfect exterior to match my interior. Inside of me, the water is moving in sheets and waves, first to one side, then to the other ... little drops, big drops ... and a sudden gust of wind tries to blow open my windows from time to time.

Tomorrow and the next day.

Tomorrow that man person who used to be my little boy - tomorrow he drives away. And the next day he won't be here when I wake up in the morning. I'll be at this desk again, just like today, and if the weather people are right, I'll be looking at the sun coming through the trees.

No driving rain. No background of tossing fir trees and crashing creek noises. No man/boy in the room across the hall for me to disturb by my pounding on the keyboard or my laughing out loud or my swearing at ... well, never mind what I swear at. The point is that I'll do it aloud and then realize - again - that there's no reason not to because the rain and the boy are gone. The skies and the house will be cleared out. I know what that feels like. I've done this before. And I'll have to go to work in the afternoon on that day, but if I want to, I can spend the whole morning stomping and yelling and pacing and crying and singing and dancing around the house. It wouldn't bother anyone at all.

Ever seen a beach storm? Today's one of those days. I expect to be cleaning up broken branches in my yard when it's over, but ... you never know what you'll find on the sand when the wind stops. Tomorrow, the wind is supposed to stop. The next day, I'll be beach combing.


I have to say it


I know, I know. In the face of such horrible human disaster and anguish, it's a very small matter. You get a free pass if you're actually in danger. But for the rest of you?

It's pronounced like this:


It is NOT pronounced "noo" "cue" "lur"

Are we all clear now? Practice if you have to. Just stop saying nuculer. Seriously.


Waving (again)

Well, it's happening. This week, it's happening. Young giant packing up his car to drive away and start a life that isn't here, isn't with us, isn't in my ears or eyes, isn't where I sense his presence as a kind of constant.

No one to whittle sticks on the front steps, or leave seriously muddied logger style boots in the way after a tramp in the woods. No one going up and down the stairs at very odd hours in the middle of the night, or alternating fascinatingly evocative guitar music with ... um ... well, whatever that other stuff is supposed to be. No one cluttering up the TiVo with weird movies or absurdly nutso talk show hosts ("you guys gotta see this!"), and no one eating the food I thought I'd have around for the whole week. No one to leave dishes on the coffee table and no one to do it when I say, "you do the kitchen tonight."

Two people's clothes in the wash now. Two people's dishes in the sink, and two people's reading material scattered across the living room. Two people for meals, two people for evenings, two people for conversation.

I'll be fine. No. Really. I will. I've got lots to do. Library work and school work and writing work and house work and walking and teaching and reading and cooking and dreaming and ...


when he'll be back.

Bye, son.

Love, Mom and Dad


Crimes Against Humanity

I am in my office, which is above the living room in my little house. The NewsHour is playing, and the menfolk are listening to a report about software
designed to safely store data about torture, murder, killings and other human rights abuses in countries around the world. It's meant to help human rights workers who are collecting that information and use it to document what went on -- or is going on -- in nations run by brutal dictators who might eventually be brought to justice.
It's pretty ingenious stuff, and my hat's off to the guy who invented this modern tool of resistance. His name is Jim Fruchterman - here he is, talking about this:

This is the sort of story that gives me great hope. In the same world that holds brutal dictators and their victims, there are men like this, asking themselves, What could I do with what I have that just might make this humanitarian problem less powerful? How can I help? I want to choose sides, and not just agree with the good, but also work for the good.

Tonight, when I was listening to the story from up here in my office, I heard the phrase of accusation, "crimes against humanity." That phrase came into being in the war-torn, modernizing, machine-making, bomb-dropping 20th century. That has a beautiful and grotesque irony to it, don't you think? What we did to each other became so enormous that we made a phrase to describe it. We, the people of the planet who decried the horrors of the World Wars, took a stand. There is no "us" and "them" at a certain point, we said. At that point, we're all us. Do that to them, we said, and you have done it to everyone.

Do not play this video if there are children nearby. This is the short French documentary Night and Fog. I have seen few things in my life more chilling.
Night and Fog Rare Holocaust Footage

There is no "us" and "them."

During this school year, I have read for a course in The Literature of Resistance. The above film was one of the documentary genre in History of Film. Over and over, the awareness has come to me, in class, and at work, and at prayer. There is no "us" and "them." All humans are included in the "humanity" against which crimes ought not to be committed.

There are a lot of reasons why I will always vote for public parks, public schools, public safety, public roads, and public transportation. These are the things we expect to find in a modern country, where there are more than enough resources for such things. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about health care - public, private, insured, uninsured, fee-for-service, wellness, crisis management, complementary, human-centered ... thousands of billing codes ... people sitting in their cars in the parking lot outside the emergency room, wondering how they will pay for it if they go in ... and how much more sense it would make, fiscally and practically, if we did not have such a disjointed and scattered way of going about it.

It's not a simple problem to solve, but we need to solve it. We need to solve it not only because we're throwing away both money and the health of a nation doing it this way, but more because there is no such thing as "us" and "them." A human being is a human being, and we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to stop pretending that the man left for dead by the side of the road is not our problem.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.
Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

"Health" and "Care" and the lady in the library

Yesterday I met a woman. I'll call her M. She was in the library, looking stunned, looking lost, looking brave anyway. There was no one else in the library at the time but the two kids she'd brought in with her, and she and I got to talking. She'd had a terrible health scare and been in the hospital for a few days. They told her she has diabetes and if she'll lose fifty pounds, it will go away. And, I'm sure they're right. But she was on her own to do it.

Now, if you ask me, that, right there, that one lady - that's what's wrong with our system. The system we have right now is little more than a collection of autonomous individuals and financial incentives, and frankly, if financial incentives aren't really part of your life you don't have the personal power for autonomy.

Also this week, I heard a broadcast of Think Out Loud, and found out that, long before the national initiative, Oregon's been working on changing the actual system. They've got a plan ready to propose. It all sounds realistic, practical, compassionate, and fiscally responsible, and I hope hope hope they succeed at this. It will change in the nation when it begins to change state by state, I think. Godspeed, Oregon. God's blessing on you in this effort. Seriously. It needs to happen.

The Medical Home clinic in Lebanon, Oregon, is a good example of how things can work better. Dr. Rick Wopat was on the Think Out Loud broadcast, and his answers to "how does it work?" are well worth listening to.

I wish I could send M. to his clinic. (It's not even in our state. No one could send her there.) There's only so much I'm allowed to do as an employee - and I found as many resources for her as I could, and talked to her at length. What she needs in compassionate care that doesn't make her feel so alone and frightened. M. needs a behavioral therapy counselor, and a nutritionist - not one rushed, annoyed, fee-for-service doctor who's "rude" and "mean." She needs to avoid decades of expensive care by means of immediate and effective support. She needs to be seen as a person, not as a case, and if someone would work with her, she's one person who's ready to work. Now. Another few months of this kind of panic and fear and overwhelm, and she probably won't be ready anymore.

In fact, M. and I and you and everyone - we need HEALTH care ... not malady management.


Look Away

No, really. Look away. Do not look directly at this activity, or I might freak out or go all goofy and wobbly, and then quit. Again.

Don't tell anyone ... but I've been walking! Shhhhh!

Most days, and on a longish path, and most of it uphill.

Those stories grandfathers tell? About its being uphill both ways in the dead of winter and winter lasted all year long and the school was ten miles away? Okay, those stories might be exaggeration, but I'm telling the truth. The long part of it is up up up hill - so I'm counting that part as stronger exercise.

And here's the crazy part.

I've found out that I can't get my butt out the door if it's "exercise" at all! This has been going on - this walking thing on most days lately - for awhile, and it's been happening every time I ask myself, "What do I really want to do?" I've been remembering the hill up from the Hollywood District in Portland - up from the library - uphill, with an armload of books - up, up, up, back to our house at the top of that incline - up on Laddington Court.

When I was a skinny kid, I barely even factored that hill into my estimation of how much effort it was going to be to get to the library and back. If I remember correctly, I nearly never took anything to carry all those books in, either. I pre-date the Child As Turtle, ubiquitous backpack era. I just carried those books in my own arms, with the one I wanted to look at on top, open - so I could read it while I hoofed up that hill. (I've done that as an adult, too - read and walked at the same time, I mean - but don't tell my kids. They don't approve of this dual activity and are quite sure I'm going to fall or walk into something or get hit by something or ... something.)

Curious things happen on walks. I don't take music or other earbud-necessitating distractions. I do take a pad of paper and a pen, though. And my cell phone. Those things ride along in my pockets, and I carry the mail home in a small pack if I've walked to the post office. There's nothing to keep me from noticing the curiosities around me. That's my point.

So ... this week ... I've met my new neighbor, and I've been watching for the shivering buds in trees and shrubs to poke their little green heads out, because that would mean Spring has probably come to stay for awhile, and I've been considering making a phone call to city hall or the county road department or whoever it is that could be talked into moving the speed limit signs a little further uphill because it's scary to walk past 45mph traffic, even if "traffic" is one or two vehicles in an hour. I've noticed that I'm stronger than I've been in a long, long time. That I stop less to catch my breath than I used to. I think I've figured out what bird makes those crazy noises. I've decided again that I really like Buff Orpingtons. I want some. They're very friendly.

And today, I found out where the deer path goes through the property. There are five of them in this group - two does and three fawns, and one of the fawns is in pretty bad shape. It looks like it was probably hit by a car and then healed on its own. I got very very close to them today when they were crossing the road just as I got there.

They looked at me looking at them for a long time.

Curious things happen on their walks too, I guess. But it's not polite to look at them too closely. They freak out and go all goofy and hide.


Prior Learning ... Assessed! (almost)

After a miserably long time of inactivity, THIS is going to be the quarter. This one. Spring. 2011. Before this year's summer, I will have turned in a Prior Learning Assessment portfolio with forty-five college credits in it. 45!! Maximum allowable amount, changed my mind over and over on whether or not to do the maximum amount, and now I'm all set up to sprint to the finish. A whole academic year's worth of credits, credited to me, because I actually know this stuff, and I can prove it, and it can be added to my transcript.

On this page, there is a link to Janyce Andre's story. Her narrative goes like this: Wondered about it, looked into it, wrote for it, and in "less than two years," finished her degree. (Wow!)

My narrative, on the other hand, goes like this: Got an unaccredited degree, decades went by, wondered about an accredited degree, looked into it, wrote for it, took other classes along the way, never went more than 2/3 time, usually only 1/1 time, changed my major three times before settling down, started PLA work, did a bunch, let it languish ... got overwhelmed at a silly little snag that amounted to nothing .... made ridiculous attempt to finish without support (not recommended), and now, finally, yesterday, admitted my need for help, made appointments, and THIS QUARTER I'm going to finish the thing.

(And what did we learn today?)

Well, we learned several things, Sergeant.
  1. We learned that sometimes the "easiest" things need the most community support. I'm not sure why that is, but it often is - for me, anyway.
  2. We learned that for the willing learner, there is a teacher. Always. And Jackie Fowler is just what the (slow-to-be-)willing learner needed! Marylhurst's instructors are the best.
  3. We learned that the circuitous route will get you there eventually.
We're deciding to let that be okay.


Poetry Paint Play

Ever heard of Marla Olmstead? The 2007 movie, My Kid Could Paint That, is a documentary about this child prodigy and the adults who go a bit nuts around her and in the art world.

I discovered it just a few minutes ago - when I was looking for images of "playing with paint." I wanted images of playing with paint because I have been thinking about Anon.'s comment about my absurdly difficult time with my Poetry final. (I've been thinking about the comment whilst writing the paper - I'm almost done - a short concluding section, and I'll be ready to let it rise overnight so I can punch it down tomorrow)

See the kid's face on the movie poster? That's how I feel when I'm immersed in this poetry. I'm having a good time. I feel exuberant. I love love love what poetry does. I like to play in it. But ... well ... writing a paper about it means someone else will watch me playing. I'm being caught with a brush in my hand. It just feels ... weird. I'm a little chagrined. (It helps to bleed off some of the energy and nerves here, on my blog. And that's weird too. Because I need words to get onto the paper, I also need to bleed off a whole bunch of extra ones. I get all jammed up.)

But I do love these poems. Rosmarie Waldrop's "Conversation I: On the Horizontal," from her book, Reluctant Gravities, and Anne Sexton's "Her Kind." I don't think my kid could paint like that. I'm pretty sure I can't either. But it sure is fun to play with the paint.

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

Oppression Creates Opportunity

Is there anything more beautiful in all the world than the nobility of the human spirit in the face of impossible oppression? Here's a new story to inspire the world.

The life Kamila Sidiqi had known changed overnight when the Taliban seized control of the city of Kabul. After receiving a teaching degree during the civil war—a rare achievement for any Afghan woman—Kamila was subsequently banned from school and confined to her home. When her father and brother were forced to flee the city, Kamila became the sole breadwinner for her five siblings. Armed only with grit and determination, she picked up a needle and thread and created a thriving business of her own.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the incredible true story of this unlikely entrepreneur who mobilized her community under the Taliban. Former ABC News reporter Gayle Tzemach Lemmon spent years on the ground reporting Kamila's story, and the result is an unusually intimate and unsanitized look at the daily lives of women in Afghanistan. These women are not victims; they are the glue that holds families together; they are the backbone and the heart of their nation.

An interview with the author on Morning Edition, and excerpts here



This is so stupid.


Idiotically frustrating.

I love school.

I love poetry.

I love writing.

And yet grinding out this final paper for my Poetry class.
One scratchy, sticky, reluctant word


Uh-oh ... Mommy 'piow?

Yes, Mommy spilled. Again.

When our oldest child was still an only child (a condition of her life she has since suspected was an 18-month stay in her own personal Nirvana), she didn't miss much. Ever. She was born paying attention. She was the child who would stop breastfeeding if her mother so much as looked at an open magazine lying beside us on the couch cushions. She could sense my wandering attention, and the slight shift in her surroundings made her stop and wait to see ... and not continue with her work until my attention was back where it belonged. (notice the facial expression on artist Carl Larsson's wife as she attempts the same thing with one of her own eight children?)

At a year old, our daughter had advanced to a much more verbal processing of these environmental shifts. Still aware of everything, she had now learned to comment.

"Doo lou'!" ("Too loud" - a comment on a passing fire truck when we were out on a walk.)

"Gah!" ("All gone," said with chubby hands turned upward and with a small shrug, to cheerfully and adamantly inform us that her food was "gone," apparently because a magic trick had been performed.)

"Cahfooooh...!" ("Careful!" - her first real word, recited like a mantra while she was learning to walk across the room, nearly never falling down in the process.)

All must be noticed. All must be identified. Aloud. Usually with exclamation points.

And so, there was very little hope that the spilled oatmeal would pass unnoticed. It only happened once, but every morning for weeks afterward, we re-lived the moment.

Mommy reaches into the cupboard and picks up the container of dry oatmeal. Mommy puts the container on the counter and begins to pry up the edge of the lid. And this one time? This one time Mommy spilled. The container fell off the counter, and upended its contents onto Mommy's feet. And the child in the highchair, cheerfully waiting for breakfast in this place of contented confinement, up where she could see the breakfast being made, began her shocked commentary.

(Mommy glaring at her own bare, morning feet)

"Mommy 'piow?"
"Yes, Mommy spilled." (Mommy begins stepping out of the heap of rolled oats)

(teeth gritted, voice calm) "Yes, Mommy spilled the oatmeal."

"Yep - Mommy spilled oatmeal on her toes." (grrr!)

This was the dialogue that continued for weeks, every morning, and every time someone opened the door to the cupboard with the oatmeal container inside.

I thought about this today, more than twenty-five years after the fact. I thought about it because Mommy 'piow'd again. Not oatmeal, but papers and books. (Uh-oh ... Mommy 'piow? Toe?) Mommy's toe made Mommy's brain begin to process a certain sort of awareness today - the awareness of the spillable piles, and what they contain.

I began to look around. From where I stood, I could see books about cinema, because I'm writing my final paper for History of Film. I could see several notebooks - some empty, a couple of notebooks full of notes, and under other piles are notebooks with only a couple of pages used, either because they could not be found after the first bout of writing or because the project had ended almost as soon as it began.

Here are library books about emotions, brain development, perception, and narrative. There are Newspapers. Magazines. That table holds the latest finds from used book stores. This one has some (more) books and booklets for theological and religious education writing. Interestingly enough, the books about writing and poetry, once I own them, cannot be found in this part of the house. Those books are upstairs, in my office, near my desk, and usually shelved properly, where I can easily lay my hands on them again.

In the main part of the house, between clear-outs, the flat surfaces of living and dining rooms also bear their weight in junk mail, catalogs (both the desired and the where'd-this-come-from? variety), and all the mail waiting to go to places in other parts of the house or in other houses (my mother-in-law's mail, mail for the kids who aren't here, bills, etc.). The piles are ever in danger of 'piowing onto Mommy's toes, and Mommy thinks this morning that the myth of the paperless society is an absurdity too laughable to laugh at.

So, what is Mommy going to do about this problem?

(Uh-oh ... Mommy 'pioh? Oapmeoh? Toe?)
Hush up.
There is too much paper and there are too many printed words in this house.
I don't want to talk about it.

But ... wait.

Is that the problem?

Is it a problem that these piles and papers and books and notebooks are here, in my house, all the time? Should I have less paper here? Fewer notebooks and fewer books and fewer projects to generate all of this in the first place?

Is the oapmeoh the problem?

Or ... is this simply the stuff of life in this house?

This is a picture of Gretchen Rubin, writer, and most recently famous because of her Happiness Project and the book she wrote about her year's experiment. Notice, please, that in her New York apartment, where she lives with her husband and children, and where she writes and cooks and reads, and from which she goes out into the world to exercise, or speak, or shop ... where she lives ... she has lined a wall with books. Gretchen Rubin's gorgeous New York apartment has at least as much danger of acquiring piles of papers as my house has, here in mostly rural Stevenson, Washington.

Here is a similar picture of Mireille Guiliano, former CEO of Veuve Clicquot, and author of French Women Don't Get Fat. Another New York apartment. Another wall of books, some vertically shelved, some horizontal, non-matching bindings, hardback and paperback books kept together, not color-displayed ... real books ... lots of words and ideas and pages and pages and pages.

I used to put only a little bit of food at a time onto the high chair tray for the little girl who was sitting there. It was easy to overwhelm her with too much to do - too much to pay attention to - too much to process. (And it's too hard to comment on everything if there are too many things to comment on.) But the answer wasn't to eliminate the food. The answer was to have on the high chair tray only as much as the tiny talking child could pay attention to - and while she was eating (and commenting) the rest of the food in the house was where it belonged.

I need the things in my piles. Although I suppose I could do without the junk mail, I could also probably do without a new container being purchased every time I buy oatmeal. If I haven't sorted the mail at the post office and used their recycling containers, I can use mine for junk mail. If I haven't bought my oatmeal from the bulk aisle and used my own container, I can properly dispose of the purchased packaging on my own. I can fill my bookshelves with the words and words and more words, putting the bound and unbound pages that belong in this house where they need to go, throwing away the stuff I don't need, and filing my course work where I can find it again.

It sounds a little silly, when I type it all out like that. "I can be an organized paper shuffler." (duh) But when a pile falls onto Mommy's toes, Mommy wonders - at least at the first crash - if the contents of the pile need to be eliminated from her reality in some sort of final and definitive way. Today, Mommy has decided again that the possibility of spilled oatmeal is better than having no oatmeal at all, and that it just might be possible to live happily with all this paper in the house.

Now, if you'll excuse me? I have some piles to unpile and a few more books to find homes for. We went to a couple of library booksale places while we were on vacation a couple of weeks ago.


Shivers! A new Jane Eyre opens today!

And NPR's interview with the director, along with more clips, here

Forced perspective

"Forced perspective" is what painters and filmmakers and photographers use to make things look larger or smaller to the viewer.

Funny, right? (you can click on the pic for a good explanation of forced perspective)

Less funny when your brain is doing forced perspective acrobatics on its own.

It's the end of the quarter, and I know perfectly well that I'm avoiding writing my final papers. I have not been following the wisdom available to me within this mounting anxiety - I have taken no action. (After all, I know what it is. I have the right answer, right? This is anxiety, it's caused by awareness of something noteworthy and requiring action, and I'm feeling it grow and grow as I continue to avoid it. Duh.)

I have taken no end-of-quarter action -- until this morning when I couldn't take it anymore. (Deep breath in ... exhale ... log onto the course site ...) Okay. Any new posts?

No. But here's the drop box for the final paper.

ACK! It's due Friday? TODAY is Friday! Oh no oh no oh no!! I can't write a 10 page paper and make it look good enough for this course in just one day! I haven't even started! Oh no oh no oh no!!!

(panic reaction in full swing)

Due date: Friday, 18 March 2011, 11:55 PM

Wait a second ... what's the date?


The paper is due NEXT Friday!

Thank you, Anxiety. Apparently the inner jangling, pounding, screaming, and jumping up and down that I've been ignoring has been happening in plenty of time for my attention to be brought to bear early enough for success. The girl threatening to flatten my Eiffel Tower is not quite as large as she's been pretending to be.

What's that you say? Keep a calendar? Hmmmm... interesting idea ....


Befriend Your Anxiety (yes, really)

Sign up!!

Karla McLaren's newsletter just came into my inbox. It's my first one, and I've just perused it with the jaded eye of an inveterate and compulsive newsletter subscriber. Email newsletters are almost universally boring and/or minimally useful. But this one? Wow! Here's an excerpt.

"Befriending Anxiety in 2011"

... Dr. Lamia contrasts procrastinators, who put things off until their anxiety kicks in and makes them do their work with do-it-aheaders, who do their work ahead of time. I’m a do-it-aheader, and we’ve got a joke in our family about thanking Karla from the past. We’ll find some job I finished weeks ago, or unearth finished pieces to a project that is crucial, or we’ll find important papers in my filing system, and we’ll say, “Thanks, Karla from the past, for making things easy on us!” Clearly, this thanking is a great motivator, because in each day, I think of all kinds of cool projects and jobs to do for the future happiness of my friends, my family, and myself. It’s a total win-win. It’s time travel that works!

Before I heard Dr, Lamia, I would have said that I didn’t do anxiety, but now I’m realizing, “Ooohhhh, I’ve got plenty of anxiety, but I’ve been been responding to it at very early points in its appearance, so it rarely gets to the level of a mood.” I have mistakenly thought of my very subtle level of do-it-ahead anxiety as, I don’t know, conscience, foresight, responsibility, or perhaps just being organized. I missed the fact that I was feeling an emotion that was trying to prepare me for the future. Whoops!! We live and learn, so I’m now taking anxiety out of the shadows and asking it questions, looking at people who run anxiety in its mood state, and focusing on anxiety more clearly.

Go to her site! Sign up for this stuff! Learn to understand the information, messages, feedback, and motivations your emotions are trying to give you!


McLaren on YouTube

Click here for a YouTube recording of Karla McLaren, talking about the difference between being empathetic and empathic, the problem we have due to our "professionalizing" of emotional difficulties, boundaries (the difference between you and me), and her new book. (What a shiny woman!)

The video is clearer than the book, in a lot of ways. Highly recommended, perhaps as an introduction to what she's doing.

She's also a fan of The Body Has a Mind of Its Own, which I discovered in some of my research recently.

This stuff's not easy - but I'm so deeply grateful for her work. I need to write her a letter.

Go, Carl!

Letters of Note is "an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos." This one is a letter from astronomer Carl Sagan, regarding the admission of women into The Explorers Club. It was written after "IBM's withdrawal of support due to the organisation's continued exclusion of women within its ranks," in ... (get this!) 1981. Eighty-one. Not fifty-one, 1981.

So much could be said about this. But I'll just post the last two paragraphs, and the link to the letter itself.

The supposed parallelism between our situation and those of other organizations seems to me strained. The Bohemian Club is a resort; The Explorers Club is not. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are for children. Their membership derives almost exclusively from adolescent and pre-adolescent youngsters, who have not yet fully accomodated to the opposite sex. But we presumably are adults, with a special responsibility for interacting with all humans on this planet.

I do not believe that the primary function of our organization is to promote male bonding or to serve as a social club -- although there is certain room for both. I believe that the fundamental dedication of the club is that stated on the masthead of every issue of The Explorers Club Newsletter: "To the conquest of the unknown and the advancement of knowledge." If this is our purpose, then admission should be open to all qualified members of the human species.

Carl Sagan