There Is No Try (Not!)

Today I’m thankful that I can take as many random academic courses as I wish.

I’ve been reading a book with what is probably one of my favorite titles (be warned, it is slightly rude).  The basic premise is that you won’t be good, or even mediocre, at everything you try, and that’s all right.  The point is to discover what you care enough about to become responsible for.  Each person has a limited amount of energy (or time, or concern, or anything) to give (referencing the book’s title) and sharing that resource according to your virtues is the way to live an examined life.  The short version is you need to pick your battles.  I admit that the concept is facile, but I appreciate that it’s grounded in practice rather than theory.  I will always prefer spending a day with an engineer to an artist.

In my life there are number of things I say I care about, but I’m not experienced enough at most of them to gauge the accuracy of my claims.  It’s more that I feel I should care about them, regardless of whether I actually do.  I’ve decided to put the book’s thesis into practice, because I only have so many fracks to give.  One of the perquisites of my work is reduced tuition and fees at a local university.  I’ve enquired about taking courses in several subjects.  The worst case is that I don’t enjoy the topic while still gaining knowledge.  I realise I should have figured out these issues long ago, but I’m thankful to have even a delayed opportunity.

Unrelated, but I sing and Aretha Franklin was the singer, and I’m very sad that she is gone.

This video is not mine.  I claim no rights.  All rights belong to the copyright holders.

Stumbling Grudgingly Into Quiet

Today I’m thankful to be learning basic meditation.

I am keenly aware of stress.  If I let it get a foothold I flare and end up back at the rheumatologist, painfully swollen and only able to function at a basic level.  The last several weeks have been eventful.  In response I manifested several clear physical signs of a flare, though for once they’ve moved slowly.  I felt like my body was warning me what would follow if I didn’t regain control.  I decided to use the grace period.  I’ve been adjusting my daily routine and learning meditation basics.  Please know I’m not proselytising for any cause.  I use this platform to express gratitude in my own somewhat cantankerous way.   These particular changes have helped me.  Live your life as you see fit.

For as long as I can remember I’ve thought “I really should learn to meditate”.  I read Maura O’Halloran’s account of her time training to be a Zen Buddhist monk in Japan.  I found it engrossing, but I’ve never really mastered the feeling of emptiness.  I have an unruly mind.  It’s an asset for my work, but it also means that I notice every itch and feel the need to rein in my thoughts from their continual wanderings.  It’s the antithesis of a meditating brain.

I’m generally wary of alternative therapies.  I am willing to try those with a documented body of evidence in their favor.  Meditation, especially for stress management in autoimmune inflammatory diseases, is one such practice.  The pivot for me was accepting that I can’t expect to start with sitting quietly for 30 minutes in one go.  I am simply not wired for it.  I can, however, manage 3 to 5 minutes before bed, gradually increasing over time.  My runaway thoughts are not a liability.  I acknowledge them and return to the quiet.  I’m in my second week.  My hands are no longer swollen and the raised red spots on my skin have disappeared.  I don’t have an ultimate goal beyond trying to stay healthy, but this works for now.  I’ve used several apps to track my progress.  It helps me to quantify what I do.

Be kind to yourself, and your body.  You get one.  Finally, a well placed heating pad rarely goes awry.  (Blatantly sentimental picture below, because well, why not?)

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A Cunning Plan

Nothing much of note has happened in the last week so this will be short.

I let my dog nap on the bed in the evenings.  It ensures she stays out of trouble and I like the companionship.  She doesn’t spend the entire night as she wriggles and I’m a light sleeper.  Last night I asked her to get down, as she knows she should, when I went to bed.  She was having none of it.  She curled up tightly and starting wagging her tail as if she was thinking “I bet I can stay up here if I’m really cute.”  I picked her up, still in a ball, and gently placed her in her own rather plush bed.  She was so annoyed her plan hadn’t worked that she actually curled up again, with her face away from me.  I tried to scratch her belly, which always works, and she wanted nothing to do with me.  My dog was pouting!  I nearly fell over, I laughed that much.

No Room Here

This post will be unabashedly maudlin.  I apologise in advance.

The situation at work is challenging.  I love what I do, and I’ve genuinely enjoyed where I work.  Now I feel as if I’m on tenterhooks, wondering whether my boss’s boss’s boss really won’t meet my eye or if it’s simple paranoia.  Not everything is negative.  I’m pursuing several leads in the same city where my family is and I’m hopeful.  I’m looking at the situation as a chance to be proactive, and “git gone” before they have the chance to do it for me.  As an individual I’ve never dealt well with change.  Adaptability to change is the root of survival so I guess it’s forcing me to evolve, even if reluctantly so.

Here’s the maudlin.  I’ve taken my working motto from the chorus of this song as it’s succinct and unmistakable:  Fear, you will never be welcome here.

I do not own this song or video.  All rights to the copyright holders.

When The Moon Hits Your Eye Like A Great Pizza Pie, That’s Amore

Today I’m thankful for vegan pizza.

Before thinking this sounds silly, imagine that you can’t ever again eat your favorite food.  Whatever the reason is, you can’t have any.  Ever.  I can’t eat any form of dairy.  I get very ill.  I miss pizza.  Pizza, being covered in cheese, dwells in the forbidden zone.  I sometimes imagine the savory, salty taste of dough covered in tomato sauce and cheese, and grumble, just a little.  Any toppings, except fish or mushrooms.  Even the heartburn after, knowing I’d thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I tried a few versions of making one myself, but I have no love for cooking and the result was consistently disappointing.  Consider then the actual joy I felt upon discovering my market carries multiple brands of vegan pizza.  I had choices!  Once every few weeks I’ll buy one, bring it home and bake it.  I’ll eat the whole damn thing.  They aren’t particularly large, and I’m very careful not to do so often.  The rest of my diet is disgustingly healthy.  It isn’t exactly the same as I remember, but my memory is probably idealized anyway.  It is similar enough, and tastes quite good in its own right.  I don’t have to live a pizza-free life anymore.

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My Other Self

Today I’m thankful that I’m spending a week surrounded by thousands of people who love the same things I do.

I’ve been stressed since half my colleagues were made redundant. I think it’s understandable. The notice came about a week before I left for a vacation/conference. I’m at the conference now. I hadn’t noticed how much I missed being around “my people”, silly as we are. The sessions are highly informative, and the location is idyllic. I’ve split my time between the conference and wandering the city. I’d forgotten how truly goofy I am when unstressed. I’m still not certain what my next move will be, but this respite is proving absolutely necessary.

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A Kick In The Rear

Half of my work unit were made redundant last week. They were offered equivalent contracts with the company taking over those operations, so it could’ve been far worse, but the rest of us are on edge. None of our immediate supervisors had any forewarning so it is difficult to take their reassurances without question. I’ve worked there for almost three years. In truth I knew it was probably time to start looking again, but now it seems like I’m running against a fluid deadline that no one really acknowledges. I’d like to move closer to my family so that’s the way I’m leaning. I’m wary.

Raising My Voice Anew

Today I’m grateful for voice/singing lessons.

I had a voice teacher for several months about five years ago.  The lessons ended because she moved about 10 hours away.  I’m a singer.  I always have been.  I’m not a great technical musician – my sight reading skills are negligible and I know very little theory.  I’m a tolerable instinctual musician, if such a thing exists.  I’ve developed an excellent ear out of necessity so that I don’t fall behind, and I can harmonize almost instantly.  I’ve been a harmony part since my voice changed and I have more fun moving around the melody than I ever did singing a piece straight.

I restarted voice lessons two months ago.  It took a couple of sessions to get our footing.  I wasn’t sure specifically what I wanted and the teacher needed to suss out my abilities.  Parts of my range are rusty.  That’s slightly frustrating, but I’m elated to be learning something again.  I truly enjoy singing in the church choir, but I needed to sing for myself as well.  Now I am.

An IPad At Westminster Abbey

Today I’m thankful for Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

In the small chance you’d missed the news, there was a royal wedding on Saturday.  A lot of positive press is being given to Bishop Michael Curry.  He is the primate of the Episcopal Church of the United States, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.

I’ve mentioned before that my relationship with religion is complex and I lean agnostic.  I sing in the choir of a local Anglican church because 1) they have the best music in town, and 2) I need to sing like I need to breathe.  Both are necessary.  I’m also attached to the Anglican forms even if I doubt the substance.

I truly respect, and honestly like, Bishop Curry.  His ecclesial history is a little like my own.  We both come from rather rambunctious evangelical traditions and have adopted the (in my HUMBLE opinion, blatant sarcasm) more graceful forms of Anglicanism.  He is learned, and gentle, and one hell of a preacher.  I’m not nostalgic for the tradition I was formed in, but every now and then you just need a tent revival.  He knows that, and brought it all the way to Westminster Abbey.  That is worth celebrating.

This video does not belong to me.  All rights belong to the rights holder(s).

Source:  BBC News

Molehills Into Mountains, And Then Back Again

Today I’m grateful for minor gripes.

I’m not generally confessional but for once this seems the best forum.  I’ve been dealing with a lot of resentment of late.  I’m a serious person by nature and lean cynical.  This really isn’t helping.  The source is a very minor part of my life and I’ve let it grow disproportionately.  The fact that I know I’m being an ungrateful turd doesn’t help me reach any resolution because I then feel guilty about having the thoughts in the first place.

I’ve got an engineer’s mind, so I’m trying to break it down and troubleshoot the issue.  I don’t know if that’s appropriate terminology for emotions but it is accurate.  It’s a tiny thing and will recess soon so I don’t even have time to gripe about it.  I’m grateful that I recognize when I’m being silly and can do something about it.