Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yar, follow me down, ye mateys!

2010 was the year of enlightenment.

2011 will be the year of the pirate.

Come see:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Season of Light

One of my greatest teachers has been Rachel Naomi Remen. I have never met this woman, but her words have deeply influenced me over the past two years. She is a doctor who counsels terminally ill patients, and she has written two books about her experiences. Her stories of healing, life, and spirit make me cry and laugh and marvel, and they touch a place deep inside of me. They make me want to be a better person and a fuller human being.

Rachel's grandfather was a rabbi, and though he died when she was only seven he touched her life profoundly. In "My Grandfather's Blessings" Rachel includes a story about Hannukah. Now, I am not a religious person, and as a non-Jew I don't know much about Hannukah, or really any of the Jewish holidays. I know the basic story about the Maccabees, but that's about it. However, Rachel's story about Hannukah touched me and made me understand a little bit what it's all about, so I'd like to share it with you.

At the time of this story Rachel is a little girl just learning about Hannukah. Night after night she and her grandfather light the candles together and watch as they dispel the darkness of Winter. On the final night, the seven glowing candles are so beautiful that they make Rachel ache. Her grandfather then says this:

"The story of Hannukah says that God's light burns in the darkness even without oil, and it is so. That is one of the miracles of the light. But there is more. There is a place in everyone that can carry the light...When God says 'Let There be Light,' he is speaking to us personally. He is telling us what is possible, how we might choose to live. But one candle does not do much in the darkness. God has not only given us the chance to carry the light, he has made it possible for us to kindle and strengthen the light in one another, passing the light along. This is the way that God's light will shine forever in this world."

After this, Rachel writes "After many years I have found that often we discover the place in us that carries the light only after it has become dark. Sometimes it is only in the dark that we know the value of this place. But there is a place in everyone that can carry the light."

I don't believe in a God, but I believe in Light, which may be what people mean by God anyway. Because of this story I was inspired to get a menorah and candles and celebrate this beautiful holiday in my own non-Jewish way. I wanted to take some time to remind myself of the light inside of me, the light inside of all of us, and our call to kindle the light inside of each other.

May your inner light shine warm and bright as the days get colder and darker, and may we grow to be able to see the light inside of every person.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks and other Weighty Issues

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Four days later! Whatever, I was in a food coma for the past three and couldn't be bothered to get up off the couch in order to blog. But even though the holiday has come and gone, I still want to take a moment to publicly Give Thanks for all the wonderful things this past year has brought me.

So I officially give thanks for:
Buddhist abbeys
awesome moms
awesome sisters
awesome brothers-in-law
kittens and dogs
all the amazing people in my life who teach me new things every day
did I mention super-awesome moms?

Thank you world, for all the wonderful things in you. May I live my life in gratitude for everything that comes along in each moment.

Okay, that's done! Now let's move on to other matters that have been occupying my mind.

So those of you who know me know that I am a *ahem* "big girl." By that I mean that I've been known to eat my weight in fudge, and my body reflects that penchant. It's been a pretty annoying and sometimes awful sticking point in my life. But thanks (again) to Buddhism, I'm starting to create some space around this issue, and some interesting things have come up.

For example: I rarely feel like a fatty inside. As far as I'm concerned, I am a lithe and graceful fairy princess. When I see a picture of myself or catch an unexpected glimpse in the mirror or knock something over with my ass cause I didn't give myself enough room (true story, people), I am genuinely shocked and surprised and dismayed. The reality outside just doesn't match the reality inside.

So which one is real?

I'll give you time to discuss.

Oh wait, did you think I would have an answer to this? I don't. Let's just discuss and see what we come up with. And you may think the answer is obvious, but I'm not so sure.

Just think about it.

There is one other aspect to this matter of weight that has been coming up a lot recently, and it's a little thornier and a little less esoteric. I'd like to pose a question, and you may think you know the answer, but let's work with this a little bit.

The question is: Do fat people deserve happiness?

The answer is, of course, yes, everybody deserves happiness. But I suspect many of us don't give that answer right away, or give the answer quickly while a small (or maybe large) part of us recoils in disgust and isn't so sure.

Here's why I'm currently thinking about this. Example 1: My grandmother. She has very little to do and is insane and Italian, so her newest obsession is my weight. She calls me on the phone to tell me she's worried about my weight. I don't visit her anymore because the last time I did she advanced on me (quite literally,) smacking the back of her hand with her palm and exhorting me to "starve myself if I need to." She always brings my weight up in conversations with my mother and sister. Now, this is all mostly a reflection of her insanity, but her attitude that I'm no good if I'm fat is subtly mirrored in much of our culture. Grandmom is just an extreme example because she has no internal screening process. There's a lot more to this point, but it would take a thesis to explore, and we just don't want to go there.

So let's move on to other brief examples.

My sister has always been thin and strong and beautiful, from day one. She used to have these golden ringlets when she was a toddler, and next to her in pictures I look like a dark, angry, stocky troll. This body dynamic has never changed for either of us, and though 28 years have passed I haven't yet been able to free myself from envy. So the other night my mom and I did a little clothes shopping, and my loving mom quickly started playing her favorite game, "buying things for her daughters." I happen to like this game, but my ears perked up when mom said "this would look great on your sister. She is just so beautiful." I couldn't help but read into the subtext of what she said, and has been saying for years. The subtext is that she is beautiful because she has a beautiful body, and I couldn't help but feel the cry rise up inside me "but aren't I beautiful, too?"

Frankly, in most American people's minds I'm not, because I don't have a beautifully thin body. It seems a narrow standard of beauty, but it seems to be the only one that matters. I'm sure in Fiji, where large and hairy women are celebrated, I would be a prize. But I cannot even wrap my mind around a reality in which that would be true.

I certainly don't mean to disparage my mom, because she is she is wonderful and compassionate. But she is, we all are, a product of society, and she is an example of what most people think. It happened, I didn't imagine it, and it's been happening for all of my life. And I can see it in many, many other people's eyes. What I constantly see is: "she would be so beautiful if she would just put the box of Godiva down..."

And so I am left always feeling less-than, always falling short of the goal, and I've despised myself for it for all these years. I've screamed at myself and hated myself and told myself that I am undeserving of love. All because I don't fit into a narrow perception of a concept that could be so much broader.

I am beautiful. We all are. Period. No exceptions. And maybe it's just that I'm unable to see other things that may be in their eyes that I don't notice because I'm fixated on the weight thing. That's a definite possibility here.

At any rate, I'm tired of feeling awful because I fall short in one over-hyped category of classification. I'm over it. So get on the bus, Grandma. You're either in or your out.

Next stop, happytown!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Girls Gone Wild and other Bad Decisions

So I know back in August I promised to write a multi-part series for your entertainment about my Buddhist abbey experience. It was to be aptly titled "Abbey Adventures." Well, I tried to pull something together for you, I really did, but much to my dismay it just refused to gel.

The truth is, I've been wanting to write something vastly entertaining for you all, but I haven't been able to find anything funny and amusing to write about. Life seems rough these days, and though I've been writing a lot, it's not been particularly funny. It's not the kind of stuff you post on the internet for all to see.

Until now.

I've decided to bare it all in front of all of you. Consider me an emotional Girl Gone Wild.

I don't know if this is a good idea. Lord knows I have had a lot of really stupid, I mean like really stupid ideas lately, but apparently that doesn't stop me. Why I want to do this, I can't say. I don't know why I feel the need to vomit my guts up for everyone to see (ew). But I want to, so I will.

Plus, I'm pretty sure that nobody actually reads this thing except for my girlfriends and my sister anyway, so no harm done.

Actually, I'm going to give myself a night to reconsider.

Okay, so while I reconsider I can tell you all that I finally landed a waitress job.

After two days I've learned that it pays roughly five dollars an hour.

I had such high hopes. I was going to be able to pay my bills. I was going to be able to start paying off my credit card. I was going to join the leagues of civilized human beings again. Instead, I've learned that the shame of being a thirty-year-old woman with a $5-an-hr job burns, and not like the good shame-burn of lusting after teenage werewolves.

So to recap: my life has devolved into a combination of continuous bad decisions and Girls Gone Wild.

All I need is one of those pesky front teeth knocked out and I'll be ready for welfare and a comfy but cramped trailer.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kittens, squash, and Shark Week

Greetings from Upstate New York! I am housesitting for some friends while they camp in the Adirondacks...well, I say housesitting, but really it's kitten sitting, which as far as I'm concerned is the best kind of sitting there is. Because what it better than a kitten? The answer is: NOTHING. Not a roller coaster. Not a bottle of wine (though that comes close). Not Shark Week. Nothing is better than a kitten.

Just to prove my point, here's a picture of the kitten with a giant squash.

So here I am in the country with the kitten, and I am realizing that because I've been living in metro NJ/PA for 8 months now I've forgotten a few things about upstate NY.

First of all, summer in upstate NY is a wonderful thing, really second only to a fuzzy kitten. It's at least ten degrees cooler than NJ and filled with waterfalls and swimming holes and shimmering lakes and cool evenings and warm sun.

Second of all, it is so quiet here. Like, a little unnervingly quiet. I think if my friend Brooke, who heralds from uber-metro NJ and wears things like leopard-print platforms and blue zebra-print bikinis (and looks fabulous in them, by the way) were here for a week, she'd slowly scratch her eyes out with boredom ("No pilates nearby shopping...heels sinking into grass...animals everywhere...must...plan...something...aaaaggghh!") There is just nothing here to distract you from your thoughts and the sounds of the summer critters outside, and I include roosters in that phrase.

So it's good to have your thoughts stacked neatly in a row, because if they aren't, they will be soon. There's no other option.

Today I will spend my day knitting and taking walks and petting kittens and trying to be okay with the silence and the thoughts it leaves me with. I'll probably pick some more giant squash from the giant garden and cook fresh veggies all day.

Big breath in...and aahhh.

If anyone wants to join me in this idyllic country retreat give me a call. I'll be here for a week. My only requirement is that you must love kittens. Or Shark Week. Either will work.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I've hit a new low, and oh how the shame burns.

Last night I went to see the new(ish) Twilight movie Eclipse. And man, was I excited. I had the best time. But before the movie I looked around and realized that there I was, a 30-year-old woman, sitting alone at a teen movie.

I could have been shamed into leaving. But that's not how I roll. Instead I dug deeper into my pretzel-and-nacho-cheese snack and settled in gleefully for the previews.

Oh yeah. It was good. It was just about everything I had hoped for. But unfortunately it seems to have set me back about fifteen years. I was supposed to be job-hunting (again) today, or practicing, or meditating, or any number of the useful things I've been doing with my time. Instead I woke up and found I couldn't do anything but watch the first Twilight video.

But that's not enough. My newly-young, teenaged, hormone-riddled heart demands more. I have about $50 to my name, and I just used a significant portion of it driving around town looking for the cheapest New Moon movie.

Oh, I got it. And as soon as I am done with this post (and there have been lots of mistakes cause I'm speeding though it just as fast as I can) I'm gonna watch it. And it will be good.

Oh, Jacob and Bella...I know I'm supposed to be learning through Buddhism that the pleasures of this world are not real, and that if we can give up the craving we can be truly happy. But love is so bitterly sweet. How can we not crave it?

So just for today I'm going to give in to the craving of this world. I'm going to pretend I'm a teenager and swoon over this silly story. And it's going to be awesome.

And I'm out of money, so for the love of Jeebus if somebody has the books and is willing to lend them to me CALL ME NOW.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Words To Be Read By All Internet Users Throughout the Universe Everywhere

Folks, the wedding showers may be over, but a whole new form of shower is rearing it's puffy, tulle-covered head.

That pastel-and-cake-covered thing over there is...wait for it...the baby shower.

Yes, they've started, and only nine months after the wedding showers have ended (coincidence? I think not).

But you know, I don't mind the baby showers too much, mostly because I don't have to DO anything official at them like I did for all the wedding showers. Even though most of the time is spent watching the large lady over there opening presents from people you don't know, you get to sit there and chat with your friends and drink the champagne punch. Then you eat cake and get the hell out of there. You don't have to help unwrap and catalog the presents, you don't have to come up with "games" (and I use the term loosely) for the shower attendees to play. You just sit and eat. Oh yeah, and bring your gift.

It's no day-at-the-beach-on-a-picnic-blanket-with-Matt-Damon, but there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

But seriously, I cannot wait to meet the first addition to our girlfriend group! He/she should be here within a month, and it is very exciting.

Today at the shower it was brought to my attention that certain people find this blog interesting and amusing, and I realized that I have been lax in fulfilling my duty to interest and amuse, the duty that I took on when I created Words To Be Read By All Internet Users Throughout the Universe Everywhere. I have been flirting with the idea of documenting my experience at the abbey, and I think now that I'm gonna do it! Strictly in the name of interest and amusement, of course.

So starting tomorrow I will begin a multi-part series entitled...well, I haven't gotten that far yet. But it'll be good, don't you worry.

Stay tuned! And, again, you're welcome.