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Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning

Month

September 2007

The Glass Castle

I just finished the book The Glass Castle.  Some controversy around this book – people loved it, others hated it to the point of not being able to finish it.  Without expounding on others’ views, many of which I totally understand, I was deeply pulled into this book.  It’s an amazing story of childhood, with jaw-dropping incidents that will horrify anyone with an ounce of compassion for kids.  But mostly it’s a story about survival and forgiveness, and how the two play into one another.  I found many of things the parents did entirely unforgivable, but as I thought about it, I don’t know how I would have reacted had I been the kids.  These are, after all, your parents.  It’s hard to give up on people, especially your own flesh and blood.

But damn these people were manipulative and horrible, and irresponsible and to add insult to injury…entirely capable.  Not incapable, CAPABLE. 

Some might wonder, what is the point of reading this book?  I left the movie Babel wondering why I bothered.  What was I supposed to take away from that mess of disasters and despair?   I found this book thought provoking.  We all have issues with our parents.  If we didn’t, the world would not be in therapy and Prozac would not be a household name.  And for me, this made me think about those relationships, and how they affects me now as an adult, and what I was capable of accepting at age 20 versus now.  I am glad to say my issues are nowhere near these – not even in the same ballpark – but the thoughts remain and they are healthy questions to ask. 

I cannot and should not describe it further.  If you are curious, read it and see how you think you might react.

Thank you, Rumi

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like you are all out of sorts?  Nothing is quite right?  I had a little bit of one of those over the weekend.  Nothing tasted good, I could not identify what I wanted, could not get to sleep but was tired, everyone seemed to be walking in my way, I had a few odd interactions with people.  You know, nothing major, but little irritants.

I saw a quote this morning that put it all in perspective.  From Rumi:

If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?

Well that helps.  At this point, I should be gleaming with a brilliant shine 🙂

Rebel Rebel

I love this quote:

"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."  ~Apple Computers

Now I am not sure I am one of the crazy ones.  I would like to be, but I feel pretty plain vanilla often times.  But I am inspired, once again, by my mother.  My mother is a little crazy.  I remember once when I was about 12 we were driving somewhere.  We were in dead stopped traffic.  The car next to us was playing music SO loudly we could not hear our own radio.  Both their windows and our windows were rolled up – and it was still crazy loud.  They were in a huge car, tinted windows, some sort of smoke rolling out a wee crack in of the car.  This was not a car to fuck with.   Well, that never stopped my mom.  All of a sudden, my mom (all 5’4" and practically no pounds of her) said she was going to tell them to turn it down.  I was horrified.  I think we were in Southeast DC or something at the time (i.e. not a place to go telling people to do things if you valued your life).  She got out, walked over to the car and knocked on the window.  Window rolls down, smoke rolls out, 400 pound guy whose face I could not see because it was buried deep within a hood looks at my mom.  "Yeah?"  "Well, excuse me but as much as I like the song you are playing I am unable to hear the song I am playing because your music is too loud.  I suggest you turn it down.  Thank you."

He looks at her, pulls back the hood, watches her walk back to our car and says "Sorry, Ma’am!" and turns down his radio. 

Now, this is not exactly what Apple was getting at, but darn it my mom is a rebel and I am proud.  She is not afraid.  She lives now with my dad in a development area in VA – one of those places where they have mowed down all the trees and taken away the grass/gardens to erect condos.  At night she goes and pilfers rocks from some quarry and has been building up the garden area across from her house.  She also goes out at night and secretly re-plants trees and shrubs.  Apparently the housing association would not be pleased – they like it like it is.  But not my mom.  She takes matters into her own hands.  I also remember her refusing to say certain parts of our church service because she did not believe that Christ really died and rose and will come again.  She thought it was a bunch of bunk so during that part she held her tongue.  This sounds innocuous but keep in mind, she was sitting up front for all to see and was the preacher’s WIFE.  It was a big deal.  But she didn’t care.  That’s my mom.

I hope I have a bit of that in me. 

Eat, Pray, Love

I finished the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert the other day.  About a zillion people seem to be reading this book, and with good reason.  I loved it.  I had heard comments from friends about it before and while I was reading it such as:

"I loved the first two parts but did not like the third."
"I really liked it but am not sure I really got it."
"Quick read.  I found it funny more than anything else."

After finishing the book, I find all of these comments surprising and totally different from my read.  I felt like I knew the author.  To my friend who made the last listed comment, she is a bit younger (mid-20s) and I suspect has never had her heart broken – and god bless her.  This book was certainly written with a sense of humor but it was far from funny.  It’s not Augustine but it is certainly not a shallow funny beach read.  Gilbert wrote sentences I wish I had written, relayed her experiences in ways I found incredibly close to my own, and conveyed her personality in a way that made me want her as a friend.  The kind of friend you can talk to about life and meaning and whether or not God exists and what it means to be spiritual…all while splitting a massive plate of fries and a bottle of wine.  Or two.  A few things in particular stood out:

  • Her description of the Yogic path on page 122 is nicely put.  I especially like the part about realizing that somewhere deep inside each of us is a "supreme Self" who is eternally at peace (LOVE the supreme self!  Like a Yoda for each of us.  I shall call mine George).  She goes on to discuss how yoga is an effort to be present and a way to access that supreme self, from which we can regard ourselves and our surroundings with poise.  Well if that does not make me want to twist into poses, I don’t know what does.
  • In continuing to discuss mindfulness (page 132), she talks about how Buddhists talk about our "monkey minds"…through our non-stop thoughts, we swing from branch to branch, unharnessed and undisciplined, allowing our thoughts to rule our lives and emotions.  Our thoughts more than reality, I should say. 
  • On page 174 she talks about a stillness meditation whereby the participant stays completely still for some period of time.  No itching, no scratching, no moving.  Fascinating.  The effort is to not always and immediately react to something happening to you or around you.  But to have patience and to realize the  wisdom and truth of the phrase "this too shall pass."
  • And finally, on page 260 she discusses happiness.  She suggests that happiness is not something you fall into but something you work for.  It takes effort.  My favorite sentence of the book appears here.  In discussing happiness, she writes "You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings."

I just love that last sentence.  So if you cannot tell, I am a fan.  And yes, it is a nice beach read.  But who said the beach cannot also be a place for thoughtfulness?

Things I Hate

I read a post recently on someone’s blog that says that most bloggers are very positive in their posts.  That is nice, but let’s face it, there are lots of things to be negative about!  Here are a few:

  • Really hot humid days
  • Homophobia
  • People who are easily offended
  • Being told I HAVE to do something.  I am kind of bad about this.
  • Flat soda
  • People who are not inquisitive
  • Loud talkers
  • People who spend money on things for show.  I am sure I fall into this category myself sometimes, but I am not proud of that.
  • People who are mean to waiters and waitresses
  • Ball point pens.  I much prefer the Pilot Extra Fine Roller in black.
  • People who are quick to judge
  • Wet bathroom floors.  Gross.
  • Moving
  • Worrying about money
  • The Macarena
  • Losing things.  Makes me feel out of control.
  • When someone passes gas in an airplane or an elevator.  I mean, come on people.  Please.
  • Bible pounding pastors.  Mercy…how can I hate a pastor?!?!?  Yikes.  Well, it’s really the Bible pounding, far right wing thing I hate.
  • Tripe

This is harder than I thought.  I don’t HATE a lot of things.  Maybe that is a good thing. 

Here is a question for you…

What do you talk about at dinner parties?  I know a few people who are masters of hosting interesting and lively dinner soirees.  They are generally well-read folks who think about many things, and therefore have a lot of topics to discuss (coincidentally, they are not shy with the vino pour). 

Well I have a topic for your next dinner party.  I think prostitution should be legal.  Not for underage folks, obviously, but if you are over 18, or maybe to be conservative, 21, why should you not be allowed to profit from your body?  It’s your choice.  This assumes you are not forced into it.  But is making money from your body (arguably, an asset) THAT much different from a Wall Street trader who makes money from his/her brilliant math skills, or a writer who makes a living from what they are able to create from their mind?  It’s a skill, baby!  Is it really that different or are we just putting sex in a taboo category?

Next time you sense a lull in the conversation with friends, toss this out as a question.  If everyone freaks out as if you have just tossed a turd in the punchbowl, get new friends.  At least they should be willing to have the debate.  I am very interested in what people think.  And it’s a little more interesting than "seen any good movies lately?"

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