Lourdes Mint's Mid-Life Miracle

Real-time memoir of the coming year (5/20/14 – 15) and the achievement of a life-long dream

Archive for the category “Progress”

What’s one small thing that you (yes, YOU) can do today? (Part 1)

IMG_2974Just thinking of my overwhelming list of to dos — the kind that follows me into the shower, spoons with me at night, and takes a bite out of my sandwich before I get a chance — and I thought about this friend of mine. I’ll call her Rochelle. She’d say, “just take one small thing off that list, one that you can do by yourself today (in under 10 minutes, say) and just do it.” Crossing that one little thing off your crushing, intimidating list steals a disproportionately large amount of its weight and bluster, according to her.

She did this for 80 days or something like that (I forget all of the details, but I think she gave herself as many days as she had items on the list) and FORBADE herself to add anything more to the list until everything on it was crossed off. For a while this was very hard for her and she’d sometimes sneak-start a new one, but then destroy it.

This idea completely freaks me out, still. No lists???

“But how’d you get all the other stuff done, the stuff that you HAD to do but that came up in the meantime, on say Day 48?” I remember asking …I still wonder.

She said she made a mental note of those things and did them too. To this day, she refuses to keep a to do list* that’s longer than four or five items and that can’t be done within a week or preferably a day. (WHAT???) What she discovered in the process of her little experiment, she said, was that her elaborate to do lists were a SHAM: not only were they a terrible form of procrastination and a really crappy reminder, right there in black and white, of how lame she was, but also they didn’t really work … for some people anyway, like me, like the old Rochelle. And — this is the best part — by relying more on her memory, she claimed that what she had to do became more integrated with who she was, her true values and priorities, in fact helped her manifest those things in her life. “I remember what I have to do because it makes sense for me to remember.” She’d also realized that so many of the things on her old to do lists were things she thought she SHOULD do versus things she really needed or wanted to do.

Today Rochelle is one of the most productive and successful people I know personally AND she’s living and making a living in line w/ her own ideas of what’s important. She talks a lot less than she used to, isn’t as twitchy either, seems happier, drinks less, but she’s still Rochelle. And this reminds me of one last thing she said about the old lists: she felt that they, along with other old habits, were like so many old friends who’d provided her comfort over the years, never let her down, were always there for her — and that for a long time, she equated getting rid of these habits with a sort of betrayal … not only of these friends but of a self that she’d formed in their trusted company. But they had become less comfortable for her over time (more on this later, maybe) and by saying goodbye to them, she actually felt more like herself, her true self, than she had in years.

So right now I’ve picked my thing, so small but slightly incriminating in my not having done it, and I hereby commit to getting it done today, crossing it off my list. Not sure yet whether I’ll commit to the rest of the plan.

Either way, I’ll report back later on my success.


*As opposed to a grocery list or an action/implementation plan in list form, in which each item is the next step in a sequence of steps for getting X done


Your “plans” will never go as planned if …

Your “plans” will never go as planned if you make no plans. I really don’t like TOO MUCH of this kind of talk, coming out of my mouth or going into my ears, buzzing around in my mind, but today it fits. This week, this month, this year — I could go on — it FITS! Although it’s not really that I had no plans as much, I think, as that I might not have shared them best with the people who needed to know them most …

But I don’t want to hear, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I don’t want to hear about the importance of spontaneity, etc. I have a PhD in that. Yes, I’m all for spontaneity, but to go well, even it benefits from a plan — in fact, I don’t think it can’t truly exist in the absence of a good plan. Without one to derail or to bust yourself out of, what is spontaneity really except doing something you feel like doing pretty close to the time you first thought of doing it? (No big deal.)

And how about free-wheeling? Love IT. (If my doctorate was in Spontaneity, my dissertation was on Free-wheeling.) But there too: you’ve gotta have that wheel in order to pull it off. And historically there’s not much that’s a bigger deal than the wheel when it comes to forward motion, progress, etc. At this very moment, I can’t think of a single thing. But maybe that’s because of where I am today, this week, this month, this year.

Anyway, look at this splendid young woman. I’ll bet she has herself a plan. Wheels too!


Found on inked-dollz.blogspot.jp

“Drafts” are the new “so?”



[Please excuse me for choosing my own blog. Felt like something I needed to do today.]

*I have 57 drafts and only 38 (39 now, actually) “published” … things. So? What is a published thing anyway, for many of us, but a draft that has somehow tripped the system, slipped through our over-zealous, ultra-self-censoring, hyper-critical inner critic? Anyway, here’s one that slipped through.


38 published, 57 drafts, and my blog’s goal’s

“Due date” has gone by, so by, that I

No longer see clearly the [X] on the horizon. (That dot that was my goal.)


But I look often. Things I’ve seen:

A fallen tree, an empty house, a man walking, hands in pockets, and a

Windmill, still. Once, I saw a fox with a rabbit in its mouth!

That was my favorite.


Today, though, I don’t know. Can’t make it out.

But, oh!, I know it just moved … closer no less. Or was it me, toward it? (Ha! Noooo.)

I’ve been moving lots lately but not in that direction. I’ve been wishing lots too that it —  my goal, that dot — would come to me, for me, at me,

Any way it wants, with or without rabbit. I’ll take it! But I know. I know. I’ve always known.


And I’m actually accepting the “failure,” for now, have taken my hands from the throat of she who failed. (I need her: me.)

And with that grip loosened, I see her becoming beauty-full again, feel laughter pushing up through her throat (words to follow?), eyes opening wide once more, synapses (many? most? all?) firing up, firing one another up,

Stretching out to meet, connect, grab hold, and go. Someplace new. Again and again!


So I’ll stop looking for that leaf that wasn’t loosed when fall came early this year, a guest of spring and now summer and soon to be master of the house.

The sun has said go ahead: stop. God, I’ve heard, likes (loves) me after all — no matter what I say or (don’t) do. I hear someone, many, saying, “rest.”

And yet: that dot, my goal. Can’t wash the (imagined) taste of rabbit from my mouth.

And yet, there was nothing here before and now:

38 published, 57 drafts, and me.

We’re still here. I have my crown.



“Bittersweet symphony” for sure

IMG_0022My blog ending is pending … but our move-out date is not extending! So much to do, so best to start with first things first. Right? Sure.

Somehow I couldn’t resist a certain task that I’m sure could have waited or not been done at all. We’ve accumulated many “outdoor things” during our five years here — rocks, twigs, other things found on walks and brought home, which we’ve then attempted to domesticate in some manner or another. And as much as each meant to us at the time, we canNOT take ALL of them with us. We could toss them over the fence into the forest, home to many of them anyway, or scatter them in the garden. Whatever. But no. They were gathered too lovingly, I was thinking, for us to part w/ them so unceremoniously. We’d have to sort them, choose our favorites, let the rest go. (We’ve got a sort of have a system going.) I told myself also that we’d treat this homely little task with as much respect as we’ve shown items w/ more obvious value or utility; I’d make it something fun for Elliot (the main gatherer of the outdoor things, after all), not to mention a positive learning experience, right? We make room for the future by letting go of the past, right? Right. In the end, though, I’m pretty sure this guy here (w/ the bone) got the most out of the whole process, aside from me …

Elliot didn’t seem to give a hoot what stayed or went, it turned out (pang), but gave me “permission” to do what needed to be done w/ the outdoor things, which I might have balked at if I’d had more energy and didn’t secretly covet the idea of full creative control — things being what they are now. When I was done, Elliot stared at my creation, blankly, clearly nonplussed, finally mustered a lukewarm “cool…” and was off again in a flash (double-pang). That’s his foot there!IMG_0033

It’s hard to know what to make of Elliot’s easy way with belongings. Does he have so much that he doesn’t truly value any one thing for very long? Probably there’s some of that there, even though he has nowhere near what I’ve seen at some of his friends’ houses. Is he too young to fully appreciate the sweetness of the memories I’ve attached to these objects? Yes, again, probably so — which seems as it should be. Has he been lucky enough NOT to inherit whatever gene it is that predisposes my father and me (and my grandmother before us) to holding on a little too long to a little too much? Honestly, I hope so. Does he totally understand that we’re really moving? That I kind of doubt, and this is one of the reasons we’ve been pushing so hard to do it this year, before second grade, rather than next — the younger kids are, the easier the transition is supposed to be for them.

But there is also just this: that the little boy who wanted so much to bring these things into the house (despite my labeling them “outdoor things,” which was more because I hoped he wouldn’t be like me with my boxes of rocks and such), and who finally got his way (my way, anyway), is changing. Elliot still brings home a stick or rock every now and then, but it has to be pretty special — either very unusual (e.g., a twig resembling a snake or a wizard’s wand) or sparkly enough to hint at potential real-world value (“Could this rock be a real diamond if we shined it up?”). And he is now ready to cash in the baby teeth he’s accumulated (five to date) after having kept them like treasures for months and months (I think he was more creeped out by the idea of the Tooth Fairy than he was uninterested in money). Now, he’s willing risk a visit from the Tooth Fairy (even though I never could explain to him why she wanted kids’ baby teeth) if it means he can buy a Lego Legends of Chima Mammoth — he almost has enough money. A tooth or two, he figures, should do the trick.

So anyway, after Elliot left the scene, I sat and admired our collection, my work, for quite a while, remembering the stories behind some of the objects we’d gathered together. I felt good, too, about the odd items I’d interspersed with the outdoor things, some that were handmade and others that just seemed to fit. The wooded back yard looks especially beautiful this time of year, but I turned my back on it, not wanting to fall under its spell again (the main reason we chose this house), OR maybe not wanting to see — in the context of it — this strange thing I’d chosen to do with my limited time/energy before the move. Anyway, after disassembling the arrangement, I whittled the collection down to what would fit on a single piece of paper. I was quite pleased w/ myself, until later I found several more mini-collections outdoor things stowed here and there. I threw up my hands! That’s it, I told myself in frustration: for now, I’m all about packing, a PACKING machine.

The next day I made an ear (out of sculpy, a type of clay) for a decorative wooden horse that lost one in a bad fall during our last move — w/ a little paint, he will be restored to his original beauty. But that will have to wait. Today, for real, I’m a PACKING machine. No more silliness. The time for “purposeless” acts is over, temporarily — at least according to me, now, at this moment in time.


Goodbye for now — but WAIT, WAIT, not yet!

Well, here’s a perfect ending to a perfect (in its own way) experience here on WordPress.com.


In my haste, I posted my blog’s farewell a bit prematurely last night, trying to meet my self-imposed deadline. And then today, after I thought I’d retracted it to give it the attention I saw it needed and felt it deserved, I accidentally republished (or reposted?) what I thought were “just drafts” throughout the day.

Lourdes Mint (that vaporous image below) almost seems to thiIMG_1776_1 copynk it’s funny, or at least she’s not at all embarrassed about it. Look at her! Pen names can be so disappointing, really, so much the opposite of what you thought they might be. Lesson learned.

But we, I, hope you’ll give the finished work a look when it’s done — tomorrow, I hope. What a year this has been! Thanks!

Trouble with Homonyms: Exorcise versus Exercise

ScreamWriteI’ve always had some trouble w/ homonyms, not those that make people think you don’t really don’t know what you’re doing (e.g., their vs. they’re vs. there), but this kind: “I went to the PEEK of the mountain to take a PEAK.” I solved the problem in this particular instance by linking the two eyes you might use to peek with to the two e’s in peek. (Please don’t tell me I still have it wrong…)

Anyway, lately my Writing has taken a turn. If you’ve read my About, or you can see what I see when I look at my blog (still not clear on who sees what), you know that I have very little time left to reach this blog’s goal. And I think trouble with homonyms may be at the bottom of it — because if something’s wrong with your words, then something’s wrong with your world. The two can’t be separated, I don’t think, because they are the same thing, SAME THING. No difference. And I’m 100% sure of this. No, I KNOW it. So if you’ve got two words switched around in your head, well, then ….

I think there’s a fine line between exorcising your demons and exercising them. And while I never set out to do either in this blog, I do think somewhere along the way, I started exercising something that maybe needed exorcising. And then at some point, I think those demons started using my blog as their gym or even a sort of personal trainer. And now my demons are all big and buff and SWAGGERING about, sipping their electrolyte-infused, colorful beverages and admiring themselves and, secretly, one another in the mirrors I’ve set up all around them. They used to be so easy to fold-up and stow-away… And even though I never forgot about them, I felt they were safely confined/contained, when really NOW I think it was the opposite. “We’ve got this one in the bag,” I can hear them saying just before going on an extended vacation.

As far as most of my demons go, though, they are pretty unremarkable — the usual stuff. The subset I’d call my writing demons, the ones that cause the most trouble here, are also of the garden variety, for the most part. They include the ones that yawn loudly while I read something I’ve written back to myself, the ones that slip in little errors or cliches here and there to remind me that I’m not a natural, the ones that whisper in my ear, “If you were really meant to do this, you’d find the time … even now,” the ones that tell me nothing will ever come of my writing. But none of these bother me all that much because they’re so generic. I’ve heard more than enough about them in every book on writing I’ve ever read ,,, and I couldn’t seem to get enough of these in my late 20s and 30s. Because these demons don’t seem to know anything specifically about me at all, beyond that I aspire to become a successful writer, I can and do ignore them (for the most part).

The writing demons that get to me are those that seem to have crafted themselves, piece by piece, out of certain specifics from my own life, past and present, that the writer in me cannot really stand to admit. And over time, these snippets from page after page of the memoir I’ll never write (because it cannot lead, in any version of the truth that I can imagine or abide, to my becoming a successful writer) have morphed, in the soggy backwoods of my brain, into the absolute worst of the big and buff and SWAGGERING demons who’ve been exercising in my blog, my mind, my life. You might not see them if you didn’t know what to look for, but I know they’re there and they know I know they’re there and am hoping I can keep them hidden, which of course is exactly how they get their power. My unwriterly life, the shame or doubt it causes me, pumps them like nothing else.

Well, no more. I’m calling (at least a few of) them out now.

Immundus spiritus #1: Skin, as in “by the skin of [my] teeth,” as in that’s how I passed high school. You like to replay the memory of when I ran up to my English teacher on graduation day and whispered in her ear, “Well, do I get a diploma today?” and she said, “Yes, Miss, but you’re passing by the skin of your teeth,” and I hugged her till she smiled — only hearing “yes,” not really understanding what the rest meant, not really giving a shit. I just had to get across that stage so I could go to Ocean City with my friends. I’d worry later about how to get out of going to college or pass it, too, by the skin of my teeth. But anyway, we all know how that turned out. (Not so bad…)

Immundus spiritus #2: Remy, you like to remind me about how I had to take remedial reading during my first year of college and how I fell asleep in the front row, just exactly like a narcoleptic, during every single class. You point out how I am still a slow reader and take a long time to really grasp what I’ve read. You’ve pretended to comfort me, insisting that I shouldn’t feel too bad given that English is not my first language. (But it is.) You used to think it was funny to highlight entire pages of text or underline words like “and” and “the” and place question marks in margins. I used to think it was funny, too …

Immundus spiritus #3: Space, you’ve adopted my high school nickname “to keep it alive” because you feel it was a mistake for me to let it go. “It just fits,” you tell me, assuring me it’s more endearing than offensive. “Plus,” you say, “it gives people a heads up about what they can expect from you.” That way, your logic goes, no one’s surprised when I can’t answer the question because I wasn’t listening, I show up with my shirt on inside out, or I’m not there at all because of a(nother) “Google calendar sync mis-hap” thing or because I have no idea where my keys are. “Please don’t take this the wrong way,” you’ve said recently, “but couldn’t one argue that mindfulness and attention to detail are the very soul of art, including writing, just … for example?” Space, you’ll never grow tired of gathering evidence to support your position on the old nickname/me/any of this. And, indeed, there will likely always be plenty of evidence to gather. With better credentials, you’ve pointed out, I could have passed for the absent-minded professor type, but we both agree it’s a little late for that. But then, it’s late period. And here I am. (You might mention that to Remy, by the way.)    

Immundus spiritus #4: Eff, you like to say that’s short for “Effort” — you think it’s “tremendous” how hard I try. But what you really like talking about is all the Fs I’ve gotten on papers, especially when I was just starting out in college. “No one understood what you were trying to say. That’s what it was,” you’ve said. And “it wasn’t that the papers were so BAD,” you’ve explained, “they were just incomprehensible … to your reader. That’s all.” And this probably has something to do with the fact that I had only just come to America around that time (right?) and was still learning the language, you’ve generously proposed. “Yes,” I now know to say … “That was probably the reason.” You like to compliment me then, saying I could almost pass as a native speaker now. I always thank you in so many words. And you say, “de nada,” or some such, reminding me at every opportunity that there’s no language you don’t know. How are you doing at understanding me now: not just what I’m saying, but what it means? Take your time.

Immundus spiritus #5: 1999 (as in “Tonight we’re going to party like it’s …” ), you are in awe of my history of partying and doing all sorts of stupid and inappropriate shit. You’ve said that if my penchant for festivity and fun had only (HAD ONLY) been coupled with a strong creative spirit and robust artistic discipline, I might have been able to parlay some of my more interesting but misguided adventures into something worthy: art … redemption, even. “But at least you’re not one of those people who lied on their death bed and said, ‘gee, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, been so serious, etc., … wish I’d had more fun.'” I used to ask why you always talk about me in the past tense. You’d avert your eyes, pretend to blush. But now I just say, “good point.” You’re in awe of the way I’ve finally come around.

Immundus spiritus #6: ADD-y (or ADHD-y, as you prefer, because look at you go!!!), you are a skinny, crazy, speed demon, you are! You’re new around here and so I’m not really sure what I think about you. For now, I just want to see you and Immundus spiritus #3 fight.

Immundus spiritus #7: Just-Weird, you are the worst, the damned-est, of them all. You and Eff like to work out together, I’ve noticed. But you are clear with me that you understand: my problem with words and the world they make, as well as the true basis of my fear that I won’t, finally, be able to connect (and there is “only connect”), is not that I am still learning the language or have some kind of cognitive or behavioral issue, but that — even though I may look, from across the soccer field anyway, like a soccer mom— I’m terrified that I’m just weird and that what I have to say is also just weird, that it doesn’t and won’t connect with people, not in the way they want to connect, not in the places where they hope to find connection. You snort at my blog and its goal, at my odd little stories/vignettes, essays, and drawings, etc. You snort at me. But you don’t snort at what’s coming … rising up, tsunami-like, between all of you and me. You just do another rep. To that I say, good idea! Keep at it!

Maybe give the others “heads up” too.

Happy Mother’s Day — a day for happy mothers? a happy day for mothers?

Whichever? BOTH!

My mother’s day present is TIME to write!!!

(followed by dinner w/ my family)

Can’t wait. See you later today.IMG_9480

Float: A Love Story (or “Scientists Prove that Atheists May Not Exist…”)

[Note: I didn’t post at all in February, but started many, many stories that I didn’t finish, and TRIED not to think about my blog’s goal, the deadline for which is fast approaching. The Lourdes Mint who is not writing is usually not reading either, and the whole writing/reading thing SEEMS to go dormant, BUT REALLY it funnels itself, tornado-like, into a poltergeist-ish presence here — one that leaves water running, burns food, compulsively engages in what I’m going to go ahead and call performance art (not a euphemism for anything too far off from that, just so you know), and enthusiastically takes on new projects/commitments even when I don’t have time enough for the ones I’ve already got.

Speaking of which, I just finished helping a friend “proofread” his new book, which I shouldn’t have done probably (no more editing, etc., for me, remember?), but the good thing was that in doing it, I got bitten so good and hard by the word bug that here I finally am again! And, on my way here, I found this article* (kind of interesting) and it reminded me of a conversation that I overheard once in a cafe, next to a hot springs in (a place resembling, on this particular morning) Iceland. Anyway, here’s my “story”…]

Float: A Love Story

“ZZ,” I’ll call him, is a pale, thin-lipped guy who looks like he spends most of his time in a dark room, illuminated only by a computer, living on nothing but coffee and Ho-Hos. He has a beard so huge it looks (and smells, I’m guessing), from where I’m sitting, as though it has its very own ecosystem (the kind that would include plenty of marsupials, mushrooms, and marshy bogs).

“‘Scientists prove that atheists may not exist…’? I don’t understand how one could possibly prove this,” ZZ huffs. “No, actually, what I don’t understand is why one would care to take on such a silly endeavor. Am I really that scary? What, are they bored w/ cancer and AIDS? Pathetic. It makes no sense. I mean, why/how can one … um…?”

He takes an angry sip of his hot frothy whatever and looks at the woman across from him, whom I can only see from the back and who is huddled over her plate, appearing as though she’s just taken a huge bite of something delicious. I crane my neck to try to see what she’s ordered … I’m sill trying to decide.

ZZ continues: “Well, what else do you remember about it, the article?”

Chewing, chewing, chewing, the woman—whom I’ll call “Chortles”—holds up a “hold-on-a-second” finger. ZZ glares at the top of her head, tilted down toward the plate. He begins to yawn (too deeply, too loudly, I think), and blink (too fast, I think), and stroke his beard (once is way more than enough, I think — and then … oh, I cannot hold off much longer on eating … getting to the springs).

I see he is feeling alone, though, and almost jealous of the food on Chortles’ plate, of how happy it makes her (I am too).

“Okay then, what did you say the article was called, again?” ZZ picks up his iPhone, peering into its glassy face through thick, black 1970s “smart person/atheist” glasses. “Hello? [to her] Can I get a web address, or URL, maybe?”

Chortles chortles and, with what sounds like a full mouth, says something about, “key words” and how “no one really needs web addresses” anymore. (And what’s a URL, again?)

ZZ seems pretending not to hear, keeps poking away at his phone. “No access, still? Here? Oh, you!” he hisses at the slick black thing in his hand. “Bastard whelp! Pathetic.”

He sets it down, gently, and begins to examine his hand as though it has just now, at this very moment, appeared. He then looks incredulously at Chortles, who is still chewing, from what I can see—no wonder given that she’s taken another bite or five while ZZ was laying-in to his phone.

Watching her gobbling away, he almost smiles, but also sighs loudly and turns his attention to the panoramic window that runs the length of the entire east wall of the place—furrowing his brow and slowly shaking his head at the sight of the hot-springers. Some are blissing out, others are frolicking, in the pre-dawn, orange-ish glow.

It’s as though they are, in their very being—through either their in-your-face contentedness or their “glad animal movements”—speaking directly to ZZ in some strange language he’s unable understand. And it’s as though he desperately wishes to communicate this disconnect to them, to everyone! The furrowing and shaking continue, becoming more and more pronounced.

“No sense at all … the article, I mean!” he says suddenly, sharply, and abruptly returns his gaze to Chortles, who looks up at him finally and vaguely nods before returning her attention to her plate. She’s slowing down.

“None!” ZZ goes on. “And sense is pretty much my number one criterion—no, my only requirement—when it comes to choosing to give something another moment more of my attention. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” He strokes his beard again, gifting it a little tug this time. “Life really is too short, as they say.”

“Too short for what?” asks Chortles, taking a sip of her steamy beverage as she looks out at the springs. “Oh!” She points toward toward the mountain. “See this? The sun is just about to rise… .”

ZZ gives the view a cursory glance. “Hmmmm, yes, I see.” He turns to her again, pauses. “What did you think of it, the article?” he asks, his thin lips sporting a bit of foam.

Chortles chortles again and sort of shrugs.

“Huh! She laughs,” is all ZZ says as he watches her finish up. He’s hungry, starving, I’m guessing by the looks of him, but he does not seem aware of it … or at least not ready or willing to do anything about it.

Then, suddenly, the first rays of sun appear at the ridge of the deep purple mountain beyond the body of water, long fingers of pure light reaching up, over, and into the ambient glow already there. But I’m so hungry…

“See! I knew…,” says Chortles, beaming, I imagine. ZZ smiles a little, picks at the last bit of her food—says, “Indeed!”

Indeed?! Puh! Of course that’s what he’d say, I think. My food cannot come soon enough… .” But suddenly it’s there, my food—same thing as Chortles’, whose non-communicativeness all this time suddenly makes perfect sense. I’m digging in, watching too as the glow is overcome.

“I’m here now,” the sun says to its pale understudy. “You can lay back, now, relax.”

These words, this thought … strange … come into my mind as I behold the sight along with everyone out in the water and all of us inside too, even the people who work there, even Chortles, even ZZ. And all is almost perfectly quiet until a metal utensil falls to the ground.

“Actually, you know, it is funny,” ZZ says, evidently still thinking of Chortles’ latest non-response (and second chortle) to his desperate plea. “Actually, yours is the perfect response.” ZZ laughs too now, but to me it has plastic, accidental-sounding quality to it, like another utensil, a spork—I’m picturing—falling to the ground.

“Yes, I really did see it as kind of funny,” replies Chortles absently, after she’s tossed her napkin on the plate. “That’s all, really. Now let’s go float, my lamb. That’s what we’re here for, right?”

ZZ smiles at her, even though she’s not looking at him—now standing up, now sweeping crumbs from her front, now grabbing their large woven bag.

“Float, right… Have we paid?” ZZ asks Chortles, beginning to clear the table.

Chortles confirms (“Yup!”), as she pats him on the part of his pants where a butt should have been. He moves slowly, seemingly unsure of where he’s going. “I miss the kids,” he says.

Chortles grabs his shoulder, gently redirecting him. “Me too,” she says and points to the bin near the trash can. “Over there.”

And/but as they walk out, I can hear ZZ winding up again.

“Who wrote it, though? Can you give me anything there? Man, woman? Young, old? American? Anything? … Credentials?”

The door shuts behind them and I can no longer hear what they’re saying, but watch them as lay out their blanket together and then begin, also together, to braid ZZ’s beard or do some equally weird thing to the beast with swift, perfectly coordinated movements. And … I’m done, I decide, thank you—clearing my own table now.

Out on the bank, I move close enough to smell the springs and begin feeling their effect, something, as I lay out my blanket … and as ZZ and Chortles approach the water’s edge.

I am close enough, too, to see how full of doubt ZZ is, it seems, but also how free from fear — as Chortles takes him by the hand and leads him into the shimmering water, which looks almost pinkish-blue in this light.

A little later, I’m surprised, but then not, to see which of the two of them blisses out and which frolicks …

** THE END **

 *Here’s the article: http://www.science20.com/writer_on_the_edge/blog/scientists_discover_that_atheists_might_not_exist_and_thats_not_a_joke-139982

And here, also, are the lyrics from “May It Always Be,” by Bonnie Prince Billy, one of my favorite singer/songwriters—that’s him in the pic, standing in for ZZ. Hate to overload this entry, but I never know when another month might fly by with no post … and because this story/memory reminds of this song.

I’ve been with you for a fairly long time,
May I call you, may I call you, may I call you mine?

And you are near, an’ been with me,
May it always, may it always, may it always be,

Please don’t leave my side, remember I love you,
None of what I have done wrong was really done against you,

If you love me and I’m weak, then weaker you must love me more,
To reinforce what’s also strong, and all the love we have in store,

By example you showed me, living’s alright,
Stay here with me, stay here with me, stay with me tonight,

And come with me when I go to the bedroom,
And we’ll play bride, and we’ll play bride, and we’ll play bride and groom,

If you had not been born you know,
What would I? What would I be then?

I would not have strength to grow,
And be counted, and be counted among men.

Please don’t leave my side, remember I love you,
None of what I have done wrong was really done against you,

If you love me and I’m weak, then weaker you must love me more,
To reinforce what’s also strong, and all the love we have in store,

And in the morning we’ll wrestle and ruin our stomachs with coffee,
Won’t we be, won’t we be, won’t be happy?

We will rise in anger, love and ardor,
Shining, shining, shimmering in loves armor.

[You can hear a good version on YouTube: “Bonnie Prince Billy – May It Always Be (Live in London)”]

[**Photo: Bonnie Prince Billy at Sydney Opera House (2006); read more at http://www.fasterlouder.com.au%5D


“Strategy” is a word like “acceptance” and “surrender” to me (along w/ some others I’d rather not mention, such as goodness [as in virtue, morality] and loyalty, success, happiness), in that I don’t feel I really understand it. I mean, I understand it on an intellectual level, in terms of its simplest “denotation.” But on a practical, day-to-day level, the whole me doesn’t really get it, can’t get inside it, use it w/ confidence, LIVE it — the word or the thing itself.

I look such words up sometimes (often), even though I know, I must know, pretty much exactly what I’ll read there — maybe even more. But “Strategy” and some of the others remain opaque, words that don’t talk to me (that’s how it feels). A neighbor likes to tell his kids, “Complaining isn’t a strategy.” I get that. I agree with it. But it’s not the kind of thing I’d say myself, or even think, because I’m not him and I don’t think or talk like that … oh, and also, I don’t really understand it. I’m more of a “winger,” which can be a beautiful thing when it works out, but oh when it doesn’t, watch out! No, I don’t seem to have some strategies or, if I do, I’m not aware of what they are or how to work them exactly. And my life is telling me I need to figure this out.

To me, accomplishing goals has always gone something like this — decide what I want or realize what I must do, PONDER and mull and discuss, wait till the last minute, and then:

1. Position the right amount of dynamite just so;

2. Light that match; and

3. BAM! (Done.)

4. Pick up the pieces later.

5. Never look back.

6. Yay! Party time.

(Best not to make too big a deal about things we’ve done right, esp. when we are not sure HOW we’ve done them. And at any minute, our successes MAY be revealed as flukes anyway, and … and … I know how all of this sounds.)

A while back, I was explaining to my six-year-old kid that he needs a “strategy” for how to handle situation X in case it arises again. What’s a strategy? (I asked. Not him.) “Strategy, yes. Well … a strategy will help you, uhhh. It’s a plan … that you follow … and it, um…” That’s what got me thinking about it, looking it up, etc., again.

The fact is I have bad feelings about the word. And I realize I have bad feelings about all of these words, some more than others, because they seem to be bandied about in a world that is basically foreign to mine, to roll easily off the tongues of people I may admire but know I can never truly “let my hair down” with — people who: go to bed at a reasonable time; dream sweet dreams; wake fresh, clear-headed; do what they’re f_cking supposed to do (and MORE) in a timely manner — check(!), check(!), and check(!); manage their readily manageable emotions consistently; make “good choices” consistently, w/ no big push-back from appetites/desires/yearnings/leanings that are immoderate, unwholesome, unusual — or how about abstruse? (There’s a word I’m sure I haven’t used since college, but I do know that lonesome feeling of not really being able to explain what exactly it is I’m toiling away at or why.) And back to these people, surprise!!!! They are not only successful (in the simplest AND MOST IMPORTANT sense of the word: they achieve what they set out to do) but also seem/appear to FEEL successful, competent, confident, etc. And this feeling, over time, this attitude, must be worth so much more than any of their individual accomplishments. That’s what I’m thinking about these people.

These people. I want to say, I’d love to say: well, they’re just like that, a different type of person all together, you know? They’re not like me … they’re less complicated, they had an easier transition into adulthood, had more straightforward expectations or aspirations, contain more of that salt of this earth, etc. But now I’m thinking that the real difference, at least one of them, is that these people had/have some seriously handy strategies — not just things they WANT and DESIRE and LONG FOR. But plans about how they would go about accomplishing/getting (some, even one, of) these things, given their resources and the way life goes. And these good, workable plans — I’m betting, based on such people I’ve known well — are not especially CLEVER or CRAFTY, connotations of Strategy that make it too easy for me (and my like) to disassociate from. Such plans are not overly elaborate or flashy, NOR are they rigid, more just “get the job done” kinds of plans. The STRATEGIC people I’m thinking of haven’t wed themselves to a perfectly defined GOAL (which seems to go against much of the popular wisdom re: goal-setting/achieving [e.g., so-called SMART goals]) or to any of the STEPS toward that goal, but seem to just sort of get moving — as the famous quote goes — in the direction of their dreams.

That “in the direction” part is so important, and I’ve always known that, glommed on to that, though I was never sure why. Now I think it’s because I understood/believed it on some level. We don’t have to work out all the details ABOUT ANYTHING in order to make a move. We ALSO don’t have to be completely okay with ourselves, our lives, others in our lives … the world — any of it — before we make a move. If we wait for the conditions to be just right, optimal, conducive, whatever, then IT, whatever it is, will NEVER, ever happen. And yet I, at least, continue to contrive diagrams, frameworks, flow charts, tables, algorithms, etc., to help guide me, to delineate the precise alchemy of transformation, to relieve me of the burden of a given moment’s dilemma/decision (all the while knowing full-well that I will abide, adhere to, follow nothing [or very little] that doesn’t suit me exquisitely in that very moment).

Now, I’m thinking about something my friend Rachel said recently about successful (or was it happy? content? effectual?) people, something about how people who do well (we’ll say) generally have some sort of Plan B, or maybe several Plans B: acceptable alternatives to the ideal scenario, most hoped-for outcome, fondest dream. And this led me to read up on Strategy yet again, in all sorts of contexts. Even though the explanations still seem vague and sort of all-over-the-place to me, the words/concepts that keep popping up are: principle, policy, doctrine, etc. You might think: “ugh.” But really the idea, which to me is way beyond CRAFTY/CLEVER, is that you build a realistic plan — considering your present resources, circumstances, etc. — that keeps you as close to your North Star (the thing upon which you place highest value) as possible while helping you move in the direction of your dreams/goals/whatever. And it’s precisely this emphasis on one’s North Star, this most cherished thing (versus desired end result), that makes strategy strategic: it keeps your plan weather-proof, makes it hardy, and helps you stay on track, reminding you why you keep trying to do what you’re trying to do even when it seems impossible, that nothing seems to be going right, etc.

I think I finally get it. I like it. And I’ve long recognized anyway that “trying to figure it all out first” is a pretty obvious form of procrastination — putting off trying, putting off failing, putting off succeeding, putting off all of it. The hard part is this North Star business (which is how I summed up “guiding principle, policy, etc.,” probably not the most helpful way for me to think of it, given me). But I do think, even with this significant reservation, that I get Strategy well enough to work it. It’s:

  • Being willing to take action THAT FEELS IN LINE W/ MY DESIRED OUTCOME … with no assurances or supports (via solid track record or super-specific plan or goal); AND
  • Putting more of the planning-energy into what I’m going to do to stay on track when all kinds of sh_t doesn’t go my way (because THAT’s a given AND bitching, moaning, etc., has done nothing to help in the past) than into exactly what steps I’m going to take to move forward; AND
  • Considering Plans B (wow… how very novel, this one); AND finally
  • Figuring out/admitting to myself, and possibly others, what my “North Star” is… and then fully accepting/surrendering to it, letting it take its rightful place in my sometimes crazy, often chaotic life.

I’m glad I wrote this (though I’m sure it’s hell to read) because it helped me think through something important, but I doubt I’ll write anything like this again in my five more months of blogging. Who knows, though — whatever I think I need, I’ll do. I have learned a lot here, even when I haven’t commented or been commented on, liked or been liked. YES, even with all I’ve started but haven’t finished, haven’t posted, etc., I’m motivated to keep trudging along. I’m also inspired, so often dazzled, by what I see here in your blogs. And although I don’t think I’m a born blogger, I do think I’ll reach my blog’s goal.

Can not stomach … “prettying” up your piece(s) of sh_t anymore — after 17 years, NO MORE “COPY EDITING” 4 me (finally came up with a New Year’s resolution :))

I am done “WORKING MY MAGIC*” on your UGLY, f_cked up writing. I’m done “copy editing” (aka rewriting, as is often the case) your nonsense. Done pissing you off w/ perfectly sane questions about the CRAZY SH_T YOU put on paper, trying to make it UNDERSTANDABLE (oh, and maybe relevant?) to your intended audience and ALSO done explaining to you the concept of “your intended audience.” I understand that you’re good at what you do, that you’ve done good, important work in the real world**, but many of you have not learned (to bother) to communicate that work to others, a good many of whom (in our field) have an essentially life-or-death need to know. How is that OK? Well, it’s not. It’s an honest-to-gawd travesty, truly. And I at least am done trying to bridge that gap myself, a compulsion that has left me frustrated, exhausted, and worse: feeling like a complete Olive Oyl (i.e., one incapable of learning her lesson).

(In the scene that always flashes across my mind, I recall Olive’s undignified yelping — “Oh, oh dear! Help!!! Oh dear! Popeye!? Somebody!? Anybody!” — as her legs stretch to two or three times their “normal” length, while the space between the dock that she has one enormous foot on and the boat that she has the other on widens. I can’t find the exact image, but this one from “Seasin’s Greetinks” works just as well. See her face? The panic? The ridiculous predicament she’s gotten herself into, AGAIN? Yes, well that’s me, pretty much exactly, as I “copy edit” your crap, which I realize is really not your fault. But still, I’m done.)6925729252_f845e70457

Perhaps you believe that the universe of your work exists somewhere out there, beyond your words, with all its meaning (YOUR meaning) intact. And so if your writing comes close enough to what you want to get across, readers will be able to make it the rest of the way on their own, but I think you’re wrong. I know that even the most motivated readers will not discover your meaning because it’s not there. You have not worked it out for yourself. You have not made the case. You have not communicated. You have not finished the job. And I don’t want to help you fake it anymore with superficial fixes, clever headings, colorful graphics that mean ZERO, etc. — especially when the writing still sucks. Done, I say!

And I feel better now that I’ve realized, or rather admitted, this all to myself. You’ll feel better too, I’m sure, when I STOP asking you to clarify this or that, STOP pushing you to address the gaping holes in your argument, to square your claims w/ the supporting data, etc. I’m not going to panic — just as you’re not. It is, after all, just a New Year’s resolution and you know how they go, but still — here it is for now: no more “copy editing” for me as of January 2015. I like it! I like it a lot! And if I stick with it, it’s really no big deal for you. There are hordes of “copy editors” ready and willing to give you exactly what you want, much better than I ever could. And there are others like me, too, who’d be more than happy to stick it to you when you really need it, when you’re open to it, whatever. I’m done, though, I really do hope…

Yes, this is exactly what I would like for myself (a small but critical part of it anyway) for reasons very similar to those of anyone who makes a resolution. I think by NOT COPY EDITING your crap, I will —

** Be a better — yes, BETTER — person AND parent AND spouse AND friend AND citizen

** Be happier AND more attractive AND healthier AND smarter (or, re: this last one, feel freer to LEAN INTO the smarts I’ve got)

** Have a better attitude toward life’s ups and downs

** Have a much better chance of doing something more suited to me, my desires, my natural skills (I’m absolutely sure I wasn’t born to copy edit, edit, etc., and I do believe I’ve found just the thing … )

I also look forward to not having to pussy-foot around your and other people’s sloppy thinking, sloppier writing, sloppy F_CKING sloppiness. I am sick of saying, “He/she is great at what she DOES, but he/she is just not so adept at putting it into words,” sick of saying it because I usually don’t (IF EVER) mean it anymore, and if I don’t mean it, I shouldn’t say it, right? Right. What’s worse, I doubt it’s always even a question of your ability as much as it’s one of how much you care. And THAT’S the thing that’s really started messing with me: the gawd-awful, lonesome, foolish feeling of knowing, deep down, that I care more than you do about “your” writing. Pussy-footing and all that comes with it (slippery slope there!) = slow but sure soul death.

And taking this step, finally cutting the cord, will help me become a better writer myself, too — I have no doubt. (I’ve picked up some really rotten habits from you!) So I’m hereby dedicating my writing skills, my passion for words and for learning how better to use them and to MAKE THEM do what I know they can do, to the person who can benefit most from them now: ME (2015). I have only five more months to reach my blog’s goal and that work is in the works again! But I will need as much time as I can manage between now and then to even come close to achieving the goal — given my loves, my other priorities, etc.

*          *           *

I’ll admit I’m writing this today because of an Acknowledgment I received in a recently published article that — while “copy editing ” — I really sweated over. I went back and forth with this “author” who — it became clear — had not even read the piece, submitted by her “in-country” team. And she begrudged my every query, bumming over how the additional investigation required was going to IMPACT her holiday. I pointed out that she was free to ignore my questions and suggestions, but — good for her and OTHERS — she chose not to. And even though she gave me quite a bit of grief at first, she filled those gaps and w/ a lot of rewriting (mostly on my part), we were able to make good sense of the new data. As our collaboration drew to a close, she acknowledged VERY OBLIQUELY her previous unpleasantness and also how much better she felt the paper now was because I pushed as I did. And in the very, very end, in the published article, she acknowledged me for my “copy editing.” Pppfffffftt!!!

Do I sound bitter? I guess I do. Was what happened between this person and me in this instance that different from hundreds of similar situations over the years? No. The relationship between subject matter expert/author and editor is inherently, potentially very complicated. I know this. I’ve known this. I’ve been OK with this for a long time. I’ve done much more for an author with no acknowledgment at all and been OK w/ it. I’m not anymore. And a lot of that is on me, not them. It seems that once you’re more familiar w/ a certain subject matter, it’s more difficult — for me at least — to just “copy edit,” even when that’s what a client specifically requests (often, they don’t WANT you to dig around too much because they know they’ve given you crap). But I’m at a point where (at which…) I’m not satisfied to insert a comma here and delete one there when the whole thing makes no sense. And I can no longer readily switch out my copy editor’s hat for my substantive or developmental editor’s hat (or vice versa).

And that’s what has lead to my resolution, not so much my disgruntlement w/ this particular person in this particular case, but my awareness/realization that I can not stomach simply “prettying” up your piece(s) of sh_t anymore. No. That role is distinctly, definitely, definitively no longer satisfying to me. And while I don’t think the quality or value of one’s life (professional or otherwise) can necessarily be measured solely in terms of their (his/her…) satisfaction/fulfillment, I do think that if one finds this to be their lot, even in part, than that one owes it to herself and every one around her to take it seriously, work toward it, etc. And hip, hip! That one may be me. 🙂

Also, the kind of “copy editing” I’m talking about here, especially for someone who resents my input and ultimately doesn’t understand (or won’t own up to) what I’ve done for their writing, now takes much more from me than it brings. And over time, I think I’ve actually wronged something in me that I want to make right again, if possible, something I believe I need for my own writing, my own well being. Not 100% sure what it is yet.

Anyway, it hasn’t been all bad. Far from it. And there are a few pet points I’d like to bid a special farewell to before filing them away:

  • Vague and simple are not the same thing.
  • Simple –> good; simplistic —> not good.
  • Just because something happened, is factual and true, does not mean that it should be included in a given piece of writing.
  • Just because you say so does not make it so (hello Comp 101!)

Sweet, aren’t they? But, ohhhh, round and round I go here. Where’s my editor when I need one?

*          *           *

Anyway. And …

In conclusion, I do NOT find satisfaction or fulfillment rewriting your pieces of sh_t (that are then published) ONLY TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED for “copy editing” your pieces of sh_t. And if this resolution sticks, I do believe I’ll be better, happier, more attractive, more SUCCESSFUL, etc. By gawd, it’s happening already!!! And you’ll be fine too, fine as you ever was. Heh, heh. All the great work that was done, though, that you had something or other to do with, THAT may well slip into oblivion on the backs of the sloppy verbiage you persist in insisting needs little more than a light copy edit or “minor tweaking.” And THAT will probably never stop bumming me out when I think about it. I’ll need to remind myself that it’s out of my hands now (I’ve done more than enough, more than I should have probably, already***).

Possible resolution for 2016? Limit my bumming out about things that are out of my hands.


* WORKING MY MAGIC — Oh, how I’ve always hated this way (your way) of describing what I do. I am a trained professional, like you, and I assure you that I have no magic at my disposal, not when it comes to editing anyway. 😉 Good editing is hard work (that I’m now done with).

** It’s precisely because what you do is SO IMPORTANT that I’ve hung in there as long as I have with you, tried so hard to help. (But I’m done now.)

*** This is something that probably requires more explanation. Maybe later. For now, I’m done. 🙂

Hey, ho, happy 2015!!!!!!!!!!!


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