Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Once Upon Otero Road

There is a tree I pass twice daily on the way to and from work.  It's an old cottonwood with rough bark and gnarled branches twisting ever upward.  It marks the top of a road with too many speed bumps for comfort and efficiency of travel, but it's the route to family and friends.  The tree is older than I am; I can't remember a time it wasn't there, standing vigil as a faithful landmark.

One of the tree's most charming qualities was a bit of a secret it held; only after its large, shady leaves had turned autumn brown and dropped to litter Otero Road did one learn its mystery.  Those twisted branches, when bare, showed off a loving silhouette of a large, Valentine heart.  As much as I detest the cold, I'd look forward to nature telling me she loved me every morning on my way to the office, and again at night when I'd return exhausted from a long day of the mundane.

One day several years ago, on a day much like any other, I drove by my arboreal friend, only to discover county road department laborers chopping away at this beloved cottonwood.  Perhaps some branches were hanging a bit too low and were a hazard to drivers and pedestrians should the infamous New Mexico wind kick up, but like getting a haircut from the local cosmetology school, my tree was being transformed, whether it liked it or not.  At once, the east limbs crashed to the ground, and half the heart was gone. 

The massacre resonated with me, as only months before I'd had my own heart torn in half.  It was worst in the dead of winter, when all the emotions were raw and exposed, and I'd not had time to grow new cover to camouflage my pain. Even into that summer the cottonwood simply didn't look RIGHT.  I suspect I looked much the same.  Though the trim was inevitable-- I see that now-- God took more of my heart than I'd been prepared to give.

It has taken many years, but my tree is much recovered.  In the summer, when all is right in the world, you'd hardly notice its lopsidedness.  And though the better part of a decade has passed, I'm pleased to say those amputated branches have grown anew, stronger and lovelier than before.  Without any coaching, a new heart is growing, perhaps better than before.  It simply took time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Another Karmic Possibility

Regarding yesterday's post, it may have escaped my attention that perhaps I'm simply not as good a  person as I might have imagined.  I remembered this when my smoke alarm battery alert woke me up about 12:45, cutting my five hours of sleep into four and a half.

Sleepily yours,

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Truth about Karma

A few weeks ago in church, one of the members of the High Council gave a talk about the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy.  He gave a lot of good reasons to do so-- chief amongst them was simply it's a commandment.  I like to try to keep those.  But he also told a story about keeping the Sabbath that was rather memorable: A farmer who shared equipment and other farming responsibilities with other area farmers had a crop in the field ready for harvest.  His turn with the equipment came up on a Sunday, but the farmer felt strongly he should keep the Sabbath and put off his manual labor until Monday.

Now, I know what you may be thinking-- the farmer was additionally blessed because he was so righteous.


A hailstorm came and destroyed the crop Sunday evening, and the farmer lost the entire harvest.

Now, I'm not saying this man wasn't blessed in some other ways for keeping the Sabbath.  I'm not suggesting he should have done otherwise, or justifying breaking commandments-- if your ox is truly in the mire, get it out, but don't lead it to the swamp on Saturday night and expect it to turn out differently!  Was Brother High Council just a really bad storyteller?  No.

This tale really stuck with me because the truth of the matter is just because you're behaving well doesn't mean that things are going to go just as you want/plan.  That's not reality.

And yes, I still believe what goes around comes around, and it's important to choose the right and put good out there, but adulthood has  a special way of reminding us that the equal and opposite reaction of goodness might not necessarily follow the same timeline as objects subject to Newton's Laws of Motion.  I DO believe blessings come according to our faith and our needs, but also according to God's timing, not ours.

And boy, is that inconvenient sometimes.  And frustrating.

Two brief, recent examples.

About a week and a half ago, I was traveling home from my aunt's house in Artesia.  I'd gone to visit for a long weekend, helping her with an antique sale.  I love my aunt and would do anything for her, but this time of year is ridiculously busy and the truth is it required a lot of sacrifice of time.  But I'm a good egg.  I help people. 

And not to toot my own horn, but I'd done several kind things that weekend that made me feel good.  Again, I won't enumerate them because that's not really the point, but I mention it because I was putting a lot of good things out in the universe.

So imagine my surprise when 30 miles outside Vaughn, New Mexico, I heard the most terrible noise coming from my car.  I pulled over and discovered I was dragging something-- some underbody panel (Note: Yes, I know how it happened, and when, and it has since been removed, but it was terribly disconcerting at the time-- not only was it noisy as all get out, but also it felt like someone shuffling a deck of huge plastic cards right under my feet for the rest of the ride home--I was a walking, frazzled nerve for a week).

If you've ever BEEN to Vaughn, NM, or its vicinity, you'll know that cell phone service is not particularly great.  I couldn't place a call, and had to try to get info via text and Facebook (which, was actually a little miraculous).  I had my hazard lights on, slid as far as I could under the car, and attempted to repair the part with only a pair of scissors. 

I'll admit to much weeping a wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Highway 285 is a busy road, but not a single person stopped.  And as worried as I was about my car, I was actually more heartbroken that no one pulled over to at least ask if they could call someone for me when they got to town.  I felt miserably alone. 

I'm not proud of it, but my communication with heaven got a little heated.  Where was my deliverance?  Not in Vaughn, I can tell you that.

But I made it home-- not stronger, but in one piece, and ready to stay put for a while.  Perhaps God wasn't ready for me to make a cosmic withdrawal in the blessing account.  I still don't know.

Another mildly upsetting thing happened at Costco on Saturday.  I'd gone to town with my mom, running errands and taking care of business.  I knew she'd be hungry, and it was about 1:30, so I bought lunch at the Costco food court while I waited for my mother to check out.  I struggled to push my cart, handle the drink cups and hold two gigantic slices of pizza en route to a table.  As it was Saturday, it was crowded.  And I don't know if it was just the anonymity of the crowd, or if the guy had an axe to grind with chubby people, but this man walked by, smirked, and said, "Hungry?"

Now, before you assume I have the world's thinnest skin and that he was just teasing because it was certainly a funny sight, let me fill you in on a secret-- I can tell the difference between teasing and disdain.  The look of disgust followed by triumph as he lobbed a zinger my way (though, not a particularly clever one), confirmed my suspicions and delivered the blow he'd intended.

I did gather myself enough to call (quietly) behind him, "They're not both for me, jerk wad!" but it didn't matter.  He was gone and the damage was done.

So lesson number two-- you can exercise for 2 1/2 hours a day for eight months in a row and still not see vast physical evidence of fitness improvement.  I know I'm healthier even if my body is still stubbornly and basically the same shape it's been my whole life.  And even though there are MAJOR blessings and benefits from taking care of my health, that doesn't mean that some butt munch isn't going to come and try to knock you down a peg or two, just because he can.

I didn't see evidence of anyone hit by a car in the Costco parking lot, so that furthers my point.  I still believe what goes around comes around.  Sometimes it's just a really long loop around.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Danny Castellano is Not my Boyfriend, Part II

Real Danny Castellano (meaning the real person I'd renamed DC) has a girlfriend.  It's not me.  Oops.

Oddly, we were texting back and forth last night about a recent news article.  I'd not heard from him in maybe a week, so it was a pleasant surprise.  The conversation fit in around my evening workout, a visit to my cousin's family, and lesson prep.  I'd walked away from my phone for a bit and came back to read, "Did I mention I'm now seeing a really nice girl I met a couple weeks ago?" 

Nope.  Not until now.

But you'll be happy to know I was gracious.  Part of it was out of obligation to social construct.  Part of it is because I DO want him to be happy.  Part of it was to save face.  I'm not really upset, but it's sorely inconvenient.  Let me give you a BIG reason why.

The truth is, there IS something in my life I am absolutely gutted over.  Last weekend I got news that someone I love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Out of respect for her and her privacy, I'll not go into details of symptoms, but I will tell you how I'm dealing with it.  Here's a hint: not well.

The problem is there are days I simply do not know where to put/keep/store/place/hide my grief. 

Part of me is so angry-- angry because she didn't take better care of herself and angry that her life has been so full of strife it's a wonder she's coped so well for so long. 

Part of me is scared-- this kind of situation really makes one face her own mortality, and the fact that we all will each have to cope with our bodies wearing out. 

Part of me is weary-- taking my daily walks has been so difficult the last several days.  It feels like a physical weight I'm dragging along.  Movement does not come easily.

Part of me feels guilty and ashamed for feeling so awful, especially when I'm really not the one dealing with the scariness of the diagnosis and all its implications.  I feel guilty that I can't alleviate the suffering, that I can't begin to offer anything more than sincere prayer and good wishes. 

In short, it's been tough, and it hasn't been pretty.

What this looks like in real life is me getting four hours of sleep or less every night.  It translates to me crying to the outsourced tech support guy in India who was trying to fix my computer and modem after hours of being pushed around by my ISP.   It looks like drinking far too many Diet Cokes, and not eating nearly enough vegetables.  It's me not returning texts and phone calls-- not because I couldn't use some human interaction, but it's because I'm in this fog.

So yes, having a DC would be helpful right about now.  It wouldn't have to be that DC.  Just someone who could pat my back and say, "There, there."  I'm OK by myself, but I keep thinking it would be nice to have someone to shepherd me through my mourning.

But it's not Danny, who, truthfully Sokphal and I had already renamed Felicia. 

On the bright side, this frees me up to look for someone to whom I'm more well-suited-- just as soon as I can pick myself up from the real, true reasons for sadness.

Bye Felicia.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Walking on Broken Glass

One of my former boyfriends got married last weekend. 

It was hard.

But not for the reason one might think. 

I never wanted to marry him myself-- and I'm not saying that to save face.  And he never asked me, so this shouldn't have been a gut-wrenching experience.   But it sort of turned out that way.

I had a plan.  Saturday night I was going out to dinner with a friend, so I set out to spend a good chunk of the day breaking one of my exercise records.  I worked through four walking DVDs-- you know, the kind where you march in place or jog a bit or do lunges and squats and kicks and hamstring curls for the equivalent of however many miles.  So I did 13.  Why not half-marathon it, right?

I felt good about my accomplishment, and even better that I really didn't have time to stew while I was working through each mile. 

The rest of the morning and afternoon were likewise productive.  I prepared a seminary lesson; I practiced the piano.  I did several loads of laundry and I read a book.  It was good.

But then my friend called about 4 p.m. to cancel our dinner.  She was feeling under the weather and didn't want to subject me to her germs.  I appreciated that, to a degree.  Staying healthy and cold-free for as long as possible should help my exercise-goal achievement streak (205 days and counting).  But boy, did I realize I needed some human interaction!

I made a few calls, and sent some texts, trying to find new plan.  But things got overwhelming fast, and it wasn't long before I crawled back into some pajamas and cried it out on my couch.  For a couple of hours.

The thing is, my last date with the groom was nine months ago.  I am thrilled he found someone who is a better fit for his life than I possibly could've been.  But the small, childish, and selfish part of me kept asking, "Aren't I due for a happily ever after?"

It can be frustrating to know I've gone at least 13 miles without leaving the house.  It's frustrating to know I've been working on this for 18 years, and I'm still in the same spot, relationship-wise. 

So Sunday evening, instead of popping in another DVD, I drove 30 miles to Albuquerque so I could walk 4 miles when I got there.  But it was good to break free.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Danny Castellano is Not My Boyfriend; My Boyfriend* is Not Danny Castellano

I'll admit it, I'm addicted to The Mindy Project. 

In some ways, this should not be a surprise-- I think Mindy Kaling is brilliant and all things wonderful.  I love the character she has created, though were I to watch TMP with my parents, I'd blush and turn it off and be embarrassed at just how dirty it is.  I don't know how often I've thought, "Seriously?  This is on TELEVISION?"  But maybe it's not shocking to folks who have had access to broadcast television for the last eight years.

Anyway, right or wrong, I adore the show.  I love Mindy Lahiri, and I love Mindy Kaling even more.  She is my spirit animal.

Just watching the show is invigorating.  Call me Stella, I've got my sassy groove back.  My speaking pace is faster, my comebacks are zingy-er, and my clothing gets brighter after watching some Mindy. 

But there's also been this weird side effect.  I have to keep having this little conversation with myself.  It's a weird pep-talk, but a necessary one.  My inner voice occasionally nudges me and says, "You do know that Danny Castellano is not a real person, right?  And you DO realize he's not your boyfriend?"


Here's the thing-- I think Mindy is so lovable and relatable to women like me because this whole dating/marriage thing?  Yeah, we sassy, single 30-somethings all assumed it would just take care of itself last decade.  And one day you wake up and say, "Oh yeah-- maybe I should try to check that off the list."  But the abundance of options from your younger days are gone.  And then your choices are limited to that awkward guy from your graduating class who has never kissed a girl and maybe the reformed drug addict who still thinks marijuana is no big deal.  It's a little discouraging.  Add in articles on Facebook shared by your single friends filled with statistics on female to male ratios in (especially LDS) singles populations (Hint: at least 2:1) and you're in a depressing mess. 

So Mindy's monologue at the beginning of Season 3 rings pretty true.  "After years of dating losers and sociopaths, I'm now happily dating the man of my dreams-- a devout Catholic divorcee with some pretty serious dad issues, which, for a single 30-something woman, is not too shabby."

In that vein, I have a confession.

I thought I'd found my own Danny Castellano.  We'd been out all of three times, and though this guy isn't a doctor (which isn't really my thing anyway), he hit several of the other descriptions above.  I liked him-- no, let me rephrase that-- I like him.  As in currently.  But truthfully, I'm afraid I let Mindy get in my head, because I kept expecting this very real person to act like a very made-up character.  And just because I happen to speak like I was created from Neil Simon's imagination does not mean that's normal. 

Fortunately, I have my mantra and use it as a little bit of a reality-check, and I *THINK* I've kept my weirdness in check.  But sometimes I'm not sure.  And I have a feeling there could be major complications if I forget.

So in the future if I refer to "Danny," it's me talking about someone in my current social rotation-- not the character-- just to be clear.  Of course, renaming him Danny probably isn't going to help me keep all this straight in my head.... oh, who cares?!?  Just call me Mindy from now on. That's my life ambition anyway. 

*"Real Danny," meaning the real-life guy I'm calling Danny (confusing as all get out!) is also not my boyfriend.  Three dates does not a relationship make, haters.  But I think I should still try to find him some of those red glasses.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A little night music

The other night I was hit with a terrible bout of insomnia.  This is a particularly cruel affliction for an early-morning seminary teacher, and I kinda thought it impossible-- a) because I'm physically and mentally so exhausted at the end of the day that I'm pretty much already asleep by the time I crawl into bed and b) because I thought that was one of Heavenly Father's guaranteed blessings to people in my calling. 

So after an hour and a half of tossing, turning, and picturing the Serta Sheep (because aren't they the ones YOU count?  I resorted to reading.  But my book wasn't doing it for me, nor was my magazine.  For some reason, I got to thinking about an old blog post, and started patting myself of the back for being hilarious.  And in the spirit of embracing my wakefulness, I went in search of said post. 

OK-- why did I ever stop writing?  I'm freaking Jimmy Fallon!

No, no, of course I'm not.  But I started to ache to write, so here I am.

The truth is, my life got pretty boring for a while.  It's not been bad-- there have been the typical ups and downs.  And in the spirit of full disclosure, it's still not an action movie around here.  More like a nature documentary-- but the kind they had on PBS when we were kids, not the cool ones on the Discovery Channel.

In the past couple of years, I went through a couple of odd, pseudo-relationships.  I guess there are some stories there, but because both men are now out of my life, they just don't even rate more than this mention.  I don't think they have earned a bigger part of my story. 

And my social life-- well, it's basically non-existent.  There's simply no time.  I get up at 4:30 to start my day.  I teach seminary, I work out.  I go to work, I work out some more, I prepare for the next day's seminary lesson, and I go to bed.  Rinse and repeat.  Not much literary inspiration there.

But I'm ready to change that.  If for no other reason than to have something to write about, I'm just going to have to cut back a little more on the whole sleep thing (six hours a night is sufficient-- why not five and a half occasionally?) and find some adventure.

Also, I plan to use this blog to become impossibly famous, which I figure is the only way to meet men.  Sure, they'll be using me as a status symbol, but frankly, that appears to be my best option at the moment.  I've made my peace with it. ;)