Monday, February 29, 2016

Mind the Gap

With all the business about being fashionably mindful, I had to put the brake on myself. I do this routinely anyway.

“What,” asked my mindfulness reminder person a while back when we still met, “Do you do when things get bleak?”

“Wait.” In other words sit it out.  Don’t move a muscle.

My mindfulness reminder person had a tough time with me during our short acquaintance. “I am not sure,” she confessed immediately after the intake, “that I can handle you.”

Like in a zoo. At times I can’t manage myself at all.  Take not too long ago. I wanted to go away. Permanently.  Again. Another round of bleak. I have to remind myself that there are reasons to carry on.  And so going to bed, I said to myself with woe, “Just wait.” I am actually a fairly good morning person so this rarely backfires.

Activity wise I could launch a week’s worth of appreciative of life’s molecules material at myself on my Facebook page, because let’s face it, the person who spends the most time looking at their facebook page is their own vanity. Just to cheer myself up, I could post pictures of kitten fuzz all over the place. Who am I anyway? Of course I like kittens! Everybody does!

“How?” I could see that my mindfulness person was terrified. There’s always a plan sketched out and she was, against all her better instincts, asking for the point to point. For her, though finally and thankfully, the exit survey over our discussions swiftly entered the arena. I felt like clubbing her with words, just because I knew I had some power over her and didn’t have to see her again.  It was an evil moment and I didn’t go there. Instead I ended up asking as politely as possible, “Who do I need to be for you?”

Lighten up, I said to myself. The poor woman doesn’t deserve the responsibility, or the corpse.

Mwmph I tell myself, “You are nearly fifty.  Don’t you think it’s time to be you? Submit ‘Ride me Thanatos’ into some petty midway poetry review for God’s sake and come out of the closet.”

I can’t remember being anything other than like this since I was small. Inherited perhaps, perhaps not, dark memories lurk, nothing is going away or fading out of view.  It’s not curable. “Pills,” my minder offered the suggestion. I baulked.  Every day on a pill or every few whatever up and down in a bad cycle?

Black dog days people say.  Well, it’s certainly faithful, we can say that at least about depression and/or depression pills. “I just want you to be able to sit down and relax.” My mindfulness coach had said to me.  I thought she had lost the plot. Being directive and focused offers a lot less opportunities when, say, I notice that the coming week will be minus seven at night.  Because if the stars line up right, and I start tanking then this becomes hallowed ground.

“Look,” I tried that; I explained to her.  “That was my marriage. Calm, quiet little life, carrying on unobtrusively. Foyer, permanent lobby, keys at the reception, guest book, weekly menu, bike rides around the lakes to blow off steam.” There’s nothing much left over from that, except the dog with her warm little sausage body. I take her for quite the tour on garbage nights and early mornings in Amsterdam. We look at remnants of household rejects together, and then she pees on them. Empty vindication.

The bag had been left by the bike racks in the morning. Open and rifled. By afternoon it was still there. I peeked into it. Someone’s ratty overnight bag with the side pockets filled with medicine, little mouse Stuart Little rafts of green pills like musical instruments rattling for attention. I called the police to report the bag found. Then I reflected sourly, a night or two ago I had been contemplating the lack of enough pills to finish myself off (hypothetical combo with hypothermia amuse bouche), and now I was handing my merciful death over to the authorities with a slight layer of regret in the back of my head.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Gluten Free Wafer

“Gluten free,” I asked at the head of the line. I had been told to make my request known when I got to the head of the line.

The other fingers of the priest fumbled under the chalice he held with his one hand. “Yep,” he said as he brought out a silver snuff box from under the base of the chalice.  We were standing under the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and I was soon chewing on a rice wafer.

How could I not want to go? I had debated whether to take Communion. After all, I was sitting in a row which would be lead straight up the altar with a panoramic view of the choir. 

“You must drop names,” I was advised later that day at an informal meeting. I suppose that part of me wanted to see St. Paul’s because I had heard about Wren’s building here and there, the splendor, the symbol of the city dropped into odd conversations. I also had an acquaintance who had been invited to the Royal Wedding back in the day. She didn’t attend.  How could she not want to attend? I wondered. Well, to each their own.  I sat under the dome thinking about these matters and more.

In preparation for the service I watched some videos about St. Paul’s on YouTube before leaving to catch the bus.  One video was from National Geographic which had a horrendous soundtrack and a pandering scenario script which made me cringe. Since when did National Geographic sink so low? Driveling information that was barely any information. Quickly I switched to a lecture on the archaeology of St. Paul’s site and found this much more satisfactory. The medieval octagonal chapter house?  Fascinating. Afterwards I stood at the location of the chapter house, delineated in the ground.
“Today we are practicing stillness and inactivity,” my hostess said to me cheerfully as she packed her lunch to go to her Alexander Technique teacher training. I was lucky to have found her.

London has always been a bit of a challenge for me. The last time I came, nearly ten years ago, I stayed in the lovely basement flat of, actually, a senior Alexander Technique teacher.  One of the first generation after Alexander. She is and was gracious. I remember the chill of autumn indoors and I guess we mostly did Alexander things, although we went out to see “Hay Fever” with Judi Densch one evening and we managed to wander into the National Gallery. The occasion was primarily a work trip and not a vacation. My hostess also made a point of explaining to me that one could, if willing, wash oneself thoroughly with a cup of hot water. I remember feeling keenly I was not to abuse the hot water supply and remember to sit and move with mindfulness as F.M. Alexander instructed. When you are around Alexander Teachers you get used to being constantly observed, and by this I mean closely observed when you do things like: stand up or reach for a tea bag from the cupboard.

The time before that, twenty-five years ago, I went to London to visit a friend with whom I immediately had a falling out.  I have a solid recollection of walking behind her back to the house in the far out burbs of London well past midnight with the distinct impression that she was trying to shake my tail.  Having squeezed past the front door before it shut behind me, I left a few pound coins for tea and departed in the morning without saying goodbye.

Last month a friend said: I have rented a flat in Chelsea, there’s a sofa bed, why don’t you come? The plan sounded well grounded. I agreed. Only to find out that the place was a shoe box and I ended up sleeping on a suite of rubber padded fleece bathroom mats on the floor for a night or two until rescued by my acquaintance studying stillness and inactivity.

But back to Wren. When, I wondered, did they put those mosaics in? I tried to imagine the place with the original white washed corner half domes.  Must have been the end of the 19th century. I will have to look this up; sitting pretty I made a mental note and continued to admire the choir boys in their robes, one of whom had turned down his ruffles.  I couldn’t believe I had made it into St. Paul’s.  Next up, last day in London, Wren’s Kensington Palace.  Why not? After all I finally had a moment to myself as a tourist in London.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Of course I noticed it in an art book. Whilom. That, I thought to myself, is my new word.  Better start using it. Betty, the whilom photo model, was now confined to the stables. Whose selfie was it? That was the question. Betty didn’t win the prize for best selfie; the man in the picture won a four figure number but the horse, or the horse’s owner’s, did not share in the prize money. Imagine, not your selfie.  Poor Betty.

“It’s flash fiction.”

I grunted, trying to sound happy about it. I was calling it postcard shorts, after my postcard short about Malta got published online. “Your book,” a friend said looking over the manuscript, “I didn’t know what to call it.” Her husband informed her that it sounded like flash fiction. He’s, in a way, right. “Your quotation mark use is incorrect.”

Hmm…I even used to put the periods outside the quotation marks. I dunno why, it just felt to me that the line was finished in silence, the terminus. Now I learned my capitalization has some idiosyncrasies.

“People like mistakes, they make us human.” I was gazing at a big digital board in the Conservatory. The idea did not soothe me, but did make me think the way out of my mistakes was to advertise and own them.

Right.  I would that my punctuation be regulated to whilom. I can imagine, because most writers write their own PR, stating, “Such whilom mistakes were a marked feature of Persephone’s development towards a muy recherché manner of finer expression; with so much linguistical tottering about, she was finally rendered comprehensible at a base level.”

Websters online politely requests readers to send in information where they found the archaic word whilom. I have half a mind to submit my sentence about me, but they most likely would object. My selfie unrewarded.

“Would you,” the man on the Muni bus leaned towards the passenger sitting next to him, “be friends with my cat on Facebook?”

It was a classic and told to me by a friend who had been to California on vacation. How much more San Franciscan could you go? Ah, when I lived in the Bay Area, I learnt to be most polite, and defer to whims o’ whilom with a smile.





Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Eleven in February – A Retarded New Year’s Resolution

“Eleven kilos,” K. said brightly.

I was standing on a Boditrax machine at the gym.  K. was reading off the machine generated numbers between my current weight and my ideal weight, taking into consideration the fact that I am of a sturdy type build. The super duper machine these days apparently takes into consideration a person’s build.

I didn’t react. The machine stated that I would be perfect at 56 kilos. A day later upon reflection I calculated that would be about 123 lbs. When was I last 123 USA pounds?  Thirty years ago. About when I was 18 and lived in California.  Or, here’s a thought: I was under that when I was starving in Paris and wore a (what is now) size zero then called a size two. Not by choice.

“Your bones weigh 2.4 kilos.” She added quickly. There was a little circle on the screen around my bone number, like a plastic bag. It reminded me of my cremated cat.

Perhaps I should have jumped up and down and held my head or something. I guess it was fairly obvious from my reaction that I was not going to do anything grandiose about my 11 kilo surplus. At least not that moment or even that month. Maybe she expected me to say, “But I am big boned.”

I am not. I didn’t attempt to say I was big boned.  I thought the machine was insane. Another way of making humans chase after numbers obsessively. 

“How long have you been coming here?”

Uh oh. I believed she was prodding me towards making a plan to lose the eleven kilos. Timeline thing. Graphs involved.

The zumba class was nearly about to begin.  That was a start. It was while waiting for the class to begin, inspecting the plasticized BMI chart on the table, that she had pounced and put me on the machine.

Here’s the thing:  I love jumping jacks now.  Ever since more than a kilo was shaved from my chest three months ago by a very kind surgeon, I have been noticing changes such as I can distribute weight evenly on the balls of my feet instead of trying to keep myself from falling forward by clenching my toes. This means yoga is vastly different.  Warrior two? Piece of cake. Eye of the needle?  I can actually do this pose now. Swimming?  I don’t need to hyper arch my back to pull myself up and forward in the water.

“Your arms will thin out.” A friend who has had the procedure said.

My arms have thinned out. I even have a strange suspicion that they might be longer, at least I don’t need to roll up my sleeves like I used to do. That paunch? It’s got a line in it now, something called a waist in fighting its way into sight.

But if I compare my pre-surgery weight (taken at the hospital) to the Boditrax reading, I apparently weigh more in kilos.  So what is the deal? Frankly I don’t care about what or which machine says what or witch.  I am much more interested in learning if I can finally get to the tree position with my foot wedged on my upper thigh. Now that would be da bomb, especially at my age. And oh yeah, I have another bag of too big for me now clothing to donate to charity. Eleven kilos my….

“You are more than welcome to come back, in the future, if you need any more work done.” My surgeon had said to me throwing a gallant smile my way at the final assessment consultation.  I politely replied I thought I’d stay put.