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  • Wayfinder's Quest Post #120: Drive-By Chandelier


    Hug Point State Park, on the Oregon Coast

    Coincidences (aka Spontaneous Unsolicited Upgrades, aka signs of Forming)

    The chandelier is my secret sign that I am on the right path. It's kind of like how spies might have left a big X in a window or something. Back in the clumsy old days. (I'll write more about this soon, because it's a very fun thing to play with, and I can't find the original post about it.)

    What we are doing here:

    Treasuring ourselves.

    Dwelling in mystery. 

    Luxuriating in pleasure. 

    Seeking the hot tracks.

    Working magic.

    Glorying in the pageantry and spectacle of the phenomenal world, and gracefully negotiating the contradiction between revelry and spirituality. (If there is one.) 

    And: asking What else might be possible?
     

    Anyway, I keep thinking about picking a new symbol, because chandeliers are really pretty common. And then something will happen like a new building will go up at the top of my street, and a chandelier shop opens in the flagship space.

    Or I'll be sitting down to brunch with Havi, discussing various spy missions, thinking how much more sophisticated and Bond-ly hers are, and how I really should upgrade from chandeliers to something like I don't know foo dogs or York roses, and then I'll look out the window, and there will be a huge chandelier in a specially constructed glass box in the back of a pickup truck, doing a drive-by of the restaurant, inches from my open mouth. Which happened this week.

    So that is why I stick with the chandelier. 

    Another coincidence happened while I was in Portland: I was thinking about my former neighbor David G, an accomplished musical saw player. One of the best shows I've ever seen was him accompanying the energetically anti-modern singer Elizabeth Butters. They did a lot of sad Appalachian murder ballads, to which the spooky, mournful musical saw is the perfect accompaniment. I was remembering that show, thinking It's really too bad you don't hear the musical saw more.

    The next day Mr Jones and I were strolling around downtown Portland and there she was, a busker with a musical saw. Second live musical saw of my life. And yesterday, a note from David, who I haven't heard from in months.

    Finally, when I first arrived in Portland, I stayed at a hotel downtown where the doorman told me that a number of new murals had gone up in the weeks I'd been away. He said his favorites were two in the Alberta district. Of course that's where I was going for the rest of my stay. When I arrived in Alberta that afternoon, I immediately saw one of the murals he'd been talking about. It was on the building I'd be working in all week.

    So there is this rule among shamans, or so they tell me, that you don't reveal the nature of your power animal to anyone. Which is KILLING ME because this mural depicted mine, with all the unnatural and peculiar aspects in which she appears to me, and I mean these aspects are UNUSUAL and oh! it's so frustrating not to be able to say this and this and this and this! and Can you BELIEVE IT?! 

    Anyway, it was by the far the most magical trip to Portland ever.

    Imagining

    Continuing my experiment with ferocious self-care, I had been writing reminders about it at the top of each day's diary page (the one where I put my appointments and notes; it's not really a contemplative journal). I have been having fun with this, so we have days like:

    • Oh, the Ferocity! 
    • The Voluptuous Ferocity of Self-Care
    • Continuing FEROCITY. Raaar!
    • Never More Ferocity Than Today
    • Not Even Ready to Stop the Ferocity of Self-Care

    Then I stopped the reminders a few days ago. And I noticed that was when the self-care levels dropped from ferocious to, well, let's say kittenish. I resist the idea of written reminders because HOW PEDESTRIAN. But all the while I gather evidence that written reminders are very powerful for me.

    The other reminder I've been working with is something Elizabeth (not Butters) said about being mindful of "the consequences of even minor caretaking," where caretaking is, as I understand it, paying more attention to the [possibly imaginary] needs of someone else than the factual demonstrated needs of your own. I cannot stop thinking about this phrase. It finds many occasions to arise during the day. 

    They go together, the Voluptuous Ferocity of Self-Care and Noticing the Consequences of Even Minor Caretaking. 

    I used to think that if I ever got a tattoo, it would be that Chaucer quote: "The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne." One part on each wrist, maybe. But if I could get a temporary tattoo, this year's would be "Mind the consequences of even minor caretaking."

    Updates on past experiments

    None of you wrote to report known instances of builders saving marriages. I hope that's because you were content to read and contemplate, not because there are no documented cases of builders saving marriages.

    Anyway, I was in Boulder and then Portland* when Operation Mod Cons started in earnest. I was away for two weeks. When I came back a week ago, the builders were still working.

    And they are here today. It is rather hard to practice all the means of Ferocious Self-Care with them in the house. But! I am still married and my bathrooms are starting to look pretty beautiful. I put some foo dogs in the tiled window niche in the downstairs bath. They are meant for protection - ferocious protection - but one of the dogs looks terrified and the other one is totally faking it. I think they might have to go back to Foo School.

    Both dogs are cross-eyed. I figured Mr Jones wouldn't even notice them, but weirdly, he has kind of fallen in love.

    *I stayed at a place with a gorgeous kitchen, the renovation of which the host told me was the final straw for the previous owners' marriage. GAH.

    Destination: Date night

    What has happened? Mr Jones and I went to Beast in Portland for brunch and it was even better than I had imagined. Portland is full of people doing food at a really high level, as is well known, but it's really remarkable how young a lot of these people are.

    Beast is very tiny; I think it seats 32 people and has two seatings a night. There are no choices; everything is fixed (and it's not even a little bit vegetarian-friendly, which is unusual anywhere, but especially in Portland, so be warned). They have an open kitchen, which is just a corner of the dining room (which itself has only two big tables), so you can see the food being prepared - and dishes washed. I was watching the young woman assemble the salad course, carefully choosing greens for each plate, efficiently but without rushing. On another day I might have found it all too precious. But that day I was just really impressed with the combination of her youth and her seriousness.

    I worked in restaurants when I was in my 20s, too, and I didn't take my work anything like as seriously as the people you can observe everywhere in Portland. The kind of places I worked - Fred's Steak House, Dot's Diner (their real names) - did not teach lavish attention to the placement of salad greens on the diner's plate.

    Even so, I could have brought something more to my work. It makes me a little sad to have missed the wave of It's OK to Take Food Seriously, because when I was in the biz, the job was mostly something to be ashamed of. To that girl at Beast: RESPECT.

    I t's worth planning a couple months ahead to get a reservation there. It's a very beautiful and comfortable room, and the food was perfect. It reminded me a lot of Prune. Just lovely.

    1. Alden & Harlow
    2. Alinea (Chicago)
    3. Area Four
    4. Asta
    5. Battersby (Brooklyn)
    6. Beast (Portland)
    7. Bondir Concord
    8. Brine
    9. Commonwealth
    10. Coppa (for brunch)
    11. Franny's (Brooklyn)
    12. Giulia
    13. Kirkland Tap & Trotter
    14. L'Espalier
    15. Myers & Chang
    16. No. 9 Park
    17. O-Ya
    18. Pok Pok Noi (Portland)
    19. Puritan & Co. (for brunch)
    20. Rialto
    21. Roberta's (Brooklyn)
    22. Scampo
    23. Shojo
    24. West Bridge

    Then there is a short list of places I shall not soon tire of, and always want to go back to:

    1. B&G Oysters
    2. Brick and Mortar
    3. Miracle of Science
    4. Sarma
    5. Sportello
    6. Strip-T's
    7. Toro

    That should keep us busy for a while, but please feel free to suggest additions.

    Join the experiment?

    You can report on your own Wayfinding experiments, if you like. Or discuss foo dogs. Or just say Hi.

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  • The Minesweeper Effect

    Lately I have been playing with ways to get what I think of as the Minesweeper Effect. You know when you're clicking away, disabling mines one by one, very painstakingly, and suddenly you clear a vast field? A huge area, free of mines. Feels amazing!

    Clearing away exploding obstacles with one click!

    This is what I am trying to do in life, and it's not because I'm seeking greater efficiency or productivity, because bleargh, I hate that sort of thing (as you know). More because I need the extra time and space for things like Elementary and Longmire.

    (Turns out, they're big on serial television here at the Betty Ford Self-Care Rehab Clinic. Ahem!)

    Anyway, the Self-Care Menu is one of those ways of getting the Minesweeper Effect. I've been trying out another one lately, and it doesn't have a great codename yet (feel free to suggest one), so I'll just describe it as a tote board for magical spooky guidance*. I'm trying to answer the question, Does it actually spare me grief and create more fun to follow the guidance I get?

    (*You might call this "intuition." I don't. I call it "guidance" because it suits me to regard it as at least partly external.)

    Here is a sample of what my tote board looks like:

    Date Situation Intel Outcome
    9/10 Buy hand-carved Indian printing block? "Wait until tomorrow" Next day, got email about block print class with Lizzy House. Signed up instantly. Made own block. WIN!
    9/13 Get black scarf, or blue? "It really doesn't matter what you do here. You're just afraid your husband will make some remark." Bought them both. Remarks still not made. (But I have an answer ready. Email me if you want to know what it is.) Love my scarves. WIN!
    9/23 Go to Post Office and risk lines and postal employee? Or wait for days for certified letter delivery? "Go to Post Office. Now." Went to PO at lunch hour, no one in line AT ALL, got pleasant clerk, took barely 5 minutes. WIN!

    Side note: There is absolutely no scientific rigor involved here. It's just a memory aid to support a good change. But that's like 90% of awareness, and awareness is 90% of everything.

    So far the results show that basically, when I follow the guidance I get the outcome is good, and when I've chosen some other course, I've recovered. Maybe I'm unlikely to see a disastrous outcome because disasters are rare. But even if all I get from this is avoidance of pointless errands, that's a pretty good Minesweeper Effect right there.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! If you try something similar, I would love to know what you discover.

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    The Self-Care Menu

    Whether you think you're too nice or not nice enough

  • The Betty Ford Self-Care Rehab Clinic for the Chronically Self-Neglecting

    I am writing today from my comfy room at what a friend (thanks, Elizabeth!) calls the Betty Ford Self-Care Rehab Clinic. The Betty Ford part is a joke (except, Betty Ford: RESPECT) but self-care rehab is the real deal. It's also immediately rewarding, so I might extend my stay indefinitely. More about this later.

    You can check in, but you might never want to check out...

    But for now, as we seem to say around here a lot, two things:

    Thing 1. I had big plans at the beginning of the summer to write comprehensively about the connection between Telling the Truth (at least to ourselves) and stopping bingey eating (and other distressing habit patterns). 

    Oh, the plans!

    Oh, the BIGNESS.

    When it came time to write about Telling the Truth as in out loud, using our words, with other people, well I just fell silent. This is some for-real bigness, right here. And I will just tell you the truth of the moment, for me: I don't feel ready to write about this yet. 

    I know for sure - for me, and I'm betting for you, too - that there is a direct, powerful connection between not speaking up for yourself and eating compulsively. Like, a straight line right to the fridge. Some people - Walt Whitman, I guess - can contain multitudes, but the rest of us cannot contain so much, and stuff's gonna get expressed, in words, binges or maybe exhaustion or illness. Or all of it.

    And I want to be able to do more than point you to Nonviolent Communication (which I do recommend, of course). So I am contemplating this deeply, and we will definitely come back to the extremely important self-care "must" of advocating on our own behalf. 

    Thing 2. Body {of} Knowledge. If

    • you find the idea of Self-Care Rehab Clinic gleefully thrilling
    • you would like nothing better than an excuse to devote three months to yourself possibly for the first time ever
    • you'd like to trade in unconscious eating patterns for a conscious Self-Love Upgrade

    my Body {of} Knowledge program is ready for your consideration. 

    3 months of
    epiphanies + trustworthy 1:1 guidance +
    solid techniques + current science
    + non-judgmental accountability =
    breakthroughs + stunning change

    You could start now and be done by Christmas. Click here for details.

    Have thoughts?

    Leave a comment! I would love to know what you think.

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    The Self-Care Menu

    Wear it now

    Mechanical tools and practical magic

  • The Self-Care Menu

    You may have gathered that I don't value productivity per se, and I think striving for efficiency can be a big waste of time.

    I am by no standard an expert in this, but I am trying to dismantle the habits of 1. Being Good and 2. Working Hard to Earn My Keep and Demonstrate My Value, and 3. treating my body like a mule (I wouldn't even treat a mule like a mule, come to that), and all such related rot.

    Turns out, if I handle body, mind and pleasure, the mystery kinda just takes care of itself.

    Instead, I want to make more room for ease, mystery, magic, wonder, pageantry, idling, richness, sparkles and delight.

    Thus, sometimes I try things that might look like efficiency maneuvers but they're not so much about "getting things done" as seeking the most direct path to ease and pleasure and freedom, where "direct" means leaving out any parts where I meander through suffering to earn a reward, or think that I have to accept some bad with the good. (I mean, I might! But I never want to take that as a given. I don't want to start from that position, ugh.) 

    Since I am a practical person who finds mechanical tools useful, I have been tinkering with my self-care routines. There are lots of tools I like, and I like having a variety at my disposal, and I like spending my time actually using them. And I don't mind that I simply must in order to stay (and/or seem) sane.

    However, I don't like my social conditioning that turns helpful practices into obligations. If I let that attitude take over, I'll be meditating at 4am, and finishing my "morning" pages around teatime. In between will be lots of "duties" that might crowd out crucial things like breakfast, puttering and even actual work.

    So I've been experimenting lately with a menu approach, in which I try to make sure I take care of my body, my mind, and my pleasure by picking one or two tools that address each category every day. No more obligation to do something every day, no matter what. (Although I am still pretty devoted to meditating in quiet.)

    Today, my categories look something like this:

    Pleasure

    Body

    Mind

    pleasure reading

    yoga

    meditation

    sex

    dance

    the Work

    costuming

    squats

    tapping

    l’apero

    knee exercises

    spring clean

    The Kathleen Hanna

    steps

    swamp

    scented candle

    nap

    journey

    trinity report

    paddleboard

    write

    Toss 10 Things

    nails

    stone skipping

    puttering

    water

    Havi's YEARbooks

    cocktails

    yoga nidra

    friends

    Orphan Black or Elementary

    S factor

    family

    massage

    sit spot

    helpers

    perfume

    Old Turkish Lady Yoga

    get coached

    trying on clothes in stores

    foam roller

    therapy

    hot springs!

     

    BK videos

    You'll see that there's a fair bit of overlap. Proper costuming is a pleasure, and it takes care of my body, and it might challenge utterly destroy some old ideas and thus be good for my mind. 

    Obviously there's no place on this list for bill-paying and dish-washing. Those are fine things to do but this is not a to-do list, it's a self-care list. 

    You'll also note that there's no category of mystery or magic or something like that. That's because if I handle body, mind and pleasure, the mystery kinda just takes care of itself.

    Thoughts?

    If you're already doing something like this, I'd love to hear what you've got going. And if you aren't, and want to give it a try, let me know how you go.

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  • Wayfinder's Quest Post #119: The Last Beach Day

    The last official Beach Day of Summer 2014 was held here, at Rexhame Beach. On to the Beach Days of the Off-Season!

    Coincidences (aka Spontaneous Unsolicited Upgrades, aka signs of Forming)

    Some coincidences of late:

    • The Conch Republic. Time for a trip to the Keys soon? Perhaps.
    • Joyce Maynard. Thoughts?Recommendations?
    • Loads of 22s, of course, especially 722 (the best 22), which I see is how much my favorite Peets meal (bran muffin, medium latte with three shots) costs

    What we are doing here:

    Treasuring ourselves.

    Dwelling in mystery. 

    Luxuriating in pleasure. 

    Seeking the hot tracks.

    Working magic.

    Glorying in the pageantry and spectacle of the phenomenal world, and gracefully negotiating the contradiction between revelry and spirituality. (If there is one.) 

    And: asking What else might be possible?
     

    Surely one of the most unexpected upgrades is the Unsolicited Dental Upgrade. As part of the Frognado recovery effort, there's been a lengthy - since Christmas - rebuild of one of the teeth I broke. Every appointment has itself been lengthy. This morning I was scheduled for 90 minutes. They ushered me in early, had a look and said, This is going to take five minutes. You'll be done before you were supposed to start. So good. Harvard University Dental Service, people. Anyone can use it.

    I also experienced unsolicited solicitude. (Is it even solicitude if it's asked for? Not sure.) After the dentist, I went to Peets and parked myself next to a guy who turned to me and said I'm leaving, but it's because I have to, not because you're sitting down here. Please don't take it personally. I wouldn't dream of making such a thing personal (anymore), but I said Thank you! I am feeling quite sturdy today, psychologically speaking, but it's very kind of you to reassure me.

    Which it was. 

    Imagining

    So last week I wrote about the need for navy-strength self care. A number of you wrote back to say you hoped I was all right. Well I am! I was all right then, too - just seeing the need for ferocious self care, and a little bit laying out some reasons to justify the ferocity.

    But this week I am wondering, Hey are reasons necessary? Is anyone requiring a justification?

    I was thinking about Celebrities Read Mean Tweets #6, in which Sarah Silverman gets one that goes (unpleasant bits redacted): "I wanna [gah!] in Sarah Silverman's [gah gah!]. No reason behind it." Sarah's response? "No reason NEEDED." Little Silverman twitch of a smile.

    That is what I am imagining about self care and self love. Crazy about taking care of myself, for no reason, because, big Silvermanesque grin, NONE NEEDED.

    Operation Mod Cons: I think I have mentioned before that Mr Jones and I live in an old house that last was substantially worked on in the 80s, which is almost worse than never having been updated at all. I have resisted getting the builders in because 1. OMG so stressful and 2. I want to stay married. I have this extreme superstition that builders precipitate divorce like the way knitters think the gift of a sweater presages a breakup.

    This comes from my first marriage. One night that husband and I were watching an episode of This Old House, in which a childless middle-aged couple were redoing a place that was probably built to shelter a family of nine and their live-in servants. They had such a specific vision for it, and their plans included working at home. Both of them. And dear heaven, they seemed so cheerless. Whether constitutionally dour, or situationally depressed (reality TV, the builders in), or just projection on our part, I don't know, but at the end of the episode, First Husband and I looked at each other in mute horror, until one of us finally said "I give them 18 months, tops. And then they're gonna have this giant overcustomized house to sell."

    So what do I know? That couple might have survived where First Husband and I did not. Maybe six months later they laughed their heads off at the absurdity of hard-wiring the entire Victorian pile for internet and bought his-and-hers wireless routers and are today happily raising alpacas in the back 40. Maybe builders do not automatically bring divorce.

    (Oh dear I am just remembering my cousins' straw-bale place in Durango. They bought it off a couple that built it as their dream house, and they added lots of personal details like a big relief sculpture of a lizard on the kiva fireplace. They broke up right after they finished that house - augh, augh, augh! HEXSIGN - and it was priced to sell when my cousins picked it up.)

    And maybe I am being tongue-cluckingly irrational, but while the builders are replacing my bathtub, I will be in Boulder. No reason here! None needed. Also to avoid hexing myself I will call this blog post something innocuous, like Beach Day! instead of something real, like OMG Operation Mod Cons is Now Fully Under Way! just in case malevolent gods are monitoring the Internets today.

    Of course, it could be that you know about a million times that builders have saved marriages. If so, please do tell.

    Updates on past experiments

    Actual Beach Day this week at Rexhame Beach, the last one of the season, day before Labor Day. First time there. Good waves, and I totally got knocked down and dragged out, which is half the point. I really did not want this to be one of those summers when, on Labor Day, I am heartbroken about how little time I spent at the beach. And it isn't. 

    Same-Age Boyfriend: One of the things I really like about being with Mr Jones is that we're close in age. Last serious guy before Mr Jones was 10 years younger than me. Last serious guy before that, a full dozen. Which is fabulous if you're into that sort of thing, and I was, until I wasn't, and then I met Mr Jones, and OMG what a relief. There was so much that suddenly didn't need to be explained. Gang of Four? We can discuss. Ageing parents, also yes. Christina Amphlett. Need to sleep. All the things. So easy.

    He's really a year older than me, but for two months out of the year, I think of Mr Jones as my Same-Age Boyfriend. Yesterday it was his birthday, and he overtook me again, and then I thought of Clownie, who's been with me my whole life, and who is really quite old - you know, for a clown. It made me smile to think that while I only have a Same-Age Boyfriend two months of the year, I have a Same-Age Clown every single day.

    And that makes this an update on my very longterm experiment (12+ years now) in how to make relationships last. This is my new record.

    Jesus, I am really tempting fate now, aren't I? <<<-- HEXSIGN HEXSIGN HEXSIGN!

    Destination: Date night

    What has happened? We had a very memorable dinner at Strip-T's in Watertown, mussels and mashed potatoes and rosé. Sounds kinda... ordinary. It was so very not. This place is run by a David Chang alum, and if you are anywhere nearby, you should go there. I've been to a fair few David-Chang-alum places. This is the best. We also went back to Miracle of Science, which is like a barebones burger place near MIT that I like because no reason needed, and I just don't have one, unless it's the name.

    1. Alden & Harlow
    2. Alinea (Chicago)
    3. Area Four
    4. Asta
    5. Battersby (Brooklyn)
    6. Beast (Portland)
    7. Bondir Concord
    8. Brine
    9. Commonwealth
    10. Coppa (for brunch)
    11. Franny's (Brooklyn)
    12. Giulia
    13. Kirkland Tap & Trotter
    14. L'Espalier
    15. Myers & Chang
    16. No. 9 Park
    17. O-Ya
    18. Pok Pok Noi (Portland)
    19. Puritan & Co. (for brunch)
    20. Rialto 
    21. Roberta's (Brooklyn)
    22. Scampo
    23. Shojo
    24. West Bridge

    Then there is a short list of places I shall not soon tire of, and always want to go back to:

    1. B&G Oysters
    2. Brick and Mortar
    3. Miracle of Science
    4. Sarma
    5. Sportello
    6. Strip-T's
    7. Toro

    That should keep us busy for a while, but please feel free to suggest additions. 

    Leave a comment

    You can report on your own Wayfinding experiments, or tell me about how having the builders in saved your marriage, or just say Hi

    (Lurking, also good. We love you too.)

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