- Thoughts Happen.
- Thoughts Happen is a blog I write as a weekly column. It's about what it means to be human in this world, along with all the bad decisions, moments of delirious joy and truly random occurrences that come with it. Since I am continually updating the blog, please go to ThoughtsHappen.net to see the most recent posts. There is also a Facebook Fan Page for the blog at www.facebook.com/ThoughtsHappen.
Here is a sampling of some recent and popular posts. Enjoy!
- The Colonoscopy, or, "You're going to do What!? to my What!?"
“We don’t see people writing much anymore,” says the nurse as she checks my blood pressure to hook me up to an IV drip. “Writing relaxes me,” I reply. I have swiped a pen from the check-in desk at the endoscopy center and am scribbling my hamster-track longhand on the only piece of paper I brought with me, the preparation instructions for the colonoscopy I am about to have.
I always have a notebook and pen with me, but I did not bring any this morning. However, after changing into one of those ignoble gowns with the opening in the back, I am cursing myself for not bringing anything to write on or with. “You can keep your bra and socks on,” the nurse had said, and I did — I am hanging on to every scrap of decency I can get. A notebook and pen would have added greatly to my sense of dignity right now. Never mind that I am wearing fuzzy light blue socks with a sparkly bow on each one made out of rhinestones. They are my comfort socks — Daughter got them for me for Christmas last year.
At least I have the paper, and the pen. It has a nice feel to it. Office Depot rollerball. But I digress. Why am I here anyway? Usually one does not have to submit to the indignity of having a doctor snake a tiny camera up your lower intestine until one reaches 50 years of age, but I have family history of colon cancer on the negative side of the balance sheet and so was advised to start early. You only have to have one every 10 years, so that’s not so bad. I already put it off for two years, so there is no going back now.
I don’t think even childbirth has scared me as much as the anticipation of the dreaded colonoscopy. I’ve been dreaming awful dreams about it for the past several weeks, including one where I had to swallow a wad of dental floss — I think they were going to floss me out from stem to stern. This is probably because even though I know most of the basics about what is going to happen, nobody has sat down with me and given me the nitty gritty details of what this is exactly like, so my subconscious is making up all kinds of crazy stories.
Ignorance is fear and knowledge is power, so I’m going to empower you, Dear Reader, so you will know what to expect. I’m going to empower you up the wazoo, so to speak, so you will not fear and you will go confidently to the gastroenterologist when it is your turn and say, “I am ready.”
(Read the rest at The Colonoscopy, or, "You're going to do What!? to my What!?" on Thoughts Happen
- Stuart Smalley and Bellatrix Lestrange arm-wrestle for my creative soul
If you’re a fan on Facebook or follow me on Twitter you might know by now that I received a copy of The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, for Christmas and am diving into its 12-week program, subtitled “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” I’d heard of the book before, but never really thought it was for me until Neil White highly recommended in his half-day workshop at the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Conference I attended in October.
The first week of The Artist’s Way focuses on recovering a sense of safety in our creative lives, using affirmations as a tool. Oh, Brother, I thought. She’s probably going to have me recite some stupid New-Age slogan about what a worthy person I am, like Stuart Smalley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
Fortunately Cameron fully acknowledges that affirmations sound hokey and stupid when you start using them.
“... saying nice things about ourselves is notoriously hard to do. It feels pretty awful at first. Try these and see if they don’t sound hopelessly syrupy: ‘I deserve love.’ ‘I deserve a rewarding creative life.’ ‘I am a brilliant and successful artist.’ ‘I have rich creative talents.’”
In the next exercise she asks me to pick an affirmation, for example, “I am a brilliant and prolific writer,” and write it ten times in a row, paying attention to what my inner Censor says while I’m writing it. My inner Censor is someone I visualize as Bellatrix Lestrange — the Helena Bonham Carter version — with a sharp tongue and wicked sneer, who takes every chance to cut me down to size with a “Who do you think you are?” put-down.
But this affirmation doesn’t trigger Bella too much. I mean, brilliant? Whatever. I’m not going for brilliant, so she can’t touch me there. And prolific? Well, I have about 50 published clips to my name over the past dozen years, not to mention over a hundred blog posts, so prolific isn’t that much of a stretch for me to believe.
But what if I try a different tack? “I am a talented and creative artist.” Ooooh — Bella pricks up her ears at that one.
“You? An artist? That’s rich! You haven’t had an art class since you were in junior high! Your degrees are in engineering, for Chrissakes. You never went to J-school, don’t want to get an MFA, and you don’t even like making things up! You hide behind nonfiction because you haveno imagination. You’re a plodder and a hack. You’ll get paid, but nobody would ever believe you’re an artist.”
This is probably why I never thought a book called The Artist’s Way was for me. I don’t have a problem calling myself a writer. I mean, I write, and sometimes people actually pay me to do so. Ergo I’m a writer. But I’ve never thought of myself as an artist. A craftsperson, perhaps. A wordsmith, maybe. But an artist? That will be a stretch. But the whole purpose of this program is, as Neil White put it, to force you to find out what is making you unhappy in your creative life. So I don’t suppose it’s meant to be comfortable. And if the first step to higher creativity is to tell myself that I am an artist ten times a day, I guess I’d better get going.
I am a talented and creative artist. (gag)
I am a talented and creative artist. (do I really have to?)
I am a talented and creative artist. (squirm)
I am a talented and creative artist. (yeah, whatever)
I am a talented and creative artist. (oh, god)
I am a talented and creative artist. (okay, okay)
To be continued ...
- 50 Years and Counting
My parents got married a little over 50 years ago, in a very small wedding held in the home of a friend, with just close family and a few friends attending. Mom was 20 years old and still in college, Dad was 23 and a recent graduate. They loved each other, but neither of them really knew what they were doing.
They didn’t learn a lot about communicating from their parents. Mom’s parents divorced when she was in high school, and Dad’s parents, while they had a stable marriage, were of Northern European stock known for reservedness and reticence.
A couple of years after the wedding my sister appeared on the scene, and five years later I did too. Mom and Dad were loving, responsible parents who made time for us kids and raised us in a stable home with lots of good family memories. But they still didn’t know how to talk to each other.
If there was any discord, my sister and I were oblivious, acknowledging their anniversary every year with homemade cards or flowers. For me, the accumulation of years meant little; I was much more focused on my own birthdays and milestones. My parents accrued another year of marriage every spring — why wouldn’t they?
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that the accumulated strain of over 25 years of miscommunication, unbuffered by having kids at home, started showing. They considered divorce. I don’t know how many times or how close they actually came over the following decade, but it was more than once.
I couldn’t let myself believe it would actually happen. Mom and Dad had always been there, together. For my own self-centered reasons I hoped and prayed they would find some way to stay together. And somehow, they did.
And here’s where the tiny miracle comes in. Over the past 15 years, despite hurt feelings, generations of family history against them and feeling way outside their comfort zone, my parents, with some help, learned to talk to each other. And along the way discovered a renewed tenderness, love and deep respect for the person on the other side of the breakfast table, flaws and all.
This year the anniversary clock hit 50 years. Let me say that again — 50 years. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that this is the first year that I’ve really stopped to think what that means.
Nobody tells you when you get married that it won’t always be easy. And if they do tell you, you don’t believe them. To know that my parents stayed committed to each other for 50 years, and that they stuck it out through some very tough times, is both humbling and inspiring.
In Anna Quindlen’s book, “One True Thing,” the main character, a grown child of parents who stay together through a tested marriage, says,
“'No one knows what goes on inside a marriage.’ I read that once; the aphorism ended ‘except for the two people who are in it.’ But I suspect that even that is not the truth ...”
Perhaps that’s true — perhaps even couples who stay together for 50 years can’t even say quite how they did it. But that two people can stay together and grow together for a half a century — that’s an accomplishment.
Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad