Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.
Monday, December 27, 2010
It is no use to grumble and complain; It's just as cheap and easy to rejoice; When God sorts out the weather and sends rain - Why, rain's my choice.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Today, however, we discuss the canvas upon which these ornaments are hung. I'd like to tell you it's a lush Scottish pine, selected by our sweater-wearing, hearty family one cold and snowy afternoon and felled by the local red-faced tree farmer who bore a striking resemblance to St. Nick and who waved to us as we drove away with our tree tied atop our station wagon. However, it's actually a skinny pre-lit Target special plucked this year from the rafters of the garage by disgruntled family males on a freakishly hot, windy afternoon in December here in Southern California.
I used to insist on a "live" tree and the whole tradition of selecting it. I was frenetic to get the right tree, and I was on high alert for any family member not displaying what I considered to be the proper amount of excitement over the traditions of hanging ornaments, etc. Sensing any sign of less-than-maniacal enthusiasm from others set my holiday Spirit-O-Meter off like an overly-sensitive hotel sprinkling system. I would immediately rain down a torrent of Christmas spirit that would send others running for cover in other rooms while the Christmas Clown continued her reign of red and green terror in the living room, happy Christmas carols blasting from the stereo, oblivious to the fact that her family members had thrown themselves overboard to escape the horrific ride on the Good Ship Christmas Spirit.
I look back now and understand that, far away from extended family, I was determined to carve out my own traditions, and to make the holiday fill in the gaps for all Christmases past and present and not just my own. HOB had his own set of Christmas baggage and would have just preferred to skip the holiday entirely, so I was even MORE determined to make him and everyone around me happy, happy, happy, HAPPY!!!! This, as any psychotherapist will tell you was a monumental task, even for the strangely-energized delusional person. Add children to the mix, and then just call the local mental hospital and ask for the Family Plan.
One year it was clear the tree needed water, so I crawled under the prickly branches and poured the water in the basin, praying that it would not overflow on to the floor. I lay there waiting for the water to settle, listening to Jose Feliciano sing “Feliz Navidad” on the stereo. I was deep under the wide tree so that if anyone came into the room at that moment, they would have flashbacks of scenes from “Little Shop of Horrors.” I lay my face on the cool floor and began to think. It seemed to me that, in our house at least, if you had female organs you were the one to select the tree, nag until the tree got put up, belly-crawl under the tree on a weekly basis to make sure it had water, de-decorate the sucker after the holidays, wrestle it down, drag it out, leaving a trail of water and needles, and then clean up the pine needles for months afterwards.
Jose Feliciano was still singing when I lifted my head up, scraping my scalp on the branches and thought, “This part of Navidad is NOT Feliz.” I extracted myself from beneath the tree and proclaimed, “Basta, Yah! No Mas!” and that year, just after Christmas, I made my way to Target and grabbed the first sad fake tree priced to move. That pre-lit wonder that now stands in our living room. We snap the sucker together, bend out the boughs, hang the ornaments and voila! Bring on the presents.
Here’s the Christmas miracle: What I learned was the fully-loaded and tinseled tree, the five singing wreaths strategically placed all over the house, the plastic Santa and Rudolph in the entryway, and the flashing bells belting out tinny Christmas Carols mean nothing if the Mama of the house is not relaxed and happy. When I calmed down, and stopped resenting all those who were not matching my level of expectation for the holiday, the Munchkins of the village came out, came out, wherever they were and actually picked up decorations and hung them on the tree without being asked to.
So, Betty has calmed down A LOT from past years. Oh, don’t worry. Betty is not getting up on Christmas morning, scratching herself, having a ciggie and a beer and then going back to bed. No, we have all the traditions, the special dinnerware, the stockings on the mantel. And on Christmas morning we gather around that fake tree made out of an oil-derived material with its plastic pine cones and artificial boughs, and we smile at each other with real love.
Tomorrow: We begin our trip down Ornament Alley. Dress appropriately.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
This last week of the semester is packed and stressful. Betty is a strong and courageous woman, able to face a stack of ten-page research papers with an optimistic attitude, a large supply of Diet Pepsi and a smile that belies her frenzied attitude.
(The small pillow placed upon my desk has dramatically reduced the number of bruises and contusions on my forehead as I either knock my head upon the desk in frustration and/or boredom.)
Knowing myself as I do, I have to take special care to keep nice and balanced. It’s best for everyone, indeed for society as a whole. There are three activities which keep Betty sane and within the bounds of social acceptability. These are the legs that keep the stool of sanity upright and able to balance the great load which is placed upon it.
What are these three activities? How kind of you to ask!
Going out for a daily walk is essential for my mental health. I go alone most of the time and that’s the way I like it. I go ridiculously fast in a gait that could only be described as very, very special. When I have my walk, I am a happy person.
At some point my brain needs to get out of the crowded airport of everyday life and board the plane of creativity, to fly around and see where the trip goes. If Betty is grounded too long, forced to wait at the gate, writing only memos, reports, and e-mails, no one in the boarding area is going to be happy. I'll see to that. I need to make my synapstical connections, to launch some high-flying ideas and see where they show up on the radar map. The turbulence is of my own making and it’s the fun kind.
I read essays all day, so you would think I would avoid any excess reading. Ah, but I need to escape from the sharp edges of the peanut brittle-like student and academic writing. I want pudding. I want to sink into the words of a delicious, luxurious novel or at least the whipped topping of a poem. I seek out the smooth, the well written, the grammatically correct.
And so, even in these busy times, I need to remind myself to do these things for my own well- being.
It may be just a short walk.
It may be just a stolen ten minutes to scribble down some ideas.
It may be just a particularly well-written passage on the back of a toothpaste tube, read while sitting on the toilet late at night.
Betty’s gotta do these things if Betty’s gonna keep her sanity.
How about you? What do you need to keep all your marbles on the tilt tray?
Tell me all about it. Betty's listening.