2017

And so here I am. Me and a computer screen. And I’ve not much to say to you that you want to hear.

Or so I hear.

From your choices. But let’s be real. The loudest voices aren’t always the
most honest. They let you down.

And so here I am. Me and you. And all I have to say to you is

I’m glad your year was great and perfect if it really was all that
but mine was tough
rough and tumultuous
the embittered outer scrapes of a tumbled
dropped
kicked
forgotten rock
that had to go back and build
fill in the holes
and will a museum back into existence
and be very careful it didn’t become
a mausoleum.

I suspect
many of your years were much the same,
so all I’ve got to say to you is
That’s okay.

It’s part of the process. It’s living. We don’t all get to have years that blow minds away. We don’t all have days to envy.
But every moment is beautiful
and the beautiful thing is
you’ll look back and you’ll see
the pain
but also the beauty
the love and the friendship and the glorious exulting moments when you broke through a gloom so thick you thought maybe were sleeping beauty in a coffin
and you lived.

And you fucking lived.

That’s all I have to say to you.
Thank you and good night.

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The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

This book. THIS BOOK. Everyone needs to read it. It’s amazing. Just actually amazing. This book speaks to the soul.

The Book of Joy, written by Douglas Abrams as a record of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, explores joy, the cultivation of joy, and the relationship between joy and suffering. I picked it up at the recommendation of one of my professors. As someone who has struggled with happiness, I found this book really resonated with me. There was so much that I read and went “yup, I know how that feels” or “yeah, that roughly sketches a pattern that occurred in my life.” And wonderfully, I related to their suggestions for ways forward, their approaches to generating positivity in a too-often negative world.

I also appreciated that The Book of Joy is not pretentious, as perhaps one might be inclined to fear. As the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu say through Abrams in the prologue, “You don’t need to believe us. Indeed, nothing we say should be taken as an article of faith. We are sharing what two friends, from very different worlds, have witnessed and learned in our long lives.” The Book of Joy does not aspire to tell you how to think or live; it does not claim to have all the answers. It wouldn’t translate very well to an inspirational TED Talk or smartly written blog post or clever YouTube video about 10 Ways You Can Increase Your Happiness TODAY! Rather, The Book of Joy invites you to think for yourself and consider the ideas presented and hopefully to find a better way forward yourself.

So please read this book. But don’t just read it. Read it and contemplate it. Take your time with it. Marvel in it. Slow yourself down with it. It won’t entertain you like the internet will. It won’t kindle passion, anger like the news can. You won’t feel a battle cry erupt within your throat.

But you will find in this book the seeds of a better you, a happier you, a more joyful you. And the seeds of a better us, all of us. The seeds of a better humanity through better humans. The seeds of a more joyful humanity through more joyful humans.

The only remaining question will be what you want: joy or suffering.

 

 

 

Silver

The trees today are flecked with silver. Red and silver. Green and silver. Gold and silver. Tossing in the wind, raining down color on the world.

The air is warm and wet and welcoming. Vast and close at the same time. I can’t breathe enough of it in.

I’m a desperately happy Earth child today. I want to capture every moment, freeze it forever and live in it over and over. Create little dioramas of every flutter of every leaf, of every breath of damp wind. I want to bottle up the glowing gray clouds brooding cheerfully above me. I want to box up the leaf-carpeted roads, so I can take them with me, carry them around.

But I can’t. It makes me sad. That even this moment will recede into memory, nothing more than bright splashes of color and texture. A glorious painting fading in my museum mind.

So I retreat to my common abode, sitting in coffee shops, running away to large windows, tea in hand. Always carrying piles of books with me wherever I go; I need a library.

I need pages and pages and endless images. I need to stare for hours, but I can’t. Life presses on, ever on. Injecting me with happiness, recording my sad longing as footprints, disappearing with the next flow.

Be

Be gentle on yourself, darling. Give yourself a chance. When the midnight comes in the late afternoon, then you know you could not have done anymore.

I know what they say. They say such quaint phrases. Work harder, they say. Sacrifice, sacrifice. Sleep, food, and ego, they say. Be stronger. Keep that pretty smile on; hold your head high. Don’t let them know, they whisper. Don’t let us see, they beg.

I know. I hear their voices in the night.

But when the midnight comes in the middle of the day, what more could you have done? What more is there to say?

So be gentle, my darling, with your heart and soul and your big eyes that carry the fight into the evening. You are only human, and you gave what you had to give to stay alive, to make it through the dark into the pink-lit evening sky. Be gentle with your bruised soul. Be gentle with your brimming eyes. You deserve to let go of the pain and hold on to the best of life.

the Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani

So I picked this book up because it had this ultra dramatic title. The Wisdom of Whores. Wow. Okay. So what do the whores have to say?

Use condoms. And don’t share needles. Apparently.

Elizabeth Pisani, journalist-turned-epidemiologist author, has lived in the US, England, Kenya, and the Philippines. She has chatted up sex workers and ministers of health and junkies and non-junkies who do drugs sometimes for funsies. She has a PhD in infectious disease epidemiology.

And she’s written this remarkable book. An engaging, intelligent, eloquent non-fiction discussion of HIV, its prevention, treatment, and politics.

This book is actually, honestly a page-turner; I read all 325 pages in a matter of 5 days. Four and a half really, but that’s only because I got drowsy on day four. It was late.

Anyway.

I love this book because it exists squarely at the intersection of story-telling and science. The text is stuffed full of statistics, enumerated references to studies, and scientific data collection and analysis processes, but it’s so readable. It’s personable. Pisani injects humor and levity without losing substance or credibility. She brings to life the people, places, and experiences that shaped her understanding of the impact of HIV on real people. She writes with personality and a dash of irreverence, with thoughtfulness and intellect.

If you’re considering what to read next (or have a list of books to which you add recommendations), I would like to place this book, figuratively speaking, into your open hands. It is not only a thorough, meaningful look into the HIV epidemic but also an insightful study of the many ways in which science, politics, and belief systems intersect and complicate our lives. And how the last two often hinder good from being done.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely because it read with the ease of a good story, but I also loved this book because I came out more knowledgeable on a subject that is often obscured by people’s prejudices and fears. Worth your time.

 

 

Love

Ode to the friend
(to each of them).
That I love. In their own ways.
Do they know?
That I leave and wish
that postcards were “a thing”
They’re not?

There should be a word for
“friend love”
for the deep
weepy
sentimental “bullshit”
that ferocious, proud, protective
I gotchu
(even if you don’t got me
— what folly)
feeling

There should be words stronger than
I’ll miss you
Keep in touch
See you next time

There should be stronger words because
the next city won’t have
another you
and your particular mix
of greatness.
The next city will have new faces
that look nothing like yours
that don’t know the things you know.
The next city won’t have our adventures.
And maybe
maybe maybe
that’s bursting sentimetality
(and I’ve been told, you know,
that I’m not
that
sentimental)
but honey,

I already miss you.

Btw
I don’t think this is a proper “ode.”
Oops.

Disorientation

Monday, August 28. The AM.

Eyes staring at the ceiling, mind wrapping bizarrely around the hills and troughs of the spackled, shadowy contours of white paint. These familiar blankets, these blue sheets; they are alien to me. Smelling the same, feeling generic. Contents of a once-home. A former abode. Alien in this new light, this new context.

I roll out of bed. Drift to the bathroom mirror. Only my face. Nothing weird.

Homelessness.

Which conjures grubby people down on their luck, chasing life and falling a little behind. Not me. Certainly. I had a home. It was miles away.

Nomadism, perhaps. A lack of permanence.

A floating from place to place. Settling a little, uncomfortably, only to float on again. It wasn’t bad necessarily. But lacking something.

Home. The feeling of relaxing your shoulders, sinking into bed at night. Waking up and wandering in and staring at your kitchen
windows
counters
sink
refrigerator door opening
lean in
and peering in with a vapid contemplation and easy indecision of no place to lose. The walls cradled you.

Home was knowing you’d be there tomorrow night and the night in two weeks and the night in five weeks.

Home was not having to pause when someone asked you where you live
because did they mean where I live now? Or…?
Because “home” was miles away.

But I didn’t wake up without a home. I simply woke up in a temporary home.

Because home was also people to call up: you were back! Home was having someone with whom to eat breakfast. Home was having someone with whom to go on a walk when the work was getting you wound and down.

Home was here and there and that other place, too.

It was too many places, and that was beautiful in its own disjointed, scattered, bewildering, exciting way. But it had made a ghost of me.

 

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

So I finally finished Good Omens. It took me long enough. I don’t usually read this slow, but I’ve had so much going on. I suppose that’s just the way it is sometimes.

This book has been around for some time now. 27 years, to be precise. That’s older than me. This book is old enough that the copy I read has a foreword in which the authors discuss writing the book and something that might count as an afterword that discusses the book’s status as a “cult classic.” From what I can tell, those who know it and love it, know it and love it thoroughly.

Considering, however, that I am now officially an adult and hadn’t even known of the existence of this book despite having heard of the authors and considering this book is older than today’s newest vanguard of adulthood, discussing this book seems to me to contain merit beyond me spewing my opinions at you. Not that spewing my opinions at you isn’t reason enough. Opinion-spewing is fashionable these days.

My favorite part of Good Omens is the humour. Now, if you have read this book or pick it up in the near future, you will say to me, perhaps with a twinge of sarcasm

“That’s very nice, but the whole thing’s a bloody handbook on comedy.”

True, but that’s why it’s so brilliant. The book never stops being funny, which is absolutely incredible. Even comedy movies need to take a break from being funny for a moment, probably because the writers have run out of jokes and think that humour and character development are mutually exclusive. This is the book to prove them wrong (which, of course, makes me wonder where they’ve been all these years because they’ve had 27 years to mend the error of their ways).

Furthermore, the comedy is smart. Sometimes, it’s even borderline satiric. It’s satire that’s having way too much fun. It’s satire that’s challenging ideas and telling you smart things while cracking you up so hard you’ll spill your tea (or coffee or cocoa; whatever you drink while you read, I suggest you set it down first).

Good Omens qualifies, then, as a fun read. You can read it on the train or in a plane or after a particularly stressful day. It’s the type of book you can read before bed. It won’t leave you weeping. It’s lighthearted.

Another bit of the book’s magic is in the seamless blending of fantastical and mundane elements. I have not yet read a Terry Pratchett book, but I do know that this overlapping of worlds is something Neil Gaiman does well and, frankly, often. The idea of taking a traditional story and bringing it to today’s reality and reimagining it within those bounds is very Neil Gaiman.

What are these fantastical elements, you say? What is this story reimagined? That is where you pick up the book and find out for yourself.

Massive Mango Shenanigans

Hot summer days the way it is here and the mangoes sized big as my head (not kidding), there’s only one thing to do: tropical smoothie galore. One of the best ways to start a Sunday, for sure. There’s something too fun about cutting up pineapples and mangoes and making so much noise with the blender that anyone still trying to get beauty sleep is definitely no longer doing so.

Tropical Smoothie:

1/22/3 cup mango
1/22/3 cup pineapple
1/4  banana
1 tbsp coconut flour
2 tbsp yogurt
1 – 2 tbsp honey

Blend away. I put the ingredients into the blender in the order listed above, with the first item being furthest from the blades because mine is a good, ole, upside down, one-speed, perfect-for-ye-poor-college-student blender.

Asides:

I would have preferred shredded coconut in place of coconut flour because I like the kinda chunky texture it lends to the smoothie. Needs must.

I eyeballed the mango, pineapple, and honey quantities, which is why they’re ranges. For the mango and pineapple, anywhere in the range is good, just make sure they’re the same. For the honey, the classic “adjust flavor as needed” applies.

You can add ice if that’s your speed. Or just chill it in the refrigerator.