Sunday, July 25, 2010

Walk, Don't Run

The firemen think somebody snubbed their cigarette out in the old wood planter box, filled with dirt, but also apparently with peat moss or something that holds in the heat. What apparently sat smoldering for hours went up in flames much much later, 1:00 a.m. to be exact. The firemen showed up along with several neighbors in the small community area we share behind our 4-unit apartment, where we all keep our BBQ’s and the trash barrels, to put out the fire in the box that had burned and charred a good 6-7 boards of the fence that it was next to. It could’ve been much worse.

A few days ago I was sitting at a stop light, where legally we can make a right turn on a red light, that is, if all is clear. I looked to my right, over to my left, and didn’t think to look right again. As I put my foot to the accelerator and lurched forward, I slammed on my break just as quickly. A startled small Hispanic man was just beginning to walk in front of me. He was in the crosswalk with the little lit up man walking on the traffic light. My heart stopped. I waved at him and mouthed the word “sorry” with my face in that kind of scrunched up – “God, my fault, I really messed up-so sorry-" kind of way - he just waved back, put his head down and kept walking.

I drove off with my knees shaking and my head spinning just from the thought of what could have happened more than what had actually happened. The thought that one careless mistake (a cigarette not completely put out, not applying Santa's checking it twice advice) could injure or take the life of someone or many people and change the life of the person who caused this careless mistake forever. One careless mistake, mistakes that we all make on a regular basis. One step we didn’t see as we were descending the staircase, one overlooked stop sign hidden by the branches of a large oak tree, one pot handle we didn’t turn away from the front of the stove only to get bumped by someone passing by, scalding hot water or hot oil, the list and possibilities go on and on.

This isn’t written to depress or look on the dark side of things, it is merely written with the urgency of paying attention. Being present, noticing your surroundings. We are in such a hurry all the time. People texting while they walk, texting while they drive. Would you walk around town with a book in front of your face?  It has been reported lately about the rise of "accidents" involving people who are walking and texting at the same time.  People walking into streetlamps, utility poles, parked cars, other people and even falling down manholes!! We have all seen people reading while they drive, their reading material propped up on the steering wheel, or using their visor or rear view mirror to apply mascara. Things that make talking on a cell phone seem like childs play. Why can’t we just drive anymore. This is not a question, rather a simple plea.

It isn't just the multi-tasking while driving, it is the constant need to be connected.  People dining out with their cell phones placed alongside their place settings "just in case" - always feeling that we can't wait until we are home to make a return phone call to friends, the need to check our social email hourly instead of perhaps once a day, adding new "friends" to our Facebook account for popularity's sake instead of real connections. We can hardly find enough time to call or the hours to spend with our few real friends and now we've added the pressure of communicating with a couple hundred or so more, most that mean very little to us . I trust you get my point.

The two incidents that I have mentioned (the fire and the almost hitting a pedestrian) happened within days of each other during this past week. This to me is a true slap in the face sign. Wake up. Pay attention. Keep focused. Occasionally turn off the phone, occasionally shut down the computer.  Slow down. Eat at the table. Pretty clear isn’t it?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let's see what's behind Door Number 1

One of my favorite movies is Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow. For me “favorite” means I can remember the story line, the characters and I’d see it again. In a nutshell, the movie begins with Helen and her boyfriend. Helen leaves for work, he has another woman come over, you can imagine what happens next. Well, the plot then is Helen leaves work early after being fired and from here we see how her life unfolds from two different story lines, one is we see what happens when she misses her train and then again, what happens in her life when she makes her train – two different life paths depending on that simple circumstance which itself was determined by just mere seconds in time. How different her life would be if she would have got home on time (catching the bus) or if she misses the bus and thereby also misses out on finding the truth, which is, her boyfriend is cheating on her. Such an interesting storyline and it really reminds you of how every simple decision you make, action you take, or circumstances that are beyond our control, can change or affect our life in a very profound way. One of the highlights of this movie is the Scottish actor, John Hannah, who is so charming and so hilarious that you instantly or shortly after hearing a few of his lines, fall in love.

John Hannah
In a rather round about way, this all leads me to my new job. Have you ever noticed how life never really makes things simple? There are always choices and with those choices comes that struggle within ourselves of “are we doing the right thing, the best thing", etc. I received two job offers within two days. Both at art galleries. I ended up choosing the one that I thought would be the least stressful, provide the most opportunity to learn, chance to travel and really hone my sales skills. But in my mind I kept playing out what would happen differently if I took the other offer. I thought about the people I will meet (depending on which gallery I will work at) where I will travel, the experiences I will have, the friends and connections I will make and thought about how it will actually make a difference in my life. In my future – I saw my life like the character Helen in Sliding Doors – saw myself walking two entirely different paths and hoping that the one I was choosing would take me into a world of castles, good fairies, friendly talking squirrels, and not into some dark forest with houses made of brightly colored ribbon candy, old women with moles on their overly extended chins, and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

You really do have to think about these things you know. But once you’ve made the choice, you really should stop thinking about the “what ifs” – it doesn’t do anyone any good. So, I made my choice.
choice n. The act of choosing; selection. The power, right, or liberty to choose; option. Again I am reminded that it is me who is responsible for what happens in my own life.  I have the power/right to choose.  Even though I won't know the outcome, I still made the choice.  I guess that is what makes choosing so scary. It is like "door number 1, 2, or 3" - that is a whole lot of pressure!  Our one little life with so many choices, all of them leading to places unknown. Like walking a labyrinth, navigating sharp turns, not being able to see too far ahead, not knowing when you will reach the end and once at the end, what will be waiting.  Labyrinths are said to symbolically reveal two sides of the human spirit: complexity and simplicity; mystery and design; intuition and sensory experience. Interesting.

People say that if you knew what was going to happen in your life, if you could see your future, it might be so terrifying that some would just call it quits, jump off the bridge right now, some would become bored , and perhaps others might try desperately hard to make immediate changes.  All I know is that when presented with a fork in the road, I would be really like to be privy to a preview of what was on each plate.  It would just be so reassuring, so less nail biting. And it would have made life so much easier for Helen and James!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jack the Rabbit

There is something to be said for these older houses. The fact that they are old makes everything that you wouldn’t tolerate in a new home, not only tolerable, but acceptable. Some call it charming. The interior doors don’t shut tightly, the windows have cracks and the floors squeak with every step you take. But I must say, I do love the hardwood floors. Scratched and stained, swollen in places so that you could almost use them as beginner skateboard ramps, but cleaning these floors is a breeze! All I have to do is open the windows and voila, nature does all the work, gathering these little dust balls in corners and along the baseboard. Then I  simply bend down and pick them up. Actually, the dust bunnies that have gathered here are not so little, less like cute little bunnies and more like scraggly rabid jack rabbits! What one person might call “disgusting” I am calling extremely efficient. I am trying to live with a more “wabi sabi” outlook on life, appreciating imperfection. Finding beauty in what otherwise might be considered only “junk pile” worthy. Not stressing over dust and other unneccesary details.

Meet Jack the Rabbit. Oh please, don't act like you've never found one of these in your house!

Living without many of the “modern conveniences” that many of us have come to expect, to depend on, this house is teaching me to appreciate simplicity. But there are times I find myself yearning for the day I hear that comforting hum of a Bosch dishwasher, the loud grumble of a hungry garbage disposal and the thrill of hearing the A/C click on during these 95+ degree summer days. Hopefully all this charm won’t lose its charm anytime soon.

Most of the house has now been filled with our Craigslist “finds” – though some are not quite what I wanted once I got them home. I have now created a stockpile of used furnishings out in the garage – just waiting for the day I can have a great neighborhood sidewalk sale. We bought a leather sofa because it was a great price, comfortable, and I really liked the 76 year old man we bought it from. He was a retired Master Gardener from Hawaii. The sofa had been purchased in Hilo and for some “Waikiki” reason, made me want to take it home. But, the truth is, I never wanted a leather sofa nor did I want the color brown. I guess I’m a sucker for a charming old man. Now I will either be relisting it on Craigslist, or holding on to it for the day I have more space, maybe even a home office.

 Persian carpet, designer coffee table, my daybed, and Leather   sofa!!!
Dressing up an old wall heater

So basically now the place is feeling like home. Reality has set back in, kicks me in the head and reminds me that I need to find something to do. Not that I haven't been trying.  I still can’t get the coffee house off my mind, still hoping something will happen with that.  I don’t have any real prospects for work on the horizon, but trusting that something “fantastic” will be coming my way. I try and clear my own “dust bunnies” from my head, clear my thoughts and vision, and sit down to make a plan. But the plan making feels forced and unnatural. Not wabi sabi at all. One thing that I have learned in my life, that has proved true for me, is not to trust either your head or your heart. They don't work well together. Trust your gut. It won’t lead you astray. Mine is telling me a few things right now. For starters, I wasn’t put here on this earth to worry about dust balls in the corner, I am not here to do some mundane tasks for another and get a measly amount of compensation that won’t even pay my simple little rent, and that there is something creative and meaningful that I am supposed to be doing. I just have to wait a little longer, try a little harder and bend down and remove those dust balls when they gather.