Thursday, September 5, 2013

Delaying Gratification - Why I'm Doing the Dishes Right Now & Thinking of Buddha

A friend of mine loaned me a very famous book (which I had never heard of) called The Road Less Traveled by Dr. M. Scott Peck.  It is a "self-help" book from the 70's, and I never would have picked it up off the Barnes & Noble shelf on my own.  The cover is boring, and the subtitle ("A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth") speaks to me in zero ways.  However (and it's a big however)... However, it's truly changed my life, and I've only read the first half of it!  Just wait to see how enlightened I get when I'm finished!

Peck postulates that the main reason we're all so miserable is a lack of discipline.  There are four elements to discipline, which are: delaying gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balance.  In this entry, I'm focusing on that first one.  I'm a major procrastinator.  It's been a problem my entire life.  Now, I'm sure if Dr. Peck was alive and willing to visit West Hollywood, he would psychoanalyze me and somehow blame my parents, but I accept responsibility for this negative trait.

In the book he asks, Would you rather spend the first hour of your work day tackling the least desirable task and leave the rest of the day to accomplish more satisfying jobs?  Or would you rather procrastinate that task until the last hour of the day, which fills the first seven hours with guilt and dread?  That struck close to home.  The latter portion perfectly described most of my work days - and some days at home too.  In conjunction with the other three steps of discipline, I've made some real progress with my procrastination.

Suddenly, I'm washing dishes as soon as I get home from work, grading papers first thing in the morning, and the biggest boost of it all - I'm noticeably happier.  The people closest to me in life have commented on it.  I must've been a real sad sack of potatoes before.

The last piece of this incredible (partially complete) transformation is my Buddhist mantra, which I've been saying for almost a year now.  The Buddha said that all of man's suffering is a result of his desire for control, but that control is an illusion.  I cannot control whether or not kids turn in homework.  I can't control my boyfriend's schedule.  I certainly can't control traffic in Los Angeles.  BUT, I can use self-discipline to get my dishes done, eat properly, and honestly assess my decisions.

I don't claim to be Buddhist, or an expert in psychology, or even marginally enlightened.  I'm just glad that I wake up, am happy to go to work, and I've got clean plates.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

So This is Thirty...

I turned 30 a couple of weeks ago.  I had a birthday party.  I was showered with love and generosity by friends.  And I totally forgot that I had a blog all about turning thirty...

Though I can't say I was as dedicated as I hoped, I do feel a bit more accomplished hitting three-oh.  I successfully negotiated a better position at work, many of my friendships have blossomed, I feel comfortable with myself, and I managed to ditch a bad habit or two.

I truly look forward to what my thirties have to offer, because my twenties were a mess!  It's a pity that the world revolves around youth, because I'm finally at a point in life where I've found some clarity, confidence, and drive!  Maybe I can pass for 28...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Down in the Dumps? Not with Gene Around...

I once heard a film historian say that the title musical number from Singin' in the Rain is pure, unadulterated joy captured on film.  I remember this because once I heard it, I knew it was true.  So tonight, while my stomach churns, while I curse the employment opportunities for teachers, and am forced to cancel what would have been a rare period of productivity in my hectic week, I decided to put on That's Entertainment.  And as soon as that overture reached the joyful notes of "Singin' in the Rain," my heart felt lighter, and I suddenly had the urge to twirl around my living room and jauntily "tap" up and down my staircase.  So with this in mind, I've worked up a list of five more joyful musical moments on film.

As Lina Lamont said, "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'. Bless you all."

  1. "The Boy Next Door" from Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland.  Just look at her!  Stunning, in soft focus, singing a heartfelt tune of young love... It was tough to choose just one number from this film, as it also contains "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Trolley Song," and the title tune.

 2. "On the Street Where You Live" from My Fair Lady with Jeremy Brett.  I have often walked... I mean, I have often found myself humming this song as I walk down the street myself.  As it builds to that "towering" crescendo, I get goosebumps every time.

3. "Cheek to Cheek" from Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  "Heaven, I'm in Heaven..."  Again, a swirling romance with glorious dancing, a crescendo with musical drama, and I'm hooked!  Fred and Ginger movies are by far my favorites, as proven by my permanent ink homage to this film (yes, I have F&G from this movie poster tattooed on my shoulder).

4. "White Christmas" from Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds.  Though I also enjoy the film White Christmas made several years after the song became a #1 hit, I enjoy this version more.  I suppose because of its simplicity - Bing with his pipe, Marjorie warming herself from the snowfall outside... And of course, it brings forth all of the emotions associated with Christmas, family, and tradition.

5. And finally, "A Spoonful of Sugar" from Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews.  My goodness, if I had a dime for every time I sang this one to get me through a rough patch!  How much happier can it get than Julie Andrews tidying up the nursery and befriending jolly birds?  I also have quite a soft spot for "Feed the Birds," though many disagree with me.  I do know for a fact, however, that Walt Disney used to call the Sherman brothers into his office to sing "Birds," and keeping company with Walt is fine by me!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

As this school year wraps up, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about being a teacher and what that means.  I have determined that it is both the most rewarding and most heart wrenching job in the world.  And yes, I am including ER doctors and firemen.  Sure, they are "noble professions" too, but they make a helluva lot more money than I do.

So here it is - the stats on being a teacher, from my humble point of view...

Who? Crazy people.  Loving, caring, outgoing, crazy people.  I think you have to be a little nuts to deal with the ups and downs of teaching, especially in junior high.  And a sense of humor is a must.

What? Instruction.  Test making.  Book reading.  But also, joyous conversations, frustrating parent conferences, making each other laugh in the teacher's lounge, and occasionally stomping around in the empty girls' bathroom out of sheer rage.  And Bingo games, field trips, spirit weeks, and school plays.

Where? A million schools with tiny budgets, administrators in crisis, and businessmen in charge of the curriculum.  Again, crazy - but in a non-fun way. 

Where else? Colorful rooms covered in construction paper, short stories, marker stains, and piles of papers "to be graded."

How? Sometimes, I don't know how I make it through my day.  Sometimes I want to rip my hair out and drink large margaritas.  But despite the moments of appreciation being very few and far between, boy are they worth it, especially from that one kid . . . the one who glares at you when assigning an essay, who never wants to talk about his home life, and who once in a blue moon will say that he "kinda, sorta liked that book you gave me."  (And you know you've got him.)

Why? God knows.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ladies at Work

After a recent unpleasant encounter at work, I've been thinking about what it means to be a lady in the workplace.  Just because we want equal rights doesn't mean all hints of chivalry should die!  It's quite irritating to have a grown man let a door slam in your face while holding an armful of books.  And this has happened more than once in recent months.

With this in mind, I've come up with a few do's and don'ts for us women at work . . .

- Walk into work with a frown
- Be the cheerful person everyone loves to see in the morning

- Dress in a manner to attract flirtation
- Dress to attract compliments for your good taste

- Allow emotions to make your decisions
- Reflect on your feelings overnight before reacting

- Cry, complain, or make excuses during a meeting
- Accept responsibility, but stand up for yourself when necessary

- Tear down another co-worker to build yourself up
- Encourage success with your teammates (especially female) so they'll do the same for you

And finally . . .

- Expect someone to open the door for you
- Offer sincere thanks to those who do (I expect this will result in more door openings)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sick Lady

I'll be brief... It's absolutely impossible to feel ladylike while doing the following:

a) Blowing one's nose (even with a silk handkerchief)
b) Gargling with salt water (even from a crystal goblet)
c) Coughing up one's lung (even though TB has been made to seem romantic)
d) "Sweating out" a fever (even if reclining on a fancy chaise lounge)

All of the above is just, straight up, gross.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Very Short Story


- - - - - - 

"Holly's Little Book"

Holly thinks it should be easy to write a novel about the man she loves.  She is completely wrong...

Chapter 1

            On the beautifully tiled floor of Union Station, backlit by the afternoon glow, is the cockroach Matt just squished with the wheel of his rolling suitcase.  But he is not worried about this dead creature on the floor.  He is worried about making the train on Platform 7.  Even more than the train, he is worried that I may be pregnant.  And more than a potential baby, I am worried about someone in bare feet or slight sandals coming across the squished cockroach.

            This is as far as Holly got in her book.  The reason for this is the very nature of her theme.  Love is difficult and wonderful and fleeting and timeless and more often than not, a giant pain in the ass.  When she believed she was pregnant, she was completely in love with Matt, and therefore, not worried about having his baby.  Despite the bad timing, she was actually quite elated.  When they realized it was a false alarm, he was relieved and she knew it was the end.
            She began writing her novel when she believed she was pregnant.  It was ten at night on a Wednesday and she was four hours late.  They left for the train station the next morning.  She was still late and told him about it.  He was shocked and then he pretended to be calm and then he threw in a little excitement.  Mostly, he was scared shitless.  When he found out she was only one day late, his mind was put at ease and he said a prayer to God for the first time in twelve years.  
“Please God, don’t give me a baby.  I couldn’t handle it right now.”
Matt’s prayer was answered that afternoon on the train.  That afternoon on the train also brought the end of Holly’s novel.  Holly could no longer romanticize their relationship.  She could no longer picture Matt pushing their son on a swing in the park.  She could no longer envision him giving their daughter a bath and her little hands splashing water back at him.  The whole family would laugh together and then Matt and Holly would kiss.  They were very happy in her fantasies with the little baby.  Without the baby it was just them.  And just them wasn’t easy to romanticize anymore.
Holly was madly in love with him, and even though he was madly in love with her, he was no longer madly in love with life.  He could no longer face another day at work with any enthusiasm.  He could no longer rally himself to paint the garage door or fix the bathroom tiles.  He could no longer speak about going back to school.  Essentially, he could no longer face the idea of changing his routine.
And this, she knew, was the end of them.  If he couldn’t rally for a tile or an education or his alarm clock, he couldn’t rally for their future.
Holly’s story started as a book about love.  It ended as a paragraph about love.  Maybe not the love she wanted to write about, but love nonetheless.