4/29/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I’ve been sitting here for a while, trying to think of a moment to write about. Part of me considered waiting and putting this up later than usual, just in case a moment was still going to occur. But that seems silly to me. That would be like going out into the parking lot, flinging my arms wide and yelling at the sun (although it’s a sunless day), “Hey! Hit me with some happiness please! I have to write about it!”

Silly.

Today was busy. I taught an avid, focused, hungry group of people. Extra chairs had to be brought in and lined the periphery so that everyone could attend. Some hung around outside the door. We had fabulous discussions and deep laughs and moments of insight so bright, I had to blink. Afterward, one woman came up to me, took my card, and said, “I learned more from you than I have in any of the other sessions.” Another woman found me later, in a different location, and she said, “You told me exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.” I ran out of business cards. I almost ran out of books.

Oh, what that second woman said. She didn’t say, “You told me what I wanted to hear.” She said, “You told me what I needed to hear.” That’s my goal, when I teach. If I wasn’t glowing, I’d be amazed.

There was literariness everywhere. People talking books, people talking writing, people being intense, people smiling, people drinking coffee, coffee, coffee. Arguing, laughing, whispering, dancing their hands when their words couldn’t keep up. And one person, of course, who started our conversation by telling me she doesn’t write, but she “works with the extra-terrestrials.”

My kind of world.

Afterward, Michael and I went off-site for a while, for a very quiet late lunch at Perkins. And then, of course, we passed a Goodwill and had to stop in. Oh, do I have some nice things in my trunk… After coming back to the hotel, I meditated and Michael fell asleep. He’s snoring right now, filling this room with the sound of familiarity and home. And I’m sitting here, pondering how to choose one moment of happiness.

How can I pick one moment? There wasn’t one moment. It was a DAY.

It happens sometimes.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

4/28/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today, we drove up to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Michael and I are participating in the UntitledTown Book & Author Festival, powering out of the starting gate in their first year. Over the next three days, I’m doing a reading/signing/Q & A, and three different workshops on a variety of subjects. Michael is joining me for one of them.

I was stressed by the time we arrived, after dealing with delays that had me leaving home over an hour late, and then construction that slowed me down further. My first event, my reading/signing, started at five. We got in to the hotel room at 4:15. Clothes flew everywhere as I tried to transform instantly from Driving Kathie to Performing Kathie.

Green Bay is a scary place for me. Since 2011, when my first novel, The Home For Wayward Clocks, came out, I’ve been asked to do countless readings. A reading at a Green Bay bookstore stands out for me as it is the one time no one showed up. And I mean no one. No one even came into the store while I was there. It was me and the bookstore owner and her two cats. It was like someone put up a billboard at all the major entryways to Green Bay: Don’t Go To The Bookstore Tonight! Kathie Giorgio Is There!

Ohmygod. Awful.

Back in my hotel room that night, I started a poem which I never finished. It was called Doubts:

Sometimes, when you stand                                                                                                         in a room full of chairs,                                                                                                                 you wonder if you should have                                                                                               ever said anything at all.

Yep, I felt pretty smashed. And now I faced Green Bay again.

I was part of a trio of events tonight, and one, concurrent with mine, was with one of Wisconsin’s sweethearts. I’d already pretty much figured my reappearance would be an echo of my first. I arrived disheartened and stressed and prepared to fail. Hello, Green Bay. Did you recycle that billboard?

When I glanced at the festival’s schedule, I saw that the organizers described my event as “a command performance.”

I was surely not feeling very command-y.

Fifteen minutes before the start of my reading, no one was there. Fourteen minutes before, the first person arrived – the volunteer doing the introductions. And then…and then…there they were. There they were!

They came!

Not a standing room only audience, but an audience. A good-sized, almost-filled-room, wonderful, appreciative audience.

And let me tell you…the performance I gave? Command, baby, with a capital C. Two walloping poems and my Pushcart-nominated short story.

They got ME.

And oh, did it feel good.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

4/27/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

So lately, I’ve not been sleeping well. I’m sleeping – which is a huge change in my insomniac life – but it’s not a happy sleep. For weeks now, I’ve been having a recurring dream. It’s not a nightmare. I don’t wake up shaken and scared. But I do wake up disturbed.

It takes place in a house I lived in from 1966 to 1972, when I was six years old to twelve. It’s in Esko, Minnesota, a teeny community way the heck up between Duluth and Cloquet. This house has been prevalent in many of my dreams for the last several months, and, in fact, was the scene of my last nightmare. But now it’s decided to stick itself firmly as setting into a dream that happens again and again.

I’m in the house and I’m looking for a man named Mr. Hughes. That’s all I know. He’s in there somewhere and I am going from room to room to room and up and down from the basement, looking for him. I’m all sorts of ages, depending on the night. I’m the age I was when I lived there, I’m older, I’m who I am now. The rooms, for the most part, are true to the layout of the house as I remember it, though from time to time, another room arrives from another house that I lived in. My parents are there in that way of dreams, somewhere behind me, a presence. I don’t see them and I don’t hear them. Yet I know they’re in the house.

But I’m looking for Mr. Hughes. Over and over and over. Room after room after room.

I’m getting really tired of looking for him. I don’t even know who he is. I can’t remember ever knowing a Mr. Hughes.

I didn’t find him again last night. Which led to my moment of happiness today. Around six o’clock, after a long day of running around, doing a ton and accomplishing nothing, I sat down to meditate. According to the app I use, Insight Timer, I’ve now been meditating 408 days in a row. It was cold today, and I was cold today, so I pulled out my heated throw, turned it on high, and climbed under it. I was joined by a cat, of course. And then I plugged my head into the headphones and tuned into one of my favorite guided meditations, Create Inner Peace, by Glenn Harrold.

I’ve already written that my original idea of meditation was that you have to stop thinking. That’s truly not the purpose or even the goal at all. But every now and then…it happens. At least for me. It’s not a sleep. I’m just gone. There’s no sound, no light, no dreams, no thoughts, no people, no problems, no to-do lists, no expectations, just nothing, nothing, nothing. If you’re doing a guided meditation, as I do, you don’t even hear that. Gone. A state of happy, happy goneness. And that’s where I went today.

Ohmygod, what a relief. Even Mr. Hughes wasn’t there. Well, he’s never there, that’s the freaking problem. But even the search for him wasn’t there.

Twenty-five minutes later, I was suddenly conscious of Glenn Harrold saying, in his delicious British accent, “Open your eyes! Open your eyes!” Obedient me, I did. And I was back. Rested. Brain calm. Body relaxed.

Happy.

The search may continue tonight. It might continue until I finally, in my dreams or awake, find Mr. Hughes. But at least right now, I’ve had some deep, deep rest.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

(For information on the Insight Timer app, please go to https://insighttimer.com/)

 

4/26/17

And so today’s moment(s) of happiness despite the news.

I’ll be honest here. I’ve dealt with a lot of idiots lately. People who made me incredibly angry, angry to the shaking-hands level, the curl-fingers-into-fists level. People who made me wonder at the collective IQ of our country. People who made me glance at the latest passing photo of the Orange Asshat and think, Oh, so that’s how you got into the White House.

People, in general, who made me want to damn all of mankind and decide that this world is an awful place and really, for god’s sake, what am I still doing here?

You know. That kind of idiot.

But today, as I always do on Wednesday afternoons from one to three, I found myself immersed to the heart with the nicest group of women. Variety of ages, variety of backgrounds. But united in compassion and intelligence and just hearty GOODNESS. There’s not a one I don’t love to pieces. This is my AllWriters’ Wednesday Afternoon Women Writers’ Workshop. They are my students. This is my job.

But they are so much more.

Every now and then in this life, you find yourself immersed with a batch of people that just makes you happy. Warm. And that today, helped me remember that the brand of idiocy I’ve been dealing with lately is not the norm. It’s not the whole world. They’ve helped me remember that before too.

In the middle of the workshop, we discussed if a student’s 16-year old male character would really be as nice and empathetic and compassionate as he’s made out to be. And we talked about kids we’ve seen on the news, kids who have collected amazing funds for the needy or collected teddy bears for sick children or knitted hats for the homeless. Kids who care. Kids who look beyond themselves and embrace the world and grace the world and restore your faith in humanity.

Like this group of women does for me, time and time again.

And like a young woman did on my daughter’s Facebook page recently. Olivia’s been going through a lot. And this young woman, part of a group that has gone out of their way to make sure that Olivia does not sit all alone in the lunchroom, posted, “I’m always there for you, if you need someone to talk to.”

I’d like to find this young woman and tell her that someday, she’s going to sit in a lovely room with a bunch of lovely women and she’s going to uplift them all.

So. We have me having this amazing moment with my students, realizing that not everyone in this life is awful, and we talk about how often it is that kids aren’t awful, and realize again that it’s more common than the idiocy league, and then I go on Facebook and I see a meme that says:

“Life is only a reflection of what we allow ourselves to see.”

Typically, memes make me hurl, but this one walloped me upside the head. And then it led me to an old song, The Wall, by Kansas, and the lyrics:

“The moment is a masterpiece, The weight of indecision’s in the air, Standing there, The symbol and the sum of all that’s me, It’s just a travesty, Towering, blocking out the light and blinding me. I want to see!”

So do I. I’ve been blinding myself. And today, one masterpiece moment led to the next and I can see again.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

4/25/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

A few years ago, there was a commercial on television – I believe it was for Merry Maids. A business woman comes home from work. She opens her front door and steps inside and looks around. All the surfaces are sparkling. Nothing is out of place. She stands in the middle of the room, in front of the large island that separates her living room from her kitchen and this smile spreads across her face, so slowly and utterly full of glee. After drawing her fists under her chin in a little girl’s expression of delight, she thrusts both arms in the air and yells, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” From behind the island, two Merry Maids pop out, startled. The business woman blushes, giggles, and whispers, “Good job!”

I don’t have Merry Maids. I hate the name and I prefer to support small businesses – like me. I do have a cleaning service, a luxury I allow myself, in the form of a spitfire named Tracy who shows up every other week armed to the teeth with mops and vacuum cleaners (one that she wears on her back, making her look like she’s a ghostbuster) and rags and cleansers…and treats for the dogs. Normally, I’m here when Tracy is here, as I live in a live-where-you-work condo. AllWriters’ is the first floor and I live on the second and third floors with my family and beasts. But today, I had a meeting at school and a meeting with my publicist, and so I ran out before Tracy arrived. I got home as she was coming out the door. We high-fived and off she went with her battalion.

And I had the television commercial moment.

I went up to the second floor and opened the door and walked into my kitchen. And I inhaled. It smelled soooooo good! It was spotless! It was shiny! Everything around me sparkled and was its correct color, not hidden beneath a veil of orangey-brown beagle and cat hair. The counters were clear. The pillows were on the couch. It was clean! It was clean! It was clean!

And it was warm outside today too, so my windows and deck doors were open. There was Spring in my house.

I didn’t yell and pump my fists. I just don’t do that sort of thing. But I did smile and climb up to the third floor to get to work in my (clean) office. It was lovely.

Except for the puddle. Blossom the beagle had to ground me in reality. This is no television commercial. But I suppose nothing in this life can be perfect. It can still make you happy.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

4/24/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Yesterday, my daughter had a date with a new boy. He expressed interest in her, they met over sandwiches at Subway, he gave her his sweatshirt. Sweatshirt and hoodie-giving is apparently the new class ring swap. Instead of wearing a boy’s love on a chain around her neck, bearing a thickly yarn-wrapped ring, she wears it tugged over her head, draped past her hands, down to her knees.

An hour after coming home, she came upstairs in tears and said the boy texted and said he decided he wasn’t ready for a relationship – he was better off single.

Today, when I picked her up from school, she came out beaming and told me in the car that he changed his mind. Now they are officially boyfriend/girlfriend. They are, in their lingo, “shipped.”

Hooboy.

Driving her home, after I heard her announcement, my left thumb tucked over my palm and gently touched the underside of my wedding ring.

My first marriage lasted for seventeen years and one month.

My second marriage, the current one, is also at the seventeen-year mark. Seventeen years, six months, and approximately 15 days (approximately because some months have 30 days, some 31, and then there’s February).

In my first marriage, after seventeen years, I looked at that husband and said, “I am better off single.” After I left him and had been gone for a few months, I said to that not yet ex-husband, “I’ve changed my mind. I want to come back.” He said, “I’ve changed my mind too. I don’t want you.”

And now, in my second marriage, here we are. Seventeen years. At times, he makes me crazy. At times, I make him crazy.

But we are still crazy about each other.

In that manner of long marriages, we are as familiar with each other as we can be. There’s not much we don’t know. But we still like each other. And even though I live the curves and loops of a living, breathing roller coaster, we are as steady as can be.

Steady. In our lingo, we are going steady. We are beyond steady. We are “shipped” on level waters.

Our daughter is caught up in young love with this boy. And devastation. And young love with that boy. And devastation. And young love with this boy. She is twitterpated, agog, Hallmarky, schmaltzy, ooey-gooey-eyed in love. And in love. And in love.

I’m glad it’s her and not me.

I am so glad to be fifty-six. I am so glad to be married for seventeen years, six months, and approximately fifteen days. I am so glad to be made crazy by him, and to be crazy about him.

I am so glad.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

4/23/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This afternoon, I went to see a medium do a group reading. I’ve known Mollie for almost ten years now. The day I met her, I was – big surprise! – skeptical. I didn’t believe in an afterlife. I didn’t believe someone could talk to the dead. But a friend invited me to see Mollie and it gave me the opportunity to post my favorite Facebook status of all time:

“I’m going with my friend Nancy Drew (really!) to see Mollie Morningstar (really!) talk to the dead (really!). Oh, and Nancy is wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt (really!).”

As statuses go, it doesn’t get better than that.

But Mollie knocked me off my feet. When she began talking about a man who died from something to his chest, likely heart, a man who had a thing about orange juice, I sat up. My father loved his orange juice. He had to have a specific brand, a specific pulp, at specific times of day in his specific glass. In order to give evidence that this was my father and that he was aware of what was going on in my life, Mollie asked me if I had a dog that was having potty problems – I’d just bought diapers for the first time for my beagle Penny that day. She also mentioned a pair of pants I’d bought the day before. And she talked about seeing a book floating down a river – my first novel had just been accepted.

I was sold. And I was delighted to hear from my father. Especially when he told me he was proud of me. Something he never said while he was alive.

As I sat in the crowded room today and watched Mollie up on the stage, I also watched the faces in the audience as people received messages. Even though I didn’t receive a message today, I realized that Mollie has given me a great gift.

A belief that there’s something afterwards. Not a great and vast void. But something.

I don’t know what that is, exactly. Heaven? Maybe. A parallel universe? Maybe. But there’s definitely a feeling of ongoing-ness. And there’s a familiarity there too. People that I’ve known. People that I’ve loved. Well, I suppose people I haven’t been too crazy about either – but then maybe there’s a second chance.

Second chances and hope seem to go hand in hand.

It’s interesting how all of this works, really. Often, when I meditate, I use a guided meditation recording. One of my favorites has a moment in it that talks about letting a thought pass if one comes up, that all thoughts pass, “just like everything will pass.” I listen to that one on my most stressed-out days when it’s such a relief to hear that everything will pass.

And yet, with Mollie, I find great comfort in the idea that things will go on. Differently, but on.

Finding great comfort. Knowing things will pass, but also seeing that there will be the familiar in the unknown. Second chances. Hope.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

4/22/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today, as I was driving out of a parking lot, I was thinking about what I would write for today’s moment. And it made me realize that my thinking has changed.

I’m looking for happiness now. I’m keeping an eye out. For heaven’s sake, I’m expecting it.

As I’ve said before, I’m a skeptic, and I call myself a natural skeptic, though I honestly don’t know if it’s natural or not. I don’t know if I was born this way or if the skeptical attitude came over time and experience. But I’m not usually surprised when bad news happens. I’m known as an edgy writer, a controversial writer, a disturbing writer. I’m okay with most of the descriptions given to who I am as a writer, but I’ve never liked being called disturbing.

Though at the same time, a student said to me yesterday, “No, you’re not Little Mary Sunshine, but you’re the most positive person I know.”

Well, I liked that. That would have been a good moment for yesterday. But I chose another.

There was another!

And now, for about three months, I’ve been doing these Today’s Moments as a response to the election of the Orange Asshat and his slimy arrival in the White House. I found myself so bogged down after the election, swamped with constant photographs of him and reports of the next outrageous thing he did and requests and demands for what needed to be done to stop him and lists and figures and ohmygod, it was hard to breathe. It felt like the darkest of times and I had to do something to keep that darkness from taking me over. So I began to look for just one bright light in my day.

I started this to help me deal with Orange Asshat Fallout. But the effects have pond-rippled so much further. I didn’t realize how dark my vision had become until I started trying to find light.

As I drove out of the driveway today and down the street, I realized I’ve been finding it. I’m smiling more. I feel better. And at the same time, I’m still me. I haven’t spouted a unicorn horn, I don’t wear rainbows, my writing isn’t worthy of Hallmark cards. Yes, I still get angry, I still get sad, I still (sometimes) wonder how I’m going to get out of bed in the morning. But there’s this search I’m on now, an everyday search for one, just one, bright moment. And so far, it’s always been there. Sometimes there’s two. Sometimes there’s more.

Well, okay, once it was sorta questionable. But even then, I said that the moment of happiness was that tomorrow was coming. I still found a way of looking ahead. That’s new too; I didn’t used to look forward to tomorrow. It always seemed just like something to get through.

But now I’m looking ahead. I’m looking for happiness. And I’m finding it.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

4/21/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Sometimes, good can come out of a bad back.

On Christmas Eve 2004, I ruptured a disk in my lower back when I bent down to lift my chihuahua, Cocoa, into my bed. That was bad enough, but a week later, on New Year’s Eve, it exploded into sciatica involving the fifth sciatic nerve. Pain roiled from the base of my back, over my left hip, and all the way down my leg to my toes. I lost feeling in those toes for six months – I was told they might never recover. But they did, and so did I, and I have only suffered a few real relapses. Twinges, yes. Full-blown sciatica, only twice.

Today made the third.

I also deal with fibromyalgia. Consequently, the pain that hinted over my back and hip over the last week, which I blamed on fibro, was likely the warning signs of what was going to hit this morning.

I woke up with that pain, THAT pain, that makes the word pain not nearly enough. I couldn’t walk, mostly hopping on my right foot and putting my left foot down only enough to keep from teetering over. Hello, sciatica. Walking and standing, impossible. Sitting, uncomfortable. Laying down, preferable. So I reintroduced myself to the medicine cabinet and muscle relaxers and even broke down to take Tramadol, which I never take because narcotics make me paranoid. Then I settled into bed with an ice pack and disturbing dreams.

Midafternoon, when the Tramadol gave me my brain back, but still kept the pain in a haze that seemed to float beside me, but not in me, I got up. I made it to my deck door and then decided it would be better if I took a break on the deck rather than making the long trek back to bed. So I sat down in a rocker and, not for the first time, wished I hadn’t gotten rid of the hammock that used to be there.

But then I saw the sky.

The overcast disappeared today and the sun returned. The sky was a deep blue, that particular blue that is only for skies and not for oceans or lakes, though we assigned that blue to those when we still used crayons. It’s the RIGHT blue. The BEST blue. The blue that SHOULD be called blue. And there were white clouds which I normally would call cliché, but on this day could only be called beautiful.

In the story that was accepted for publication this week, Sitting, I have this description (yes, I am about to quote myself):

Oh, the blue.  The vibrant and cascading soft blues of the sky. Wide. Flat. Lit somehow from within. Abigail opened her eyes wide into the blue and the blank and the entire world fell into her gaze. She leaned into the sky, slack-jawed, open-eyed, and fell thoughtless into the blue and the blue and the blue. For untold minutes.

And that’s what I did today, though I didn’t lean into the sky. It leaned into me. And for untold minutes, I was pain-free.

I didn’t have Tramadol for the rest of the day. I thought of the sky instead.

Oh, the blue.

And yes, that helps. Despite Anyway.          

 

4/20/17

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I personally hate the phrase, “When one door closes, another opens”, or as some say, “When a door closes, a window opens”. It’s usually said with the best of intentions, but it’s trite and sometimes, it makes me angry. I want to say, “Sometimes, when a door closes, it slams. It’s nailed shut. And there’s no other open door anywhere,” or “When a door closes, a window opens so you can throw yourself out of it.”

Despite writing these moments of happiness every day, I’d still call myself a natural cynic. The actual phrase comes from Alexander Graham Bell, and he said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” So maybe that’s my issue. Maybe I just don’t always see the newly opened door. But it does seem to me that sometimes, a closed door is a closed door. Bam. Logically, I can’t imagine that some doors are forever.

But today felt like a newly opened door. It felt like open windows. It felt like June at five o’clock in the new evening. It felt glorious.

The day after a crisis ends, and ends favorably, every door and window opens. When I woke up this morning, my first thought was of my daughter. But it wasn’t about worry and fear. It was relief.

She smiled yesterday. She laughed.

And I slept better than I have in a few weeks.

When the morning spooled away and I finished with my clients, I stood in front of my deck doors and looked outside. There was a storm last night and everything is everywhere on the deck. The chairs and table are knocked over. The umbrella is on the opposite side of where it should be. It was still cloudy and there wasn’t any warmth today. There was a chill and damp in the air. The planters are still empty.

But I realized I’d gotten through the morning without glancing at the clock and wondering how my daughter was doing.

When I looked out the deck door again, the sky was blue despite the overcast. It was sunny despite the shade. And I saw us all sitting there, in June, with a picnic dinner, with corn on the cob, with hamburgers fresh from the grill, with a still-warm pie bought from a bakery waiting for dessert (I’m not going too Waltons on you – I don’t cook. I buy pies, I don’t bake them, except at Thanksgiving when I make a pumpkin and a pecan, and a pecan again for my son’s birthday in March).

And my daughter was smiling again. And I noticed a new friend or two sitting with us. Talking, talking, talking. Giggling over boys and dates and what-do-we-wears. Friends like Olivia who liked doing what Olivia likes to do, and all of them enjoying everything together.

I smiled at the overcast day. I noticed the newly open door. I no longer wanted to throw myself out the open window.

Even a skeptic can be hopeful on the day after a crisis has ended.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.