Morning coffee and a quick read of the headlines. The imprisoned Elizabeth with 7 children fathered by her father, Nazi SS torturer, 93, still at large, child slave labor in China, the beef industry. etc. Well, let’s take a look at the weather. Do I have a sinus infection again? The dog got my sheets dirty. Will I be able to trim the hedge with the electric saw or will I cut off a finger instead? Get down to business: call the bank, call the credit card company, call the insurance agency, call the vet. Anxiety builds, a free floater. “There is nothing wrong. Everything is fine” you think to yourself. Is that a sliver on my thumb? It’s a nice day, and happy plans abound. Those poor people, those poor animals. I have a lousy haircut. I hacked at it myself, as I listened to the news on the BBC. What about the Peace Corp? Could I bring my dog? No. Drastic changes need to be made in my life. Where to start? Just get in the car and follow your guilt. Put out a fire. Oh, but. Oh, but. I am supposed to be somewhere today. Or is it tomorrow? Write a check to a foundation. Watch the lake. It moves North. It has moved North for tens of thousands of years. No matter, the headlines. Joseph Conrad wrote: “The horror….the horror.” What good does it do? Why ruin the day? Tennis? Foot sliver. Writer’s block. Friend in L.A. to play wedding planner on reality show. He is a direct descendant of both Hitler and Mussolini. Good person. Writes children’s book. A troubled man, brother of a friend, walks into the desert outside Bullhead City, Arizona, and gets lost for five days. He barely survives, but regains his health. He asks for a fork to eat dinner. He wraps the fork in plastic baggies. Four plastic baggies. He says he is having trouble with the folk. The silver lining. We all can understand. We are all having trouble –with something.
I’ve been reading Robert Thurman’s book, Inner Revolution, a Buddhist interpretive text, which has various exercises designed to enlighten. I always know when I am feeling sorry for myself: I pull a spiritual primer off my bookshelf. They have never left me the wiser, only inferior.
BUT Mr. Thurman asks an interesting question.
What if happiness did not exist and you were not expected to be happy, nor did you expect to ever be happy, because no one else was happy because happiness did not exist? This is partly true, anyway. Happiness is fleeting, followed by a period of unhappiness because the happiness has passed and refuses to return despite our demand.
What if we don’t demand happiness or seek it? What if we just hang around, not necessarily unhappy, but kind of happy but not really, because happiness does not exist.
It takes the pressure off.
Searching for happiness is like searching for perfection. Let’s add perfection to the list of things that we can pretend do not exist. How do you feel now? No happiness, no perfection. Every moment is kind of a slight bummer, but we’re alive, and everything we do is slightly mediocre, but we’re doing it.
Thank you, Robert Thurman.
The next chapter addresses forgiveness and unconditional love and acceptance for all human beings. Putting them first. Giving instead of receiving as the path to happiness. Wait, there is no happiness. Oh, wait. Yes, there is, if you give. If you give, give, give. Love, love, love.
Thank you, Robert Thurman.
I now feel superior to a very close, almost family kind of friend of mine who has turned down my request to stay at her enormous Victorian house in Newport while I look for permanent housing in the area. (Vietnam Vet sister) ” I can’t stand it. My mother can’t stand it. You must make other arrangements. Not once have you asked if it is okay for my mother, okay for me, if you stay here. ”
Now, I know that I have an intense personality that is best avoided after five minutes, but I don’t think this bitch is giving. I think she’s a selfish, fucked up, lousy excuse for a friend. WAIT.NO! I cannot think that. Robert Thurman suggests that I put myself in her shoes. In everyone’s shoes. We are all, ALL, just trying to get away from pain and move towards a happier state of being. Simple as that.
I remember a time when I told a good friend to leave the house because I was having some kind of melt down. She is still speaking to me. She has forgiven me because my mother was very sick at the time and I was caring for her.
I, on the other hand, will not forgive the bitch in the Victorian house. Oh, in fact, I do not consider her a friend anymore. Robert Thurman, help me, I am really stuck here.
You see, I take offense. I react from two ego states: Indignation and entitlement.
WARNING: artist’s have entitlement issues.
ADVICE: They should.
We ruined the planet but we had alot of fun didn’t we? Just driving across the country for the hell of it, Sunday drives to grandma’s for homemade apple pie? Driving. Fast, slow, state to state, friend to friend, visits here and there, hop in the car and go. Our heritage, our birthright we thought, an outward manifestation of freedom. No matter how bad things got, we could always get away. Those who grew up near mass transit may not feel such a connection to their car, but when you have to drive eight miles for a gallon of milk, no bus, no train, no taxi, – and the cost of gas goes up, and you begin to not go places. Like the store, or the swimming hole, or the gym, or out to do laundry. The laundry stays piled in the back of the car, you drink water in your coffee instead of milk, your arms get flabby, you take a swim in the bathtub.
I like it. This is the first time in my life as a Boomer that I have seriously had to do without. Even when I was truly broke, I could always fill my gas tank. Peanut butter sandwiches, old cheese and used clothes, cheap booze, rats in the basement of a Brooklyn flat. Could handle that. But when you feel that if you go to the store and buy milk you may not have enough money to pay your heating bill, or electric bill ( two bills that were at one time almost irrelevent) things get interesting. Especially when you hate where you’re living; in the middle of a manure pile.
Move to the city, near mass transit? yes, thinking seriously about that. that’s inevitable for more reasons than gas prices. I’d say I could afford rent in a city like El Paso. Bicycle? Go Fuck yourself. Motor scooter? Maybe. But in the winter? No, at the moment, just a good idea to stay home, make a list, go into town once a week. Save the planet, save my sanity. Suffer the withdrawal of not buying something every day, even envelopes, chapstick, a toaster.
How many envelopes have I thrown away in my life, just because they were slightly stained? How many times have I misplaced my chapstick and bought more, and how many chapsticks do I have in various drawers in my house? The toaster is dirty. Cheap toaster. Sometimes the toast sticks. Throw the thing out. Buy another one. easier. Toaster made in China. $3.44, same price as a gallon of gas. Maybe we will go back to heavy, well-made toasters, and we will keep track of our dental floss, and draw a funny smile face over the stain on the envelope.
This is the old way of life made new. The way of life which made our mother’s and father’s pick up dusty nickels and pennies from the car floor. I like it.
I certainly have difficulty with the truth, being that it’s subjective. The truth, to me, is the truth that suits me. The truth I already believe. When I ask a friend to tell me the truth and they tell me the truth, I am appalled. Yes, I want to hear the truth, but I want you to tell me the truth that I expect to hear from a friend, a nice person, a generous, kind, tender person who doesn’t want to hurt my feelings. And yet, when I offer my truth to everyone around me, whether they ask for it, or not, they are appalled.
Gee, I’m only trying to help. I must feel that the way I see things is the way they are, and if the way I see things is not acceptable to you, it’s because you can’t face the truth. If I am appalled when you tell me your truth, it’s because your truth is groundless.
I recently offered unsolicited advice to an old friend about his novel and I don’t think it went over too well, because after a bit of bantering, he dropped off the map. I feel that I did him a favor, although, now that the novel is published, it’s really too late isn’t it? I was playing the martyr. The “friend” who is a “real friend” because I have the courage to tell him the truth and his other friends, a bunch of sissy syncophants, are trying to make him feel good.
The truth is, I didn’t really read the novel. I looked through it quickly. I read a few sentences in a couple of chapters. I was offering a friend advice on his novel that I didn’t read. Why? I was in bed with depression and was trying to kill time. I mentioned to my writer friend that I was in bed alot. He asked Why? I said, I am Bi-polar. I never heard another word.
Something about doing business in a small town. One you grew up in. Seems I went necking in 1965 with the current Vice- President of the National Bank of Middlebury. Having trouble with Flood Zoning issues after taking out a mortgage on the cottages to help daughter consolidate her credit card interest debt.
Jim at LaBerge Insurance in Middlebury handles all my insurance needs, and when he heard that the bank challenged the apparent flood zone of my property, putting me in Zone a-e which is, well, under water- instead of what the property plan reads, Zone C- he told me I would have to obtain a Property Accessment Document or something like that. It might cost me 1,000. I put a call in to my old boyfriend at the National Bank but no word back yet.
Seems that 1/100th of my property, probably the small creek that goes down an easement to the lakefront, is zoned A-E. Who did that? We’re not sure.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency zoning expert, Denise, is working on it. These FEMA people. They’re all under table artists. Denise is an oil painter and while she and I were pouring over maps, both on her end and my end, trying to find the 1/100th sliver of property zoned a-e that might demand I insure my property against a possible tsunami, we started talking about art, and non-bureaucratic issues in the realm of Zen.
The juxtaposition between the diagrams, charts, maps, and little sculpted parcels of land, whether town, state, or country, that we consider ours, really don’t belong to anyone. But someone, somewhere, decided that a sliver of my little sliver of land, is in danger of Typhoon damage. Someone, many years ago, made a mistake. A human error. They’re probably buried under another error by now.
I am looking at the cottages now, and they are both high up on little hills. The waterfront of Lake Champlain is now at its highest in 50 years, and I still have at least twenty feet of height.
But HEY, who cares?? We all know that it doesn’t matter. It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, but on Big Brother’s charts, you’re a sitting duck, a sinking duck. It is a joy to know that there are one way flights to other parts of the country, like Bullhead City, Arizona, which does not demand flood insurance. Yet.
I know there are conclave-chested little men in windowless conference rooms with computers, doing Power-Point presentations, working for flood insurance companies, offered a bonus if they can figure out how to rationalize Bullhead City, Arizona flood insurance premiums.
I need to thank Jim at Laberge Insurance Company for all of his help on this matter, and his sense of humor. National Bank of Middlebury? Still waiting for that ex-boyfriend call, but I have now made a new artist friend, Denise at FEMA, who, along with Elliot Garcia, also at FEMA, make me feel like the comedy provided on this life cruise makes it all worthwhile.
We all need protection from the little men. They’re everywhere.
AP: Bridport: My drill bit is broken. I should go to a hardware store and see about a new bit, but I have no interest. I could use nails instead of a drill gun, but it might crack the wood. Mystery Man has entered my inner sphere, left yesterday, and again, I am a helpless princess. Oh, my drill gun doesn’t work.! I am disabled. I want my tools to work. Consistently. I guess I don’t really want do be a carpenter. I just want to sit down and watch Matt the Mystery Man at work. There is something about a man with a tool belt and big shoulders. This man is actually a sculptor, Matt Macintire, and you’ll be reading alot him in American Artist Magazine in a few years, because he just quit his day job and is following his dream, partly because it’s a smart thing to do in a recession, but also to set a good example for his kids who are watching his every move. They are not feeling right about following the herds to a corporation or starting a business. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with either option, but If Dad quits his job in the middle of a recession, a 40 dollar an hour job dozing behind a desk, to be a sculptor, hey, maybe I could…………well, it seems almost too good to be true but I could…. do anything! I think a recession is a wonderful time to jump ship. I hear some people who cannot pay their mortgage are just packing duffle bags and driving off into the sunset. The burning sunset of toxic chemicals that have made their way from China to Alaska, and are contributing to the meld-down of Antartica. Oh, excuse me, I mean, MAYBE they’re contributing, There is not enough scientific evidence to be certain enough so that emergency Congressional measures might prevent more chemicals from free floating into the ice and snow, attracting the burning sun. I am feeling a great awakening taking place in our country. There are people in their cars, at this very moment, driving slowly, thinking, “where am I really going? To buy a purse that matches my shoes? I have ten purses already and my husband, he’s asked me to pick up another barbecue grill because ours is rusting, but it works. That would be we would have two barbecue grills” A light in the center of the dumb-dumb limbic region of born-again Republican strip mall owners as well as everyone else, that light is going to go off, a red burning siren of a light, and they were turn the car around and go home and plant a garden.
At the present moment, for example, right this second, I am at liberty. This is by choice, for the first time in my life, really, and it feels right. This libertine status allows me time to search out the perfect venue for my abilities and disabilities. Perfect means, perfect for both myself AND the venue. I know the place exists and therefore the search begins, and it acknowledges no boundary. By Land, Sea or Air… the world is still an oyster.
The beauty industry would have us believe that we can change our haircolor and make it look natural. I wanted to be a blonde, and bought a blonde wig and walked around town with it and got some pretty good side glances. The reality is, when you bleach your hair, it falls out, so you have to keep cutting it short so that the bald spots can be covered with the use of hair products that help you maneuver the intact hair threads in such a way as to partially hide the terror. I wore sunglasses for four years straight, until the blonde broken bleached hairs grew out and were replaced with my now silver highlighted simply dark brown hair. Please be careful.
Okay, maybe it’s the chipmunks and the woodpeckers. They don’t get my jokes. Sadly, I get theirs. You see, the reason I love to perform is that it is really the only way I can experience intimacy with other human beings. Sure I like people, and have lots of good friends, but they are friends who understand that I must constantly perform for them or I do not exist. If they do not attend my one on one performances, they do not exist for me. That doesn’t mean I wouldnt’ jump off a bridge to save them or be at their bedside when the bird flu hits. It is simply that my personality, my person, is a performer, and when I am not performing, I am asleep or doing routine tasks like covering the barbecue grill with a plastic bag. When I am writing, it is a private performance which will exist when the writing reaches the eyes of another human being, wherever they are. I do not perform for squirrels, woodpeckers, or my dog. When I am alone, in my little cabin, and not writing, reading, sewing, sleeping, cleaning, playing with my dog, or taking a bath, I am in purgatorial state of detachment from the world. It is only through performance that I connect with whatever the hell is happening on this planet. Because whatever is happening on the planet is happening to all of us at the same time. I do not find solace in nature, for example, the crocuses that have sprouted this year with black freckles all over their petals, something that has not occurred before. at least not here on the lake. Does this interest me? No really. I cannot entertain the crocuses. Can you imagine going to bed with a woman like me? Tap dancing on your hairy chest, encouraging you to give me a standing ovation in the midst of coitus? Actually, I think that is a Tantric position. What I am trying to say is, darling: I’m ready for my close-up. Love, Laurel
Looking at a blank page is like looking into the center of the universe and discovering that it is white. White is substantial, the basis of all color. Now that there are little black letters on this white page it is no longer itself. It has been assaulted. Sliced and pickled. This is when the artist feels most uncomfortable. How can we paint or write anything as beautiful as the white page or canvas, manifestations of the white center of the universe, where the unknown greatness floats? The eternal white and bright where the star dust of our ancestors and friends are silent, and remind me that the white page, the white sky, the white, see through, see nothing, wall of blank, pulpy flatness is a gift that cannot be unwrapped. The whiteness is an empty lap. I try writing my way toward it, to be encompassed, rocked, suckled, bounced on a knee, a child again in my mothers arms, but my mothers arms are star dust, and wordless.