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Knowing Thyself

To listen to me reading this blog post in audio form:

 

I’ve questioned whether I can make it through this book: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, the likes of which I discovered propped up in one of those little free libraries situated on a quiet neighborhood street in town. I almost didn’t take it, on account of the Oprah’s Book Club sticker adhered to the cover, which was designed to be a draw, a first-class recommendation, a rubber-stamp of approval by someone people trust. For me, though, it served only the ill-affects of resigning to a fate that had been chosen – neigh, thrusted – upon the masses, as though a woman who graces the cover of every O magazine should wield the power to say what’s hot in the literary world. How does this work? Do people care so little for their own opinion that they should have cause to hold hers in such high regard as to turn over their decision making power? But, I digress.

The reason I may not get through this book has nothing, in fact, to do with the circular sticker glued to the front. Instead, it has to do with the sheer visceral magnitude of the writer’s account of getting sober – in what turns out to be the oldest residential drug and alcohol treatment facility in the world, located in the state of Minnesota. The rock-bottom nature of his experience. The clutching force of how far a human being can spiral down the black hole of depravity. The hellish descriptions of agony. But it’s the realness that keeps me reading. And I know that since he mustered the ability to relive it while coiled over his computer, hands shaky on the keys, I can settle in beside him and listen to his story.

The point? There’s a time to push through discomfort and there’s a time not to. It depends on the situation and where we’re at. If we don’t know ourselves well, it becomes almost impossible to intuit which time calls for which action. Sometimes discomfort is a sign of needing to stop engaging with something because it may trigger us in un-beneficial ways. Other times, it’s a sign to keep going because it affords us the opportunity to learn and grow. And only we ourselves can know which time is which.

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Cat on the lap

 

In only the way a cat can, I was commandeered – in the best way possible – unable to break free. And, as we were sitting outside, I was afforded the luxury of time to look up and ponder the merits and inspirational value of the two towering elm tree friends posting guard in our backyard.

So, it was just this morning that I was able to determine, without wavering, that while they are cause for dismay and require great efforts of manual labor at times, their beauty, wisdom, and fortitude offer far more benefit.

I realized, too, that the one directly overhead of me had a sense of humor, as it was pelting me occasionally with small bits of twigs and leaves as I was writing.

P.S I thought it worth mentioning that I have mild-moderate levels of hesitation in fashioning and posting this photo array from pics I took this morning, as there is a part of me that wants to stay in close personal accord with not becoming one of “those” kinds of cat people. But after careful consideration, I decided it was worth the risk.

 
 

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Perspective

quotes-about-perception

It’s funny how wildly different one person’s idea of a bad day can be from another’s. And by “funny” I mean tragic.

This morning I read a short travel story entitled: The Flight from Hell, amid a collection in the book I’m currently reading. It would take a pile of harrowing and painful occurrences for me to even consider branding a travel experience with that honorific stamp. I’m pretty sure those hanging oxygen bags said to drop down in the event the cabin loses air pressure would need to be deployed. It might even take an unscheduled water landing for me to start pondering the merits of later telling my friends and family that I had, in fact, had the “flight from hell.”

I can only assume that the fellow who penned the story had lived a charmed life before his fateful trip from Jamaica to L.A. And perhaps his perspective had been so incredibly skewed by having never encountered real suffering that he simply had no frame of reference. I kept waiting for the hellish part to present itself. Then the story ended, leaving me still waiting. His idea of a “flight from hell” was basically the equivalent of a minor paper cut.

I’m hoping that upon discovering that his travel story is sandwiched in-between accounts of other writers having been ping-ponged over middle-eastern borders and arrested promptly in each new country, swarmed by army ants and hand-sized tarantulas falling from the ceiling, stranded at sea off the Java coast surrounded by vomit, and rafting down a river full of sewage he came to realize that his “flight from hell”, which literally amounted to sitting on the tarmac for 90 minutes at LAX and then having to wait 10 minutes for his luggage to arrive, sorta paled in comparison.

 

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Jury Duty

missoula_county_courthouseMissoula Courthouse

I was summoned for jury duty in district court yesterday. I wasn’t looking forward to going, wondering if I might be able to get out of it by promptly shouting “Guilty!!” upon entering the courtroom, before anything was even underway yet, thereby calling into question my ability to be impartial, not to mention my sanity. Having no idea of what the day would have in store, but anticipating a lot of waiting around time, I packed light, bringing with me only a pen and small notebook. Over my four-hour stint in the newly renovated courtroom #3 I then proceeded, to my delight, to fill pages upon pages of it with my observations, factual information, musings and wandering of the mind.

A writer revels in new locations like a builder scouting for virgin land. With a pen and paper in tow, even mundane surroundings come alive – my attention held in the details, goings-on, faces and mannerisms around me.

What color is this carpeting? Warm burgundy? Dark salmon? Red brown brick meets sunset? Crimson? Wine? Crimson wine? Autumn leaf? What sort of creative but poorly understood name would it boast on a paint swatch? Jovial Friend Time? Lollipop Station? Squirrel Picnic? Luscious Horse Field?

I love the art and function of writing. To attempt the capturing of moments into unobstructed words. Being a writer supports my mindfulness practice, too. It affords me the ability to tune into certain things I might not otherwise take notice of. And, in the case of jury duty yesterday, having a love of writing allows me to turn an unwanted situation into an experience of captivation and interest.

Displayed at the head of the courtroom lies a mural of three lovely Romanesque ladies of justice, in pleasing earthen tones. The blue-skirted one on the left holds a dove, the middle pink-skirted one holds two rock-like round balls, one in each hand, and the arbor green-skirted one on the right is blindfolded, holding a scale. Above them, from left to right, reads: Freedom, Equality, Justice.

Pillars flank the courtroom topped in golden flourishes, pearl-globe chandeliers hang from the ceiling. A flag is nowhere in sight. Ornate crown molding surrounds the room. A grandfather clock hangs on the wall, keeping inaccurately slow time with its overtly bulky brass pendulum.

Connected wooden seats, with a place to put your cowboy hat underneath, fill with equally summoned citizens called to perform their civic duty – an inordinate amount of us, if you ask me: around 80! 80 relative strangers, who share our residence in Missoula county and a fondness for mountains, sitting elbow to elbow in a packed courtroom. They only need to select 12 of us, with one extra as an alternate, for the trial that will start after lunch, regarding 110 counts given to a woman alleged to have broken a restraining order by way of text messages (110 of them to be exact). A woman, I might add, who’s present in the room for this process of jury selection. Does she get a say in who is chosen? It seems odd that she would be involved in this.

They must be expecting the need to weed out a bunch of us with their procedure of questioning. Questions like: Does anyone have cataracts or glaucoma, rendering it difficult to see clearly? Does anyone have a family member who’s in law enforcement? Did anyone receive the jury summons and think of not showing up? Does anyone know anyone else here in the jury pool? Does anyone have an issue with text messaging (morally speaking or for other reasons)? Does everyone understand what ‘reasonable doubt’ means? Is there anything going on for you in your life that will hamper your ability to focus on the trial?

lady-justice

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Posted by on November 19, 2016 in Everyday Practice

 

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