Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year’s Resolutions, A Day at a Time

It's December 31, and I should be thinking up resolutions for 2010. But it's afternoon, and I'm still in my J's. I spent half the morning trying to figure out which dance/party to attend, because, of course, I want to be where everyone else is going. But where is that?

Then too, I had decided with great relief earlier this week that at least New Year's Day is not a big deal: Who cares if you're home alone on New Year's Day? Then I noticed that I was starting to care. So I emailed a bunch of women and invited them over for Hoppin' John (so we get our good-luck black-eye peas in, and conversation and games.)

I tell you all this just to explain why I don't have my new resolutions made. I guess they're not pressing. I found a column I wrote in 2006 for the Port Townsend Leader, and I already didn't have many then. Take a look.

New Year’s Resolutions, A Day at a Time

I hate to sound smug about this, but after all these years, my major New Year’s resolutions have pretty much taken hold. I brush my teeth (and floss!) regularly, put my dirty clothes directly into the hamper, and eat a good breakfast daily. I don’t have to cut out the potato chips or the smokes or the Scotch. Not my problems.

I think this is a good way to look at resolutions. Start out with what you don’t have to resolve. It’s like making a “done” list instead of that everlasting “to do.”

The only other thing I know about resolutions is that the most important ones to me are found on my treasured Just for Today bookmark, which I picked up at an Al-Anon meeting a long time ago. Just for today, it says, I will try to live through this day only, not yesterday, not tomorrow. Just for today, I will adjust myself to what is, and stop trying to remake everything and everyone.

Just for today, I will make a plan and follow it, thereby avoiding two pests: hurry and indecision. When I was married, in that cozy morning time before you get out of bed, we’d say to each other, “So, what’s your plan for the day?” Now I say it to myself. Still works.

Just for today, I will have a quiet half-hour, on my own, to relax and try to get a better perspective on my life. When I first encountered this, I thought, “Oh, all those years I’ve been feeling I ought to meditate, I ought to read my scriptures, when in fact, it’s not a requirement: it’s a gift.” Like a Sabbath: not a duty, but a blessing.

Just for today, I will be unafraid...to enjoy what is beautiful, and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me. I walk a fine line here. I awoke this morning seeing the shadow of the pine on my wall as the light came through my window, and thinking of people the world over who used to awaken to such pleasures, and now, due to wars and health care costs, perhaps, have no pines, no walls, no beds in which to awaken. The world is scary, and my comforts seem tenuous to me. So I’ll love them while they last.

Here’s a favorite: Just for today, I will be happy. This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that ‘Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.’ Not in a mindless, Pollyanna way. But like my sister Sarah, who taught me by example that when a full jar of honey smashes on the floor, you have a choice: you can cuss, you can cry, or you can laugh. She laughs. I try to.

Just for today, I will try to strengthen my mind....I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. The Atlantic. Crossword puzzles.

I’ve always had trouble with this one: I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out. It’s not that easy, not getting found out. What works best for me is rescuing people’s garbage cans and lids as they blow down the street on trash collection day. But that’s only once a week. Another tough one: I will do at least two things I don’t want to do. Because by the time you decide to do them, you do want to do them, if for no other reason than to check them off your mental list.

Perhaps the most useful resolution is just to read the bookmark every morning, just to remember, before the day rushes in, what it is you want to be. Because the best resolutions aren’t about what you do, but who you are.

O Reader, Who Art Thou?

Well, I’m excited. I was going to post a note on my Facebook page asking my friends who read my blog there to click on over here, to my real blog, so we could get my view stats up over 5000 by the end of 2009 -- and I looked, and the number was already 5083!

It’s a thrill to see that I’m not just talking to myself here on this blog, not that that would be bad.

But I’d love to know who you are, dear readers, and where. Would you take a minute, please, and leave a comment with at least that bit of info? And thank you so much for making time for me in your reading lives in 2009. I hope it's been as fine a year for you as for me, and I look forward to sharing the challenges and rewards of 2010. On some of my low days, it's been a real upper to read a word or two from you. I appreciate the encouragement.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Annual Review

I was asked at a dinner party last Sunday if I was making New Year’s resolutions. I hadn’t thought of it, but I’m thinking now. I haven’t decided.

I do know I’m reviewing the achievements and personal growth of my year. And I had some just this week.

A friend kindly pointed out to me earlier in 2009 that I’m not that good at weighting. “Weighting?” For example, she said, remember that guy you were pretty sure was an alcoholic, from the first date when he had two big glasses of wine at lunch, and then the second date when he had two Jack Daniels before dinner, half a bottle of wine with dinner, and champagne after? But you kept making lists where “drinking” and “doesn’t cycle” and “doesn’t dance” had the same weight?

Oh, yeah, I said. I see what you mean.

But I’d still miss this propensity when no one was around to point it out.

So I was delighted yesterday, having coffee at Fremont Peet’s (nice music) by an exchange with a friend. We were talking about dating and she said it was encouraging to her that the experience of my marriage and divorce had apparently not traumatized me about men.

“So what happened in your marriage?” she asked. “How did it end?”

“I am optimistic about relationships,” I said. “Really, my marriage was only about this far” -- I held my thumb and index finger an inch apart -- “from being perfect.” I’ve had this conversation before. I’ve said this a hundred times. But suddenly I knew it was false.

True, there was just that one thing wrong, but I wasn’t sure now that I could get my arms far enough apart to show how big that one thing was: he just didn’t somehow like me enough to be nice to me. I wasn’t the right person for him, or he for me.

So good. Bit by bit, my weight problem is becoming clear to me.

But how will I know, next time, if I’ve found my right person?

I had an epiphany on that question too!

If you’re single like me, you have heard these words: When you find the right one, you’ll just know.

You’ll just know, how? I don’t know. Whether it’s a man or a new place to live in Seattle -- and I’ve been on a home search -- my life is littered with lists of pros and cons. With homes as with men, I note the must-haves: dishwasher, outdoor space for sitting and growing beans and greens, permission to paint my walls yellow, bus proximity -- and then I start whittling them down to accommodate reality. While I dither and vacillate.

But then it happened: I found my new home, and I just knew.

And it turned out that every darn thing on my must-have list was actually there in my new place.

So I’m encouraged. If it works for housing, I figure it will work for mating too.

I wonder what more 2009 has to teach me, in these last two days?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Home Again

I spent Christmas in Menominee, Michigan, with my mom. We cut a Christmas tree and shook the snow off to bring it in the house. We got it up, with lights on, and then my sister and her husband and kids arrived from Cincinnati. We drank homemade eggnog. We line-danced in the living room. Mom read aloud a funny, wintery piece from Garrison Keeler, I a Christmas story from Mom's Annie Dillard collection. We all had cheese fondue and champagne on Christmas Eve, after the 7 pm service at Mom's church. We played Argue -- an actual game -- and lots of Scrabble. No opponents are better matched than my mom and me: our final game ended in a tie.

Mom made me a quilt. Sister Deb sent a mug made by her ceramic artist husband. The earflap hats I gave my nephews (teenagers, a nightmare to shop for) have not left their heads.

A fine Christmas. But as my plane descended to Sea-Tac, my heart and my energy rose a notch. I took the new Link to Westlake Station. With the confidence of a native, I directed a stranger looking for 1st and Pike. Then I boarded the #5 to Fremont.

Seattle. Home.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas as if you’re all that matters...

Before she moved to Seattle last February, Mary was a columnist for the Port Townsend Leader, which published this in December 2007.

I’m taking a course in "Writing your Life Narrative." Last week our topic was how to write what you don’t dare to write. A lot of it is mean stuff. For example, who wants to admit, even to herself, that decades later what she remembers most about a perfectly gorgeous Valentine’s Day mixed bouquet is thinking, “Still no tulips?”

Or imagine describing in writing the one appalling physical feature of your beloved that normally you gloss right over. I’ve decided the things we dare not write are generally these partial things: They’re true, but they’re not the whole story. A realist wouldn’t waste time on them. But it’s powerful to look the dark stuff in the face from time to time.

So I wrote some resentments and petty judgments, and then I recognized another thing I don’t dare to write: my wild wishes! For the perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect Christmas gift. I barely let a wish surface before I start making excuses for why it’s okay that it won’t come true.

I don’t think kids do that. And kids don’t have the holiday problems adults do. They’re not worrying about how tough it is to pick a truly meaningful gift for the people they love. They do not gather on the playground to agree that donating to the Heifer Project is the only appropriate way to celebrate the holidays. No, kids are consumed with one thing: What they want to get.

So how about we try that? Let’s go back in our imaginations to the first Christmas memories, when it was still all about you. Where you sort of wanted to stay up late because you were so excited, but you also wanted to go to sleep, so it would be morning sooner. Where you’d awaken while it was still dark and call out, “Daddy, did Santa Claus come yet?” And he’d say, “You kids stay in bed, and I’ll go downstairs and check.” You’d hear some murmuring and some rustling, and then he’d say, “You’d better come down. Somebody’s been here, that’s for sure.”

And down the stairs you’d come, and the tree lights would be on and the packages would seem to spill out from under the tree and into the room. And there -- there it was! with a giant red bow! Just what you’d always wanted!

And what is that? Let’s make our lists. If you could have anything, what would you find under your tree on Christmas morning? (In addition, of course, to “world peace.”)

Here’s what I want to see:

Adorned with the huge red bow, a titanium road bike with all Shimano Dura-Ace components. Three gorgeously wrapped and beribboned boxes containing: A fetching body-skimming pink short-sleeve biking jersey, with those cool pockets in back. Seven sets of silky underwear, one for each day of the week. And red cowboy boots. There’s an envelope too, with tickets to Lafayette, Louisiana, for a New Year’s Eve zydeco dance party.

Of course these things won’t be under my tree, and that’s fine: that old Christmas feeling is for kids, not grownups. But why was I scared to make this list?

The list has turned out to be its own kind of gift. It has got me thinking that materialism has screwed us up in more ways than I’d ever guessed. Just because we may be tired of the advertisers’ suggestion that all men want large noisy tools and all women perfume, for example, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to choose a wonderful gift; it’s just that the gift we long for is the one that says, “I see you.” And how can anyone else see you if you can’t see yourself? if you’re afraid of your own big wishes?

Single Bells, Single Bells, Single All the Way...

Wow! Already it's my fifth Christmas as a single woman! This year, I'm going home to Mom in Michigan on December 21, so I don't need a Christmas tree: we'll put ours up there. Sister Marty and her family will arrive the next day, so we've been phone-calling to mesh our various traditions. We'll have cheese fondue and champagne on Christmas Eve, my tradition since about 1978. Marty always bakes warm cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning; I'm willing to go along with that. Mom has found local farm-raised pork for roast pork with an apple dressing alongside, for Christmas dinner.

Still, there have been those holiday prep occasions to handle, and except for the difficulties of tying bows 'single'-handedly, I've done well on my own. Last Tuesday afternoon, I baked me my favorite Christmas cookies, Jewel Box Cookies, a lot like fruitcake in cookie form. Then I made Holly's Eggnog -- Holly being my first, wonderful sister-in-law. (I miss her more than the ex.) You beat the egg yolks with sugar until "light and lemon-colored," then separately beat the whites until they're in peaks. You add "single cream" to all that, then whiskey. I poured myself a glass at about 3 pm (!), then phoned Holly for a phone visit. I've had a glass of eggnog and a cookie before bed every night since.

When I was married, our tradition was to open our presents under the tree on Christmas morning while we listened to our old tapes of Messiah. Two packages arrived for me last week, one from my kids in California, another from a good friend in Port Townsend. I knew I didn't want to fly them to Michigan for Christmas morning, but I wanted to make an occasion of opening them. Plus, I just liked looking at the boxes, and letting the suspense build.

This morning, I made a special breakfast -- waffles with sliced fresh pear, toasted pecans, and maple syrup -- then put "Celtic Christmas" on the CD player. I sat down with my boxes. I opened cozy slippers from the kids and put them right on, then opened colorful placemats from my friend. They're on the table right now with a clean plate, just because I love how the mats pick up different colors in my old Spode and make it look excitingly different.

I'm packed for my flight tomorrow morning, and heading out to a party tonight. At the dance last night, two different men told me I look like Audrey Hepburn with my new, slightly shorter hair. All on my own, I'm having a lovely holiday season.

I hope you are too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Travels with Willie

Let me tell you about me and Willie. When I lived in Port Townsend, I had a friend there who grew up a missionary kid in Laos. She is still in love with Southeast Asia. I had noticed in one of my bike newspapers that some guy was doing an evening at REI in Seattle about cycling Laos and Thailand (I think it was).

Jeannie and I decided to go. I was describing our plan to my friend Amy on our regular walk, and when I mentioned a bike guy, she said, "I'll bet it's Willie Weir! He's awesome!"

Well, we would see.

I think I'll never forget it. Willie is a Powerbar of a man, not tall, but packed with strength and energy, and oh-so good for you. He acted professionally for some years, and it shows. As actor, he performs rather than speaks. He's always moving, and produces sound effects and suspenseful silences. As professional, he delivers an evening that starts and ends on time, moves fast, and covers the necessaries. So, for example, when I heard him again in November, he was doing a fundraiser for Cascade Bicycling Club, and made sure to include a gripping story on how a near-death road-rage incident on Seattle streets had turned him from a mere cycling enthusiast into an activist. He suggested we join him.

Anyway, from that first Willie evening, I especially remember his final story of his wife Kat, fully loaded (with gear), in an impromptu race with a local elder up a steep mountain road, both of them laughing their heads off. I get tears in my eyes again as I remember and write.

I was thrilled in November to hear how he got started, how he and a high school buddy decided to bike across the USA on hardly any money, how they got to town on their second night out, not realizing that on the Fourth of July, every campsite would be taken. How they decided to knock on a door and ask if they could camp in the backyard.

I wonder if Willie has ever stopped to figure out how many backyards he has occupied since then, in perhaps 30 years of adventure travel.

In his latest book, Travels with Willie, he explains how he found himself the perfect wife. How, when their car got stolen, they decided not to replace it. And how, when they decided to buy a house, they looked for "small and ugly." Because small and ugly would be cheap; something better would tie them to a big mortgage, and their traveling days would be over.

See, that's the other thing about an evening with Willie, in person or reading one of his books. You start remembering what life is for. What it means to be a human being.

I don't know if Willie has a "job." As far as I know, he's a regular contributor to Adventure Cycling magazine, does his speaker gigs, and compiles his adventures into books for sale. Essentially, he's a writer. He's an artist.

And do we really need those? As a writer myself, and especially as a blogger, where truly you have to wonder if we need any more of those, I hang on to what I know of Willie Weir. We need Willie. The world is a better place because of him.

He reminds us that grand houses can be prisons, that high salaries sometimes just buy us toys and distraction to mitigate the reality of the job. In a TV world, where you watch other people live, Willie and Kat are making their own adventure.

I have just a couple of questions, Willie. Is there anywhere to just walk up and buy your books, if you can't wait even the two days it takes for you to get one to Seattleites by mail?

And when you're camping in backyards, where do you pee? Where do you poop?

[Note: I am thrilled to discover that at willieweir.com, I can see a video demo, keep track of my next chance to see Willie live, as well as order his books.]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 16, Third Place Books

Margaret McGee, who wrote the haiku book I'm enjoying so much, is reading on Wednesday, December 16, 7 pm, Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Hope to see you there!

Haiku, The Sacred Art: A Spiritual Practice in Three Lines

Read more about the book and me at Sunday in Seattle with Haiku.

In Pursuit of Happiness

I was among the fortunate dozen who celebrated our friend Sue's seventieth birthday last week at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel's afternoon tea.

If only the ratio of teacher to student in our schools approached the level of staff to guest at the Olympic! There are people to open doors, people deputed to recognize a puzzled look and instantly come direct you. If you ask the way to the ladies room, someone takes you there. As soon as I rose up the escalator, crossed the lobby with its giant, glittering Christmas tree, and entered the Georgian Room, my coat was whisked away, and I was taken to our very own dining room, full of ladies like me, dressed up and feeling festive.

Unfortunately, my nose runs in the cold, and I'd walked from the bus stop. My soggy but still treasured kleenex was in the pocket of my now long-gone coat. What to do? You can't blow on a linen napkin.

Sniffling, I scanned my little tea menu. Thirteen teas to choose among. Scones with candied citrus, Devonshire cream, and preserves. Tea sandwiches including Herb and Garlic Infused Artisan Goat Cheese with Apple Chutney on Walnut Bread, and Curried Egg Salad with Pistachio Crab Finger with Arugula Sprouts on Multi Grain Bread. Plus sweets. Fifty-five dollars.

($55?! Yikes!) Our waiter -- one of them -- was now at my elbow, asking if I wanted a drink. I'm good at scanning to see what's included in your basic price, and drinks clearly were not. Others were drinking, but this may be the only time in my life I passed up a glass of champagne. I was a guest, but still, I just couldn't do it.

But I did order a kleenex. Within moments my waiter returned with a white porcelain box with tissues fluffing out the top, just as they do from my cardboard box at home. I took one. Discreetly, I blew.

I found I quite liked being waited on. And I thought how lucky we were, because I think for each of us, this was a rare and splendid occasion. I wouldn't have liked being a guest at the hotel, someone rich enough to pop down and consume a hundred-dollar tea -- with champagne, of course -- without even thinking about it. All the glow would be off it. For us, tea at the Olympic was every bit as splendid a grownup event as milky tea in china cups in the front yard at Grandma Miller's when I was six.

And tea at the Olympic wasn't the last posh thing I did last week.

I have a circle of women friends on Bainbridge Island. We get together several times a year for birthday dinners to which we each contribute our best dishes. A month ago, I got an email from Ann saying, as I recall, "I'm surprised I haven't heard from you about Sogyal Rinpoche. I have the tickets for December 12, and hope you're planning to come." The initial email, with all the important details, got lost.

We five all have important spiritual lives, all quite different from each other. I thought it would be good for Episcopalian Mary to have a Sogyal Rinpoche experience. I said yes. I was thinking the Buddhist equivalent of Billy Graham. When Ann handed me my ticket though, it said $125. Yikes! again. For two hours Friday night? Billy Graham only takes an offering.

Ann assured me the ticket was an extra she was glad for me to use. Later I learned -- too late -- that it also covered a morning and afternoon session on Saturday.

We all met up Friday at Cafe Campagne for happy hour. (At $2/glass for a three-ounce taste of pink champagne, I had two.) Then off to the Rinpoche -- pronounced RIN-po-shay -- which means rabbi or teacher.

I took notes. I had to, when practically the first words out of Rinpoche's mouth were, "Happiness is life's purpose." For me, it was a sort of intro to Buddhism. The key, he said, is transforming the mind, which one moves toward in meditation, "bringing the mind home where it belongs." I had wondered about the idea of emptiness of mind. What it is empty of, he explained, is projections, "mind turned outward."

I often squirm at reductive conclusions like, 'At bottom, all religions are saying the same thing.' But I have to admit, there's a familiar ring to, "Happiness is life's purpose." As Jesus Rinpoche said, "I have come to bring life, and life more abundant."

So, quite a posh week. As we Christians say, In all things give thanks.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waiting

For Episcopalians, the season is advent. For folks in Fremont, it's almost solstice. In both cases, as my friend Margaret McGee put it on her blog, it's the season that celebrates waiting.

Ugh! I hate to wait. Doesn't everybody? Especially at this time of year, it brings to mind early Christmas mornings when my four sibs and I would call out to Dad in the dark, "Is it time yet? Did Santa come?"

Though with age I have come to appreciate waiting, a little bit. My ex used to drag race his Chevy Nova at Sears Point on Wednesday evenings. A drag race itself is over in seconds, but he told me once that every Tuesday was like Christmas eve for him.

As a gardener, too, I came to prefer the months of studying shrubs for signs of swelling buds, measuring with my eyes the extent to which the geranium sanguineum striatum had begun -- finally -- to fill in under the roses, urging the penstemon into bloom. I missed that waiting time when finally the garden was glorious.

But then it would happen all over again the next year. I remind myself of the pleasure of cycles during this dark time of year. And the closer we get to solstice, the easier it is to wax poetic over the dark.

In real life, though, I've been pushing things. So I was grateful to be reminded, at an advent quiet day at St Paul's last weekend, of the words of Hildegaard of Bingen: All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

And as my friend Billie unfailingly adds, All things are well.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Photo of the Real Me

I'm getting a photo portrait taken on Saturday. If you're in Seattle, you can sign up too. It's a fundraiser for Photographic Center Northwest, art photography people. I'd like to think I'm doing it chiefly out of altruism, but frankly, Match.com isn't working for me. Maybe my photo could use a little art?

Because what else could it be? I'm athletic, smart, fun, and I don't need your money. And though nobody stops dead in the street to follow me with his eyes, I'm ... attractive, let's say.

But do my photos show the Mary I know? Maybe not. So I want a new one. I keep passing the signs for photos with Santa, at Macy's and Nordstrom, but I don't think they take much time with the poses, plus what kind of message would a photo with Santa convey on Match? I can't hold off until my next driver's license photo shoot in 2012, and who has ever seen a truly successful passport picture?

No, I'm going to have to spend some cash. This is not so easy for me. Three times I've signed up for Match, always in the bleakness of January, always for the $59.99 three-month special. $180 for what? The rare email, the men who never responded to mine, my precious life sucked away in wasted hours of searching?

Plus, I hate Match.com. I don't think they've upgraded their technology since Day One. Surely it should be possible to search for two qualities at once? Cycling and Scrabble, say? And why no drop-down menus? What if my true love is out there, but he's saying "cycle" and I'm saying "bicycle"? As for the Daily Five, does anybody know how that works?

Match is a hopeless waste of money, I thought, until yesterday, when I did the math. For $180, my results were small, but in retrospect, the quality was high. I received the best emails of my life -- I still have them -- from a guy I never met. And I did meet that businessman.

He had one photo only, probably the one he sends out with resumes for consulting positions; he's in a suit and tie. I don't know if I'd have picked him out; he picked me. The first time we met, for coffee, I thought, "This guy could work." And he did work for me, in almost every way. But as one smart friend of mine pointed out, "He's not Mr. Perfect if he's not crazy about you."

I liked the things he said. He told me what he looks for in a Match.com photo is the eyes and the smile. When we were trying once to figure out food for a (chaste) visit to his cabin, he said, "I'd like to go grocery shopping with you." Once he said to me, "What are you looking for, from me?" Here's the sentence I wish he could remember me saying, but I never said it: "Now that you know what I'm looking for, from you, what are my chances of getting it?"

In all, not bad for $180. And now that it's December, I can feel that old Match.com January feeling coming on. Thank you, Photographic Center Northwest! For $100-250, you can have a portrait done by genuine professional artistic serious photographers, people who will get that stiff smile off your face and reveal the genuine you. After my session, I'll be taking home my CD portrait, which I can use to make Christmas cards, a framed portrait for Mom, a new profile picture for Facebook and my blog, and a new shot at love on Match.com. Maybe someday that very portrait will rest in a silver frame on the desk of some as-yet-unmet cyclist. Or bicyclist.

See you on Saturday. Say hello.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sixty and Sicko in Seattle?

"Sixty and Sicko in Seattle." That was a friend's comment on my piece about talking to myself.

But she's married. And an innkeeper. That's too many people to talk to already. I've been there, and I remember being taken aback in those days, maybe even a little worried, at how much my shy single sister talked to herself.

So, you tell me. Do you talk to yourself? Does it make a difference if you live alone? What do you talk about?

Friday, December 4, 2009

I might be alone, but at least I'm listening to the Insomniacs

I met up with dancer friends last night at Highway 99 Blues Club downtown for a four-band extravaganza starting at 6 pm. Of course it didn't really start until 7, but that was okay, since we had come for dinner. And for once -- usually the music is too loud and anyway, we're dancing -- we had a chance for some conversation, as we waited to hear, especially, The Insomniacs.

We talked about our Thanksgiving celebrations. One of my friends said it's her toughest holiday, with its memories of happier days 16 years ago, when she was still married. The conversation reminded me of a column I wrote in the summer of 2007, when I was experiencing similar shadowy feelings and also listening to The Insomniacs. Here's the column:

Choosing a Personal Sound Track for the Blues

I came back from my Michigan vacation to a spectral feeling of angst, more than just missing my family could account for. Pretty weird considering that a buddy picked me up at the airport, then took me to a restaurant in Seattle where we almost instantly got a table overlooking a sparkling marina. Outdoors at night in the Northwest? I didn’t know we could do that.

Then directly to a zydeco dance. What more could a woman want?

It didn’t take long to figure out I was experiencing the anniversary thing, where some earlier trauma comes back to haunt you once a year. Summer, two years ago, we ended our marriage. It was a hard decision, but a good one. We handled it well. We sketched out our property settlement in about fifteen minutes. We walked over to the courthouse together and each wrote a check for half the divorce fee. And he only moved two blocks away, at first. We remain friendly, sort of.

But the whole truth is, it’s a lot easier to be friends with your ex when you’re in a new, important relationship. Unfortunately -- for me -- this is not our situation. Not only that, he’s back in California with the woman he loved just before I came along, which makes me feel a little like a twenty-five year wrong turn. I don’t want him to be devastated or anything, but it seems thoughtless of him not to suffer even a teeny bit.

I deserve to feel a little blue. I don’t want to power through it.

In situations like this, some people turn to drink, some to chocolate. Me, I go to my CD player. I have certain songs I play over and over until I’m sick of them and myself and I have to get up and get on with it.

Country-western is a good choice, as I know from line dancing at our community center. I remember my first Tuesday afternoon there. They taught us a one-man waltz. A waltz you can do all alone! If that isn’t a bittersweet achievement, I don’t know what is. And this particular waltz: “Someone Must Feel like a Fool Tonight, Knowing He Let You Go.” Yeah, just wait, I thought. He’ll be sorry one day.

I had to own that tune, so I walked directly down to Quimper Sound after class and said, “Hey Michael, where’s the Kenny Rogers section?” I don’t think he’d ever been asked that before, here in PT where even country music is high-concept, but he recovered directly. Now when I’m looking for tacky pop country-western, I know to go straight to the headphones and the used stuff in the back room.

That’s where I found my Faith Hill CD, with a fine cry song, “Let Me Let Go.” “If this is for the best,” she sings, “why are you still in my heart, are you still in my soul?” Boohoo indeed.

When I was young, I swear all the breakup songs were sad and pitiful. I’m glad there are some other options today. At Centrum’s Country Blues Festival, for example, I heard a terrific original song by Portland’s Insomniacs. The refrain is, “I might be alone, but at least I’m not with you.”

Okay, okay, I get that this may not be completely mentally healthy, but given the choice, I’d rather scowl than cry. And actually I’d rather smile than either of those, and the psych folks now tell us that if you make yourself smile, if you just do the muscle work, your emotions will follow.

And putting on that happy face is exactly what I plan to do. As soon as I can make myself get up from this sofa and turn off the CD player.

Note: Before Mary moved to Seattle, she was a regular columnist for the Port Townsend Leader. By the way, she bought the new Insomniacs CD last night in Seattle. It's called,At Least I'm Not with You.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Peaceful Place for Coffee

Even in high school, I had a vision of me in my black beret, in a coffeehouse, writing away at my journal. At the time, I was thinking I'd be doing all this in Washington Square, since I'd be studying at NYU. That never happened.

Here in Seattle, I still want my coffee/writing moments. But where? I've tried the Lighthouse in Fremont, Caffe Ladro in Queen Anne, the Cafe Vita on my corner -- they're all throbbing with music that jars me. Starbucks has acceptable music, but the coffee isn't that great.

Tell me, please, where is my cafe?
 


All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies