Challenges

Laying Like a Vegetable, Netflix, and Victorian England

Sometimes life knocks us down. Then, like the fighter who has just won a match, it places a foot on our back and crosses its arms in a stance of triumph and assumes a smug “I dare you to try to get up” expression.

In the hurry-scurry that is life, I’ve occasionally longed for a few days of doing nothing. Vegetable days it seems they may have been called. Days when I could just lie around like a vegetable and do nothing. I’m not sure why vegetables came to be associated like this. After all, why should we assume there’s nothing going on when a vegetable is lying around? They often get riper, change color. begin to shrivel or mold. At the least it seems they start attracting those pesky gnats.

My Mom told me the other day that if you place a small bowl of cider vinegar on the counter near fruits and vegetables it will keep those gnats away. I can understand that. There’s a powerful olfactory sensation that rises from a bowl of cider vinegar. I don’t know if gnats have nostrils. Maybe they just see the fumes rising from the bowl and steer clear of the contaminated air space. I can imagine them gathered off to the side in tiny gnat gas masks studying the effects of acidic pollution on gnat wings.

It’s easy to let your mind wander and wonder about miniscule things like this when you’re down for the count from life and laying like a vegetable. The shrinking and molding is easy to relate to as well. Especially after devoting hours to exercising only an elbow, wrist and thumb on the treadmill that is the remote control.

I’ve just come off a long string of “vegetable” days. Unable to concentrate to read, I filled the need for excitement by dialing in old BBC historical series on Netflix. The first qualification for selection was at least 13 episodes. The second, by default, became the historical time period of Victorian England.

I became Lillie Langtry fighting for survival and position in a Victorian box with faux morals, defined roles and strict distinctions of class. “Indeed.” “Alas.” “Oh, my dear.” “Certainly, my Prince, you may build me a house in the countryside away from your wife.”

King Edward VII

I empathized with Prince Edward who was blamed by his Mother, Queen Victoria, for the death of his Father, Prince Albert, and who had to wait until he was 59 to fulfill his destiny. Even so, through the 13 episodes, my patience grew thin and his lavish lifestyle lost its luster as I watched him overeat, over travel, and over indulge in court beauties on his way to finally becoming King Edward VII.

Fearing my own demise from inactivity, I feverishly worked my forearm up and down using the remote as a kind of mini-barbell and indulged a bit less in chocolate covered cranberries.

Next came the Forsyte Saga and finally Upstairs Downstairs where the Bellamy household presided as a precursor to the Crawley’s of Downton Abbey. Then, as my mind cleared of the anesthesia and antibiotics, I could read instead of watch the life of the Poldarks.

Time travel is questionable. But I have done it with the magic of Netflix, a remote control containing two new AA batteries, the archives of my local library, and an on-your-back, knock-you-down summer. I’m a bit like a squishy vegetable that has lain too long on the counter. But in my mind I’m not just regaining my strength. No, I’m elegantly dressed and dancing with royalty as the smell of cider vinegar waifs through the air. Life is good! Indeed!

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On Storms and Life and Pottery

Have you noticed how life is what happens in the middle of the storms? Or maybe it is the other way around: storms are what happen in the middle of life. Either way, there’s a co-mingling, that if not omnipresent, happens enough to deserve notice.

Pop-up storms often come at inopportune moments, don’t they? We’re living life, going about our business, and here they come: pop-up storms raining down on our parades.

Like the car accident that my Dad had the day before my brother’s wedding, or my Mom’s false teeth breaking just a couple of days before I got married. There she was home by herself holding her broken teeth in her hands and no car to get her to the dentist. Like any resourceful woman planning a wedding, she wrapped them in a napkin and walked the 6 blocks to the dentist’s office to have them glued back together avoiding all conversation with neighbors along the way.

Sometimes storms do render us speechless like that. My first time to the Grand Canyon, I drove into Arizona from Nevada and then did a circular loop north through parts of Utah before turning back west toward Las Vegas. All in one day! That was a bit of a storm itself, you might say.

I was awestruck by the beauty of the canyon, the colors, and the grandeur. Then, it stormed. Not where I was, rather off in the distance. Like one of those Las Vegas shows with spectacular visual and audio effects. Except I couldn’t hear a thing, I could only see it. An artistic display of lightning and rain in a backdrop of sienna, reds, oranges, yellows, bronze. A silent movie that rendered me quiet, less I miss something. I remember the canyon. I cannot forget that storm.

The other day I was “living” part two of one of my 52 Dates with Myself: the pottery throwing date. I’m still pondering that one.

Sitting with my instructor at the wheel, she a young art student from the local college already appreciating the nuances of her art and grasping the art of teaching others. My lump of round clay successfully turned into a nearly round bowl under her tutelage.

I was glad of it, this end product. But really it was the process and the feeling of it that intrigued me most.

So many different things happening at once and all acting upon the clay. My foot pressing down on a pedal causing the stone wheel to turn. Clay plopped in the middle of the stone. Drizzling water over it. Thumbs working from the center of the ball. Turning, pressing, angling, feeling – the process of molding.

Like life that spins round with pressures and choices and emotions.

It was easy and fun to experiment with various choices at the pottery wheel. Spin faster and adjust the angle of my thumbs. Apply pressure from the inside, now the outside. Pull up. Pull out. Every adjustment had an impact on the shape, the feel, and the look of my clay.

I felt the power of it. I impacted its stability. I determined its usefulness and it’s functionality. I established its beauty.

I felt the responsibility of it, too. With one small movement I could change its course, do damage, give it purpose or leave it be.

At once, I felt the fragility and the possibility. Needy. Malleable. Useful. Willing.

Yes, so much like life.

Now, a couple of weeks later here I am ready for the next steps. What to do with the hardened bowl? I can leave it as it is, a rough, hardened clay form. Or, I can try my hand at decorating and glazing it. Definitely, I want to do that.

So, on a bright, sunny, hot summer day I make my way to the storefront studio, pick out my colors and paint brushes, and excitedly establish myself at a table where I begin to paint.

Unbeknownst to me, the storm is brewing. It quickly shrouds the day in a blackness filled with 80 mph winds, hail, and heavy rain. The glass storefront windows shudder and shake. Water begins pouring in from under the door and even between the seals of the windows. Leaves and small branches sail by. Cars stop in their places along the road, as their drivers can no longer see to make progress. With the young clerk, I look around for our best option of a protected area. But we don’t go. Instead, we watch and speak only in glances.

Very quickly, the storm moves through and is over. Sunshine reappears giving a momentary glistening effect just before it absorbs the moisture and reasserts itself as a humid summer day.

The mood in the pottery studio relaxes. I paint. The storm has come, and it has gone, inserting itself again into one of my life experiences. Co-mingling with me in the journey. No doubt, we’ll meet again.

Categories: Artistic Dates, Challenges, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Lessons from an Unexpected Date

I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is better.  ~Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 1903

Often surprises create positive emotions within us. Maybe like surprise birthday parties, surprise proposals, or surprise gifts.

Other times surprises wreak a bit of havoc on our emotions. Perhaps like a large cell phone bill or an unexpected break-up of a relationship. Or even like my recent unexpected date with the operating room and the subsequent longer-than-expected and longer-than-desired recovery period.

But, hey, I just happen to have this ongoing project of 52 Dates with Myself.  And, as the project leader and manager, I have full authority to determine what constitutes a date. So, yes, a surprise date in the OR most definitely gets counted!

Besides, look at just a few of the things I’ve learned so far: 

  • Wheel chair drivers really should have to take a driving test.
  • IV – doesn’t mean I have to give the same nurse 4″ times to get the intravenous drip set.
  • Pain pills often have acetaminophen, so be sure you do the math before the brain fog from the narcotics kicks in.
  • When you’re near the top of the emergency triage list, you get to witness and experience the full professionalism of the medical staff.
  • My capacity for exhaustion is much larger than I ever imagined.
  • My tolerance for pain not so much.
  • Recognition and gratitude for caregivers can never be overdone.

In spite of all this, I still prefer the dates I get to choose and plan.

Ponder & Chat: What lessons have you learned from one of your life’s surprises?

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Three things I’ve learned about finding courage on 52 Dates with Myself

Dating myself often requires that I boldly go beyond my normal comfort zone.

Courage seems to come much more naturally with companionship. Sort of like an unspoken, “I double-dog dare you” between friends out for a good time. This can be especially true when the companion is a gregarious extrovert with dangling coat strings we introverts can ride.

But when you’re flying solo – and doing it 52 times – courage has to be brought along in different ways. In fact, not only does it have to be brought along, but it has to be let go. Freed, if you will, to do its work.

Along the way these last four months there’s three things I’ve found that have helped to bolster my courage for 52 Dates with Myself:

  1. Connect. 52 Dates with Myself is not about isolation. It’s about connection. Connection with myself and connection with others whom I encounter in the process of my dates. I’m also connecting with my environment, with history, and with a wide variety of experiences. All of these are providing me with opportunities to learn more about myself and my world.
  2. Smile. Not only does it make people wonder what I’m up to, it brightens my face, makes it much easier to make eye contact, and often makes it easier to start a simple conversation. Conversations lead to connection.
  3. Share my first name and get theirs. Maybe it’s my waiter, the tour guide, or a bench dweller in the park. Yes, I need to be cautious and trust my instincts. But, I also know that courage is sometimes the better judge of people. And, caution can sometimes bring unfounded fear and create unnecessary isolation.

There you have them. Connect. Smile. Share your first name and get theirs. Now that you have some tips for finding your courage, get out there and have date with yourself.

Ponder & Chat: What other ideas do you have that might help you have the courage to date yourself or just try a solo experience?  How might you commit to finding your courage to go on a solo date?

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“I’ve done what I could…and my painting is open to criticism; that’s enough”

“I’ve done what I could as a painter and that seems to me to be sufficient. I don’t want to be compared to the great masters of the past, and my painting is open to criticism; that’s enough.” ~ Claude Monet

Thanks to Wine and Canvas for a great date night and first painting class.

With my version of Monet’s “Water Lillies, 1916” painted on one of 52 Dates with Myself

Ponder & Chat: What are you working on today that you’re ready to put out to the world?

Categories: Artistic Dates, Challenges, Commitment, Date Ideas, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why is what you do today important?

What you do with today

More wisdom from this week’s adventure in 52 Dates with Myself

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The Challenge of Surprise in Dating Myself

I suppose it just makes sense that one of the challenges of 52 Dates with Myself is figuring out how to incorporate the element of surprise.

Those of you who despise being caught unawares are no doubt cheering this dilemma. While my surprise-embracing allies empathize with the difficulty of delivering the unexpected.

So how does a gal plan a surprise date for herself?

Ponder & Chat: What ideas and thoughts come to mind about this challenge?  Come on, surprise me!

Categories: Challenges, Date Ideas, Planning, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Outside My Own Ordinary

Recently, a friend said to me, “I always enjoy going to theater or concert events when you ask me, but I don’t ordinarily plan to do it myself.”

This got me asking myself what I might enjoy doing that I wouldn’t naturally think to do?

No doubt my natural preferences and my history of experiences inform, as well as limit, my creativity in planning my 52 Dates with Myself. I don’t naturally think to plan a date for a spectator-sporting event. I’d like to go dancing, but my lack of experience makes it a bit intimidating and has prevented it from making it to my calendar so far.

I’m thinking it’s time to move beyond myself here, to muster up my courage and create some new experiences. As Yul Brynner once said in the movie, The Ten Commandments, “So let it be written; so let it be done!”

Ponder & Chat: How do your natural preferences and experience history impact your recreation choices? How about your relationships?

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Reprising the Question

Perhaps you recall a few weeks ago one of my friends asking me if dating myself kept me from dating other people.  We had some good conversation around that both here and on Facebook.

Actually, I think my friend makes a great point.

Several of my single friends of late have recently started dating someone exclusively. It’s been great fun watching their excitement and sharing in their newfound giddiness. Yet, sure enough, there are some differences in our interactions. For example, I’m noticing:

  • I don’t hear from them quite so much. Makes sense, when they have time for chats, they’re chatting with their new special someone.
  • I don’t do things with them quite as much. Makes sense, they have someone they’re busy doing things with and aren’t necessarily looking to make it a group event.
  • I don’t know what’s happening in their lives quite as much. Makes sense, we’re not interacting on as regular a basis or sharing our lives.

During my last dating relationship I noticed feeling as if some of my friends were backing away. No doubt I was less available, and they were less inclined to think I was available, but:

  • I didn’t hear from them quite so much. When I would talk with them, they would indicate that they thought I was probably otherwise engaged, too busy with my new relationship to connect with them.
  • I didn’t get invited to outings quite as much. Probably an assumption that I already had companionship.
  • I didn’t know what was happening in their lives quite as much. We weren’t doing the regular and natural sharing that we once had been doing. My sounding board was often my new friend. Friendships are built from mutual give-and-take.

So, what’s this got to do with dating myself? Just like being in any other relationship, there seem to be some things falling by the wayside as I commit to this one year of 52 Dates with Myself.

  • I’m not connecting with my friends quite so much. Like any relationship, this one with myself takes time. Time to reflect. Time to plan. Time to interact and discover. Time to be together with myself.
  • I’m not inviting others to do things with me quite as much. This one troubles me a lot, as so much of life seems better experiencing it with others. But a Date with Myself has that danged prepositional phrase in it.
  • I don’t know what’s happening in their lives quite as much. Losing contact with others is definitely not what I want to have happen here, but fewer talks and fewer shared experiences means it’s harder to stay connected.

Ponder and Chat: What do you notice that falls by the wayside as you make time for yourself? How are your other relationships impacted?

Categories: Challenges, Commitment, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Friends & Prepositional Phrases

I love my friends! They’re all looking out for me and wanting to help me with my 52 Dates with Myself. 

Some inquire, “Can you count this as one of your 52 dates?” Others happily just advise me, “You can count it as one of your 52 dates.”

I could easily respond, “Absolutely, I can count this as one of my dates.”

Or, “Yeah, you’re right. Good thinking!”

Really, there isn’t anyone to say I can’t. These are my dates. It’s my project. My journey. I can establish the rules as I want them to be and change them in the middle if I choose. Right?

But there’s a clamoring in my mind. The voices of Mrs. Adams and Mr. Fields, two of the best and hardest English grammar teachers a student could have.

“52 Dates with Myself.”

“They’re missing the prepositional phrase It’s quite important here.”

“Do you need to diagram it?”

“Ha! No, thank you! I do not need to diagram it!”

It’s obvious, of course. The “with Myself” clearly functioning as an adjective describing which 52 Dates. The ones with Myself.

“Yes, I understand that they mean well. They’re great friends, too.”

“Ah, interesting idea. Yes, perhaps next year we’ll tackle 52 Dates with My Friends.”

I think I hear the bell ringing. Class dismissed!

Ponder & Chat: How do the people in your life create challenges for you to consider around your personal goals?

Categories: Challenges, Commitment, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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