The pull toward minimalism.

Have you ever looked around at your stuff and wondered, “What if I were to get rid of it all?” I have. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been seriously thinking about getting rid of everything.

Okay, not everything. Just a lot of things. I’ve actually been lurking around the idea of minimalism for quite a while now… for years, in fact. I’m now realizing that it’s time to do it.

I look around at things I don’t need and will never use, and I’m thinking, why is that stuff still here?

I write a post about a falling-apart article of clothing, and I’m thinking, why am I so attached to it?

Knowing, right, how ridiculous it is. For one thing, as a Buddhist, I’m fully aware that attachment to material things makes no sense at all.

I’d thought about it before, but I really started to feel the pull toward minimalism since that post about the ancient sweater I couldn’t trash. That was back in February. I wrote that post. Then I wrote the KSJO t-shirt post. Then I had to sit and examine my life choices.

I should just get rid of stuff.

Why do I develop emotional/sentimental attachment to things?

One part of my mind says “keep this” as another part says “but why.” It mostly boils down to sentimentality and “I would want this if….” But what I want more, now, is to break away from such attachments.

Three months after the sweater post, I took my first step in the minimalism direction when I overhauled my office to create as empty and blank a space as possible. Now I’m looking around wondering how I can empty the space even more. I’ve discovered that my creative energy has more freedom to flow in the absence of physical distraction.

Now it’s three months post-office-overhaul, and I’m ready for the next step. This is how I know I’m not making an impulsive decision. I tend to make big lifestyle changes slowly, in increments. (Have I ever mentioned that going vegan was a six-year process for me?)

There are degrees of minimalism, and the degree I’m going for isn’t a drastic one. I don’t aspire to a life that can fit into two suitcases, but I do plan to pare things down much as possible. I should add that I’m talking about my personal possessions, not household-type items.

Too, there are categories of things I won’t touch. At this time, anyway, I won’t even consider getting rid of books. I have books in three different rooms, on shelves, in closets, on the floor. There are hundreds of them, and they’re staying right where they are. I won’t violate my book collection with minimalism.

 

Books: exempt from minimalism

 

We’ll see how things progress from here!

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11 signs that you’re a writer.

In case you’re not sure, here are some signs that you’re a writer:

1). Clinical-grade confusion. You’re in the shower and you forget what body part you’ve already washed because you’re lost in your writing, or you’re at the gym and the minute you’re done working out you start thinking about your writing and you accidentally stretch the same side twice.

2). Speculation overload. You see the same white-paneled van crawling around your neighborhood at least once a week, and you become fixated on the narrative you’ve developed around it, which is always serial killers, of course.

3). Belief in magic. You choose the color of your underwear based on a predetermined superstition you have about the day.

4). Hyper-fueling. You operate on a fasting/feeding cycle where you wake up early, remember to have breakfast 4 hours later (ending a 12-hour fast), then eat lunch 3 hours after that, and then you eat every 2 hours thereafter, so by the time 9pm rolls around, you’ve eaten 6-7 times, all because you needed energy for writing, which includes researching and working out complicated problems in your head and so your brain is starving.

(Except on gym mornings when you eat two breakfasts, one before and one after the gym.)

5). Sleep-deprivation. You’re capable of Spartan self-discipline EXCEPT when it comes to your chronic resolution to get more than 5 hours of sleep and “more sleep” has become a unicorn in an undeserving forest.

6). Auto-conversation. You talk to your fur-baby (or finned, feathered, or scaled-baby) all day, except when you’re talking to yourself, which is something like 70% of the time, and if you don’t have a fur-baby, you’re just talking to yourself and your argument is invalid.

7). Full-of-shit syndrome. You have to get used to being asked what you do and when you say “I write” the person looks at you like “Yeah that’s NOT work,” and “You can’t possibly have a schedule, because you DON’T WORK, therefore you must be calling writing ‘work’ in order to have an excuse to not do (xyz).”

8). Other-world desensitization. You watch horror movies for the thrill of getting scared and 95% of them fail, but you keep watching them hoping that one of them will really super scare you, but it’s all good because you like horror, anyway.

9). Bladder resentment. You think wistfully of those times you were in the hospital and you had a catheter and how great it was to drink water all day without ever feeling like you had to pee, and how awesome catheters are and it’s a good thing they’re not accessible or practical for everyday at-home use because if they were, you’d always have one and then you’d never have to get up to go to the bathroom and then you’d develop bedsores.

10). Bermuda Triangle phenomenon. (AKA the unsolved mystery of writing’s impact on time.) You start re-working a paragraph and take a minute to deliberate between using a definite article or an indefinite article and when you look at the clock, an hour has passed and you can’t understand where that time went while you were deciding between the word choices and then you panic that you’ll be late for the gym.

11). Nap dysfunction. You’re sleep-deprived so you try to take a nap with your cat, but you end up staring at each other with starry eyes because you can’t sleep and it’s her fault for being too cute.

 

Sleep-deprived and confused. Must be a writer.

 

I hope this helps.

Happy Friday, All!

 

Nenette’s tale of woe, bird edition. (Kitty update!)

Our yard abounds with two types of birds: doves and grackles. I always liked the doves. I liked their calls. The grackles, not so much.

I noticed the grackles hanging out by the dumpster behind our backyard. I didn’t know what they were, at first. A friend filled me in. I don’t like them, I said. They’re creepy and they sit on our back fence by the dumpster, and sometimes they fly around it and dive in. She said that she liked grackles. We agreed that she could have my grackles if I could have her doves.

Cut to six or so months later, to a few weeks ago. Callaghan and I started spreading wild bird seed across the gravel outside our bedroom window, because Nenette loved to sit on the dresser and watch the doves. There were doves perched on the wire above, doves on the side fence, doves in the neighbor’s mesquite tree, doves everywhere. Nenette had a great view. If we put seeds on the ground, we thought, Nenette would have more birds to watch!

We bought a huge bag of assorted seeds and scattered them around that part of the yard, replenishing the spread every other day. The yard proliferated with birds in the mornings and late afternoons. It was just doves, at first, and then some smaller, brown birds that we decided must be finches.

Then the grackles joined the party. I watched them in dismay, but the more I observed, the more they fascinated me.

Look what they do! I said to Callaghan one day after calling him to the window. They use their beaks to dig and throw rocks aside so they can get to the sunflower seeds.

We noticed that the doves and finches weren’t eating those larger seeds. But the grackles were.

I studied them, transfixed by their methodology. A grackle would dig into the large gravel, picking up the rocks and flinging them left and right. Then he’d grab the unearthed sunflower seed, fly to a patch of dirt on our small lawn, and patiently gnaw at the seed, repeatedly dropping it and picking it back up until the shell gave way. He’d eat the seed, fly back to the gravel, and start the process over again.

We marveled at them. Grackles are interesting! They’re smart! They hunt, make decisions, use their beaks like tools. They eat the sunflower seeds, which no one else in our bird community did. We never saw them bullying other birds. In fact, it was the doves who were territorial and rude. A dove would march toward a grackle, who would then peacefully walk away to a different spot while the dove poked around in the grackle’s hole, even though there was nothing there that he wanted. We also saw the doves bullying each other.

I was wrong, I said to Callaghan. He said yes, it’s the doves who are the bullies.

Grackles aren’t creepy because they hang out by the dumpster, I thought. Don’t judge a book by its cover. My word! I’d been profiling the grackles.

Now a fan of grackles, I looked them up online so I could learn more about them.

I found out that grackles are considered to be PEST BIRDS.

We stopped feeding the birds, afraid that the grackles would start doing all of the Terrible Things. Callaghan was also concerned that with the abundance of doves, some would be sure to nest on our house and wreak whatever havoc that would cause.

And now, poor Nenette has no bird party to watch. This is has been Nenette’s tale of woe. She is bereft.

 

No more birds for Nenette.

 

I miss the birds, too. I loved watching them! Are they really that bad to have around? Would the doves wreck our house with their nesting? Does anyone know?

La Fin.

Do I look like June Cleaver?

It’s been a week since I complained about my rat’s nest hair and how it was dropping loose hairs into my face and interfering with my gym experience.

“Nothing works,” I said in that post. “If there’s a solution short of shaving my head, I want to know.”

One friend from BodyPump joked, “A shower cap!”

Another friend supplied a pic of a lady wearing a shower cap, all smiling and done up with makeup and looking like she also had a vacuum cleaner and high heels.

The next time I went to BodyPump, I gathered my weights and came back to my spot to find a shower cap lying on my bench. It didn’t take a PhD in psychology to figure out who put it there.

It wasn’t the friend who first commented, because she lives in another state. It was the guy who posted the shower cap lady. Cue jokes about me wearing the shower cap in class, which will never happen. He declared it himself: “Kristi will wear a shower cap the day I quit complaining about lunges.”

Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

I did a dress rehearsal, anyway, to verify that the shower cap wouldn’t work. And it didn’t. The elastic band wasn’t that elasticky, and my hair is very resistant to staying where I put it.

Do I look like June Cleaver?

 

THIS ISN’T WORKING

 

I’m pretty sure that’s also my expression when loose hairs fall in my face at the gym. It’s not “I wish I was holding a feather duster instead of a dumbbell.”

(In case you’re wondering, the outside of my right eye is red because I managed to tear my conjunctiva while doing absolutely nothing. It’s fine. My eye doctor prescribed antibiotic eye-drops, cold compresses, and ibuprofen. It will heal itself.)

Remember when I needed a shower cap for real, but couldn’t see shopping for one? Two people gifted me with shower caps after that, three years apart from each other. The first was my sista-from-another-mother, and the second was my sister-in-law. I thought that was a weird coincidence. That’s what sisters do, apparently.

But I digress. The jokester responsible for this post – let’s just call him “Ron” – has been walking a thin line with me at the gym with his antics; this shower cap was his crowning achievement, to date. I should start a petition to double our lunge tracks.

“superb in love and logic” (from a poem by Robert Hayden)

I’ve brought you my own (previously published) poems, but I don’t believe I’ve shared another poet’s work. Today, I wanted to share with you a poem by American poet Robert Hayden, as this poem has been on my mind.

(Poetry is a favorite refuge of mine when I’m at a loss for words.)

In 1976, the United States’ Bicentennial year, Robert Hayden held the post of Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress; the post later became “Poet Laureate” of the United States. Hayden was America’s first Black Poet Laureate.

This poem by Robert Hayden was first published in his A Ballad of Remembrance (1962):

 

FREDERICK DOUGLASS

 

When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful

and terrible thing, needful to man as air,

usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,

when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,

reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more

than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:

this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro

beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world

where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,

this man, superb in love and logic, this man

shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,

not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,

but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives

fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

 

I wish you all a beautiful week.

 

About the rat’s nest on my head. (My gym pet peeve.)

Most gym pet peeves have to do with people being rude: hogging the equipment, leaving sweat on the equipment, resting on the equipment between sets, leaving weights lying around instead of re-racking them, talking on the phone or texting while chilling on the equipment, etc.

None of this is cool in my book, either, but I only have one major gym pet peeve, and that is my own hair. My scalp releases loose hairs that sabotage my workout. Who else has this issue? If there’s a solution short of shaving my head, I want to know.

My hair gets on my nerves more than anything else at the gym. It literally gets on my nerves. I try not to let it, but it’s easier said than done. When a hair falls out and lands on me, it hijacks my sensory nervous system so the strand of hair is all I can feel. It’s hard to ignore.

The problem is that my hair is a rat’s nest, more at the gym than anywhere else. Here’s my hair after my workout yesterday morning:

 

Post-workout, 8/10/2017

 

If my hair only looked like a rat’s nest, I wouldn’t care, because I don’t care what I look like when I go to the gym in the morning. I put on sunscreen, lip-gloss, and clean clothing, and I’m good.

The problem is that my hair behaves like a rat’s nest. It doesn’t stay together. It gets pulled apart simply by existing. At some point during the workout, people will see me doing stuff with one hand while I’m frantically clawing at my face with the other hand. Usually, the hair lands in my mouth or in one of my eyes. I sometimes find the hair plastered across my sweaty cheek.

This happens every time I work out. Without fail. No matter what I do. I will spend long minutes beforehand sliding my fingers through my hair and removing loose strands. I’ll do up my ponytail and repeat the process, also removing loose hairs from my bangs and the sides that don’t get pulled up.

Nothing works. Headbands? I wish. I’ve tried. They don’t stay on, and then I have two problems.

I know this is petty and ridiculous. I AM grateful to have any hair at all, but having hair doesn’t make me immune to annoyance when the hairs try to blind or choke me!

So my hair is a rat’s nest at the gym. It gives the term “gym rat” a whole new meaning. Fine. I just need for the nest to hold together until I’m done with my workout.

[/shallow rant of the day]

 

On remembrance: atomic bombings and 1,000 paper cranes. (+ Atomic Blonde.)

I know that this title seems all over the place. It’s just that today is August 8, 2017.

Two days ago, it was the 72nd anniversary of the United States’ atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Tomorrow will be the 72nd anniversary of our atomic bombing of Nagasaki. These, as we know, were the first and last nuclear attacks in wartime history.

We’re familiar with the official justification for the attacks: Japan had to be stopped before more lives were lost, American, Japanese, and otherwise. The bombs were dropped, Japan surrendered, and WWII ended.

While debate continues as to the ethics of the atomic bombings, there’s another, less-familiar controversy regarding a possible “hidden agenda” behind the decision to launch the nuclear attacks on Japan. Some historians believe that the bombs were actually dropped in order to intimidate the Soviet Union (thus beginning the Cold War), and that Japan didn’t surrender because of the bombs, themselves; rather, they surrendered because of the post-August 6 Soviet invasion.

This theory has always fascinated me. (War fascinates me, in general, but that’s a topic for another day, perhaps.)

Reflecting on atomic bombs and the Soviets and the Cold War, then, I found it funny that the espionage action film Atomic Blonde, whose plot centers on Soviets and the Cold War (the film’s title quite possibly a nod to the atomic bomb “hidden agenda” theory), dropped in U.S. theaters the weekend before the atomic bomb anniversary weekend.

Even more interesting to me, personally, Atomic Blonde’s release date landed pretty much on the anniversary of the Atomic Bomb memorial service I’d attended at my hometown Buddhist temple 20 years ago. The film’s release date was July 28, 2017, and the memorial service date was July 27, 1997.

Yet another happenstance: I went to see Atomic Blonde the weekend following its release weekend. By sheer coincidence, I saw Atomic Blonde on Sunday, August 6… the 72nd anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack.

Then there’s the fact that nuclear weapons dominate our global concerns these days. We’re looking at atomic bomb anniversaries, atomic bombs in the news, and Atomic Blonde in the theaters.

All of this has had me thinking of Sadako Sasaki and her 1,000 paper cranes.

Sadako was two years old when the first atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, where she lived. 10 years later, she developed leukemia as a result of radiation from the bomb. She started folding paper cranes with an aim to create 1,000 of them, wishing for recovery and for peace in the world. In Japan, it’s said that folding 1,000 paper cranes can make your wish come true.

Sadako remained in the hospital for 14 months, then passed away at the age of 12. One account of her story says that she surpassed her goal of folding 1,000 paper cranes. Another account says that she did not, but her friends and family completed the project for her. Regardless, no superstition was going to undo the devastation of the atomic bomb. Since Sadako’s death, the paper crane has become a universal symbol of world peace as well as a symbol of good luck and longevity.

As explained on the origami resource center’s page,

Sadako’s friends and classmates raised money to build a memorial in honor of Sadako and other atomic bomb victims. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial was completed in 1958 and has a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane. At the base is a plaque that says:

          This is our cry.
         This is our prayer.
         Peace in the world.

 

****

About six months ago, I found my Atomic Bomb memorial service program as I went through some old papers. I’d forgotten that I kept it. I took this pic to share it with you (sizing it large enough to be readable when clicked):

 

Atomic bomb memorial service program, pic taken on Sunday, August 6, 2017 – the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan

 

After I found the program, I put it in this old frame. It sits near my butsudan, where I can see it every day as a reminder and a visual point of meditation on peace in the world.

By the way – to end this on a lighter note – I really enjoyed Atomic Blonde.