Death and taxes and love love love [+ a 50-for-50 video]

[youtube=] This post is #32 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

I spent the morning today at the funeral service for a friend's father. I'll be spending the rest of the afternoon and evening preparing my stuff to take to my tax guy tomorrow morning.

Death and taxes. Yes, really.

While I'd been dreading them both, a weird kind of calm settled over me as I drove out to the West Valley. Maybe it was the spirit of my friend's father, showering love and happiness from the great beyond; by the sound of it, he was that kind of a guy, always full of love and a zest for life. Or maybe it was just so much sunlight everywhere, spilling onto everything. It's hard for me to keep feeling badly when the sun is shining, which is part of the reason I'm unlikely to move to the glorious PacNW anytime soon.

Anyway, the service ended up being terrifically uplifting: wonderful stories of a life beautifully lived, angelic singing from his eldest son. Which is good, because it also ended up being terrifically long, I'd forgotten that's how the Catholics do their celebrations. Lots of pomp, and lots of long.

But my favorite point of the show, and come on, it's a show, folks, was the sermon. Usually my least favorite part, owing to the bombastery of 90% of the priests you tend to run into, this one contained useful and uplifting words about many things, most strikingly, forgiveness. You hear a lot about forgiveness, blah blah blah, but you don't usually hear this: that Jesus talked about forgiving (an order of magnitude of forgiving), but he never said anything about forgetting. We are supposed to work on forgiving, and then leave the other party room for acknowledging and making amends. An incredibly loving and just and harmonious solution to the conundrum of life slamming you in the face repeatedly. My job is not to say "Oh, fine, it's all good" but to process and forgive. Process and forgive. (And, of course, if I'm on the other side of things, to acknowledge and make amends.)

It's a relevant subject right now because this 50-for-50 Project, for as wonderful as it is, is rousing all kinds of strange, old things inside me. Hurts from long ago blow up unexpectedly like ancient land mines, triggered by actions real and intents projected. Another reminder that there is no burying things, no hiding your garbage. You sit with it, you sit in it, you deal with it, and then maybe you get to move on.

For me, writing helps. It gets things out of my head and heart, even the long-buried, festering stuff. Not always pleasant, but life is not about pleasant, it's about living. Loving. Moving. Growing.

I'll let you know when I figure out what the taxes are for.

xxx c

The love you take

the author and members of This post is #1 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Almost four years ago to the day, I went to a lunch that changed my life.

The organizer, Bob McBarton, had been after me (gently) to attend one of his literary "salons" for some time. Every time I read the email announcements, I was tempted: he brought in some really fantastic people to talk books, politics, and culture, around a pretty sweet table.1

But when I'd look at the accompanying attendee list, always lengthy Word attachments, to accommodate the weight of the bios, I'd chicken out. Never mind the guest speakers, even the attendees were luminaries in their various fields, each of them hugely accomplished, and in "real" endeavors, not this b.s. futzing around I'd done in advertising and acting and my silly little blog. They'd published books (multiple books, in some cases) tried significant cases, produced award-winning films, run cities. One of them had overcome physical obstacles that made my Crohn's onset look like a paper cut, and gone on to succeed in multiple high-profile positions in multiple incredibly tough-to-crack industries.

Finally, though, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went. I wound up seated between the mayor of a nearby town and a couple of nice, unassuming ladies in the general vicinity of my age. Of course, I was way too uninformed to talk about the homeless problem with hizzoner, so I turned my attention to the women, Keren Taylor and Allison Deegen, the executive and associate directors, respectively, of a local nonprofit called WriteGirl. They'd spent the better part of the past six years helping hundreds of teenage girls not only get through high school and into college, but become confident, well-read, joyous communicators.

I was talking about changing the world through writing; they were doing it.

One girl at a time.

* * * * *

There's a little test I use when I'm coming up with something, an essay, a song, a poem, a talk, and trying to get at a Truly True Truth: if it makes me either (1), laugh out loud; or (2), burst into tears, it's a keeper. Because as you well know if you've ever lived through a highly emotional time, an illness, a death, a natural disaster, a knock-down-drag-out with your honey, laughter and tears sit so close to each other, they might as well be making out in the balcony.

I have cried at every WriteGirl workshop I've been to. I've also rarely laughed so joyously as I have there, nor felt more hope for humanity. These are amazing girls, all of them. They vary in their levels of introversion and extraversion, boldness and shyness, just like the rest of us, but each of them has been 100% present and committed at every workshop I've been to. They throw themselves into the exercises, even when the exercises challenge them or feel a little weird at first. They show up, week after week, to work with their mentors in between the monthly group workshops. They engage, they ask questions, they play, and they write. Oh, boy do they write, and how. You want to laugh and cry, brother, you get yourself to a WriteGirl meeting.2

No less amazing are the women who volunteer their time to mentor the girls, to organize the workshops, to corral the bazillion details that go into running an organization like this. Need I tell you that money is always, always tight? It is. What Keren and her team manage to do on the money they receive is matched only by the astounding calm with which they manage the constant doubt of where the next buck is coming from.

For once, I want these wonderful women not to worry: I want them to know that $50,000 is coming, and in 50 days, and from you. From us.

* * * * *

Did you know that everyone and his brother's band is doing a Kickstarter-type campaign these days? It's true, look it up.

Well, I'm throwing my hat into the ring. And possibly what's directly beneath it.3

For my 50th birthday, I want to raise $50,000 for WriteGirl. In 50 days. So let's get cracking.

There's an IndieGoGo page you should go to right now. You'll see various giveaways for various contribution levels.

Some of it is new and fun and exceptionally affordable. I had a number of designer and artist friends whip up some custom desktop wallpapers. There are MP3s! Of some of your favorite songs, and some of mine, all from women artists!

Some of it is stuff you cannot get anywhere else. Most pointedly, I do not do any copywriting anymore, but for a price, you can hire me to write your bio. Or your own silly-but-effective anthem, or your own poem that will make you cry. (Or one of the girls will, your choice!)

Or, if you're really loaded and looking for a way to relieve yourself of $50,000 in a hurry, I will dedicate my first book to you. (Which would also mean I'd feel obligated to finally put one out there, so if you're one of the people who've been patiently waiting and you have a friend with 50,000 spare dollars, hit 'em up.)

You can also donate without taking a "gimme," if you're so inclined. Or buy something as a gift for someone else, their own personalized-by-me Field Notes book, for example. An anniversary or birthday song. A love poem. It would be very much in the whole giving-is-getting spirit of things.

Which brings me to my last point: this is not for me, but it is entirely for me.

* * * * *

This whole project has been a combination of long-term thinking and short-term scramble.

Amazingly, so far, things have been falling into place, but that's the angels' work, not mine. Because while I was not too scared to envision myself bald, or even to envision raising what is, and there's no other way to put this, a fuckton of money in an insanely short time, I was too scared until recently to ask for help.

When I finally did, the most amazing thing of all happened: people said "yes." My friend Mike Monteiro said, Yes, I'll make another run of the "Old" t-shirts for you, and we'll give all the money to the girls. (link coming soon!) My friend-turned-client Jean MacDonald said, Yes, you can give away copies of TextExpander, how many do you want? Jim Coudal said, Yes you can have a bunch of Field Notes, and by the way, you might want to customize them, and here's what we use.

My friends Lisa and Heather said, Yes, we'll make a video, and you can stay at our place while we shoot. My friend Jennifer offered up her house for the party, her HOUSE.

My friends Jason & Jodi and Peleg and Judy and Adam immediately pledged financial support, and in amounts that took my breath away. My friend Tim offered up his team to build the website and then, when I waited too long and missed my window, my other friend Gabriel stepped in to save me. Every friend I've approached, Danielle and Dyana, Alice and Eden, Pace & Kyeli, Michelle and Jill, Josh and Donna, plus dozens more I'm forgetting now and hundreds more who signed up for the early notification list said, Yes, we'll help you, and yes, we'll get that money for these girls.

As I've said about myself before, I'm a pretty loquacious motherfucker, but when it comes to describing how this outpouring of love and support have affected me, I am at a loss for actual words.4 They're inadequate, or at least, they are in this form and in this moment when I am, to put it mildly, somewhat knackered.

That I have such friends and in such quantities is remarkable. What is left now is for me to rise to the occasion, to try being just as remarkable.

For the next 50 days, I will be blogging and emailing and tweeting and calling. I will lay aside my fear of asking and ask. Oh, boy, will I ask!

And at the end of this road, whether I fail or succeed at raising every cent of this money, and don't kid yourself, failure is always an option, if I have given it my all, I will receive my gift: to have given my all in pursuit of something greater than me.

But DAMN, I want the money for those girls, too. So let's get crackin', shall we?

xxx c

Things you can do right now to support the "50 for 50" Project:

1Hey, food counts. Just sayin'.

2Of course, if you're actually a brother, you'll have to take my word for it. It's a dude-free zone, except for a few actors who volunteer to play the male roles in the presentation at the end of the screenwriting workshop.

3That's right: if we raise the whole $50K, I'm shaving my head at the culminating shindig. BALD, BABY. To the skin.

4Laughing and incoherent blubbering, however, I have been doing quite a bit. I can barely open up my email these days without bursting into tears of joy. This is a mighty fine thing, although it draws stares in coffee shops.

Love, communist style

people spelling out "L-O-V-E" with their bodies arranged on an atrium floor Several years ago, during the dawn of the Social Media Age, I ran into someone I knew ever-so slightly from the blogging circuit at one of the nerd conferences people on blogging circuits tend to run into each other at. A kind of a celebrity-hero of early Web 2.0, albeit an accessible one.

Many of us were new to the internets back then, but I was also a neophyte in the ways of networking. As I got out from behind my keyboard, along with the introverts, freaks and social misfits I'd been expecting, I also discovered these odd hybrids: pseudo-nerds, or nerd-friendlies, who in their previous, pre-Internet lives had picked up the interpersonal skills I'd somehow managed to avoid acquiring in over 40 years as a human being. These people were upbeat and genial and welcoming, and I always sank gratefully into their company. They knew what to say and what to do; they were able to move through the world with at least outward confidence while putting other people at ease.

So of course I paid attention to the things they did and said, absorbing and parsing constantly: What things did they inquire about? What things did they offer up? How did they introduce mutual acquaintances? Or new topics? Or sustain a conversation? Or exit one?

It was exhausting, but useful.

I began engaging people this way myself, with...unusual results. My heartbeat would speed up. I'd feel dizzy, like the world got wobbly or a haze suddenly descended. It was a little unnerving, sure, but I wrote it off as inexperience, change is hard!, and resolved to try, try again.

Which is where I was at when I finally met my kind-of celebrity/hero: nervous, but trying. Awkward, but trying. I screwed my courage to the sticking point and said "hello." Clearly not one for small talk, he generously put up with my wobbly attempts at it. Until finally, when I had wandered so far of the res of my own groundedness that the room was practically spinning around me, I asked the question that was so foreign to me just the thought of saying it could trigger an out-of-body experience:

"So, (Celebrity-Hero of Web 2.0), tell me: What can I do to help you?"

Whereupon he sighed, rolled his eyes, and said, "Seriously? 'What can I do to help you?' Seriously? This isn't you. What are you doing?"

I froze. And then two things happened.

First, I wanted to disappear. Because I was humiliated and angry and humiliated. This produces in me an urge to make everything go away, starting with myself.

Second, I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and kiss him. Because he was right, and I was free. I never had to ask that stupid fucking question again as long as I lived.

* * * * *

Before the rock-hurling and/or tribal shunning commences, let me make myself very clear: helping is a good thing. I am pro-helping. I help people; you help people; Celebrity-Hero of Web 2.0 helped (and probably still helps) people. We'd better all be helping each other, or every last one of us is doomed.

There's also nothing wrong with asking what you can do to help someone, if that is what it takes for you to really help someone. Asking is a marvelous way to gather useful intelligence with which to shape your loving and generous impulses. I mean, who hasn't gotten a crappy graduation gift from Uncle Fritz, right? Or attended a pot luck with four desserts and no casserole?

Where it gets tricky is when the helping is "helping": asking how you can help as your secret judo way of soliciting it for yourself, or asking when you have zero intention of following through. This is the kind of "helping" that gives helping a bad name, and unfortunately, it's as rampant as hollow, meaningless inquiries into the state of one's health.

Additionally, let me say that the first two people I heard ask me this question meant it. 100%. Short of my asking for a pony or other unrealistic deliverable, they would have agreed and come through (and possibly never asked for anything else, ever.) Both of them are people who are much in the world, who have exceptionally large hearts and energy to match. They are hardy. They are robust. If they have hidden agendas, they're being served with scraps from the main table. It works for them.

I, on the other hand, don't work that way. And by that I mean I seem to shrivel up with too much giving, the same way I do if I have too much social interaction. I have to be judicious in my offers of help if I want to make good on them, which I do, if only because violating Agreement #1 makes me feel so rotten. So I am careful about how I offer help, and to whom, and when. It is not as much as some people would like, and it is even less than that on Twitter.

Do I wish I could do more? Oh, yes.

I also wish that I could be 5'9", eat anything, and sing like Ella Fitzgerald. I don't think those are going to happen anytime soon, either.

* * * * *

People love to make a great noise about the importance of hewing to your path. There is a fair amount of literature out there on the noble struggle involved. But rarely do we get into the gruesome details of how doing your own thing will make you feel on a day-to-day basis.

Like crazy, for starters. Alone and crazy. Mean and crazy. Selfish and crazy. Stupid and crazy. Wrong and crazy.1

Part of the reason you feel these things is because people will intimate that you are these things, if they don't say it outright. Most of the time they do this because it makes them feel less crazy, less alone, less mean and selfish and stupid and wrong and fallibly human. On a good day, I can get down with this and even approach something I suspect might be what compassion feels like. On an average day, I rise to the bait, real or implied, and beat myself up. (On a bad day, I attack...and then beat myself up.)

The other part of the reason is the always-on, 24/7, city-that-never-sleeps effect of the Internet. That thing that brought you together with fellow travelers whose existence you only dreamed of before Usenet or or whatever point you plugged into the matrix can also make you feel very alienated from the rest of the world. Here, someone is always up, always happy, always shipping. It's a dangerous place for comparing insides (yours) to outsides (theirs) and subsequent mimicry. It gets loud up in this bee-yotch.

* * * * *

Right now, I am liking this definition of help: love, externalized. Love in motion, love in action. One reason I like it is that it takes help out of the land of tit-for-tat transactions. I grew up with both plenty of love and plenty of help, possibly more than my fair share, but trust me, a strict accounting was kept at all times.

Today, I am having fun, actual FUN, noticing how help flows out and shows up. As free guest rooms and rides to the airport. As secretly-picked-up tabs and comped coffees. As database advice and emotional support, as quiet letters and cheery introductions, as tomatoes and tips, as labor and hilarious jokes. Maybe someone with a very, very high up view could make sense of this strange economy, but down here, it starts to look like magic.

Am I done forever with mutual backscratching? Probably not. I wouldn't even say there's not a place for it, again, my view is myopic and low to the ground.

But I am increasingly in love with the idea of love flowing from each of us according to our abilities, and to each of us according to our needs. This is the kind of help I want to give and to get: love, communist style.

I think it can happen in business. I think it can happen on Facebook. I think it could make for an amazing world to live in, if can let each other let each other.

If I can let myself be myself.

xxx c

This piece was inspired in part by an incredibly helpful and well-written little book by Bindu Wiles about how to write for the Internet. Yes, really. As I read it, I kept saying "Yup" and "Yup" and finally, "Well, I guess now I don't have to write an incredibly helpful book about writing for the Internet; Bindu already done did it." And it's yours for the price of an email address. See? Helpful.

1And I'm not talking about the big things you might be called "crazy" for, like leaving a marriage that isn't working, or quitting a good job to go out on your own, or sailing across the ocean on a sandwich bag. Do something that's big enough and people will at least applaud your audacity while they call you crazy. As with most things, the devil is in the details. Boring, stupid, unseen, important daily details.

Image by schipulites via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Of service

fishmonger holding high two lobsters Virgo is the sign of service visualized as a maiden in a flowing robe, hair up or down, bearing grain.

Not a lion, not a bull not a ram. Not a hottie hoisting a vat of water to his massive shoulder with his studly arms.

Not a sharpshooter, a skilled, sought-after professional, never mind the hairy knees and hooves, not a pair of enigmatic twins or Escher-y fishes not even a goat or a crab or an inanimate fucking object of weights and measures:

Oh, no. A lone shiksa who has never met the high, hard one fondling a shaft of wheat, that's my lot.

I hated being a Virgo like I hated being not old enough or tall enough or smart or pretty or funny or fast enough to be anything but altogether unexceptional.

I hated my sign that started with "V" and ended with nobody getting laid like I hated the black watch plaid I wore every day for eight years that made me look just like everyone else, only somehow, never as cool as the girls with the good signs, the Leos, the Taurans, the goddamn Capricorns, all of whom most assuredly were relieved of their virginity before they were 19 and had to beg someone.

Do you know who serves?

Broom-pushers and burger-flippers; stockboys and bus drivers. Practicing alcoholics spinning condo-closeout arrows on the corner or hawking Caesar salad specials in a chicken suit. Cashiers, counting out other people's money, and actors, when they can't get work as actors, and overeducated foreign nationals and undereducated dropouts all clinging to their last shred of dignity doing jobs too low even to be beneath them.

People with no other choice choose service, don't they?

Yes. They do. They do. And the luckiest of them, I see now, embrace it.

They stoop to wash the dusty feet of strangers, to set the broken arms of girls who slide off the monkey bars, to pour themselves onto the page again and again so that this time, that someone whose heart has barely a hairline crack running across it can finally start feeling the light pour in.

They bend and contort themselves to make pastafazool and music. They bear with patience the slow, slow uptake of mathematics in adolescent crania and self-knowledge in the shattered heart. They give and give and give of their time and their talent, and their sweat and their soul sometimes for little, but never, never for nothing.

Finally, decades later, but not too late, I see that what is truly true: that to love is to serve. And so now, as then, I choose to serve because I cannot choose otherwise.

I must live in service of that which I've been given: my broom, my brain, my pen, my heart. I must push them to and fro to and fro to and fro every day of every week that they are in my custody.

I must live to serve, because now I finally see what is truly true: that I must serve to truly live.

xxx c

Image by Charbel Akhras via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Some small magic is making your life possible right now

two young brothers hugging and smiling in a car

If you tell me miracles do not happen
I will not contradict you.

I cannot point to precise amounts of money
showing up in time
to save the curly-headed ingenue lashed to the tracks
from the fiery vengeance
of a foul-breathed dragon.

I do not believe
in spontaneous healing
or insta-overhauls
and I am pretty sure
that if Jesus showed up again today
it would not be
on a waffle.

But if you ask me about magic,
well, then,
I am all in.

Not cruise-ship illusions
or witchy incantations
but real, homemade magic.

Time, for instance,
imbued with tincture of patience,
okay, oceans of patience,

Time works wonders
more amazing
than that big wall in China
and a couple of pyramids
put together.

Laughter, obviously.
Like a light switch,
that laughter.

And let me tell you:
if you have not stood
on the razor's edge
between dark and light
and had the perfectly-timed,
impeccably-turned line
flick you nimbly from one side
to the other
while you weren't even thinking,
much less looking,
and felt the tears that soaked your heart
suddenly pouring down both sides of your face
with laughter,
well, then, brother,
I submit
you have yet to live.

And love,

Well, where do we start
when it comes to love?

Love is a magnet
and a builder of bridges. 
Love keeps feet
on the ground
and launches otherwise logical heads
into the stratosphere.

Love can stitch two hearts together
patiently, bit by bit, 
over sixty-five highly improbable years
and krazy-glue others together
so swiftly
and permanently
that the word "excruciating"
works equally well
to describe the coming together
or the pulling apart.

Love is making something possible
right this very second
and third
and so forth.

Love is so amazing
and enthralling
and uplifting
and empowering
I would live in love all the time
if it didn't scare the shit out of me.

It takes muscles
to live in love
not just a heart of fire
and a head for poetry.

But I will get there.
Just you wait.

Until then,
I practice.
I exercise.
I make what joy I can,
and take what time I am able to
without tripping over my own two feet
like the jackass I am.

May this day
and every other
bring a little more magic.

May I make a moment indelible
by standing still in it.

May you heal or be healed
by some flavor of joy.

And may we both do one tiny, terrifying thing
that nudges us gently
back to the love
we have been standing in
all along.


Image by comingstobrazil via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: More I Cannot Wish You

love sculpture

I am imagining
you a song:

it is the song of your dreams
if your dream
is to hear
Frank Loesser's
"More I Cannot Wish You"
sung by 
the perfect Irish baritone,
breaking here and there in places
because he's seen and heard it all,
or a virginal chorus
of earnest high school voices,
painfully on pitch
because they have seen none of it yet
but are impatient to.

Either way
I wish you the boon
of that gentle song,
all but forgotten
for want of dazzle
in the midst of a show
that crackled with it,
but the tune that carries
sweet truth the furthest:
that love is what matters most
even when
it is the hardest thing
to believe in.

So yea, though we swoon to drunken Sarah Brown
and her dream of bells,
and nod along with Adelaide's lament of fidelity
and cross our fingers for Sky Masterson and his sevens, 
and tap our feet as Nicely-Nicely
finds his personal Jesus,
we'd do well enough
to wish each other love
in all its shapes and guises,
and mostly,
to it showing up


Image by jmscottIMD via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

What's under all that crap?

someone hiding under the covers

I'm curious: now that you're four months or so into the process of slowing down and doing less , washing the metaphorical dishes in your psychic kitchen sink, if you will, and clearing off the piles of metaphorical papers on your psychic desk top, if you will , what are you uncovering?

, Dan Owen, in the comments to post on Monday, April 12

I have been thinking about Dan Owen's question in the comments of Monday's post since shortly after he wrote it, and finding answers, or ideas serving as leads to them, everywhere I turn, ever since.

Okay, to be completely honest, I've been thinking about these things on and off for much, much longer, but in my usual perverse way, having someone else pose the question spurs me on to actually structuring my thoughts and putting them down in some kind of semi-orderly fashion.

So, with all of this excavation, this decluttering, this clearing away of physical crap and mental distractions like, oh, the pursuit of livelihood, what am I finding underneath? Thus far, the answers seem to be "the usual" and "more layers", which is to say, "the usual."

The usual, Part 1: Fear, love and the tender heart that threads them together

Here's a good-times truism, and I'm only being half-facetious: when one finds oneself getting angry, outraged, incensed, self-righteous, smug, or any other feeling that is not either fear or love, there's probably fear rooted just underneath.

To make things even more delightful, unless the fear is of being eaten by a bear or some other immediate threat to survival, it's probably attached to some need for love. When I act like a jackass, deliberately withholding love, even though (or worse, because) I know someone wants it, it's about fear.

And "love" doesn't always present in the moment as a grace-taxing apology for a major transgression or showing up at a friend's house at 6am with your truck to move their piano cross-town; it can be as simple, and excruciatingly difficult, as an acknowledgment of success. The Chief Atheist (rightly) used to accuse me of throwing compliments around like manhole covers, and he was right: in my world, achievement was a zero-sum game; ergo your success diminished mine; ergo to me, offering praise felt like cutting off a non-returnable piece of my arm and handing it over knowing that if you did anything with it at all, you'd glance at it ever so briefly before tossing it mindlessly over your shoulder for rats to gnaw on. Or something like that. It took years of working with my first-shrink-slash-astrologer to even make a dent in my fucked-up scarcity mindset, and realistically, it's something I'll likely struggle with for years to come.

However. My hating it doesn't make it go away any faster. To the contrary, my hating it makes it even less likely that I'll be able to overcome it and move into the happy space where my friend Bonnie truly does reside1, a place where "Any time I see someone succeed I am happy, for it affirms my belief that I live in a world where success is possible." Nobody gets to the happy place by blowing past the bullshit that stands in-between; the only way to it is through it, and brother, there are days when in-between might as well be a three-mile, naked wade through a razor-lined vat of gelatinous battery acid.

Most days, though, the walk is uneventful, the pain points are easily overlooked and the scrutiny easily avoided. This is where you actually can score big payback if you, I believe the expression is "double-down" on the observations.

The usual, Part 2: How many layers of protective coating can one person have, anyway?

Why am I craving this second cup of coffee? Am I really wanting more caffeine in deliciously bitter delivery form, or do I want a do-over on my first cup, a reboot of the day?

Now I want a cookie. Or do I? Am I hungry for this taste, this size, this shape, this texture, this many calories of energy? Or am I hungry for some not-doing? For, specifically, some not-doing of this? Or maybe for a reminder that yes, I can treat myself and treat myself well. (These are SCD-legal cookies; it's a whole other discussion when the thing I want is an "illegal".)

How is it I've found myself back on the Twitter home page/in the Facebook stream/checking email again? Again? Again? What am I looking for? What am I avoiding? Where do these two things overlap?

Of course, sometimes checking email is just checking email and a cookie is just a delicious treat. The trick, and yeah, the pain, is in the awareness. It was not The Goody-Good Times staring down my Best Year Yet failures from 2009 and realizing that they were almost identical to my failures from 2008; of all the things I hate (and because I lack the enlightenment to view them with dispassionate interest and/or compassion, I hate many), I probably hate wasted potential the most. Drives me batty.

On the other hand, there they are. Clues! Instructions, even! On what to do next, or at least, what you might want to take a look at.

So for me, Dan Owen (and anyone else who's interested), under that addiction to coffee, to the Internet, to Comfort TV, to certain controlled substances, is fear: of what happens when, if, when I finally do write a book and it's my turn to be judged by everyone and (probably) found wanting. Of giving my best and my all to what it is I have said I want for so long now and not having it work out, whatever that means. Of money turning me into a lonely  ogress, as I have seen it do to so many of my loved ones before me. Of not being enough, definitely. Of not being loveable, most likely.

In other words, same-old same-old.

But each time around the mountain I have a slightly different view of it, and feeling towards it. In my oh-so-slowly-dawning awareness, I feel the beginning of what might be the promise of eventual compassion and detachment, not bullshit, human, take-my-ball-and-go-home detachment, but a release of attachment to outcome and with it, the potential of opening my heart to love on a more steady basis. Or, um, on a basis. Yeah, that.

It is crap. But come on, it's pretty hilarious crap, isn't it?


1I swear, it took me years to believe it, but it is true. Which is not to say Bonnie doesn't have her own issues; she'd be the first person to admit that she does. But man, are they not this, and boy, while I wouldn't trade, I really, really hope to experience this state of being some day before I die.

Image by xJasonRogersx via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: If only

pillowfight in the streets!

It's so sad, isn't it?

The way he eats/
she drinks/
they sit around and shoot up sitcoms
all day long?

What a waste of life.

Can't they see
how much better off they'd be
swimming laps/
eating seaweed/
doing hot yoga/
loving Jesus?

Can't they hear
what all of that Guitar Hero
is doing to their arteries?

Don't they know
the only "off" valve
is meditation/
marathon running/
mopping floors/
making sweet, sweet love
tied to the bedposts
under the moonlight?

How does someone end up
like that, anyway,
in the suburbs/
on Skid Row/
all alone
cut off
from everything?

If only
they would listen to me.

If only
they could learn
to help themselves.

If only
they knew
that anything was possible
that they are the agents of change
that love starts with each one of us.

If only they knew
what life could be.
What a world
we could live in...


Image by alexindigo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Too much, too little, and loving what is (A story about goals)

google mindmap on ginormous whiteboard

After numerous setbacks, some regular-usuals that I now know to plan for (hello, holidays!), some spontaneous combustibles that required urgent but unscheduled attention, I wrapped up my goal planning for 2010.

Yes, five weeks or roughly 10% of the way into the year I'm supposed to be living, I'm done planning for it.*

It is an easy, easy slide into self-loathing, just taking in that last sentence. It feels like a sentence, when I start to take it in fully: this is your life, loser, and no one to blame but yourself for it. Little Miss Overachiever. Little Miss Fancypants, with your ridiculous notions of time and how many things you can fill it with, or, if you want to dip into that bucket o' truth you claim such fondness for, how much shit you can cram into it.

So, you see how I talk to myself when you're not around?** Not nice. Not even helpful. But this is the voice that runs through my head most of the time, or one of them, and it is this voice, or rather, what this voice is doing to me, that I'm choosing to address this year.

Because two very interesting and highly unusual things happened this year during the penultimate phase of goal-planning. They're embarrassing enough that I'd ordinarily leave them out, but illuminating enough, at least, I hope they are, that they're staying in.

For those of you unfamiliar with the values-centered goal-planning system outlined in Jinny Ditzler's Your Best Year Yet, it starts with an inventory and ends with a map, with a whole lot of excavation, grading and other survey-ish/cartographic folderol in between. The inventory is a look back at the previous year's happenings, divided into accomplishments and disappointments, the better to get a handle on what's working (so you can feel good about yourself!) and what's not, so you can beat yourself with a cudgel crafted from your own sodden, misshapen failures. Kidding! Only, well, there's a reason Ditzler has you list your accomplishments first. It can be mighty dispiriting to look at that list of disappointments. She is fairly adamant that accomplishments be viewed with pride and the disappointments taken as learning, but right there, that's suspect to self-loathers: wherefore such inequities of discernment? That's just bad science, lady!

Interestingly enough, in the five years I've been doing Best Year Yet, I've never once had a problem coming up with staggeringly long lists of accomplishments that even the meanest stranger would affirm as such, while my list of disappointments has been proportionately far smaller. Of course, they're big honkers, those disappointments, stuff like "only completed 4 out of 10 goals from last year"; worse, they tend to recur. This may not be a big deal when you're 20 or even 30, but when you're staring 50 in the droopy, gray-haired sac, you start to worry. Time is, as they say, at a premium. How much more of it can you count on? How much more can you waste on an outright-destructive or even "benign" insalubrious habit? Is there even such a thing after 45? (I'm really asking: is there?)

My own goal-planning process ground to a depressing halt in December not only because the year had worn me down and the holidays weren't going to let up, but because when I finished up my list of disappointments, I noted that 11 of them, that's 11 out of 18, were recurring. And big ones, too, like "didn't write book...again," where "again" meant "for the third year in a row." After completing those two lists, I went on to answer the next couple of questions, but really, I knew I was fucked. The only way around this problem was through it, and that was going to require a lot more time than the week I had set aside. And resources, too, in the form of outside help.

Which brings us to the penultimate session I mentioned about 40 minutes ago in this piece.

Up until this year, I've mostly done my BYY plan alone. I ran last year's by my business coach, but only the final plan, and only the business-related aspects of it***. While it makes me cringe with shame now, I realize that I was doing a lot of obfuscating and tap dancing, more plainly called "hiding" when one is not given to obfuscating and tap dancing. If I was going to change my pattern, someone else was going to have to be given root access to the plan, to help keep me honest about what was going on. One of my friends from Success Team (my weekly mastermind-like group) agreed that it might be helpful from an unsticking perspective to collaborate, so we scheduled a work session for this past weekend.

I was prepared for almost anything. A lot of stuff bubbles up during the BYY excavation and mapping process, and for me, that inevitably brings a lot of crying and pain, especially around the Dreaded Chapter Four, where you look at your limiting paradigms. (Trust me, unless you're Jesus, you've got at least one.)

What I was not prepared for was bursting into tears when I looked at my list of accomplishments, which is just what I did when it was my time to go over them. I'd thought, "Oh, I'll just read the topline from this embarrassingly long list to save us time." Instead, something told me to read it in its entirety, all 47 items, and when I the last one, I collapsed in a heap of sobs: all of this stuff I'd accomplished, and still I felt like shit? What would it take? What would ever be enough? If accomplishing all of these 47 remarkable things, and my friend assured me that individually, many were remarkable, but taken together, they were REMARKABLE, if doing all that did not fill the black hole inside me and make me feel loved or safe or worthwhile, what would?

The answer, that nothing would, that no external thing would ever be enough, stared back at me, plain as you like. Hence, sobbing. A lot of it. Fortunately, I have loving and patient friends. Who somehow, when I am feeling like it's anything but possible, can assure me in a way that I actually can hear and almost believe, that I am enough: that I might be lovable just because of who I am, and not because of any list of things I do.

It seems so simple, but trust me, it can take a long time to "get", even if you know it. Even if you've paid your shrink thousands of dollars and wept your way through boxes of her Kleenex to learn the same thing. Learning is not necessarily "getting"; if you're lucky, I think, you "get" it with enough time before you die to know some kind of peace. I felt one huge shift like this in the past 10 years, when I had my hospital bed epiphany. I had a second one this past weekend, looking at that long list and bursting into tears. I have a little more peace, but I'd also like to get a little more of this music out of me before I die, you know?

The other Very Interesting and Unusual Thing that happened revolved around money and happiness. It also involved a goodly amount of sobbing, and is involved (and possibly significant) enough to cover in depth another day.

For now, know this: next year when I sit down to do my Best Year Yet plan, I expect the list of accomplishments will be far shorter, while the list of disappointments will likely be about the same length as it's been in previous years, only with a much, much higher percentage of new things I'm disappointed about.

And that, my friends, is an accomplishment in and of itself...


*Hopefully. Because I finished the wrapping-up yesterday, late in the day, and am feeling rickety about it. Plus, you know, shit happens, Q.E.D.

**Obviously, you're very much around, as you're reading this. What I mean, which you probably already gathered, is this is the dim chatter that forms one layer of my soundtrack. This is the stuff that goes on that I generally don't write, or if I do, that I erase before publishing.

***Your Best Year Yet is a whole-life planning system, based on the idea that achieving balance is largely responsible for achieving happiness, and possibly for achieving goals themselves, at least in the "life well-lived" sense. Also, it's worth noting here that even my coach said my plan was probably overly ambitious. I made changes to it based on her feedback and those changes did work: the four out of ten goals were largely accomplished because of those tweaks.

Yo! Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt's excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.

Image by jurvetson via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. For maximum enjoyment, view in original, huge size.

Poetry Thursday: More music

You will
look better with
that 32" waist
eating more
fresh fruits and vegetables
sleeping eight hours nightly
doing first things first
and getting many things done.

You might feel
and virtuous
and even gleeful
with squeaky-clean windows
and a clutter-free car
and a bright white sink
empty of contents

Your friends
and your family
and your clients
would love
a thoughtful note
with carefully chosen words
and a stamp
or the exact right perfect gift
arriving via brown-suited courier
in a timely fashion
to commemorate their special day
and your thoughtful reverence

There are a thousand
fine choices to make
at the end of a year
and the beginning of forever
any one of which will make
your lungs cleaner
your mind sharper
your wallet heavier
your pants smaller

But if you are among those of us
who step up to the buffet of possibilities
and fret over what to eat first
may I offer up this:

Your stomach
will rumble
for a thousand tasty morsels

But your heart
which asks for so little
and offers so much
will never say no
to more room

Nor your spirit
to more joy

Nor your soul
to more music

Put a tender close
to what came before
and trust
that if you create the space
and allow it to fill up with love
all the rest
will follow
for all the rest
of your days.


Image by theogeo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Circling


If you've never hung out at Tumblr, you're missing quite a lot.

Not my Tumblr, but Tumblr, period. Tumblr is a blog engine or CMS or community site or all of these things, rolled up in one. It's a long-form Twitter or a cool Facebook stream. It's blogs minus the b.s. It's a ton of people you don't know (but most of whom you want to, after spending a little time there) throwing out all kinds of random items. Which means it's a crazy patchwork quilt of ideas, notions, nonsense and genius, served up in words, pictures and video, all embedded in a crazy, ever-flowing stream of awesome. Really. It's the tits.


Last week, in the sleepy, post-eating haze that was Thanksgiving weekend, Merlin, who is very back into poetry these days, unlike those of us who (sadly, shamefacedly, never were), has been dwelving into Richard Hugo of late. In the course of his travels, he turned up a nifty (and terrifying) exercise that another poet, Ted Roethke, used to give his students, to keep them on their toes. A hateful, vexing, difficult exercise which Hugo twisted to make more difficult, and which Merlin then put his own spin on, dubbing it the Roethke-Hugo Exercise (and, to be fair, threw down himself).

I do not consider myself a real poet, but I am highly competitive and love puzzles of a certain stripe. So of course, I immediately sat down and applied myself to the task. I took over an hour, and broke many other rules. But boy, howdy, does an exercise like this ever get the blood moving after the tryptophan. It's enough to make a gal apply to grad school.



Tough eye, cool and blue,
unwavering, insensate,
cuts to the red part of my heart,
names the rock in my throat
with swift, soft precision
that surprises me awake.

Am I ruined? No more than
the sky a cloud curves across
or the tamarack a hawk circles
and, with a kiss goodbye,
laughing in that haunting way,
fades into what is left of the days.

I hug to me your soft nonsense,
lugging it and all the mud you
sling at my indifference,
letting you bruise the truth
of what I thought I knew
against the rock of recognition.

Image by tommy the pariah via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Time off for good behavior


This post is for me, Colleen of the Future. But feel free to read along, if you like.

I'm guessing
you don't care anymore
that the desk was a mess
and the dishes piled up
and the eight million billion things
I heaped
on top of the laundry
never got done.

I'm guessing
that most of my time
spent worrying
could have been better spent
on almost anything,
and I hope I get points
for at least seeing that
from time to time.

I'm guessing
that the moments of glory
mean less right now
than the moments of Arnie
and that the reaching out
was at least as important
as the looking in.

I'm guessing
you still have arms
that can lift stuff
and legs
that can take you
from here to there
and a liver
in pretty good shape
but if not
I hope you know
how much fun I had
wearing them out.

I'm guessing
you are working still
and hoping
it is because
that's what we wanted
but if not
I trust
you have the grace
I've not yet found
to handle the curve balls
that life seems to throw.

I'm guessing
you have a loved one
or two
to share what joy
is yours to channel
but if not
I trust you will share
with whom you can
however you can.

I'm guessing
the things I did
outweigh the things I didn't
or the other way around,
but if not
I hope you know
that mostly,
I did the best I could
and when I didn't
I learned at least to note it.

I'm guessing
you forgive me
and that you love me
and that you wouldn't have it
any other way
but if not
please know
that I love you
and that it is okay
to rest
in peace.


Image by Sister72 via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Wayback Machine: Advice to the lovelorn

Between coming off a lollapalooza of a trip and the crapload of work staring me in the face upon my return, I've been kind of overwhelmed and under-motivated. Happens.

But in a twin stroke of magic from the Serendipity Fairy, I got an infusion of inspiration on a trip to Ojai visiting a lady-homey, and another jolt while trying to clean out the Fibber McGee's closet that is the innards of communicatrix-dot-comâ„¢, official bloggity-blog of Colleen Wainwright and the communicatrix empire.

Specifically, at the tail end of my journey, I ended up talking about...tail: where one gets some and how to procure the quality version. (If you're a lady-homey, you already know how to procure quantity: walk into a bar and flash any portion of your ladyparts.) And tonight, I came across this unpublished bit which had been languishing at the bottom of a pile.

So for those nice ladies I got caffeinated with at Ojai Coffee Roasting Co. the other day, and for any of the rest of you who might be on the prowl, romantically-speaking, I offer the following. Mostly still sound, mostly not too poorly written. Some updates in brackets [like so]. It's more general than tactical, but I think it's no less useful for it. Maybe you'll confirm this; maybe you'll tell me otherwise.

Me, I'm going to enjoy some of the fruits of my own online labor of many years ago and head over to The BF's for Yeah. That's it.

Have a lovely "weekend," all y'all...

I'm not prone to giving advice, wait...yes, I am. Well, not unsolicited advice, shit, I do that, too.


Okay: I love giving advice. I've been addicted to advice columns since I found Dear Abby on the funnies page (her hipper twin, Ann Landers, was in the Sun-Times and we were a Trib household all the way).

I especially enjoy advice on matters of the heart since I find love fascinating, although as regular readers know, I spout off on pretty much anything within arm's reach. I loved Em & Lo, the erstwhile Nerve gals who write so well about sex, and subscribed to not so I could keep up with their excellent news coverage but because I got tired of reading the Daily Pass ad to get to my Cary Tennis. [Today, I'm an ardent (haha) fan of the magnificent Dan Savage, whose excellent sex/relationship advice column is widely syndicated in alternative papers and whose out-loud version of the column (a.k.a. The Savage Lovecast) is so true and funny it makes me snort things out my nose even as I pound the dashboard in assent with his uncanny insight.]

Ironically, though, ever since I actually have had some clue about How These Things Work, I have questioned my right to be an authority on (insert topic here). I'm definitely one of those women who suffers from Imposter Syndrome, as Jory Des Jardins describes it:

(Imposter Syndrome) is a fairly common condition that affects many women, particularly those who are achievement-oriented. It's a belief that one's accomplishments are not deserved, that one has somehow fooled the system and will inevitably be found out for the fake that she is.

As a well-under-30 pup selling ads to clients twice my age, I remember having frequent "When Will They Find Out We Are Frauds" discussions with my then-boss back in the go-go '80s.

But, as usual, I digress.

I think that my youthful zeal for offering advice had more to do with my needing to be seen and valued than with any selfless desire to share the wealth. These days, I find it easier to resist offering unsolicited advice one-on-one. I figure if someone wants my goddam opinion, they can goddam well ask for it; if, on the other hand, they're just jaw-flapping, as The Chief Atheist used to say, and I have an excuse to walk away and not waste my valuable time and energy.

As an avid reader of Craig's List, however, I used to find my advice-giving buttons pushed pretty frequently, and the lure was strong. Fortunately, they make you jump through so many hoops to reply to a post that often, my ardor cooled in advance at the prospect. In fact, I'm always shocked at how many people will jump on a lame thread in the Rants & Raves section; they must have really, really boring jobs.

But every once in a while, a post would cry out to me. The poster seemed to genuinely want an answer to a problem that spoke to my experience, and I'd have an extra ten or so minutes to devote to the issue. I always considered it another way of giving back; lord knows enough people have helped me through the dark and murky times.

I won't repost this guy's entire plea for help since I don't have his permission, but suffice it to say he was experiencing some bewilderment on the dating front and, having given up entirely on meeting people in real-life venues like bars, he had now come to the conclusion that even the people looking online weren't really looking for a relationship. Worse, I could sense he was on the precipice overhanging The Dark Place; one stiff wind and we might lose him to the other side.

Here's what I had to say:

You know what? You're absolutely right...and you're absolutely wrong.

I'm a fairly cool chick (or so I've been told by some fairly cool people who didn't stand to gain anything by saying it) and I've met some pretty great guys online. And in bars. And through friends. And even, one unusual time, standing in front of a burning bus.

I've also met some equally heinous guys in each of those places. (Well, I only met the one guy in front of the burning bus.)

Point being, there are asshat chicks *and* cool chicks *everywhere*. If you're really looking for a cool one, why close off any reasonable avenue? Two caveats, though. First, in my experience, you do better if you're open but not Looking. Cool chicks can get a little turned off by guys too much on the prowl. (And nobody likes a needy person.)

And second, if you are burning out on any part of the process or developing any kind of an attitude about a particular avenue, stay away from it until you can jump back in with a better attitude. Don't date angry!

Now, I know Em & Lo [or Dan Savage] would have been way funnier, and that Cary [or Dan Savage, can you tell I'm queer for the dude?] would have done a much more thoughtful job of dissecting the guy's modus operandi and even analyzing his intent. But sometimes, the best "advice" you can give is a little reassurance that this, too, shall pass, and that maybe it's a good idea to cool one's heels until one can approach the "problem" with an open mind and a fresh perspective. Especially when you don't really know the person asking the question. And as someone with extensive experience in online dating who had experienced burnout and the falling rate of return that accompanies it, I felt uniquely qualified, nay, compelled, to speak up. So I'm pretty sure I wasn't talking out of my ass.

Hopefully, I wasn't just flapping my jaw, either.

xxx c

Image by anniejean via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Returning to love, again and again

I don't cry at the drop of a hat anymore, two solid years of crying brought on by a Method acting class finally worked that out of my system, but I am still easily moved by "heart messages."

In other words, I don't cry at commercials very often, but show me who you really are and I'm a goner.

I cried in the car last week, in full-on, westbound at evening hour traffic, listening to an NPR show on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I cried in the middle of the BlogHaus at SXSW, talking to Liz Strauss about personal branding (and not out of frustration with the concept getting co-opted by tools.)

I cried more when The BF's dog, Arnie, came to comfort me because I was already crying.

One of the great lessons you learn with a good acting teacher (and no, she doesn't have to teach the Method) is that everything is right there, all the time. Or that it can be. It can also be hell breaking through to the point where you recognize that Everything Is Right There All the Time: ask anyone who had to sit through most of my scenes in class for the first three years.

But once you establish that access, it's hard to go back. This is neither a good thing nor a bad one: it just is. You will feel stuff, easily and quickly, all the time. In a way, it's like a return to a childlike way of being, only with all the acquired consciousness and skills and history of adulthood. You know the truth of a situation right away, or really quickly, if you care to look. And sometimes, even if you don't.

I'm no expert, but it seems reasonable to me that this is why a lot of people turn to things that muffle the truth. There's the really obvious stuff (drugs, alcohol) and the slightly less-obvious stuff: TV, internet, video games, exercise; pretty much anything that is taken to a level of obsession. Compulsive levels of things: shopping, gambling, sex, smoking, cleaning, etc. That old saw about moderation is there for a reason. Even moderation, done excessively, can be an issue: would you trust someone who never, ever cut loose? Or would you wonder if maybe there were some Issues-with-a-Capital-"I" brewing there?

The older I get, and the more things I'm confronted with, the more I realize that most stuff can be addressed with a one-two punch: take it in and love it up.

This seems to be the foundation of a lot of spiritual practice. Meditation is observation plus detachment, which is really creating the space for love: a way to not react with reptile brain, but from a higher or deeper place of compassion.

"The Work" of Byron Katie boils down to that, too: it's a process for shifting thinking (and being) by approaching information differently, i.e. with love. (Note: I'm not a Byron Katie scholar or even a student, but I did research The Work several years ago while exploring modalities for change.)

Talk therapy, when done right, does the same thing: it helps you view things through a different lens than you're used to, and part of the reason it works is the safe, compassionate space provide by the therapist.

What I've come to, again and again, is that love is at the heart of it all (you'll pardon the pun), but for myriad reasons, we forget that and need reminding. Our funky reptile hardwiring so quick to shift us into danger mode, for one. Life, for another: have you looked around and seen how complex things have gotten lately? How many of us there are? How many languages we speak, or more accurately, that we don't speak?

In times of extreme crisis, the death of a loved one, on a small scale, or a tragedy like tsunami, Katrina, 9/11, on a large one, the first, immediate reaction is a falling away of everything and a feeling of tenderness. Think outflows of cash, help, feeling. Hell, here in L.A., people actually waved people into traffic for a full two weeks.

The problem, of course, is staying in that feeling. There's a reason those super-compassionate monks and world champions of mind-training have to spend so much time meditating: staying in compassion is not a natural thing. Frankly, I'm still unconvinced that it's an entirely good thing, but then, of course I'd say that: I'm not highly evolved enough to, yet.

What I have been doing lately is examining the reactions I have and seeing how they make me feel. Righteous indignation? Umbrage? Not so good. Plus, when I react from these, the reaction it sets off in others is really not so good.

When I can take one motherfucking goddamned moment to step back and breathe, however, the shift is remarkable. I feel better. I can usually interact with someone in a way that, if it doesn't make them feel better, usually doesn't make them feel worse. Nothing works all the time. But when I'm really, truly doing it, when I'm working clean, not working it to game the situation, it works most of the time. And my own peace of mind is increased every time.

This is a more open-ended musing than I usually post, and for an obvious reason: I'm at the beginning of this particular road. As such, I'm really curious to know what your experience is in acting from that space of love: when it's easy, when it's hard, and particularly, what practices have helped you get there. Some people seem to have been born to it, my paternal grandmother is one of those people whom you honestly couldn't imagine thinking unkindly towards anyone, much less acting that way. But most of us aren't Betty. do you do it? How are you doing it? Who has taught you, and what have you learned? Inquiring minds, and hearts, want to know...d

xxx c

Image by jpmccluskey via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

How to get the man of your dreams: make a list, check it twice

heartIt's been awhile since the c-trix blogged about dating. This is only natural, given that she has been blissfully, if somewhat surprisingly, ensconced in a monogamous relationship with The BF for the bulk of 2005. Plus it's the holidays and stuff, people have Black Friday and E-mail Monday and other important issues to wrestle to the ground. At the same time, the management is nothing if not sensitive to the fact that the holidays can be an especially difficult time for those who are single and wish not to be. Hell, the management has spent more than one holiday with nothing but a camera up its ass to keep it company. So when a recent check of the stats turned up an interesting dating-and-the-single-woman blog that's recently linked here (thank you, Dr. Annie), we here at communicatrix were impelled to action.

The post in question raises the question of "dealbreakers": must-have accessory of the self-actualized gal or blueprint for foolish pipe dream?

The post links to an entry on another blog written by a young Adventist Christian hussy (God bless the internets) who very much knows what she wants. In fact, she's enumerated it, in minute detail, for which I applaud her. It can be very scary asking for what you want, but also very, very powerful. I know; I myself wrote a series of these lists in the year before I met The BF. The way I see it, when I finally got the list right, bam! I got the guy who matched the list.


There are two caveats to keep in mind if you want the voodoo to work.

First, you can't be cavalier about the list. The list needs to be a distillation of the things that resonate in the deepest, darkest parts of you. That list needs to be s-e-r-i-o-u-s.

That doesn't mean things like "makes my heart thump from across the room" or "can pound me till the top of my head comes off" can't be on there; they should, if those things matter to you. Anything that really matters should be on the list. It just means you must not sully it with frivolous, superficial bullshit your frivolous, superficial ego has on its shopping list.

So, in this brave new dating universe, "attractive to me" replaces any specific trait you may have found hot in anyone to date (pun intended). "Gets it" replaces a specific level of schooling you think is the benchmark of smart. And be very judicious about your inclusion of lifestyle line items: unless you are a porpoise, best to leave "MUST love the water" off.

Part II of the love juju operation is what most people leave out, and the thing that generally insures against frivolous line items: you, the asker, must be ready for the askee. Not ready as in "I am so fed up with all these stupid mens who don't appreciate my fine self" but with the heightened state of readiness a martial arts master knows his instrument. You have read the books, shrunk with the shrink, risen from the ashes of devastion like a self-evolved phoenix. You have, most likely, spent months or even years at a stretch with naught but your loathesome self (and maybe a camera up your ass) to keep you company. You know humility from false modesty from self-loathing; you take shit off of no one because you have the deep confidence in your choices that comes with time and thought and meaningful action, not because you bad.

In a quick fix world, Part II seems cumbersome, inelegant and tedious. It lacks the can-do, Tools For Livingâ„¢ sexiness of listmaking.

But there is no substitute for knowing oneself, and the alternative, a world full of people with the extraordinary and unprecedented luxury of time for self-evolution who instead choose Doritosâ„¢ and trips to Cabo and other disposable bling of our modern era, is far more horrid to contemplate than even a lifetime alone.

So for the good of the planet, of the rest of us who share it, of the people you and your future love-monkey might put on it, before you make that list of everything you want in another person, make a list about everything you want in a best friend. Or a list of all the traits the most amazing teacher/family member/heroic figure you've ever met possesses.

Take a long time with that list: write, put aside, live your live, come back to it. Rinse, repeat. It is a lengthy process and yes, sometimes a tedious one. But it can also be a thrilling, challenging and even joyful process.

Become that list, and chances are the right person will fall right into your self-actualized lap.

xxx c