Tag Archives: mantras

Today is yes

Forget-me-notsHe said he was a corporate lawyer, born in Bolivia and that I probably wouldn’t like his politics. He looked like he was 12. It was late. I danced with him anyway.

“You let yourself fall when I dipped you,” he told me. “That means you are open to life. You don’t care what anyone thinks about you.”

That’s not true everyday. But thank goodness there are days that it is. Thank goodness someone pulled me onto dance floor and dipped me and let me know: Here you are. See? You are being that person you’ve wanted to be.

Sometimes you find yourself unexpectedly watching a voluptuous burlesque dancer swing tiny torches from her breasts that make little circles of fire in the air while the band plays Happy Birthday. The next night you’re singing the entire White Album, pressed up against people you don’t know while waving to the ones you do. A twenty-something woman from China keeps hugging you and smiling as you wonder whether the best song ever written is “Dear Prudence” or “Helter Skelter.” She says she wants to text you. “Hi!” says your phone. “Yellow Submarine!” That’s the last time you hear from her.

Sometimes you’re accidentally listening to an ‘80s cover band that’s opening for your friend’s band, and joy and shame collide inside of you when you hear songs by Simple Minds and Animotion and remember every lyric. You joke about that feeling with a woman standing next to you by the bathroom mirror who says “no, no, no… there is no shame. But I hate that it shows everybody exactly how old I am.”

“Meh,” you reply. “Me too. We’re not that old.”

Just as you are almost out the door, she yells after you, for no apparent reason “You are really beautiful!”

“Thank you!” you yell back. “So are you.”

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about a study in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, to become an expert at something. Now 42, after a childhood with a typewriter and 20 years of writing career behind me, I have undoubtedly accumulated enough time to call myself a master she-hack, a highly qualified assembler of printed characters, a capable wordswoman. But so practiced in living with self-trust, I am not.

This midlife single life is a little bit brutal. You think that practicing kindness and patience will yield you some easy companionship. It might for a little while. Or it might just give someone else the space to be wildly selfish with or unintentionally cruel to you. Wasting time is a greater concern than it used to be. The landscape requires a kind of detachment you’ve never had to cultivate before, that truthfully, you don’t exactly want to cultivate because you’ve come to like your wide-open heart. You know that you know yourself better than you did the last time you were out here.

I’m playing the long game these days. I want to reach that expert level of self-respect by practicing 10,000 hours trusting my own instincts; 10,000 hours being kinder to myself; 10,000 hours of traversing the thorny landscape without letting it shut me down, no matter how often it might draw blood; 10,000 hours of not letting myself feel threatened by any social situation; 10,000 hours of being kind to others traveling on this same nasty terrain, just because I can; 10,000 hours giving myself a break because all of this is practice.

10,000 hours of letting myself fall. Not into another person, but into myself.

10,000 hours being yes.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any –lifted from the no
of all nothing– human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

– ee cummings

Today is yes.

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99 problems, but no yogurt ain’t one

Giggles erupted from my backseat a few days ago. My son could not stop laughing.

“Mom… do you know what…” (more laughing), “do you know what my friend John said at lunch today?”

I shook my head. “No, but it must have been funny. What did he say?”

“He said: ‘I have a serious problem – there is no yogurt in my lunch.'”

“And you thought that was funny?”

“No yogurt in your lunch is not a problem. If you think that’s a problem, you don’t know a problem,” he said, completely cracking up.

“What kind of thing do you think is a problem?” I asked him.

“I don’t know. Not that. Maybe… no lunch.”


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Urban explorer

I hug him tight. He kisses me on the side of my nose.

“Thanks, mom,” he says, rolling over and heaving a sigh. “Good night.”

This is how he falls asleep lately. I’m not sure why I’m getting thanked, but I’m not complaining.

Tonight he paused a beat. Then took a breath.

“Sidewalks can just take you everywhere… right mom?”

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Beginnings of a solar system magnum opus

We’ve had a concert here all morning yesterday. It featured extended thoughts about all the planets in our solar system, but we had to listen to it through the bedroom door. Somebody gets self-conscious while performing in front of his parents.

I did manage to get him to tell me some of the words, which I wrote down:

“Song about Jupiter with Clouds… about Jupiter”*

One little place with a Halloween cloud
It’s a place with the place with a birth it’s Jupiter
Boing ba ba boing ba ba boing boing boing

It’s the place with the clouds that will make you look scary
Make you look scary make you look like a berry
Boing ba ba boing ba ba boing boing boing

“Earth Song”
Earth song from Tracy on Vimeo.

(He’s been singing this for days, although I had no idea until today that it was supposed to be about Earth. How unsettling.)

*Copyright Declan 2009

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Some advice for you

While on our way out to watch some ice melt in the woods, the boy graced us with the following wisdom:

“If Illinois is empty, try the universe.”

Once again, I don’t know what he meant by it or even why he said it, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.
Have a happy Sunday.

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“The darkness doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s just a little bit famous.”

“I want to dance in Saturn’s rings.”

“Don’t forget to focus!”

“You are the dark side of the moon.”

“You are just a clock.”

“You are a scientific FACT.”

“Silly makes you a man.”

“I was born in the bulge.”

“I’m having a metamorphosis!”

“I am terrible of the dark.”

“I am just trying to get to the end of the dark.”

“Earth is a good boy.”

“Jupiter doesn’t make any sense.”

“Your hair is like a book.”

“I’m the human that was born in the puzzle of modern physics.”

“If you have a problem, you can talk to me. If you have a bigger problem, talk to the tree.”

“Saturn has rings.”

“Galaxies fade away, all stars merge.”

“Just the right speed, just the right angle!”

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Karma bombing

I believed in karma long before I knew the word. I imagined it as though it was a cosmic superhero, capable of righting all injustices. It’s also known by the grandma wisdom that spills forth when you’ve been hurt by someone else: “don’t worry about it, he/she will get what’s coming to them eventually” or “what comes around goes around.”

Maybe because the golden rule was the rule of law in my childhood home, heaven and hell made less sense to me than the idea that at our life’s end, our soul would be momentarily shattered by a karma bomb. It would be one thing to be presented a list by St. Peter, another to realize fully who we’ve been and how our actions hold up. Every piece of a karma bomb’s brilliant shrapnel would fill us with an empathic experience that would help us vividly understand the joy and pain we inflicted on others during our lifetime.

This belief has been a salve I’ve used on my ego in painful situations, particularly when I’ve needed to accept defeat or, really, reality. It was there when I needed a way to cope with feelings of powerlessness in the face of infinity, or, more often, in the face of one of the world’s big mean jerks. I sometimes went so far as to let it keep me from promoting or defending myself, instead thinking that this cosmic force was going to somehow let the real me, my real intentions, be seen, appreciated, and especially understood by whoever was that I needed to have understand it.

I’ve spent too many wee hours searching for the components to construct my own small karma bombs – usually words. I’ve searched for some kind of truth in language that I hoped would suddenly bring another person to a full-bodied understanding of how their mistreatment of me, or worse, of someone I care about, truly felt. It would let them know all about the parts of the story they don’t know, or fail to look at, powerfully and instantly. And for all of that time I’ve spent laboring, these letters are largely unwritten and unsent.

Some of my journalistic peers say things like “our readers aren’t interested in reading about X,” because they have marketing data that they’ve come to trust beyond their own, far less limiting, human instincts. And X is almost always something that illuminates a social concern, something that asks the reader to consider life outside of themselves. I’ve seethed over our lack of faith in people.

I have heard morally questionable actions repeatedly excused with “it’s only business.” I’ve also seethed over this regularly in my karma bomb-making quarters, because in my mind, business doesn’t get to exist without people. Business is people. Period.

But I’m guilty of trapping ideas about other people under glass myself. Once we grouse about a friend or family member or colleague as thoughtless or incapable or difficult or uncaring, it’s hard to back off of that precipice and learn to see them any other way. The late Randy Pausch has a simple-sounding remedy for this in his Last Lecture — he basically says that every person has a good side, we just have to wait for them to show it to us. And that good side is always, always worth seeing. I believe that, whether or not I can find the patience or the time or the desire to do the searching that uncovering that thing may require.

The more I’ve learned about karma, the more it’s come to mean something else to me… something that’s not about righteousness or judgment or berating myself for being passive or mentally bombing people with my version of reality. My karma is what I do with it. It’s about being loving, taking responsibility for my own actions, sowing what good I can in the world and seeing people if not for what they are, for the way that they ask me to see them, if only just to know what that might be. My karma bombs are useless on everybody but me. Or maybe everybody, including me.

What about you? Do you make them?


By now, you’ve probably guessed that this is little more than a pointed pep talk meant to help me convince myself to stop mentally swearing at bullies, editors, politicians, queen bees, unpaid bills, the life I thought I deserved and mosquitoes so often.

Now back to deep-fried garlic mashed potatoes on a stick.

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Dancing in the rings

Sleep was interrupted for a long while in the wee hours of this morning, when Dec woke up weepy.

“I want to dance in Saturn’s rings,” he cried. “I do want to do that. I want to twirl.”

He had little to say beyond this, his mantra. He was only momentarily hysterical about it… mostly just teary, sighing, longing.

“You can,” I kept whispering to him, brushing his forehead. “Just close your eyes and go back there.”

He woke up this morning still thinking about it. Still wishing for it.

“I want to dance in Saturn’s rings,” he told me again, first thing.

“Were you dreaming that you were dancing on Saturn’s rings?” I asked him.

“No mommy. Not on the rings, in Saturn’s rings. All around the chunks of ice.”

“You were floating and twirling through sparkly chunks of ice?”

“I was. I want to.”

Around here, dreams can be strangely, scientifically accurate.

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New mantras from our mini professor

“Eat your colors today.”

I’m not sure if this taken from pro-fruit and veggie spots on Sesame Street or what. He’s been asking for foods on the basis of their color for a couple of weeks now, while also pointing out colors in accordance with the planets, such as “look at that blue Neptune car, mommy.”

“They go in and ouch.”

Said while giving a mini-lecture on the disappearance of Saturn’s rings, and something about asteroids.

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