Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Meme for 2011.

Guan-Yin Bodhisattva Who Hears Every Prayer
I kind of can't believe I only wrote one epizoodiks entry in 2011. Had my mind focused on food I guess. I'm still going to do a meme for 2011. Because something about stopping to reflect at the turn of a new year feels very right to me.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
So many things. Attended a writing conference by myself. Re-launched my blog. Did my first podcast. Began two books. Went to Rome. So many wonderful things...

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I've decided the only resolution I ever need to make is to find balance. Continually seek balance, strive for balance, and be happy when I find moments of balance. Easier said than done. <---this was my statement in 2010, and it still stands. Although I'd simplify it even more. Just be good to your body. Eat well, sleep well, exercise well, meditate well. Everything else will follow.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No, but two cousins are pregnant!

4. Did anyone close to you die? In April, I lost my dear friend Michael Veazey suddenly. His death was quite a blow, and I wrote about him in this very space. I still miss him terribly and I'll never forget him. Visiting New York won't ever be the same in that I won't ever be able to go without throwing a warm thought his way...In July I lost my grandfather. Even though our relattionship wasn't always the closest, even strained, after his death he did something so generous it restored my faith. And helped me to help myself, and some friends when I didn't think I'd be able. Which made me so happy.

5. What countries did you visit? Italy, specifically Rome, for our 10th anniversary. And I'm having a love affair. I adore every nook and cranny. I want to move there. I took over 500 pictures of the place...........sigh............

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011? Friends that live in the same town. All my friends seem to live someplace else. More discipline for my writing and my meditation, and my exercise.  <-----I wanted this last year, and am still working toward them :)

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? April 22nd, the day we lost Mike. November 21st, our 10th wedding anniversary. December 6th, the day I fell in love with Rome.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Finally facing the fact I'm a writer, and nothing else. I finally began the steps, the growth that I needed to become an actualized person, a dedicated writer, a contented human being. I stopped lying to myself and to others - to get them to like me. I finally started learning who I am and who I want to be. Being honest like this, after a lifetime of going along to get along is so difficult, but so necessary.  <----I am still in the midst of this journey, and feel no need to change it from last year. I would add that I traveled alone to NYC to attend a writer's conference even though I was scared to death. Told a group of writers my book idea (SCARY!) and they liked it. Phew!

9. What was your biggest failure? Not being able to figure out a way to live with my chronic neck and shoulder pain. It still threatens to run my life at times and has prevented me from accepting some pretty great opportunities. And canceling others. I never like to burn bridges, especially when I feel like there has to be SOME way to cope with this. Sigh...

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I have two cervical discs that are damaged, bone spurs, and frozen shoulder. Since December 10, 2010. It's a year I've had this now and although I'm healing slowly, it's just that. Very very very very slowly.

11. What was the best thing someone bought you? My husband bought us a week in Rome. A trip of a lifetime. I'll never forget it and cannot wait until the day we can live there for some length of time. A month at least :)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My sister-in-law Pam. In the face of some pretty drastic and horrible health news and family drama, she has somehow contained herself with grace, strength, happiness, and laughter. Someone to emulate.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I find it so hard to understand people who cannot see the big picture, but instead focus on tiny details, things they think are MAJOR problems, and blow them up all out of proportion. If they would just step back, maybe find some gratitude for the blessings they DO have in life, maybe those things they think are problems would shrink away and become the tiny minute obstacles they really are.

14. Where did most of your money go? Toward bills, student loans, items to build my writing career like software, conferences, improvements to the blog. Then there was the occasional Zappos purchase :D

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Having an actual New York literary agent tell me that my novel idea is great and that I should send her my manuscript the minute I'm finished! No other words could be more exciting!

16. What song will always remind you of 2011? "Give Up and Let It Go" by Francis Dunnery. I heard this song for the first time when I was so stuck and frustrated. I heard this and cried and cried. Happy tears of joy and surrender. Now every time I'm down I put it on. Love love love love... Runner-up? M. Ward's "Chinese Translation" - if there is a happier song out there I don't know it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
Fatter or thinner? THINNER!!!!!!!! I lost 20 pounds this year! Hip hip hooray!
Happier or sadder? Happier. Infinitely happier because I'm doing what I've always wanted to do. I'm so grateful to be writing. I'm so grateful for everything that is my life.
Richer or poorer? Poorer. The paycheck isn't steady when you freelance, but no matter. I'm infinitely happier.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Yoga. The only thing that seems to calm my anxieties and fears. I seem to say this at the end of every year, and this year is no exception.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Worrying. Being afraid. Punishing myself with unhealthy foods and drink to push down or mask the fear and worry. It's better to move through the worry, the fear, and reward yourself with foods that make your body feel good. Easier said than done when you're "in it".  <----this answer was so great last year I'm using it again :)

20. How did you spend Christmas? My niece Amanda came to visit The Hubby and me. We ate a lot, went to visit my family in Richmond, opened presents, ate ham biscuits, drank bourbon and eggnog and hot chocolate and cider. It was a drama-free zone. Awesome.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011? I've been in love since the day I met my husband in 1999.

22. How many one night stands? Not since I fell in love, and not much before.

23. What was your favorite TV program? Game of Thrones. Because the ladies in it are kick ass, and because I started watching just to have something to do, and discovered it was REALLY GOOD! I hate fantasy, but Game of Thrones is fantastic. Cannot wait for May 2012!

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Hate is such a strong word for someone who tries to meditate and practice yoga. There are definitely people whose choices I really can't understand.

25. What was the best book you read? "On Writing" by Stephen King. I've been meaning to read this for years, but for some reason I finally picked it up this year. And when I did I got chills. It's that good. And something told me I waited because I was SUPPOSED to. I wasn't ready to read these words until now. Best line? "Write your first draft like you were The Gingerbread Man".

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Really got into the soundtrack to "Pirate Radio" this year, then proceeded to download every 60's groovy English pop song I could get my hands on. Lovely to bake bread to. Or clean the house. Or just dance around :)

27. What did you want and get? An iPad :D Also, in October more than anything during my trip to the writer's conference in NYC I wanted to spend an entire afternoon in The Met. I got that and it was wonderful. Like church. It's where I took the picture the Asian wing.

28. What did you want and not get? Really wanted to finish NaNoWriMo, but only lasted 6 days. Very very difficult to write that fast that long when you haven't your entire life. Will try again next year...go for 7 days :)

29. What was your favorite film of this year? Without a doubt, "The Tree of Life" Amazing story, cinematography. I cried and cried. For the beauty of it, and for the nostalgia because it brought up a lot of childhood memories. Terrence Mallick has created another masterpiece.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 44. We went to Zynodoa in Staunton for a nice dinner. It was wonderful :)

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? To have had close friends in the same city as me. So when I was going through major periods of frustration, growth, and change, I could call on them for support. Or at least go out for drinks.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011? I continued to dress the way I WANT to dress, not the way I think people want me to dress. Started this in 2010. I also realized a uniform of jeans, a cute top, and heeled boots isn't necessarily tired if you always look good in it.

33. What kept you sane? My husband, my dog, and music. Watching the sunsets out my kitchen window. Listening to mooing cows at sunrise. Meditating to the cicadas and the crickets in the summer.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Javier Bardem. Leonard Cohen. John Slattery. Ewan MacGregor.

35. What political issue stirred you the most? Gay marriage. People need to relax and let people, all people, find love where they can find it.

36. Who do you miss?  Mike Veazey. I think I'll probably be missing him quite a while...

37. Who was the best new person you met? Craig Hartman, the chef at BBQ Exchange. After years of Facebooking and Tweeting, and missed opportunities, I finally got to meet the man! He's warm, funny, fond of big bear hugs, and a master at cooking pork and pork products. Need I say more? doing his podcast was one of the highlights of my year...

38. What was the best thing you ate? Cacio e pepe pasta at the Cul de Sac in Rome. It's just homemade spaghetti, oil, pepper, and romano cheese. But in rome. And perfect. And scrummy yummy yummy yummy........

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011? Two lessons: 1) No food, drink, or pill can take away your anxiety or fear. It only blankets it. and 2) In this life, you should strive to have an UNCONDITIONAL relationship with yourself. I read this in Pema Chodron's book, "Comfortable With Uncertainty" and it cut through me like a knife. Yes, yes, yes.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Give Up And Let It Go
by Francis Dunnery

I was only 15 years old and full of fire
I was a half a pound of bacon and an egg on the side

She got all the good looks, and I got all the war
She was everything I asked for, and a little more

It wasn't until much later I find my whole life down
Storming around the town with insecurity in my pocket, and worries in my bed
I was forced to see the doctor, and the good doctor said

Give up and let it go
Give up and let your life flow

Give up and let it go
Give up and let your life flow
Give up and let it go......

....and I open my heart and I let all the summer breeze in.....I was looking for my story and my story said.....

Give up and let it go
Give up and let your life flow

Give up and let it go
Give up and let your life flow
Give up and let it go......

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Michael Veazey.

Rest in peace. Rockin' that bowtie. Elsa Klensch is so proud.
I’m supposed to be writing. An article about hot dogs of all things for a local weekly. Then there’s my novel, which is in pieces, and my semi-workable treatment for a nonfiction book. Instead I’m looking through old photo albums and listening to cassette tapes full of abominably bad dance music from 1987. Because my friend Mike died. He up and died suddenly, tragically, without so much as a whisper. The one in our group who looked forever 15, without a wrinkle or shadow of age upon him. Just a glimmer of grey at the temples to remind us he WAS there back then, and not just born in 1996.

Incredulous, I didn’t find ONE picture of us. All those years spent as friends, roommates for Chrissakes, and not one picture? Sadly realizing this was a reminder of just how much partying I really had done. But on further reflection, I cracked up laughing. We must’ve had a pretty good time to forget to record it.

It seems only yesterday I was writing about a reunion my friend David put on which brought us all together again. Now I’m writing about one of us dying. I’m starting to feel like Ender in Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead because every time someone I love passes away I sit down and eulogize. Which can be good and bad. When you eulogize you forget the reality and paint over everything with a rose-colored gloss. The person might have been a total asshole, but if you cared about them at all the eulogy becomes a glowing A+ report card of all their best qualities.

But with Mike this is the truth. He truly was a great guy. You hear that a lot, but seriously, I have never met anyone who ever had a bad word to say about him. Ever.

He was quiet, well-dressed, always a part of the conversation and yet just a “skoche” off to the side. Mike seemed to prefer the outer edges to the raucous middle where all the action lives. I got that so well and often joined him. Speaker of dry humor, lover of fashion. The eye roll, the head tilt. His “What are ya gonna do, that’s just how it is,” shrug of the shoulders. In his black plaid Willi Smith blazer. That’s how I’ll remember him eternally – he wore that jacket everywhere.

Through the years I’d run into Mike every so often. I found it wonderful that even though he was alone, he always seemed content. And now he has gone and there are almost 200 people on Facebook wishing him well. So he wasn’t really ever alone. Not really.

I kind of can’t believe I won’t ever hear his voice again because I still hear it in my head, the way it would lift and fall, the way he drew out his vowels. I loved it so. Musical and lilting like he was always on the verge of saying something scathing, sharp, and dry. But not quite yet just to keep you in suspense. It was lovely.

Mike was a guarded person, very private. But the neat thing about him was in every conversation he made you feel like a confidante. Like the two of you shared secrets. Like you’d known him for decades even if you only just met. Like it hadn’t been 15 years since you’d seen him last, but only a few days. He made you forget you really knew very little of his past life. Unlike me, who tends to go on and on about every little injustice done in her childhood should the moment present itself, Mike rarely did that. He was very present. In that moment, with you, right then.

There’ll be a lot of compliments thrown around at the memorial next weekend, a lot of fuss. He’d hate that I think. He’d be so embarrassed at all those accolades. “Y’all! (drawn out like taffy) It’s just me!” he’d say, hands on hips with a little laugh. And then give you his signature look of feigned pissed-offed-ness, that one eyebrow raised in mock anger. Classic Mike.

Thinking about it all makes me tired. And so sad. I thought there would be time. I thought there would be time for all the plans we’d made, the cocktail lunches, the antiquing trips. Mojitos on the porch when we were both old. Fuck, we’re old now. I was looking forward to seeing Mike again, in Carytown, or at parties. I was always looking forward to seeing Mike again. He put you at ease that way. He made you feel like the conversation you were having right now was great, but the one you’d have over lunch......someday......would be even better. He left you with a bubble of hope.

Eulogies exaggerate. But there aren’t many people I would venture into hyperbole for. There just aren’t that many people whose passing would or will affect me the way his has. And I'm not even sure why. We were friends. Friends who'd lost touch, but hadn't. Friends who hadn't seen each other in a while, but in some weird way, were still in each other's lives, if only in our thoughts. We will miss you Noodle. You hated that nickname, but there’s something I never got to tell you. And I wish I had. Only the most beloved friends get nicknames. Peace and much love, Jenée.

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