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Showing posts from August, 2010

Road Trip Blues

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I don’t get it. I used to really love road trips. The sense of adventure. The sense of stepping out of your everyday life into a transition. The sense of possibility and openness. Now, this trip, I just feel panicked.

Not that anything bad per se has happened. Not like last time we made this journey to and from my mother’s house in Texas and I managed to slide our car off the road (there was ice, but it was still my fault and the car was totaled). No, everything has gone surprisingly well. The puppy is having the time of her life—so many new smells! So many new people and dogs to meet! And everybody else seems perfectly happy, content to listen to David Sedaris reminisce about his family while the miles pass under our car.

Nor is there anything in particular that I am especially worried about—unless you count nearly every member of my (extended) family. I suppose that could be it, but it feels more existential than critical. Yes, all of us are in crisis one way or another th…

Notes from the Mountaintop

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Saturday, August 21, 2010 4:58pm MST

It’s beautiful up here, but my iPad’s 3G seems a bit challenged. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to post anything “live” for the next several days. Which is probably a good thing.

I’m supposed to be on vacation, but I’m feeling so stressed. I don’t think it was really the drive up here, but I suppose it could be. Maybe it was the program we were listening to in the car. I really hate David Sedaris, but it’s probably because I’m jealous. How come he gets to make his boring, everyday life so interesting, while I’m sitting here, spirit central, not able to think of anything to say? Okay, so let’s face it. It’s been a stressful last couple of months. Last couple of years. Whatever. I’m still angry, still battling my Balrog, still liable to find myself trapped in the dark, anxious and terrified, with nothing to do but go on.

We’ve been watching “Soap” on Netflix a lot this past week or so. You know the episode where Jessica tries to convince…

Notes from the Road

There's a U-Haul in front of us and skiffle on the iPod. The road is rolling out before us and the sky is clear all the way to the horizon. We must be in middle America.

What do I see?

My husband says that if I want to have more people reading my blog, I should write about things that more people are talking about. Like current events. Or, I don't know, Jesus. I saw a big billboard yesterday and that's what it said: "JESUS". In giant white letters on a green background. Or maybe the letters were green and the background was white. I'm not sure, I just remember the word: "JESUS".

So, if I want to have more readers, maybe I should write about Jesus. Which I suppose I could since I do think about Jesus quite a lot, although I tend to call him "Christ". But I'm really not sure that would help as I doubt very much that most of what I would say about Jesus would interest the people who sponsored that billboard. Or maybe not. Maybe they would …

The Bridegroom Calls to the Virgin: “Come, You Will Be Crowned!"

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"After, however, the virgin-bride-mother (virgo Sponsa mater) has been taken up gloriously by the Son, and has taken her glorious seat with the Bridegroom above the angels, I think that I ought to be silent, rather than dare to speak concerning the honor in which she rejoices and the joy with which she sees herself to be honored. For what my intellect or one similar to mine does not grasp, what manner or effect of revelation is possible, when whatsoever that intellect thinks to contemplate, cannot be explained easily in suitable words? This much clearly can be said, that where the Son is--who set up the flesh he assumed to the right of the Father (whatever it is that Scripture calls the right)--there also is his mother, who gave to him of her own flesh, who gave birth from her womb to the God-man without loss of her corporeal integrity.

"There, it is said, she is crowned with glorious honor and honorable glory, and from him, and in him, and with him whom she bore, she glor…

Who is this who comes forth like the sun, beautiful as Jerusalem?

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"I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys."

"You are beautiful, my beloved, and there is no spot in you. Your lips drip honeycomb; milk and honey are under your tongue; the fragrance of your unguents is above all spices. For now the winter has passed, the rain has gone and departed; the flowers have appeared; the flowering vines give out a sweet smell, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land: Arise make haste, my beloved; come forth from Lebanon, come, you will be crowned."

--Antiphons for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Cf. Song of Songs 6:9, 6:3, 2:1, 4:7, 4:11, 4:10, 2:11-13, 2:10, and 4:8.

HTSS: Day Six, Sitting Still

5:56pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

My nails are done, my hair is up, the flowers are here, the champagne is in the fridge. The cake is on order to be delivered tomorrow. I've practiced my shoes. I have a new dress, my husband's suit is cleaned. We've chosen the passages from the Song of Songs that we want to read. And we have our new rings, custom-made by one of the jewelers whom we met at the local art fair this past June. I have a mystery novel (with corgi!) to keep me company this evening. Now all I have to do is figure out some way to sleep sitting up tonight.

Brides are supposed to be nervous on the night before their wedding, right? Oh, I could do with a cigarette.

HTSS: Day Five, Poop on the Carpet

7:49pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

I can feel every nerve in my face, my neck, my lower arms, my hands. My legs are clenching up. It's been a long day. And yet, a good one: yoga with my puppy after my husband left for work, a long-overdue chat with my sister on the phone, some reading for my current research, a pedicure and a manicure, a nap, some good food, now a movie on DVD. How much more comfortable could life get?

Except that the chat with my sister included a number of "Soap"-level crises; my husband forgot his phone when he went to work so I couldn't talk with him all day; I still haven't started writing those book reviews even though I've read all the books because I don't know yet what I think about them; I'm anxious that I don't chip my nail polish before Sunday and my right big toenail is threatening to fall off (fencers will underst…

HTSS: Day Four, Corporal Cure-all

9:18pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

It's still hot--damned hot!--and I've been sitting outside on the porch hoping for a breeze while my husband has a cigarette. I'm feeling much better than I was just a week ago, so it's interesting still to be tempted to light up. Perhaps I need a more potent remedy. Maybe a cup of tea? Or maybe a little flogging?

"Many curious anecdotes have been from time to time related of the medicinal powers of the Rod. Flagellation as a remedy was supposed by some physicians to re-animate the torpid conditions of the capillary or cutaneous vessels, to increase muscular energy, promote absorption, and favour the necessary secretions of our nature. But an eccentric writer goes much further than this, and regards the Rod much in the same light as Dr. Sangrado looked upon cold water and blood letting: according to him there is nothing lik…

HTSS: Day Four, On Detachment and Practical Wisdom

11:22am "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Here's the full passage that I've been promising to share with you. It is from a Baccalaureate Sermon that Northrop Frye gave 19 March 1967 to the graduating classes of Victoria and Emmanuel Colleges, in the Victoria College Chapel.

The text for the sermon was Matthew 6:34: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."

"A man may write a shelf of books and get a reputation as a formidably erudite scholar, but he will know what he knows, and it won't be much. Further, he will not finish his books with any sense of achievement, but only with a feeling that he has once more come 'round to the point at which he can begin again. I often think of the remark of Isaac Newton, made toward the end of his life...: 'I do not know how I may appear to the world, but to …

HTSS: Day Four, Heat

8:14am "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Why is it that I am always trying (okay, twice) to stop smoking in the dead of summer, when it's oppressively hot and everybody is snapping at everybody else anyway? Am I hoping that my crabbiness will simply pass as heat rage? But then doesn't being hot and crabby just make things worse? Why not try stopping in the winter, when it's cold and I'm calm? Ah, but then I'd be teaching or writing or getting ready for Christmas. Not the best time to be stressed out in nicotine withdrawal there. So I suppose summer it is, when, theoretically, I am on vacation, whatever that means as an academic.*

I guess I'll go do my yoga and sweat some more.

*Read, guilt: you need time off from the stress of teaching, but if you take it, then you've wasted your only clear research time. Which is never really enough to begin with, since the…

HTSS: Day Three, Why I Hate the Third Person

6:23pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

My husband was right. The third day has been hard. Not physically as hard as last Friday, when I was actually still smoking. But hard. And hot. Not as hot here in Chicago as elsewhere in the country, but hot enough to overwhelm both the window units and the dog. She's been a rug most of the day. I've just been a basket case.

The day started well: a walk through our neighborhood with one of my friends from church and her dog. We've done this once a week for several mornings now. Today we went north of 47th, into a part of the neighborhood I had never even driven through, never mind walked. Lots of workmen said hello to us, and we noticed how many houses have been renovated or rebuilt. But would we feel comfortable living there, just a few blocks from where we live now? Ah, the tensions of urban life!

I had a good breakfast when I…

HTSS: Day Two, Other Things to Which I Am Addicted

4:29pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

1. Caffeine, usually as English Breakfast tea with milk but sometimes as a mocha latte. I have periods every so often when I insist on drinking only herbal, in order to control the headaches, but eventually I get sucked back in.

2. Chocolate, especially Vosges, but Ritter Sport will do as well. I get Vosges as special treats, around St. Valentine's Day and Mother's Day. At least, I used to. Long story, maybe for another day.

3. Having things tidy, particularly at the start of projects or when I'm feeling anxious about my work generally.

4. Tootsie Rolls (not really chocolate). I went through bags and bags and bags of these candies the last time I stopped smoking, back when I was pregnant. I stayed hooked for a good five or six years.

5. Checking my email, especially bad back when my university first started using webmail, now somew…

HTSS: Day Two, Post-Prandial Cravings

1:46pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Oh, I could do with a cigarette about now. Not--oddly--because I am stressed, but rather because I am happy. I did the revisions to my article that I needed to do this morning, and I'm looking forward to an afternoon of reading and starting to think about my next project. I've just been to the church to arrange for some flowers for Sunday. It's hot, the cicadas are singing, the dog is crashed in the hallway near to the air conditioner. Life is good, I am happy. I could so use a cigarette to celebrate. I'd take it out on the porch, sit in one of the plastic green Adirondack-style chairs, light up and drink in the smoke like a tonic. Then I'd breathe ever so smoothly, enjoying every drag as much as I possibly could. Ah, and then how peaceful I'd feel. How beautiful everything would look. How rich the colors, how vivid…

HTSS: Day Two, Pros & Cons of Smoking

9:33am "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Pro: It gets you outside on a regular basis.
Con: It forces you to interrupt whatever you're doing to go outside.

Pro: It encourages you to take regular breaks from work.
Con: It affects your concentration when all you can think about is stopping for a cigarette.

Pro: It calms you down and helps you think.
Con: It gives you the jitters when it's been too long between cigarettes.

Pro: It helps you bond with other smokers.
Con: It alienates everyone else who doesn't smoke.

Pro: It gives you something to do with your hands while you're thinking.
Con: It is difficult to type holding a cigarette.

Pro: It makes you look and feel cool, slightly dangerous and daring.
Con: It makes your throat sore so that you cough, which is totally uncool.

Pro: It makes life feel exciting and helps you live in the moment.
Con: It shortens your life so that …

HTSS: Day One, and counting

7:20pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

So, let's see. My husband got home about an hour ago, after spending a good 45 minutes in traffic on his way from the vet where he had gone to pick up some more ointment for the mystery bumps around the puppy's eyes. He, of course, is still smoking, because he, unlike me, is a real smoker, not just a pretend smoker who wishes she could smoke without apologizing all the time and, by the by, only when she wanted to, not when the cigarettes called. It's hot, I have been concentrating fairly hard all afternoon and the syllabus still isn't finished. If I asked him for a cigarette, he would make me one, because he doesn't really mind one way or the other if I smoke or not. Although he wishes I could stop without getting so crabby. Not that he is entirely innocent here. "I'm okay; not great, but okay," I say. "…

HTSS: Day One, cont'd

4:29 pm "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."

Next major anxiety attack. I'm working on revising the syllabus for one of my autumn courses, and I could really do with a cigarette about now. It's interesting what triggers this urge: sitting and trying to concentrate for too long, particularly while making decisions about things that are going to affect my life intimately in the future but over which otherwise I have complete control now (e.g. how many pages to ask the students and, therefore, myself to read). It should be easier than this nowadays to put together a reading list; after all, there is so much online. So much easier than having to order collected readers or even putting photocopies on e-reserve. But I still have to find those online sources and make sure the translations are good. If I were really diligent, I would reread all of the sources that I want to assign, but t…

How to Stop Smoking: Day One

11:52am It's been 22 hours since my last cigarette. I forwent this morning's final 1, telling myself it really would be easier if I just stopped, rather than prolonging the jitters even another few hours. I made it fine through about 10:30am, doing my yoga, working on scheduling my up-coming courses and conference and tournament trips, brainstorming a bit about the first paper I need to write...and then it hit, the anxiety, the desire, the jitters.

I thought to myself, "Okay, it's been awhile since breakfast, maybe I'm a bit hungry," so I had a snack and played a game of iPad Solitaire (and won, with the highest score I've made to date--700!). Now I feel a little better, but I'm still having trouble maintaining focus. It didn't help that I found that the puppy had not only pooped in the front room, but also done some serious damage to a chair leg while I was working on schedules and such. I've cleaned up the mess and given her another chew…

4, 3, 2, 1--Quit!

I had 3 cigarettes yesterday. I've had 2 today. I'll have 1 tomorrow morning before my husband goes off to work...and then I'll be a former smoker, again.

I'm feeling okay today, nowhere nearly as stressed as I did on Friday (4 cigarettes). My husband says I'm kidding myself; it's always worst the third or fourth day after one has fully stopped. Until then, you're feeling all righteous and empowered, but by the third day, you're just in pain.

I hope that it's not too bad this time. I've only been smoking for a few months, after all. But it was instructive on Friday how agitated and achy I got. Clearly, my old tolerance is still there; I'll never be truly a non-smoker, just a smoker who hasn't smoked in a while.

But I'm ready. The apartment is in the best shape it has ever been in, the kitchen and bathroom remodeling finished, the closets purged, the puppy more-or-less housetrained. We've bought a new bed and moved our old o…

Withdrawal

I need to stop smoking. I know, I know, you didn't know I did. I shouldn't smoke, I know I shouldn't. And I don't, not really. Except in periods of extreme stress. Like graduate school. Or the past few months this summer.

My husband smokes. It's one of the things that drew us together when we first met. The danger. The excitement. The illicitness. The fact that we did this thing that not everybody else did. Except this was Wales, and actually quite a few of our friends smoked. Roll-ups only, of course. Nobody smoked filters.

My husband still rolls his own, even after all these years. They taste better. And burn slower. None of those incendiary additives they put in filter cigarettes to make them burn faster so that you'll light up more. I used to be able to roll my own, back when we were living in Wales and I was working on my dissertation, but I'm out of practice, so my husband has been rolling cigarettes for me these past few months. He e…

Know Thyself

Things that I have learned about myself since consciously devoting myself to the service of Mary:

1. I feel better if I eat a diet higher in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrates, especially bread and candy. Thanks to the Diet Solution, I understand why. Which just goes to show, it is not always a mistake to follow those Facebook ad links.

2. I feel more limber and relaxed if I do the Sivananda yoga routine, rather than Ashtanga or Rodney Yee. I think that it is because the Sivananda routine focuses more on breathing first, rather than simply as a part of the asana practice, but as all I've been doing the past couple days is the warm-up and the sun salutations, I think there is something in the structure of the practice that helps me, too. Ironically enough, this is the practice with which I began my study of yoga two decades ago and from which I somehow declined, despite doing classes in all sorts of styles (Om Yoga, Ashtanga, Anusara, Forrest).

3. It is ridiculous to ex…

Self-Care

Some things that I am having trouble getting my head around about taking proper care of myself:

1. I feel better if I don't eat bread...cake, cookies, candies, and anything else that gives me a massive carbohydrate-sugar hit.

2. There is no such thing as a perfect schedule.

3. Just because I can't do something (yoga, blog, fence) every day doesn't mean it is not worth doing at all.

4. I don't have to find a way to feel good about everything because there isn't one.

5. It is okay to want to take care of myself even if it means I don't get as much work done.

6. Not everything has to happen at once. It is enough to change one small thing at a time.

7. Doing God's will is easy. It is fighting it all the time by telling myself that I should be in control that is hard.