On Opera, Tornadoes, and BBQ

I just looked back at my recent posts and was shocked at how obsessed I’ve been over the redecorating of Bookends Cottage. Enough already! Today, I’ll just make a sort of unbulleted bullet list of the other things that are going on.

Judging by the picture above, you probably can guess that we saw an opera. Did we ever! The Met live-streamed Mozart’s Idomeneo re di Crete to a large number of movie theaters across the country last Saturday and Nettl and I went to OKC to see it. We’ve both been to the Met and, sure, it’s wonderful to be in the actual hall, but sitting seventh row center in plush chairs with an unobstructed view and a box of Twizzlers was pretty cool. Oh, come on. In Mozart’s day people ate, drank, gossiped, played cards, flirted, snogged and shagged at the opera! Last time I was at the Met, I was up in one of the balconies and couldn’t see facial expressions, and I certainly didn’t have any Twizzlers. We’ll definitely do this again.

I was impressed with the cast, each one fresh and flawless, but it was mezzo-soprano Alice Coote (Idamante) who totally rocked my world. I’ve long been partial to mezzos (hey, I married one!) and I confess I’ve had no favorite since Frederika von Stade retired. That certainly has changed now. It would be enough that she has a sparkling, emotional voice, and it’s almost too much to ask that she be an excellent actor as well, but she delivers, entirely. I spent several hours in YouTube last night listening to her in other roles and in each she is totally her character, spot on, fully engaged. It’s a wonder to behold. Try this out. And then this. You won’t be sorry.

After the opera we went to Guthrie to Stables, our favorite BBQ place. Opera and BBQ… culture in Oklahoma!

Apparently, we survived the season’s first tornado watch last night. I don’t worry about those as much as I did when I first moved here. Anymore, it’s the fracking earthquakes that get to me. As a native Californian you’d think I’d be better at that, but living in Quakenado Country has a way of keeping one on edge.

I’m still trying to get this house finished, but it’s slow. Also slow (but that’s my own fault) is getting back to my CD. There’s only so much energy to go around these days, and I have to choose my battles wisely.

Have a great week!

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Controlling the Chaos

My current project of decluttering my life is already producing the effects I wished for. With each thing I discard I feel freer and lighter. This isn’t confined only to the material possessions I’ve kept through the years, it also includes outdated, ill-fitting, or otherwise unnecessary ideas and goals, but it begins with the material world and filters on through the mental, emotional, and spiritual. Funny how that works. I’ve always maintained that our outer environment reveals the condition of our inner state and, this cottage, with its doilies, figurines, lace, and old family chotchkies revealed my need for a home life I enjoyed growing up. It’s been nurturing and safe, but I’m ready to step out from that womb. I’m not saying I don’t like the cottage style, I’m just tired of it. It’s holding me back and it no longer resonates with who I’m evolving into, and who Nettl and I are becoming as a couple. Oddly, when I was younger I adored the grandma look, but now that I’m of the grandma age, I want a more active look. As I said to Nettl one night last week, “I don’t want the ‘Arsenic And Old Lace’ look anymore.”

I have about two weeks to get this place ready for the new furniture and as you probably have experienced in your own life, when you pick out a new sofa you notice other things that need to be replaced. Suddenly, the drapes are tired, the coffee table is out of place, and the walls are no longer crisp. Fortunately, our current wall color, a warm café au lait, works well with the new colors, which are taupe, tan, and espresso, like this Peppered Tones palette, minus the blue. I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I wasn’t looking forward to painting these two rooms again. But buying the right paint really paid off. It hasn’t faded, chipped or washed off a bit since we rolled it on nearly eight years ago. Now, that’s great paint!

The most arduous part of this project is emotional, though. Thoughts of Oh, look. Mom’s doilies! and I remember when we bought this! flood my mind, and I’m forced to decide which box something is destined for: “Keep on Display,” “Store in Attic,” “Donate to Habitat,” or “Trash.” You have to be mentally and emotionally ready for this kind of decluttering; it isn’t something I’d advise you force yourself to do. You’ll know when (or even if) you’re ready when the urge to feel unencumbered  outweighs your sentimentality, and when your peace of mind is crowded and pinched by the things you’ve been holding onto. Whether it’s an idea, a habit, a relationship, an attitude, or a table, you’ll know when it’s time to let it go. If it happens at all. I mean, it’s not mandatory for everyone in order to maintain their happiness. For me, it is. I’m done with the pain, the drama, the fear, the xenophobia, and the chaos of modern life and I’m creating a private world where curiosity, the arts, intellectual pursuits, wanderlust, and the celebration of our diverse and magical world can be celebrated. As above so below, as without so within.

Physically, the hardest part is redoing the gallery wall above the piano in the music room. I’m already taking down the Baroque frames and now irrelevant images, which I want to replace with photos of our travels, book-related events we’ve attended, and our musical performances. All that frilly filigree? Gone. Likewise, the larger wall in the living room is undergoing a radical change. Three framed pieces are being moved to other walls to make room for a grid of black and white photos we’ve taken through the years. Not photos of people, but of architectural elements, storefronts, and other interesting things we’ve shot here in Stillwater.

Mostly, my work right now consists of cleaning out the debris and clutter I’ve accumulated in myself through the years. The physical part of this project ends at the close of the day, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts continue.

Hm. I wonder how my inner self will relax once my outer self is planted in the recliner we’re buying…

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Fake It Till You Make It

Nook & Cranny Mercantile, one of the shops I visited yesterday (click to visit webpage)

Since about 2005, Nettl and I have had one car between us and since she’s the one who works outside the home, I’m without wheels every day. Unless I have a doctor appointment or need to run some errands, I’m pretty housebound. That’s not a bad thing, though. I mean, where am I going to go? I used to walk a bit, but with knee surgery looming in the near future, that’s out.  I’m a bit of a homebody, anyway, so it really doesn’t bother me. Yesterday was different. Because Nettl’s supervisor picked her up to go to OKC on business, the car was left here, which didn’t really hit me until I went to the kitchen to get my coffee and I saw the car in the drive. The day was beautiful, warm, and sunny so why not go out?

I didn’t do much, really, but there are a couple of items I’m wanting for our new look in the living/music room (a combined space connected by a lovely Craftsman columned divider), and I decided to hit some antique and used furniture shops. We’re really tired of the cottage look and are now shifting to what I call a “well-traveled Woodstock hippy Zen” look. You know what I mean. Persian area rugs, steamer trunk coffee table, low-profile sofa, comfortable club chairs, tasteful art on the walls, tweed, leather, etc, and little things having to do with eastern philosophy. That. Soon, the lace curtains, the doilies, the hanging “grandma” plates, and the figurines will be stowed away in the garage; we’ve already picked out the new sofa and chair and will be ordering them in the next week or two. Yesterday, I located the rugs, drapes, and the trunk, and they’ll follow soon after.

Anyway, as I drove around town yesterday, the sun roof open and my favorite station playing hits from the Seventies, I felt free, alive, and grateful for the life I have. Yeah, I live with chronic illness and its unpredictable ups and downs every day, but so what? The more I focus on the world around me and feel grateful for all I have (and I’m not talking about possessions here, I’m talking about my family, my friends, and my creative projects), the less in focus illness becomes. I exercise a little Bradley Method over the pain and it all slips into the background. Soon, I’m not focusing on myself at all. I’m noticing other people. I open doors, I allow pedestrians to cross in front of me even when I have the right-of-way and, when asked by shopkeepers and clerks, “How’re you doing?” my answer is, “Actually, I’m having a great day!” Instead of the question being one about how I feel, it turns into one about my mindfulness of the day itself. The paradox is, the less I think about how I feel, the better I feel!

I admit, all this friendliness and love of life is something I’ve had to learn to enact. “Fake it till you make it” and “Be mindful of the moment” have become my mantras over the past decade, and it hasn’t been easy. The secret, though, is that the more I “faked it” and the more I turned my awareness to life around me, the easier it became. Now I’m not faking it anymore. What it took was getting damned bored with myself and my private pity party. I had to stop being negative and start realizing that it’s my body that’s in rough shape, not me. It’s like having a tire that always goes flat and not having a spare or the means to buy a new tire. I can either sit on my ass and bemoan my situation, or I can keep a full can of StopLeak in the trunk. Yes, of course the tire is going to go flat again, but I can keep refilling it. I’m not the tire, damn it, and I’m not even the car. I’m the driver. That’s how I look at my body vehicle and, when this car wears out I’ll get a new one. Meantime, I keep a supply of StopLeak on hand.

Look, I know from my own experience that sometimes it’s nearly impossible to be so positive. I have my off days, too, but at last I’m learning that I am my own self-fulfilling prophecy: how I choose to perceive myself is exactly what I manifest for myself.

“You should feast regularly on the society of joyful minds.
Every day you should associate, if only for a little while,
with joy-instilled persons—those who meditate and feel
the joy of God as a reality. Seek them out and feast with
them on this most vitalising food of joy. Feast on laughter
in the company of these really joyful people. Steadfastly
continue your laughter diet once you have begun it,
and at the end of a month or two you will see the
change—your mind will be filled with sunshine…
Cheerfulness is very important to health.
It is the best antiseptic that you can have—plus
the thought that you are all right.”
Paramahansa Yogananda

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Your Daily Accord

So how’s your head? Are you reeling? Clutching your gut? Mopping your brow? Barfing over the rail? I admit that over the past week it’s taken a small jug of Chianti, a box of Cheez-Its, a couple of Klonopins, and a whole lot of my Woodstock & Big Sur Mood station on Pandora to make it through. I’m a strong woman, but sometimes I get pushed to my outermost limits, and the past week was about as bad as I’ve ever survived—with the exception, of course, of suddenly becoming an 18 year-old widow with a two week-old infant. That was as bad as it’s ever gotten, but there have been so many chaotic episodes in my life, it’s hard to judge.

I’m not going to go into why this week has been so rough. You know why, and I’ve chosen not to spend my Sunday focusing on it. I’m not even going to name it. I need one day each week to hold a private moratorium on the chaos, and this is it. Today I’m cleaning the house so that I can spend next week recording. I’m getting a massage. And I’m listening to my aforesaid station. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

Living with an advocate for women of sexual assault and domestic abuse, I’ve learned a lot about self-care and how important it is. No one can stay on the front lines indefinitely. We need to be spelled once in a while in order to regroup before heading back out into the fray. Liken it, if you will, to an emergency landing on a jet. We’re instructed to put our masks on first before tending to others. The reason for this should be obvious. In the same way, when fighting any major chaos in life, it’s important to tend to one’s own immediate well being before trying to help others. And that means self-care. Go out for a walk, enjoy the normalness going on around you, the cars still drive by, shop windows are still full of things to look at, and the sun still feels warm when it’s on your face. Stop in somewhere for a coffee, a tea, a beer, a chocolate. Smile at others and enjoy their smiles in return. Then go back to the internet and the marches. You’ll find you’re stronger and calmer, and better able to lend your hand where it’s needed. One or two hours away from the chaos isn’t going to send the world plummeting into the abyss, and the self-care you’ve enjoyed will only make you stronger.

Have a beautiful Sunday and a centered week ahead.

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel burnout setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself.” – The Dalai Lama

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