Thursday, February 23, 2012

Admissions of a Wandering Heart

Looking for answers in Delphi.
I will confess to never having been homesick. I have been desperately ill and wanted to be home, but it isn't the same thing. Never once when traveling have I missed anyone at home, not even children (there goes the Mother of the Year Award). Such is the lure of a far off sunrise. Sometimes when traveling I hear other people speak of how eager they are to give a loved one a gift they have purchased for them.

"Can't we just ship it to them and stay here?" I think to myself. Isn't it the thought that counts? (There goes the Friend/Wife/Daughter of the Year Award.)

The proximity of other interesting places fills me with a particular form of want. When first I went to Italy I thought how easy it would be to get to Greece. Later when I traveled in Greece I thought how easy it would be to go to Turkey. England makes me think how close I  am to Scandinavia. Central America lures me south to the Amazon and Andes...and so on...

Sometimes snippets of poetry, the odd movie line, or fragmented ideas from favorite books swim to the surface in my mind. Things like "set sail for ports unknown" or " I'm going out exploring one day, you watch." I come alive in strange places. I'm inspired. I'm hopeful. I'm ambitious. I imagine that I will come home and do all the things I've been putting off. I'll make art. I'll write more. I'll do tai chi in a park at sunrise.

Then I return to my house.

I put tiny  soaps from the hotel in the bathroom closet. I do laundry. I hoist my suitcase to the top shelf of the office closet and as I do dreams slip out of it and disappear into the ordinariness of the everyday. I suddenly think how hard it is going to be to find a tai chi class in the south. And how fierce the mosquitoes are at dawn.

There must be a way of capturing that feeling of possibility I have when traipsing around strange cities and making it last past the moment I put my key in my own door and wonder if the house always smells like this...

The reason for the change in familiar surroundings, I am at a loss to explain. Perhaps my muse is an elusive creature frightened off by the enthusiastic greeting of my dogs when I enter. Maybe everyday life just crowds out creativity. Could it be that my creative seed just longs to be scattered to the four winds instead of making dinner?

I'll bet there is a soul killing agent in laundry detergent ."Guaranteed to get out the stain of the quest for adventure no matter how deeply it is set in."

Okay, that's a bit dramatic.

But see what happens when I spend too much time at home?

(There goes the Housewife of the Year Award.)


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Your Valentine's Day Survival Guide


Personally, I've always thought a flying fat baby with a weapon is a little scary. 

Once I was driving with my son and saw a big Valentine's Day wreath on a door.

"I don't really like hearts as a motif."

"That's because you don't have one, Mom."

Well, I wouldn't go that far...

I'll admit that this is my least favorite holiday, right behind Mother's Day. I'm not a big fan of any day when we are supposed to drum up some specific emotion on demand. It can also be kind of hard on our single friends.

If you happen to be single, aren't you just a little happy? You don't have to worry about finding the appropriate gift, or whether she likes Indian food, or what he wants to do. (I mean, we all know what he wants to do.)  A relationship isn't going to solve all your problems and complete you. I don't care what Jerry Magure said. I've been married a long time and one thing I've learned is that even in a relationship, sometimes you have to hold your own hand.


So how about showing yourself a little love today?

Play your favorite music as loud as you can without bothering the neighbors. When you are in a relationship, you are going to hear "I can't believe you like that!" and "Can you turn that down?"

Dance. Either at home by yourself or out with your friends.  Music and physical activity release endorphins that make you feel happier.

Spend time with friends. You don't have to impress them. Champagne taste just as good with the girls and guys can hang out watching sports which NONE of their friends in relationships are going to be doing on V-Day! They are probably going to be at some over priced, over crowded restaurant, wishing they were out with you. You won't have to explain who Jeremy Lin is over dinner to someone who is mad that you are talking about sports instead of her. Soak it up. You can brag about it to your married friends tomorrow...

Get a massage. Craving a little skin on skin? Relax and renew...no performance anxiety, guys. No wondering if you look fat, girls. Plus, it gets to be all about YOU. (C'mon, who doesn't like that?)

Try something new. This is a great day to take a cooking class, try yoga, or climb the rock wall at your local gym.

Volunteer somewhere. Get over yourselves, girls. You are not homeless, cold, or hungry. You are just single. No whining.

Call a friend you know is in a bad relationship and cheer them up. (You can secretly be glad that's not you.)

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

 Girls:
  • Watch Pride and Prejudice, Sleepless in Seattle, or Notting Hill.
  • Sit down in front of the television with anything that comes in a carton.
  • Call, text, or otherwise contact anyone from a past relationship. (If you are out drinking with friends, give them your cell phone.)
Guys:
  • Sit down in front of the television with a bag or a six pack of anything.
  • Facebook stalk your ex to see the latest pictures of her and find out if she's out tonight.
  • Drunk text your ex after you finish that six pack you aren't supposed to be drinking.
Now run along and do exactly what The Housewife has told you. You'll probably have a better Valentine's Day than your non-single friends. 

Oh, and guys, if I find out any of you in a relationship gave your significant other that stupid 4 foot teddy bear I keep seeing advertised...I will personally hunt you down and do an intervention.

 It's Valentine's Day, but for crying out loud, have a little self respect...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Aristotle on Facebook

My husband always wants to know what is discussed at my weekly coffee with friends. I think that that ONE episode of Sex In the City he saw ten years ago warped his thinking. He imagines that the conversation is tantalizingly shallow.  More often than not the topic is current events. Sometimes it's motherhood. Three of us are just wrapping up the hands-on part of that job while our cohort is managing all the adjustments of having twins at this age. Sometimes it's politics and the depressing array of candidates from the state house to the White House. Often it's religion since one of us is working on a Master's degree in that area. Education is a popular one. But of late, philosophy is taking its turn.

You can imagine how annoying we are to men trying to get any work done (Doesn't anyone have an office anymore?) as we swing back and forth between breast feeding and Nicomachean Ethics.

Sometimes I need a double espresso.

This week while reading up on my Aristotle in order to be prepped for next week's discussion, I wondered what the great philosopher would think of some of our social use of modern technology. Defining relationships was difficult long before Facebook created "friends" out of thin air. Aristotle went to great lengths to categorize different levels of friendship, and comment on the  morality of each. Our Greek friend broke it down 3 ways:

  • First we have the friendship born of utility. In business we call it networking. On Facebook it's more like "Please be my 4,572nd  "friend" so everyone will see how popular I am.

  • Following at a close second we have a friendship based on pleasure. This may be your "He always has the cleverest statuses" or "maybe that girl in my history class will post her pictures from Spring Break" friendship.  Some of these friendships can survive if both people are sufficiently amused, attracted, or charmed in some way.

  • Third, according to our toga clad Facebook guru, is real friendship defined by loving, rather than being loved. It's a level of friendship that desires the good of the other person. These are your "Please tell me what the doctor said",  "I'll clear my calendar when you are in town" or "How did your date go?" friends.

This level of friendship can encompass the other two. But according to Aristotle only good people are able to attain this nirvana of connection. The "I am but a worm" Protestant in me is having trouble with saying anyone is good. Especially myself. I do however have several friends whose happiness I sincerely desire, so I'm comfortable with saying that, at least by Aristotle's standards, I'm good. You probably are too.

The "virtuous friendship" is difficult to obtain because the type of person who is capable of it is hard to come by and there is a great deal of time and effort involved in tending to these relationships. Is it possible in this age of instant communication to make a long lasting bond with someone? Can a real friendship be grown among the weeds of status updates and "likes." Well, yes it can as it turns out. What every one worried about with the advent of social networking was that we'd all just be sitting at home in our underwear maintaining illusionary alliances in the dark--that just sounds like porn.

 ''My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.'' ~ Aristotle

In reality what has happened though, is that people have ended up using the social network phenom to facilitate real life interactions. I have some friendships that only have been possible to maintain and nurture because of Facebook. I have others that would have withered over time if my only choice had been the phone call. I have at least one that is based nearly entirely on words and ideas shared via Zuckerberg's creation. Aristotle was right about the layers of friendship. All friends are not equal and don't deserve an equal investment. Few people are "virtuous" (Aristotle's term) enough to move from the outer limits of friendship to what I like to call "the inner sanctum." It's that tiny center in the middle of the friend dartboard that Aristotle would recognize immediately as a home for virtuous friendships. They are the people who are interested in your well being. Maybe that means you are good,  maybe now you are even a bit better. And that is a status update to "like."

Next up: Aristotle on blogging...