World, I have FINALLY figured out how to break into my own blog. Not before inventing a few new profanities, however. WordPress is a harsh mistress.
You see, last month Lady Laptop died, which made anything involving typing or the internet extremely inconvenient. I sometimes hiked to the public library to borrow their quaint, old-timey computers, but couldn’t get into in Jaunty Dame, no matter how I tried. Not having a computer is discouraging.
Shortly afterward, my bike was stolen, which made even leaving the house time-consuming. Life looked increasingly bleak. Also sweaty. Transportation issues are discouraging.
But then Ian landed a job in Germany and asked me to marry him.
This left me feeling greatly encouraged. Romance, adventure, AND access to my own blankety-blank blank blog? My ship has come in!
Back in the day, I meant to share Before and After photos of my doormat situation:
Only upon seeing the pictures did I realize this was a classic Before and After con: the first picture is messy, dirty, and the darn mat’s not even aligned with the door. So the second photo would HAVE to look better.
You’ve seen this sort of thing in the media: before she starts The Product, the model is photographed scowling at the camera, drooling and wearing a flowered muumuu. But AFTER she uses The Product, she loses weight [and gets her hair done, puts on makeup, wears four-inch heels, and carefully angles her body to the camera]. It’s magic!
So, sorry. Never intended to play that game. If anything, these photos suggest that spending ten bucks for a new doormat is fine, but sweeping your front walk is what matters.
By the way, we moved out of that house in January. THAT’s how far behind I’ve fallen.
Our new home has a… … truly remarkable mural on the bedroom wall:
When I sent this picture to my little sister, she wrote back:
“You could make him a talky bubble and a thinky bubble to stick up with painters’ tape and have a feature on Jaunty Dame called ‘A Merserge ferm Gerd.’ He could be the harbinger of grocery lists, weather reports, school holidays and quotes!”
I replied that this would be a fantastic way to solicit hate mail.
But I love the way she thinks.
During a recent visit to my public library, I saw a glass display case filled with the junk that jerks have forced into the drop-box for books and movies. The case held plenty of trash, glasses, a mannequin head… what is WRONG with people? Those poor librarians! Will displaying this stuff make hooligans reconsider shoving garbage into the drop-box, or will it inspire young’uns to commit similar acts of General Stupidity?
(In related news, get off my lawn!)
During this same library visit, I saw a small cardboard box of free Life’s Lessons written by local library patrons:
Great idea, eh? I stopped and read them all.
Sadly, I can’t remember a single one. Life’s lessons must forgettable, or we wouldn’t make the same mistakes repeatedly. Or maybe none of those lessons resonated with me because every life is unique — you may have have to write your own advice.
Here are few lessons from my life that may help you, too:
1. Don’t wait around for validation. Get out there and validate yourself. For many years, I searched high and low for someone famous with my fluffy hair, rounded nose, or wonky knees— so I’d know I was acceptable. I relied on my report cards to prove my worth, and nearly fell on my sword the first time I got a B. Year after year, I waited for someone to tell me “Rebekah, you should definitely keep studying singing.” I kept quiet about my religious doubts, because I desperately needed to be seen as A Good Person and didn’t know Good People were allowed to speak freely.
Please, please don’t live that way. You can wait a lifetime for permission to be yourself, or you can turn to the nearest mirror and say “permission granted!”
2. Face your fears, because they won’t go away by themselves. I say this as a spectacularly anxious, fear-filled person. But every single time I screw up my courage and try, facing the fear pays off.
3. Keep a running list of your old home and work addresses, plus names of supervisors. Because sooner or later, you’ll be filling out a job application or something and realize you have no idea exactly where you’ve worked. When I started working at a bank, they required a list of my addresses for the past ten years. I’d moved at least seven times in ten years, and couldn’t remember half my old addresses.
4. Eating a whole box of Little Debbies will never fix your problems. Unless your problem was having too many Little Debbies in the house, or slightly loose jeans.
5. Hang out with the kindest people, not the coolest ones. Sure, sure, some people are nice AND cool, but plenty more achieve their coolness through cattiness. Leave people with nothing nice to say to their own devices (when possible), and go make the world a better place.
6. Make big changes— when they feel right to you. Looking back, the three most dramatic life changes I’ve made were A) moving from Indiana to New Mexico, B) leaving the LDS church and C) shaving my head for the first time. Each choice scared me silly, and required jumping social and psychological hurdles. I received more than enough criticism for my choices. But every one felt essential to my soul, and each one felt like being born again.
7. Too scared for big changes? Make small ones, then. Work your way up.
8. Write your own commandments. As mentioned, sometimes you need to write your own life advice, because you know where you need the most help. Whether or not you subscribe to the Original Top Ten, you may need a few extra commandments to see you through. Gretchen Rubin has some great ones.
Please leave a little friendly advice in the comments. What has life taught you?
(The following is a guest post by my good friend and most loyal reader, Ol’ Jake. Tell him your thoughts in the comments! — Rebekah)
These are my artistic confessions:
1) It took me 36 days to write the original draft of this guest post for the Jaunty Dame. That draft
totaled 503 words, an average of about 14 words written per day.
2) My goal in life is to become a novelist, but I do not enjoy the act of writing.
3) I started Julia Cameron’s self-directed course, The Artist’s Way, on Monday. Every morning,
participants are supposed to compose three pages of longhand writing. According to Ms.
Cameron, these morning pages are non-negotiable. Today is Friday, and I’ve done the required
writing only once – when I kicked off the program on Monday.
What has happened to me? I’m not a total chump when it comes to writing – at various points in
my life, I’ve made a living off of it (and editing, and other related skills). I’ve had short fiction
published in reputable places. I’ve even won a couple of awards.
Searching for answers has brought me back to my Bible in times of (self-induced) crisis – The
War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
If you haven’t read it, it’s a brief, startling examination into what Pressfield calls Resistance: the
unseen, evil force inside of us that prevents individuals from reaching their creative potential.
Resistance is the nastiest critic you could ever imagine, the worst parts of humanity’s collective
unconscious directed at keeping you and me from realizing our unlived lives.
Pressfield’s main thesis is that, in order to beat Resistance and become an artist, one must sit
down and actually do the work. A painter must force herself to apply paint to a canvas. A
composer must sit down and produce music. And a writer must write words. We cannot wait for
inspiration to come. Pressfield is adamant about this – if you do the work, and if you respect the
Muses, only then will the Muses bless your efforts. You can’t just think about it and half-ass it
some of the time. You can’t rely on good intentions. You have to do the work.
The last time I re-read the entire book, about a month and a half ago, I was inspired to
do…absolutely nothing. I stood up after closing the book and immediately returned to my
unproductive ways. (Actually, I probably took a nap.)
This time? This time I’m going to try and apply the lessons that I’ve learned from Pressfield,
specifically to my own confessions.
1) Why would I let the Jaunty Dame down by taking so long to write a blog post? Because I was
beaten by Resistance. I was afraid I would produce something subpar, and then she wouldn’t
want to be my friend anymore. (Resistance lies to us all the time. I did turn in something subpar,
and she’s still speaking to me.)
2) I don’t enjoy writing first drafts. I enjoy rewriting. Filling up a blank page is a task I will
always struggle with, but who said work was supposed to be fun?
3) The Artist’s Way is not going to be a ball, either. There’s going to be work involved. If I’m not
willing to sit down and write longhand first thing in the morning, then Resistance will defeat me
I realize none of these are life or death issues, but they are a huge part of my personal identity.
Given the obvious artistic nature of this blog’s regular commenters, I’m guessing many of you
will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Here’s the thing – I don’t want to live like this anymore. I don’t want you to live like this
anymore, either. I don’t know you, but I want you to create, and I want your creation to be
released out into the world.
So, if any of you have had similar experiences, enlighten us in the comments. How do you beat
the Resistance that rises up against you? Have you been able to change your life, or do you revert
easily back to your old patterns?
Christmas before last, I decided to send out my first-ever Christmas cards. I wanted to support a small business (rather than, say, Hallmark), so I ordered a set of festive notecards from Everyday Grace [with whom I am in no way affiliated].
For several reasons, the cards didn’t arrive in time to send for Christmas. Rather than shelve ‘em for twelve months, I decided to send them as New Year’s cards. After all, none of them said “Merry Christmas,” they said either Peace, Joy, or Love… but would my friends be offended by a New Year’s card? Would they find the gesture somehow political or sacrilegious?
Nope! My friends tend to be fairly tolerant, and who doesn’t love getting real mail?
I still have five pretty Love cards with matching envelopes, and they’re free to a good home. Perhaps you could use a few extra valentines?
It’s almost the seventh of February now, so there’s no time to be democratic: The first person to leave a comment gets ‘em, and I’ll mail them ASAP. Deal? Deal! International readers welcome, though there’s no way you’ll get the cards in time for Valentine’s Day.
Ol’ Jake sent me the following question:
OK here’s an idea — what sort of books would the Jaunty Dame like to read that don’t exist? I was reading a book on baseball cards, but it wasn’t nearly as specific as I’d like it to be (basically, I’d want a comprehensive history from 1986-1994 rather than read about old tobacco cards). Are there any micro-specific topics that you wish you could read about? I realize the Internet has stuff about everything, but a lot of that isn’t nearly as trustworthy/well-written as your average book. I’d include fiction in there as well — surely Harper Lee’s written SOMETHING since “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Anyway, just a thought.
An excellent question! Here are five that immediately sprang to mind:
1. What George Martin Wrote
A book outlining, in chronological or alphabetical song-by-song format with score samples, exactly how much of the Beatles’ catalog was written by George Martin. The harpsichord solo from In My Life, surely, the trumpet solo in Penny Lane… we know he wrote the tape loop-y organ bits for Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Where would Yesterday have been without those strings? It was Martin who decided that John and Paul could both be frontmen, which is big by itself. Also, how many musical questions did the Beatles ask Martin, and how often did he suggest improvements for (or otherwise tweak) their work? People raise such a fuss about the Beatles’ lack of musical training, but they kept a classically trained musician on hand— and certainly got their money’s worth. Good ol’ George Martin.
2. Style Pioneers
Collected tales of the the first person/people to ever try a bold new look: not just the usual fable of Amanda Bloomer, but everything: how was the first top hat received? The first codpiece? Who darkened their eyelashes first? Granted, I doubt anyone documented the very first tattoo, facial piercing, or mohawk, let alone what the neighbors thought… but wouldn’t you like to know?
3. How to Conquer Depression When You Are Poor, Feeble-Minded, and Already Too Depressed to Function
This one would have to be free, and delivered straight to my bed. Ideally, it would come packaged with a free hug and breakfast.
4. The Annotated James Herriot
Where does the fiction end and fact begin? This goes for David Sedaris, too. I demand copious footnotes!
5. Song Sketches: Musical Works in Progress
I want to see old, old pages from songwriters’ notebooks: to watch famous songs taking shape, as the writer scratched out lines and swapped in new chords— but I’m also curious about abandoned lyrics that the songwriter noodled with for fifteen years and still couldn’t resolve.
6. Stories by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
When it comes to beauty culture, no one analyzes quirks, tics, and self-deception like Autumn does. When she writes a book, I’ll snap it up.
Thanks for the question, Ol’ Jake!
What not-currently-available book would you like to read? Make a list in the comments— please!
I’m not dead, I just look that way.
For the past week or so we have been moving to a new (small, charming, disturbingly gas-scented) house, and despite Ian’s best efforts, our local internet provider has been astoundingly non-helpful about providing internet. This frees up heaps o’ time for unpacking , but leaves me feeling disconnected and more than 13,300 spam comments behind schedule.
Additionally, last week my depression evolved from a damn nuisance to posing a genuine threat. I blamed myself for skipping my meds for a week… … until I remembered that my only medications are for acne. Obviously, my thinking has been cloudy.
Just now, I realized that depression and moving are the same in some ways: my brain feels cluttered and hostile, as does my colossally messy new home. I can’t find anything in my head or in the new place, and I can’t afford possible solutions, whether counseling or bookshelves. No matter how carefully I sort things out, new messes crop up. There’s a big mural of God I’d just as soon do without. I keep thinking real life can start again once my home is in order, or once the pain stops, whichever comes first. But how many years have I been laboring under that delusion?
Perhaps this is why order and cleanliness have always been so important to me: I can’t manage my brain, but managing my environment helps discourage my brain from panicking and sending unsolicited “ABORT MISSION” messages. Environment has always had a MAJOR effect on me, so being trapped in a small, chaotic space is really, really hard.
For now, I’m in a holding pattern. We should have internet again on Thursday (or last Sunday, depending who you ask), so I don’t expect to be absent forever.
Yes, critics, I’ve subjected you to a LOT of talk about depression lately. I would feel bad for oversharing on the internet, but you already know all about my body hair, Diva cup, and old flames (which I just mistyped as “old lames.” HA!). What sensitive topic will I flog you with next?
Two summers ago, I read Zen Sex by Philip Toshio Sudo.
The book didn’t alter my love life— I remember the sex advice being very general, ‘pay attention to your partner’ stuff.
However! The sections about a lusty monk named Ikkyu (sorry, WordPress doesn’t like my diacritical marks) were irresistible. Here is a sample Ikkyu poem, as reported in Zen Sex:
Eight inches strong, it is my favorite thing
If I’m alone at night, I embrace it fully—
A beautiful woman hasn’t touched it for ages.
Within my fundoshi [underwear] there is an entire universe.
Oh, please. Don’t pretend you don’t love it.