Friday, September 23, 2011

He Lived Beautifully

A dear friend of mine passed away today and I just got the news.  I keep telling myself I shouldn't cry because he is no longer suffering.  I saw him early this month, and I knew he was suffering.  

He kept up with his witty wife, quietly injecting responses with the sly look of a mischievous boy that  always made him look years younger than he actually was.  He had traveled the world and observed cultures, respectfully.  He influenced and inspired people with a calmness that was a gift in itself. His spirit was generous in so many ways, I can't even think of specific examples.  It was who he was.  In Farsi, we have an expression that guests bring light to the house with them.  It was never truer than when he entered my home.  

I admit that I always did my best to make him laugh, and cherished the time I made him blush. I learned that a couple could be deeply and truly in love from the beginning to the very end.  He loved my cooking with an enthusiasm that would inspire anyone to cook up a storm, just to see that smile on his face.

Every time we said good bye, he would say the same thing:  "I love you so much and am SO proud of you."  I never for a moment thought he said it lightly.  The day he told me he would be proud if I were his daughter, I hung up and cried for longer than an expression of love would warrant.  For all the negativity in the world, he was always a quiet force of what is possible.  Because of him, I try to make sure that everyone knows exactly how I feel about them, just in case it's the last time we speak.  

And now he's gone, his suffering is over and he will be missed.  I'll miss all the things that I took for granted as a part of the person he was.  Of course I mourn his loss but am so, very grateful that I had the chance to know him.  I know I'm a better person for it.     

Monday, September 19, 2011

That One Time When I Said 'Yes'

Saying 'no' is very easy for me.  It comes automatically most of the times because I typically need time to absorb things and let a concept settle in a little before I can accept it.  Unfortunately, this means I'm not the world's most spontaneous person.  I also know I'm missing out on a lot of fun.  So much fun passing me by as I contemplate the possibilities.  However, every once in a while I surprise myself.  Last summer, was one of those rare occasions--thank God.

Last summer, everything started changing at once.  My (ex)husband and I separated,  we filed for divorce and everything that I had worked on for the last eight years was suddenly over for good.  Some time in early August, a friend asked if I would consider a roommate as he was thinking of moving to my city and resettling here.  My immediate response, literally without thinking, was, "I'm sorry.  I can't."  I didn't even have a reason for it, I just said 'no'.  Despite being the person who tells my friends, 'My home is your home.  Always.'.  Then, I started thinking about it and justifying why I said 'no':  I was scared, too many things were changing, living with a friend would doom the friendship...and really many other perfectly logical reasons that I won't list here.  It was the right decision.  Except that it wasn't.  I called him back the next day and apologized, told him he was welcome to move in after I returned from my trip that my home was his home for as long as he wanted it.  And I meant every word I said, despite my fear.  The day he showed up on my doorstep may have been one of the better days of my life, even though I didn't know it at the time.  I felt like throwing up for the first week and wondered what the hell I was thinking.

I don't know how I appeared, but I slowly started to breathe a little more freely.  I occasionally forgot the chaos around me and felt a sense of calm.  I started leaving the house socially, with mixed results.  I even started trusting again, just a little bit and that felt good.  That trust is what had me driving around looking for a bunch of paddle boarders on a Saturday morning.  One of his friends had recommended a paddle boarding demo on the Bay that we could try for free.  It made sense for them, they were both surfers.  I was a professional couch potato, who typical of my kind would sink to the bottom of large bodies of water.  But there was that one time I said 'yes', and it had worked out okay and I had started trusting with no significant calamity, which was why I was driving around nervously looking for something I had never seen before.  Eventually we found the paddle boarders.  People took off and I was left on the shore watching them.  I looked down at my feet and realized my toes were curled into the sand, hanging on for dear life.  One of the owners noticed me and said, 'You're next.'  I protested.  I resisted.  I eventually said 'yes'.  Ten minutes later, I was on a board, paddling out and praying that I wouldn't fall into the bay and drown.  Not only did I not drown, but I realized I was breathing again and standing up on a board paddling to the opposite shore with the most overwhelming feeling of joy I had ever felt.  I felt radiant.  I looked over my left shoulder and saw my friend on a board of his own, grinning at me.  When we were on solid ground again, I asked him as casually as I could, 'What if I was this happy all the time?  Wouldn't that be insane?!'  

As hard as I tried, I couldn't remember the last time I was that happy.

Not long after that, my friend moved away.  I continued going to the demos and found myself looking over my shoulder to tell someone who wasn't there how happy I felt.  This Spring, I got Lasik, so I wouldn't have to worry about my contacts if I did fall into the Bay.  I practiced swimming, just in case I did fall.  Once I had the go ahead from my doctor, I bought my own paddle board and started going out on the weekends, enjoying the quiet that came with my new hobby.  After a while I was comfortable with my outings and wanted a little more so I tried to take my board into the ocean.  The ocean threw the board back at my head.  Repeatedly.  This inspired me to take surf lessons, which led to my hanging out with a bunch of surfers and going to surfing events, which got me out of the house on a regular basis and brought me joy.  An insane amount of joy.  

Almost exactly a year ago, I wouldn't have been able to imagine being here and feeling this.  I wouldn't have known this feeling at all.  

I do now, because of that one time when I said 'yes'.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Handy Guide To Surviving a Blackout

As some of you may or may not know, I once lived in a land far, far away during a war.  As a result, there was a shortage of EVERYTHING.  Sugar, butter, meat, water and electricity.  Things were rationed, and one learned (even as a child) that you be without any given thing for an undetermined amount of time at any given moment.  Since I was a child and didn't have to worry about food things that my parents obtained, my biggest concerns were electricity and water outages, which happened every summer--all summer long (and other times as well, but summers were especially horrible).  The upside of this is that I thought I was an expert at blackouts.  Turns out, not so much in modern times.  Which is why I thought I'd put together a nifty little guide of things to do and avoid during a blackout*.

  1. Avoid sarcastic conversations with your nice, older neighbors.  For some bizarre reason, sarcasm seems to be generational and people may get the impression that you're a nudist, trying to organize a block party.  It is always a safe bet to nod and smile as you walk by.
  2. Don't plan on entertaining yourself by watching movies online.  Or listening to your favorite Pandora station on your ipod.  Apparently, wireless routers also require electrical power to function.
  3. Reading is an excellent option.  Feel free to work on that giant pile of books and old magazines that are gathering dust.
  4. Scratch the old magazine reading.  For some ungodly reason, they catch on fire if you hold them too close to your light source.
  5. Candlelight is very flattering.  Enjoying looking at yourself in the mirror in candlelight.  You'd be surprised at how soft and beautiful you will look with fifteen tea candles flickering.  Please note, it's VERY IMPORTANT that you keep you hair away from the candles.  An up-do is your friend.
  6. Don't feel pressured into improving on the perfection that is your candlelit reflection.  Your eyebrows?  They can wait to be plucked/trimmed during the daytime.  Maybe on your patio even, but evening time is for relaxation.   NOTHING GOOD COMES FROM SHAPING YOUR EYEBROWS IN CANDLELIGHT.
  7. Life has handed you a bag of hot lemons under the guise of a power outage when it's 95 degrees outside.  Make yourself a tall pitcher of lemonade by planning out your day off.  While the city fumes what to do with itself, you can plan to spend a delightful day at the beach, complete with water activity of your choice.  Maybe even a picnic lunch.  How exciting are you?!
  8. You've made it to 8:27!  Only three more hours till your bed time!  Don't open the fridge door, because all the cold air will escape and all the groceries you bought yesterday in a fit of hunger will be doomed.
  9. It's 8:42.  Trust me, trying to eat all of the food in your fridge in a desperate attempt to save them from going bad will not end well.  You live alone and you've shopped for an entire week.  Accept the sad fate awaiting your food.
  10. Massages are a great idea!  They will help you relax.  The room is already lit with candles.  Your neighbor is accompanying his opera singing wife on piano.  All you need is someone to actually give you a massage.  Avoid mentioning this to previously mentioned neighbor, who still looks confused about your lifestyle.
  11. Board/card games are also a great way to pass the time.  As long as you have enough people to participate.  Of course, you could announce yourself Scrabble champion if you play on your own but people may not believe you as there are no witnesses.
  12. It's 9:31.  Don't call anyone on your cell phone.  Well, you couldn't if you wanted to--it's dead and it will take forever to recharge it in the car.
  13. You've made it to 10:05.  Just accept that going to sleep is the best thing you can do until you have power back.  Make sure to blow out all the candles and leave one light on, so you  will know if/when power returns.
  14. Don't wake up cursing at 4:30 in the morning because power is back and your carefully laid plans are all for naught.  Yes, you were smart and made yummy, yummy lemonade with the stupid lemons life gave you.  But sometimes life punches you in the gut and steals your lemonade.  Lying on the coach with a groggy puppy and cursing will not change this.

I hope this guide helps you in some way. I realize technically you won't be considered 'prepared', but with any luck you won't do too much damage once you're thrown into the darkness.  For the record, I did extensive personal research on some of the points above.  For you, the two people who may benefit from my suffering.

*None of the things listed will help you with actual survival in the traditional sense.