Triolet

The other night, my significant other and I were canoodling around with poetic forms. The one we picked up on was the triolet. The triolet is related to the French rondeau (round) poem. It is eight lines of 8-10 syllables each in this form:

A

B

a (rhyme with first line)

A (repeat first line)

a (rhyme with first line)

b (rhyme with second line)

A (repeat first)

B (repeat second)

I like the rhythm of this form. It sings in my head. It also forces me to make lines A and B make sense as both a beginning and an end, which I find to be good harmony. Here’s one example I wrote up the other day:

Standing outside, it’s warm, yet I’m still cold,

And icicles on snowbanks gleam in sun.

Cardinals chase the squirrels, feeling bold.

Standing outside, it’s warm, yet I’m still cold.

Trees bow, winds rush on, sun on snow gleams gold.

Wind bites through coats, shrills, leaving much undone.

Standing outside, it’s warm, yet I’m still cold,

And icicles on snowbanks gleam in the sun.

Maybe I will post more later…

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Let’s Play the Radical Honesty Game…

I just finished my recent copy of The Week. (It’s one of the best investments that I’ve ever made.) Near the end of the magazine (right before the page of games that is the last page), they run an essay entitled The Last Word. Now, in The Last Word, the editors of The Week have placed some really fun essays–one about a mom who let her kid ride the NYC subway home alone (and yes, the kid turned out fine), one about why folks have trouble with spouses (there have actually been a few of those; must be a recurring problem), etc.  In this last issue, their Last Word essay is all about one man’s quest to understand the concept of Radical Honesty and use it in his life, if possible.

Radical Honesty is a…well…radical concept.  The basis of the idea is a theory posited by Brad Blanton–he doesn’t want us simply not to lie, he wants us to eliminate the “public filter” that we have imposed upon ourselves in polite society. In his eyes, everyone in this world should say everything we think–whether it is hateful or loving, hurtful or healing or neutral.  No matter the immediate cost to ourselves, we should be completely honest with each other because Blanton thinks that only then will we be able to really “contribute” to other people’s beings.

We create little (sometimes big) fictions not just to keep ourselves safe, but to protect those around us as well.  Imagine telling your mother that you think she is horrendously obese. Or telling your dad that you think he is a shiftless moron.  These things hurt people.  Once you have said something, you can never ever really take it back.  It’s always in the air like smog in LA.  Even if you cannot see it all the time, the echoes of those words will not completely fade away.  They will sit there, biding their time, until they catch you unaware–maybe it is a great day for you, otherwise; maybe it has been the worst day of the year–and punch you in the gut. Not only does Radical Honesty have the likelihood of emotionally maiming the people at whom it is aimed, it also contains the potential to harm the one doing the directing.

Yes, honesty is touted as the best policy–and it certainly keeps things simple–but is it truly the best possible option? Always? Granted, telling your best friend that she has gained some weight may coerce her into going to the gym, but being super-blunt about it could wreck the friendship–odds are she already thinks she is fat, anyway, and your telling her this only breaks her heart, so a better option might be to talk to her about going to the gym as your workout buddy or joining you on your evening walk. …On the other hand, honesty can save you a heck of a lot of time. What if you would rather skip the boring meeting about running the copier? (Seriously? Is it that hard?) I told one of my co-workers that I would certainly not like to go to the meeting to “be taught” how to use our brand-new copier. I didn’t have to go to the teaching session, and I still have my job.

Generally, though, I’m only brutally honest about resentments when I am really mad. For instance, I was dating a guy for a while, and I really didn’t like him. (Somehow, I let myself get cajoled into it. That will never happen again. I think I can safely say that I learned my lesson.) After we finally broke up, and he had started “seeing other people”, we hung out every now and then. I started meeting other people. Fun stuff. Then he rained all over my parade with his self-pity and condescension-to-others-who-are-not-him. Not acceptable. Once he realized I was getting really serious in a relationship with someone else, he got very confrontational. I mostly ignored it. What I really should have said was something along the lines of:

“No, you don’t deserve the hottest girl you see–you’re getting grossly obese, you tend to have an inflated sense of self, and you were really mean to “the chubby girl” in your office who had the utter audacity to talk to you like she was an equal. What is wrong with you?”
“Get over yourself.”
“How dare you insult my children and wish them bad things!” (Though, this, I actually did say to him.)
“I resent you for trying to make me feel guilty about breaking up.”
“I resent you for being so overly obnoxious all the time.”
“I resent you for being so hateful to/about my sports teams. Yes, it really does upset me (25 years later) that the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis, and that Paul Tagliabue and Jack Kent Cooke seemingly tag-teamed Baltimore out of a football franchise for decades, thus losing us the “Colts” name and the colors. Jerk.”
“I resent you for wearing an Indianapolis jersey to meet my Dad and thinking it was funny. You’re lucky he’s a pacifist. You’re lucky that I mostly am, too.”
“I almost wish I had allowed that angry fan to pummel you when you were being obnoxious. The first time we hung out.”
“I resent you for driving like a maniac in your stupid little car all through the streets of Bethesda and into the parking garage, and then trying to pick a fight with a girl and her boyfriend because she was having a hard time getting her (rather large) vehicle into the teeny-tiny spots in the parking garage. Those spots are almost too small for a motorcycle, no less a full-size vehicle. Seriously, dude: Lose the road rage. And don’t brag about how you can take a punch and then call the cops on the guy. You instigated, and the DC-Metro-area police have better things to do. I wish I had walked the six blocks to the Metro and ridden it to Rachael’s place, instead of consenting to continue listening to you bitch the whole way to the restaurant. At least the food was good.”
“I resent you for wishing bad things on my fiance. You need to learn to grow up and take responsibility for your own actions and inactions.”
“I resent you for ridiculing the candidate that I favored. Politics isn’t that important day-to-day; quit being a schmuck.”
“I resent you for convincing me to like you, even though all signs pointed to ‘No!'”
“I resent you for whining about how much you hate living in this area while refusing to leave.”
“I resent you for whining about pretty much everything in the whole world. That doesn’t make you “punk”–that makes you a malcontent. Nobody likes those.”
“I resent you for being so hateful to tourists and foreigners–they have as much right to ride the mass transit as you do. Also, you weren’t born knowing where to go, so cut them a break.”
“I resent you for hating on overwieght people–you’re not skinny in the least, so not only are you a mean individual, you are also a hypocrite.”
“I resent you for hating on the mass transit system all the time. Lighten up. Enjoy the chance to experience of all kinds of new people. Accept that you do not dictate when the trains and buses arrive. Bring a book.”

You know…now that I think about it, Radical Honesty might be a pretty good idea. At least in moderation.

Open Love Letter

Love him

Don’t pine

Love him with your whole heart

Don’t worry about what happens later

Feel blissfully

Don’t run away from your fear

Love him

Don’t give up when breakfast is runny

Be glad that you’re there

Don’t fear the pain

Embrace the joy of the moment, without proselytizing endlessly about it

Don’t weep when at an end

Grin with each new beginning

Don’t

Think

Love him

Because of who you are together

Mindtrap

I have become a total slacker lately. …Which is inconvenient, in a way. Of course, it has also given me a lot of time to think. …Which unfailingly leads to:

What is the purpose of life? Why are we sentient? What else is sentient? Are we truly conscious, or do we just think we are? Isn’t that the same thing? Why/how can we pontificate about these things? Is there something else out there? Is there a point to life? Some part of something bigger? Some over-arching ideal?

Or is this all we have? Is it enough? Why waste time, wasting time? A friend of mine once spent many hours playing video games–till the sun went down. Is that what we’re meant for? After weeks of that, he was depressed. Are we simply the sum of our experiences? How do we know? What are we supposed to do with our time? Does it matter?

Is watching movies a worthwhile use of time? Is exploring in the woods? Writing? Reading? Anything? Doesn’t it vary among people? Why do I question everything? Is that a waste of time? Or is it kind of the point?

I’m not thrilled at the idea of being locked in an existential mind-trap. …In fact, I kind of find that to be self-serving navel-gazing, and it frustrates me. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t spend so much time thinking about these kinds of thoughts–perhaps “pondering” is a better term, as that implies–to me, anyway–a plodding kind of feel. That seems rather more accurate to these kinds of mental circles. However, mostly, I am just glad in an odd sort of way, that I can think about these things. One of the things I seem to be best at is running around in my own head. It just seems as if there should be answers somewhere. Right?

Mostly, I’m just glad to be living in this place and at this time. It gives me a warm, happy feeling inside. 🙂

Birthdays…

I’ve turned 30, and I’m a little concerned.  On the one hand, my life is kind of a disaster half the time, I’ve developed way crazy health issues that have already effected mass changes in how I live my life (yes, that is supposed to be ‘effected’, as in ’caused’, not ‘affected’, as in ‘changed somehow’), I totally don’t love my job but am still concerned that it may be gone by the end of the year, it’s difficult to pay the bills some months, and I don’t know anywhere near as much as I hoped I would have by now.

My life may already be nearly half over, I feel like I’m losing mental faculties all the time, and I keep wishing that certain things could be different. I wish I could actually fix my truck up the way she needs to be, instead of piece-meal-ing her to death. (This last time, it was a whole new oil-pan-plus-huge-a$$-gasket along with gasket heads plus intake pipe when I went to do a basic tune-up. So sad.) The more I put together, the more falls apart, it seems. Sort of like the rest of my life.

I’m facing a rather large change–in the not-too-distant-future–in one aspect of my career, and I’ve found that this impending change makes me sadder than I thought it would. It also makes me very relieved–or at least it will once it happens. Probably–as long as it goes the way it should. That’s always a concern.I’m doing a good deal of introspection lately, too. I want to know why I feel like I haven’t done enough. I haven’t finished my degree, and I know that I could were I to actually follow-through with it. Am I a chronic quitter? Sure seems so sometimes. I don’t have trouble initiating things–it’s just always the follow-through that I seem to completely muck up. Why is that? It frustrates me a little, but I’ve begun to realize that it’s the biggest reason why my impending 30th is causing me so much consternation: I take on more than I can do at once, therefore I can’t do anything to the desired perfection, therefore I completely frustrate myself. Ergo, I quit, and nothing improves. Not so helpful.

On the other hand (getting back to it, and what a strange trip it has been), I am doing a decent job raising two good male human beings. 🙂 They’re respectful, bright, and loving, and that’s really all I could ask for in little bitties. 🙂 At the same time, I wonder whether they would be better off had I a degree in astrophysics or botony or biochemistry… Or would they just miss me more often while I was off working late in the lab? Did I waste my time for years and years, looking for the wrong stuff in all the wrong places, or was I supposed to meander around, discovering random crap until this moment? I know that life is not about the destinations, it’s all about the travels and discoveries along the way, but sometimes I have done things that even I don’t understand.

I am an extremely lucky girl in many ways, so I feel ungrateful when I believe I am whining about stuff that I wish I could have done or could have been and whatnot, but there are a lot of things I think I could have made happen, and it’s hard sometimes when I look at life and wonder if I have enough time to complete anything important. I’m scared, sometimes, looking down the road stretching out before me, feeling like I want to cry about all the time I wasted getting to this point, yet hoping that I will be granted sufficient time to prove to myself that I am worthwhile. Not a total slacker.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Super Bowls

Was anyone else watching the Super Bowl tonight and thinking: “Perhaps the officials are not entirely impartial”? Also: “Perhaps  they are willfully blind to the blatant penalties and unsportmanslike conduct being perpetrated by the Steelers”? And: “You know, that Harrison guy who pummelled the Cardinal should have been ejected from the game, not just given a penalty?” And: “What the heck is going on with the change-of-possession penalties?”

Caveat: I love football. I’m also a Baltimore girl, ergo I’m not much of a Steelers fan: Kind of sick of them and many of the Pittsburgh fans picking on my town. Therefore, I’m not completely unbiased. At all. (My friend, Jill, is a Steelers fan, and I love her anyway. Best buddy.)

At the end of the day, it is just a game–but it’s also more than that: It is an amalgamation of the combined hopes and dreams and wishes of many, many people. We anthropomorphize entire teams (yes, that usage counts–a team isn’t a person on its own; it’s a big bunch of people who sometimes act in unison), and imbue them with parts of ourselves, so when a team we root for loses, we tend to be way more cranky. Right now, I’m sort of cranky. The Cardinals didn’t win; they could have certainly played better (why does no one cover Holmes? And the interception at the goal line?! Why?), but for the whole game, the officials–for their own mysterious reasons–seemed intent on nearly giving the game away to the Steelers. For a team who has had under 50 penalty yards averaged for both the regular and post-season, receving approximately 100 penalty yards in a game seems a little strange.

Not that I’m pointing fingers. 🙂

Strange Paths to Follow

“The basic problem is that if God exists, what is the point of literature?” Ionesco has said. “And if He doesn’t exist, what is the point of literature? Either way, my writing, the only thing I have ever succeeded in doing, is invalidated.” (Ionesco in 1984, from Playwrights at Work, ed. by George Plimpton, 2000)

This is the problem with living too deeply in one’s own head: suddenly, most of your thoughts are paradoxes, and you begin to look too deeply into the abyss of the existential problem. Who are we? Why are we here? Is there any deeper purpose to anything? If there’s no deeper meaning, why even bother?

When looking that deeply into the recesses of our primeval mind, the longer we think about what the answer could be–or if there even is an answer at all–the scarier it can get. I don’t know if we were meant to look in there at all. When I start thinking about it, my mind starts chasing the trail out into the beginnings of infinity.

Is this line of reasoning valid? I believe that there are some things we will never know as long as we are alive. The “meaning of life” is one of those things. (Although, the meaning of “Life, the Universe, and Everything” (the Ultimate Question) is apparently 42…though we’re not really sure what the actual wording of the question was.)  We could, therefore, spend our lives naval-gazing without ever getting any closer to anything with meaning, or we could do things that improve our lives and the lives of others. Does that give our lives meaning?

Back to the original thought: does a higher power invalidate artistic achievement? Does the lack of a higher power invalidate artistic achievement? Does this make any sense? If two thoughts cancel each other out completely, doesn’t that invalidate both of them? So, if they are both invalidated, then one must develop a new theory. In this instance, a new theory might be that true artistry might improve someone’s life–whether or not there’s a higher power at all.

We are only little tiny somethings on a subjectively tiny planet somewhere in an enormous universe (or multiverse, depending on which physics theory you follow), so what we do probably doesn’t have some huge cosmic effect. However, that doesn’t mean that we do or say etc has no effect whatsoever. We may have a beautiful effect on someone. Or maybe a group of people. Maybe that’s enough…