Viva Bliss Award: Passing It On

I’m not much for blog awards.

Not only do blog awards tend to feel suspiciously like chain letters to me (“Here’s your award! Now pass it on to ten people!”), I’m just not naturally inclined towards celebration. At least not formal celebration. I’m big on small, spontaneous celebrations for things like when my toddler accidentally draws a “U” or  a “V” on the white board or when my daughter not only goes the whole 2.5 miles to the library, but she skips most of the way.

But mostly I think it’s more trouble than it’s worth to decorate the house for an event just to throw away, store, or otherwise clean up everything almost as soon as I’ve got it all done. I didn’t get this from my mom. She had a different handmade wreath to hang on the door for every single holiday, including Presidents Day and National Sandwich Day (or was that Pinecone Appreciation Day?). I, on the other hand, am disinclined to “create” an occasion. I prefer to think that the occasion itself is the occasion, independent from the centerpiece I’ve crafted from an old TV Guide and some gold spray paint.

But when Leigh over at Live Your Bliss gave me the Viva Bliss Award, I felt like celebrating because I love Leigh’s blog (which I mentioned in January in my rundown of blogs I read regularly) and because the award acceptance stipulations didn’t involve hot glue guns or upcycling baby food jars into decorative terrariums.

Leigh has asked that recipients answer three questions and then pass the award along. First, the questions:

1) What color and flavor is Bliss?

The color of Bliss is the rosy pink of my children’s cheeks when they’ve been running around outside or when they’ve just woken up. And the flavor? Well, I’ve not been able to drink beer for several years, but I still associate the taste of a nice, bitter-but-complex IPA with Bliss. Bliss is satisfying but there’s an edge there to remind us that the feeling is, like everything, transient. It will end, but it will also come back, we just don’t know for sure when. In the case of an IPA, it’s with the next pint (provided you’ve not already had too many). With Bliss, it’s a little more difficult to predict.

2) What is the most unexpected time or place that you found Bliss?

This was a little more difficult to answer because Bliss almost always takes me by surprise. Maybe it was during my family’s post-layoff cross-country trip in June of 2011. Driving across Nebraska and Iowa with my husband, two kids, two cats, and a Vitamix in a rented behemoth of an SUV was surprisingly Blissful. I watched the American West change to the American Midwest and the high-grass prairie of eastern Nebraska give way to the rolling prairie of Iowa and felt at home.

Similarly, when my husband and I moved to California from North Carolina (pre-kids, pre-Vitamix, and in a VW Jetta, but still with two cats), we experienced an absolutely soul-satisfying sunset in Topeka, Kansas. That’s not a place we would have pegged for a Bliss-filled experience, but there it was.

There’s also a much more distant memory that I always have carried with me, and I’m not even sure if it’s an accurate memory. It was when I was just shy of four years old, wearing my crocheted sailor suit and walking across the cemetery lawn after my brother’s funeral. I squatted down to pick up these cute, perfect little daisies nestled in the dew-covered grass only to find that they were plastic. My mother made me put them back, but their presence there and the sunshine and the green grass has stuck with me as a very pleasant experience amid the confusion and uncertainty of that time in my life.

3) What’s your superhero name?

Oh, my goodness. I’ve never even considered a superhero name for myself before. I think my greatest strengths are rather mundane. If I were a superhero, my name would still be “CJ” but “CJ” would stand for my superpower. My greatest strength is prudence and the ability to recognize the nuances of every situation and appreciate it not only for its obvious “good” but also for the less straightforward, more bittersweet undercurrents.

My superhero name: CJ the Constantly Judicious! (Although maybe without the exclamation point. I don’t want to be rash with my punctuation.)

And my catch phrase might be, “Not so fast there. Let’s think about this.”

In addition, as a recipient of this award, I am encouraged to pass it along to 6-10 bloggers who “actively seek Bliss in their lives and inspire others to do the same.” But since I don’t read many blogs and since I just made a list of my favorites in January (see link above), I’m just going to offer two blogs that really stand out in the “seeking and inspiring Bliss” category.

  • Forgeover, by Tucker and Victoria. They’re on the January list, too (and I hope they’re not yet tired of me talking up their blog), but their blog so thoroughly matches the theme of this award, I wanted to call it out again. Tucker, Victoria, and their two kids are currently docked in the Marquesas after sailing across the Pacific Ocean from Mexico. This is the first major milestone of the journey that is the realization of their long-time dream to circumnavigate the globe. Every post reminds me that, when you’re following your dreams, even fairly significant setbacks seem a lot smaller than they might otherwise. They are making incredible memories for themselves and crafting a childhood for their children that’s full of Bliss, adventure, compassion and the everyday knowledge that they have the power to realize their dreams.
  • Simply Intentional, by Michelle and Jedd, a young married couple who have just begun an adventure with the Peace Corps in Jamaica. Their writing reveals the highs and lows of Peace Corps work, but it also reveals the connection between people just because they’re human beings, regardless of culture, ethnicity, economics, and geography. And not only that, their blog’s a great read.

Both Forgeover and Simply Intentional remind me of the power of compassion and opening our hearts to the possibilities before us. Talk about inspiring Bliss!

Congratulations on your Viva Bliss Award, guys!

Spread the Bliss: Nominate Someone for the Viva Bliss Award

As a recipient of the Viva Bliss Award, consider doing the following:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you by writing a post about it and link to this post.
  2. Include the Viva Bliss logo in your post.
  3. Pass on the award to 6-10 bloggers who “actively seek Bliss in their lives and inspire others to do the same.”
  4. Answer the following questions in your post:
  • What color and flavor is Bliss?
  • What is the most unexpected time or place that you found Bliss?
  • What’s your superhero name?

Back in Action!

You might not have noticed that we were out of action, but we were.

The record-breaking nor’easter that hit New England this weekend knocked out our electricity from 8pm Saturday until sometime while we were at dinner tonight (Tuesday). It got down to 51F inside our home. We usually keep it cool (62 during the day, my husband pushes for 58 overnight; I push back), but 51 is still rather chilly.

Back in North Carolina, there was an ice storm that left us powerless for a full week. It was quite a bit colder then, and our apartment had awful insulation. After two days, we could see our breath inside the apartment. We showered at my husband’s work, and I was glad to get back to my job, where I could buy cafeteria food. I was a vegetarian then, but by that point, even I was thrilled with the fat back they cooked with the green beans (good old Southern cooking). I wouldn’t eat marshmallow Peeps, but for some reason pork in my greens wasn’t an issue. (And that is not euphemistic.)

After the ice storm, we vowed that we would retain the lessons we’d learned while the electricity was out. We instituted a weekly tradition called “Cat and Candle.” It was a Sabbath of sorts during which we used no electricity except what was necessary for heat and hot water and to cook meals. In reality, I guess we just turned out the lights, lit candles, drank micro-brewed beer, and tossed fake mice at our cats. Even so, this lasted only about three weeks before we were back to taking electric lighting for granted.

During this recent power outage, we made similar vows.

“This will change everything,” we declared.

“Now we realize just how unsuited our suburban dwelling is for unfavorable weather conditions. We shall remedy this posthaste,” we further declared.

“We’ll run a gas line and get a gas stove. We’ll install a pellet stove in the place of one of our fireplaces. We’ll stop relying on our freezer and start preserving food by canning, fermenting, salting, and dehydrating,” we decided.

“At the very least,” we compromised, “we’ll look into getting a generator so we don’t freeze if this happens in February.”

This all happened during a time when my kids and I were listening to an audiobook (in the car) about Laura Ingalls and her family traveling by covered wagon through Wisconsin and Minnesota over snow and iced-over lakes, fording swelling spring creeks, and camping out every night.

Listening to these stories put things into perspective.

We are not pioneers. We know that by this time next week, we’ll be complaining about slow internet connections and how far we have to drive for organic produce.

All weather-related lessons will be lost.

Even now, as the house warms and I hear the electric grind of the garage door opener, I feel the discomforts of the past several days receding. I try to alleviate my guilt by telling myself that the pioneers who suffered much more extreme privations would have wanted me to take for granted basic comforts. I bet they would have loved to complain about the free wi-fi at the coffee shop up the street rather than have their survival depend on how much wood they cut (with an axe they made themselves).

But what can I say? We are Americans.

Uninhabitable

Tonight, we had our first snow.

Now, I’ve lived in snowy places. Ohio. That was snowy. Salt Lake City. Heck, they had their first snow weeks ago. Even in North Carolina we had an ice storm that knocked out the electricity for an entire week, and two years before that, we had the Snow of the Century, which dumped 24 inches of snow in less than 24 hours on a state that has one snow plow and uses sand instead of salt.

But I’m really nervous about the New England winter. For one, it’s colder here. And there’s more snowfall. And the roads are crazy in the best of conditions.

And everyone keeps telling me how awful the winters are here. In Salt Lake City, everyone around me couldn’t wait for it to snow so they could hit the slopes. Here, even the skiers and snowshoers go on and on about how long and cold and snowy the winter is.

Even children’s books aren’t pulling any punches about New England winters. I was brushing my teeth the other night while my husband read my daughter’s cod book to her.

Yes, my daughter has a book about cod. It’s called The Cod’s Tale and it’s by Mark Kurlansky. Both of my kids love this book.

Cover of "The Cod's Tale"

Cover of The Cod's Tale

So, I was brushing my teeth and listening to my husband read aloud the section entitled “Winter in Massachusetts.”

“During their first two years in America, many Pilgrims starved to death,” my husband read. “Winter in Massachusetts was snowy and so cold that some Europeans believed this new land was uninhabitable [emphasis mine].”

Tell you what: this did not ease my fears.

So, I’m bracing myself for a crazy winter. Cod got the Pilgrims through, but in the intervening 400 years, they’ve been so overfished in the North  Atlantic, I don’t think I can depend on cod to see us through winter in this uninhabitable land.

Maybe falafel. And central heating.

Swearing Off Inspirational Stories

I’ve read a fair number of opinions and suggestions about how to be happier, and I’ve discovered a basic theme.

Each person starts out not appreciating their life enough, wanting something they don’t have. Then at some point (usually in their mid-20’s or in mid-life or in some other period of great transition) something clicks. They wake up one morning and realize that they have control over how happy they are and what direction their life takes. From then on, their perspective changes and they are happy no matter what happens in their lives.

These accounts piss me off.

It’s like if my 6-foot-2 husband wrote an article about how to reach items on the top shelf of our kitchen cupboards.

“I wasn’t always able to reach items on the top shelf,” he might write. “I used to beat myself up for not being able to get to those top shelves. I would be angry when I saw other people who could reach those shelves so easily. What was their secret? But then one day just before I started college, I looked up at that top shelf and realized that all I needed to do was reach for what I wanted and I could grab it. The secret was the wanting. Once I realized I could obtain items on that shelf if I really wanted them, it was easy. I’ve been able to reach items on high shelves ever since.”

This sort of inspirational story would work well for someone else who’s over 6 feet tall. But for someone who’s 5-foot-2 like myself, it’s ignoring the fact that he can reach one whole foot higher than I can. It’s ignoring the fact that his ability to reach that top shelf was influenced by something more than just will. No matter how much I want that item on the top shelf, I’m going to need a stool to reach it.

There’s this, “If I can do it, you can do it,” idea that these motivational/inspirational types try to impart. But why on earth would this be true?

So, I’m going to stop reading these kinds of books, articles, blog posts, and interviews. These people aren’t me. They don’t know me. And their oversimplifications simply serve to plunge me into despair of ever attaining the happiness that I desire.

Poll: Pick the Next Book I Read!

And for extra bonus fun, if I choose your book, you can choose the style of my next review (tv commercial, scathing review by a jaded GenXer, haiku, iambic pentameter, third-grade book report, etc).

Allergy Alert! I Am Allergic to Flavor!

After work today, the kids and I met my husband at a local restaurant, a pub that was given high marks for both their beer selection (for my husband) and their food (for me). I’d already reconciled myself to not sampling anything from their substantial single-malt scotch or bourbon offerings because my husband was going to be working through their beer menu and one of us needed to drive home, but I figured I’d make up for it with a tasty meal.

Regulars to this blog know that I don’t do so well with gluten or dairy. But I really don’t like mentioning it when I go out to eat in a restaurant. I usually try to cobble something together based on the information provided on the menu and hope for the best.

But my husband has begun showing his chivalry by letting the waitstaff know about my food issues. Tonight I let him, and it seemed like a good idea when I learned that my first-choice entree had a gravy on it that the menu hadn’t mentioned. (Flour-thickened gravy is a hidden source of gluten.) With the server’s help, I chose something that appeared both safe and tasty.

I’ve had some very good seafood dishes, most often topped with an alluring fruit-based salsa and grilled to impart a little more flavor.

But not this seafood dish.

It was a large slab of haddock that looked like it had been steamed. There was no seasoning at all, no sauce, no oil, no salt. On the side was a serving of unseasoned broccoli so under-steamed it crunched as though it were raw.

I couldn’t eat it.

“Do you want to send it back?” my husband asked.

No, I didn’t want to send it back. I never send anything back at restaurants. I think it’s rude. And plus, if it’s bad enough to send back, I certainly don’t want anything else from that kitchen to replace it. In which case, what’s the point in sending it back? Besides, my husband will eat anything, so it never goes to waste.

The kids’ food was, as both they and my husband reported, quite good and better than average for kids menu offerings. We wondered what on earth had happened to make my entree so blah.

When the check came, all became clear. I had been flagged as an “ALLERGY ALERT! GLUTEN, DAIRY ALLERGY!” This apparently was code to the kitchen for, “Make this dish as boring as possible. Then if we’ve messed up and used something she’s allergic to, she’ll not want to eat more than a couple of bites anyway.”

At $15, I could have made a meal for my whole family, plus dessert (which I never get to eat when we go out).

My water was good, and I got to yoink a couple of the kids’ french fries. My husband has a tummy full of bland fish and really tasty beer, and he’s already planning his next visit. The kids can’t wait to go back, either. Well, maybe I can drop the three of them off there and then eat a dinner I’ve brought from home alone in the car. Sounds pitiful, but just a meal without a child draped across me would be a treat.

Got a Light? (A Post About Inspiration)

Firm flame

Image via Wikipedia

Here I sat like I do most every night. On the couch at 11pm, just finished watching three episodes of “The Office” and eating two gluten-free freezer waffles, an apple, and a pint of hummus, wondering yet again why I can’t seem to keep my promises to myself.

I promise to get more sleep so I have more energy and less surliness to offer my children.

I promise to write so I can get some of the thoughts that swirl in my brain out on paper in the hopes that I can rearrange them into some kind of sense.

I promise to at least not eat for the hours I’m staying up too late not writing.

And every night 11pm and then 12am and all too often 1am see me in the exact same spot.

Just before my husband went to bed, we talked about how maybe it’s the rules that are keeping me from keeping my promises. Maybe I want to break the rules and so making rules just tempts me to break them.

“But how do I get myself to stop toasting up freezer waffles and go to bed unless I make a rule for myself?” I asked my husband. He, having no hang-ups around following rules nor around going to bed at a reasonable time, just shrugged and kissed me good-night.

Tonight, after I’d had enough streaming video, I decided to check out White Hot Truth, Danielle LaPorte’s blog.

I’m not always in the mood to handle Danielle’s level of peppiness. It would help if I found her grating, like I do most motivational-type people, but I don’t. Nearly everything I read of hers is profound and honest and just leaves me feeling like crap because I feel like that level of authenticity and optimism just isn’t something I’m likely to achieve. I recognize her words as truth, but I fear they don’t apply to me.

I wasn’t in the mood for it tonight, either, but Monday’s epiphany after book club has the idea swimming around in my head that I can choose to look at things positively or negatively. So, I went to White Hot Truth with the plan to look at it positively.

And wouldn’t you know it, here was a post about the difference between motivation and inspiration. Either can help you achieve your goals, Danielle asserts, but it’s the inspiration that sets you ablaze about those goals.

I like that. Clearly, with all of the rules I make for myself, I’m trying really hard to address the “motivation” part, but I’m missing the “inspiration” part entirely.

The reason my husband doesn’t have trouble going to bed at a reasonable hour is because he loves his job. He can’t wait to get in to work and do some science. He is ablaze with the possibility that maybe—just maybe—he’ll contribute to a discovery that will improve the health of humankind. And even if he doesn’t, he’s just looking forward to the fun of trying.

I love my job, too, but in a “sure, I love my job,” kind of way, not a “Man, I love my job!!!” kind of way. (Of course my job isn’t exactly a job; it’s more like…life, but it’s what I’m doing during the time that other people do their jobs.) But I’m not an “ablaze” kind of person. I’ve got a fiery temper and can make searing comments to those I love when inflamed, but that’s not at all the same thing.

How do I set myself ablaze? How do I tap into inspiration? (Aside from quitting thinking of being a mom as a “job.”)

I scrolled down the page a bit and found a grand pep talk in which Danielle encourages us to “decide to rise.” It seems to be a variation of “Just Do It” but without the sweat shops and child labor and the trying to get me to buy sneakers.

Danielle writes:

On the other side of deciding to rise is illumination, ecstasy, insight. And the angel of your strength is there waiting, smiling, applauding, with a goblet of endorphins for you. When you transcend circumstances you get special privileges. Like the deep knowing that life wants you to win, evidence that you are indeed amazing, and irrefutable proof that your mind chooses what matters.

I felt tears well up as I read this post. I thought about how most of my days involve just trying to get to the end of the day without some kind of catastrophe. I transcend nothing. I don’t give my all to my kids or to my husband or to myself. No wonder I dread going to bed. Because when I wake up, I’m going to have to do it all again tomorrow, tired, cranky, scared, and so much less than what I would like to be.

My husband told me the other day that he is really excited for NaNoWriMo because he loves my novel idea (no, I will not tell you what it is) and he thinks that I can really pull it off and that it’s going to be awesome. My immediate thought was, “Crap. Now he’s going to be disappointed in me.”

My husband and my kids love me and they seem to think I can do anything. My friends seem to think highly of me and my abilities as well. If I could have a fraction of the confidence in myself that the people I love have in me, I think I could easily be inspired.

And if I could be set ablaze with passion for…anything, maybe I could burn hot enough to melt away the self-doubt that holds me back.

But where does it start? What’s the spark that’s strong enough to survive the dousing my negativity is sure to give it?

Choosing the Half-Full Glass

Cover of "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter a...

Cover of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I wrote a fairly negative review of Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet a few weeks ago. I liked it okay, but in my review I pointed out what I saw as shortcomings of the writing and why I couldn’t wholeheartedly embrace the book even though I enjoyed the subject.

Tonight I went to book club, and I feel somewhat differently about the book now.

One woman told about how she, at first, shared many the same complaints the rest if us had until she experience a shift in how she looked at the book.

“For the first half of the book, I really didn’t like it. I kept focussing on all of the things that seemed unrealistic and sappy. I kept going back and forth between getting into the story and then feeling manipulated by the author,” she explained. “But about halfway through, I realized that this is a book about loss; the loss of the father-son relationship, the loss of a first love, the loss of the record, the loss of the homes and possessions of the internees. When I looked at it that way, I didn’t mind so much that some things didn’t seem realistic. They were all there for the purpose of illustrating these losses.”

The fact that the story is about historical events makes me expect it to be “real.” But should I expect that? A friend mentioned that before Jamie Ford published this novel, he was writing sci-fi/speculative fiction. Knowing this and looking at the novel through the lens of its themes and symbols has given me a new appreciation for the book. When we free the author from the expectation of realism, we open ourselves to the greater symbolic meaning of the story.

Now, if this was his goal, I think Ford should have given the reader a little more of a hint that this was how to read the story, and I still prefer more well-developed characters in my novels, but I think I may have been selling him short before.

What is our responsibility as readers of literature? Is it reasonable to sit back and expect a book to deliver a story like we passively experience a television show? Maybe reading fiction is more of a relationship between the author and the reader. Maybe it’s our responsibility to meet the author halfway, to learn what he’s trying to tell us and then allow ourselves to be led along that path, even if it doesn’t lead where we think it ought to. Maybe it’s more fair and more enjoyable to Assume Positive Intent on the part of the author and read in such a way that we allow ourselves to notice where things are working rather than where they’re not.

I think I tend to look for the flaws more than I look for the gems in a story. Would I want someone to read a story I wrote in that way? Would I want someone to treat me that way?

Another thing happened during book club that illustrated this idea off of the page.

I love to read, and I love to talk about books. It’s the reason I chose to major in English (why not get a degree in something I would do anyway?). In a book club environment, I get excited that I share a book with the people around me and I talk a lot. Boy howdy, do I talk a lot. I try not to, but every time someone says something, I get excited and want to add to it or explore another dimension of it or ask them to clarify or expand their point.

Tonight, we had quite a large group at book club (probably 25 or so people; I didn’t count), and there were about four of us who were doing most of the talking.

At one point, one of the big talkers (one of only two men in the group), said, “I have a question, and I’d like to hear an answer from some of those people who haven’t said much,” as he pointedly looked at me and the other two women who’d been talking a lot.

I immediately felt my face grow hot. I started thinking of all of the rude things I’d love to say to him for chastising me in front of the group. But I took a deep breath and managed to listen with only a slight bit of schadenfreude when only one person answered his question.

After the meeting, I mentioned the man’s comment to my friend as we climbed the library stairs.

“Well, you know sometimes that’s what it takes to get other people to join the conversation,” she said.

“I guess,” I said. “But he clearly singled out me and the other two women.”

“Well, maybe. But I don’t know, I guess I just prefer not to take those kinds of things personally.”

I raised an eyebrow and shrugged, and we moved onto other topics.

But it occurred to me on the way home that her reaction to the comment in the meeting and the other woman’s reaction to the seeming unreality of the book were related. Both women chose to assume positive intent, and both came away from the situation with increased joy as a result.

Maybe this is one of the positive effects of my Happiness Project. While my initial reaction to both the book and the comment from my fellow book club member was still to look for the negative and cling tenaciously to that, a year ago, I would not have been open to the possibility that I could choose a path of greater happiness, (which, coincidentally, is also the path of greater connection).

And here I thought I was just going to book club to talk about a book.

May I Be Filled With Loving Kindness

When all the people of the world love,

Then the strong will not overpower the weak.

The many will not oppress the few.

The wealthy will not mock the poor.

The honored will not disdain the humble.

The cunning will not deceive the simple.

-Mo-Tse

This morning before church, my husband and I were discussing the Occupy movement.

We both agreed that we feel disturbed by the fact that such a huge proportion of the nation’s wealth is held by 1% of the population, and that major changes need to happen in government and in corporations to bring more sense to the distribution of wealth in the US. I just couldn’t see how hanging out at the park for weeks at a time was going to effect change.

“Well, at least they’re doing something,” my husband said. “They might not have formed a cohesive movement yet, but they’re providing a visual for the media and the politicians to see how many people are upset about this.”

I reminded him of all of the demonstrating I used to do in college and soon after. Take Back the Night rallies and the day of silence in support of homosexuals who can’t speak up about their sexual orientation, demonstrations outside of Wal-Mart in support of the right of their employees to organize and outside of grocery stores in support of the Mt Olive pickle boycott to support improved working conditions for migrant farm workers. We marched against the war in Iraq and wrote letters for Amnesty International. We organized postcard drives against the US War on Drugs and a symposium against the Patriot Act.

“I just don’t feel like this stuff does anything,” I lamented.

He gently reminded me that things take time.

“Some demonstrations clearly seem to make a difference while others don’t seem to do anything. The important thing,” he maintained, “is doing something.”

And then we went to church.

The service was about immigration.

Members of the congregation shared stories of immigrants across the country, both documented and undocumented, and the hardships they’ve faced trying to fulfill basic human rights, like being paid for work they perform and not having their families threatened if they speak up for themselves. They also talked about crises right here in central Massachusetts, where whole populations of immigrants are being physically threatened, denied wages for work they’ve already done, and targeted for restrictive and unconstitutional legislation. They talked about the efforts members of our church and others in the community are making to help connect with these immigrant communities, find out what they need, and act to provide these things.

People are making these connections, and they are acting.

I spent most of the service crying. I spent a good while after the service crying, too. I’m acutely aware of the immigrants in my life, from my own grandfather, to close friends, to people I have employed to watch my children and clean my house. Being reminded of the ill treatment people not native to this country face just caught me.

I’ve spent a number of years focussing on trying to change inhumane policies and feeling frustrated that things change so quickly for the worse and take so very long to change for the better. The things the members of our congregation are doing speak to me. While they’d clearly like to see policy change, the reward of their actions is in the connections they’re forming and the love they’re sharing. Their actions reflect the belief that, regardless of your opinion about US immigration policy, these are human beings who possess inherent worth and dignity but who are not being treated as such. They are being treated as a faceless mass of “Them.”

There are ample examples just in the past 100 years of just how dangerous it is to forget the humanity of those around us.

I support the Occupy movement and the awareness they’re trying to raise. I’m glad that they’re exercising their rights and turning the national conversation to the disparity between rich and poor (or even the rich and middle class), the tremendous power wealth carries within our government, and the relative powerlessness of the rest of the 99%.

But at this time in my life, that’s not the kind of action I want to take. I want the small-scale assistance that might not get the attention of the media but that helps a handful of individuals know that they are being seen and loved as fellow humans.

My Two-Year Plan

Los Carrizales. Tenerife, Canary Islands

Image via Wikipedia

That’s it. I’m tired of embracing imperfection. From now on, I’m going to implement a plan designed to make me perfect.

I will have perfect nutrition and a perfect exercise regimen, which will lead to a perfect body (stress incontinence and people thinking I’m pregnant will be things of the past). I will have perfect sleep habits and stress reduction techniques, which will make my mood perfect (no more yelling at my kids or at other motorists!). I will have a perfect writing routine in order to be a perfect writer, and perfect housework routines so my home is perfectly clean at all times (both Martha Stewart and the folks from Pullitzer will be beating down my door).

In addition, my car will stop consuming oil, I’ll stop obsessing over blog stats, my children will stop whining, my husband’s eczema will go away, and my carbon footprint will be in negative numbers. I will never be late, I will make meals for every person I know who’s had a baby or experienced an illness, I’ll entertain shut-ins, I’ll drive immigrant families to the grocery store. I will remember every birthday, and I’ll use only reusable fabric gift wrap intricately folded and tied into the shapes of bunnies and meerkats and elephants.

Every word I utter will be witty, empathetic, and grammatically correct.

My hair and clothes will always be kempt.

My children will eat all of their vegetables, ask to be excused from the table, and put their own dishes in the dishwasher.

My cats will no longer vomit on the rugs.

And I will accomplish this within 30 days, and then publish my plan (Thirty Days to the Ideal You: How to Stop Being a Slob and Start Being Perfect), which will become a worldwide bestseller. I will go on an international book tour, allow myself to be seduced by a 24-year-old Italian named Giuseppe, be hounded by Paparazzi, get caught up in the drug scene, and spend six months at an exclusive rehab facility in the Canary Islands.

When I return home, I will have a renewed sense of gratitude for the simple things in life. In the face of the daily hassles that accompany modern motherhood, I will smile serenely and hug my children. Having finally unlocked the secret to happiness, publishers will beg me to write the book of my meteoric rise and precipitous fall, and perhaps I will, but I will give all of the profits to charitable organizations and refuse to participate in book tours, preferring to keep the focus on the lessons rather than on myself.

I will bask in the free time afforded me by no longer being the sweetheart of the media.

I’ll spend my time playing with my children, taking long walks in the sunshine, and holding hands with my husband.

By the time I’m 37, I will conclude that there is perfection within imperfection.

I suppose I’d best get started.