The picture my grandfather carried into WWII

Grandma - 1947, originally uploaded by jenniferisaacson.

A new direction

This blog is going to take a whole new direction. I am starting a meditation practice and this will be my journal. It is my intention to begin attending zazen at the Great Plains Zen Center as soon as possible. Until then, I'm on my own. I'm re-reading The Three Pillars of Zen right now.

My practice is counting the breath.

Today I used the memory foam pillow and sat in the office in front of the closet door. I fed the cats first so they wouldn't be meowing. I used a 10-minute meditation timer I found on YouTube. I sat in a half-lotus; I'll have to work up to a full lotus. My spine wasn't aligned quite right because my lower back hurt. It was really difficult to keep counting the breath without being distracted by many other thoughts. I kept hearing the song Flying Without Wings in my head, which we're using in our wedding.

I feel calmer and more awake now. It is my intention to start waking up at 6 am in order to meditate daily. Rick is almost never up that early.

A day for me

I have a whole day to myself today; well, at least the next 8 hours. I have an appointment for a haircut, but other than that, I don't have any idea what to do. Sure, I know what I *should* be doing - the kitchen is a mess, there are piles of laundry, etc. But damn, I just want a day with nothing, no expectations. I think that's what I miss most about being single. You're not accountable to anyone, there's no one to disappoint except yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I love my fiance and I love our relationship. But sometimes I really do identify with the "ball and chain" metaphor. I probably impose that on myself more than he does on me. And I know he feels the same. It's definitely time for a day away from each other, and I wish I had somewhere else to go. What with the price of gas, and the bills I need to pay, it's just not happening.

I'm just full of whine today - it's too windy/cold out to go biking or walking. The house is a mess but I don't feel like doing anything about it. I don't want to watch TV. I don't want to... the list goes on. I haven't any idea what I do want to do, and that feels odd and somehow pathetic. I should know, but feeling that only makes it worse. Just thinking makes it worse. The Nike slogan would apply here. Just fucking do it. Do something, do anything.

Nostalgia for the bad times

When I was a teenager, I guess I was what you'd call emo. I thought that everything had this impossibly deep meaning that spoke to me and I was this special snowflake and no one could ever understand the abyss of pain I felt inside.

I have volumes of notebooks from that period. Some bad poetry, but mostly angry or suicidal ramblings. When I was old enough to drive, I'd just drive as fast and as far as I could before I figured I had to turn around or I'd get in deep shit. I always drove west. East was out; there's a big lake there, but why I never went north or south, I can't figure.

I smoked. Not a lot. Mostly to be rebellious. I thought I was tough. I guess, considering what I've been through, that I am. People have used the word "resilient" more than once. I smoked Marlboro Reds for a long, long time, until my lungs couldn't handle it and I switched to Lights. Lighting up a cigarette was automatic once I'd started the car. I couldn't have coffee - or later, beer - without a cigarette.

I didn't drink much until college, and then there were a fair amount of drunken nights. I always seem to pull myself back from the brink; it's like my home is right at the edge of the cliff. I remember laying down in the middle of campus, looking at the stars, because it just seemed like the thing to do, and I don't think I could have walked much farther.

It's ironic that someone with panic disorder has taken so many risks. I could have died 500 times over. People call me "adventurous" and I just laugh. I wasn't adventurous, I just didn't give a shit whether I lived or died. Nothing, nothing seemed to matter. It was a perverse kind of freedom of feeling. I expressed it in all kinds of unhealthy ways, I guess, but I did something. I didn't fucking sit around on my ass and watch TV and silently hate.

And I guess that's what I'm nostalgic for; I miss feeling dangerous. I miss the will to destroy myself. That seems so bizarre at first glance, but I think that what adulthood brings is a complacency around misery. We just accept so much monotony and disappointment, we let ourselves get trapped in situations we don't much care for, we fail to acknowledge that angst that never really went away in adolescence.

That angst was my friend for years. That angst made me do a lot of things I probably shouldn't have done, but none of which I regret. Everything I regret has happened during my so-called adult life and is the result of acting responsible or mature instead of being true to myself.

I miss Highway 18 at two in the morning. It will just never be the same.

Life is short

This is unlikely to make a lot of sense because I just have to empty my head.

So, my grandfather died a few days ago and I just went to the funeral. I wasn't particularly close to him - I don't think anyone was, really - but I was really close to my grandmother. He'd had Alzheimer's for years so he hadn't been the same person I grew up with for the better part of a decade. My grandmother died three years ago give or take a couple of weeks. Losing him too just feels like the end of an era.

They were the epitome of "the greatest generation." They survived the depression, they both served in World War II (My grandmother was in the WACS, my grandfather in the army air corps). They were a devout Irish Catholic family, and they raised six kids. They had two more children that died while infants. They owned their own business and ran it for decades. When they retired, they went on cruises around the world. They were extra attentive to their grandchildren. They were the anchors of our family. We used to all live within 10 miles of them; now we're scattered across 5 states.

The people in my generation are complete and utter pussies compared to our grandparents. We've never had to go through what they went through. We've been handed a middle-class life on a platter; we didn't have to scrape and save and work our asses off for it. I can't even imagine working 6 days a week and raising 6 kids and having any kind of life left over. I can't imagine being the one everyone relied on, for advice, for a hug, for help fixing your car, for organizing family gatherings.

I was just struck by how short life is. We're here for a blink of an eye and then we're gone. What the hell are we doing watching TV and surfing the net and playing videogames?

To be continued...

Flowers fall, while weeds flourish

So I'm reading Sit Down and Shut Up by Brad Warner, and on page 20 he quotes Dogen:

Flowers while loved fall, weeds while hated flourish.
Warner goes on to say "Whether we like or hate what life hands us, it is what it is and that's all it is."

I feel like I can stop reading right here, because this is really it, isn't it? It doesn't really matter that we love flowers if what we've got is a garden full of weeds. The universe doesn't give a rat's ass. It just presents what's there. Before I sound too depressed, I actually think this is an incredibly useful way to look at life. Our desires, our selves, are really irrelevant in the big scheme of things, yet we make them the central focus of our lives.

Another way to waste time

I couldn't see what the fuss was about stumbleupon until I tried it. Basically, you tell it what kind of stuff you're into (music, art, technology, etc) and it sends you to a web site it recommends based on your interests. You tell it whether or not you like the site, and its recommendations get better and better. I doubted this last part, until I told it a few sites I liked. Its recommendations were dead-on, and I immediately found incredibly useful sites I hadn't even known existed.