Archive for the ‘prose I suppose’ Category

Learned Optimism, Redux

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Well, I ordered Learned Optimism again, and again the bookseller cancelled it. My fourth attempt to order it was also cancelled.
I don’t think the book exists. I think it’s a mythic lesson designed to teach its message through its absence. Either that or it’s a particularly appealing title to shoplifters in used booksellers’ stores.

I will try again. I am learning optimism that I can put my hands on a copy of this book.

Learned Optimism

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Cathedral City, CA
The sun is out this morning, which is a good thing.

I’ve struggled since I was a teenager with depression, so when a friend told me about a book called Learned Optimism as a way to get off of anti-depressants, my ears perked up.
I’d done everything I know of short of a lobotomy to address my depression: Years of therapy gave me insight into why I was depressed. Group growth work led me through deep processes that let me touch the source of my depression. Very occasional use of psychedelics temporarily expanded my mind past depression, giving my conscious and unconscious mind a reminder about what a great gift my mind is. Changes in diet helped me believe that I could affect a difference in my depression because, after all, what goes in comes out.
While all that, and the insight and tools they gave me, probably has made a difference (I’m an informed depressed person), I still end up depressed. I do have to say that Effexor has ended up being a wonder drug for me, and that, as I write, it’s helping me see that it’s a sunny day, to have an attitude of gratitude, and to be guided by a mind that doesn’t want to end it all.
And yet, I don’t want to have to be on a drug the rest of my life.
So when my friend told me about Learned Optimism, I thought, Here’s something I haven’t tried yet, and maybe my depression could be about attitude. The idea that something new was at hand gave me a sense of hope. This friend is someone I greatly admire and who knows her stuff.
So I went to and ordered a copy. I waited around for it, but got an email instead. My order was cancelled.
I didn’t let it get me down though.
Life kept me on the run, but I did keep a note as a reminder to again order Learned Optimism. Last night I was supposed to be packing to leave from Palm Springs, so it was the perfect time to go through those kind of notes. I found the cancelled order email, and hopped online, bank account fresh from a week’s worth of work, and ordered Learned Optimism.
This morning, my inbox contained an email from another bookseller. “Did not realize it was missing until they tried to locate it…” caught my eye. My second order for Learned Optimism was cancelled.
What is the universe trying to tell me? I don’t think that it’s that independent booksellers are flaky. That’s not a lesson I need to learn right now. What is the lesson then?
Of course, it’s that this book will change my life and that I have to really want that kind of change. I have to be willing to let go of old patterns of getting depressed (when I’m not on legal drugs), and be ready for new behavior. If the book had come on the first order, I might not have been cognizant that I had better pay attention to this book.
So, this morning, in the middle of this missive in fact, I hopped online and ordered the book again.
And, when I should be packing and cleaning this morning, I’m writing this post.

Ginger Beer Lady

Sunday, September 4th, 2005

Tarzana, CA
While in line at Trader Joe’s in Encino, I saw a woman holding something in her left hand and what could only be a 4-pack of ginger beer in her right hand as I looked at nothing, knowing that I had, once again, gotten in the slowest checkout line. The family of four I’d avoided getting behind has gotten through already. Ug. Maybe it was the pale, strangely coifed cashier. Maybe he was slow.

I toyed with my short necklace as if I were patient and self-loving.

“How long have you had that necklace?”

It was the ginger beer woman who had made her way through the shoppers gathering a late dinner in this tiny Trader Joe’s.

“Oh, about 2 years,” remembering that lunch date with Ed in Tucson in the fall.

The ginger beer woman got in line behind me.

“That line’s going to be faster,” I said, indicating the one to the right that was just finishing up the family of four, all with dyed black hair, the father with dreads down his back.

“Everybody’s in such a hurry,” she said, not budging.

“I’m not in a hurry as much as I don’t want to be spending my time in line.”

“I met my husband at a grocery store.”

“Oh good,” I thought. “Maybe the man who would marry a woman who buys ginger beer will be rendezvousing with her in line, jar of marinated mushrooms in one hand and half-flat of tangerines under his arm. Maybe he’ll be cute. It’s been ages since I talked to a cute guy,” I thought in that instant between words.

“We weren’t IN line though. We met IN the parking lot of a grocery store,” she explained.

I pictured the meeting in the angry, small TJ’s parking lot outside. I could understand how someone could fall in love in such a violent, undersized place.

“He got out of his car, and I told him ‘I’m going to marry you,’ and I did. We fell in love and got married. Then he got shot. By a gun.”

My cashier was telling the lady that she should try the, did I hear this right, the 4-cheese and how it was different from the 3-cheese. He’s pulling the box with the frozen disk out of the grocery bag! It is his fault, that de-bagger. Smile with reservation.

“When you said shot, I assumed it was with a gun,” I thought, “this being LA and all. A bow and arrow had not crossed my mind,” I silently continued.

Smile vaguely now, so that she doesn’t see that you know she’s a crackpot.

I knew from the sorrow in her voice that the shot was fatal.

“It’s all very sad and I don’t like to talk about it very often,” was what I was hoping, and thinking would be decorous, she would close with. Yes, I had the thoughts of yelling, “Then why are you talking about it with me?” but didn’t.

“And when they had to evacuate the court house, and I set off the alarm because of a tack in my shoe…”

She had seemed like a nice lady when I saw her walking with her groceries. I was pleasantly surprised when she asked me about my necklace. Now I see that she was hitting on me. I am too young for her, a thought confirmed when she turned to get into the vacancy in the shorter line. I could see the roots in the back of her hair. Too much gray. What was she thinking?

At least at this point we were two strangers not interacting again.

My cashier was friendly, but misunderstood when I said, “Just one bag please” when I had a quantity that would clearly fit in one bag. As he started to double bag the first bag, I simply repeated, “Just one bag please.”

Am I insane?

4/24/05 – What would this be like now?

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

Spring has come to the oaks and I miss my boyfriend. I see a lonely, flat graveyard passing by and feel the loss of death. A single car, parked and its driver lost among the headstones, reflects a point of sunlight in the matte dispair. Earlier, I deleted Ferne from my mobile. She’s not going to call again.
What would this be like now? What would that have been like then? Ferne moved to Carmel Valley for her lungs. I love her and she’s gone.
Life is here, interesting and elusive. Where would I hit snow if I escaped to the east? Maybe we all are escaping. And what’s wrong with that?

When life clamors and rattles my psyche, I want to escape to the trail. I know the simplicity: food, water & shelter. My body. My lungs. My legs. The joys when sharing. The elation of of independence. The mastery of now. The mystery of an hour from now. The loss of the last mile.

On the trail I am doing one thing, and there’s only one thing to do. Even as I sit and write this last part, there are other things to do and the clock is ticking. I have decisions to make, and those decisions reform the hours following. It’s not all going to get done, and that creates a little background anxiety to add to the mix.

I know how to live in this world, and I know what it’s like to live on the trail. It is true that I must live in this world to spend time living on the trail. It’s what I choose to do so that I can return to the simpler days.

4/19/05 – Desert

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

Everything is far away in the desert.
My eyes are burning because I can’t see the future.
The wind is pounding and the water’s fouled.
The streets are empty, and Mission Hills is flat.
Tammy Fae’s here somewhere and Gerald Ford is a drive.
The 70s thrive and the future is not alive.

Everything is far away in the desert.

4/01/05 – I Don’t Know What Day it Was

Friday, April 1st, 2005

I walked last week, or was it earlier this week, in Tilden Park above North Berkeley. I’d been once before during my last visit to Daniel’s. I knew where I was headed. I knew the parking spot I’d pulled into, a spot not available had the newts not been migrating. The closed road led to the place that had maps. I took the same trail up, but instead of going right at the ridge, I went left. Why go someplace you’ve already been when you can go someplace new?
The day had been clear on my previous visit, during my previous walk along this ridge, but today, well, that day, it was even more clear. I could see snow-capped peaks in the Sierra. All the way across the damn San Joaquin Valley I thought. To the west a fogbank obscured the Faralons, but the small houses in the south of the San Francisco were crisp and near. Their nearness was startling, like the flatlands of Berkeley had tilted up. Those houses HAD to be on this side of the Bay. But they weren’t. As my view opened up, I could tie them to the texture of the equally crisp downtown skyscrapers. Their size made the distance more evident.
It was certainly faster to look at those buildings downtown that to get to them. First, getting to the 80 would take a certain amount of time. Then the approach to the bridge: would that be a wait? Probably. Then the bridge itself. Why is the bridge always so slow?

My walk was nice. I kept looking east in disbelief. Yep, those are, hey, there’s even more. The snow capped mountains were discernable. I was happy to be where I was, but I guess somewhere I always long to be is in the Sierra.

3/18/05 Far Away

Friday, March 18th, 2005

When I see the people crossing the street in front of Gottago’s Mercedes SUV, my thoughts quickly land on the American Dream
The street is wide. Six cars can fit the width of the street at this intersection. Someone outside a car, a pedestrain, is not to scale with this crossing. Cars flowing with the green light are going 45 mph. Some are slowing or stopped, their left turn impeded by the pedestrians in my mind.
I’m white and sitting high as the short, dark-skinned people come in sight in front of the silver box with new tires. From the hostile environment, they eye the predator. They eye the driver. Is this predator going to pounce?
I believe the people in the crosswalk are headed to the nearby bus stop on this major street. I’ve taken the bus in LA. It’s a major time drain. These people, now nervously eyeing the color of the traffic lights, spend some of the gift of life on getting aroun LA on public transit. Getting around in a car takes so much time as it is. The bus is even worse.
Yet I know the position of riding public transit even as I sit high on leather seats insulated from all but the visual the noise of the world.
Then I wonder if they are eyeing the car in a different way. Are they looking at this car that costs many times their anual income with contempt, or desire? Do the resent the gap they are peering across? They have to take the bus while I have the luxury of a luxury car. Or does the look at the car inspire and motivate the American Dream?
The I return to myself, to my thoughts. Where do I sit? I was born into a life and world that had American Dream written all over it. Yet I feel the people in the crosswalk are more likely to achieve the American Dream, to have the stuff and income for a comfortable life, including retirement. They have less, they were born with less, and the color of their skin creates obstacles. Is taking the bus a daily reminder to strive? Would I strive more if I had to take the bus?
I have taken the American Dream for granted. I did what I was supposed to do. I learned manners. I got a college degree. I’ve worked hard. I even went and got a Master’s degree when I sensed the American Dream was not yet mine, or within reach.
These days, I’m living other people’s American Dream.
Part of the reason I’m not there is that I’m not willing to rape. Some people make a living raping our natural resources. Some rape people’s souls to make a lot of money. As I find my values, and as they become non-negotiable, I’ve felt that the American Dream is not possible for me.
All I want is a comfortable life with a worry-free retirement. I don’t feel like I’m there yet.