The Midnight Library And The Lives We Left Unlived

I started reading (okay, fine, listening to) a new book today, now that I have finished The Gifts of Imperfection. This book is a novel by Matt Haig entitled The Midnight Library. My sister mentioned it in passing twice last week and seemed so taken by it I decided to go ahead and get on the bandwagon. I also jumped on the Wordle bandwagon yesterday, but that matters not at this point. In any case, I’m a few hours into this damn book, and my mind is in classic overthink mode. This means it is a meaty story.

The Midnight Library is about a woman named Nora Seed who, feeling lost and depressed about her life, decides she no longer wants to live. She takes some pills and washes them down with wine. She drifts off and ends up at a library. The librarian, a woman Nora knew from her childhood, shows her a book filled with Nora’s life regrets and tells her she can go to any of a million different iterations of places her life might have led had she made different choices. She simply needs to select a regret and she will be transported to that divergent life, already in progress. The books allow Nora to answer the age old question “what if.”

It has taken me a long time and a lot of therapy to land at a place where I no longer abuse myself over my “what if” regrets. I’ve discussed that here before. Your what ifs are impossible because in the past you made choices based on who you were at that time using information you had available to you at that time. Looking back now, with a different mind and different experiences, alters the light you shine on those past events, people, and opportunities you let slip away. It makes them either shinier and more attractive or duller and less attractive but, either way, your current consciousness transforms them into something they are not. All of this makes our regrets like our worries…thinking about them will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

I am curious to see where Nora lands after exploring these alternate-ending lives. If she finds a better existence for herself or if she decides to go back to her old life or if she dies from her overdose as she had originally intended. But all this thinking about disparate endings to our one (as far as we know it) life has me stuck on one thought. We can’t go back and change our past, which has led us to our present. We are, for better or worse, here where we’ve arrived as the result of millions of small, insignificant choices and a few quite large ones. Our story, thus far, has already been written. It’s the future that has yet to be determined. In some cases, our what ifs might still be able to come to fruition if we take steps in that direction today. We just have to find the courage to believe we can change the outcome. If we couldn’t do it in our past, perhaps we can now.

And while I noodle on what I want my life outcome to appear, for as much control as I have over it, please don’t comment here about the book if you have finished it. I will likely finish it tomorrow, and we can talk about it then. I look forward to it.

The Trouble With Time Is That It’s Too Easy To Waste

It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.” ~Seneca

I have wasted a ton of time since the pandemic began. I can’t even begin to calculate how much time. If you checked my Nintendo DS, you could probably find a record of how much time I spent playing Animal Crossing during lockdown (okay, and beyond). It would be a gargantuan number of hours. Add to that the time I spent on TikTok or researching travel I could not undertake or playing Archery in my text threads with my sisters or reading tweets, well, it’s embarrassing. I know that my misuse of time stemmed, at least initially, from the overwhelm of being in lockdown and uncertain about what was going to happen with the pandemic. But, once things relaxed a bit, did I get back on track with living my life? No. I did not. The ups and downs of “do we mask” and “can we trust the vaccines” and “why am I wearing a mask when so many people aren’t” and “how far do I have to travel to get a vaccine” and “what do you mean cloth masks aren’t effective enough” and “will there even be room at a hospital if I have a stroke or something” made me want to check out. So, I did. I continued to bury my head in nonsense.

But then we went to Hawaii for Christmas, and I put my phone down more often and lived. I sat in the sun on warm, black lava rocks, and watched the waves roll in shades of turquoise. I walked among swiss-cheese rocks and looked for shells both teeming with life and devoid of it. I woke up to the sunrise ten out of eleven mornings there. I felt the sand between my toes, smelled plumeria blossoms, and tasted fresh, Kona-grown coffee. It felt good to be alive again.

I missed living.

So today I spent some quality time with our puppy because he makes me laugh every day. I savored my food and appreciated it. I went to my meditation meeting and listened intently to what the other participants said about their practices. I worked hard to be present all day.

Maybe it was my Hawaiian holiday. Maybe it was watching Don’t Look Up. I’m not sure what has brought me to this place, but I have definitely been more present so far in 2022. I’m tired of wasting time and then being frustrated that I didn’t do all the things I wanted to do. I know what I want for this year, so I am setting an intention to show up for my life and the people in it. I’m going to spend some time this week figuring out what that looks like and how I think I can best accomplish it. And then I am going to get busy living again. It’s not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a Life Revolution.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Not Quite Ready To Graduate From Therapy Yet

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

It can be difficult to know when you are ready to step away from therapy, either for the short or long term. Some days therapy is incredibly useful, and others you may walk out feeling like it was a waste of money. After my session today, though, I am fairly certain I know when I will be ready to call it good for a while:

  1. When I can get through a session without thinking to myself, even for one quick second, “Eeesh…do you hear yourself? Blah…blah…blah. Who cares? Get over it and shut up.”
  2. When I can walk out the door as the session is ending without thanking my therapist and apologizing to her for making her listen to me ramble on for an hour.

I did both of these things today, and it troubles me that I am still struggling to be compassionate to myself for being human and having emotions and thoughts I need to work through and I’m still not believing I’m worth the trouble I put my therapist through, despite the reality that I am paying her to listen and guide me to a better place.

The good news is that I am no longer in the dark about these things. I know the areas where I have room for growth, and I’m not afraid to explore them and move forward despite understanding the speed bumps ahead. This proves that I have become more mindful, so there’s that.

Just keep swimming, Dory said. And so I shall.

Hawaii: The Big Island – December 31st, 2021

For this last day of 2021, I vowed to be more present. It’s something I have been working on this year, through mindfulness and meditation, because I want to be more checked in than checked out and because I want to learn to manage my monkey brain and respond more carefully to people and to life’s choices. So I spent less time today on my phone and more time simply paying attention to my surroundings rather than trying to photograph them.

Snorkelers galore at Kahalu’u Beach Park enjoy a morning swim

The first thing we did this morning was head out to do some snorkeling at a beach known for clear waters and loads of reef fish. Kahalu’u Beach Park did not disappoint. Although we did not bring an underwater camera, I saw oodles of fish, many of which I had not ever seen before. While I was unsure how I would like the Big Island and her scarcity of sand beaches, it turns out that the lack of sand means clearer water for viewing fish. This has made the paucity of sandy beaches a total non-issue because I would rather snorkel than sit in the sand and carry it home with me anyway. At this snorkel spot, I saw myriad yellow tang and bullethead parrotfish, several different varieties of trigger fish, Moorish idols, huge corals, and a porcupine fish. We were out for about an hour and it was worth every second.

The wind picked up substantially in the afternoon and the surf got a little crazy for a few hours, so I spent some time along the lava rocks behind the house searching for shells. I’ve found a couple full cowries, which made me happy.

In the late afternoon, I spent some time staring at the tumultuous seas. I would move here in a heartbeat. If I won the lottery, a place like this one, right on the ocean, would be my first purchase. Since we are down to our last two days here, though, I decided to soak this hammock thing up because I don’t know when or if I will have this opportunity again. And I have officially decided that Hawaii agrees with me, so it is only natural that I end up here somehow, someway, someday.

Sun sets on the last day of 2021

We opted to cook in tonight. Steve grilled tenderloin and we sautéed some shrimp in garlic butter and topped it with chopped parsley. It was perfection. The sun set behind a huge bank of clouds as fireworks began to pop off on the hill on the other side of the bay from our rental. Overall, it was a perfect end to a long, tiring 2021. Here’s hoping that 2022 finds our situation, on the whole, improved from the last two years. Happy New Year from this beautiful place!

Our genius son was the only one who stayed up until midnight to catch Kona celebrating NYE 2020 in grand fashion

Hawaii: The Big Island – December 27, 2021

Even in paradise on vacation, there are days when you have to face reality and do the things. This was that sort of day.

I started the day with a leisurely morning jaunt outside to relish the sunrise and the uninhabited beach. Most people will tell you they prefer sunset. I’m a sunrise gal, myself. Maybe it’s the quiet morning. Maybe it’s the effort it takes to be present for a sunrise. Maybe it’s the promise that lies ahead in a fresh day. Or maybe it’s just that I like to be contrary to popular opinion. Anyway, it’s the sunrise that captures my attention.

After sunrise, it was time to attend to chores. I washed and folded clothes and towels, cleaned up the kitchen, made our bed, and fed the feral kitties that have chosen this as their home.

hey kitteh kitteh

After that, Steve and I had shopping to do since it was our turn to prepare dinner. We picked up some opah (moonfish) at the seafood market, and then hit the store for groceries before making our way home. I thought I would sit in the sun for a bit and as I was about to make my way to the beach, I was slapped in the face with a harsh reminder that there really is no escaping reality, not even in paradise. I’m not sure what makes people visiting a beach decide they need to bring the American flag and a f*** Joe Biden message along to make a statement, but I could have done without it. Not because I begrudge anyone their First Amendment right to express themselves freely, but because I was hoping that I could escape partisan political bullshit while on vacation. Luckily, there is a reminder off the front lanai to find inner peace. So I decided to go there instead.

A little while later we were treated to an entire pod of dolphins swimming ahead of a boat. I didn’t have my phone on me, so I missed the photo moment. But a little while later they headed back and I was able to capture (from a considerable distance) this tiny bit of dolphin proof.

For dinner, we prepared fish tacos. I made a fresh pineapple salsa while Steve grilled the fish. We served the tacos alongside some white rice, black beans, and a green salad with sundried tomato dressing. After dinner, I sat in the spa while Steve and the boys alternated between swimming in the pool and warming up in the spa. Their antics made my heart happy.

It was a chill day at the house, but one we needed to get caught up and ready for the last days of our visit. Our next days will be more active with trips to other parts of the island, a helicopter tour, some long overdue professional family photos, and a swim with the manta rays. Stay tuned.

Mele Kalikimaka Meditation

My morning meditation spot

I christened my day with a meditation. Sitting on a lava boulder, facing the indomitable Pacific, with the actual ocean as my ambient noise and guide. When I meditate, I prefer to do so through mantras. That seems to be the only way my writer’s mind can focus, through words. I start my mediation with an intention, something on which I wish to focus, and I pick a phrase. From there, I let that phrase morph until I land on an organic one that sticks. Then I let that one settle in and carry my intention with it.

Today’s intention was to focus on being curious rather than judgmental, ala Ted Lasso’s advice. I settled upon a Hawaiian image. I imagined myself as a lava rock, washed by the sea, but not changed by it, an immovable object not reacting to the forces before me but simply noticing them. It seemed the ideal way to practice observing other people’s comments and reactions with curiosity without allowing them to affect my calmness and stability.

After a few breaths, my mantra settled in. As I inhaled, my mind asserted “I am a rock,” and as I exhaled, it reminded me “Nothing can disturb my peace.” I focused on that for ten minutes, mentally acknowledging only the sea breeze, the sounds of breaking surf and birds, the hardness of the rock beneath me. (Perhaps next time I will bring a blanket for my rock meditation?)

Any skill comes through practice, which is why meditation is a practice. It’s not something you perfect. Not unlike the ocean tides, it has ebbs and flows. One day, your focus is legendary. The next it is complete horse shit. And the good news is that is exactly as it should be. Sometimes your mind is calm, quiet, and peaceful. Other times, it is rough, cloudy, and choppy. It is what it is to be human. For a long time, I, like many others, thought meditation was a place you arrive at, a destination which only few are allowed to inhabit. Not so. Meditation is a commitment to quieting your mind. That is all. It’s the practice through which you can begin to control your thoughts rather than be controlled by them. It’s available to everyone who endeavors to take the journey. It costs nothing, but yields great things.

So, my Christmas wish for all of you is the strength and perseverance to find inner calm in the chaos of this holiday. I hope you take a moment to be a rock, to pause to observe what is happening around you without allowing it to move you, to be present in the presence of presents. Let the insanity of your crazy uncle’s comments wash over you rather than shake you from the peace that this day represents. You are a rock. Nothing need disturb your inner peace.

With that thought in mind and with any luck, perhaps you won’t have to swill spiked eggnog to enjoy your day with your natural or chosen family. Be strong. Be curious. Inhabit stillness in the midst of noise and wrapping paper and requests and obligations.

Mele Kalikimaka from Hawaii, my fellow travelers through this life!

Hawaii: The Big Island – Day One

We were up early, no surprise when you are in a time zone three hours behind your own. So, after flopping around in bed from 4:00 a.m. until 5:00 a.m., we decided to call it good and start moving. We had arrived after dark, so we had no idea where we had gone to sleep, although we knew we were near the ocean. We woke up in our rental condo (only one night here before moving to our house for the next 10 days), and this was our view. Damn, Hawaii. You know how to bring it.

Not too shabby for a morning view

First order of the day was copious amounts of caffeine at Kona Coffee and Tea, where this little fellow decided to try to peddle insurance to us while we sipped our beverages. He was too cute to ignore, so we listened to his pitch but ultimately told him we weren’t ready to switch to Geico and he politely went on his way and left us to our day.

Did you know….

After finishing coffee, we thought it might be fun to see if we could get a view of the home we would be staying in for the remainder of the trip. We knew the house was near a public access beach, so we parked the rental van, traipsed down the sandy public access path, and found Keiki Beach relatively empty at 8:30 a.m.

We wandered around, staring into tide pools as we made our way towards the rental house. I knew exactly where to find it (thank you, Google Maps) and there it was, exactly as pictured on VRBO. We were drying to get in, but check in wasn’t until 4 so we settled for a view for the time being, feeling relatively confident we would be just fine with our chosen lodging. I mean, how could we not be?

Looks good to me

Since we had hours to kill before the 4 p.m. check in time, we decided to drive up to Waikoloa to right a wrong. A few years ago on a flight to Montreal, I lost the koa wood band we had purchased in Maui five years ago. Steve and I had first seen these wedding bands in Kauai in 2013 and thought someday we would get them. Then we did. Then I lost mine. Today we replaced it. Third island is the charm? While in Waikoloa we did some souvenir shopping and stopped to have lunch at the Lava Lava Beach Club, which had great food and drinks, and an even better view.

The rest of the family was landing in Hawaii around 4, so after lunch we hightailed it into town for some grocery shopping and check in time at our rental house. After one slight hiccup with a security alarm that was not supposed to have been set but was, we finally got to tour our vacation abode. We were not disappointed in the home, which features this in the entryway. Seems like someone knows the recipe for serenity.

Rules of the house?

While the boys and I got settled, Steve made the fifteen minute drive to the airport to retrieve the rest of our family. When they arrived, we got caught up on the trip out, the hoops we jumped through just to make it to Hawaii, and our relative levels of exhaustion. Then we ordered some take out, consumed Thai food and cocktails on the deck overlooking the sea, and finally called it a night.

What struck me the most about the Big Island on my first full day were the textures. With a conscious decision made to spend less time on apps and more time on mindful presence, It seemed everywhere I looked there was depth and detail: from the evergreen branches climbing towards the sky to the shell of a minuscule snail to the veins in a hibiscus flower to the rough lava rock at the tide pools to the soft clouds above pointy leaves. The island was begging me to pay attention to it. I acquiesced. How could I not?

There is a reason why we love Hawaii so much and keep returning. She never disappoints.

Peace Lives At 32k Feet

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

Is there anything better than the view from above 30k feet? There is something about witnessing the clouds through an aircraft window, rather than from Earth, that brings me a peace I can’t find any other way. It’s a reminder of how small and insignificant I am. A momentary note about how far we have come, an acknowledgment of our stretching our wings to be more, to see more, to achieve more. It’s a humbling view of the globe in a way that illuminates her possibility. It is freedom. Plain and simple. And I am grateful to be able to venture, to afford the luxury of seeing the world as so many, sadly, never will.

And when the sun sinks, setting the cotton-puff clouds on fire, and the stars begin to appear in the darkest sky imaginable, dozens at a time, there too do I find solace and peace in the heavens, closer than I have ever been to them.

Some people like to feel important, want to leave a legacy, and that is where they live. I feel most alive when I grasp my insignificance in the grand scheme of the planet, the solar system, the universe. That is where I can take my deepest breaths, feel part of something infinitely larger and more consequential than I am. Be detached from the world and in touch with the essence of the universe to which I belong, no greater or lesser than any life that came before or will exist after. I have no fear above the clouds. Only gratitude.

Travel is where I find oxygen. Travel is what unites me with all the other living, breathing entities on this floating ball. Some say there is nothing like coming home. I say there is nothing like leaving home because that is where I find myself,

Electronic Detox

Photo by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash

I have been thinking that I am due for an electronic detox. I spend too much time on my phone. Too much time spent checking out mentally or feeling the need to be in touch with others or using my phone to check the weather for next week when someone else already knows what the weather is. I keep feeling I don’t have enough hours in the day, but the truth is that I have plenty of hours and am just using them poorly. I would like to read more, meditate more, ride the Peloton more, and write more. I would like to stop being pulled away from my conscious life every minute of the day by breaking news that is not worth my time. I would like not to look like everyone else…head down, staring blankly at a screen, tuned out to the real world. I would like some peace and quiet in my head. And, let’s face it, my phone is not giving it to me.

I’m not sure I could go cold turkey and ditch my iPhone altogether for a period of a week or two weeks, so I think I will maybe try to go electronics free for three hours a day to start. I’m sure it will be difficult. So I am thinking that while we are in Hawaii I will turn my phone off and give it to a family member to hide. That way if I am tempted to sneak a peek at a screen, I won’t be able to. I just keep thinking that if I want peace in my life, if I want focus in my life, I need to train myself to have it. I’m so distractible lately, and I know it is because of electronics.

Has anyone tried this? Did it help? How hard was the detox?

Meow Wolf: You Are Here

Meow Wolf. Have you been? Have you heard of it? Do you have any idea what I am talking about? Meow Wolf is a lot of things. It’s a permanent art installation. It’s an immersive experience. It’s a mind-bending imagination and creativity trip. And it’s not to be missed, if you can help it. The first Meow Wolf, the House of Eternal Return, was opened in Santa Fe in February of 2008. Thirteen years later, Meow Wolf Las Vegas, called Omega Mart, opened in February 2021. The Denver Meow Wolf experience, called Convergence Station, opened September of this year. And it had been on our list of things to do since we learned about its planned opening. Today, we made it!

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I think the best way to give you an idea of what the over 200 artisans of varied mediums do to create a Meow Wolf experience is share some photos. Convergence Station is otherworldly. Combining some items from our current reality within a futuristic, alien world, it’s a walk through both the familiar and the fantastical.

This is not your typical art museum. Here you can touch the art and take flash photos and no docent will reprimand you. There is no set path to follow, no recommended journey to take. It’s all about letting the creativity pull you through. We spent two hours entranced, wandering from room to room, through random doorways both obvious and not so obvious. We marveled at the variety of materials were used in fabricating this world, from felt to plastic, metal to paper. Everything you see is art. It’s unbelievably overwhelming. I’m positive we could return and notice myriad details we missed the first time. I’m ready to visit the installations in Santa Fe and Las Vegas and discover their wondrous worlds as well.

Two things make Meow Wolf a fully worthwhile endeavor. First, Meow Wolf makes art accessible to people of all ages. You don’t have to know a thing about the Impressionists or Picasso to appreciate the creations inside the building. Second of all, Meow Wolf’s mission is to elevate art in such a way that artists are no longer “starving.” It’s hard to make a living as an independent artist. This collective, though, allows artists the opportunity to use their skills, to show their work, and to be compensated fairly for their time and talents. This makes these alternate-world art exhibits a win-win.

The sign as you enter commands you to remember and utilize your own creativity. After leaving Meow Wolf today, I can tell you that it did inspire me. As I was walking through, blown away by the art, I was also excited to realize we weren’t on our phones other than to snap an occasional photo. We were in the moment…for two whole hours! Everywhere I looked families and friends walked together, discussing the art around them, pointing things out to one another. It was heartwarming to see faces (behind masks, but still) looking directly at you as you passed instead of into phones. It made me think about how fractured my mental life has become since becoming addicted to my phone. It made me think it’s time to start a detox from devices that draw my attention away from the present. It made me think about checking in with myself and my environment daily instead of checking out on social media. It also reminded me that I’ve always wanted to try knitting and welding.

The sign on the building says, “Meow Wolf…You are here.” You are here. It’s kind of nice for a change.

If you haven’t been to a Meow Wolf yet, make plans. It will be worth it. If you have been, I’d love to know your thoughts!