Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Is a Miracle

A miracle is in progress out in the yard. Despite freezing nights, despite drought in our part of the country, buds burgeon on plants that winter stripped of every living thing. The life force is stronger than all the adversity this winter has thrown at it.

Another miracle: I'm at home with the man I love on our 20th Valentine's Day. We two, who have six marriages between us, have survived everything those 20 years threw at us, in part because No Matter What we kept the promise we made all those years ago: not to run, not to stuff things down, and not to lie to each other ~ not a very elegant promise, but an effective one for us.

Poetry Jam focuses on miracles this week. The past year has been my time of learning to see the small miracles that happen in everyday life and be grateful for them.

You Could Use a Cheap Miracle

“The quality of my life is so poor –
no money,” you said, counting the obligations that

Loom, while penniless you worry –
tell, instead, the last miracle you saw, and what

It cost you. Did you view it from a window
? or did that small fire flare in your chest when

In the half-dark he reached for you even
in his sleep
? The whimper of thanksgiving

Is as good as a hymn
but easily missed – better than meat

After days without food
when your soul is starving.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hot and Spicy

Boredom and complacency spell the death of everything, from marriage to political activism. When I saw the prompt for this week’s Poetry Jam, to write a poem about spices, I thought of the restaurant menu I read last week while doing a magazine assignment. How do you liven up your life?

Chili-Dusted Potatoes

Wake us up from our slumber with hot spices
We need something disturbing to crack the shell
of lethargy, and the mouth is such a tender place
all moist and plump and pliable, doughy kisses
and pabulum. Explode

Our placid pigeonholed lives, pull out all
the glottal stops that swallowed dreams
like gulping fish. Wake us with a howitzer
of warring words, divisive tongues
Spur us into life again

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bad Habits Die Hard

Destructive habits fight for survival like hyenas would fight for the last scrap of tendon from the last tough gazelle on the planet.

I’m a deadline junkie. When the countdown hits those final seconds, I go to work: It’s DO or DIE, dearie, so yes I do it, I pull it off, I slide in right under the wire. Watch me crank, every move a ballet, Hail Mary – nothing but net!

The deadline crunch is a way of life, a drug-free adrenaline rush. I write for a living. For 35 years, that copy due-date has ruled my brain. Since my car was rear-ended last November, I’ve been suffering a solid week of misery month after month. All that 11th-hour work, glued to the computer in a deadline frenzy, just kills my injured neck. It turns around and murders ME, and then I have to go prone for two straight days to let my neck recover.

My physical therapist and my AA sponsor have been noodling me to change my way of life. I say, yeah, yeah, I need to do things differently, and then habit takes over, and I’m doing the same old thing, getting the same old results, month after month.

Habits hate change. They’re living creatures who will fight for survival. They live in your brain. They pull strings there, sometimes subtly sabotaging your thoughts (“That can wait till tomorrow…”), and sometimes screaming outright (“NoNoNoNoNO! You can’t do that!”). They’ll try every trick in the book to preserve themselves.

Excessive Misery Is A Good Teacher. That’s scrawled in big orange letters in one of my AA books (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, to be exact, at the end of Step Six, where we address the character flaws that made our lives so adventurous, so thrilling, so disastrous). A short paragraph is highlighted in pink: “in no case does He render us white as snow and keep us that way without our cooperation [blue-ink underline there]. This is something we are supposed to be willing to work toward ourselves.”

Excessive Misery Is A Good Teacher. Sick and tired of being miserable, huh? Maybe…do something different? Change, perhaps? Commit, say, to slaughter a bad habit, even if it bites, scratches and goes down fighting? Whose brain is it, anyway? Who’s in charge here?

So I acted like I was in charge. I knuckled down this past week, made a real effort to be smarter about meeting my writing deadline. Started earlier. Worked shorter hours at the computer. Stayed off the computer entirely if I wasn’t working on a story. Took those breaks everyone was advising I take.

Got the work done a day early! Holy crap! Didn’t have to go to bed for two days! Didn’t get the adrenaline rush, either. Ho-hum. Life threatens to get boring. [That’s a whisper from a dying bad habit…those suckers die hard.] Ah. Maybe I’ll take up bungee-jumping…