Monday, May 16, 2016

You Do Not Have to be Good

Day 5 of 30-day writing challenge: a quote I try to live by.

“You do not have to be good.”

This is the first line from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese poem. The whole poem is so freaking fabulous in the unpretentious way it conveys so much meaning in the simplest way possible.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I have a copy of this poem above my sink so I can read it while I fill the coffee pot with water in the morning and I have it written on a lampshade in my living room, so I can glimpse words of it when I pass by.

I like poetry because I can carry it with me. I can memorize a few lines and pull them out when I need them. If I’m bummed because I burned supper, I tell myself: You do not have to be good. I yell at my kids for no reason: You do not have to be good. I find myself being stingy and selfish: You do not have to be good. Lazy and useless: You do not have to be good. Those words do so much for me. They take the pressure off perfection and guilt. Guilt is such a useless emotion and perfection is such a boring goal. You do not have to be good. You don’t even want to, do you? Why are you trying so hard to be good?

So, what do you have to do? Oliver answers that for us in the fourth and fifth lines: “You only have to let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves.” Wow! No matter how hard I try I can’t ever, ever be good. Not for more than a couple of minutes, anyway. Then I’m right back to my usual bad self. I can let the soft animal of my body love what it loves, though. The soft animal of my body can love what it loves all day long.

There’s so much more meat in the poem, I love the pace that the poem reveals itself, unfurling like a line of wild geese flying across the sky. I love the way the words feel in my mouth. I can taste this poem.

Let’s all stop trying so freaking hard to be good, and let’s love what we love instead. Funny as it is, but so much good can come from that love.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

To Music

Today’s writing prompt is to put my iPod on shuffle and record my thoughts on the first five songs that play. I love music, so I’m super excited about this one. Here goes:

War Song, O.A.R.
So thrilled to hear this. I haven’t listened to O.A.R. in a while, and now I’m wondering why that is. I saw them sing this live last July 4th at Pearl Harbor and it was pretty heavy hearing this song there, surrounded by so many who have been to battle and still carry the scars from it. Marc Roberge said they were inspired to write this after doing some shows for the troops in Afghanistan. I started learning it on ukulele the day after the concert. I honestly practiced it non-stop for hours until I had it down cold. I haven’t picked up the ukulele in a while, and now I’m wondering why that is. Note to self: listen to more O.A.R., play more ukulele.
Favorite line: No one else is there, there’s no one left to fight, just me among my things

Crash into Me, Dave Matthews Band
Holy crap, it’s the nineties again! I’m in college, sitting in my dorm room, listening to Dave Matthews on my boom box. I actually just bought this on iTunes last year because I couldn’t find the CD that I know I own. I can totally see the case that’s broken and missing the top plastic piece, but the paper insert is still on top of the CD. Who has it??? I really just bought it again on iTunes because I was jonesing to hear #41, I’m not too terribly crazy about this track. I think the radio played it out too much back in the day.
Favorite line: I’m bare-boned and crazy for you

Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen
SKIP! This is Daughter’s song. OMG, I’ll be singing it all day! Thanks a lot shuffle! I need to introduce that kid to some good music…
Favorite line (just because it’s hilarious!): Your stare was holdin’, ripped jeans, skin was showin’, hot night, wind was blowin’ [SHOOT ME NOW!]

Joy Ride, Killers
Geez, I can’t believe it took four songs to get to the Killers. I thought all five would be Killers. This is just okay for me. Actually, I kind of want to skip it too. It’s the Killers so I'm obligated to love it, but if it were by someone else it would just be…meh. I do run to this, though. It’s got a nice tempo going for it, I will say that.
Favorite line: When your hopes and dreams lose the will to glow, joy ride [yeah...not their best work...]

Give Me Time, Dawes
I haven’t listened to Dawes in a while either. I need to hit shuffle more often. I started listening to Dawes because I heard they were like a cross between Jackson Browne and Neil Young and any comparison to Jackson Browne will have me heading over to iTunes in a flash! They’re not quite up to Jackson standards, but not too shabby. Good music for when I want to chill out hardcore.
Favorite line: If there’s one thing you could give to help me show you all that’s mine, give me time

Monday, May 9, 2016


Day 3 of 30-day writing challenge: What tattoos you have and if they have meaning.

So, today I’m supposed to be discussing my tattoos. Hmmm. Interesting thing about me and tattoos, I never spell it right. I always leave off that extra “t” (the third one or the second one, I don’t know which).

I only have one tattoo which is kind of unusual for someone of my generation. Most of us are inked over half our bodies. Though I do have plans for two more in the near future, so maybe I’ll be accepted into Gen X once more when I get those done.

So, my one little tattoo is of a dolphin on my upper leg.

I guess it has some meaning. Most people don’t go into a tattoo shop with their eyes shut and point at a design and have it permanently inked onto their skin, do they? Maybe they do, idk, but not this gal.

Anyhow, I like dolphins. I’ve always kind of had a thing for them. I grew up pretty land-locked and didn’t get out to the ocean too much, so there weren’t a whole lot of dolphin sightings in my life until I was in my twenties and my folks moved to an island off the coast of Georgia. Most of the dolphins I saw until then were in the occasional side-show where they did flips and tricks for treats.

OMG, I am totally going off on a super-boring dolphin tangent, so…yeah…I like ‘em and stuff. Also, I had this super-intellectual-type-boyfriend in college who was older than me by a few years and who once told me oh-so-wisely: “Young one, if thine elects to have ink injected into thine skin, think on the design for six months or beyond, at which point if one still yearns for said design, one shalt get said design injected into thine skin.”

You know, this is probably the wisest advice I’ve ever heard about tattoos before or since. So, thank you super-intellectual-college-boyfriend. Namaste.

After my six-month period had expired, I was like: Yeah, I still super-like dolphins and I headed to the tattoo shop with my crazy aunt (no, not that crazy aunt, the other one) and my new boyfriend who I later married and…I got a dolphin tattoo. Hmmm, that story is lacking in some tension….

Kay then. So my other two tattoos that I have planned have awesome meanings. On one side of my back I’m going to have “be still” tattooed in script because it’s the title of a Killer’s song and I feel like I owe them something for all their amazing music and a few inches of my skin seems like an adequate payment. On the other side of my back, directly across from “be still” I’m going to have a cresting wave tattooed. The whole thing will act as a sort of yin/yang. Be still/wave crest. Stillness/Movement. Boo-yow!

And that's all I really have to say about tattoos.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day to an Imperfect Mom

Mom, this Mother’s Day I want to say thank you not for your unconditional love (who really has that anyway?) or your sacrifices (mothers aren’t the only ones who sacrifice, you know), but for your imperfections. For all the times you made the wrong parenting choices.

Remember that one night we had banana splits for supper? Not exactly the stuff of child-rearing books, is it? In fact, in a highly unscientific poll I conducted, 10 out of 10 doctors and dentists agree: don’t do this. But I’ll never forget that night—piling crushed pineapple, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup on top of my bananas and finishing the whole thing off with an impressive mound of canned whipped cream. From time to time health must be sacrificed for memories.

Thank you for all those times you didn’t make me and my brother wear our seatbelts and left us home alone when we were just wee little elementary-aged children. Holy crap, you totally would have been arrested if you were a parent today! Yet, somehow we survived. Hmmm.

In fact, thank you for all the times you weren’t there for me. All the times you didn’t entertain me and I had to be creative and entertain myself. All the times I just had to figure things out on my own. “Where are the parents?” all the moms of today would scream at you. You would be shunned at playdates and the park.

You did, admittedly, do some things right: gave me a love of Jackson Browne, and books, and the ocean. You gave me ability to see humor in a dark situation. You gave me a deep-seated hatred of the mall and cash registers that I will always cherish. But that’s not what I’m thanking you for today.

Today I’m thanking you for all the times you yelled when you should have hugged and all the times you hugged when you should have yelled. All the second-hand smoke and R-rated movies. That one time you snuck me into a bar when I was only twenty. Thank you. We don’t have to be perfect at this parenting thing. Sometimes we just have to get through the day. And you got me through thousands of days and thousands of menacing nights when monsters lurked under my bed and beasts haunted from the closet.

And just the other day, I went to call you. I searched for your name on my phone, pushed Mom and was confused when the call wouldn’t go through. I tried again and again until I finally realized I was Mom in the contact list I share with my son’s phone. I was trying to call myself. The circle has closed.

Banana splits for supper tonight.