Month: May 2007

The Zen of Everythingâ„¢, Day 18: The significance of cheese


You just don’t know.

That lady who cut you off this morning? Maybe she was just delivered the straw that broke the camel’s back before leaving the house that morning.

The guy who jumped the concessions line at the movie theater? Maybe his mind was just somewhere else. Or hell, maybe his vision isn’t so hot. (Well, did you see where he picked his seat for the show?)

When you sign up for my newsletter (and I hope you will) the only information I ask for is your email address, which I think is fair since I need it to send you your newsletter. I also ask for some other stuff, but it’s not mandatory. Your name, for example, and where you found me.

And cheese.

I ask you if you like cheese. Or don’t like cheese. Or whether you think the whole question is stupid. Because…

Well, I didn’t know why when I set it up. Maybe I thought it would be cute, and kind of ease the awkwardness of blatant information harvesting. But once I set it up, I became fascinated by the answers, particularly those who would JUDGE ME by indicating that yes, indeedy, they thought that question was S-T-U-P-I-D, too stupid, in fact, to answer. Only, you know, they were answering it.

Which started to rile me, then worry me. Were there people signing up for my newsletter who hated me? Who were just doing it so they could judge me? Would they eagerly await each month’s new release, sharing it with their friends as they all laughed and laughed at how S-T-U-P-I-D it was?

Then today, annmarie commented on one of my posts. And in the comment, after leaving some very sweet and encouraging words about the blog, she confessed that she had checked the “I hate cheese” box accidentally…and it had been bothering her ever since.

So thank you, annmarie. Not just for the kind words, but for Lesson #19: You don’t know what you don’t know.


Image by meg rorison via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Zen of Everythingâ„¢, Day 17: Maybe we should put a price on happiness

happy grocery

I live in a neighborhood set smack dab between the rich and the not-so-rich, my building equidistant from their respective grocery stores.

Both stores are clean, new and well-stocked. There’s only one real difference: the prices are better at the poor grocery store…and everything else is better at the rich grocery store. Basically, you pay a premium for things to be a little prettier and, yes, for people to be a little friendlier.

Don’t get me wrong: there are friendly people at the poor grocery store, there just aren’t as many. Maybe they hire happier people at the rich grocery store. Or maybe they pay them more, so they’re happier. Or maybe it’s just part of the job description.

That’s not the point of today’s lesson. Because unless they’re poking them with sticks at the rich grocery store, or doing something equally despicable to make them smile, all I know is all things being equal, and especially when they’re not so equal, when I’m feeling a little ill or low or pressed for time, I’d rather go to the rich grocery store. Partly because they’re nice to me, but also because being around them makes it easier for me to be nice.

Which got me to thinking: instead of it being selfish of me to say “no” or set terms that work for me or charge enough to keep myself from worry, could it be that I’m just enabling myself to be a better conveyor of happiness?

Lesson #18: Do what you can to keep yourself a strong link in the chain.


Image by Terry Bain, author of You Are a Dog, &c., via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Zen of Everythingâ„¢, Day 16: Seeing opportunities through the mist of problems

soft cream in fog

I had a number of good lessons make their presence known today, but by the time I finished driving the distance between my place and My Summer House, I’d pretty much settled on The Story of the Blockbuster Guyâ„¢ as tonight’s post.

I used the time to run through them, and the day, and to remind myself of what had yet to be done. There was getting my tabs set up on the guest Mac, and finding a good accompanying photo on Flickr, and porting it to another machine that had Photoshop loaded in order to do the wee bit of tweaking necessary for it to show up perfectly (there’s that word again!) on communicatrix-dot-com.

But when I got booted up, Flickr was down. “Having a massage.” Whatever. It’s been happening more and more, it seems, growing pains, perhaps. I knew I didn’t want to spend a bunch of time messing with the wonkiness, but I also knew that to post without a picture wouldn’t feel right.

And then it hit me: I have pictures. Tons of pictures, loaded on my server already. The one above, “Soft Cream in Fog”, was culled from a search I did around TequilaCon, when I was hunting for good Portland images. There are dozens, nay, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of great Portland images. I couldn’t use all of the ones I loved, but I saved some anyway. Because I loved them. Because they were worthy of note.

So today, because Flickr was down (“problem”) I got to share one (“opportunity”). Along with a little reminder that just because I’ve always done something one way, doesn’t mean there’s not a better, more interesting way. Or at the very least, a different way.

Lesson #17: Everything is a way through to something else.

Let’s hope I can keep it in mind as I approach the maelstrom of midweek, with its looming deadlines and other attendant madness…


Image © Whateverthing 2007 via Flickr.

The Zen of Everything, Day 15: Making church more like shirts


The Youngster was in the neighborhood today, so he dropped by for a visit. While we talk on the phone and exchange emails quite often these days, the in-person visits are more fun for catching up, and, let’s face it, act as more of a tonic than do the more remote forms of communication.

He needled me about calling him “that fucker”, even as he acknowledged it was a compliment. And then he needled me about my attitude towards “church”, mainly, that I feel the need to put quotation marks around it. Why not just go to church?, he asked.

He’s started attending fairly recently but has known me long enough to understand my distaste for proselytizing of any kind. As much as is possible between one who chooses church and one who chooses “church”, the question was offered and accepted, I think, in the spirit of logical, impartial discourse, not sales.

And why, you might ask? Is it because I am so evolved, so sure of my own way and tolerant of others’, that I didn’t throw out the strong-arm at the mere mention of church-no-quotation-marks?

Nope. Well, partly, maybe. But fully half of what made civilized discourse possible is that he called it “shirts”, in the same way I call yoga, or called, when I was attending, “yogurt”. Poking gentle fun at something we’re now embracing acknowledges both that we came to it from someplace else and that there is another way. When I was into “yogurt” (as opposed to yogurt, which I am still very much into), I knew how ironimical that shift in position was; at the same time, I had come to understand that there was at least as much good in yoga as there was silliness in the hoohah surrounding it.

If I can manage to find the “yogurt” in yoga and you can manage to find the “shirts” in church, maybe we can both live in something other than a black-and-white world. I spent years loathing myself for overstaying my welcome on Madison Avenue, and years more punishing myself for hanging on to relationships, habits and notions that had clearly run their course.

From this side of the Divide of Mean I can tell you, there’s not much use to it. Now I see that if I can embrace each thing as a step on the path, nothing has to have been bad or wrong, it can just be. And of all the things I’ve found that let people get along and let dissonance just be, levity is the simplest, most graceful and joyous.

And if you think of it, isn’t that how the good Lord would want his shirts done?

Lesson #16: To see more clearly, lighten up.


Image by Christi Nielsen via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Zen of Everythingâ„¢, Day 14: Reflecting on coffee

spoon with line of coffee

It hit me over breakfast, or rather, as I sipped the pre-breakfast coffee he’d made for me, that The BF has finally matched, if not surpassed, my ability to make a good, stovetop Americano.

It also struck me that coffee, while not traditionally associated with zen buddhism, is a dandy example of the Zen of Everything.

First, there is coffee as a metaphor for self-development. We’re born with neither knowledge nor need of it. We fall in love with the idea of it long before we come to fully appreciate the full experience of it, if we do at all. To embrace it marks the move from childhood into adulthood, which is why we put up with the bitter, unusual taste of it at the start.

Coffee can also be used as a meditation on…well, meditation.* You can continually refine your coffee-making technique, or you can settle in on a practice that varies little, if at all, from day to day. You can interact with it by rote, or you can bring your full attention to each step, each sip. You can overindulge to the point where you are not yourself, where you are disengaged from the world. (I’m particularly guilty of this, where coffee is concerned, anyway. I’ve never been able to sit still long enough to meditate.)

Finally, there are the ways in which our taste for coffee mirrors our different perspectives, and offers an exercise in appreciation without judgment. As a devotee of strong, black and espresso-driven, someone else’s ideal of “cappuccino” is not entirely foreign; while not my cup of joe, it’s something I can at least understand or relate to. I have to work much harder to embrace as equal the weak cup of Sanka or the sugary, flavored coffee. Even coffee served in the “wrong” type of container constitutes a challenge: styrofoam and delicate, wide-mouthed bone china cups seem equally preposterous to me.

I’m sure there is even more to be learned from coffee, and the nature of it, and my relationship to it. But for today, the main thing to be learned is probably…

Lesson #15: What is not all things to all people, can still be an entry point into all things.


*Although I would not advise meditation under the influence of coffee, except perhaps as a one-off experiment.

Image by *Kitto via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Zen of Everythingâ„¢, Day 13: When a shortcut is the long way around the barn

stop ahead

Operation Complete Backup has been on hold for awhile, which at first seem kind of ridiculous since the precipitating event knocked me on my ass, but if you think about this whole lessons series, makes all the sense in the world.

I won’t bother with a lengthy description of what happened, mainly because I have no idea. All I know is, thanks to my ongoing refusal to shake hands and make friends with Patience, not only does my poor little PowerBook not sport a duplicate of the directory on my G5, it doesn’t, period.

So much for shortcuts.

I could keep working on it tonight; I have no plans. I also have a boyfriend who’s not particularly high maintenance. But somewhere behind the tiredness in me is some smarter voice, and right now it’s whispering bits about diminishing returns.

Lesson #14, courtesy of The Gambler: You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…

Aaaaaand I’m out…


Image by royal rivers via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The Zen of Everythingâ„¢, Day 12: There is no try


Today I did two things with all my heart. And, pressed for time as I was, I felt peace in the “yes” and joy in the doing.

I also agreed to one thing with half my heart, and from the moment of my saying “yes”, the pit of dread and the choruses of regret (Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!) battled it out for my attention.

True, I placed boundaries around my promise. And I know I will kindly but firmly hold to them, no matter what, when the piper comes calling tomorrow.

Still, today’s lesson is one of those that comes around like clockwork, in slightly different guises, to test how much I am really committed to honoring myself. (Answer: more than before, not enough by half.)

Lesson #11 13: Just because a problem exists doesn’t mean I need make it my own.

But really, as the title of this post indicates, I think the Master summed it up best


Image by arycogre via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.