Monthly Archives: April 2015

You Only Have Control Over You

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What It Looks Like
I recently read What It Looks Like,  (find it here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18432509-what-it-looks-like) a hulking book (350 pages of text and another 50+ pages of notes) by Marta Maranda. The book is something of a memoir about Maranda’s time in rehab and her healing process (which did not end upon leaving the rehab facility at the end of five weeks). The book is also something of a self-help book because Maranda writes extensively about what helped her and seems confident that what helped her will help me and you and that guy over there.

The most interesting part of the book to me was the “Part III: The Beginning.” In this section, Maranda uses the skills she learned in rehab to critique U.S. foreign policy and and the U.S. two-party political system in ways I haven’t experienced since anarchist discussions at the infoshop. She also explains how politicians (particularly George W. Bush) would actually act if they truly embraced the Christian beliefs they profess.

A lot of what I read in this book really did help me, which I did not see coming when I first started reading. In the beginning of the book,  I recoiled from much of the rhetoric Maranda repeated from her five weeks in rehab. However, many of the lessons she learned about healing and included at the end of the book, I found very helpful. I’ll be sharing some of those helpful bits over the next few months.

The following is an idea I found useful:

You only have control over you. You truly know this if you no longer concentrate on what you expect from anyone or anything else as a result of your actions, but only on your actions, ensuring that each one comes from the hightest and healthiest intentions. (p. 331)

Fear

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“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves…”
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
I read Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild last December and really enjoyed it. I recommend it.

This quote about fear really struck home for me. I know that when i am alone in my van at night, in an isolated area, I can lie awake telling myself scary stories about who is out there and what could happen to me. Or I can go to sleep.

There are plenty of scary people and situations in the world. I do my best to stay away from them. But if I’m doing everything I can to protect myself, why do I need to tell myself scary stories about what could possibly maybe might happen?

I know some people believe that if one dwells on negative circumstances, one will draw such negativity to him/herself. One friend of mine who communicates with angels says if one dwells on negative situations, the angels think one is asking for a lesson and will allow those very negative situations to happen. I don’t exactly believe either of those things, but I do believe the power of our minds is stronger and vaster than most of us understand. I think I need to be prepared to protect myself while not worrying endlessly and working myself into a panic over something I’m only making up.

Like Cheryl Strayed, I’m going to tell myself new stories, different stories. I am going to tell myself that I am strong and brave and free. I am going to tell myself that I am confident and competent, fierce and kind. I’m going to tell myself those stories until my fantasy turns into belief, until my belief turns into reality, until my acting becomes my truth, until my doing turns into being.

Winslow, Arizona

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Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me

from “Take It Easy”  written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, and most famously recorded by the Eagles (with Frey singing lead vocals) Thanks to http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eagles/takeiteasy.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Take_It_Easy.

Eagles

The first time, we drove past Winslow, Arizona.

Mr. Carolina was at the wheel as we chugged along the I-40 toward Flagstaff. I was in the passenger seat, and when I saw a sign saying Winslow was ahead, I started singing the part of the song by the Eagles about standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. Mr. Carolina joined in, and we were soon singing loudly and enthusiastically. The kids in the back (Sweet L and Mr. and Ms. Fighting Couple) were too young (or too something) to know the song, so Mr. Carolina explained it was by the Eagles. I loved him for knowing the song and for singing it with me.

I was curious about Winslow, but I didn’t ask to stop. We were on a mission, on our way to a Rainbow Gathering in Mesquite, NV, and I didn’t want to slow us down on frivolity. It was my van, but I’d just met these cool young traveling kids a few days before, and I wanted them to like me. I didn’t want them to think I was dumb for wanting to see what kind of town a band they’d never heard of had sung about before they were born.

The second time we approached Winslow, Mr. Carolina was again at the wheel, but we’d parted ways with Sweet L and Mr. and Ms. Fighting Couple. We had, however, picked up the Okie and Lil C in Santa Nella, CA and were trying to get them to Oklahoma City.

It was early when we approached Winslow. We must have slept at a rest stop the night before, but I don’t remember why we were up and traveling so early in the morning. I just remember that although the sun was up, it wasn’t out. The sky was overcast, and the morning air was chilly.

Mr. Carolina took the Winslow exit and started driving us through downtown. It was deserted that early in the morning (I think it was Sunday too), but the look of the place hinted that even on a Monday at noon, the streets weren’t going to be hopping much more than they already were.

Mr. Carolina had traveled Interstate 40 (which he referred to simply as “The 40”) through Arizona and into California before. He’s been pretty drunk for most of that trip, he said. Sometimes he brought us places and didn’t seem to be sure if he’d been there before while drunk or if his intuition had led him to something we would like to see. That’s how it was in Winslow.

We were downtown, he was driving, then there was this corner with a statue of a guy leaning on a post. How did he know how to get us there? He parked the van and we all climbed out and ran around what turned out to be a park for a few minutes.

It’s not a big park. It’s mostly the statue surrounded by bricks, with a mural behind him. There is also a flatbed Ford parked on the side street.

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standin%27_on_the_Corner_Park,

The park contains a two-story trompe-l’œil mural by John Pugh, and a life-size bronze statue by Ron Adamson of a man standing on a corner with a guitar. The park is surrounded by a wall of bricks, each with a donor’s name on it, and a story by each of the donors describing their fondness for Winslow.[1]

IMG_3577     IMG_3578

When I-40 bypassed the community many local businesses disappeared, tourism being among the hardest hit.

The Standin’ on the Corner Foundation was formed to create a renaissance of Winslow. Determined to build on tourism, the Foundation took advantage of the town being mentioned in the song “Take It Easy” by the Eagles. From 1997 until 1999, the foundation was busy finding donors and planning design concepts. On September 10 and 11, 1999 the park was opened to the public.[1]

 

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We didn’t stay very long. After we looked around a bit and took some photos with our phones, there just wasn’t much else to do there. We piled back into the van and went to the nearby truck stop, but the harsh anti-panhandling signs chased us out of there pretty quick.

Now I can say I’ve seen Winslow, and I don’t really ever need to go back.

If you click the link below, you can have the Eagles sing you out with 1974 concert footage of “Take It Easy.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XByaqHhBFqE

Update: I did stop in Winslow again, on my way from Las Vegas to New Mexico. I stopped just long enough to hop out of the van and take the photos you see in this post.

Power Position

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Back in February, I was a juror in a mock trial for an audience of corporate defense attorneys. The guy who organized the mock trial told us one thing that has stuck with me and will maybe actually help me one day.

The lawyer alleged that holding our bodies in different positions will affect our state of mind. For example, if we sit with our shoulders slumped and our heads down, chemical changes in our bodies will make us feel less confident.

He told us what he does if he needs a client to feel more confident before s/he takes the witness stand. He sends the client somewhere private, like a restroom stall. He tells the client to stand with legs shoulder-width apart, head up, with arms over their heads (like they’ve just won something), hands in fists. He says standing like this for two minutes will raise a person’s testosterone levels and lower the person’s cortisol levels, which he says leads to increased confidence.

I did a little research as I was writing this post, and there is scientific evidence to back up this claim.

According to http://blog.ted.com/10-examples-of-how-power-posing-can-work-to-boost-your-confidence/,

Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School…,along with her collaborator Dana Carney of Berkeley, ran an experiment in which people were directed to adopt either high-power or low-power poses for two minutes…[T]here were physiological differences between the two groups, as shown by saliva samples. While high-power posers showed an 8% increase in testosterone, low-power posers had a 10% decrease in the hormone. Meanwhile, the inverse relationship happened with cortisol, the hormone related to stress. While high-power posers experienced a 25% decrease in cortisol levels, low-power posers had a 15% increase in their stress levels.

(If you got to the aforementioned website, you can see a fantastic video of a TED Talk that Amy Cuddy gave on how body language shapes who we are. She talks about body language not just conveying information to others, but how it also influences how we feel about ourselves. Her presentation is really awesome, and I totally recommend it.)

Next time you need to feel confident, try going somewhere and standing for two minutes as if you are already victorious. Let me know how it works out for you.

She’s Gone

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And by “she,” I mean me.

On Friday, April 17, I finally found out the date I was expected to report to California for my training for my summer job as a camp host. The date? April 27. Yep, they wanted me to arrive for training in ten days.

I was told that the snow on the mountain had melted, and people wanted to be up there camping, so they had to get the camp hosts in. They were getting all the camp hosts for that area together as soon as possible to get them trained and on the job.

At first I was kind of pissy. I had originally been told that the job would start in mid May. How is April 27th mid May? (Hint: It isn’t.) I had a job making $13 an hour (with the chance for bonuses) that was scheduled to last until May 20th. I had a place to stay paid for through the end of May. By leaving before April ended, I was effectively throwing away $300. Also, I was not ready to go. I still didn’t have new tires. I still didn’t have a back slider window. I still hadn’t replaced all the rusty screws holding the high top to the van. I still hadn’t bought a Luci light or a bunch of food or the cleaning supplies I need.

And then I just got over myself. I was on my way out. Out of the hot, dirty city. Out of a job, which, while well-paying was numbing my brain and causing me to have ideas about how I could really work better if I could could just get a little bump of speed, not too much, just enough to perk me up. Out of driving twenty miles a day through streets lined with strip malls and stores, supermarkets, restaurants, shopping opportunities of every kind. Out of the beautiful yet brown desert. Out of the rat race. Out of the game.

I was moving into free. Free on the road, with the Grateful Dead and Lucinda Williams singing through one cheap speaker and the tiny, cheap MP3 player which doesn’t even let me set up playlists, but instead plays whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Free to sing along at the top of my lungs or shout or curse or listen silently, no one in the passenger seat to judge or disapprove or be offended. I was moving into the mountains, into the trees, into a place that shows up on the map as a huge expanse of green. I was moving closer to the area of the magical hot springs I visited with my boys two and half years ago, knowing when I left that I would be back someday, somehow. Moving into quiet and solitude, but also into people from everywhere that I will meet as they too come to visit the trees. Moving into myself. Moving into the trees.

I wasn’t sure how I would scrape together all the money I needed to do all the things I needed to do before I hit the road. (In my original plan, I’d have had four to six weeks worth of pay from scoring essays saved up before I took off to Cali. The way things actually worked out gave me 34 hours of pay on April 24, with another two weeks of pay coming on May 8th.) But then I realized, it was only money. I’d gone farther on less.

No sense panicking. No sense worrying. All I could do was do what I could do, then hit the road.

The title of my post is a reference to the Grateful Dead song “He’s Gone.” I’ll include a video here of them singing that song so you can listen to it if you like.

In addition to the always wonderfulness of hearing the Dead’s music and watching the band members interact, I greatly enjoyed this video because it includes Pigpen (the original dirty kid who died in 1973) and Bob Weir’s very tight trousers.

World Penguin Day

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Image result for world penguin day

Here’s a link to an informational video about penguins for your viewing pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWszIn1zcjs.

According to http://www.isfoundation.com/news/celebrate-world-penguin-day, “April 25 marks World Penguin Day, which was created to promote the health and conservation of these amazing creatures.”

April 25 coincides with the annual northern migration of penguins. It began at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The scientists and researchers there noticed that every year on April 25, a colony of Adelie Penguins returned from spending months at sea. They returned to the same spot, on the same day, every year. This seemed too incredible a coincidence…and it wasn’t! This is the normal migrating pattern of these penguins. After several years of observing this phenomenon, the scientists and researchers began to plan for the penguins’ arrival and created a day of celebration out of their appearance. Every year, hundreds of penguins would arrive right on schedule and the celebration would commence. This was the start of World Penguin Day.

People Need Wild Places

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A few days after Earth Day, I want to share this quote from Barbara Kingsolver:

“People need wild places. Whether or not they think they do, they do. They need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of whom love their lives as much as you do, and none of whom could possibly care less about your economic status or your running-day calendar. Wilderness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd. It reminds us why, in those cases in which our plans might influence many future generations, we ought to choose carefully.”

I first read this quote in Kingsolver’s introduction to a mediocre collection of short stories called Off the Beaten Path: Stories of Place. 

Off the Beaten Path: Stories of Place
I found Off the Beaten Path in a free box when I had nothing else to read, so I was grateful for it. However, I thought Kingsolver’s introduction was the best part of it.

I keep this quote stuck on the dashboard of my van-home so I can be reminded often.

(I found another version of this quote on GoodReads, but what I’ve posted here is exactly what I tore out of the book and stuck to my dashboard.)