Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just Think

I love to think. Some people love to travel, wander around new cities or landscapes, meet new people and let the experiences expand their understanding of life. I do this internally. And if I don't have time for it, I get a little squirrely.

Yesterday was a perfect example: I finished listening to a series of podcasts (8/23-10/11/09 if you're interested). I'd taken tons of notes, and by late afternoon I wanted nothing so much as a half hour to sit down with a cup of coffee to think through the implications (and applications) of what I'd heard. But there were dishes to do. I hadn't been to the gym, or responded to several emails, called my Mom to make plans for her birthday outing this week, or sent out the notifications for my next memoir class at Grub Street to people who've asked to be kept in the loop. I had things to do!

So I found myself caught in one of those tensions, suspended between my tangible to-do list--the one with items I could point to and say, "See...this is how I used my day!"--and my intangible how-real-things-get-done list. The second list features couch sitting, coffee drinking, and staring off into space on a disturbingly regular basis. And there's an asterisk at the bottom reminding me of this: thinking/mulling/wondering/contemplating--exploring what a new addition brings to my internal landscape--is what gives me ideas for books. And talks. And love. And conversations with friends about the way life is and the way we hope it can be. The things I look back on and say, "Well, I didn't make it to the gym, but I made some progress building life..."

I'd love to say that I left all the to-do list items undone, abandoned in a fit of creativity, but that's not true. Instead I scurried, scrubbing dishes and making phone calls. I brewed some coffee...and then remembered that the U.S. Open starts this week!

You'd think that would thwart my thinking, but actually it was the best backdrop possible, especially for contemplating things like pursuing a mission in the swirl of real life. More on why tomorrow. Until then...what helps you clear out space to think? Or avoid thinking, if that's what the day calls for?

Lettuce Entertain You

About once a week, I have dinner with my friend, Super G. She's awesome...you've met her in both of my books...and she astounds me with her many fine qualities: beauty, strength, wisdom...and the ability to eat every single piece of lettuce on a plate, no matter how big a salad she's served. As you might guess by my dedicating an entire blog post to this phenomenon, I'm awed by this last of her superpowers most of all.

Confession: lettuce intimidates me. I don't like it. It feels weird in my mouth, and every stupid piece needs to be tamed into submission--floppily folded, cut (which inevitably knocks some other, more cooperative vegetable off of the plate) or crammed into a portion resembling a bite...and then gnawed endlessly until I can finally choke it down. Every salad contains at least 246 of these culinary wrestling matches. So frustrating. And don't even get me started on Oprah's celebration of lettuce that started a few years back: "Ah, the radicchio!" she'd cry, or "How I love arugula and Swiss chard!" Ugh and ugh. I've tried so hard to join this party, but here's my reality: radicchio has the taste and feel that reminds me of those thin pieces of cardboard the guy at the wine store slides between bottles so they don't bang together. And Swiss chard tastes like a tear gas canister went off in my mouth.

Now you'd think the answer to this would be obvious: Trish, don't order salad.
And you'd be right. But here's the thing: I love the things that go ON the salad. Last night for example, there was chicken, which is no big deal. But there were also little squares of Bartlett pear, pecans, feta, and at least 14 other yummy things. And so I spent the better part of an hour fighting back the lettuce in order to get to the good parts.

But Super G? She calmly ate her salad, lettuce and all. It didn't scare her...I'm sure she went in with a plan (She went to military school, so she's strategic like that) but she won't share. Perhaps she works for the CIA in their vegetable promotion division.

So this is my confession: I'm strong in almost every area of life, but easily felled by a big salad. Help me, friends. What is your lettuce strategy? How to do beat it back away from the finer salad elements without completely losing your hold on the dinner conversation?

(And just to clear: the salad in the picture above is not my salad from last night, but it's a fair representation of the larger problem!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

A fun weekend

My favorite band, Ryanhood, was back in town this past weekend. And while no one was sure when the worst of Hurricane Irene would hit Cambridge, this show was worth braving the elements for.

As some of you may remember from my 40 Days of Faith blog from a couple of years ago, Ryanhood's music hits right in the sweet spot for me. Somehow, these two guys from Tuscon manage to capture exactly the feeling of stretching for a big dream and existing in that scary place of uncertainty. You know, when you look at things one way and think, "Wow, I could go faster, higher, and farther than anyone ever imagined!" but then consider them from a different perspective and realize, "Ooooor I could lose my balance and tumble, pathetically and in utter shame, to the jagged rocks below..."

When you live in this place, it's nice to have some tunes to keep you company :)

The show was fabulous, and I was inspired. (If you're in the DC area, check them out at Ebenezers on Thursday 9/1. You'll love it.) Then yesterday, in the midst of the wind gushes and rain, Steve and I got to spend the afternoon with half the Ryanhood duo, Ryan, and his wife, Abby. We spent the afternoon in one of those conversations that happens when you've all had FULL lives since you saw each other last: celebrating highs, acknowledging lows. We talked about the constant battle to get from where you are to where you want to be. You'd think this would be tough, but for me at least, it was the opposite. It helps me to know I'm not the only one out here trying things, wondering how they'll go, picking myself up again after setbacks, and then starting again. (We all do it. Some of us just feel a bit more pressure to write books and songs about it ;) ) It was nice to spend time with other folks who are in the battle.

(Special thanks to Abby for reminding me that one doesn't have to wait for BIG, PROFOUND REALIZATIONS ABOUT LIFE to blog. Sometimes it's just, "I went to a concert, then ate cheddar cheese and cashews with my friends," and that's okay.)

If you're in the battle now, click over to Ryanhood's website and check out the video for their new song, Second City. It's about this idea: we survive the wreckage, and what emerges is good.