"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, May 13, 2016

Channeling my inner trout.

Well, here comes that damned Universe, trying to tell me something again. 

Say what you will about astrology, but I'm slowly realizing I was born a Pisces for a reason. It only took me 62 years. Look at the symbol for The Fish:

Not that one. I can't read, well, whatever that is. What language is that?

Look at this one, which happens to be the constellation:

Two fish, pulling against one another constantly. A perpetual state of yin-yang, yes-no, pushme-pullyou. I could tell you the entire story of my life, or I could just save everyone's time and point to the fishes. Gayle wants A, but gets B. 

Let's have an example: There were two very strong female influences in my life, my mother and HER mother. 

My mother was a passive-aggressive narcissist who wanted me to be soft, sweet, passive, and blameless, but beautiful, brilliant, and talented, too, as long as I didn't REALIZE I was BBT. Her favorite sayings for me came from Proverbs, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," and Romans, "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Then there was my grandmother, who sang on the radio, entertained family and friends, was loved by many, and was fond of telling me, "If you don't toot your own horn, no one else will," and "Don't hide your light under a bushel."

So... I'm supposed to be beautiful but not self-aware and brilliant but self-effacing and talented but retiring and light up the world without broadcasting it. 

I've never really worried about being beautiful (we've had this discussion). I know from my grades at school (and my at-home Jeopardy playing) that I'm at least smart, which is brilliant enough for me. As for talent? As soon as I started writing, I knew I had a talent for words.

Talent can get you started, but you also need the wisdom to develop it. I've taken classes, attended workshops, and tried my best to write a better book each time I sit down at the laptop. I have a writing family (http://writersconference.com/la/), a tribe, whom I think respects me and my work. Their motto is, "Aim for excellence. Settle for exceptional." 

Excellence is always where my rocket launcher is pointed.

But once I have a book release, my mother's Bible verses come out to haunt me. Don't be too proud of your work. Don't think too highly of yourself. You're just a sinner, like everybody else. 

I get right to the edge of shouting, "Hey, look at this book! You gotta have it!"  And instead I whimper, "I kind of like this one. Maybe you should try it."

Not. This. Time.

I love this book, as much as I love my other books, but this time, the world will know it. I'm actually hiring a publicist to help me spread the word about my book, and how much the world should love it. It's a big step, a hot stack of money, and it may not work as well as I'd hoped. But this week, my Free Will Astrology horoscope said:

"A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home." That's from a Coleman Barks' translation of a poem by the 13th-century Islamic scholar and mystic known as Rumi. I regard this epigram as a key theme for you during the next 12 months. You will be invited to shed a host of wishy-washy wishes so as to become strong and smart enough to go in quest of a very few burning, churning yearnings. Are you ready to sacrifice the mediocre in service to the sublime? 

I'm heartened, and ready to sacrifice the mediocre. In fact, I may just build a bonfire and set it aflame. Okay, Universe, I'm listening. When A MORE DEADLY UNION comes out in June, be prepared for the positive, beautiful, brilliant, talented Fish to take the reins. 

Meet my role model, my heroine, my inner Talented Fish.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A thing of beauty is a joy forever... in the eyes of the beholder

Last year, I participated in August McLaughlin's "Beauty of a Woman Blogfest." There are two categories to this cyber-festival, beauty in general and the beauty of sexuality. Last year, I was in the mood to go big or go home, so I wrote a piece that took TMI to new levels, all about sexuality and growing older.

This year, I thought I'd take it easy on myself and just talk about beauty in general. As it turns out, that's harder to discuss than sexuality, at least for me. What is beauty, and do I ever feel like I achieve it?

I have a confession to make: I am a nerd. A geek. A no-frills, non-prissy, jeans-and-tees gal. Oh, I began life in lace and ruffles. Mom wanted a girlie-girl who flounced about in ribbons and organza. God knows she tried.

Of course I was cranky - what kind of cowgirl wears a skirt?

But by 3rd grade, I knew I felt more comfy in a plain wool skirt and a sweater. When jeans came into fashion, I had found my style. Jeans and a sweater, or a tunic, or a silk shirt, or a tee. Dress them up with heels or down with tennies. The thing about them is, I didn't even have to check myself in the mirror. I felt good. Did I feel beautiful? 

Here's the thing about beauty: I'm in my 60s and still not sure what it means, or why it's important. The definition of beauty is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. As a former engineer, my first question is: define "pleases". 

I was a pre-teen when the Beatles hit America. Here they are, in all their glorious youth:

Who did I like? This guy.

I've never been attracted to pretty boys. Tom Cruise? No. George Clooney? Not for me, thanks. Chris Hemsworth? Seems like a nice guy, but I'll pass. Give me Ringo over Paul, Spock over Kirk, McGee over DiNozzo. The combination of qualities that pleases my aesthetic senses is obviously not on the same page as the rest of the world.

Actually, I've always had a crush on Ducky, even when he was a Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I can't be the only one... can I?

Recently, I attended a horse show in Las Vegas. It was a huge show, over 700 exhibitors, and there are probably a dozen reasons why my horse and I should never have gotten to participate, beginning with the fact that he broke his leg as a 4-year-old and every day that he is healthy is a blessing. 

While at the show, I bought an outfit to wear for the competition. There are more expensive outfits, but this one felt like it cost an arm and a leg. My trainer took a picture of me before we faced the judges.

What I see when I look at that picture is an old gal who could lose a few pounds. What my trainer said to me was, "You look so beautiful." Did I feel beautiful at that moment? I felt good. I felt happy. Beauty was not on my list of needs. 

I wish I had some kind of wisdom to impart about beauty and what it means to be beautiful. Don't misunderstand. Just because I'm a geeky girl doesn't mean that I don't enhance my eyes with a little makeup, or wear a little bling from time to time. None of it makes me look in a mirror and say, "You look beautiful."

All I want to see when I look in the mirror is someone who feels happy. Maybe that's the quality that pleases my senses.

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