December 2009


For a year that has been personally and professionally very difficult for me, 2009 has provided one bright shining aspect to my life that I cannot fail to be thankful for: This blog! I started posting in mid-January and haven’t looked back. It’s been a lot of fun making fun of myself and the absurdity of my life and I hope I’ve given a few people a moment or two of enjoyment in the process. Honestly though, I can’t believe it’s been a year. Insanity!

Let’s recap:

I’d recap December too if it weren’t plainly linking to the last two posts I wrote, which seems a little pointless. Wow, though! What a year! Despite my clever attempts to make this year seem FABULOUS, it wasn’t exactly the best year I can recall, so here’s to 2010 being MUCH better. K?

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Picture this:

December 24th, 9 am.

You and your spouse are enjoying a relaxing morning together when you remind him that the two of you  need to go out and purchase gifts for your nieces (6 and 3, adorable little girls, really). ‘What are we giving them?’ he asks. A reasonable question.

‘Well,’ you say, ‘I’ve got a ton of books in the back of my car that are appropriate for little ones, why don’t we just give them some of those?’ You run a brush through your wildly wavy hair and wish you’d taken the time to blow it dry after your shower. Oh well.

Hubby seems amenable to this plan. Of course he is, this requires 1) no shopping and 2) no money. Then he asks the fateful question. ‘Have you wrapped everything else?’

Everything else?  ‘What else would I be wrapping?’

‘You know, presents? For everyone?’

Hmmmm. Yes, that does sound familiar… Gifts on Christmas rings a certain bell… Only you were thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to just give the girls a gift each and not spend any of the piles of money you don’t currently have on gifts for anyone else. Oops. ‘No, honey, I thought we were just getting gifts for the girls? Didn’t we talk about this?’

Only of course, we hadn’t. Many of the conversations I imagine I’ve had with Hubby take place only in my head. Christmas gifting was one of those subjects I do quite wish I’d discussed with him for real though, because he clearly had an entirely different picture of things than I did. Praise the Lord, I have a job that leaves me with multitudes of samples that become perfectly useless to my work after a period of time and I had a bunch of that stuff in my trunk at the time. Family, I do hope you enjoy your gifts and aren’t offended that we shopped for them out of my trunk. I promise if I had money, I’d lavish you with the most expensive gifts money could buy. Let me rephrase that: WHEN I have money, I WILL lavish you with expensive gifts. And I’ll shop for them in real stores. I promise.

The next problem came when Hubby asked what we were getting one another for Christmas. And the entire process started over… Christmas can be so complicated! It’s no small wonder I’ve taken a month off of posting! Who has time to write when they are last-minute shopping from their own vehicles?

Recently, a Bearded Friend of mine posted a video on my Facebook page of a speech given by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. Ms. Gilbert has some fascinating things to say about creativity and genius. I recommend watching when you have nineteen minutes to spare:

In summary, Ms. Gilbert is worried about the tremendous pressures placed on a productive “creator” (ie, a creative person who has produced something significant) by a humanistic society as well as personal hubris. Being responsible for something as singular and inspiring as a work of genius is… well… nice (I’d imagine). For about six months. Then (again, I’d imagine), the shiny, self-satisfied feeling that comes from this “spark” of genius starts to fade. Sure! Everyone is praising your work. You are a star! Only then comes the moment when you realize this praise comes with a catch – everyone is now eagerly waiting to see what you produce next. I’d imagine different sorts of creative types respond to this pressure differently. For some, it may be a sort of inspiration, or at the very least, motivation to produce something equally brilliant. For others, panic sets in, along with the onset of the appropriate equivalent of “writer’s block” for whichever field in which this person is producing work. Being a writer, I’m particularly attuned to the number of suicides among prolific creators in my field. It’s certainly unsettling to know that I (along with Ms. Gilbert) work in a field rife with predecessors who simply could not handle the responsibility of “being” a genius.

Obviously, if you listened to the lecture Ms. Gilbert gave above, you’d know the solution she suggests is that people in creative fields should not think of themselves as geniuses if they happen to create something others think of as a work of genius, but instead credit what amounts to be a person’s “muse.” She calls it “having” a genius (as opposed to “being” one), which may be entirely different from the concept of a muse, but I think the main point of her speech is that perhaps we (in creative fields) should relieve ourselves of the burden of genius (or, for that matter, not producing anything that might be considered a work of genius), and whether it’s a “daemon” as she put it, or a muse, it really doesn’t matter. The point is the same.

Only, my own personal hubris doesn’t really like the idea of this, just yet. Elizabeth Gilbert and I are in different creative stages in our lives… She’s produced something universally agreed to be masterful, whereas I can only claim that my Mother and Dear Friend think that I’ve created something masterful. I want my six months of shiny, self-satisfied joy before I give over the reigns to my Genius (who shall, from now on, be known as Rupert). Rupert can have the credit for the majority of what I hope is a long and fruitful career. But I want LizHarrell to have credit for the first success. I don’t know if Elizabeth Gilbert would agree that this is a healthy alternative to her way of thinking, but I guess one day there’s the possibility I’ll be in similar shoes to the pair she was wearing when she put that talk together – and I may have to give Rupert a shout-out in the acknowledgements after all.

I wasn’t going to do this so soon after my post praising emails, but then again, I most certainly send more text messages than emails, so I wouldn’t want to leave them out. They are so little and helpless, it would be wrong to suggest they aren’t just as capable and perhaps more useful than the email. But you might not realize it, given their generally on-the-fly composition and limited space capacities.

For those of you cool enough to possess a phone that allows you to send emails, you may neglect the poor text message as a pointlessly restricted tool you only use with your hopelessly flawed friends and colleagues who don’t yet have a smart phone. But I contend that the text message is not limited, but an art form, of sorts. While unlimited texting packages really eliminate the need to express yourself in 145 characters, I still enjoy the challenge.  {Note: I know not one thing about Twitter but I suspect there are some similarities in the limited character counts, etc…} I love editing as a general rule, but there is something really empowering about taking a 200 character message and whittling it down to the requisite 145 character mark. If I can express an emotion, a concern and make plans in that limited space, I feel I have really accomplished something (though this may say more about the state of my ego that I consider this to be an accomplishment…).

Not to mention that it’s even more instantaneous communication than email is. I can’t think of anybody who doesn’t have a cellular phone – and of all of those people, a vast majority of them carry their phones with them everywhere…on vacation, in the hospital, to the bathroom… always connected. Emails are a little riskier in that case – you probably aren’t going to be able to reach your friend who got run over by a psychotic cyclist and is laid up in the hospital via email. Granted, she may have a cool phone… but maybe not! And texts are a sure-fire method of reaching said victim of attempted Cyclocide.

Before 9 this morning, I’d sent three text messages. It would have been more if the recipients had responded, but one of them has just had a baby, one is on medical leave from work and lives in the boonies where reception is touch-and-go, and the third was Hubby, who actually did respond with “ok” – and really there’s not much to say back to that. I don’t imagine Hubby has much appreciation for texting as an art form – we recently found that I am incapable of staying within a limited number of text messages per month. Come on! What does he expect? I can text my Mom now. Texts are glorious indeed!

I have always passionately loved food. Taste and smell are my two favorite senses (unless what I’m smelling and/or tasting is disgusting, then they suck) and I revel in the experiences of preparing and consuming a meal. Cooking is almost as enjoyable as eating in many cases, and I should probably just limit myself to cooking and trade the eating part for celery sticks.

Not that celery sticks aren’t delicious in the proper context, but I can’t think of anything that more completely takes the joy out of life than dieting. Dieting gives me a food complex that I don’t normally have. I think about food all the time. Deprivation doesn’t help me lose weight, it just makes me imagine all the different cheese-based dishes I am capable of preparing. I think of food so often that it becomes unhealthy.

Dieting, however, isn’t the only thing that makes my relationship with edibles less than ideal. Sometimes I fantasize about food when bored or upset, will spend an inappropriate amount of time planning my meals when I’m working a job below my mental capacities or with people I’d like very much to spend two hours at lunch to get away from. I don’t think this is exactly what a nutritionist or psychologist would refer to as an eating disorder – I suspect it’s fairly normal, all things considered. Especially the dieting thing. I mean, when a person is hungry, who doesn’t obsess about food? That’s sort of the point of a diet – to think it out to the point of absolute control over what you ingest. I suspect I’m also not the only person out there who is totally miserable while dieting too.

So I guess I’d say I really lack the qualities associated with a person with a true eating disorder. I do consider my eating habits to be semi-disordered, but that’s an entirely different thing. That just means I need to organize more than my closets if I ever want to enjoyably drop a few pounds. Enjoyable diets…someone’s gotta tell me how that’s not an oxymoron.