Category Archives: moment of pleasure

"Everybody is making love, or else expecting rain"

I can’t believe I didn’t mention Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe in the previous post. Oh, well.

Today was an exceedingly pleasant and lazy day. It was just so much fun to do nothing—I’d really missed that during the weekdays, when I’m always waiting for buses, waiting for the Max, riding the bus, riding the Max, or being with large groups of exceedingly enthusiastic and energetic children. I woke up at 11:30 AM, rolled out of bed and left for yoga class. Afterwards I went to Fred Myer on Hawthrone for groceries and an electric toothbrush, which I didn’t get because they’re so durned expensive. Maybe after my dentist trip next week I’ll decide whether or not it’s worth it, depending on the dentist’s verdict of disgust. Then I rode my bike all the way back to our new little shack in NE. I really like our new neighborhood a lot. It’s right by the 82nd Max line, so as opposed to Milwaukie, transportation is very convenient. The street we’re on (Tillamook) runs along a golf course and a park all the way down to 60th, and after that to 39th it’s all cracked paved streets (I have a thing about living on or near unimproved roads) and cute painted houses.

Yesterday was great too: I met Corey downtown after I got out of work and we got sushi off a sushi train and then went to a late showing of Watchmen, which I enjoyed tremendously. Maybe that makes me uncool to say that, but I didn’t look at my watch once (more impressive considering it was three hours). I read the book last fall and really liked it a lot. I’ve had the Smashing Pumpkins song from the trailer stuck in my head all day. I even liked the soundtrack, especially the cover of “Desolation Row” at the end that I now want to track down:

Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do

Anyway, it’s so nice to have pleasant days like today. In Eat Pray Love Gilbert discusses the difference between entertainment and pleasure, how it’s one thing to just kind of numb yourself in front of the TV or in the late night disco, trying to convince yourself that you’re having a good time, and how it’s another thing to do things that you find deeply and intensely pleasurable. Like biking through the hail, laughing and grinning broadly while it hits your face and pricks at your hand. Or drinking english breakfast tea with honey and reading David Lodge. Or browsing wikipedia articles all afternoon and feeling completely not guilty about it. Putting the fish in a giant plate of warm water to defrost, so that Corey can cook it and fill my belly with yummy goodness once he gets home later. Such a nice thing, these little treats in life.

I read old journal entries where I made all these lists of things to DO and things that must get DONE and things I had to ACHIEVE and ACCOMPLISH and man, it just sounds so stressful to me. I don’t like having that mentality anymore of needing to have this very long list and if I didn’t do everything on it, then it would become something in my life to feel really bad about and thus a way to feel bad about myself… uurgh. Dreadful. It’s nice to think that I can see a change in myself, even in such a short period such as six months. Such a nice thing, these constant transformations.

Speaking of transformations, everything is covered with snow outside…

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whomever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

– “The Guest House”, by Rumi

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Filed under Dear Diary, moment of pleasure, poetry

year in review

– New Year’s Day on Gorgona, dancing and drinking with the workers.
– Corey moved in with me in March.
– Finished my thesis, learned a tremendous amount about writing and literature and what’s so amazing about really deep thoughts. Spent afternoons at my advisor’s house, going over word after word, page after page, while his daughters ran up and down the stairs and through the garden.
– Wandered through thesis parade in a daze, drunk off of three days of no sleep rather than alcohol, pulled Corey through library with me and Dionysian drumming.
– Did very well in my last year at Reed, made straight A’s.
– Walked across graduation stage and felt startled by how loud the applause and whistles were; the combined noise of all my family and friends.
– My advisor shouting out my name and waving enthusiastically with his enormous grin as I walked by in the line of professors applauding the lined-up graduats as we left the tent.
– Corey playing Eddie Vedder’s “Hard Sun” over and over again on my Mac.
– Worked as adult leader on Plunge; hung out with great kids and met amazing people from Portland community. Riding on buses and walking everywhere, I truly felt for the first time like I was a Portlander, and like Portland was my home, rather than Reed.
– Left with Corey to Ecuador to work on the mycorenewal tour.
– The day and night and aftermath of Bill’s death. Building the little altar in our living room for his ashes while his wife/partner finished the tour in the Galapagos with her daughter who flew in from Canada.
– Worked as guide and translator in Yasuni national park; dealt with rude Swiss, sweet French-Canadians and wonderful Brit tourists; saw amazing sights like a beautiful sunset with macaws squawking overhead, countless monkeys, turtles, pink river dolphins. No matter how many times I went down that river in that boat, with my butt all sore from sitting in the wooden seat, roasting hot during the day and freezing cold at night during the minimu 4-hour boat ride, I never, ever got tired of seeing the jungle.
– Reading “The Prophet.”
– Lying on my stomach on bed listening to Regina Spektor, putting my headphones in Corey’s ears and making him listen to “On the Radio”
– Staying at the coast. Corey fishing. Eating the fish cooked over the bonfire’s ashes on Playa Escondida, delicious fish meat melting in my mouth.
– Staying with Corey in the shaman Don Delio’s town. Playing with the kids on the beach. The night we arrived, “Titanic” was playing on the small TV screen. Swinging his baby in the green jungle hammock.
– Running into Don Delio on the streets of Quito and inviting him to stay with us in our Guapulo house; how good it felt to return hospitality.
– Every single giant crab or seafood boil we had at the house with all our friends, eating out of one giant pot in the middle of the table, licking my fingers clean of shrimp juice and wiping them off on my pants.
– Shopping at the Santa Clara market, walking up those slippery wet stairs to the stinking seafood section, carrying live crabs home in a shopping bag.
– Every single moment I got to spend playing and cuddling with Motor, the world’s cutest and toughest kitten.
– Saying goodbye to Cali and Colombia. Visiting CIAT and feeling touched by my father’s kindness. Spending a weekend hiking and going to hotsprings in Coconuco with Corey and my family. Watching “Into the Wild” again with my family.
– Curled up in bed with Corey watching episode after episode of Season One of “The Wire” on one of our housemate’s computers.
– Reading “The Savage Detectives.”
– Reading “Respiracion artificial” and “Portrait of the artist as a young man.”
– Laura and Cara picking us up at the airport; the astonishment and pleasure we felt pulling up the driveway when we saw the house for the first time, which quickly turned into exhaustion and weariness once we realized the keys didn’t work and we would have to go downtown to meet my brother and get his.
– Corey’s dad’s visit; going out to dinner and mushroom hunting on the coast with him.
– Mushroom hunting with Jay and Matt; water squishing between my toes in my sloshy wet hiking boots, looking up at Matt and realizing we were both as wet as though we’d jumped into a swimming pool, but it didn’t matter, because our arms were filled with matsutake.
– Corey and Jay selling mushrooms at the Milwaukie Farmer’s market. Me making their sign out of colored tape from the Dollar Store.
– The first week of yoga classes I took; the pleasure with which I adopted the extremely relaxing technique picturing my eyeballs dripping down from my sockets like water; how centered and peaceful I felt afterwards.
– Plucking chanterelles out of the soil, effortlessly gathering pounds of them in minutes, barely having to walk to look for them–they were everywhere!
– All the Saturday night dinners we had at the house with Laura and Cara, all the wine, the baths, the hot tub, the giggling, the stories and good food.
– Biking on the Springwater Corridor to get to one site of work and all the way down Powell to get home from another. Seeing all the homeless people raise their hands momentarily off their shopping carts or beer cans to greet me and whoop as I sped by. All those days I left late from home or downtown so I had to pedal absoloutely relentlessly fast to get there on time (I always did!).
– The last ESL classes I had with my students at one site where they brought me a card, playing scrabble with them.
– Every moment I got to spend with Jonathan at Homework Club: playing Uno, testing him on his times tables (get those 4’s, Jonathan!). Jonathan is my man!
– Talking with the other teachers in the photo copy room, making friends with my co-workers and boss, getting to really feel like a part of the school community.
– Clamming at the coast with Jay and friends, eating the most delicious food of my life, walking through the ocean waves in my hiking boots and getting absolutely soaked, the thrill with which I pulled my first clam out of the water.
– Thanksgiving with my grandparents’ at Morro Bay. Feeling really touched by their affection and love, really appreciating the time I have with them. Climbing Black Hill with Corey and Thomas, canoeing over to the sand dunes, Thomas digging to the point of exhaustion through the sand for clams (the otters had eaten them all), watching the sunset on the jetty and doing push-ups on the sand while Corey and Thomas plucked crab claws and mussells from the rocks to eat for dinner later that night.
– Not getting the jobs I really wanted; moving on from the disappointment.
– Dim Sum with Corey, Cara and Matt.
– Christmas with my family, Corey and Laura; my mom giving Laura those earrings from Nepal.
– Watching “Happy-Go-Lucky” with my sister; walking through the rain with her to get to yoga class, laughing at her comment “I feel like a Serbian refugee” as she wrapped her scarf over her face. Later in class we almost destroyed shavassana (sp?) by our uncontrolable giggles when she said to the teacher that she couldn’t find her–I forget what it’s called, that center place thing between the two dimples on your back.
– And what’s next? Echinacea tea with honey and finishing up the last 150 pages of “Team of Rivals” as my family watches “Cold Mountain” in the living room downstairs and I wait for Corey to come home from watering his plants in the laboratory.

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Filed under moment of pleasure, year in review

"just show me a moment that is mine, its beauty blinding and unsurpassed…"

“… that makes me forget every moment that went by that left me so half-hearted ’cause I felt is so half-assed.” (Ani DiFranco’s “Half-Assed”, from her 2006 Reprieve album.)

I was fortunate enough to experience such a moment this morning, near the end of yet another grueling thesis meeting, which I showed up to with the usual pit of fear and terror in my stomach. I cannot express how both utterly draining and gratifying it is, having a professor you not only incredibly respect, but consider a good friend, go over your work, line by line by line, and not let you get away with anything. All those papers you wrote in the past, with the lazy throwaway sentences where you didn’t exactly know what you were trying to say, but figured it sounded intelligent? You will get called on that, each and every single time. Nothing is allowed to slip; everything is up for scrutiny and criticism and questioning. “What did you mean by this? This sentence isn’t clear. This word isn’t well-chosen. What are you trying to argue? This isn’t well-written. This doesn’t make sense.”

However, at the end of the hour and a half-long session, one that focused solely on the 10-pg introduction, he stands up and brushes his hands against his pants and murmurs in a wondrous tone of voice, “Si, nos va a quedar muy lindo esto.”

And suddenly it all seems worth it and you feel like you’re on top of the world again and as heart-breaking and soul-crushing and esteem-squishing and weepy state-inducing as the entire thesis writing process is, you can suddenly see the light at the end of the tunnel, because your adviser consents that your work is going to “quedar muy lindo.” And you kind of understand what he meant during your conversation about the kid who died last night, in which he said that the only true pleasure from life is not from the exhibitionist escapism of drugs and politics and media, but the kind that results from the well-earned satisfaction that only comes from the knowledge of a job genuinely well done.

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Filed under moment of pleasure, thesis