Monday, February 22, 2010

175 Days of Lent...


When I was in grade school I used to envy the kids who were given a half day off every Ash Wednesday. They’d always slide into their desks in the afternoon with a cross of ashes smudged on their foreheads and a vow to give up something for forty days. It was like a secret club. In some ways it was similar to Islam’s Ramadan and Judaism’s Passover in that the Christian kids were instructed to focus on sacrifice and personal introspection. For some reason, Lent always stood out for me, and I think it may have been because, unlike Ramadan and Passover, which tend to focus on the big sacrifices of a group of people, Lent seemed more personal. The Christian kids I knew had to give up a vice, something they loved or were attached to, like grape bubblegum or Atari.  

This week, as Ash Wednesday came and went, I had friends giving up television, facebook, and coffee. After a bad night out on the town, one friend even declared that for Lent she’d decided to throw in the towel and give up hope. 

And then it occurred to me. I’ve been observing my own kind of Lent for 175 days now. Since leaving CNN to move west and carve out a new life, I’ve had to make personal sacrifices all along the way. Gone are the days of regular manicures, pedicures, facials, and highlights. Dining out whenever and wherever I please is no longer an option.  

Nowadays, my world is based on prioritizing, minimizing, and redefining materialism. And I’ve saved a lot of money with that kind of thinking. 

I cook more. I entertain more. I feel healthier than ever, and I’ve found at-home facials really can keep my skin glowing. (I mean, who knew an egg white and a tablespoon of lemon juice could accomplish the same results as a $95 facial?)

For those who persevere through the personal sacrifice that is Lent, the payoff is probably a sort of spiritual cleansing. And maybe they are left with the knowledge that the vice they once thought had a solid grip on them isn’t quite as necessary as they once thought.  

The payoff for the choices I’ve made has been ten-fold. Making sacrifices has allowed me to continue doing the things I’m most passionate about like gardening, seeing live music or heading out for a two-hour hike in the middle of the weekday.  

I’m realizing that all this prioritizing is less about pain and more about clearing a pathway for a brighter and better future for myself - something that, for me, is going to take a lifetime to accomplish, not just forty days. 

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Muzzling John...

Playboy is not a magazine I subscribe to or read, but when I heard about singer John Mayer’s recent interview with the publication, I couldn’t help but go online and check out what he said. [http://tiny.cc/flS4u ]. While I actually like some of Mayer’s music, the more I read the Playboy interview the more I thought this guy has a serious case of diarrhea-of-the-mouth and could really use a muzzle. In the article he disrespects former girlfriend Jessica Simpson, calling her sexual napalm; he snubs black women; talks about his undying love of pornography; and he uses the N-word. Reading the interview, I don’t necessarily think Mayer is a racist, just an imbecile. In a recent Rolling Stones article the singer said “he’s masturbated himself out of life’s problems, and that if the phone doesn’t pick up it’s because he’s masturbating.” So I guess the lesson here might be: don’t sleep with John Mayer and don’t ask to borrow his phone. 

With instant information like Twitter and Facebook, what you say sticks and there’s no going back. Mayer apologized on Twitter for his remarks in Playboy. Later, he nearly cried on stage during a performance saying he’s done with the media game. Whether he’s sincere or not is beyond me. I don’t know the guy.  

To me, the bigger issue is about accountability; knowing when to own up and knowing when to shut up. Maybe that’s why I find Mayer so intriguing.  

I’ve met lots of people in my life who have no filter or don’t know when to turn it off. And I’ve had my own share of moments where I’ve said things without thinking, ultimately causing pain to those I care about. But the older I get the more I try to think before I say, do, or write. And in the age of social media, viral video, and soundbites that reverberate from blogs to networks and back again, the repercussions can be particularly damaging and far-reaching. 

As I hiked up the mammoth Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge this week, John Mayer’s PR debacle circled my brain. Albert Einstein once wrote: “look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Perhaps this philosophy could benefit Mayer. Time spent in the woods can bring clarity during moments of chaos, confusion, and regret. I took to the woods years ago during a bad breakup where words were exchanged and deceit was revealed. It was in nature that I realized how important it was to end that relationship immediately and for my own well being. Maybe if the singer lost himself deep in the woods for a while he might come out of it wiser, more centered, and happier with himself. At the very least his filter would likely get a good readjustment.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

The $25 Psychic

I have a friend who jokingly compares herself to a $25 psychic. She’s good. Really good. But it’s been awhile since we talked, and so it was a happy surprise this week when, out of the blue, she sent me an email. Something in her note really stuck with me. She wrote: Do not let the luster of Portland wear off … it’s like anything else, you have to work at it to keep it magical and mysterious. You made the right move, Lila.  

Her timing was impeccable, if not a little eerie. Lately it’s seemed the more I’ve settled into making Portland home, the more I’ve entered the somber zone. I have just established my small company with the state of Oregon and keep telling myself, “It’s time to roll up your sleeves and really get serious.” But the more I’ve repeated this to myself, the more stressed I’ve become. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: It’s forced me out there to make more contacts and, in return, get more callbacks from potential clients. Yet, I couldn’t forget my friend’s words.

It was time to tweak my life and get back to something I’ve always loved but haven’t done much of in the last few years: seeing live music. Following bands I like is a big part of who I am. There was the time I snuck backstage at a Def Leppard show and saw drummer Rick Allen skateboarding … or my first Grateful Dead show at Buckeye Lake where they played Franklin’s Tower and Sugaree. Live music has always helped me stay in the present, except maybe for that Dead show. 
 

The good news is that live music is a big part of Portland’s cool scene, too. I have no problem seeing music by myself. In fact, a decade ago, as I attended an Atlanta show solo, I met a big group of friends, many of whom I still keep in touch with today. So when I caught one of my favorite musicians named Tony Furtado http://www.tonyfurtado.com performing at a place called The Woods, a former funeral home in Portland, I figured maybe I’d meet some new faces. As is the case with randomness and small worlds, I did indeed run headlong into some like souls. Turns out, one of them is a friend of a friend, who was also at the Furtado show and introduced us. Later in the week we met up to catch another talented musician. For me, I was getting back to living in the moment. 

I'm realizing it shouldn’t matter if I live in the same place for six months, six years, or a lifetime. What’s important is to try to keep the luster, magic, and mystery going. It’s something I suspect my $25 psychic friend knew all along. 

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Dear Diary...

When I received an email this week announcing the dates for my 25th high school reunion my initial reaction was “Impossible, I’m too young.” High school is where I met some of my closest friends today. It’s also a place where insecurities, acne, and raging hormones were in full swing. I realize you can’t fight the ticking clock, but over time you can certainly do your best to erase some of those uncomfortable high school memories. Or can you? To me, high school truly tests Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. It highlights every teenage stereotype: from the bullies to the jocks, to the burnouts and the preps. In high school unrequited love is as common as name-calling. None of the boys I crushed on and thought I’d marry ever asked me to a dance. And my circle of friends was sometimes referred to as The Smurfs, a name we detested probably because of its association with pure wholesomeness. Considering all the angst and hormone surges, it’s a wonder any of us survive the petri-dish experiment those high school years really were.  

Like many girls back then I had a diary -- a book that held my deepest darkest secrets. I’m not sure what happened to it or even what I wrote. But when I was invited to a party this week where people read excerpts from their diaries, I was excited to be part of it. The gathering was an offshoot of Portland Mortified, a big event where people step on stage and read their diaries to strangers. This party was much more intimate and engaging.  

The moment the readings began it was obvious they would be juicy. There was the woman who at seventeen tried to convert the boy she loved to Christianity, and the woman who lost her virginity at fifteen and wondered in her diary why semen smelled like chlorine. Another woman wrote how she’d been grossed out after her mom had wrongly accused her of looking at porn. Story after story, people stood bravely revealing a side of them from long ago. 
 

Who we were in high school isn’t necessarily who we are today. But you can’t help but wonder if that teenager we once were lives on inside us forever. Perhaps this glimpse of our younger selves serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve invested in ourselves over time. And if I had a diary today, I’d probably write something like: 

“Dear Diary, I’m so glad I was a goody two shoes in high school. It made college all the more fun!”

Your friend,

Lila


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