The Pen Collector

Just a few of my several dozen pens.

Just a few of my several dozen pens.

The thing about tolerating a cold is that in between blowing the nose and hacking up phlegm balls, you have quite a bit of time for thinking.

On November 19th a cold took hold at 38,000 feet over the Pacific when a stranger a few rows behind let loose with a wet and righteous sneeze. At the time I remember calmly telling myself, “I’m going to get that.” Repeated slaps to the forehead while silently screaming “NO NO NO NO you idiot WHAT were you thinking?!?!” were not enough to talk my immune system down from the inevitable and, sure enough, on the evening of Tuesday the 20th while watching a DVD with my friend, I began to cough.

By the following morning I had a full-blown excuse for staying in bed with the duvet tucked tight for the next seven days.

But, like I said, it gave me time to think. Perhaps it was feverish delirium, but the one thing I thought most about were the two flowerpots full of pens I keep on the right hand corner of my desk next to the twelve spiral notebooks I keep stacked at attention in the event I should have just one brilliant thought worth noting (there at least a dozen more notebooks awaiting active duty in a dresser drawer). “Why on earth,” I muttered, “do I have so many pens and notebooks?”

I’m a pen snob. I prefer an ultra fine Pilot G2 gel point in black. They have good glide.

I’m not as picky about my spiral notebooks, although I prefer the 9 ½ by 7 inch Callbers. Yes, I have a couple of those fancy black notebooks – the one Hemingway preferred – but I’m afraid of them. They’re a bit too pretty. I wouldn’t dare deface them with my chicken scratch – even with a black inked ultra fine Pilot G2 gel point.

Yes, I recognize my obsession with notebooks and pens is a symptom of something more troubling.

When I recovered from my cold I took a good look around me. In my medicine cabinet were six different brands of hair ointment all promising to do the same thing for my curls. In my closet? Sixteen pairs of shoes. There are three more pairs in a basket by my front door. Four tubes of toothpaste. Five brands of antiperspirants. An assortment of travel sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer.

You see where I’m going with this. I feel a little New Year’s challenge coming on.

I’m going to try to survive 2013 without making any new purchases.

Before you think I’ve gone around the twist, here are the guidelines:

Obviously I will need to pay rent, purchase food, gas for my car, electricity. I will also be spending money on books and tuition this year as well as airfare for a trip back East.

What I won’t allow myself to buy is any item bought to replace an item that I already have and that is still in good working order. I can only replace personal care items like soap, shampoo, deodorant and moisturizer when what I have is within a use or two of running out.

No new pens or notebooks.

No new clothes or shoes – I have more than I need.

But what about entertainment? Meals out? The occasional over-priced coffee?

I’m not trying to live the life of an ascetic. I still want to live well and enjoy life fully. I will set a budget over the next few days to accommodate life’s little frills.

This is a simple exercise in mindfulness. Ours is a greedy and wasteful society. I want to pay better attention to how much I waste and what I truly need.

Anyone care to join me?












Adventures in Seeing

For the optically challenged: plastic orbs that I'll use on the 3-D collages I'm working on. Whoo-hoo!


The one thing we can count on – the one thing we can be certain of – is that things change.

Yes, I spent a good chunk of rainy March wallowing in the mire.  But I knew that somehow, someway, it would cycle through and I’d come home to me again.

I felt the first inkling of an attitude adjustment on Tuesday.  On Wednesday I began to believe it was more than my imagination and this morning – this wonderful, beautiful, sun draped Thursday morning – I jumped out of bed with a smile on my face and charged into the day.

While I can’t put my finger on what triggered it, I can narrow it down to three things:

1.   Six weeks are my limit when it comes to moping around.  I simply can’t stand it any longer.

2.   Something resonated inside when I said to my friend over the weekend “I’m stronger than you.” Perhaps the idea of strength reminded my psyche of the other qualities I have and hold dear – my resilience and my loving nature, the ease with which I forgive, my cheerfulness (it wouldn’t be prudent to begin listing the qualities I possess yet don’t hold as dear…like my predisposition toward envy and my lack of cooking skills…)

3.   And the gift of a coffee mug from a friend and yoga student:

I’m riding the crest of a creative surge.  My kitchen has become an art studio.  I’m juggling three essays, a magazine article and homework for an online course I’m enrolled in.  Tonight I spent a couple of hours doing voice over work for a friend’s website.  She and her husband have an incredible home recording studio and it didn’t take long before we were thinking about creating a new yoga CD.

Tomorrow I’m tackling ‘The Dish’ with a friend.

It feels weird, because it was actually me who opened the laptop and emailed ‘hey, do you want to take a walk?’ I guess I didn’t actually expect him to say ‘yes’.  And yet, he did.  Go figure.

Life can be good.

But things change.  I know they do.  So I’m going to grab this high and hang on for the ride and enjoy it for as long as I can.

Mani/Pedi Om

Last Thursday I indulged in a gel French manicure and a pedicure.

My unrecognizable hands now look as though they’re ready to become the newest cast members of any Real Housewives franchise.  My toes, tipped in red, are perky little Phalanges of Joy.

I didn’t stop there.  Lady Clairol stopped by and washed the blossoming swath of grey on the right side of my head away with a box of Medium Cool Brown.

Next stop?  Oh, I think I’ll have someone apply and then brutally rip away molten wax on my lip, chin and a few other places I’d rather not mention. It’s time to take care of the excess hair that has plagued me since puberty.  It’s just what my self-esteem ordered.

If only I could nurture my inner beauty with the same zeal.

I have a difficult time with balance.  I sometimes ignore the shades of gray and go right for the black and white.

This is not a particularly strong quality for a yoga teacher to have.

But I’ve been working on it.

I’ve figured out that I CAN have a pedicure AND care about Japan.  I can wear nice yoga togs and buy the guy who sits in front of Whole Foods a sandwich.  It’s not one or the other.  I can do both.

I can care about my Self without sacrificing compassion for others.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m never going to win any awards for altruism.  I don’t give a percentage of my income to charity, I don’t tithe, and to be honest, the guy outside of Whole Foods sort of bugs me.

Maybe it boils down to give and take, checks and balances.  Or maybe I never quite figured out that we all deserve to have a little fun – a little joy in life.  That includes the guy outside of Whole Foods.  But it includes me, too.

Mani/Pedi Om.

A Private Practice

One of the things I promised myself when I returned from teacher training was that I would continue with the 30-minute meditation we practiced each morning.  Without fail I would rise at the crack of dawn and sit in quiet contemplation.  Every morning.  For thirty minutes.  Without fail.  Oh yeah, and then I’d add thirty minutes of yoga.  Adding this to my crowded schedule would have the alarm going off sometime around five.  That’s actually before the crack of dawn.

And yet, I tried.  For about three days.  Until my plan was shot down by my pesky snooze alarm.

So how do we do it?  How do we keep the promises we make to ourselves?

Easy.  One step at a time.  With forgiveness.  By accepting that the desire to change should be a joy and not a chore.

The new plan?  Three days a week.  Ten minutes at a time.  Either in the morning or the afternoon.  On some days maybe both.  And when it becomes a part of who I am, then four days a week, and then five.

You see where I’m going here.  It doesn’t matter if it’s meditation, or asana practice, or going to the gym.  Change doesn’t happen over night.  We don’t go to bed on a Sunday evening and wake up on a Monday morning a new person.

It takes commitment and patience.  It takes love.  And we’re worth it.