Half full or half empty?

Either “The sky is falling” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

Both points of view are evenly represented among my nearest and dearest.  Most days I fall into the silver lining category, which means of course I’m destined to spend much of my time with people who are always dodging chunks of the sky.

I like grey skies.  I live in Northern California in a fog belt and I am (perversely, some say) not a fan of summer.  I count the days until the season changes to autumn, which brings the chance of showers. 

My only grandchild lives in sunny Southern California, so I spend a lot of time there.  A few weeks ago, the four-year-old and I stepped outside her house and walked right into an unexpected June rain shower.   She stopped and turned her face up, and as  her new sundress got good and soaked she said,

“I love the rain.  Free water coming down.”

That’s my girl. 

Ó Anita Garner 2009

The Truth About Gift-Giving

When people say “Don’t get me anything,” it’s best to pay no attention.  They’ll  say “I have everything I need,” but that doesn’t rule out wish fulfillment.  And it helps if we’re mind readers about what they’d really like, if only they’d say so.

I’m going to a birthday party for a man who’s 85 years old today.  Getting a gift for him takes more than a little  thought.  After we’ve lived a certain number of years, most of us feel we own enough things.  In fact, we’ve started giving things away. 

It’s much easier to shop for younger people.  They really do need things and then they want so many things, there’s a world of gadgets they feel they can’t live without.

My birthday friend says “Don’t get me anything.  I don’t need a thing.”  But I think when someone says that, he’d still like to be surprised with a little something.  So I’m paying no attention  and giving him a gift anyway.  Sounds simple enough – but it’s not, because he really does have everything he wants and duplicates of everything he needs.

Over these past few birthdays I’ve about used up every creative notion about gifts for him.  Someone suggested “a gift of time” and last year I spent an afternoon with him over coffee and sweets I baked myself.  But this year’s a big number with a big party and I don’t want to arrive empty-handed.

I finally settled on the one thing that he uses every day – music.  He plays music at the top volume of his Bose extra-special CD player that his daughter insisted he buy.  So I got him a CD.   Oh – and one of those cushioned “kitchen slice” rugs to put in front of the stove.  He didn’t say he needs one, but I think he does. 

Thanks to his grandson,  who got him a DVD player and installed it, I’ve got a head start on gift ideas for Christmas.  

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Too big for the block?

Here’s what I see on a morning walk:   Cars parked on the street bumper to bumper, with barely an inch between them.  Vehicles with their wheels up on the sidewalk where baby strollers and wheelchairs and assisted-walkers fear to roll.

Vehicles clog the small village where I live, parked along every winding lane, every mountain road, many of them parked askew so that this morning as I walk carefully among them, a driver approaches, weaving through the space that’s left, becoming a skilled participant in the getting-to-work marathon.  As more walkers and runners and kids with backpacks  join in on their way to school, it becomes a dodgem game.

How did one small town get so full of shiny metal? 

Well, here’s a cottage that’s been expanded with its garage “repurposed” and its driveway fenced off.  Four vehicles park out front.  Here’s new construction – a giant house going up where a cottage once lived.  It’s being built fence to fence with no yard, no garage and no driveway.  More vehicles join the lineup. 

As I wander, I wonder something else.  If this house is too big for the block, is it also too big for the times?  

I do remember how it got like this.  I participated.  The thinking was, I’ve worked hard and my home (and sometimes what I drive) are part of my very identity.  If I can pay for it, I’m entitled to it.

It’s going to take a whole lot of re-thinking to change that part of our American dream.  We’ll need to figure out a new personal definition of success, ways to find gratification in making better choices.  And we’re just now beginning to ask the tough questions:  Is this home/car necessary?  Is it right for the preservation of the larger community? 

The biggest personal hurdle is getting past what is our right and moving on to our responsibility.  The toughest question is,  just because we can, should we?

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Will power is so overrated.

When  I need to change something, I don’t go looking for some (as yet undiscovered)  storehouse of will power. That’s just wheel-spinning, time-wasting.  Most days I can’t even spell will power.  Instead, I ask myself, how badly do you want this?  I  have  to want to want to before I begin.

After years of trying to harness will power, I find I don’t stick to positive change just because  I should.   Pitiful – considering there’s so much room here for improvement.

I think about change and think about it, talk about it and talk about it, and still I know that until there is desire, no amount of will power will help.  I only accomplish change when the deep-down want creeps in and sticks around for a while.

I once quit smoking for a boyfriend.  That didn’t last.  Went to the gym to impress someone there with my firm body. Hah.  My toned muscles lasted about a minute after he left the class.  (Obviously this behavior was when I was very young and impressionable.) 

Then one day, years later, I really wanted to be a non-smoker, so I stopped.  It was harder without a cheering section, but I wanted to be a person who didn’t buy cigarettes, didn’t carry them around, didn’t bum them from other people.  And that worked.  I’m nicotine-free about twenty years and counting.

Now to the body image thing.  I am looking in the mirror and seeing a whole bunch of stuff that needs changing.  I’ve made changes before, but when the urge left, so did the positive results. This time I want change to last.  So I ask myself, are you really ready?  Do you really want to?  Some days, I don’t even want to want to. But I can feel it in the air – that day is getting closer – the day when I will do it. 

With a history of  both extremely NON-successful habit changes and a few major successful changes (quitting smoking) I know I won’t even try until there is a stirring of desire.  It’s desire and not will power that precedes action in my case. 

So here are my three steps.  Boy how I wish I could claim something more logical, more mature, more focused.  Nope.  That would be the definition of will power.  Instead, here’s what works for me.

Step One:  I have to want to want to.

Step Two:  Then I move to actually wanting  to.

Step Three:  Begin!

Or not.  The or not factor is always the variable.

Ó Anita Garner 2009