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‘Ain’t Life Grand’ Category

  1. What Clock Will You Follow This Year?

    January 1, 2017 by Diane

    Fig leaf

    January 1st is a day like any other, the sun rises and sets, but we make it into something more. We make it into a day to pause and reflect and plan ahead and resolve to be better humans. We greet it as a freshly washed sheet, a brand new haircut, a blank page to color as we choose. We give it a name.

    New Year’s Day.

    As we turn over a new leaf, outside the window, the Fig tree releases its last. There is nothing, yet, to replace it. No tight bud springing forth. Just bare branches, perches for the crows, highways for the squirrels.

    The animals know. They’ve prepared for the long dark days, hiding their acorns, keeping watch for dead things to peck at. It’s instinct and hunger that drives them. If you and I were hungry, we’d pad to the refrigerator in our socks, and gaze at the selection within: the cold cuts and wilted celery and milk, the leftover chicken and cold beer, the rice and beans. Our way of filling our stomachs is to sit behind a desk typing into a computer for eight hours, then stopping at Safeway to forage.

    We’re civilized.

    Animals live by instinct. They do what’s necessary. They don’t have leisure time in the wild.  They don’t punch a clock. They hunt, they mate, they sleep, they attack, they sing their songs.

    New Year’s Day isn’t for the birds. It’s for humans, who can’t afford to live by instinct. We plan our days to the last minute.

    But even for humans, instinct kicks in. The resolutions fall away like the last leaf on the Fig tree. No longer do we drag ourselves awake at five a.m. to run on the treadmill. No longer do we put in thirty minutes at the keyboard. No longer do we divide our food into smaller portions, what’s healthy and what’s not. Instinct tells us to sleep when we’re tired, eat what we desire, mate with the blank page when the sap rises.

    But we can’t even allow ourselves to do that.

    Humankind lost the rhythm of animals when we hacked away nature to build skyscrapers, divided the days into minutes, and formed the capacity to dream. Our goals drive us now. Instinct is a cousin we rarely visit, who complains loudly.

    There’s a balance to this tightrope of life. Work and play. Sleep and activity. Eating and digesting. Bonding and being alone. In these ways, we are no different than animals.

    People elevate living to an art when we allow creativity to propel us. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, (and I’ve expanded upon): Every empty page, every blank canvas, every new day holds the universe within.

    It’s up to us to form it, shape it, bring it into focus, so all can see. But to do so, we need to let go.

    What clock will you follow this day, and the next, and the next? Will it be the one that humans invented, that doesn’t exist outside our heads? Or the rhythm of your infinite soul? Will you fill your moments with what your brain insists you do, or what your heart longs to experience? Can you sit here, now, and let your creative self worm its way upward, a bud to the sun, blossoming into something the bees can drink from?

    On this day of resolving, try to allow for pockets where time doesn’t exist—not planning these pockets—just pausing periodically to listen, to feel, to catch that spill of sunlight, to let instinct and inspiration be your guides.

    Keep on creating. We need your truths, more than ever in the coming year. 
    -Alisa Clancy, Host of KCSM’s Morning Cup of Jazz

  2. How to Have a Midlife Crisis Without Breaking the Bank or Ruining Your Marriage

    November 6, 2016 by Diane

    It’s time for a midlife crisis.

    I haven’t had one. I think I’m missing out.

    For a proper midlife crisis, an exorbitant amount of spending is required, as well as some body alteration, a daring adventure, and an affair.

    But what if you’re broke, squeamish about nips and tucks, and don’t feel comfortable traveling far from home? What if you’re happily married, or committed to someone, and don’t believe in cheating?

    What if you want the crisis without the trouble?

    After some pondering, I came up with a handy manual on how to have a midlife crisis without breaking the bank or ruining your marriage.

    Are you ready?

    Here goes.

    1. Spend, spend, spend!

    I’m not talking about sinking your life savings into a red sports car or a trip to the Bahamas.

    I’m talking about spending time—in ways you’ve always wanted to, but never…well…had the time to.

    Like tap dancing. Dust off those old dance shoes, throw a sheet of plywood down in the garage, and tap yourself silly. Or write that novel you’ve thought about, talked about, done everything about except write. Yeah, that one. Spend the time. Go for broke!

    Do what your heart yearns to do, because Father Time is gaining on you. Whatever time is left is yours. Claim it. Spend it wisely. And with great gusto.

    2.  Have an affair.

    Not with the hottie at the office who’s half your age. Not with the unhappily married neighbor who’s looking for a little spice in their crockpot.

    Have an affair with yourself.

    Buy yourself flowers, and chocolates in a heart-shaped box. Treat yourself to a fine dining experience at home, or in a restaurant. Write love notes and tuck them in your pockets and under your pillow and in unexpected places where you’ll discover them later. Leave sweet messages on your phone, and do the same via email. Write the juiciest love letter of all time, and mail it to yourself. Pamper yourself, honor yourself, wear rose-colored glasses when you look in the mirror. Then give yourself a great big hug.

    3.  Get a facelift.

    Not the plastic-surgery kind.

    The free kind.


    Smile when you wake up. Smile while you shower and make breakfast and brush your teeth. Smile sitting in traffic, and smile walking down the street. Smile standing in line at Starbucks. Let everyone wonder what the heck is so darn amusing. Smile when you answer the phone and sit in a meeting and when you do the millions of things you do every day. And smile when you turn out the lights at night.

    4.  Get a butt tuck.

    Not the liposuction kind.

    I’m talking exercise. Put on some sneakers and take a walk. Lace up some hiking boots and climb a hill. Ride a bike, go roller skating, swim, ski, or do the conga. Play volleyball or basketball or dodge ball. Play duck, duck, goose. I don’t care what form of movement it is, just move!

    5.  Have an escapade.

    I’m not talking about hacking your way through the wilderness, surviving on bugs and urine.

    Treat every day like an adventure. Break up your routine. Take a different route to work. Eat meatloaf for breakfast and Cheerios for dinner. Eat food you’ve never tasted, and order something different at the coffeehouse. Hunt down a long-lost buddy from high school and give her a call. Apply for a job you’ve never considered. Test-drive a Tesla up mountain roads, seeing how it hugs the curves. Read genres you don’t usually read. Ditto for movies. Dance in the rain like Gene Kelly. Tell jokes at the water cooler like Groucho Marx. Sleep in the nude, and wear pajama bottoms to Safeway.

    You get the point.

    A crisis doesn’t have to mean trouble. It can be a turning point.

    You’re not a has-been. You’re a gonna-be.

    So live it up!

  3. Today I’ll Feel Joy, No Matter What

    October 14, 2016 by Diane

    Start Each Day Like Its Your Birthday quote

    Today I’ll find a reason to feel joy. It doesn’t need to be a good reason. It can be real or imagined, big or trivial. It can be the smile someone sends me, or the smile I send to someone. It can be the penny I find, and the happy dance I do in celebration, or the unexpected gift of one thousand dollars (come on, universe!). It can be the time I spend at the ocean hand in hand with a terrific guy, even if that time is spent in my imagination. It can be the chocolate Javiva from Peet’s that I take to the park, along with a sigh-worthy romance novel. It can be the smell of a book, the taste of a cupcake, the hug from a friend, a new pair of shoes, the view of the mountains from a hiking trail, the sound of rain on the leaves at night, and the feel of cool, fresh, moist air through the window. Today I’ll find a reason to feel joy.

    Today I’ll find a reason to laugh. It doesn’t need to be a funny reason. It can be for no particular reason. It can be while sitting in my car at a stop light, or while walking in the neighborhood in the evening. It can be while folding laundry, washing dishes, taking out the recycling, slicing strawberries and bananas for my granola, or pausing in nature. It can be because of a screwy thought I have, or an odd comment I overhear, or a mistake I’ve made one too many times. It can be while watching an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD, or while talking to my mother on the phone. Today I’ll find a reason to laugh.

    Today I’ll find a reason to shove my anxiety aside. It doesn’t need to be a big reason. It can be small or silly, real or imagined. It can mean setting aside, for five minutes, my worry over the weird pains in my head and the fact that I’m getting older. It can mean sending my short story to someone to read, even if it’s not perfect. It can mean driving over a bridge in the rain, or looking someone intimidating in the eye, or refusing to engage in the latest political discourse. It can mean observing, with great compassion, the adrenaline shooting through my nervous system, and not reaching for an Ativan. Today I’ll find a reason to shove my anxiety aside.

    Today, and every day, I’ll find a reason to feel joy, to laugh, and to set aside my anxiety, no matter what.

    This is my birthday wish.

    This is my birthday wish for you, too.

    Every moment, we’re born anew. And every moment is a gift, an opportunity to experience joy, merriment, and peace.

    Happy birthday, world!