Monday, June 29, 2015

A Gift for the Remembering Self

A few months ago, Laura Vanderkam used a term in a blog post that intrigued me: the remembering self. Vanderkam described riding the train to New York (from her home in Pennsylvania) on a Saturday night to hear a Christmas concert, even though she was pregnant, the weather was bad, she’d endured a difficult week, and so on. She wrote, “The remembering self deserves consideration in decisions too, not just the present self.”

This term resonated with me so much that I commented: “I love the phrase ‘the remembering self.’ It reminds me that often it’s the things we don’t do that we regret later in life.”  She responded: “I think it’s as much that the remembering self and the experiencing self [or the present self] value different things. The experiencing self is never 100% happy, because it occupies a corporal body that experiences little annoyances like an itchy nose, needing a bathroom before the concert starts, etc. The remembering self looks back on the wash of the experience and doesn’t see all of these details. It’s easy to over-value the experiencing self because it’s what we’re currently occupying, but the remembering self deserves some consideration in all this too.” (Read the entire post here.)

Sometimes I let my experiencing self run the show too much. If it’s hard, scary, or uncomfortable, my experiencing self doesn’t want any part of it. (She’s kind of a wimp.) If I let her dictate what I do, my poor remembering self has nothing of interest to reflect on! Remembering self is not impressed by excuses.

All this is on my mind because last week I checked off an item on my summer bucket list: I took Tank to the beach.

All photos taken by Gayle Bryan

I confess that though I wanted (in theory) to take my horse to the beach, I was anxious about actually doing it. I knew it would be very, very hot, I knew I’d be riding with a bareback pad and halter instead of a saddle and bridle, and I knew that my horse can get excited and strong (i.e., hard to control) when he goes to a new place. I knew the trip would take most of a day, and that I’d be good for almost nothing after spending so much time in the sun, thereby throwing off my weekly schedule. I knew I’d have to wake up earlier than normal and to come up with the money to pay for the trip. My “experiencing self” was full of worries and complaints. But I managed to shut her up for a little while so I could give my remembering self this gift.

And while my experiencing self did endure some uncomfortable moments, they’re becoming hazier by the day. My remembering self is already delighted to look back on the adventure and proud of herself for stepping out of her comfort zone. I know Tank enjoyed the change of scenery, but he was less than enamored with actually going in the water, even though all three of the other horses marched right in, and a couple of them went in deep enough to swim. Some of his expressed thoughts:

“This stuff moves. Is it really safe to walk in it?”

“There’s too much slimy green stuff along the edge, it looks like it might grab me.”

 “WHAT IS THAT BLACK THING ON THE SAND?!” (It was a discarded t-shirt.)

Despite his skepticism, he eventually relaxed and splashed through the water with everyone else, and when we were on the beach itself, I gave him his head so he could explore, which he loved. And he especially loved snacking on the patches of grass we found. Instead of merely walking on the beach, we trotted and cantered on the sand and it was totally awesome. Even experiencing self had to agree.

When you feel overwhelmed at the thought of something you really want to do, how can you help the experiencing self to relax so you can give your remembering self this gift? It helps me to learn all I can about the upcoming event/experience, to look for support from friends or family, and to ease into what I want to do in a way that feels comfortable to me. And even if it’s still scary, I know my memory of it will likely smooth over the fear and remember the joy. Some things will just be more fun to have done than to do.

What are some memories your remembering self especially enjoys?




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Friday, June 26, 2015

Seven for Summer: My Summer 2015 Reading List


Despite the hot weather we’ve been enduring for the past two months, the official start of summer was just a week ago Sunday. And you know what that means…it’s time for cool drinks, embracing air conditioning, and a new summer reading list. Sifting through my shelves and list of unread books is one of my favorite simple pleasures.

This year’s list will be long on delight, so I’m choosing books I really want to read, rather than books I “should” read to fulfill a reading challenge or some other self-imposed criterion. After all, come fall, I don’t have to write a paper on what I read during summer break!

So here is a tentative list of the books I want to read this summer:

The Law and the Lady—my summer Wilkie Collins. Looks like a good one—described as “probably the first full-length novel with a woman detective as its heroine.”  There is also a free Kindle version available here.

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin. I loved both of Rubin’s books on happiness (The Happiness Project, Happier at Home) and fully expect to love this book, too. In fact, I already have a copy from my library and will probably eventually buy my own. Rubin has helped me understand my own nature better, and she has a knack for breaking down concepts in such a way that you can take action that makes a difference in your life.

Jack of Spades, Joyce Carol Oates. I’m becoming fan of Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve only read a couple of her books, and wow. This one sounds kind of scary, but I’m intrigued. I’m in line behind quite a few people on my library’s hold system, so it may be later in the summer before I can start this one. 

A Writer’s Diary, Virginia Woolf. I love reading diaries, and a writer’s diary by Virginia Woolf? How can I resist? 

My local used bookstore is going out of business (sniffle) and I picked up six books for a dollar there this week (and I wonder why my TBR shelf never gets any less full). I’ve already started The Three Weissmanns of Westport, and I also hope to get to The Bat, by Mary Roberts Rinehart.  

Cotillion, Georgette Heyer. The irresistible lure of romance and humor. 

I could list more—in fact, I’m sure I’ll be reading a few mysteries over the summer, too. But I want to leave some room for meandering, for picking up a book just because it sounds interesting. The last thing I want to do is turn the simple pleasure of reading into a stressful experience. Where’s the delight in that?

What’s on your summer reading list?

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What You Should Do This Summer

Photo courtesy Filip Kruchlik

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
—A.A. Milne

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Act Now!

Photo courtesy Jake Hills

No, this is not a late-night TV ad: “For just three payments of $29.95, you can have this beautiful Whatsit! But wait, there’s more…”

No, this is my current motto. Lately, I’ve been feeling stuck, overwhelmed, frustrated…all squirmy and uncomfortable inside. As tired of complaining to my long-suffering friends about my frustrations as they are of hearing me complain. And the more I’ve stewed, the more drained and frustrated I’ve felt.

June 10th’s quote offered me a clue about the answer to this problem. I’m certainly uncomfortable, unhappy and unfulfilled…what am I going to do about it? Sit and think some more, or act? 

In the past, I’ve noticed an immediate surge of energy and lifting of spirits when I do something, even if it’s as mundane as cleaning out a drawer in the kitchen. So that’s what I did. I cleaned out two drawers in the kitchen. Then I reglued the wood trim on the breakfast bar. Then I dropped off the comforter set at Goodwill that I had been carting around in my trunk for literally months.

These small actions relieved one tiny, itchy part of my brain, but they were just the warm up. Lately I’ve felt especially stuck and unsure of myself as a writer. I’ve been plugging away here on the blog, but I’ve let all other aspects of my writing slide. I’m ready to get back into freelancing, but I have a number of issues to deal with, including feeling terribly rusty and out of practice locating markets and pitching articles. So I took a small step towards correcting this by joining the Freelance Writer’s Den, and exploring the resources available there. My first goal: get a writer’s website up as soon as possible. And, in the meantime, I’ve already collected a number of my writing clips on a portfolio site, which you can see here.

Yes, I do believe in the value of contemplation and that doing is not always better than being, but sometimes you must act. It doesn’t matter what the step is, as long as you take one…and then another.  So that’s where I am. Taking baby steps, looking for “different ways [and] truer answers.”

If something is frustrating you, what action are you going to take?

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Field Trip Friday--First Orchids

Did I need more orchids? Well, no, I didn’t need any, but when my orchid-loving friend Barb asked me if I wanted to go to a wholesale orchid nursery, I said yes. I counted my empty orchid pots (there have been a couple of casualties lately) and decided I could buy a few. How many did I buy? We’ll get to that.

After a two-hour drive, we came to this unprepossessing exterior:


Which led into this:


No, I didn’t drool.

But I did spend a happy hour with my friend examining orchids, choosing which to add to our collections, trying to guess what the ones without open blooms would look like. Prices ranged from $3 to $12, depending on the size and variety of orchid. We filled a large box with our choices, paid for them and loaded them in Barb’s van. Definitely a delight-ful field trip.

I bought nine. Most are in some stage of blooming, but I have one that will be a surprise. Its buds are tightly closed and I don’t know yet what it will look like.

Here are some photos:







Have you taken any field trips lately?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

From Squirt Guns to SPF 50

Photo courtesy Tori Campbell

Introduction by Ted Kooser: How’s this poem for its ability to collapse all the years from childhood to middle age in a matter of fifteen short lines? George Bilgere is one of this column’s favorite poets. He lives and teaches in Ohio.

The Wading Pool

The toddlers in their tadpole bodies,
with their squirt guns and snorkels,
their beautiful mommies and inflatable whales,
are still too young to understand that this is as good as it gets.

Soon they must leave the wading pool
and stand all day at the concession stand
with their hormones and snow cones,
their soul patches and tribal tattoos,
pretending not to notice how beautiful they are,

until they simply can’t stand it
and before you know it
they’re lined up on lawn chairs,
dozing in the noonday sun
with their stretch marks and beer bellies,
their Wall Street Journals and SPF 50.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2014 by George Bilgere from his most recent book of poems, Imperial, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2014. Poem reprinted by permission of George Bilgere and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When Unhappiness Leads to Happiness

Photo courtesy Milada Vigerova

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
—M. Scott Peck

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Monday, June 8, 2015

The Summer Bucket List--How to Survive the Hot and Sweaty Months


“June is the Friday night of summer, and all is full of possibility.”
—Laura Vanderkam

Each new season brings its own delights. Though summer is not my favorite season here in Florida, each year I grit my teeth and make the best of it. I was inspired by Laura Vanderkam’s words (see above, and read the full post here) to start thinking about things I can accomplish and enjoy during these hot and sweaty months. Maybe working on the list will distract me from the heat and humidity?

In keeping with my word of the year (delight), this summer will be long on delights/adventures/pleasures, but that doesn’t mean I’m only going to play. I want to experiment with different writing venues (#2) and try some new exercise classes (#7). I always take a little more time for reading (a future post about my summer reading list is in the works), but this year, my summer bucket list includes:

  1. Take Tank to the beach. Yes, really.
  2. Go to the library to write (the only downside is I can’t take my coffee with me).
  3. Take a week’s “staycation” (or maybe several long weekends?).
  4. Go to a Tampa Bay Rays game with my mom when she visits in August.
  5. Sketch in my sketchbook. Maybe even finish—i.e., fill all the pages of—a sketchbook!
  6. Make homemade frozen pops. I never got around to doing it last summer.
  7. Try a month of unlimited classes at Karma
  8. Spend a day by the pool.
  9. Go to the beach at sunset with my husband.
  10. Rewatch The Princess Bride and Support Your Local Sheriff (my cat is named after the female lead in this movie).
  11. Try the new gelato place in town.
  12. Make pesto with the basil from my garden. (Done!)

What’s on your summer bucket list?

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Grief Abated


Introduction by Ted Kooser: Of taking long walks it has been said that a person can walk off anything. Here David Mason hikes a mountain in his home state, Colorado, and steps away from an undisclosed personal loss into another state, one of healing.

In the Mushroom Summer

Colorado turns Kyoto in a shower,
mist in the pines so thick the crows delight
(or seem to), winging in obscurity.
The ineffectual panic of a squirrel
who chattered at my passing gave me pause
to watch his Ponderosa come and go—
long needles scratching cloud. I’d summated
but knew it only by the wildflower meadow,
the muted harebells, paintbrush, gentian,
scattered among the locoweed and sage.
Today my grief abated like water soaking
underground, its scar a little path
of twigs and needles winding ahead of me
downhill to the next bend. Today I let
the rain soak through my shirt and was unharmed.

Reprinted by permission from “The Hudson Review,” Vol. LIX, No. 2 (Summer 2006). Copyright © 2006 by David Mason. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Happiness 101--and a Giveaway!



Sometimes when we search for happiness, we forget to start with the basics. We don’t feel happy because our lifestyles are not conducive to happiness. That’s the premise of Happy Guide, by Michael Kinnaird. This short book outlines a plan for addressing the basics that affect our health, and ultimately our happiness.

Kinnaird believes that the causes of happiness are health and peace of mind. It’s hard to be happy when you don’t feel strong and vital. It’s hard to be happy when you feel out of control, disorganized and stressed out. As Kinnaird writes, “Everything affects everything else.”

Happy Guide addresses a number of lifestyle elements, including what we eat and drink, exercise, drugs, sleep, getting organized and living in the moment. Kinnaird writes simply about what has worked for him, and while there is nothing earth-shatteringly new, Happy Guide is a great reminder that sometimes the simplest things can make the biggest difference.

Happy Guide is a quick and easy read—in fact, I read it while sitting in a coffee shop waiting for my husband’s truck to be repaired. You can read the first chapter of the book by visiting the Happy Guide home page.

And, even better—the author of Happy Guide has kindly offered to give away five downloadable eBooks to the first five people who comment on this post. (Please include your email address so they can send you your copy.)

What simple things have you found contribute to your happiness?

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