Again with the silver-tongued Persians, and other stories (Week 45: Silence and language)

Mmm. Let’s start with this:

Unschooling looks like this:

Flora: Mom, in what grade was I supposed to learn how to calculate the circumference and area of a circle?

Jane: I dunno. Do you need to know how to do it now?

Flora: No. Just wondering.

Jane: It’s got something to do with pi and radius. Ummm… Let me think…

Flora: It’s fine. I got it. I googled it.

Sometimes, it is that easy.

Other times, the eldest child wants help with physics homework and makes you sit at the kitchen table with him he googles stuff, AND THAT’S REALLY HARD. ;P

What else? Monday, I taught, Tuesday, I played, Wednesday, I worked, Thursday, looked-like-play-felt-like-work—and I’m so sorry about that other thing—Friday, I juggled, Saturday, I tried to be lazy and it almost worked.

What else?

A quote from Olga Broumas:

She who loves roses must be patient and not cry out when she is pierced by thorns.

I sent it to a boy who desperately wants to fall in love. He can’t flip the pronoun; doesn’t understand what I’m talking about. It’s ok.

What else?

I’m supposed to be more open and honest with the people I love about what I feel, but fuck, it’s hard. I really don’t like telling you things. I prefer to write very very long stories, and bury the truth in a line on page 276.

Him: I found it.

Jane: Mmmm… no. You just think you did.

This is Rumi:

Silence
is an ocean. Speech is a river.
When the ocean is searching for you, don’t walk
into the language-river. Listen to the ocean,
and bring your talky business to an end.
Traditional words are just babbling
in that presence, and babbling is a substitute
for sight.

Also, this:

Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.

Those damned silver-tongued Persians, still wrecking havoc with my heart.

Still.

She who loves roses…

My parents are celebrating their 45th anniversary this weekend. Five years short of half-a-century. Crazy, isn’t it? Forty five years. Depending on the decade—month, week, day—I have seen them happy, unhappy, in love, fighting, angry, compassionate, furious, forgiving…

What they have taught me: “true” love takes a fuck load of work. Make a Disney movie about that, why don’t you?

On Tuesday, after a writers’ meeting and before a is-it-a-date-or-is-it-therapy, I smoke sheesha and write some bad poetry. Six redeemable lines. I send them as a gift, hidden in six bad verses. She accepts them in the spirit of gratitude in which they are written.

Her: And still, none of it is about me.

Jane: No. I’m sorry.

Back to Rumi:

You left ground and sky weeping, mind and soul full of grief. No one can take your place in existence, or in absence. Both mourn, the angels, the prophets, and this sadness I feel has taken from me the taste of language, so that I cannot say the flavor of my being apart.

Still.

Ender throws himself into my arms and I drown in his love, and Cinder is out all night, but then safely home, and Flora smiles at me and then delivers a scathing social critique of everything she’s ever seen on Netflix. Girls’ lunch out with my mom. Left-over macarons for Ender. Sean and I cuddle on the couch—you come for a visit.

All is well.

2005

xoxo

“Jane”

2018

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)

Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)

Shake the Disease (Week 11: Sickness and Health… well, mostly sickness)

Cremation, not embalming, but I think I might live after all (Week 12: Angst and Gratitude)

Let’s pretend it all does have meaning (Week 13: Convalescence and Rebirth)

The cage is will, the lock is discipline (Week 14: Up and Down)

My negotiated self thinks you don’t exist–wanna make something of it? (Week 15: Priorities and Opportunity)

An introvert’s submission + radical prioritization in action, also pouting (Week 16: Ruthless and Weepy)

It’s about a radical, sustainable rhythm (Week 17: Sprinting and Napping)

It was a pickle juice waterfall but no bread was really harmed in the process (Week 18: Happy and Sad)

You probably shouldn’t call your teacher bad names, but sometimes, your mother must (Week 19: Excitement and Exhaustion)

Tell me I’m beautiful and feed me cherries (Week 20: Excitement and Exhaustion II)

A very short post about miracles, censorship, change: Week 21 (Transitions and Celebrations)

Time flies, and so does butter (Week 22: Remembering and forgetting)

I love you, I want you, I need you, I can’t find you (Week 23: Work and Rest)

You don’t understand—you can’t treat my father’s daughter this way (Week 24: Fathers and Daughters)

The summer was… SULTRY (Week 25: Gratitude and Collapse)

It’s like rest but not really (Week 26: Meandering and Reflection)

It’s the wrong question (Week 27: Success and Failure)

On not meditating but meditating anyway, and a cameo from John Keats (Week 28: Busy and Resting)

Hot, cold, self-indulgent as fuck (Week 29: Fire and Ice)

In which our heroine hides under a table (Week 30: Tears and Chocolate)

Deadlines and little lies make the world go round (Week 31: Honesty and Compassion)

That’s not the way the pope would put it, but… (Week 32: Purpose and Miracles)

And before you know it, it’s over (Week 33: Fast and Slow)

Ragazzo da Napoli zajechał Mirafiori (Week 34: Nostalgia and Belonging)

Depression is a narcissistic disease, fentanyl is dangerous, and knowledge is power, sort of (Week 35: Introspection and Awareness)

I’m not gonna tell you (Week 36: Smoke and Mirrors)

Slightly irritable and yet kinda happy (Week 37: Self-Improvement and Self-Indulgence)

It’s not procrastination, it’s process (Week 38: Back and Forth)

Pavlov’s experiments, 21st-century style (Week 39: Connectivity and Solitude)

The last thing I remember (Week 40: truth and um, not really)

All of life’s a (larval) stage (Week 41: Stagnation and Transformation)

Damn you, Robert Frost (Week 42: Angst and more Angst)

Speaking of conflict avoidance… (Week 43: Fight of Flight)

—->>>POSTCARDS FROM CUBA

nothingbythebook @ gmail.com

On hard days, happy moments, breathing and why we need to document it all

I.

First, Rumi:

“every breath you take
makes one of two choices:
you either surrender to your soul
or struggle with doubt”

…because the joyous Yuletide season is the most brutal time of the year for me, and for so many of you, and this year, for someone I love, it just got even worse, as bad as it can get, and what can we do?

Breathe…

II.

Second, Agatha Christie:

“All this poetry and music and translating Shakespeare and Wordsworth into Arabic and Chinese and Hindustani. ‘A primrose by the river’s brim,’ etc. … what’s the good of that to people who’ve never seen a primrose?”

Oh, Dame Agatha. I hope you’re lampooning the character who’s saying that, but if you’re not… I’m so sorry.

III.

Third, Ender:

nbtb-Happy Sledding Ender

Caption: This is a happy moment.

IV.

Fourth, a resolution:

I have not been as good at jotting down, documenting those happy moments as I used to be. I am so very grateful for the iPhone camera—and for Instagram—and the ease with which one can freeze one of those moments in time.

My New Year’s resolution, I think, is to document more, in ink—and in pictures.

I’ll try to share, why not? But mostly—it’s for me, my record. And for them, of course. I want them to remember me remembering them, if you know what I mean.

V.

Fifth…. breathe. Remember. Breathe…

VI.

Finally (don’t stop breathing), tis also the season for the bellyaching of overfed bellies and New Year’s resolutions that will lead to a fitter, slimmer, happier (ha!) you.

So, would-be-dieters, Rumi is totally on your side:

yesterday you filled your stomach
with all kinds of bread and goods

you became so sluggish
so sleepy

what comes of such indulgence?
either recklessness
or the need to go to the toilet

sounds of moans and mourning
come from the soul while fasting
but the only sound that comes after a meal
is a low-pitched rumble from the rear-end

so friend
if you want to hear what the soul has to say
then skip the meal;
if you want to hear from the other end
then bring the bowl closer to you

You’re welcome. 😉

xoxo

“Jane”

P.S. The Rumi poem translations are taken from Will Johnson’s Rumi’s Four Essential Practices: Ecstatic Body, Awakened Soul, and they’re Johnson reinterpretations, in part, of Nevit O. Ergin’s translations of Rumi into English from Turkish—which were translated by an assortment of translators from old Persian into old-then-modernish Turkish. What would Dame Agatha think?

Look!

Fragment 1

Her: Look!

Me: No. I don’t wanna.

Her: Look! Come on! How are you going to understand if you don’t look?

That’s the point. I don’t want to understand. If I don’t look, if I don’t see, I don’t have to start to understand. I can stay here, away. On the periphery, full of judgement, empty of compassion.

Her: Look. Please. Look.

I look.

Fragment 2

An on-the-fly-translation of a Rumi poem in response to the burning of a manuscript:

“She said, I set this fire for a reason. Don’t question what you don’t understand.”

But if I don’t question what I don’t understand how the fuck am I ever going to know anything, learn anything?

Her: Look. Just… look…

I look.

Fragment 3

I have not idea what I’m looking at. What I’m looking for, I know. Truth, right? What else do we ever look for?

Truth. Some version thereof.

Flora: Mom? What is truth?

I look at her. I try not to lie.

I suspect I do.

Fragment 4

Look, a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:

“What happens next depends on you.”

Of course. Always.

Her: What are you going to do?

I look.

xoxo

“Jane”

nbtb-look

This should have a post-script, I think, don’t you? OK. Let’s do it:

You: Fuck, Jane, were you stoned?

Me: Stone sober, beloved. But pensive and playful at the same time. Also, generous. I wanted you to look. Did you?

 

“The child weaned from mother’s milk…”

I.

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.”

Rumi

Rumi’s translator, Coleman Barks, calls the poem that begins with these lines “Unmarked Boxes.” It resonates.

II.

Confession: I’ve just read my first parenting book in near a decade (see The Day I Stopped Reading Parenting Books): Anthony Wolf’s I’d Listen to My Parents If Only They’d Shut Up: What To Say And What Not To Say When Parenting Teens.

This is not, incidentally, a book review, but if it was, it would say, “It has good parts. It has bad parts. Read with a critical filter, take what’s useful, discard the rest.”

III.

I have a teenager now. I am still as much in love with him as I was with the newborn who woke me up every two hours. I will be more frustrated with him than I was with the toddler who pummeled everyone in sight… but that’s fine. That’s part of the package (It doesn’t get easier). My love for him has redefined how I understand, feel, experience love. Myself. The universe. I love him, unconditionally, and I will love him, unconditionally, until my experience of the universe ends.

Here’s something most parents don’t want to hear: he doesn’t love me unconditionally. No child loves a parent unconditionally. Meditate on that.

IV.

Whenever you tell me you love me. I think about what you might possibly feel for me, and what I think I feel for you, and compare it against what I feel for this child, for his siblings, and… if that is love, this is not.

You: Semantics. Always, with the fucking semantics.

Me: Words are important.

You: “What language does so spectacularly is lie, that silver-tongued projector of illusions.” That’s Coleman Barks, so you know it’s true.

Me: Fucking poets. Always telling the truth with their lies.

V.

That Rumi poem, the next line, it goes,

“God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box…”

(I was going to be a petty atheist and replace the first words with an ellipsis. But, I didn’t.)

I’m not sure about the metaphor. Is my son an unmarked box? Am I? Mostly, I am very literal—and there are still three unmarked boxes of loss in the space where I create.

VI.

I make my nocturnal teenager crepes and carry them up to his bedroom two hours short of his preferred waking time of noon.

Cinder: Best! Mother! Ever!

Jane: I know. Now wake up and get your sibs out of the house so I can work!

xoxo

“Jane”

photo (14)

P.S. Rumi, same poem: “I don’t want to make anyone fearful / Hear what’s behind what I say.”