Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Embracing the Chaos

How often do your hear, or even say, the phrase "Everything happens for a reason"?  How about, "It's God's plan"? 

Why do we want so badly to believe this, and what good does it do?

How often has something bad happened to you and you comforted yourself with the belief that it must have happened for a reason?  Did a "reason" ever make itself known to you?  Did God reveal His magical plan?  Perhaps you simply picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, found a way to move forward, and just went on with your life.   Maybe no reason truly manifested itself, but you found the strength to move on, and eventually life improved, because life can potentially improve.

It's an interesting subject for me to be thinking of right now because my life is currently at such a crossroads.  I was laid off my job of 13 years.  After doing the same thing for almost a third of my life, I have to figure out how I'm going to make my way in the world again. 

In the past few months there has been a series of rather fortunate events.  I went shopping one afternoon in a new closeout store and found the perfect interview suit for $65.  Right before I officially received my walking papers I decided to check out the job postings on a competitor website and found a job posted that is very similar to what I already do in my current field.  I applied for the job the company called me for an interview.  After the interview they called me back for a second one. 

Maybe you could say this was meant to be.  Maybe my layoff happened "for a reason" and I will get the job and be happier in it (and better paid) that I ever was at my old job.

Then again, I might get the job and hate it, and end up fired or quitting before the year is over.

I could also not get the job at all and spend months searching for something else, languishing in low-paid temp work.

This could all become a moot point if next week I trip and fall over the rim of the Grand Canyon and plummet to my death.  Would you tell my husband it happened "for a reason"?

What kind of deity sits around planning misery for each and every one of His millions of followers just so He can teach them a lesson?

I often say to people when they question why bad things happen to good people - or to them in particular-"Stop expecting the universe to make sense.  Stop looking for order.  Stop looking for cosmic justice."

You think the world really believes in cosmic justice?  If that's the case, why do we often utter phrases like, "Nice guys finish last," or "No good deed goes unpunished"?

Do you know someone who loved life, lived fairly blamelessly, had many friends and loved ones, and yet died young of cancer?  I can name three or four off the top of my head.  Do you know someone who is mean, nasty, and unhappy and living to a ripe old age?  Martin Luther King Jr. only lived to 39.  Pol Pot lived to 73 and Joseph Stalin made it to 75.  The Koch brothers certainly didn't get to their positions in life by being decent, thoughtful guys.  Being a decent person doesn't make you successful and it doesn't guarantee you a long life.  Be too decent and you're seen as a pushover who will never go anywhere.

How about in matters of the heart?  Do you know someone who is good looking, generous, smart, seriously looking for love - and still single?  Maybe you are that person.  Maybe you know someone else who is dishonest, manipulative, and greedy who is happily married.  If that person is your ex boyfriend or girlfriend, I'll give you ten points.  You will receive ten more if your ex married before you did.

I'm not saying that doing the right thing is never rewarded or that good people don't have the lives they deserve. The good don't always die young. Gandhi made it to 78 and Mother Theresa made it to 89 (although her agenda, motives, and generosity are often contested).  That old lady you helped walk across the street just might include you in her will.  Doing the right thing could very well win you acclaim.  You should certainly not stop striving to be a better person simply because there is no guarantee of reward.

Human memory is selective.  We tend to just recall the highs and lows.  We view our lives as a series of either joys or catastrophes.  We also like to think of those moments as punishments and rewards.  Rather than trying to put an order to it, see it for what it is - chaos - and embrace it.  Better yet, maybe stop trying so hard to understand the whys and hows of the highs and lows, and remember everything in between.  How can you make the middle better?

Life is short.  If you truly believe that we only get one go-around on this earth, if we stop believing in some outside force to bring payback, we will begin to realize that the power to make our lives - and the lives of others - better is in our hands.  Stop looking for reasons from the outside.  Stop hoping karma will make things right.  Stop assuming this life doesn't matter.  If you are not seeing a reason for what is going wrong in your life, make one.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A "Little Things That Make Me Happy" Post

I took off some time from work yesterday and used it to get my garden planted.

It's not much of a garden.  All I have is a small balcony with some pots and window boxes.  The balcony looks down over the river, giving me a decent view of trees and water and wildlife (ducks, geese, swans, egrets, cormorants, and catfish) but it's not a very attractive space itself.  It's a concrete slab surrounded by metal railing.  It always could use some decoration.  I plant as much space as possible.  I like to use a variety of colorful flowers as well as my favorite cooking herbs.  On the floor I have pots of rosemary, thyme, sage, basil and mint.  In the boxes I have petunias, marigolds, and lobelia.

I think I love shopping for plants as much as I like planting them.  I love going to the nursery and making the rounds though the greenhouse.  I love being surrounded by the scents and colors of all of those flowers.  I like to browse through at a leisurely pace, checking out every flower that catches my eye, reading the information about it to see if it would be suitable for my balcony.  I make sure that I have good color coordination with blues, reds, purples, pinks, and yellows.  I'm often tempted to stray from the petunias, but I sometimes feel nervous about new flowers.  Will they work on my balcony or not?  I almost always stay with the petunias because I know they will survive and bloom and thrive all season.

Temptations are all around me for edibles as well.  Do I dare try one of those tomato cages again, knowing that my last two attempts yielded just a handful of tomatoes the entire season?  What if I replace my flowers with arugula? How long will that crop last?  I certainly know better than to attempt cilantro again. 

I spend a fair amount of time sniffing a few herbs, trying to see how much I like a new one.  In the end I stick to the classics.  My thyme, sage, and mint plants come back every year, but I always find myself buying basil and rosemary.  I've learned not to stray too far from plants I don't regularly use in cooking.   I learned my lesson after being seduced by the scent of apricot hyssop.

I wish my thumb were greener and I could be a "real" gardener and start my plants from seed.  I'm afraid my attempts at doing that with herbs in the past weren't successful.  I'll do the wimps way and stick to the nursery.

Once I'm home, it's time to get to work.  I have to weed the pots and boxes (yes, weeds do make their way up to the second floor) and remove all of the dead remains of last summer's plants.  I have to decide how I want to arrange the colors?  Red and purple?  Red and white?  Pink and white?  Red and pink?  Digging it all up and putting in the new plants is as close to real gardening as I get, but I still get enormous satisfaction from it.  Once everything is planted and my balcony is surrounded by color and scent, I always feel so peaceful.

I have a place where I can drink a glass of wine on a warm evening or serve a special sunset dinner or greet the sunrise at breakfast.  This little ugly space becomes my special little corner of the world.

Just another reason why I love summer!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Style 101 - Subtle Daytime Glow

I came up with this look in one of my roundabout ways when someone gave me a sample of this and a trial of that.  I started using the products, some of which were colors I don't normally use, and found I liked them.

Last summer I was looking for bronzer bought a "shimmer strips" compact.  When I used it as a bronzer, I realized it looked ridiculous.  I want to look tan in the summer, but tans don't shimmer.  It looked quite fake.  I realized it might make a pretty shimmery but subtle eyeshadow.

The look starts with a base of tinted moisturizer, which gives my skin a dewy look and gets that "glow" thing started.  I also use a dash of concealer under the eyes.  

I use the peachy color on the lid with the white as a highlighter.  The very dark color at the bottom gets smudged into the outer corner and also applied lightly under the lower lid.

Blush is a tawny cream blush and then I use a very neutral lipstick.  The color is barely different from that of my lips, but this is one time I'm trying to keep the focus away from my lips.

Even though the only bronzing is on the eyes, I am sometimes told I look tan when I wear this makeup.  I think it's just the fact that I have a nice soft shine going on (which sadly this photo doesn't really showcase).  It's a nice changeup from the basic daytime face, but still isn't too made up.