Category Archives: hmmmm

the itinerant years

The constant updating of blog theme trends is inconvenient for a somewhat-analog person. The commands for photos and galleries change, and they often don’t work if you update to a different theme, or featured images don’t read. This blog had been in this old, traditional format, then I updated it to a now-old slider format, and am now going back for these posts as it seems more fitting and workable.

If some links and such don’t work or photos don’t appear, try the same link with the domain kirtiklis.com/the-rest-of-the-link-as-in-above-url. This is essentially the second incarnation of my blogging from 2000-2012. The first lives here.

the highline

highline-nycChatting with a friend last night, I realized how much I’ve accomplished this year. While there was some time wasted in ways I should have known better, all in all, I got a lot done. Even better, I’ve seen how strong, supportive and beautiful my friends are. My students were as amazing and inspiring as ever, and I’m floored by the majority’s willingness to stand up for what’s right, and stand up for each other. Talking to Bij last week about which neighbor would sell you out if the Germans came knocking, we agreed one should never be surprised. Yet this fall, I’ve been impressed by people’s willingness to come together and protect each other.

While there are a few bad eggs only out for their own interests (1%), they’re easy to spot, and easy to avoid. The miserable little man who claims everyone else is an idiot, whose idea of conversation is talking at people who can’t escape, the disingenuous woman with painted-on smile and seething eyes, scratching madly at everyone, terrified her incompetence will be caught out—they deserve our sympathy, if not our time. There are so many amazing, loving people out there, it’s quite easy not to dwell on these creatures. Don’t.

Just as I started to write, M sent me a link to a Friedman column. Though I think Friedman’s a wanker (“Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a ‘Green Revolution’?”—Matt Taibii), I did like this line:

“The days of leading countries or companies via a one-way conversation are over,” says Dov Seidman, the CEO of LRN and author of the book How. “The old system of ‘command and control’ – using carrots and sticks – to exert power over people is fast being replaced by ‘connect and collaborate’ – to generate power through people.” Leaders and managers cannot just impose their will, adds Seidman. “Now you have to have a two-way conversation that connects deeply with your citizens or customers or employees.”

Oh, I guess it’s all a Dov Seidman quote. That’s why. Yes, connect and collaborate. Finally, it’s happening.

Something else I’ve always known but truly learned this year: Avoid people who put you down, want to keep you down, take you for granted, treat you poorly, or are generally negative or selfish. Even if they are funny. Even if you’re crazy attached. You know, deeply, that it will affect you. It rubs off and the end result is never pretty. Stand up for yourself, your friends, and your beliefs. Value yourself, your talents, your work, your community, and others will, too. It’s cliche and we hear it often, but live it. You’ll be in good company.

love and originality

shally-beach-waSo, where were we? Ah yes, our culture’s addiction to romantic love. Our religious commitment to the fantasy, and where it gets us. Read the last post if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about. To summarize and continue, I’ll go back to Judith Simmer-Brown: “There is such a theological commitment to romance that we will dump someone in a second if they challenge our fantasy.”

So, what’s the alternative? It’s infinitely harder than the next bauble in your match.com lineup, but infinitely more creative. You step out of the fantasy of romantic love and have a real relationship with your beloved—through your brokenheartedness. That’s right. You reach out through your vulnerability and meet your beloved on real terms. This is Simmer-Brown paraphrased, but it’s exactly my attitude toward love. For better or worse, though I adore romance, I have little trust in it. Maybe it’s because of loss early on my life, but I need my beloved to see the whole me and love her. With romantic love, especially the sort that grows too fast, I don’t feel seen at all. It feels inflated and unreal. Unsurprisingly, I’m not sure how my mean, ugly and needy parts will be tolerated. But there’s also an uneasy feeling that my sweet, beautiful, strong, and nurturing parts aren’t seen either. Instead, as the object of romantic infatuation, I just feel like a giant screen for another’s projection. It’s not a great feeling at all, though sure, the attention and roses sure are nice.

Simmer-Brown’s words were a relief to me because I ache for romantic love to crack open, for the real work and love to begin. Yes, it’s true I’ve tried to force it in the past. Not to hurt or to end the relationship, but to get into the creative work and real love of getting to know the beloved. It’s not for the faint of heart.

As Chögyam Trungpa, Simmer-Brown’s teacher, said (my paraphrase), “There’s not a lot of originality or creativity in the romantic story. Romantic love is a fantasy. Real relationships are infinitely more interesting.”

My word. Yes. I’m not saying I’m good at it. Not at all. In one relationship, my boyfriend complained I wasn’t going deep enough with him, sharing enough with him, and he needed that. “What does all your meditation and yoga give you, if not this?” he demanded. I didn’t tell him, because I couldn’t, that I was avoiding this depth, that I couldn’t share it, because if I was true to it (myself) I would end the relationship immediately. I needed a few more months to honor it, as the unhealthy attachment was strong. There were things I liked about the relationship even though it wasn’t meeting me on the deep level I wanted and needed. So, I get it. It’s hard. And I’m far from perfect myself.

“We have a fear of facing ourselves. That is the obstacle. Experiencing the innermost core of our existence is very embarrassing to a lot of people. A lot of people turn to something that they hope will liberate them without their having to face themselves. That is impossible. We can’t do that. We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to see our gut, our excrement, our most undesirable parts. We have to see them. That is the foundation of warriorship, basically speaking. Whatever is there, we have to face it, we have to look at it, study it, work with it and practice meditation with it.”  —Chögyam Trungpa

 

theological commitment to romance

dating-coachSo, the love stories. I’ve been stalling. Yeah, I’ve been busy. So what. Who isn’t? You don’t care. But I was also stuck in an awful rut. It finally shifted last week, around the 5th, when the sun came out. I hit pretty low ground in the days before, and happily it slammed me awake.

Then I read a good book. This helped, too. I’ve been wavering in my yoga practice since I came back from the UK. I’ve been sitting (seated mediation) and my 6am ashtanga practice has been ignored for a more gentle home practice. I feel guilty about that, but it also feels like what I need. Maybe. (Ashtangis will chalk it up to resistance.)

When I am uncertain about where I am, I try to do a meditation retreat. A week or two is best, but a weekend is better than nothing. It connects me to the part of myself that isn’t so much fear or ego and clarifies my situation. This is, at its core, what meditation is for me. It’s not about blissing out or enlightenment, it’s about knowing the difference between the bullshit stories that whirl around my head, the patterns I like to trap myself in, and my truth. I looked for something this weekend, but nothing really seemed appropriate and hell, I have a lot of work to do.

Then, out of the blue, Z asked me if I wanted to do some meditation this weekend. In our eight years, we’ve never meditated together, so I took it as a must-do (you know, a sign). I suggested a talk I’d come across by Judith Simmer-Brown at the Shambhala Center.

We went. The talk was excellent, funny, and validated everything I believe about modern love, and what can pass for it. It validated my take on my love affairs of the last few years (love being a loosely used term, as we know) and grounded me in where I am, and what I need now. Simmer-Brown also gave words and a framework to the point of all this, these love stories I want to tell. It was inchoate before, but now they’re screaming, ready to be told. Love Notes, the post title, was inspired by the few notes I scribbled down when I wanted to remember JSBs words.

It’s about going past the fantasy of romantic love. Blind addiction to imagined love is nothing less than the true religion of America (or pseudo-religion, as Simmer-Brown says. Semantics depend on how much you believe religion has to offer). Americans seek romantic love the way humans have traditionally sought God. It’s not just a distraction, it’s a deluded myth that romantic love with “the one” will solve all one’s problems. “There is such a theological commitment to romance that we will dump someone in a second if they challenge our fantasy,” says Simmer-Brown.

Indeed we will. With internet sirens beckoning, as soon as the facade cracks and the person you projected perfection upon turns out to be human, why face your own pain and that of your ersatz beloved when some guy or gal advertising (a) huge ____________ (insert your fancy) comes poking? My gawd, s/he knows the word for your genitals in your mother tongue, and will impress you with it before you even meet. Mmm, titillating. Now this? This will be easy.

Not refined, not subtle, no. Not even attractive, really. But that isn’t part of this game. We can ignore the obvious for now and focus on ease and fantasy. Why face pain and humanity when cranked-up delusion comes calorie-free?

Why? (If you’re really asking, you aren’t going to hear me anyway.) Because as per usual, you get what you pay for.

And so it goes. Another one bites the dust. Next time, some thoughts on real love, and some gorgeous stories for illustration.

 

a pagan, an indian, and a bukharan-ashkenaz russian walk

Wisdom is about seeking truth whether or not the seeker himself is vindicated or comforted by the unveiling of that truth. This desire to know—even if some knowledge is highly uncomfortable—is what makes the quest for wisdom so courageous and challenging.   ~Ethan Nichtern

Moscow_1990-03_016Where’d I leave off? Danchik? Old friends? Yes. There.

Spending the week with Georgie, okay, sorry, George. He prefers George. Not Gumby, Gum, Gumshoe, Jorge (he’s now a prof of spanish literature, though he got the nickname in HS), Georgie, or any other of the nicknames he acquired over the years. Simply George, like his dad.

After spending the week with George, and Danchik the weekend before, I realize that old friendships both comfort and confine.

I met George when we were 8 years old. I remember when I first saw him, a very tall Indian boy at his locker about 10 up from mine. He was looking down, adjusting his books. For the next ten years we were in the same classes, because kids in Ohio who can read and add all get schooled in a room together, to learn things like cursive writing and long division. We were a small group.

George gave me my first book on Buddhism when we were twelve, though he’s a Malayali Catholic, and was offended when I thought that his family had converted from Hinduism (I was twelve, okay?). “My people have been Catholic 1500 years longer than yours, you pagan!” he yelled, referring to Lithuania’s hold on paganism long past any other nation in Europe.

Mexico_1996-05_Oaxaca_006Fair enough.

So, we have a history. We’ve known each other a long time. He knows my family, and I know his. And yes, maybe he planted a spiritual seed back when I was a diehard pre-teen atheist. Maybe.

This is lovely and comfortable. But it’s also limiting. Not entirely, but George still sees me the way he did when we were eight. Or at least thirteen. Some of his attitudes toward me don’t reflect the person I am now, but who I was. And George knew me during some difficult times, when I was just trying my best to be tough and get through it all. I’m no longer a guarded, highly-protected teenage hardass. But because this is what he expects of me, part of me slides back and gives it to him. Because it’s familiar and comfortable, and because we are old friends.

Likewise, my ideas about him are probably outdated, too.

D's MuralThis isn’t a statement about George, but about people and relationship. George is one of the sweetest, kindest people I know. And frankly, these are the most difficult people to be with, because when I’m grumpy or I’m being an ass, there’s no excuse. It’s not because he’s selfish or mean. It’s because I am grumpy or being an ass. And that’s not easy to own. Usually, I have plenty of targets worthy of the projection. Haha.

And so it is with Danchik. We go back ten years. Long enough. Danchik has very different ideas about me than George, and while I do think he’s seen me change over the years, his ideas are still his ideas. Recently, we were chatting about his old friend Katya, about her recent relationships. I asked him what happened and he said, “What happened? She kirtiklised him! That’s what happened.” We both had a good laugh.

Meanwhile, our 12-year-old friend Pasha, who doesn’t know much English, said (in Russian): “What did she do? What is kirtiklised him? What does this mean?”

There’s no chance I will tell you.

Danchik and I laughed harder and Danchik said, “Molodetz!” which means, loosely, “clever boy,” or “well done.”

It was funny. But it speaks to Danchik’s ideas about me. They aren’t invalid, but they are fossilized. I don’t think he’s interested in seeing who I am past his ideas of me, which, granted, we spent a fair amount of time building up. In good ways, and bad.

NewYork_2008-06_summer_002It’s easier to see and perpetuate this with friends I don’t see all the time, so my ideas about them, and projections on them, aren’t challenged. Friends I see often grow along with me. As I fumble along, they challenge me to stay real, and to remember exactly what that means. It’s easy to forget. Or, to find it too hard, and seek distraction. George and Danchik keep me in line in their own way. Otherwise I’d have dumped them. Or they’d have dumped me. I’m hard to take, really, as I have no patience for those who run in bright-fast circles to numb the pain of their existence, full force against a second’s rest to actually face themselves. Once I see a person’s bullshit and she admits to no interest in facing it, I lose respect. Perhaps worse, I’m bored. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut over the years, at least a little bit, but I don’t stick around and watch the cycle perpetuate. They seem cowardly. Or average. Or boring.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
~Albert Einstein

I thought it was “Stupidity: doing the same thing…” but I’ll take insanity, too.

Wisdom is about seeking truth whether or not the seeker himself is vindicated or comforted by the unveiling of that truth. This desire to know—even if some knowledge is highly uncomfortable—is what makes the quest for wisdom so courageous and challenging.
~Ethan Nichtern

state of the nation

NewYork_2011-05-15_StAugFerry_027

Anyway. Every summer feels like a big round tent. I inhabit it and simmer inside. Fourth of July is the central axis. My favorite holiday because it’s a nothing day. People don’t alter their lives to celebrate it: they celebrate it with and through whatever life they’ve got going. They satisfice. The ways we “make do” say everything about the real life we’re living.”  —OvO

The title and photo (taken on a ferry in St. Augustine, FL while visiting LD in May) don’t quite match Owl’s quote here. You have to read her post to get it all. It comes together there. Exxon. And the real life we’re living. I, for the moment, have nothing to say. Nothing I can say.

 

a purpose, or something

“I don’t know.  I just think blogs need to be about more than just the person having a personal stroke online. There ought to be a purpose, or something.”  —JT

Contrapunctus9-josh-mckeonThus spake JT, a friend with whom I spend a lot of time writing and talking. You met him a few posts back when I shared his thoughts on the modern man.

We were talking about another blog, not mine.

Well, what is my blog about? What’s my purpose? It started as a way to share my travel stories, but I don’t travel as frequently now. So it’s a place to share my stories from home. In short, it’s a place to have a personal stroke. Online. Something to keep me writing.

If only because writing makes me feel good.

JT insists my online presence is artistic and discreet, but hey, I get it. I’m sure there are personality tests now based on the level of one’s online presence. Most of my friends, or generally speaking, my closest friends, fall into the barely-if-at-all sector (though they feel free to laugh at my cell phone, age 4, which I will use until it breaks, even if I can barely write a text on it). Georgie, Patty, LisaDe, Bij, Oushi-Za, Haircut, Becki, Karen, Sherry, etc, are not on facebook. I actually use google buzz because they will see it—those who use email and haven’t permanently tuned off the chat feature.

Then there’s the next layer, those who use facebook, but seldom. I asked a friend I’d quoted to look at my status and it took six emails to explain to him where to find it. I respect that.

And so, though it may appear otherwise, I do filter quite a lot out of what I post online. I find discretion the wisest tool in navigating our brilliant new world. And this is not to say I don’t have close friends who use the assbook et al. with great frequency, have online personas as large as their own, and find my concerns about privacy silly. Trust that I love them, too.

I explain this for two reasons. First, because I do at times question the wisdom of my online presence. Second, because many of my stories of late (as yet unwritten) fall slightly beyond my online comfort zone. But they are hilarious and informative, so I believe I need to do it. Discreetly, mind you.