Friday, June 22, 2012

Better Half

Summertime Blues

Given recent reports of various degrees and forms of trouble and strife occupying our corner of the blogosphere, I am certain I will provoke many nods of agreement and pangs of sympathy when I make the declaration that the first half of 2012 KICKED MY ASS. Not that there wasn’t anything good going on. In that beautifully miserably piquant mix of grief and joy, despair and hope, and every other equal and opposite emotional flavor my life often cooks up for me, the past six months have had their sweet and sour, salt and pepper times. This post is not an attempt to explain that recipe, but my final attempt to divert my psychological gaze and appetite from what should and must lie behind me, and direct them unswervingly to what lies ahead, which I hope is a different taste sensation altogether.

 Not First But Not Last

Speaking of what lies behind, back in the days when I ran marathons, I discovered my long dormant competitive streak when I recognized that for me it was not enough just to finish, and it was not enough just to be the fastest person among the slowest group of runners. My eyes were always seeking ahead, to the next fastest group, who themselves were still far from the next fastest. I was not content to look back and think “well, at least I’m not last, at least I’m here.” I would always think “maybe I can’t be first, but I can do a lot better.” There is always danger in embracing the tyranny of nothing ever being good enough. It’s also all too easy to look around and find proof of the old adage “it could be worse.” When this prompts feelings of gratitude, I’m all for it, but not when it threatens to introduce the narcotic of complacency into one’s expectations of a good life. Let me say this for 2012: so far it sucks a lot less than 2010 and 2011, but it could be doing a lot better.

 River God

It could be worse. I’ve had my share of years spent alone and in circumstances and even an identity that felt all wrong. This year I am living with a beautiful man in a beautiful apartment in the beautiful state of Vermont, and it feels right, right, right. For the first time I am able to open my home to houseguests and not feel I am subjecting them to a hospitality experience usually found in a youth hostel. In our first six months here, Brian and I have opened our home three times to weekend guests, and I am pretty certain they enjoyed their visits, both in and around our new home. You’ve read it all here before, how I feel about Vermont. I would not want to be living anywhere else, and I am happy to have that to share.

 Shadow of a Doubt

It could be better. I’ve never had a lot of money, but even on that rare occasion I’ve been down to my last dime something always turned up to reverse the trend quickly, neatly and completely. Much of last year and showing no signs of reversal this year, money has been leaking from the Mirollo-Sylvester household as from a cracked jar that has been repaired so many times there is now more repair than actual jar and a mere whisper could cause the thing to crumble to dust. I am not a material girl by any means and can live on next to nothing if I put myself to it, but now having actually been living on next to nothing for a long time, I find it’s getting old. The stress of debt is something I’m sure all of you have experienced in one form or duration or another. It casts a shadow over everything else, and it is a shadow I will be happy to see the tail end of.

 Winterscape

Sweet. Did I mention I love it here? Not only do we have a little city full of great restaurants and shops and friendly people all within walking distance, we also have incredible mountain views, access to trails, lakes, and wildlife. The other day I saw a wild turkey by the road with a brood of at least twelve little poults (which I just learned is the name for baby turkeys) scrambling after her on what looked to be their first family outing. The four seasons announce themselves here with great beauty, individuality and intensity. This is why I have spent most of my life in the Northeast, and this is the Northeast at its best.

 Night Life

Sour. Rutland is undergoing its own particularly nasty version of the economic depression hitting the whole country and indeed the world. There are not enough good jobs, for us or for anyone. There is a lot of bad behavior involving theft and drug use and sale thanks to the overall sense of futility and despair. We have one theater where there once were four, and more bars per capita than in other larger cities. For every valiant soul attempting to lead a healthy lifestyle through good fitness and dietary habits and spiritual wellness, for which services are readily available, there is another one keeping the drug dealers in business. I know. I’ve met them both. Not that there’s anything wrong with a little night life on occasion, but not if it causes you to sleep away the day. There is a lot of pride and resilience here, but there is also a lot of cynicism and resignation. One cannot simply live here without feeling compelled to choose which side you are on, and be prepared to fight for it. 

 Safe Passage

Salt.  The arts community here and in all of Vermont is alive and well, with abundant opportunities and venues to show and sell your work. In spite of our money woes, we have managed to cobble together a living long enough to enable both of us to keep working on our art without too many distractions, and that is a blessing. Pepper. Although we have both exhibited in local galleries and promoted ourselves with the usual determined optimism, sales have been slow and we have yet to truly find our niche. Although we feel some frustration at not fully breaking through or into this community, I am not ready to lay down my camera just yet, or Brian his brushes, but we watch the horizon daily for a sign that we are on the right track doing what we do and can one day make a living from it in a place that has such great potential to sustain us.

 Shape of Things to Come

At least I have my health. I have definitely been in worse and better shape at times in my life. At the moment I am in what I have just decided to call a new shape, neither good nor bad. My energy and stamina are not what they once were, and there is much much more of me than in previous years, but compared to the rest of obese diabetic cardiac compromised America, and considering I am on the very brink of menopause while also managing all kinds of stress, I am probably doing okay, as long as I don’t use that as an excuse to lie on the couch and - why not? - finish that bag of potato chips before dinner. Maybe I’m not currently putting them into practice often enough, but I do have plenty of proven successful healthy habits I can rely on. I will probably never be a slender marathoner again, nor do I have to become one to be a stronger happier version of myself. But in the spirit of looking forward and not back, my new challenge come July will be to decide what exactly I would like to become instead, which will be a big part of what makes the next six months of 2012 The Better Half. 

      Soft Landing

I hope you will all join me in taking some time in the next week to think about what 2012 has done for – and to – you in its first half, acknowledge it, and LET IT GO. Then, whatever negative outside circumstances may still be impossible to ignore, take a good look at what positive contribution you can make in the next six months to the making of your own Better Half. A beautiful weekend to all!     
   



20 comments:

  1. TT/G - looking forward - so many possibilities for the future - may the next little;e while bring forth opportunities that enable you to nurture both body and soul with a balance between work-work and soul-work. Go well. B

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    1. Thanks so much for this wish, Barry - perhaps the Universe will hear it if enough of us quietly transmit such positive vibes? Of course, it is always a matter of meeting the Universe halfway, so I will do my part to prepare for and receive whatever opportunities may arrive, may in fact, already be on their way.

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  2. What a thoughtful and insightful post G - the ability to reflect on life and its pluses and minuses, of our place within it; on what we can change and influence and what we can't; what we need to concern ourselves with and what we can leave behind. All good stuff, and I'm hopeful that things sift and sort and settle into a truly almost totally positive shape soon. Some parts of life are so good; some are not so wonderful; I hope the bits that aren't so good soon become so. Take care F

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    1. Thank you F - I am so happy you appreciated this post. You've had what one may call an "interesting" year as well in terms of highs and lows! It is always a matter of perspective. The positives certainly outweigh the negatives at this point, but the negatives seem to be the sort that can easily overshadow the positives depending on where you stand or how you choose to look at things. So much to be happy and grateful for, I know it is always there, still strong - but I look forward to the day when my view of all those good things is not quite so obstructed! Wishing all the best to you and B.

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  3. dear Gabriella, i'm coming out of similar situation, and it was one that took it's time,no matter how we did our best their was no improvement and than this year came and after all kinds of difficulties during the first months the change set in and it feels so good and liberating. Life is not totally white(there are that very special moments ofcourse) or black(suffering a depression though comes near to it) but living in a dark grey zone isn't the place where one wants to be either.
    Hoping for you that moment of change will turn up soon and once again admiring the clarity of this post i wish you well, very well, xx

    'Summertime blues' is really beautiful, yes i know,i'm again attracted to that blue, good choice to shoot that one in colour .

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    1. Renilde, it is so good to hear from someone who has been through a bad time, come into a better time, and can look back and reassure me that the shift will and must come. So much has improved since last year in so many ways, but as you say, it seems as if some difficulties insisted on following us into the new year and are not willing to let go just yet. Already I can feel their grip loosening, and I can feel the better times ahead, and the liberating feeling that will arrive as soon as change sets in. Many many thanks for your comment!

      I had a feeling you would like the blue pool!

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  4. Hey G,
    Wonderful words and beautiful images to go with them... You are good! And I think you're doing an excellent job keeping your eye on the better half. It's tough sometime. But I've learned we seem to get more of what we focus on (my lesson for the past 12 months) so focus on the good stuff. Yes, I'm saying this to you as much as I'm saying it to myself... ha!!

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    1. Hey D, I'm glad we can help each other stay focused by giving each other and ourselves these occasional pep talks! It really is tough sometimes keeping the good stuff front and center, even knowing it will bring more good. I mean, after all, I'm not aiming for fame and fortune here - just a decent living and some peace love and happiness - so much to ask? I think not, and yet it can be the hardest thing to get hold of and hold onto. But we persevere because it is too important to let go of or lose sight of completely. Have a great week, my friend - and here's to better days!

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  5. I think that you are right and you are good, to think like you it's good, really! and i understand you so much...

    beautifull pics...

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    1. Thank you so much Laura! Sending you a warm embrace from far away....

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  6. Gabriella I came once again... because you leave me thinking... well finally it's going on good, health and love and good inspired are the importants things, you know as you italian part of you... pane amore e fantasia...
    at east these things give us the force to go on forward :-)
    I like you really you are very similar to me...

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    1. Laura, a visit from you is always welcome! There is no such thing as too many!It is so true about the Italian part of me - part? I feel 100% Italian in spite of being born in America! And I do believe health and love and good are the most important things. Maybe this is why people sometimes think Italians are such simple happy children! I think we see very clearly all of the bad things, the dark side, but we love life so much we find a way to smile and laugh and go forward. Mille grazie, carissima!

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  7. Well, G., better late than never....I'm finally reading back a bit in my blogs! What a honest gaze and assessment of the first half of the year. You guys are in a great place....the changes unfold slowly and sometimes so slowly that you are not even aware of them until you stop and look back. Thanks for encouragement to stop and take stock. I've had a pretty amazing year so far and many things have turned around....you are right that the living on next to nothing becomes very tiring over the long haul....here's wishing the 2nd half of 2012 is smoother sailing with the gentle breeze at your back!

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    1. Hi P! I understand how hard it is to keep up with Blogger, so no worries on the late comment! I need to do a little catching up of my own today! And yes, I still owe you a real letter! Thank you so much for your positive vibes. I do feel as if I have such good strong souls out there pulling for us, something good has to happen sooner rather than later. And here it is July 1st already, so welcome to the Better Half! Wishing you all the best.

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  8. My gosh you're right, the first half of the year is gone! That's insane, I felt like it just started. I can't complain about my first half, hoping to make some things happen in the second though. Sounds like you've got some good reflections going on for yourself.

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    1. Hey TB! Time does fly, whether it's been rough or smooth sailing. The second half has already had some positive inklings in that I finally got out yesterday and did some real film shooting, which has not happened in several weeks - something that always leaves me feeling a little lacking in purpose and direction. That means this first official week of the second half will involve dropping off film to be processed and then experiencing that wonderful Christmas Morning feeling of opening up the developed film and seeing what actually got captured. Stay tuned for whatever happy results I'm fortunate enough to be able to share here! Have a great week - and a great second half!

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  9. As I read what you've written, it feels important to acknowledge your ability to keep a balance between the more difficult and the happier times ... and it seems to me that that's a huge resource.

    I'm glad you mentioned half years. I don't usually think in those terms, but I found myself noticing this half year and deciding to make a picture for my 365 project that acknowledges it (I suspect in large part because it's halfway through the project)... I don't know how successful it is, but I think there's something to be said for having planned it and tried something out. I'm about 2 months behind in posting, and needing to be patient with myself about being slow to post these days ... so it will be a while before I post it.

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  10. JMG - thanks for the acknowledgment. I wish this ability had been inborn and not learned from many years of having difficult times thrown at me in and among the happier, but it is what it is, and better to find a way to cope than to be in a perpetual state of worry and complaint!

    Halfway points are interesting as a concept - one can see them as a time to look backward or forward, with regret or relief or hope or a little bit of everything. I think it's important to give ourselves these opportunities to celebrate or commemorate or let go of things and not just be oblivious bystanders in our own lives. Looking forward to seeing your special halfway picture!

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  11. Over the years i've discovered that it takes a lot of courage to live, a lot of effort to live well. Some people seem to have very privileged or lucky lives, or both, and seem blithely unaware of their good fortune. If anything, they are spoiled. The bovine just keep consuming and never seem to need courage.

    But for many others there is a painful awareness of their life's dynamics. The greater the awareness, the greater the call for courage.

    The trade-off is that awareness brings gifts of acute perception, heightened empathy for others, speaking truths others hide from, indignation at wrongs, visions of better worlds, joy in the small beauties found in this one. While the bovine just keep consuming.

    Seems to me that being an artist is not chiefly about manufacturing cultural artifacts labelled 'art'. Being an artist is a state of soul, a state of awareness. Being an artist is a way of seeing and allowing that seeing to spill into creative acts.

    All of which is a long-winded way of saying that i see you as person of great courage, Gabriella. Your awareness glows like a light in the darkness. Your way of seeing flows into images and words that make us nod in assent, hold our breath with concern, smile with delight. You show us what being human means. You are an Artist.

    Mega hugs and very warmest wishes.

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  12. Greetings Harry, so glad to read a comment from you here! Your words moved me a great deal. I do agree, living takes courage, and effort, more than I ever imagined. I assumed that there were easy lives of privilege, luck or laziness, and hard lives were reserved for the poor, the unlucky and those who chose to make great sacrifices and strive for greatness against all odds. It never occurred to me that the middle way could be so difficult - for I am neither blessed nor cursed, idle nor ambitious, well-off nor impoverished - and require such daily exertions of body, mind and soul. I am happy to hear that you believe this sort of living creates awareness and creativity that prove useful in the end, at least to a select few like yourself, whose strivings have also been so honestly and bravely shared here online - and benefitted any with the heart and mind to appreciate their value.

    As ever, I send you my best wishes. I am eager to see what becomes of you once released from the pressures of an academic program. I wrote some of the worst insincere and ill-conceived poetry of my life while earning my graduate degree in poetry. I learned a lot, but mostly came out of it with a renewed sense of what I believe art and the role of the artist to be, and how none of it can be found or learned in an academic program. Perhaps it was all just a big exercise in being forced to identify and stand up for your beliefs in a hostile atmosphere? My Muse eventually forgave me for my time in the enemy camp, but she did sulk for a few months after I graduated.

    Thanks again for your wise words and compassion.

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