What’s so Different

Happy Halloween!

This is the day when what’s wrong is right.

This is the day we get to be what we’re not supposed to be, and do what we are not supposed to be.

Candy is good. Staying out late and talking to strangers. Evil is celebrated.

It’s an international opposite day.

There’s a hoity-toity name for that:

Inversion holiday

An inversion holiday celebrates turning things inside out.

I worked at a place that really went all out for Halloween. The CEO of this organization loves Halloween and had the whole company throw a huge Halloween contest and potluck that lasted all day.

He himself dressed as a woman every year.

It was important to him, and everyone played along.

People need a way to let off steam.

It’s a Halloween tradition for kids to dare each other to walk up to the creepy house, the haunted house on their block, and knock on the door.

C’mon, I dare you. Go up to it. Face the scary.

Touch it.

Find out that it’s not so bad as you thought.

Or maybe it is exactly as bad as you thought, but you still survive it.

Life is scary, but we are stronger than the boogieman.

And it’s safe to try things. There’s enough room to find out what it would be like to be totally different than you’ve always been.

You might like yourself better afterwards.
Or you could trick yourself and decide to stay that way.


I remember when I was trying to find myself after I divorced my first husband. I had too many and not enough words to come to grips with what my life had become.

I had very little, but I did have my piano.

And I played that piano. There may not have been words, but there was music.

With the music, I could reach the feelings that I couldn’t express. After time passed I could move into my life again.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about a writing project I want to start

Except I really don’t want to start it.

It’s a tough one. It will require a lot from me. I will have to grind up my soul again.

I have a lot of reasons not to do it.

And the one reason that counts.

It’s calling me.

But I don’t want to answer.

I’m tired. I have done this before. What do I really need to prove?

Maybe it’s enough.

So as I was telling her all about it, and all the reasons why I don’t want to go there, and all the reasons it’s pointless

I said, “Maybe I need to make some time to play my keyboard.”

They are adjacent, even if they don’t overlap. Music and words occupy different regions of the imagination.

Music can be there for me before words are ready.

And when I can find my way to one that could be the lookout point which shows me where to go the rest of the way.

Is this okay?

It’s a 21st century word:


Technology–TiVo, then DVDs then streaming–changed the way we consume movies and TV shows. Which then changed the way that movies and TV shows were created. TV shows like Lost, The Wire, Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey became something we could get lost in.

Even years after they finish.

It’s become a thing to consume a whole series in a short time, maybe taking a weekend to do nothing but watch that show.

And when I reach the end I get a feeling of satisfaction, like it was an accomplishment.

What is that?

Is it really real?

In a book, whose name I have forgotten, an Indian woman has separated from her husband. She’d been married to him for years, an arrangement made by their parents in a traditional match.

But she had grown tired of tradition and separated from him, tired of his rigidity.

When they had to meet, to finalize some parts of the separation, she saw they he had dyed his hair. His black hair had been turning gray, and he had colored it black again.

She wondered if he was trying to spruce up for a new woman. Could that be an indication that he was losing his rigidity?

After talking with him more, though, she realized that he was not less rigid at all. The color was not a change, it was a conservative preservation of the color it had always been.

He was not reaching out, he was centering more on himself.

I am not sure what their fictional marriage needed, but the idea of something that is self-centered is exactly what is happening when I achieve the dubious accomplishment of finishing a TV show.

I don’t know that finishing Downton Abbey was on my bucket list, but life has a great number of experiences I want to have.

I would like to see Wagner’s Ring Cycle. I actually do think it might change something about who I am.

Some shows–some books, movies or TV series– really do have that affect. They show parts of the world that would be obscured.

It’s okay to put stuff in your life that is only for yourself. We are all we really have, in the end.

The rigid husband was doing what he could for himself. And while I’m waiting to find the right time and place to get my Ring tickets, it is still worth doing to watch the shows that are more easily in reach.

Binging may or may not be required.


I wanted to learn to play the guitar.

It seemed so cool! Guitars had cases, and they had a strap so you could play it standing up. You could move around, dance while playing.

I could picture myself, with a cool guitar strap and a pair of killer boots standing in front of a mic stand, shredding the guitar while hitting the high notes.

Thing was, I had already learned to play the piano. The piano had been a joy to learn, with the keys laid out like a grid and the keys as clear as a math equation. I’d learned the way the scales and chords hung together, and made music happen.

It was so intoxicating to understand music theory, I thought I wanted to step up from the bench, come out from behind the dominated wall of the upright piano and be a guitar player!

When I played on Sunday, and the bass and guitar players sat in their chairs behind me, I saw how they were so mobile I wanted to be like them.

I asked Bill the bass player what it was like to play the guitar.

He said “If I were you, I’d stick with the piano. You could use your time to improve your playing on the instrument you already know, rather than trying to learn a new instrument.”

Bill was so cool.

But the desire for novelty doesn’t go away that easily.

The new and unexplored seems to have delights far superior to the known and well-trodden path.

Even now I think, maybe I should write something different. Observational essays are something I’ve done for a long time.

I think of launching into a new vector that will be full of glory.

But a lot of the time, it’s only that I don’t want to buckle down and get better at the task at hand.

Excellence has to be earned. And most of the time I am better at the thing I’ve already learned, as contemptuously familiar as it is.

So, I buckle down and craft my talent.

I’ll do the new thing later, when it’s not an excuse.

The rules of power

I stumbled across a book:

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

I found it as an audiobook at the library, but I think it would be best as a corner office bookshelf book. It’s the sort of thing you could pick up and open anywhere to read anecdotes supporting any of the 48 laws Greene outlines. It’s a fun read because of all the stories from history. Napoleon, P.T. Barnum, Kissinger, and animals in Chinese or African folk tales illustrate his laws.

There are a lot of laws and so far, some of them are contradictory.

But that’s how power works.

As he tells the stories of how people have used power, I realize power is very prepositional.

Power to…

Power for…

Power by…

Power in…

Power from…

Power against…

Power over…

Power is in motion, and power has an object.

Which makes it intrinsically unstable. It’s always in flux, and it does not sustain itself.

One of the folk tales, I don’t even know where it originates, is the story of the strong tree, which mocks the weak reed.

The tree stays fast, but the reed bends with every wind.


The strong storm comes. And the wind is too terrible for the mighty tree, which topples.

The reed remains.

The power of the reed?


And resilience is self-sustaining. Resiliency can be perfectly still. And it does not need any object.

It’s reflexive, keeping to its own.

To survive power, the powerful must remember themselves through it all. With humility and as much humor as possible.

Power is fleeting. But we will always have our selves.