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The speck on a speck

Monday, February 24th, 2014

I’ve heard it said that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches of this planet. And while we obviously can’t count either (trust me, I’ve done some very official Internet Research), I think that the point is that the universe is startlingly, overwhelmingly, mind-bogglingly gigantic – which makes me feel tiny. Smaller than tiny, actually. Indefinitely small. Infinitesimal.

In this knowledge, human beings shouldn’t matter; compared to the rest of creation, we should be negligible. There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea, and we’re the speck on a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck on the wart on the frog on the bump on the log therein. To make matters worse, just as the universe is constantly expanding into cold and infinite darkness, stars burning out into corpses along the way, we’re all racing toward death at a breakneck speed.

In case you’d forgotten, none of us are making it out of here alive. We are small, tenuous, and frail. It’s enough to make a girl despair – because does any of this, this world, this living, even matter?

Do I matter?

But then I remember that my nose can smell chocolate chip cookies, and my tongue can taste them. I think of the sky before a summer rainstorm, clouds the shade of polished steel, my eyes receptive to the hues. Sunlight hits the skin and warms it. On lucky nights, I can hear owls high in the trees of Jefferson Park, even if I can’t see them. We experience life in color. We encounter the world by way of our five senses, and we are constantly receiving through them. It didn’t have to be this way, but it is.

Doesn’t this feel generous?

And beyond what we see, taste, touch, hear, and smell, there’s even more. The rhinoceros is actually a thing. Photosynthesis works. Crack open a spaghetti squash and the flesh falls apart into tiny strands. If corn kernels are heated to the right temperature, they explode into soft, edible puffs. Whales sing. Words, invisible and intangible, have the power to heal or destroy. Yawns are contagious. Babies laugh; we all laugh. When we’re sad, tears fill our eyes.

This world is full of beauty and sorrow, and I don’t know which you’re experiencing today – but I’m combatting the numbness that often feels so easy. I am struck with the miracle of what it means to be alive, even on a so-called “normal” Monday. We may be small and our lives may be fleeting, but the gifts of this life are extravagant and lavish, and none of this is an accident.

Trying for triceps

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I have negative triceps. There’s, like, nothing there. If my arms were outerspace, there would be a black hole where my triceps are supposed to be.

Haha, PHYSICS JOKE!!! Science is sooooo funny.

I am 3 1/2 years older than my sister Becca, so when I was 15 and basically the same size I am now (massive), she was 11 and scrawny. She is still incredibly skinny – she turns sideways and disappears, just like Olive Oyl – and can wear clothes that the cool kids wear (skinny jeans, tiny dresses with leggings underneath, various Forever 21 garb), while I and my thighs are banished to more frumpy sensible attire.

I am not bitter. Then again, here is a picture of me as a child:

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I have always had those thighs and a scowl.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that when I was a full-grown 15-year old and Becca was her scraggly 11-year old self, she could beat me in arm wresting.

I have never had any upper-body strength. But I want that to change, because what if one day, I find myself dangling off a canyon edge? A single pull-up could save my life. And if that’s the case, it’s time to take action.

Take action to get action. That’s always been my motto.

Several times each week, I see the King of the Weight Room at the gym. You know exactly who I’m talking about: Stallone in “Cliffhanger.” The man who is bursting out of his muscle shirt. The guy whose neck is just a direct path from his ear to his collarbone.

This man is to triceps as Hunter Lane is to quads.

In other words, I have found my new trainer.

He just doesn’t know it.

YET.

50:3

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

On Sunday, while talking to my mom, one of my major insecurities fell out of my mouth.  Without the slightest hesitation, it slipped off my tongue – and landed right there on the coffee table.

“Where did you learn that?” she asked.  “Why do you feel that way about yourself?”

And for the past 36 hours, I’ve been thinking about the “reasons why.”  For an all-around self-confident girl, I’ve spent a lifetime banking reinforcements for a few stupid insecurities.

A few days ago, I got word that John Medina, a dear friend, former employer, and bona fide GENE CLONER was going to be speaking in Denver last night – so of course, I went.  I’ve heard John speak in Seattle many times about his research on the brain – how it works and what we know – but no matter how many times you hear him, he’s always engaging, entertaining, and brilliant.  It was so good to see a familiar face.

Last night, he said that research shows that it takes 3 reinforcements for the brain to learn something, and 50 to unlearn it.

For a girl like me with a lot to unlearn, those are some really bad odds.

Once again, it’s time to combat with a Hiroshima of Truth.

Good for the soul

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

There is only one thing that would be enticing enough to make me skip “Lost” and pay $36 to go on a date with myself, by myself.

I mean, barring an NSYNC reunion tour.  Obviously.

Last night, I came home from work and changed my clothes.  I reapplied makeup.  I fluffed my hair, and wore my cute shoes, and took myself down to the Belcourt Theater.  I ordered a glass of wine, found a seat toward the middle, and proceeded to wait for the show to start.

If I’m going to take myself on a date, I am definitely going to be punctual.  Excessively punctual.  BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT!  (I might have been an hour early.)

But the show was worth the wait.  Matraca Berg (wrote a little ditty called “Strawberry Wine”), Gretchen Peters (wrote a little something called “Independence Day”), and Suzy Bogguss (looks as good today as she did in 1995) played a round.  Matraca is coming out with her first album in 10 years, and she played some of her new material; it was heart-stopping.  Suzy’s voice was effortless, strong, and true.  And Gretchen… well, in recent days, Gretchen has been my favorite writer (a position continually jockeyed for between Patty Griffin and Lori McKenna and Matraca and Gretchen).  When she sang “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” I couldn’t breathe – and didn’t realize it until the end when I finally exhaled.

Songs like these are my heart and soul – moments of definition in my often nebulous life.  Per Heather’s recommendation, I watched this fascinating piece, and loved hearing that “the mind of God is music resonating” (“…through 10-dimensional hyperspace,” but let’s not pretend that I know what that means).

It reminded me of this, which I had totally forgotten that I ever wrote.

I hope that you can do something that you love today.

Time is ticking away

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

My friend Mark recently forwarded me a link to a fascinating article from the New York Times.

Hold it. Clarification. This article is more than fascinating – it is universe tilting, so insane that my brain feels like it’s been put into a blender and turned to “Frappe.” Read it first. And then continue reading on…

I had never heard of the Copernican formula, but now that I have, I wanted to put it to the test. I am a big fan of things being predictable, of knowing what is going to happen and when. I carry a red leather-bound calendar with me everywhere I go, and in it I keep not only my own schedule, but my friends’ and families’ plans. I am a fan of short-term survival and long-term goals. I keep a watchful eye on my finances, and am largely a very steady, responsible person. I love knowing the plan, and having the necessary data to project ahead into the future.

So I went ahead and shook the Magic 8 Ball that is the Copernican formula, and asked a very unpredictable question: “When am I going to die?”

Now, I am no math wizard, and I will spare you all of the painful mathematical details… mostly because they’re probably incorrect. BUT! According to my calculations, with 95% certainty, I am going to die sometime between this coming year, and 600 years from now.

Thank you, Dr. Gott, for providing me with a sure fate I can count on – at least with 95% accuracy.

Old textbook brought to fruition

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I was reading through an old music theory textbook tonight (you know, as one does), and came across the following sentence, boldly underlined: “Indeed, music does border on the infinite, for it is intangible, invisible, and fleeting, existing only in time.” Compelled, I went back and read it again, and then again.

Traces of music have been found in the most ancient civilizations and the most primitive tribal cultures. Scientists even claim that it exists in space. It has been around for as long as anyone has been keeping track.

What is it about music that is so universally important? Music draws our emotions out, often to the point of wringing us dry. Everyone loves music. And if someone is an anomaly who does not love music, at least they don’t hate music. That would be simply inconceivable – an impossibility on par with someone watching this and not feeling their heart smile, even just a little bit.

When one is listening to music that they really love, the same “pleasure centers” in the brain light up as are associated with sex, drugs, and chocolate. My friend John Medina tells me that music recognition and comprehension are stored in many areas throughout the brain, and that this is an evolutionary response to strokes; the more areas of the brain that store a certain subject, the better chance of retaining an ability in the event that part of the brain is lost. The more areas of the brain that a subject is stored, the longer it has been around (i.e. had the chance to develop in different regions of the brain).

The fascinating thing: music is found in more areas of the brain than language. Therefore, it is safe to say that music preceded language. This is why stroke victims often lose their verbal skills, but retain musical comprehension.

I think about the verse in the bible that says, “The Lord will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). It baffles me to think that music is part of God’s language toward us. He uses music as a communication tool, a way to interact that goes beyond just words, hence the emotional response that people often have in worship at church – or, for that matter, at a U2 concert.

Last night was a rare night for me: I remembered how much I love to sing. For all of the singing that I do, I often forget that I love it. But sometimes – sometimes – I remember, and I feel the power and freedom, the infinity of music. I love to sing. I really do.

And as I recently read, everyone simply must do what they love.