28 October 2010

"What I've Learned" Peri Lyons, c2011, in a self help mode.

Greatest Hits: "What I’ve Learned"       all rights reserved c Peri Lyons

(Author's note: this is far and away the most popular thing I've ever written. It's gained an unexpected currency: there are life coaches and therapists, friends I sent it to, who give it to their clients. (Will someone please explain to me how to make actual money off that?) At the time, I was just trying to figure some stuff out by writing it down,...
Anyway, I don't always live this list, but it's a good feeling to try. : )

'what i've learned'

running out the door to yoga school, am suddenly consumed with desire to share what i've learned in the last two years of intense change and, well, growth:

1) Appreciate and accept people for who they are. Don't try and change 'em, or want something they can't give. They're giving what they can give. Enjoy it for what it is.

2) Trust your gut. If your head is saying "no, he wouldn't do that" and your gut is saying "but this is definitely what I'm feeling...", trust your gut. If a new job seems perfect but your gut is saying "NOOOOO!!!!", listen. Etc etc. Mostly, what you feel is happening? It's actually happening. Yup.

3) EVERYthing is there to learn from. How did you contribute to a situation in which you seem to be the pure and unadulterated victim? Okay, cop to it and then don't do that anymore. Usually, the bigger the "victim" you feel like, the bigger the lesson there is to learn.-Which doesn't take away from the bloody awful thing you just went through, but it gives it a much more empowering shape.

4) Have a spiritual practice. I don't care if you worship Kermit the Frog, do SOMEthing. Pray, meditate, chant "nam myoho-renge-kyo"...

5) Don't lie. -Just don't. It hurts you and everyone around you, even if you think you're doing it to be "nice."   You're not being nice: you're actually being- um, how to put this tactfully-  cowardly AND self serving. Being GENUINELY "nice" is respecting other people enough to be honest with them. Not lying seems hard at first, but then your life gets exponentially better. Besides, you will always get caught (if not at the moment, then-trust me-eventually) and you'll wonder why you feel subtextually awful even if you do get away with it at the moment. 

6) Don't cheat. If you are with someone and meet someone else, be honest about it, and/or end the other thing first, before acting on a romantic impulse.Otherwise you've doomed both your chance for a real relationship with the new person, and you've also diminished your own greatness, for a time. "It's easy to deceive someone who loves and believes in you" is a rueful observation, NOT an order.

7) Share your strengths, not your weaknesses. No one wants to hear your problems, not really. Maybe for a bit, but NOT all the time. Share your triumphs and joys more.

8) Don't overshare. Especially in a romantic context.

9) Learn to forgive. But don't pretend to forgive before you have. If you're nice to someone when you actually are still hurt, it just muddies the waters. Retreat until you've processed it. Or talk it through. If you can't forgive for a while, dont talk to em. You'll forgive AND forget eventually, then you can reach out. Or? not.

10) Don't make up stuff to torture yourself with. You can't know what's really going on in someone else's head or heart. If your beloved is now with someone else, and you are picturing their life together as one long feast of milk and honey, you may be right--but you are probably not. No one goes dancing down the flower laden path hand in hand singing show tunes together forever. -Unless there are serious drugs involved. -Get on with what makes YOU happy. Guessing about what's going on with HIM/HER, is a waste of time, because? you just can't know. Don't make up stuff to make yourself miserable about.- Besides, everyone turns into a human being (rather than an idealized Other) eventually, in a romantic relationship. She might be gazing at Prince Charming right now and saying "That whole crown thing? Really bugs me." 

11) Get some exercise, eat good stuff, don't drink too much. Your mom was right. You'll feel better.

12) Look outward. Reach out to a friend or do some volunteer work. Amazing how good it feels to help.

13) Support your friends. lean on them too --but not too much.

14) Go to every party you're invited to. 

15) Say YES. If someone says, for instance, "Do you want to go to East Harlem for the world's most amazing pastrami sandwich?", say yes, not "nooo, it's laaate.' Take reasonable precautions, but say yes to adventures. Fun is good. Pleasure is healing.

16) Keep an open mind. Not so open that things fall out of it, but open enough that you can change your thinking if new evidence presents itself.

17) Fall in love. If it doesn't work out, it hurts, but it's always, always better to love than not to love. 

18) People tell you everything you need to know about them on the first date. Listen.

19) Always have fresh flowers and perfume.

20) Tell me what YOU've learned.


Read more: http://www.myspace.com/perilyons/blog?page=3#ixzz13iD6xy9K

Read more:http://www.myspace.com/perilyons/blog?page=3#ixzz13iD6xy9K

21 October 2010

Synchronicity To The Rescue!

As I was walking to a class tonight, I wasn't in the best mood ever. Some kind soul had sent me a photo of my ex at a gala, with his date: so I was walking by the Reservoir, praying to Whomever to keep me connected to the Good, to genuinely wish them both love and happiness.-I'm not saying it worked every time, but it worked enough. So much that I asked for a sign, of any kind, that things happen -if not for a reason--then not completely randomly. Actually, I asked for a chance to be of use somehow.

On Park and 82nd St, I heard and imperious-if slightly cracked- voice say: "Young Woman! You! The Pretty One! Come here and help me across the street!"

I turned around, and there was a tiny, elderly woman, about the size and build of a capuchin monkey. She had a sort of modified shopping cart that she was using as a walker, and was very well dressed. But she was having trouble seeing over the top of her improvised walker, let alone WALKING. So I said "Of course, madam", took her arm--"not THAT way!" she growled; obviously this was a well rehearsed drill for her---and led her across the street. She issued instructions and commands the entire time. She was a little like Captain Blight in a robin's egg blue twin set. (Cashmere.)

She had stepped a little too far into traffic for my comfort, so I stopped, in order to holde her back a bit, as Buicks (ARE there still Buicks?) went whizzing past our noses, too close for comfort. She yanked at my arm.
"Young woman", she said, "I may be old, but I am not, as many young people think, a complete idiot. I would NOT walk into traffic. Not being gaga."
"Of course," I said. "It was a reflective instinctual thing."
She smiled, as though she was pleased with her ability to choose escorts. "Good vocabulary", she said, and smiled at me, just a tiny bit. Then she went back to issuing orders.
Feeling more sympathy for Fletcher Christian than I ever had previously, I tried to divert her with questions. Also, I was interested. She was a salty, upper class pirate, and I liked her.
"I have parents who are older, and they're still smarter than I am, so it's not likely that I'd assume you're bats. Or dopey. Is this slang dated?"I grinned at her.
She smiled contentedly, after making sure my arm was properly adjusted and secure for her clinging comfort. "I was the head nurse at (Rutgers?) Hospital. I was there when they did the first kidney transplant. Now THAT was a thing." She stopped and closed her eyes to remember, I pulled her out of the way of a speeding noncognizant limo. She didn't notice. She was thinking of the splendor of that moment.
"Were you a nephrology nurse? Did you know my uncle, Dr. Bricker? The famous nephrologist?"
She opened her eyes fast-and wide, as she realized we were in traffic--and skedaddled a bit as she asked,"Dr. NEAL Bricker? HE's your UNCLE?"
I smiled with pleasure. "Yup. And he's your age, and he and his amazing wife are TWICE as smart as I am, so no more prejudices about young 'uns, please."
We chatted some more. She had gone back to school and become a psychologist; written a book about breast cancer -"I wanted to call it "Renaissance", but the goddamn publisher said [here she adopted a mocking tone in sing song} "No one will KNOW what that MEANS, Yvonne!" She snorted in indignation, something I have not seen in person very often. "So they called it "You've Got A Friend." Another snort.
"You will pardon me saying so on such short acquaintance, " I said, "but that title somehow doesn't seem very...YOU."
She turned her pretty blue eyes towards me sideways, as if acknowledging reluctantly that I might be capable of cogent reasoning."No. It isn't."
We kept walking.
She said, "Okay, here's the UPS Store. We're going in here for a minute. You're coming with."
At this point, having smelled a whiff of distillery and juniper on her breath, I wasn't going to leave her by herself. I resigned myself to being late for class. "Okay," I sighed.
The men in the UPS store were more than kind to her- they were downright saintly gentleman.
While she was watching them Xerox stuff for her, she took to reminiscing. "My husband was a trombone player and a violinist, you know."
I said, startled, "Simultaneously?"
She looked at me sideways again for a moment, and then allowed herself to laugh.
:No, one at a time..." she said.
"Pity. He could been in vaudeville." I was funnin' her.
"Actually, he played for the house band at The Chase (?) Hotel, Played with Nat King Cole...Sophie Tucker..."
"NAT KING COLE?? He's my RINGTONE!" I cried, pulling out my phone and making it ring. Instantly it played King singing "Stardust."
"Sophie Tucker...now THERE was an unexpected broad." she said. "But you won't know who she is.
"Smile when you challenge me o showbiz trivia, Yvonne," said I. I then quoted some of Sophie' act to her.
She hooted with delight. "Yes! That's her! But you know, the damnedest thing..."
"What?" I asked, because she was drifting a bit.
She snapped to. "The damnedest thing is that, if you talked to her offstage, she had a very polished Back Bay accent. [She did a credible imitation of a lock-jawed Eastern pedigree girl.]
To me, Sophie was known for her thick New Yawk accent and vulgarity (funny vulgarity)--to hear that she was a tea drinking grande dame was causing me some trouble.  So I said, "I'm going to sit down next to you, and process the cognitive dissonance. Oh...may I see your ring?"

She was wearing a Claddagh ring. I have one-it was the last ring my ex gave me--and I have been looking for it for days. It is two small hands holding one heart, and means "I will be faithful to you always, my one true love."

"I have a ring just like that" I said, turning her hand to examine the ring.
"Oh? You know what it means, then?" she asked. She was looking at me with sudden kindness in her face.
"Yes. Yes I do. It's a lovely sentiment."
I stood up. "Oh they're done. Shall we?"
Another series of complicated maneuvers got Yvonne, her rolling cart, me and and umbrella  decanted onto the street intact. "I'm going to get a cab," she said.
"I'll help," i said. Another 20 minutes of maneuvering later, I put her into a taxi, gently. She said "Thank you , dear. You are kind. Remind me to tell you my favorite Neal story sometime." She started to close the door.
Then she opened it a bit and said "Hey! Young lady!"
I turned back for a moment. "Yes, Yvonne?"
She eyed me sharply. "What happened to your ring?"
I stood in a puddle, and thought about a photo I'd seen that day, that had changed my life a little.
"Well, young lady?"
I held up my two hands, ringless and manicured. "It's gone," I said. "It's gone." I smiled. "And I think I've just stopped looking for it. There are other rings. But yours is lovely. Goodnight."
She pulled the door to, and the cab sped away. She was going to the fire dept to complain about something, and had brought a "photo of my Daddy in his fireman's uniform in St Louis." she had confided. "That'll make em sit up and take notice. No one listens when you're old, young lady. So I bring props."

I walked a few blocks, already late to class, and already not caring. I ahd read in the Times this morning about 100 year olds and what had helped them stay alive, with joie de vivre, so long.
One woman said "Just put it behind you. Th past is the past. There's always better stuff in front of you. Never look back. Just don't." The other centenarians agreed. "Don't look back. Have fun. Don't dwell on the bad stuff. Look ahead."

I smiled, thinking about the article, and the cranky and vivacious lifeforce I had just bottled into a cab. Who showed me her ring, my same ring, and knew my uncle, who lives 3000 miles away, by first name. Who demanded my help and received it: exactly what I am trying to learn how to do in my own life, in so many ways.
Who might or might not have been "my sign", but who made me happy, as helping someone always does. As self forgetting in a good way, does. As I went off towards Sutton Place to my class, I thought "just keep looking forward...something better's coming", and thoght about the way the centanarians had repeated that, and thought about how it is what I'm going to be doing, from this step and that step on. Depite F. Scott Fitzegerald's seductively nihilistic sentnce" "And so we beat on, boats against the current, drawn back ceaselessly into the past,,"...I resolved, with each step, not to be swayed by his lyrical, liquid romntics, And to be a better boat. And go forward.

I walked on through the darkening air. And I sang "Stardust"- not softly, not loudly, but just loud enough for my own soul to hear it. Just that loud. "Sometimes I wonder, why I spend the lonely night/dreaming of a song/a melody/haunts my reverie/and I am once again with you..."
And I thought, "let's save the sadness for the singing and the songs, yes? Put drama on the stage where it belongs." Something in me lifted and flew free. I walked, and sang, and said "goodnight" to the sleepy windows I was passing, and felt my heart, at last, settle cozily back into the nest it had fled from, in June.

Goodnight, city. Goodnight, Yvonne. And Yvonne?
Thank you.

love peri

19 October 2010

There Is No Title For This That Google Will Recognize, So Screw It: Random Things

Random notes from a random notemaker: or,
Brides, Princes, Laundry Rooms and Dead Union Organizers DO have a Common Denominator. So there.   (read on....)

1) Read today that Martha Custis "invented" the wedding veil. Martha Washington's granddaughter, she made herself a veil of white lace, after her fiance remarked that her face looked especially lovely when she peered through the lace curtain. What he was actually saying was "You look much better when your face is mostly hidden, but you're from an extremely rich family, so what the hell. " I wonder if he spent the rest of their married life positioning her behind drapes, potted plants, shower curtains, whatever.
It's a good thing he didn't say she looked good by lamplight. Women everywhere would be walking down the aisle with lampshades on their heads.  

2) The Italian Prince called this evening, inviting me for two weeks in South America. "Or maybe Barbados.", he said. His English is not good. Nor is his grasp of vacation geography. He calls like clockwork every few months, and every few months i turn him down, but damn if that boy don't keep calling. Bless his princely little heart. He wasn't born a Prince, but was made a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire for his Services to Italy: he invented a process to make olives GROW in pretty colors and thus made more money than God. Apparently the world was waiting breathlessly for a pink olive. Who knew. -I've used every excuse in the book to wriggle out of these kind offers, such as: "I can't, I'm seeing somebody," [no, I'm not];"I can't, I'm going to, um, Wauhegan"[pretty much a "no" there, too..where IS Wauhegan?]," and , "I can't, I'm awaiting canonization,"-but to no avail. --Yes, yes, i COULD just hang up, but really--is YOUR life exciting enough that you can do without a call from a prince begging to take you to exotic destinations? And neither is mine.

3) While in the laundry room of the apartment building I live in this evening, and while folding what seemed like more laundry than ANYONE could POSSIBLY have EVER, I sighed out loud, without meaning too.
The nice, elderly yet sprightly, man folding across from me, looked up inquisitively.
"You okay?" he asked, in a kindly fashion.
"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just that I just remembered, my servants are imaginary. Damn it."
He smiled. "My daughter just moved to China, for her work, and she has servants. She still can't get used to it."
I grinned back. "You know, I was in a place with servants last year for a week, and I was AMAZED how easily a girl who grew up singing folk songs about unions, could get used to it. I still occasionally forget, and snap my fingers to have someone bring me a margarita by the pool."
He looked puzzled. "There's no pool on this building."
I sighed again. "I know. Or servants. Or margaritas."
He pointed out that there might well be margaritas I was unaware of on the premises, and I realized that he'd been kidding about the pool. Then, after frowning thoughtfully for a moment, he said, "Union songs?"
I had to think back a few sentences, and then realized: "Oh. Yes. Union songs. Folk songs from the 30s and 40s about the need for unions, and the meanness of thug union busters. I was sort of a pinkdiaper baby." [Note to young 'uns: a reddiaper baby is one who was brought up in the 30's by liberal NYC Jews, who leaned to the socialist side; a pink diaper baby is a descendant of same, either literal descendant or spiritual.]

He stopped folding, put his laundry down carefully, stood up straight, and drew a deep breath.
"I dreamt I saw....Joe Hill last night...." he warbled, in a pretty sturdy baritone.
"-Alive as you and me!" I chimed in delightedly.
We sang the next part in unison: "Said I, "but Joe, you're ten years dead!" we caterwauled. In a nonetheless pleasing manner.
And I went high for the harmony:
"I never died, said he....I never died, said HEEEEEeee!"

We did the entire song.

I was about to ask him if he knew "Long Black Veil", but the laundry room was closing.

In the elevator, we talked our shared love of traditional folk music: not modern folk, which can be great and has some of the best songwriters alive committing it (Michael Peter Smith, David Massingill, Erik Frandsen) but the stuff that was written by plaintive and anonymous folk in the last five hundred years. And brought to the US in boats and planes, and then: transformed by the loved ones waiting on the new but homesick shores, into  songs that were the same- only different.

Then he got out, bowed deeply and dropped his laundry basket. I giggled and waved as the doors closed.

And that, ladies and jellybeans? Is why I live in this town.


How are YOU?


16 October 2010

Went to the Metropolitan Opera the other night to see "Boris Godunov". I love the accoutrements of opera: getting to dress to the glittering nines, getting to be with a handsome man in black tie, getting charged 32 dollars for a glass of Veuve Clicqout (Nope, didn't buy one; nor was the bartender amused when I asked him, since he didn't take credit cards, is I could trade colorful shells and beads, or perhaps liovestock, instead. He might have just have been bitter because he didn't have change for a sheep.) It's just opera itself I'm not sure about. Which is an irremediable failure on my part, but it's probably like sea urchin sushi or Justin Bieber: you either totally love it or you, well, don't.

I have written about opera before; I think it can be good for a critic to know absolutely nothing in the slightest, about the art form she's talking about. -Not good for the readers, maybe, but really- who asked them? Sheesh.

This production of "Godunov" was impressive but a little on the "hey, let's just do weird things and hope the audience thinks it's arty!" side. The sets were very, very minimal: apparently, someone walked into an empty warehouse one day and said, "Hey this reminds of me the scheming and power struglles in 18th century Russia!"- and the costumes were beautiful but a mite distracting. Partially because it appeared that the costume designer's approach was to close his eyes, open a book about "Costume Through The Ages", and simply copy whatever his eye first fell on. So there were ladies in 16th century ruffs; 19th centurey Empire costumes; and 20th century Gaultier suits; while the men cavorted in the priesthood robes of an oder that didn't exist at that time, as well as 19th century peasant, 21st century Generic Madman, and, with Boris G himself, a sort of Marilyn Manson-meets-Nine-Inch-Nails post Goth thing: he also had waistlength Cher Hair.  I kept thinking: "you're Tsar, dude: you can't afford a haircut? Even washing it would be a nice gesture."

You'll be surprised to learn that it didn't end happily. However, if I remember my history right, which is a pretty big "if, the REAL "False Dimitri" (he pretended to be the rightful Tsar, don't even ask, really) didn't stride out onto the stage proclaiming that justice peace and really good borscht-the kind you make from scratch--would now be readily available to all you smelly poor people. Nope. What ACTUALLY happened was that the peasants got fed up with him--turned out the borscht was storebought--and shot him out of a cannon, over the Russian border into Poland, a technique one almost never finds recommeneded in books called things like "How To Live A Long And Healthy Life". In fact, the number three rule, after "Stop smoking" and "don't date actors", is "Try not to get shot out of a cannon into Poland."  And I don"t. or do, or have, or haven't. Or something. Damn this grammar thing.- Anyway, good night.

07 October 2010

Giving It Up

I've always held the theory that people either "expand" or "contact" as they get older.

Not literally--well, okay, sometimes literally--but I've noticed, especially after 30, that a person's reaction
to, say, a difficult life situation, comes down to the most basic of two choices: we either move towards the situation or away from it. "Moving towards" involves stuff that doesn't feel good at the moment: feeling the pain, figuring out what one's lessons are, facing whatever truth needs to be faced. It's the path of growth, and, like most things that are good for us, is not that much fun. But like exercise, and broccoli, and writing thank you notes...it makes us feel better later. MUCH better.

 "Moving away" from the situation IS fun...well, it feels like fun at the time. In NYC, one can keep incredibly busy, which not only is distracting, but makes one feel important. "I'm really busy, therefore I MUST be doing something important", could be alternately the motto for either NY/LAers.,or a hamster in his wheel. I speak from experience: I have spent a lot of time as a rather glamourous hamster.

When you move away from a difficult situation--when you drink a lot, or lie to avoid "hurt feelings", or get lost in the arms of yet another Troo Luv, or do anything that distracts you while at the same time  feels really good--a necessary part of you is at risk of genuinely dying. I'm not saying "never have a glass of wine after a hard day at the office". I am saying that what I've learned recently is: sometimes, you need to be quiet, do nothing, and listen.

It's HARD TO DO.    -DAMN!

I've always been a "runner towards": I can't help it, it's part of my nature. I learned this in a very concrete way when, 15 years ago, a grownup was beating a child on the street, and I ran towards the situation, not away. I got my hand broken with a tire iron for my foolhardiness, but the adult got sent to jail, so that worked out as a reasonable trade. But there are nights when I can't find much good about myself--I'm not 22 anymore, or I'm not successful enough, or my nose is not currently fashionable--when just knowing I ran towards and not away, makes me think, "well at least there's that. " -More permanently, I learned that I can do that. I can face difficult truths. -Eventually. But there's always another growth step, isn't there? The next trick is to feel the bad stuff and face the hard stuff: without wallowing in 'em. As a songwriter, I can rationalize "wallowing" big time--this isn't selfpity, it's research for a song, dammit! I NEED to hang on to these emotions! They might be worth something someday!-Sheesh.

I ran into someone the other day who'd been a close friend, a long time ago. He had contracted. He didn't want to know anything knew: he had his ideas and beliefs, thank you. He had the same opinions as he had a decade before, but now they'd solidified into unshakeable dogma. When I first knew him, he was enthusiastic, curious,, and made lots of mistakes-but some of them turned out pretty well. Now he made no mistakes...well, not in his eyes, anyway. Other people made a LOT of them, according to him. His life philosophy had become "I don't want to hear it."

I've been like that. I recently had to grovel to a friend because I'd been so uncompassionate and so judgmental when she went through a breakup a few months ago. I was so busy feeling superior, that I couldn't and wouldn't feel her pain. I mean, she deserved it for making such stupid choices, right? -Well, ladies and jellybeans, the old adage is true: Karma IS a bitch. I had to get broken open, recently,to let the light shine back in. I had to look at some choices I'd made. Oooops. Not so hot.

It's been hard. It was the hardest time I've ever been through. There was a time when I was young enough to think I had the luxury, of having time to run away from the situation. I drank enough, "fell in love" enough, and ran around enough to distract myself from whatever the Universe was holding up in front of my face and saying"LOOK AT THIS", about.- But I don't have that time anymore. Never did, truth be told. Now the stakes are higher, and the world says "grow, or else." So I had to expand, to let in light, to look at what hadn't worked; I had to, essentially, choose what I wanted to be when I grew up.  And this time? No backsies, as we said in childhood.

So this time? I cried. And learned when to stop crying. I had some wine. And then didn't for a while. I looked at where i'd been lazy, or selfish, or had ignored my own inner counsel; I looked at how I'd lied, or been thoughtless, or ...or...or.... But I also learned that self-flagellation is no substitute for actual CHANGE; part of grieving was learning when to stop. I started to look at  the insanely painful situation with what my wise sister would call "radical acceptance" and my mom would call "emotional economy": I accepted it.
This thing happened. It can't unhappen. I wish it hadn't happened. But now i will accept it completely and move on.

The folks I know who choose growth--in ANY form--are the friends i've watched grow into wiser, finer, stronger folks. The friends I had who chose "running away"...well, I don't know what happened to them.
Every day I force myself to choose growth of SOME kind--reading, or thinking, or reaching out with hardlearned compassion--and every day it's a chore. But I look in the mirror lately and I see--well, okay, I see someone who could use a little Botox in places, but I also see a woman who has worked really hard to earn my trust and respect. I don't know if I would have met her ever, if the Terrible Thing hadn't happened.

But it did.

And weirdly?

I'm grateful.