40 for 40 #11: Self-Acceptance

bamboo

The first ten things on my 40 for 40 list were actions I took — places I went, things I purchased, etc. And there will be more of those on the list later this year. But there have also been many internal changes occurring during this hallmark year. Some of them are temporary, like the nagging sensation that I have limited time left in this lifetime to experience everything that I desire. But others have been more positive and, hopefully, sustainable.

One of these is self-acceptance. This has always been a struggle for me, and as such it is an aspect of myself in which I have invested a lot of reflection and intention. I am starting to feel an internal shift occurring. Perhaps it is related to the passage of time, an evolution of who I am with a cumulative impact. It could also be that reaching this milestone in my life has triggered something that would otherwise not naturally occur.

I’m starting to feel OK with who I am; I no longer feel that I am in desperate need of being fixed. I have realized that to be happy, I have to accept — and appreciate — myself and my circumstances as they are right now. I have not become complacent, and I have not given up on pursing all of my dreams. Rather, I have minimized obsessing over the consequences that may or may not occur as a result of my being in the world and the achievements that I may or may not accomplish. I have started to realize that every thing I feel, think, and do matters and has an impact whether it is realized now or at some time in the future. I have cultivated patience and compassion for myself which expand outward as I interact with others. I see other, younger, people struggling to come to terms with who they are and I understand because I have been there. But I am no longer there myself.

A Fine Appreciation of Underrated Things

The humble dandelion is one of my favorite flowers. They joyfully brighten up otherwise ordinary lawns, offering visual variation through texture and color. The dandelion is also rich in many nutrients, such as vitamins K, A, and C, iron, calcium, and riboflavin, and they can be used medicinally to treat many ailments. They can even be made into wine.

dandelion

I recently subscribed to Wine Spectator, a magazine I first heard about while watching a PBS telethon; ironically I got it at no cost by using points from a recycling program. Despite my profound appreciation of fermented fruits, I hesitated to subscribe for years because I thought it would be a bit like my first visit to a winery when I was told by a snooty sommelier that I was not yet “ready” to try a certain wine. Instead, I have found it to be a lovely celebration of exceptionality, nuanced beauty, and delicacy — many of the ideals that I most cherish. It is also about agriculture, geography, food, and family stories. With each issue I travel around the world and have the opportunity to learn something new. While some of the profiled wines are out of my current reach— for consumption but not necessarily for investment if I had both proper storage and the ability to resist opening an intensely mysterious bottle — there are reviews of wines that are a good value, and even of those that from the label alone I had previously considered to be an inferior choice even within a limited budget.

Every day, we are surrounded by people, animals, natural objects, smells, colors, and other things that subtly add something unique and precious to our world. But too often these people, places, and things become background noise or are even dismissed because of their perceived irrelevance. Even I, as a naturally appreciative person who tries to intentionally be even more so, am often too quick to be apathetic or judgmental.

Like one of my favorite children’s storybook characters, Ferdinand the Bull, taught us — we need to just sit among the trees and smell the flowers. It is there that we will find the rarest beauty both in the world and inside ourselves.

40 for 40 #10: Weird Al

weird al

Going to a concert, for me, is always a luxury. I sadly lack the excess resources that would be necessary to partake in all of the potential excursions that interest me, even those that enthrall me. So going to the concert of someone I don’t consider a priority is an even greater luxury.

Poor “Weird Al” Yankovic, always the underdog. No, he is not in my top ten, but yes, I appreciate his work enough to have considered the luxury of his distant company at a concert one evening this June.

To be totally honest, I had a good excuse. It was my mother’s 70th birthday and I thought it would be fun for her. Luxuries become near necessities when it is an opportunity to bring joy to another person’s life. At least for me.

The concert was truly amazing and far exceeded my expectations. The evening began with just about the coolest entrance I had ever seen. He walked (actually danced and sung) through the venue where the concert was held and was filmed along the way (this was projected onto a screen on the stage) until he burst through the rear doors. Having recently worked with some procurement people there, I was familiar with the layout and could, in my head, imagine where he was and where I had been just a few months before. I can’t imagine a more fun and keepin’ it real way to begin a show.

My appreciation for Weird Al and his work had previously heightened when I saw his movie UHF several years ago. Many, many years ago to be more precise. My love of alternative media, along with my family legacy in the television industry, drew me to the message of this film. Of course, I can’t forget how many of his songs I have loved over the years — Ricky, I Lost on Jeopardy, and Amish Paradise, to name a few. At the concert I was introduced to a new favorite song that I had not heard before — Word Crimes. His ability to dissect and reconstruct pop culture is simply stunning.

My only regret is that our seats were subprime. Just about at the back of the theatre, but not really close to the spot where he made his grand entrance. But close enough, and good enough, for me.

40 for 40 #9: Herbes de Provence

lavender

Ever since I was a student in Mrs. Scarcia’s French class at Trexler Middle School in the 1980s, I have longed for the perfumed air and transcendent beauty of Provence. Alas, I have yet to visit this much loved region of France.

I recently purchased Herbes de Provence, a fragrant blend of lavender, marjoram, savory, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Admittedly, I purchased it to bring a small order up to the minimum required to qualify for free shipping. But upon reflection, I realize how it is sometimes the little things in life which bring us the most pleasure.

Opening up my jar of Herbes de Provence, I can imagine the rare beauty of this special geographic area. It has a lovely aroma that is as delicate as it is powerful. I love to sprinkle it on simple foods, like potatoes and pizza, to transform them into something really spectacular.

While it isn’t quite the same as traveling and immersing myself in the culture of Provence, I can ‘visit’ Provence any day, even every day, by just opening up my kitchen cupboard! It was a very well spent $6.50.

Our Purple Toenails

Purple has always been my favorite color. I love to wear it, surround myself with it, and integrate it into as much of my life as possible. It makes me feel happy, calm, and grounded.

I sometimes paint my nails purple, most frequently my toenails. About two decades ago I was visiting my grandmother, my toenails adorned with a lovely purple hue. As I sat on her fluffy sofa, as others watched television, I read a magazine. It was in that magazine that I saw a photograph of a child, dying of mal- and under-nutrition, who also had purple toenails. I was stricken by the disparity between me, a privileged American who can afford the luxury of painting my nails, and the nearly 25,000 people who die of hunger, either directly or indirectly, every single day. To this day I am unable to wear purple nail polish without being reminded of the suffering of millions of people around the world, and the political and economic injustices that create these unthinkable conditions.

I felt, and still feel overwhelmed, by the many inequities in our world. But even though it may seem impossible to provoke change, every little thing we do to make a difference helps. Our vote matters. Our consumer choices matter. Our contributions, financial or otherwise, to charitable and social justice causes matter. My privilege, however small it may sometimes seem in relation to others, makes it impossible for me to give up. Not just because it would be unethical and unfair, but because giving up would only serve to reinforce that divisive privilege. And that is simply not good enough for me.

The first step is to educate ourselves. If you would like to learn more about global hunger, the following website offer excellent resources:
Mercy Corps
U.N. World Food Programme
Stop Hunger Now
Freedom from Hunger
The Hunger Project

The following websites have information about domestic hunger in the United States:
Feeding America
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Research and Action Center