Sunday, September 21, 2008

periodic laundry list

I'm definitely not using this blog in a writerly way. It's more like a newsletter for family and a handful of friends. The most trivial and mundane newsletter on earth. So, in that spirit...

Allie and I saw a great movie last night -- Ghost Town. Afterward, I said to her, "That was our kind of movie." It's a romantic comedy with interesting characters. I think I'm turning into my Uncle Pete. I used to like grim movies with violence and unhappy endings. Now I have no fortitude for violence, and I much prefer to leave the movie feeling smily and stupid. So, Pete, I recommend you and Marilyn go check this one out.

I'm a month into my first grad school class and I'm absolutely loving it. It's a lit class about autobiography. We're starting with St. Augustine's Confessions and moving forward. I'm not crazy about the primary texts -- folks didn't write as well back then as they do now, in my opinion. But I love the critical and theoretical stuff that we're reading along with it. And I like writing the papers, though I was nervous until I got my first grades that I was doing it all wrong. New form of writing for me. I think academia is the right career choice for me. Definitely a better fit than politics.

Speaking of politics, I think I last wrote about the ordinance to ban the mayor's wife from City Hall. Well, we're still battling that. Meantime, we've been getting some pretty cool things accomplished. Last week, we created two alliances with other mayors -- one a caucus of mayors from our metro area, the other an alliance with mayors from the state's largest cities. I think both of these are going to be powerful and effective initiatives. We're also gaining momentum on our initiative to create "new tools" for economic development in distressed areas of the city. Next week I'm going to a conference in Miami about economic development in the inner city. I'm pretty sure I'll pick up some good ideas there to bring back home.

My experience at City Hall has made me somewhat ambivalent about the presidential election. It's hard not to see McCain and Obama as mythic figureheads of corrupt organizations. But still, one choice is clearly better than the other, from my perspective. And it's weird to think we're on the brink of electing the first black president and I'm not super excited about it. (Obviously, I think that the prospect of Palin in the White House horrifies me.)

Haven't been able to run for weeks. I've had ankle problems. It's been so bad and chronic that I had an MRI last week. I get the results from that on Tuesday. I'm really hoping it's not a stress fracture, because that would likely mean I can't run Chicago. But this weekend it's feeling better, first time in a month or so that I have no pain to speak of. So I'm hoping I can pull it off. I won't be running the race very fast, but that's OK because Chicago Marathon appears to be as much of a festival as anything -- a 26.2 mile long party, I'm told. With 40,000 runners and two million spectators. Should be very cool.

Allie and I have another pet. Actually, it adopted us, and we don't anticipate it will be with us long. It's a great big spider named Gordy that lives on our front porch. Every night he spins a beautiful, huge net near the porch light and catches all the bugs that fly in its glow. Last night, when we got home from the movie, we stopped to admire him as he was making his way around the web, a silvery strand trailing behind. Suddenly, he darted off to the other side of the web and pounced on a little bug that got caught. It was breathtaking. The night before, I spotted a praying mantis caught in the web. Gordy was smart enough not to pounce on him. So I took my car key and broke the mantis free. I went in and bragged to Allie about my heroism and she came out to catch a peek at the little fellow. He was so cute. Just like a little alien.

We made a couple of big domestic investments last weekend at Sears. We got a dishwasher that actually washes dishes, first one I've ever owned, and a Dyson Animal. Man, the new vacuum really sucks!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

space olympics

This was my favorite thing on SNL last night:

Monday, September 01, 2008

now, dance

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

My uncle Pete sent me this video. So beautiful. Fits perfectly with where I'm at.

I've had a very trying few weeks. But ultimately I think they've been valuable.

A couple of Thursdays ago, nine members of the City Council co-sponsored an ordinance that would essentially ban the mayor's wife from working at City Hall. It's a clear effort to take him out by attacking him at a spot where he's most vulnerable.

For the following week, I was consumed with stress and anxiety. I could barely think straight, wasn't sleeping well at night, fell behind on my exercise and I wasn't eating well. There were moments when I thought I might well have an anxiety attack. Finally, I decided enough was enough and I told them I needed to take a week off, which I did last week.

It wasn't easy, you can well imagine, for a person like me who is so needy of others' approval. I felt guilty for leaving them stranded during a storm.

One of my main objectives for the week, though, was to read two books by Eckhart Tolle, who is sort of an unlikely pop spirituality star. Actually, I listened to them on my iPod while I did errands and chores and such. His main message is that life can only be found in the present moment, that the past and future are illusions where we live most of our lives, building stress and unhappiness. And he offers some practical suggestions about how to stay in the moment, and let go of all the drama of regret and anxiety and fear and whatnot.

It hasn't been easy. But I'm working pretty hard on it, trying to find ways to appreciate the present, to be present in it. He talks about how there are ideally three modes of being: acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm. The first is for when we're in situations that are unpleasant, the second is for pleasant moments and the third is the pleasant moments aimed toward a goal or a sense of purpose.

So the video from Pete is great. It's like a visual statement of what Tolle is talking about. What better example of enjoying the moment than dancing?