Category Archives: Navel gazing

Off Road Living

On a recent Car Talk episode, Tom and Ray called Victoria to see how their advice had benefitted or ruined her life. Victoria called about how to finance a car for her sons. It was supposed to be a talk of Volvos, but the Magliozzi’s common sense and humor shook something loose in her. Victoria’s follow-up report of what had transpired after the initial phone call was thrilling. Instead of following her original plan of buying her sons a car, she had changed her own life. She ditched her plans of business school and moved to California to be a working artist. And no car for her sons, but now she lives closer to them. I nearly cried when I heard this segment two weeks ago. Listen to the segment here.

For the past several weeks, I have been collecting stories of people who scrapped a mundane plan and ended up following a path of uncertainty. The take away message for me is not that dreams will be fulfilled. But if one follows a passion, the path is compelling and becomes a reward. Lately, every time I work hard and diligently for X, something intervenes and my  dream is dashed. Once the initial disappointment passes, I get a rush of freedom. I am on a path not entirely of my own making. And that is a relief because my imagination is not large enough to envision a life I want to live.

Today, I am glad my plans have been scrapped. The pressure is off to DO something to make my dream happen. Instead I am pleased to live for right now and to pour my energy into having a good day than getting some future reward.


No Computer Increases the Peace?


This radio is simliar to the boom box I have.

With 13 minutes remaining on a computer housed in the children’s section of my local library on 6th and Girard, I thought I’d dash off a blog post. Going offline was not my choice, but going on week 4 of not having a computer, I don’t miss it that much. I admit my social world has shrunk to include people who have comfort with using the telephone. But my 20 minute check ins on public computers has been sufficient for everything, including IM.

It’s hard to convey deep thoughts when the clock tool bar says 10 minutes remaining and has a green counter pulsing the seconds. I don’t like to write under time pressure.

Not having a computer has freed my time for mingling with people. Now that the baseball season is over, I am occupying my time with thrift shopping, searching out new foods at my local supermarket Cousin’s, and finding excuses to call my friends. I have NPR on in my apartment so much I actually have heard radio shows twice in a day. I get agitated by the endless stream of commentary about the Afghan war, no job’s created recovery, and the latest senseless act of violence. But I am soothed by the endless stream of talk.

Instead of reading from a computer screen, I listen. First, to my pounding heart and shallow breath. Then, to the stream of journalists and artists who spill their thoughts onto my living room carpet.

Still Alive…Just Drowning in Awesomeness

Avalon NJ at sunrise

Avalon NJ at sunrise

Quickie update to say I’m not letting my blog moulder (geez, why did that word pop out of my head. I’ve never used that word. Ever.)…Went to the shore for a week with no internet access. Wow, crazy. The weirdest part is I didn’t miss the internet at all and not once did I look at the ocean and think, “Wow, I wish I could Twitpic that.” I did enable my phone to text tweet, but I didn’t do it at all. Anyway, it seemed kind of creepy to zap in a tweet from my phone with no contact with Twitter at all. Like a deus ex machina thing, but only on a feebler scale.

I’m positively giddy right now from sleeping 10 hours a day and doing nothing but swim, walk, bike, and veg out in front of cable tv. (Don’t have cable at home, so I went on a binge of Food Network and HGTV programming. Actually, came back home with a new vocabulary -eg. remoulade- and knowing new things like every modern kitchens needs granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.)

But I’m buried under a massive pile of grant writing with 5 giant deadlines in October, including a behemoth federal grant AND I’m moving around Oct 3. The past week, I’ve done nothing but throw shit out of my apartment, write, and have those seemingly hours-long dreams induced by the nicotine patch. People who’ve used the patch know what I’m talking about. For people who don’t, briefly: the stimulant nicotine pumping in one’s system at 3 am creates some funky dreams.

The hard part of all this is I haven’t gone dancing for over two weeks. I’m horrified by this development, but plan on amending for this soon.

Ok, now back to work. I have a 9 hour information conference with the CDC tomorrow to prep for. Fun times.  I’ll try to stay in touch.

❤ PC

My Life as a Loner


Being a Loner is Liberating

Being a Loner is Liberating

In 7th grade, Steve Anderson approached me in the school library and said, “You’re a loner.” I peeked over my shoulder at my classmates clustered at other tables and hoped they hadn’t heard the comment. Red bloomed in my cheeks and my ears burned. Then Steve tried to engage me in a conversation asking me why I was a loner. I wanted him to go away, but he persisted. He kept asking why. The answer should have been obvious to both of us, but we were young and inarticulate. I was a mega dork – socially awkward and painfully shy. I desperately wanted friends, but didn’t have a clue on how to make them. 

My shyness and the more obvious social defects vanished over the years. I became pretty, developed a wicked sense of humor, and learned to fit in better. And I’m now ridiculously outgoing – I chat up strangers wherever I go and accept social invitations from people I barely know. I love to introduce people to each other, which is a hangover from childhood. I hate to see anyone to forced to hide in corners and not be included in conversation.

I have a few close friends and many, many social friends (people who I meet up at places for meetups, parties, and dancing). But I admit it, deep down I’m a loner. I travel my life as my own complete entity, not needing people as much as others seem to. I prefer my own company to anyone else’s. And I love the freedom of being able to do whatever I want without negotiating with another person.

However, I’m a loner who loves meeting people more than anything else in the world. A strange paradox. But I’ve learned to navigate the contradiction in a simple way. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I go it alone. But I take myself to places where there are lots of people. I take personal invitations seriously. I like it when someone I don’t know that well invites me to hear them DJ, go to their apartment for a BBQ, or join their friends for brunch. I make the time to go. I get to know the host better, and I get to meet new, amazing people.

But I usually I come alone and leave alone. And then I go out and do something by myself. Like dancing. Dancing is my favorite thing to do in the world and, for many reasons, I prefer to do it alone. Dancing is a good loner activity – the music is too loud for talk and everybody is crushed together so it isn’t painfully obvious that I’m solo. I dance with people when I’m out, but I’m not attached to any particular dance partner. I’m not antisocial by any means. 

Lonerdom has a bad rap. I wish I had told Steve to fuck off back in 7th grade.

My Alter Ego is More Fun

funThe learning curve to vanity blogging is steep. For years, I was blogging anonymously on specialty topics (eg. panic disorder) that consumed me. And then one day, Pop Culture Casualty asked me to join one of her collaborative blog, One Fine Philly. Great. And I loved it. Since it was a bunch of us writing atop each other, I didn’t worry about saying something stupid. After all, readers can skip me and enjoy the other contributions.

I conceived of Planet Caroline as a forum where I can be more thoughtful about the topics that I am passionate about. I could gaze across the water, go hmmm, and share integrated wisdoms with you.

But frankly, my alter ego at One Fine Philly is much more fun and relevant.

And I discovered, I am not especially deep. Not for a 500 word essay.

So I have some rethinking to do.

In the meantime, I’d like you to check out my last three entries from One Fine Philly. They are still timely- that is, they talk about events still in the future- and they are short too. They are all loosely organized around the theme: the stuff we did during our gawky junior high years are more fun today.

Party Like It’s Junior High! – Geektastic event on Sunday, August 23rd in Fairmount Park. Thumbnail sketch: BBQ & DIY water rockets. Awesomeness.

Speed Dating is a Good Way to Waste an Evening – Shmitten Kitten is hosting a series of uncomfortable speed dating events in September and October. The upside: events set to 90’s music we used to (and secretly still) love.

Philly’s Secret Getaways – This half-assed post made a good point. Sometimes it’s more fun to hang out than go out to the latest “must go” event.

Random aside: Thank you for responding to my posts via Facebook and Twitter. I’ve noticed that fellow bloggers tend to be the ones comfortable with leaving comments on Planet Caroline itself.

Life in the Middle


I used to like bold changes, often punctuated with pronoucements, “Starting today I will…” Quit smoking. Stop overeating. Start meditating. And I would put all of my effort into making those things happen for a week, a day, an hour. Relapse, failure, new resolve. Repeating that cycle of enthusiasm and discouragement was exhausting.

Now I make changes quietly, with little fanfare. Maybe I’ll eat one healthy meal rather than give up sugar forever. And I no longer track my progress because deep down I know I only make the changes I am truly ready to make.

Lately, the changes in my life are not ones solely of my own making. Instead, it seems like the ground shifted beneath me and I have discovered myself in a new place. I now realize I am in a subtle transition and I have no idea how or started, how it will turn out, or even where I am right now. I think of myself in the middle place. Strangely, I have little anxiety about the uncertainty in my life right now. That’s probably because I have things to anchor me in everyday life: an uncomplicated job, contact with family, and interests I enjoy.

It’s hard to be concrete about my time of transition- it cannot be easily labeled. It’s not moving, new relationship, medical crisis, or those things that galvanize people to new ways of being. Instead, it’s been a subtle shift in my values and priorities. And as a result, I have redirected my energy. A barely perceptible, but significant choice. I grew tired of trying so hard to please people and to sustain relationships. So, I decided to let go of the kite string and see what happened.

Like magic those relationships in my life I had been fighting so hard for vanished. Evaporated so easily.  The simplest act of allowing someone the chance to call me first reorganized my social life. I was freed from the burden of trying too hard. And then I had this wide open space to make new connections. And it was then I began to befriend myself.

The middle place for me is inchoate, but not at all threatening. I visualize it as existing in a puffy cumulus cloud.

So I ask you, do you or have you existed in middle places? Where you have no idea where you are, but it doesn’t seem to be a bad place to be.

My Worst Quality, now Magnified 1,000 Times


Salvator Dali, "The Persistance of Memory," 1931

Salvator Dali, "The Persistance of Memory," 1931


Often, I encounter people that I have forgotten. Not just forgotten their name. But also their face. No trace on my brain that we ever met. It’s bad. People come up to me making it obvious that they know me because we had a meaningful conversation. And then they look at my perplexed face and say, “You don’t remember my name?” I don’t have the heart to say that I don’t remember anything about ever meeting them– there isn’t even a tip of the tongue thing where I go, “Yeah I know you, but can’t remember from where.”

Yet very recently, I recognized a guy on the street that I’ve never met in real life, that I  only “know” through Facebook. But I wasn’t relying on my memory for that, but on my ferret-out-cuties radar. That radar is superhumanly sensitive. I can spot attractive people even in blobby, blurry peripheral vision, by hearing a rustle behind, or through animal instinct.

The forgetting thing is becoming more of an issue now that I am talking with more people through blogging. In the past couple of weeks people have emailed me or posted on my blog that they saw me out somewhere in Philly.  Usually, they haven’t come up and say hi, but rather want to chat after the event via an online forum. And I have no idea who they are, how we met, or even if we really met.

I guess the reason this stuff is unsettling is that when I am amidst strangers, I think I am invisible. I eat messy food, let my gut hang out, and frown a lot.  So, I don’t try to look my best when I think no one is looking at me.

Anyway, I dare you to come up to me if you see me in public. But if you do, don’t be surprised if I don’t remember anything about anything. Especially about stuff I write. I don’t take any of this that seriously.