The truth of a tumbleweed

I recently read an interview with Alan Cumming where he talked about how, when he was in the southwest and watched tumbleweeds tumbling by it made him think about how life is like that, like a tumbleweed, and how we pick up bits and pieces of experiences, of the people and the places we see, and carry them around forever…It made me think of how we keep adding to our tumbleweeds as we grow older. We pick up debris from bad relationships, bad jobs, accidents or tragedies, and it piles right up next to the joyful laughter, the excited and upbeat life events, the successes and the good fortune, all together in a tangle that we call our life.

I think if we were to take apart the tumbleweed that is our story, unravel the knot, we would all find some beauty and some beast; no one, at least I am pretty sure no one is, is immune to bad things, we all have had some terrible experience at one time or another…I know people who have suffered childhood abuse, I know people who have suffered accidents, deaths of loved ones, unimaginable recoveries both the mental and the physical, seemingly insurmountable obstacles that somehow they overcame and grew into adults and all of those things are part of their life story…all of those bad things are jammed right next to births of healthy beautiful babies, first homes, fantastic job opportunities, deeply meaningful friendships…REALLY really good stuff rolled around with the REALLY really icky stuff. All in a tumbleweed of who they are. You can’t take yourself out of the equation of what adds up to what has become your life.

The thing about a tumbleweed is that you can’t really see what’s deep inside unless you dissect it. They are jam packed with everything that has gathered up inside of them along the way. Much like the prettiest house that might be on your street, but the inside looks like some kind of insane chaos from Grey Gardens, or the Hollywood beautiful couple whose Instagram is filled with beautiful clothes and meals and trips, but neither of them likes the other and they are bewildered with what happened to their lives, to their plans, to them…The outside is not indicative of the inside. The depths of our tumbleweeds, the core, is really what makes us “US” when you think about it. Our most authentic selves are wrapped up with the deepest parts of our experiences and our pasts. Both the good and the not good events are the basis of who we are, no matter how we might try to run from some of them over the decades of our lives.

I am definitely feeling that I am at a chapter of my life where I have no interest in trying to decipher WHY I think like I do, or WHY things matter to me, I just know what sits right with me, what I think is right and wrong with the world and the people in it and I try to live in a way that does not assault my own soul. I like to lie on my pillow at night and know that I have lived well and cared well and feel at peace with who I am, how I think, and how I interact with those around me. My tumbleweed is filled with knots and clusters of things that happened in my life that have made me think like I do and I don’t really care about the “why” of any of it anymore, I just know what feels “off” to me and what doesn’t and I will go forth with that, doing and thinking what sits right with my spirit, what makes me shine and shimmer, and boy anybody who knows me knows I love the sparkles and the glitters of life, and what feels dull to me, and makes me dreary, or makes me feel clouded, well, it’s a hard ‘no’ now…I’ll pass if I don’t think it will feel good to my mind or my body. This vessel, this tumbleweed, is the only one I have and I want it to last me a while longer, so I will tend to it as best I can. It may just be a weed, but even weeds often have pretty flowers.

…And all your money won’t another minute buy

I have heard a number of interviews on NPR over the years with Norwegians, Swedes, Europeans in general, and also Americans who live and work outside of the United States, and a subject or “issue” that almost always comes up is how Americans work and WORK and W-O-R-K, and seldom use all of their allotted vacation time, or paid and approved sick time, and take some sort of, “sickening pride,” is how the one Danish lady put it in her interview, in being overworked and overtired and how ridiculous it seems to most of the rest of the world!!! Now, just to be clear, I have no allotted vacation time, I have no approved sick time, I have no PTO as I know it’s called. I am self employed, I am single, if I do not go to work I do not get any money. Period. I have no choice but to work until my fingers are raw and my back is breaking, but YOU PEOPLE with employers, benefits, and perks, what’s the deal??!! What is it about “us” that makes some sort of glory out of exhaustion and busy-ness, like it’s a huge compliment to be SO STRESSED and always tired??!! What’s up with that?? It sounds awful.

I took yoga class with my two granddaughters on Valentine’s day morning, we did it in my loft via zoom, we then ran some errands, the soon to be licensed driver drove us around town in my work truck, we visited briefly with their great-grandparents, also known as my mom and dad, and then we decided to go out to the diner for a late lunch. I did not go to work that day. It just did not happen, the day flowed otherwise. In the late afternoon, when I got back to our shared driveway I felt like I could not be any happier than I was, at that moment, watching them run up their porch steps into their house, the house right next door to my own… If I had died in the seconds that it takes to get from their yard to mine, I would have died a happy woman. Yes, I lost a day of pay, but what I gained was an unexpected day with two teenagers who will soon fly their nest and I likely will not see very much in the future…and that time will be here before I know it…I earned no money that day but gained hours of joy.

Time treats us all equally. My clients have just as many hours in a day as people in our neighborhoods who are struggling and live a very unstable life. I work for wealthy people. I take care of their beach houses. Some of them have country houses and mountain houses too, in addition to their main houses, some of which occupy entire floors of NYC skyscrapers. They have more money than you and I do, or ever will, but they don’t get any more time. They unexpectedly get sick too and their plans, just like ours, can be dashed by divorce, pandemic, accidents, death…their bank accounts might be much bigger but their clocks don’t have more hours than ours.

Just like us the super rich and the very poor get 24 hours of their day and 365 of them make a year. My clients of means have very little in common with me, but for our love of their homes, and I never had many, or any girlfriends actually, who were just like me while I was a parent; single, working, mothers, so I have rarely, if ever, been able to have a conversation with someone walking in my shoes. I am okay with that, but I never got to really have a real peer group. Wealthy people can complain together about the devolving of first class service or excessive fees from a fund they decided to turn over, and married women can chat together about what annoys them about their husbands while meanwhile the husband is keeping a roof over their heads, so I never could talk deeply with anyone about how hard my life was when it was so hard. What I do know is that success never happened for me, my dreams were all thwarted by my terrible decisions and dumb choices in my late teens and twenties, so I make my life as good as I can, and for me, as good as I can has a lot to do with stability and self care, as money is not something that I have in abundance, and so it can’t be equated with success…

I don’t have the financial comfort that most of my friends have, and certainly not like my clients have, so I make the absolute best that I can with what I do have, the time I do have…I like a stable life, I like not drowning in debt, I like being responsible with my bills and keeping my credit score high, BUT if I could work less and do more yoga, or more housekeeping, or more yard work, or travel, I would…If I could make the choice to do more of what excites me and work less, I would. What confuses me is people who have more “free” time, or PAID time no less, available to them, to do the things I wish I could, to do self care, to travel, to do yard work, to spend with their granddaughters, and they don’t…well that just never makes a lick of sense to me. All the money they have won’t buy them more time.

If that week of Valentine’s day was my last on earth, those girls are not going to remember about which customer’s decks I got bleached, or which customer’s garage I did a full Marie Kondo on, or which customer got their soffits sanded, no, they would remember our morning yoga class that we enjoyed together, the super fabulous crystal encrusted candles and chakra bracelets they unwrapped from me rather than boxes of candy, and our visit with my parents and our unplanned trip to the diner, and they would remember that Valentine’s Day probably for the rest of their lives. What I might have done that day for work would have earned me some money, but it would’ve been just another random day of pay that would be meaningless to anybody but me & the people who had to pay me for it.

After the mess that has been “the covid years” of 20-21-and now into 22, what can we collectively do as humans to make a real change for the future as to how we define success??? Success can be defined in many ways but I think as Americans it mostly feels like money and material goods…I heard this week from a client who has spent the last month in the hospital and is now going on a more toxic cancer treatment that might kill her before the cancer does so she won’t be able to come down to her beach house at all this spring and probably not at all this summer…she will not get to see the ocean probably at all this season and I can see it every day if I want. It puts so much in perspective for me, what matters to me, what kind of stability matters to me, to appreciate the beauty in nature around me, and how I use my time, because that lady and I have the same number of days this week and I still have a choice, what I can do, and cancer has taken most of her options away. Time passes and there is nothing we can do about it.

Spring cleaning time is upon us, and who does not like a full spring cleaning??!! It’s like a fresh slate when the yard gets cleaned up and the house is refreshed, but how about when we spring clean our thoughts??? THAT is where change in behavior can be found, change in attitude, the realization that what you thought was really important when you were 25 does not seem as important at 52…Sure I can be standing in line at the market with people whose car costs more than my house, who have investments in just one account of their multiple accounts that total more than I could ever earn in my entire lifetime, who have properties in different climates, and whose diamond rings cost more than my truck, BUT their clock is ticking, second by second by second, just like mine…

Do they get to spend a day with and a yoga class with their granddaughters on a random Monday, do they get to drive their youngest granddaughter to school every morning and say that last words she hears before she goes out into the world, “do good work, and be kind,’ do they get to go out for drives with their older granddaughter who is practicing on her permit and running us on as many errands a week as possible??? Do they get to walk just a few hundred feet from their front door and get to hug the people they love most in the world?? How they choose to spend their time and their regrets are not any different than yours or mine. A clean slate for spring might do us all good, the rich and the regular, to rethink what matters.

These people may have much more “success” than I do but can they take a break every day from their job and walk up the dunes to the ocean and breathe in the salt air, feel the sand tickle their face, see the whole world in front of them, and listen to the waves crash against the shore??? All their money won’t another minute buy…I think we could all learn from the Danes and their other Scandinavian neighbors, that being happy has so much more to do with WHAT WE DO than what we have or earn. We can all make changes, changes in how we “judge” success, and I think in the future, it’s going to be that I am onto something…I’m willing to bet success is not going to have as much to do with wealth and assets, as it is to do with health, love, and time well spent.

Mother May I

I’m quick to say that my mom and I have little in common, but I ASK for her opinion about almost everything. Today is her birthday. Today, like most days, I am thankful for her. Off the top of my head, in seconds, I can think of 14 girlfriends who would give EVERYTHING they have to have another day, or week, or year, let alone years, with their moms. I do not take it for granted that I have my mother still, to talk to, or text about wordle every day, or to vent to, or to give me an “atta girl” when I do something fabulous and feel like I want a verbal pat on the back. She has never NOT been there for me when I needed her. That counts for a whole lot in my list of what matters.

My mom and I are sometimes like oil and water, meaning not easily combined, but for the most part we have enough of the same likes, dislikes, and qualities, opinions about things that matter, that we have a pretty good relationship. You know how a good vinaigrette or salad dressing is good because it takes flavors that you might not think go together and it mixes them so that they are delicious and become a brilliant combination?? Well, in many ways that is how I think of me and my mom.

My mom and my sister have so much more in common, but we have enough similarities that we are mostly okay, most of the time. Sure we have had ups and downs, of course every mother/daughter duo does, but now that I am older and she is getting old we really are able to talk about most things. We do not talk about that which divides us, so no politics and no public policy and often no current events…we have learned how much we can tolerate about each other and we work pretty hard to find our common ground…we both love our yards, flowers, a clean house, everything in its place, we both hate unmade beds, dishes left in sinks, or clutter. We are alike in enough ways that we genuinely like each other.

I used to say, when I was younger, that the only thing we had in common was that we loved the same group of people, but that has changed, a lot, over a lot of years, and we do find many things, most days, on which we are in agreement. We do deeply disagree on some HUGE things, but we have enough agreement on enough little things that we are pretty great together, like a unique vinaigrette. If you seek out things to argue about, as a mother/daughter dynamic, you will find things to argue about…if you try to find what you have in common whenever you are together or speaking, well you will find peace in your relationship. It’s too easy to focus on what annoys you or what makes you baffled, so do the hard work of finding the things that bring you closer. Moms are not around forever so you might as well make your relationship the best that you can…this is what my mom and I have done over the years, we have tried to make our relationship the good kind. You know how you might think Myer lemons won’t go with mustard, or sriacha won’t go with lime zest, or soy sauce with raspberry puree, but then when it’s all whisked wildly together it’s fantastic?? That is, at the end of the day, how I think of me and my mom, like the most unlikely salad dressing that shocks you with how delicious it is with all the components mixed together. Mother may I wish you a happy year ahead?? Mother may I tell you that I am grateful for you??

The Weight of Waiting

Failure to thrive is a diagnosis that refers to slow growth or insufficient growth in babies, but it could be tomatoes in your garden, it could be saplings on your Christmas Tree farm, it could be your marriage. Failure to thrive is not your “fault” but needs to be addressed if it’s happening on your watch. You don’t blame a baby for NOT growing at the rate that is healthy for it’s birth weight, and you don’t wait around and do nothing for its weight to improve, or your stunted tomato plants for that matter, you don’t kick at the soil, you don’t crush the sprouts with your boots, you try to identify what is going wrong, what is missing, what kind of nourishment is lacking, what can be improved upon…you don’t just watch and wait for the growth to be sparked by magic, you DO something. It is an active experience, the problem solving, you don’t just wait for something to happen, you make something happen.

I have made countless mistakes and missteps in my adult life, many more than some, fewer indeed than others, and one of them was waiting too long hoping something I wanted to happen might happen…the weight of waiting, for me, has proven to be too problematic, too many times. I am aware that I must have realistic expectations but I am often now a somewhat impatient person. I want results quicker than time and life allows…When a relationship is suffering; be it a marriage, a friendship, the neighbors with whom you are not at all neighborly…you don’t just wait it out, hoping for things to get better do you?? should you?? The weight of that kind of waiting is often unbearable. To me it would be sort of like watching a baby, or a tomato plant, shrivel up and wilt while you sit and wonder what maybe you could be doing differently, or if you ought to be doing anything at all. You could ponder the problems all you want but if you don’t take action, or make an actual effort, I am pretty sure that the results are not going to be what you had hoped or anticipated. Whether it’s your boss, a friend, a neighbor, a romance, an obnoxious teen, your tomatoes…ANY of those relationships can be improved upon if you ACT upon them, and it’s rather likely that none of them will simply get better if you simply wait for them to do so…waiting it out has it’s limits…it’s too heavy…

A new romantic relationship is not much different than a new baby or seedlings…it comes into your life and is all shiny and fresh to you and you have to figure out how you ARE TOGETHER. To GET each other. It does not matter if it’s the 9 pound one ounce perfect pink bundle I brought home from the hospital on a bitter cold January morning in the 80’s, or if it is the tan drummer with the perfect straight smile I met on a hot summer July night nearly a decade ago…there is action that is needed, there are things to be done, to get to know each other, to make a new relationship grow and thrive. I like to think of it this way; that I am an active participant in my life, I am an active participant in my future, my past actions are my history, HERstory, and my past actions are where I learned because I made many mistakes, and later understood where I could have done better…with my baby, with my boyfriend, and actually also with my tomato plants…To live and learn is no joke.

When things have gone wrong in my life I don’t get mad at myself right away, or beat myself up for screwing up, I first identify the problem…projectile vomiting infant in the summer of 1986, angry and sad drummer boyfriend in the summer of 2021, worm infested and wilting tomatoes in just about every summer in between…things have gone VERY wrong in my life VERY many times. I have learned something about my baby, my boyfriend, my tomatoes, at every turn. The weight of waiting, each and every time, was too much for me…I am not so privileged to expect immediate gratification, immediate results, immediate change, and I am not so naive to think that things will improve with no effort on my part. I have had to DO things to MAKE things happen…it is the only way. It is the only way that I myself can thrive.

A number of times in my past I waited too long to do what I knew I needed to do, in my gut I knew that I had to act, and I didn’t. I have learned that being a passive observer of my life does not work for me. Many times I was hopeful that some sort of magic was going to happen, and when changes did not materialize, when there was a failure to thrive, I learned from those less than magical experiences. The weight of the waiting is too heavy for me now, this I have learned as I myself have grown. Maybe you are stronger than I, maybe you have a tougher will than I do, but I can only know myself and my herstory, and, as always, I feel grateful when I think I learned from all of it. When I feel I must act, now that I am past middle age and there is less time to wait, I act.

If you are suffering or struggling right now, know you are not alone, you are never alone…WE ALL have suffered or struggled in some way, at some time, and we all have experienced a failure to thrive scenario at one time or another…anybody who purports that no, no they get it right every time, well, they are full of themselves and self aggrandizing, and probably are not worth your time because they are likely lying to you and nobody needs a liar. If you are feeling the heaviness of wanting something to change, know that many of us get it, we know, we have felt that same way…the urgency, the rush, the knowing that something needs to be done…so like the commercial used to say, just do it. What you feel in your gut should be done, is probably the exact right thing. Action words, verbs, doing…this is the answer. The weight of waiting is too much for most of us, and those of us who have contentment now, because we suffered in the past, AND LEARNED THOSE LESSONS, know this better than anyone…actions are what got us to where we are…we finally understood that we didn’t have time to wait…

Space Invaders

At one of my yoga classes last week, the instructor asked us to think of ten things/people that we loved and hold space for them while we practiced…and it wasn’t until the end of class that I realized, with a jolt, that I had not included myself in the list of ten things I loved. Other people and other things invade my space every day and I suspect yours as well, we, women especially, or so I like to think, put our families and our jobs and our homes and our obligations in front of ourselves countless times a day, so that over the length of a year we have moved our own needs to the bottom of the To-Do lists time and time again. It’s not a bad thing at all to feel profoundly blessed or grateful to have your loved ones but it is a bad thing to consistently put their needs ahead of your own. WE ALL KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, yet, we do it, year after year.

If you have young children or elderly parents, or a money pit of a house, or a tirelessly bossy boss, then you know that in the 16 or so hours of your awake time in a day those things take up most of your thoughts…add sickness, financial instability, or worry of any other sort into the mix it’s quite likely that you don’t think about yourself, or your needs, AT ALL in the day, but maybe at bed time when you realize that you’ve brushed your teeth but forgotten to take off your mascara, and “oh shit! I forgot to put that load of wash into the dryer!” The space you have made for yourself in the 24 hours of that day turned out to be as thin as a knife’s edge and it’s possible that tomorrow will be exactly the same…

I have made many changes over the last months, and putting myself (my needs, my peace, my happiness, my health) at the top of the To-Do list as often as I can has been the change I most consistently work on. I started making space for someone else when I was only 18 years old and became a mother…the self indulgence of youth and the freedom of being in college and starting “real life” was lost to me on a bitter January morning only months after I became an “adult” so I missed out on ALL of that ME ME ME time, which is not to say that I have never be selfish, but seldom did I ever get the chance…but now, well, things were different then, all is different now…

The grandchildren I helped to raise are 16 & 14 now, and they need me mostly for rides, and on-line ordering, and sometimes Venmo, meaning they don’t need me much at all anymore, and while that leaves a bit of an “emptiness” in my heart, that feeling of being somewhat irrelevant now to them, what is left is space…space I can fill in a way that I choose.

I realized that morning at yoga, before the start of my work day, that for more than 36 years my space has been filled with my daughter, and then her daughters, and boyfriends mixed into my time over the years, and small family or friend kerfuffles, and that MY TIME TO MAKE SPACE FOR ME IS NOW. There is not any starting line, no wait to prep or begin, I won’t get $200 for passing GO, it’s just here now, me time, making space for that which matters to me, more than anything or anybody else. I started painting my house last April and still have two walls and the shed in the back yard to do, THAT matters to me, making the time to finish painting my house matters to me. I started drinking MUCH less over the last year and eating MUCH better these last few months, and making time to improve my health matters to me. I started writing every day again, my attention had waned over these last few years, and making time to feel creative, that matters to me. Getting onto my yoga mat consistently, at least five times a week, matters to me…ME ME ME.

I guess my thought of this morning is, if other things that have seemed very important have invaded your space, please consider making some room for yourself, your needs, your wishes, your dreams…if you have been thinking that maybe you could make some changes for the better, it’s probably true. The people who need us and the people who love us will get used to having us less available, more often, over time. It used to be that we did not know who needed to talk to us during the day until we got home from work and pressed play on our answering machines…now we get phone calls or text messages all day long and feel like we need to attend to them immediately. We don’t.

I can worry about my adult daughter and the changes she is experiencing in her life right now, and I can worry about her teenagers, and I can worry about my aging parents, and my boyfriend, and my friends…I can be concerned for all of these people and still focus on myself…I am learning to compartmentalize my life…there is a bin for everything, a file for everyone, there is a way to organize my thoughts that I can turn off ALL CONCERNS FOR EVERYBODY but me for 9 hours a week of yoga, or for the hours of a week with my playlists loud while at work, there is a way to keep myself at the top of the To-Do list without neglecting my obligations and the way is to recognize that it is NECESSARY. Take some time today my friends to do something just for you…I don’t care if it is for ten minutes or an hour or a day…the space invaders are not going anywhere, take all the time your need…

Time, the body snatcher…

I recently read the interview with Linda Evangelista, about the pain and trauma she is experiencing after a body sculpt procedure, that has been wildly successful for millions of customers, but was not at all successful for her. The story has left me feeling heavy-hearted for a person I don’t even know. She was without a doubt one of my favorites from that era of super models with big hair and long legs, before the rise of what I think they called “heroin chic” which to my eye was never attractive, for the models or the clothes, and certainly did not seem “chic.” I loved that era of the late 80’s and early 90’s and while yes, it was impossible for any average female to identify with, it was beautiful to the eye, and to think that a woman so stupendously successful for being pretty, has chosen to hide away for years after a bad cosmetic procedure has made me so sad. I beat myself up with negative self talk too often; I used to have a flawless forehead with not even a tiny wrinkle and used to have a flat hard belly too, neither of which is the truth now, and the person I see in the mirror has not looked like what I “see” in my mind for decades. At yoga the other day, one of the ladies said, “we all just have to find a way to like what we are now” and I know she is right, but time is a body snatcher and for some, like this former super model, maybe it’s harder to accept than for us regular people. For her, the results of the negative self talk now has her full of pain and regret.

To be honest, if I could afford to have a doctor shoot poison into my forehead to make it wrinkle free, I probably would, it is one of the main reasons I wear head wraps and hats so much, and here is another thing…I can’t afford to DO some of the things that rich people do when they feel Time the body snatcher getting too close! I have no problem at all with plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures, I mean, that lady who has made her face look like a cat is rather disturbing, and the doctor who agreed to her requests should probably not be allowed to practice plastic surgery any more, but I feel like if you have the funds to make things happen that you wish for, WELL GOOD ON YOU! because, most of us can’t afford to fix or change what we would like to fix or change!

Her face on so many of the magazine covers over so many years, and from the beginning of George Michael’s famous video for the song FREEDOM was to me, perfection…her perfect teeth, perfect brows, perfect cheek bones and that perfect forehead with just a wisp of that super funky hair…oh how I love and so miss weird and funky hair from that era! At the time, as a young single mother of a pre-schooler, her face and her body and the clothes it looked built for, well, it was everything I wished for but could not be or could not have. All these years later, while I definitely have more than an inch to pinch and nothing about my face or my body looks like I wish I could make it look, I am in general rather content in my life, extra jiggles and wiggles and wrinkles and all…I felt sad for all her sadness and I suppose it made me recognize that I am glad for my overall happiness. I don’t really like how I look, compared to my younger self, but I am not stuck hiding away or in agony…her story was sad.

I guess what made me the most sad for her is that somebody so spectacularly beautiful could not find peace with the regular pace of aging. It’s life, it’s living, it happens…All the money and all of the success can’t keep Time away…it is a body snatcher. It got me thinking about how much we women often equate our worth and wellness with what we see in the mirror. I do know several women who are in as good, or even better physical shape now, in their fifties and sixties as they were in their twenties, but I know far more women like myself, who have not seen in the mirror what we see in our mind’s eyes, for decades!!!

I suppose if I had spent my life as a super model, being paid for being pretty and being thin, and then found myself feeling both not pretty nor thin, it would be rather traumatizing to my psyche, certainly more than what I believe I “suffer,” which really is just feeling down about myself sometimes, and sometimes filled with mean-talk between my ears, despite all the amazing things my body does every day and how super capable and strong it is! I suppose her mean talk to herself forced her to try something new to “fix” what she thought was in need of fixing. This former super model, is in agony both physically and mentally, and suffering terribly at present, or so it seems from this article, from deep emotional trauma for having tried to get a cosmetic procedure that was supposed to improve that which Time the body snatcher had taken away, and it made me sad for one of the most beautiful people in the world. Body image, body distortion by your own mind, is not uncommon for women, be they “mad fit” or plump! AND here we have a woman our age who infamously would “not get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day” feeling as bad about herself as so many of us “regular” women do, or actually, by both the tone of the article in People magazine and her essay on Instagram, I suspect she feels infinitely worse about herself than I do, or any of us do really!

“All we have to do now, is take these lies and make them true somehow” is how the chorus of that song goes…We women notoriously tell ourselves lies all the time don’t we?? That if we don’t LOOK a certain way we can’t ACT a certain way, or WEAR special things, or don’t DESERVE TO HAVE CERTAIN THINGS or don’t deserve to be TREATED a certain way…Lies, Lies, Lies. Here I am pondering, contemplating, looks?? worth??? value???? the whole world around us is a mess and I can’t stop thinking about this former super-model, of my age, who went to get a cosmetic procedure that was “supposed” to give her the toning results she was looking for, as she aged, to feel better about herself, and sadly for her she is one of the very few for whom the procedure does not work, at all. It has me thinking about contentment and how if we let it, Time the body snatcher will snatch our positive thoughts as well as our youthful bodies…

How we LOOK is not WHO we are. We are WORTH whatever we think we DESERVE or WANT. Our VALUE as a person has nothing to do with what size jeans we wear…I for one have many things about my own body I would like to improve upon, and I will continue to try to keep Time the Body Snatcher from getting too close, but remember friends that we are not what we look like we are what we do, and Time the body snatcher can’t take our goodness away…Talk pretty to yourself today friends, and for today love the body you are in right now, just as you are. Like the tv commercials used to say, “love the skin you’re in” and more importantly, “You’re worth it!”

Not another knot??!!

I worked at an upscale gallery for nearly 23 years and while we sold all contemporary handcrafted pottery and glass and wood and metal, what many people came for was the jewelry…all hand made and everything beautiful. No matter how much care an artist put into packing their items to ship them to the shore, inevitably a necklace would arrive to the shop in knots…sometimes one big knot ball of sterling silver mess and sometimes one intricately twisted knot ball of gold and every time my boss would look at me with pleading eyes to get the knot out. “Not another knot??!!” She would exclaim, as she hated trying to get them out, but I would just calmly get a push pin or a safety pin and take it to my stool behind the counter and begin. I would take the tip of the pin and just start in anywhere to see what I was in for. If you have never tried to get a knot out of a necklace then count yourself lucky. Knots in boat lines, knots in hair, knots in toddler’s sneaker laces, I have been a person who does not mind untangling knots for all of my adult life, and here is something you may not know about knots, the kind of knots that tangle up your life, the knots in your stomach when you are anxious or unnerved, are just as easy to untie, if you don’t rush, you take the time to find the way that they twist and turn and where the end piece is…marriage knots, teenage angst knots, romantic knots, infidelity knots, addiction knots, break-up knots, sick in the body knots, sick in the head knots, they are all the same…it’s just a mess that needs to be unraveled and untangled, and you have to know it will take time. More importantly, you have to simply begin…

It is so easy, too easy perhaps, to be consumed with worry or grief or anger and just let it eat at you and sit within you. Knots form rather quickly when you aren’t paying attention. If you find a knot in your neck or your necklace, and you try to ignore it, it won’t magically come undone. AND worse, if you just set it aside, it’s still there when you go back to it, no matter how long you tried to forget it was there…The kind of knots that tangle up your life are not much different than the kind that you get when you are out on a motorcycle or a boat and forgot to braid your hair…if you ignore them when they are small they will get so big that they are nearly impossible to fix and you will just want to grab the sharpest scissors and cut it out! Sure, you can just snip it right out of your head, that gets rid of a knot pretty fast, but you will be happier, in the end, if you take the slow and steady approach…you see life knots are the kind of knots that we don’t just want to cut out and toss like a mangled glob of hair, they have to be addressed with care, with attention, with intention.

I don’t know about you, but I am now of the age where if I move oddly when I sneeze I could get a knot in my shoulder blades or when I lift something heavy and I am not paying enough attention to my task at hand the knot that forms in my neck feels like it actually might kill me. You can’t ignore a knot. No, when you have a knot you have to notice it and decide what you are going to do about it. A literal knot might need a heating pad after work, it might need a really hot shower, it might need some Tiger Balm, and do please remember to wash your hands so very well after applying!! …but a life knot, the figurative kind of knot, neither shower nor salve can help, no, a life knot needs deliberate action, but more than anything, one must find the source…deeply look into the knot, where does it begin?? can you see the end loop or twist?? can you tell where it started to form?? …like in a handmade delicate chain necklace, back in 1985, at that gallery I called my other home for more than twenty years, you have to find out where the end piece is, and you have to find your way through the tangles, it’s the only success you are looking for…you have to find the end and you have to work at all the unraveling until you get to the last twist, the last turn, and delicately, like with the tip of a push pin, gently pull the last twist around and lift it out of the mess that it once was…

Take it to the limit

If you happen to show up at my parent’s house and you have not been there for some time, it’s possible my dad will take you out to his garage and have you listen to Take It To The Limit, loud. You may also get something from The Last Waltz, most likely Who Do You Love, but not necessarily. If he’s in a female sound frame of mind you will definitely get I’d Rather Go Blind and it’ll be far more likely that you’ll get the Davina and the Vagabonds version, rather than Etta James. The stereo set up in my dad’s garage is better than some bars and stages! He likes music and he likes it loud. No old folks shouting to “turn it down” in my dad’s garage. My dad is 80 this week, but you would not know it if you met him, saw him, or talked to him…AND if you worked with him then, or work with him now, you definitely will believe him when he tells you that in his mind he is still a 14 year old boy, and I believe this much is true.

He is either the most content and the happiest person you will ever meet, or he is the most extraordinary actor and faker of our time. I have written it before and said it too many times; I have heard him raise his voice maybe three times, at the most, in my entire life, and I have never, not even once, heard him raise his voice to our mother. It takes a very strong man to not lose his cool in totally uncool circumstances or situations, but it’s no joke, my sister will tell you this much is true, we have never really heard him yell. The other thing about our dad is that he still loves our mother. “She’s the best wife I ever had” he says with a grin more times than we could ever count, and he treats her better than any man I have ever known has treated a woman.

I have absolutely no fear of growing old, or death, or dying because of him…tomorrow you could be run over by a pie wagon and you have to be ready to go every day and make plenty of deposits in your karmic bank are three of the ‘Dad-isms’ that I heard for all of my life and, and while I suppose yes, I sure would be sad to die young, or not see my granddaughters grow into women, or be run over by a pie wagon, I am completely comfortable with the fact that in fact, tomorrow could be the day, or today, or well, any day could be my time. My dad instilled in me a lust for life, and you might think we are boring in that we don’t do much of what other people find exciting or adventuresome, but we are never EVER bored…my desire to always be doing or creating or fixing or modify or cleaning is because of my dad I suppose…never really idle and never doing nothing. He always taught me to embrace work, and I do, and more importantly, to always choose to do the right thing, to tell it like it is…it seems “simple” now, such an easy way to be a human, but the world gets more wonky every day it seems, but my dad is a constant…he is the same person he has always been and to say that I am grateful, to write that my sister and my mom and my daughter and my nephew and the daughters of my daughter are grateful, is an extraordinary understatement. He is the best of men. We are so lucky that he is “ours.” The number of my friends and acquaintances who no longer have both of their parents, or are down to one, is growing every month, so to still have a dad and a mom, and that they still love each other and are in generally extremely good health, is no small thing to me.

He has done every single thing he has wanted to do in his life, and when he retired, shortly after Hurricane Sandy, he said, joked, but was quite serious, that if he never had to leave his driveway again, that would be okay. He still works all day long, every day, but now does it for himself and my mother, and their yard and their home, and with the same attention to detail and pride in the work as when he was building one-off beach homes for the rich, or the famous, or both. He started his career after the storm of 1962 and ended it after the storm of 2012 and Long Beach Island was better for having had him swing a hammer on that strip of barrier sand. He says he was “just a carpenter” but my house, his house, my sister’s house, my daughter’s house, and every other house he built, or helped build, or repaired, remodeled, or reconfigured, and every piece of furniture he ever imagined and then brought from thought to use, or metal sculpture he dreamed of and then welded, will tell you that he was, and still is, a master craftsman, and so very much more than “just” a carpenter.

If you knew me and also knew my family…you might wonder, how on earth can they be so close? You see, I am a very “blue” minded person and my family is all “red” minded all day, if you get my drift, but here’s the thing; red and blue make purple, which is the very best color, and we focus on what we have in common, and let me tell you, sometimes we’ve not got much, at all, to work with…but we try. We try not to dwell on what divides us. Years ago when I started my R*’s common grounds blog, it really was truly about just that…finding common ground, with everyone, and we do, we have, we live it every day in my family, and the secret to our life is this; you don’t have to agree with someone to love them. I have never felt unloved ever, in all of my life, from this family, and even though we can probably count on one hand the number of things we agree upon, we love each other, and there’s no limit on that…

a picture paints a thousand words

You look at pictures from weddings, honeymoons, new boats, new homes, or new cars, and all you see are beaming smiles and excitement looking back out at you…sometimes you even feel it; the energy, the zip, the rev, it’s all so “up” feeling…and then later, sometimes sooner than you had imagined could be possible, you find out that behind closed doors, in the day-to-days, and over months and months, not in front of a camera, there were few smiles, there were way too many tears, too frequently raised voices or slammed doors, and you come to realize that it was more likely that the negativity sucked the zip and the rev right out of every room these people were in together. Perhaps you come to realize that there was far more anxiety and upset in their real-life than excitement or joy of any sort whatsoever, all from what you assumed from the photographs that you saw. Happiness and contentment implied but not experienced…pictures show us, us on the outside, us the observers, a moment in time, but when we find out what so many moments really were like, for the people in the photographs, there is a jolt, a pang of sadness, a “wish I had known” sort of narrative for us, us on the outside, us the observers. At least that is how it feels for me, when I watch the unraveling of what appeared, on the surface, to be a happy marriage of a couple I once knew…

I believe it is universally acknowledged that half, or more, of all marriages end in divorce; but even KNOWING this, I for one get so excited when people get married. I want to cheer them on, “Yay for you, you are going to take a shot!” knowing, full well, that it might fail, but enthusiastically clap we do!!! Whether it’s months later in the pages of Vanity Fair or on the Today show some future morning, when I hear about famous people splitting up, I do feel a little bit sad…sad that they tried and could not do it; even with all the money and all the good looks ( and all the things we like to think “buys” happiness, but we all full well know they don’t) they still could not keep it together. Famous people in magazines or regular people in the neighborhood, my feelings are the same when a marriage fails, that’s a shame, I wished they could have made it, is pretty much what I think every time, no matter who the couple is.

Sure, when it’s real life people we know, we might get clues over the years that things were not quite as rosy as they often appeared; text messages with mixed messages, overhearing mutterings under breaths at dinner parties or events, and us, us on the outside, us the observers, trying to shrug it off as just bickering, which some couples certainly do…fluctuating estrogen levels married to empty beer cans can lead to bickering, trying to blend multiple children from multiple households can lead to bickering, not having enough money or having too much can lead to bickering…I mean, people try to come together as individuals and make a couple that becomes a unit, and from what I know, see, and hear, there seems to be an exquisite feat of skill sets needed to make that couple unit they’ve joined together, a strong one. Coupling seems simply just so terribly fragile, that it takes some serious efforts to make one that remains stable, or so it seems to us, us on the outside, us the observers.

I read an article earlier in the fall that said, “whether the pandemic caused new problems or amplified old ones, divorce cases have family lawyers and judges busier than ever.” I don’t know if the pandemic had ANYTHING to do with new problems, or old ones, for the people in my neighborhood, but I know that watching what once appeared to be the happiest of couples dissolve into tears and anger and dividing up dressers and tables and frying pans is as sad to watch as any sad movie. My heart hurts when people are hurting, that is simply how I am. I am constantly on a mission to create peace and harmony in my home, and I want the same for the people and the homes around me. It is my opinion that in every circumstance, no matter how you look at it, or whose side you’re on, the husband could always have been a bit of a better husband and the wife could always have been a bit of a better wife. Sure, sometimes one party is a total jerk and is the prime suspect in the dissolving of the marriage, but I think it takes two to make or break a relationship, no matter how new or old it is, which I guess coming from me is quite silly really…me, a woman who is not married, what business have I to comment on any marriage?? But, we all do it…us, us on the outside, us the observers…

What I do know for sure is that I have never once heard my father say an unkind word to my mother, and have never heard him raise his voice to her, not once. I grew up believing that this, more than anything else, has to do with making a marriage work, and us, us on the outside, us the observers, when we see a marriage where there are unkind words and where there are raised voices, well, it just seems like it might be doomed, doesn’t it?? When you know there are better ways to be part of a couple…half of a whole…

We see it on Google news, we see it in People magazine, we see it right in our communities…couples who appear/appeared to have it all, living the good life, traveling to exotic vacation locations, enjoying dinner and having cocktails in upscale eateries, we SEE IT, but we are not living it, and when the reality of what we were seeing becomes known, and the couple parts, we feel a little bit baffled, like “Oh but they seemed so happy!” and whether it’s JLo or your neighbor on the corner, the shock is kind of the same for us, us on the outside, us the observers…bewildering thoughts of “what must have gone wrong” when all we have seen is the photos and the GOOD STUFF…it seems that the pictures painted a thousand words, but few of them were true…

Rebirth at birth

Her smile still makes my heart flutter…36 years, and about three hours ago, a kind nurse handed me an enormous, pink, minutes old baby girl and said, ‘I’ll leave you two for a bit‘…and left the room…I was so tired. I still to this day don’t know that I have ever been as tired as I was that cold January morning after the birth of my baby. I was so tired that I was terrified I was going to fall asleep and drop her. She was in the crook of my left arm and I was scared to death that if I fell asleep she would just tumble right down to the floor, and so I did not sleep and I did not rest, I just looked at her, and she smiled. She slept, and I don’t remember that she opened her eyes at all, but she smiled, and it felt like hours that I was alone with her, but it could have been only minutes…her finger nails were perfectly rounded long nails, and I joked for weeks that it was like she had stopped for a manicure on her way out to earth. I did not yet know her and she did not yet know me, but she smiled.

Nine weeks after I became an official adult, I became a mother. That the universe saw me fit for this monumental task, raising a human, is still something that blows my mind…Nothing about my life at that time was good, at all, but she was…She was a perfect baby. She would mew like a kitten if she was hungry, and if my memory serves me rightly she was many days old before I ever even heard her cry. Looking back now with clearer vision, and 36 years of personal growth, I was not all that much more than a child myself…the me, who used to be, was reborn when she was born. I think a person becomes somebody else, like it or not, when she becomes a mother.

The rebirth at birth is not immediate, but what is immediate is that, for me at least, everything that mattered BEFORE mattered less AFTER. Once I heard my sister tearily whisper, “it’s a girl,” everything that I thought was exceptionally important BEFORE was less important AFTER. It seems to me that a woman has her rebirth after the birth because, whether she is ready or not, motherhood is her job, the most important of all the jobs she will ever have, for the next many years. PERIOD. You may think many things about going back to your “old” self, those first weeks, but those thoughts, well, they are mostly wrong because the “yourself” is now that person’s person, and the “self” is no more…the obligation you have chosen is essentially saying to the universe, “I shall put this other human before me, and myself is now second and my old self is now gone.” PERIOD. I would suspect that most women do, get reborn after birth, and they quietly, without complaint, move themselves to the back of the line while they move this tiny human to the front.

What nobody really tells you then, during those first few weeks, is that it never ends. The “it” being mothering, motherhood, this new you. You think it will, that the “job” one day will be over, you will have completed your mission so to speak, your obligation, but it won’t be done, ever. When I was a young mother I didn’t realize this as profoundly as I do now, now that I am older & wiser, hardened, and yet softened, by time…

My mother still puts me and my sister, my daughter and my nephew, and now the daughters of my daughter, in front of herself…and my mother, without ever complaining about it, has moved herself to the back of the line, time and time again for all of the years of my life…Now that my own baby is today nearer to 40 than 30, I see more clearly how my mom and I are rather alike in so many ways, ways that one does not always notice when one is still young…but now I am older, and she is old, and I better understand how we are much more similar than we are different.

I worked hard, over many years, to create the kind of relationship with my daughter that I wanted. I am pretty sure that I annoy her, a lot, this now 36 year-old daughter of mine, because that is the nature of most mother/daughter dynamics, but decades after her arrival to earth I think we would both agree that the mother/daughter gig we’ve developed and cultivated is a lot better than many. I have made profoundly purposeful efforts over these years to do and say things that would make us have the type of connection I wanted, and I’d like to think it was a success. We often laugh together while we drink wine and chat, just like I do with my girlfriends. We have cried together when we are having a rough go of life, just like I do with my girlfriends. We take power walks and vent about those who annoy us, just like I do with my girlfriends. She is my friend but she is first my daughter, and in many ways, whether I succeeded or failed at mothering, or being her mother, it is to me, like the icing on the cake, that these last 12 years I’ve lived next door.

She is my neighbor, friend, and child, and the mother of my granddaughters, which, when I add it all up, is probably the most extraordinary thing of them all…she brought those girls into my life, and kind of made me born again, again, into yet another version, and I like to think a remarkably better version, of me…My rebirth at her birth, made me better woman that I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. My rebirth at her birth made me awfully less self-centered than I think I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. My rebirth at her birth made me much more grateful for my own mom than I think I’d otherwise have been. This I know is true. Today is a celebration of the birth of my daughter, whose smile lights up a room and still makes my heart flutter, but in many ways I am celebrating too, the woman I became, because she came to earth.