The Eagle and The Mouse

Like many people, perhaps I could say most, I have two very different ways of seeing my world…sometimes I am so focused on something so far away that it seems positively comical that I am even “worried” about it, whatever it is.  Other times however I am totally zoning in on the right here-right now, and will not be satisfied until I have an all encompassing handle on the specific situation and have given my full attention to the  immediacy of the issue.  If you want to talk about somebody who is constantly looking for balance, I might very well be your girl…I am sometimes overwhelmed with my thoughts of something so far off, and other times overwhelmed with my thoughts of something that is NOW.  I can’t honestly tell you that I think one is better than the other, or one is healthier for my spirit than the other, but I can tell you that it is true; I flip flop from immediate worries to far off in the future worries and pretty much have the same reaction to both.   Some months ago I was reading Oprah magazine and one of the writers of an article was discussing “…an eagle soaring high can see a mouse miles away, but a mouse can only see what is right in front of him, so when you are scattered, you have to rise into eagle view and look at your whole life and the big picture in order to establish your direction, and then you can drop back to mouse vision and focus on specific tasks at hand that will move you toward your goal…”

My teenage granddaughter struggles with this, mightily.  She gets so hyper focused on “little things” instead of seeing the big picture, however, having been a teenager once, and having also raised one, I know that to her, it is not little things at all, and there is nothing whatsoever I can say to her that will help her understand that things get better as we grow up…to her it’s all huge and challenging and upsetting, there is very little looking ahead for her, it is all the immediacy of the difficulties of hormones, school, dance competition, parents, homework, and being 14.  My daughter too struggles with this at times; so zoomed in on the “little things” and not seeing the long view, and for her with the immediacy of a full time job, two adolescent daughters, two step-sons, two large dogs, a husband, and the complexities of combining two families and two households into one, are all challenges that make her frequently unable to go from mouse vision to eagle vision.  It’s quite clear to me that this is not uncommon, regardless of one’s age or position.

A squirrel works very hard in the summer and fall to save and bury nuts for the winter…I live in the woods and see it every day…they build strong thick nests high in trees and they stock away as much food for the winter as they can…to me they see the big picture and know that if they don’t plan ahead they will perhaps die.  In the summer I am very busy at my job and in the winter I am very slow, and like a squirrel, if I did not plan ahead for February property taxes, car insurance, income tax, & house insurance, all of which are due February 1st every year, I don’t know that I could sleep at night…sure buying new jeans, new shoes, new handbags, new earrings, a facial, highlights, and a massage might be a glorious way to spend a few weekends in September, but if I only had mouse vision when I was busy and making money, come winter, like a careless squirrel who did not use her eagle vision, who played instead of saved, I would be full of worry and regrets and have no nuts!

I can honestly say that at my mid-life age, I am much better at seeing the big picture than I was when I was younger…being grounded and not allowed to go to the movies and not allowed to use the phone on a Saturday would have made me wish I was dead at 15, but at 52, not being able to leave the house and not having any need to use the phone on a Saturday would be such a lovely day!!  My experiences and my difficulties, I hope, have made me better able to understand the worries of others.  My life has gone from unbelievably awful to splendidly lovely and I lived through it all…if you are reading this, yours likely has too.  I am not alone in my memories of a time when life was so much harder, and sadder, and angrier, than my life is now, and like you dear reader, I have survived 100% of my worst days, as one of my yoga teacher often says.

When I say or write that I crave balance at his age, I think it is something like what this therapist asserts; mouse vision is needed at times but eagle vision will get you where you want to be.  I get to go on one vacation a year but I have to save up to pay for it.  I get to take unlimited yoga classes for a year but have to save up to pay for it. I have to look ahead to live the life that feels best to me.  I lived a scary and hard life for a few years that taught me a lot of lessons, all of which continue to shape me, decades later.  This week, back in 1986, was one of the worst weeks of my entire life…I won’t go into details again about how awful it was but I remember too clearly, still, how it felt to sob on the telephone to the electric company that it was cold, the house I rented was poorly insulated and I was twelve days from my due date and pleaded with them not to turn off my electricity because the house had electric baseboard heat, and how it felt to go to my piggy bank, that was the shape of a harlequin, and find that the $40 I had hidden for emergency food had been taken by the man I was married to, for, I can only assume, emergency drugs or beer…it was a terrible January and I had only mouse vision at that time.  I did not see a big picture, I only saw the anxiety of the right that minute…minute after minute…I had no food in the house and was on the edge of having no heat, was stuck with no car and no money, and thinking every hour, what if I went into labor here??  I could not have gathered the strength to have eagle vision of any kind whatsoever those weeks…scary men banging on my door looking for money or drugs or the man I was married to made me constantly on edge…The life I live NOW was unimaginable to the 18 year old me of then…she just wanted to not die, she just wanted to be okay, she just hoped things would be better tomorrow…if only she knew then what she knows now…I suppose that is what the therapist might have meant…a mouse is jumpy and anxious  and an eagle soars with confidence…

Magic Moon

The number of terrible decisions I’ve made is far greater than the number of fingers and toes I have on which to count them.  It is irrefutable, if that’s the right word choice, that I have made dreadful choices that I now regret deeply, or if I think about them, simply indeed wish otherwise…BUT that brings nothing but suffering.  Dwelling on what never happened and ruing what once did is just like sitting in a mud puddle of negative thoughts …the doom and gloom of thinking of all the woulda-coulda-shoulda is cold, wet, and dirty, and no place to linger.  THE BEST THING about being a silver lining seeker, such as I call myself, is that there is ALWAYS something to look forward to…always a way to think about a bad situation differently, always a way to examine a seemingly awful thought from a more optimistic perspective.  Does it ALWAYS work to turn a frown upside down?  No.  Does it ALWAYS help to think positively instead of negatively, no matter the circumstance?  Yes.  Yes it does.

I love thinking about wishing on the full moon tonight; I love thinking about this last full moon of the month, of the year, of the decade, and how it is as much the “right” time to start anew as New Year’s Eve is.  What could be more powerful than The Long Night’s Moon, as this one is called, as it ends one cycle and starts a new one…just like that. It made me think of this quote, how it’s never too late to start over.  Every day is a chance to do something differently.  Buddha asserted that what we do today is what matters most, that each morning we are born again.  To think about your own self differently, or to think of others in a better light.  So many people make New Year’s resolutions and so many people break them before Valentine’s Day.  I certainly have over the years.  How exciting to start early on December 12th?  Why wait til the 31st??!!

I have tried in my adult life to find the good in people in general, and when it becomes obvious to me that in a particular situation, there is no good to be found, I am quite cable of severing the infected limb so to speak, and move on. I also have been well aware, for all of these years of my life, and recognize, that while I have made so many questionable decisions, I have also been very lucky.  Things have had a way of working out, sometimes taking longer than I would wish, and I have not had as much suffering, of any sort, as many.  For this I am exceptionally grateful, and perhaps that recognition is what keeps me positive.  I try to share that “upbeatness” with others; shine a light when it’s dark in a way.

The moon will be magic tonight.  If you know somebody who is too sad or mad or busy to notice it, go outside tonight and notice it for them…take the cold moon of December and let the light of the full moon fill you up, fill you so you overflow, and can spread it around…if you have an abundance of light, when others have none, or lack the strength to find it, what else can you do but spread it??  …a lot of people right now are hurting, and many people are going through difficult circumstances…I know some personally, and I know of others, both physically and mentally, deeply in pain, and if I can use my silver lining seeking powers, and honest belief that “things will be better tomorrow,” to help ease the suffering of anybody, then that seems as good a way as any to use the magic of the moon end a decade and start a new year…

Gotta Have FRIENDS

I am a little embarrassed to write, but it is true, that I got a bit teary eyed several mornings in a row, and a few evenings last month when the Today show and Nightly News both did some stories about the 25th anniversary of the first episode of FRIENDS. That was a show that I did not know I needed until I was in love and hooked…

From the time I was about 15 years-old I made a series of unfortunate decisions, over and over and over made really bad choices, and by September of 1994 was fully engaged in living with the consequences.  My “plan,” well not a plan really at all, a dream perhaps, a longing for something other than what was, when I was a teenager was to get out of the conservative south Jersey county where I lived and where my family had lived since the mid 1800’s and get myself to the city, a city, any city where I would be a writer…maybe where I would work in advertising, or some kind of fabulous high end retailer to pay bills, but where I would write something grand and live my best life; surrounded by interesting food, interesting buildings, interesting sounds, smells, sights…interesting people who read thick books while they rode on stinky subway cars, people who took a walk at 1 o’clock in the morning because they got in the mood for a slice of pizza, people who took a tap class on Saturday nights or went to lectures at museums on Sunday mornings…THAT was the life I imagined I was going to create for myself…I dreamed to be an interesting person in an interesting place…

THAT was not the life I created for myself. THAT was what I dreamed of…25 years ago I was trying my best to be a good mother to my smart and imaginative 8 year old daughter, and I really liked my job (working in a fabulous high end retailer I might add) and I really loved being in college, I loved my professors and loved how hard I had to work to do all three things at once: work, school, mother, but despite my love of my life at that time, or perhaps I should write that I loved my abilities in making the best of the life I was living, it was not at all, in any way whatsoever, like the life I had imagined for myself.

25 years ago I would make dinner after work and get my daughter her shower and then read her a book and have her in bed by 8 pm so I could watch “must see t.v.” and have my few hours a week where I forgot about life for a while. I remember being excited that I did not have any college classes after work on Thursdays that semester and remember my sister and I feeling excited for a new show. When I write that I could forget about life for a while it is not a joke, I watched FRIENDS with an enthusiasm that was as if they were MY friends. Perhaps not the first episode and perhaps not the first few airings but I kid you not, within a couple of episodes, I was there for them, every Thursday, and if ever I was NOT I had a blank tape in the vcr and programed to record. I needed the laughter and the wit and it is not an exaggeration to write that MANY many times my phone would ring while I was wiping tears of laughter from my eyes during a particularly funny episode, and it would be my sister on the other end of the line, just laughing so hard, saying no words, laughing with me from her house, literally sharing a laugh…we are very different in many ways but have always found the same things hilarious.  Our sense of humor is probably the thing we most have in common and FRIENDS hit the spot.

Off the top of my head PIVOT, comes to mind, as do the Leather Pants and Tanning Booth episodes, the one where Phoebe tries to teach Joey to speak French, the one where Rachel got the recipe wrong for the trifle, and oh, my heart, the one where Ross comes in to Monica’s apartment and says “there’s my sweater!” You would think it is silly perhaps for a grown woman to find so much comfort and joy and laughter with television characters, but I did. I HAD friends. I still have friends, however, at that time in my life, I had almost nothing in common with ANYbody I knew…I did not know one other woman who was working full time, raising a little girl, and taking a full credit load in college…there was no peer group for me. There was no social media to find like minded women dealing with the same challenges I was dealing with. I NEEDED the “relationships” that that show provided me…they were living a life so different from mine and I loved that escape from my life into theirs for a half hour a week. A half hour was enough to escape into some other place and I was faithful to that show. 

When it ended in the spring of 2004 I really needed that show…that show had carried me through college graduation, moving to Maryland for a job, moving back to NJ, buying my first house, setting up my home office, quitting that stressful corporate job and starting my own small business, raising a teenager, that teenager falling in love on spring break in Myrtle Beach in her senior year of high school and then insisting on marrying that boy that summer…the spring of 2004 was incredibly sad and stressful for me, a lot was happening and that half hour of FRIENDS was exactly what I needed and that final episode was hard for me because it was really like an ending, and you might think it goofy or weird for a grown up to be “attached” to the characters in a show, but I was. 

My daughter moved to North Carolina that summer and I sold my house and for years I lived in a small room that I rented from a friend, no television, no FRIENDS.  A few years later the complete series came out on dvd and my sister bought it and I would borrow a disc or two at a time from her, and the laughter was still there, and even though I knew everything that was eventually going to happen, I still laughed.  I moved a few years later and got cable television and was more than pleased one night, when I could not sleep, to discover that FRIENDS reruns were on multiple cable channels and while I seldom have sleepless nights anymore, I like knowing that if ever I do, they’ll be there for me, like I was for them, because really, isn’t that what friends are for?

Give Us This Day

I know more motherless daughters than I ever expected I would at my young age of 51. I know three mothers who have buried three adult children over the last three years. I know three daughters who are not mothers, yet now are mothering their aging mothers.  I know several women, and one is too many, whose mothers did not fiercely protect them as children from grown men and their unforgivable behavior.  I know a mother who has not talked to her daughter in decades.  I know a daughter who has neither seen nor spoken to her mother in months.  I know a few women whose mothers made terrible choices in the realms of finance and romance, for which these daughters now “pay the price” having made similar decisions themselves…failure by osmosis… I am none of those women.

My mothering story is different; my relationship with my daughter is its own experiment in what to do, and what not to do, what worked well and what did not work at all…my relationship with my mother, from the time I was a child, was the catalyst if you will, and Thursday night, as my daughter wandered over to chat as she often does, I realized what a funny thing it is to have things have all worked out so splendidly as they have, during a lifetime of things feeling like they are not likely to work out in any way I would wish at all…When you are a wife, a mother, and then a divorced single mother all before your 21st birthday, you have a lot of thoughts on your plate, bewilderment really, wondering how on earth this is all going to play out…I spent agonizing days, weeks, months, and years wishing for the peace and contentment, and love and family in which I grew up, for my own child…and realize now, all these decades later that I did in essence give that to her, simply by remaining close, both in heart and proximity, to my own family. Looking back, I’ve no regrets.

Despite what often felt like a lifetime of conflict, and oil & water efforts to mix, my mother and I have since found a nice rhythm and we get along very well. We have found a pattern of love and respect and a realization of HOW MUCH ALIKE WE ARE IN SO MANY WAYS, that it makes all of our differences, AND OH MY GOD THERE ARE DIFFERENCES, sort of blur in the background of the days of our lives. We still disagree on just about every political or societal topic there could be, so we make a choice to not speak about that which divides us.  Instead we choose to talk about those things that bring us together; my dad, my daughter, her daughters, plants and flowers and our love of our yards, our love of home, my sister and her son, my boyfriend, my job…We have plenty to chat about and interestingly to me, although we spent decades not getting along as well as I wished, we now talk or text almost daily and seem to like each other very much. Maybe we are both better actresses than we think, but I like to think we have melded in a nice way now that I am middle aged and she is growing old.  We have found our mother/daughter balance that I so hoped for.  In all honesty I am grateful for my mother every day and she has never let me down.  I know so many women who have been let down, time and time again by their mothers, but I am none of those women.

My daughter and I, although indeed had some rough patches over the years, have navigated our relationship to a point that I am grateful every day for her presence in my life.  Every mother and daughter relationship has its good and bad times; I don’t know of one woman who does not have at least one story of a “bad time” or an event that defines that bad time.  It is, so it seems, the natural order of things.  I feel like every mother/daughter relationship has an opportunity to wither or to flourish and we each, mother or daughter, gets the opportunity to decide how to act and how to move forward or not. I often think about some of the women I have known or known of, who have made the choice to end their relationships with either their mothers or their daughters and for me, it is inconceivable; a life without my mother or my daughter.  I am well aware that things can change in an instant: one of us could be without the others in a moment, yet another reason to give us this day to be grateful.

While my daughter’s daughters have become less and less attached to me over these years, I am more and more certain that building these houses right next door to each other was the best decision I ever could have made.  My choice to be present for all of them during the years that they needed me is something that has changed my life for the better in ways I can’t even name.  My mother was a tremendous help to me with my daughter and I have been a help to my daughter with hers…and now my mother and I, the crones, slowly retreat into the background while the mother and the maidens soar, grow, and experience their own evolution.  Maidens, mothers, and crones; the circle of womanhood, all celebrated in one day of thanks to mothers, and those who perform the act of mothering…

Never Not Now

Life, living actually, is never not now.  It has been your past and it might possibly be your future, but it IS only now, now…I am in a space of deep contemplation these last many months and it has not guided me to any earth-shattering or mind blowing-revelation, not that I necessarily expected that…BUT I did think by now I would have come to a resolution of sorts, but yesterday I overheard a yoga teacher reading from a text and she said, “life is many things but it is never not now” and I thought to myself, well, maybe that is why I’ve come to no answers whatsoever…I am just to keep being, and doing, whatever “it” is…living.  I can think until my thinker is sore, but I am old enough to know, and experiences of my past indicate, that the answers will come to me when I least expect it.

My very small business is becoming, year after year, smaller and while I love my job and my customers I am becoming painfully aware that I might have to DO something else sooner rather than later…I have had one customer die, one move away and leave her beach house to work as a savings account basically, and two sell their houses, and two decide to have their adult children start contributing more to the beach house upkeep, and so that has given me six fewer clients than I have had.  I am grateful for all the customers I do have, and if I told them I needed more work they would find things for me to do for them, BUT they might sell next year, or die, or have their adult children contribute more.  THERE is no guarantee whatsoever, of any kind, that my small business won’t just die too…AND we now live in a world where there is not as much job security because jobs are changing, needs of paying customers are changing…banks go under, stores close down, companies are downsized…the rich just seem to get richer and the working poor seem to just keep having to find other ways to keep their noses above water.  It seems like it’s never not hard to not drown.

I know people my age who are getting ready to retire.  People who had the good sense to choose a job where they could work for 25 or 30 years and then not work, and still get a monthly income and health insurance.  I got my first job at 14.  My mom even used white-out on a copy of my birth certificate and then recopied it so that I could get working papers in the beach town where I wanted to work.  I have worked ever since, even at 17, once I had my driver’s license and all the credits in high school I needed to graduate, I left school before noon to go work.  I was out of work for 8 weeks when I had my daughter, I was laid off one winter for 8 weeks when my daughter was in pre-school, and other than that I have never not worked.

Last year when I was turning 50 I exclaimed to the universe that “this was going to be my year of yes” and decided I would do things I had not done before; accept invitations to events or activities that I would normally have declined, participate in experiences that were new, and in general, answer “yes” more frequently.  This year when I was turning 51 I exclaimed to the universe that this was “going to be my year of a better me” and I decided I would do things that benefit nobody but my own body; finally lose all the pounds of baby weight I’d been carrying (even though my baby was now an adult with children of her own) and make a great effort to improve my health, fitness, peace of mind, and finances.  My plan is that next year as I turn 52 I will be able to make a decision about my work…either giving up on my own small business and finding a job working for someone else or continuing to try to make it on my own.  Keep on keepin’ on, or press on, as my mom says…There are no alternatives.  There’s never not decisions to be made.

Some people, it seems to me, suffer hardship after hardship, make bad choices after bad choices, and their life becomes a ‘series of unfortunate events’ and living is never not a struggle.  Some people, it seems to me, manage to seamlessly navigate life; make all the right moves, make all the right decisions, take all the right paths, and take advantage of all the best opportunities, it’s never not rainbows and unicorns.  I am neither of those people.  I have made some horrendously terrible decisions and I have made some gloriously fabulous ones. I guess the way that I have lived thus far, although I could not ever find the words to describe it, was “just” being, and managing the ways things were, handling the ways that things turned out, experiencing what was simply never not now…


Mind the Dash

“The Space Between Events” was an essay read to us last week in an evening yoga class; and as you might surmise by the title it was about the parts of your life that are the day-to-day minutiae that, over time, are life. The events are what they are, and they are but minutes in the big picture of all the years that become the life we have lived.  For a week I’ve been thinking about the space between events, so it was rather rattling last night while reading a book called “A Walk On The Beach: tales of wisdom from an unconventional woman”  when one of the two main characters, the unconventional woman, was in a cemetery, and she tapped her cane on a headstone and said, mind the dash, explaining the little dash on a tombstone that is that space between the date of birth and the date of death, that this is where the living goes, mind the dash…   Born – Died   …and it struck me, as words oh so often do, that mind the dash is expressing very much the same idea as the space between events and I felt really enriched by both the words and my actions of these last 18 months of my life from when I began my experiment of my year of ‘yes.’

When I was invited to share in a friend’s 50th birthday celebration on a cruise ship in the spring of 2017, my initial response was no.  No because of work or no because of money or no because of time…but then my smarter side of my brain said to me, you are self-employed, you can borrow the money from your parents, and you no longer have a child to care for and you don’t have a spouse to answer to and you can make all the time you want to do all the things you want…she is very smart, that smarter side of me, and so I changed my answer to yes.  I also decided at that time that yes would be my answer to anything that I really wanted to do for a year, and it has now been a year and a half and I find that yes, and no, have become full, and fulfilling, sentences in and of themselves.

These months of purposefully changing the way I think about, well, most everything, have been eye-opening.  I often forget how hard my life was, when I was young, and raising my baby, and working, and college and blah-blah-blah…I have written it all before, it was hard…and now my life is, for the most part, while not easy, it’s not hard…I work hard and I play when I want to.  I love and care for myself in the ways that make me happy; I clean, I organize, I plant flowers, I read and I crochet, I am learning yoga, I get pedicures, I am making my  -dash-  as happy as I have the power to make it, and I believe that initiating a ‘year of yes’ was the start of living a much happier life.

Sure, stuff makes me mad…mean people, aggressive drivers, bad bicyclists, the horrifically inelegant way the president speaks, weeds in my stones, miscounting an entire crochet row, items ringing up incorrectly at Acme…I could go on and on about stuff that annoys me, but I find that I don’t really pay as much attention anymore to what makes me mad as much as I pause to recognize what makes me glad…perfectly folded sheets and towels in the linen cupboard might seem silly to you, but that sort of thing makes me happy.  A great conversation with a granddaughter on our way to the bus stop as we notice the sun rise behind the cedars makes me happy.   Seeing how happy my mom and dad are with their new little puppy makes me happy.  Remembering that I have a mom and dad who are healthy and have a happy life makes me happy.  Even the unexpected BOOM of a bass drum when my boyfriend, out of the blue decides to go upstairs to the loft and play with his drums makes me happy.  My daughter, wandering down the driveway to my house just to chat, that grows into laughter over rich red wine, makes me happy.  One of the social media groups I follow asked last night, “what do you do for self-care?” and it made me recognize that I do a lot.  I am much better at caring for my very own self at this age, at this point in my  -dash- than I ever imagined was possible!  What a revelation!!

I am learning and practicing that finding the good, seeking the joy, laughing at the funny, dreaming in the sunny, recognizing the happy, IS the way to love the space between events, it IS the minding of the dash.  Events are births, jobs, marriages, moves, deaths, break-ups, you know, the BIG stuff that happens over time, but the little things are what makes a life.  I hope you, gentle reader, think about your dash today…whatever you find you might be doing; working, playing, reading, chores, games, laughter, crying, exercising, napping, WHATEVER you do today, let it be a choice, let it be a “yes,” and if you don’t want to do some thing, then say “no,” and let that be your full sentence.  We only get one dash. Be mindful of it.


Due for doing

When you are building a crib and sewing burp cloths, or when you are picking out flowers and centerpieces, or organizing your flight and shuttle services, you are doing these things in preparation for a new baby, a wedding, and a vacation, and you have a due date for these events…you have an idea for when something is happening and you are planning for it.  Life it seems has, as we are all well aware, no known dates.  We can plan for things but some things just simply unexpectedly happen.

In the last two years I have experienced the deaths of several dear people; two in their early 60’s, two in their late nineties, one in her thirties, one in her forties, and one just had turned 52.  Some of these relationships were from my past and some were in my present and all of them made me sad for different reasons.  I have been thinking about all of these people quite a bit the last several days.  I recently saw a t-shirt that read “have the cake- take the vacation- life is short” and I thought, well, for some it’s very long and very well lived, and for others it is shockingly short, and I am thinking about all that I have to do and all that I want to do and wondering, each day in this present, am I any nearer to any of these things?

Do you have a To-Do list?  Do you ever make them, or think of them?  My notebook for work is very full and messy with notes of  tasks and jobs, chores to be done and phone calls to make, errands to be run and lists of things that need to be purchased…I write it all down so I don’t make any customers mad, and to keep my small business running big enough to keep afloat.  My lists in my brain however, they are not written anywhere, words and ideas and wishes and plans, just floating and swirling about, and honestly, the person I should most want to please in the world, and should have the least interest in making mad, is me.

I know quite a few pregnant women at the moment, and I am thinking about how much devotion it takes to want to have a baby…they cost so much money and take so much time and then it continues to cost a lot of money and take a lot of time until you have completed your task of raising a child to adulthood, and I thought, Wow!  These women know this and still choose to do this.  I applaud their commitment.  A woman I know well just got married, and a woman I know a little is getting married soon, and I am thinking about how much devotion it takes to want to bind yourself legally to another person, and we all know that divorce is so common, and separating one shared life back into two single lives is expensive and sad and stressful, and these women know this and still choose to do this.  I applaud their commitment.

I’m thinking about what I want to do and that these things are due for doing.  My list is, compared to many people I know, rather small.  I have friends with teenagers who are faced with many obligations that are far behind me.  I have some friends with very young children who are faced with many obligations that are far behind me.  I am deliciously aware right now that I have more freedom than most of the people I know and that I must do the things that bring me comfort and joy, that satisfy my wants and my needs, and make them happen however best that I can…I have been feeling sorry for myself these last few weeks with a painful wrist injury and ridiculously long work days and unending work weeks and when I stopped to think about it the other day, when I saw this t-shirt, I thought, it is so true…life is short and my things I want to do are my own…they just don’t have the formality of due dates, but they should be planned for and joyfully anticipated nonetheless.

I feel like in honor of these people who I knew and cared about, and who now are not on this earth, I should focus on my lists and really strive to achieve some of these goals, and complete some of these tasks, and while it is in complete disagreement with one of my goals, eat more cake.

Night Ride Home

When you suffer a heartbreak, your heart feels like it is shattered into innumerable pieces and everything hurts, and it can sometimes feel like nothing will ever be right again…However, when you experience a heart-breaking-open, all those little pieces, too many to count, move to new and different parts of your brain and your body, and they multiply, and they morph, and they become more kinds of love.   You become filled with a depth and breadth of love that is impossible to describe, and bigger than you could ever have imagined would live inside of you, but there it is, helping you to find joy and beauty and goodness in your day, and pushing you, urging you really, to try to make any day of your life more loving…and then you love so many more things than you did before, and differently…and you experience both the good and the bad in completely new ways, and when things are bad and feel bad and seem bad, they all turn around, eventually, into love.  Love from a broken open heart has turned out, for me, to be the biggest gift, and I can tell you I know the moment it happened…13 years ago an explosion of love came into me and nothing has been the same since. A seven character text message, after midnight, changed my life.  Really.

The ride home that night, thirteen years ago, was the beginning of the better version of me, my living life with a wide open heart, filled, or so I thought, to capacity…my first granddaughter, my daughter’s first baby, begins her next chapter of life today with ages ending in the word “teen.”  I can still remember that feeling, my legs kind of felt numb for a minute, when I read the text message, when I learned that she was now on this earth, and although she was hours away in North Carolina, my heart felt like she was right beside me, that is how much I loved her, even before I knew her.

That late night, as my friend, who was performing at a local outdoor tiki bar, finished his set, his songs sounded better, the moon looked brighter, the annoying drunk young people seemed less annoying and less drunk, the palm trees along the water seemed to sway more elegantly…everything began that night to feel different and to seem different and, 13 years later I can now affirm, became different.  That kind of love changes a person.  That kind of love changed me.

She is changing so fast now, this girl child who today is a teenager…every week, or so it seems, she is a bit different from how she was the week before.  I barely have to nod my head now to kiss the top of hers.  She doesn’t need me very much anymore for any one thing, but when she sends me random text messages, it feels good just to know that she is thinking of me…I can’t ever describe how it is, that I think of her, and her sister, in almost all the empty moments of almost all of my days when I’m not occupied with other thoughts.

I know, from my own experience of raising a girl child into a woman, that there are going to be some stressful times ahead, for both this girl I so love and her mother, the girl who I loved first…it’s strange how I can love my daughter so much but love her children so much more, and in such a different way…I love both of the children with an intensity that is sometimes a little scary really, but there is something indescribably special about the first grandchild that I can neither articulate nor explain.  It doesn’t diminish the love I have for the second child, it is not better than, or bigger than, just different than…It’s like she occupies a part of my heart that I never knew existed until she existed, and it, my heart, can never go back to how it was before…it is simply a bigger and better heart since she took her first breath.

I think about that night ride home today, her birthday, and remember that I was in awe…gobsmacked that I could feel THIS MUCH FEELING…even before I saw her face and touched her little fingers…just knowing she was on the earth was enough for me to know that if I never loved anything again in my life, the love I had inside of me that night, was enough.

Behind Closed Doors

I am pretty sure at some point in my teenage years I must have muttered, or wailed in some sort of adolescent angst ridden sorrow, that I wish I were dead, but I never entertained a thought of suicide.  I have been, I think for all of my life, a person who always had a hopeful outlook and a level of optimism that things would, whatever those “things” were, somehow work out…SO this week to have two seemingly “have it all” celebrities die of suicide has shaken me a bit, because I feel like it’s a perfect example of how we simply do not know what goes on behind closed doors, and behind closed eyes, and more importantly that what we think will make our lives “happier” or “better,” probably won’t.

My Instagram tag line, since I joined, was that I “love to cook and long to travel.”  These are the two things I would most want to do if I had all the time I wanted to do what I wanted.  I can’t count the number of times my boyfriend and I have watched a show that involved travel and food, cooking and eating, and said to each other “I want that job!” or “that’s the life of our dreams!” or a similar expression, so to have a famous person we enjoyed watching, who was doing THOSE EXACT THINGS, die by suicide, really shook us both yesterday.

I read Kitchen Confidential not long after it was first published, which was around the same time I started my Sunday morning love affair with the BBC television program Nigella Bites, and the Food channel’s Barefoot Contessa, shows that took me from being a person who liked to eat and cook, to becoming a person who LOVED to cook and eat.  The early aughts were the years I really started to become, or tried to become, a “foodie.”

We’ve watched MANY episodes of Parts Unknown, probably have seen most if not all of them, and I  follow Anthony Bourdain on Instagram, and it feels a little like the super cool guy at school who was your friend, even though you were not nearly as cool as he, suddenly dumped you and didn’t want to be your friend anymore.  We watched a tribute to him on CNN last night and clearly I was not alone in my thinking…he seemed a person who was really great to know.  Everyone who spoke had something to say about what a creative and smart man he was and what a loss they were feeling.  I never owned a Kate Spade anything but I felt sad earlier this week when I heard about her suicide too.  From what I read about her, she too was a creative person filled with exciting ideas and big visions.  All the means to do whatever one wishes to do, and all the means to have whatever one wishes to have, and still…not enough to want to live…it breaks my heart for someone to suffer so…

The thought that two little girls, just 13 and 11, left by these two famous suicides this week, now without a mom and a dad, both who appeared to be having “the life” breaks my heart into pieces…I think about my granddaughters and how heartbroken and utterly devastated they were when their little dog died, I can’t imagine how crushed and inconsolable they would be to lose a parent…and that the parent “did it on purpose” is the thought that keeps making me ache…how a person could be in so much mental anguish and personal pain that they could cause that level of devastation and loss to their own daughter just crushes me.

I made a strange meal last night for dinner; totally modified a recipe for salmon rice bowls, used chicken and had no mirin so I used vinegar, and it came out fabulously, which made me immensely joyful.  I have yoga today, and this afternoon my granddaughter’s dance recital, two things that make me immensely joyful.  I watched two humming birds at the feeder this morning while I poured my coffee, three things that make me immensely joyful.  I feel like I want to note details of the simple things that make me happy.  Two famous people, who seeming had all the things that COULD make a person happy, obviously weren’t made happy by any of it…

I have been surrounded by wealthy people for all of my adult life, all of my jobs have been those where I worked for, or waited on, wealthy people, and the older I get the more I know this much is true; they have more money than I do, and can do more fun things that cost money than I can, and they can buy more stuff than I can, but none of that really has a thing to do with finding happiness… the joy in a strong hot cup of coffee, the beauty of spying two hummingbirds at the feeder, the positive energy flow through the body in 75 minutes of yoga, the excitement and anticipation of watching your incredibly talented granddaughter up on stage…or any of the “little things” that can make life happy.

Nothing “outside” of yourself has anything at all to do with happiness, or joy, or gratitude, or success.  When you close your eyes, if all the things in your mind are dark, it really doesn’t matter what you project on the surface.  When you close your door, if all the energy in your space is filled with negativity, it really doesn’t matter how big or fancy it is.  Recognizing that a happy life starts in your own mind and in your own space, is, I think, a start…


Memories of deer, a lake, and a park

I suspect that every one of you who reads this has a similar memory from childhood; zooming, ZOOMING down Any Street USA on your bike, feeling the air tickle your skin, the hair flying up off the back of your neck, and then braking, and the brakes either squeezing the tire too tight, or not at all, or hitting a pebble, and the pebble and the tire connecting at such an angle and in such a way that the only thing there is to happen next is the BIG FALL…the over-the-handlebars fall, the bleeding elbows and bleeding knees fall, the chain coming off fall, the crying your eyes out limping home or trying to pedal home fall, the standing in the tub crying while your mom gently tries to get the dirt and flecks of gravel and asphalt out of your elbows and knees fall…Mine was on a street called Temple Avenue in a neighborhood where I lived as a child called Deer Lake Park.  I remember what I had on the day of THE FALL…it was a white halter top with “rope” through the neckline that tied behind my neck and it had an embroidered sailboat on the front of it and I wore it with dark blue and white gingham shorts and it was a “belly shirt” of sorts, which made me feel much more cool and hip than my bookish little girl self was.

After work last night I had to drive to this neighborhood of my childhood to move a piece of furniture for a friend.  While I currently only live about six miles from said neighborhood I have only driven through it a handful of times in all of my adult life, and when I pulled up to the house where I was to retrieve this antique armoire I looked to my right and realized in a moment of such clarity and memory where I was; I was at the base of the hill where I took the BIG FALL.  In a split second I felt like I had traveled through 42 years…in my mind’s eye I saw my sun-kissed brown hair, my summer tan skin, my rope necked halter top, and that blue bike my dad had brought home from work, trash picked and lubed up, and THE HILL that tremendous hill where I was ZOOMING, going much too fast, oh no! too too fast-must brake…when it happened, the BIG FALL.  Until that moment that summer day I always had a bike where to brake you just pushed the pedals back, like you were about to pedal backwards, but this bike, this exciting just picked from the trash totally different bike than my own had a hand brake, which I squeezed, hard, as I left the top of the hill because I felt I was going way too fast and would not be able to turn left onto the street below…and that brake squeezed that front tire like nothing I ever had felt in my entire life and that front tire stopped.  STOPPED just like that…but I alas did not…That tire stopped and I flew…flew from that banana seat right over the handlebars and down that giant hill…in my mind I slid on belly, elbows, and knees ALL the way down that hill…I remember my toes were split open, it’s likely I was in bare feet as I so often was, my knees were skinned all the way down to my bones, or so it felt, as were my elbows and I seem to remember both my belly and my chin were bleeding too…but what I also remember was that I thought it too far to try to walk home, and I did not want to leave the bike so I have a memory of getting back on said bike and reluctantly pedaling home, sobbing, shakily trying to balance my way back to my house…

BUT last night sitting in my ridiculously big truck on the side of the road, looking out the passenger window at that HILL, it looked so small…so not at all steep, so not at all big, in fact, nothing looked as big as I remembered it…it suddenly seemed so small; the hill, the neighborhood, the houses…

On my way home out of the neighborhood, I drove by my old street, my old house…I looked at the grass out front where I learned to do a cartwheel.  I looked up at “my” bedroom window, wallpaper white with little purple flowers, a lavender quilted bedspread under which I often read well past my bedtime, where I first read The Secret Garden and The Outsiders… the giant field that was behind my old house was still a field, but it was not giant at all…in my memory it was an expanse of grass and open space that went on for a mile…our dad cut a path through the woods in our backyard to it where we drove our little tractor, played tag and Simon Says, laughed & giggled under the hot sun and twirled and spun when we wore spinny skirts or dresses…in reality it was grass that went on for about 200 feet!  I stopped at the field, SO MANY memories of that field and I just sat in my truck feeling so strange, looking at that giant field of playtime memories that now looked so small…

I’ve often thought about that house over the years of my life.   Mostly I think about my dad, working full-time with a wife and two little girls and going after work every single night to work on that house that he built for us…that my parents were able to afford to live with us in the first house that they bought when they were married, while building the house we were going to move to less than five years later, and that they were not even 30!!!!  There are 30 year-olds now who still live with their parents!!!  My parents were not even 30 and were able to afford to live in their home, with two little kids, and able to buy a piece of land, and then build a house on the land at the SAME TIME!!!  Sitting in my truck, it all seemed unfathomable.

While I felt happy to deliver the furniture to my friend I felt a bit sad driving home, what had been so big in my mind was so small now in real life.  I wondered, could it really be that I had not driven by that Temple Avenue hill in four decades??  I wondered, did I ever remember seeing any deer in our yard as a child there??  The lake is still there but the park was always on the other side of the lake anyway, it wasn’t like we could walk there!  Sitting in Deer Lake Park for those minutes was like unlocking a time capsule that’d been buried for 40 years.