Archive for June, 2011


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Rushing Through

I usually carry three bags when I leave the house in the morning.  One is for the gym, one is for the extras I am taking to the office, and one is for whatever miscellaneous obligations I have scheduled.  There is always something extra.

 

I like being busy.  I like exploring new interests.  I like meeting new people.  I hate saying no.

 

The combination means I stay busy.

 

It also means I never have enough time to devote to anything.

 

If I want to work out every day and consume two or three books each week I can’t write three drafts of this week’s post.  If I set up a meeting for a non-profit organization I can’t really help my niece with the problems she is having with learning how to read.  Or really be there for my friends.  Or spend enough time on my job search to actually send out resumes.  Or finish my quilt.  Or organize all of the recipes I have saved.  Or learn how to knit.  Or improve my French.  Or do any of the million other things I would like to do.

 

I have virtually given up movies and t.v..

 

I consider it a good night if I sleep six hours.

 

Despite my best efforts, I have a hard time putting down the books.  Even when I try to read them slowly I rush through because I have to know how they end.

 

I am lucky to have the resources to dip my toes into so many pools.  It is fun to indulge my curiosity, regardless of how whimsical it might be.  There are so many options!  The shiny things that glitter the world keep me spinning in glorious circles.

 

But I only get to see the glitter as it twinkles by.  I don’t catch it.  I don’t know what it smells like or feels like.  I only know that it seems pretty.

 

I date the same way.

 

Now that I am on the one-date-a-month plan I am paying more attention to my patterns and thinking about what I am looking for in a man.  It turns out I am nervous about dating.  It isn’t so much the first date; a good first date is an unexpected bonus, and after enough bad dates you find ways to appreciate the evening regardless of the person across from you.

 

My problem is with the getting-to-know you part of dating.  Of course I want to know a lot about a guy who makes it out for a second round.  But I don’t really want him to get to know me.  I want to amuse him, entertain him, make him think, make a good impression…. But I want to control the conversation and deflect anything too personal.  I don’t want to explain myself.  I don’t want to watch him judge me.  I don’t want to see that moment when it flashes across his eyes that this isn’t going to work.  It’s hypocritical.  I have those moments a lot.  No matter how much energy I expend steeling myself for the moment I am on the receiving end, however, the anticipation of it overwhelms me.  I also don’t want to get my hopes up about actually finding someone I want to connect with, and it is easier if I hold myself apart.

 

So I keep it easy.  The men are shiny objects floating by.  I bounce past without getting to know them.  It’s so simple to keep it about sex.  Everyone leaves happy and it doesn’t get personal.  Besides, I like knowing how the stories end.

 

But it doesn’t get personal.  It stays easy and rushes past.  You nod and smile at each other as the breeze pushes you on.  There are more men to distract me.  There are other dates to schedule.

 

I control the relationship by controlling my time.  I’m sorry; my schedule is so full.  I can only give you a couple of hours.

 

I want to learn appreciate what comes from getting to know each other, and knowing that you can count on each other.  It’s been so long since I’ve opened myself up that way, it seems like it was a different person who fell in love once upon a time.  But I suspect that the beauty that comes from successfully taking the chance is what I am craving now.

 

Maybe I just need to stop rushing my life and the people who come into it.  Maybe I need to stop excusing myself whenever life gets uncomfortable and learn to work through the fear, or the pain, or the boredom, so I can appreciate something about the glitter besides the way it shines.

 

I need to stop taking on new habits and practice enjoying old habits at a new level.  I need to learn how to slow down and enjoy the book instead of just pushing to the end.

 

I need to turn my time into welcome mats instead of stacking it into barbed wire fences.

 

 


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Amtrak

I broke free from my ordinary routine and bought a ticket to Chicago. I was going just for the day. I am not a person that plays hookie from work. I haven’t ridden a train since I was six and living in San Diego. I remember this Navy brat childhood—parts and pieces of it—vaguely.

The fact that I am taking a train to Chicago amuses me. After buying that online ticket I found myself wondering: What kind of people ride trains? What do they look like? What am I to expect? Will I have a place to park my car? Where, exactly, is the Amtrak station?

I scope out the situation after Friday morning court. Amy told me basically where I could find it. After some driving around and calling information I finally locate it.

Who knew it was right near the strip club E.K. first took me to. The ticket kiosk was enclosed and smelled of urine. I made a mental note not to touch my nose or eyes after hitting the “print ticket here” button.

E.K. would have had a quip remark about all of that.  But even he won’t really talk to me anymore.  I don’t blame him —I really don’t.

On Sunday, as usual, it’s midnight when I crawl into bed. Monday I woke up late. I left late. I was lucky to get a parking spot at the station. I did not really have a plan B for the car. Turns out no plan B was needed and I would have wasted time creating one.

People that ride trains tend to look rumpled and tired. They have older beat up luggage, student back packs, and soggy, scuffed-up shoes. They come in groups and huddle. They seem to all own and play with some sort of electronic gadget. They text, they have the ipods, they have the lap tops. I have my cell phone and my book. I don’t think I fit this group, at least, not really.

When the train pulls in they all rush out. I am always amazed at this.  Passengers all do this at the airport. All wanting to be first. I am the type that likes to watch everyone else and get on last. I know the train isn’t going to leave with people waiting to get on it. I don’t understand that urge to rush on and be first.

I am sure they have their reasons to be first just like I have my reasons for being last.

I pick my seat and I always look to sit next to a fellow female. It is safer this way. I happened to sit next to a Jotee. She is a teacher. She teaches meditation. This so interests me because I am not sure how one goes about this practice. I have thousands of questions. I get responses but her answers seem mist like. Her practice is still not very clear to me. We talk of all kinds of topics ranging from controlling our thoughts to my passion for books. She confesses to me she was raped. Her words spill like a toddler spills a full glass of milk. I am not really sure how to handle the drippy mess.

Then comes that conversation lull. She falls asleep and I am back on my cell phone calling clients and talking business. The train whistle interrups the rocking clatter of the steel wheels. It got akward again when I opened the bathroom door on a man who was not quite finished. My face flushed pink and just called it as I saw it, “Well, this is so very awkward.”

We rolled into the underground station at 11:30. They fight to get off the same way they got on. I just sit and wait. The word “bussel” is so very cliche and appropriate in describing these underground tunnels. I ask a young woman a question about the shopping district and I ask an older Amtrak woman about my return train back. I should be back at the station by 5:00 and I will need to go to Tunnel E. The tunnel stairs lead me to Adams Street.

I love Chicago like I love Vitalie’s pizza. It’s tangy on my tongue and it fills me up. The wet asphalt has a used scent. Men in suits and ties look more smart and handsome. Tourists hold maps and point. Women in high heels and deep make-up are extra thin. Homeless people are wrapped in plastic and hold desperate card board papered messages. We are all mixed like a cocktail drink and then poured into a tall highball glass made of concrete and steel.

I want to drink this drink.  I want to sip it slow. I want to people watch.  I want to roam and get lost in the streets.

This visit did have an agenda and the destination was lunch. I was exchanging eight hours of travel for 4.5 hours of needed friendly conversation. I don’t feel uneasy here. I am not given ultimatums on this friendship (or it hasn’t happened yet). I don’t feel intruded upon. The banter is easy. I am not sure why I don’t stiffen or tense. I can’t define it. It just is. I am not worried about crossed boundaries. I don’t feel contained and I don’t have to carefully choose my words.  I am so used to rejection I no longer fear it.  I find it odd with this person I don’t anticipate it.

My meal included a mojito.  A few blocks up we find dessert at the base of the Water Tower. I explain to this person that I can’t leave this place without my ritual visit to the Cheesecake Factory. Lemon cake and coffee were served. Then it was off to get a parked car and I was bumming a hurried ride to Union Station.  Several cab drivers helped me find the way.

City time really is quick.

It ended with my running, in heels, to Tunnel E track 20. I only had two minutes to spare. The same ritual applied when I scoped out my return seat. Her name was Jane who informed me that we must have met somewhere before. I am used to this. It really happens to me a lot. I am someone else they know or have met. Sometimes I remind them of a movie star. On good days I am a Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, or a Diane Keaton. On bad days I am Howdy Doody or Angela Lansbury. Whatever it is I draw out some type of chatter. I don’t mind. Jane was nice and her story rolled on like our train. This led me, of course, to discussing more of my books. Her story mirrored that of The Middle Place. She had the book. A friend gave it to her but she couldn’t bring herself to read it yet. I know that her story appears even more desperate and tragic because during that whole chemo mess her husband lost his job. Now he was living in Chicago hence her weekend visits via train. She talked of her God, her garden, her children and how everything just is in the palm of someone’s hand.

I often wonder about all of that.  When I do I can’t help but have visions of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or The Road.

Jane gets off in Holland. It gets dark. The trees start to take on a sinister dimension. My mood starts to mirror the landscape. Her story reminds me how things going good can just go bad. My thoughts are ruining my mood. I cannot, like Jotee, control them.

All those “what ifs” come out and haunt me.

I don’t sleep well when I get home. The worry of health, death, and loss of money all seep into my dreams. I find my ex-husband there in my bedroom standing next to my youngest child. I feel his hate and hurt.  I am desperately looking for my gun. I wake and the whole scene is gone.

I am left mulling over my day. I mull over my direction and lack thereof. I think of controlling my thoughts. I wonder about my apparent lack of ability to control my night-time dreams. I wonder about broken friendships and broken relationships. I think of ultimatums and how they present themselves. I think of puppets, puppeteers and strings. I think of my grueling day and how I really need to get back to sleep. I think of my girls. I focus on my flaws. I focus on my strengths. I mull over everything and nothing all at the same time. My mind is a movie reel.  I can’t shut the projector off.

But really maybe our life is just one big train. Maybe we really are supposed to go from station to station. People get on, people get off, you go from one city to the next. Some are commuters and discount ticket holders. Others are just one time riders. At times, like the conductor, we find ourselves operating the train. Other times you find yourself taking the tickets or working behind the concession counter. We all have to go though some dark tunnels. There are times we are just finding ourselves sitting next to people named Jotee and Jane. We find ourselves mindlessly waiting for that clean open bathroom or paying $10.00 for that drink and dry sandwich combo. Regardless of route or role we all have our own timeline, station stops and interlopers.

Right now, at midnight, this is all I can think of.  This is the best I can do.  This is all I got.

Enjoy the Moment: Check

Tonight I huffed and puffed my way through what would generously be called a one-mile run.  It was my first run in almost a month.  It was slow.  It was not pretty.

 

Today I focused on my job until my desk was clear.  I don’t remember the last time I powered through so many assignments.

 

This afternoon I finished an almost-final draft of my resume.  I feel good about its impending online publication.

 

I am in the process of doing my laundry.

 

I am coming back to life.

 

The last four weeks have been amazing.  I have blown off my family, ignored the gym, done the minimum at work, and favored friends over sleep.  My soul has been recharged at the expense of my waistline.  An unhealthy glow has crept over me.  Totally worth it.

 

But it is time to turn my attention back to reality.

 

This has been a week of lists.  I love marking things off of checklists.  The satisfaction propels me forward, yearning for the next hit of accomplishment.  Glorious.

 

In addition to all of my yellow Post-It lists at work, my friend Annie and I made a joint project list early in the week.  We have all of these ideas we keep saying we need to follow up on, so we put them on a shared list. And we have both been working on them.

 

I listed my need for a new job first, so I have brushed up the resume, met with a tech guy who can build me an online profile, arranged for a headshot (coincidentally got a hair cut and some fresh color), and started claiming usernames across the internet to help with my Google rankings.

 

Annie wants her house organized, so I bought her a new set of Tupperware and gave her permission to throw out all of the old stuff and start fresh, since that was the cupboard that bothered her most.  Today I brought over a friend who loves to organize and will help with the rest.

 

Annie knows I want to go on one date per month, so she set up a profile on Match.  All I had to do was sign in.  I still can’t believe she did all that work for me just because it was one of my goals.

 

Annie wants to start a non-profit together, so she started researching URLs and we found three other people who are willing to share their time and talents (including Jodi – awesome!).

 

Everything is moving forward.  I am moving forward.  Now that I have shaken off all that mud I feel like I have crested a hill and want to go running down the other side.  Each step that I take on all of these little projects makes me feel lighter.  I am building speed as I go.  And just like any workout, it is easier having company.  If I could I would invite everyone I know to join the list.  I have so many smart, talented, resourceful friends we could probably solve world hunger.  Maybe I’ll save that until we get everything crossed off of the current list….

 

I am so grateful for our list.  I love having directions.  The list gives me a path to follow, and the path looks so easy.  I’m not worried about what’s at the bottom of the hill.  I am just taking things one crossed-off step at a time.  I have help, and when I get bored with my list I have Annie’s to work on.

 

How did I never realize that life could be so simple and so fulfilling at the same time?  It doesn’t seem to matter whether the tasks I am completing are big or small.  I just find a way to do them, cross them off, and start to feel fantastic.  Sure, someday the list may lose its luster.  But right now it’s the greatest thing since the frozen pizza and takeout I’ve been living on lately.  And isn’t finding the upside of “right now” the whole point?

 


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Professor Goich

I like to tell this story. It is a funny and true story. One of the few I have from the University of Michigan.

I was not your usual student. My existence, at this place, was focused entirely on my education. I only went to two parties my whole time living on campus. I worked two jobs. I was housed, by choice, in an all girl’s dorm next to the law quad. I worked my ass off and studied all the time. I loved this existence.

I was the complete opposite of my M.S.U. party and fun loving sister.

In my infinite wisdom I chose to major in Romance Languages (one step up from basket weaving when it came to future employment opportunities). It didn’t matter. I was studying something I loved.

I only had a handful of friends. I obviously did not have any free time to make them. My classmate and best friend was Melissa. We had the same major and we were the only non-native Spanish speakers in our course group. She was a grammar queen. I spoke excellent Spanish and understood everything said. Together we were stunning in our work. We ranked top above the native Puerto Ricans and Mexicans.

We finished each other’s thoughts. She was a man magnet. We planned that we would study abroad through Cornell University (later proving we were the most crazy and fun set that ever would hit the center). Like most students, we both were strapped for cash. We were on an economic time line. The University of Michigan offered the last 400 level course. It was the only requirement keeping us off of that Iberian plane. I could not afford to go an extra term if I didn’t get that course. Neither could she.

We were looking at Spanish of the Middle ages (think Chaucer but in Spanish). It was the only course filling that needed requirement. So there we were treking down into basement of Angel Hall. A small windowless cramped classroom now overflowing with students. I counted over 50. They cascaded into the hallway. Most were upper class men. Everyone needed this class. I was squeezing my way in.

Professor Goich, the Argentinian, entered the room. This man was impeccable. He wore a double breasted suit and tie. He was short. Well groomed. Elegant and distinguished. Everyone stopped talking when he walked in. Briefcase in hand he marched up to the front of the classroom. He took us all in. It fell silent. He commanded the classroom with just a look. He was no nonsense and efficient. He smacked his briefcase flat onto the desk. He took out a stack of thick paper.

We groan. We all know what is coming. The dreaded course syllabus. He hands them out. It is over 20 pages thick. I feel panic rise up. A buzzing enters my ears. I look at all the required reading. I look at all the required papers. I flip. I read.

I blink. I read.

This is totally impossible. I mean this really is physically and mentally impossible.

I look around me. I am trying to read the other student’s faces. I don’t even know what the professor is saying because I am like:

This is unbelievable.
This is impossible.
I feel panic. This academic panic, my future self, would only again face in law school.

I am facing 30 novels. I am writing over 20 term papers.

I have taken this University’s grueling courses. I have dealt with professor Hafter and the rest of the Harvard clan.

But this, this is impossible.

But here it is sitting in front of me. My mind races. I cannot take this class. But I have to take this class. There is no more time and no more money for another term at this University.

How in the fuck am I going to do this?

I don’t know the When’s and the Where’s and the Why’s. I just know that I am in this corner and there is no way out. I cannot drop this course because there is nothing to add.

Goich calls the class quits and sends us out.

He marches out with this irk like grin on his face. I am sick, literally sick, to my stomach.

Melissa starts to bawl. I mean bawl as in snot, sobbing, shaking, bawl. She is now in the hallway. There is no way we can do this. This is impossible. We are non native and this is old Spanish this is not possible. She slinks to the floor. Sobbing and bawling and sobbing. Heavy, real tears, womanly bawling.

I hug her. I feel anger and sickness. I am on the floor next to her, rocking her, holding her.
I am consoling her and I find words:

“We will do whatever we have to do to pass this class. We will steal all of the books out of the stacks and reserve all the required reading right now. Not one Puerto Rican is going to get their hands on that required reading. Hell, I will hide all the books if they won’t let us reserve them. We will plagiarize. We will violate the honor code. We will double up on the homework and write each other’s papers. You take one topic. I will take another. It will be a divide and conquer course. We have to take this class or we cannot go to Seville next term. We will not finish nor graduate on time.”

She is bawling and telling me how this is impossible. She is giving me all the cant’s. I see them very clearly.

I am not sure of my words. It reflects in my tone.

I do know that I would hide and steal the books. I do know that I am not dropping this class.

I am sick, that whole next week, thinking about the work load.

That next Wednesday we both crawl back down to the basement of Angel hall.

Goich is sitting at the front of the room. Out of habit I take the table located in the very front. Melissa sits next to me. We just look at this man. He is reading a newspaper. A quarter past the hour he looks up. We look around. We say nothing. I count on my fingers.

There are only 8 of us in this basement classroom.
I remember asking God to help this 8.

Goich puts away his paper. He picks up his briefcase. He smacks it back down on the desk and flips the top open. We hear the familiar click. His head pops up behind the lid. He says, “Ahhh…yo tengo una revision.”

He has a small stack of papers in hand. He proceeds to tell us how he, over the last week, had a change of heart. That he thought his class requirements to be way too demanding and impossible even for students of such an esteemed school as this.

As a result, he had made some minor changes.

The course syllabus has been officially revamped and revised.

I am now looking at one page. We have three books to read. I only have three papers to write.

There he sits grinning like that Alice in Wonderland Cat.

I am full of a mixture of extreme relief and utter disbelief.

I think about my wasted worry and that horrible week. I start to think that someone should inform Hafter, the Dean.

Then it hits me.

I now digest the fact that this little man has reduced his grading work load from over 50 students to a mere 8.

He then informs us that class is dismissed. Apparently we all need to get a jump start on all of that heavy required reading.

Melissa and I agree. This man has a lot of moxie for a non-Italian.


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Much to Lose

My friend’s daughter recently tried to commit suicide.  The written phrase sounds so clean and confined compared to what must have been a horrifying, unending  evening of pills, hospitals, IV’s and stomach pumps.  I really like the girl.  She is beautiful, smart, funny, and kind.  She helps with the house and her younger sister, earnestly tackles her homework, gathers great friends…. She is a dream compared to most 15 year olds.

 

Hearing her story made me so grateful that I was older before depression really hit me.  I already had a sense of myself when it came.   The first time it sank me I was 19.  I didn’t recognize it for what it was.  My mother did, though.  Had I been a little older maybe she wouldn’t have seen it.  Had I been a little younger maybe I would have been desperate.

 

The depression came back a couple of years ago.  It is hard to believe how recently I was standing in the bathroom at the office, miserable.  I hated my life, had no direction, and didn’t want to try anymore.  I did not want to kill myself, but I suddenly understood how people could feel that low.  I also knew that if I were going to kill myself, it would be with a knife (which is bizarre, because I have avoided any unnecessary knife-usage since I was very young). The moment was a wakeup call for me, and it will probably always be on my top ten list of life-changing moments.  Luckily, I already knew what I needed to do, and shortly after that I started taking anti-depressants again and seeing a counselor regularly.  When I thought about the long journey I would have to take to reclaim my mental health I broke it down into a million little steps instead of only seeing the miles.  And then I started taking those steps.  This blog is one of them.  Slowly, things got better.

 

But what I did when those thoughts first announced themselves in that ugly little bathroom was take myself home, drink a beer, avoid the knives, phone a friend, and take a nap.  The nap and the beer calmed me down.  The friend was my safety net.  I needed someone to know I was losing and needed backup.   Despite how desperately unhappy I was, I still knew I didn’t want to lose.

 

If I were fifteen I might have used the beer to chase some pills and called it a night.  I doubt any of my fifteen year old friends would have been able to do much to reassure me.  This girl I know, I doubt she knows her worth, but I also doubt she knows that she doesn’t want to lose.

 

When I was fifteen I didn’t think about losing my parents or my nieces and nephews.  I didn’t think about all of the things I wanted to accomplish in my life.  I didn’t know that I will be pissed if I die without ever learning how to play drums.  I didn’t know that I would want to help people who can’t help themselves.  I didn’t know that I like to travel and move to new places.  I didn’t know that it’s fun to learn just for the sake of learning.  I didn’t know that there is always something new to learn.   I didn’t know that life changes so much from year to year.  I didn’t know that there are people out there I don’t even know who are looking out for me.  I didn’t know about all of the friends I hadn’t yet met who were going to change my life.  And I didn’t know that over time I would become proud of me.

 

I am lucky that I didn’t understand wanting out so badly that I could understand pushing a knife into my skin until I was twenty-eight.  I am lucky that I still haven’t lost all of those things that make me want to be here – all of those things that give me hope and reasons.  I hope this girl has the time to find herself and all of those things, and I hope that she never loses them.


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Trash.

It has been over a year since my breakup. Many people think my struggles are a result of my divorce. Indirectly, I agree, that they are right.

I know I did not come out of that relationship unscathed. The ultimate freedom I have experienced has been intoxicating and wonderful. I have no regrets, at all, about dissolving that toxic relationship.

On my divorce day I was exhilarated and happy. I finally felt I could breathe. The cancer I had was expensively removed. I was given a clean bill of health.

The legal seal on my divorce decree gave me the only two things I loved and cherished:

My children & my law practice

The rest I didn’t give a damn about.

On this downward slope of my recovery I thought I met someone wonderful. Someone I thought to be amazing. You need to understand that I wasn’t looking for any solutions. He just happened to be on my trek down or walked into my path. I thought him kind. I really enjoyed spending time with him. He appeared safe. I had known him for a long time. He was amazingly smart. He knew the pressures of a law office. He was a comrade in arms.

That we had in common.

It was an entire year before he met my girls. I figured in this wait, this exceedingly intelligent man, would figure his intentions out within a year. He was witty and funny. I loved the sound of his voice.

He said I was everything wonderful and more.

He talked about wanting a family. He was alone. I could provide him one.

In a sick way maybe that was his way of luring me in.
But between you and me by year three I was tired of words. I was tired of hearing about a future. He confessed to me the thought of buying us a home. He told me how we would run our finances (he even wrote this down on a legal yellow sheet of paper).

He was so very rich and smart about all of it.

He talked about taking the girls and I on trips together. So I planned one. We discussed the destination. In his cheapness and procrastination I decided to move us along and pay for it.

A week before it was time to get on that plane he informed me, quite simply, that he had just changed his mind.

Then his confession poured out. This is not something he wanted. This is not something he would enjoy. We were a mistake. Our relationship was a mistake.

My thoughts tumbled out. My innocence was my demise.

I asked him when were all of his words going to become a reality? Why just talk about a future if there isn’t going to be a future? I just simply wanted to know when all this future was going to start.

He couldn’t seem to give me any answers just excuses. He wasn’t attracted to me anymore. We did not have any fun together anymore. We didn’t have those intimate discussions or time alone together.

Just so you know I am not a baby nor a child. I could have handled the truth. I could have handled I only want you as my whore. I only want you when I want. I only need you when I need you. I make all the decisions. All this wife and family and baby talk was a ruse.

I only told you those things so I could just continue to have sex with you.

I would have respected him more for the truth.

My inner voice hissed: Stupid, stupid, stupid woman.

It hits me. This is a Judas I have linked myself up to. He is a cheap coward.

I am not use to this concept of being cruel. I don’t like it. This is not a person I want to be. These thoughts of hating him are not what I want either. They are stones I throw back. I am wounded and so very hurt. I am, after all, human.

This is the moment that I carefully collect up all that shattered glass from my heartbreak. I put the shards in a shoe box. I shove it far back under my bed.

(You all know that I have this odd habit of storing things so I can look at them later).

Over those weeks I make myself get out of bed. I make myself go out and meet people. I make myself stop crying. I make myself focus on my work. I try not to sleep too much. I try to appear happy to the girls.

They hear me crying myself to sleep at night.

Then I met Amy. I start to write. I decide that I am going to create something. I work on my house and yard. I go on trips. My house takes on some beauty. I have friends that stop bye to see me. Even the neighbor comes over for a coffee and to sit with us for our lunch in the front yard. I decide that I want to offer something lovely to this world.

I haven’t cried in months. I feel myself getting well.

I like this person. The one who decides to take all of her hurt and try to turn it into something beautiful, sweet, tragic, honest and good.

Over the past few weeks I think maybe, just maybe it could be possible, that I might even be able to fall in love again….

************************
And there it is. A white line in my in box. There it sits holding his name.

************************

I suck in my breath. (It’s like hearing my childhood sweetheart’s name called out from that distant swing set).
I make a pact with myself.
I will read it. I will not answer it. (In the past I would have responded in seconds).

My apparent non answer must have irritated this man who is always in control and gets what he wants.

On Tuesday a white envelope is delivered to my office. It contains that familiar left hand scrawl.

I know this card is from a person who, in his 80 hour work week, rarely ever takes the effort to go to any store to buy any type of card.
This is from a man who professed his love but yet forgot my birthday.

I question the motivation for this contact.

But it goes deeper. The card is to my oldest for her graduation.

When I tell Amy about this she takes on her angry tone. In her matter- of -fact- no- nonsense voice she tells me exactly what it is.
(This is why I adore her. She does not spare me her harsh truths)

On the flip side my associate points out, “Jodi, sometimes a card is just a card.”

O.K. but I know that this is from a man whose actions are planned, deliberate, and calculated.

You reader, tell me, why did he send a card?

I look at that scrawl. I don’t like that it came to my office. I don’t like that it sits on my paralegal’s desk. I don’t like that it is sent to my child.
I have no right not to give it to her. It is her mail.

He just intruded in on my tranquility. The pond water was a glassy mirror. I was doing great. He just threw a tiny pebble into the middle of it.

Over the last week I say nothing to him about any card. I know he will wonder. True to form I receive another e-mail.

I am not a rude person by nature but I don’t want to lead us into any more dialogue.

I go home and crawl under my bed. I take the top off of the shoe box. I see the sharp broken pieces I collected up over a year ago. I don’t dare touch them. I don’t have any desire to get cut again.

The evidence is sitting on my office desk. A card from him is not just a card.

Or is it?

My inner voice whispers: He misses you. He misses everything about you. He misses your e-mails. He misses your questions. He misses your wit and exquisite sense of humor. He misses that when you walk into a room everyone asks how he caught you. He misses that when you go into a bar you get him free drinks. He misses your kisses. He misses your fingers running through his hair. He misses your friendship. He misses you naked in his bathtub. He misses your homemade dinners. He misses going to the movies. He misses your dining out and those thousands and thousands of dinner conversations. He misses your smile and eyes and laugh and……………..

I close the lid on my shoe box. I am taking it out to the corner curb trash.

I am 19 again. It’s Ted and I in that corner booth just down the street from my office. This gorgeous witty boy (who I was crazy about) confesses that he really screwed up. That he wants me back. Debbie was not the right choice. That he is so very very sorry. He misses me terribly. That he was young and stupid. He was trying to explain it to me. It’s like having two really fast cars. One of us was a Porsche. One of us was a Ferrari.

How could a stupid boy decide?

This is the part where my younger self stops crying. I have been reduced to a type of car. I go to that front restaurant pay phone.
I call my best friend Jen. She is coming to get me. She will be right there to take me home.

I love Michigan in summer.

It is so empowering.


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Have More Fun

When I first realized I was knee-deep in mud at a crossroads I didn’t recognize, a very wise friend told me that if I wanted to find my path I should keep a list of all of the things that I like.  It didn’t matter what the context – just keep adding to the list.  Eventually, as I became more aware of the things I liked, I would not only be able to see a pattern that could lead me forward, but also see more of the things I liked.

 

I liked all of the usual stuff: reading, music, movies, live theater, beers with friends, making a new friend, coffee, cooking, traveling, road trips (they deserve their own listing) chocolate, wine, ripe strawberries, sex, everything bagels with veggie cream cheese, feeling pretty …..

 

And I liked:  thunderstorms, cheese, cheesiness, cardio highs, feeling strong, making lists, figuring it out, making other people feel better, hanging on, letting go, loving fiercely, creating, dating older men, beaded curtains, strings of chili pepper lights, Film on the Rocks, knowing what to do, quirky habits in other people, the idea of living life to its fullest, the concept of no regrets….

 

And there were many more, but most important to me: laughing.

 

If you’re laughing, you’re happy, right? At least a little part of you? Maybe the only thing that’s funny is how absurd the situation is, but you still see the humor in it.

 

So after keeping the list for a few months (and I confess, I frequently went weeks without adding to it), New Year’s Eve rolled around.  People started asking what my resolutions were going to be for the upcoming year.  I hate resolutions.  They are never treated like goals; they are hung around your neck as cast iron reminders that you are failing yourself in some way.  Just like the word “should,” they rarely induce anything besides guilt.  Either you’re going to do the work you brought home or you aren’t; why ruin the entire evening brooding over something you aren’t going to do?

 

I made one resolution: Have more fun.

 

I wanted to laugh more.

 

In the beginning, it was fantastic.  Stay home and do laundry? Sorry, my resolution is to have more fun.  I’m joining my friends for cocktails on a heated patio.  Worry about the weight I’ve put on? Can’t – I have a dinner party to host.  Work a few more hours on Sunday morning? Love to, but I’ve got plans to cuddle with my couch while I watch a Law & Order marathon.  I read more books, watched more movies, and deliberately indulged more whims than I ever had before.

 

After a while, unfortunately, I started feeling busy and responsible and left my resolution at a rest stop somewhere between Colorado and Michigan.

 

These past few weeks, though, I’ve begun living it.  Without making a conscious effort, I have been shirking all of the voluntary responsibilities I typically assume in favor of spending time with friends, drinking too much, staying up too late, sleeping through my morning gym time, and plotting delicious adventures.

 

I can feel the solid ground beneath my feet.  I’m not sure which road I ended up on and I don’t know which way I’m going to go, but somehow I left the mud behind.  I didn’t force myself to have more fun.  I just did it.  It feels natural.  I think all of the answers are starting to feel like enough, and I am starting to feel like me.  I still have roads to travel – that’s just life – but I think the worst stretch is behind me, which means the rest will be more fun.

 

 


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Time.

I think of everything in terms of it. It takes me .1 to get to my office by car from my home. It takes .5 to drive one way downtown. A divorce intake or bankruptcy intake costs me an hour. A bath is .4. Dinner and clearing dishes 1.5. My work outs to the gym and back about 1.5 hours. It takes me .2 to get to the girl’s high school and back. I usually try and sleep about 8 hours. An average date with great conversation usually runs about 4 hours. To write my blog usually about 2 hours. To work on my book about 4 hours. To grocery shop about 1.5 hours. A good movie about 1.5 to 2 hours. Spending time with my girls at night about 2 hours. Running to soccer practice and games 4 hours.

Paulo Coelho wrote 11 minutes. That was his calculation as to how long it takes us to actually have sex.

I suppose he used a stopwatch.

I never thought of timing sex until now.

I guess this is how I, a lawyer lady, stacks up and adds up all of her spent time.

In a sense I acknowledge that this is a sick way to go about living. To weigh and measure everything in terms of time. When my clients complain about their bill and the time spent. They are not just trying to take away money—they are stealing my time.

I can’t give it to anyone else. It’s been used up and wasted. I can’t get that back. That .2 is forever gone. It’s not like I can ask my client for my .2 time back. I can’t use that .2 toward anything or anyone else.

So this week I have been wasting precious minutes being in and out of sadness. It is a sadness that seizes me at random. I feel my whole chest get tight. My eyes just fill up with tears. It is hard for me to breathe. These events last minutes. I lose concentration and focus.

My favorite aunt (if I could say I had a favorite) has been diagnosed with cancer. It’s stage three and in her lymph nodes. I wonder about my time with her. How much do I have left? I love this woman. I really really love her. I know that she really loves me. I cherish my aunt. I am filled with grief and am so consumed by it. I want to weep into my pillow and sleep. She has been so kind to me. She loves and adores my girls. She bakes me pies and cookies. She makes me stain glass art that I hang on my windows. This lovely woman crocheted a soft blanket for me. She is my second mother. I want more of her and her time. I hope that I didn’t waste any of it. I am selfish. I know.

I think of Salvador Dali’s time explosion. The clock’s inner workings and numbers are flug out into the desert. I wonder what he was thinking when he painted it. I am mad at him.

I hate this world sometimes. I don’t like this pain and loss. I am no good at it. I don’t like the thought of this beautiful person suffering because this person is someone I know and love. Her ticket is up— I feel this like I feel everything. I feel the color. It is cold and very black.

I hate Salvador Dali and his time explosion. I hate that hour glass. I hate the hour of death. I hate the second hand.

In my hate and sadness I feel useless. There is nothing I can do to stop the clock.

I am reminded I need to carefully pick and choose how I spend my minutes.


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Restless

That restless feeling kicked up a couple of weeks ago, making me want to pack up and hit the road.  Tonight it is just as strong – an electric current striking out into my limbs, urging them to move, and leaving my stomach slightly twisted.  I don’t sleep well when I feel this way.  I lie awake, thinking of escape plans.  When I described it to Jodi she asked if I feel like I am in the wrong place. Maybe I am.  Or maybe I’m just in the right place for the wrong reasons.

 

Nothing in my life is permanent.  I live in a temporary arrangement.  I have a temporary job.  I feel like this is a temporary city.  I suppose my friends are permanent, but the ones I most value will remain friends regardless of time or geography.  I could find another place to live here, but then I might find a job I want somewhere else.  I could find a job somewhere else, but then I might be in the wrong place again.  And what if I find another job here only to have a better opportunity open up somewhere else?  I am getting a handle on my finances, but if I move I might undo the progress I have made.  The general unrest in my life leads me to avoid spending time with nice guys who might want to settle down; I don’t want to involve a nice man in my mess.  I long for permanency, but I can’t seem to commit to anything.  If I could organize all of my options into detailed lists, arranged in order of importance, I could maybe find a way forward, but even that seems impossible right now.  I am aware, however, that for me geography is the easiest thing to change.  It makes me the most hopeful because it is so thorough.  Everything is different when you move to a new state.  Even there, though, I get stuck wondering whether making the decision to move would allow the other pieces to fall in place or just add regrets.

 

I like being here, near my family.  A large part of me would regret moving away from them again.  It will never be enough for me to live through them.  Right now that is what I feel I am doing.  Or trying to do.  Moving home has allowed me to “sort of” have children.  I’m not sure that I want my own, and it’s rather a moot point since my doctors don’t think I can have them anyway.  By living here I get to spoil my nieces and nephews and then go back to an evening with friends, or a late night at work, or an early visit to the gym.  I’ve become used to doing things my way and in my time.  I’ve also spent a lot of time helping raise other people’s children.  I like them, but I know they are a lot of work.  And they’re permanent.  When you have children they should get your attention.  It’s what they deserve.  But I’m not sure I can give it.  I like to listen to an album without being interrupted for lunch orders or fights over toys.  I like to watch movies all the way through and have adult conversations with adult guests. Unfortunately, I also think it is magical to watch a child try something new or just snuggle up for a nap.  Spending time with my nieces and nephews gives me the best of both.

 

So I am fractured.  I feel guilt over not being able to commit to having my own.  Resentment that it isn’t really my decision.  Joy at retaining my freedom.  Sorrow that this is the closest I’ll get to children of my own.  And shame that they aren’t really something I can offer a partner.  Living here both eases and multiplies my regrets.  Spending time with my nieces and nephews lets me waffle between having children and remaining single, and it reminds me that my own life is more of a support role to my parents and sisters.

 

This past week, as Jodi wrote, we spent time with a beautiful, loving family.  Like Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Moonlight and Valentino I want to sit on their porch just so I can feel the love.  It made me wish for a family of my own.  That’s a wish I can usually bury beneath all of the conditions precedent.  I know there are so many things that would have to happen for it to be possible that I stop wasting energy thinking about it.  But my own home seems empty after last week.  The feeling will fade, I’m sure, but for the moment I yearn to create a web of familial ties I can wrap around myself.

 

I think it is the implausibility of actually spinning that web that is making me want to run.  Staying here, with my ambivalence rocking me back and forth on unsteady legs, only leaves me wishing for a solid stretch of land far away from swirling waters.  There are so many reminders of my indecision! Nieces, nephews, friends with children, friends thinking about having children, social plans revolving around parenting schedules….

 

The emptiness eats at me occasionally.  If I keep moving I can hold it at bay, but if I slow down it starts biting at my heels.  In the past I just focused on work.  Work is a place where I can excel.  The moral issues are clearer, or at least easier to compartmentalize.  Now it seems easier – and more appropriate, perhaps – to focus on family.  I was mad at my sisters for not valuing the life I live simply because it doesn’t include children.  But it isn’t fair to say that it is all on them.  Rightly or wrongly, I succumb to popular opinion and devalue my life for the same reason.  It doesn’t matter that the best solution for me may be to actively decide to let go of the question.  It hovers over me, urging me to act.

 

So the electricity tingles through my arms.  My stomach vibrates to the same tune.  I won’t be able to rest because I’ll be thinking and wishing.  If I could just resolve to move forward, in any direction….  But that isn’t how I work.  I have to have reasons and logic and purpose.  And if I can’t change myself, maybe the only thing I can change is my geography.  But tonight I won’t escape the question with a tour of mid-America.  As Hemingway admonished, “never mistake movement for action.”  Tonight I will hope an Ambien turns off the power.  Tomorrow I will start thinking again.  I might not be able to force an answer on myself, but maybe if I stop running I can force myself to find one.