Archive for September, 2011


I was tricked into being hauled into this state when I was seven.  I remember the move well.  My mother’s bribe of a Michigan adventure.  I do not know which one of my parents contrived the excellent idea to leave the warmth of the West for this northern snow.

Snow, when you live in southern California, is just something you read about in books or see on T.V.  It becomes a fascination, especially, around Christmas time.

It wasn’t like my baby sister and I could really say, “No, we’re not going to get in the car.”  Little kids panic at the thought of being left behind.  Between you and I, I had this secret fear of the orphanage.  My father had a day of stationed Naval duty at one and took me in tow.  The nuns gave me orange pop to drink during my afternoon of play with orphans. 

I decided I didn’t want to become one.

Soon we were surrounded by boxes, the big moving truck, and a visit from my Uncle Ron to help my dad drive us north.  We were facing this trek across states to reunite with a family I had only heard about in stories.  Most of these people I did not actually know.  We were stuffed into a green station wagon and the very last to be scooped up and squeezed in was our yippee Mexican Chihuahua.

These were tortured days in the car even with the company of a little sister and our bat like dog. I found myself doubting these stories of relatives and snow.  Thoughts of losing my friends created stomach aches.  Soon after we entered into this great lake state I was missing my prickly backyard and the San Diego beaches.  I yearned and missed our games and make believe play that took place at the end of our cul-de-sac.

After my first Michigan winter I came to a very simple conclusion: this trade to see snow was a raw one.  I know the Chihuahua, if it could talk, would have agreed.

I hated Kalamazoo, Michigan.  This place was not the same.  This new house still smelled of paint and dry wall.  The builder kept showing up to fix things.  I didn’t care for his scruffy beard and curly hair.  I didn’t like him around my mother.  One of the rooms had ugly orange carpet.  Our backyard wasn’t the same.  We had mud for a lawn because the landscape wasn’t put in. 

These Kalamazoo children were not the same.  There was a creeper that lived at the end of this street.  He was grades ahead of me.  He was always trying to kiss and wrap his arms around neighborhood girls.  There was a time he tried to grab and kiss me at his house.  I remember he tried to wrap me up in a blanket.  I just got all hot and sticky and could barely breathe fighting myself out of a fuzz ball laden net.  He wasn’t my San Diego Robbie.  My childhood best friend.  Robbie and I played together, we walked to school together, we had all kinds of out door adventure together.  Robbie was real and safe.  We were a metal lunch box team.  Kissing Robbie on his lips or cheek was as natural as punching him in his arm, going barefoot, collecting lizards, playing in the beach sand, and riding our big wheels and bikes up and down our street. 

This Kalamazoo boy was odd and unnatural.  His watery eyes matched his filmy touch.  This boy exposed me to my first glossy playboy.

Kalamazoo lasted only a year.  I was grateful to leave it.  I was now going on school number three.

I learned it takes time to make new friends.  It can be odd and lonely to eat lunch in a room full of kids that have known each other for years.  I learned how to sit back and read a room.

Maybe this is what fueled my incessant love for books.  Reading new adventures was a way to deal with these hard changes.  I survived this prison with books.

I blocked out the misery of my third and fourth grade.  I just never really got along with girls.  They didn’t like the things I liked.  I was too thin, quick and wiry.  I hated dresses and liked to wear my hair short.  I loved the outdoors and sports.  Boys picked me to be on their teams.  These constant school changes made it hard on my math skills.  In some subjects I was more advanced.  In others I was behind.  Sometimes I had to stay in at recess to catch up.

The fall of my fifth grade brought me Trent.  I loved this boy.  He loved me.  He came in the form of sandy hair that held a front left colic.  He broke out into this cocky toothy grin whenever he saw me.  His face would turn red and he would stutter.  I loved his smile.  I looked forward to him everyday.  I found that he would always be looking at me.  He would always wait for me in the lunch line.  He was the most popular boy in our class; the most popular boy in our school.  He loved to help me with my math.  He wanted me to succeed.

I was always on Trent’s team.  He let everyone know why.  The girls hated and envied me.  I loved every minute of this fifth grade existence.  He made my heart pound.  I could hear it in my ears.  At times, when he shot me that smile, I couldn’t breathe.

After that year my parents had their discussions.  I was put into a different school district again.

All these transitions.  All these books.  All these changes.

And all this god damn Michigan snow.

These changing leaves.  Michigan molting it’s greens into bright yellows and pumpkin oranges that change into barn reds.  These bursts of sun colors burning themselves into dry crackling browns.  Their flames lick the tree branches bare.

My professor told me this is how relationships work.  They come in seasons.  I didn’t need him to remind me of it.  My childhood was, and is, a constant reminder of this natural fact.

Just because changes are inevitable doesn’t mean I have to like them.  I hate my Michigan summers folding into ribbons of fall that package harsh winters.  I am tired of shoveling all this god damn Michigan snow.  I hate these chapped cracked hands holding my mug full of hot chocolate even when it’s mixed with peppermint schnapps.  I hate having to pay for AAA roadside assistance.

I want to catch my cottage summers and leaves of fall and press them into waxed paper.  I want to preserve them like I preserve my family photographs.

Maybe this is why I do not like to change the location of furniture in a room.  I do not like to change the make and model of my car.  I keep the same employment, never fire employees, and never switch jobs.  I like to wear my jeans as worn and tattered as my shoes.  I like to put my keys in the same spot.  I like to sleep on the left side of my empty bed.  When I find a breakfast place or restaurant I like I frequent it.  I order the same meals off their menus.

I know many people. I do not have many friends.  The ones I have I treat like glass.  When I find something I cherish I have this desire to keep it close.  I know winters will come.  I am helpless to stop unwelcome changes.

So I dream.  I dream of a season that stays a Michigan summer or sunny fall.  This I could continually love.  I smell apple pie.  I am drinking cider spiced with cinnamon and rum.  He is warm and waiting in my night-time bed.  We both share bedroom whispers and conspire to succeed.  We both agree on the terms of the chores.  We both listen to each other.  Firm and kind words are used when we disagree.  Compromises are easy because he is so damn witty and intelligent.  He cares about my day.  I care about his.  His words are kind and encouraging.  He wants to help.  So do I.  We eat our dinners together.  He sees my flaws and hears my secrets but he doesn’t use this information against me.  He only wants to sit next to me.  He has that cocky grin and kind eyes.  I am envied by the other girls. I don’t have to move.  Maybe I would iron his shirts.

I know loving him would be as easy and natural as waves that lap California beach sand.

I feel I have experienced a life time of these god damn Michigan winters.




My Shavasana

“I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”


That was one of the quotes handwritten on the wall of the yoga studio.  I disagreed.


Yoga and I don’t actually get along.  I mean, I LOVE the way I feel at the end of my practice, but every twisted, unbalanced minute of the actual practice drives me nuts.


I used to practice quite often.  The drop-in classes were easy to make a couple of times a week, and then I hit the jackpot and lived with an instructor in training who led my friend and me in practice every weekday morning.  After two and a half months I still held a grudge against it.  When I moved I gave it up.


Last fall I joined the Y and started going again, but only sporadically.  The stars had to be perfectly aligned, and the excuses had to be hard to find, before I would trudge out with my mat in time to make it to the 6 a.m. class without getting lost on the track on the way.


But today a friend was having a bad week.  She is underemployed and recently single.  And because she is recently single, she is about to be kicked out of her house.  And today her car broke down.  And she really wanted to go to a free yoga class.


“I’ll go!”  I just felt like I should.  I went earlier in the week and it was fine.  One of my most enjoyable practices ever, actually.  I could definitely suck it up for a friend who just wanted some company.  So I pulled up the event on the yoga studio’s homepage.


108 sun salutations in honor of the first day of fall.  WTF? How did I get myself into this? I hate to do six in a practice.  108? Seriously? Balls.


But it got better.  When we walked into the studio I realized I had missed the line that said it was HOT yoga.  I didn’t even have a towel with me.  Awesome.  Well it could be great, right? I’d never tried hot yoga.  At a minimum the workout would have to be great.  And it was only her second yoga attempt ever, so I could talk her into leaving at the halfway point if it came down to it.


It started out great.  Downward facing dog, step to the front of the mat, mountain, fold, half-way up, fold, chaturanga, upward facing dog, downward facing dog…. The positions slowly awakened.  I liked the feeling.  We don’t do sun salutations at the Y.  But it was so HOT.  On about the sixth salutation the sweat was pouring off of me.  I said the same thing after Zumba this week, but it turns out I was wrong then.  THIS redefined pouring off of me.  It didn’t take long before a sweat trail led up the middle of my mat and onto the floor in front of it.  Fine.  Suck it up.  But it kept spreading.


The next few salutations passed quickly.  Then I started to lose my grip on the mat. As I lowered into chaturanga my left hand slipped out from under me.  On the next rotation my right foot slid to the edge of my mat.  As I worked to maintain my balance and complete the poses my inner arms began to tremble.  I couldn’t push up into upward facing dog without bracing my legs or bowing my knees outward.




I’ve had enough injuries, I wasn’t going to set myself back by tearing a muscle in my arm or twisting my bad knee again.  I sat back on my mat and breathed.


I had made it through 26 of the 108 salutations.


Beside me, my friend was cranking.  As I watched her struggling to learn the poses and committing to her practice I knew I couldn’t ask her to leave at the halfway point.  I resigned myself to restarting at the end of the break.  When the break came so many people had left they asked us to move up in the room and fill in the spaces.  I did one more sun salutation before accepting that I was done for the night.  And now I was in the middle of the room.


I slid my mat to the end of the row and sat cross-legged.  I had an hour to go.  I opted to work on my meditating.  I have a hard time with that, too, but my head felt better for the yoga, even if the heat was threatening to boil it.


Best. Meditation. Ever.


I don’t know if it was a heat stroke or what, but meditation has never felt so… so.  I don’t even know how else to explain it.  My head was everywhere and nowhere.


I was thinking about all of the people I have practiced with in the past.  The instructors with their bits of sermon-like wisdom, the friends who keep me pushing myself, the roommate who gave up his mornings for us, and the couple who practiced on the mats beside us at one of the gyms but always checked on me and my back.  It turned out they ran a spine clinic and could immediately tell that I’d had a disk out of place that was still giving me trouble.


I was reflecting on all of the positive sayings on the wall about working through it, accepting your place in the world, and embracing the positive.


I was parsing through the past career and personal decisions I’ve made.


I was asking why I dislike yoga so much.


And I got some answers.


People can be awesome. Sometimes somebody else’s words open up a whole new perspective. Some things just are.  You do the best you can, you make a decision, and you move on.  And sometimes, even when you know a decision is looming, you can’t worry about it.  You will get to it when the time is right.


And I came up with two reasons why yoga is so difficult for me.  The first is that it’s just difficult.  I have to focus on my entire body in order to practice effectively.  I can’t just turn up the music, read the news, and turn up the energy level in order to succeed.  I have to concentrate.  The second is that it makes me feel guilty.  I feel like a failure when I practice.  Instead of appreciating the 10 poses I do well, I worry about the poses I don’t do well.  Tonight I was side-tracked by how many salutations I didn’t do until somewhere in the middle of my meditation, when I thought about how many I did do, and how 20 more sun salutations than I’ve ever done in one practice before is a pretty sweet achievement.


I worry over my practice because it isn’t as peaceful or as natural as it is for everyone else.  Which is ridiculous.  If there’s one thing yoga is all about, it’s finding your own practice and not worrying about the person on the next mat.


“I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”


Tonight that saying connected with my practice and my life.  When my meditation ended I was still smiling.


At the end of a practice the instructors turn the lights off and everyone assumes shavasana, or corpse pose.  The pose has you lie stretched out with your hands at your sides.  It is a pose of relaxation intended to rejuvenate your body and spirit.  It is incredibly uncomfortable on my lower back. The couple with the spine clinic advised me years ago to lie with my feet on the floor and apart from each other, but with my knees bent and touching like a twisted scarecrow.


When I got into position for my version of shavasana, I thought about how much more relaxing it was to be in a pose that worked for me than to struggle into the pose that works for most people.


Maybe yoga won’t be my favorite thing.  I’ll keep it up because I can feel the benefits, but I don’t want to struggle with it anymore.  I will accept my 26 sun salutations for the achievement they are, and I will let go of the rest.


I have many vivid night-time dreams.  I often think about my night-time world.  These weird, amazing, and disturbing mind messages.

When I had a major exam I would dream the content in my sleep.  I have dreamt conjugating verbs in French.  I have dreamt calculus.  I have dreamt my mother and father speaking in Spanish when we all know they have never learned a word of it.

When I was pregnant I dreamt what my babies would look like.

When I had a major trial I would dream my questions and cross examine witnesses on the stand.  I would make my closing argument to the judge. 

When I was contemplating divorce I had a lot of conversations with the Divine.  I was really pissed off about my life circumstance.  I would get mad. 

This life is not what I had signed up for.  This worse was not even a contemplation.  I didn’t know this worse could even exist.

This wasn’t something I deserved.  My love was supposed to conquer all. 

My anger turned into tears.  Tears turned back into anger.  Anger and tears then turned into cold fear. 

Fear that I wouldn’t be strong enough to leave.  Fear that I would wind up dead.  Fear that I would end up financially destitute. 

I even tried discussions with the Divine.  That night I remember pouring out my pathetic little heart.  I did this like I have never poured out anything before. 

And that night I had this dream: Our big beautiful house was underwater and being washed away.  The water was filling up the home.  My girls and I were in it.  It was more than scary.  It confirmed all of my fears.

Will I lose everything?  Yes, you will lose everything.

I thought about that all day long.  I was getting use to this idea.  The concept wasn’t all that bad.

The next night I had another dream: I was surrounded by an insurmountable wealth and beauty.  I was at this most luxurious pool.  I was there surrounded by Tiki torches.  My mind was telling me this was a new house.  This was a bigger and better house.  I was in a better and safer place.  I felt no fear.

I knew I was surrounded by a wealth I couldn’t even begin to comprehend or understand.


This is the beauty of our mind. 
How do we want to look at our situation? 

I was discussing money with a very close personal friend.  How the love of it can poison a love or a relationship. 

When suddenly the treatment of an individual becomes much less important than wealth. 

It’s when you are at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the stock market tanks.  When you come out and he is screaming profanity at you because your mutual stock portfolio that held $100,000.00 plummeted to $20,000.00. 

Take it to another extreme.  Your loved one is constantly monitoring it.  Who gets it? Who earned it? Who has rights to it?  Your value or worth is directly associated to it.
And the rehashing of that profanity and stock market crash every time he gets to remembering it (which is everytime he continually monitors it).

(Ok love, why didn’t you try calling a stock broker when we were at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?)

I think about all of the choices that I make with money in mind:  Where to park, what college to send my children to, what trip to go on, what clothes to buy, what food to eat, what charity to donate to, where to live, what people to associate with. 

I think about all of those hard questions:  How much do we want to give to our children?  How much do we lavish on our spouse?  What gifts to buy or not to buy for a loved one?  How much to save?  How much to spend?  How much to invest?

I think about all of the stories about money: the Biblical fable of the man that buried his money instead of investing it, Charles Dickens’ Scrooge, the man that turned everything he touched into gold, and (one of my favorites) Jack and the Bean Stalk.

The power money has.  The evil that comes from it.  The food, warmth and good it provides.  The stories we tell about it. 

A poison or an elixir.

But what I really find so fascinating is that it is so very character revealing. 

Give it to a man that comes from nothing.  Take it from a man that has everything.

I am happier here in this spot.  I know more about things than I have ever known before.  I have seen these men with their masks off.  I see them as they really are.  I see myself as I am.  I know my real worth.  I know of my potential.  I know what it is to have.  I know what it’s like to not.

Nothing scares me.  Nothing can hold me back.  It’s all up to me.
I have the moxie to jump out of a moving plane.

And I believed in the Alchemist before it was written.

My night-time dreams tell me of an undiscovered oil.








A Family History

My maternal grandfather died when my mother was 9.  At the time, her older brothers were 14 and 12, and the younger twins were 5.  My grandmother had to figure out what to do.  She found work.  She paired up with another woman going through the same upheaval.  She put just enough food on the table.  She got her kids through high school.  She only went on one date after my grandfather died; she said he wasn’t her husband.  She knew no one ever would be.


My paternal grandmother got married before she was 16 to a man decades older than her.  After three kids she fell in love with someone else and left them all behind to start over.  A few years and three more children later, her first husband died and two of her children with him came to live with her.  And her alcoholic, occasionally abusive husband.  He couldn’t hold down a job, relatives helped keep food on the table, and their fights had a deep impact on my father.  Over the years my grandmother would leave him when it got to be too much, but she could never make the split permanent.  When he died they were still together. I was 5 at the time.


My mother’s first husband cheated on her with her sister-in-law.  They divorced when my sister was just a baby.  He poured sugar in the gas tank of my mother’s car.  He rarely paid child support.  She worried that he would be high during his parenting time with my sister.  My mother washed her hair with laundry detergent for a while so she could make ends meet.


My parents were set up on a blind date by my father’s cousin.  After they had dated for a while my dad came over drunk and fell over a footstool.  My mother kicked him out and broke it off.  He came back and made amends.  My oldest sister remembers one other time when my father had too much to drink and my mother threw her wedding ring at him, losing it in the snow.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen my father have a drink.


My mother runs our house.  She likes things to be a certain way.  She is efficient and thorough.  She stocks non-perishables and household items as though every store in America is closing tomorrow.  She has her own set of tools.  When my mother starts a project, she finishes it.


When she asks my father to do something around the house he stalls until she stops nagging him and does it herself, or the nagging escalates to the unavoidable.  My father is super nice.  He is also incredibly inefficient.   He hesitates.  He is overly cautious and unsure of himself.  He leaves the house for thirty minute errands and returns hours later.  He often behaves like a child, refusing to call home and tell my mother where he is going in case she asks him to come back.  He does not do his own laundry, and he only cleans under duress.  My mother hates that he would always rather watch tv than walk the beach.


He swears my mother is the love of his life, and he will never leave her.  My mother says she is too old to start over.  I think there is love between them, but neither one seems to respect the other.  I don’t want their marriage.


My mother made sure I can take care of myself, and I am proud that I can. I own more tools than most of the guys I have dated. I taught a couple of them how to drive a stick. My summer jobs during middle school included painting rooms and cutting lawns around the neighborhood. I held my own in a career dominated by men, and I learned how to be a hard ass in order to do it. I drive everywhere because I like to be in control of my ability to leave.


My mother’s dating advice was “use them and abuse them.”  Her worst fears came true when my oldest sister’s husband was arrested just before he tried to enact a plan to shoot my sister for a life insurance policy.


I want to date and fall in love and get married.  But he had damn well better be worth it.  I don’t want an alcoholic or a murderer, and I don’t want a man who doesn’t respect me.


I can take care of myself, so any man I am seriously involved with has to be worth my time and attention.  Because I will take care of him, too, but I want a relationship where we take care of each other.  I want to know I can rely on him.  I want to know he is a good man.  I want to believe him when he says he will handle it.  I want to trust him enough to commit for life.


I want the kind of marriage that makes me never want to date anyone else again.

Humanly Positive.

In Evora, Portugal sits the Chapel of Bones.  I walked under the inscription: Nos ossos que aqvi estamos pelos vossos esperamos (more or less:  our bones are waiting for your bones).

Such a pleasant thought. 
A granite carved reminder that our time here is definitely short and meaningless.

I remember this day and the dread that surrounded it.  On this vacation I was making hard decisions.  My mind was formulating plans.  My heart lacked color and music.  It was impossible for me to act anymore.  I am a very poor actress.  I was wondering a lot of “whys.”

It was really a norm.  This impatient, self assured way of his choosing or deciding just to be mean for meaness sake.  It felt like water that seeps in from the soles of well worn shoes.  Gone is the comfort they once gave. Their worn out flavor brings on feelings of resentment. Knowing myself, I know I did not create or cultivate this response.  Cobblers couldn’t fix it.  The only thing left to do was to try this trip walking barefoot.
It started with him parking so close to another car so I could not open my passenger side door to exit the vehicle.  I had to crawl over to the driver’s side and as I lifted my head he proceeded to slam the diver’s side door in my face. 

He did these things often when I said or did something he did not like.  A habit which was more common than routine. 

In this holy visit he was disrespectful, not only to me, but also to this place and to those bones. 

I felt no hate or any disgust.  I did not give this type of behavior back.  What I did feel was a complete tiredness.  It washed over me again for the millionth time.  I was guilty of allowing this behavior to continue.  I had no way of stopping it.  He couldn’t control it.  How could I? 

This thing that had it’s own shape and dimensions.  

It just always was my fault. 

I have learned that people are who they are.  We might be able to influence them slightly, motivate them to be a better person, or evoke a feeling of caring, some sort of trust, or good humanly bond.  Maybe we can convince themselves, in our small moments of greatness, to aspire to be better people. 

(then we have to be careful about a jealousy or an envy if we become too dynamic) 

It is up to each of us.  Whom do we want to be for ourselves.  More importantly, whom do we want to be for other people.

What are we going to leave in our wake?  What do we leave behind if we can only control our responses to such individuals.

I want to approach each thing as if I have never been broken.  I want to smile to that stranger and to talk to that store clerk.  I get to know the parking attendants.  I know the books they are reading.  I try not to focus on my worries and my insecurities.  I want to listen and to take in the small joys or stories of my clientele.  I want to try and guide those struggling in the chairs in my office.  I want to really help.  I want to really make some sort of difference.

I want to be good and kind.  I want to be positive.  I want to love and nurture my girls with good and positive words.  I at times, do not deserve them.  I want to go out of my way and do the best that I can for those I sincerely care about and love.

I want moments with a lover that I crave to revisit.  I want reciprocity.  Experiences of learning and growth.  A feeling and caring that will grow and have deep roots.  I don’t want to judge.  I don’t want to hold back out of fear.  I want the beauty of sincerity and simple truths.  I want a combined approach that we each recognize that these moments together are fleeting.  Such experiences should be expended to propel us higher and make us better.  We have little time here.  Good should not be withheld or wasted.  A sharing of a day because we simply crave and desire to share it.

I want to keep those weeds of meanness and hurt out of my garden. 


I want to keep it out of my soul and out of my life. 



Future Life

With each man that I date and truly like I have a hard time saying goodbye.  It is as though, for a moment, a window opens and I see the future we could have had together, if it had only been right.  And even though it isn’t right it feels like it could have been good enough.  And when we say goodbye I feel myself saying goodbye to that future as though I am being pulled backward through a long tunnel.  I feel disoriented; much like Scrooge must have felt with the ghost of Christmas future.


It is as much the fear of what will come next, without that imagined future, as the sorrow in the parting that keeps me clinging to the shifting walls.  Regardless of the reasons, they stretch beneath my grasping fingers and shake off my fingerprints.  And that entire future just disappears.  It will never exist.


The sadness of letting go settles over me every time.  I don’t want to keep looking at futures that will never form.  I want one of them to be real.  I get attached to them as though they are.


The sadness lasts until I find a moment when letting go makes sense; when I see the world for the vast space that it is, filled with endless possibilities.  I offer up my hurt and my hope and I wait for the world to make it right.  Sometimes it takes days, sometimes it takes years.  It depends on how much I believed in my invented future.


I like variety.  I crave adventure.  It is the feeling of moving forward that keeps me satisfied.  I know these things about myself.  They are true.  And they are only part of the story.


As the weight of these goodbyes has begun to register, I see that a part of me longs for stability.  I don’t like that my entire life is subject to the whims of the next week.  I want a career.  A home.  A family.  I assumed that if I built my career I would be happier than if I sat around waiting to find a good man.  But my career is nowhere to be found, and I am still hoping to chance upon a home and family.  It always felt pointless to chase after something that is never guaranteed.  Despite my efforts, however, it turns out a career isn’t, either.  And I think it is time for me to look for everything else.


I need to design my future life.

The war within the human heart.

Today, I can honestly state I am better.  My bones are healed.  I am no longer limping.

I am closing a year.  Over a year since I met Amy.
This will be the last time I will write about this.  I have no more need too.

Looking back at it I see this year for what it really is—or now— was.  The musician of choice is Sara Bareilles.  My song is Uncharted Waters.

I was on this ocean boat.  I have never been this far out before.  I didn’t need to find myself.  I know (and knew) right where I was.

Tossed and too sad to be mad. 

Betrayal, for me, leads to a deep grief. 

In these deep cold waters I felt demoralized.  I felt so very tired and broken. 

All I could do was float and breathe.  Breathe and float.

I already confessed to you my coping strategy.  I would simply just read and write.  I was experiencing this human condition.  I did not find comfort in any God, in any of his books, or in any of his churches.  There is, and remains, no comfort for me there. 

Instead I filled my soul with Hemingway, Steinbeck, McCarthy, Conroy, McCourt, Larsson, Chopin, Coelho, Bronte and others too numerous to count.   I set to fill my soul with new people, new places and new experiences.

If I became bored with my night-time reading I sunk my teeth into my day-time work drama. 

My grief began slowly turning into a morbid curiosity. 

I wanted to drink in dysfunction because I found myself living it.

I was looking for the missing pieces to my jigsaw puzzle.   At our mornings at the Y, Amy would lovingly remind me that sometimes I might not find all the pieces.  I might not be able to make sense of the picture.

But I find it so fitting and odd that this weekend I found it.  I am a hoarder of books.  I have hundreds of them.  The girls have been boxing them up because our tiny house can’t contain any more. So I need to sort and purge.  It’s as if I knew this yellowed paged book was waiting for me in my basement.  A required read when I was fourteen. 

Too young and naive to understand and appreciate it’s message then.   

The world hadn’t shown me it’s harshness in a way I could understand it.  
(It’s like going to a funeral and you know full well of death.  But death becomes real only when you lose someone that is an extension of yourself.)

A part of me would like to think John Knowles wrote this book for me. 

I was Phineas. My 341 man shook the tree branch. 

If it had been my ex-husband I would have been fine—I would never had gone out on that tree limb.  I would never have fallen because I would have known of the underlying danger.  His nature had revealed his truths over time.   His revelations were expected. My heartbreaks with him were continually repeated.  Then there was just nothing left to break.   

I was left with a vat of nothingness.  There was no more hurt or I really can’t remember any.

And then when I wanted to leave I was subjected to an underestimated cruelty and hate.  To any outside observer it was a true validation of all of my reasons for fleeing. 

But in this new love affair I am so very trusting and excited to jump.  We are above the water’s bank.  I turn my head to find him jouncing the limb. It’s my face that has that funny look.   I am falling and then there is that sickening crack. 

The truth is this man is less honorable than Gene.  He does not offer any confessions.  I muster my courage and ask him why he did what he did.  He could only red faced,  blurt out, “Look at nature all around you.”

I am looking at this nature.  I want to change it.  For all women.  For me.  For other people.  For my girls.  I want to change it. 

This thinking that a man unilaterally has a right to violate a trust regarding a physical course of action without a woman’s consent.

This right, where a man just takes and makes a decision, that he has no right to make.  To go against another’s will without a fair warning. 

This jiggling a branch to watch another just fall.

Oh, I struggled.   I was formulating a new commandment to my personal decalogue: Never accuse a friend of a crime if you only have a feeling he did it.   I was Phineas in denial.

 Our truth was a deeper injury than his shaking and of any falling.

If I could only believe that the tree, in fact, shook itself.  If I could have pretended I didn’t witness or know of what he really did.

But I am stronger than Phineas.  I know trees don’t shake themselves. 

In this harsh season I impart a lesson of warning to my girls–words that I cannot take back: 

Trust only in and of yourselves. 


I am sure, if the circumstances and facts presented themselves, I could also be a Gene.  Anyone can experience this brief burst of animosity, lasting only a second, a part of a second, something which came before we could recognize it and which could be gone before we knew it could possess us. 

And in the end John Knowles shows us that sky full of daggers.

I have reached my own separate peace.

I too am stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth.