dammit Wittgenstein

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein

SO….dammit. Again this needs a very quick writing while I can hang onto it and it’s likely to be chaotic because the whole point of it is that, and dammit this is about losing story but how do I tell that in a linear story? [This post more fully articulates what I was working my way toward in yesterday’s chat.]

Breathe.

About three months after we met

When Marc and I first met, he used to say that Wittgenstein line to me when I’d be thick in the midst of storytelling, and I’d pause to ask him what he thought. He’d say that line and it used to piss me off SO MUCH. Before I met him, I gave a glancing acknowledgement to this line — loved Wittgenstein, didn’t much care for this point but just shrugged and moved on. But oh how he loved it. I used to get so frustrated, because I thought, then where does that leave you?  And in fact that’s Wittgenstein’s point. Still, I wanted to talk, I wanted to tell my stories, and tell my stories I did. Oh how I have told my stories. I’ve told them endlessly. I’ve written them endlessly on this and earlier blogs. If we know each other in real live person you’ve heard them — not endlessly, I hope, but you’ve heard them more than once. I told my stories over, and over, and over. I’m not sure why, exactly; it wasn’t that I wanted people to tell me it was wrong, all the things that happened to me, because I knew that already. And the only person whose acknowledgement mattered, my mother, would never, ever say it. My father is dead and can never say it, and never did during his life. My stepfather did extend a small apology. But it’s her acknowledgement that mattered, and that was never going to come, and the acknowledgement by therapists and people who love me wasn’t what I wanted. I’ve never been sure why I told those stories over and over, but I did. I have.

And at the same time, I’ve also thought and written a lot about our “little stories,” and about chunking, and about the complexity and difficulty of plucking out the story, and the value of shifting frames, etc etc etc etc. I understood all this intellectually. I’ve always been good at the cerebral part.

And neuroscience has shown us that with each retrieval of a memory, it shifts. The purest, most “true” memory is the one that isn’t ever recalled.

And psychological linguistic analysis has shown us that people who recover from trauma tell their stories differently each time, and those who fail to recover from it tell it in a fixed, unchanging way. Just as I have done. You’ve probably had a strange feeling of having heard me tell a story exactly the same way. The same exact sentences and emphases.

And so now. I finally, finally arrive at the point.

This three-dimensional, moving insight I’ve had about my dad — that does seem to be extending to my mother — necessarily extends outward to my stories! How can I tell any of them any more? How can I insist on the certainty of them any more? Not the certainty of whether they happened, but the certainty that that is in fact the story. And setting aside the telling of them to others, how can I even tell them to myself any more?

My mind tilts and the floor is moving, like the deck of a ship on open ocean. What can I say? I had a complicated and difficult childhood. Yeah, I can say that, and that’s that. I survived a complicated and difficult childhood. I adored my grandfather, Big Daddy. I married young and had three kids young. Mister Rogers is my hero. My father died of suicide when I was 23. I started college at 36, when my first husband and I divorced, and I finished a PhD at 45. My first granddaughter died, and I have three grandchildren who call me Pete, as Big Daddy did, and they make me so so happy. My son has estranged himself from my family for years and that’s the hardest thing I have to bear. My daughters mean everything to me. After living together for seven years in Manhattan, my husband and I lived apart for five years and now we have a home together in the mountains, where I am very happy. We have traveled together so happily and seen so much of the world, and learned that we love Vietnam and Laos and Southeast Asia. I’ve been so happy in my life. I’ve attempted suicide twice, quite seriously. I want to live to see great-grandchildren if I am lucky enough to pull that off. I’m very happy. I’m complex. I’m intelligent. I make things. I read. It’s snowing right now. It’s almost Christmas, 2017.

I don’t know what else I can say, any more. It leaves me with just this string of sentences about how I got to this very moment — a singular set, like everyone else’s, but not more than that. Simple sentences, subject-verb. No insight words, no because, or since. I can’t even elaborate on any one of those sentences, they’re tiny spots inside a moving whorl. Now I can only really look at this moment, right now. I can think about what the future might hold. To look backwards is to see the universe. To see so much is to know so little.

And it’s not simply about the ‘stories,’ the events of my life. It’s the interpretation of me within them. Even the one I told yesterday, that “I’m not good at persisting,” well how can that be true? In some ways I give up quickly but I have also persisted for 47 years to figure all this out — there is no “story” there. Or rather, there are too many things happening to say any one thing. To say “I persist” is as false as saying “I do not persist.” Must I qualify and expand everything I say, now? Must every statement be preceded by “Sometimes….”? I guess so.

Our first trip together, to Vietnam. This photo was taken in Ho Chi Minh City. We’d known each other 6 months.

And so I suppose I’ll be a big person and tell Marc he was right all along. Lucky for me he isn’t a gloater, and the best is that he is not one of those “told you so” people because I really hate “told you so” people.  I know one person who has been “told you so”-ing me about one thing for five damn years. NOT FUN, don’t do that. But Marc doesn’t do that, and he was right all along, and so maybe that will be one of my Christmas gifts to him. I wonder if he’ll think even that can’t be said. Probably, knowing him.

And so, to today. It’s Christmas Eve Eve.  <3

life can be such a wonder

One thing they often say in AA is, “Don’t give up before the miracle.” Easy to see the relevance for addicts, scooting so painfully through minutes and hours and days, but of course it’s true for everyone — and I’m so guilty of giving up too quickly. It’s one of my most problematic struggles; I hit a roadblock and throw up my hands, and some particular roadblocks are especially hard for me. I deeply admire those who persist, who keep coming back and trying again — gosh, I admire that so much. I can readily call to mind two friends whose persistence is a source of inspiration for me.

Waiting for the miracle requires patience, obviously, but I also think you have to be able to let be what is, without rushing to force it into where you want to be. I do think that’s one of the secrets of life, and of course I think you’ll only eventually get there if you keep at it. It’s not going to happen all on its own. (Although dang it, sometimes it does, and so maybe I don’t know anything after all. 🙂 )

So here’s the wonder, for me. The miracle. This thing with my dad. This thing with old deep wounds — deep, like a puncture, so they produce an ache instead of a wince. This thing with time. This thing with process. Yesterday I was doing some house cleaning, dancing and feeling so happy with the solstice, enjoying the very bright sunshine while we had it, and my playlist shuffled over to “Christmas Time is Here,” from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. The vocal version, the one that has, for 47 years, punched me so hard in the heart that I couldn’t not cry. I couldn’t not remember, and feel all those old puncture wounds so deep in my heart. I mean really, who breaks up the family on Christmas Eve MOTHER. Seriously.

I believe this was taken a couple of weeks before my mother left my father — we seem about the right ages. And HOW DECEIVING looks can be. We look like well cared-for children, happy kids. I had no idea what was coming, but my life was already sad and awful then…and I just didn’t know that it would get so, so, so much worse. I remember that dress, my mother made them for my sister and me, red velvet. We wore them with white tights and black shoes. And my brother’s shirt was blue velvet, with a blue and green collar. We were sitting on the coffee table with our legs extended out in front of us, and my brother Sam stood behind us. What we didn’t know, then. Grateful for that. I rescued this photo from a dumpster — Mother called me to say that she’d dumped everything that had me in it and there weren’t many photos, but this was recoverable.

And so I paused in my sweeping, and stood there, listening, and it was OK. I smiled. It’s OK now. I remember without the ache. Now I remember, and it’s OK. It makes me feel tender but not hurt.

OK, you might say, for God’s sake it was 47 years ago for heaven’s sake — and so you don’t understand how deep a puncture wound can be, when it’s made at just the right moment in a young girl’s heart.

One of my first Christmases — I was around 2 years old, and apparently very excited about my watch (what??), a pinwheel, a harmonica, a doll, and a pack of gum. Hell, most of that would make me happy today. I still make that face when I’m given a gift, but I no longer wear the Cromwell haircut.

Thank GOD for time and process. At my age, I hadn’t really thought I could fully heal those old wounds. I’ve been at it such a long time. So much trying, always with hope even if it was small. It’s such a wonder to be able to approach these things that have always hurt, and not feel hurt any more. Such a wonder. Such a wonder to feel real peace — not tentative peace, not partial peace, not an idea that I might one day feel peace, but real peace. The peace of letting it be, the peace of letting be what was.

I believe with all my heart Faulkner’s great line about the past: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” I believe that. But what I learned is that even if it’s not dead, even if it’s still present, it can be OK. It doesn’t have to keep hurting . . . what a wonder! What a wonder. Grief can find its place and be OK, really OK. Still there but really OK. One of the puzzle pieces, that’s all – maybe the black piece there at the edge, or even in the middle, but just a piece connected to all the others. Pain can find its place and not hurt any more, even if it’s still in the puzzle. Just, wow. What a wonder.

And now, to shift the word wonder, I wonder if I can use this learning to help me do something with my mother — I’ve never tried to deal with her because she’s been too mysterious to me, but maybe I don’t even have to. Maybe all that I said in my post on December 20 can apply to her, too. Maybe I can just let her be, too. Maybe that was a huge enough insight to allow me that gift.

I wonder. And I wonder.  WOW.

feasts

NOTHING like this! Yikes/wow!

When my kids were little, I liked to break up our dinner routine now and then with what I just sort of slapdash named a “snacky snack feast,” which was just a cheese platter, essentially (though the quality of the cheeses definitely changed for the better as they got older) — cheese, bread, crackers, grapes, apples, pears, sausage, nuts, etc. Ours wasn’t at all fancy, for sure! When they were little, they loved little smokies, those cocktail style sausages, and I think they still do love them, and maybe not just for sentimental reasons.

Somehow that name stuck; maybe it was the fun of it, the kid-style rhythm of it….snacky snack….and sometimes the word ‘feast’ is included and sometimes it isn’t, but we all know exactly how to make a snacky snack feast.

So you know I was completely making it all up as I went along, as a mother, even more than we all are, since all I knew were the things NOT to do. I had no traditions to pass on, so I had to make them up — and this was before the Internet and Pinterest, so it was a challenge! 🙂 Later I learned that some of the traditions I made up were “real” traditions that others had, like new pajamas on Christmas Eve, although I’ll bet those people don’t call them “Waiting for Santa Nighties.” It was the one gift the kids were allowed to open on Christmas Eve, and it was fun when they didn’t know what it would be, and it continued to be fun after they did. I love to visit my adult daughters’ homes and see their husbands wearing flannel pajama bottoms, because I know those had once been their Waiting for Santa Nighties.

Of the many good things I made up for my kids, these two have really stuck, and you can’t imagine how much deep pleasure that gives me. And the most hilarious thing is the way they spread it around; Katie’s last boyfriend, before she married Trey, tried to make a little fun of it (“are we going to have foodie-food?”) and she was not having it — so even he still calls it snacky snack. (He may smirk inside, but he’s too kind to show that. He’s still our friend.) So when I hear my sons-in-law say “snacky snack” I almost burst of happiness. It’s a REAL thing in the next generation of my family. And I hope with all my heart that Oliver and Lucy and Ilan prepare snacky snack feasts for their children, and tuck WFSNs, as they’re now shorthanded, under the tree for Christmas Eve.

But here’s the most hilarious thing. You’d have to know my husband to appreciate this fully, but this year we are so happily getting to spend Christmas alone together. For the last five years I’ve been overjoyed to spend it with Katie and Trey (and then also Oliver, and then also Lucy), and I was also sad not to be spending it with him. So this year I’ll miss Katie and family a lot, and I’m glad to spend this one with him, here at our new home in the mountains. So of course I wanted us to have a snacky snack feast one day; he’s making a big ham and mashed potatoes for Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day we’re driving back into the city, so we will be having snacky snack feast together Friday night. And he just slid right into that phrase. “Honey, is there anything else I need to pick up for our snacky snack feast?” I almost died from the sheer delight of hearing HIM say that phrase. That’s where the “you’d have to know him to appreciate it” comes in, but it’s a bit of lighthearted child thing, that phrase, and that’s not him — but it can be now. And whether this is right or wrong, I’m taking that as a personal win.

If you love looking at cheese boards, you will LOVE Lilith Spencer’s Instagram account. She’s @cheesemongrrl. Here’s her latest post:

that’s a snacky snack feast I could totally get behind

RELISH your traditions, they are so precious — and oh the joy of seeing them continue into the future. <3 <3

Father

Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh I have to write this down quickly while I’m able to see it, because it’s a big moving complex thing and I won’t be able to hold it for long but it holds the truth.

People ask me how I have been able to forgive my father — for the things he did that need forgiveness are truly terrible. Truly. Truly terrible. My favorite joke: I only survived him because he was usually too drunk to aim the gun well.

It has taken me 35 years, all together, to get here. That’s one part of how I got here. But the end point of the trip was this:

It’s all a universe. It’s all there in one big tangled, moving thing, and before I got to this place I could only see the HIM doing things to ME bit, and they were so egregious that I felt like trying to understand him as a human would be unfair to me, it would “let him off the hook” (my favorite really horrible phrase if you think about it). I recently said this in a manuscript evaluation to a client who’d written a father who was kind of one-note terrible. I told her that I understood that impulse: “It’s hard to give the bad guy a slug of humanity, because you don’t want your readers to miss the fact that HE IS SUCH A BAD GUY. But in doing so, he doesn’t read as a real person. He reads as a cardboard cut-out.” I understood that because of my sad 35-year wrestling match with my father.

But I’m old enough now to be able to step far, far back and look. And I see this very large, moving system — it isn’t just him and me, it’s him within his family. And his family within theirs. It’s patterns and dispositions and circumstances. And winding his way through all this complex universe is the small light that is my father….emerging into his original family of a hateful, cruel woman who didn’t want him and a vicious alcoholic father who wanted him even less, and in a context of extreme poverty, and cotton ginning, and alcoholism. And he was a sickly little guy, a bookish little boy, and both those things made his father beat the shit out of him even more. So this little light that was my father made his way through those horrors and thought he was jumping out of that hell only to jump further down into a deeper hell of my cruel, cruel, cruel mother, who lashed him and belittled him and shamed him and taunted him about not being man enough to kill himself.

And none of that is to excuse what he did to me, but it is to see all these moving parts, all these elements, and they’re all spinning and whirling, and connected and interconnected. His deep needs and wants and wounds found hers — she, who was abandoned and neglected to the point of huge bleeding sores because she lived in soaking wet diapers, and then adopted by her uncle who did what he was supposed to do, but his wife wasn’t interested in a little girl and was cruel and shaming. Etc etc etc. All these terriblenesses, intersecting and feeding each other and sticking each other with the sharpest knives in the hurtingest places, and then through all that, through all those ripples and whirlings comes the little light that is me, and I land in the middle of all that.

So where do I begin, really, to maintain a tight focus on how he wronged me? What all must I willfully ignore and pretend away, in order to hang onto the ways he wronged me? And yet he did, and yet and yet and yet. It requires a clinging to an overly simple story to insist on a child’s version of being wronged. It’s not wrong, and yet it is.

Finding myself here requires me to occasionally pant a little bit, like a laboring mother in transition who wants to push too soon. When the “yeah, but he….” impulse comes on, I pant in order to remember this larger understanding, which I deeply believe comes as close to truth as I can ever get.

So today, on what would’ve been his 81st birthday, I rang my Tibetan singing bowl three times into my valley. Each time I held the bowl until it was completely still before striking it again, and in the interstitial silence I told him I forgave him. Or I told him I’d loved him. Or I told him I was sorry it had been so hard. And when I struck it the second time, a large, brilliant male cardinal landed on the deck railing.

I was a newborn — less than a month old, probably — and I peer into my dad’s then-happy face as he held me and smiled at me, and I wish it had been easier for him.

It’s OK Dad. Go gently.

on winter

It’s a bitter, raw day here in the Big Indian Wilderness. It’s only 11 degrees, and with the biting wind it feels like -7; even from inside the house those bitter winds are biting at me. The landscape is bleak, harrowed by icy winds, and life is almost completely submerged out my windows. Even the sky is  bled of color. Even the sun, so very bright, is bled of color.

Just now I was standing at the kitchen sink, looking out all the windows that surround me, and I felt a bit of sinking within myself, a sense of steeling myself, of realizing that I have to learn how to live against this, and all at once a completely different idea came into me, full-sized and wholly alive. I won’t say my first idea was wrong, but I will say that it’s on a parallel track to a very different way.

This isn’t something to be gotten through, to bear, to resist within myself, even if I hunker down inside layers of clothes and get to my car as quickly as I can, my shoulders hunched up to my ears. Even if I sit near the fire and try to get warm because the house is so cold. Even then, the parallel track is available if I can hold onto it.

Early morning snow-light out one of my bedroom windows. The sun was just coming up, and even without my glasses on I knew from the color that it was snowing. I am learning so many things.

What the shift requires is a larger perspective, a sense of the Earth, a sense of what this season means for the year as a whole, for the cycle as a whole. What’s happening inside and underneath that bleakness. That we are approaching the solstice, the earth is turning hard as iron, water becoming stone, as it does and always has and will. So I watch in wonder as the days get so very short, as the sun never reaches the western end of my valley, and I will peer into that valley, all those days it’s too icy to go into it, and watch as the sun slowly extends its reach, day after day, a minute or two longer each day.

I will watch in wonder as the birds do what they will over this particular season. Three days ago, goldfinches arrived at the bird feeder and we hadn’t yet seen them — so either the call has gone out that food is available here, or they’ve just arrived in my valley — and now I wonder how the populations will shift as the cold weather becomes more serious.

So this isn’t a series of weeks and months to resist, an aberration, a hardship. (Well, it can still be a hardship.) This is life in this wilderness, life in the Catskill Mountains, life in the northern part of the United States, life in the northern part of the hemispheres, life on Earth. (And I’m glad I’ll be in southeast Asia in February, and in Austin in March….because a Texan might need to ease into the fullness of this knowledge.)

a very real winding down

my creeks down below

I’ve never lived in a place like this — a wilderness, a solitude, a mountain valley, a quiet aloneness. And I’ve never had the luxury of a daily witnessing of the world closing up shop, shutting down, pulling inward, retracting. I’ve never had the joy of watching all of my visible nature shifting and changing from the abundance of summer to the quiet inwardness of autumn, heading inexorably toward the iron of winter.

It’s kind of astonishing to look back at my daily 1-second videos over the last few months, to see them mashed together into a 90-second video of time, of change, of seasonal shifting. Seeing it happen before my eyes in the video, seeing the mountain suddenly appear through the trees, seeing the leaves finally all fall away, seeing the bare branches presenting themselves, is a source of real wonder. I’m waiting to see the landscape buried in snow, and the brilliance of animal tracks, and being able to spot owls in the trees, and I hope the surprise of seeing porcupines in the trees, too.

Without a doubt, I’m in one of my right places in the world. I’m a person with a lot of “right” places in the world, because New York City is also a right place in the world for me — the noise of it, the closeness of it, the loud life of it. Hanoi is a right place in the world for me, so like NYC except in size. Paris is a right place in the world for me. And more like Heaventree, Laos is a right place in the world for me. I’m at home in noisy, crowded bustle and I’m at home in pure solitude. In both places, you can just be completely alone. I think that’s what I need.

my house up above, shot from the middle of the closeby creek with Marc’s beautiful steps placed in the creek for me
my chairside table — books and knitting needles and coffee, the stacks growing and growing until I have to sweep them clean and start anew

I wear this hat I knit every waking minute. 🙂 Isn’t it cute? It’s not my design — I just followed a pattern — but how I love it.

What’ve I been doing? I’ve been knitting a lot. Learning how to build good fires. Learning about the birds on my property — the black capped chickadees, the tufted titmice, the nuthatches, and now all joined by the dark-eyed juncos — learning about how they arrive, how they feed, how they share space, the rhythms of their days. Learning about the creeks, how they ebb and flow. Learning about the landscape of the Big Indian Wilderness that surrounds me, and how the end of my private road turns into this glorious path.

If I go to the end of the private road I’m on, and hike around a little jog, it turns into this — which is also the road I’m on, according to the map. WOW.

Almost every day, I walk down to my creek. If the weather is icy, or if there are hunters in my valley, I don’t — but on those days I feel a real loss. I love going down to my creek even before I’ve had my coffee, even before I’ve built a fire. I record a little video of greeting to my friends, I share the wonder of my surroundings, and then I go back up the hill to my home. Every single day, I pinch myself in wonder that this is my life, now.

Every single day I read poetry. Every single day, in this season, I build a roaring fire. Every single day I watch the birds and learn more about them. Every single day I watch the sun enter the valley behind my house, and every single afternoon I watch the long shadows as it leaves. As the weeks pass, I watch the moon wax and wane, appear and disappear. On cloudless nights, I watch the sky in big-eyed wonder — all those stars, cold and bright, shining into my eyes. All those stars, waking me up on cloudless nights. In the hard cold nights, I imagine I hear them ringing — not like bells, but like chords.

Over the weekend I put up my Christmas tree and thought about my poetry group friends in Austin, because for the last four years, I put up the tree specifically for them. Marc and I would come back home from SEAsia, I’d get back to Austin and quickly put up my tree and make a bunch of food for the Christmas get-together we shared. And so they were with me as I put up the tree, and I miss them very much. But aside from that communion with them, and aside from regular time with my daughter Katie and her kids, I don’t feel alone, here. I don’t feel lonely, here. I’m grateful for my years in Austin, where I learned that I love my own company, where I learned how to be alone, how to sleep alone in a silent house and understand the various sounds. Marc is here Friday nights through Monday afternoons, and my time with him satisfies my need to be in the physical presence of someone.

I’m happy, friends. I sit in my sunny, large, happy space and feel like it’s all come together in some way. All the roads I’ve walked, all the heres and theres, all the losses and gains, they’ve all brought me right here, to this chair, in this valley, in a place I never could’ve imagined. I know it’s not yet New Year’s Eve, but this song just so perfectly fit my mood today so I share it and hope you can hear it too.

I’m happy. I’m hidden away from the terrible world, here, but connected to friends and beautiful people all over the world. My life is so good. <3 <3

I’m 59. Fifty-nine years old.

No matter how old I get — or maybe it’s just true the older I get — I don’t think I’ll ever understand why people are unwilling to say their real age. (Or why they dye their hair to hide grays, for that matter, though dyeing your hair for a cool color really is loads of fun.) FOR ME, every day that I get to keep living is a wonder.

I’m 59 today: thirteen years older than my dad ever got to be; decades older than I ever imagined I’d see, since I never thought I would make it out of my teens alive; decades of life I got to live despite a couple of suicide attempts (thank God for guns that misfire and for other saviors); and today celebrating in a place I never could have imagined even if I’d tried.

Last year on my birthday, I thought we’d have our first female president a couple of days later so I was filled with excitement and hope for that. And then two days later — while I was still celebrating my birthday fortnight — the world crashed and burned around me and this past year has been its own kind of hell, that all of us around the world know, and we in this country are suffering through. It ruined my birthday joy last year, although that was certainly the least significant aspect of it that one could possibly imagine. It has been a brutal year. I’ve gained 22 pounds from stress eating, even though I’ve been essentially hiding in the mountains for the last few months and I have not watched anything on television since the election because there doesn’t seem to be any program that doesn’t include clips of him speaking.

SO, to happier perspectives. I’m 59 today. I have three glorious, glorious grandchildren, and my daughters are the light of my life. My son is still hiding from us all, and it hurts as much today as it did from the beginning, but he is alive and so there remains hope. My husband and I are enjoying our lives together, in this way we’ve fashioned that works so well for us both. I live in this glorious place — never would’ve imagined such a thing! — with my beloved creeks and bench, and mountains and forests all around, and beautiful solitude. I can also live in Manhattan whenever I wish or need, with my beloved Riverside Park just right over there, and people and buildings all around, and beautiful noise.

My mind still works, and as long as this sleep remedy works, my mind is working a little better every day, I feel the sharpness starting to be visible in the distance, at least. My body still works, and if I can just re-establish my yoga practice it will return to its strength and flexibility that it had before the election. My health is fantastic, not just in terms of the absence of illness, but in the robustness of life. I’m extremely lucky, and I thank whatever combination of genes and good fortune for it, and promise to try to help keep that going. I want to be around a very long time, until I’m just a dusty little bag of bones that hardly makes an indentation in the bed, where I hope to die peacefully in my sleep….decades from now. (I’m now only 5’8″!!!! I was 5’11” so this is startling, but I guess I’m on the path to the dusty little bag of bones. 😉 )

The state of my inner life is perhaps the best it has ever been. Getting older really does do wonders for you — at least, it has for me. It’s kind of hard to parse this, since the trauma of this Republican nightmare is an ongoing source of stress and awfulness for me, but if I pause and let that sit off to the side (as if you can do such a thing), I am more at peace with myself than I’ve been yet in my life. I’m at peace with my dad, I got to ‘thank’ my darling Big Daddy for what he gave me, I’m comfortable with my physical self, I can accept the good things I recognize about myself, and the bad things about me feel less stabby and hateful. Maybe this is an aging kind of laziness; when I become aware of my weaknesses and my flaws, I just kind of shrug — ah, well, maybe next time. And it’s hard to figure out why I’ve spent my life trying to act like I’m not an intelligent and serious person, but I have and I don’t feel the need to do that any more.

In my last year of life, we traveled to Indonesia, and we bought this house. We drove the 16′ truck from Austin to Heaventree, and I started an entirely new way of living. I visited my wonderful Marnie-family in Chicago three times (once in March, once in July en route to Heaventree with my car, and once in October), and I went back to Austin to see my marvelous Katie-family once in October. I had countless drinks and dinners with friends who keep my life filled with laughter and connection and our shared hearts. Lynn came to Heaventree, our very first visitor. I read a bunch of great books (the best being Her Body and Other Parts, by Carmen Maria Machado; Antigonick, by Anne Carson, Human Acts, by Han Kang; and House of Names, by Colm Toibin). For the very first time in our lives together, Marc and I didn’t take a fall vacation and I grieve that a little bit, but we bought the house and sank a lot of money into it so that’s the balance.

Here is my year in people-pictures, and seeing each one makes my heart swell to nine times its size. I’m not even going to try to put them in chronological order, and they don’t represent everyone I was lucky enough to see, but scanning through them shows me how very lucky I’ve been. (hover over a photo to see its caption, or you can click to see them as a slideshow if you’re interested.)

I also started doing my little daily “creekside chats” on Facebook and that has been an unexpected joy and growth experience for me. I’ve become so much easier with myself, as a result. I feel differently about my mouth, as a result, and those decades of shame seem to have crumbled and fallen away into dust. I have the deep feeling of having started my day with people I love, seeing your faces and saying good morning, and sharing my view of the world around me.

Thank you for your friendship, your comments, your presence here and in my larger life. Thank you for your well wishes, and for your care. Thank you for the various kinds of help you’ve given me over the last year, and most especially for the way you share your lives with me, however that may be. You definitely help make my life the full joy that it is.

So here’s to 59! May I gather myself together and lose the dreaded T-weight that signifies my trauma. May I continue to have good health, and may my children and grandchildren do the same. May you stay healthy and happy, and in my life. May I read good books. May I relish my solitude at Heaventree, and my noisy happiness in Manhattan. Happy birthday to me.

(And looking ahead to my next birthday, I put in my gift wish list now, so you can prepare. I turn 60 ON ELECTION DAY, the mid-term elections. I just want one thing, and for once I’ll ask everyone for a gift. Just vote blue. Just vote blue and that’s all the gift I need.) (Think about it, I’ll ask again a couple of days before the date.) <3