Letters as a Meditation

If we are friends on Facebook you might be aware of my daily “Creekside Chat” videos. I’m really enjoying making them — just a few minutes of conversation about something, and a reading on Sundays — because they give me a feeling of conversation with friends. This morning I talked about something that I thought I’d mention here, because I had a lot more thought about it than I mentioned in that short video. (I do try to keep those short, three minutes or so, but sometimes they stretch to five and I don’t want to push that.)

I’ve mentioned this here before, too, so I’ll just briefly mention it and move forward. Several years ago in the context of a personal restoration project, for 40 days I wrote an email to a different person in my life, telling them what they meant to me. It turned out to be a much bigger gift to me than to the 40 people who received surprise emails, although their responses showed me what a gift it was to them, to hear what they meant to someone . . . and that’s a gift I know too, from the times it has happened to me.

But you know, there are all kinds of people in our lives. When I was talking, in my Creekside Chat, I started thinking about my dad when I talked about the importance of knowing what we mean to others. For the briefest moment I had the automatic cliched thought we have about suicides — oh, if only he’d known what he meant to us maybe he wouldn’t have killed himself. But so quickly on the heels of that thought came the truth: he was a nightmare in my life. I was pregnant with my first child and knew that I couldn’t allow him to be alone with her, ever, and that was going to be awful, handling that. He wore me out, calling me drunk in the middle of nights ready to kill himself, me dancing as fast as I could trying once again to talk him out of it. His not-at-all contained rage and fury, terrorizing all of us. He broke his wife’s arm in their last fight. He spent his entire adult life trying to die, and it often felt like he wanted to take out as many people as he could in the effort. I very barely survived him, and it took me more than 30 years after his death to recover from the 23 years he was in my life.

As we drove the five hours from Austin to Tyler, the day he killed himself, his sister and I were complaining bitterly about him because we knew he was going to ruin their mother’s birthday (and of course he did — he killed himself on her birthday, a second act of cruelty to go along with the note he left blaming me). We said we wished he’d just go ahead and do it. We meant that. I meant that.

And of course he is the most extreme example of what I’m getting at, but the fact is that I couldn’t possibly write a letter to him that would feel good to him, and be honest. It would be a kind of ‘damning with faint praise’ thing. When my stepfather was dying, in prison, I was able to write a letter to him, a very brief one, and I thanked him for sneaking a milkshake to me once when Mother forbid me to have any food because I was a fat cow. He did that at great personal risk. Since he had written me a note asking forgiveness for the years of rape, and he gave me a small gift he’d made in prison, I found it (shockingly) simple enough to forgive, and to write that letter. It felt like quite a thing, that out of the 20+ years of knowing him, I had only one very small thing to say thanks for, but it was very heartfelt, my gratitude for that milkshake. I had remembered it for decades.

In a much more ordinary way, there are people in our lives whose friendship is fraught in ways that would make it harder to write an email of gratitude — like the no-longer-friend who relished my trouble and resented my happiness. Because, you know, we all have friendships of varying depth, or varying closeness. We have friends we count on in times of trouble, friends who really see us, friends who are just light and somewhere between acquaintance and friend, friends who we just expect to listen to because they have no interest in listening to us, friends whose gifts come with such very long strings that you want to refuse them. I’m thinking about taking up my daily email project again, and thinking about this more difficult category of friend, in particular — thinking about how hard it would be to find enough of substance to say in an email. But maybe there is greatest value in writing those emails, in particular. Maybe for me, having to really dig deep and look, and think; having to search a little harder; maybe that will help me value those friendships more. (Or maybe the effort will help me let go of the relationships!) And maybe for those individuals, receiving an email that came from a deeper search — that will locate those core gifts — will be more meaningful than the easier emails that relish the loud, visible gifts. I don’t know, but I’m thinking about it.

Dixie (and her mother) calls this “giving flowers to the living,” which is the whole idea in five simple words — why I’m not a poet, I need hundreds when five do the job so beautifully. That’s a great aim for today. You don’t have to do the deep hard work of finding words for the more difficult person today. Just today, just with an easy person, maybe, tell them what they mean to you. Tell them the gift they are to your life. Tell them in writing, so they can keep it. I’m still glowing from the note I found waiting for me when I woke up, and I will glow all day long. When my memory fades, as it’s guaranteed to do because ME-NOW, I can open it and read it again.

Yep. I think I’m going to start writing those letters again. I’d love to have your email address. If you don’t have mine, there’s an envelope icon in the right sidebar (in the “Find me elsewhere!” section) you can click on to email me.

xoxoxo

thin perils

a kind of average of my size and shape then

When I lived in Austin I had a large friend group of women, and we often included their boyfriends and husbands in group events (their choice, never mine, and not because my husband lived in NYC . . . I wanted to be with my women, and when the men were there things changed a lot). During the period I was at my thinnest, one woman told me every single time her partner attended, “Don’t you sit near him,” and then she’d look me up and down and position them at the far end of the group from me. I never could figure out which one of us she wouldn’t trust:  me, as if I’d try to lure him, or him, as if he were not in control of himself.

Throughout that long period of my thinness, I heard similar comments from other women. I also heard all kinds of mean things about my size and shape, catty things, insulting things, things that derived from a kind of jealousy. I know women internalize misogyny, and I know a lot of it centers around physical appearance, and I know I’ve made my own share of such comments and judgments about thin women, and I know that for myself, they came very squarely out of jealousy. Cut that bitch down so she doesn’t ….WHATEVER.

around the time a couple of friends told me I’d gotten too thin

Still, it surprised and hurt me when these comments were directed at me, and especially by women who were my friends. I tried always just to smile back — for they were always smiling at me with all their might, and adding in nervous laughter too — and I knew I was no threat to any of them because I don’t like men and I really don’t like attention from men. Nothing makes me dash to the other side of the room faster. But more than that, I was no threat to them because they were my friends! I did have friends who were supportive in a number of ways, and some who pulled me aside in concern that I became too thin for a while, but the one(s) who saw me as a threat never saw me as anything but a threat.

It always made me so sad. It made me sad for myself, and for the jealous (or whatever) women, and about this stupid culture. But I’m thinking about it again because I think I’m back on track. Today marks one complete and uninterrupted week of daily yoga and walking and eating better. The scale is moving but the part that matters most is that my relationship to those things feels like it has found its groove again. I do look forward to having my thin body back; golly did it feel good. For me, feeling light physically went so beautifully with feeling light in my mind. I felt so good in my clothes, and no matter what anyone else thought, I thought I looked good for the first time in my life (misogyny directed at myself all those heavier years). I want that physical feeling back, so light that I can run, so light that I can pull on my skinny jeans and Converse and bounce lightly out the door. I want that feeling where my breasts were so much smaller and lighter that I could sleep easily, and clothes looked better and felt more comfortable. That body was just for me. Like many women with profound trauma histories, and especially profound sexual trauma histories, when I felt threatened I raced back into my fat body where I felt safe from men, so when I feel heavy, it drags along the implication that I must feel threatened. (And of course I DO, we have the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief who is an existential threat to us all, and to the whole world.)

It can be disheartening to find myself out of breath 10 minutes into a level 1 class, when I could take a 90-minute level 2 class without even breaking a sweat, but you work with who and where you are, and you work with the body you actually have. I need to be in better shape when winter comes and my daily wood-hauling work begins. But this is the eternal lesson of mindfulness: drop the story and be where you are. Child’s pose if I need it. The discipline of showing up on the mat is the biggest point, not what I do or how long I do it. I haven’t yet found the inner quiet, but I assume that will come. One thing that occurs to me that’s very different this time than the last time I started this path is that we now have a nightmare government. When I started my last mindfulness reboot, we had President Obama, and now…..well, we have this terrifying country.

One challenge I have now that I didn’t have when I lived in Austin relates to my husband. My experience with husbands is a common one, based on what I’ve read: sabotage. “C’mon honey, just eat some ice cream with me.” “You don’t have to diet this weekend, right? I’ll make us some lasagna.” Etc etc etc. In Austin, I had ~18 days to focus hard on eating only and exactly what I wanted to eat, to do yoga whenever I wanted, to walk when and for how long I wanted. When you live alone, some things are just simpler. Then I’d go to NYC for ~12 days and either give in and then regain ground when I got back to Austin, or struggle with him about food. His cooking is heavily based on frying things, and he uses gallons of oil. (I almost never use oil, except some drizzles of olive oil, and I never ever fry anything.) And his cooking is delicious! But he’ll accommodate me by making a big salad…..with glugs of his homemade blue cheese dressing. Or a Caesar salad and if you know what goes into that salad you know it’s not healthy. Or he’ll deep fry some vegetables for me. NOW, I am alone Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for dinners. He gets here Friday afternoons around 4, and leaves for the city Mondays after dinner. We have a lot to figure out. I tend to walk more when he’s here, and I can easily roll out my yoga mat and do yoga whenever I want (plenty of space here, unlike in our apartment in the city), but the eating thing is HARD.

I want my most comfortable body back. It’s my body and it isn’t for anyone else. I don’t look forward to women’s reactions when I get it back. To be honest, I never noticed any different reaction from men no matter what I weighed; I’m older now and largely invisible to them which is also a relief. But it’s the women’s reactions that were the most problematic, and I have my own shaming self to deal with, my own jealous snarky commentary to grapple with.

Onward. It’s a rainy Monday here at Heaventree, but another beautiful day. xoxoxo

is it always just Groundhog Day?

So many crossing, parallel lines, so many coming-back-tos, it can be dizzying once you start noticing them. When I left New York in November, 2012, after a couple of weeks in Austin I had to fly back to NYC to pack up my books and ship them to Austin. I was sorry to leave my cozy new place that was still in pupa form, really, not fully created, not fully settled, not all the way mine yet, to return to a painful place that I had painfully left.

The emotion isn’t the same, at all, but I’ve been here a couple of weeks and today I fly back to Austin to retrieve my car — and I’m sorry to leave my cozy new place that is still in pupa form, really, not fully created, not fully settled, not all the way mine yet. The only difference is that I didn’t painfully leave Austin, except for the pain of parting.

And most disappointing, I’m only going to be in Austin for one full day (with a night on either side) and I won’t have a spare moment to see any of my beloveds except for Katie and family….so grateful to see them of course, and to spend as many hours with them, with Lucy and Oliver, as I possibly can. I am sorry I won’t get to see friends, and I will hold space the next time I come to Austin for a get-together. Since I just made the 2000-mile trip, making it again is just kind of mind-numbing, so I’m taking a different route for two reasons: first, to take a different route because for heaven’s sake; and second, to make a pit stop in Chicago to see Marnie and family, which will allow me to soak up a little Ilan and break the trip in half. All in all I will be gone a week, arriving late on Monday night back at Heaventree.

I’m sad to leave this beautiful place so quickly, and I’m so looking forward to hugging and kissing and soaking up babies, and to seeing my daughters and their husbands, and to spending one night with my dear Dixie, and to seeing a different part of the country — up and over to the right, instead of across to the right and then up. But then, when I finally make it back home, all my stuff will be in one place. Whatever I want, it will be available. There’s still some stuff at the apartment in the city, my big Nikon camera and a bunch of baking gear, but Marc will bring that or I’ll fetch it at an upcoming trip. My stepdaughter is coming to the city at the end of July so I’ll drive down for that weekend.

But y’all. Home. Quiet, beautiful home. Since I learned I would be moving here, I started following as many Catskills-related Instagram and FB pages as I could find, and yesterday a caption on an IG photo talked about how lucky the person feels to live in such a beautiful place — still, after all these years — even though it isn’t always an easy place to live. And it isn’t, I can tell already, for all kinds of reasons. I don’t even yet know what winter is going to be like, and I feel all Game of Thrones-ish about it (Winter is coming!!!!). I mean, if you do a Google Image search for ‘winter in the Catskills, you get shots like this, and I somehow think it’s gonna be harder than this great picture suggests:

oh sure, snowshoeing is going to be lots of fun!

So today is fly day, and I remember that other fly day when my heart was crushed and my bones felt too heavy to keep moving, and I’m so grateful that today my heart is light and my bones are eager to fly, even though I will miss my sweet home.

* * *

A couple of PS points:

  • Thank you for your extraordinary kindnesses to me in response to my last post. I wasn’t expecting it, for some reason, even though I know you are always so kind and generous to me. Maybe the “Lori who?” made me feel so small and invisible that I had forgotten that others know me. I don’t know. Anyway. Thank you for all the love and beautiful words (that I insist mean much more about who you are than who I am), and for the big-hearted and very wise advice I got. I’m OK. It’s not echoing in my heart any more. xoxoxox
  • SO! You know how I’ve talked about bears up here, but I hadn’t seen one yet.  There is a house at the tail end of the private road I’m on, and we were invited to a picnic there on Saturday, something they organize every year. It was nice to meet them (excellent politics one and all, including some old red diaper baby connections). At the moment they are just here on weekends, but in a year or so they’ll be moving here permanently. They have a webcam on their house and they frequently catch wildlife on it, including this great shot of “the local big fella”:
a couple of weeks ago, right before we moved in! COME BACK, BIG FELLA!

I won’t be posting anywhere until I get back to Heaventree, but I’ll be around FB and IG once in a while, probably with pictures of grandbabies and daughters, knowing me. You know. 🙂

xo

goodbye, Texas

Oh gosh. How many times can I say goodbye to Texas. This is the third and, I hope, last time I say farewell to Texas. (“I wish I could quit you.”) I left first in 1987 when I was 28, when Jerry and I and our three kids moved to Connecticut; second, when I finished graduate school in 2003 and moved to Rochester, with Will; and this time, all alone, as I am en route to Big Indian, NY, 58 years old, thirty years after my first leaving. This will be the 82nd move of my life (they say the 82nd time’s the charm! I swear!), although honestly it could be more; I counted conservatively, because lots of those years are a blur and I just counted “homeless” as one move. None of the other leavings felt so heavy, so filled with something worth noting. I stupidly skipped away from New Britain, CT, without realizing that I’d meant something to people; away from Fredericksburg, VA, with my eyes only on the next place; away from Huntsville, AL, with regrets for leaving deep friends and losing my much-needed full scholarship, but with hope for my education; away from Fayetteville, AR, with anticipation of graduate school and a PhD; away from Rochester with excitement of a new career in publishing; away from NYC with the shattering of my whole life. So they were various degrees of easy or hard, but they didn’t feel so momentous and noteworthy and heavy as my leavings from Texas. I realized I have such a literal idea that my bones are made of Texas dirt, as if I think they are just compressed caliche, shaped into bone shapes. Old timey Texans can understand that. When I die, I want some portion of my ashes to be mixed back into the caliche. Sprinkled over bluebonnets. Drifted over a Texas river.

a couple of weeks after I moved here, when I’d just received the divorce agreement in the mail.

Thank you, everyone I met in Austin. Thank you for seeing me through. Thank you for picking me up and holding me while I learned a whole new way of being. Thank you for your openness to meeting this new person who was so shattered, to sticking it out with me until I wasn’t. Thank you for the friendship, the happy hours, the evenings in your homes, the times spent laughing in restaurants. Thank you for holding my hand when I needed it. Thank you for all the ways you let me know that you saw me, that you were here for me. Thank you for trying to right my vision. Thank you for offering me hope and your friendship.

Thank you, my darling Katie, for everything. There just aren’t any words. Oh, I have words, but they are pitiful, small, pale. I remember the day I moved into this house, and your presence with me then, and I’m glad that I’ll end my day swimming with you and your beautiful family, before I climb into the car and drive away. How will I be able to bear that, I have no idea.

Thank you, dear Trey, for everything. I will always remember all you did for me, always and forever. Always. Forever. Your quiet strength and care. Always.

I just can’t name people individually because it will be too hard and I’ll cry too much—but I hope you recognize yourself in these words:

Thank you, friends who passed through my life for a season. You gave me so much and I will remember you with happiness, even if our friendship had its time and moved on.

Thank you, true friends who saw me through all my ups and downs. Who listened to me. Who cared for me. Who made time for me. Who allowed me into your lives and shared yourselves with me, what a gift you have been. Who held my hand when my hand needed to be held. Who sat hard next to me when I was in trouble. Who laughed with me when I wasn’t. Who waited with me through the anxiety of the births of Oliver and Lucy, and shared and celebrated that tremendous relief and joy — and the simpler joy of Ilan’s birth. Who helped me even when perhaps you didn’t understand why I was wrecked by something, like the frightening reappearance of my brother. I’m thinking of you individually as I write these words, seeing your faces, feeling your hands, your arms around me, hearing your laughs and seeing your beautiful smiles. Thank you John Fivecoats for being the very first friend in Austin who gave me hope and deep kindness, and thank you Karan Shirk for being my last-made but not least important friend — my sister. Thank you all for the beautiful gift of yourselves.

Thank you, friends who were in various book clubs, poetry groups, cheese groups, and Meetup groups with me. You delighted me so much in our shared pleasures, and I truly hope you know just what you gave me in those contexts. I think of every meeting with a glad and light heart, and I see your faces with the joy of remembrance.

Thank you, dear sisters I met in the resistance; it was my tremendous pleasure to fight alongside you. You gave me hope, and that was the most precious thing. I will remember you with a tremendous jolt of strength, and we will keep fighting until we win. I will support your hard fight from NY, and I will share my fight with you.

Thank you, Nancy, for . . . your quirt. I can’t say more because I can’t even see the screen, my eyes are too filled with tears.

* * *

People outside Texas who don’t know about Austin often have the worst idea about us — our politics, our nightmare politicians, just so horrible. But I know you. I will carry every single one of you in my heart. I will talk about you, tell people who Texans really are, Texans with big generous hearts and good values, Texans who care about each other, watch out for each other, take in strays . . . and I was certainly a stray. You took me in, and forever, now, you will be part of my life and the stories I have to tell.

So I pull away from the curb tonight to drive off to my next adventure, away from you geographically but not away from you in my heart. You meant so much to me, more than you probably know, and will remain ever with me (for after all, you know how I do go on and on about things, and people and places from my life). You were my home, my life raft, my joy, my pleasure, my friends. If we are friends still, friends we shall be no matter where I roam. You have a standing invitation to stay with me at the Big Indian Palace of the Queen of the Pillbugs. We’ll sit on my back deck. We’ll drink coffee, wine, beer. We’ll make some delicious food, we’ll hike or snowshoe or toodle around the Catskills. Mi casa will always be su casa.

I love you.

I’ll let this picture stand as my last picture in Texas — the last one that isn’t with tears in my eyes, the last one that’s just me and not me with my extraordinary grandkids, or me with any one of you exceptional people. I hope you remember me smiling at you. That’s what I’ll carry with me on the long trip, and when I find myself alone in the Big Indian Wilderness; I’ll carry your beautiful smiles, looking at me.   xoxoxoxoxox

 

The Time of Big Days

Ordinarily, days are ordinary. You make the coffee and make the bed. Do your work. Interact here and there. Make meals. Relax however you do. Turn in for the night. If you’re a small-pleasures-seeking person, you seek them, you notice the moments, the clouds drifting, the shadow on the wall, the ladybug, the sound of the beans grinding and the smell of the coffee. You go through the day in a kind of emotional neutral, interrupted by small spikes of pleasure or frustration, and you’ve learned ways to manage the onslaught of daily trauma by the Republicans. (If you’re me, you’re doing that mostly by shutting out all forms of media that will put it in your face. Ostrich mode.)

My days aren’t ordinary now, and I keep thinking of how unordinary they were when I moved here. How for a month we’d gone through all the terribleness — the shock of the phone call from Katie, Gracie died, we didn’t know why; the horror of Katie’s labor and delivery; the disbelief of their homecoming without her; the numbing arrangement of a funeral; the funeral itself, and a few days later her cremation; everyone drifting home; me leaving and not knowing how I could do that; and then back in New York and the shock of divorce, and moving back to Austin within a month of Gracie’s death, and starting all over, and and and and and. Big giant days, unbearable emotions, each day a tsunami of such intense emotion it was exhausting. As someone told me during those days, you just get tired of feeling so much.

This couldn’t be more different — it isn’t tragic, it isn’t permanent loss, it isn’t unexpected upending of anything, but boy are the days big, and filled with intense emotion. Last night I thought about how one of these days, when I’m settled into my Big Indian palace, I’d return to the more boring days, the kind where small pleasures are sought against a background of ordinary. But first, I have to touch all my places, sit across tables from people I have loved so dearly.

A farewell dinner with Lynn — at the same restaurant where we first met, so special to me that she thought of that. She is one of my DEEP sisters in the world, I have a few, and we will always know and love each other.
This picture was published in the Austin Chronicle, perfect with the capitol in the background. This protest was the most powerful protest I’ve ever participated in, and I’m still being affected by it. There is something potent about dressing in that costume, something very LOUD and yet also it’s self-negating. Protest is not about self, anyway, but dressing alike (and in THAT recognizable costume, especially) makes it even less about yourself . . . which contributes to the confusion I feel about how deeply personal it was, nevertheless. That’s me on the front, right.
Texas Republicans would put us in handmaid garb if they could get away with it. It’s unbelievable what they are doing. Thank God for these women, and all the others who will keep fighting.
We stood silently, pointing at each legislative chamber. Our silence was so powerful, and then we went to the rotunda and shouted SHAME SHAME SHAME for 10 minutes. I still shiver, remembering it.

My first protest as a Texas resident was in support of women’s right to choose; Wendy Davis had just completed her famous filibuster, and I gathered with thousands of women wearing orange, around the capitol. I am so proud that my first and last protest here was for the rights of women to self-determination. That fills me with pride and it means a lot to me that Marnie is proud of me. But oof a big day, because the handmaid protest was in the morning and then my poetry group gathered for what turned out to be a party — and I’m so gullible, and was SO not expecting it, that I believed them when they said the food was in the clubhouse for some other event. My place is in such disarray, and I sold my dining table and chairs, so George kindly hosted us in the clubhouse of his condo complex, a very beautiful setting filled with people who have enriched my life beyond belief. I just can’t even really talk about it yet.

Here we all are — starting from me, bottom center, and going clockwise: George, David, Marilyn, Rebecca, Hadiya, and Nick. These people. <3
Rebecca took some pictures and she just caught the spirit of our time together. Here are David, George, and Marilyn, reading along while someone reads a poem aloud. We really love poetry, and this kind of engrossed experience was our norm.
And here are Nick, me, and Hadiya, engrossed in the poem. Seriously. How much they have given me.

I’m glad Rebecca is in the group selfie since she’s not in the other shots. I wasn’t sure I could say goodbye to everyone, so I just kept trying over and over. A rambly, teary farewell to the group, a hug and goodbye to each person individually, and a clinging by my heart to the wonder of what happened with us, over the last 4.5 years.

Last night was the last meeting I’ll join of a new book club I’d recently formed a few months ago, women who share my politics and who I met in Pantsuit Nation. They will continue on, but it was my last night to sit among them and talk about the book (we actually did that! We talked about the books we read!), to rail about politics, to share information and support in this political insanity, and then to talk about other books we’re reading. It was such a great group, I loved every meeting and I will miss them so much. Today I am having afternoon tea with George, who has been such a good friend to me over the years. I’m sure I will find it hard to get in my car afterwards and drive away. We will always be friends, all these people, it’s not that. But it is farewell to a moment, to an experience, to a specific kind of connection that we had and oh how much it meant to me.

Then tomorrow I get to babysit Lucy while Katie accompanies Oliver on a school field trip, how precious that will be, and Saturday I have a late lunch with Deb, another deep sister. I will be so thrilled to leave this hateful state with its cruel politics, but oh the people. As I say on the About the Queen page, I am rootless, geographically, but I’m very rooted, people-wise. I will never lose these people, and they will stay in my heart with the same strength they have today — but oh it’s hard to have these ‘lasts.’ It isn’t that I mind the hardness; I’ll take it any day, because it’s evidence of the bond. Many still to come, some I can hardly bear to think about, but I’ll cross them as they come.

<3 <3 <3

what is it with me and circles

Apparently I’ve written 20 posts about circles, including one post explicitly titled ‘circles.’ I love closing a circle, and I’m not the only one, of course. I really adored this thing Roger Ebert wrote in his lovely memoir, Life Itself:

“I may appear to suffer from some sort of compulsive repetition syndrome, but these rituals are important to me. I have many places where I sit and think, “I have been here before, I am here now, and I will be here again.” Sometimes, lost in reverie, I remember myself approaching across the same green, or down the same footpath, in 1962 or 1983, or many other times. Sometimes Chaz comes along on my rituals, but just as often I go alone. Sometimes Chaz will say she’s going shopping, or visiting a friend, or just staying in the room and reading in bed. “Why don’t you go and touch your bases?” she’ll ask me. I know she sympathizes. These secret visits are a way for me to measure the wheel of the years and my passage through life. Sometimes on this voyage through life we need to sit on the deck and regard the waves.”

Wheels, echoes, circles figure heavily in my experience, and I touch them regularly — especially the older I get, which is kind of an obvious thing. As I’m getting ready to leave Austin, I keep having these experiences. In many ways, moving back to Austin in November 2012 was a closing of a circle, and as I prepare to leave, I’m closing many circles that opened here. It’s kind of extraordinary.

This was at my birthday celebration with friends November 2015. We somehow always end up like this. Isn’t she beautiful?

Sunday night I will have dinner with my beautiful, beautiful friend Lynn, who I recognized in such a deep way the moment I met her when I first moved here. We didn’t get to see each other very often; she was gone, I was gone, we were busy, but it didn’t matter. She is one of those people I just knew the moment I met her, and we are good no matter what, we are connected no matter how long, how far.

When I moved here, I joined a number of Meetup groups so I could encounter people and find friends. It’s hard to find friends when you’re an adult, anyway, but when you’re 54, and you work for yourself at home, and you’re new in town, it’s SUPER hard. I had no interest in being a professional Meetup-er — plenty of people are, it’s just not my thing — so I joined very specific groups to increase the chance of meeting similar women, including a “women who travel the world” group, or whatever the specific name of it was. I never went to any meetings, but in my profile I listed the places I had traveled to, and that list included Myanmar.

See what I mean? This was my birthday November 2016, and again we were with our big group of friends — all of whom are wonderful — and somehow Lynn and I end up like this.

Lynn contacted me through the system because she wanted to travel to Myanmar, and we arranged to meet at a restaurant called Apothecary. There was an instant connection, and our friendship just was. I never went to a single meeting of that group, and unjoined before too long. So Sunday evening, I am having dinner with Lynn at Apothecary, her deeply wonderful idea to meet at the place we first met, and that just feels so extraordinary to me, closing that circle. Our friendship will continue always, even if we only talk once in a blue moon, but we get to close this circle together.

I moved to Austin when I was 2, from Abilene, and this was my fourth separate time to live here. (I just sketched out those years — 1962 to 1972, 1977 to 1987, 1998 to 2003, and 2012 to 2017 — 10 years and 10 years and 5 years and 5 years, so interesting!) It’s been funny to me, living where I’ve lived this time in Austin, because it was a return to my oldest time here. I live 1.4 miles from where I lived when I was 6, when I became Queen of the Pillbugs. I hear the same trains at night that I heard as a girl. And every time I go to the grocery store, I drive past the apartment complex where I lived when I was 18. Something about this whole time in Austin has been a deep circle, a constant resonant hum. But last night, as I passed the apartment complex on the way to the store, a song came on that I listened to non-stop when I lived in that apartment, just at the moment I drove past the entrance. (It was 1978, don’t laugh.)

Barry Manilow, Sunrise. From the Even Now album.
I still have the album, thanks to my daughter Katie who kept it for me. I bought it Feb 1978.

That converging of music and specific spot threw me back, and if I hadn’t been thinking I might just have pulled into the complex and walked up the stairs to my apartment, which felt so fancy then, a whole apartment of my own with rented furniture and my few precious objects that still sit here in my house — Big Daddy’s hard hat, and his cat door stop — and my old record collection which sits now in my yoga room and there was nothing else there because there was so little of me, then, and time circles in and circles around and there we are lost in it but if we’re lucky we get to notice.

It’s not about a reverence for the ‘old days,’ or a wish to go back, but more an appreciation of how long life is, how mysterious it can be, how nothing really ends but only echoes, and if you get real quiet and listen, you can hear the echoes, too.

potluck

Just an assortment of things, almost all beautiful:

  • Since I won’t be here on Oliver’s third birthday because I’ll be in Bali that day, I spent a few hours with him yesterday. I had some kind of seriously awful gut thing going on so it wasn’t as long as I’d have liked, but it was so wonderful being with him. He and I went to one of the neighborhood parks, the one on the elementary school grounds where he will be going in just a couple of weeks. He played on the equipment, we blew bubbles even though it was too breezy to make chasing them much fun, he ate lunch, and he ran around. I watched him wandering around, running, talking to himself the way he does, and my heart ached so hard. Oliver has something going on — the current educational diagnosis is in the autism neighborhood — but most difficult is his pretty profound speech delay. So I watched that beautiful, darling boy running around, in his own world, and I cried pretty hard because I so want to know him. I so want to share things with him, know what he thinks without guessing, hear his wonderings and his wants and his needs and his funny. At the moment that’s not how it is to be with Oliver, but I know it will be one of these days. I don’t think he feels lonely; he seems keenly aware of how much he is loved. One fun thing to do with Oliver is to look at the phone together. We had the camera on and turned to selfie mode, and he was grinning as he held down the button for dozens of long bursts. He caught the really beautiful shot I included here. See the delight on his face?
  • My dear, dear friend Becci (hi darling Becci!) sent me a Crazy Zauberball. I have always wanted one, and somehow she chose a colorway that I always wanted, too. The other day I opened my mailbox, expecting the usual day’s allotment of junk mail, and instead there was a nicely wrapped box, fit snugly into the mailbox with my name facing outward. I had no idea what it might be, even when I saw Becci’s name and address in the top right corner. I literally ran into the house and unwrapped it (even more nicely presented inside the outer brown wrapper, with a “just because” note) and when I pulled out the ball I jumped up as if I’d been electrocuted. It was the last thing I expected, and I instantly started crying with all the joy — the joy of having a friend who would do such a thing (and just because), the joy of her thoughtfulness and knowing, the pleasure of the long-wanted yarn, and the delight of finding just the right project for it. I decided on a project that others have made with the yarn, a scarf called Baktus, because it looks amazing and it’s a simple knit—I want to make it on my upcoming trip. In the way these things work, forever more I’ll feel all the love and joy when I wear it, remembering Becci, remembering making it in Indonesia. That’s one thing I love about knitting, it holds the space for all of that.
  • I can’t properly talk about how humiliated I feel over having that hangover on Tuesday. I feel such shame about it. I’m 58, I have so many ways to manage upset, and I drank enough to have a hangover? It’s hard to talk about it but I feel like I must — maybe this is some kind of self-flagellation, maybe I shouldn’t, but shame and humiliation is exactly what I feel. I mentioned that feeling to Nancy, and she looked puzzled, which puzzled me. Shouldn’t I feel shame? I talk relatively often about AA, which I only know about because of my husband; I know that they believe self-loathing doesn’t get you anywhere, and certainly not to the same place that self-compassion will take you. I’m trying that, trying to have compassion for myself that evening, acceptance of myself and what I did. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again; I sure learned a lot, including the fact that a hangover can be a really terrible mood, which I didn’t know. I’m sorry I did that — I say that out loud, and to myself. It’s funny; I even find this beautiful, even though it’s such a dreadful feeling. But it’s beautiful to stumble along, fall down and get up, bruise yourself, heal yourself, and be helped along by others. I think that’s really beautiful.
  • We just lost Derek Walcott, a poet whose words have meant a lot to me over the years. I first encountered him in 2001, when I knew a poet who loved him. I’m sorry this is in a jpg instead of text, but I can’t find it copy-able and I don’t want to type it all out. This poem relates so beautifully to the end of my last bullet point:

  • Tonight I will sit with the women in my book club to talk about this month’s book, which I didn’t like at all I’m sad to say (The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood, review here). But I will love being with the women, who share my political world view and who are SMART, screamingly smart, and compassionate. We meet at Joyce’s house tonight — she picked the book — and she’s making us a vegetable pie and salad, and I’m bringing Topo Chico and dark chocolate, and I look forward to the communion with all my heart. For now, though, I pack for Indonesia. Happy Sunday, everyone.