one mystery solved!

It’s not often you get to solve a decades-long mystery if your name isn’t Nancy Drew and there’s not an Old Clock or a Hidden Staircase nearby. The mystery related to music from my teenage years — The Eagles, Elton John, Linda Rondstadt, Chicago, various disco songs, Loggins & Messina, John Denver. When I hear any of that music my heart soars and I feel SO happy. So, big deal? Big news from the Department of DUH.

But the mystery is that my teenage years were pure hell. I didn’t have a home. Terrible things were happening to me. Truly terrible. So why would the music that is cellularly associated with that period make me feel happy? Weird, right? It’s not like the music was playing while my chums and I rode in her convertible to the Friday night football game to meet Ned and the boys. Not like that at all. This has puzzled me for decades, it really has.

There’s a good-sized box of old albums of mine, including one album I saved up to buy when I was 10. It was a collection of classical music, and it was advertised on television. So I saved and saved and saved and saved and got my dad to buy it for me. Mother ridiculed and belittled me for it and accused me of just wanting to be different, but I really did love the music. I still have that album. It’s 47 years old. When I was in high school, I remember storing the records in my locker during the school year, and in the summer I’d hide them wherever I worked, since I didn’t have a place to live. For a short period I had a car to live in, so I kept them in the floorboard, alongside a chess set my dad bought me in Mexico when I was little. Those were my worldly belongings, along with some clothes. Somewhere along the way I lost the chess set. I didn’t get to listen to my records through my teenage years, no stereo, but of course the songs were playing everywhere so I heard them.

not this bad, but not a whole lot better
not this bad, but not a whole lot better

I haven’t had a turntable in . . . no idea. No idea how long it’s been. My daughter Katie is our family’s repository of all things family, and she’s been storing the box for me for longer than I can imagine. She asked if I wanted my records, now that I have space of my own, and I said yes, and spent a lot of time looking through them, remembering. And then I bought a really cheap stereo with a turntable. Really, it’s just a step up from a Fisher Price record player. It has a built-in CASSETTE PLAYER and an AM radio. It seemed to come from somewhere in China. I don’t care; for me, it wasn’t about having a high-class listening experience — after all, the records are ancient and have been through a lot. For me it was just about listening to my records a couple more times.

just a few -- I have a LOT of Eagles
just a few — I have a LOT of Eagles

So I pulled out Hotel California, one of my very favorite old albums. We used to listen to music so differently, remember? We’d start at the beginning and listen to a whole side, and then the other. Songs in order, and in whole. We used to read the liner notes. So I set up my little stereo on a low table in my yoga room and spread out some albums all around me, and placed the needle at the beginning of Side A. Scratch scratch MUSIC! And then it hit me.

Even in those hard years, I was me. There was me in there, and somehow, I have no idea how, I felt joy. I felt my joy, the way I do. I was the person who gets really excited about things, notices things, feels happiness with small things. There was me in there, dreaming of someday. Dreaming of having a place to live, dreaming of finishing high school and making my way to Austin where I would finally begin life and get away from my family completely. I was in there, living in my head, dancing inside. The things were happening to me, and around me, and too much of my time was spent trying to get through to the next day, but *I* was not that. I was still 14, 15, 16, 17, loving those songs just like everyone else, even though my life wasn’t like everyone else’s. I’ve always been here as me.

this exactly -- except the paint on mine was faded and not shiny, and the car was in bad shape. this one is kept up.
this exactly — except the paint on mine was faded and not shiny, and the car was in bad shape. this one is kept up.

In October 1976, I’d made my escape plan (I had an old car at the time, a ’62 Nash Rambler, dusty pale green). Don’t laugh — I was going to drive from Wichita Falls to San Antonio, find a convent and bang on the door and ask them for sanctuary. That was really my plan. I didn’t have plans beyond that, and I had no idea where a convent might be, but San Antonio is full of Catholics so I figured I’d find one. For some unknown-to-me-now reason I decided to tell the guidance counselor at school that I was moving the next day and I told her what my stepfather did to me as an explanation for my move. Guidance counselors weren’t trained very well back then, so she called my mother. Later that day Mother had me picked up and placed in a mental hospital and then no one could ever believe me again. “You know, Lori is crazy, you can’t believe a word she says,” eye roll.

Back then the stay was 3 months, which I didn’t mind, frankly. A warm bed, a hot shower, three meals, pretty good. I have a lot of stories from that time. I spent my 17th birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s there. She took me out for a day on Thanksgiving and took me to see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — you can’t make this shit up! If I read that in a client’s novel I’d cross it out and say “COME ON.” But I remember what I wore, how it felt to be there. ANYWAY. So while I was in there, my stepfather took my car and sold it. On the day I was released, I remember this so so well, I walked out the front door of the hospital to nothing. I had nowhere to go. No car. Nobody. The clothes on my back, and a few in a paper sack, but no coat. (Luckily, my records were still in my locker, and thank heavens for that.) There was snow on the ground, as there is in far north Texas in January, on the plains. I was standing there trying to figure out what to do, and then a car drove past with the radio playing so loud I could hear the song: New Kid in Town. The Eagles. And I smiled. I smiled because I loved the song, I loved the Eagles, and I kind of felt like a new kid in town after three months of a bed and regular meals. I walked down the steps, down the walkway to the street, and turned right. I don’t remember where I went or where I found to sleep that night, but I remember that moment, and that song, and I remember smiling — me, it was about me, not my circumstance.

This is such an extraordinary bit of understanding for me, because it’s about so much more than the music. It’s about getting whacked in the head with the realization that I WAS THERE ALL ALONG, even then. It was always me inside, I was not my circumstance. Lori Dawn was in there, singing and dancing and dreaming. I never realized that until now, as strange as that sounds.

I always did want to be Nancy Drew, and I was always so jealous of the way mysteries always seemed to happen around her, and never around me. But I guess this one did. To me this isn’t a sad post, a sad story at all! This is a joyous one, a gift to myself. A 57 years old gift of light.

Lester Tricky

When I was a little girl, I had a younger cousin who liked to stick bobby pins in the electrical outlets, and when sparks came out she’d laugh in absolute delight and say, “Lester Tricky! Lester Tricky!” Some adult would come running and tell her that electricity was dangerous and she shouldn’t do that, but you could see in her eyes that she would never listen.

I’ll come back to Lester Tricky in a minute, but first some context. My life is extraordinary right now. Just utterly extraordinary. Yesterday was Katie’s birthday and I got to spend some hours with them, and some time all alone with little Oliver, who isn’t feeling very well right now. Molars, I think. When I went home afterwards, I made a yummy dinner, and then feeling too extraordinary to sit still, I went to a pie shop with my new book of poetry and relished that warm chocolate salted caramel slice. I came home, still feeling too extraordinary (but also too full of pie), so I laced on my sneakers and headed out for a steamy walk — the only kind you can take in Texas this time of year.

Marnie had introduced me to a wonderful podcast called Song Exploder (I strongly recommend it to you!); song writers focus on one of their compositions and talk about the creation of it in fascinating detail. I selected a band I’d never heard of (Sylvan Esso) talking about their song “Coffee.” (Here’s a link to the specific episode, recommended!) The episode grabbed me from the beginning, and so I was hooked and lost in the conversation.

one of Austin's nicknames is City of the Violet Crown
one of Austin’s nicknames is City of the Violet Crown

It was that violet kind of twilight, and the cicadas were buzzing in the air non-stop. I walked past one family of deer, and then another, and then two little fawns that seemed to be on their own. The twilight deepened a little more, and the cicadas grew louder. As the conversation drew to a close on the podcast, the episode ended with the entire song played. And as I listened, I felt the top of my scalp, like electricity was dancing in my hair. It moved down my cheeks, down my neck — still alive in my hair — and down my arms. I saw goose bumps come up on my arms, and it kept moving down my body, down my legs — goose bumps there too — and into my feet. I looked up and there was a brilliant half moon right overhead. I looked to my left and there was a large male deer standing there looking at me.

ElectricityIt was extraordinary. It felt like everything else around me was on pause, there was no traffic on the busy street nearby, the cicadas seemed to stop, the breeze went on pause. I blinked slowly, swallowed, looked up at the moon, down at my arms, and closed my eyes. I just stood there in that moment, lit up with electricity. I remembered Lisa, and Lester Tricky. I felt the whole of my life, everything behind me and everything stretching out in front of me, my family continuing on into the future, me as an ancestor of all these people who streamed into the world through me. I don’t know how long I stood there on the sidewalk with my eyes closed. I think when the song ended, the spell was broken. I opened my eyes, the breeze seemed to pick up again. I heard the traffic nearby. I took a deep breath and looked up at the moon in the darkening sky.

I can’t guarantee that the song will have the same effect on you (but I do recommend that you start by listening to the podcast about it, linked above; it’s only 13 minutes long). Just in case, here is the official video of it. I love the female singer’s voice, and the eerie moodiness of the song, and now forever it’s stained purple for me.

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I love being me. I don’t think I’d be anyone else for any amount of money.

spin

OK, so this is NOT one of those idiotic ‘glass half full’ things. I had quite the little rant about that dumb idea during my nightmare period of late 2012-2013. But it is about the complexity of experience and the multitude of frames available.

In the last several months, it has not been uncommon for my Austin friends to comment on how much I have changed since they met me. There is, of course, the dramatic evolution through and past the extreme grief I was in when they met me. I was numb, crying, haunted, devastated, a kind of ghost. Grieving, suffering. So, as people do, I worked my way through all that and slowly cried less often. Slowly laughed more easily and with less guilt about it. Starting with only Katie and Trey as my anchors, I built a rich life, with poet friends and book friends and soul friends. I found my circle of women. That was the ordinary transformation of a person starting over and coming out of grief. But I also learned how to live alone, which has been the most important piece of my transformation, I think.

In a way, this part of my life has been like the very best adolescence. Ordinary adolescents are figuring out who they are, they’re trying on this and that, they’re experimenting and trying and failing and trying. Lucky me, I get to do all that but without the raging hormones, without the adolescent frailty and uncertainty, and with my own resources, my own home, my own income, control over my own life with no need for anyone’s approval or permission. That’s the important part, and the part I have never been able to do in a relationship. That’s all on me — no one has ever demanded that I cower and give in. I do that, I give myself away before I even realize what’s happening. I need to focus next on not doing that when I am with Marc.

red-hibiscusBut the transformation my friends see is deep in me, and real, and I feel like a life-size flower. I really do. It’s funny that the image I always have, when I think about that, is a hibiscus. (My outer right calf is tattooed with hibiscus and sunflowers [here’s the post I wrote about why I chose it, and a picture of it is in the post].) When I wake up in the mornings, as I move through my days, when I climb into my wonderful bed each night, I feel like a huge flower in full bloom. It’s extraordinary.

When I bend over to pick up something, I feel the strong muscles in my back. I feel the bending over with my flat, straight back, I smile that my hamstrings are loose enough to keep my legs straight when I touch the floor. When I head to the yoga mat, I think about this opportunity to become stronger (instead of grim-faced ‘exercise to lose weight’), more balanced (literally), more flexible. When I hold plank, I recognize my abdominal muscles are becoming stronger (instead of dreading having to do it because it’s good for me). When I hold down dog, I press my hands into the floor, lift my butt, push my thighs back, lower my heels, and marvel at my body and what it can do (instead of wondering how much longer this is going to go on and hoping no one is looking at my fat rear end and thinking about what I wish I could have for dinner but I won’t because crap I am once again trying to lose weight).

That frame makes such a difference in helping me head to the mat every day, I’m telling you. It’s not a chore, it’s not something I ‘have’ to do, it’s not something to cross off my to-do list, it’s not [sigh] exercise dammit. Ah, it’s a chance to become stronger, such pleasure. Lucky me, another day to work at becoming stronger.

When I make my dinner, it’s a chance to pick and prepare food that helps my body be strong and healthy AND a chance to be as creative as I can be, a chance to make something that tastes so good I want to slap myself. It’s not diet food, it’s not about how little I can eat of boring food so I can lose weight (or keep off the weight) and then get right back to my ordinary eating. It’s about the pleasure of taking good care so I can be strong and healthy.

WHAT???? Me? Who is this woman?

And the funny thing is that these frames don’t come afterwards, as a way to reconcile myself with something I don’t really want to do. I have no doubt I’d tried that reframing dozens of times in my life and I guess I just wasn’t there yet. I guess I didn’t believe myself when I’d think those things. Maybe the issue is that now it’s not RE-framing, it’s simply what is for me. So I am not suggesting anything for you, you have to find your own way — it’s all an inside job, every bit of it — but I share what is for me, in case you feel a shiver of recognition inside yourself.

Those [re]frames surely contribute to keeping me grounded, but they aren’t by themselves responsible for the transformation. But I think being grounded, and having solitude and the opportunity to take up ALL the space, has let me be more daring with myself, and helped me be less timid in general, less timid about who I am, and less afraid of the world, somehow.

Gosh living alone is thoroughly glorious. It is. Of course I’m not alone at all, I’m surrounded by love and affection and companionship and all the social stuff I could possibly want — and I see Marc 12 days/month, and we travel together. (I secretly think I have the most perfect life anyone could ever have.) But here I am, alone in this beautiful, comfortable place, and I can blast a song that fills me with joy and dance like a lunatic all around my house until I can’t breathe. I can wake up at 2am and decide I want some eggs, and turn on all the lights and bop into the kitchen and scramble some luscious orange-yolked Parker eggs (thank you every day, sweet Karyn), then take a bubble bath with candles, and then sit in bed and write as long as I want with all the lights on if I’m enjoying the deep middle of the night. I can decide I want to completely change the way I eat and just do that, exactly as I wish. I can decide I want to do yoga twice a day and just leave my yoga mat out in the living room because there is no one who will be bothered by that.

And the toilet seat is always down.

strings of perfect moments

Isn’t it wonderful when you have these long runs of perfect moments? Even just one is pretty great — I’ll take them if they dribble past me at a slow pace! But once in a while you just get this prolonged run of perfectly wonderful minutes, hours, days, experiences, and I don’t know about you but my cheeks ache from all the grinning when that happens.

Friday I had my weekly chat with Marnie, and Marc and I piled into the car to drive upstate, where we stayed at a Buddhist retreat. The setting was just so beautiful, and it was in this very small town named Rosendale, with a fabulous bakery on main street. We walked, we meditated, we ate some good food, we relaxed in the silence, we drove through beautiful countryside, we walked on a high pedestrian bridge over the Hudson River, we went to a place we visit at least once a year — Innisfree Gardens, a cup garden — and on the way home on Sunday we stopped at Storm King Art Center. There was absolutely no traffic anywhere (really, where was everyone??), we ran into no trouble, the weather was beautiful, and the incredible thunderstorm waited until we were home and unpacked before it started blasting New York. PERFECT.

It’s been such a beautiful time in New York, this trip. A fantastic celebration of Sherlock’s life, beautifully organized by darling Peggy, in Connecticut. Lunch with Traci, and another lovely evening a glass of wine with her at my neighborhood French bistro. Lots of good food, lots of walking, this weekend’s great trip, beautiful weather, easy time.

My life between places is kind of odd, even though of course there are great things about it. But each place is both real and unreal. When I first get to New York each time I feel out of place, like a visitor (which I am, here, more than I am in Austin). But then I eat some of Marc’s food, have lunches with my beautiful friend Traci (or a dinner with Craig), take walks in Riverside Park, and as the days pass I begin to feel ok, I’m here, here is where I am….and Austin starts to feel forever away. I start to feel like I’ve been here for so very long, and away from Austin for so very long — and then it’s time to head back. Austin feels a bit unreal at first, although less so since Katie and Oliver pick me up, and there’s my beautiful little cozy home. But I feel out of place a bit, out of pocket, unsure of where I am …. and then the days pass and New York starts to feel forever away. And then it’s time to come back to New York.

But I am not complaining. I have nothing at all to complain about in my life now. I have such beautiful family and friends, and things that make me happy in both places. I miss my Austin people a lot and can’t wait to see you.

SO much to look forward to, always. Poetry group at my place the night I get home, a birthday celebration on Saturday the 6th, drinks and/or dinner with a dear friend the following Wednesday the 10th, happy hour with two beautiful women the 11th, something fun with girlfriends on the 13th, dinner with friends on the 15th, book club on the 18th, and back to NYC on the 19th. My next trip to NYC we’re going to the Delaware Water Gap one weekend. Lots of good books being read whenever I can get a minute or two. Daily yoga practice, daily meditation practice. Doing one thing at a time. Walking present. Being present. Talking present.

Life is so so good. I remember very well how not-at-all-good my life was in 2012. Horrific in the last third of 2012. Often hard, sad, excruciating in 2013. Frightening as the surreal lawsuit hung over our heads….only to poof! disappear. Crazy-making. I remember all those difficult moments, heartbroken moments, excruciatingly long periods of pain. So here, now, I will soak up all this happiness and try to spread it around. September 1, dizzying. Autumn, in a couple of weeks. Enjoy your first day of September in 2014, it’s the only one you’re ever going to get. Me, I’m off to enjoy it! Love to you — xo

an important follow-up post

Yesterday’s post nearly crashed my little blog — it was viewed 6,300 times, 3,800 on Facebook alone, wow. I got so many emails and messages from people I don’t know, some sharing their experiences, some thanking me for being open about it, some asking me questions. It startled me to have that much attention because that’s so far beyond the norm I expect to get emails from my web host asking what’s up. I am so glad it meant the various things it meant to others.

While all of it is true, of course it’s just that part of the story, the grim part. But you can’t pull the grim part out in isolation any more than you can pull the joyous part out in isolation; well, you can but you don’t understand very much. There are two very important things that remain to be said for me:

1) I am SO SO glad I survived myself. I survived my own self, thank heavens. Thank heavens that old gun didn’t fire. Thank heavens I dissociated. Thank heavens my plan was discovered. Thank heavens, thank God, thank my inner self for dissociating. My ordinary self — and I mean all of my ordinary self, the happy, the melancholy, the ordinary depressed, the bored (hey wait, I’m never bored), the curious, the excited — does not want to die. No ma’am, no way. I will die of course, one day, and that knowledge helps me value my one very precious, precious life. Ordinary me does not want to die. Even ordinary depressed me does not want to die. Being truly suicidal is a different place, a different head, a different mind, so far outside ordinary me it shouldn’t share my name.

AMEN.
AMEN.

I am so glad to be alive. I am so glad to be alive. Every single day, through all of it including fear and pain, I am so glad to be alive. I’m glad I’m here to feel everything there is to feel, no matter what it is, no matter how hard and heavy. I’m glad I’m here to see Oliver, to hold him and smile at him. I’m hopeful that I’ll be here when future grandchildren arrive, so I can share that joy with my beloved children.

2) One of my daughters shared my post on Facebook, and this was part of what she wrote:  “The specter of suicide haunts my family; it sat with us at dinner, it tucked me in at night, it informed the options I felt like I had available to me in my darkest moments. Every time I’m home, conversation turns to face it, to look at those wounds not all of us survived. My mom wrote this very open piece about our family legacy and her survival.” Can I tell you how very much it breaks my heart that this was my dear children’s experience? It does. My heart gets in my mouth and I have to hold it open gently to keep from choking on it. She’s right, of course. Just as was true in my childhood, the word, the experience, were in the air. My poor children grew up with a frequently deeply depressed mother, and on occasion a suicidal mother. My poor children.

But every generation can have less to overcome, if you are lucky and work hard. Both can be required — luck and trying hard. I succeeded in helping redirect my family legacy because I did not kill myself, so my dear children don’t have a dead mother who committed suicide. I hope some day decades from now they have a dead very ancient mother who just didn’t wake up one morning, maybe with a lot more tattoos (pretty wrinkly by then), and who ate up life to the very end. That’s what I hope. It was all too close to me when I was a younger mother to keep the words and the experience out of my mouth, out of the air; I was far too devastated, far too affected by my father’s suicide. It didn’t help that he blamed me, but even if he hadn’t it wouldn’t have been better. It took me 30 years to find my way past that, so while I wish with all my heart that I’d been able to keep silent about it all, to not be suicidal, I do also understand how much I had to overcome. And if only that’s all I had to overcome…

So my kids, the next generation, don’t have a suicided parent. What they have to do for their children is keep the very idea, the story, out of the air. I don’t want my children to mention my father to their children; I hope I give them enough questions to ask about Pete, their life-loving grandmother. And I am here to help my children with that task, if they should find themselves in a dark place, in a way I never had any help.

So the generation after that, Oliver’s children’s generation, will be entirely innocent of it in their homes. That’s my goal. My goal was always the long game, generations. I knew there was just so very much to overcome I couldn’t do it all. I could only make a start. But then my kids would have less to deal with, so they can do their part. Weeding, weeding, weeding.

I hope anyone who is feeling suicidal, or loves someone who is, will get all the help they need, and fast. Get professional help. Take yourself to the hospital, or the police station if you are a danger to yourself and can’t get help any other way. Life can be so wonderful but you’ll never know that if you leave. Life can be so wonderful.

boring-ness

It’s really funny — when I was going through the very long year and a half of unrelenting terribleness (all of 2012 and the first ~half of 2013), I worried that my posts were so heavy or dark that you would get sick of it and just quit reading me. Again with the introspection, again with the suffering, jeez enough. On occasion I thought I’d better write a different post, a “happy” post, but decided the whole point for me is to be as authentic as I can about my life, so that’s what I wrote.

Now I’m on the inverse side of that. I’m in a period of reflection, change, growth, and joy (except for the damn days-long headache) and I imagine that you’re getting so bored with that. As much as I love that you read my posts, this blog is really for me, to say “I was here and this was my experience of life.” And so I hope you stick around no matter what’s going on, even during prolonged runs of trouble or joy.

Yesterday was extraordinary, and the very best part of that is that the extraordinariness was in the ultra ordinary. I wasn’t sitting on Borobodur, in Ubud, on a boat in the Mekong, prowling Hanoi, panting for breath in Borneo, looking at clouds on Macchu Picchu or Lake Titicaca. I woke up, made coffee, went to the farmer’s market, did some yoga and later some meditation, tended to my life, listened to music, made a delicious dinner, read, and slept. ORDINARY. And yet it really, really wasn’t. You’d have to be me to appreciate some of these things:

  • I woke up later than I’d intended but had a night of completely uninterrupted, dreamless sleep. (for the win!) Instead of freaking out and jumping up, throwing clothes on and racing out the door at high speed — after all, I’d wanted to be there when they opened!!!! — I thought it doesn’t matter when I get there. It just doesn’t matter. Take your time. My kids will understand how startling that is. And so I did my morning ritual as I always do, I made my French press of super dark coffee, I dressed (red shorts!) and put on my normal tiny bit of make-up (i.e., mascara and lipstick), checked that I had small bills in my wallet, lingered a bit with my coffee and put the rest in a thermos, and walked out my door. Stood in my breezeway and saw what a beautiful day it was. Smiled.
  • There were a lot of slow drivers on the road — Sunday morning, I suppose — and each one taught me, reminded me to take it easy. My temper flared up with the first one and I literally gasped….why! I am in no rush! Put down your shoulders, breathe. And when I came up behind the next one I smiled. Thank you for the reminders. I am in no rush, it’s a beautiful day, just be here, look around. (Kids, can you believe it?!)
  • such a beautiful day
    such a beautiful day

    Got a great parking spot and didn’t race to the market — and not just because I got there 10 minutes before it opened. (Lesson learned there, in light of the first point above!) I stepped out of my car, got my market bags, and stood in the sun with my face turned up to it. Wondered why I haven’t gone swimming. I live in Texas! We have amazing places to swim here. Noted to myself: go swimming. I wandered through the park on the way to the market stalls, enjoyed the reflection of the clouds in the lake. Isn’t it a beautiful day?

  • At each stall, instead of just buying the stuff quickly and moving on (and I always did that because I didn’t want to be annoying to them, they’re busy), I instead moved slower than I usually do and looked each grower in the eye and paused just a couple of minutes to talk to them. And each of those conversations made me so very happy. They were without exception warm and friendly and gracious. I left each stall feeling a little taller.
carrots of all colors, peaches, tiny sweet figs, tomatoes, pesto (cilantro and pecan!), okra, and farm eggs.
carrots of all colors, peaches, tiny sweet figs, tomatoes, pesto (cilantro and pecan!), okra, and farm eggs.
  • Slow walk back to my car, feeling the rising heat on my neck. Isn’t it a beautiful day? I arranged my purchases in the car so the tender stuff wouldn’t get crushed, and pulled out of the parking spot. As I got on the busier road I saw a ladybug on my windshield and it made me laugh and cry at the same time. Hello, sweet little ladybug, how ya doing. It hung on all the way home. I played Man, by Neko Case — an amazing hard driving song that you can’t listen to once, so I listened to it the whole way home and felt so much joy I thought I might leave my body.

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Really do listen to this fantastic song. And not for nothing, I was in the audience at this performance, dancing my brains out. Her music was vibrating in my bones. IT WAS AMAZING. 

And all that was before 11am. I felt so happy I could not stop crying, just grateful for this amazing life, this amazing day, and I thought about the horrors, the bombings and death and starving, the terror, the fear, the imbalance of the world, and it broke my heart too. Those things were happening right at the same moment. Children were being tortured and abused by their parents here and there, right at the same moment. Women were being raped and tortured, right at the same moment. And just for the day, just for that one sunny day, I got to taste some of the joy. If I don’t taste it when it presents itself, I am a complete idiot. For my turn will come again, and it may come in ways that are so terrible I cannot even imagine them. It may break me. But for that day, joy was on my tongue and I am so grateful for that.

blissless

this picture has nothing to do with anything, but I love it so much!
this picture has nothing to do with anything, but I love it so much! Bliss on a boat off Bali.

It’s been a long cold lonely winter. Little darlin. But you know, it has.  I’ve had stress and anxiety weighing on my heart. The skies were often gray. I dutifully take my little Wellbutrin every single morning. I haven’t exactly felt depressed, but I haven’t felt a whole lot of big joy.

One of my favorite things about being me is my easy experience of joy. It’s not at all uncommon for me to feel bliss — in fact, I can get knocked back by bliss at least once a week, most of the time. For me, that means a heart SO full of joy that I almost cannot hold it, or hold myself; a heart SO full of joy that the edges of everything become indistinct, and I see how it’s all one thing; a heart SO full of joy that I kind of lose words, and am prone to cry at the tiniest little thing — a green leaf, a dead leaf, a breeze, a weed. That’s just a common thing for me, and I am enormously grateful that my software carries that programming. It’s such a gift.

But it’s been such a long time since I felt that. Actually, the last time I felt it was when I was in the river in Sri Lanka bathing that mama elephant. That was such an experience of bliss I completely forgot myself. But since then, I’ve made it through my days, I have been happy, wonderful things have happened, I’ve relished moments with my children, with dear friends. I’ve felt my community all around me, and me a part. I’ve loved my little home. I’ve shared good things and fearful things with all the people who love me, and been so grateful that I have them all.

But I haven’t felt joy, and I definitely haven’t felt bliss. Every morning when I take my antidepressant I think about that. I think that at least I am feeling other good things, at least the black hole is nowhere near me. At least it isn’t dark, even if the skies are dull and gray. But I miss my joy, I miss my bliss.

I’m sure this was a piece of it, but yesterday was a gorgeous and sunny day. Beautiful blue skies, 82 degrees, a little breeze, LOADS of sun. It felt so good on my skin, on my face. The heat soaked into my arms and shoulders and face. And while I was driving down to my friend Karyn’s house, I felt something starting to pulse inside me. I was anxious about whether I’d be able to do the quilting on Oliver’s quilt very well, since it’s free-form and I’m pretty rigid and uptight, and I was afraid I’d ruin the work I’d done. But still, it was sunny and I was happy and something was pulsing inside.

At Karyn’s, she set me up with her great sewing machine and wandered off to do her own thing, and I put a sample piece into the sewing machine — batting and fabric on either side, exactly as the quilt would be — and started sewing. AND IT WAS FUN. And I was doing it, free-form rambling, meandering stitches, loose and wonderful. And the pulsing started pulsing harder inside me. I picked up the quilt, 54″ square, and put it into the machine and took a big breath. As I pressed the pedal, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell started playing from the other room and I was quilting my darling grandson’s quilt and it was sunny and beautiful and Karyn’s home is so lovely and welcoming, and she was in the kitchen hand grinding spices for the wonderful lunch she was making me and the air smelled like spring and not at all like a city and I bounced all the way into bliss. My bliss, my old friend, so long gone.

It’s been a long time since I just had fun like I had doing that quilting. Rigid old me, not-at-all loose me, meandering and not planning anything and having a blast. Listening to banjo music and Karyn puttering around. It was a whole beautiful day, and when I left around 3:30 with my finished quilt and a full tummy and a bag full of vegetables from her garden and eggs from her chickens and her kiss on my cheek, I was so happy I almost couldn’t hold it all.

If you’re in a place where spring hasn’t really arrived yet, where the days are still gray and there’s a chill in the air, boy I feel you. (Well, a Texas version of it.) I hope the blue skies come for you very soon, and the hot sun touches your cheek and the air is sweet and your version of happy and bliss, whatever it is, wells up inside you.

the last of those anniversaries

There was a 17-day period last year that was the worst of my whole life, and I cannot imagine such a thing will ever happen to me again. Nearly my whole life crumbled under my feet, and very little was the same at the end of it; mercifully — an enormous mercy — I still had my precious children and I was still alive, but everything else was gone. My granddaughter. My daughter’s desperate longing to be a mother. My marriage. Where and how I lived. My dreams. Poof.

this was me then, a year ago yesterday. makes me cry to see all the sorrow in my exhausted face.
this was me then, a year ago yesterday. makes me cry to see all the sorrow in my exhausted face.

One year ago yesterday I boarded an airplane with three giant suitcases filled with clothes. I didn’t have a key to anything or any place. I flew away from New York, believing I’d never live there again. I left friends, hoping to stay in touch. I left a small number of books, planning to return to pack and ship them. And that’s it. Me plus clothing in bags. Been there before, never thought I’d be there again. (But I survived.)

One enormous loss was the belief that finally I’d never have to move again. I’d lived at the same address for six years, longer than I had ever lived at one address my whole life. Three times as long as I’d ever lived at one address, actually. My 80th move took me there, and I believed — finally, I believed — that I wouldn’t ever move again until I was dead. I fought my way to that belief, resisting allowing myself to believe it out of fear, fearing that becoming comfortable about that would make the pain unendurable if I lost it. But finally I did come to believe it. And the pain was in fact almost unendurable when I lost it. (But I survived.)

One year ago yesterday he drove me to the airport and spoke sharply to me on the way, making me cry even harder. He helped me get my three enormous bags into the airport and then turned and walked away, and I stood there in shock. (But I survived.) Here’s what I said about it last year:

Yesterday was machine gun fire, a giant rollercoaster, take your pick of metaphor. After getting an hour’s sleep, we left for the airport and wrestled my three giant suitcases to the airline check-in desk. Southwest Airlines agents are perky and seem to assume that everyone they encounter is a  happy person, going to a happy place (!) oh-so-happy! She kept apologizing for having to charge me for a third bag, and was insistently pressing on me about the trip while in my head I was screaming, I’m moving, these are all my clothes. This is my husband — we are leaving each other, I am moving, please stop. I sat alone at the gate for a very long time, stunned and blank.

Remembering all this brings the terrible pain back into my chest, the blankness back into my mind, the tears back into my eyes. Waiting for me in Austin was my beautiful and devastated daughter Katie, reeling and blank from her daughter’s funeral just a couple of weeks earlier. My solid and loving son-in-law Trey, reeling too. And they opened their arms, their home to me. They absorbed me with love, put their aching arms around me. There was so much to do — I didn’t have a fork, even. I landed at the airport around 1pm on a Saturday, and by 3pm that same day I’d rented my place and bought a couch. The next Monday Katie and I drove to San Antonio to pick up the car I’d bought.

Somehow, Katie and I bought all the things I’d need to make myself a home. Somehow she found it in herself to press me not to shortchange myself and just get junk, knowing it would eventually make me feel terrible to be surrounded by plastic, temporary things when I felt so temporary myself. Somehow she and Trey helped me make the transition two weeks after I arrived, leaving me to grieve alone in my new home, and leaving them to return to their own lives alone together to continue their grief. (And we all survived.)

A year ago yesterday I stood on scorched earth, a place I’d stood many times, a place I feared ever standing again, a place I believed I could never endure standing again. A year ago yesterday I and my life were saturated by loss and devastation. (But I survived.)

A year ago yesterday, one of those extraordinary serendipitous moments happened to me, as they frequently do. On the flight to Austin, I turned a page in the book I was reading and came upon this poem, the most perfect thing I ever could have read:

The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

The poem gave me strength and courage, as did knowing that Katie and Trey were waiting for me, and boy the poem was the truest thing ever. I was not done with my changes; I will not be, until I draw my last breath. I had so much pain waiting for me, when I thought I’d already endured more than I could. I had so much heartbreak waiting, when I thought my heart was already shattered completely. I had so much growth ahead of me, when I thought the root was dead, finally, killed by too much suffering at the end of a life of too much suffering.

What I didn’t know, a year ago yesterday, was everything. I didn’t know the pain still to come (so glad for that); I didn’t know the harshness January and February would bring me (so glad for that); I didn’t know I’d find such beautiful things in myself, I didn’t know how strong I am even though I thought I did; I didn’t know my life would become better than it has ever been, filled with so many people who would just open their arms to me and take me in. I didn’t know I’d build a home for myself. I didn’t know I’d be surrounded by people. I didn’t know I’d thrive. And I certainly didn’t know I’d find my way back in New York City regularly, I certainly didn’t know I’d find some way to stay connected to my husband, I certainly didn’t know (and in fact would’ve bet everything against it) that he would change so much, so deeply, and in the ways I most needed. I assume I’ve made similar changes. I didn’t know I would in fact get to travel — didn’t know I’d go to Java and Bali, didn’t know Sri Lanka would be in my future, a year ago. I didn’t know that from my place of such tremendous want, I’d end up with such enormous surplus.

Just goes to show you. It ain’t over til it’s over, no matter how it looks in the dark. Katie, Trey, thank you for the ways you gave ME a home and a safety net, and all your love. Marnie, Tom, thank you for your optimism and support, assuring me I would be better than I dreamed. All that isn’t limited to a year ago yesterday, of course — it came before and it continues after that anniversary, but when I was at my greatest need, you held me. For such an unlucky person I am the luckiest person in the whole world.

I’m 55. 55 years old.

my last day as a 54-year-old.
my last day as a 54-year-old.

Today — my 55th birthday — I am again in the air, flying away. And so I will miss your Facebook birthday greetings until late in the evening, and I will miss your notes and emails but when I see them, they will make me feel loved. I’m ridiculously silly about my birthday; when I used to work in an office, if the UPS guy showed up on that day I’d suddenly demand that he sing happy birthday to me and he usually did, in shock. (Who does that?! Seriously.)

So many people who read this blog are new to it — my Austin friends, for example. For those of you who have been around for a few years, you may remember this and if so, I’m sorry for repeating. This is the post I wrote when I turned 53, modified and updated to fit. Happy birthday to me!

* * *

I’m mid-century modern. I know that most people think of architecture and furniture and decorations when they hear that phrase, like these:

midcenturymodern

 

I was born in the small north Texas town of Graham, on November 6, 1958 — mid-century….mid-last-century, which is pretty weird. That year Dwight Eisenhower was the President, hula hoops the rage, NASA was created, Sir Edmund Hillary reached the South Pole, and Elvis was inducted into the army. There was a crazy economic recession that year; the average price for a new house was $12,570; monthly rent was $92; average annual salary was $4,600, and gas cost 25 cents/gallon. Volare and Tequila were popular songs; popular movies were Vertigo, Gigi, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. On the tube, people watched Candid Camera, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jack Benny Show, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (in black and white, of course).

I was the first-born child of an 18-year-old girl and a 19-year-old boy, both high school dropouts. One dear grandfather was an oilfield roughneck until he retired, at which point he was the janitor at the hospital; I’m not sure he made it to 8th grade. One grandmother was Comanche; she preferred to live alone in the woods.

Everyone’s lives are far too complex to summarize…..certainly in a silly little public blog post. But here, as I turn 55 years old, I can say these things with certainty:

  • My life has been much, much better than it had any right to be, given its start.
  • Becoming a mother redeemed and saved me.
  • For most of my adult life, I’ve felt like I was 27. I think I feel like I’m 28 now.
  • I’ve gone places I didn’t even know to dream about when I was growing up:
    • physical places like Hanoi (Vietnam) and Varanasi (India) and Arequipa (Peru) and Enkuisen (The Netherlands) and Istanbul (Turkey) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Bagan (Myanmar) and Raab (Croatia) and Luang Prabang (Laos) and  Yogyakarta (Java) and Ubud (Bali); the Ganges and the Mekong Rivers;
    • emotional places like so far gone in love with my children;
    • intellectual places, like getting a PhD (I thought grad school was just like 17th grade, and if you wanted to just stay on after you got a bachelor’s you just kind of kept hanging around);
    • life places, like working on Madison Ave for a big-ass publisher and living in Manhattan.
  • You probably do get to have everything, just not all at once, or when it would be most convenient for you.
  • The trick: get up at least one more time than you fall down.
  • Literature and poetry can save you.
  • Art too.
  • You’re stronger than you imagine.
  • Laughing helps.
  • Love is gold.
  • Hope isn’t about pink ponies and rainbows and sunny happy feelings; hope is that thing with feathers that perches in your soul, and you need it.

Since my last birthday, my life has changed so dramatically I hardly recognize it. On my last birthday, I was in such deep grief from our losing Gracie and from having to leave Katie I was reeling. We re-elected Obama on my birthday two days after I got home. And the next day, my marriage apparently ended, poof. I packed my clothes in my suitcases, left New York City, a place I loved so much, and flew to Austin, to start over from scorched earth. Since my last birthday, I learned how very strong my kids and I are. I learned that somehow I made an extraordinary family even though I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I learned that I am strong enough to clutch the bedsheets and bear being right in the middle of the pain without looking away. I found such beautiful, beautiful, beautiful friends in Austin, and kept my connections to equally beautiful friends in New York, so my life got so much bigger. I made my poetry group, a monthly source of deep pleasure. I created a beautiful little home that looks like me, and is comfortable. I took a solitary trip to the desert, to Marfa, to do what people have always gone to the desert to do — to reflect, study my heart, shift. My husband and I decided to see if we could find our way together somehow and we went to Java and Bali in the spring. I flew back and forth to New York City several times, to Chicago once to see Marnie and Tom. A client flew me to Beverly Hills for a week and put me up in a sweet little B&B. Sherlock and Peggy flew down to spend a long weekend with me. I got to see Neko Case performing for a taping of Austin City Limits. I learned that a terrible crazy person is suing me and so I hired my first-ever lawyer. I got to meet Nick Flynn and spend time with him. I read a lot of good books and poems, ate so many delicious meals, laughed for hours and hours and hours, cried for that many too.  I learned that I enjoy my own company, and that I can do this. I learned my very own life, my very own self, and I wouldn’t have done that without the bomb blast to my life. In a life with a lot of competition for this title, this past year definitely wins “The Most Dramatic Year of My Life” award.

The coming year will bring more of the same (but not the bomb blast please): flying back and forth to New York, a trip to the Catskills in a couple of days, a trip to Sri Lanka in a couple of weeks and a spring trip to Greece. Hours and hours of laughing with my children and my friends, my dearly loved people, all of you. At least one giant surprise. Shared meals, shared afternoons and lunches and walks. Shared quiet times, shared private conversations, shared group fun. Lots and lots of reading and writing, two of my favorite things to do. Time spent with myself in the deep pleasure of solitude. And this Christmas, Marnie and Tom come from Chicago, so all we’d need would be Will, and my sweet little family would all be together. The five of us will celebrate the holiday with great joy and wonderful food.

So happy birthday to me, to another fine though difficult year behind, and another one to come.  If you haven’t made it to the 50s yet, I heartily recommend it as an excellent decade of life.

how beautifully leaves grow old
how full of light and color
are their last days
~john burroughs

love xo
Lori

peace and harmony

religionWhen I was in college, my major was psychology and my minor was philosophy. One of my favorite courses was the philosophy of eastern and western religions. It was a senior-level course and I was a freshman, but I guess since I was nearly twice as old as all the other students an exception was made. 🙂 At the end of the semester we all had to present papers to the class, and the department chair sat in. I was so totally freaked out and intimidated, sure that I was the big dumb idiot of the class (although afterwards the department chair pleaded with me to change my major to philosophy, hmph). But standing there in front of the class, the only woman and only slightly younger than the professor and the chair, I was so overwhelmed I kind of dissociated. I started hearing a buzzing in my ears, and then the light all around me turned kind of soft and pink, and then the next thing I knew I’d finished my presentation to applause.

All I remember about it now is that I was interested in the fact that for Christians, we were created and then thrown out, and our task is to find our way back and maybe we’ll be good enough, maybe not. But for Buddhists, the task is just to grasp that you are already there, and that the idea you aren’t is an illusion. I thought that idea was so powerful, and everything that follows from it fascinates me. And aren’t those the most blissful moments, when something shifts and the edges and boundaries disappear, time goes away, you just ARE, it just IS, it’s all right there and it’s just kind of one thing? Shoot, even typing that sentence makes me cry. Athletes seek that kind of space — the “zone” — and artists and writers find it on occasion. Not to sound too philosophy/Buddhist-ish, but those are the moments when the self disappears.

In my life right now, I am trying to uncategorize things, to let my life have a kind of wholeness in all the ways I can. I’ve been meditating every day, and then later doing a second loving-kindness or self-compassion guided meditation as I get ready to sleep. I’m trying to integrate movement into my life throughout the day, rather than shoehorning it into periods of “work”out. Which I’ve always hated. (Because it’s work!) I pause from my work and pick up the weighted hula hoop for 10 minutes of crazy happy dance/hooping, then go back to my work. I park at the farthest end of the parking lot and look at the sky and clouds as I walk into the grocery store. Walking every morning in the dark opens my mind and I connect to the soft air, float into it.

My easier approach to food has been a real relief and pleasure — I can luxuriate in delicious fresh food, knowing it’s all so good for my body, and I don’t have to think or stress out about it. Silky creamy green smoothies welcome me into the day. Strangely, my food cravings have disappeared. I’m not sure I’d even eat a Peep if you put it in my hand. (I know!!!)

And as always, music ushers me most often into that self-disappeared space. Thank god for music, and for people who write and perform music. For people like Neko Case, who wrote this song after seeing a little kid suffer at the mouth of his mother. When I heard it yesterday, I was in the kitchen making hummus and I literally did collapse onto the kitchen floor, dropping to my knees, and sobbing.

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It cracked my heart open, cracked everything wide open, and made me so grateful for her, and made me feel so connected to all the suffering people, especially all the suffering kids. Then an old Nilsson song, “Everybody’s Talking At Me” played and I felt a very particular kind of loose and rambling joy, connecting me to the happy world. Then “South American Getaway” from Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, making me laugh so hard thinking of my kids when they were little. My son Will used to say he wanted someday to have a house and a piece of that song would be the doorbell ring. And so that connected me to the life I’ve been living all these years, the thread of me back through time, and then forward through time through my kids.

connectionAnd my people, all my people. My beautiful, beautiful children, who I love more than anything on this earth. My beautiful sisters and brothers, adopted as my own, who hold me up and let me into their hearts. My most wonderful friends in Austin, in New York City, and around the country and world. Bits of me are in all of you, so the net is flung wide — I’m not just a brain in a body sitting alone in my living room behind a locked door, I am spread around, through you.

I don’t always experience my life like this — of course — but when I do, as I am now, I try so hard to pause and let it soak into me. I feel all the gratitude I have for it all, I breathe and put my arms out, I cry when “Closing Time” comes on, Lyle Lovett, and then I throw my head back and laugh when K. C. sings “Boogie Shoes.”

And you take a piece of me into you, you read my words and like mist I’m part of you too, at least for a bit. We connect in the space that these little black characters create. I think about you while I’m writing, I imagine you reading, and I smile. Some of you I know about, some I’m aware of but don’t know who you are, and some appear once and flit away.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever is happening in your life right now, I’m grateful you participate in mine. Thanks, and much love. xoxo

i get around

If you are lucky, life is long enough to surprise the hell out of you. If you are lucky, life drops beautiful little treats and treasures at your feet, gives you experiences that leave you slack-jawed and changed forever. Some of these will be terrible and some will be out of left field and some will be better than rubies. For me, one of these better-than-rubies surprises is that I’ve been lucky enough to travel. I left Texas for the first time when I was 22; my then-husband and I went to Cozumel for a long weekend.

yeah, my hair was platinum then. and i was out of my mind with joy.

The first time I left the United States  (except for that Cozumel trip) was when I was in graduate school, in 2002, and went to Paris and Glasgow. I was 43. That was the most amazing thing to me, since I love Paris with all my heart. I went immediately to Notre Dame and stood there just crying. I was jet lagged and goofy, but my joy and tears were real. As a literary location, Notre Dame has meant so much to me over my life, and I never thought I’d get to see it in person. I stood: across the Seine from it, in front of it, inside it, I walked around it, I touched it, I bowed my head and cried some more. I was in PARIS. Me. Me. I walked and wandered. I touched the old wall, I wandered in the great neighborhoods, I lounged at sidewalk cafes and drank many an espresso and watched elegant Parisians do their elegant Parisian thing. I went to the Louvre, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musee d’Orsay, and the Picasso Museum. I ate beautiful food. I was too shy to speak my Texas French. In my rental car, I drove through brilliant yellow fields to Chartres and cried in that rose-windowed cathedral. I was dazzled.

My people never traveled, except for their on-the-run life. All our moving was just around Texas, and we didn’t take vacations. My family did once, but I was living with my father and missed it (they told me it was so much better since I wasn’t there . . . jerks). They drove to LA, I think. That was their big travel. So I didn’t grow up with traveling, didn’t have it in my mind as something that could happen for me, not something I could even dream of. The Paris and Glasgow trip was a gift; the man I was seeing at the time had to travel for his work and invited me to come along. He dropped me off in Paris and he went on to Germany, so I had that glorious city all to myself. Still, that seemed like a one-off, a surprise present, not the beginning of a new way of thinking about the world.

When I met Marc in 2005, in March, I hadn’t done any traveling since that Paris trip and I was astonished by the world traveling he had done — but again, didn’t think it was in the cards for me and my life. That August we went to Vietnam and the die was cast for me. I can’t not travel now, I can’t not eat up the world, I can’t stay put while there is so much world to see. Traveling has been a whole treasure chest of gifts.

The world includes Marfa, and Palo Duro Canyon (“The Grand Canyon of Texas” and the next home state place I want to venture), and places I’ve already been and those still to be seen. Of all the ways my life is kind of strange and unimaginable to me, getting to see the world is the most mysterious. I often forget I have a PhD and got my education, and I don’t dismiss it but somehow it’s not as wondrous. It was a tremendous accomplishment, and it was very hard since I was doing it while raising three kids mostly by myself, and I’m grateful for it and never thought it would happen for me, but it’s this travel thing I can’t wrap my head around in terms of my good luck.

When we lived in Connecticut — right in the middle of the state — people in our neighborhood had never even been to the CT coast. Which, you know, in such a tiny state is practically within spitting distance. I know a woman who never left her hometown in PA because she’d have to go over a bridge and she didn’t like that idea. I know a lot of people who just have no interest in traveling, and a lot more who like traveling but don’t want to veer away from familiar comforts so they stick to Europe and the Caribbean. I wasn’t in any of those groups; travel was just not even conceivable. I didn’t have opinions about it because it wasn’t even among the possibilities I could think of. Now, though, in addition to my deep love of Paris I add my deep love of Hanoi, and Phnom Penh, and Luang Prabang, and Bagan and Nyaung Shwe, and Varanasi, and Cusco, and Ubud, and if only there were several of me, I’d send one copy to each of those places to live forever. And then I wonder how many other places there are in the world that I’d love just as much? And the people — oh, the energy of the Vietnamese, among my favorite people in the whole world, and the charm of Cambodians, and the gentle warmth of the Lao, and the wonder of the Balinese people. I might never have known about that.

Those places in the world now belong to me. When I hear terrible news from any one of them, it’s personal. I care very much and can now be heartbroken in a different way by tragedy that hits those people. Travel does so many things: it jolts you out of thinking that the way you live is the way people live; it shows you a lot of different ways people live and organize and think about life; it shows you how very lucky you are, and how rich (even if like me you aren’t rich at all by US standards); it shows you how impoverished you are by the limited ideas you started with about how life is meant to be lived. And you get to see beauty and ugliness and strength and courage and the effects of badly used power and cruelty. And you have to face the policies of your own country, and I promise you will hang your head as we did in Laos and Vietnam. Travel makes it a lot harder to keep your head in the sand, and that’s both good and bad of course.

Even though I’m terribly jet lagged and kind of goofy still from the Indonesia trip, I’m already scheming and planning for where to go next, what to see next. I’d love to go back to Marfa, or to Big Bend, but I’m really kind of thinking about going up to Palo Duro Canyon. It’s an 8-hour drive, more or less (like anywhere in Texas, it seems), and I haven’t seen it since 1980 so I think it’s time, don’t you? Maybe you’ll go along with me…..

joy

joyTell me what joy is? I think it’s something like a smell, in that you can only get to it by referring to something else. This smell is like that, it smells like vanilla or chocolate, like jasmine. But what does jasmine smell like? Can you give a more refined answer than “sweet”?

Joy is like that, I think. It’s like happy, but can you be more refined than that? More refined than “really happy?” I can talk about what gets me there, you can probably talk about what gets you there, and we can probably agree on some general things that get us all there, like seeing the new baby born into our family, or having all our family together in one place after a long time. Being in a gloriously beautiful place. Things like that.

I am basically filled with joy these days, and I keep saying out loud, just loud enough for me to hear it, just think what my life was like in January. It is so surprising. I am having such joy from being near Katie and Trey and having easy opportunities to see them without it being a big deal. I am having such joy from my regular weekly talks with Marnie, and I get to see her and Tom next weekend! Such joy from my beautiful little home, now deeply familiar to me and lived-in and we are part of each other. Such joy from new friends who are no longer just acquaintances — new friends who make me so rich, like un-neurotic Janet, who has already helped pull me into a change I’ve tried so hard to make for many years. Such joy from these blue skies white clouds and bluebonnets and wine cups and glorious flowers in busy places. Such joy from exciting plans coming up, travel to Chicago and New York and Indonesia, and then my precious friends Peggy and Sherlock coming to see me.  Joy from poetry and words and images — including poetry written by my friend Wayne, who wrote this poem I shared back in February, titled “The Temptation of Movement” — and Maggie Nelson’s blue words, and Louise Gluck, and so many words in The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker sitting on my coffee table in growing stacks and so little time to soak them all in, so an embarrassment of joyous riches.

And food, my old familiar food like barbecue and TexMex and pralines and migas, and sharing it with people who know just how to eat it, who know that your barbecue should be served on a piece of butcher paper and the appropriate sides are sliced onions and pickles and a stack of plain old sliced white bread, and that iced tea is unsweetened, and that the best follow-up is banana pudding or peach cobbler.

I think I have felt so out of place for so long, and there is joy in being embedded in familiar. I love New York, love love love love it, with all my heart, and miss it terribly. I’m only now being able to watch shows that are filmed in New York without breaking down in tears from the pain of missing it. New York is mine, and when people here ask me in bewilderment New York? Why? I have a thousand quick and easy answers, and I automatically sit up a little straighter and lean in and get excited and start gesturing loudly as I answer. And it’s also true that I always felt outside it in some way, not having grown up with bagels and alternate side parking. New York is my adopted home and Texas is my natural home, and just as with your children, you love the adopted one just as much as the natural one, every bit as much, but when you look at your natural child’s face you can see the familiar bone structure in a way you just can’t in your adopted child’s face. The love is no less, no different, but the bone structure is there anyway. I felt such joy being part of New York and having it be part of me, so this is not about feeling joy here but not there. But being here is giving me the joy of my familiar.

It has been such a surprise, finding myself waking up with joy, sitting with it throughout the day, and going to sleep with it. (And sleep! Oh yes, oh how well I have been sleeping, another gigantic joy that’s undoubtedly catalyzing the rest.) No one knows better than I know that it’s a blip, this joy, that life is never just one thing, ever, and that all kinds of things are waiting for me just ahead, more joy and less joy, more trouble, more hardship, more pleasures. So what is there to do but soak and revel in this while it is here, be present, notice it, drink it in, glow it back out so perhaps someone else gets a glancing whisper of it.

I hope so much that there is joy in your life right now, from something. And if there isn’t, I hope you can remember that there will be, one of these days, and if you’ve been following me since last October, you know that I know what I’m talking about. Happy Sunday, y’all. xo

deep waters

deepwaterI seem to be in a little run of mainly writing on Fridays, for some strange reason. (Maybe it’s my subconscious prodding me to resume my Friday posts about my tattoos. Hmmm.) But one of these days—and I can’t wait for it—I’ll be back to having lots of things to say every day because I’m thinking about lots of things and need to work through them by writing about them. Right now, though, I’m just floating in some deep water.

And I’m sleeping like that too, still and deep. One night I got an idea to tuck one pillow against my back and maybe it’s a coincidence, but I’ve slept amazingly well ever since. My husband always slept tucked against my back with his leg draped over mine, and somehow that made me feel safe, like I wasn’t going to drift away. So feeling the slight pressure of that pillow against my back must make me feel safe or something. I drift off to sleep within ~half an hour of getting in bed and sleep straight through until 9am, usually. A couple of nights ago I had twin nightmares in the middle of the night and it was hard to calm down enough to go to sleep, but excepting that, it’s a long, deep, quenching sleep, the kind that just feels so good, you know? My consciousness drifts near the surface at moments and I just have an underawareness of how wonderful the sheets feel, I stretch my legs and it feels so good, I take a deep breath and dive down again. I’m having funny little dreams (except for those nightmares), which tells me I am actually sleeping. I spontaneously wake up just before 9am and I feel wonderful. Last night, I apparently did not move at all; the covers were flat around me as they were when I went to sleep. I could’ve just slid out of the bed and the bed would’ve been made. Well, the unfortunate effect of that is that the muscles in my shoulders and lower neck didn’t get to move and they’re hurting. I need a deep tissue massage.

Deep is appearing so much in my mind and life right now, but it always has. Once, when I was 12, I sat in the car with my mother and stepfather and he looked at me and said, “Still waters run deep,” prompting my mother to do her mean little attacky thing because she wasn’t getting all the attention. I ignored her and thought about what that saying meant about me, and whether it was right. I’ve heard it said of me various times since then, and the first thing I think is Still waters? I’m a thrasher! Within the last couple of years I’ve become significantly less thrashy (thank you dear Sherlock for giving me that word a few years ago, saying there was a certain thrashing quality about me, so true). My daughters noted it, and Sherlock told me spontaneously that there’s so much less thrashing now. Aging, hard work, deep thought, hard times, all work together in my life. And hard times carve deep valleys; my dear son-in-law Trey mentioned this old poem about a week ago, quoting the bolded line below when we were talking about our dear little Gracie:

On Joy and Sorrow
Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Yeah. What he said. Deep-carved sorrows leave space to be filled. I don’t think it’s necessarily and always the case that those empty spaces become filled with the capacity for joy, they can also become filled with bitterness and jealousy and contempt. I’ve seen that. But I’ve been carved so deep for so long, beginning as a tiny child, and I’m grateful that what filled me has mostly been the capacity for joy. That’s one reason I love my daughter Marnie’s recent comic published by Saveur Magazine, about her trip to Marrakesh. The magazine sent her there and to Madrid, asking that she create comic travelogues about each place and the Marrakesh comic just went live. It’s a thing we have in common, an easy sense of wonder and gratitude, and it’s present so beautifully in her comic, in a moving but then funny way.

It’s drizzly and gray here today, a good day for hunkering down and working and whaddya know, I have work. I hope it’s a good Friday and weekend for you, whatever it’s like where you are. Lots of love.

xo

the slow reboot

Oh how quiet I’ve been! I haven’t written a post in several days, obviously (if you’ve noticed; it’s hard to notice the absence of something). Often when I go quiet like this it’s a sign of depression, and in fact when my mind doesn’t have words it’s so startling to me it gets my immediate attention. Now, though, I don’t feel at all depressed. Sad here and there, sure, of course, but not depressed. Not even depressed in the casual way people say that, like “oh, I’m so depressed about the crappy avocados.” Nope, not depressed. Just really quiet.

In fact, it has been growing in a particular way, my quietness. Like a paper towel with one edge touching a puddle of water, and the water slowly wicks its way through until the whole towel is wet. That’s how my quietness has been. It’s really very curious, actually. It feels like I’m pulling inward, more more more, just watching. Observing this process with a bit of wonder. Hey, what’s going on here, this is kind of interesting. (But not thought out in words. 🙂 ) A friend asked me about my silence and I said it kind of feels organic, some part of a process, and I realized I feel like I’m moving along a U-shaped curve. Not this one, but one like it:

a classic pattern
a classic pattern

So I’m approaching (or maybe at) the low point of a line that has a built-in route going up again. It’s not a bad feeling; we tend to think down/low = bad and up/high = good, but this feeling doesn’t have that valence attached. Down is just down the curve, not good or bad. But what is this about, this internal silence, this loss of words, this quietude?

rebootThis morning I got an idea about what’s happening. I think my system is rebooting! I’ve been going through a process of learning how to be all alone (not all alone in the world, happily; I have so many loved ones, and family). Being all alone, from wake-up to night-night. Getting out of bed alone, no one to speak to. Coffee, brushing my teeth, getting dressed (do I? Why?), working all day, making dinner and eating it all alone, passing the evening, going through my bedtime ritual, climbing into a bed empty except for me, and drifting off to solitary sleep without the animal comfort of a warm person sleeping over there too, no breath but mine, only my own comfort from waking nightmares, or hearing sounds at night. When I first started living alone, the silence bothered me, a lot. I could easily go a few days without hearing another voice or using mine, and I started talking out loud to myself all the time. (It tickled me that my default self-talk took the form of, “Well! That was a genius idea! Aren’t you smart!”) But as the silence has settled around me, as the reboot process began, I started feeling much more comfortable in the silence. Not bothered by it. Relishing it, even, like a light velvet blanket, the softest lightest thing, beautiful.

Soon I will be going into the desert alone, for three days and two nights. I chose the period of the full moon, so I can enjoy that out in such a lonely beautiful landscape. (It just hit me that going during the new moon might’ve been better for seeing all the glorious stars. Oh well. Another time.) When I made those plans I was a little worried about the solitude but now I’m really looking forward to it. It’s such a long and ancient tradition, going into the desert for renewal. There is something scouring there, stripping away the nonsense so the true thing becomes visible. Oh I can’t wait.

It’s nice to feel like writing again, even if I am writing about not writing. I have the best, most loving friends and family who watch over me — thank you for your concern about my silence, and I hope this gives you a better sense of how I am, which is quietly, quietly brilliant. Quietly filled with hope. Quietly quietly watching and waiting for my rebooted self to emerge in joy.

glory be

sunset
let the sun go down on me when it looks like this

I talk to my husband back in New York City and he tells me it’s freezing, 13 degrees, with that brilliant diamond dust snow. He thought he might do a particular thing last night, but it was just too cold to venture out. I, on the other hand, had all the doors and windows open and the ceiling fans going because it was in the way upper 70s, an absolutely gorgeous day — at least as I saw it through the French doors, because I work almost every waking minute. Which place would I rather be? I don’t know.

But. But! Yesterday also had some moments of glory and real happiness. And not the hollow ones I wrote about earlier this week, where there’s a sense of going through the motions. In the way these things work, they were the smallest most mundane things. You’ll laugh, but one came while I was doing laundry. All the years in New York, I did our laundry which involved schlepping it down to the basement with a pocketful of quarters, and hoping the machines were available. It was dicey when our building got infested with bedbugs (we never got them) — did that person taking their clothes out of the washer or dryer have bedbugs? Would we get them now? In my new house, my washer and dryer are in the garage, and I walk out my front door, cross the breezeway, just a couple of steps, and open the door to the machines.

The people who live in the other side of my duplex are away for four months on a round-the-world cruise, so I have the whole property to myself. I stripped the sheets off my bed, gathered up a bit of other laundry, and walked out to the machines. When I started the washer, I thought huh, why don’t I just leave the doors open so I can hear when it finishes? So I did. (Our front doors are next to each other so I wouldn’t do that when they’re home.) I walked back to my computer and the warm air was flowing through the house and the sky was so blue and there was the homey sound of laundry being done, and my whole being came together and I was so so happy. I just was. I felt whole and happy, taking good care of myself, living in a home that looks more like a home already than my NYC apartment ever did, even after six years. Even better, though, it looks like me, it feels like me, it’s lovely and personal. I think the kind of happiness that engulfs you often comes in these perfectly ordinary moments. I had one in 1983 when I was taking a lemon meringue pie out of the oven, I still remember that one. Perfectly ordinary, quite mundane. I’m not sure you can try to make that happen, though being mindful during any process changes it a bit. But I don’t know if I could mindful my way to that kind of moment.

The other wasn’t so mundane, and it always grabs me. But today, I was already so happy, it pushed me into GLORY BE! land. I cannot sit still when I hear Chuck Berry sing “You Never Can Tell,” and the scene from Pulp Fiction is a great use of the song.

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I have a playlist I listen to in the background during the day, and I was walking through the living room when the song came on. I kind of did a leap in the air and had to dance. Twisting, twisting, twisting, doing all those great 60s dances, laughing out loud, taking up all the space, dancing through my whole house. I am sadly so out of shape that I could hardly breathe when the song ended, but I had enough breath to laugh.

Whatever else the day brought — lots of work, three Skype calls, dinner-making and cleaning up — it was a day I had my own happiness and joy, connecting all the parts of me into one. Hallelujah y’all.

good thing of the day: the brilliant way music can take you to a different place. stop and think about how cool that is, you just hear some sounds and your body can change, your mood can shift, you move around in time. THAT IS AMAZING.

true confession: the magic minute version

This is such a complicated little thing — on the one hand, it’s one of my favorite little quirks about myself. But on the other hand, it may sound grandiose and since I don’t think I’m a grandiose person, I wouldn’t want you to get the wrong impression. But it just happened again and it made me giggle at myself, so I thought I’d share.

My birthday is November 6. November — month 11. If you write my birthday with numbers, it’s 11/6. 11/06. Never mind the year, it’s actually irrelevant (though I’m not shy: it’s 1958).

When I was in my early 20s, for some unknown reason I glanced at the clock one day and it was 11:06 and I said, “Ah! It’s the magic minute! Eleven-oh-six, the magic minute. My birthday!” And the idea just stuck. Two chances a day to catch the magic minute. I taught my husband that if he happened to see the magic minute, he had to give me a kiss. Lots of winning! Where the phrase “magic minute” came from, I have absolutely no idea.

I am crazy about my birthday, as you know if you’ve been around this or my other blog. More accurately: I am crazy about birthdays. I’m just as crazy about yours! Why not — it’s one day out of the year that marks our time here, that is pointedly about the birthday person. Hallelujah, I’ve been here another year, and I look ahead to the next. Hallelujah, I’m so glad I was born! And so glad you were born! Magic minutes all around! When it’s your birthday, I will be just as silly about it, and just as grateful that you’re here, because I am.

It’s funny just how often I happen to catch the magic minute. I’ll be engrossed in work, or anything else, and glance at the clock to see 11:06. It probably happens at least a couple of times each week. Now there’s no one to give me a kiss if they notice the magic minute, but that’s ok. I note it and feel my own delight at being here.

i have a dream

My dream is much smaller than Martin Luther King’s (because I am a much smaller person), but I do have a dream for myself, for my life. I know things have been moody and dark and heavy around the palace lately, and I’m grateful for you sticking with me. On occasion I think I’d better write something upbeat, and fast, or people will just get sick of me and unsubscribe! And I try to do that, but it’s not where I am right now so I just can’t do it. And anyway, what this blog means to me is a record of my authentic experience, so I just let that worry go and hope you’ll stick with me until the light returns to my heart. Because I know it will, I really do.

Here is my vision for next year, for myself, my heart, my life, and I am confident it will happen. I will feel happy again, my old joyous self will return. My little house will become more and more my home, my comfort, but I won’t stay in it all the time, as I do now. On Monday nights I’ll go to the weekly rehearsal of the Threshold Choir; one night a month my poetry group will convene in my living room; I’ll reconnect with my old friends here in Austin and make new ones; I’ll get out and listen to live music, Austin’s famous specialty; I’ll take little weekend roadtrips; happy music will fill my home, and the smell of delicious food will come from my kitchen. I’ll find a book club. I’ll get back to reading voraciously. I’ll play my guitar, and sing again. I’ll get back to my writing.

Friends will come over regularly. I’ll fully inhabit my home, and my life, and I won’t be so scared all the time. I’ll still cry — oh yes I will, and regularly, because it’s who I am — but it won’t always be the wrenching cry of a broken heart. Because my heart will heal, it always does and it will again.

I’ll see Katie and Trey because we want to, not just because I need their help (though we’ll always help each other, it’s what we do). I’ll be able to give help much more easily, because I’ll have myself back, my full set of resources, and that will make me happy too.

And what else next year brings? I don’t know, but I hope it has a lot of good things in store for me, after the brutal things 2012 brought. Perhaps my work will grow or change. Perhaps there will be a new pregnancy to celebrate. Perhaps all three of my children (and their husbands) will have great things happen for them next year, long-awaited and hoped-for good things. Perhaps my old friends will come visit, perhaps I’ll travel. There will be hard times, I know, but perhaps they won’t be at the scale of this year’s. Please.

I’ll know my home in all seasons, how the light falls, and I’ll know myself in all seasons too. Even though I feel like I am often changing and growing, there is a very steady core to who I’ve always been, and I’ll sit quietly in the core because I know who I am. 

Isn’t that the loveliest vision?

make my wish come true….

There. Your day is made. Thanks to my girl Katie for posting this on her facebook wall!

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happy. just happy.

Yesterday I was happy all day long. It’s the first day I’ve been happy in nearly 7 weeks, since I got that terrible call from dear Katie, about our precious Grace. After seven weeks in the  terrible dark, a happy day is almost blinding.

It helps that I slept the night before — I haven’t been sleeping at all, though I’ve had a few nights of uneasy sleep, anxious sleep, scared sleep. But I slept from 11pm to 7:30am, a long luxurious sleep. Undoubtedly that set me on a good path for the day.

And then there was a cloudburst; nothing big, not big enough to register with the weather service, but big enough in my neighborhood to give me 20 minutes or so of pure pleasure. I sat with my French doors open, listening to the rain splashing on the dry crunchy leaves, breathing in that delicious smell of rain hitting dry dirt, and then listening to the rain dripping from the trees and the eaves of the house. The air smelled so sweet, that ozone smell that fills the air after a rain. I had a couple of phone calls with clients, a day filled with work, and it felt just fine to be me, in my new life.

Partly what helped was that Katie and I figured out how to arrange the couch in my living room, so even though it’s completely empty except for the couch, I can now “see” the rest of the pieces that will fill the space. I can now “see” it as the comfortable, cozy space it will be. I’m trying to organize a poetry group here, since it was one of my favorite experiences in New York, and so far 12 people have indicated interest so I’m looking at my imaginary living room and imagining it filled with people talking about poetry. Perhaps a meeting of a book club. People talking about things I love, in my own cozy home. Temma and I once talked about having a salon, and maybe I can do that here. I never could invite people into our apartment in New York, partly because my husband saw patients in our apartment and the arrangement of the rooms made evening company impossible. Also, and more importantly, I never felt like the place was mine, it certainly never looked like me, or felt like my own place, so I’m especially looking forward to having people in my new home. To good conversation, to an open bottle of wine, and to that specific kind of pleasure in my place.

Also, partly what helped was another day of not having to run around and do things, buy things; another day of just sitting with myself, another day without some big terrible thing happening. Man, I just need some more of those!

And my day ended so sweetly, with a nighttime walk in my neighborhood, which is lit up with Christmas lights:

Today will be another day like yesterday (though there might not be rain….) — but most importantly, a day spent with myself, in the quiet, just living my life. I cannot seem to get enough of those.

Thursday Katie and I plan to go out shopping for my living room, and I finally look forward to that. I’ll work on Saturday and/or Sunday, but one night of the weekend I want to go to south Austin to see the Zilker Christmas tree, which is 155 feet tall. The fun thing to do is stand underneath it and spin around while looking up, making yourself dizzy. The last time I went, they had hot chocolate and carolers, and I hope they still do.

 

So, much to look forward to. Plenty of work. The pleasure of good coffee in a quiet morning. A day of work, a day without tragedy. Something good for dinner, something I make for myself. And fun in the days to come. Home-making in the days to come. Conversations with friends, time to reflect and maybe even to read (I hope! I hope!). Time one of these days to start getting out and remembering my old friend Austin.

Thanks for holding me up, y’all — you can relax your grip a little now. I’m OK.

good morning!

How about a little Oliver this morning?

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It’s a beautiful day. My new life is about to take off, and I am ready for it. I’m tired of grieving and feeling sad, I’m tired of being tired. Last night I talked to my husband, whose life is suddenly better than it ever has been. He’s doing things he’s never done, going out several times a week, cooking for himself after thinking he couldn’t cook again, since it was something he always did for me. Given this, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear that he’s also polishing up his old match.com profile, although he didn’t say that.

As you can imagine, this landed on me in a couple of ways. For him, yay! Good for him. Seriously. But for me, it felt crushing. I left 12 days ago, and he has already zoomed into the best life he’s ever had. The loss of our relationship didn’t weigh him down for very long, at all.

So I lay in bed most of the night thinking about this. A part of me wanted to suddenly be happy just to show him that things meant so little to me too, ha. Except I don’t work that way, and I don’t want to diminish what my relationship with him meant to me. I don’t want to turn it into something else, just to deal with the way this hurts me. Around 6am I drifted off to sleep for an hour, and when I woke up at 7, I lay there looking at the ceiling fan, looking at the sun coming through the blinds, not thinking much at all.

When I woke up at 9, I thought that all these things are true simultaneously — I am crushed by the loss of my marriage, by leaving New York City, by grief and pain. Crushed. AND tomorrow I head over to my new place, with my and Katie’s cars filled to the brim with all this stuff we had to get for me, to begin my whole new life. Right now, all the things I picked out individually are just sitting en masse in bags and boxes, made uniform by the white bags. Other things are still to be delivered, or picked up. But each one I selected because I loved it (or it worked….I mean, I don’t have to love the little organizer that holds flatware!), so as I start putting them away into my beautiful new home, it’s going to be mine, filled with things that make me glad, decorated with things that actually look like me.

And it’ll be December, the last month of this stinking year, but an exciting month. Settling into my home and creating the next phase of my long life; flying back to New York to see dearly loved friends; celebrating the holidays in a different way than I’ve ever celebrated them before (how many ways can one do this? A lot, turns out!).

The long wait is nearly over, today is New Life Eve. And I am excited. I thought about putting Gloria Gaynor’s great old song I Will Survive in this post, but opted instead for the gentle joy of Good Morning Starshine, because gentle feels more like me right now than strident. Oh, I will…..I will survive, I know that. But today I sing

Gliddy gloop gloopy

Nibby nobby nooby

La la la lo lo

Sabba sibby sabba

Nooby abba dabba

Le le lo lo

dooby ooby walla

dooby abba dabba

Early morning singing song

elements

As a child of the western US landscape, I can never get enough of the big giant sky. It didn’t once bother me, living in Manhattan and having to look straight up to see the sky — it didn’t make me feel claustrophobic or miss the sky, particularly. There was so much else going on that I loved, so it was OK.

But I’m telling you, being back in this landscape makes me feel giddy. Drunk on sky. Dazed by the big hanging moon, drifting across the black night sky. Dazzled by the white clouds floating past. Yesterday I drove from Katie’s house down to my new place to meet the landlord and sign the lease, and I laughed and laughed, watching the giant sky. It’s like the ocean, like the big vast ocean filled with cloudbergs, all around me as far as I can see.

At one point on the highway, there were 3 big flyovers straight ahead, against the brilliant blue sky, and I had a science fiction movie moment seeing the cars scooting through the air on three thin ribbons, against the blue. Again I laughed.

And the twilight sky here is amazing, too.  One of Austin’s nicknames is City of the Violet Crown. Here’s what I found for you, on wikipedia (you do know that O. Henry made his home here, right?):

It was long believed to have originated in O. Henry‘s story “Tictocq: The Great French Detective, In Austin”, published in his collection of short stories The Rolling Stone published October 27, 1894.

In chapter 2 of Tictocq, O. Henry writes:

The drawing-rooms of one of the most magnificent private residences in Austin are ablaze of lights. Carriages line the streets in front, and from gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet, on which the delicate feet of the guests may tread. The occasion is the entrée into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown.

The phrase is generally thought to refer to the atmospheric phenomenon more commonly known as the Belt of Venus. The phrase is also said to be connected to the moonlight towers of Austin.

So at dusk, the skies in Austin can take on a lovely violet color at times, a hovering band of pale lavender encircling the horizon. Austin is also home to the world’s largest urban bat colony — Mexican free-tailed bats, 1.5 million of them. They live under the Congress Avenue bridge, and tourists (and natives) line up at dusk to watch them emerge against the gorgeous colored sky.

It’s no Manhattan skyline, that’s for sure, but the Austin skyline is pretty at night, reflecting in the lake that runs through the city; it’s actually a widening of the Colorado River, and through town it’s known as Lady Bird Lake. When I was kid we just called it Town Lake, but in the last who-knows-how-long-ago, a great many  local places have been renamed for Lady Bird [Johnson, of course]. The sky is so big, full of stars (more visible outside town, of course, but even in the city there are so many visible stars), and the moon is the movie star.

One secret of happiness is to enjoy and cherish whatever there is, and enjoy the memories of what was but is no longer. I miss New York, I miss the buildings and that very particular place, and it’s in my heart and mind forever and I’ll go back whenever possible. So rather than mourn it, I hold it lightly and love my memories. And I add in the drunken pleasures of this giant, giant sky, so big it fills me up and makes my edges disappear. Come visit me! I have a bedroom to spare, and we’ll go breathe the sky together.

And for no particular reason other than I love the hell out of it — Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang, Bird on a Wire, perfectly perfect melding of voice and lyric. Good god almighty. If this doesn’t make your heart fly out of your chest and soar, I don’t know what would.

elements

As a child of the western US landscape, I can never get enough of the big giant sky. It didn’t once bother me, living in Manhattan and having to look straight up to see the sky — it didn’t make me feel claustrophobic or miss the sky, particularly. There was so much else going on that I loved, so it was OK.

But I’m telling you, being back in this landscape makes me feel giddy. Drunk on sky. Dazed by the big hanging moon, drifting across the black night sky. Dazzled by the white clouds floating past. Yesterday I drove from Katie’s house down to my new place to meet the landlord and sign the lease, and I laughed and laughed, watching the giant sky. It’s like the ocean, like the big vast ocean filled with cloudbergs, all around me as far as I can see.

At one point on the highway, there were 3 big flyovers straight ahead, against the brilliant blue sky, and I had a science fiction movie moment seeing the cars scooting through the air on three thin ribbons, against the blue. Again I laughed.

And the twilight sky here is amazing, too.  One of Austin’s nicknames is City of the Violet Crown. Here’s what I found for you, on wikipedia (you do know that O. Henry made his home here, right?):

It was long believed to have originated in O. Henry‘s story “Tictocq: The Great French Detective, In Austin”, published in his collection of short stories The Rolling Stone published October 27, 1894.

In chapter 2 of Tictocq, O. Henry writes:

The drawing-rooms of one of the most magnificent private residences in Austin are ablaze of lights. Carriages line the streets in front, and from gate to doorway is spread a velvet carpet, on which the delicate feet of the guests may tread. The occasion is the entrée into society of one of the fairest buds in the City of the Violet Crown.

The phrase is generally thought to refer to the atmospheric phenomenon more commonly known as the Belt of Venus. The phrase is also said to be connected to the moonlight towers of Austin.

So at dusk, the skies in Austin can take on a lovely violet color at times, a hovering band of pale lavender encircling the horizon. Austin is also home to the world’s largest urban bat colony — Mexican free-tailed bats, 1.5 million of them. They live under the Congress Avenue bridge, and tourists (and natives) line up at dusk to watch them emerge against the gorgeous colored sky.

It’s no Manhattan skyline, that’s for sure, but the Austin skyline is pretty at night, reflecting in the lake that runs through the city; it’s actually a widening of the Colorado River, and through town it’s known as Lady Bird Lake. When I was kid we just called it Town Lake, but in the last who-knows-how-long-ago, a great many  local places have been renamed for Lady Bird [Johnson, of course]. The sky is so big, full of stars (more visible outside town, of course, but even in the city there are so many visible stars), and the moon is the movie star.

One secret of happiness is to enjoy and cherish whatever there is, and enjoy the memories of what was but is no longer. I miss New York, I miss the buildings and that very particular place, and it’s in my heart and mind forever and I’ll go back whenever possible. So rather than mourn it, I hold it lightly and love my memories. And I add in the drunken pleasures of this giant, giant sky, so big it fills me up and makes my edges disappear. Come visit me! I have a bedroom to spare, and we’ll go breathe the sky together.

And for no particular reason other than I love the hell out of it — Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang, Bird on a Wire, perfectly perfect melding of voice and lyric. Good god almighty. If this doesn’t make your heart fly out of your chest and soar, I don’t know what would.