potluck

Just an assortment of things, almost all beautiful:

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

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

it’s fragile

The world just feels so mean right now. I wince most of the time, and know that people call me idealistic — those who are willing to be nice about it. Trump and his hideous supporters terrify me, one bit of uniform away from being brown shirts. I’m reading One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway and its Aftermath, about Andres Breivik, the man who slaughtered 76 Norwegians in cold blood, mostly teenagers, out of his hatred for feminism and immigration. This is what hatred does, it spills out onto innocents. Small men make themselves big by slaughtering innocents, and that feels like the direction our world is going as fast as it possibly can.

My husband is a clinical psychologist and has told me that it’s impossible to break into the system of a paranoid person, because whatever you might say is proof — ah, see? You would say that. I know people in Austin who are paranoid, and I know what ‘news’ they take in and how they are constantly preparing for the onslaught wrought by “others,” just as Brievik did. I feel scared and bewildered in their presence. I’m increasingly feeling like I just can’t live in Texas any more. The state politics are so mean, many of the people bewilder me, and their ‘evidence’ bewilders me too.

It’s such a scary world, and this is at stake for me:

marnie-ilan
My lovely Marnie and her Ilan — waiting with us, the day Lucy was being born, for the happy news
little-family
My sweet Katie, with her young children, happy and cuddling
o-kisses-lucy
Oliver kissing his little sister, just a couple of weeks old she is
lucy
And little Lucy, the newest member of our family

I guess this is the way the world moves: forward into slaughter and worldwide destruction, and then a recovering into humanity again. And it’s just the slaughter cycle now, I suppose. How can my country possibly be this close to electing such a monster as president? How is this possible? I am terrified, and that’s not hyperbole. After last night’s debate, how anyone can have watched that and think that the orange monster is their guy….I don’t understand them at all.

Lewis and Obama at the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. SO MUCH in that hug. So much knowing.
Lewis and Obama at the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. SO MUCH in that hug. So much knowing.

And then I think about John Lewis, who marched across that bridge in Selma, and who has fought quietly, without noise and arm-waving, for decades now as his brothers and sisters were murdered, and belittled, and pushed aside by white America. He is relentless and he believes and he keeps putting one foot in front of the other. As police officers in our country keep killing unarmed black men, one after another after another after another, he just keeps putting stepping forward, day after day, believing. Can I be like him in the face of this horror that’s growing in my country, and in the face of a monster like Trump, and fellow Americans who plan to vote for him? I just want to run away, but pieces of my heart are scattered everywhere — in Katie’s loving home, in Marnie’s loving home, with friends far and wide — and how can I leave them behind? Where could I go, anyway, that would be far enough away?

help me make it through the night

Kris Kristofferson wrote some of the best old songs — songs others made famous, but those of us who know, know. Today I’m thinking about this one, made famous (at least to me) by husky-voiced Tammy Wynette:

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I have an extremely hard time asking for help when I am at my most desperate, when I am most in need. It feels too close to making someone else responsible for saving my life, and that’s not fair to do to anyone. I’m trying to learn how to think more subtly about this, how not to cast it in black and white, how to understand that just because I am in trouble and need some help, it’s not about suicide. Because it hasn’t been about suicide, and even last night when I was in deep, deep, deep need, I was not suicidal. I just needed some help to make it through.

As I cried in despair, I thought about the long list of people I know, people who love me, and knew that there was a sublist I could call on, without fail, and they would answer. They would be there. Dear friends, some who have already helped me with this before, like Anne. Some who have offered themselves to me in such heartfelt ways, I had no worries about reaching out.

But first I tried to write, my lifelong impulse. And this is what came out:

I find myself really wishing she’d just drowned us all, like a bag of kittens, and then they’d killed each other. The whole bunch, gone before the world could be hurt any more, before the little kittens could be hurt any more. Before the little kittens could grow up and hurt each other, themselves, others.

And so, obviously, I needed help to make it through. I walked down to the Hudson, through beautiful but dark Riverside Park, and texted a very dear friend, who texted me back immediately. Lots of back and forth, lots of her writing my name over and over — Lori. Lori. Lori. Lori. — and it’s weird how that helped. In The Woman Warrior, I learned that when a Chinese person is lost inside themselves, apparently you waggle their ears repeatedly and say their name over and over, to call them back. How Nancy knew to do that, I don’t know, but something about her saying my name like that, in addition to all the rest, all the understanding and care and compassion and empathy and telling me our plans, she got me through.

I think the tide has turned. I feel so much better this morning. I feel and recognize myself again, myself right now. I even felt like reading a funny poem. I feel eager to get home to Austin, back to my cozy little home, and what happens with my brother will happen but I’m not afraid anymore.

Pete and Oliver
Pete and Oliver

I’m Lori. Grandmother to Oliver and Ilan, and a little girl to come in September. Mother to Katie and Marnie and Will. Friend of many generous and loving people. Lover of poetry and literature and beautiful words. Understander of the pain and suffering of life, and the beauty and glory of it, too.

I’m so glad to be here. Sometimes it really sucks, and sometimes it’s really glorious, and sometimes it just takes time to travel from one to the next. xoxoxoxo

the goodness

diamondsIn Sierra Leone, when the British first came in and started the diamond mines, the people in the area didn’t know much about diamonds, and they certainly didn’t yet know their worth. After a rainfall, the ground would glitter as small diamonds were brought to the surface; the people thought it was bits of stars fallen to the ground. But the NDMC quickly instructed people to draw circles around those sparkles on the ground and not to touch them, and then they would retrieve them. Rob them. Soon the people were punished if they took one….off their own ground.

But that’s a powerful image, the ground glittering with small diamonds. I edited a memoir of a man who grew up in a tiny impoverished village in Sierra Leone, and he described that with such beauty and pathos, the image stays with me and likely will for a long time.

It came to mind earlier this year when from all over the world, people who know me reached out to help me when I was in the midst of an intense and prolonged period of insomnia — I didn’t sleep at all for four days, remember? No one could do anything about it, including me, but people sent small bits of help, glittering bits of help, light-catching bits of help.

  • Since I’d recently written about needing my spirits lifted because of the political discourse, a beautiful friend in Connecticut (who has been really quite generous and amazing and caring as long as I’ve known her) started love bombing me on Facebook, with one funny thing after another, chosen because she knows me and what I like, and sent one after another beautiful thing, another and another good thing in the world, spirit-restoring in so many ways. Love bombing is incredible.
  • I received middle of the night texts from a couple of friends, so caring and personal. It surprised me that people would reach out to me like that. Surprising that he would be so gentle and caring. Surprising that she would tell me just the right thing. Not surprising about them, but surprising to me that I was valuable enough to them to reach out in those ways.
  • In the midst of that period of terrible insomnia it was free donut day at Krispy Kreme. I mentioned it on Facebook and said if anyone’s going out, and would be in my neighborhood… It was a joke, just funny I thought, since I have a reputation around donuts. And then a friend texted me — hey, we’re bringing you some really good coffee cake. I know it’s not donuts, but it’s good, you’ll enjoy it. Seriously? I couldn’t believe it, and felt so cared for.

Diamonds all around me. And some of the things shared by the first friend I mentioned also restored me from my political despair; yes, people are still good, people still care about others including those who can’t do anything for them.

this was Marnie, when we lived in New Britain -- easy to understand why Marjorie fell for her!
this was Marnie, when we lived in New Britain — easy to understand why Marjorie fell for her!

But I’ve always found this to be true, haven’t you? Goodness all around, people willing to reach their hands out when you reach out yours. People ready to help you however they can. I remember when we moved to New Britain, CT, when Will was 3 months old, Marnie was 2, and Katie was 5, and we had nothing. And less than no money, it was a terrible time. My kids didn’t have winter clothes, and we couldn’t afford to buy them. But I met one woman, Marjorie, who was the crossing guard at Katie’s elementary school. She fell hard in love with little Marnie, and she became a friend. As the weather started to get colder, Marjorie started bringing clothes. Her friends, her church, she’d mentioned us and people gave. My kids had all the winter clothes they needed, and we felt surrounded by care — and not just that, care from people we never met, people who’d never met US.

Little diamonds glittering all around, as far as the eye can see. And you people never let me forget it, you diamonds, you, with your texts and messages and notes and little touches and constant care.

xoxoxox

grandmother (again)-in-waiting

I’ll never know what it’s like to wait for a daughter-in-law to have a baby, but I just can’t imagine it’s the same experience as waiting for your daughter, no matter how close you might be. How can it? (What do I know. Maybe it can be.)

But I do know what it’s like — three times, now — waiting for your daughter to have her baby. Marnie’s due date is coming right up, two weeks from now, and I’ll get to their home one week before the due date assuming she doesn’t go into labor before then. She is all I can think about, all day long. When I wake up through the night, my thoughts are only with her. It’s going to be hard to be in NYC this coming week.

I remember all these feelings when Katie was pregnant, and I feel them again:

It’s such a close, close, close feeling of connection, a deep tenderness, an understanding of what is about to happen to her and she doesn’t know, because you can’t really know the first time. Her entire everything is about to change and she will never be the same again.

It’s a feeling of anxiety, as I think about the extreme pain of my own three labors and I don’t want her to suffer.

It’s a feeling of worry, as I think about all the ways it might go. As long as he’s born healthy, how he got here doesn’t matter at all, but I do hope surgery isn’t required — though if it is, I’ll be there with her for a few weeks so I can help. She lives in a two-story house and I’m in good shape for stair running.

It’s a feeling tinged with fear, as I remember that there’s no guarantee it will go perfectly and that we’ll all leave the hospital with him. The odds are enormous that we will, but they aren’t perfect odds. I think about our Gracie, and my devastated Katie and Trey. (And then I think about our adorable, happy, smiling Oliver and I smile like the sun.)

It’s a feeling of mind-blanking excitement as I wait with them to see his little face! What will he look like? Will he look like Tom? Tom’s family’s genes are pretty strong and the majority of the grandkids look like their family. Our little Oliver looks like his dad, and Marnie’s baby might look like his dad. One of these days I hope a grandkid gets the roll of the genetic lottery dice and looks a little similar to Pete in some small way. 🙂 But I can’t wait to see this one’s sweet face, to look into it and know that he’s in there already, he is who he is, who he will be, and we’ll watch him bloom and blossom.

It’s a feeling of heart-fluttering anticipation about walking into the room when I can and seeing my dear daughter holding her baby. I wonder what her face will look like? I have a pretty clear image of what Tom’s face will look like — some version of his face when they got married. All he wants is a home and family with Marnie; he has her, and they have a beautiful home, and now their first child. I imagine he’ll be in bliss. Marnie will have gone through that labor, so her expression will have more complexity, I imagine, but I don’t know! I just can’t wait to see her face.

It’s a feeling of big anx-worry-BLE!!! as I think about the hours I’ll wait in the waiting room with no idea what’s happening to my girl. As long as I’m nearby, just a question of feet or yards, it’ll be a tiny bit bearable. A tiny bit. I don’t know how mothers who can’t be nearby bear it.

Here I was, pregnant with her. This is the only picture I have of that period. I was 26.
Here I was, pregnant with her. This is the only picture I have of that period. I was 26.

And of course I remember my experience of her birth. Relatively speaking, it was quick and simple, especially compared to Katie’s birth, which was long and required six hours of pitocin — with zero drugs, not even the ones that “take the edge off.” But with Marnie, I think my labor started around 5am, and we waited until 8:30 to call my friend who was going to come stay with Katie. We were in the labor suite by 9:30 and she was born at 12:30. I didn’t have to be induced, I had no drugs, and the way I remember it is that the doctor broke my waters and Marnie washed out of me. She was clean as a whistle and her eyes were immediately open. There was a small-ish window a little bit higher on the wall, and the sun was shining on us. March 3, a sunny, beautiful Sunday in Austin. At one point during transition, probably, the pain became so bad that I had an out-of-body experience; I was up in the corner of the room, looking down on myself, and I thought, oh, look at her, she’s suffering so much. But that’s quick, 7.5 hours total, only 3 hours in the birthing suite, and then a simple birth. No stitches, no trouble, and home six hours later.

And so I think of my little girl, Marnie Elizabeth. If you hover over each image you’ll see the caption. In her life, we’ve called her Velvet, Peach, Scrappy, Emmie, Beppie, Bop, and Marn. Soon a little boy will call her mama.

Pete waits.

showers

wisteria
wisteria blooming in Japan — imagine the shower of those purple blossoms

Y’all. You blow me away, again and again and again. This is not pretense designed to get you to say nice things about me, I MEAN THAT from the bottom of my heart. Please don’t say anything about me in a comment. This is about you. You are so extraordinarily kind and good to me, and I don’t know why.

  • You write me cards and letters and notes by hand, because you think I will like it. (I do!)
  • You have paid attention even to the smallest things and then sent (or given) me a gift based on that attention. Sometimes for no reason at all.
  • When I am in trouble of any kind – giant spuds or the smallest potatoes – you reach out to me with generous hearts and words, and you somehow remember to keep checking on me. Or maybe you get me a membership in the Cloud Appreciation Society. Things like that.
  • You send me little notes, images, stories, things you see online, or maybe in a newspaper you tuck into my door, because you saw them and thought of me.
  • Sometimes out of the blue you send me a note telling me something you appreciate or value about me. (!)
  • The moment I click ‘publish,’ I imagine I’ll think of several more things like this.

It isn’t that I think I’m a bad friend or anything like that, and it isn’t that I don’t realize the ways I can be a good friend, but seriously, I just don’t do these things, and y’all do. I wish I did these things, even when I’m not in the moment of being the recipient. It’s a thing I wish I did better. And then y’all do these things and I wish it even more.

You shower me with friendship, love, kindness, warmth, generosity, and care. And I feel it like a shower, a tremendous blessing. You make me feel better about the world, which often leaves me in such despair. But there are people like you in it, too, people of such quiet generosity, people who care for others in real ways, not just attitudes that one should care. I know you do these things in the world, not just for me, and knowing that you are there, knowing there are people like you moving through the world, I feel less despair.

Please please don’t say anything about me in the comments. If you feel like you want to comment, you might say something about kindnesses others have shown you, because I think we all need reminders that this exists in the world, too. My last words here are directed to you: thank you for the showering. xoxox

that friend

Of the myriad ways I’m the luckiest person in the world, one is that my friends believe in me. They (you) encourage me. I had one who didn’t, who preferred and delighted in my troubles and failures, and she’s not my friend any more. (Was she ever? If you have one like that, let her go. Just do it. Life is too short and difficult already.)

My darling Dixie
My darling Dixie

I could name each one of you and say the specific ways I feel your belief in me, list examples of things you’ve said — either in person, or in emails, or in instant messages that come out of the blue and for no apparent reason. This would be a l-o-n-g post if I did that, and I have an idea perking in the back of my mind to acknowledge your importance to me, but it has to wait until after the holidays. Perhaps the most extreme of you is my darling Dixie, who just believes in me 1000%, thinks I hung the moon and whatever I do is nearly perfect (sometimes perfect), and I swear that if I killed someone and were caught standing over them with the bloody knife in my hand, Dixie would defend me and stay by my side to the end. So she is in her own category in the whole world, because this is how she is with everyone she loves — and she means it, very individually.

writingSo many of you have quietly and insistently encouraged my writing, and I love you for it. It’s funny; my friends are encouraging and supportive and my kids have never ever been that way with me — so I appreciate you even more! You are my team. You’ve stuck with me on the ups and downs: I’m writing! I’m giving up! No, instead I’m going to do this kind of writing! Maybe not. Maybe so. I am! I can’t. Who would care. I have one thing most writers don’t have: an understanding of the realities of the publishing world. Not having that would be helpful! My clients all finish their books in the belief that their books are going to be bestsellers. Surely that helps them keep going and get it done. My friend Traci knows very well the realities of the publishing world and writes one beautiful book after another, which she publishes through her own press and practically works a second full-time job promoting her books. (And her husband’s work. And she has a school-age daughter. And she writes book after book. She is clearly in her own category.)

But I have this one friend, Nancy, who is in a different category in terms of encouragement. I don’t have any idea, maybe this is what it’s like if you have a mother who thinks you are OK, and who encourages you and believes in you with great vigor. Nancy is my friend, not a mother figure, but there’s something about the way she believes in me and encourages me that makes me think about what it would be like to have had that from the start. Just as Dixie replaced the cruel voice in my head (my mother’s) with hers (you are so darling, you precious thing), I think Nancy has replaced the mean discouragement in my heart (my mother’s) with hers (you don’t have time for that, you need to be writing. Are you writing? I believe that it’s very possible that your writing will be of significant value. I just had an idea, have you ever read your work before an audience?). She’ll just write me out of the blue and in her direct, Kansas way say these things to me — apropos of nothing, which tells me she had been thinking about it herself. When we have our regular coffee breaks, she’s likely to bring it up. My book club friends made me a VERY special gift as I was coming out of my suicidal place, a jar filled with notes from each of them telling me what I add to their lives, how they see me, etc. Nancy’s contribution was a nametag, the kind you get at a conference, and it had my name and WRITER. See what I mean? It’s insistent and said as if it were simply the truth.

So this post is much less about writing and encouragement, and much more about what it is to receive that, on whatever topic or maybe no topic at all, maybe just about who you are. I know this is a theme of mine, but it’s because I mean it, and know it so solidly: If you live long enough, everything is possible. The thing you simply could not understand (how to spend time alone, how not to care what others think of you) becomes simple and true in your heart, and in fact an important thing! The struggle you’ve found impossible to overcome, like getting rid of the cruel voice in your head, dissolves and disappears. The fear you always had goes away. The bad thing you clutched to your heart, your ‘grim belief’ as my friend Marg calls it, falls away. It’s so good that life is long, if you’re lucky and open to it.

It would be such a different world if everyone had one person who believed in them like this. If you have a friend you believe in in some regard, express it a little more often. Encourage her in the various ways you can think of. You have NO idea how transformative it might be. And if you change one person, you might change the world.

Thank you for the ways you encourage me and support me in all the ways you do. I’m keenly aware of each instance, each moment, each effort, and it all keeps me going. I hope with all my heart that if we know each other, I do some of that for you. xo

a post, in two parts

PART I

The tide has turned. The worm has turned. It’s a beautiful morning. The world has turned. Morning has broken. And many other sayings like that.

Light is coming back. Light and air are coming back to me. Yesterday I actually laughed spontaneously, and I haven’t had “those” thoughts for three straight days, now. If bad language offends you, turn away (but then you probably aren’t one who reads my damn blog 🙂 ) — I think it’s fucking ending. Halle-fuckin-lujah. And thus ends the F word, in this post, anyway.

For you professional depression-havers out there, you know how it sidles up alongside you, a dark day turns into a week but you know, people have down weeks. A week slips into two, then three, and then you’re in it and don’t even remember that it ever was anything but this. I wish it announced itself in some way, that would make it all so much easier.

I told people slowly, very slowly, too slowly. One here, another there. This one. A hint of it to that one so as not to freak out that person. A secret group, and then another secret group, and then the last one, and then that last blog post and a public-ish post on open Facebook. Damn depression, the way it makes you unable to think and see! There was pretty much a linear correlation (thus ends the statistical stuff) between help I got and people I told. And a big duh right there. If I weren’t depressed I’d have caught it on the second person. So the next time this comes around, as I sadly imagine it will even as I hope it doesn’t, I hope I can remember this, and simply tell all my support people, my friends, those who love me, those I love, and accept the help they so generously give. Just do that. Tell, and as soon as you can. And as many people who love you as you can. You’ll know the ones who’ll get cold, or freak out, so don’t tell them but tell all the others, the ones who will rush toward you in even the slightest of ways.

This morning I was telling a group of friends about what this giant all-out launching of love has done for me, and a sweet little bit of writing slipped out of my fingertips so I’ll plagiarize myself: “this kind of love bombing I’ve been receiving ever since I went ‘public’ with it has been like a booster rocket, sending me above the ocean’s surface where I can take deep gulps of good air. And even if I go down again, I don’t go nearly as far.”  [pretty good imagery if I do say so myself. thank you, subconscious.]

Of course every time is different, and it’s different for every person (different each person x different each time = I can’t do the math but that’s a lot of instances), but I learned something this time that I want to try for others, and I hope to ask for, for myself. When you are way down in the hole, people who love you remind you how much they love you, and of course they do, and you know it even if you can’t feel it while you’re down there. But the nasty little sentences I was resisting were these: No one would miss you. It wouldn’t matter if you just died.

People not only showed up, they gently took me out for a drink, for dinner, they held my hand and looked into my eyes and told me what I meant to them, they told me they understood because they suffer depression, they sent me little notes, or they bought me music, or they wrote me letters, or they sent me gifts. They listened to me with great heart and compassion, and I could see it in their glowing eyes. They pinged me every single morning asking how I was, darling, and sometimes again at night. If I said it was really really bad, I got good practical advice — go outside and take a very fast walk, go do it now. And text me when you’re back.

And sometimes they wrote out what it would mean to them if I weren’t here. And there it was, the very real argument against those miserable thoughts. Liar! She would be devastated, and in these particular ways! Liar! Her world would change in these particular ways! Liar! Liar! Liar! Not only were those like silver bullets against the thoughts, they were also overwhelmingly wonderful to read — not that people would suffer, but that my presence in their life means all those things.

And so I will carry this with me out of the darkness, and not just wait until someone is depressed to tell them what they mean in my life, how important they are in the very fiber of my life, but tell them all. (I mean, not all the time, for heaven’s sake. 🙂 )  You might file this away for the next time someone you love is severely depressed. It may or may not help them, but there is no way it can hurt. And maybe it will just make them feel too guilty to leave. Whatever works, man. Whatever works.

Part II

Just the right person came into my life at just the right time. I didn’t recognize it at the beginning, because I was too far gone in grief and loss, and she went out of the country for six months. I kind of feel like I’ve been waiting all my life for her, but don’t tell her that, she’ll get embarrassed.

I’ll only be able to explain her importance when I write the dedication and acknowledgements for my memoir, but thanks to her, it’s an entirely different book now, and it’s amazing and flowing. Yesterday I wrote for five hours straight, non-stop, two chapters, 7326 words. I could have written chapter 3 and chapter 4, probably, if I didn’t have to stop and clean the kitchen and brush my teeth and go to bed. (And take my mighty-strong extra antidepressant, which is also part of the equation in addition to all that love bombing.)

And so my silence here is probably going to be prolonged, but for a very different reason. I actually have two books to finish, one the publisher is waiting for, and I’m ~75% through, and the one I’m writing now, like a river flowing out of me, and I want to spend all my non-working time on these two writing projects. My friend turned the dial so it’s oriented at a different angle, said a magic sentence, and flipped the switch. How can I ever thank her enough.

So many people have helped me, I’d need an index-length acknowledgement to include them all, and I hope you know who you are if you read this. For everyone who said a little something, sent a little smile, told me to write, gave me your attention, your love, allowed me to give those to you, I am forever in your debt.

loving the newbie

That is her very precious grandfather, Kiki, when he first met her. He too was smitten.
That is her very precious grandfather, Kiki, when he first met her. He too was smitten.

The split second I saw Katie in the process of being born, I was so hard in love I could hardly bear it. Of course I loved her before she was born; I loved her while I was carrying her, giggling at her little hiccups, rubbing my tummy in my effort to be closer to her. But man, it was like a ton of bricks fell on me when she was born.

And then it happened again when Marnie swam out of me on that sunny Sunday, and when Will was born that spring in south Texas. Gosh, it was so physical, so huge and overwhelming, and I’ll never forget it. Of course I’d known them for months at that point and had imagined them incessantly, so meeting them, seeing their little faces, that wasn’t my first introduction.

There’s something to that biological umbilical cord, perhaps. I’ve never been a big fan of babies at all, at all, but my babies, wowie. I wondered what my experience would be when our little Oliver was born.

The moment I saw him I loved him and would do anything in the world for him — and what’s also true is that it was in my head, mostly, and a large part of my love for Oliver had to do with my love for Katie. I was so filled with joy and happiness that he was here, that Katie had her baby, that she and Trey would be taking home this little baby, that was my overwhelming feeling. I loved Oliver through my love for Katie.

But I felt a little bit worried — why didn’t I feel the same huge physical love for this sweet baby? Friends told me not to worry, that it would come, that it’s different with the first grandchild. The love is there, but it’s just different at the beginning.

They were right about the fact that it comes, that the hugeness and physical part of it does come. Over the last few months I’ve felt it inside me when I see him, when I spend time with him. Over the last few months, I’ve missed that person when I don’t see him. I miss Oliver. I don’t miss ‘seeing my grandson,’ I don’t miss getting to be with Katie’s baby. I miss Oliver. He is such a person, so specific, and of course he’s the happiest, most easygoing kid I have ever seen so he makes it easy, but even if he weren’t, it has happened: I am in love with that kid. It’s physical.

So if you are expecting your first grandchild, or you’ve just become a grandma, and you feel like your love is in your head, don’t worry. It’ll hit you one day like a ton of bricks.

I’m going to be away from him a lot for the next month and I may just have to arrange some Skype sessions with Oliver’s mama. How can I be away so long?

Happy Friday, everyone! xo

on being known

As you’d rightly guess after reading this blog for a little while, being known is of value to me. I don’t want to hide myself, to keep who I am a big secret. I do have secrets, of course, and there are aspects of me that aren’t exactly secret but that are saved for only some people in my life. Still, I enjoy seeing that my people know me.

I get this one A LOT.
I get this one A LOT.

It shows up in my Facebook feed, in a silly way; the number of posts about grammar, Peeps, and Brian Williams/Alan Cumming that people put on my wall is quite amazing, and they always make me smile. I think I am most known for my undying love of the Peep. 🙂

One thing my birthday fortnight showed me is that my friends know me very well. The gifts they gave me were spectacular, and while I will thrill to wear each item, use each item, read each book, etc., it was the way they showed how closely my friends have paid attention that was the biggest blessing. “That [gift] reminded me of something you’d wear.” “I saw it and thought of you.” “I noticed you wear [x] and thought you’d like it.” I felt showered in love and affection from everyone who celebrated with me, and the specifics of it all made it feel specific to me, and that was pretty damned wonderful.

My birthday fortnight started with a card from Dixie that just delighted me to no end, and ended with a bigger-than-imagined celebration with Cindy — sushi and a bad dessert followed by a restaurant change and champagne and key lime pie. In between were all the joyful celebrations, big and small, and time with my daughters and their families and all that love, and the joy of celebrating getting to be here for all these years. In between were thoughtful gifts, big and small, each one to be cherished as a reminder of the giver. (Except for the incredibly luscious dark chocolate peanut butter cups which will be cherished until they are gone and but a memory.) In between was a polka and a waltz with my beautiful Marnie smiling at me and poor Tom, flu-sick in the wings; in between was a rainy-day sushi happy hour with Katie and Trey, and Oliver sleeping like a baby while we ate.

The funny thing about my friends and family is that with each one, there is at least one very deep way we are alike, some place we touch each other and know each other. I’m not a party person, although I can be very very happy at a party with my friends — people I know and feel comfortable with. I most value the time I get one-on-one with them, where we share ourselves and try to know each other. I love getting to know you, and I thank you for wanting to know me.

xoxoxo

p.s. I have finished reading a couple of books, I’ll write about them shortly in case you are interested in them! xo

no no do not learn that lesson

care fuckedPeriodically, people on Facebook will post a status update that says some version of, “Lesson learned, never expect anything and you won’t be disappointed.” And then a flurry of ‘likes’ follow, and comments of the same mindset. “Yep, learned that lesson a long time ago.” “No kidding.”

NO people, you have it all wrong. There aren’t too many things I’ll make such an explicit point over, but in this case you are wrong. You just are. You can make that decision of course, you can close yourself off like that, never expect anything of another person, and you’ll begin the process of isolating yourself, not loving or allowing yourself to be loved. Go ahead, doesn’t that sound like a good plan? No! It does not.

Other people are going to let you down. Shoot, you’re going to let yourself down! How many times have you not started the diet, not gotten out for your daily walk, not stopped smoking, whatever, even though you’d promised yourself this time. You promised. And you let other people down too — sometimes knowingly, sometimes knowingly but gee you feel really bad about it, and often unknowingly. So first, get off your high horse. This is what people do, because people are imperfect. (Of course it’s different if someone consistently does this, over and over, but then the question is why are you doing this with this person?)

And now that you’re off your high horse and standing on the muddy ground with the rest of us imperfect people who go around letting ourselves and each other down, go ahead and let go of the last person who let you down, the one who prompted you to “learn that lesson.” OK, let them go, and now pick another one. Yep! They’re going to let you down too! In some way(s), big or small, rare or less-than-rare, they’re going to let you down. If you discard that one you’ll just have to find another one who will also let you down.

I’ve let down everyone I know and love in some way at some time. I can think of each of you, one at a time, and without too much effort I can summon at least one way I’ve let you down. I don’t think of myself as a person who goes around letting others down, I don’t want to let others down, but it happens anyway. I let it happen anyway. Maybe I was consumed by something happening in my life and I was just thoughtless. Maybe I didn’t understand that it meant something to you, because maybe it wouldn’t have meant anything to me so I didn’t understand. Maybe I was careless. I can’t think of a time I set out on purpose to pointedly let someone down, and yet I’ve let everyone down at one time or another. I’ve disappointed you, left you feeling bad about something, and it will hurt me so much to find out I did that because it’s not what I wanted or intended….but there it is.

This is a huge part of living, since living means engagement with and proximity to other people. And sometimes the letdown is HUGE, unforgivable, really. I was so profoundly let down when Gracie died and I just cannot forgive the two who let me down so cruelly. Nope. So it’s not like I don’t know about what it means to be let down; it’s not like I think “letting me down” means he didn’t bring me a large ice cream, only a medium.

But you know, unless the person let you down by letting go of your hand as you dangle off a skyscraper, it’s not going to kill you. You may hurt a whole lot — that won’t kill you. Life hurts and sometimes it hurts so much you have to clutch the sheets, but you won’t die. You may feel wounded and betrayed. Won’t kill you. You may have every right to feel let down, and there’s no question about it. But why would you punish yourself by deciding you’re never going to expect anything from anyone again?

You have to open yourself anyway. You have to risk anyway. You have to love anyway. You have to get up anyway. You have to say hello anyway. You have to put your hand out anyway. Otherwise, you’ve let yourself down so much more than anyone else ever could.

 

the day before

Thanks heavens for everything. That could be the sole content of my daily gratitude email response. Thank heavens for everything. Today what I mean by that, in addition to everything is:

  • Thank heavens for Sherlock, who saw a mention of the Yale Writers’ Conference and told Peggy about it.
  • Thank heavens Peggy suggested that we both apply.
  • Thank heavens for my plan, formulated at the beginning of this year, to take myself seriously as a writer.
  • Thank heavens for friends—including Katie, Traci, Peggy, Dee, Nancy, Bob—who read the options I was considering submitting as my application and gave me not only their best opinions, but also their deeply heartfelt encouragement and beautiful kind words that I pull out and polish again and again when I get scared.
  • Thank heavens for Nancy, who was working outside when I came home having just learned of my acceptance. I pulled sideways into the driveway and jumped out (thank heavens I put the car in gear!) and ran straight to her. Her sharing that moment with me is something I will remember all my days. And then Bob joined us, and something about the way he was totally unsurprised makes me laugh out loud.
  • Thank heavens for my loved ones who share my happiness and tell me again and again of their happiness for me.
  • Thank heavens for Peggy and Sherlock for their geez-its-obvious assumption that of course I would stay with them during the conference.
  • Thank heavens Peggy and I were both accepted, although we’d have been so happy for each other in any other circumstance (and consoled each other if we weren’t accepted).
  • Thank heavens Peggy attended the first session already so she knows what to expect, how it goes, and is helping me get over my nerves through her unusual overuse of exclamation points and all-cap words in her wonderful emails sent during the first session.

yaleschedAnd so today I head up their way. Session II starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday, and I imagine I will not have much time or spare mental/emotional energy to post here, although you never know! I might just post something full of WORDS and lots of exclamation points!!!!

Thank you for the way you have encouraged me too, in all the ways you do. Your off-line emails to me in response to posts, your out-of-the-blue “hey, I was just thinking of you” notes, your constant encouragement simply by reading this blog, not to mention your comments. Thank you, thank heavens for you.

If you sense the air quivering, if you feel the universe doing its thing, if something suddenly seems all vibratey and frizzy, that’s just me.  xo

Cracked Open II, or: Ghosts

uchiLast night I met a bunch of beautiful women, some of my dear friends, for what turned out to be a raucous dinner, sushi and sake and wine. There is a very well-known but pretty expensive sushi restaurant here, beyond the bounds of my budget for sure, but they offer a happy hour. All kinds of sushi half-price, sake and wine half-price, etc. On the way there, battling the atrocity that is Austin traffic, I was listening to music and thinking about whatever the song made me think of. So many of the songs come with bodily states, where I feel in the cells of my muscles the way I felt at the time. The first song cracked me open and then there I was, crying all the way down the highway.

American Pie, memories of dancing like lunatics with my kids in the living room of our home in Huntsville, Alabama – the twist, the monkey, the swim, the pony, dances we could all manage. Such a sweet, sweet memory, nearly unbearable. I can see their sweaty little faces, I can hear us laughing, see us falling down on the floor. It was even fun at the time, it’s not just something precious in retrospect, but in retrospect it’s everything there is.

And then I remember living with them, the feeling of being with young kids. Carving a pencil eraser into a little foot shape and dipping it in powder with a bit of sparkle, then stamping the wood floors outside Marnie’s bedroom, and up to her bed, for the magic of the Tooth Fairy. A few more stamps on the window sill, a little tooth pillow with money tucked under her pillow. The extraordinary privilege of getting to make a child’s life magic, for just a little while. Walking the kids to the bus stop in Virginia, watching the girls get on the bus and then pushing the stroller with Will back home.

Goodnight, The Beatles — oh, spasm of love that song produced in my heart, remembering the years when they were very young and I’d spend so long tucking each child in bed. I’d bring my guitar with me and after we talked about the day, I’d play and sing Goodnight softly, and each one would drift off to sleep. Katie was the oldest so she was always last because she could stay up later. She always tried so hard to stay awake but even she eventually drifted off. I remember kissing their little foreheads, breathing them into me.

The Look of Love, Dusty Springfield — the new dress I wore on the first day of second grade, that song playing throughout the house that morning. Making my lunch and putting a little box of gingersnaps in the sack. Excited and scared to meet my new teacher. Seven years old, I remember how it felt to be that little girl. I remember it so well, my little hopes and dreams.

ghostsAnd then I drive through the big intersection where my dad shoved me out of the truck and turned around to run over me. And I pass the street where we lived when he put a loaded pistol to my head and cocked it, and I remember. Ghosts. Then I drive past a place that has changed, it’s not what it was but I still see it there, I still see the ghost of that apartment building where I lived with him for a scary month. No one else can see that building there, but it’s there for me. I pass another street, the one with the sad little apartment my dad lived in right after he and my mother divorced. That apartment building is gone too, but I still see it there. Ghosts. I don’t really go to the part of town where the sushi restaurant is because I have so very much history all around it, but it wasn’t at all painful. It was all just a bunch of ghosts.

I was crying the whole way, crying through the music, crying seeing all the ghosts, but crying because I am so incredibly grateful for every tiny little bit of my life, every bit of it. The good the bad the boring the scared the lost the hopeless the hopeful the brilliant the dark. It’s all so precious, even though I have regrets about this and that, about not being able to be a lighthearted mother. I was trying so hard. It’s all been so precious, every single bit of it. The ghosts are precious too because I survived and this place has so many layers that only I am aware of. When my life ends I will be so grateful for it all. It has been so magnificent.

* * *

On the way home I was sitting in traffic and saw a concrete pillar with a really beautiful image someone painted on it. Then I looked at the words around the image and they said “Fair sailing, tall boy.” In another spot it said, “Don’t drink and drive, you might kill somebody’s kid.” In another spot was a span of years I quickly calculated: 18 years. Tall boy was 18 years old, and someone who loved him terribly had the grace and incredible strength to wish their tall boy fair sailing. I almost couldn’t bear it. I almost can’t bear it even typing these words.

* * *

We all age differently; I have what I call my “Concentration Theory” of aging, which is that we simply become a concentrated version of ourselves as we age.  Cranky people become intensely more cranky. Gentle people become gentler. Sensitive people become more sensitive. I think about Maurice Sendak’s last interview with Terri Gross on Fresh Air. Here are the extraordinary last five minutes of that talk:

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And here are some of the best snippets:

  • “Somehow I’m finding out as I’m aging – I am in love with the world.”
  • “I don’t know if I will do another book or not. It doesn’t matter. I am a happy old man.
  • “I have nothing but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop loving them. They leave me and I love them more.”
  • “There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”
  • “It is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music. You know, I don’t think I’m rationalizing. I really don’t. This is all inevitable and I have no control over it.”
  • “I wish you all good things. Live your life, live your life, live your life.”

And I say the very same things. I have nothing but praise for my life. There are so many beautiful things in the world. It is a blessing to get old. Life your life, live your life, live your life.

being a knot

What a couple of days it’s been for people I love. A simple procedure for one friend unexpectedly revealed tentacles and now the world is very different for him and his wife, and for all of us who love them. An easy Sunday morning for another friend suddenly went blank and now there are tests and uncertainty. A third friend was preparing an Easter dinner to share with friends and family and the knife slipped pretty badly. The world turns on a dime.

Of course this is the downside of loving people. When you overlap with people, when your hearts mingle, your life can be cracked and even shattered when something happens to them. It’s no longer just yourself, just your family. It’s a wider world, more opportunities to have the rug pulled out. That’s the inherent risk in love and we all know it and we go along happily, we all do, expecting this little thing to go that way and be done, Sunday morning to lead seamlessly into Sunday afternoon, preparation to end with a meal shared by loved ones around the table. We all expect to see that friend at the party next week, to hear about the grand adventures of that couple we love, to relish hearing his stories and laugh, her adorable accent, again and again. Of course we will. But there is no of course.

And so again it’s time to relearn the old lesson. Cherish the invisible things, the things you don’t think twice about. Hey, my legs work! Both of them! Wow, I can see anything I want, how amazing — and hear whatever I want, too! What stunning gifts. I can go to the bathroom all by myself, what a luxury. I’m reasonably sure that the next couple months of my life are not going to be spent in the misery of a caustic treatment. Remember how great it is that your hands work. Be thankful every single time you remember something, even if you’re kind of forgetful in an ordinary way. Cherish the very real treasure of your memories — your own, and the ones you share with others. CHERISH THEM! They are treasures, never to be taken for granted. And how amazing it is that I’m bored lying here so I can just get up and go do anything I want. I can walk into the other room. I can get in my car and go wherever I want. I can cook myself a meal, I can read a book or watch a movie.

I’ve mentioned my daily gratitude email thing before. Like everyone, I have some really low days, days when everything seems all wrong, either kind of shitty or maybe SUPER shitty. When I lose track of things, when my perspective gets all wonky. On those days my little email arrives and I sit, staring at the screen, unable to think of a damn thing to be grateful for. (Most days my struggle is to just pick a few out of the ocean of things I am grateful for.) Now it’s time to re-remember this lesson, and on those low days I can easily say that I am grateful that my legs work, and not feel like I’ve just written something dumb so I don’t miss a day. I can write with deep gratitude that I am so very grateful I have eyes. All these things that are invisible to us until we lose them and we suddenly realize how precious they are.

And that’s just looking at the universe of my own working body. I have a grocery store nearby with so much food, so many kinds of food, I forget to be dazzled by it. (And I have enough money to buy food, also dazzling.) I have a television and the Internet and so I know what’s happening in places I will never see — and I know what those places look like. I’m so very extraordinarily lucky to have seen much of the world, so all those places belong to me now. Myanmar is mine, what a mind-blowing wonder is that. I know about the water cycle and can look at the clouds and see how part of the world is working. I know about chlorophyll and so I can look at trees and understand how that part of the world works. How incredible is that? I live in a place where the ground blooms with gorgeous wildflowers, as if by magic, to make us all happy for a while — fields of blue, hillsides that are coral and orange, sides of the highway shining yellow and pink. What a world, and I rarely give it a second thought.

Of course I’ll forget all this again, this insight will be like the wildflowers, blooming now while it’s raining but the sun will come out and life will keep going and this knowledge will go into hiding again, ready to bloom when people I love are at risk.

netI’ve written before about my idea of the net. As I said then, look at that image, see all the blank spaces? The net is mostly open air, mostly empty space. What holds it together, what holds you up and catches you when you fall, are the tiny, tiny, tiny little knobs, the tiniest little things, but there are lots of them and they connect. A net, a network, enough to save you if necessary. I am just one of the little knots in the net underneath my friends, nothing more, but how grateful I am to get to be one of those knots. How fine a thing it is to have the chance to help someone when you can. I think it’s probably the finest thing we do as people, submit our own selves and hearts to care for others. To be willing to suffer alongside them, to be willing and glad to not know what’s next with them, so they don’t have to not-know all alone.

For the first six months of 2012, my husband was undergoing such harrowing treatment, pure hell. There was some question of whether he would survive the treatment itself. Not everybody does. I hope never to go through that again, but I am so deeply glad that I had the privilege to do that with and for him. I say this without any kind of patting myself on the back, because I think it’s just a glory of being human, but helping him through that is without a doubt one of the finest things I have ever done in my life. In that case I was almost all the knots in the net, and the parts connecting the knots too. I hope with all my heart that my friends are going to prevail and come out on the other side with stories to tell, with brand new ways to empathize with people. I feel such enormous gratitude that I get to be a knot.

Introducing Oliver (and Pete!)

We were both a long time coming, I’ll say that. Katie, Trey and I arrived at the hospital at 6:30am on Thursday; they didn’t sleep a lot the night before and I didn’t sleep at all. We all had our own set of things that kept us awake, and most were probably overlapping. A unique one I had was that my sweet little first baby was about to undergo a whole lot of stuff. I had worries, anxieties, fears, excitement, anticipation, wishing-I-could-suffer-instead-of-her. The general mama stuff, you know. I’m waiting to hear from them how they want me to handle showing images of him, but these have been shared on Facebook so I’ll go ahead and share them here. I am not meaning this to be a ME! ME! ME!-heavy post, I’m just protecting their privacy and showing the path through my own tired face. Here’s the story in pictures:

"My sweet boy: You're off to Great Places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting...so get on your way!" -- Katie's caption
“My sweet boy: You’re off to Great Places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting…so get on your way!” — Katie’s caption
around 4 in the afternoon. Waiting, still kinda fresh about it. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon.
around 4 in the afternoon. Waiting, still kinda fresh about it. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon.
a little less fresh by now. Around 9:30pm I think. C'mon, Oliver. Come on down, we're all waiting. What's up with you, stubborn boy!
a little less fresh by now. Around 9:30pm I think. C’mon, Oliver. Come on down, we’re all waiting. What’s up with you, stubborn boy!
almost midnight, we're all trying to catching sips of rest when we can. COME ON OLIVER. Seriously, now. Come on.
almost midnight, we’re all trying to catching sips of rest when we can. COME ON OLIVER. Seriously, now. Come on.
Just before 3, a quick dash to the OR and he's here, at 3:41am. Face up at a funny angle, had to make his own kind of arrival. Look at those little froggie legs! Oliver Hudson Lowery, born on March 28th at 3:41am. 8lbs 6oz and 20 inches long. He has a full head of hair and already has mom and dad wrapped around his finger with his pouty bottom lip.
Just before 3, a quick dash to the OR and he’s here, at 3:41am. Face up at a funny angle, had to make his own kind of arrival. Look at those little froggie legs! Oliver Hudson Lowery, born on March 28th at 3:41am. 8lbs 6oz and 20 inches long. He has a full head of hair and already has mom and dad wrapped around his finger with his pouty bottom lip.
I am thoroughly exhausted, but finally: Introducing Pete! Oliver's grandmama.
I am thoroughly exhausted, but finally: Introducing Pete! Oliver’s grandmama.
The dynamic duo of Oliver and Pete -- watch out everyone. For real.
The dynamic duo of Oliver and Pete — watch out everyone. For real.
The mini-me version of his dad. Like, EXACTLY.
The mini-me version of his dad. Like, EXACTLY.

And so there we are. When they have a photo they like and want to share of the three of them, I’ll post it. They are both over the moon with joy. He’s a champion nurser and he’s great at peeing on kind nurses. Katie has taken to the whole thing with ease and grace, but that doesn’t surprise me. She and Trey continue to show me again and again and again why they are so perfect with and for each other. And now their little family has three beating hearts if you don’t count all the dozens of other beating hearts all around them.

Welcome to this world, little Oliver. My name is Pete, I will be one of your trusted guides.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

waiting for Oliver

Generally speaking, I write my posts the day before they publish, and schedule them to publish at 7am the next day. I’ll definitely be doing that when it’s time to go to the hospital to await Oliver’s arrival in the world. These last days carry their own worries, but I believe with all my heart that he will get here just fine and we’ll all cry and cry and cry with joy and see that our worries and anxieties — though understandable — were all for nothing. My sweet Katie and Trey, and my sweet little Oliver, a newly constituted family of three. And me, Pete. (People are asking me why he will call me Pete. My beloved grandfather, Big Daddy, called me Pete — my last name at birth was Peters — and that name just means so much love to me. My kids’ dad called me Pete, some of my friends call me Pete, and years ago I realized that I wanted my grandkids to call me Pete because to me it means love, and it circles back to Big Daddy.)

ANYWAY. In earlier versions of my life I made a lot of stuff. I was a weaver, a spinner, I used natural dyes to dye the yarn I spun, I quilted, I tatted, I made bobbin lace, I made all our clothes, I smocked dresses for the girls, I knitted, I made small pieces of furniture, I baked all our bread and made all our jams and generally speaking, if it could be made by hand I made it by hand. Picked around on a banjo, picked around on a guitar. But then I started college, and then grad school, and then very busy jobs, and then I moved to New York and had zero space for the accoutrements of a making life. I kept up with knitting and knitted a bunch of sweaters and scarves and socks, stuff like that, but didn’t do much else.

When Katie was pregnant with Gracie, I made a little quilt for her. As I’d always done, I hand pieced and hand quilted:

I’d never machine quilted a quilt, partly because I take such pleasure in making tiny, perfect stitches. And I love the way hand quilting looks. I was probably 80% finished with Gracie’s quilt when we lost her, and the quilt sits in the top of a closet, unfinished still. I’m going to finish it soon for Katie and Trey.

So the time came to think about Oliver’s quilt, and Katie found a pattern she just loved. It’s very bold and graphic, abstract animals made with the drunkard’s path pattern if you know that one. As always, I hand-pieced the top, including all the sashing strips. I embroidered the little black eyes and noses on the animals, and then it was time to quilt it. Partly because I was running out of time, and partly because of the style of the quilt and blocks, I decided to machine quilt it. I WAS TERRIFIED. I was afraid I’d ruin it, that all the hours I’d put into it would be for nothing, that Oliver wouldn’t have a quilt (at least at the beginning, I could always start over). For this quilt, I thought a meandering free-form style of quilting would be good but I am not a meandering free-form kind of person. I like straight lines, square corners. If you knew how many hours I spent floating in anxiety about screwing up this quilt, you’d pat me on the head and hand me a glass of wine.

My sweet friend Karyn invited me to her house to use her sewing machine, which had what I needed, so off I went with gratitude for her ongoing and deep generosity. The quilting was so much fun, now I want to do that kind of quilting again. You should know — and you’ll see it if you know the first thing about quilting — that I have NO idea what I am doing. I always just teach myself as I go, and there are certain parts of the process that I have no idea how to do so I flounder ahead and do my best. Maybe I’ll take a class.

too lazy to remove the platform around the machine to fix the bobbin. sheesh.
too lazy to remove the platform around the machine to fix the bobbin. sheesh.
those yellow gloves have little knobs of rubber-type stuff that helps me grip the quilt to move it through the machine
those yellow gloves have little knobs of rubber-type stuff that helps me grip the quilt to move it through the machine
and here it is -- a blurry picture because I was holding the phone over my head and trying to shoot straight down to get the whole quilt in the shot
and here it is — a blurry picture because I was holding the phone over my head and trying to shoot straight down to get the whole quilt in the shot
and this little label on the back, For Oliver <3 Love pete.  It makes a little pocket, because little boys love pockets.
and this little label on the back, For Oliver <3  Love pete

And so there it is. My first grandson’s first (made-by-me) quilt. Except for my anxiety about ruining it, every minute of making it was so much fun. The day I quilted it at Karyn’s (Tuesday) (and thank you again, Karyn, for your generosity and for being part of this quilt), I stayed up until 2am to finish it. I had to tie off and hide knots, I had to embroider and attach the label on the back,  and then I had to cut, prepare, sew on, and then hand-finish the binding. So much work and so very many hours spent, each one imagining that little boy, each hour spent with a heart full of love for this rainbow child, this precious boy whose life is going to be drenched in love.

It’s Thursday, it’s nearing the end of March, and today is the first day of Spring. With all my heart, I hope this new season sweeps away the various hardships of our long and hard winter and brings renewal and joy to your life, as it is going to bring to mine. xo

give away those flowers

If I were to die suddenly tomorrow, is there something you’d wish you had told me? Is there something you’d say if you were speaking at my funeral that you’d wish you had told me? All those flowers at funerals, all those beautiful, glowing words, given to the person in the casket, what a waste. Funerals are for those in attendance, of course, to provide comfort, but how sad it is when people wish they just had one more chance, oh the things they’d say.

flowersDixie’s mother referred to this as “giving flowers to the living,” and she was the master at it (as is Dixie). At Katie’s baby shower, Dixie was telling an astonished little story of a time she told an elderly woman that she had a beautiful smile (because she did have a beautiful smile) and the woman burst into tears, and said her mother never said a kind word to her. I think even if our mothers were kind to us, even if we are just fine, we all need to hear those kinds of things. We all have our little sore spots, our little insecurities, and it’s surely true that we hear a lot of the other kinds of things, the criticisms and complaints.

It doesn’t matter why we do the “good” things we do. It doesn’t matter if we’re doing them to cover our karma butts. It doesn’t matter if we’re doing them so we don’t have to be filled with regrets. I always tell my loved ones that I love them when we part, and the origin of that is based in life-dread of regret. The next-to-last thing I ever said to my dad was that I knew he was drinking. The last thing I ever said was that I loved him. Minutes later he killed himself and left a note blaming me — a Shitty DeluxeTM thing to do, no matter what, and those left behind in the wake of a suicide blame themselves easily enough without any help from the dead — and the fact that the last thing I’d said was that I loved him truly did keep me alive. If you knew how many times I rubbed that little stone to comfort myself… and so it left me with this urgency to keep doing that. But so what! I do love these people, and I do want them to know that.  If you do something “good” for your own reasons, guilt reasons, because the person you are helping reminds you of someone you love, because you’re trying to help yourself, whatever, that doesn’t make it into a not-good thing to do. And in fact, I’d make an argument that if you do good things so you can be “good” that is awfully narcissistic! “Oh, look at me and how good I am.” Blech.

I do try to do this broadly, even though I often worry how it will be perceived. And isn’t that so sad? I worry that if I tell someone she looks beautiful she’ll wonder about my motivations. But I do it anyway, even with strangers. When one of my friends looks beautiful it just slips out of my mouth to tell her that. When her smile keeps me warm, I want her to know. It’s dicier to do that with men, but if I know a man well enough I will tell him things that cross my mind, if I’m confident that he won’t turn that into “she wants me!” And I’m always completely blown away when people do this with me too. I get a note that someone had a beautiful dream about me that was filled with love, and I feel amazed and wonderful and connected. I get an email “just” telling me what I mean to someone, or what a post of mine meant, or whatever, and I feel seen and appreciated and overjoyed that I matter to someone. I get a note every. single. day from someone telling me that she loves me. Every day. I get an email from someone who calls me dear and darling, and I glow from feeling loved. And on and on and on.

Two years ago, in February 2012, I undertook a 40-day restoration project. I felt like my life was out of control, like I was flailing and reacting instead of being centered and solid. It was mostly wonderful, and I got a lot of things from it. One little element of the project was to email a different person each morning and tell them what they meant to me. A few of the emails were on the shorter side (I didn’t have 40 people I had hugely deep feelings about), but most were surprisingly long. And while it meant something to the recipients, all of whom wrote me back in shock and joy, the bigger thing was what it gave ME. It started each day with a deep awareness of the incredible people in my life and what they had added to my life, how grateful I was for them and how lucky that they were in my life. It set the tone for my day. It was amazing. One person decided to do the same thing and wrote one to me, and I was entirely blown away by what she said. I had no idea I meant those things to her, I had no idea she felt this way or that, even as I knew that she loved me and valued me! But it’s the specifics that are gifts to us. I know you love me, but when I learn some details I’m almost always surprised. People in new romantic relationships do this, they tell each other why they love each other, the specifics. Friends often don’t, and that’s a shame.

I was in the shower when the idea for this post hit me, and I had originally planned to close with little thoughts about all of you, with just your initials so you’d spot the one about you, but I decided against that for a lot of reasons, including the very real possibility that I’d miss someone and then I’d feel awful about that. Maybe I’ll start up my morning email-writing campaign again, I got so much out of that. But maybe not until A.O. (after Oliver).

Anyway. It means so very much that you read my little blog. It means so much when you come back again and again. It means so much when you leave comments of any kind. It means so much when you write me an email after reading a post. It means so much just knowing that you are there. And I love you.

souvenirs

All the snow has turned to water,
Christmas days have come and gone.
Broken toys and faded colors are all that’s left to linger on.
I hate graveyards and old pawn shops,
For they always bring me tears.
I can’t forgive the way they robbed me of my childhood souvenirs.

Memories, they can’t be boughten.
They can’t be won at carnivals for free.
Well it took me years to get those souvenirs,
And I don’t know how they slipped away from me.

memoriesBroken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see.
That’s why last night and this morning
Always look the same to me.
And I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears.
I can’t forget the way they robbed me,
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs.

Memories they can’t be boughten,
They can’t be won at carnivals for free.
Well it took me years to get those souvenirs
And I don’t know how they slipped away from me.

* * *

Steve Goodman wrote that song but John Prine made it as well known as it ever was. It’s such a wrenching song, a sad melody. I listened to it during the time I was getting divorced from my kids’ dad and even today, twenty years later, it guts me.

The older I get, we get I suppose, the sweeter memories become. When my kids were in late elementary school, my memories of their younger lives were sweet enough but I was exhausted and so in the thick of it that they just sat there in a box as if I could always pick them up and thumb through them. One by one I put the souvenirs in that box—real souvenirs like their little report cards, school photos, Christmas ornaments, letters to me—and the more ephemeral souvenirs like the way Will smelled when he came in on a summer night; the way Katie focused so hard when she did her homework; the way Marnie knew she was adored by the mothers on the cul-de-sac. I tucked those away, “just” memories, but when I pull them out now they have become the sweetest things, almost too sweet to bear.

Partly this extraordinary sweetness is due to seeing who they’ve become, feeling the long distance from their sweet little lives and still seeing that in them when they laugh, or frown, or move in a certain way. My little babies, still there in these beautiful adults moving around in the world. And by extension, I am in there too. The young mother I was, feeling skinned, raw, all my nerves hanging exposed like live wires. The young mother I was, so far in love with those children I could not bear it, I couldn’t smell them enough, kiss them enough, squeeze them, make things with them, cuddle them. The young mother is long gone, the babies and young kids are long gone, but they’re not, really. I find it so extraordinarily sweet that I almost cannot contain the feelings.

Even the painful memories have sweetened in some way. That excruciating time when I wasn’t sure I could survive without my kids’ dad — as he was the root I grew around, and so wrenching him out of me would surely leave a hollow so huge that I would collapse — and the pain in my chest so hard I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see. I remember the pain, but I feel tender toward it now, tender toward us all as I think back.

This getting older business has a lot going for it. I highly recommend it to everyone. Get older. Grow and soften. Hold your souvenirs lightly, with both hands. Do not let them go.

xo

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inner voice, take two

A week ago I wrote about my sneering, contemptuous inner voice that does its best to knock me down (“Shut the hell up”). I heard from so many people on email, and I know it’s a very common experience. And maybe it’s not even born of a parent or teacher, maybe it’s just our own fears hard at work. For many of us, it often works. It often stops us. In a comment on that post, something occurred to me and I have to tell you that it seems to have worked. Perhaps the ground was fertile and I was just ready for it to work, but it worked.

deeply beautiful Dixie
deeply beautiful Dixie

You’ve already met Dixie, and if you look at or leave comments you’ve read her words to me, over and over. At times, you may have even thought come on, Dixie. Dixie loves me unconditionally, and sees me in the very best light, and believes I can do anything, and always gives the benefit of the doubt to me in any ambiguous situation. I have never experienced anything like it — perhaps few people do (unless you know Dixie). This is just how Dixie loves people, which does not in any way diminish the way she sees me or what she says to me; in other words, it’s not just Dixie being kind of blindly positive. Oh no, she is human like the rest of us and has her own little grudges — though it’s a teeny tiny teeny tiny list, and you basically get on the list by hurting someone she loves and not stopping. She’s like her mother in her extraordinarily generous love. Objectively, and obviously, I am not all that Dixie sees and says, but isn’t it wonderful to have someone who sees you like that? Dixie is the first person in my life who has loved me in that way.

angelSo in commenting on my earlier post, it all at once hit me: Let Dixie be the other voice in my head! My thought was that there would be a debate in my head: the unreasonably negative vs the unreasonably positive. I thought that would help me knock the cruel voice away.

That’s not what happened, at all. I’m actually shocked by it. Having Dixie’s voice in my head has replaced the other voice. There is no argument, no debate, no ghost of a sneer. It’s just Dixie’s distinctive voice saying, “You can do it! I believe in you, you are so good!” And even though I may disagree, I think well, if she believes in me that much I have to at least try! It has been transformative for me. I don’t feel scared, I don’t stop myself from writing, I don’t stop myself from trying the things that are inevitably going to bring rejection because that’s the nature of it. I am not afraid of the inevitable rounds and rounds and rounds of rejection because I know the voice in my head will encourage me and still believe in me.

I’ll tell you, it’s one of the most remarkable things that has ever happened to me. The simplicity of it, the way it happened instantaneously and [apparently] completely. We’ll see, maybe that cruel voice will find a new hurt spot in me and use it against me, but Dixie is pretty mighty. I wouldn’t want to go up against her. I’ve spent more than half the years of my life in therapy, so I kind of have an expectation that getting rid of deep-seated hurts and problems requires months and years of hard hard work. And maybe I have done the months and years of hard hard work that made this thing happen so easily, I don’t know. But it’s as dramatic and switch-flipping as the moment of forgiveness that washed over me in a Quaker meeting in 1989.

Will it work for you, to incorporate the actual voice of someone in your life who believes in you? I don’t know, obviously. But if it’s never occurred to you (as it had never occurred to me), you might give it a try. If you are lucky enough to have someone like Dixie in your life, maybe it will be easy. If there’s someone who believes in you and loves you but there are other aspects to the relationship too, then maybe you’ll have to edit the tape before you load it into the machine. I don’t know. Maybe it won’t work for you at all. I just wanted to share my experience.

Tuesday Tuesday, hope it’s a good one. xo

V <3

valentines

Yes! Happy Valentine’s Day everyone, even those who want to grouse that it’s just a day for Hallmark to make some money. We love you grumps anyway. Whatever the day was originally about (not at all clear), now of course it’s just about celebrating love. And so, while I celebrate in a distance-way with my husband, I also celebrate the love I share with my beautiful, beautiful children and their husbands, my now-pineapple-sized grandson Oliver, my family Karl and Dixie and Sherlock and Peggy, my beloved friends in Austin and New York and all the various places I’ve lived, my dear friends I’ve met through this blog and Facebook and Ravelry and all the other odd places we meet these days. In all the different ways we can love each other, I love you.

It carries a lot of weight, this crazy day — reservations at restaurants made weeks ahead of time, flower and candy and gift pressures, in-your-face gut punch for the momentarily heartbroken, blech. Really, it’s just about the love, and nearly everyone has someone they love, someone who loves them, and that makes us all very lucky. And that’s worth celebrating. Since my husband and I are not together today, we’re doing the 21st century version of celebrating together. We’re making the same dinner, and we have the same movie, so we’ll set our tables and then get on Skype and eat together, and then watch a movie together. Not our very best V-Day, but not our worst, either.

I’m also thinking of a friend of mine undergoing a surgical procedure today and I send non-stop zingings of love and light and energy his way, including to the medical team taking care of him today. For 20 years this day has carried a special meaning for him, so the timing of the procedure today is strange and coincidental and apt. A few more 20-year runs for him, please. If you do this kind of thing, please send good thoughts his way. You can call him what Katie called him a long time ago: Homie G-Dog.  A good heart day for you, Homie G-Dog.

xoxoxo

love

loveSo! A week from today is St. Valentine’s Day (remember the St.? I think we’ve Hallmarked that word out of the day at this point, but that’s what we called it when I was a kid). The morning news shows are talking about flowers and what you should know before you order, the shops are full of gaudy cards and even gaudier red-cellophaned boxes of chocolate, and however you might feel about the commercial part, telling people you love them is a good idea. Somehow the ‘holiday’ seems to have shifted toward romantic relationships exclusively (unless you’re in elementary school), but that’s such a shame. If you don’t have a romantic relationship, there are still people in your life that you love, and who love you, and you can celebrate those relationships too — it’ll be good for you and good for them. Here are some ideas:

  • A little gift, something they always wanted but never got. This one requires forethought and knowledge of the person, so it’s not for everyone — but what a gift. And it needn’t be a big thing, of course. A box of charcoal pencils, a collection of watercolors for the wish-to-be artist. A childhood toy, longed for but never received. You’ll knock their socks off partly because they will feel known and seen. And that’s what it’s about.
  • Amnesty and forgiveness. Finally, just let that thing go. But don’t tell them in a “yeah, I forgive you for that shitty thing you did to me” way. Wrap it in a new beginning, a frame of understanding and accepting their humanity and loving them. (You’ll get a gift back on this one.)
  • A box of something that smells wonderful. Be creative and look outside. If there’s a childhood memory you can track down with a smell, do that! If they love the smell of leather and tobacco, do that. If they love orange blossoms, check out your florist.
  • A little still life. It’s easy to see all the nests in trees and bushes, here in our harsh winter. Pull one down, place little objects in it. A brief bit of life, held in place.
  • Do a chore for them! Mothers, if you’re lucky enough to live near your kids, I imagine your grown daughter would be shocked if you showed up to do one of her chores. OR make it easy for her and her husband to celebrate together — take the grandkids and leave a little bit of cash behind, if you can afford to do that.
  • Stick little notes in surprising places, and if you can, slip them in places they’ll discover as the day goes on. One in a coat pocket, one in the underwear drawer, one in the purse or briefcase or wallet, one in the car. Tiny little notes — Post-Its, even. Tiny little notes.
  • Your complete and undivided attention. Whoever it is, wherever they are, you can do this. See them if you can, and truly focus on them. Smile and feel the love you have for them, and just look at them. Listen to them. Keep your phone in your purse or pocket — or in the car.  Talk about real life, how things are in their life, their dreams, their day, their worry.

I woke up this morning thinking about how lucky I am in love — Marc, my children and their husbands, my adopted family members, my friends bound in love, my friends connected by like, I am rich rich rich RICH.

I leave you with a funny poem about love:

Love Explained
BY JENNIFER MICHAEL HECHT

Guy calls the doctor, says the wife’s
contractions are five minutes apart.
Doctor says, Is this her first child?
guy says, No, it’s her husband.

I promise to try to remember who
I am. Wife gets up on one elbow,

says, I wanted to get married.
It seemed a fulfillment of some

several things, a thing to be done.
Even the diamond ring was some

thing like a quest, a thing they
set you out to get and how insane

the quest is; how you have to turn
it every way before you can even

think to seek it; this metaphysical
refraining is in fact the quest. Who’d

have guessed? She sighs, I like
the predictability of two, I like

my pleasures fully expected,
when the expectation of them

grows patterned in its steady
surprise. I’ve got my sweet

and tumble pat. Here on earth,
I like to count upon a thing

like that. Thus explained
the woman in contractions

to her lover holding on
the telephone for the doctor

to recover from this strange
conversational turn. You say

you’re whom? It is a pleasure
to meet you. She rolls her

eyes, but he’d once asked her
Am I your first lover? and she’d
said, Could be. Your face looks
familiar. It’s the same type of

generative error. The grammar
of the spoken word will flip, let alone

the written, until something new is
in us, and in our conversation.

the universe responds

waterLately — I don’t know exactly for how long — I’ve been submerged. Not deep, not in the black water, just underneath the surface, close enough to pop my head up and take a breath. Partly it’s what we’re all dealing with this year, a really harsh winter, one storm after another, exhausting our resources inside and out. I need some sun — you do too, I’m sure. And partly it’s because there has been a lot of hard stuff happening to me and to people I love. Nothing fatal, and even the hard stuff seems to be finding its level. My dear friend who had a huge health scare is going to be OK. And so his wife is going to be OK and I, his friend, will be OK. One family member came through a really rough patch with a great decision. Scary, yes, but the right decision and the relief that brings. Good people die for stupid and sad reasons and the world is just like that.

And so yesterday I was again home alone all day, with some work (thank you universe, for a little run of little jobs now could I get a bigger one please?), and just feeling under the water. I could see the sky, but it was cloudy. I ate some beans. I was not feeling all that great.

But then my phone rang and it was Dixie, who has been sending me these little loving emails every single morning — I see what she’s doing there — but it was Dixie on the phone. And if you’ve been around these parts for even a day, you know what kind of call it was. It was a Dixie call, and how could all that love do anything but lift my spirits? Such a sweet surprise, and such a spirit lifter.

And then I ate some more beans. Then I decided maybe I’d make one cupcake — you can do that, you know. One cupcake. No frosting. Just a tiny little bit of cake to go with a cup of tea. And I kept working. Seven o’clock. Eight o’clock. Nine o’clock. Nine thirty. And then my phone rang.

Who would call me at 9:30? The caller ID — my heart stopped, is my friend in some kind of trouble? We thought he’s out of the woods. But no, no trouble, just his wife — my beloved friend — calling to tell me something. To encourage me, to share an opportunity with me. “We’ll do it together, let’s do it together. And if it works for one of us but not the other, we will be so happy for each other. Let’s do it. You should do it,” she said. “You are so good.”

yes

There I’d been, feeling weighed down and burdened and not so good. You know the blues’ll do that to you. You should do it. You are so good.

We both reassured ourselves that of course we won’t get in, we don’t even need to worry a tiny bit about how to pay the hefty tuition — it won’t matter, we won’t have to worry about it. But let’s do it anyway, I will if you will. You are so good. (She is so so good….) And so we decided that we will do it anyway, we will say YES to ourselves and that cracks the universe open every time we do it. Say yes. Say YES.

I remind myself of an old joke. A guy is stranded by rising flood waters, so he climbs up on the roof of his house. The waters rise. Some other guy comes along in a rowboat and tells the guy to get in, but the guy says, “No, the Lord is going to save me.” So the rowboat guy moves along and still the waters rise. Another guy comes by in a bigger boat, “No, the Lord is going to save me,” he says again. The waters are rising, he climbs up on the chimney. A helicopter comes by and drops down a ladder — “Climb up!” the rescuer shouts. “No, no, the Lord is going to save me.” The waters rise, the guy drowns. He gets to heaven and says, “God, why didn’t you save me?” And God said, “I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what  else do you want me to do?”

Look at all these people swimming up to me, throwing ropes my way, calling out to me with so much love, with so much tenderness, with so much care. It never ever ceases to amaze me the way humans can be, the way we keep an eye on each other, the way we extend our love again, and again, and again. The way you might feel a little bit sinky and then what do you know, someone calls out of the blue to say she loves you. And then what do you know, someone calls out of the blue to tell you that you are good. Some days that’s just exactly what you need to hear. Thank you my darling Dixie, and my beautiful Peggy, and Traci for popping in with love, and Becci for leaving notes with love, and Marnie for sharing her life good and confusing with me, and today for the huge joy of time with Katie.

Yes universe, YES. How can I say anything but yes.

[and for you, a little prezzie. I brought this poem to my poetry group on Tuesday night, and it’s kind of dazzling. It’s by Christian Wiman, published in his collection Hard Night (2005, Copper Canyon Press). Read it aloud:

Rhymes for a Watertower

A town so flat a grave’s a hill,
A dusk the color of beer.
A row of schooldesks shadows fill,
A row of houses near.

A courthouse spreading to its lawn,
A bank clock’s lingering beat.
A gleam of storefronts not quite gone,
A courthouse on the street.

A different element, almost,
A dry creek brimming black.
A light to lure the darkness close,
A light to bring it back.

A time so still a heart’s a sound,
A moon the color of skin.
A pumpjack bowing to the ground,
Again, again, again.

renegade hearts

goldfinchI was prepared not to like The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s newest giant book (755 pages). I loved her first book, as I recall, didn’t bother with her second, and was interested enough in this one until I read Francine Prose’s review of it in The New York Review of Books. I like Francine Prose, like her writing, like the way she thinks about books. She found too much of The Goldfinch to be written in a trite way. Well! Trite writing works my last nerve, but the book was selected for our book club and I always do my best to read the whole book, but I wasn’t going to like it.

And yet I really, really did. It’s a wonderful story of characters. Theo, the main character, is with his beloved mother at the museum in New York, and she runs back to take a look at a painting as he goes to the gift shop — just as a terrorist bomb explodes and destroys everything. His mother dies, and Theo spends the last moments with an older man who is dying from the blast, who gives Theo a ring and urges him toward a painting, which Theo grabs as he escapes. That blast sets up everything that unfolds. Theo ends up with the very wealthy family of a friend, then his father takes him to Las Vegas where he meets Boris, who remains his friend through the length of the book. I’m not going to summarize the plot or describe the characters beyond just telling you that I deeply loved the book, and didn’t want it to end. It’s beautiful, it’s touching, it’s moving, it’s heartbreaking, it’s about loss and trauma and art and transformation — all of which are My Favorite Things.

The last chapter is a kind of a long speech about what matters, what Theo struggles with, figures out, learns. For the most part I thought it worked, and I probably highlighted 90% of it, maybe more. Here’s a passage I really loved:

I keep thinking of the more conventional wisdom: namely, that the pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty has to be wedded to something more meaningful.

Only what is that thing? Why am I made the way I am? Why do I care about all the wrong things, and nothing at all for the right ones? Or, to tip it another way: how can I see so clearly that everything I love or care about is illusion, and yet–for me, anyway–all that’s worth living for lies in that charm?

A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

Because–isn’t it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture–? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it’s a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what’s right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: “Be yourself.” “Follow your heart.”

Only here’s what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can’t be trusted–? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?…If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or…is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?

Aren’t those the questions? We don’t get to choose our hearts. We are who we are, and we can change some things — yes, we can — but we are who we are. I see my adult children, the only people in the world I’ve known since before they were born into the world, and I see that they are who they always were. They flipped and flopped as they grew, shifted this way and that, but who they were is who they are. The idea of change is a curious one; have I changed, in my life? Or did I just not become someone I was afraid I’d become . . . but I am who I always was. We are who we are, we do not choose our hearts, we love what we love, who we love. We want what we want — we can try not to want those things and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t.

Time for a Moonstruck break:

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“I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit. “

I do love these questions. They scare me. I am so tightly in control of things and long instead to throw myself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling my name, like Boris in the book. I don’t get to choose my heart, which leads me to the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person. What a waste of time, wishing to be a different person than who I am.

I read a heartbreaking interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who said that of all the things people said about him, no one ever said he was cute. He wanted to be called cute. It’s what he wanted — he shouldn’t want that, not with all his talent and all his brilliance. But that’s what he wanted, and he didn’t get it, and that breaks my goddamn heart.

amnesty

Once in a while, a very small item appears and pulls together a bunch of things I’ve been thinking about. Today’s instance relates to amnesty, forgiveness. The thing that pulled it together was #7 on this list of 21 unexpected ways to say I love you:

amnesty

It reminded me that when my kids were little, somehow I got the idea to offer amnesty days, where they could confess anything at all without consequence — yes, I was the one who screwed that giant screw into the coffee table, I was the one who drew on the wall with a Sharpie, whatever. I don’t remember now why I thought of it; maybe I just wanted someone, just once, to own up to the little gremlin acts that no one ever committed. Anyway, amnesty. I always liked those days and felt glad to hear the little acts that had been kept secret. I don’t remember who screwed the screw, or drew with the Sharpie, because it doesn’t matter. Amnesty was granted.

I'll let us ALL out of jail
I’ll let us ALL out of jail

A couple of days ago I read one of those little picture-phrase things that fly through Facebook —  one about forgiveness. The gist was that we forgive for ourselves, not for the person we forgive. And of course I know that, I’ve written about it a lot here, it’s something I have had to think about very intensely for decades. But the specific phrasing of the Facebook post caught in my throat, paused my heart for a second. Oh, wait. It’s just a gift to myself, I do it for myself. I’m the one who gets the benefit, and I deserve that benefit. I deserve to get out of jail. Hanging onto a wound keeps me wounded, when I didn’t ‘deserve’ the wound in the first place. So the concept of forgiveness — amnesty — has been on my mind a lot in the last couple of days.

And then I read that #7 item.  Amnesty for what was done to survive. For what was done in the fumbling of finding the way. For forgetting dates and numbers. For never being on time. For not being able to make it work. For wanting what we want. For being human, living. Well, that made me cry, because some of the things I have to forgive are huge and shocking, but the vast majority are these — fumbling, finding the way, wanting what he wanted, being human, being himself which means imperfect. And of course I need to forgive myself, too, grant myself amnesty for my many fumblings and trying to survive and simply being too quick or selfish.

Here, on the last day of the year, I can grant amnesty, offer forgiveness, let us both off the dreadful hook of all the little acid actions and words that left rust spots on my heart. Amnesty for the care not taken, the empathy not offered. No need to list them, I know what they are, and even though some were really quite shitty, they were all born of the fumbling finding of a way, the deep imperfection of being human — which I am, too — rather than from a malicious heart. I hope and ask for forgiveness from people I’ve hurt too, and for those things I did that weren’t mean, or intended to harm, but were instead born out of thoughtlessness, or my own deep imperfection, my own fumbling to find my way which is often inelegant and clumsy. With amnesty I offer understanding, to him and to myself, and isn’t that what we all want? To be understood in the midst of our humble human experience?

In the mid-1990s, I regularly attended a Quaker meeting in Alexandria, Virginia. I’d spent about 15 years trying hard — hard — to forgive my stepfather for years of frequent rape. It was hard, and I knew I wanted to forgive him for my own self, because he was on no hook. Only I was on the hook of hanging onto that pain. I’d clench my fists and bear down, forgive forgive forgive. One spring morning I sat in the sunny, gathered silence of the Quaker meeting, not really thinking about anything in particular, just waiting and listening, and I had a spiritual experience I’ve never been able to explain, and I rarely talk about it because I have no explanation that fits easily with my rational mind. All I can say is that the forgiveness washed over me, like water over my head and down into my heart, and washed it all away. It did. I can’t explain it, but it did. That experience didn’t make me an amnesiac, I remember the events, but I forgave and they don’t hurt me anymore. It was a blissful experience, and it stuck.

balloonsThis morning I feel a similar thing, the bliss of forgiveness, as I let go of small potatoes things, acts that hurt me badly but that were the flowerings of his human imperfection. What a gift for me. Maybe you can clear your own slates and let 2013 take those old things away so your heart gets a lift for the new year. And if I have hurt you, please forgive me.

Y’all be careful tonight, and happy New Year’s Eve whatever you will be doing. Looking ahead to 2014 with a light heart filled with hope.

what would YOU miss?

ubud8I read a little article over on ElephantJournal.com that asked what makes life worth living. Well, that’s one of my favorite questions to consider! Maybe it’s one of my favorites because I’ve got a jillion answers. Maybe if I couldn’t come up with an answer it would be one of the most dreadful questions in the world. So many days, when I get my late-afternoon email asking me to pause and note what I’m grateful for, it’s hard to answer because there are just so many things. And I can’t write them all, but they’re all bulging and pressing on me, and how can I just pick? They’re all so wonderful.

But this is a little different question, isn’t it? There may be overlap, surely there will be (the things I’m grateful for certainly make my life worth living), but some of the things that make life worth living are just those exquisite little moments, come and gone so quickly even if they’re as sweet as a drop of honey on your tongue. So aside from all the things I’ve been writing about lately, all of you, all of my life, the brilliance of it all, these things make life worth living.

The smell of dirt. The smell of rain. The smell of rain splashing on really dry dirt. Storm clouds back lit in an unnerving way. Electricity in the air. Shadows. Fresh lemon and lime. Stretching out on cool sheets. The moment I wake up but don’t have to get up yet. Katie’s little giggle. Hearing a favorite old song surprise me. Opening the door. Closing the door and locking it. A full refrigerator. Opening an old book and having something fall out.

“Hi Mom.” Embraces and smiles. All of us on our knees, facing it together and holding each other through the heartache. When the lights go down in the theater. A very warm breeze moving in my hair. The black sky full of stars. The changing moon. Autumn color. The day the light shifts and the season changes. Chocolate on my tongue. Beans and cornbread.

Chopping a bunch of vegetables. Stirring the soup. When the phone rings Saturday morning and it’s Marnie. The bright blue sky. Clouds, always, always. Sunset with someone. Kisses. Arms around me when I need them most. Him stroking my hair when I’m feeling low. Turning off all the lamps at night. Whispering. Dancing alone in the living room. The feeling like flying when you’re on a bicycle. When the airplane lifts off, and again when it lands.

Looking at the earth below when I’m flying. Watching the landscape fly by when I’m driving. Seeing my son walking toward me in his loping way. “Hey ma.” Color, all of it.  Anticipation. Amazing carrot cake. My sweet life. The air on a summer night. Christmas lights glowing in the dark. Meeting someone new and just knowing they’ll be deep in my heart. Old friends. Plans of any kind. Love. Even love lost.

That’s my list as it occurred to me in a stream of consciousness way. It’s fun to think about all these things — I suddenly realized how very much I would miss these things if my life were ending. And since it’s not, I can give them all the attention I have now, today, whenever they happen. Enjoy your beautiful Sunday and all the moments, even the ordinary ones. xo

bug in the tum tum

yuck.
yuck.

Well, it has NOT been much fun to be me the last few days. I’ve had some kind of bad stomach mojo and haven’t felt like eating much of anything except some rice. Yesterday I ate a bit of salad, but whatever I eat ends up making my stomach hurt so badly. I suspect it is a virus of some kind because I ache all over and my head hurts in that particular way. Yuck. I find myself longing for one of my amazing creamy green smoothies. I long to be able to get up at 6 and take my neighborhood walk. Instead, I’ve been mostly lying in bed with my laptop, working and doing some various moaning and complaining.

Feeling sick when you live alone isn’t that great, if you ask me. It gets so easy to start feeling so boo-hoo sorry for myself, oh poor me. And yet……

I’ve been everything but alone in so many ways! One wonderful Austin friend texts me throughout the day, offers to bring me soup or pick up something for me while she’s out, do I need anything at all? Am I up to getting out, or having some quiet time together? One beautiful New York City friend called me yesterday just to say hi, just to hear my voice. And about an hour later, another amazing love called just to hear my voice, she didn’t even have much to talk about. These three friends, my deep boon loves, make it impossible for me to get lost feeling sorry for myself (and also to get lost, because they’re watching out for me!). Another Austin friend, my health coach actually, volunteers to bring me food if I’m running out of anything.

This is such a surprise in my life. I’ve always had friends, it’s not that, but I’ve never had friends in the way I do now. It may have something to do with ways I’ve relaxed and changed and opened, ways I am more easily real and vulnerable(lite) with people now. And it is probably also true that I know how to understand what I have now, in a way I haven’t in the past. I remember when we were moving away from CT after living there for 8 months, I was saying goodbye to Marjorie, a truly wonderful woman who had been so good to us. She was the crossing guard at the elementary school so my daughters knew and loved her, but she also organized her friends when she first met us and brought us enough warm clothes — CT warm — to keep my little kids warm through the winter. We were extraordinarily poor and I don’t know what I would’ve done without that help. I loved Marjorie and enjoyed her very sweet company, but it was time to move and so my eyes were on the highway, already packing the U-Haul. Marjorie was breaking down, crying pretty heavily, and (hanging my head here) I remember thinking hmmm, she doesn’t know how to do this. I remember that now with such shame, and with such regret — look at the opportunity I missed with this wonderful human being! She was grieving, we’d meant something important to her, and I missed it because I was just temporary, just passing through, on my way to the next town.

It took me several years to realize what happened with Marjorie and I will never miss those opportunities again. I know extremely well what you mean to me, my friends, but I also know that I mean something to you, and that’s so precious to me. When I fail to recognize that, I not only dismiss your gift to me, your gift of your love and care, but I also treat you badly . . . and yet you are faithful in continuing to care about me anyway. It’s always been hard for me to let myself mean something to people — I talk trash, belittle myself, dismiss myself — and that’s finally shifted over the last several years, as I have aged. I’m so grateful for that, and for you.

much love, and appreciation for the way you hold me in your heart.  lucky, lucky me. xo

comp’ny

When you’re my kind of Texan (i.e., the kind with the big accent and rural roots) you say the word like that:  comp’ny. When I lived in New York I think I usually tried to say it with the three syllables — com-pa-ny.  Comp’ny just means someone’s coming to stay with you; they may or may not be stressful, they may or may not be the kind of person/people you have to dress up for and be “on” for. Comp’ny just means guests. Even visiting family is comp’ny. Marnie and Tom are coming to Austin over the Christmas holidays and they’ll be staying with me. Even they (and even just Marnie, for that matter) are comp’ny.

So late Friday night, Sherlock and Peggy arrived. It was a very long day for them — a day of work, then an hour-long drive to the airport, a flight to Detroit, a flight to Austin, and arriving at what was to them 11:30pm. So we ate some snacks and drank some wine and talked while they unwound enough to be ready for sleep, and I was just so so happy to be in their presence. SO happy. I love those people so much.

Saturday we wandered around, ate a lot of good food, went to two bookstores, watched the bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue bridge, ate more good food, and then while we were walking off our dinner, we stopped in a haberdashery. “No, I’m not going to try on any hats. I am just NOT a hat person. And now I don’t have the right hair. No, you guys go ahead, I’ll watch.” “No, really. I am not a hat person. Seriously.”

And then Kitty, a fuschia-haired woman who worked in the shop, approached me and put a hat on me. And not just that, but a style of hat that I’d have argued to the death I could not wear. A cloche. She’d overheard me and apparently wanted to prove me dead wrong.

me! in a cloche! AGAIN i learn how little i know about myself.

I was so enamored, I bought the hat. Obviously. And then, while Sherlock and Peggy were trying on hats, I walked through the shop trying on one after another and they all looked fantastic! I had to just force myself not to keep buying hats, because they weren’t cheap in that shop. Turns out: I am a hat person.

Sunday we drove out to Fredericksburg and spent the day wandering in and out of shops, eating and drinking, talking, and just enjoying being together. Oh, and I bought another hat. Because I am a hat person.

SERIOUSLY??
SERIOUSLY??

On the way home, we stopped at the Messina Hof winery to do a little wine tasting. I tasted one that was ranked the 4th best wine IN THE WORLD, called Primitivo. It was lush and soft and deep and complex and a gorgeous big red. So good. But by the time we got home it was late, and we were exhausted, and we had to get up at 5am to head to the airport, so we sat on my patio and ate some hummus and drank some wine and called it a night. The house is so quiet now, so empty without their warm, generous, loving presences. I love those people with all my heart.

Yeah, that's me and Peggy. She's my bosom sister. I'd do anything in the world for her.
Yeah, that’s me and Peggy. She’s my bosom sister. I’d do anything in the world for her.
and here we all are, enjoying ourselves at Shady Grove, one of my favorite Austin places to eat, drink, and relax in the shade of giant trees.
and here we all are, enjoying ourselves at Shady Grove, one of my favorite Austin places to eat, drink, and relax in the shade of giant trees. obviously he is my bosom brother and I’d do anything in the world for him, too. Lucky me.

So many things I’m left thinking about in the wake of their wonderful and too-short visit. One, I think I just don’t really know very much about myself at all. Or rather, the things I’ve been so certain (and wrong!) about for so long have shown me that I need to ratchet down all certainty levels about 70% of their current degree of certainty. We had a great conversation at a bierhaus about certainty and aging and I want to think more about it and then write about it. Two, it’s never ever too late to get your real family. Maybe you were just born to the wrong mother or something….but if you’re lucky, you can find them. And you’ll know it when you do, so you just grab them, hang on tight, and love them with all your heart. Three, Sherlock and Peggy both had SO many great ideas and recommendations and suggestions for my business, and some are just hilarious and perfect. I’ll say a little more about them later, after I implement them. I haven’t ever felt so excited about the possibilities I might create for myself, and for Katie who works with me. And four, loving people also means their concerns are yours, their pain is yours, their suffering is yours, and I want to send all the love and energy and care I can summon along to them because they should just have all good things in their life.

Happy Labor Day y’all. I hope your holiday weekend includes family in whatever form that may take, and good food, and smiles and laughter, and beautiful skies filled with beautiful clouds. Summer is waning (well, in Texas that’s just kind of theoretical) and the year is zooming past, and you need to grab today and eat it up.

we live on a PLANET y’all

there's Earth, that little dot, shot from Cassini, from the other side of SATURN. Which is ANOTHER PLANET, incredibly COOL.
there’s Earth, that little dot, image captured by Cassini, from the other side of SATURN. Which is ANOTHER PLANET, incredibly COOL.

We live in our little houses or apartments, on our little streets, in our cities or towns. On occasion we focus on our country. And that’s usually that, right? But we live on a damn planet, circling around a sun! In a solar system, with other planets circling and whizzing around the sun — some giant and WHOA-inducing. Rings, really? Giant spots, wow.

And don’t get me started on the Milky Way, and then the whole dang universe. BOGGLE.

For me, this doesn’t bring about some reminder of how unimportant I am, how small I am, how inconsequential my life might be. (Although all those things are true. BLIP.) For me, this kind of scale boggles me and leaves me kind of wordless. I remember once I was flying across the country and I think the lighting was very particular — clouds, a lot of them; the sunlight coming in underneath and through, and a good view of the landscape below. There was a system of lakes with rivers coming off either end, but the whole view looked like one of those flocked Christmas balls, with the flocking scraped off in some way and the shiny ball showing through. I think I saw that 30 years ago, and I still remember it so very clearly. The Earth as a Christmas ornament, with features scratched into it.

nebulae totally freak me out. i can hardly tolerate looking at them! the one that looks like a blue eye terrifies me.
nebulae totally freak me out. i can hardly tolerate looking at them! the one that looks like a blue eye terrifies me.

Looking up into the universe, or down into the depths of our oceans, kind of freaks me out.  It makes my stomach fall into my feet, it makes me pant and my eyes get very big. But looking at our planet, or having that momentary awareness that I’m moving about on the face of a planet, thrills me. Are you like that? I think it’s a manageable scale, perhaps. I’m not going to be risking death . . . not like if I were in space looking at Earth, or down in the depths of the ocean. Instead, I’m just moving along the face of our planet. It’s one reason I love west Texas so much, the giant skies. I can see the curve of that horizon and it’s easy to see the planet. It’s easy to put myself in the context of a video game, moving my little car or self along the surface of the globe. It’s one reason I love traveling to the other side of the world, watching that map on the seat in front of me, seeing the Earth revolve underneath me. There we are, moving over Greenland, Iceland, northern Europe, all the way wherever we’re going. WOW. Flying across the face of our planet.

flying over Sumatra May 2013 -- left Singapore at sunrise
flying over Sumatra May 2013 — left Singapore at sunrise

Do you remember being in elementary school, coloring maps of other countries in the world? I remember coloring India and Japan with colored pencils. I remember learning about the customs of those places, I remember how exotic they seemed. (And now i’ve been to both.) Do you remember being completely dazzled by the planets in the solar system? By Saturn’s rings? Do you remember being in awe of dinosaurs, and extinct animals? Do you remember feeling confused and strange about Neanderthals? I do. I remember all that, I can quickly and immediately feel those memories in my body. We don’t have to lose that wonder, that awe. We just have to remember. Every day, we can remember to see how strange and beautiful it is that we have a blue sky filled with all kinds of clouds — a show for us, every single day, we just have to notice it! Most nights, there is some kind of brilliant moon in the sky (I always get kind of giddy thinking how bizarre it would be if we had multiple moons in the sky, so easy to amuse myself), and it’s different every night if only we pay attention.

I love this world.

quiet happiness

I am a huge fan of big loud happiness — group happiness, squealing happiness, outside happiness, it’s all good. When everyone is there, when it’s just a great laughing good time, that’s good happiness. I enjoy it a lot. But actually, I think I enjoy the quiet happiness even more. Quiet happiness doesn’t need other people in the same way big loud happiness does — is that right? I can’t think of a big loud happy you can have all by yourself. If I’m right, that gives the trump to quiet happiness, because you can have it even if there’s no one else around.

Quiet happiness is probably closer to some of the synonyms, too: contentment, pleasure, even joy, though I’ll bet joy goes both ways. Quiet happiness is also deep, and I really enjoy that part of it. I’ve been feeling a lot of quiet happiness lately, even as I’ve been feeling so re-newly heartbroken by the end of my marriage. Letting go of someone you love so much in the hopes that he can be happy is just so so hard. So perhaps that feeling sets the tone for quiet happiness, because I sit alone a lot, thinking and feeling my heartache. But in the midst of that, there is happiness all around.

I’ve been going to Mozart’s, a coffee house on Lake Austin, at sunset. There is often a nice breeze, and I sit at the edge of the deck and watch the sun go down, and write.* The light is often beautiful, and the deck is filled with people and usually someone playing a guitar.

beautiful light, and my notebook for writing.
beautiful light, and my notebook for writing.

The light in that picture fits quiet happiness, doesn’t it? And then, the sunset:

sunset

When the light is fading, I go home to my quiet, beautiful little home and read, or find a movie that makes me happy, or make my own music.

my new ukulele, my old banjo, and my even older guitar. my babies.
my new ukulele, my old banjo, and my even older guitar. my babies.

I’ll cook a nice dinner for myself, take pleasure in the preparation, enjoy the quiet and my sweet life. I’ll put on some beautiful music, like the CD that Dixie just sent me, The Wailin’ Jennys, and just drift in their beautiful quiet harmonies. I love harmony. Last night I went to see Woman Under the Influence, that great old 1974 movie by Cassavetes, starring Gena Rowlands, at the Paramount — a very old theater downtown. I feel drawn in, but in a good way, sitting quietly inside myself and watching everything going on all around me. The breakdown, the remaking, the love in that movie makes me very quiet and feel so touched by life, by how hard it is, by how hard we have to try.

Tonight I’m going to a concert — Iron & Wine. Sam Beam (the guy who is Iron & Wine) lives in Dripping Springs, just SW of Austin, and I love his music because it’s quiet, rich, moody, him and his guitar. My favorite kind of music, a songwriter and his guitar. I hope you have a beautiful Saturday, as I will.

*Here is the short piece I wrote that night on the deck, July 18, 2013:

Here I am with a broken heart. I feel the thousands of small raku-fractures on its surface, some going deep into the muscle, some running dangerously into the chambers and large vessels. The sun is moving down behind the hill over my left shoulder. A young woman plays guitar and sings “I’m Sitting on Top of the World,” in my voice. Whispery, soft edges. I believe her, even though her own songs all sound sad.

Now the sun comes in at my eye-angle and the white lights come on in the trees. So much light, but all of it soft and late.

People here on the deck in pairs and groups. Only one other person is alone, like me — a college-age girl, texting friends to come meet her, probably. I have people to text, friends, my daughter to call, but I want to sit here alone in the fading light.

People say cheer up. People say it’ll get better. People say don’t be sad. People say let not your heart be troubled. People say put on a happy face. People send jokes, photos of hot young men without shirts, photos of kittens. People try to fix me up. People tell me I’ll fall in love again.

But I don’t want to run away. The cracks are in my heart, not on the ground. I can stand here. I can bear the end of the day, the soft sad music, my solitude. I honor my love by facing it.

To get here, I drove past the house I lived in when I was 6, Queen of the Pillbugs. Past the house where I nursed my brand new baby Katie. Past the house where my father finally pulled his trigger. Past 6 years old, 23 years old, and now I am here, 54 years old and my raku heart races to the next.

What have these people around me figured out? Have they? They laugh and seem easy, seem like they’ve found the grail.

My coffee is cold. My mousse is gone. The sun is down, and the crowd gets bigger, and louder. And I will go home.

 

love is a temple

We carry each other, yes we do. Why do some of us find someone to love, and we just love each other all the way to the end? How does that happen? Is the love the rest us have less reliable? Are we broken in some way so we can only disappoint?

We love with abandon, we dream the dream without caring about the end, otherwise it’s just a bet. It’s just a bet, with odds, unless we give everything and just risk our heart, risk our vulnerable love.

I know I’ve shared this before, but I have to share it again:

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I am so utterly bewildered by love. I know the feeling, I know the sacrifice of it, I know the experience of it. I know the giving of it, the giving-up of it. Maybe I am too hard. Too emotional. Too much this and that.

Sorry to be cryptic, I am not meaning to be so. I’m just kind of overwhelmed.