Peace For a Moment

This morning I woke up to terrible news. A friend’s father had died. While he’s not been well the last couple of years, he had been holding his own.

It came as a surprise.

Like any really bad news, it’s a bit of a shock when you first hear it. I gathered my belongings and headed to yoga in the dark. A block down the street I encountered a man propped up against a trash can.

“I hate my life!”

“I hate my family!”

“I hate God!”

He spewed the words across the landscape, the world his audience.

It broke my heart, again.

I’ve often have thought how cruel life can be.

I never wanted to have kids, but plenty of people do, and can’t. Why did I have the ability and they didn’t?

Why does Diane Rehm have a neurological condition that affects her voice, the biggest asset of her career?

Sometimes…ok a lot of times…I question the randomness of events.

Often they don’t feel random at all, but a cruel trick, designed just with you in mind.

I don’t know what happened to the man this morning that compelled him to announce his overwhelming hate of the world.

I’m going to guess he has a lot of reasons.

I wish him peace.

Even if only for a moment.

I wish peace to my friend who is suffering so much right now.

Life is so fucking hard.

And painful down to your very core.

Besides the painful news, I also woke up to a collection of old photos a friend sent.

She is my first friend in life, my oldest friend.

The photo says it all.

This is what life is all about, and so hard to find or to keep.

And they are peppered with all of the other moments, the hard ones.

Peace be with you, man on the corner.

And peace be with you, my friend.

 

 

Friday the 14th

Straight To The Top

When I started “No Sugar February,” I developed a plan to ensure success. I decided allowing fat into my diet would help curb my desire for sugary foods. My first change was to my coffee creamer. I bypassed half n’ half, and swapped it for heavy whipping cream instead.

Straight to the top.

(Pun intended).

It should come as no surprise my coffee tastes a lot better.

(I should have done this ages ago.)

Several years ago when I was visiting my family, I came downstairs for my morning cup of joe and found my mom sitting at the kitchen table. She always offers breakfast even though she knows I don’t eat it.

A mother’s hope forever springs eternal. 

I sat at the table sipping my coffee while she ate her oatmeal. In mid-conversation she went to the fridge and pulled out the half n’half. Without a hiccup in conversation, Mom poured the half n’ half into her oatmeal.

My coffee cup halfway to my lips, I said, “MOM. What do you think you’re doing??”

She looked up with quizzical eyes waiting for me to continue.

“Since when do you put half n’ half in your oatmeal?

She smiled and said, “Well it tastes better this way.

“Yeah, well…I’ll bet it does!

EVERYTHING would taste better if you used half n’ half instead of milk!”

Now I know.

It all tastes even better with heavy whipping cream. 

The Sugar Sign

My big plan heading into February quickly dissolved into tomfoolery. Every single day has been a total fail. Maybe I could have walked past the box of cupcakes that showed up at the office (I didn’t), but I had no chance with the homemade banana bread sitting on the counter the next day. It was wrapped unceremoniously in cloudy plastic,  but all of us knew exactly what it was. This banana bread is rather famous around here. It was gone in an hour, and I helped the effort right along. This is how the last two weeks have been almost every day.

It’s almost like a daily sign from above. 

(More tomfoolery.)

On the few days when no sugar appeared this month, I’ve supplemented the deficit by seeking it out.

Consistency is the mark of a champion, blah blah….

Real Time

Yesterday, walking home from work, I walked past a shooting.

I now know, after watching the news, I walked past the police shooting the suspect, who had already shot another man to death a couple of blocks away.

Standing on the corner waiting for the light to change, I heard “POP…..POP-POP-POP!”

I looked down the street, but nothing was amiss.

In those few seconds, a few of us stood there on the corner, all looking in the direction of the sound.

Did a car backfire? 

No…it couldn’t backfire that quickly in a row.

Was it fireworks?

I don’t see anything.

Was it a fake gun? A ploy to scare someone? 

I think this is real.

I wondered if a bullet was going to whiz past my head. Police cars started coming out of the crevices, careening around corners, cutting through traffic. The light changed in the intersection, and we all crossed the street.

I walked and I watched.

Maybe it was a robbery? It wasn’t long ago one of the posh shops in that area was robbed. Whatever was happening over there, yesterday, had just happened. As a result, the police activity was overwhelming.

I made it home and turned on the news, but there were no reports yet. In the aftermath, I scolded myself.

Did you just stand there dumb, like a deer in the headlights, while someone got murdered???

I think the answer was yes.

What kind of sign from above is that??

Both the shooting and the inept response?

The answer, like banana bread mysteriously appearing at the office, is nothing.

It is a sign of nothing but the reality of the moment.

Valentine’s Day

It might be a Hallmark holiday, but I love any excuse to celebrate Russ, love, and togetherness. Fellowship of any kind, romantic or otherwise, is key.

My dad and a group of guys from his church go to lunch somewhere different once a week. They call themselves “The Romeos”: Retired Old Men Eating Out. Dad puts a schedule together so everyone knows where they are supposed to be every Thursday.

(And I wonder where I get it from.)

I’m so glad both of my parents have strong relationships with their friends and with their community. Friendship is the most important worldwide web we weave as humans.

Tomorrow Russ and I will celebrate our Valentine’s when the restaurants are less crowded. I’m looking forward to a night in tonight, with a long weekend to follow. I’ve been on the go a lot recently. I’ve been traveling, visiting with family and good friends and catching up with great people I haven’t seen in a long time.

What’s not to love about that?

Déjà vu, Moments in Time

How Soon is Now?

After having breakfast with my parents yesterday, Mom and I stepped into the pharmacy next door. I needed a toothbrush and toothpaste. Mine were still stuffed in the Ziploc baggie I took to New York last weekend in lieu of my toiletry bag.

I was strolling through the greeting cards, when my mom joined me. I already had a handful gathered in the crook of my elbow. Snickering, she handed one over. “Should I buy this for you now or later?” On the front was a wide-eyed cat. Inside the card read “That awkward moment when you realize your mom was right about everything.”

Umm, too soon, Mom. Too soon.”

I have a feeling I’ll be seeing that card again, and I might not be the only one who gets it.

Now “everything” might be a little superlative, but I’ve had many moments hearing the same words come out of my mouth that my parents, and my many teachers/mentors, once uttered to me…as I rolled my eyes. I shiver every time this cryptic déjà vu makes an appearance.

It’s the universe having a giant laugh.

Night Frights

I woke up at 3 am yesterday morning to catch my 6 am flight to Houston. This usually is in the realm of normal occurrence, but being so tired this past week has led to weird dreams and painful start times as a result.

Why is it the more tired you are sometimes, the worse you sleep?

I woke up one morning startled. I dreamt Russ and I had been mugged.  We were walking together in a park on a beautiful day. It wasn’t dusk yet, but the sun was casting sharp and dramatic shadows as it headed west. We passed a small group of kids hanging out around a park bench. One caught my eye. He watched us walk past for too long.

Abruptly he ran in front of us and stopped short. He pulled a small, rusty revolver out of his pocket. His hand shaking, he pointed the gun at Russ. Looking him dead in the eye, he said flatly, “Give me your money.” Russ stood there in disbelief. No one moved. His friends had gone quiet by the park bench. I thought to myself, “He’s never done this before. He’s nervous.” I watched his hand still shaking, finger poised on the trigger.

I threw my bag at him.

I said, “Here. Take it.”

He caught it with both of his hands. He looked down in disbelief before turning his gaze back to us. Like a deer spooked by a bicycle whizzing past, he turned on his heel and took off. They all did.

I wanted to throw-up.

I told Russ about my dream. I said, “And you know what? After I got over my sense of relief, I was super pissed with myself because I had everything in my bag—all of my credit cards, $100 in cash, and all of my identification cards. I never carry everything. I never carry cash. I had meant to pare my bag down like I always do, but didn’t. They got everything.”

This made Russ laugh because he knows how diligent I am about carrying the minimum around the city. Usually my bag consists of one credit card and an ID. Sometimes I have a metro card as well, but that’s it. I leave as much of my string safe, back at the barn, as possible.

Wet Pants

The flight to Houston was packed. Having purchased my ticket from Orbitz, I was relegated to a middle seat.

 It was still better than any seat on Spirit Air.

The guy in the aisle seat was already fast asleep when I arrived at our row. I had to prod him awake. When he opened his eyes, they were glassy and crisscrossed red. I thought to myself, Well, shit. I’ll have whatever he’s having, please.

He sat back down and immediately went back to sleep before I had my seat belt buckled. It didn’t take long for his thickness to slowly pour over the armrest into my seat. Holding my coffee cup in one hand, I folded into myself a little more. When sitting in the little square of an airplane seat, I have often pondered how weird it is to be stuck so close to a complete stranger.

The only thing weirder is when one of their body parts touches yours, even an innocuous one, even unintentionally.

A few minutes after takeoff, I dozed off myself. I dreamt my coffee cup fell to the floor and spilled everywhere. I woke with a jump. My seat was wet. Looking down I saw my coffee cup lying on the carpet next to my other neighbor’s feet. Luckily, it more than half empty when I dropped it. I was glad I wore camo sweats instead of my jeans.

The man slept for the entire three hours without pause. Tired of shrinking myself into a tight hug, I stuck the point of my elbow into his fleshy arm. He registered the draw without acknowledgment. His arm retreated closer to its keeper.

More room negotiated, I still couldn’t find sleep for the rest of the flight. I finished On Writing by Stephen King and watched crappy TV without ear buds for the remaining hour. This is time’s biggest joke on humankind—passing too quickly when you’re having fun, and too slowly when you’re not.

Shoveling Shit

Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

—Stephen King, On Writing

Wow.

If that isn’t an accurate metaphor for my life, I don’t know what is.

 I’m still just shoveling shit.

I’ve moved on to reading one of my favorites, Cormac McCarthy. The book is Suttree. What separates Cormac, in my opinion, is his use of language. His novels are hundreds of pages of beautiful words and sentences, strung together like a smooth pearl necklace.

It blows my mind every time.

Reading Cormac, and reading authors’ books about their own writing and process, such as Stephen King and Anne Lamott, really brings home how hard the craft is. I knew this already, but there is a difference between realizing it intellectually and feeling the burn in your own work.

Lately, it’s all been shit. I am brushing up against the edge of my perfectionism. It has the uncanny ability to leave me feeling naked, exposed,  and all wrong, like my words are nothing more than random body parts assembled incorrectly.

What in God’s name is that??

I’m still shoveling the shit though.

My writing is about the journey, stretching limits and reaching beyond borders, and being okay with the fact it will sometimes suck—that I will sometimes suck— despite my efforts, and knowing I have a long way to go, and I may never get there.

Wherever “there” is.

Sound familiar?

Fucking déjà vu.

Fucking reality. 

Fuck reality.

S.K.: I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

Fear and perfection.

Two sides of the same coin.

I prod my pointy elbow into its fleshy side.

 

The Wake of the Whirlwind

SPENT

This week has been a whirlwind. Last Friday, I was on a bus to New York City. Usually I take the train, but having spent too much money on theatre tickets lately, I rode the bus. I’ve only done it once before and it wasn’t great. The bus was late, packed, and not very clean. It was a little incongruent with the rosy-cheeked man plastered on the back of the bus.

This last time was a positive experience. The bus was punctual, clean, and dropped me a block from my hotel. Roundtrip, the fare was $48. That’s hard to beat. It takes an hour longer than riding the train, but that’s an extra hour I have to read. In the future, taking the bus more often will also mean more theatre tickets too. It’s a very good trade-off.

In the last ten days, I’ve seen three shows. Next to Normal in DC, and Hamilton and Beetlejuice in NYC. The theatre is my greatest guilty pleasure in terms of spending. Live theatre is like holding a book in your lap, as the characters and set come to life, right before your eyes. Every time I am lucky enough to have a seat to the show, I never fail to be amazed at the sheer volume of talent that exists in this world. From the actors and actresses, to the musicians, to the set and lighting designers and directors. It is a ton of moving and beautiful parts, all choreographed to perfection.

Three shows in four days. Add time spent with great friends, in a great city, and it’s intoxicating. But what goes up, comes down, and I was left spent. (Take the pun, or leave it.) I can’t party how I once did.

I had a lot of other engagements this week with friends as well. I try not to stack my week so full, but I haven’t seen some of these friends in a long time. It is always worth it to make the effort. It sounds melodramatic, but it’s true—no one knows if another chance to get together will arise—it may never, or not for another year, or not for a few years. Time is slippery as an eel, and as unforgiving.

KERNEL OF TRUTH

I woke up every morning this week exhausted, pinned to my sheets. This inevitably led to a long conversation, back and forth in my head, about removing myself from said bed…and going to yoga. I have yet to begin a yoga class grumpy, and leave feeling the same. Yoga has a way of shedding the unnecessary away. This was the winning kernel of truth. Every day I peeled myself from my comfy mattress, grumpy as fuck, and pulled on my tights. My advocator for laziness, ironically, doesn’t give up talking its smack, until I have both feet planted on the other side of my front door.

My brother sent me a quote this morning. It said, “Motivation is a mood, discipline is a habit.” I laughed at its relevancy, especially this morning. When I walked outside the studio it…was…pouring, like the rinse cycle of an automatic car wash. I walked the mile to work in a metropolitan monsoon.

“What’s a mile?” you ask. You’re right. A mile isn’t long or hard, but it is seriously un-fun in a downpour. I had prepared for rain, not a down pour. My Blundstones became fish bowls of sloshing, salty water. Well beyond its point of saturation, my raincoat melted against my skin like paper-maché with glue on one side.

I’ve called myself “a walking pantry” before, commuting to work, and it was true today. All of my clothes for work, my lunch, etc. were tied off in plastic bags and thrown together in the tote I carry over my shoulder. By the time I reached my office, my dripping tote a welterweight, I was laughing at the ridiculousness. Holding on to the front doors of our building, I kicked one foot at a time, up to my butt, to let the water run out of my boots.

LEGIT-BIT

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s On Writing. It is such a great read. I’m not a huge fan of his, not because he’s not a good writer, but because I don’t normally seek out scary material, books or movies, which his collection falls under. I saw The Shining, once.

It scared the shit out of me.

I saw Pet Cemetery, too. And you know that old cliché: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’ve stopped torturing myself. These days, real life is scary enough. I don’t need to spoon another helping onto my plate by signing up for it.

On Writing, however, could almost be considered a memoir, with advice on writing added to it. I enjoyed learning about Stephen’s past and his journey to authorship. I appreciated his explanation on what inspires his creation of scary thrillers. His words convey he is humble and just as human—prone to mistakes—like the rest of us, despite all of his success.

This is one of my favorite quotes in the book:

“Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.” 

I laughed when I read it. It sounded so official. I thought it was great advice for dealing with just about everything.

I would like to add to it: “Laughing is a perfectly legitimate response to adversity.”

Like dumping the swampy foot water out of my Blundstones.  

Laughing, not crying, holds more possibilities.  Even if you look a little crazy at the time. Being an optimist when facing failure, (maybe you’re even having a bit of a laugh then, too), opens yourself to options you may not even be aware of, whereas laying down on your sword does not.

RUSSIFER

Tomorrow I head out to Houston for a little family time. Tonight is my one night with Russ, who I haven’t seen very much of this week.

He is one very patient man.

I told him I missed him and will miss him all over again this weekend. He said, “Well Sweetie, we can’t miss each other if we never spend any time apart.”

I nodded, mulling over this wisdom.

Wait…” I said. “That’s my line!!”

It’s true. It is.

Did we just become Russifer???

WORDS TO LIVE BY

As everyone embarks on their weekend, doing whatever it is they’ve scheduled themselves to do, think about this:

Try any goddamn thing you like, no matter how boringly normal or outrageous. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, toss it.”

—Stephen King, On Writing

He might be referring to writing, but it applies to life as well.

Get on with it. 

 

The Big Fail

February 3rd. It’s been three days, Father, and I have sinned…every. single. day.

I knew it would be hard, especially being in New York City with friends.

Our first day there, it wasn’t “No Sugar February” yet, but I behaved nonetheless. Then Saturday happened: the changing of the guard. 

February 1st was an important date on my calendar this year. It didn’t have the illustrious status of it’s palindrome sibling, 02/02/2020, but it marked the beginning of my month with no sugar, and even more fun, it also marked my reunion with coffee, since December.

I got dressed Saturday morning, and with a bottle of water tucked under my arm, I walked the mile through the city with a friend to find the yoga studio we booked for class. We sweated our asses off for the next ninety minutes and walked back.

An awesome start to the day.

After yoga, we dressed up and went to a show. I had snacked on a handful of cashews beforehand, but by the time the show let out, I was hungry. We stopped at the bar on the way into the restaurant, before heading to our table. I ordered my standard dirty martini.

Our drinks weren’t yet finished, but they called us to our table, ushering us over to the winding staircase to the downstairs. Gingerly removing the glasses from our fingertips at the bar, they informed us our cocktail glasses would meet us at our table.

I don’t think this was a happy accident.

Intuition suggested this habit was the result of acquired experience. 

As I stood up from my bar stool, I felt like a woman who had been active all day, failed to eat, and started her calorie-intake with a martini. I latched on to the handrail and slowly traversed down the steps. Looking back at my friends coming behind me, still gripping the banister, I covered the side of my mouth with my other hand and whispered, “Don’t forget, Ladies. What goes down, must also come up.” One of my friends laughed, because that’s what she does. Doesn’t matter if you’re funny or not, she will always hand you a complimentary giggle. She’s so damn great for my thin ego. My other friend’s quizzical look suggested I had just botched an abridged version of Einstein’s theory of relativity instead of making a poor joke.

I pressed on. “Well…I’m just saying…normally, going down can be trickier, but I think coming back up this bad boy…tonight…could be even worse, if you know what I’m saying, wink wink.” We all had a collective chuckle, but beneath the joviality, we hoped these words would not come to pass before the night was over.

I ordered a burger, my favorite, but also because I needed something to stick to my ribs that didn’t cost me a month’s wages. The restaurant offered a vegetarian pasta for almost $50, so my options for cheap and cheerful were minimal. The burger I ordered cost the same as the ninety minutes of yoga I did that morning.

An eye for an eye, or when in NYC, a burger for a Bikram.

I knew another cocktail would not be wise at this juncture. I ordered a glass of red wine instead. I thought, “It’s just one glass, and then I’ll be done.”

I considered this a compromise. In reality, this thought process, and the subsequent behavior that supports it, is called “rationalizing.” Rationalization is a tricky bastard, that comes with many disguises, and the ability to talk out of both sides of its face, and out of its asshole as well.

Rationalization can never be trusted.

Like Pandora’s box, lifting the lid on Rationalization unleashes the monster it is.

We were about done with our dinner when the waitress said the three magic words: Sticky. Toffee. Pudding.

She might as well have said, “Beetle Juice, Beetle Juice, Beetle Juice!”

The demon trickster stepped out of its shackles.

I said, “We’ll have an order of each.”

Rationalization nodded its approval with a hearty fist bump. It said, “Go big or go home! You’ve already fucked up…umm TWICE now…so just keep on going! You’re in New York! With friends! Having fun! Don’t be a party-pooper now! Too late for that, sister! Worry about that tomorrow!”

No longer did I care about my No Sugar February, or how much all of this was going to cost me. With sugar pulsing through my veins, and rationalization’s gentle breeze behind my back, we grabbed our coats at the end of dinner, and negotiated the stairs back up uneventfully (but still terrified).

We were on to our next adventure.

We didn’t walk far, before riding the elevator up to the rooftop at a neighboring hotel. The bar was enclosed by a clear igloo-tent and furnished like a sleek lodge you might find somewhere in the Adirondacks. With its ceramic fire pit, the spot was warm and cozy.

I didn’t really want another cocktail, of any kind, but there we were, on top of the world. Rationalization cupped my ear with its warm fingers and whispered, “Be in the moment. Enjoy it. You’re…in…New…York…”

“I’ll have a pear martini, please.”

I thought to myself, “Rationalization is right. I’ll start over tomorrow.”

I smiled at my good fortune, at finding myself in this place, at this time, with these good friends, and took a sip. My martini was sweet and delicious. We finished our round and walked back to the hotel, just as the rain started to sprinkle into the night.

Our evening was wrapped up by 10 p.m. We had a good giggle at that novelty. My, how things have changed. Three drinks in the past would have meant one “pre-game” drink before leaving for the evening, possibly one on the way (I am ashamed to admit it now, but it’s true), and the third one would have been ordered before we even looked at a menu. Our evening would only be starting, and I’d be three deep already with a long way to go.

Luckily, things do change, and sometimes it’s for the better, too. With Rationalization tucked under the covers by my side, we closed our eyes after a full day of brilliant adventures. I was confident the next day I would do better. A fresh start, on February 2nd….

I woke up at midnight, sick to my stomach. Rationalization was nowhere to be found. It had vacated the room, leaving not a trace.

It’s a bastard alright.

In its place was the twin sibling, Reality, the serious twin. With its head hung low under the dark hood of its robe, like the Grim Reaper, it pointed its bony finger at the bathroom door.

(Reality…Death: they both travel on, and are tethered to, the same space-time continuum.)

Now would be a good time,” Reality said.

I thought to myself, “You are not the fun one, that’s for sure. And you look like you need to eat a sandwich.”

The thought made my stomach turn more.

I pleaded for Rationalization to step in.

 “Can’t this wait? Do we really have to do this?”

Reality loomed over my curled-up body under the covers.

Now would be a good time.”

Reality, the righteous bastard of the two, was right.

Off to the bathroom I stumbled. I did escape the messy repercussions that sometimes accompanies a big night out, but the discomfort and impending threat of more, I did not.

I got cozy on the tile of the bathroom floor.

This was Rationalization’s leftover party favor, its calling card for a job well done.

As I lay on the bathroom floor, Reality shook its crooked finger at me. “Remember this. It started when you ordered a glass of wine. It seemed an act laced with innocence, but this was my naughty twin talking. You went from counting pennies at the table, to ordering every dessert on the menu. That set the stage for ordering a $30 pear martini at the end of the evening. $30!! You might as well have ordered another burger at the bougie joint instead. Now, you are rolled into a ball on the cold, tile floor of your hotel bathroom.”  

Ok, ok, ok, enough already!

I woke up in the morning, back in my bed, with a renewed sense of purpose.

Today will be better.

I will do better.

Our last morning in NYC, we decided to get up and walk all over town, down 5th Avenue, to Central Park, and back again. It was cold outside, but the hot coffee kept the chill at bay. We stayed out for a couple of hours before packing our things and taking off to catch our respective rides back to home.

Standing at the bus stop waiting to board, Rationalization whispered in my ear, “It’s Super Bowl Sunday…It’s one day a year, Jenn…and Russ cooked all this food for the both of you. Don’t let him down.”

Damn, Rationalization!

I admit I enjoyed every bite of cheese and chips.

Monday rolled around, and once again, I greeted the day newly-inspired.

Today will be the day.

I walked into my office this morning to find a healthy wedge of red velvet cake sitting in its open white box in the break room. Leftovers from someone’s weekend celebration…and my breakfast today.

February has been a complete fail.

All three days of it.

Rationalization, you’re a bastard.

Time to warm-up to the cold embrace of Reality.

Starting tomorrow. 

 

The New Normal

**Winter lanterns at the Kennedy Center’s REACH Center, celebrating the Lunar New Year.

The Happy Accident

Only two more days.

Russ asked me if I knew where I was going to purchase my first cup of coffee on Saturday, after a month of abstaining.

Absolutely!” I said. “Dean and DeLuca, of course!”

He just shook his head.

Russ has enjoyed his appropriation of the coffeemaker for the last month. He told me as much last week.

Well don’t get used to it, Buddy!” I snapped. “Those days are numbered.”

This weekend I will be in New York City. We planned all of our events well in advance. We made the necessary reservations and bought all the pertinent tickets a couple of months ago. The last detail for consideration was my impending reunion with coffee. I didn’t have to think for very long to pinpoint a location. Dean and DeLuca is one of my favorite places to grab a cup to go in the city.

For the past week, when I’ve really craved a cup of coffee, I’ve chosen hot chocolate as an alternatve. I met an old friend at Starbucks yesterday morning. I rarely go there, but it was a halfway point for the both of us. Taking my hot chocolate back to our table, I tried to sip from the little slit in the lid. Tilting my head back, nothing came out.

I knew this had the potential to turn out badly. It reminded me of all the times as a kid (who am I kidding, as an adult too), sucking on the straw of my milkshake with palpable determination, something lodged tight in the middle. This usually ended with the gooey obstruction finally slingshotting to the back of my throat, leaving me coughing and sputtering milkshake everywhere, gasping for air.

Showing newfound discretion, I removed the lid. To my delight, I realized the hold-up was none other than a thick blanket of whipped cream across the top. I didn’t realize it came with my order. Turning the lid belly up, I carefully licked the shallow peaks off the slick surface before siphoning off as much as I could across the top of my cup. It was a happy accident to start my day.

It’s enough until Saturday. 

Nonboarding

 A new advertisement showed up on my Facebook account: “The Girlfriend: a free weekly newsletter just for the forty-something.” The kicker? It’s from AARP. In the ad, two women are sitting across from each other with their glasses of white wine, smiling upon their good fortune. Hey, American Association of Retired Persons, what are you saying? Is this how you groom women for retirement in 20 years?? Are you suggesting we are all single, in our forties, looking for other girlfriends to dish with over wine?

Wait a second…are you targeting…your biggest demographic??

Single women in their forties?

…and I didn’t see anything about a newsletter calledThe Boyfriend?”

This is premature onboarding for membership into an organization most of us will be obligated to join.

AARP makes it look like a sorority, not the “grave” rite of passage it is.

Ahhh, maybe that’s the real advertisement. AARP portraying the brittle process of aging as a fun, exclusive “club” instead.

Talk about putting a little jingle on it.

This girlfriend still isn’t buying. 

 The New Normal

I went to see “Next to Normal” at The Kennedy Center last night. The show is here for a week before heading back to Broadway. It’s been ten years since its first, and only, run. Yesterday evening was its opening night, and the packed house rewarded the performers with a rowdy standing ovation. The entire production was well done–the singing and music, the script, the set, etc etc.

I won’t give the plot away, but the content was very dark. Seeing “Dear Evan Hansen” this past summer, I considered it dark and painful, but “Next to Normal” went even further. Without saying too much, both deal with mental health and suicide. This is all too relevant. A good friend of mine lost two close acquaintances to suicide this past week alone.

Two.

 I just finished David Foster Wallace’s excellent interview in “Quack This Way,” he another one to perish in this manner. Is it just me, or does it seem more prevalent nowadays? Even more so than in the last decade, or even the last five years? I’ve lost several close acquaintances over the years, people I’ve dined with, partied with. So far, it’s never been a close friend.

Does that make it better? More acceptable? Does the demarcation unwittingly quantify it? Does suicide exist on a spectrum?

 Of course it does, even if we don’t want to admit it. It’s just like cancer. The closer to home it hits, the worse it hurts. We all hope it stays far enough removed, it won’t infect the safe little bubble in which we each live. That’s what happens to “other” people. But this statement is not true anymore. No longer does “six-degrees of separation” exist.

It’s more like one or two degrees.  Because we all know someone.

It begs the question.

 Is suicide our new normal??

Lockdown

My dad called me a 5 p.m. tonight.  This is a little unusual. I was walking home from work, but pulled my gloves off to answer my phone.

Hey Dad.” I said. “Everything alright? You okay?”

Well, you’re mother is locked out of her building at work.”

I could hear the intensity in his voice, coated with determination.

What?

There’s an active shooter at the college and they’ve evacuated the buildings. But she can’t get to her car because all the roads are closed.”

My mom is a tutor at the local community college. She helps students who speak english as a second language with their written assignments and papers.

My dad said, “I’m on my way to pick her up, but I don’t know how I’m going to get there with the roads closed. And she doesn’t really know where she is on campus either, so I don’t know how we’re going to find each other.”

There on the sidewalk, I pictured my parents 2,000 miles away, my 78-year old mom locked outside, far from her building, unsure of her whereabouts, and my 84-year old father, understandably panicked, driving into a chaotic situation and trying to talk on his phone at the same time, as daylight receded.

It’s terrible feeling helpless so far away. 

It turned out to be a false alarm. There was no shooter. The only casualties were two students–one treated for an anxiety attack and another for a panic attack.

I thought those were the same thing. 

Soon everyone will forget about yhe stressful situation tonight, that turned out to be nothing more than a major inconvenience.

But no one will forget the feelings of being scared, vulnerable and helpless.

Everyone’s new normal.

 

 

Candy for the Soul

I started reading “Quack This Way,” by Bryan A. Garner (BAG). He interviewed David Foster Wallace (DFW) in 2006 and published their conversation, in this book, in 2013. I picked it up off my bookshelf because on the cover it says, “BAG and DFW Talk Language and Writing.”

And I really need some inspiration and direction in my writing right now….

I don’t recall buying the book, which leads me to believe someone gave it to me. I can’t remember who, but thank you to whomever did. It’s a great read.

I’ve often heard the magic of a book hits you when you are fortunate enough to pick-up the right book at just the right time in your life. I have felt this many times myself. The Poisonwood Bible, West with the Night, Travels with Charley are just a few of my favorites. They spoke straight to my heart and opened my mind.

Sometimes reading a certain book feels like serendipity. Maybe it is. As DFW said in his interview, “You find certain writers who when they write, it makes your own brain like a tuning fork, and you just resonate with them…It’s like eating candy for the soul” (p. 61).

He is so right.

David Foster Wallace needs no introduction. He is one of the best writers of our time. It was after his unfortunate suicide in 2008, his achievements came even more to the forefront of public awareness.  I started reading his Consider the Lobster quite a while ago, but still haven’t managed to finish it yet. I also started Infinite Jest, but thus far, I’ve been even more unsuccessful with it. (Infinite Jest is infinitely longer…Sorry, couldn’t resist). Maybe it’s just the wrong books at the wrong time. More than likely, the limits of my mental dexterity have prevented me from persevering. The prose is beautiful, yet I found it equally thick and heavy to read at the same time.

So now they sit on my shelves, waiting to be rediscovered…when the time is right.

My sister introduced me to DFW. She is always “in the know” when it comes to art and literature. Early on, she shared his commencement speech with me, “This is Water.” That’s how I got hooked on DFW.

Reading the interview in Quack This Way, I learned DFW and I shared something. (It’s silly how excited I became over this little nugget of information, but it’s true). We both loved the same book and author. I have always revered Cormac McCarthy as my favorite author, and specifically, his novel “Blood Meridian.” It is a complex work with its own unique style. For me, reading “Blood Meridian” was like walking through “The Manifesto” installation at the Hirshhorn Museum this past autumn. Both are stunning, thought provoking works of art, bordering on overwhelming at times, yet, I couldn’t pry my eyes away from either when confronting them.

Picking up Quack This Way the other day, felt serendipitous, which hasn’t happened in a while. It’s chock full of good information, writing and otherwise. Then DFW said, “I think the hard thing to distinguish among my friends is who…who’s the 45-year old who doesn’t know what she likes or what she wants to do? Is she immature? Or is she somebody getting reborn over and over and over again? In a way that’s rather cool” (p. 64).

I put the book down.

I thought to myself, well shit. This hits a little close to home.

Which is it?

I’m straddling the fence. I kind of know, but I kind of don’t know; I’m mature, but I can be a little immature too. (I like to refer to this as being playful, by the way. It sounds a lot better.) Or am I just being reborn over and over? A temporary, superficial replica of something else, someone else, changing all of the time? This offends something at my very core, which I don’t necessarily want to acknowledge either.

That’s never a good sign.

But I’m not the only one. I know several others standing on this precipice, facing the abyss into the unknown. They’re not yet watching “Food Over 50” on PBS, but they are suddenly looking up, wondering, “What the fuck happened? How did I end up here?”

An old riding student of mine, who teaches at the high school level, tells her students every year on the first day of class: “Don’t wait for someone to do something for you. It is easier to ask forgiveness rather than permission.” This was her way of putting the onus on them, to give them permission to take charge, take chances, and have an instrumental part in creating their future, even if they make mistakes in the process.

Age is irrelevant. We all have to go about creating our life, every single day. When you’re young, having permission feels like the first door of opportunity opened. In midlife, when you’re changing direction, or directions, the doors of opportunity look more foreboding.

You have so much more to lose.

But believe it or not, this moment in your midlife is the consolation prize to an otherwise uncomfortable position. The alternative, of keeping your head buried and continuing to bobble along, has all the trappings that come with a tiny, football-shaped pill.

In This is Water, speaking to the budding graduates, DFW said, “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life….there is no such thing as not worshipping. The only choice we get is what to worship….If you worship money and things…then you will never have enough. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. Worship power—you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

What do you worship? What takes up too much time and space in your head?

I have many things. It’s why I exercise relentlessly, write relentlessly, ruminate relentlessly. I’m devoted alright. Missing a day of exercise or writing sends me into a tailspin. I only wish I could take a day off from ruminating, but she is the queen of the castle, wielding her royal scepter, without pause.

To use a colloquial, trade acronym—I’m a WIP (work in progress). 

That’s fine by me. I accept my “as is” condition, even as I struggle to sometimes put a leash on it, or at other times, push it kicking and screaming out the door.

“Like any kind of infinitely rich art, or any infinitely rich medium, like language, the possibilities for improvement are infinite and so are the possibilities for screwing up and ceasing to be good in the ways you want to be good” (David Foster Wallace, p. 59).

Regardless of whether you’re immature or you’re reborn, a fuck-up or a raging success, it’s all possible.

Get started.