Not so long ago we started over again

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you went your way, I stayed behind…

The above is from Life By The Drop, one of my favorite songs (I know, I’m a dinosaur) and one I’ve quoted here before. In part because it’s one of the few songs to which I know all of the words, but more so because I love the words. The above image is from my flourishing career as a painter. I started painting, as I believe I mentioned, after getting a set of paints and canvases for Christmas, a reaction to my having told someone that “I don’t know how to paint”. He insisted that I do – that everyone does. So this is one of my projects for this year, or until my paints run out – I will continue to experiment.

This sophomoric combination of color is called Lunar New Year. As of right this second. 

Happy Lunar New Year! Year of the Horse:

A high-spirited, hectic, and adventurous year. An exhilarating time of reckless and impulsive action and risk-taking. This year people are confident, carefree, whimsical, capricious, and romantic, and everything proceeds at an energetic if not frenzied pace. Things are done on the spur of the moment … Good humor and optimism prevail. Old boundaries are broken, and the world’s economy could experience a boom period. this is an excellent time to launch new ventures and boldly go where you have never gone before. 

–Simple Chinese Astrology, Damian Sharp

The year ahead will bring health and prosperity. It is said to be an excellent time to travel, as the next 12 months will bring good luck.

-International Business Times

So there you have it. For those of us in need of high spirits, adventure, risk-taking, confidence, whimsy, good humor, optimism, increased health and prosperity, this is our year. I know these things are meant to be taken with a grain of salt by most of us, but I do believe in the power of BELIEF. And in manifesting our desired lives. Let us choose to believe that the Year of the Horse (the Equine-nox?) will prevail, and we can make it so. It’s as much about how we choose to see things as anything else. I, for one, choose to see the Lunar New Year as a brand-new start. This new year has existed since long before our western one has, and so if you believe in the potential for new beginnings, treat this as the gift that it is.

Now then. 

My dear friend K is starting her own blog, and I am so very proud of her for this. She has always been a wonderful writer – we took a course together some years ago and I was blown away by her innate talent. She has decided to make some changes in her life and this is her first step in doing so. Her second, actually; deciding to make changes is the first step. She voiced to me her concern about revealing so much via writing, and asked how I decided to feel comfortable doing so. 

For years I didn’t. I held back on writing about my struggles (relative as they are to the struggles we all face). Last year I had the opportunity to write a few personal essays for an online magazine, and I knew that it was an opportunity I wanted to take. I knew that in order to do so authentically, I would have to process my deep-rooted fear and shame and regret. I’ve written about this before, so forgive me if it sounds redundant. 

When I finally did write and publish these essays, it was with a healthy dose of trepidation. And in those cases, the feedback I got from readers was what made me realize I’d not written those essays in vain. I wrote about my struggles with depression, about my former Ambien addiction, about having been bullied in junior high school. And readers thanked me for doing so and told me that my words were helpful to them. This was amazing – was far more than I’d expected. I’d expected a teeny paycheck and another notch on my writing resume. I got those things, too, but the knowledge that I’d written about things that so many – in this case – young(er) women could relate to was an enormous and unexpected gift. Through this blahhhhg, too, I’ve received feedback implying that my words have made others feel somewhat less alone. That is one of my raisons d’etre – to help as many people as I can reach feel less alone. Because even at our loneliest, we’re not. Perhaps we’ve not met the people we’re yet meant to meet. Perhaps we’ve not yet been validated by the “right” people. But that’s one of the beautiful things about this albatross that is the internet. We are, for better or worse, connected to far more people than we otherwise would be. 

For me, K, writing about these things is helping me to come to terms with, and thus move past, my fears and shame and regrets. With depression, for instance, I’ve learned that not speaking about it does not lessen it. Our society is plagued by a seemingly unshakeable stigma against this condition that is never the “fault” of the sufferer. The more open we are with our struggles, the less of a stigma society can attach to them – it is totally illogical that we stigmatize anything that is this prevalent a part of the human condition. 

There is absolute vulnerability to writing about such things. Writing about them makes them more real. Writing about them marks us as people who have experienced them – and that can never be erased, now that this amorphous world of cyberspace has proven itself permanent. But all of our sufferings make us so much more a part of the world. Does this make any sense? 

There are also ways to write about them without being too deeply personal, for one can have an understanding of aspects of the human experience without necessarily having lived them. But for you, K, the draft that you sent me speaks to something that so many of us have experienced or are experiencing – and you state your case so eloquently – I don’t think you have any idea how eloquently you write. So many of us have looked at our lives thus far and realized that we’ve picked left when we should have picked right, that we’ve let opportunities slip away through inaction, that we’re no where near where we “should” be. I think that you’ll find that articulating what you’re going through will help you move past the inertia you’re feeling and get to a better place. You’re so amazing, lady. You really are. You’re so smart and kind and profound and such a beautiful, wise old soul. 

You can also, as I did, keep your blog private at first, share bit by bit with people you trust and gauge your next moves from the feedback that I know you’ll receive. You can write anonymously, you can password-protect the most personal entries, you can un-publish, you can edit, you can do anything you want with your forum. It’s yours. But admitting to our perceived shortcomings does not, in fact, make them more harmful or stronger; quite the opposite. Putting it all out there makes “it” actually less scary and unwieldy and uncontrollable. And it is intensely liberating. When I started this blahg I was going through a terrible thing – and writing through it helped it to become less important and helped me to move on from a situation that needed to be left in the past. Sometimes if we’re left alone (by choice) with our thoughts and fears, they can grow into huge, unwieldy, cancerous masses that seem insurmountable. “Reducing” such things to words actually helps us to realize what we need to do to move forward and, most importantly, that we can, indeed, move forward.

It’s the Year of the Horse, dear. It’s the year to take risks. To launch new ventures and to boldly go where you have never gone before. 

 

Sometimes I wanna keep you warm

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A few people, strangers — men — have advised me to “stay warm!” in the past couple of days. Would that it were that easy. I suppose this is the modern-day “Cold enough for ya?!” According to my meditation instructor (not sure I mentioned this, but in addition to my writing courses I am taking a meditation workshop), this is doable. Mind over matter. She told us this after opening the window at our Thursday night workshop just before our guided meditation. When she asked how our own meditation has been going – we’re meant to practice six out of the seven days between sessions – a woman in the class said that she finds herself trying to clear her mind and then thinking things like, “Okay, I’m clearing my mind. My mind is clear. Holy shit, I’m meditating! Wait – am I actually meditating? I wonder if this is what meditation feels like …” etcetera. I can absolutely relate. Last week I had a very hard time sitting still for even two minutes. Since Thursday night, I think I’ve managed to meditate for a few minutes, but like my classmate, I’m not certain. Clearing one’s mind is a very challenging exercise. Because I find myself thinking, I’ve cleared my mind. I’m not thinking about the work I’m supposed to be doing or my dog who’s not feeling well or the dinner I’m really looking forward to eating or that annoying workplace scenario I’ve been dealing with or the fact that I’m sitting here with a clear mind. We are meant to acknowledge the thoughts we have and let them go. 

I don’t think I’m the meditative type. Sitting still opens the door for a massive to-do list to enter my mind. So meditation becomes “not thinking about” the things I’m absolutely thinking about.

However, I have three more classes and I will take them because this is the year I finish what I start.

By that token, a friend/penpal and I have decided to have weekly check-ins so that we can be accountable for our creative endeavours and have a two-person support group. We have very different aspirations, and so we complement one another well. Thank you, friend/penpal. So grateful that you’ve suggested this. 

The work I’m doing in these courses gives me a sense of purpose that I didn’t realize I was missing until I found it. 

You gotta grab it with both hands

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That’s a really beautiful photo – I took it last summer and have never seen it this large – I wish I could teleport myself back to that moment in time. But I can’t, so … I will manifest more moments in time that are as beautiful as that one. 

Sunday night I dreamt that I was bored. I was bored and could think of no options to alleviate the pain boredom caused. I spent Monday trying to write and not doing a very good job at it – I wound up trashing much of what I wrote. At around 5:30 I went to the gym and worked out harder than I have in a long time … worked out the frustration of a “failed” attempt at writing. Now, in my usual 4:ish AM insomnia I recognize that the boredom of my dream was a metaphor for being stuck in my writing, or, literally, for being bored with what I’ve written. But I also recognize the value of a day spent writing poorly – clearing the cobwebs from my head so that the good writing can find its way out. Because there is good writing in here; life, and thinking about it, gets in the way sometimes. 

I was accused recently of not being strong. This could not be further from the truth; I’m one of the strongest people I know. Shortcomings and the recognition of pain do not a weak person make. 

A good friend of mine, a writer, no less, wrote me this: I need you to do what it takes to be a writer–and that means you care for yourself above all else. That you realize that no one is ever going to wake up and have to be you. You’re the only one who will ever have to live your life. You have to take it seriously–it’s the only place you can get material. You need to slash and burn and read the embers. You’re going to be a writer one way or another. You may as well do it now. 

Duly noted, sweet friend. I’m on it. 

Take the following with a grain of salt:

According to every soothsayer/medium/psychic/palm reader/oracle I’ve ever consulted, I have the ability to  be in touch with the “other side”. I’m not sure I want to be, but I can’t deny that there is truth to this – I feel them. And, quite recently, I heard them, which was fucking scary. I appreciate this ability because it’s convinced me that this is not all there is, that life continues, that spirit does not die. I’ve recently “learned” that those of us who wake up regularly between the hours of 3:30 and 4:30 AM do so because this is the magic hour for the other side – this is when they know they can get our attention. So now I’ll ask those on the other side to a) never show yourselves to me – trust me, I know you’re there … and b) help me hone this writing craft – help me concentrate on it – and trust that it’s what I’m here to do. 

What are words for?

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I started my novel-writing workshop on Wednesday and I think it’s going to be really good for me. The basic premise of it is to JUST WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT ALREADY … and to worry about polishing it later. This is advice I need; I agonize over comma placement and word choice to such an extent that I forget what I’m writing about in the first place. I really hope that I can keep up with this workshop and its prescription to churn out about thirty pages a week … yikes.

I’ve just had a meeting with an attorney to go over a Submission Release form, one that I’m to send to writers who are pitching screenplays in order to protect this company from litigation in the event that material similar “or identical to” their submission is generated. He agreed that, while standard, the wording is a bit misleading from the writer’s standpoint. And this is where it gets frustrating … being a writer, I take my words very seriously. I’m not prepared to initiate an industry-wide change to the verbiage in a standard form, but I wish it could be CLEARER. It seems a simple thing, but I know that legalese must be phrased in particular ways. 

Over the past two days I’ve been back in touch with an old friend who is going through a terrible breakup. One he didn’t see coming. He’s trying to piece it together and, as is often the case in the aftermath of a relationship, is coming to terms with who this person he loved actually is. Because, as I know too well, “love” or the notion of it, can make us forgive many things that don’t ultimately work for us, or ignore many yellow flags along the way. As I said when I started this blog last April, when I’d finally washed that mess-of-a-man out of my hair, I have stopped choosing partners who require a caveat issued to unsuspecting friends: “He’s a little hard to understand – it’s just his drug problem” – things of that nature. Doesn’t mean I won’t defend my loved ones if they make mistakes that others perceive as inexcusable; it’s a lot easier on the outside of a relationship to say, “You deserve better!” or “I wouldn’t put up with that!”. Everyone goes through difficult times and sometimes we don’t treat one another as well as we “should” – but as long as serious harm isn’t done (i.e. physical or prolonged mental abuse) and the good outweighs the bad, I believe in myriad chances. In part because I’ve needed them from others. 

But I digress – the reason I bring up my friend is that we’ve both been in situations where we’re instructed to ignore words and pay attention to actions instead. I get that to a large extent, but the fact remains that words are my commodity, are what I know best – and my friend is quite eloquent and articulate as well – and so we can’t NOT pay attention to words. Of course actions are valuable; as my mum told me years ago when I was venting to her about the aftermath of an argument with my then-beau, “Some people say I’m sorry. Some make pork chops.” In my ideal world, we would all be able to apologize AND make pork chops. Or bolognese sauce. I’ve got decades of practice apologizing and meaning it; the cooking thing is new and, I’m thrilled to say, coming along swimmingly. 

Sometimes I worry that my posts – some of them – are insipid; at dinner last night with Erika (it was lovely, thanks for asking. Hmm? Oh – Vietnamese. Omai, on Ninth Avenue) she allayed my fear, telling me that when I write about movies I’ve seen or galleries I’ve visited, it inspires her to do more things of that nature. So there you have it, one fan of the Insipid Series. 

Go Saints! 

Drivin’ on 9

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Day three and still no complaints about 2014. ‘Twas a snowy day, and New York in the snow can be a beautiful thing. Especially in the West Village, where enough of the stuff makes the streets look like old New Amsterdam.

One complaint: I wish the salt and sand didn’t hurt my dog’s feet, because I love him to pieces and wrangling him into a quartet of galoshes is no easy … task.

 

Saw a beautiful movie today, Un Homme et Une Femme – French film from the 60s starring the gorgeous Anouk Aimee; its acquisition is the result of my newfound interest in auto racing. (?!)

La plus ça change …

I want to go to more museums this year. 

All these places have their moments

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Happy new year, sweet friends! May 2014 bring us all strength, success, and happy surprises. 

This has been a good year thus far. My birthday was lovely – some of my favorite people, old friends and new, gathered to celebrate my aging. And my sweet co-host got me my favorite cake in all of New York, strawberry shortcake from Veniero’s. Lots of it. The gathering morphed into an impromptu New Year’s Eve celebration with an equally sublime selection of people. It wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind but we made it work and I was reminded how dear my friends are. And how important forgiveness is. As I’ve blahhhhged about incessantly I made some big mistakes in 2013 but I have not let them define me. Quite the opposite. Letting go of regret and forgiving ourselves is as crucial as anything for making progress. 2013 had many more moments of beauty than it did heartache, thank God. It was a year of music and film and travel and writing – so much writing – I wrote more words last year than I had in a very long time, and this forum was the impetus for much of it. Today I submitted a piece to the New York Times, as per a literary agent’s suggestion. I don’t expect it’ll get published – the column I submitted to is saturated with excellent contenders for publication – but it feels very productive to get my words out there. Yesterday I got my first rejection from a literary magazine for a short story I started last summer, and that’s okay. Now that I’ve “failed” I realize it’s much favorable to never trying in the first place. 

Yesterday was apparently an important day astrologically, a day for the Cardinal signs (Capricorn, Aries, Cancer and Libra) to set clear intentions for the new year. This was coincidental in terms of the calendar year; the alignment that suggests this could occur on any day, it just happened to have done so on January 1. I did set intentions, and I spoke them aloud – some lofty goals where my writing is concerned (two screenplays and a novel, that same dang novel I’ve been threatening to finish for six years) and some logical ones where matters of the heart and mind are concerned – specifically what I am no longer willing to accept from myself and others. I look forward to implementing all of these. 

I started painting yesterday – dear one got me paints and canvases for Christmas, a result of a conversation we had during which I claimed to not be able to paint. How fun to have a new hobby that has nothing to do with anything else that I do. Writing is no longer really a hobby; it’s a compulsion. It’s my raison d’etre. And recent events have underscored why I do it at all.

Eleven and a half years ago my dear friend passed away in childbirth – about as hideous a circumstance as I can imagine. I’ve written many words to her since then but I’ve never written about her and it was time – and so I took the advice of the agent I mentioned earlier and wrote an essay about that terrible time. My friend’s little sister has become a very important part of my life in the years since – we always got along well and this brought us closer. I needed her blessing to submit this essay and so I sent it to her (after fact-checking with her). I heard back from her on my birthday and her acceptance of and appreciation for what I wrote is all the validation I need to know I was meant to write that piece. Again, the likelihood of it being published is slim, but that’s not why I needed to write. 

(Since I know you read this – thank you, honey. your feedback means the world to me. Your friendship means the universe.). 

It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we allow ourselves to believe in ourselves. 

When I blew out my dozens of birthday candles I made a wish for everyone in the room, and for the people I love who weren’t there. I hope it comes true.