All you need is

IMG_9758I am beginning the lengthy revision process on my novel-in-progress … which I should re-title work-in-progress to avoid embarrassing acronyms. Anyway, this means that, in the interest of procrastination, I will likely be updating this thing more.

However, I am going through some stuff that does not lend itself well to the blahg-o-sphere, which means I might not update as much as I’d like to, because without authenticity it doesn’t make much sense to write.

That which does not kill us makes us and so on and so forth. I’m fine, but there are areas that could use vast improvement. I’ll get there.

This past weekend we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. My goal (one of many) was to finish my draft before this event, and I did. It was a beautiful evening, full of love and laughter and warmth and wit and everything we could have hoped for. People traveled from about a dozen different states for this; there was music and poetry and food and wine and it was the best party I’ve ever attended. I am so grateful to everyone who came and who helped make it a wonderful tribute to these two people who are kinda important to me.

My parents met at a theater in 1964; my mother, then an actress, was doing a play and my father, who’d stage managed there the year before, came to visit. It was the Robinhood Theater in Arden, Delaware. The play was “Hotel Paradiso”. My family’s lore changes depending on the day and the teller of the stories, but I was once told (by my dad) that their mutual friend invited my dad to visit and told him about this beautiful Eurasian actress he wanted him to meet. In that day’s version of the story,  my dad and his friend were chatting in the parking lot and my mom drove in; my dad was smitten, my mom barely noticed him. They met again at a party after the show and my dad asked her out. They married about 14 months later.

Love is an abstract, beautiful, challenging, terrifying thing. My mom has told me that the thing that has kept them together despite the odds—and all partnerships face odds—is humor.

Humor has always been a very important part of my life; even in my darkest moments I’ve embraced it, because I’ve had to.

In 2004 (spoiler alert: TMI) I went through a period of deep depression, of don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed/how-can-anyone-be-happy? depression. I worked with a doctor to find the right medicine to help me through this—and thank GOD we found it—but it took a little while. In one of our sessions the doctor told me about a new pill on the market that was supposed to be extremely effective but had one noteworthy side effect: extreme weight gain. Through my tears I said to him, “I want to be not depressed; I don’t want to be jolly.” and we laughed. And it was the first time I’d laughed in a while and it was the beginning of the end of that terrible phase.

Someday, maybe soon, depending on how this post is received, I really, really want to write more about that phase. Because it was a defining one for me, and as much as it absolutely fucking sucked while I was going through it, I am grateful for having experienced it and come out on top. Horrible things connect us more deeply to one another. Does that make sense? It does to me.

No idea if I’ll wind up posting this; I have an archive of drafts here that haven’t seen the light of publication because of the TMI factor. But I feel like my stuff, my battles with depression, my many missteps in love and life, serve a higher purpose. I’m not sure what that purpose is but I do know that if I can share my experiences and make even one person feel a modicum less alone and a modicum more understood, I’ll have done something of value.

Oh right—my parents. Here’s something cool. My mother and her family left Shanghai in 1940-something on the SS Gordon. The SS Gordon then became property of the US Army and in 1950-something, my dad travelled on the USS Gordon to Korea.

The same ship. How crazy is that?!

To paraphrase what someone famous once said, and as I quoted in my wedding toast to my dear friends J&Z: Love may not make the world go round, but it sure makes the ride worthwhile. 

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In the blinking of an eye

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In the blinking of an eye
Soon everything will change
From a blue September sky
The brimstone falls like rain.
If true Love
Soars the heavens
Pretend and we can fly
Soon everything will change
My love
In the blinking of an eye.

NJT September 2001

It sneaks up on you every year, this day. Not that you didn’t know it was coming, but you knew in an abstract wow-it’s-been-X-years way, or an Is it weird to schedule X for that day? way. We’re lamenting the waning days of summer and gearing up for what will hopefully be a productive and energizing autumn and then, eleven days into the month, here it is.

My first wave of visceral 9-11 emotion came yesterday, when I was asking a friend if and how she’s had to explain it to her 6 year old. She told me about a children’s book that does a beautiful job with it. She told me that when he’s asked her about it she’s refrained from referring to “bad people” and instead described people who just felt they could no longer get anywhere using their words and so, instead, made some very bad decisions. Terrible decisions, that caused many people to die.

I knew three of them, and that is far less than the number that many people knew. I was, once, very close with one of them, as I mention every year on this day. I don’t mention him to “own” any part of this tragedy, though we all own part of it. I mention him because I adore him, and I mention him because he anchors me more tangibly to this day.

Not that I need anchoring, I was there. I was there the night before, in the pouring rain, attending a Women In Need fundraiser and then eating late-night burgers at the Cedar Tavern. My friend (you, KN) stayed over and she left early to go to work. I was blowdrying my hair and watching the news and what the fuck did I just see? And I unmuted the volume and the newscasters were saying, “…are calling it an accident at this point…” and then what the fuck—did that just happen again? and the reporters said, “…now it is looking like an act of terrorism…” and I called my mom, who looked out her window and saw what was happening, and I called my ex, because I worried about him and felt responsible for anything bad that might ever befall him, and he turned on his television and we agreed to speak later.

I got ready for work and I walked outside to Sixth Avenue and it was like that “Twilight Zone” where the world stops—hordes of people on the Avenue facing south, faces frozen in confusion, fear, in utter disbelief. They were on fire, the towers, and for several seconds I thought about going back to get my camera but that seemed morbid.

Somehow the loss of life that was occurring at that very moment hadn’t yet dawned on me. I’m not sure I knew, yet, that they were commercial jets, and I’m not sure I’d made the connection that people who worked in those buildings got to the office much earlier than people who worked in publishing had to. And that of course, even if they didn’t, there’d be building staff who had to be there and there was the restaurant up top where people had to be in the early hours and my God, what about all the people on the ground?

I’m not sure what dawned on me at that moment—we had nothing to relate it to. I had nothing to relate it to.

So I got on the F train and I headed uptown and the towers imploded during my commute. And the three people I knew died, along with a few thousand others.

And then, was it later that day or the following that I got the call from SK reminding me that Jonathan worked for Cantor Fitzgerald? I knew he did, I think, but I’d no context for that name until it was too late. He always worked for Name + Name companies that did Important Things and that were just words on a business card. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and he was missing and the family was hopeful and then some days later the family ran out of hope and we memorialized him without proof; proof wouldn’t come for many months.

When I realized it was coming to that time that I needed to write a post about this—because I need to write about this every year—I took some notes. I took them over a glass of wine on the back of a poem that a homeless man handed me earlier that day. This is what I wrote:

And now it’s two blue columns of light and a seemingly endless list of names and a generation+ that wasn’t here that day. Tiles and flyers and that smell of burnt rubber. I had it easy from X blocks away. 

A business card landed on my friend’s stoop in Brooklyn. Anther friend got the last taxi out. One friend had just found out she was pregnant, two were out of the country on their honeymoons. 

Of the people I know, three died. One of the first calls I got was from a friend who wouldn’t live to see the first anniversary. The homeless guy I knew in my neighborhood called out to me, scared, “They bombed us!” he said. 

And then the friend I was waiting for showed up, so that’s the last I wrote down the other night.

As hard of a post as this is to write, it’s even harder to end. There is so much more to say. There is everything and there’s nothing, nothing that hasn’t already been said, by me, by others, in more languages than I can name.

My God it was awful. The nightmares—they continued for a very long time. I had one just before I woke up to write this, only the enemy, the people who felt they could no longer use words and made terrible decisions, in my dream they took the form of James Holmes, who was avenging the death of Adam Lanza and who held my family responsible. I sat opposite him at dinner where he promised to put his assault rifle down; my dad had gotten a rifle of his own but it was upstairs and he’d locked the handgun I was holding and none of it seemed like a good idea but I deferred to others on what to do.

I woke up before dinner was served.

Some of you will hate this post, but you’ve read this far, so please don’t begrudge me for writing it.

Something good came out of this Terrible Thing that happened 14 years ago, and that was that we actually did unite, however briefly, and gain sight of what is important. We loved and supported and listened to one another, and we reached way down into the deepest wells of compassion that we all inherently possess.

And that lasted for a short time, short in the universal sense of time, but long in the day to day.

I don’t want to end this. I want to keep writing until 9-12. Maybe I’ll come back to it later on, but I probably won’t.

Here’s something else I wrote a few months ago, not related to 9-11 and at the same time, doesn’t everything, kind of, relate to it now? Here’s what I wrote:

be excellent to the people in your life

be excellent to your friends
if you keep people in your life be patient with them
if you don’t know them you don’t know their struggles
be excellent to people
there’s a person you should care most about
be flawless with her
she’ll forgive you if you’re not
but without you, she’s nothing
I wrote that to me, by the way.
I will amend that to say that even if you do know someone, you don’t know her struggles. Even if you know what her struggles are, or what she thinks they are, you don’t know what it feels like to be her. “Her” being universal, as “him” usually is. Not a feminist or politically correct statement, my default in the abstract is “her” because I am a her. Unless we’re talking dogs, because to me, all dogs are “him” unless I’m told otherwise.
My dog was born some months after 9-11. My Granny died right before. I’m grateful that they both missed it.
I’m glad I’m in New York today. I’m glad I was in New York that day.
I’m glad you’re all in my life.
With love, because that’s all I really know,
Laura

Keep calm and carry on

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I woke up around 5AM the other morning having just been told by someone in my dream that I needed to write this down and start a blog with it:

If anyone ever says here’s what to do if a bear starts to crawl out of the sand, listen to them.

So there you have it, folks, sound advice from the dream faeries.

Perhaps this was my subconscious reminding me that it’s been a long time since I’ve written in this thing. It has. I’ll probably write something on Friday, the 11th, as I do every year; I need to do something to acknowledge that day, many things, actually, and this is one of them.

My dreams have been very interesting since I started my meditation two months ago (two months! I’ve missed one session, by accident, and have not adhered exactly to the 20-minute mark on some, but for the most part I’ve been surprisingly consistent with it.). Oh … I finished a draft of my novel … absolutely just a draft, and a very rough one at that, but it’s a milestone. And in the days that I was working on the last couple of chapters, which are very strange ones, I had a lot of vivid dreams that related to them. I also experienced this odd coincidence: I was writing a scene that takes place on a block of West 9th Street and had just mentioned the address when my phone buzzed. It was a message from a friend I’ve not spoken with in years, who used to live in the same building where my story takes place, and she said, “Just heard a Leonard Cohen song that reminded me of you.”

Coincidence? Sure. But a cool one.

I was speaking with someone recently who said, “I wish I had a slightly less scientific mind, so I could leave a little room for magic.” Maybe I leave too much room for magic, I certainly could use a more organized, logical mind at times, but I appreciate my ability to embrace the unknown and believe in things beyond what we can actually see and hear and touch.

I’m working on cultivating a stronger sense of calm and clarity in my day to day life and in my relationships, and for the most part it seems to be working. I find that approaching things from a calm place makes the day-to-day crises less intense – makes them glitches, rather than crises. It’s like when you’re looking for your keys or your phone or whatever it is and you become frantic because you can’t find it, it will very likely take longer than if you take a deep breath, give yourself a few seconds to collect yourself and think … try it, it works. Chaos begets chaos; calm begets calm.

This is epitomized in a quote I found some years ago and have always loved, particularly the second sentence:

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.

That’s by the British writer/philosopher James Allen.

I’ll be back, Friday.