Just like starting over

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“Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.” -James Joyce

Granted I’ve not tried to write much in other languages, but this book writing thing (did I mention I wrote a book?) can be maddening. Maddening! And yet so many books get written and published and a fair amount of them are really good. How do these people do it?

I’m in the mountains celebrating Father’s Day and then taking a few days to, as I keep saying for some odd reason, as it’s not an expression I’ve ever used before, “bang out my revisions.”

I saw a friend last week who comes to town a couple times a year and he said, “Wait—weren’t you working on revisions when I was here in December?”

WHY YES, I WAS!!!! And then, based on those revisions, I needed to copyedit, which led to further changes. Then I submitted my draft to my editor and my writing group and my beta readers and more revisions stemmed from that … and so on and so on and so on.

I found a metaphor for this today. I love metaphors. Not in writing per se, but in life. I took a longer walk this afternoon than I’d set out to … this is a hilly walk and is decent exercise and exercise is something I wish I loved more than I do. It’s a walk where, once you reach a certain point, it’s silly to turn back, you might as well just keep going up that road and take the long way back—you’ve gotten this far. So I kept bargaining with myself that I didn’t have to do the whole thing—I just needed to do something, which is my general approach to exercise. I would turn around once I got to the bend in the road, which I could see many steps in the distance. Only I’d never get to the bend in the road because once there I’d realize it wasn’t a bend, it was the suggestion of one. So I could never really catch up and I had to keep going. And that’s what this revision process feels like. I’ll revise until I finish this draft, only once there I realize the draft isn’t finished after all.

However, I want to move on to new projects, and so I must finish this one for the time being. In so doing I will start pitching to agents—in fact I already have begun this process, and it is a long and arduous one that uses a very different part of the brain than the writing does and a different part than the revising and maybe I should go back to school and learn a trade or follow a new pursuit?

But since I’m not going to do that, I’m going to “bang out” these revisions, continue my agent research and querying, and move on to my next writing project.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals at other times of the year. This feels like a starting point. My goals for the second half of 2017 are: to become a better writer, to read more, to spend less, to finish revisions (for now) and move on to the next thing, to purge a bunch of stuff that is cluttering my apartment and mind, to meditate and exercise regularly, and a whole bunch of stuff that I don’t want to put on record.

Happy Father’s Day, y’all.

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When autumn leaves start to fall

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And just like that, summer is the stuff of distant memory. Much as I love the beach and need the sun, this is traditionally a good time of year for me, a fruitful, productive time. It’s the back-to-school mentality combined with the fact that we’re in the last quarter of the year (I had a conversation with a tax attorney last night; I’m thinking in quarters), and by year’s end I’d best have something to show for the preceding 12 months. The holidays-birthday-New Year trifecta is one of taking stock, so I tend to cram an awful lot between October and December.

Autumn and winter can be cozy seasons – my experiences from this stretch of time are among the strongest of my childhood memories.

I’m taking a respite from drinking booze for several reasons, most notably that it bears mention that I’m doing so. It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever attempted, but it’s not always as difficult as I’d anticipated. It turns out there are many people in my life – people who I’m used to going out to dinner and drinks – or just drinks – with – who are perfectly happy to take a night off here and there. And that’s incredibly helpful in this process, though I find that even on the nights that I’m out with someone who is having a drink or four, any craving I have is fleeting. A momentary, wistful admission that their glass of Malbec would beautifully complement my entree. Someone told me recently that, physiologically, such cravings last a maximum of 20 seconds. Ours is such a culture of immediate gratification and of all the conveniences that afford this immediacy that we don’t often allow this theory to manifest. I don’t plan to never drink again, but I needed to hit reset, and in so doing my goal is to not rely on wine (or the occasional martini) as I once did. To actually adhere to the maximum I’ve often set for myself and ignored. So much of the drinking I and the people in my life do is by rote – breaking this pattern is something many of us don’t do until we feel we have to.

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m sleeping much, much better lately. Not waking up in the middle of the night once the booze wears off. And vividly dreaming, though that could be the Melatonin.

During this self, social, and anthropological study I’ve realized a few things.

  • This city is full of incentives to drink – until you decide to take a break you don’t realize how many half-price-Mondays/unlimited-Mimosas/Cosmos-with-your-manicure/Happy Hours abound. Le Pain Quotidien now offers Happy Hour from 4 – 7pm every day. Le Pain Quotidien. Yep, the bakery where my mother buys her favorite multigrain bread now has Happy (Three) Hour(s).
  • Restaurants instruct their servers at dinner and, in some cases, lunch, to ask, “Can I get you anything from the bar, wine, beer, a cocktail?”  The power of suggestion.
  • Drunk people can be really annoying; conversely, annoying people and things don’t bother me as much when I’ve eliminated the elimination of reaction time.
  • Drinking things out of stemmed glasses is nice.
  • Restaurants ought to offer more nonalcoholic choices; ginger beer should be ubiquitous.

Much more to say about this but I’m running late for Pilates. Turns out the running-late thing is a preexisting condition that has little or nothing to do with how much wine I drank the night before.

Cheers!

I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you

IMG_5878I have become smitten by Instagram and this is excellent, because Words with Friends, this blahg, and conducting entire relationships via text are not enough distraction from the work I’d like to be doing.

The Instagram thing is great though because I used to love taking photos and, if I may be so bold, I was pretty decent at it. In the pre-digital era, which lasted a mere four-and-a-half billion years or so, I would shoot rolls and rolls of film when I attended events or take photos of rooftops in New Orleans and people walking away in various places, old men playing chess in Chinatown (that one didn’t go over very well; live and learn).

It’s a full moon tonight – fantastic – maybe things will finally start to get strange!

This new “strange” is, as they say, my “new normal” – I don’t like that expression – it’s my new reality and I’m learning to deal with it bit by bit and moment by moment. One of the things that helps the most is conversation – face to face conversation with people, friends and even the occasional stranger, who speak some of the same dialect that I do. The dialect about love and understanding and the validation of feelings and how, no matter how hard we might pretend we don’t need those things, those are ultimately the things that most of us need. We learn to live without them and so we grow up with these ideas that soul love is a fantasy, that our feelings are disproportionate (not our responses, for those certainly can be disproportionate, but our feelings themselves are 100% as they are meant to be), and that no one will ever really get us, because we’re simply too hard to get.

None of this is true. And trying to inure ourselves to the pain and struggle of finding these vital human needs only prolongs the process – be it through booze or drugs or meaningless sex, shopping or bingeing or hoarding cats – whatever it is, when we do the things we do to numb ourselves to our authenticity, we stifle that authenticity. Getting it all out can be terribly, frighteningly painful, but the better we equip ourselves to do so, the sooner we will become the people we actually are. Not the ones that hide behind vices and defenses and decades’-old betrayal, the ones who’ve experienced all the ups and downs and sideways and have the tremendous potential to thrive. From this point forward. The past is over, the present is now. And in coming to terms with this, one no longer needs to search everywhere for conversation about love and life. Conversation is a brilliant device that needn’t always be so heavy. I believe that getting through the heavy stuff with an intention of patience and kindness will expedite the process whereby one can get back to discussing the light stuff, the stuff that makes this world the beautiful shimmering light that it is.

I bought paint today. More paint. I’m going to try to keep painting pictures that are supposed to be representational and are abstract at best, filthy palates at worst. Either way, it’s an interesting outlet.

Have you seen the movie “Let the Right One In”? It’s a Swedish film about vampires, the theme of which is that, as all vampire mavens know, a vampire can not enter your house (or chateau or turret) unless you explicitly invite him/her in. Louie and I have developed a new routine whereby I have to invite him out of the house when we go on walks. I leash him, I sing our little walk song, and I stand outside the door waiting for him to exit. Let the Right One Out. The Louie Story.

I’m only happy when it rains

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Well that’s not entirely true, but there are times that call for torrential downpours and this weekend is one of them. I have a lot of purging to do, literally and figuratively, and a rainy day would allow me to sit in my apartment without feeling guilty that I should be soaking in the waning days of summer (it’s still summer until the 21st and perhaps a bit after if it chooses to remain so), boxing up decades’ worth of books and photos and clothing and mementos whose significance elude me. It will feel really good to do this; it will be a start in the myriad steps I must now take to become the right version of myself, the one I’ve been shirking for 43 years. The one who relies on old pain to justify defensive reactions, on fear of my feelings not being validated to spew them in the most vicious and verbal way that I can in order to be heard. My childhood was a long time ago and it’s time I caught up to that reality.

And so I have begun taking some very important steps – and very scary ones, in some ways – as my dear L says, “learning to take care of ourselves first goes against everything we’re ingrained to believe” – or words to that effect. And she’s right. I’ve been called selfish, I’ve been called irresponsible, I’ve been called worthless – and those are some of the accolades – but the fact of the matter is that I’ve spent an awfully long time putting the needs of others – or what I perceive to be the needs of others – before my own. And so when my efforts to be needed are met with resistance, 43-years worth of frustration and loneliness and the absolute irrefutable “knowledge” that no one will ever really see me as I am or understand me as I want to be understood manifest in a torrent of ugliness that only a time machine could fix.

Mistakes I’ve made, many throughout my life and far too many in recent weeks, and while I do accept full responsibility for my actions, I have limited choices as to how to proceed now. I can apologize – and I do – with every cell of sincerity in my body. I can beat myself up (figuratively) and chastise myself and hate the little girl who rears her ugly head as a grown woman and says and does things she’ll forever regret. I can also breathe, deeply, use some of the breathing exercises a wise woman taught me this week, and I can begin to heal. I can learn from my past regrets and make what may seem like empty promises to never repeat certain behaviors, but until my final day on earth I will not know that I’ll never be “that bad” again. I certainly intend not to be – that is my goal. I can live in the present and pray for the future. I can accept my solitude because assigning fault or blame to it is fruitless; this is where I am today for reasons that are too complex for WordPress.

I can pour my vast stores of emotion into love and tranquility for myself and for anyone who enters my life from here on out. This is what I can do. I can not change the past, I can only embrace the present and strive for a better future. As I’ve said recently, I am pathologically optimistic (and yes, feel free to insert other ways in which you deem me pathological here). This is why I “ignore” signs that shouldn’t be ignored, and this is why I get myself into a terrible state where I ruin days and nights. I’m very, very tired of living this way.

In keeping with the poem I posted the other day, here’s another from Mary Oliver, which I’ve posted before. I know she’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but these words helped me once and they will again; I just have to learn to bear the lessons in mind and to stop sabotaging my life and ignoring the truth. If someone is hellbent on vilifying [you], no amount of repentance, explanation, or love can help. It’s time to move forward, hard as this may be:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

All I have is my love of love

ImageJust breathe.

That was the advice you (nypr) gave me some years ago at a time when I couldn’t, and that’s the advice I’m giving myself now. But at this moment I can’t. I will again. I promise. However, some weeks ago I walked back into a world I’d left behind, a world that’s been waiting to implode since its genesis, and last week it did. My version of it did, anyway.

Fuck.

I grew up in a microcosm in which I always felt the outsider, school to school and town to town, and I’d finally gotten out of it a bit ago. I walked back in for what turned out to be a very noble and highly worthwhile purpose but I didn’t get out fast enough. I should (loathe that word) have quit while I was ahead, realized that I’d been gifted the best that would come of it all, but I got swept back into the familiarity and false comfort of everybody knowing my name … and my drink and my past and with that comes people assuming my present and predicting (falsely) my future, and when you’re in a world that is so much smaller than your own, where the commodity is booze and the trees obscure the forest, you can lose sight of what actually matters. I absolutely lost sight and I made huge errors in judgment and it’s not at all all my fault but I held onto the fireworks that blew up in my hands. And I feel sick about it. I’ll be fine. But right this moment and for the immediate future this is going to be a bit of a roller coaster.

Fu-huck.

I realize this is vague. I’d apologize but I have nothing left to apologize for. And this is my cross to bear. Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.

Mira mira mira – it’s all going to be better than okay. I know this. This needed to happen. I needed to shed the skin of a life that ultimately did me no favors but that was with me for many, many years. I did not, however, need to loofah said skin off quite so hard. But I did. And so I need to ride this out and fade away and strengthen all the wonderful things in my life and inure myself to the pettiness that comes from spending time in the presence of small-minded people who mistake my me-ness for something it’s not, and who care more about what others may or may not be doing than they do their own motives for being themselves. To me this all reads clearly; to you it probably doesn’t. It’s also 4:10 AM and the couple of hours of sleep I’ve just gotten aren’t quite enough.

This is what happens when I go through a phase that I think is bliss and that leads me to believe all bad is behind me. Actually, I never believed that. I just didn’t expect this.

However. I’ve just spent four (five, according to Hertz) days in the mountains with people I love who love me back. I laughed and played and walked and swam and breathed. I saw wild turkeys (blah blah blah booze joke blah) and deer and chipmunks and that elusive, elusive forest. I (we) weathered storms. This is what matters. This is the world. That nondescript neighborhood bar owned by acquaintances where schadenfreude reigns is the stuff one skims from the surface and throws away.

I got cornered and showed my feral cat side and I “lost”. And in so doing, I know, I’ve gained more wisdom and strength than I currently know what to do with. I will breathe; I just have to let the good of it all catch up to me, settle in, and take over the darkness. It will.

It’s only love, and that is all

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Alors. Right this moment I am feeling blissfully back on track following a week of derailment. I don’t often get sick (knock on wood, bad rice, etcetera) and I spent five days in bed with a fever and no appetite. Doctor ordered a CAT scan, all is fine, I’m better, but oy vey that was a rough one. And one that separated the wheat from the chaff, as traumas great and small always do. Thanks, you, for dog walks and beverages and making me eat and hanging out watching Le Mans whilst I wept on my fainting couch and all good things. And I can handle the bad things. I’ve told you this repeatedly and now I’m putting it in writing for my legions of readers (hello, you three) to note. So here it is, my pledge, I will weather the storms with you as you have and will with me and you’re stuck with me as your friend, manager, editrix, and Jewish grandmother. Put some sunscreen under that bike helmet.

Back in the music and art zone, which is where I need to be, always. Galleries Thursday eve, music last night, accompanied friend on photo shoots of the Empire State Building and the nether regions of Staten Island (beautiful [free] ferry rides there and back), and inadvertently bore witness to what could easily have been a reality show about horrid, coked up frat fellows and the wedge-heeled girls who love them on Friday night. From a safe distance. Keep your friends close and your amateur-hour-look-ma-no-hands-coke-binge-Skoal-packing dew schbags far, far away.

Happy Gay Pride to those who celebrate, embrace, and understand. If you don’t, please feel free to never read another word I write.

It’s a new dawn.

Hello there, my old friend

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Another one for you, dear L, on this most auspicious anniversary. Seven years ago you finally had enough of things as they were, of repeating mistakes, waking with regrets, issuing apologies, I imagine, for things you didn’t fully remember. How easy it is to continue in vain, to decide through indecision to fix it all later. But you are strong enough and smart enough to realize that later doesn’t always come, and that, even if it does, time better spent is what makes it worthwhile. You made a choice that is far from easy to execute, and one that so many of the people in our world avoid and rationalize until the choice is no longer theirs to make. Seven years ago you started over again,  and while I wasn’t there in the intervening years, I imagine it was, at times, grueling. I imagine it took everything you had and many things you didn’t know you had to adhere to your new way of life. The last time I saw you before this new beginning we’ve recently realized, we were all on the same spectrum, and so it must have been so, so easy to justify staying there; as I’ve written before, there’s comfort in the familiar, no matter how dark and destructive familiar might be.

But you stuck to it. My friend Roger says that he won’t know he’s succeeded in this same mission until his last day on earth. You, my dear, are inspiring, so inspiring to me. I am so appreciative that we’ve reconnected at this time in our lives, older and wiser and stronger and smarter and ready to take on the world. 

Thank you for being the amazing woman that you are, and for accepting me just as I am. 

Here’s to the rest of our beautiful lives. I’m so grateful to be part of yours. 

Love, L