What would you do if I sang out of tune?

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Hi.

As I mentioned the last time I updated this thang, I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately, and a few days ago I made the executive decision to claw my way out of it. In so doing I’ve been reminded of the restorative power of friendship. I’ve reached out to, and spent time with, some of the important people in my life, in person and on the phone, and it’s been therapeutic. It’s allowed me to have optimism and plans and to stay busy. What’s that quote about idle hands? Whatever it is, that. For me, being idle is the easy way out, and in my experience the easiest ways out are almost always temporary salves. So much easier to stay in bed than to face the world, to not try lest I fail, to cancel plans so I don’t have to talk about what’s happening or not happening in my life. I’d been doing that for a stretch and it was not working and by the time I really realized that it was absolutely, positively, time to do things differently.

So I begin a new approach to my life. I’ve done so many a time and they’ve not always taken, though along the way I’ve picked up pieces of wisdom and the right kinds of habits.

I had a writing workshop yesterday for Girls Write Now, the awesome (do we still say that?) mentoring program I work with, and in this one we worked on author bios for ourselves, among other things. The topic of the workshop was online presence for writers; apparently I should be tweeting more. Or at all, really. We were given writing prompts, such as describe yourself in three nouns, then three verbs, then three adjectives, etcetera. Because this would be shared with the group I wasn’t as brutally honest as I might have been  — not that I was DIShonest, but my responses were more user-friendly than raw. I wrote “aspiring polyglot” and in trying to figure out the new WordPress interface so I could update this thing, I noticed that I’ve described myself this way before. Muy interesante, n’est-ce pas? Nyet.

We also wrote down ways other people might describe us; one of my dear friends has described me as an “acerbic marshmallow”. Perhaps that’ll be the name of my next blog.

We then wrote about what we write about and this made me realize that I need to write more, in more forums. I’m writing my novel — and am astonished to report that I hit word 60,000 on Friday. It’s a ghost story, as I’ve probably mentioned, and at present it has no title. It’s set in a restaurant — acerbic marshmallow friend and I bat around fake titles for it, and yesterday I came up with, “Waiter, There’s a Ghost In My Soup!” to which he replied, “Ghost Custards”. (Say that one aloud if you don’t get it; I didn’t). It takes place in New York in the summer of 1999, a decision I made so that I could avoid both the specter of 9-11 and our inextricable bond to technology, particularly so-called smart phones. I got my first cell phone in December of ’99, so for me that summer could still be a time when we had to wait to hear from people, when we still got to wonder and guess, when we weren’t just a few keystrokes away from knowing everything we needed to know about everyone and everything. My writing coach told me about a recent interview with a mystery writer who said that the advent and widespread use of The Google and its friends has made mystery-writing more challenging. Who needs to hire a private detective when we have Instagram?

Because novel-writing is so solitary, and because I’m prone to bouts of loneliness, I have been craving more collaborative projects to supplement my writing habit. So if any of my talented and creative friends — which is all of you — feel like collaborating on something, do get in touch.

I had a lot more I planned to write today but I’ve just spent about twenty minutes wrestling with my WiFi connection so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.

 

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Let love shine

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It is getting autumnal out there. Which, of course, reminds me always of singing Edith Piaf’s version of “Autumn Leaves” in Babette’s kitchen in the Richmond in San Francisco. Once 9-21 passes, I will Skype her for an encore. Or I’ll go visit her, which is actually a far more appealing option. I did travel a fair amount this summer, to the country and to the beach, and I have the urge to get on an airplane and add a stamp to my passport.

I had one of those modern-day dreams the other night where I sent an elaborate, detailed, and brutally honest text to the absolute wrong person. Like, imagine writing your dealer to complain that the last batch was definitely cut with something and accidentally texting your mom?! That wouldn’t happen – my dealer’s very upfront with me. Just kidding – he’s a jackass.

Because most of the people who read this don’t know me or don’t know me anymore, I feel compelled to assure you that most of the pithy bad-girl asides are sarcastic. The vague, at times overwhelmingly emotional ones are not.

For the past two nights I’ve had a variation on a recurring dream in which a youngish woman tries to steal my wallet – or in one case my purse that had my wallet, keys, and phone – and it was frustrating beyond belief. I never actually got them back before I woke, though it seemed promising. As I purport to be a decent analyzer of dreams, let me see what I can do with this one – someone or something is stealing or sabotaging a very important part of my identity. Or my whole identity, perhaps, as the wallet contains links to so many things (I know, because I recently left mine behind). I am wrestling – in one case literally – with this someone to hold onto what I can; in the other scenario I begged a go-between to help me get my things back.

I’m making, as many of you know, some fairly drastic life changes these days and poof! There goes identity. In this case the end goal (not really an end, it’s all a work in progress) is meant to be a positive one, one about changing old patterns and habits that I’ve long relied upon and that have never worked out in my favor. Or, as I said to a friend in a card I just gifted him, “my version of perfectionism has proven to be anything  but,” and so it’s time to alter my view of what “perfect” me would look like, because this ain’t it. Perfect is inaccurate, for it’s through cracks and imperfections that beauty and light shine through. It’s about using these imperfections to my – and the people around me’s – advantage. And it’s about letting go of things that just aren’t working. This means something different for everybody – this means many different things for everybody – and I’ve found myself making certain pledges in the past few days, one of which is that I will no longer waste time with people who choose to view me through a lens of resentment. I’ve let this happen to me so many times in the past and while I don’t want to wish I had that time back, I choose to never again forfeit it to that dynamic. I’ve had resentments in the past and it’s nearly impossible to maintain a dynamic where they don’t slip out and cloud whatever conversation or situation is at hand. I urge you all to do the same, to purge your lives of anyone who sees you for your trappings only and not for who you really are or, most importantly perhaps, who you want to be. I have a tremendous tolerance for overlooking behavior and finding the person within who I just know would come out if he or she could get past past pain and unproductive behaviors. And that can make the years roll by with nothing more to hold onto then the specter of what might have been.

I signed up for bike riding lessons. Yup, I don’t know how to ride a bike.

Yet.

 

This ain’t no never-never land

ImageNow that two people have expressed confusion, I must clear this up: the “L” to whom I’ve addressed several missives is not me, it’s a friend with whom I have quite a bit in common, including our first initial. It’s been wonderful to have her (back) in my life. Though we’ve traveled different paths, we have a fundamental understanding of one another that alleviates the need for lengthy explanation. It’s a beautiful thing.

Right, L?

The lyric above is from “Centerfold”, which I distinctly recall hearing for the first time when I was in sixth grade; the new kid, Eric Schmidt, was sitting in the lunchroom playing it on a box (radio) and singing along. Just thirty-two years later, last Friday night, Peter Wolf joined Bob Dylan on stage at the end of the show. He’s gangly.

On our walk this morning, Louie and I passed a group of day camp kids playing kickball. It brought me back to the horrors of gym class, which was perhaps one of my least favorite activities as a kid. I am not an athlete. Newborn giraffes have better working knowledges of how their limbs work than I do – and are far more graceful. I’m afraid of the ball. I’ve thrown “like a girl” since long before that was considered an unevolved statement. I can’t do a cartwheel. As such, I was often picked last for The Team. Thank GOD those days are behind me. I believe in fitness and health and that they should be priorities and that children should have physical outlets. But I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all method for achieving this. Being a kid is awkward enough without a jury of one’s peers to judge grace and athletic prowess and choose sides accordingly. Not to mention gymnastics – oy vey. To have eight-year-old me spot a classmate who’s balancing 12 feet in the air on rings is the antithesis of safety.

A couple of years ago a friend’s daughter was sent to physical therapy because she was uncoordinated. My friend, the father, said, “I was uncoordinated and, except for gym class, it never really mattered. I became a musician.” It’s all about nurturing what’s positive and moving on from what doesn’t work. Too often, though, we expend time and energy wishing for what we can’t or don’t have and disregarding what we can and do.

This post is not quite as disjointed as it seems.

Bright blessed days … dark sacred nights

ImageApologies to my friends who saw me not at my best last night. To accept me is to understand my imperfections and, more importantly, my core, which is one of love and generosity and authenticity. However, yesterday was a day dominated by fear, and as such I probably needed more comfort and nurturing than being in this city sometimes allows. I love this city, but at times I wish I could instantly transport myself to the little patch of rocky beach in Maine that I love so much. Yesterday was one of those days.

I’m finally reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, inspired by the fact that an old friend and novelist compared my writing to hers. Very different subject matter, but I’m flattered and I see where she’s coming from. It makes me want to keep writing so that I can keep getting better.

This is what Strayed says about fear:

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.

I read this before my appointment yesterday and tried to channel it as best I could. I had a bit of a meltdown after getting ready too early and waiting at my house to leave, and a slight one on the way over, but by the time I reached the hospital, where my mom was waiting for me (at her insistence; I accompanied her to her surgeries a couple of years ago. We’re both pretty good with other peoples’ crises), I was calm enough. It turned out I was not having the MRI I thought I was having; miscommunication from the person who booked the appointment; human error is unavoidable. Instead I had a consultation with a neurologist who went over my recent CAT scan with me. The MRI is pending approval from my ever-lovely and generous insurance company.

I’d had a CAT scan following a week-long fever and persistent headaches – headaches that lasted after the fever went away. I just had deja-vu. Turns out that the fever was a virus, but the CAT scan revealed something called ventriculomeglia (Jojo, is that right?) which means that part of me brain is larger than it should be for a person my age. It’s not extreme, but it is there – he showed me the CAT scan, which was fascinating and weird and my eyeballs looked quite round. And brains are gray. When a baby or young child has this condition it’s “water on the brain”; in an adult (maturity level notwithstanding), the causes can be many. Most extreme case is cancer. It’s possible I’ve always had this; I have to call the hospital where I was taken after my accident to see if they can send the records from that CAT scan. I assume I had one back then but honestly, it’s all a bit foggy. The neurologist said, “I don’t think we need to go in and perform surgery; I think we can continue to monitor this.” He gave me a battery of tests, which I passed. Next step is to have the MRI, see him again, and then make yearly visits with him.

This is all a huge relief, of course, and I know people have weathered far greater health concerns than this. However, this is scary for me. Yes, I can keep it in perspective but it is all relative. A few years ago I had tests on my heart. When it comes to the heart and the brain, regardless of outcome, the stakes are such that fear is a natural response. There’s been strange cancer in my family. One never knows.

As I said in the post I referenced above, I went about 40 years without surgery or a concussion – and then had three surgeries and a concussion in the course of a year. I’ve had lots of surgical procedures, have had every dental woe known to (wo)mankind (root canals, caps, crowns, the removal of four impacted wisdom teeth followed by complications I won’t name because my dear friend is getting his wisdom removed tomorrow but suffice it to say, mine was an extremely rare scenario), and have sprained and broken digits and appendages, but now we’re getting to the organs and it feels like a different animal.

Regardless, I am alive and I am going to have all the tests I need to have and I am in good medical hands and so we move forward. Like a shark. But where mortality and my mother and my emotions meet, things can get very murky. And so yesterday was an intense one for me, and I suppose I should have predicted that and planned accordingly. But I didn’t.

I love you, friends.

Health is important, which is something I’ve lost sight of at times. Never again – I’m keeping on top of things. I was very proud to say “no” when they asked if I smoked or took recreational drugs. Progress should be celebrated; perfection is a myth.

Let’s reboot.