Baby, baby, been a long, long time …

ImageL’shana tova … happy new year … 5773 flew by!

I love new years – and I celebrate as many of them as I can. I think I’ve said this before, but the fact that my birthday coincides with western New Year gives me a double dose of feeling the urgent need to right all my wrongs, to make great strides, to mend my life … this is why I’ve stopped making resolutions and instead make goals. And if I fail to meet them in January … Chinese New Year is just around the corner. And if that doesn’t work … it’s almost spring! Then the summer solstice … and my half birthday … and now it’s Rosh Hashanah. And soon comes autumn, traditionally my most auspicious time of year. Another chance to reinvent myself, to change my wicked ways.

Actually, I have changed the vast majority of my wicked ways, and that is something that I am very proud of, determined as I am to not end this sentence with a preposition. This is part of what was difficult about the rumours and misinterpretations that were flying around earlier this summer; they were based on behavior and habits from my past that I have worked very hard to conquer, and I have succeeded. I still have ways to go, but I’m a thousand miles ahead of where I once was. Now I feel that my new year’s goals are less about removing toxicity and bad decisions and more about adding nourishment and richness to my life. Spending time with people who value me and being present in those times. Not accepting every invitation that comes my way for fear of missing out. Living each day not as if it’s my last but as if it’s capable of having a positive impact on my life … writing, reading, cooking, exercising, working, playing, loving … and keeping my promises, which means not making promises I might not be able to keep. Including to myself.

Remind me to write about my recurring dream. I keep forgetting to do that.

Just found this quote by the great sculptor Henry Moore:

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.

Dig it.

The wild and windy night

ImageHave I already used this photo?

Another reason, dear E, getting back to your question of what inspires (or possesses) me to write in this thang, is that I have to purge the me-thoughts to get to the creative ones and write what I “should” be writing.

By the way – there is no Rum Diary to focus on right now – we’re in a holding pattern.

I have kept diaries over the years – diaries that turned into journals once that seemed the more age-appropriate word – and in my experience it’s been a bit fruitless. Ironic though this might sound given what I’m currently writing, I could never really open up in them, convinced as I was that they’d be found before or after my end of days and at best mocked, at worst published. Some time ago I read through the ones I’ve kept since graduating to post-college life, and they were distressingly similar in theme from year to year. I need to quit X I need to start Xing I wish I hadn’t X’d last week. I’ve quit pretty much all that I’ve needed to and I’ve started to do the good things (exercise, do more cultural things, organize my stuff, write) and as I’ve said before, I’ve vanquished regret. So perhaps those decades of complaining in longhand were foreplay – lots and lots of it – for my finally leading a far-better-albeit-highly-flawed life, at last. I know better than anyone else that I still have a long road ahead of me on my quest for self-betterment. I plan to take it. I plan, as my parents and some of my favorite grown-ups have and do, to continue my quest for self-betterment for all of my days. Without things to strive for, without room for improvement, what is our purpose? My purpose is to write, live, and love. And those are all things on which I can continually improve.

Here’s a delightful story about keeping journals. Many, many moons ago I lived with a man I loved at the time. This was one of the most fertile writing times of my life. One of my journals was also a writing notebook, where I kept story ideas and fragments and characters and lines of dialogues I’d someday try to use. I’d started a story about a woman having an affair with her boss. It never went anywhere. I moved on.

I had a great job at the time – I was the writer and editor of an entertainment website and was one of a department of six – smart, invested people. One day we were in a meeting with someone important – don’t recall who – and I looked up and saw Boyfriend standing outside the conference room with a dour look on his face. Of course my mind went right to the notion that someone I love had died. I shakily left the meeting and went to him, and he said, “I know.” It took a minute to get what he “knew” out of him. We went out for a pint. I forgave him, for reading my journal, for jumping to that conclusion, for invading my workspace. I began writing everything in code. I don’t go to horrible places in my fiction. Not his fault. Not his legacy. But oy vey. That sucked.

Anyway. I fell in love with a seagull this weekend. They were right – first gay marriage, now this.

xo

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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.

Love somebody real

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I’ve cycled through the emotions this week – most of them – and while it’s been a bumpy ride I have managed to stay intact, productive even. I feel, as I said earlier, understood and appreciated for the things for which I’ve longed to feel understood and appreciated for a very long time. I’ve made some decisions that were out of character and the world hasn’t spun off its axis. I’ve been temporarily displaced from home for quite a banal reason, and in the course of this I’ve found safety and comfort. And trust. Lou and I very much enjoyed our vacation in the west village, our old stomping ground, his very first home in New York.

This has not been the epic week of art and music that last week was, straight through Sunday, but it’s been an important week in many ways. Trusting myself is a very good thing. Being able to pour my surplus of love and nurturing into the right people, as opposed to expending that same energy trying to get the wrong ones to see me as I am, has nourished my mind, heart and soul–three things that remained malnourished for decades. Cutting myself some slack and recognizing my limitations, allowing myself to say no to things that I needed to say no to, this is new territory for me. This is out of my old character and into my new. In time those who need to see this and are able to recognize it will. I am separating the wheat from the chaff.

This is a very self-indulgent piece, which was not what I’d intended. This is also the first time I am writing this on my iPad, and if I let autocorrect take over it would be the work of typewriter-banging monkeys.

The Vanishing Man did me such an enormous favor it’s hard to put into words. He freed me from his clutches and in so doing, he freed me from myself.

Hearts can heal.  This is to you – yes, you – you told me how similar you and the lovely twin are emotionally, how you’ve bonded over this fact and how comforting it was. She has found happiness, and so will you. I promise you. I promise.

Bright are the stars that shine …

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I have fallen head over heels in love with New York over the past week. Smitten. It’s been a week of music, art, friends, family, kismet, productivity, and optimism, and I am hellbent on savoring this feeling for as long as it may last. Because I know there will be dark times again, but this, my friends, is what life is about. This is what matters, and this is very much real. I used to think calm and happy were the exceptions – actually, they were the exceptions for many, many years. But I’ve always, I think, harbored profound optimism that things could and would get better. When my optimism first manifested, it was met with great resistance from people who very much mattered to me, some who still do and some who’ve gone the way of other toxic elements in my life. My tranquil state of mind was seen as contrived, fake, manipulative. And it is anything but.

I have thus far smiled more today than I have in a very long time.

A recap of events in random order: Sir Paul McCartney at the surprisingly beautiful Barclay Center, with, by sheer coincidence, seats in front of one of my dearest friends; Sir Alain Toussaint with unannounced special guest Dr. John at City Winery; a night of readings by three talented, smutty male writers; a long and good conversation with my father; a date with my mum, a pitstop at Moma, a gallery visit, a home cooked meal, new writing/editing projects, random encounters with a neurosurgeon, heart transplant specialist, and decorated war veteran. What matters most in all of this is the part that doesn’t cost a dime, and that’s the connectedness I’m feeling to so many people who understand me and appreciate me despite my many flaws. Forgiveness. It’s a beautiful thing. 

I’m overdoing it on the adjectives. 

The essence of everything I’m feeling right now is very much related to a conversation I just had with the ever-lovely Vanessa: while “they” say that people don’t change, the truth is that we can evolve, transform, metamorphosize into kinder, calmer, safer versions of ourselves. I’m catching a glimpse of this now, and I’m grateful for it. I think for many years I couldn’t get to this point because I didn’t really believe that it would be possible. I believed I was inherently bad and misunderstood, and I numbed myself to as much of the world as I could to keep my thoughts from spiraling downward. But I’ve somehow been lucky enough to surround myself with like-minded, kind people in the past several years, people who have my best interests at heart as well as their own, and who understand the language that I speak. So if you are reading this and feel alone, know that it needn’t be permanent. Forever is a very long time and the world is filled with beautiful souls who will wish the best for you sans ulterior motives. We’ve all felt betrayal; it needn’t darken our outlook on (wo)mankind, because the good are many and the future is bright.

Thank you, my friends. 

 

Yes it’s a long way to go, but in the meantime

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A friend asked me recently what I think of as my worst quality. Interesting question – as qualities and habits are not the same thing. Much of what I would like to change about myself is the result of habitual behavior that has seldom worked in my favor, like procrastinating. Other things are the result of deeply rooted fears and insecurities; I’ve preemptively lashed out at people I love so they can’t hurt me first. I’d have to say that my “worst” quality is impatience, in all its many forms. I get impatient for results and do things too quickly and not quite carefully enough and this is how dishes break and ankles are sprained and overpriced items are bought. Intentional use of passive voice. I get impatient with people who don’t seem to know how to behave in public, like the woman sitting next to me at the theater last night who did not stop moving the entire time, ate what sounded like a full meal, and took her shoes off. And I get most profoundly impatient with the people I love who can’t see the wonderfulness in themselves that I see. I realize how “unfair” this is, and that it is projection, frustration with my own slow self-improvement, and so on, but the question was asked and this is my answer right now. RIGHT NOW! (see?)

It comes down to a mixture of things. One is that, as Vanessa and I discussed this weekend, I am on such a quest for self-betterment and so determined to conquer my demons, which will be a lifelong project, that I get frustrated when people complain and lament but don’t want to accept that there are solutions, that the vast majority of “problems” we have are, in fact, surmountable. My frustration stems very much from my need to believe that obstacles are temporary and that better things will surely come my way. And that I can manifest a life that is rich and abundant and more positive than negative. And so idle complaining from others, particularly of the cyclical variety, is difficult for me to tolerate. When a friend complains about his or her unhealthy habits and the toll it’s taking on his or her body, I want to be able to say, “You know what you need to do. I’ll help you and encourage you. Let’s start now.” But I recognize that people aren’t always ready to hear that. I know I’ve needed to lament about the states of various things for a while before I’ve been ready to take the necessary steps toward fixing them. It’s like quitting smoking (and in some cases is exactly that). We know it’s bad for us and that we need to quit, but knowing and feeling and implementing are three unique parts of the process. Kinder than sighing in frustration and snapping with impatience is embodying this quote, which I’ve used before:

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.

Several people in my life are going through difficult times right now.Most of these times revolve around heartbreak and self-doubt. Self-doubt, I’m noticing, can segue into self-loathing, and there is no one in my world who deserves such treatment. Loving and accepting our own humanity, the wonderful and the horrible, allowing ourselves to learn from and let go of guilt and regret, and understanding that we don’t behave in a vacuum, that we are a sum of all of our parts and experiences and habits, these are the things that pave the way toward happier lives. Toward surviving the dark times and moving forward. Bad things will happen; this is an inescapable truth. The stronger we are, mentally and physically, the better equipped we will be to weather the unthinkable.

Now I must practice what I preach.