The band in heaven, they play my favorite song

ImageI’m learning that there is little that can be done when someone is hellbent on convincing you that they are inherently flawed, and therefore bad. Of course they are flawed – we all are – but bad is another story entirely. If someone we love turns on us, rejects us, this does not mean we are bad. This means we were not meant to be with that person, and tough a pill though that may be to swallow, it is a far cry from being a Bad Person. And really, you know this. It’s a cry for help, an excuse to spin your wheels, a reason to attach to everything that doesn’t quite go as planned. I’ve been heartbroken, betrayed, lied to, used, rejected – I’ve venture to say that everyone reading this has been through these things. We’ve also suffered disappointments on the work front and parents – or children – whom we can’t relate to. None of this makes us bad. This makes us human. However, worth is in the eye of the beholder, and so if you are feeling unworthy, please know that this alone does not make it so. Hard times cause self-doubt, but self-doubt needn’t perpetuate to the degree that it does.

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Today was difficult, so difficult. In the Jewish tradition we bury our dead quickly, which means we don’t have a lot of lag time to get used to the idea of someone’s passing before we ritualistically mourn them. It was difficult and beautiful to see so many people honoring Lily, speaking of her love of life and excitement over every new adventure, her utter devotion to her family and to her husband of many decades. Her children spoke. My father spoke. We buried her – quite literally, as is also tradition. It was so … final. I will take from my relationship with Lily the notion that love and life matter more than anything, that family and friends come first, that being generous has little to do with material possession, and that we dance on this planet once in this form, so we might as well turn the volume up loud. Lily was life – even if I didn’t think so before, there is no way now that anyone could convince me that physical death means the end of spirit. She is, still, way too vibrant for this. I’m sad, but I’m so much better for having known her all these years, and so much more comforted by the notion that she’s still around.

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Une part de bonheur dont je connais la cause

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The world lost a bright star today. Lily is a close family friend whom I have known my entire life. She’s a beauty queen from France who met and fell in love with my father’s best friend, Charlie. Or The Judge, as my dad refers to him almost exclusively. He calls my dad Delty; they met in the army and would have lost touch had the judge not traveled to Japan on holiday, where my father was stationed greeting the troops.

Our families are family. We’ve spent holidays together and have attended their three children’s weddings. The Judge officiated at my sister’s. Some years ago we celebrated my dad’s birthday by taking a trip by riverboat through French wine country, The Judge and Lily were integral parts of this event.

Lily was beautiful; I don’t picture her much older than she was when that photo was taken, though it was taken several decades ago. The last time I saw her, which was during the holidays, she and I sang La Vie En Rose, as was our tradition. Once we performed it, usually we just amused ourselves.

I don’t think this has really sunken in, but I know that my feelings are of warmth and love. I’m not going to fall apart. I’m going to be here for her family and for my parents. And I’m going to know that the skies are brighter for her presence.

Jusqu’a la prochaine fois, mon coeur. Je vous aime.

Every moment of the year …

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Happy Bastille Day, mesdames et messieurs. In honor of the holiday I am sipping a glass of Austrian wine having just seen an extremely American movie much of which was shot, I’ve just read, in Wales. I do, however, love Paris when it drizzles and sizzles and everything in between, and I hope to visit much more of the country than I have thus far. Paris can be unfriendly and prohibitively expensive, but like most places, with a little bit of research one can experience the magic without facing these two sobering realities.

A friend who reads these words was not aware that the vast majority of my post titles are song lyrics, so just to clarify, the vast majority of my post titles are song lyrics. Not all, but most.

Today was a good Sunday. Healthy and productive and New Yorkish and fun. Reveling in the here and now.

I’ve reconnected with someone I don’t believe I’ve seen since we were in fourth grade and it’s been lovely (a word I overuse but use only when applicable). She is a successful writer and gave me feedback on my own writing that is inspiring me to get back into my novel-in-progress. I will. I will. We each have a specific memory of our time in fourth grade – actually, I’ve just realized that I have two of her – the second, C, being your birthday party, where we played Pin the Tail on the (non-battery-operated or digital or politically correct) Donkey. I can picture the wall where said donkey awaited our blindfolded attacks. I pinned the tail (with scotch tape) onto your brother’s gray sweatshirt. I’m almost certain it was gray. Funny what we recall.

Watching the Tour de France so I guess I am walking the walk on this holiday. Have a wonderful week, tout le monde. I’ll be in touch.

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. 

 

Remembrance of things past

ImageI remember the Summer of Sam. I was six, Julia turned ten, and though we never talked about such things around the dinner table, we joined the rest of the city and its outskirts in being choked by fear of this unknown menace. “We have to dye our hair blonde,” my sister told me; his targets were brunettes. 

I remember when Elvis died. I’d not heard of him before, to the best of my recollection. We were in Maine and stopped at an inconvenience store so my dad could get sodas. I got a plastic cup with Bullwinkle on it that would fair quite poorly later that day when carsickness kicked in. “Elvis Presley died,” he said when he got back into the driver’s seat.

I remember when John Lennon died. I was in fifth grade. Erika Levine returned the book on Capricorns to me.

I remember when River Phoenix, Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, and Amy Winehouse died. 

The day the Challenger blew up was a snowday; I watched live on the tiny black and white Sony in my parents’ bedroom, on my mom’s side. 

It’s too soon to talk about 9-11. 

I’ve been to a fair amount of funerals, and I can recall almost all of the language used to convey to me who the guests of honor were. Jimmy was killed. Laura passed away. Granny was gone. I learned about Tim at a newsstand in Soho. I screamed and threw the Post on the ground; the shopkeeper told my boyfriend that it was fine, he’d pick it up. 

I remember not realizing Jonathan might be dead. I’d lost track of who he worked for. His “Portrait of Grief” is in my box o’grief in the other room, which is filled with news clippings, mass cards, photos, birth announcements, a receipt. 

This is not how I meant for this post to go, but this is how it’s going and so I will let it. 

So much more, so much more. 

I’m feeling strong and calm these days – I really am – but yes, the good ones can see the sadness waiting on the sidelines. I’ve lost a lot of people and I’ve lost a fair amount of myself in the process. But I’ve found so much more than I otherwise would have. This is why I give as much as I can to the people I care about, now. This is what sustains me. 

Send me photographs and souvenirs

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A very happy birthday to a dear man (yep, it’s official) who has been an integral part of my life over the past several months … though we’ve known each other for three years. Thank you, my friend, for being here for me when I’ve needed you most, and for weathering the storms with me. In this short time you’ve taught me a surprising amount about the world and about myself. I wish you nothing but joy and abundance as you enter this next phase of your life. Поздравляю on all of your successes, past, present, and future. 

Alors. 

I so appreciate everyone’s kind words yesterday about the pup. Hug your dogs extra tight. 

I had a whole post planned for today but, as is the nature of writing without a map, my mind is leading me in a different direction. This weekend I will be in the home where the photo of Archie, below, was taken. This will begin the process of closure; he was such a part of that house.

At the risk of alienating the scientific minds and non dog-owners among you, I feel that my Louie senses what’s happened; he certainly will when we get there. 

I profoundly believe in an after life, in the immortality of spirit and its connectedness to the living. I have had too many convincing experiences to argue otherwise. My sister calls it “the vapors” – my perceived ability to sense the departed. I’ve walked into places for the first time and, without any prior knowledge, I’ve felt the presence of someone who’d recently died — in inquiring I’ve learned that this was the case. That was an awkward sentence; resisting the urge to self-edit, which is exceptionally difficult for me. I think that if we’re open to signs, we see them. I’ve been told by psychics and mediums that I have extra sensory perceptions, which I could channel if I applied myself. Sometimes I want to, and sometimes I absolutely don’t. 

There is an arrogance – no, a myopia – to believing that only that which we experience with our five tangible senses is real. I appreciate the fact that not everyone feels this way, but I am fascinated by such topics. “They” say that animals and children, i.e. beings who are open and not laden with incredulity, are able to perceive spirits. My Louie came into my life in August 2002, two months after I lost my dear friend, Laura. The last time I saw her we spent the day together, and I took a photo of her in an archway of my old apartment. For many years after her death, my thoughts of her were omnipresent; I still think about her very frequently, but as those who’ve experienced loss know, the sharp pain does eventually give way to a kind of acceptance, and tranquility and warm memories overshadow grief. I was thinking about her very strongly one day when Louie was quite young, and he suddenly sat up, startled, stared at the spot where I’d last seen Laura, and did that perplexed head-tilt that dogs do. For the next minute he’d look to me, back to the spot, back to me again, perhaps wondering why I wasn’t acknowledging the person standing there. Or perhaps he could tell she was on a different plane. Or perhaps a fly flew by and this is all in my head. I don’t think that’s the case, in part because I don’t want it to be. The notion of eternity comforts me greatly. I was raised without religion and so I’ve been allowed to draw my own conclusions about such matters. 

After I spoke with my mom the other morning, I told Louie what happened – yes, I talk to my dog as though he understands me, because that’s what one does. For the past two nights he’s climbed his little staircase up to my bed and slept next to me – something he hasn’t really been able to do since his knee surgery last summer. (My dog has a titanium knee).

Maybe Archie visited him and let him know that he was happy and frolicking (with Duffie, Lovable, and Clovis) and that there is something to look forward to that’s far more blissful than we can fathom. Maybe Lou sensed what happened before we knew about it. Maybe he understood what I said and wants to comfort me. Or maybe he simply figured out how to navigate the stairs again and this is all in my head. 

I don’t think that’s the case. 

I love you guys – you know who you are – and I have deep gratitude for all who read my words. 

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