Friday, July 6, 2018

Five Years

I’m sure Freeport in the Bahamas is very nice, but to me it’s a place that isn’t Mexico. I don’t understand the hold that Mexico and it’s gulf have on me and I don’t need to know. I know that I feel at home there and peaceful and happy, and while I speak so little spanish as to be considered to not speak spanish, the sound of it rolls through me, calms my whole self down and lingers in my brain, sing-song, like a salve.

I don’t know the number, haven’t a clue, but I’d guess that if ten people try diving, five never do it again, 4 become recreational, go a few times in their lives, once per vacation divers, and the last one, is done for. The dive masters are usually from all over the world and they have similar stories. Went somewhere in their early twenties, did a dive, went home, sold their possessions and began lives of itinerate dive instructors. Often, they don’t stay anywhere longer than a year or two. I don’t know what happens to them eventually, do they open their own shop somewhere? Stay in whatever country is home to the girl or guy they settle with? Give it up after a decade, or become wise old men and women of the sea, having seen the world and picked up more languages than I will ever speak?

If I learned to dive at twenty, would I have become one of them? Probably not, I still had too much stuff to work out, can’t say I’ve exorcised it all, but piece, by piece. I am, however, the one out of ten, because in the first minute of my first dive I was overtaken by a pure, simple joy I’d not before experienced. I remember that dive as being in crystal clear, sparkling water that let me see unclouded, unobstructed, to infinity. I’ve never encountered those conditions again, so maybe my memory is embellished by how I felt. In that one thirty-minute increment, I went from battered and bruised to happy goddess/sea witch if only in my own mind. So I get those folks who go home and sell all their belongings, but that’s something I no longer crave, as I did growing up because I finally love my home and the boys that grew up there, and it’s their home too.

The folks on the boats thus far haven’t been the friendliest, they’re like New Englander’s, insular. There was a guy from England, living in Singapore in Freeport for business, extending his stay a few days to dive and we had the same modus operandi. First ones in, last ones out, so we became dive buddies by default. He was very sweet underwater, kept checking on me asking for the “OK” signal and I could sense he could navigate, We were absolutely, perfectly on the same page, luckily the divemasters were chill, and confident in our abilities because we took off both times. We were both good divers, explored a wreck and wandered off. I saw the first shark and didn’t want to turn around and alert him, so i kept my eyes on the shark and did jumping jacks in midair, midwater, diving is like flying, he saw me, and thanked me later. And then another shark, it was lovely.

The currents on the surface were mild today, yesterday they were ferocious and I swam as hard as I could in place for 5 minutes trying to get to the tow line and, well, at least I didn’t get further away. The guys on the boat threw out a longer line because no one was getting any closer. Climbing up the ladder was insane and we all got thrown off a few times. My legs are all bruised today from getting thrown into the ladder and boat and I slept well last night. I always come back from my trips bruised and scraped and it makes me feel alive and proud. In my normal life, a paper cut makes me complain daily, it’s all about state of mind, I suppose.

Englishman was lone and standoffish on the boat, but next dive, we were first ones in and took off looking for sharks and it didn’t take long. This was one of the most enjoyable dives of my life. I kneeled in the sand, and watched shark after shark after shark swim by. The visibility was low, water murky, so I’d dangle and look into the abyss and one would appear and I’d hope, hope, hope it would come my way and often they did, several times I could have reached out and petted them. Each sighting sent a rush of calm and contentment over me because I was seeing what I wanted to see and doing what I wanted to do. English was great, he was just as into it, but also 25 feet away, neither of us getting in the other’s way. First in, last out and with a half tank of air to spare.

Yesterday I found a quiet greek restaurant that had reasonable prices. I’ve been eating a lot of the free apples from the lobby because food is really expensive here which I suppose puts the overhead bin filled with chips into context. Every dive boat I’ve ever been on passes around fresh fruit and cookies between dives because you need the calories, but not here which left me with skull splitting headache the first day. Everyone brings their own food and water bottles on the boat, and they don’t share, so I found a tiny convenience store and stocked up on tiny bags of frito’s which between dives, couldn’t taste better. Freeport is pretty deserted, it’s low season and they’re still rebuilding from a hurricane two years ago, so I’m back at the greek restaurant who doesn’t mind me using their wifi all this time and I was just chatting with the waiter who is a jolly young guy. But only on the outside, some people hide things well, I should learn that trick some day. He asked where I was from and he yelled “Rhode Island?!”. His wife is from Rhode Island, small, small world that it is. He lived in the states for a few years in South Carolina and Miami, but overstayed his Visa and got kicked out and so now he can only skype with his wife and two young sons and his only hope of getting back to them is trying again in five years. FIVE YEARS. Let’s hope in five years there isn’t a wall around our entire perimeter. It’s real people, real families, real hardship, real sadness.

I’ve been diving for five years, my whole life has changed in five years, who will he be, who will his wife and children be in five years?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Oh Atlanta

The Atlanta airport is a very large shopping mall, and there are also planes, and at some point everyone there, aside from those punching in and out will get on one.  By the end of the day, everyone crossing paths on the concourse or in the restaurants or bathrooms will wind up places far flung. Every baked good there is prepackaged in individual plastic bags somewhere else, but meticulously unwrapped and displayed to appear freshly baked. At Starbucks they were committing the cardinal sin of visibly opening individual plastic wrappers and transferring item upon order into Starbucks bags, busting the myth wide open. It doesn’t seem fair to still pay a premium for your fancy banana bread when they so irreverently stop playing the game, especially so clumsily, the surreptitious transfer at waist height angled only slightly away, opening one bag and feeding it to another, but it sticks to the wrapper so takes several tries and touching fingers and oh, it’s airport baked goods mayhem. I’m in the Atlanta airport for the same reason as everyone else, to get off a plane and on a plane. My gate was changed at the last minute because my plane we’re told, had an oil leak, I’m fine with this change of plans, I prefer a plane not leaking anything although when I’m seated my air vent is leaking water on me which is far, far preferable to the oil issue. My last few flights have all been delayed, I think our aircraft fleet is getting old.

We eventually filed onto a small plane, two seats to a row. I was near the back next to a large man who’s wife and kids were behind us. He helpfully informed me that there were empty seats up front, either out of pity or wanting the empty seat for himself. I’d just watched him transfer the contents of three oversized laminated shopping bags the kind you get at any big box store check out lane for an extra buck or two, in this case Home Goods, into the smaller than usual overhead bins. They made all of us with small suitcases check them at the last minute as they weren’t going to fit, and as mine houses my laptop, I took that out and brought it naked onto the plane, unsheathed. This man’s large shopping bags wouldn’t fit, so he had to empty them out of their crunchy snack food contents -- bags and bags, bags of bags of chips and cheetos, cookies, a cornucopia of crunchy snack food and beach balls straight into the bin. Are the bahamas bereft of crunchy, salty treats? I can’t imagine, Freeport is within spitting distance of Florida, maybe it’s to save money, but is it really worth the price in dignity lost, number of bags schlepped? I’m in search of sharks and dolphins, I guess they’re looking for crunchy snack filled beach days, maybe road trip would have been a better option.

I snuck into first class which was only designated by the larger seats, but they kicked me back to the row behind, wedged between window and obese man who ate a banana and then ordered two bloody mary’s, for himself. The row in front of me remained empty, with it’s large comfy seats glaring backwards at me. Hierrarchy. He’s onto the third cocktail now with a bag of chocolate chip cookies chasing. Ewww.

The sky is clear blue and I’ve been able to see the ground the whole way thus far through the puffy cotton ball clouds. I’m watching the shadows they’re casting on the ground. I keep hoping the shadows will bump into each other, but they don't, they drift parallel, along the same wind. My row-mate was very quiet until we landed and then the drinks kicked in. A cajun boy from louisiana going through his third divorce, this bitch was just after his money. His grandkids, he said, kept him on the straight and narrow but he was going to visit friends who had a house down here and he’d packed a jar of rioux and was gonna catch some fish and cook it up right.

I’ve been cancer-free for five and a half years now. I didn’t announce that, I don’t know how to celebrate. I knew how to once but I stopped somewhere along the way. Maybe that happens when you’ve been a mom for a while, celebrating everyone else’s milestones, maybe it happens after living with someone for a quarter century who doesn’t give a shit about you. But ultimately, I’m the one with paralysis, I could make different decisions, I could challenge myself, be less of a lone wolf, but we are what we are and we is what we is and I'm really embracing my lone wolf side these days, I think it's who I am. I meant to celebrate my first year cancer free but then I got superstitious. I meant to celebrate my 50th birthday, but I never quite got to it, I’m 54 now. I feel untethered without my regular oncology visits at the same time I miss them less and less and I don’t panic at every anomaly, every suspicion, every bad day. Cancer will always be a part of my life, it has certainly altered my appearance and my functioning, my brain hasn't recovered from the massive doses of poison, lifesaving though they might have been. It’s a new normal, despite my very wise friend who say’s “normal is a myth” and with that I agree, but my life now and my life then are very different, not just because of the malignant cells demanding attention but because it was already a time of great change. I’m thoroughly divorced, I’ve gone through menopause, so my body is different and not just because of the surgeries and drugs, things change. And there has been loss because people with cancer meet other people with cancer and they bond strongly and save each others lives and sanity, but some of them die. Things change and sometimes it's grand. I’m getting to know my oldest son as an adult and it’s an experience more beautiful than I can describe, I won't even try for fear of ruining it by confining it to words, it seems too big to be restricted in that way. I miss having babies and toddlers so much and so often, but this is a new joy I couldn’t have imagined. My younger son is going to be a senior in high school, I don’t know how that’s possible, every cliché is true, you blink, and well, you know the rest. I'm acutely aware that this is the last year I will have a child living at home and am equally excited and terrified at the prospect. I find myself clinging to every moment with him, every shared meal, every laugh, every conversation and every single hug, every moment of our daily routines, every bit of minutia. A lot has happened in the past five years, the most unexpected is that I’ve discovered travelling for which I’ve become insatiable, and have fallen deep in love with the ocean (when it’s warm) which brings me to the Atlanta airport, killing time, waiting for a plane.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Perfectly Honed Craft

It is a beautiful thing to witness any display of perfectly honed craft. Be it a performance, glass blower, written paragraph or political debate. I don't consider myself a masochist, but perhaps I have a streak, as I watched the entire Republican debate a few weeks ago. I knew I wasn't going to agree with any of these guys on anything, but what really took me aback was what a bumbling, fumbling, sweaty hot mess they were. All of them. None of them seemed to know the first thing about the art of debating and in their chosen field (leaving aside the premise that they did not, in fact choose, but are merely, humbly obedient to divine direction), they should, they really should, it is the art that is foremost in their profession. They are supposed to have clear ideas and ideals and possess the skill to articulate them well and convincingly, with more than a few facts thrown in for good measure. Nope, not happening in front of the big, vertigo inducing airplane. None of these dudes presented as nearly presidential or even potentially commander-in-chiefy. Most, not even quite sane or even average smart.

I, like so many of us have had a long and turbulent history with Hilary Clinton, we love her, we hate her, we respect her, we're sick of her, she's genuine, she's smarmy, cringeworthy, we vacillate. I've been on Team Bernie lately because if i really had to check a box, it would be democratic socialist, I'm a right-handed lefty to the core. I love anything grassroots, I love to see, and it pains me to say this "young people" (as opposed to my current demographic) getting engaged and excited because they really are our great last hope. I am, however, pragmatic, I wanted Bernie to convince me he could run the whole show, that capital city show. I went into last nights debate with an open mind, leaning Sanders, but damn, she killed it, lady killed it and now I'm going girl power all the way to the big white house. I really do want a woman prez in my lifetime, it's time, it's past time and not only that, I now think Hilary is the most qualified for the job because she is capable of learning and honing a skill to perfection and her skill is politics. I know there will be backlash, and I know she'll over do it, people will say that sexism is dead and the glass ceiling a mirage, the same people that say racism is dead because we have a black president. So what, fuck those people, they're idiots and nothing ain't gonna change that.

I  loved that debate, because well, they actually addressed issues other than who around the world we were going to bomb into oblivion first. Which non-people, not actually mothers, father, sisters, brothers, children because they speak a different language we're going to annihilate for the sins of their leaders, as if I want to be taken to task for W's decisions, as if my home isn't sacred. Bernie was great, I love Bernie, I want him to stay vibrant, stay in the public realm, I want him to keep yelling, but Hilary was presidential. Hilary was smart and savvy, prepared, informed, she has worked her ass off to hone her craft and I want to make a big bowl of popcorn and watch her mop the floor with whatever half wit zealot the other side brings to the table.

I remember many, many, too many years ago hearing my first David Sedaris essay on This American Life. Many of you remember that moment and shushing whoever walked in talking. And then months later hearing an essay on Morning Edition and again on This American Life and thinking, this guy is great, I've got to get his book. I remember falling in love with David, the big hearted misanthrope, rooting for him in his teens retold, being touched by his relationship with his mother, his siblings, laughing out loud again and again, being so happy that he found Hugh and over time witnessing the honing of his craft. Reading so many others who followed in his essayist footsteps but were never quite as good, as consistent, as spot on, as authentic, or as funny. We got used to his voice and his vulgar tirades because we love his sweet heart, and admire his craft. I've been going to see him perform live every chance I've had over the past twenty years. I don't go out a lot, but some things I just won't miss, so as soon as I saw he was coming to PPAC I snapped up two tickets. About two weeks before the show I started inviting people: busy, busy, already going, can't make it and I realized my list is kinda short. I've become so reclusive lately I couldn't remember who I could call with such an invitation which was kind of jarring and depressing to be honest. Then someone asked why I wasn't taking J... I don't know I said, sometimes he's vulgar (D, not J), and it was pointed out to me that J's in high school now, he's heard it ALL, and he'd love it. That's right I thought, he'll love it, he always loves the oddball mix of things I take him to and he really is my favorite date. Ten minutes in as he was glaring at me, I realized my mistake. I realized I need grown up friends.

J hadn't had 25 years to fall in love with David Sedaris, to get used to his voice, both literally and figuratively. He hadn't watched him and his craft grow up, he didn't know about his dead mom and that he really doesn't hate everyone. Hate is the only word I can use for my son's new relationship to David Sedaris, he hates him. His perspective made sense, I have to begrudgingly admit, without the backstory, without the long term fan relationship, without having read any books or essays, he's a pompous ass with an annoying voice that thinks he's better than everyone else, and kind of mean. That's not what he is, I don't think, but it's a reasonable perception from my boy's perspective.

And it really was too vulgar, not for him, or for me, but for me sitting next to him, yes, way too vulgar, I'm not that evolved. He wants to see the Book of Mormon, maybe we should sit separately.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


I learned a lot about faith from Laura Viehmann. I've learned a lot about faith over the last decade or two from individuals I can count on one hand, maybe two, powerful people indeed, because new knowledge makes us bigger and better and none of them have any idea how much they've expanded my horizons.

I knew Laura for quite some time before I realized that she was a devout Christian and the large role her god, her faith, her church played, not just in her life, but truly, in her heart, in the fabric of her. Laura and I agreed completely on so much -- we talked about politics, parenting, art, music, the gamut of what people talk about, although with us, there was a whole lot of cancer talk thrown in. Laura, I think, appointed herself my cancer fairy god mother/big sister the minute we met. I think we hugged within a few minutes of meeting, and laughed at the absurdity of our mutual situations, I remember exactly where I was standing at the time. Laura was only a few years older than me, and while age is but a number, she was definitely the older, wiser sister and I think my well being was a little bit of a pet project for her during my intense year of treatment and then my readjustment to the civilian world which one never actually does quite fully. I was in a bit of a daze when we first met, albeit feisty as hell which is why we were drawn to each other. I was newly out of a long marriage, a single mom, and just diagnosed with very aggressive cancer, and Laura intuitively knew there was a role for her to play in my "journey" as much as I loathe that expression. All the while she was on her own "journey", she had her port put back in and knew it wasn't coming back out. I know that quietly, in the background she had planned meticulously for her exit, but she didn't incorporate that inevitability into her daily life one bit. She was dating, she was redecorating, she was buying art, she was living so fully, and only considering the life part of the equation. It wasn't denial, I and I'm sure many around her did the denial part, it wasn't denial for her, it was a choice, the best choice anyone could make and one that ain't so easy.

Upon getting to know each other better and sharing our stories, both of which had terrible unexpected loss in them, her a husband and me a baby and then that great uniter, proliferating cells gone mad. I think we crammed many more years of friendship and connection into the years that we had because we had so much in common, I am a maker of things and promoter of local art and craft and both the concept of "local" and art and craft itself were so near and dear to her, so that was something else we had in common and Laura loved to come and sit and chat in my studio for hours. We were also united by being the proud mamasitas of two sons each who we adored endlessly, and who could be maddening because that's their job. Laura laughed, and made bad jokes with me, she also said "fuck" a lot which I loved about her because she was so calm and nurturing, but could also have a wicked sense of humor and that smile, always with the smile. After some time Laura started making references to god and her church and occasionally scripture, and I was surprised by that. I also, easily reference that I'm a lifelong atheist, and as she didn't seem jarred by that, I figured neither should I be, by her belief.

She reminded me of some friends who are Irish Catholic and who are also true Christians and I'm afraid that in my experience, those are few and far between. I've seen what faith and ritual is to this family and at first, I was also taken aback as we are so aligned politically, on social issues, as friends and parents. I'll admit my ignorant bias, which is that when I think Christianity I think Republicans and charlatans, I think of people who need a crutch, I think of Karl Marx "religion is the opiate of the masses", I think homophobia, anti-choice, anti-woman, I think empty rhetoric and hyperbole, and Pat Robertson. But these friends and Laura and a few others (hello Palisades Presbyterian) have given me such a valuable glimpse into a great big world I knew nothing about. Actual, real live Christians who follow the teachings of a great man and are motivated to do good works and be active in their communities, (who cares if some of us think he's the son of god and others, the first great social agitator.) Quiet good works, who have chosen careers that help others, that do good works through their churches, and everyday lives, and who's faith is real and true and is passed down through generations. I think that maybe belief is a language that if you learn it young, like any other language, certain synapses fire, neural pathways formed, and you can speak it later on without an accent. I hope I live my life in similar ways as these friends, just without the structure, the home base that is a church, I don't have those neural pathways, I don't know that language and so I would never quantify what I believe in those words. I believe in the universal strand that connects us all, I think some things are more than coincidence, but I don't call it god and I don't pray... I hope. Many words and phrases, such as scripture and bible hymns are a language that I'll never speak and while many speak them with forked tongues, many speak them with sincerity and intelligence and sometimes they get overlooked, they got overlooked by me. I saw the serenity that Laura's faith brought her and her life was teeming with good works. She was a doctor who chose to work in an underserved community, with the deepest respect for her patients, she donated time to so many causes, and enjoyed life with a great sense of fun. Her faith was as deep and sincere as it gets but I can't imagine her proselytizing to anyone, or judging anyone, ever, who's belief system was different, surely I'm proof of that. It is possible to be intelligent people who believe vastly different things which turn out to be mostly the same things, regardless of labels and language. There are all kinds of people, all kinds of Christians, all kinds of jews... and speaking of the jews, I just have to throw in here that I am lucky to have a few friends who have shown me the most beautiful practice of judaism, quiet, beautiful heartfelt practice of a religion I grew up with and always felt so alienated from probably because of the way I saw it done.

I believe in connection, and Laura and I had an immediate connection. Our friendship took place outside the rest of her life. I never went to her church until today, I never went to her house, it took place in my studio with the door locked so we wouldn't be interrupted, on a sofa with tea and sometimes lunch. It took place at the farmer's market and occasionally at a hospital. It took place without us ever meeting each others boys, but knowing them as if we did. Because she came by my workplace, she met some of my friends, she saw a glimpse of my world while I only heard about hers. Her funeral today was horribly sad and also joyous because how could anything about this woman not be joyous. When friends and family spoke about her, they spoke about the woman I was privileged to know, I recognized her in their descriptions, yes, she was a bit of a character, and I feel privileged to have glimpsed a little bit of the rest of her life today.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Laura Viehmann

Every night on the local news (and morning in the paper), we hear about people mourning loved ones who were murdered or died in a fiery crash. We don’t hear about the people who die every day in less sudden and spectacular ways. What’s overlooked is that every death is sudden, regardless how anticipated. I knew my friend Laura was going to die almost from the minute I met her, but when I got the email from her sister last night I was stunned. I was stunned and then I cried and then I wailed at that primal level I’ve only done once before. I was glad I was home alone and yet that same being home alone made me feel so profoundly alone. No shoulder to cry on, no one to hold me, but also no one I’d have to fear upsetting, so maybe that evens things out.

Laura Viehmann approached me in my store a few days after I had a port implanted in my chest, a few weeks after I had been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and a week or so before I would start chemo and become a “cancer patient”, a full fledged cog in the wheel of the medical industrial complex. Laura recognized the tell-tale bandage on my neck and she showed me her port, newly replaced as she had relapsed from ovarian cancer. She told me her port wasn’t ever coming out, but I don’t think I totally got it at the time, what that meant didn’t fully register. We laughed about how the bandage placement made us look like we had been bitten by vampires.

From that moment on, Laura became a trusted and faithful friend who always knew the right thing to say. A friend with whom I could laugh about the macabre that is the cancer experience. I went through a period of obsessing about the odds, that my diagnosis gave me a 30% chance of dying within 5 years. Laura told me that statistically, neither of us should have the cancers we did and therefore the statistics didn’t apply to us, they’d already proven themselves false, flawed. I can’t tell you how much better that made me feel. For a while, whenever I saw her I’d bust a move and sing “odds don’t apply to me” and she would do the same. I just can't quantify how much Laura helped me during that time, what invaluable support she so generously offered me.

Laura liked farmer’s markets and loved art and craft, so any local artists reading this, especially if you made handbags, jewelry or hats, you've met Laura and she took great pleasure in supporting you. About five years before I met her, kind and gentle Laura the pediatrician with a heart of gold and character of steel was happily married to a painter/musician. He was fit as a fiddle and after one of his daily runs, he collapsed and died. He probably didn’t make the evening news, but I doubt that made her grief and loss or that of their two sons any less intense than the loved ones of whoever died in a fire that night for whom donations were pouring in. Within a year, this gracious, beautiful healer and widow was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She went through surgeries and chemo and thought she was done -- a survivor as they say, but too shortly afterwards she had that port put back in.

I was a novice at this cancer thing, so I guess I didn’t get it, and you hear about people living with cancer for a decade or more, but I know now, those are the outliers, we hear about them because they make everyone feel better. Just like we hear about every obsure cancer treatment breakthrough even though not much seems to dent what’s really going on with cancer, which is that it’s killing people, lots of people, every day.

Time goes by so quickly and it turns out I’ve known Laura for three and a half years now, throughout my whole treatment ,and as it quietly ended, as hers, while less fast and furious continued. She had upswings and down, but she always came back up until she didn’t, and two days ago, she didn’t. I saw her about a month ago, she came briefly to an event at my store, she was weak, but I’d seen her weak before and then robust. This time she was with her two sisters from out of town, I should have put two and two together, I didn’t. I was getting ready for my event, but I strolled around and chatted with her. I should have hugged her, maybe I did, I don’t know, I should have told her how much she meant to me, how much she had helped me, how happy I always was when I saw her come for her regular, but unexpected visits. I should have put two and two together, but I didn’t. Maybe I couldn’t, maybe I chose not to, maybe I’m obtuse.

Laura was a better friend to me than I was to her. She always came to see me and I didn’t make the effort to be more aggressive in coming to see her. I was always happy to see her, I hope that showed, I hope that made her feel loved. I hope it did and that’s why she came by so regularly, I hope I provided her a safe place to be herself in all her cancer patient glory. But where was my effort in that relationship? I should have followed up more, emailed more, especially after seeing her so weak a month ago, but I got swallowed up by my own life, my own needs. Maybe different relationships have different dynamics and that’s why we should ditch considering the quid pro quo. I have friends with whom I’m always the one dropping by, doing the hosting and inviting. Sometimes I’m resentful, and then my insecurity takes over and I feel like I’m pestering them or that my feelings aren’t reciprocated because they don’t invite me, drop by on me. Maybe what I can learn from this is that my role, my dropping by might be what they rely on, that they would miss it if I didn’t do it, that the relationship is meaningful to them and they count on me keeping it going. Just like I would miss Laura were she not always popping up. Just as I will miss her so very much now.

The thing about Laura was the sparkle in her eyes, always, always present even when she was feeling terribly. Always smiling, she had a unique light and life in her. I know that sounds corny, but it is just plain true, this woman had a special essence and grace. She went through more than any of us has physically and never complained, never wallowed. She experienced terrible loss, she lost her husband and then she lost her health. She and I had that loss-thing in common, so we understood each other and had a special connection and we were both people who chose to live, learn and transcend. Neither of us was bitter and neither played a victim. Laura and I laughed. Laura buried her husband, and it was a good marriage and yet only last year she was on-line dating, and until she died, she was raising money for her beloved La Leche League, and volunteering in her church and seeing patients, if only part-time. She saw one son graduate from H.S. and just missed seeing the other. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t seem right and when I think about what this boy is going through, trying to pick a college, that right of passage, and he goes through this? That doesn’t seem fair either, but no one said anything about fair, ever.

I should have put two and two together and told Laura how I felt about her. I don’t do denial much, but I did it here, I knew my friend was dying, but right now you could knock me over with a feather, I just can’t believe it because I never met anyone  more alive, or with more spirit. Laura had a boyfriend this past year, now that ladies and gentlemen, is a man. It seems crazy to get involved with someone who’s health is so precarious, but now I can see how lucky he was to have shared time with this special person, and I hope he knows the joy of companionship he brought to her. Dating with a colostomy, now that is one bad ass lady, but she knew her worth and apparently, so did he.

Laura was 54 years old. She touched my life so deeply, I can only imagine to how many others she did the same. No story on the evening news, no reporting of grieving family members, no 15 minutes of fame for anyone, but I can tell you that for me, the world stopped spinning for a split second and it’s going to take a bit to regroup. I will never forget that light in her eyes, never. Yep, the world stopped spinning, a light has gone out, may she rest in perfect, blissful peace. Laura Viehman, I am so lucky to have known you, and my gratitude for your friendship and support will not end. You will be alive in so many hearts, you will inspire me, be my role model on what it means to be courageous and alive, and gracious and giving, always.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Homeward Bound

Home at last. Delta has balls, Delta airlines was the only airline flying into my local airport Tuesday night. We left Atlanta at about 9 or 10 p.m. and the flight was seamless. We flew in low over the Newport Bridge and travelled the rest of the way, as low as if we were about to land, it was spectacular. The air was cystal clear with water shooting under the wings over a winter wonderland that looked right out of a sears catalogue. The scene below looked entirely unreal, like a holiday village display with styrofoam snow and toothpick trees, the little lit up houses looked like you could pick them up and rearrange them at will. We touched down and had a brief skiddy moment and then the passengers erupted in applause. That view was worth being stranded.

We deplaned into a deserted airport and many of us made a mad dash to the cab stand. Two taxi’s, about 15 tired people, not the best equation. It cracks me up the chaos people will bear without anyone taking charge and I wanted to get home so I asked everyone where they were going, grabbed a driver and said I have a route for you, he’s going to A which is near B, I’m C and then she is D. “Sounds good” and off we went, and everyone was relieved when I suggested we each give the driver $25 and he’d wind up with a good tip, people don't self organize, what's the deal with that? Everyone was happy, except the poor dude who wanted to go to Newport, he’s probably still at the airport. I have never seen anyone as tired as the Pawtucket woman returning from a visit to Nigeria.

My sidewalk had been plowed thanks to the benevolent dentist with a fondness for power tools and community service to who my gratitude is unquantifiable. That left the stairs up to my house, the driver and I both looked at them, looked at each other, and it was clear I was on my own with the worlds heaviest suitcase (containing not a single pair of clean underwear). My suitcase was so heavy it won an award, that’s right, the airline ziptied a badge on it declaring it “HEAVY”, I’m just grateful they didn’t ziptie one of those to me, dessert buffets are dangerous, as are the aforementioned, unlimited coco locos, the last of which I had at 11a.m. on the drive to the airport in Punta Cana. The other award I could have won was the dope-who-can’t-ever-figure-out-the-passport-machine. It takes people about 45 seconds, I just stare at it shoving my passport anyplace I can think of until someone comes up and helps me, I’m 3 for 3 with this routine.

I must have been a sight crawling up my front steps through the snow, dragging a suitcase at 1 a.m. and heaving myself in the front door. The cats were happy to see me, until they realized I’d not brought food with me. The catfood container was empty, great to be home. I will not mention who was feeding my cats, or should I say, my children’s cats... that was a hint.

I have never needed a vacation so much in my life, and it worked, I feel so much better. Reenergized, revitalized and looking forward to my next trip, and the time in between.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Proposal

Last night I broke my solitude and started posting on Facebook, hours and hours on the phone left me frustrated enough to reach out to that strange water cooler we call social media. I can get really down on Facebook and have to reign in my own use as I vacillate between using it only for business and then getting lured into a personal thread or venting like a child about something stupid. I have “friended” a lot of people lately, based on this newfound need for “networking” which to me is akin to my upcoming colonoscopy, unpleasant, but necessary.

In response to the twice yearly thread suggesting I write a book, I will stop with the “aw shucks” and reveal my real thoughts on that. Firstly, not only that anyone in the whole wide world would suggest such a thing, but folks that I know to be savvy and intelligent would suggest such a thing floors me, yes, blows my mind. It is the biggest, greatest most besty best compliment I could receive. I feel both worthy and unworthy, because I vacillate, it’s what I do. Because I’m a relentless self-analyzer and self doubter, I'm a professional, I have a graduate degree in self doubt (oh, fine, it's not from Harvard). I’ve been thinking about this writing thing, this blogging thing, this Facebook posting thing and trying to figure it out because I’m always trying to figure myself out hoping it will lead me down the path to success (my own version of it anyway), and eternal happiness, which for me might be freedom from angst, self-doubt and insecurity and that nagging loneliness of someone who knows they're not going to have a soul mate. I've realized that for decades I’ve been living in my head, narrating my life as I go, trying to make sense of things, and if I’m going to narrate, I like it to be coherent and have rhythm and flow, even if it’s just for me, I like to entertain myself... so I think in essays, or book chapters, if I may be so bold. I am only realizing this now.

I started the blog for functional purposes. I had a situation on my hands that I had no choice but to share with people and it was too arduous to initiate so many individual conversations and endure the same questions over and over, and the particulars of my diagnosis left not a lot of free time. For people in similar situations, social media is truly a godsend. I started the blog to be functional and quite quickly it became a labor of love and then a necessity, an addiction, but the good kind, like exercise, although I’ve yet to experience that glorious addiction. All I do when I write is type out exactly what I’m thinking at the time, it’s prewritten, it’s in my head, it’s how I think, (I always wonder how other people think or if they’re thinking, I do a quick reread for typos and repetition, a tiny bit of crafting happens and then post, pong, it’s out of my life and i don’t have to think about it again. Self therapy, and it’s free. I also think that a lot of the minutia I write about is the daily chatter that one would have with a spouse over dinner or while getting ready for bed, or in snippets throughout the day. But i don’t have a partner to do that with and despite living with someone for 25 years our conversations from near day one consisted of me talking and him looking at me like a deer in the headlights and then getting up and leaving. There wasn’t any back and forth, I yearned for back and forth, I thought back and forth was a big thing to want, something that maybe I made up. It took me years, years and decades to realize that I had no problem with this back and forth thing we call conversation with anyone else, although you could now toss my 19-year-old son onto that list of those with whom conversation is difficult if not impossible. I thought I was needy or delusional or had crazy, unrealistically high standards. All I wanted was to be able to have a little chit chat at the end of the day, but after trying all manner of crazy approaches to that, with my spouse, I gave up and I continued living in my head, and trying to figure out among other things, why my partner and I didn’t converse among many other things we didn’t do. I didn’t grow up with family I could talk to, I didn’t have any adult I could talk to and then I spent a quarter of a century, the better part of my life with a man I couldn’t talk to, so I guess I’ve learned how to live in my head, when not jabbering on incessantly to anyone who will listen. So writing for me is just jotting down what’s in my head that I don’t have anyone to talk with about because while I have friends that love me, I don’t think they want to hear from me nine times a day, and add to that, that while i crave, absolutely crave community, I think I am by nature, a bit of a lone wolf. I like to be alone, I need to be alone a decent amount of time, so there it is. I’m not sure what at this point, but there it is because if I say that, and nothing is there, you’ll think you’re missing something, you’re just not smart enough.

Anyone who knows my yappity-yap-yap self will find it hard to believe that I was terribly shy into my early twenties. An angsty, angry, hot mess of chaos. At one point in Tina Fey’s book she recounts the one time someone called her the C word and she stood up and yelled something to the effect of -- hey!!! my parents loved me, I’m not one of those broken girls who will let you get away with that shit... and she never had a problem in that writers room again. I was that broken girl, my parents, they might have loved me, but it was in a really, really narcissistic and twisted way. I grew up in a “perfect” middle class home with rules, lots of rules and an alcoholic, dangerously narcissistic father who couldn’t understand why his greatness wasn’t acknowledged and revered. He was, by IQ test standards and number of books read, quite brilliant albeit with not even a high school diploma. He lorded how smart, how clever he was over everyone everywhere until audiences were universally vomiting in their own mouths, or conversely, telling him how fabulous he was and he'd say "see, see, how lucky you are to have me as your father". He always showed me how what I was doing was wrong and how he could do it better, down to the simplest arts and crafts project and then would become angry that I didn’t thank him for the privilege. I was always told how lucky I was, I never felt lucky, and I was always, alway, always told that there was something wrong with me, so it’s just ingrained in me that there’s something wrong with me, and I never realized that that’s the thing that was wrong with me. You can’t fix it until you find out what it is. My father needed an excess of love and attention and so he sought it wherever he could, and I lived with the guy. I was the thin, comely one in a fat family and my father would literally lick his lips when seeing me in a youthful, innocent bikini or tight jeans (twas the early 80s). His kisses were too long and too wet, his hands strayed, he groped and made icky gestures and underhanded comments. And then he would sob, he would sob, “why don’t my children love me?”, “I work so hard, I give and give”. I was just a kid, all I knew was that he skeeved me out and I couldn’t stand being around him and most especially, having to touch him. His name was Will, I called him Will the Weeper, but only in my head, because that’s where I lived, in my head... still do to so many degrees. The parental “give me a hug” which today gives me such joy with my children, was not a source of joy for me as child. I learned how to be invisible, I learned how to hide and dodge. Our bathroom was at the top of the 2nd floor stairs which led straight down into the living room. If I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night I would sneak in as quietly as I could because at 2a.m. my father was reliably sitting in just his underwear on the couch with a bottle of gin between his legs, dozing off with a book in his lap and I didn’t want to be noticed.

I was told over and over what a disappointment I was to my father, that I was a “bad” daughter, I didn’t “love” him and he was right, I didn’t have a clue what love was. He felt both ownership and a perverted lust towards me because I’d been sown from his great loins. So that’s what I learned growing up, but at that point there weren’t essays in my head, just a jumbled mess of “I don’t like these people and I’ve got to get out of here”. In elementary school I started counting down the years until I’d be 18 and could get a job and my own apartment, I figured I’d live in a city, because driving a car looked complicated, D N R 1 2 3 how would I ever know what those meant? My father was a travelling salesman of sorts and quite successful and mercifully, he was away a lot. Now here’s the scary part, he was the safer parent. My mother was and is the angriest person I know and most self-righteous, lacking any ability to empathize and unclear on just about every concept. If she ran someone over with her car she wouldn’t feel badly, wouldn't lose a minute of sleep, she’d say they shouldn’t have been that close to the road. I’d feel like its my fault if my kid has a bad day at school. I have an all fault outlook, I'm constantly apologizing for nothing and asking people if they're ok because I figure I must have done something wrong. I believe my mother is a highly functioning sociopath, and, she was living with that guy, so you can imagine. She married him after knowing him for two weeks because he was flashy and drove a fancy car and her biological clock was ticking and she thought she hit the jackpot... not, it was a carefully cultivated facade. My mother had kids so she could scoop up all that unconditional love, but to this day, disappointed in her relationships with her three kids and two grandkids, and most of her friends, she hasn’t figured out that you have to give to get, and she absolutely can’t grasp the theory of the common denominator. Neither of my parents had a clue regarding unconditional love, oh, there were conditions and conditions and conditions. In fact, they were quite clear about the conditions. The only advice I got about sex at a very non precocious eleven, was “if you ever get knocked up, get an abortion and make damned sure I don’t find out about it.” I think this was more directed towards my older sister, but we always got lumped together as “the girls”. I got my period early (for those days) at eleven and seeing my abject fear of tampons and upon request of pads my mother barked that I was being ridiculous. When I left home for college, she told me not to come back until I was a different person, because she didn't like who I was, "think about that". Yeah, I lasted six months in college, I wasn't even sure what college was for, so I got a job as a cocktail waitress and in a record store.

I was often told that as her daughter, I was supposed to be close to her, “so tell me who you are, tell me about yourself”. Can that question be satisfactorily answered? And is this how one gets to know their children or should they perhaps take a cigarette break and observe. She insisted that I pursue her interests, so while I wanted to take dance and go to camp and do crafty art classes I was only allowed ceramics and was conscripted into figure skating because my mother loves ceramics and figure skating and wanted to display and brag about my fine pottery and sit with the skating moms. Well, for a kid with sensory issues, clay drying on my hands was a torture, a weekly torture, I begged and begged for years to do painting or anything other than ceramics, but ceramics it was and then, instead of throwing bowls which i just couldn’t seem to get the hang of, I made clay monsters and creatures. I drew monsters and creatures too, the ones of my nightmares. Yeah, I had nightmares and a lot of trouble falling and staying asleep. Melatonin has brought peace and tranquility to this life long insomniac. So in this manicured, middle class house there were 3 fucked up kids each coping in their own ways, each destined for drug and behavioral issues, but separately, very separately and I was the outlier, I was the sensitive one. My house wasn’t a good place to be when you’re sensitive and introspective. But as a kid and young adult and even now, it’s hard to shake your formative years being told you’re doing it all wrong, you’re doing everything all wrong, you’re not fulfilling our needs and you’re bad, bad, bad. My sister and brother seemed to prefer negative attention over no attention, which I think is common, I’ll take no attention any day! I still can’t deal with conflict.

Both parents really hated that I was quiet and awkward and they assumed that I was that way intentionally to torture them, that it was a conscious, defiant decision because they were supposed to have precocious children that put on plays for their dinner party guest's entertainment and dazzle them with their conversational skills. My modus operandi at dinner parties when I was supposed to be showing off, god knows what, was to declare a stomach ache and go to my room. I spent a lot of time in my room, mostly voluntarily and sometimes being dragged by my long hair which I loved until i was dragged by same hair to get it chopped off because my mother needed me to have a Dorothy Hamill haircut. No amount of begging, pleading, gravelling and sobbing dissuaded my mother from anything and she was bigger than me and stonger than me and had a temper and a penchant for loud yelling and name calling. Often times, I think my mother would prefer to see me fail and be right than to be wrong and see me succeed. I once showed a therapist a letter she’d written to me spelling out some of my deficiencies as a daughter and the therapist was aghast, I needed the reality check. She advised me to break it off completely, that my mother was poison, but I’m a softie, I would have loved to, but I just couldn’t do it. Sometimes my mother would “punish” me by not speaking to me for months or years and I always loved those times.

I used to try, I really did... I’d sit in silent car rides with her knowing she was getting angrier and angrier and I’d say to myself “talk, say something, say something.” But I honestly and truly didn’t know what to say... I just had nothing to say and if I did, well I’d be too damned scared to say it. What I remember most about childhood was a searing stomach ache and running, running, after other kids trying to keep up and barely doing so. I used to look at people talking, my sister talking to adults at Thanksgiving and I just couldn’t imagine what they were talking about. What did people talk about?

About 15 years ago when my oldest son was a toddler, my mother was visiting. She didn’t meet him, her first grandson until he was a year old because she was mad at me and my mother is all or nothing. One fight with a best friend and she never spoke to them again and from that stems my fear of loss and so what happens? I keep losing things, I’ve lost love (who hasn't?), I’ve lost my health, I’ve lost a child, I’ve lost friends, I’ve survived loss, but I still fear it. Maybe now I fear it for different reasons, I’ve lost so much, I just can’t handle any more although I do realize that this is first world loss and a first world life. If I advocate for myself, if I make one wrong move, I think my best friends will never speak to me again, it’s so ingrained. I work on this daily, consciously, now that I recognize it, but it’s a hard way to live.

Anyway, my mother was talking about those silent car rides to ice skating lessons and by the way, don’t ever ask me if I’m watching the skating at the winter olympics, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not. She told me that I was silent to deliberately hurt her feelings. I explained that while I know I’ve hurt her many times, I have never done it deliberately. That I don’t like to see anyone in pain, I’m overly empathetic and I can loathe someone, but If I see them cry, I’ll feel terrible and I’d give them my shoes to make them feel better (although if you’ve seen my shoes, you’d know this tactic would likely fail). I feel sorry for everyone in jail, especially death row no matter what horrible thing they did, I can’t handle suffering and while I am a flawed, awkward clod, I don’t do things on purpose to hurt people, I’m not a schemer, or a game player and I explained my inability to open my mouth, the pressure I felt to do so, and my absolute, frozen terrified inability. And she said no, that wasn’t true, I was intentionally trying to hurt her feelings. Ah, because that’s what she would do. We don’t have a lot in common. OK, we have nothing in common and I just don’t relate to this woman who is my mother, I always thought that was due to shortcomings and abnormalities of my own, but I have now watched her systematically alienate her only grandchildren who are the axis on which the earth spins and she will receive no gentle nudges of assistance from me on how to relate to them. Nope, she knows best despite it never, ever working.

I always felt guilty about how uncomfortable was around my father, as in physically ill, fetal position, nauseous around him uncomfortable until I saw him with my 2 year old son, the love of my life. It’s incredible what you can see as a third party, that you can’t see when you are 6 or 10 or 12 or even 20. It’s incredible what you can see when you’re a mama who really does love her baby unconditionally. My father asked my sweet, innocent, happy, jolly, lighthearted son if he wanted a present. “yes”, “it’s in my pocket (front pocket, deep pocket, saggy old guy shorts)”, “give it to me”, “reach in and get it”, “I don’t want too, please can I have it?.” And I could see the look on his face change. “If you want the present, just reach into my pocket and you can have it.” “I don’t want it, it’s ok”. And his face changed more, as did my fathers. “you don’t want the present I brought just for you? do you know how that makes me feel? don’t you love me? I love you more than anything in the whole wide world and I brought you a present, just reach into my pocket... unless you don’t love me, do you love me or not?

Bam, I got it, my whole life flashed before my eyes. No, I didn’t make things up as I’d always been told. I wasn’t a bad “daughter” as I’d always been told, I wasn’t a bunch of other invectives either and what the fuck, who tells their kid they’re a prude because they don’t want to take their shirt off while doing backyard chores? What decent man uses that word in a derogatory sense or any sense towards their daughter? Holy shit! I saw the look on that sweet boys face and that was the look on my face for so, so long and I was not ever, ever gonna see that look on that boys face again, ever, because THAT is what mom’s do.

I did continue to see my father and his just as crazy, even more narcissistic 3rd wife for a few more years, I still fell into feeling guilty and their antics would have been amusing, but only at a further distance, which perhaps I now have. Visits were highly supervised and controlled and I would jump on them immediately for anything out of line. It was getting harder and harder as they were pushing for an overnight visit that was never, ever going to happen, and as my father got more verbally abusive, I started throwing it right back at him. They started manipulating the kid mercilessly, telling him all the things they would buy him if his mommy would let him come visit... all the fun his mommy was depriving him of, I would hear these things whispered loudly and also my son saying “no thank you”. Later he would ask me if I was going to make him go and I reassured him, of course not. And I would see another face that looked familiar, when my father would bring a massive dollar store erector set and expect that my four year old would have the attention span to focus on the ill fitted pieces for 6 hours straight “what’s wrong with you? you don’t know how to use a screwdriver? don’t your parents teach you anything?” So when Jonah was a few months old, and the wife picked a fight with me while I was driving a car with my  kids in the back, her face turning all shades of red and purple, shrieking every vulgar name she knew at me, I had had enough. And this long suffering citizen launched into the most cathartic series of fuck you’s she has ever uttered. Once I started, I couldn’t stop, I have never screamed at anyone to go fuck themselves like that to this day and it was glorious. Afterwards my father told me I should apologize to her, but that she need not apologize to me because everything she had said about me was true, I was a cold hearted bitch. And that was the last time I saw either of them.

G was very upset, crying, sobbing, shaken, he’d never heard yelling like that and he thought that nana M had been very mean to me. It was a super hot summer day and also monroe dairy delivery day, so we hunkered down in my bedroom with the air conditioner on and ate the whole gallon of melty ice cream that I’d ordered that week with the milk. In this moment, I felt like a” grown up” for the first time, I felt free and that I finally had a family of my own and I just was not going to expose them or myself to this brand of crazy any more, despite the obligations I’d be preached.

I have rarely been clearer in my mind on anything than that being the right thing to do, but I knew I had to live with it, had to have the moral high ground, so that xmas, I sent a card with a picture of the kids and wrote “thought you would like to know the kids are happy and healthy”. I knew my father and his wife well enough to know that he wouldn’t respond, the only thing they would respond to was my begging and gravelling for forgiveness and then paying tribute to their greatness and superiority, apologizing for my dreadfullness and inability to see this sooner, to let them know I repented of my cold-hearted bitch ways, I was ready to learn from them. Yeah, not happening. I also know that his wife was exactly the person who would intercept that card and toss it in the trash. Either way, I didn’t hear from him and I was so relieved. Now i had the moral high ground and figured I would go to his funeral some day, and gain closure with a very clear conscious.

I was in the second of three families albeit the third was filled with steps that he worshipped and adored, he was the much youngest of five and had my sibs and I late and so how long could he live, he’d already outlived his whole family by decades... well, it turns out, a long freaking time, that lifelong, obese alcoholic lived until the ripe old age of 96 and was bopping around Manhattan, skirt chasing and going to the theater, living the life until the month before his organs just gave out.

I was in New Hampshire visiting friends, having a lovely walk around a reservoir when I got the call last summer. I felt nothing, absolutely nothing. On the car ride home later that day I started reliving stuff I’d not thought about in years, the only time I thought about him was when on occasion I’d imagine what it would be like if i were expecting a visit and as I’d start to clench up and feel queasy, I’d suddenly get so happy that I just didn’t have that in my life any more and why, oh why, did I endure it for so long? Training and guilt, powerful tools. People say, oh everyone has family drama, everyone has crazy relatives, this doesn’t help the ones of us with truly, truly toxic families of origin.

Thoughts of his death faded quickly as I got back to my house to find it completely destroyed by my now 19 year old son and his fellow camp counselors who were spending the summer becoming experts in finding party houses, and equally non adept at covering their tracks, but that is surely another story.

I didn’t go to the funeral, felt no need whatsoever and if I feel anything at all, it’s slight relief he’s off the planet and no one on earth, especially my brother has to deal with him ever again. That guy was a piece of work, a harcore seriously, one of a kind, fucked up sanctimonious piece of work.

I have so many stories of my father and his wife, both of whom fell out of a bad woody allen movie, that yeah, it could fill a book, ok, i admit it, I’ve had two therapists that I could never afford to spend extended time with tell me I could write a book about these people, (who could make them up?) that well, maybe I’ll write a book. If I were tragic, it would be tragic, but I’m not tragic and there really are stories, because until you’re met real narcissists, you don’t know nothin’. She fancied herself an “actress” because she took an acting class for 50 years and had once been in an off, off, off broadway play, she did her makeup every day like she was about to go on stage, if I were a small child I would be frightened if she came at me too fast. She had strong thoughts about make up. “Kim, you could be pretty, if you’d just try some makeup.” The talk of her acting and her art was nonstop and once, she wrote a script for a t.v. show, based on herself, that she made everyone read. She literally put into words the way she saw and often described herself... the nicest, most big hearted person who loves, loves, loves everyone, “did you know that not only have I never said anything negative about anyone ever, I’ve never even thought it, I’m only able to love, that’s just the way I am, my son bob, he’s brilliant, brilliant, one of the most brilliant people in the country and it’s like his wife doesn’t even know she’s fat, you’d think she’d want to dress better when her husband is such a handsome man. Although she is smart, she is almost as smart as him, but I think the kids really miss out, it’s like she doesn’t know she has kids, and how can you take care of kids when you don’t even care about taking care of yourself?”

Bobs wife was the salt of the earth. I only met them a few times, but they seemed like a great couple and a great family with two lovely welll adjusted daughters that were thriving. She was kind, warm and smart, easy going and funny, and had a very rewarding career in technology while being a most excellent involved mother. Like many of us, she coulda lost a few, but she was a happy person that had created a happy family with this lucky man. So there may in fact be a book in there, somewhere, someday. I’ve always thought, oh, it’s just too long a story, but I guess that’s what books are for. And then there are Marilyn’s thoughts on where homosexuals come from.

In the back of my mind I’ve known that if I ever really did write a book, this is where I’d have to go. Because that is the story, the theme, the thread. It’s how you go from fucked up childhood, to fucked up twenties, to fucked up marriage, to fucked up pregnancies, to fucked up divorce and fucked up cancer and all sorts of fucked up things in between and find happiness in the process. How it takes some of us 50 years to get to where some people are emotionally in their twenties and where many people never get. Happy. At peace. Mistresses of their domain. How you wander along aimlessly with very little in your corner, no tethering support system of family or extended family and somehow you build a life. A quiet, peaceful life. How you become a poorly dressed, frumpy warrior princess at 51 with no boobs leading the way, shining light in the darkness. How you make peace with not having things you really wish you’d had, real parents, cousins, family picnics, family traditions and how while you tried to create those things by getting married and having babies it didn’t quite work out that way. You don’t have what you envy in some of the families around you, but you made it, you made it all by yourself and it’s beautiful and you don’t take a blessed thing for granted. It’s about that. It’s about not, not, not ever being a victim or making excuses, sorry victim/excuse loving culture. It’s about the ability we have to fix ourselves, it’s a choice, it’s our responsibility as human beings to grow and evolve and learn and change, and anyone with half a brain can do it (but you need at least half) It’s about laughing, it’s about ridiculous things, it’s about tenacity because is there really any other choice? It’s about making yourself do scary, scary things ike speaking out loud and then, after decades, expecting someone to listen, and then talking to strangers and before you know it you’re stranded in the dominican republic typing in an outdoor shaded lounge on a warm but not hot day listening to frank sinatra and having a cup of tea because you’re body just can’t, can not handle another coco loco.

And it’s about people, the awfulness and beauty of people and how unexpected people can touch you in unexpected ways at unexpected times. So this little essay is dedicated to Donna Golden and Anastasia Tompkins. Neither of which is my BFF, they are casual friends, esteemed acquaintances that because of that horrible/beautiful thing called FaceBook I stay in casual contact with, but they have chosen to read all of my posts and repeatedly say “book, book, book”, they have given me a much needed dose of confidence and encouragement so consistently since I started the blog. What I know about them is that they are smart, discriminating, very different women and I’m going to choose to trust them. I choose to stop or at least try to stop listening to that voice in my head that says, you are average at best, what do YOU have to say? you’re ok, you’re a little funny, a little interesting, but mostly a neurotic, insecure nutball (not an actual ball of nuts, i’m not that crunchy), I’m going to try to drown out that voice with Donna and Stasia’s voices. And I’m going to follow my bliss. I really fucking love to write. So fuck it, I’m a narcissist, I’m writing about myself, my observations, my perceptions. Read it or don’t. I’m a bad ass scuba diver, I can do what I want. Thank you ladies. And my BFFs, you know who you are, you are my family. But seriously, who’s picking me up at the airport?