Thursday, December 24, 2015

This Year's Tree

For those of you who wanted to see this year's tree...I am happy to give you a glimpse...

My flying Dutchman, a lovely metal crescent moon with cupid from my college roommate Julie, a yellow taxi cab complete with wreath from Lauren, and in the upper right (not a good shot!) a laser-cut scene of Iowa from dear friends Nicole & Aaron.  The purple sparkly beaded ball I think was from Louise...that little elf I found for 10 cents in a thrift store of course!

There is that wonderful doggie with the halo, that darling cut-out doll girl from Shirley (and it has two companions) and a button boy (truncated head in this shot) from Maria & Dan who host a fabulous Italian-inspired Christmas Eve every year!

The metal boy with the suspenders crossing his back was from Robin very early in our relationship, the birdhouse from good friend Susan here at home, my little tiger from Pottery Barn Outlet decades ago on West 26th St., that fabulous Gramma with her basket (which actually has a teeny, tiny pair of red plastic scissors that  actually open and close but I hide them because I'm worried they'll get lost in the shuffle), that teddy with the 2 was from my mother-in-law when we found out we were expecting twins but they hadn't come in to being yet, and that beautiful blown glass swirl was again from lovely Lauren.

Well the reindeer, thrift store, the Santa with lantern, thrift store.  The desk a great teacher-present and the gingerbread wreath with the boy and girl, again, from our favorite Auntie Barbara to celebrate when we were expecting the twins.

Well the last of the shots (but by no means anywhere near the last of the ornaments!) my darling pull-toy jester whose legs and arms slide up and down, a gorgeous purple crescent moon (I have so many moons) the Hungarian slipper that I think was from my mom, and the wrapped presents from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and there are round hatbox ones too!


Thank you one and all for your love, your support and your wisdom....

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Can I Make My Inner Child Happy?

From the time I was in second grade I lived disappointed.  People around me seemed to be living the Father-Knows-Best life but in our household Father Didn’t Know Best.  Some classmates’ had homes with tall glasses of cold milk and scalloped china plates piled with still-warm-from-the-oven cookies on the kitchen table.  Our house was dark and scary and mostly devoid of parents.  And when they were home my father’s temper could erupt at any moment, (usually did) resulting in every hollow-core door upstairs having the impression of a fist or a foot through it.

Never woke up feeling as if every day was a bright new beginning.  Didn’t feel as if things were more positive than negative on balance.  Always lived in some state of worry.  Worry about my explosive father and my too-hard-working mother.   Worry about my in-and-out-of-the criminal justice system brother, worry about money.  Lack of happiness caused me to leave my original family as soon as I could.  I prayed and dreamed and wished for the Prince-Charming-rescue.  

It never came.

Decades later I left a 17-year place of employment, a loving relationship of more than thirty years.  The unhappiness was crushing.  While I’d been happy over the course of those decades, I never lived happy. There was always WORRY.  worry about the kids, worry about my weight, worry about hanging on to our jobs, worry about raising the kids and raising them well. Why was happiness so elusive?

I felt I’d lived my life doing flips and somersaults and one trick after another to get someone’s attention, to make me valuable to those around me, to be perceived as lovable.  I was always looking for the fulfillment and the happiness and the joy to come from outside me.  I needed someone or something to give it to me.

In my youth I wowed’em with my cuteness, in elementary school my writing, and then In high school with my pep and energy and smarts. In my 20s it was seduction and sex, in my 30s it was my strategic thinking, knowledge and ability to fit in pretty much anywhere. 

Thrift-store shopping gave me a modicum of happiness for many years, finding and collecting things of beauty that gave me pleasure to display. All my things, my fabulous finds, garnered me praise for how I displayed my eclectic finds or how little I spent and how valuable they were.  But over time that pleasure faded away and wasn’t enough.

Caregiving had become another means of gathering love.  I’d give and give and give of myself in the hopes that it would give back to me, fill me up. And for a time it did.  But then over time caregiving turned in to caretaking and all that giving depleted me. It felt as if my wrists were embedded with small spigots that were always turned on full force and my life force was streaming out of me all the time.  The giving was leaving me empty.

Leaving my marriage put a stop to all that output. 

What will take its place?

For oh-so-long my focus was on what I wasn’t getting, what my family, my husband, my job, or my friends weren’t giving me and now, well, having lived the past nine months on a logistical and emotional roller coaster, I find myself facing new truths.  In all that unhappiness what was my role?

Like tectonic plates shifting beneath my surface I’m going through what feels like seismic change. The ensuing tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and deep chasms seem as if I’m in a dark and frightening abyss where I have no foundation, no anchor, no port in this storm.

All this upheaval is leading to new surfaces, new peaks, new valleys to explore and consider giving me an opportunity to view my world through a different lens.

That inner little girl grew up knowing she was damaged goods and no amount of razzle-dazzle is gonna fill that big black hole inside. 

Time for a different approach.

So in the spirit of filling my own happiness, I ‘m working on some new tracks.  I’m listening to music, music, music.  Music that makes me want to sing out loud, music that makes me wanna jump up and dance, music that makes me cry and cry and cry. As my friend Judie says, “Crying is underrated.  It’s good to cry.  You’ve got something to cry about.”  So I’m letting myself cry but trying not to fall apart at the seams.

The other night I pushed myself out of my little box and got dressed and went alone to a local business holiday party open house and though I dreaded walking in by myself I made my way out to the tented courtyard where I could hear great music playing. All I wanted to do was dance and I just decided that if I wanted to dance, well maybe I could.

Now, let’s be clear: no one else was dancing yet. But I went up front by the band in a corner and as they channeled Stevie Wonder I just let myself move to the great saxophone playing and my face became one big smile.

I had a great time, saw some couples I knew well and not-so-well;  managed to survive the evening without drinking myself into oblivion or picking up that guy who was eyeing me most of the night. 

Recently I ventured out again and went to a “wave” "ecstatic dance" session (or at least I think that's what I was at) where for 90 minutes twenty+ people spent the time dancing freely and passionately  with NO talking allowed!  NO talking the entire time!  All communication was non-verbal.  It was an experience of sheer joy  dancing, moving, connecting to some great dancers  with no judgement and no expectations.  

I may not be able yet to fix that little girl, to make her feel she’s not damaged goods, to reassure her that she is entitled to feel happy, to fill that black hole that seems impossible to fill...but I am working toward making me feel happiness, practicing being happy, and right now  my joy comes from dancing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What I'm Thankful For


The past nine months have been a real rollercoaster for me.  Much has been heart-wrenching, reflectively sad and personally painful.  But oh the serendipities, surprises,  warmths, and friendship that has been shown to me during this rollercoaster ride. 

I won't name names because there are so many (and I'm fearful I'll forget someone) but I hope that you will recognize yourselves and know the importance and the value of your gifts to me.

I am thankful for the people who have opened their apartments, their homes — for a night, for a weekend, for a week, for a month, for FOUR months.  The individuals who have lent me their cars, given me luggage, and taken me for my first (and most luxurious) facial at the hands of an expert Hungarian (at the Fountain Spa!).

I am thankful for the friends from elementary school, high school, college, first job at Random House, and many jobs since, hometown friends who have picked me up, dropped me off, driven me from here to there (even from New Jersey to Virginia!), fed me breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and listened to me cry, rant, whine, moan, expound and exhilarate over my daily logistical and emotional challenges. 

I am astounded at the complete generosity of those who have not seen me for months, years, decades, and have issued open invitations to come visit — even from a person I've yet to meet!  I wonder if I would be so generous if the tables were turned.  I hope so.

I am confounded by the wisdom I have been offered by longtime friends, former work colleagues, therapists, childhood chums, total strangers who have crossed paths with me on a subway or a bus or a plane.  In person, by phone or Skype, card, email.  At all hours of the day and night.  The words have comforted me, the actions have saved me, the love and affection has been a Godsend in a time when my heart was going from full to empty and back again and back again.

In spite of the multitude of changes — some good, some not, I feel both the support of my husband, son, and daughter and the loss of my sister and mother during a time when almost no one else can take their place and no one can fill the space of the tremendous loss I feel still

And with all this thankfulness I keep reminding myself that the road is one step forward, four steps back, one more reflection and rethinking, one more unraveling of what was and what needs to be, one more recognition of what is possible (or not) in future.

For someone whose always been a strategic planner, it's a tough journey to be on without a plan.

More wisdom and encouragement sent from a friend.

to all my friends near, far, and wide.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Baseball & the VOTE

One thing I didn’t do in my marriage was watch sports.  I could never understand (nor want to) football. I’d watch a little tennis but never got that scoring either.  Golf too slow and boring to me and basketball, well, basketball was just too roughtoo intentionally violent in a sport that should be power and grace.  I understand the need for that physicality playing football because that’s what it is — the inevitable collision of bodies, but I believe basketball shoudda stayed pure.

That leaves baseball. This game is the one that can most hold my interests probably because I can understand it and it’s got so many, many variables and many plays often open to interpretation which is something I find I like and maybe am even good at.

Watching baseball was something we could have shared I think, if I had chosen to.  I didn’t.  I’m not sure why, if it was a passive-aggressive kind if thing or a bias that I felt I wouldn’t enjoy it or was it partly making the choice to do something that I thought needed doing.  I just don’t know.

The Mets (my husband’s team) is playing in the World Series and surprisingly I’m pretty focused on watching, even that first 14-inning game.  I texted him back and forth that night, but on some level I felt I might be interrupting his enjoyment of the game so the next night, I stayed silent and solitary.

What’s also weird to me is that now they interview (briefly) the team manager (Terry Collins) DURING THE GAME!  How intrusive is that??   But that’s the way of the world these days.  A demand for more and more information, instantaneously.  Seems no one can wait for anything.

That worries me — this drive for more and more information but not information that’s necessarily of value.  While I certainly know that not everything has to have substantial “worth,” I do think the pendulum’s swung all the way to people consuming more and more that says less and less.

What worries me beyond the multitudes gobbling up and spewing out more and more words, words, words?   People are not voting.  The electorate is content to sit back and watch the game of politics without participating.  John Oliver said the other night that a higher percentage of people in Guam vote than in the US. We are letting lapse the fundamental right that makes this democracy work the way it does.  Or not.

In a marriage, it can be something huge that upsets the cart, but some times it comes down to lots of little decisions along the way that can derail things. 

Same is true for a democracy.

The Mets are up again tonight fighting the fight.  Let's hope they knock it outta the park!  

And you can knock it out of the park too — 

if you just make sure to VOTE.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stuck ... at the Curb
Sunday it was 6:19 pm, ten hours after waking and I had not yet gotten dressed.  I had not changed out of my pajamas.

Despite all my best intentions, it became one of those days when try as I might (or not),  I could not get myself out of bed.

Not to The Merchant’s House Museum. Not to Kikoo Sushi (with a Groupon that will soon expire).  Not to someplace where I could get free Wi-Fi. (And not to the comfort of the public library — closed on Sunday.)  I just didn’t get outside.   Not even outside the confines of the sofa bed, except for the bathroom and food.

The most I did — and it took a lot — was to throw a top over my pajamas and pad down the carpeted hallway in my socks to tape a postcard with a message on the apartment door of a woman I’d seen twice and spoken to once in the elevator.  That was my attempt at reaching out.  Making a connection. But it was all I could do that day.

I couldn’t escape the waves of melancholy.  So rather than fight a losing battle, I decided to sink into it.  (I prefer to optimistically think of it as "sinking into" as opposed to drowning.)  Then a lightbulb moment and I saw something about myself I'd never fully seen.  

If asked to describe me, anyone who knows me would describe me as strong, forceful, stubborn, controlling.  There is certainly truth in that characterization (of at least one aspect of my personality).  Unfortunately, that tendency is in the fabric of who I am.

It started in second grade when I began worrying that things would not turn out alright.  Except at school — my safe haven — no one gave me any information about what was going on or how to cope with what was going on.   No one at home told me anything growing up.  (Well, maybe my sister.)  I quickly found out if I didn't pay attention, I wouldn't know how to avoid the next upset, disaster, explosion that inevitably was around the corner.  I was obsessed with learning all I could as a means of surviving in an emotionally turbulent household.  I tried hard to be perfect thinking that would make people like me, value me.

Once I had my kids, that instinct to control, to make everything perfect, to be perfect, became much, much worse.  I was bound and determined to tell my kids EVERYTHING. I was going to ensure that they had every bit of information possible.  I'd help them interpret the world and give them the tools to navigate it.  I was going to prepare them the way no one had prepared me.

It wasn’t until mid-way through my life (when a husband and teenaged kids kept telling me repeatedly to stop!) that I recognized this obsessive behavior and struggled to curb it.  But I hadn't really understood it in a big picture way until now.

Though clearly it comes across that way, I’m not trying to control people, I’m trying to control circumstances. It’s ridiculous to imagine I could control events.  Yes, ridiculous, but that never stopped me.  Even lack of success didn't deter the behavior — it’s so age-old, so ingrained in the fabric of me.   

Image by Michelle Arseneault
What a disaster.  This compulsion to teach, to assist, to share-all, became a curse.  At times, my drive to give everything I could to those around me, led to the smothering, crushing, suffocating of them and eventually, all but exhausted me.  

I still struggle to curb it.  It's hard to weed out.

The day in bed?

I felt kicked to the curb.            
                                               Time to get back up.