Sunday, January 31, 2010

the wisdom of bowling or complacency is the new perseverance.

Today we went bowling to celebrate my sister's birthday. I had a blast. While I didn't make it to 100 (98) was my high, it was fine. The competitive edge I'd felt when I was a kid, my frustration with my brother always beating me—he did again today—my feelings of inadequacy were gone. I reveled in my strike, brought in a couple of spares, and appreciated every pin I knocked down.

This was not the case for everyone. My father had to leave, in absolute frustration, before we even got our shoes on, his wife's back was hurting and they headed home within minutes of getting to the bowling alley. My sister in law broke 2 nails within 3 frames. My husband broke one too. Some of us were STARVING which led to far more tater tots and french fries than I thought we could polish off.

The worst though, the most miserable people on the planet or at least at Bowlmoor early this afternoon, with faces so pained, so tortured, so mopey, were my kids. It was as if we asked them to do laundry for the entire building. To scrub the bathtub with their toothbrushes. To practice their violins until their fingers bled. And they don't even play violin.

They were at the place where distraught meets morose.

It wasn't pretty.

I realized, more than halfway through the game, that they were bowling, for the first time, without bumpers. And to be brutally honest, they both sucked. If a point or two was scored, it was a relatively shocking surprise. Their games were more about how long those balls could teeter on the edge of the gutter before falling in. We had a bowling technician raise the bumpers, which were covered in tiny red lights, and life got slightly better. Slightly.

As we hit the daylight, after a couple of hours in the faux late night hipness, their mood improved dramatically. Thank god. And I realized, as we walked home, how easy we make it for our kids these days. Instead of teaching them how to bowl, we give them crutches so they can't fail. When I was their age I had to try harder. To concentrate, to practice, to learn. I was never great, but I improved to the point that I didn't role a gutter ball every time. They're not learning that.

Until 6th grade Iz never had a test that was graded. How can you know if you're doing well in school without being challenged and having concrete markers letting you know where you are? Our neighborhood elementary school tracks emotional development and dozens of other inane categories, but until recently, didn't have expectations about spelling, punctuation or grammar.

This lack of accountability isn't just with my kids. It's seems to be a generational thing. Very often there aren't "winners" anymore. Everyone gets a trophy for participating. Or, to push it even further, we live in a society where people want instant fame and fortune without actually having to make an effort. Reality TV shows have created countless wannabe "stars" who expect to be at the top of some food chain for nothing other than generally embarrassing themselves on TV. Full disclosure, my half brother's on the new season of Tool Academy on VH1, a reality show about asshole boyfriends and the women who "believe" they can change them. I have no doubt he'll end up with more fame than I did, writing a book that shines a light on issues all women need to be talking about.

Effort, hard work, experience aren't expected, appreciated, celebrated anymore. There's such a sense of satisfaction people are missing these days. The feeling of achievement after struggle is unlike anything else. Whether it's knocking down bowling pins, acing a test, getting a well-deserved promotion, working through rough spots in relationships—complacency is, sadly, the new perseverance.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

what if

A friend of mine is totally re-inventing his life. Monday. He's actually been working at it in the months we've known each other. At first it was just a vague idea mentioned in passing, sort of the way one says, "I'm considering going blonde," or "I'd love to live on the beach one day." Only he's really doing it. Not the blonde or the beach (although I'm sort of thinking he'll eventually be the cool bartender in Antigua one day), but he's divested himself of most of his stuff, is hopping on a plane first thing Monday morning, heading to a new city and starting over.


I'm proud of myself for trying a new coffee bar or walking an alternative route when heading out for errands. I'm a creature of habit, of comfort, of familiarity. My lack of initiative is easy to mask in NYC—on any given day, I pass all sorts of spontaneous things one wouldn't find elsewhere. It's hard to walk down the street and not run into someone I know, having the happenstance chance to get lost in good conversation. When the weather's nicer, random street performers entertain me as I wander by, saxophone notes lingering sweetly as I head up 6th avenue. The Union Square Market, replete with scents and smells, artists hawking their wares at the south end, as I pile potatoes and apples in my bags. Washington Square Park, the newly moved fountain shooting geysers high into the air, even watching the Empire State Building light up at dusk, always noticing the changing colors, wondering what the purple and green or blue and yellow are celebrating. It's easy here to be complacent, to accept my desk drawers so crammed with junk I can barely open or close them, yet can never find what I need. To walk by the paint peeling on my doorways. To not stress anymore about what I look like, falling back to my standard uniform of the season. Right now it's jeans, uggs, a black vintage coat from the early 60s covered in a brocade swirl pattern, a huge red ruffled scarf with shades of purple and hot pink woven in, and a brown hat with faux fur ear flaps.

I'm coasting right now. Some days it's fine not to accomplish anything. Others I beat myself up, a bit, but can't really muster the energy or enthusiasm to go the distance with an internal smackdown. I've got nothing going on. No stories to tell. No ideas desperate to be heard.

So, I'm living vicariously through someone else's adventure. Someone else who's the same age as me but is eschewing all he's established, accomplished, built, to dive into the unknown and find out.




To know the what ifs. To grow, change, be freaked out, scared, energized, challenged.

Part of me is jealous. Conceptually. Mostly I'm grateful that I'm comfortable enough where I am that I'm not compelled to start over. But the other side of that coin is that I'm stuck in this low-level existence. Pretty on the outside, but empty within.

His bravery is blowing my mind. I'm feeling inadequate in the face of such resolve.

So today, I resolve to clean out my top desk drawer.

It's a step.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Letting go of FLOW

I've been stuck here for awhile now. Lost my way it seems. My creativity, drive, ambition's gone. I'm totally lost.

For most of my life, or at least during the post anorexic thaw, and after I had kids, I've been awash in ideas. There's always been something bubbling. Projects happening. Proposals coming together. Brainstorming. Thinking. Imagining. Ideas come to me fully formed, or the title of something will pop into my head and I spend hours piecing it all together. I've gone from one to another for years now, selling some, trying, without success to sell far more. I've had countless meetings, gotten hopes up, worked with agents and editors, spinning, hyping, discussing. Defined myself by whatever what concepts were at the top of to-do list. I grooved with that flowing, connecting energy.

But I don't have any now.

FLOW wiped me out. I put everything I had into that project. Too much I think, as there's nothing left. I truly believed it would be the book that changed my life. That after it came out I'd have doors open, people wanting to work with me, coming to me with ideas. That I'd effortlessly move to my next project and after the hell that FLOW was, it would be easier this time.



My design work's just about completely gone. That's how I earned a living and there was always something soothing and gratifying in working through a design project. I sort of thought, as clients disappeared, that it was ok. Maybe it was a sign that my life was moving in a new direction and writing was my future. But nothing's come to fill the void.

This is empty.



I don't know what to do. And that's new too. There's always been the next great idea simmering, glimmering, waiting there for me to notice, pay attention and make it real. I think they've given up on me. If I couldn't get FLOW off the ground, I'm not worthy of their attention. They've up and left for someone more successful, more capable.

I'm feeling negligible. Obsolete. Like I've reached my pinnacle and am on the downslide. I don't have the energy to ramp it all up again. It's too painful putting it all out there and failing. Ok, failing is a bit extreme, but having to start at the beginning, every fucking time, is too much for me.

I wish I had faith. I wish there was hope. I wish I believed.

But I don't today.

wisdom by any other name

I'd like to say I don't care anymore but that's not entirely true. I don't care nearly as much as I used to is more accurate. Today I threw on one of the 2 pairs of jean I own, a comfy old t-shirt sprouting tiny holes, warm clunky boots, a vintage army navy olive green parka and headed out into the snow. Yes, my hot pink t matched my magenta and orange scarf. Yes, my bronze bag picked up the button colors nicely. Yes, my snow boots are cute as well as functional, but the point is, I didn't care how I looked. I didn't spend time dabbing on eyeshadow, straightening my hair to the point of sheening like glass. I didn't wonder if people thought I looked cool or thought my jacket was too big, or if they thought my body actually was filling out the men's medium I was sporting. I didn't go there. I moved my car, ran my errands, and wore my clothes.

What I did think was this:

Is wisdom a form of not caring? I know, that sounds ridiculous. But think about it for a moment—is letting go of all those internal judgements and expected external ones a sign of growth, of comfort in one's skin, of acceptance? I'm sort of thinking yes.

(Unless I just want justification for dressing more and more like a slob.)

No, really, I think I'm onto something—at least for where I am in life. I've tried so hard, in so many ways. I've spent what must amount to years feeling like a failure in spite of what I do, who I am, all that I've accomplished. I've continued to struggle to get to the next place, the next thing, the next level and for what? Each time I achieve what I've set out to, I'm the same. My life doesn't radically change. I don't feel any different. There are moments of contentment, of excitement, of outrageous pride (those are especially fleeting). But here I am, still sitting in my living room, laundry to do, my desk a mess, debating whether or not to go to yoga, frittering away time online instead of dedicating energy to creative projects.

Only now it's easier to be here.

I'm not beating myself up. Not in the moment anyway. I'm accepting that for now, I'm not brilliant. My creativity isn't over-flowing. I'm not motivated, not inspirational, not inspired.

One day I'll wake up ready to move again. To immerse myself.

To flow.

But that's not today.

Being ok with that sure feels like wisdom to me. And that's something I'm discovering at 45 that I wasn't aware of in the decades before.

Day 8 is looking at my present through a mellower lens.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What Steve Jobs was really thinking . . .

It's a moment of synchronicity that I'm hoping is a sign. If people are talking about pads, and tampons (the trending twitter topic at the moment), then FLOW's got to be swept up onto that bandwagon. Right?

Tomorrow, back to aging. But for today, it felt like a FLOW shout out was appropriate.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


From the perspective of a 45-year-old, a pimple is an inconvenience. Slightly embarrassing if I’ve been sporting one in a noticeable place all day, but nothing I can’t handle. To be honest, I’m still surprised my face breaks out. I was under the delusion that once I’d passed the dramatic hormonal shifts of adolescence, my skin would once again be dewy fresh, with a rosy glow and pristine translucence. Then again, from that painful teenage place, I thought all of adulthood was calm, complacent; I’d find my groove and exist day-to-day, like my parents. I wasn’t a person who had grand plans, career goals, I never dreamed of getting married, fantasized about weddings or babies, thought much about where I’d live or what I’d do there. I just assumed . . . well, I’m not sure exactly what I imagined would happen. That life would be fine. That I’d be taken care of I suppose. I think I never went to the future because my present, back then, was so fragile. My family maintained the illusion that we were cohesive and normal, to the outside world, but when it was just us, alone, there was very little holding it all together. I desperately wanted us to be close, to eat lunch together on weekends, to share hobbies, to enjoy each other’s company, to be a family like the Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family, but I was generally the only one. I remember my parents almost ridiculing me for wanting to be with them instead of with friends of my own.

Truth: I didn’t have many. I wonder if I was so insecure with people my age because I didn’t have a safe foundation at home that I trusted would always be there to nurture me. I held on so hard, too hard. And from my family’s disinterest in spending time with me, I believed I wasn’t worth spending time with.

Whoa. That’s certainly a painful, eye-opening interpretation one could discuss with a therapist for years. The reality is more that everyone was caught up in their own extreme dramas, both emotional and physical. I expected a lot from people who had very little to give me. I spent years blaming but left that behind a long time ago.


Back to pimples. When I was a teenager, the painful, throbbing, enflamed red circle on my cheek, my forehead, the side of my nose, tipped with that swollen dot of white pus waiting to explode at any second, was nothing short of a nightmare. I’d hold hot compresses to the affected area, praying it would be gone by the time I’d have to leave for school. I remember spending entire days pulling a turtleneck up over my chin or wearing my glasses so low on my nose I could barely see, thinking I was effectively camouflaging the area from everyone else. Time stopped as those blemishes destroyed my life, sometimes taking days to run their course and disappear, leaving me in humiliated ruin.

Was that pain as devastating as when my parents split up, at 45?


In any moment we can all get swept away on swells of emotion and drama, fear and pain, concretely real situations and those we manufacture so powerfully in our imaginations. I’m relatively sure a pimple won’t reduce me to a quivering mass again but there are still things that blindside me, leaving me unable to cope. I’m working on keeping even a grain of perspective in those out-of-control moments, knowing that even though they might feel insane, they don’t last forever.

Day 7 is appreciated being a where I am.

Monday, January 25, 2010

facial hair

This has been bubbling close to the surface, much like the hair I'm about to discuss, for a few weeks.

Here's the background: while on vacation a few weeks ago, I noticed, in stark relief to the pale winter skin and bleached blonde hair of someone I was talking to, a decidedly dark shadow on her upper lip. I was transfixed, I couldn't stop staring, while I desperately, not to mention secretly tried to ascertain if she was sporting a moustache, or if it was a shadow from indirect lighting. After several days of being taken by surprise every time, I accepted that yes, it was definitely dark hair living below her nose.


I wondered, did she not notice? She obviously took time to maintain her hair in a shade that doesn't naturally exist on this planet, yet this faint yet completely apparent caterpillar was permanently hibernating on her face.

I certainly didn't mention it to her. In fact, I didn't say it out loud to anyone else, as if in keeping it my secret, perhaps no one else would notice it.

Which made me think of two things:

1 - why are things like that so difficult to talk about? and
2 - do I have one?

I've been staring closely at my upper lip ever since. Not obsessively perhaps, but every few days, while scrutinizing wrinkles, moisturizer that hasn't sunk in, the darkening circles under my eyes that are now sporting a slightly crepe-y texture, I stare and stare at the hair on my upper lip. Yes. There's hair on my upper lip. When did that happen? Was there always hair there? A faint fuzz. I don't know. I don't think I ever paid attention. But, now I do. It's light. Mostly. But, somethings, when the light is particularly bright, especially late in the afternoon as the sun pours into my bathroom, some of the hairs look . . . black. Ish. There, I said it. If not out loud, then here for anyone on the planet to read.

So now what? I know people who wax their upper lips. That sounds outrageously painful. I think some people use bleach, which sounds awfully smelly and another source of pain too. Do women shave? I once knew a stunning woman who shaved her entire face every day, insisting it was the best exfolliant she'd ever had.

At this point I wash my face, then dab on a serum (I'm not sure what that does), followed by moisturizer, one for day, another for night. I have a separate cream I'm supposed to use under my eyes that I generally don't remember to put on. I check my eyebrows and pluck stray hairs every once in awhile. That's about it. I notice the slight droop my eyes have in their outer corners, the deep vertical creases that frame my inner eyebrows, the almost imperceptible sag below my chin. Slight, barely noticeable changes. But facial hair? Sigh. Another getting older thing to deal with. At least I don't have hair sprouting randomly off the tops of my ears, or hanging down out of my nostrils.


WRINKLE day 6 is asking that if I'm ever sporting a moustache that's even slightly obvious, please let me know.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

what this world is coming to or post Avatar thoughts

I just saw Avatar.

I don't get it. The love, the hype, the awards, the billions and billions of dollars spent both creating and seeing it.

Was it beautiful? Yes, the film was lovely to look at. I thought the phosphorescent trees and floating astral jellyfish were stunning. Those scenes reminded me of the Electrical Light Parade I saw in Disney World when I was 12, sitting on the curb at Main Street, watching the shimmering floats go by as the sky turned to the deepest shades of blue. Looking back, experiencing that glow, that glimmer, that magic was far more impressive in real life.

Did it get a message across? Sure. I get that nature and spirit and energy need to be respected and that big business, corporate greed and war mongers stomp all over them. But The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss told that story much more powerfully. And in much less time I might add.

Did it need to be THAT violent? Sadly, yes. These days a movie isn't a MOVIE unless there's so much blowing up, carnage and destruction, your head is throbbing by the closing credits.

Did it pull from other classic (and not so classic) stories? Of course. There are no true original ideas out there but during one of the many we're-about-to-be-destroyed scenes, I kept waiting for Violet from The Incredibles, to thrown down a kick-ass force field.

Was I the only one who felt like the final battle between Jake and the psycho Marine was a replay of Ironman and Kurt Russell?

Was anyone else waiting for them to mention The Force?

I never made it through Aliens (too much of a coward), but I felt like Sigourney Weaver much have been having a super scifi flashback. If not to that, then at least to Galaxy Quest. Her shirt-tearing as she was ripped from her incubator was quite reminiscent of Gwen's shredded catsuit.

The main character who's agot nothing to live for so he just jumps into everything with a sly grin and boundless bravery? I could swear that the new James Kirk played that remarkably well in the Star Trek remake.

The glowing tendrils reminded me of ET. Or Cocoon.

The flying reptile/dragon choosing its partner? Eragon anyone?

The giant tree? I think they have one at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Jake lying in the forest floor, unconscious, as the bull dozers moved in? I just saw that clip in the new Michael Jackson film.

I could go on and on. In fact, I was so busy thinking of what this movie reminded me of, I had trouble paying attention to the actual movie. It almost became a game, to see what characters, plot twists, scenes I recognized from somewhere else.

But, back to this movie. I sometimes feel like, as a society, we've become numb to violence, outrage, being shocked, because there is such horror in the real world that we don't need to imagine it. It's all there to see. For real. So filmmakers need to ramp it up even more, to get our attention. And our money.

I don't want violence on steroids. Messages so transparently disguised as a story there's no thinking involved to figure out what's next. Entertainment so saturated with destruction I feel sick to my stomach and slightly slimy just for having watched it.

I eschewed Hollywood blockbusters years ago and found watching Avatar was akin to having fallen off the wagon. Next time I'll know better.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

the anxiety of aging

Let's be clear from the beginning. I'm an anxious person. If I have one default mode I go to in times of stress, it's anxiety. My earliest memory, waking from a dream in which my parents weren't really my parents, they were strangers who were coming to kidnap me, was fraught with anxiety. New situations, people, projects? I have to get through anxiety before moving to a better place. A large part of the reason I practice yoga with such regularity is it helps me keep my anxiety under control.

I've gone through periods when I haven't been able to fly—my worst anxiety attack ever was in the back row of a plane that was weather delayed for 6 hours, and was then sitting on the runway for another two with "mechanical trouble." I was next to a woman suffering from the flu. Her temperature was 102.6 and she couldn't stop coughing, deep, throaty coughs. I wanted off and got so out of control the pilot had to come back and talk to me. Like that made me feel better. I made it through the flight, but it took years before I could get on a plane again. Medication helped. I spent 10 years living in NYC without being able to take the subway. Even now, I only take it when there's no other option and I could flip out at any time. Elevators were hard for awhile, which is preposterous as I live on the 10th floor. When the door pauses too long before it opens, my heart starts to pound. Some, like the one in my yoga studio, I avoid altogether.

After 9/11 it took over a year before a siren or an airplane flying overhead wouldn't send me into complete panic. To this day, if a plane seems to be too low, or helicopters are hovering close by, my jaw clenches.

And then, there are the personal ones. An unexplained pain or sickness is life threatening first, before I delve deeper and figure out what it is. Headaches immediately are precursers to strokes. Muscle aches are heart attacks, lung failure, some strange new disease no one's heard of yet. This applies to me and just about everyone I know, but when it's me, the internal spin gets insane. And here's where the aging part comes in.

My body is changing. It doesn't recover as fast as it used to. Mind-blowing headaches that last for 2 days that seem to be associated with hormone shifts. I think. Periods that are so bad the first day I am double over in pain, clutching a hot water bottle until advil kicks in. Fingers so stiff sometimes they hurt to move. Spots on my knees where it feels like all cartilage has worn away and I'm kneeling on bone. Then there are symptoms I can't explain. Sharp pains I can't figure out. Moments of dizziness. And to top it off, there's my mind. Word recall is going. I used to be an remarkable speller but it's slipping away.

I'm having trouble with all this. Not just because it's confusing, annoying, panic-inducing, but because one day it'll be something less trivial. Something tinged with a dire prognosis or untreatable laced with more unknowns than I think I can handle. I know too many people now, people my age, friends who are battling serious shit. It used to be grandparents. Then parents. Now it's my generation. Breast cancer? I know several remarkable women, women with young kids, fighting this monstrous fight while handling everything else mothers need to do. Another friend has brain cancer. Inoperable. I saw her on the street last night, first time since I found out, and she looks great. Exactly the same. And while we chatted away about Alvin and the Chipmunks, middle school, and birthdays (I'm the queen of light-hearted, distracting banter), I was aware of the overwhelming battle she's never without. Another friend has unexplained chest pain, dizziness, trouble breathing and has been to 3 doctors so far but no one can figure out what's wrong. His life is coming to a standstill in many ways, he's incapacitated but still needs to keep living his life while dealing and figuring out what's wrong.

My mom was just in the hospital with heart issues. Her sister is battling severe dementia. Their older brother's memory is quickly disappearing and he falls, often, legs not supporting him when he walks.


The longer I'm here, the more pain I see. I used to be so wrapped up in only myself—anxiety is great for that. On some level you torture yourself so much, there's no room for anyone else. But, as I get older and more aware, there's more suffering surrounding me. It's a part of life, yes, but I'm often overwhelmed, my heart aching for things I can't fix, can't avoid, can't change.

Day 6 is wishing it didn't have to be so hard.

Friday, January 22, 2010

we interrupt this subject matter . . .

While I'm in the middle of writing about aging for 40 days, trying to work out ideas and flow for WRINKLE, this morning I'm going backwards to talk, yet again, about menstruation. Or more, to talk about why people don't want to talk about it. Or, perhaps, this post will look at how segmented society's become. Or, maybe the focus will be the shallowness of twitter. Or, in the end, the fact that no one likes me.

How will I magically wrap those disparate themes up in a neat little package?

Read on.

Last night I did my first tweetchat on twitter. For those not in the know, it's a real time twitter conversation (all posts being 140 characters or less), that anyone is welcome to participate in. You follow the chat by using a pre-determined hashtag which is a phrase preceded by a pound (#) sign. Last night's was hosted by a very cool website: They've chosen FLOW as one of their recommended book club picks for January and have been promoting it like mad. My hats off to such enthusiastic book lovers

I didn't do a lot of pre-hype for this event, figuring people would be interested in asking questions about FLOW. Or, if not about the book itself, then about writing, getting published, how to find an agent, what I'm working on next, what I've done in the past, my work routines, where my ideas come from, how to put a book together, how to write a book proposal, art rights, book design, self-promotion, public relations, book launches.

Truly, there are countless questions to ask.

And there are countless people on twitter who are writer wannabes. You'd think (I thought), some might be interested in discussing some or all of the above with a person with lots of actual publishing experience.


Five or six of my twitter friends stopped by to chat. The woman hosting was there. Two more people jumped in towards the end. And me. Later than evening a few people mentioned they were sorry they'd missed it but that was it. It was a lovely, lively conversation, but the opportunity for it to have been so much more plagued me throughout.

Was it that people, still, are uncomfortable talking about menstruation in such a public setting? Could be. I shared my most embarrassing story (leaking onto white carpenter pants in 8th grade and pretending I sat in wood stain for the rest of the day), and no one commented. Someone did suggest special spa treatments for PMS—I thought that was pretty brilliant.

Was it that it was hard to get attention in such a scattered environment? I sent messages to many, most didn't respond. I'm aware whenever someone writes to me but maybe that attention isn't how most people use twitter. In the end, I resorted to begging and even that only worked sometimes.

Was it that it's hard to have in-depth discusses on twitter? You know, it is. It's not easy to share long thoughts, have a vibrant give and take, expound on ideas when you have so little space. It's often very surface and then conversation shifts to something else. Digging deep isn't what twitter's about—I've found, when I really am connecting with someone, it turns to email, or phone, or some other form of less restrictive discussion.

Was it me? I have lots of followers, but know that most of them aren't particularly interested in me. I'm just another notch in their belt. My ego was bruised for a bit (and here's the aging reference), but I've grown up enough that that was ok.

I'm wiser than I used to be. I know the world isn't revolving around me. That for all I am and have to offer, I'm just another person in a sea of millions. Used to be, when every book of mine came out, I was sure that it would change the world somehow, or at least change mine. FLOW is by far the best received, biggest book I've done and my life is exactly the same. Although I do now own fabulous boots and a super funky vintage dress that I bought for the launch party. I've met Dr. Oz, been on TV, learned how to make promo films, can talk about subjects that used to make me blush just by thinking about them. My kids think I'm cool. I take myself more seriously as a writer than I used to. I'm not entirely sure is it's wisdom or realism that I've discovered, but having such a light turnout last night was fine in the end. When I was younger, it could have been devastating.

I'm at this crossroads. Do I rev it all up again, plunge into another project that will all consume me, or be ok with being here?

I don't know.

Day 5 is waffling about what's next.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Looking forwards and backwards at the same time

Last night I learned things about my mother I never knew.

For a bat mitzvah project, Iz has to interview her family—she has a list of suggested questions about heritage, childhood experiences, memories that stand out, what life was like. She's been procrastinating over this for weeks but we finally set up an appointment to call my mom with the agreement that Iz would ask questions, I'd type answers (while staying uninvolved in the actual interview), while all on speakerphone together.

I managed to keep my mouth shut until just after the second question. It's amazing how little I know. I know the basic stories, how she met my dad, that she didn't get along with her sister, her regret at not having gone to medical school. Actually, I think I regret that for her. She'd been accepted, but there wasn't enough money for her and my father to both attend. So, of course, she worked as an assistant to a biology professor, paying for my dad's tuition. Back then, being married to a doctor was a social coup. Being a doctor? Not as much for a second generation Jewish girl in the 1950s. My mom is so smart, so intuitive. I've often thought she'd have been a remarkable doctor, if opportunities had been different.

Sorry folks, I digress.

Iz asked basic questions and got some basic answers, but with a little prodding, my mom contributed facts and stories I'm sure she hadn't thought about in years, small glimpses into times we study in school but have no real reference to. She remembered the bombing of Pearl Harbor, how her older brother had come home, very upset, he'd been the first to find out. They didn't have a television. All news was from the radio or newspapers. She remembered the US entering the war and rationing. Teachers, she'd said, favored kids whose parents owned grocery stores or gas stations, hoping extra school support would garner them sugar and gasoline.

After a lengthy explanation of her favorite game, we realized she was describing hopscotch, although she called it potchkey.

People in the Bronx didn't lock their doors, it was that safe a neighborhood.

Parents didn't worry about their kids traveling the city on their own. One of my mom's happiest memories was as a teenager, going into Manhattan with a group of friends for lunch at their favorite Italian restaurant. She remembered the name, the neighborhood. Often, they'd get tickets to see Broadway matinees. She loved musicals. The girls would wear matching jackets, dark green with chartreuse piping, three stripes on the sleeve. They weren't an official club, but lots of bunches of kids did that she said, to identify themselves as part of a group. I never heard any of this before.

Iz and I were both fascinated, hearing about how my mom's parents first met, after my grandfather came over from Russia. His older brother proposed to my grandmother, but she refused, saying she preferred the younger brother. I found out that a glass my grandfather had brought over with him, it had been his father's, small and fancy, with a red rim, had been broken years ago. That my grandfather was a failed business man before he spent much of his adult life as a pattern maker. He died when I was four. All I remember is visiting him in the nursing home.

We talked until people came over and we had to stop, setting up time to talk again today.

Straddling two generations I was struck by how each of us is a universe unto ourselves, but how little of that is shared with anyone else. Entire lifetimes of growth, thoughts, experiences are lost when we don't ask. Don't take time to talk, to reminisce, to remember. I regret not doing this with my grandmother, who died when I was 14. I was too young to understand that once she wasn't here anymore, that was it. I wish I had asked her about coming to this country, about leaving her entire family behind, about not speaking the language. I wish I had asked her about women's rights, about getting the right to vote, about what you did when you had your period. About ending pregnancies before abortion was legal. About childbirth and medicine, about recipes and relationships. About working and supporting a family when most women didn't.

It's so easy to accept basic pleasantries as conversation. As if the weather, aches and pains, conventional updates are enough to fill the gap. And sometimes, that's all there's time and energy for. Quick exchanges to let the other know you're there.

But that's not enough. We need to take time to explore, to find out, to delve deeper.

If we don't, the opportunity will disappear.

Day 4 is grabbing moments before aging takes them away.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Iron Man, day two

My back is burning, a searing pain bisecting my left shoulder blade, so intense it's hard to fill my lungs to capacity. My mid back sports a duller ache, almost as if I'd been kicked a few days ago in the kidneys. My sciatica is throwing itself into the mix—a numb tingling in my left butt cheek that can explode into hurt so intense I can't put weight on that side, spasms shooting down the back of my leg. At this point even my breasts hurt, but I'm thinking that's more PMS than laundry hoisting.

My 45 year old body is saying fuck you, don't do that to me anymore.

(2 hours later)

Since starting this post, I've taken Iz to school and watched as she found out she didn't make the school play. The pain of watching her scan the list, over and over, making double, triple, quadruple sure she wasn't on it, that she didn't somehow overlook something, noting her friends and classmates in the cast but not her dulls my laundry injuries. She stood in front of the bulletin board, holding back tears, acting as if it was no big deal when I knew it was a huge, game-changing in a really hard year deal. An hour later, I still have tears in my eyes. This will be one of those moments she'll never forget. I often wonder what events will be the ones that stand out for Iz and Jack. I remember getting lost at Disney World when I was 12, angry there weren't enough tickets for me to go through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. I turned away, furious at being left out, and when I turned back, my family was gone. There was the time my dad locked me out of the house, when I was 7, and I wasn't allowed back in to read, my favorite pastime, until I could ride a bike. I remember being the understudy for the witch in the Wizard of Oz and finding out the morning of the performance that Terri, who'd won the part, was sick, that I'd be going on. My mom rushed my costume to school, but 10 minutes before the show started, Terri showed up. My stage debut dissolved back into Munchkin Land.

The memories that resonate most are so often fraught with pain, fear, disappointment. Not making the play is powerful enough to be one of those for her. It will be a touchstone in her life. Perhaps she'll learn a valuable lesson about making more of an effort, going after what she really wants, understanding that just because she really wants it doesn't mean it will happen. That sense of entitlement of early childhood, that you're the center of the universe, that life is really pretty good and you get what you want (for the most part), that birthday parties are filled with cupcakes and balloons, that someone will scoop you up and take care of you when you're hurt, is slipping away from her.

I can't make it better anymore. And that's a part of getting older that's heartbreaking for me. The more independent she becomes, the more she'll own her experiences—I won't be able to fix things. I can listen. I can hug. I can hold her while she wails. I can be the recipient of violent angry outbursts, of mood swings that make my head spin to watch. I can assure her that what she's going through won't last forever, that things will feel good again, that life is full of ups and downs and it's all about knowing she'll be ok in the end. But, I can't take away the hurt. Hers, or mine.

I remember my mother telling me, as I suffered through something, that I couldn't understand how she hurt so much until I had a child of my own.

I get it.

It sucks.

Day 3 is all about the pain of being a mother of a child who's growing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Iron Man. Or, how much laundry can I actually lift.

Perhaps I should have titled this post "Wonder Woman," although the super hero attribute I was thinking about this morning wasn't blocking speeding bullets with my cuff bracelets. Having said that, it would be a cool skill to have. Today I'm thinking more about brute strength. Again, I need to qualify—not bench pressing hundreds of pounds, but shlepping unwieldy piles of laundry, managing finger breaking bags of groceries, backpacks and all the additional stuff of children who are too tired to carry themselves and look to me with little faces full of exhausting, needing my help.

What does any of this have to do with aging, you might be wondering on day 2 of my WRINKLE commitment?

I'm getting there folks.

This morning I hoisted a bag of laundry over my shoulder. That is, I went to hoist it and it barely moved. I moved. I sort of fell back on the dense mesh duffel that was filled to capacity with all our laundry plus a weekend's worth of ski clothes Jon threw in last night. Bending at the knees, I put more energy into it and got it up on my back, the strap cutting deep marks into my shoulder within seconds. I managed to get out my front door and to the elevator, half carrying, half sliding along the hallway. Another quick note, I live in an apartment building and we have a newly renovated laundry room in the basement. I also have a small washer/dryer combo in my apartment which is convenient for hand wash-y sort of stuff, but with 4 people, I'd be doing loads 24/7 to keep up. So, when we're running out of cool t-shirts and jeans that aren't shredded at the knees, I load myself up and head downstairs.

I know, I know we haven't gotten to the aging part yet.

I'm getting there.

Right now, I'm strong. I practice yoga 4 times a week. I walk for miles in the city. I lift, hoist, carry, stretch, balance, shlepp more than most would think possible. Sometimes more than I think possible. I've hit the outer limits of what I can carry home from the supermarket. Bags so heavy my fingers shake with the effort of keeping them curled so groceries won't spill across 6th Avenue. When I dump out clean clothes to fold on my bed, there are so many, piled so high, you can't see the mattress, blankets, pillows anymore.

But, I won't be strong forever.

What I do, and take for granted now, will one day be memories of the past. My back won't always be this tough, my legs this conditioned, by heart, my lungs in such good shape. Right now, my body can take it. Take the extra effort, manage the increased stress, rise up to physical challenges. I haven't noticed anything slipping away. Yet. But I know it will happen.

Over the holidays we visited my mom in Florida. All Iz wanted to do was bake with her and one of the things they made were Grandma Rose's butter cookies. My mom still has her mother's cookie press, the one Rose had baked with for years and years. I sat, away from them, watching, listening, appreciating that this tradition was continuing—Iz cutting cherries for her grandmother exactly the way I did for mine. When I walked by, to see how it was going, I noticed my mom was having trouble holding her hands steady. The cookies, basic butter cookies we made in circles, or ribbons, or flower, were a mess. I offered to take over and continued piping the rest of the dough out onto the baking sheets.

Iz and I finished up and while part of me was happy to be part of the process, part of me ached. How could it be that my mom couldn't make these cookies? I'd always been neater than her, but I get anal that way. My cookies always needed to be as perfect as possible while she gave herself more leeway. This was beyond that though, her hands just didn't work.

In that moment I wondered if one day I'd sit with my granddaughter and not be able to do what used to come naturally. If my hands would curl and hurt. And that no matter how hard I'd concentrate on holding them steady, I wouldn't be able to. I already have arthritis. It showed up on an x-ray I had taken a few months ago. So far all I feel is a strange pain in the top joint of the pointer finger on my right hand. It throbs, it swells, sometimes I can't bend my finger all the way. It's not a big deal in any way.

But one day it might be.

One day, some day, things will slow for me too. I'll want to do lift, stretch, move and even though in my head I'm completely capable, my body won't respond. Perhaps these changes will happen so slowly I won't really notice in the moment. It'll only take someone else looking in to acknowledge the tremendous changes.


Day 2 is appreciating what I can do today, because one day I might not be able to.

Monday, January 18, 2010

we interrupt this sadhana . . .

After taking a (surprising) blog break during the holidays, I started off the year committing to a new 40 day sadhana, a daily practice to get me back into the routine. I realized, though, I don't need that. In spite of the time off, writing every day is now part of what I do. But, what I haven't been able to do is get started on a new project. I have concrete ideas, or at least ideas that have been churned up in that mixer and poured out, but haven't solidified into anything. Or, to be painfully honest, I haven't gotten as far as the mixer. I have ideas, generalities, concepts, but haven't dedicated myself to putting them down on paper. I'm really good at talking broad generalities. I can answer, off-the-cuff, what's up next, but it's time to get more serious about it.

So, I'd making a 40 day commitment to writing about aging with the hope that, after exploring for that time, it all gets more real for me.

Where am I with this so far?

I'm aging. Build in field research. I have very mixed feelings about it. Not that I have no choice in the matter, but I'm grappling with how to handle things. My changing body. I suppose that's as good a place to start as any.

I know, mid-40s, there are medical tests you need to have on a regular basis. I'm pretty responsible about mammograms. Hate them but what can you do. If you've never had one, imagine putting a somewhat sensitive part of your body (let's go with breast here, so we're all on the same page) on a cold metal tray that's slightly too high for you so you're leaning forward, skin stretching uncomfortably, about to be up on your toes. As if that's not enough, this whirring machine closes another plate down on top of the first, your breast sandwiched, squished as flat as possible, not to the point of pain, but to the point of this-shouldn't-be-happening-to-my-body. All the while aware, as a technician is talking to you from behind a partition, that something dangerous could be lurking inside that you don't know about. After both breasts are pancaked and your skin is red and sore, you head back to the women only waiting room, everyone garbed in a thin cotton gown, nervously waiting to see if all looks good or if they need to get more shots. Quiet conversations sometimes take place, but mostly it's quiet, people leafing through magazines they wouldn't otherwise read, staving off potential panic. At least that's what I'm doing.

Colonoscopy. I think I should be having one soon. In fact, I think I'm overdue. No one, like my doctor, has said anything. Am I supposed to take the initiative in scheduling? I dread this one. I hate the thought of drinking something that will brutally clear my insides out. And meds that knock me out terrify me. I'm always afraid I won't wake up.

Part of aging is opening your body to strangers. Letting go of privacy. Accepting, on some level, that you'll be prodded and poked, drugged up and explored, in the name of prevention.

You are not yourself in those moments. You are organs and x-rays. Another name on a patient list. A chart. A file. Your humanity, your soul isn't part of the process.

There's a detachment about aging that goes with the territory.

I'm not ready.

Day 1 is not looking at aging from the bright side.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Non-attachment. Or, life with my new yoga mat.

I finally broke down and bought a new yoga mat. I'd worn holes in my old one—it was more than a bit disconcerting to practice while dislodging bits of rubber into the air. But, it's been hard to move on. I love this mat. Dark brown with stark cerulean tree branches growing from the bottom, a few peeking in from the top. It was grounding, soulful, the earth and sky melding together to balance my practice. It was warm, inviting, home. I don't know, in all this time, that I ever thought quite so hard about it, but this mat resonated with me. It was comfortable. Its darkness stood out against the pastel shades splattered across the room. As I don't wear glasses when I practice, my mat, my space alway shouted out to me, so different than everything else in the room. I wrote FLOW while practicing on this mat. I'd been through outrageous emotional ups and downs and throughout the chaos, my practice, and my mat, were stabilizers.

Whew. I know folks, that was ridiculous. I'm laughing at myself too.

But, in spite of my mat shredding apart, I couldn't move on.

I've been searching. Actually, I just tried to find a new one with the same design, but it was nowhere to be found. Finally, last week I broke down and ordered one from amazon, after consulting everyone in my house (who had less than zero interest), in helping me find my new rubber soulmate. I settled on bright fuchsia, with an asymmetrical lavendar flower design, subtle outlines barely visible until you're in down dog and are up close and personal.

It arrived Tuesday. I forgot to bring it to the studio for Wednesday's class. Friday's too.

Mat replacement denial.

I remembered it for this morning's class.

I walked past the wall of mats housed at the studio and saw my brown one, rolled tightly, towards the bottom of the S-Z shelf. I didn't stop, but walked into the studio and unrolled my new mat on the floor. It still had creases from being wrapped up in its plastic packaging. There was that subtle "new mat" smell, not bad enough to make me roll it up and stick it in the corner, but enough to distract me. I had to reconsider what color blanket would work with this mat, opting for a shade of medium blue. But, that didn't distract me as much as not knowing if I had the design facing the right way. I mean, who's to say? It's my mat. My flowers can face any way I want. But for more than half the class I considered flipping it around, to see if I felt more comfortable practicing with the flowers skewing right instead of left. I noticed that my mat was a darker shade of the molding around the bottom of the room. That my hands were slipping when normally they wouldn't be. That my blue toenails looked decidedly different against the purple pink. That this mat blended into the room more—the studio is painted shades of purple, blue and green. The bright color was almost jarring when my brown mat had been soothing.

Usually, in my life, I'm an uber-decider. I know, in the moment, whether I like a piece of art, if I'm meant to own a certain shirt, what we should be eating for dinner. So this threw me.

And I'm realizing, it's not about the mat. It's about letting go of comfort, of familiarity, of the past. It's moving into the unknown. Again. Grappling with not-knowing. Stretching in ways I haven't stretched yet. Allowing myself the freedom to try something new instead of holding on tight to my current reality.

Honestly, I'm generally content with being stuck where I am. But that's not what the universe is telling me my life is about.

So tomorrow I'll be back on my fuchsia mat. Working on my children's story. Searching for new design clients. Sending more FLOW vibes out into the world.


Day 12 is feeling like letting go is sort of like pulling a scab off when it's not quite ready.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

death. or parents aren't forever.

I just got a phone call that a cousin of my mom's died, actually the husband of the cousin of my mom. We didn't know each other well. Hey, we barely knew each other at all. I saw him last, several years ago, when visiting my mom in Florida. "Cousin H., hi. You look great!" summed it up. While he shared pleasantries back I wasn't entirely sure he remembered my name, or, in fact, ever knew it. We were a family of many cousins and I never had the sense I stood out in any way.

When his wife couldn't wake him up this morning, she immediately called my mother, who lives close by. My mom threw on clothes and raced over. For many years they were on polite speaking terms but nothing more. Whenever talking about R., mom used her "polite" voice, one I recognized from my childhood as the way she'd talk about people she didn't really like, or she was mad at. Very clipped. Short. Perfunctory. Never rude, but we knew that hostility or derision was just below the surface. I think my mom was dissed one too many times by her cousins and had had enough. A backstory moment here would help: when my grandmother came here from Russia, at 12, with stepsisters who treated her like a servant, she saved up and paid for the rest of her family to come to New York. Her father died before he could make the trip, but her mom, 4 sisters and brother all ended up in the Bronx. Rose distanced herself from the rest of her family once they arrived. While they all lived within shouting distance on the Grand Concourse, Rose moved her family too far away to walk to. She made sure her kids played piano, spoke with no trace of an accent, went to college. Total double-edged sword. My mom, aunt, and uncle were given remarkable opportunities but were always on the outskirts of a tight-knit family which held true through the next generation. Mine too. I know many of my cousins are close, but I don't even know how to reach most of them.

But, back to today. My mom and her cousins have grown closer recently, as there are so few of them left. It's hard to stop and think that they're the age I remember Rose and her sisters as when I was a kid. At family parties (we hosted many), the sisters would sit in a corner, sporting polyester dresses in pastel shades, pocketbooks clutched tightly in elbows, orthopedic shoes to match, chattering away in yiddish. We'd barely acknowledge them, swooping in for a quick hello and kiss if absolutely necessary, then off to find something more interesting to do.

I just did the math and realized that when Rose died when I was 14, my mom was only 42.

Parents aren't forever.

While this cousin's death isn't affecting my life in any way, aside from residual guilt about not making a shiva call, it's devastating to his family. In a moment, they're plunged into frigid unknown water. Pain, regret, mourning. Nothing will ever be the same. Whatever plans they had for the next few days are off the table. Holidays will always be different. While time will dull the ache, there will always be a hole.

Both my parents are alive. I love them dearly. I take them for granted. I spent years blaming them for who I am (fortunately I don't do that anymore). When they're not well I don't let it seep in because the fear of what ifs would be too great.

One day it will be me getting the phone call that will plunge my life into disarray, that will break my heart, that will change things forever.

I'm calling them both today to tell them how much they mean to me. Or, knowing us, just to say hi and see what's up.

Day 12 is a moment of appreciation for who created me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

until tomorrow

This is a total placeholder post. I've started 3 today and couldn't get in the groove of any of them. Aging, juice, and a sense of entitlement.

Day 11 was not about introspection or completely a sentence but I'm hopeful tomorrow will be different.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

how to get from here to there

I realized yesterday that most of my conversations as of late have been with people trying to get from here to there. "There" not necessarily being a place, but more where they are in the world. People looking for more success, more recognition, more connections, more creativity. A new job, a new city, a new direction.

People wanting to find meaning. And purpose.

It's been an intense week or so listening to the questions, uncertainly, lost-ness (not that that's a word) surrounding me from people I know well, or barely at all. And I've been thinking, why me? Why am I the recipient of all this angst and uncertainty. Usually I'm the one struggling, feeling lost and hopeless. It's quite the different experience being relatively ok where I am, not desperate for more than I have. Not possessions-wise, but experiences and accomplishments. Maybe that's why I'm attracting these confessions, because I'm more grounded than usual. Or maybe it's because, in some way, I've accomplished what others want to.

I've been called a hero more than once lately, which does nothing but crack me up. Truly, how could I possibly be someone to look up to. But, when I step away from the ego that loves to tear me down, I can occasionally be impressed with who I've come to be. I've found ways of turning seemingly impossible things to accomplish into reality—FLOW being the extreme example. I (almost) believe that if there's another project in me that's meant to get out into this world, I'll find a way to make it happen when the time is right.

So, what words of wisdom do I have to share? I wish, truly, that I could suggest the power of positive thinking, or reading Power of Now or The Secret, or that visualizing yourself on The New York Times bestseller list would work. But, I can't suggest any of those. I wish that I could say believing in yourself and your vision would make things happen, but I don't believe it makes much of a difference. No, I suppose it's much better to think positive thoughts than wallow in doubt and angst, but I don't think it changes the flow of the universe significantly.

What can I say?

Work hard. Talk about what you want as much as possible. Don't keep it bottled up. You never know who might be out there who can help. My biggest FLOW coup (Dr. Oz) came from a casual chat at a Yom Kippur break fast. I'm learning it's all about connections. Being in touch. Making it more concrete by shaping conversations.

Don't give up.

Don't doubt yourself, whenever that's possible.

Find a way.

Every tiny accomplishment is huge.

Be grateful.

Day 11 is not knowing how I got here, not sure where I'm going next but appreciative of the here and now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

elusive creativity and letting go of expectations

Forgive me in advance folks, for the following analogy. I'm dry at the moment.

Creativity is like an elusive butterfly (I'm cringing as I type this). The harder you try to capture it, the quicker it flies away. But when you're sitting still, lost in something else, it settles close by for you to appreciate its beauty.

Whew. That was truly one of the most pathetic things I've ever written. Most likely because my creativity's gone missing. It's not flitting animatedly around my head at the moment—it's traveled south for winter. South America I'm thinking at this point. Usually I've got ideas popping out all over, sparks flying, most ridiculous but steeped in imagination.

Now? Nothing.

Surprisingly, I'm not freaking out. I'm almost too depleted to take on that effort. I'm coasting. Sort of content. Mildly engaged. Off-handedly interested, but not really.

That's really new for me. If I wasn't bursting out at the seams with FLASHES OF BRILLIANCE, MOMENTS OF INSIGHT, I'd feel worthless. My self-esteem has always been, or at least once past anorexia, tied up those thoughts and ideas that set me apart.

And that was just a lightbulb moment.

I am not my ideas. I am not my creativity. Those are truly deep-down-from-the-bottom-of-my-soul parts of me, but not me. I still exist on this planet, I'm still relevant, still important, still living, without the next idea that will change the world exploding from my brain.

Maybe this lull is a lesson that it's fine to just be. Not spin, not brainstorm, not be stretched to the limit of how far I can go, but to heal, to sit, wallow a bit in the mundane.

Maybe, instead of beating myself up about not creating, I can enjoy the quiet and know, believe, hope beyond hope that the urge to siphon ideas out of my mind and into the world will happen when it's supposed to.

I'd love to write more, but laundry's calling.

Day 10 is working on letting go of expectations

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

staring down the inevitable

I have 3 potential projects to work on. One is a children's book that I need to go through and edit. One is the slightest slimmest glimmer of a project with my yoga studio. And one is WRINKLE: the Cultural Story of Aging. I've got plenty of books to read for research. I already have a basic table of contents. I've got bunches of questionnaires already filled out to peruse. There's more information out there than I can possibly process. I've got interested people who want to read this book. I believe it will sell—when we went out with FLOW, more than a few editors were wanted to buy WRINKLE first.

But, I can't seem to start and am not sure what's stopping me. Could be that I just came of a 2.5 year project that nearly drove me mad. Could be that I can't comprehend working that hard again. I'm thinking it's those, plus the subject matter.


It's omnipresent. It never stops. It's inevitable and the older I get, the harder it smacks me in the face every day. It's watching my kids gain independence. Every day. That part of aging is pretty miraculous. I don't yearn for when they were smaller. Even with the tween drama and burgeoning rivalry, the present is amazing to witness. But it's watching my parents start to struggle. I didn't know how to react when I got the message my mom was in the ER last week. Atrial fibrullation. I went numb. My heart turned to stone. My feelings stopped—I don't know that that's ever happened before. Generally I feel things too strongly. I can be overwhelmed, washed away by emotional floods. This time, nothing. I'm thinking it's because I know it's real. While change can happen in the blink of an eye, moving closer to the end of life is a constant. Bodies breaking down. Minds starting to shred. Worlds somehow growing smaller as health issues often become chronic and take over first place in daily dealings. I can't begin to comprehend what will happen when something happens to my parents. It's incomprehensible.

And then, what about me? I'm changing. I can feel it, see it.

I was going to list those changes but have thought better of it. They're nothing remarkable. Skin with a life of its own. Hair in new places. Grey encroaching at my temples. Lines at my mouth and in between my eyes that are permanent. I don't think anything I'm going through is unique or out of the ordinary. Having said that . . .


Now what. Do I buy into the whole aging intervention mindset? If I'm conceptually so horrified by denying reality, then is is ok to color my hair when I can't stand the grey (it's barely there at the moment)? Where do I stand on the botox scale? How far am I willing to go to be myself, own my aging self, while still feeling comfortable and confident in my own skin.

Damn. I just got to this place and it's already slipping away.

WRINKLE. Sigh. This is going to be one introspective project.

Day 9 is staring down the inevitable.

Monday, January 11, 2010

more gurus from the past

There's something in the air right now—people from my past are showing up in my present. Not to actually be here, with me, but I'm thinking it's a kick in the ass from the universe about acknowledging how far I've come.

This morning I saw another mentor, guru, teacher who's every word I took as truth from a higher source. Ok, that's more than a slight exaggeration, but for a long time I truly looked up to this guy. He's a fellow NYC parent, a successful author, had boundless creativity and we bonded, in a big way, when I was just starting out on this writing path.

He knew it all far better than me. The rush of having a new idea pop into your head and the immediate brainstorming that ensues. Light bulbs flashing, energy flowing. How hard it is to wait after something's been sent out. Knowing people are picking apart your art and most likely it'll end with a polite rejection. Waiting for the phone call, email, contact. How slow time can go when an answer looms in the future. How terrifying it is to start something you've never done before.

We talked a lot about how other people don't know what it's like. That it seems so glamorous from the outside, but that it's so often lonely and anxiety-ridden. There's no one to go to for advice or guidance. It's your ideas that people are buying and you have to own them and be the confident expert, even (and especially) when you're not feeling it deep in your soul.

We shared the sense of emptiness that comes after your book is published. It's hard to explain, even having been through it a bunch of times now and it was reassuring to know it wasn't just me. It's like sending a child out into the world that will never call or stay in touch. Seeing my creation on a shelf in Barnes and Noble invariably looking small and lonely, bleeds out all the energy and thoughtfulness I'd poured into it. Nestled tightly between other writer's dreams, it's lost to me.

He knew. He's been doing it much longer than I had and I borderline hero-worshipped him. I ignored his severe anxiety. I threw myself whole-heartedly into becoming part of his emotional support. He was in a lull after tremendous success and I relished being part of his life raft.

And then it was over. I never knew why. Part of me wondered if it was that I got a book signing, replete with huge color posters of me, at a Barnes and Noble in the hood, when he'd never had one. Part of me thinks I got too close—hoping some of his success and vision would rub off on me. I was barely on my road and filled with endless doubt. That I tried too hard, that he thought I'd turn psycho, that he'd lost interest.

I saw him this morning. He pretended I wasn't there, as he'd been doing for the past 5 years. And I just walked by, as I always do. But today, I took a moment to acknowledge how far I've come. From that insecure, floundering neophyte, just barely having a clue, I've published 7 projects since then. I still go through the angst and doubt, but know it'll be all right. The difference is that now I own who I am, or at least I'm working hard on it.

It's not just about mentors, teachers, gurus. They can shine a light, be support, help when moments are bleak. But you have to absorb, engage, take it on yourself, make it a part of you.

Day 8 is owning what I've done. At least in this moment.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I've got nothing or FLOW at 2 months

FLOW officially went on sale two months ago today. I had thought, in December, that it would have been cool to do a month out recap, a look back on all that had happened after months of hype, years of work, anticipation and expectations. But, in all the craziness, I missed that actual date and thought that at two months out, I'd do the same thing.

Here I am. And I have nothing to say.

It feels like a lifetime ago. It feels like it's over. It feels like if something significant were to happen, it would have already.

I've been on TV. I met Dr. Oz. The New Yorker wrote about FLOW's amazing launch party at Rizzoli's. I've done bunches of interviews, was mentioned in mainstream magazines, can talk, spin, promote on a completely different level than before. I've been blogged about, been insulted, been called me a hero. I've met the coolest people, started online arguments, impressed my relatives. I've inspired some and pissed others off.

In some ways I have far more confidence than ever before. In others, I feel like I'm at the bottom of the mountain, again, and have no idea how I'm going to get back to the top.

I feel empty. Proud, beyond words, of what this book is, conversations its started, how people have responded, but now it's the past. While intellectually I know it's not over, that hopefully this is just the beginning of FLOW making a mark in the world, I'm having a hard time holding on to that right now. I thought this would be the life-changer, the door-opener, the project that would have people sitting up, paying attention, and waiting to work with me/talk to me.


I'm still sitting in my living room, figuring out what's next.

Two months out and life is the same.

Expectations get me every time.

Day 7 is not particularly patient.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

managing stress

It's first thing on a super quiet Saturday morning. The sky is such a bright blue you can almost feel the chill in it's crisp edges. Somehow the cold is muffling the traffic outside. As I walked into my silent living room, Iz was already up, deep in concentration, happily at her laptop. I said good morning and that we needed to talk about the weekend, what we had to do and how homework would fit in.


Peace and quiet shattered as she harshly told me to stop. It was the first time in weeks she'd been relaxed and she refused to talk about homework. When I mentioned we'd just gotten back from more than a week away, she told me much of the vacation was stressful for her, that she hadn't come back relaxed, that she was overwhelmed and overloaded and needed time to chill.

She's amazing at putting feelings into words, and has an awareness of her experience on this planet that's far greater than most people I know. For her, it really was a trip full of anxiety. She's so like me, I shouldn't have needed to be reminded of it. And she (and I) is so the opposite of Jack and Jon, it's hard to imagine one family living through the same experiences from opposite extremes. I can sum it all up with the zipline in Honduras. For my boys, it was just about the thrill of a lifetime. Flying across treetops, branches and leaves barely touching toes, rain pouring so hard you could barely see, soaked to the bone and shivering from the downpour, yet excited, exhilarated, hearts pumping every moment. For Iz, it was her worst nightmare. Hundreds of feet in the air. Hanging precariously from a thin steel cable, dangling so far above the trees you often couldn't see the ground, not knowing what came next, knowing her panic was visible for all to see, realizing there was no way out. Her shaking was pure terror. I would have been with her, she needed me to be her strength, her courage, her savior, so I had to force my own panic deep down and take care of her.

I told her that night that she was my hero, that her making it through to the bottom was a feat of pure bravery. When someone suffers from anxiety, the simplest things most people take for granted, can be huge accomplishments. Of all the traits she's inherited, I only wish I could zap that proneness to panic from her make-up. It's debilitating and exhausting in a way that's impossible to comprehend unless you suffer from it.

The most I can help her do is learn to manage it. That's why I practice yoga—not for the spirituality, or the crunchier granola parts, but to keep my head clear, and my breath even and steady. Years on the mat have taken the edge off a bit. Writing gives me a way of letting emotion out instead of it spinning, like an out of control washing maching, in my head. And the perspective of age is a tremendous help. But she can't see that yet.

Someone gave me this analogy that felt so right I share it with her whenever she gets stuck in the swirl. Life is like an ocean and you just have to ride the waves. Sometimes the water's mellow. Sometimes it stormy with high swells. Sometimes you'll be up on a crest, sometimes you'll be down, not able to see what's coming. But each will pass and if you find a way to know that change is always on its way, that nothing is forever, that if you can let them wash over you, knowing the low points are only temporary, while appreciating the highs as they happen, all will be fine in the end.

Day six is sitting in stillness, knowing drama is right around the corner. But that there will be quiet mixed in too.

Friday, January 8, 2010

teachers who've lit the way

Five years ago, as I was turning 40, I plunged into a black hole of despair, sure my life was over, that I'd peaked without realizing or appreciating it and from then on, it was all downhill. I was desperate for an answer, a candle, a light, a teacher to give me answers and set me down a path that wasn't quite so dire.

I wanted a mentor, a guru. Or perhaps what I really sought was a panacea that would take away the fear of encroaching middle age. Someone to support and encourage, boost and stroke. Drugs would have helped at that moment—anti depression, anti anxiety, anti aging, anti reality. Anything to dull the panic and pain.

The teacher who walked into my life in that moment wasn't any of that.

Joe was a yoga instructor at my gym. Thoughtful but challenging. Acerbic. Needling. He pushed and prodded. Asked me questions I couldn't answer. Made me stretch and think into corners of myself I'd never peered into. We'd talk for hours—at times I'd be so frustrated I was beyond words. He gave me books to read that were far more than I could take in. Our conversations often strayed so far over my head I felt lost even though I was there.

And then, he was gone.

He left for India, leaving me exposed, raw with feelings and thoughts that threw my soul off-balance. This teacher thing pretty much sucked. I wasn't in a better place. I was more confused and lost than ever. He didn't answer my questions. He forced me to add more to my list.

While we'd seen each other several times over the past few years, as he'd float through New York on his way somewhere else, we haven't sat and explored the way we used to. Until yesterday. We talked for 4 hours straight. And it was completely different. It was catching up, filling in holes, learning about what each other had been up to. He was so different than the person I'd experienced before. We didn't talk about spirituality, planes of existence or collective consciousness. We talked about the fact that he drank coffee (shocking), played Rock Band (blew my mind), struggled with relationship issues (who the hell was this?!), what the next step in his path would be.

I told him how strange and remarkable it was to discover how he'd grown in ways I'd never thought he would.

After we said good-bye, I realized how much I've grown in ways that I never thought I would. How far I've come. How much I've accomplished. How the yoga practice I'd started with him is now an integral part of my life. And that while my path is often dark, twisting in ways I can't see or understand, I know I'm on one.

Day five is acknowledging the many bright lights who've helped me along the way.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

the common cold and jewish superstition

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who's fighting a particularly nasty cold and gave him my seemingly endless list of things to do: neti pot, saline spray, vitamin advice, humidifier pitch, citrus juice/fruit suggestions and my favorite: apple cider vinegar and honey in hot water. With 12 hour sudafed and mucinex added to the mix. As I was telling him how I keep healthy I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I'd be punished for my cheekiness and soon I'd be wallowing in the snot pool.

Amazing, how that inner voice of doom is so ridiculous and yet so powerful. How could I possible jinx myself into sickness by talking about not being sick? I wasn't bragging (cold gods, I'm talking to you), I was being helpful, giving advice, trying to share some of my sinus wisdom with someone not feeling well.

That sense of being able to cause my own destruction just by saying words out loud goes so deep I don't know how to get rid of it. I got this from my mother, who got it from her mother and I'm wondering how far back it goes. I pray that I don't pass this to my kids—it's a horrible feeling, the somewhat psychotic belief you can bring on bad karma by celebrating the good. Out loud.

The ego is a powerfully destructive thing. That voice that tells you you've gained weight, you're not smart enough, you don't deserve to succeed, this is as far as you'll ever go so you better appreciate it because it's all downhill from here. At least that's what mine says. It also says I shouldn't ever let go and have too much fun because you don't know what might happen, that skiing and rollerblading, to name a couple, are far too dangerous to try, and that it's far better to be responsible and stay in at night.

It's remarkable that I've accomplished so much in spite of this constant inner battle. Only to me it feels like I haven't done very much at all. Instead of appreciating all I've put out into the world, and how much I've grown on the inside, it's hard to stay in that positive place. I wish I had an answer. I wish that the struggle would continue to ease up. It's so much better than it used to be. I almost can't imagine the copious food journals I kept and the self-flagellation. I think those rope things monks used to smack themselves with would have been less painful than my inner beatings. There are longer stretches of peace and calm, of gratitude and appreciation. Of being proud of myself instead of punishing.

But still, I can't say the good stuff out loud.

Day 4 is fighting my superstitious nature and hoping to come out on top. Once this sinus headache is over.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

when things don't work

Some relationships are not meant to be.

I remember at 5 or so, having the sense that when I grew up my parents wouldn't be together. That was WAY before divorce was common. In fact, when my dad moved out the day after I graduated from high school, they were the only people we knew who split up. It was shocking in our neighborhood and our extended family. No one knew what to do or say. To my parents and to me, my brother and sister. No one bothered to check on us, to lend support, to make sure we were ok. We weren't. And had no where to turn for help.

I left for college and sometimes slowly, sometimes terrifying fast, fell apart. I flunked almost every course. I drank way too much. By sophomore year, they put me on detention with the agreement that I'd go for counseling, after I had a breakdown one weekend. I couldn't stop crying for days, ending up in the infirmary, eating strawberry ice cream, waiting for the pain to subside. It didn't, but when the endless sobbing finally abated, I was allowed to go back to my dorm and my routine of cutting class, spending hours in the library looking at old LIFE magazines instead.

But, this isn't about my parents. In the end, they each found someone to be with and they're far happier than when they were together. I'm talking about relationships you can't get out of. Even when you desperately want to. I've written about this before, about how I sometimes find myself in destructive relationships where I have no voice, tied to person who has no idea or interest in who I am, leaving me frustrated and trapped, seethingly angry, misunderstood, and completely powerless.


I get emotional and end up looking and sounding like an idiot when I'm anything but. I'm a look-on-the-bright-side person who gets reduced to a hysterical, over-reacting lunatic. As I write this, I'm fighting to keep tears from streaming down my face.

What lesson am I supposed to learn? There's a slight glimmer, somewhere down this bleak, pitch black tunnel, that I need to believe in myself more—that I can do whatever it is I need to. On my own. That I need to spend more time considering rather than jumping right in. That I have to find a more constructive way of dealing with frustration. And, perhaps, that I have to be more tolerant of other points of view. I'm sure people can be just as concrete in their right-ness as I am in mine. That's one hard pill to swallow.

Day three is far more introspective than I would have preferred.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Waking up with Dr. Oz

Dr. Oz.

Where to start . . . it was such a surreal, out-of-the-ordinary experience that at the same time felt completely comfortable. I wasn't nervous. I wasn't anxious. I just had the feeling I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Heading uptown in a cab, sky almost black, streets amazingly busy before 7 in the morning, I noticed the sparkling holiday decorations still glistening on building facades. After stopping to get water and cough drops, my two must-haves for every interview-I headed into the nondescript yet daunting by sheer scope lobby. Asking for Dr. Oz, I got a pass for an upper floor. Another security desk was posted outside floor to ceiling glass doors, just past the elevator. As I signed in, noticing several visitors for Howard Stern at 5am, the guard told me he could tell I was heading for fame. That I was confident, a people person, and while many signing in are frozen with fear I was ready to be there. What a lovely thing to hear as I was about to talk to a game-changer who's interest could make all the difference in FLOW's future.

I sat in the lobby for a few minutes, watching the people in the glass-enclosed studio smack in the middle of the lobby, just beyond the black leather couches. Turns out that's where the interview would be. And the man sitting, back towards me, was Dr. Oz. I never would have recognized him. I've only ever seen his author photo on book jackets. We walked into the studio and both he and his wife Lisa, who's also his co-host, stood to shake my hand and warmly say hello. There was some trouble with reverb on one microphone. Seats were switched, tech experts came to consult, and finally we all sat down in comfy black chairs to chat for a moment or two before recording got started.

And then, we started talking. They each had pages of notes, questions prepared. Dr. Oz skipped from topic to topic, wanting to cover as much as possible, apparently well versed in what the book was about. He was interested, engaged, engaging, starting off by saying that while he's talked about everything under the sun on his show, this was the very first time menstruation was the subject. I have to say, that was a super cool moment. My co-author was patched in on a landline, which made the interview far more challenging. It's not easy to get a flow going without all being in the same room, able to read facial expressions, body language, falling into the give and take of constructive conversation. But still, we talked. We talked about ancient greek superstitions, bloodletting and vibrators. Hormone replacement therapy, big pharma, women's rights. Third world countries, what was used before commercial products were available, where Kotex came from. We talked about suffragettes, the ERA, and religious stigmas. Wandering uteruses and where the word hysteria comes from. How FLOW came about, and about how men are far more open to talking menstruation than I'd ever imagined.

Halfway through he paused for a break, came over and fixed my headphones. Apparently one side was flipped inside out and I hadn't been hearing with my right ear. Everyone in the room found that quite amusing. Slightly blushing, he suggested my red cheeks were because we were talking about orgasms. Either way, there was a momentary flush going on.

And then, we were done. There was so much we didn't get to talk about. His wife asked about advertising and as we reminisced about the sterile blue liquid we remember from when we were kids, the next guests were being prepped at the door. They were gracious and thoughtful, both sorry we didn't have more time, they had been so interested in the subject and fascinated by the book.

I headed to 5th Avenue, hopped on a bus and was home in time to take Jack to school. As I walked past parents, huddled together, chatting outside, I thought about sharing my morning, this extraordinary experience, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But I couldn't talk about it.


Day two was a hard shove back into the FLOW saddle.

Monday, January 4, 2010

(not) resolutions

I'm not a big fan of resolutions. While the symbolism is appealing—new year new start—they're far too easy to break with a casual "oh well, that was just a new year's thing." And apparently all sense of time and place disappeared while I was away. The fact that it's January 4th is more than slightly mind-boggling. Sun, turquoise water and free-flowing days wreaked havoc with my usually neurotic need to plan. Generally, as a year wraps up, Jon and I look back and take stock, appreciating what we've accomplished, what wasn't so great, what we'd like to take on. But on the ship I was too in the moment to look back or forward, content to stare out at the ocean, read a book, nap every afternoon, soak up the sun.

So, here I am, 2009 a thing of the past, already in this year that I believe is going to be the year (or at least a really good year), with no plans, no intentions, no ideas, no direction. While I don't do resolutions, I do have goals, not quite so black and white, succeed or fail.

I will eat better. Amazingly, as a vegetarian for 20 plus years and a recovering anorexic, I've completely lost the ability to scrutinize every morsel that goes in my mouth. Which is a fantastic thing in one sense. But my body is protesting. Things like poptarts, butter, ice cream (it counts even though I only eat little cones), pasta without rhyme or reason are draining me. I weigh more now than I have in years—pants that used to swim are now getting snug. I'm not in a free-fall panic, but I want my body and my health back.

I want my kids to eat better. My issues with food are shaping them and I have to take more responsibility for everyone's sake.

Time to find new design clients. Almost everything stopped last year. Regular clients I'd been working with for years lost their budgets and my regular gigs that arrived like clockwork are gone. For good.

It's time to not be so connected. I realized how automatically I reach for my phone, for update buttons, for connections to people and news that aren't in the room. It's completely distracting from reality and a terrible habit.

Every day I will continue to promote FLOW. And every day I will spend time on new projects. I have 3 waiting to happen, a very cool kids book with my friend Jeremy that's just waiting for my input, WRINKLE, and a yoga book with the coolest yogi on the planet.

Minimalism is my new reality. My friend Dan is moving and taking less than 100 things with him when he goes. I can't cut down that much, but the piles and full cabinets are draining on many levels.

Patience for my kids is something I have much of, but not enough. They're growing so fast and if I don't wrap them up and appreciate it now, it'll be over.

Getting up to write early. I'd lost that and was finding it next to impossible to be introspective or creative with homework pressure, "MOM" being screamed incessantly, chaos reigning. Early morning, sun not yet up, subtle traffic up 6th avenue is the best time for me to let this out.

It feels good to be writing. To feel my energy start to flow again.

Day 2 is happy to be home and know my groove has been waiting for me.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

(not) getting back in the groove

I just lost my entire post. It was so hard to get back to writing after all this time away.

I wrote about the beauty of being in moments when I was away. Of kissing a dolphin in Mexico. Of skimming tree tops on a zipline in Honduras. Of being underneath a cascade of balloons, silver confetti, and streamers at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. Of watching my mom bake the same cookies with Iz that my grandmother baked with me. Of sitting on the balcony as the sky turned purple and the full moon reflected brightly off the ocean, dimming the glittering stars.

Of being an anonymous version of me, not hyping, selling, telling, promoting. Just me on the beach, reading books, having frozen coffee drinks for breakfast, bringing freshly baked donuts upstairs for everyone while they slept. Loving the salad bar at lunch, playing telephone in the formal dining room at dinner.

Of being disconnected, not by choice, but learning to be fine with not constantly checking what else was going on in the world that wasn't my immediate present.

I wrote about not knowing how I'd gear back up. That I don't want to be on board. That I'm not sure how to get back into the groove. Or what groove I should be back in.

But, I lost it and don't have it in me today to recreate.

I'm back to a new 40 day blog sadhana, as I took a break while away.

Day one was a post of beauty that apparently wasn't meant to be.