Saturday, February 27, 2010

someone else's cancer.

Last night, while sitting at my computer doing my usual twitter/facebook/NY Times/Daily Beast/ebay/etsy/amazon dance, Jon came over and put his hand on my shoulder.

I knew something was wrong.

We'd just come back from an impromptu ice cream stroll. The new gelateria on the corner is just too good and too accessible to pass up. Even Jack, who never wants to go anywhere, happily throws on sneakers (in spite of my plea to wear snow boots as the streets are still slushy muck) to get a cup of oreo gelato. After my sweet but sharp dark chocolate sorbet and Jon's foray into coconut, we came home. Iz was at a sleepover party so there was blissful silence as we all settled into one form of technology or another before getting Saturday night back on track.

Jon's device of choice was his phone. He'd forgotten it in the car and was catching up on the day.

Still listening, he sat down with a stunned look on his face, mouthing "cancer."

He spat out the long and strange words that had been left on the message, while listening to the rest. Multiple myeloma. Amyloidosis. Words that inherently are scary because they're associated with cancer and therefore have to suck.

The message was from a college friend. A funny, smart, goofy, always something new up his sleeve, guitar-playing, guys guy that every girl wanted to be best friends with. We don't see him often, but when we do it was like no time had passed.


I could see the look of panic on Jon's face. He sat there. Shell-shocked. Almost as if someone had sucker punched him and took his breath away. As he wandered off something in me clicked.

I started researching like mad. I was at the Mayo Clinic. WebMD. Myeloma sites. I scrounged for every bit of pertinent info I could find. And then I called my dad, the oncologist. I never call that late. I try not to call him at home. But I knew speaking to the source would get me what I needed to know as wading through the overwhelming sea of information was sending me into an almost panic.

But, I don't panic. Which is the opposite of what I'd expect from myself.

I'm really good in emergencies.

Something clicks in my head and I leap into action. I put on battle armor, shut down my emotions and plunge in, needing to do something. Find answers. Create a plan of action. I can't deal, process, handle, the enormity of the situation. So instead, I forge ahead, blinders welded into place, needing to rally, pump up, research, reassure. It's almost as if by pouring all my energy into information searching, I can stave off the inevitable soul crushing.

But I can't.

Sometime, days from now, something will pierce my defensive shield. A word. A thought. A snippet of a song. Something seemingly insignificant and my reaction will be completely inappropriate. My heart will crack open and I'll be swept away in torrents of tears, pain ripping through me so deep, so hard, so all-consuming it feels like I've lost the ability to breathe. In those moments, when reality smashes through my carefully constructed barriers, as I'm curled on the floor in a ball, wracked with sobs, I'm terrified I'll never find my way out.

I spend my life trying to keep fear shoved in the back of a drawer I never check. Pain tucked in the uppermost corner of a closet. As if by keeping them hidden away, they'll lose their power, their potency, their ability to destroy. By pretending they're not there, I won't get swept away by their inherent power. I wonder if other people can possibly feel as deeply as I do, experiencing those moments of being thrown over the edge of a cliff, careening into shards of glass.

Sometimes I wish I could crawl back in that destructive yet protective anorexic shell I lived in so long and not be here. In this terrifying place. Teetering on the edge. Knowing I have to fall in before I can climb out the other side.

Someone else's cancer is making me face the deepest fears I try so hard to pretend aren't there.

Me and Dr. Oz

Last night, during one of my many google searches for me (yes folks, both egotistical and neurotic, but far more of the latter), I found a snippet of our Dr. Oz interview at under the heading "Understanding Menstruation." The almost hour long interview had been edited down to 8 minutes. 3 questions. Plus a couple of soliloquies that went no where.

And that was it. No fan fare. No hype. No announcement at his site. No advance notice from the producers. No "airing this Friday on Dr. Oz." It just quietly slipped under the radar and if I hadn't been searching, most likely I'd never know it was there.

This was, I had thought, going to be our big break. A main stream media icon with a huge following talking about FLOW. I was prepared to hype the hell out of it. I've gotten good at letting people know what's going on. While I've backed off significantly since one person asked me, in a polite yet scathing way, to be taken off my email list, in the past few months I've established lots of ways of spreading the word. Twitter, facebook, fanpages, blogging, email, skype. I spent last night sending the Oprah link (in case you're one of the 7 people I know who missed it: to just about everyone I know. Posted it everywhere. Tried to build excitement after the fact.

It wasn't easy.

And honestly, there wasn't all that much to drum up excitement about.

I sounded fine. Listening the first time, I got nervous. I always do. It's very hard to hear myself, almost expecting my junior high school lilt that I fought so hard to annihilate, the "ums" and "likes" that used to fill my conversations would come rushing back in moments of nervousness. They didn't. I wasn't nervous. That's one of the surprising, yet cool things about this journey. I don't panic. I'm not consumed with anxiety, although having said that I'll probably blank at a signing I've got this afternoon.

I love being interviewed. I love being put on the spot, pulling facts and stories together, weaving them into interesting conversation. I love talking FLOW. I love that people want to hear what I have to say.

Let's be honest. I love talking.

More than that, I love having something to say.

Much of my life I've felt insignificant, unimportant, a lightweight surrounded by intellectualism. Most of the stories I've told have been about my parent's divorce, my battle with anorexia, my struggles adjusting to motherhood. Most of my books have been on the fluffier side. Fluff with significant research and backbone, but not the stuff of deep conversation. That's not to say that for some, learning to wave like a beauty queen wasn't life changing, but FLOW is on a different plane entirely.

And that's translating to a different me. I'm taking myself more seriously. For just about the first time I'm not apologizing for what I've worked on. I'm not rationalizing, explaining, defending.

I'm wearing black glasses with rhinestones in the corner. Bold. Smart. Decisive.

I'm more secure than I've ever been.

I'm starting to own what I do, who I am, what I'm growing into.

Having said that, I have to go angst about what I'm going to wear to my signing today.

It's not going to be pretty.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I can't always get what I need

I woke up early this morning, another anxiety-ridden cruise dream fresh in my head, wondering what I'd write about.
While on one hand writing every day is getting easier—it's not fraught with the gasping-for-breath panic I used to feel when sitting down and staring at a blank screen, sometimes there's not much material to work with. The drama days, the anxiety trills, the self-doubt, frustration, anger storms are excellent inspiration. But sometimes, and trust me, it's not that I'm not grateful for them, life is more even keeled and that's not particularly riveting.

I laid in bed, fragments of thoughts bumping into each other, wanting to at least get something started before the morning crunch when I'd lose myself in other people's missing backpacks, breakfast issues, snow boot debates.

And then, I looked out the window.

Snow. So much snow I couldn't see more than 2 blocks down 6th Avenue. Streets almost empty except for the stalwart taxi and the occasional plow scraping by. White buildings turning grey in the diminished light. The eerie almost silence took my breath away. Not for its uniqueness, its beauty, but for what I knew would be there when I checked my phone.

Snow day. I had both emails and texts from NYC. A message from our parent coordinator. What was going to be my day of responding to the universe's double smacks on the head that I needed to get WRINKLE going, of having that extra time alone to build up reserves before yet another 48 hours that leave me battered and spent, was now part of a 3 day weekend.


Call me resentful. Call me selfish. Call me a bad partner/parent. I relish my time. I revel in no one asking me for anything. While writing this I already had to fend off various requests and the glares of annoyance that I'm not quite immune to when politely declined.

You can also call me rigid. Bitchy. Set in my ways. Non-adventurous. Uninspired. Stuck-in-the-mud. I'm not rushing around looking for snow pants and sleds and whipping up enthusiasm to explore the storm.

I want my solitude back.

It's only 8:27 in the morning and I'm already yearning aching for Monday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

where the hell is my fairy godmother?

As usual, I'm waiting for someone to come and tell me what to do. Not in a "get the laundry going honey" or "you're running low on mint chocolate chip ice cream" or even "ok chick, time to get back to work" sort of way—I'm waiting for the person to give me guidance, send me in the right direction, to open doors, make connections, shine a light.

I'm waiting for my fairy godmother.

I've been waiting for her for as long as I can remember. Waiting for that person who would scoop me up, believing in me wholeheartedly, knowing from the bottom of her heart I have so much to offer, and then make it all happen.

Or at least something happen.

I used to think that person was an agent or an editor who would want nothing more than to nurture my endless flow of ideas into bestselling books. Ok, maybe I wasn't envisioning best selling, but at least I'd have support in continuing to create.

That hasn't happened.

I was hoping to find a collaborator who would brainstorm to the ends of the earth with me, who'd inspire and support, encourage and enhance. But I'm finding I often work better alone. It's scarier, but I know deep in my heart I can handle it.

A mentor would have been nice. A guru. A teacher. A guardian angel.

But, what I'm realizing (with more than just a little resentment), is that I've been waiting for me. Waiting for me to get out from behind myself. Waiting to accept that no one else can do these things for me. I'm seeing that unless I truly put myself out there, live on the edge, take chances, get closer to the fire, nothing big will ever happen. It's amazing what I've accomplished so far, from the corner of my living room, from back tables in coffee shops, anonymously hunched over my laptop, working tirelessly, obsessively, endlessly to fit the puzzle pieces of my ideas together. Spinning words, searching images, making something happen out of nothing.

I've been doing it without accepting that it's been me.

Maybe if I get myself a tiara and magic wand I'll feel more comfortable about being my own angel.

That could be a lovely thank you gift.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

so *that's* what I've been writing about

Full disclosure: I started this post Monday and couldn't find time to finish. I usually write in the moment and don't look back but this was such an important experience I had to make an exception.

Yesterday, I had the absolute pleasure of spending much of the afternoon with two friends from twitter. Both have nurtured me when I was crashing, made me laugh, supported me, challenged my point of view, were there when I needed someone to "talk" to, yet I'd never talked to either. It was almost surreal to hear voices and see faces when that one inch twitter avatar is who I'm used to dealing with. And yet, within seconds, we we deep in conversations. I'd promised Iz it was only about a quick cup of coffee and then I'd be home. Meanwhile, 2.5 hours later I had to tear myself away from the table, not wanting to leave. @amyoscar and @rebeccaelia—you are even more soulful and beautiful in the real world.

We talked women's issues, social media, seminars, parenting, relationships, and me. It was a bit like tag-team therapy at times, the two of them able to look at me from an entirely different place and share profound perspectives that I haven't been able to see. There were a bunch of moments when that lightbulb went off over my head as I suddenly saw what I'd been doing—in arguments, in the projects I'm drawn to, in how I parent.

I crashed last night at 9:40—hours earlier than usual. I think my brain was completely fried after such thoughtful introspection and inspirational ideas.

But back to that eye-opening conversation . . .

As we talked about FLOW, what I want to do next, what I've done, they looked at each other and explained I've been exploring the three major female archetypes: virgin, mother, crone. That my life's work has an arc, a theme to all I've done.

My life's work?

An overall arc?!

It was a tag team body slam. As they finished each other's sentences, chattering away about archetypes in literature, my mind spun out of control. I never feel like there's any direction or plan in my life. And they're pointing out that I've had a theme, a logical chronology, that the aging and menopause projects I'm starting to flirt with make perfect sense for both where I am in my life and in my writing storyboard.


I know, looking back, that I've been on a path without realizing it. Many of my books have been about girl's experiences growing up in this society. How they/we've been shaped by the media, politics, public opinion. But I never looked at the over-arcing, well, arc.

Virgin, mother, crone. That sounded so simplistic, but then again, it is. My earlier pop culture books: Cheerleader, Beauty Queen, Prom Night, Stewardess are all about the experience of girls growing up. Not virgins per se, but the illusion of young lady on a pedestal supercedes the reality. Those female figureheads are adored, revered, untouched. Iconic. Pure. The mess of motherhood hasn't marred their perfect facades.

Which brings us to FLOW and Don't Just Stand There. Books that smack you upside the head with blood, with reality, with humor and pain. These aren't iconic. These are real world, life-changing. The enormity of physical female experience wrapped in pretty packages.

And now, as I'm quickly honing in on 46, the projects calling to me are WRINKLE and FLASH—aging and menopause. End of life exposés. Someone asked me yesterday how I can write about things I haven't experienced yet, but I'm smack in the middle of (or at least at the beginning of the journey) of both.

I've always known that I write what I am, where I am. Not that I know what it's like to wear a tiara and a swimsuit with heels, but there's got to be a grounding in reality when I'm exploring. Perhaps that's why fiction is so hard for me. I'm not that character, that made up world. I love facts slipping through my fingers. Discovering ways to connect events and ideas. Knowing where we came from and how we got here is a fundamental part of our collective story that so often doesn't count anymore.

Telling bits and pieces of our story in a new way to a new audience.

My life's work.

My story arc.

A new perspective on why I'm here.

Ladies, there are no words for how grateful I am.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Here's the deal tonight peeps:

I'm grateful.

I have the most remarkable people in my life.

People I see in the real world, like the friend I spent over 3 hours with this morning.

People who popped into NYC this weekend and supported, analyzed, and nurtured me. Often at the same time.

People who email me every day, just to see how I'm doing.

People I run into on the street and have impromptu catch ups with. Or even just a quick wave and a huge smile.

People from down the block. People from other countries.

People I'm in constant touch with. People who pass in and out as if in a regular orbit.

People I've known for years and years.

People I've only just met.

People who share love, appreciation, clarity, insight, support, empathy, enthusiasm, wisdom. People who still talk to me when I'm cranky. Who are spending time with me on this journey.

Who believe in me when I don't believe in myself.

Namaste cupcakes. I say that with pure and true gratitude.

Monday, February 22, 2010

chocolate pudding brain

I started what was going to be a fantastic blog post this morning. I was up and writing at 6:38, or so my edit page says. But, I had to be at Iz's school super early and then the day got away from me. Every time I had thought I'd have time to write, the opportunity evaporated.

I shlepped my laptop to her school, planning to sit in a nearby coffee shop and finish, but got involved in a conversation that led to my agreeing to be co-president of the PTA next year. I hit a yarn store on the way home, totally forgetting I'd wanted to write on the way. Back in my apartment, I scrambled to create a fundraising flier, have it approved, and get it out to be printed before picking up Jack. At the moment it's done but I haven't heard a word from my printing contact, so our grand plans for later this week could be shattered. I ran to yoga and had a blissful class that left me so depleted it's been hard to finish sentences since. I realized, after I managed to get dinner, including a variety of vegetables, on the table, that somehow I managed to lose half the yarn I purchased by the time I got back to my apartment. I have conceptual lists of things I'm supposed to do but don't have the focus or drive to actualize them, which means write them down.

My thoughts are disheveled.

My focus has left the building.

My mind is minding its own business and doesn't want to get involved.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

what is my mind coming to?

Lately I've been having such vivid dreams I wake up and am not sure which is reality—lying in my too warm bed, sun sneaking in under the chocolate brown shades, or the sharp images burning into my mind, flashes repeating over and over as if my subconscious wants me to remember every last detail. Hours later, I can still see the airport from three nights ago, feeling the panic as we can't find the terminal due to construction, or the midtown lobby of two nights ago, Iz wandering out into a busy city street as I stand, at a broken elevator, with a suburban sized shopping cart filled with frozen food and no way to get to a register.

As we've been on winter break and everyone's sleeping later, these dreams have been more frequent. I'm still waking up at 6:15-ish, my usual anxiety-ridden wake up time, often with one of those powerful dreams still reverberating and then (this is new for me) fall asleep, waking up an hour or so later with another montage overloading my brain.

Disclaimer: this first dream graphic and bloody, in a period sort of way, so if the thought of that makes you queasy, this isn't the paragraph for you.

I woke up at 6:17 with this in my head (fortunately, it's starting to fade). I had my period. But, after taking a shower, I threw on a plush white hotel bathrobe—somehow I was on tour with the Jonas brothers—and was sitting in my suite, leafing through magazines. I heard someone knocking at the door and as I stood up, I realized I'd bled all over. Looking down, it wasn't menstrual blood, it looked like I'd been stabbed, and was bleeding uncontrollably, fire engine red stains seeping into the fabric all over. Nothing had leaked, but, as I ran to the fancy bathroom and plunged the robe into ice cold water, the basin turning pink and and then dullish red, I knew I'd never get the stain out and everyone would know what happened.

I woke up, heart still racing. Terrified someone would come in the bathroom and discover my accident.

And then I dreamed we adopted not one but two babies. From China. In my dream I don't remember giving much thought to the process, I tweeted the idea and then suddenly, had a photo of a very sweet baby to post online. But, turns out it wasn't one baby, it was two. Two adorable girls. Twins, which made them harder to adopt. I said sure thing and home they came with me, tightly swaddled, wrapped in blankets that only left their noses and eyes visible. We crashed in the hotel room and when i woke up the next morning—I don't know if I've ever slept in a dream before—I was home, but not this home, my NYC apartment, but the house I grew up in, in Massapequa, on Long Island. A quick dream note: many/most of my dreams take place in or around that house or on cruise ships. And almost all the dreams I remember are fraught with anxiety. Not being able to get somewhere fast enough or having forgotten something I desperately need. But back to my mom's kitchen . . . as I sat at the table, talking to my mother and explaining how I could easily handle two babies plus the rest of my life—another first, I don't remember previous dream chats—a very cute Chinese girl walked in. Probably 3 or 4, who spoke English relatively well. She explained that I wouldn't be able to pronounce her name, it sounded somewhat like Apple or April. But, she wanted to be called something entirely different in her new life. As we chatted, and I explained who I was, another girl bounded into the room. This one had banana yellow hair, teased into a beehive, and was wearing the brightest red lipstick.

I woke up, hearing my mother's voice, telling me (as she often does) that I'd taken on too much, that I wouldn't be able to handle it all, that I had to give myself a break.

Any thoughts or interpretations would be most welcome.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

the faith conundrum

This morning I spent 2.5 hours in a conservative synagogue. It was the bat mitzvah of a family friend, a kid I adore, who exists so on my wavelength that when we get together he and I spend more time talking than he does to my kids or I do to his parents. While I was delighted to celebrate this very big deal with him—actually, as I wrote that I realized I wasn't delighted in the least. Yes, I was proud of his accomplishments. He was poised, funny, had stage presence (as he always does), I could tell how much work went into the terrific job he did today. But, I don't get it.

I don't get temple.

I don't get religion.

I never did. I remember going to services when I was a kid and feeling like everyone else was in on something I didn't understand. Was an outsider to. That there must have been some secret no one was sharing. Or perhaps there was a faith gene I hadn't inherited. Our rabbi droned sermons in a flat monotone that induced sleep in many adults. I would sit, stand, sit, stand, following in my reform prayer book, praising God and all his greatness, bored out of my mind, saved from a silent breakdown by frequent trips to the basement soda machine and then necessary bathroom runs.

Wearing nail polish, the sheerest palest pink known to living man, for the first time was just about the most memorable experience from my bat mitzvah. That made me feel more grown up than chanting words I didn't understand. Being welcomed into a community I didn't feel any connection with? Meh (hey, that's the first time I ever used that word). There were other kids my age who "got it," who continued on for communion, sought out Jewish youth groups, sang those folk songs, went on retreats, to sleep away camps, their religion continuing to be a presence in their lives. Me? The less I had/have to pretend, the better.

This morning we scrambled to get to synagogue early. It wasn't easy getting everyone in my family dressed, let alone dressed up. There were tears for a dress which had been fine when we bought it, but now was nothing short of public humiliation. A mad scramble for dress socks (in the end they were never found and the fancy black pants and shoes were broken up by white sweat socks). I never have something appropriate to wear and always try desperately to pull it together. Today was a vintage A-line dress, black, with a sparkle green cardigan I'd knit and a cool scarf I'd just finished. Funky black boots. It sort of all worked together. Sort of.

We walked in at 9:25, with less than 10 people already there. Turns out we could have skipped the first hour and would've been fine. There was no welcome, no announcements of what was going on, just people chanting, out of sync, sitting, standing, sitting, standing, chanting. Did I mention chanting?

I didn't get it.

This time I tried to figure out what the appeal was to the joyous looking folks in front of me. Obviously, they were getting something out of the experience. People wafted in, benches filled, the chanting got louder and louder. As the cantor took over, several women seemed to be rocking it as if listening to Led Zep. Maybe their faith translated Jewish prayers into 70s power anthems. Was there a comfort, a sense of satisfaction in the familiarity of the routine? At times everyone was so off in their own worlds it was hard to imagine any of it was a communal experience.

Was it feeling closer to God?

I didn't feel any spirituality in that cold, stark, white room. No coming together of spirit, of intention, of consciousness.

But, I realized, I've found that place. Just somewhere else entirely


When I'm in class, breathing, moving, flowing from pose to pose, my body recognizing, stretching, opening, my mind relaxing, letting go, slowing the thought spin, I'm transported. Transformed.

I walk out different than when I sat down. Calmer. Freer. Quiet. Less me, more a part of something else.

Maybe, finally, I found my way to connect. Maybe what I feel in that practice is what people feel when they're in temple, in church, in mosques.

While perhaps that intellectual thought will help me understand the great appeal of religion is, I'd much rather be sweating on my mat.

Friday, February 19, 2010

opposite ends of the spectrum

I love getting my haircut. I sport a short bob that grows in beautifully—I don't mean to sound egotistical, I have really good hair—but right after it's cut, I'm living a couple of days of hair perfection: smooth, sleek, shiny. People on the street turn and look. And I adore the man who cuts it. He's South American, effervescently adorable, bubbling over with enthusiasm every time I see him. After hugs and kisses we chatter away about anything from Britney Spears (he still adores her) to his newest favorite vegetables. At this point I know about his boy band history—he was the lead singer and traveled the world as a young teen suffering abuse at the hands of their manager. I know about his mother's surprising death after surgery. His sometimes challenging medical history. No matter what was going on, his emotions, when sharing with me, have always been strong, intense, palpable. Until yesterday. The moment I saw him I knew something was wrong in a way that supplanted all else I'd heard him go through.

His partner didn't want to be with him anymore. He wanted something else. Miguel knew this as he'd already found photos and online exchanges.

But, they had to remain together, at least physically. They own a house, they co-signed a lease on their apartment. They can't afford another place.

They're communicating through snippy text messages. Heartfelt emails. Silent accusations and pleas for understanding. Face to face, they don't talk.

Miguel said it hurt to breathe. He could barely get out of bed in the morning. My heart was breaking watching, listening to the ravages of pain. Tears stood out in my eyes as he fought to keep his under control.

And then, Angela peeked in. Angela's waxed me since before Iz was born. For some reason I couldn't bare the thought of giving birth without perfectly clean legs and as my belly grew and I couldn't see what I was doing anymore, I resorted to having hair ripped from my body with too hot wax. Sharp, hot pain, but not as bad as childbirth. I could deal. I also needed to have perfectly polished toes and went for pedicures on a regular basis—also something I'd never done before pregnancy, but that's not part of this story.

Angela found out Monday she's having a girl. The last time I'd seen her she was newly pregnant and visibly queasy both from unending nausea but also panic about having a baby. She's 42 and has wanted to be a mother more than anything. As I laid on that table, being coated with wax, gasping in shock at the hard tugs and flaming aftermath, over the years we shared the frustration of her boyfriend who couldn't commit, his eventual acquiescence, his inability to keep a job while she paid for everything. His affair with her best friend. Their bitter divorce in which he kept just about everything. The dating. Finding a great guy. And now this. Her fears that she was too old. That she was so used to her life a baby would destroy everything. Yesterday's relief of test results that showed all was good.

Different tears burned as I held my hand against her taut belly, knowing after all this time she was living her dream. That no matter how hard it would be, and it would be hard, this baby was what she'd desperately longed for.

And it hit me. In that moment, sitting with a half-dried head in front of a full length mirror, wrapped in a black nylon cape, the enormity of profoundly different experiences needing to co-exist. In time. In space. In that cubicle. Mind-blowing pain. Subdued joy mixed with anxiety. My own thrill at having just found the most extraordinary vintage coat (pink, purple and magenta plaid wool, mod buttons, double-breasted, late 1960s, 75% off no less), Jack's low level boredom as he slumped in the chair next to me, somewhat lost in an ipod app.

Sharing her joy. Empathizing with his ache. Subduing my excitement. Placating Jack as he started to squirm.

I walked out of there, hair swinging, heart full, more grateful than ever for where I am in my life. It won't always be so even keeled. There have been, and there will be, periods of my heart being torn apart, of sobbing on the floor, of grief and panic. Of thrill, of love, of challenges I don't know I can survive. But life is calm at the moment and while I usually rail against the banality of these periods, right now I appreciate it in a way I never have before.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

hurting people's feelings

So (sigh). I've hurt feelings here. Some I'm aware of (family drama), some I'm assuming (not hearing back from people).

I feel awful. I also feel frustrated. I never intentionally want to make anyone feel badly—I am so sensitive, so hyper aware of slights, snubs, awkwardness that I cringe at the thought that my words have put anyone in that place. Having said that, life isn't a vacuum. My experiences are so often colored, influenced by others and if I can't speak about them, I can't imagine what I'd write about. This blog has been remarkably cathartic in that I don't often speak out loud about what I write here. Would this work better if I didn't put it out there for others to read? Maybe. But what I'm going through isn't just about me. It's acknowledging the shared feelings we have, the comfort in knowing other people know.

I was thinking about this post on my way to ridiculously early morning yoga—class started at 7:30. I got out of bed at 7:01, threw on clothes, headed downstairs and then up to 19th Street before I was totally aware of what I was doing. Around 16th, I realized I was cold. At 18th I remembered there was a hat in my bag. But the time I found my mat (I pulled out 2 other purple ones before recognized mine), my parched throat whispering for water. But, I was lost in thought. Thoughts about how when I'm so sure I'm right, very often I'm not. Or perhaps, to be more subtle, I can be right but so can the other person, and how I can get so stuck in my rightness I lose track of the other side of the situation.

Also, that I can be a self-righteous asshole. Sometimes I'm so sure of my position I'll defend it to the end, regardless of its impact on other people. And even if I am right (which I generally believe I am), is owning that more important than the people I'm hurting?

Another sigh.

Sometimes, often, it's not easy to say, or even figure out exactly how I feel. Sometimes, it's impossible to have conversations with the people I'm frustrated with, to explore and figure out what's going on. And sometimes, it's not about the other person, it's about me and they get caught up in my own stuff. And then, as it gets uglier and more convoluted, I feel more misunderstood and trapped, more defensive and frustrated and don't know how to fix things.

I've got that going on right now. And since, in my life, I'm the placater, the soother, the organizer, the doer, it's almost impossible to stamp my feet and say: fuck you, this isn't fair. Or: back off I've had enough. Or: grow up and look at the reality of the situation. I quietly plod forward, hoping the negativity will drip off with no ill effects and then suddenly I'm consumed with rage. In those moments what I want to do is end everything. Forever. Often so furious I want to exorcise that person or situation from my life as if they/it never existed.

When I get to that place, I often make a fool out of myself and it takes time to rediscover balance. And sometimes a precarious balance is the most I can hope for in situations, relationships that careen all over the map.

Sigh. That's what life is like today.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

do I like my life?

Sigh. I had a whole post running through my head today, about living in other people's reality, about how one person's joy is another's nightmare, inspired by Jack, who, while in Vermont, lay face down in the snow sobbing about feeling trapped there. The isolation, the endless trees dusted in snow, backlit against the heavy grey sky, no people or other buildings in sight, pushed him over the edge of misery. While some would revel in the silence, the stillness, the unmarred whiteness, to him it was prison.

But, that was before.

I just had an impromptu coffee with my dearest friend—someone I never get to see enough of. We talked about all the things we usually talk about: school, kids, parents, aging, how there's too much to juggle, how to navigate other people's challenges. How frustrating and exhausting it is not to be able to fix everything. How we need a break when there's not one to be had.

And I found I didn't want to be talking about any of that. These are large parts of my reality that I don't want to be large parts of my reality anymore. Not that I don't appreciate my life, not that I don't adore my kids, not that I want anything to drastically change.

I just want more.

And I want it to be different.

I want to be engaged, challenged, interested.

Or, to look at it from a different perspective: I want to be engaging, challenging, interesting.

I want my brain to stretch, I yearn to be uncomfortable, to have to think more, dig deeper, delve into things I don't know. I'm almost craving that edge-of-anxiety feeling when there's a deadline ahead and I have to kick butt to make it. I'm almost missing the panic of not knowing, the uncertainty of whether I'm accomplishing something or heading in the wrong direction.

I'm ready to climb out of the cocoon of inactivity that I've fallen into the past few months. I bought into the concept that after FLOW I needed to recuperate, to heal, to lay low and recover from the madness, the emotional ups and downs, the sky-high dreams crashing into reality.

I know what I need to do. I've got 3 proposals to put together. I've got info to research, art to find, sentences to craft, ideas to flesh out.

It's time to dive back into the unknown. The discomfort. The putting myself out there knowing full well I could be rejected in the end.

That seems to be my path. I dread it and yet I crave it. The edginess of it all is living to me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

retro days

I'm sitting in a ski house, at Magic Moutain in Vermont, experiencing first hand what life used to be like. It's what life still is for some, but they're a vanishing breed as this mountain is financially strapped and is in danger of closing down unless there's a huge influx of cash from somewhere.

This place is low key, non-pretentious, easy-going. It doesn't matter what you wear, what brand of ski pants you're sporting, if your ski poles are the latest model. The lodge has basic food, reasonably priced, and everyone's polite and helpful. As a non-skier there are places I've been that make me feel like an outcast, as if by not skiing, I'm missing out on the greatest experience of my life, or that I'm such a loser I shouldn't even waste my time being there. This place isn't like that. Plenty of people are wandering around in jeans and parkas, watching their kids inner tube or mosey down the bunny hill.

There's no fancy village. No expensive restaurants. No slope side mansions that could house a family along with attending staff.

At the moment I can look out the living room windows onto the chair lift, knowing my kids are running around, completely independent and know exactly where to find me when they're done. It's small enough to feel intimate.

Today there's a truck set up outside the lodge with samples of maple syrup on snow. Can't get more retro than that. I remember reading about how maple syrup was made, about tree-tapping, about Native Americas teaching newcomers about this delicious treat. About boiling the sap into a syrup and dropping it in the snow to make candy. And for the first time, I got to try it. And it's outrageously delicious. I've gone through two sticky helpings already.

Someone else is giving away coffee inside. A Vermont coffee promo but it was delicious and warm and the women serving cups up couldn't have been lovelier.

The mountain is selling shares—they're trying to sell 300 lots for $3000 a piece. I want to buy in, and if I had that much money lying around gathering dust, I think I'd invest.

And I don't ski.

Being here is almost making me want to try.


Here, skiing isn't a status symbol. It's not jetting off to Vail or Aspen or fighting the Bogner laden crowds at Stratton. It's just a way to spend time with family and friends.

That's why I think they're failing. People sadly, pathetically need more these days. More glitz, more nurturing, more entertainment. It's not enough to have great slopes and fun activities. You're not buying into a delusion here that you're more than you are.

People these days need vacations that pump up their self esteem. Cruises are like that. Las Vegas. Atlantic City. Club Med. Fantasies that allow you to believe you have more than you do.

Magic Mountain is the opposite of that. It let's people be who they are.

And we, as a society are always trying to escape that.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I'm sitting in the car on my way to Vermont, the once a winter obligatory visit to Jon's mom.

I'm not pissed.

I'm not resigned.

I'm not complaining, bitching, carrying on about how miserable I am, how awful the weekend will be.

Surprisingly, shockingly really, I'm ok.

And I'm trying to figure out why that is. Perhaps though, I should be grateful and not dig any deeper.

I know this mellow state won't last. As soon as we're in reach of the spider web, the intricate plans made without my knowledge, the constant stream of mindless chatter, the drip drip dripping of judgments about me will start until I'm screaming under my breath with no where to go in her cold dark house with slate floors that turn your feet to ice.

All the bad stuff is starting to bubble up. I cam finally almost laugh about it.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

communication gone wild

It's remarkably easy for people to reach me these days. That is, for everyone except my mother, who complains bitterly at how hard it is to get in touch with me. But, that's another story.

You can email me, text me, call me. Post something on my facebook wall, send a direct message, or post something on my fanpage or FLOW's. Contact me on twitter, either regular stream stream or direct message. There's google chat and then there's skype, both talking and instant messaging. People can comment on my blog. There's always talking to me in person. I'm a big fan of coffee dates. For the intrepid few, there's letter writing. I know some people who send holiday cards every year and I feel awful not responding, but without anything to go on but a street address, I'm flummoxed. Should my cousin Wayne ever come across this, hello! And thanks for always thinking of us.

I'm finding that I communicate with various people in different ways and am not a huge fan of crossover. In fact, it's a bit disconcerting to switch methods once a routine's been established. Some people are phone/email. Others are chatting on the corner after school drop off. There are people who are straight up twitter and I'm delighted for it to be just that. I'm loathe to cross pollinate—perhaps with the ease of availability, firmly established boundaries help me maintain some sort of bizarre equilibrium.

Where am I going with this?

Good question.

Innately, and I've written about this lately, I'm a very private person. Part of me is fine with exposing all, in certain forums and circumstances as long as it stays there: what happens on twitter stays on twitter sort of thing. The persona I am is different in different realms—all me but not all of me in one place. I expose most on my blog, and am still surprised people read and resonate. My twitter self is incredibly scattered, just putting out there what is in the moment. Facebook is more status conscious, wondering who, if any, will respond and what they'll say. I feel more visible there. Email feels retro at this point. IM'ing stresses me out - conversation often moving so fast it overlaps and you're talking at each other instead of with each other. I rarely rarely talk on the phone anymore and think that's my mom's issue. It's easier to communicate at my convenience. Selfish, yes, but it helps protect my soul when so much of it is bared in so many places.

It's hard, when people cross those lines, for me to keep up. I'm doing a talk at Rutger's in a couple of weeks and can't for the life of me remember what day of the week it is. This was a twitter/DM/email exchange and somewhere in the midst of gmail, regular email and all the back and forth between computers, and my iphone, I never marked it on my calendar. Usually as soon as something's a vague thought, I note it somewhere. Now I can't make other plans until I unravel this glitch I created. My bad. People I know, and adore, from twitter will be in town in a couple of weeks. I'm having trouble committing to plans. Real life communication is so different than quick snippets of encouragement, love, advice, input. What if the people don't live up to the personas? Another peeve: I can't stand when someone tries to contact me cross platform. The more places I'm pursued, the more I retreat into my shell. There have been times that I've gotten emails, phone calls, texts, tweets all from someone in a short period of time and I just shut. down. hard.

Every once in rare while someone crosses boundaries and it works. But it's hard to get to that place of comfort for me. Canada Dan and I were twitter friends—his skill with words often left me speechless and we'd get involved in these alliteration-offs that were ridiculous and sublime. DM-ing was next and then email. He had great ideas about marketing FLOW and wanted to help. But, the plunge to actually talking was fraught with indecision for me. I blew him off a few times, not sure that connecting in this new way would work or if it would, in fact, destroy the engaging relationship we had online. I found the whole thing nerve-wracking, but, one morning as I sat freezing in my car for alternate side parking, we chatted the entire time. And then, we did this strange dance of how to communicate, often tweeting first to figure out which method would be best. Was it IM-ing? Chatting? Emailing? Skyping? Once the back and forth of how was negotiated, we could officially be in touch. He moved recently and called me that night, to let me know he'd arrived safely. "Unknown" appeared as the caller on my phone and while I was thrilled to hear from him, it threw me for a moment. It was the first time he'd called without the terms of call summit beforehand. We'd apparently evolved past the conversation of how to converse.

And I think that's my point. Conversation has changed, mutated, evolved. People used to talk. And then technology provided new mediums to make it easier, negating the time and distance factors. Now, the possibilities are so endless sometimes I find it stifles connection rather than enhance it. When my inbox is overflowing, I walk away instead of focusing on staying in touch. I reveal less as there are endless ways to reveal more. Ok, that last statement was a bit ridiculous. I reveal plenty and I know it—I've been called out on it more than once. But, in some ways, I'm holding things even closer than ever in this ever-revealing world.

A communications dichotomy. That's where I am today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

snow days or, it's all about your point of view

Yesterday afternoon, an email came from the parent coordinator at Jack's school that today would be a snow day. My heart, along with those of most parents I know, sank. First of all, it was a sunny, stunning afternoon and the fact they'd cancel before a flake hit the ground, or was even in the air, was pretty shocking. There's generally SO MUCH HYPE about weather in the media. I believe this is now being called Blizzard 2010 as opposed to last week's Snowmaggedon. Meanwhile, in the west village, everything is remarkably clear. Big, dirty, slushy corners and crosswalks, but that's about it. Really, though, what I was bummed about, was this day would throw my entire schedule into disarray. Full disclosure: I don't have that much of a schedule. Honestly, it was the thought of giving up a day alone. Having a day of people thrust upon me without my having any say in it. Weekends are plenty of being with my family morning, noon and night. It's not that I don't love them. I adore them. I am who I am because I am a mother. I appreciate them, relish them, revel in them, enjoy them. But man, after 2 straight days (and very often during those days), I've hit the Sponge Bob wall, I can't absorb another whine, negotiate another argument, listen to another complaint. Even when things are good, the mess makes me insane, meal upon meal is too much to deal with, the constant togetherness in a 2 bedroom apartment leaves me yearning for a small room of my own with a door. And a lock.

There's the pressure of finding things for them to do. And the greater pressure of snow activities. Being that Jon left their snow gear at his mom's, during their last visit, I spent much of yesterday scouring Manhattan for the last few pairs of available snow pants, so that if the urge to sled or build a snowman hit (they didn't) Iz and Jack would have stuff to wear. Jon ended up finding waterproof rain pants all the way downtown. I found Jack snowboarding pants after hitting 6 or 7 stores. In the end, no one wore any of it. Jon had thought, when he first heard school was cancelled, that I should shlepp them to Central Park, with sleds. I laughed out loud. After all these years together, how could that thought even had be translated into actual words? I wish I was that kind of parent. But I'm not.

In the end, the day was fine. Iz went to a friend's. Jack had a late afternoon playdate. I made it to a yoga class before the studio shut down for the day. Of course, at the moment, everyone's arguing, which, at 7:06 is typical.

But, what I thought when I started this post early this morning, is how differently kids and grownups react to snow days. I heard the news with dread and resignation. Iz and Jack, on the other hand, were thrilled and delighted. No gym! No science! No getting up early! Extra computer/TV time! Hanging out in pajamas! Yet more Sponge Bob!

Shoot me please.

Is it that I'm more rigid as I get older? That I can't be in the moment comfortably? That I'm happier being a parent part time? Now that my kids (and I have to add, husband) are out of the house much of the time, I don't want to go back to the way it was?

I know, I know. I'm supposed to appreciate all of this now because time flies and you can never get these years back and if I don't appreciate it now, I'll always regret it. But, sometimes, these years are draining, exhausting, not in the least bit fun.

I liked snow days much better as a kid. And now I know why my mother was always aggravated.

Monday, February 8, 2010

parsley rage or the inanity of social media

A couple of nights ago on twitter someone I respect and admire posted that she felt unheard, ignored, not acknowledged. I know that feeling—it's as if there's some secret to being popular and I don't know it. Some people get retweeted (their messages forwarded by others) often. They're responded to. More and more people follow them. Often it's celebrities, as if Kirstie Alley or Alyssa Milano's thoughts are far more pithy than others (they're not). Then there are twitter celebrities. I'm sure there's a catchy name for that but I'm not playing. People with tens of thousands of followers. I find they generally fall into 2 categories. Self proclaimed social media strategists or the-universe-is-filled-with-light-so-I'm-spreading-joy-and-wisdom enthusiasts. And then, there are the rest of us.

I shared that my most commented on facebook status (the other social media entity I'm far less addicted to) was my dislike of parsley. That inspired dialog, discussion, heightened emotions, cooking tips, character analysis—it went on for more than a day. Parsley was a social media lighting rod. But, when I talk politics, publishing, relationships, parenthood . . . not so much.

It seems it's the inane that get people talking, the surface, the shallow, the quick thoughts with no depth to support them.

The promises that if you follow this person, you'll find social media success because just knowing them will somehow rub off on you. And, I wonder, what is that success? Is it increased business? Personal satisfaction? Having 50,000 followers?

As I write this, I get where I'm going.

Twitter is a mirror to current reality. Instant celebrity. Popularity. Trying, with hype, overt enthusiasm, attitude, to come out on top. For those of us not at the summit, often following the ones who make it there with a reverence that's often not deserved.

When I first started on twitter I asked a friend in pr, far more experienced in this than me, how it worked. His advice: follow popular people, get them to engage with you and then hopefully their followers will be interested and will follow you too.

Sounds eerily like befriending the head cheerleader.

I want to know why people with far less experience than me inspire fascination and hero worship. There are no absolutes in social media. There is no truth, no matter what they say. It's changing, evolving, growing. It's the epitome of impersonal with soul-bearing moments. It's helpful and horrendous, a real time glance into what people are thinking mired in nonsense.

It's a look-at-me popularity contest. And smart, insightful, thoughtful people can feel like losers when they send thoughts out into the twitterverse and no one answers.

I've been there. Most of the time. I'm amazed at what people don't respond to.

Sometimes I feel like deleting my account and using my time more efficiently. Instead of mindlessly watching the stream go by, actually writing my book. Talking to real people. Making contacts, going to museums, engaging in the world. Thinking more deeply than thoughts that need to be truncated to fit each post.


But, while I write this, every few minutes I check to see if anyone's written to me.

Even though it's endlessly distracting, frustrating, ego-bruising at times, I'm not ready to give it up yet.

I'm feeling the L glowing on my forehead.

taking sides

This morning, or should I say in the middle of last night, Jack came into my room. 4am—that's more morning to me but I could go either way. He'd had a really bad dream and was afraid to get back in bed. Every once in awhile that happens—I can see, hear how shaken up he is. So, I asked if he wanted to sleep with us for the rest of the night, knowing I won't really sleep with him there. I haven't been sleeping well lately. To be honest, I never sleep well but, when I'm fighting a cold, I wake up several times a night, throat parched and scratchy, desperate for water and a nose that isn't clogged. Come to think of it, I think this was the second time in 2 or 3 days Jack showed up. Last Thursday or Friday was a mess, I was so down on sleep. And I can't even remember when. Speaking of not remembering—yesterday I tried to use my credit card and found there was a fraud block on it. After spending 45 minutes on the phone with a lovely but befuddled representative, having her cancel my card, start a fraud investigation based on charges I'd thought weren't mine, I realized they were all at my supermarket. I couldn't put together money I'd spent, where I'd been. I was staring blankly at my calendar, not able to piece my days together.

Back to the story at hand. Jack climbed in and Jon uttered quite an audible, "no." Actually it was more like, "NO! I haven't been sleeping all night and I can't sleep with him here!"

My heart pounded. Had Jack heard him? He often felt self-conscious about being scared, needing me to help him through. Was he feeling rejected, not wanted, bad? I tucked him in tight, wrapped him in fuzzy blankets, stroked his head and he was asleep in seconds. Jon too. Me? Of course not. After laying there, thinking for awhile, I slept until 5:30, then 6:30 before I got up at 7. That started the stream of accusations and venom spewing from my older one, as I woke her up, but that's not today's story.

In that moment, of Jack's pain and Jon's frustration, I chose my child. And, as I lay there, sandwiched tightly between the two of them, I realized if I had to, I think I'd always choose my child. Is that ok? Is that what other people would do? Does that say something important or negative about my marriage? I've been married for 21 years. Jon is my rock, my support, my best friend. I am still, after all this time, happy to see him every day and ever grateful for this life we've built together from 2 broken home kids, each reeling from parental divorce when we met. But, when those moments come, I don't choose him.

He's a grownup. He can take care of himself. He's got a fierce temper that, when it's showing, I feel the need to protect people from. Too much, I sometimes think. The wrath of a parent isn't necessarily bad. In fact, I think it can often be constructive. I don't do wrath. I do outrage, frustration, being fed up. It takes an awful lot to truly infuriate me. Jon gets there in the blink of an eye. He thinks letting them know, in black and white terms, is positive. I'm more the fuzzy pillow approach which often works well but not all the time. If there's one battle we have, it's that.

He draws lines, lays down absolutes. And then doesn't follow through on them. We've created countless rules which I'm blamed for not seeing through. We're in the middle of another one—parental controls on computers. Yes, it's a good idea but it's up to me to impliment. I have to figure out how to save everything they've done, transfer it over to another user . . . huge job I don't know how to do. And since I haven't jumped on the bandwagon, I'm taking all the heat for both failing and for them playing too much. Maybe I balk so hard at his anger towards them because I know how much it hurts me.

Maybe I take their side because I imagine them to be extensions of me.

But, they're often stronger than me. They fight back. He gets pissed. I intervene. We fight. I could learn lessons from them about standing up for myself. I'm terrible at that. I fold right away and then sob, sure I'm worth of all criticism dumped on me.

I know life isn't about someone always smoothing things over, making it easier, holding you tight when you're scared and hurting. But, for my chicks, I'll do that as long as I can.

Maybe I'm still wishing someone would do that for me.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

what's wrong with immediate satisfaction

I've been thinking this morning, about lay-away. About how people used to find something they loved, or more likely needed—a new couch, a fridge, a winter coat—would make a deposit at a store and then would put money towards it every week until it was paid for. It could take weeks, months, years of scraping together extra dollars and growing down the debt until whatever it was you were paying off was yours. I wonder, after all that time, if that item, that appliance, that bedroom set was still exciting, if bringing it home gave a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Now, it's the complete opposite. You go to a store, see something you want, and whether or not you can afford it, you can plunk down a credit card and buy it on the spot. If you don't have a credit card, you can often fill out an application and launch a new stream of credit in the moment. I did that when I bought my first car. I'd left college after two years, not quite flunking out, but having almost failed most of my classes. My dad refused to pay the exorbitant tuition for someone who apparently didn't care about performance. It wasn't that I didn't care (all right, I didn't care), but my dad had left my mom, moving out the day after high school graduation and I was in total free fall. After a quick 4 day stint as a factory worker—I thought it would leave my days open for other things—I got a job making $5 an hour at Fred the Furrier, greeting people as they came in, hanging coats, and keeping track of salespeople. I had been driving my mom's 1972 Plymouth Valiant, otherwise known as the Green Machine, until it completely died. Meanwhile, I'd been dreaming of an Oldsmobile I'd fallen in love with. Gold, 2 door, sleek, sexy, fun. I stopped by a dealership on my way home from work one day and called my dad, whose office was next door, to please come over and look with him. He explained he couldn't, he was in the middle of office hours, and oh, by the way, he'd gotten remarried the day before.

I bought the car on the spot. Full sticker price. No negotiating. Within minutes my GMAC loan was approved and I was driving home. Could I afford the car? No. well, sort of. I was living with my mom and didn't have many real expenses yet but my car payments and insurance meant there was nothing left for much else.

I had a brand new car. I was earning $5 an hour. It took all of 20 minutes to spend $12,000.

Something's wrong with that picture.

Today, you don't even have to go to a store. You can buy anything online and without a handshake, a signed contract, any personal interaction whatsoever, you can buy just about anything and have it conveniently delivered to your door. I play that game. I've had furniture, printers, food, clothing, endless books, vintage magazines, research material, knitting supplies, the laptop I'm writing on arrive in brown boxes, conveniently waiting with my door man until I get home.

You can decide you need something and have it delivered the next day. Flowers, games, tvs, prescription glasses. There's no waiting, no yearning, no imagining, saving, dreaming.

You want it. It's yours.

But what's that doing to us? Immediate satisfaction leaves a lot to be desired. You want something, it's yours, and then what? How can you savor something you haven't lusted over. Ok, that was a little extreme, but how satisfying can something be you can get that easily?

Full disclosure: I was thinking about lay-away because immediate satisfaction and its ill effects were running rampant in my house this morning. It's not just me who can be satisfied so easily and while I appreciate the ease in obtaining things, at this point in my life, I'm moving past acquiring just for the sake of having. I've been told I'm a hard person to buy presents for because I don't want anything. I'm happier purging than getting. A lifetime of dealing with stuff has brought me to this place. But, my kids don't know that. At the moment, I'm watching Jack struggle with money, acquisition, frustration, satisfaction, or non-satisfaction really. How, as an 8 year old, he's trying to figure out how to make the $60 to $100 dollars he needs to buy Star Wars Lego sets. Before he's done building one, he's already searching for the next. His knowing that Amazon prime will deliver in 2 days and with the push of a button, he can get what he wants. His anger at not having ways to make that happen when he wants to. Irritation with me for not just buying him whatever he wants as he believes happens with some of his other friends. Me holding my ground, not giving in to the whining, begging, pleading.

When life can be so easy, why would anyone choose the harder road?

I know why.

Figuring out how to teach that to others is the challenge.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

is anybody out there?

Last night, well into a conversation with another mom at Jack's elementary school Valentine's Day party, she said, "I have to tell you, I read . . . " and at the juncture, before another word came out of her mouth, I was sure she was going to say she had finished FLOW and hated it. But no, she'd found my blog and had been following it, on and off.

I have to be honest here. I assume just about no one reads these meanderings I send off into cyberspace. No, that's not quite true—there are remarkable people who do read this, share their thoughts, support what I'm going through, give advice, comfort, empathy in those dark moments, celebrate with me when experiences are highlighted in neon yellow. Most are people I don't know in the real world, as in a let's-meet-tomorrow-morning-for-coffee sort of way. That, in no way, lessens my appreciation. It's just different. I open up here in ways I don't face-to-face. The people I run into on the street generally have no idea what going on inside. Conversations are more about middle school communication, neighborhood restaurant closings, tween angst, school testing, PTA drama, co-op nonsense. I don't often talk about my projects, what I've done, what I'm thinking of doing. I don't discuss relationship stuff, issues with Jon, angst over my kids. I don't bring up the fact that my design work has basically stopped, that I don't know what to do next with myself. Or fears of aging, of sickness, of what I go through with my family. As I'm writing this, I realize I don't give up much in the real world. For the most part it's surface stuff. I don't let my guard down.

Here, it's different. And cathartic. I can be as open as I want to without worrying whether I've gone too far (although I do something think that after I hit the publish post button). I don't have to wait for someone else's reaction, which I generally expect to be annoyed, put upon, judgmental. My god. It sounds like I expect the worst from people. It's not that. I suppose, down deep, I don't necessarily feel important enough for anyone to lavish time or attention on. A few years ago I was really ill, spending 5 days in the hospital on massive drugs, and I didn't tell anyone. I think I was afraid no one would help, so I soldiered through on my own.

I'm also not good at looking/feeling weak, incapable, or even just having a day when I can't handle everything. The truth is, I can't handle everything. Often, my head is barely above water. But part of me can't let anyone else know there are chinks. I'm wondering if that's why I'm having so much trouble starting a new project. Being in that place again of stretching myself uncomfortably, of having too much to do in a day, of facing rushed deadlines, internal questioning, wondering if my ideas, my words, my work are good enough is hard to go back to.

Back to last night—she asked how I felt about people I know reading these inner musings. Did it make me uncomfortable, self-conscious? I had to think about it for a moment or two. Truly, how did I feel about someone I see on a regular basis, sharing these often raw and emotional posts? And I realized, it was fine. In fact, there's something enervating about someone knowing more about me than I usually choose to share and still wanting to talk to me. In fact, by slipping past my suit of armor, it was a conversation that was real, connected, interesting, honest.

Perhaps all this sharing will spill over into my day-to-day world. More edges blurring. Perhaps, that's one of the joys of growing older. Being able to just be, instead of trying so hard to play the part you think you're supposed to.

Friday, February 5, 2010

it was a day

I've been up and out since early this morning. Starting with an 8am student council meeting, there hasn't been a moment in this day for me to sit and write. I want to. I have a post in me. I can almost feel the direction my words and feelings will go, will flow, but I can't right now.

It's a day that started about someone else and is ending about someone else. Someone else's angst, anger, priorities, feelings. As often, as usual, mine aren't as important. That's not a feeling sorry for myself statement. That's just my reality. I'm too tired, or more, too used to it, to get frustrated any more.

Tomorrow I'll write.

Actually, tomorrow is Saturday which means 48 hour of it all being about other people.

I dream of Monday morning.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

someone else's pain

One thing I never considered, when thinking about aging, was how someone else's pain could completely minimize mine. A full disclosure moment: I can be remarkably self-centered. I don't mean in a look-how-fabulous-I-am sort of way—it's more of an I'm-so-emotional-therefore-I'm-suffering-more-than-the average-person stance and because of that, at times it can be hard to feel what others are going through. Or, perhaps because of all the drama and pain I've experienced, I've shut those valves tightly and don't let myself feel. Mostly likely, it's a combination of both. I keep to myself, I reign it all in insanely tightly, I don't open up often and then, out of the blue, I snap and get carried away in hurricanes of crying spells, so intense I can only sit on the floor and sob until there's nothing left.

One of those out of left field breakdowns hit me last night and I realized, after the fact, the it wasn't my pain that set it off, it was the agony, the frustration, the searing knowledge that my child was suffering and I can't help.

And I don't know what to do.

Jack is a remarkable kid. Funny. Smart. Insanely creative. He's also driven. Dictatorial. Singe-minded. I've been told he'll make a fabulous head of a company one day and should always be the boss. Anyone who knows him well gets that about him. He's musical, artistic, has a designer's eye. He's athletic without trying. He's cool without effort. He's so beautiful he takes my breath away. He's also insanely sensitive which he keeps well hidden—no one has any idea how strongly he feels, how emotionally deep he runs.

He's had stuff for much of his life. Not major stuff, but enough that sets him apart. Seizures when he was little, more emergency room visits before he could really talk than anyone should have to go through. Hospital stays. Crazy tests. He's been diagnosed with sensory integration, which explained why he didn't feel pain like other kids, how he could take off his shoes at the end of the day, toes bleeding and not notice they were uncomfortable. Why, and this is my theory, he'd be able to swim in freezing cold water, until the point of hypothermia, come out of the surf and pass out in the sand. Now, when he says the water's too cold, I silently cry with relief, knowing this beach trip I won't be shaking him to keep him from slipping into unconsciousness.

But, the thing that seems to have created problems that he's grappling with now, is speech. He started speech therapy when he was just about 3 and for years, it was really hard to understand him. I'd have to ask him to use another word, to show me what he wanted, to repeat what he was saying, and I got him far better than anyone else. And that lack of being understood, that inability to communicate (and this is my theory again), shut him down from building relationships. While he speaks beautifully now, his last sounds clicked last year, he's so used to not being "heard" he doesn't try. He doesn't know how to. He desperately wants people to listen—he has so much to contribute—but the tools aren't there for him to engage. He talks out into open air, almost as if he's a radio broadcast waiting for people to tune in. And when they don't, which is most of the time, he's sure they hate him and then get gets pissed. Acts act. Dissolves into angry tears.

Last night, for the first time, instead of lashing out in frustration, he just sat and sobbed in my lap. Curled in a ball, consumed by body wracking sobs that felt like they'd never end. Holding him tight, tears poured out of me, I hurt so much for this other being. Writing this now, tears are spilling over, again, at how much this child was feeling, suffering, hurting. And how helpless I was, and am, and will be.

I remember when Iz was little and I was a completely overwhelmed new mother, thinking nothing in life could ever be this challenging, a parent of an older kid told me I was in the easy part. That it only gets harder. Navigating the emotional pitfalls, relationship issues, cliques and groups, hormone shifts, made babyhood look like vacation. I thought, at the time, they'd just forgotten what it was like to live with a toddler.

Now I know those were words of wisdom.

I would do anything to help Jack cope, to get things to a more satisfying place. I wish I had answers, could provide comfort, or guarantees that things will get better.

Instead, all I can do is watch, listen, hold tight, reassure, search for support, hope with all my heart, pray (and that's something I never do), meet with teachers, set up playdates, provide a safe place.

And talk. Ask. If anyone out there has ideas, guidance, experience, please let me know.

I need your help. Because I don't know how to help right now and this pain is unbearable.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

(almost) full disclosure

When Cheerleader came out in 2004, it was the first book I had done in awhile and I was thrilled (hey, I'm always thrilled), when the media started to pay attention. I got a phone call, while on vacation, that someone wanted to do an interview—was I available the next day. It was for a site that others picked up leads from and seemed like a big deal. We were down at the Jersey Shore but were planning to spend the next day in Atlantic City. I had a meeting with the folks at Miss America about Beauty Queen (the wonderful book I did about the history of pageants at the precipice of their plunge from popularity). I spent 45 minutes in a parking lot answering questions as honestly and openly as I could.

HUGE mistake.

When the short blurb was published the next day, it was reduced to me slamming cheerleaders, cheerleading, current participants, high schools, colleges, anyone and everyone who'd ever donned a uniform or picked up a pom pon (yes, that's spelled correctly—check out the book to find out why). It was a disaster. I was hysterical. I was sure, after that, no one would interview me again. No one would buy the book. No one would ever trust me with another project even though I'd never actually said what the interview credited to me. No one bought the book but I don't think it's because of my mini-slam. I learned a valuable lesson though. People want honesty but you can't really tell the truth. Rather, you can tell bits and pieces of the truth as long as they can hold onto a positive spin.

I did an interview for FLOW that was published yesterday and had my heart in my mouth as I read it. The reporter and I had a great conversation and chatted well past when I thought we would—I had to scrabble to pick up Jack at school. But, she put almost everything in. I'm always careful now, not to go too far, not to reveal too much. The most embarrassing quote was a pretty straightforward diss of Long Island, where I grew up. And if Jack was any older, he might find his tampon story humiliating instead of funny. Not really close calls, but my love of sharing has the potential to get me into trouble.

Which leads me to this: I've been called out for revealing too much here and thanked for exactly the same thing. That's interesting enough in itself. But, how real is what I'm sharing?

Ah HA! I could be outing myself as a 70 year old plumber from Indonesia. Or a government employee who's adopted this persona instead of intercepting vital information flowing through the middle east.

No, worries. I'm not either. Although that would be an interesting turn of events. This is me, all me. Speaking from my experience, my life, my heart.

With restrictions.

I would never want to purposely, or even indirectly hurt someone by revealing what isn't mine to share. That's hard to keep in check sometimes as the people in my life are fascinating beyond compare. Truly, the most creative of fiction writers couldn't dream up people I know. Some things in my life are too painful to be open about. Even in sharing my deepest fears and thoughts, there are still some that are down so far I never acknowledge them myself, unless I have no choice. Yesterday, someone on twitter was writing about putting her memoir down on paper. How both painful and cathartic the experience was. I don't know that I could delve that deep and survive the introspection. Some issues are best left quietly in the corner.

And that leads me to aging. I'm having a really hard time starting this new project. It's not that I can't do it—I know how to pull a book together. But aging terrifies me. I'm happier floating around in oblivion than dealing with my mother's eye surgery, my father's heart issues, my brother's impending dialysis, my sister's broken fridge (apparently it didn't age well). My own mysterious aches and pains. The arthritis that seemed to only effect one finger in my right hand that's now spreading. The fact that I can't beat this sore throat that's already gone on for too long. Watching my kids grow independent and away from me. I revel in that and yet there's an ache too, already missing how much they needed me. How friendships change and often disappear as life evolves. That you can't hold on to anything. Those moments are already over.

My full disclosure today? I wish I could stop time. Tell everyone how much I love and appreciate them. Stay in this place where everything's relatively ok and not have to have this constant feeling that something tragic will happen. Because, as much of a positive person that I am, I know they will.

That's life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

inspiration in the strangest of places

I've gotten some remarkable shout outs over the past couple of days from women who are inspired by what I do. Totally heartening to learn my words, my experiences are resonating out there with others. Which brings to mind a super quick conversation I had with one of the world's most delicious yoga teachers yesterday—as we were walking up to class she said: we've all got stuff. It was in the context of working on a project together, a book idea I had ages ago, inspired by all that I'd learned and how far I still have to go.

We've all got stuff.

We all go through angst, through drama, through pain, through feeling stuck where we are and knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt we'll never got past it. Through self-doubt. Through inability to get anything constructive done. Through beating ourselves up, hating where we are, regretting where we're not.

We all go through the positive stuff too, but those moments are ephemeral, slipping, floating through our fingers, leaving vague memories of joy and lightness. But it's the gut-wrenching, soul-questioning moments that stick with us.

I've spent the majority of my life feeling like a borderline failure which makes it all the more remarkable that I've accomplished as much as I have. When I take a step back and look at where I am, how far I've come, it's pretty shocking. I wish I could do that more often and be kinder to myself. But, that never feeling like I've done/I am enough, is in my blood. I used to have moments of clarity when I was anorexic, sensing that if only I could channel that overwhelming energy toward something positive, I could accomplish anything. But, I couldn't.

No, that's not true. I couldn't then, but that's how all these projects I've done come into being. Psychotic energy, drive, determination. Instead of focussing it on eating (or not eating), it's spills into the subject at hand. Trust me, I had no interest in cheerleaders or beauty queens, 2 topics I've researched the hell out of, but when it's the project at hand? I need to know anything and everything, discovering the most obscure facts, finding the most outrageous art to back it up. Each project becomes my obsession while I'm in the midst of it. And when it's over?

Crash. Generally with sky high flames.

My therapist once told me I had to learn to live in the grey—that always swinging between black and white wasn't healthy. I've discovered how to be exist in the in between, but that's depression to me, not an answer. The mundane, the same-ness, the bland day running into day. The laundry. The straightening up. The what-to-make-for-dinner-dilemma that plagues me every night.

So now what?

HA! I was hoping one of you would have the answer.

I'm still searching, still figuring it out, still wondering what's next. Still not sure how to get there from here. Still not all that impressed with my "here" even when others are.

Knowing though, that others feel this, struggle with this, survive this, helps me fight the lethargy, the complacency, the puddle of grey bleakness, and try to ramp it up again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

when I was a kid

As I get older, there aren't all that many things I think were better when I was a kid. I don't wax nostalgic for more innocent times. My childhood was painfully banal, boring to the point of depression. Weekends wandering the halls of the mall were the high point of my teenage years. Drinking too much took over as recreation as I hit high school. Technology changed my life for the better, moving to a city provided me with an energy source and inspiration that challenges me still. No, I don't look back all misty eyed, wishing for yesteryear.

Except, when it comes to music.

I sound like a crotchety grandmother (and in some places I'm old enough to be one) when I say, music today is generally awful. Watching the Grammy's last night, for the first time in many years, I was sad and shocked to see how little music there actually was. There was lots of spectacle. Insane costumes. Dancing troupes dressed as soldiers, as robots, as mechanics I think. Lots of screaming, posturing. Moments of hairography, which I only know about from giddily watching Glee. But the moments that resonated were either current artists trying (and not often succeeding) at re-interpreting older songs, or when veteran artists were on the stage. I had to laugh when Lady Gaga went piano to piano with Elton John. His songs resonate with feeling, with emotion, with (and I borrow this from Strictly Ballroom), musicality. She's most famous for outrageous outfits. He was famous for that too, but there was music of substance to back him up.

Where we the bands? Where were instrumentals? Where were musicians? Yes, they were were playing, but as back up, as support systems, not as the artists themselves.

I'm talking both last night and in general. Where are the artists who evolve with us, whose lyrics and melodies orchestrate our lives? Bands and artists who were far more than one hit (or several) wonders, whose music developed and changed. Right now, it's all about getting AS MUCH HYPE AS POSSIBLE before a spectacle burnout out. Or a barely noticed fizzle back to obscurity. I felt a twinge of sadness watching Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers—they're over but don't quite know it yet. And they're not coming back unless there's a major reinvention. Someone else has already taken their place.

Then again, music in general is different. We don't have to buy an album anymore. We hit the buy it now button on itunes and have exactly what we want, immediately. I remember saving up my 99 cents to head to Sam Goody's and buy the latest 45 I heard on the radio. My dad would drive me to the mall. I'd head up the escalator, stare at the wall of top 100 hits, buy my record and then would impatiently suffer the entire ride home, anxious to play my song over and over. Sometimes, I'd discover my yellow plastic 45 things would be missing or broken and I'd try to place the record in exactly the right spot on the turntable, so it would play.

Now it's immediate satisfaction.

I'm noticing this seems to be a theme lately and perhaps something I do think is missing these days. Anticipation. Build up. Wanting and waiting. When you can get amazon prime deliveries anytime, when you can stream movies on your computer, when you have Tivo, hulu, or shows on demand, specialness is lost. There was something lovely (ok, I saw it as more frustrating when I was 11) about waiting for the weekend, spending time with my dad, so excited to finally own this song that I loved and couldn't imagine living without. And then, finally having it, listening over and over until I memorized all the lyrics.

Am I saying people today aren't loving things as much as when you had to wait to be gratified?

I think I am.