Hiding In Plain Sight

Hi everyone,

It’s good to be back – though I was never really gone.  I tinkered a bit under the hood of the karma truck, checked all its levels and kicked the tires.  And since I know absolutely nothing about cars, I’m assuming we’re good to go..

Live and Learn (davidkanigan.com) gave me a figurative kick in the butt the other day with a post containing this cartoon from Calvin and Hobbes.

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I get it – there are some who feel it could always be better.  Life is acknowledged first and provided with a caveat after (‘everything’s ok – but…’).  But.  Dangerous word I think, and one I consciously seek to avoid in my thoughts and actions.  Of course things could be better, but how flippin’ self-indulgent to diminish the reality that in and of itself it’s pretty damn good.  This morning I listened to the unscripted conversation between the trees as the wind traveled through their leaves, watching how one would nod, and another shake its leafy head.  I am sitting outside as I write to you, looking for bears from my safe perch (haven’t seen any yet) and laughing to myself as I wonder just what I’d do if in fact I really did encounter one.  The Sirs and I have been exploring the road, the foliage, the wildflowers, before returning to our aerie for a nap (them) and a bunch of books (me).

Is it perfect?  Of course not.  I can provide you with an impressive list of things that are not okay.  I’m just not sure why I would want to do that.  There are people who spend an enormous amount of time considering what wrongs have been visited upon them by others, listing shortcomings and offenses with righteous indignation.  I’ve started to re-frame the thought – what kind of person am I to others?  Am I bringing a little bit to the table that is more about others than it is about me?  I’m trying.  Because if I intend to live a good life – and I am and I do – it’s less about the injustices or pain that I have known – and far far more about the good stuff that happens every time I step outside myself.

Thanks for waiting for me to get the truck in gear – we’re heading to points north, south, east and west – though which way first, I have no idea.  There’s no GPS in this thing.  Have a great day – see you soon.

From The Top Of The World

“Well, there is narcissism in all of us, of course.  I mean we are the protagonists of our own lives, so naturally it feels like we’re at the wheel.  But we’re not at the wheel.  That just happens to be where the window is located” — Jean Marie Korelitz

I’ve been up at the mountain house since Sunday.  It’s good to be back, though the first few days without any connectivity to the outside world was a little daunting.  No phone service, no Internet.  I thought that would be fine – and it was, except when the night encroached and I was reminded that I am a very little, inconsequential person in the great big scheme of things – and the mountains are a fairly imposing backdrop from which to consider this.  What serendipity has brought me to this place in time.  And yeah, there were occasionally shout-outs imploring the universe to keep me safe.  So far, so good.

On some level it appalls me that silence can be unrequited, when it is so necessary and valuable.  I’ve been struggling a lot of late with the outline of this next story line in my life (made even more difficult by the fact that I have yet to figure out what I want to be when I grow up).  Itchy, out-of-sync, closing off more parts of me to see if I could get to the essence of what I want.  The reality is I need this silence right now (though it is good to be able to converse with you again).  With all the noise going on in my head, something had to force me to be still.

I have not arrived at any great conclusions, though I feel like I’m on the cusp of…something.  And I’m feeling a bit less anxious about not being able to touch it.  When you can’t avoid yourself, you have to figure out a way through the mild panic and self-deriding thoughts that circle around as a cyclone.  Stepping outside myself to look inside and provide the reassurance that it’s ok.  Let life carry me – for that is what it’s going to do anyway.   What hubris to think that because I want answers now that I’m supposed to have them.  They’re en route – like the spring.

I marvel that the buds on the trees, the flowers, etc are so insistent on blooming regardless of the temperature.  They’re straining to burst forth, determined to honor their rightful time in the sun.  A part of me wants them to be a bit more self-protective and wait until the temperature proves more accommodating.  Another part of me is cheering them on, encouraging them to claim their rightful place.  They’re going to bloom, in their time and on their schedule.  I am learning a lot from them.  The hide-and-seek exercise that transitions us from one season to the next, and the incoming season is always ‘it’.  And always wins.  So with this thought, I toy with a new season in my soul.

It’s all good.  Learning to give myself a break, give myself permission to stare at the clouds, read a book in one sitting, make some tea and just savor.  Savor my husband, my children (when they allow me), the cocoon I am ensconced in on top of this very large and imposing mountain.  Make music in the silence and write a verse that has yet to be sung.

 

For Jo – In Her Renaissance

Today is my friend Joanne’s birthday.  It’s a big one to us – sixty is a pretty impressive number, and worthy of celebration.  Since I can’t be with her today, at the very least it is deserving of a post.

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A few years ago, my daughter-in-law set up my Facebook page though I had little expectation that I would ‘meet’ people in such a forum.  Within two hours of being connected, I received a message from Jo.  She had been looking for me for oh, about forty years.  And I felt a surge of gratitude and disbelief that is difficult to explain.  Honestly, I don’t consider myself one of the memorable ones.  But anyway, there was no denying that we were best friends in junior high school, two of the bar mitzvah brides in the neighborhood (a phrase of my mother’s referring to the number of bar mitzvahs we were invited to attend), and typically on the phone when we weren’t in each other’s apartment.  But life happened in between then and now.  We went to different high schools, colleges.  The last time I saw her was when she came to hear me sing at a place called “Catch A Rising Star” in New York.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been in another time” (John Edward Williams)

So we have traveled different roads, in different cities, in different vehicles.  And yet our travels paralleled each other.  Our majors were similar, our commitments were similar.  Our twenties were blessed with the arrival of our kids but kicked our asses in every other way. I probably built more walls around me than Jo; she remains far more open and trusting.  I am here for her today as I was for her when I was thirteen.  We have both lost our parents and understand the seismic shift this causes in one’s bearings; one’s place in the world.  She thinks I’m a better person than I am.  I think of her as a magic kite – she soars and dips in colors so vibrant your eyes have to adjust to its brightness.  You see nothing else in the sky.

Jo was going to become a bat mitzvah today, but sometimes life shouts “Plot Change!” and you have to adjust accordingly.  She was going to speak about her journey, what she has integrated into her soul along the way.  She had asked me to say something too – and I would have said the following – “This is a day that celebrates the nexus of all that has come before you and all that still awaits.  I am a better, happier person for your friendship.  The children you have taught and the parents you have guided have been led by an uncompromising, dedicated, singularly outstanding educator.  The formidable and unyielding love for Ben and Jenna is so powerful, it is its own energy force.  Your heart holds more than most can ever hope to experience in a lifetime – and you still have a long way to go.  This world which you have touched with your passion and your elation, with your sorrow and your tears, with your right and  righteous “Made In America” indignation and gentle yearnings for a view of the Gulf Of Mexico – is a better place because of the way you have chosen to grace it.  I would have thanked you for the gift of being able to speak these words.  Yet that said, I’m just as happy to write them to you here.  With love and laughter and wishes for all that you wish for yourself and more – Happy Birthday Jo.

It’s All About The Plot

“Become major…Live like a hero.  That’s what the classics teach us.  Be a main character.  Otherwise what is life for?” — J.M. Coetzee

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions lately.  My friends who are encountering detours and re-routes that they hadn’t anticipated.  Bumps that feel like moguls on one of the Olympic ski runs.  The kinds of change that can leave your posture skewed and your jaw clenched to the point of pain.  Jo told me that she thought transitions were easier when we were younger.  Perhaps.  Perhaps we just weren’t aware of what part of our story we were in the middle of – innocence is a wonderful thing.  But when you get a bit older, when the time comes that you realize that this is in fact the story line in which you are the focal character, perspective changes a bit.  We spend so much of our life planning our next chapters – even when they don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

As a child, I remember feeling that I just couldn’t wait for life to start – I couldn’t wait to be able to ride with the experienced riders; couldn’t wait to be double digits.  As a newly-minted teen, I couldn’t wait until I could wear Yardley’s cake eyeliner.  Then I couldn’t wait until I was legal.  Anticipation in my twenties – to be a mom, be seen as an adult (and be forgiven for transgressions that were a result of not knowing what I was doing as an adult), have my own home.  The thirties brought confirmation that though I no longer had the excuse of being a novice grown-up, I had fertile years to dig into this life I was creating without boundaries or barriers.  Perhaps in my forties it began to wear a little thin, but not so much so that my mind was reluctant to keep moving ahead, anticipating next steps with energy and spirit.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that looking forward no longer held the same thrill.  And despite the gratitude (which accompanies most things for me), there lingers questions about legacy and lasting impressions, an awareness that looking forward diminishes the present and quite frankly, too much future-thinking just makes me anxious.  I can write a chapter, but I’m not prepared for the story to end.

And perhaps that is why these transitions get so damn tricky.  Our emotional muscles aren’t as supple; we have seen enough to hesitate – able now to determine the degree of difficulty associated with our next move.

There is a certain grace in such awareness though.  To be able to be engaged with life and observe it simultaneously.  Moving thoughtfully enough that you don’t miss a cardinal on a snow filled branch or the sound the wind makes right before it blows through your hair.  Arriving at a point where you know what matters more often than not, and staying that course.  Transitions may not get easier as we get older, the choices may change in scope and size, but we are each, still the author.  And I for one, think my story is damn good.

Loads Of Questions, Fewer Answers

“When I was One I had just begun

When I was Two I was nearly new

When I was Three I was hardly me

When I was Four I was not much more

When I was Five I was just alive

But now I’m Six, I’m as clever as clever

So I think I’ll be Six now for ever and ever”  – A.A. Milne

So, my cohort group is turning sixty next year.  Sixty.  It’s an impressive number.  Jo will enter this decade first (though at the end of the day, first or last the goal is to get there and keep going), and it prompted a lot of conversation about what the heck it means.

In an effort to avoid the obvious, we didn’t come up with anything particularly cogent.  And that got me thinking, which as you know, is typically dangerous.

As we grow up, we measure our accomplishments by how old we are.  At six or seven, there’s first grade and entering real school.  Turning ten, at double-digits – one proudly has succeeded at no longer being ‘little’ and has become by rite of age,  way cooler than anyone who is younger.  Celebrating the introduction to being a legitimate teen-ager at thirteen, it’s even sweeter at sixteen.  When eighteen knocks at the door, it brings the perceived gift of becoming ‘legal’, getting out of the house and the anticipation that for all intents and purposes, society will consider you a grown-up in three short years.  Of course by the time one is thirty, the realization that learning to be an adult is no longer an acceptable excuse.  And so on and so on…

Our self-definition and stories are inextricably tied to our age.  What we learned and when we learned it.  I think we could have extended conversations about the decades we have lived – tying our stories and our years together in crazy, multi-colored bows.

Somewhere along the way though, we realize that life is measured not in years but in exquisite moments of attention.  When the question that begs to be answered is less about our individual successes, accomplishments and somewhat self-absorbed chatter, and more about what we have brought to the table.  Did we offer life a groaning board of our best selves or did we just sit there expecting to be fed?  (Given that Thanksgiving is next week, it seemed like a good analogy).  Though we got here while acknowledging chronological landmarks along the way, such landmarks no longer define the road.  We are left now to figure out the topography, and the area is large.

And the dialogue changes focus – am I giving the best I’ve got?  Am I more about others and less about me?  And if I live another sixty years, will I create a path that others will choose to walk with me?