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.

 

Leave The Door Open

This video stayed with me.  The changing aspect of love’s reality.  What we’re sure we define as love when our notebooks are covered with hearts and initials inside them, notes are passed and love songs are written expressly for you.  Believing that it lasts forever, when one really has no concept of what that means.  Love in later years, with fewer illusions and more complications, yet felt with a deeper understanding of the rapidity with which time passes.  Learning to stay in love and learning to let go should one need to.  Remembering to keep the door open to the possibility that it will return in a different form, with a different song and open arms.  Let love in – however you define it.

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.

This Is The Only Moment

This morning, Bill @ drbillwooten.com touched off a train of thought with another one of his fantastic quotes – this from Ernest Hemingway – “And if there’s not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your life, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it.”

Assuming that one is living a life of relative physical and emotional comfort, I think being happy takes guts.  It seems to be far easier to ascribe one’s frame of mind to the actions or inactions of others, the elements of living that remain decidedly out of our control and/or historic wrongs that we suffered from which it seems likely we will never recover.  I know you have met people who have affixed a figurative piece of velcro to the back of their hand and permanently placed it against their forehead.  Lots of sighs.  Slews of “if onlys”.  Eeyore on steroids (and I say that with affection, for I am a huge Eeyore fan).

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There’s a lot of conversational fodder in looking at your life and finding happiness contingent upon something or someone else.  Life as a perpetual “if….then” statement.  The operative word for me is ‘perpetual’, for arguably there are times when we are anticipating, hoping, planning, etc.  But all the time?  Are we always waiting to react?  Are we never responsible for initiating?  If one believes the latter, then what in the world can we claim personal responsibility for?  What do we get to claim as ours?

Happiness is a challenge, for it means you own it.  It’s on you.  No one else.  Your boss can be impossible (I’ve had those), people may not offer what you are hoping for, someone may ride your bumper during an interminable rush hour.  Maybe your kids don’t get you or you don’t get them.  Perhaps the list of irritations far outweigh the list of delights.  I get it.  But I own it.  My lousy moods are mine – rarely do I blame someone else.  My happiness – which can certainly be fostered and enhanced by the phenomenal people around me – is also mine.  Because at the end of the day, I’m the one in this moment.  Our perceptions of the present moment are not the same, even if we’re sitting here having a cup of coffee together.   However I interpret this time is my job.  And I’m ok with that – because I can adjust and recalibrate – I don’t want someone else to do it for me.

When I was a young adult, my mom would repeatedly admonish “You never listen to me.  Well, you listen to me, but you end up doing what you want to do anyway.”  She was right.  I asked her many years later whether she really would have wanted to take responsibility for my actions – a question answered by her silence.  It’s easier to point a finger out, but honestly?  You’re the one who makes your day.

Why do I post this today?  Because I needed the reminder.  Because the morning broke grey and indifferent and I felt my body concede, bending to the power of a day that didn’t give a damn.  Joints in active rebellion.  One look in the mirror and all bets on a good hair day were off.  The Sirs decided to bark passionately at absolutely nothing and my head began to feel like it was in a vice.  The kitchen still looked post-apocalyptic.  This was my moment.  And unless I kicked myself in the butt, the day was going to continue to spiral down with alacrity.  So Bill’s quote brought me back to baseline.  If this is all I’ve got, it’s fine by me.  And though I wish that all your moments are golden, I know that some may not meet that threshold.  So when they don’t, consider that this is all we know for sure.  Right now – and it’s yours.  For that reason alone, it deserves at least a smile, and perhaps a shake of the head.

 

You’d Think I’d Know By Now

I recently received a comment about one of my posts, which I have let drive me crazy.  The person (whose blog I read regularly and enjoy – particularly for the  fabulous photography) wrote candidly that he didn’t read my posts frequently because he found them “too sweet”.  Now before you say anything – this isn’t a referendum on whether he’s right.  He’s right – I’m not the type to disabuse anyone of their feelings and after obsessing about this for days now, I see his point.

I assure you I’m not all that sweet.  Well, I’m sweet, but I have as many snarky moments as the next person.  And I can be sarcastic.  And if you’re a friend or relative of mine, I can be an absolute lioness – with both chuffing and growling sounds perfected.  You get my drift, though believe me I could go on and tell you all the reasons why I can compete with the best provocateurs, devil’s advocates and cynics.  Just ask Andy.  But I digress (again).

What gets me is how much I let this thought consume me.   I have held onto this like Archie covets a new bone.  The circuitous breeze in my head blows relentlessly and none too gently.  “Have I become saccharine?”  “What do I want this blog to reflect?”  “Is it honest” “Am I still thinking like Pollyanna?” (answer to this question is  – yes).  “Do I have anything new to say or have I become Mimi One-Note?”  “How much do I want to put out there”  Of course, the answers change direction depending on the time of day, the state of my hair, and whether I have eaten recently.  As of this writing, I’ve decided that I’ve got to let it go.  Must be time for lunch.

I began this blog with a thousand different ideas about what I wanted it to be like and then zeroed in on a year’s worth of entries that I could print out and give to my sons – a somewhat morbid, but well-intended gesture for them.  I’m now well into my second year and I can’t see giving them a flippin’ tome, so what am I doing now?  Honestly, I have no idea.  Given that I’m a big believer that certain answers come with time, I’m giving it time and just moving forward.  What I do know is that I’m as transparent as I feel I can be.

On Monday we were out to dinner with friends of ours who have had a really challenging year.   Her son was diagnosed with a serious illness, she was just laid off for the second time in less than a year.  The company he works for is on the brink of going under.  And yet, there we sat genuinely aware that we were all beyond lucky.  First and foremost, her son is much, much better – and that offers a perspective like nothing else.  We live in far better circumstances than most people in the world.  We laugh – a lot.  We know love.  We’re more aware that the concept of happiness is not something that is a given, rather more like snatches of sunlight between the cracks in a day.  The key is in noticing those spaces.  I’m trying to look for them, choosing to find them.  I don’t want to miss my chances, for the weather changes with little warning.

Lately, I’ve been acutely aware of time speeding past.  When the hell did I become 59 when I still hold on to such immaturity?   I’m not ready to age-out of life just yet and would prefer to be in the game with some well-preserved naiveté and faith in a whole bunch of things that are bigger than me (note to David Kanigan – no height comments here, pal).  I’d rather be acknowledging the spaces in-between and delight when I find them.  Pollyanna?  You betcha – though I don’t do braids.

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