Holding August

Many associate August with the fading days of summer,  final trips to the beach, last gasp efforts to take it all in so that some of that warmth can stay in our bones as we turn towards the fall.

Not me.  For me, it is a far more complicated month than that.  I was born in August, I got married in August and my dad passed away in August (these three moments in time did not happen in the same year if you were wondering).

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When you’re a child, summer birthdays are like always drawing the short straw.  Your school friends are away, so there’s no big birthday party.  I was always at camp, so I got to raise the flag, people sang to you at lunch and I was able to receive a call from my parents.  The good news was that the call usually came during swimming, so I managed to avoid the changing room.  But the whole allure of theme parties, giggles, gifts and giddiness are just not part of the summer birthday equation.  Over time, it all evens out – and one comes to appreciate that the celebration is not in the number of people surrounding you in the moment, but the number of people surrounding you always.  The reminder that to many you are special and loved, and to some you are just an afterthought.  I don’t say that with ill will – it is what it is.  I’m beyond rich in the love department – and I don’t need a day to remind me of that.

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Andy and I got married in August.  We get a little giddier this time of year – although it’s been more than twenty years since I broke out in hives under the chuppah and Andy and the rabbi walked me gently through my vows as my little one twisted his fingers in my dress asking for cake.  There were toasts – my dad insisted on reading his despite his failing voice and already-compromised health.  I don’t remember it all, but it began “Once upon a time there was a princess who met her prince..”.  His voice was hard to hear – even with the microphone – but the magic was clear.  The kids got their cake, my nieces jumped up and down with preschool exuberance, taking credit for this union (and were it not for their friendship their respective aunt and uncle would never have met).   We began our life with the knowledge that we weren’t lucky – we were blessed.  When we’re smart enough to remember this, we still are.

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And then at month’s end, I continue to say kaddish for my dad.  It is difficult to write about this without being maudlin, so I’ll aim for brevity.  He loved me in a way that worked for me.  I in turn drove him crazy.  When he left, he took all my secrets – every single one.  I censored little, though I’m sure he would have preferred if I had censored more; but I gave him all I had and I don’t think he ever doubted that.  And I ache when I think of him, I miss him with a longing that I can’t define.  Years ago I downloaded a voicemail he left me on my birthday – singing Happy Birthday and ending with “I love you sweetheart”.  I have to turn that cassette into a cd, just to hear him one more time.

Time – August plays a game with  my head when it comes to time.  I move from moment to moment without volition, allowing events and memories to wash over me as water from a cascading stream.  It has to flow in this way, and I have to follow its lead.  It isn’t easy, I slip, lose my footing, but ultimately remain standing.  Sometimes life compresses, other times it expands.  August is.

“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.” — Haruki Murakami

 

Good Morning Monday

“[T0day] is a new day.  You shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.” — Emerson

By Sunday night, the glow of the weekend begins to fade and the anticipation of another week begins.  Stomachs get tight, hands begin to rub temples and the list of all that needs to be done begins to grow into an unwieldy paper dragon flying around in your head wreaking all sorts of havoc on those synapses which had fired so calmly for two days.

 

I admit, I obsess – more often than not about the things I ‘should’ be doing with little regard for anything that I already did.  It doesn’t make for many internal feel-goods, I must say.  More importantly though I make myself crazy (with a nod to the reality that I’m already a garden-variety nut).  When I was working full-time this was just an accepted form of doing business.  Everyone had lists that seemed to procreate at night, so the next morning there were even more items than when you left.  A year later, I’m still a work-in-progress.  Learning to align what is important to me  with that which really has to happen is a tough assignment.  And it’s one we all have to assimilate at one point or another or we’re denying ourselves the one thing we know we have – right now.  Now, don’t dismiss me with the thought that I have no idea what’s on your plate, the pressure you’re under, how hard you have to drive yourself.  Not true – I do know.  I also know that you are far more important than anything you’ve got going on today.  And if you don’t at least try to take a bit of care of yourself today, at some point you won’t need to consider tomorrow.

So if you’d be so kind as to put one thing on your list this morning – and place it first.  YOU.  Find a little space today for you.  Close your office door for ten minutes (if you have a door).  Stay off of email for a few minutes and stretch your legs.  Let the call go to voice mail.  Not for so long that you begin to sweat and itch.  Just long enough to let your body catch up with your mind.  Long enough to close your eyes and smile with the delight that for ten little minutes you were unencumbered.

Happy Monday everybody..

Slow It Down Sunday

 

courtesy of the story people

I need to slow down this train a little bit – even though I realize that I’m not the conductor.  Close your eyes and just enjoy the  music.  For these brief moments just let go of all that we do to rob ourselves of our most precious commodity.  More later – for now, Sandy Denny…

Trying To Wrap My Arms Around Time…

…and I can’t.  Yesterday was one of those days where time and I faced off in the ring.  As I made every effort to grab it, time was bobbing and weaving like Muhammed Ali (oh, the irony of how this metaphor dates me in and of itself), coming near and taunting me, daring me to bring it and then sprinting out of my grasp.  I understand why I’d never make it as a boxer – over and above my true abhorrence of being rewarded for knocking someone’s brains loose,  I’d lose each match, for I think I’d keep my gloves up and my eyes closed.

I had lunch yesterday with a woman who used to work at the firm.  She was a manager in the DC office – exceedingly talented and funny with professional ambitions that extended beyond the walls of a branch office.  When I last heard from her she was heading to NY for a larger position in another well-known law firm.  She was on her way.  That we re-connected is a wonderful surprise.  And when she told me that it had been seven years since we last saw each other, I was stunned.  Seven years??  In seven years, lives change.  She survived cancer, wrote a book, moved back to the DC area, is happily employed as the administrator for a smaller firm where she runs the operational ship.  Her face still lights up when she speaks about her husband and family, she looks wonderfully the same and now has four cats instead of the two I remember.  The niece and nephews who were still small children when we last spoke, are in the process of leaving from, attending and moving on after college.  Excuse me?  When the heck did all of this happen?  I realize that time stands still for no man, but surely it would slow down for a woman – right?  Just kidding…

Later in the afternoon, I spent close to two hours speaking with a woman who was my closest friend in high school and college.  She was a bridesmaid at my first wedding (I’m not going there – the wedding, that is).  Our last sighting was close to thirty years ago.  Thirty years…decades of years cascading upon each other.  She still has a laugh like a song.  Her voice has the timber of someone who has had her share of weight to carry as an adult (see my earlier post about the increasing baggage we carry as we get older).  Her life experiences have been varied, rich and happily more love-filled than not, though the times of ‘not’ were profound and etched tattoos that not everyone can see.  I saw them – for even after thirty years I know her voice, could see her face and remember her courage and singular, determined spirit.  We spoke of our respective lives today – husbands, children, careers.  We tentatively went back to Jackson Heights – our friends, our parents – my memories of her mom and dad are as clear as glass – I see them in their apartment, at school events.  Her mom wore Pucci (not sure if they were derivative – probably not, but either way, I loved the colors), deep, alluring voice, perhaps a bit tempermental – nonetheless, she’d come home and endure our singing to Laura Nyro and James Taylor.  Her dad was elegant, soft-spoken and very tall.  I remember he always seemed to look amused by the two of us.  That’s probably right – we were a pretty amusing duo, even if we did take ourselves very seriously.

We will speak again and see each other at some point.  We are both in no small part who we once were, and connect to that understanding with a familiar comfort that few get to re-visit.  Certainly there are new loves and layers and priorities – life has happened in between these years.  And that has me a little turned around this morning.  So much life has happened.  So much time has passed.

Another blogger celebrated her 25th birthday yesterday and was struck by how quickly she had arrived on the brink of being a grown up.  I get it – even though I regard her disbelief with a smile, for she has so many more years of being tricked by time.  The moments fold into each other with increasing speed, days and weeks pass and though we can live wholly and fully, we can’t hold time.  And yesterday I wanted to hold it, just for a minute – look it in the eye and implore it to please, please slow down.  I need a moment to take this all in with nothing else happening in the interim, while I stop and look with wonder at all that has happened over the years.  All that inconsequential stuff that passed in a day that I didn’t notice, and that in retrospect make up huge, life-changing events.  I don’t want to chase time, it is clearly out-pacing me.  I just want to hold it still for a moment and ask what the rush is all about.