Make Each Moment Yours

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I am so glad to be back here. Typing away. I have been very busy, of late, tending to several things that have either brought me great satisfaction or consternation; sometimes both.

The quote in yoga last week was along the lines of choosing a life for yourself. That no matter how laudable the pursuit, that if it’s not your idea or it doesn’t set your heart on fire, then it’s not for you, and pursuing it may very likely leave you feeling empty.

I have been faced with several situations which fit right up that alley, a few of them lately. Most of them were foisted on to me as a child and then I just learned that fighting someone else’s battle or managing someone else’s business was just the way the world worked, even though I was rarely the benefactor, nor did my life advance much because of my involvement.

When one parent is unavailable for one reason or another, the other parent will likely enlist a child to either manage the deficit or solve the problem, sometimes both. If that scenario rolls out enough times, the boundaries get blurred so much that it’s like wiping Crisco on a windshield. The only way to cut through and see what’s going on is to eliminate all the smears. If you’re in a situation where that simply didn’t ever really happen, then the wipers just glide over the haze and the boundaries are never really established or even imagined. You can’t see what isn’t clear.

That’s how a lot of my life went for many years. I took on way too much because I thought I was there to solve everyone’s problems. Adult responsibilities were abdicated on to me (I can’t speak for anyone else so I don’t) and slipped and slid through the Crisco.

The boundaries and responsibilities aren’t vetted and established until someone with a clear mission in mind and a strong sense of advocacy comes along and wipes down the glass with a really firm hand, soapy water and a brand-new squeegee. There it all is, laid out before you: what’s yours and what’s not yours.

Suddenly you are lost. The sun is too bright. The air is too cold, clear. The ground is too stable. The items are to large. The items are too small. The items look totally different than they used to. The items don’t fit anymore. The items aren’t familiar. You want your old items back: at least they were predictable in their unpredictability. You want the grime and the haze. You miss the instability it all assured: at least you could count on the crazy. You miss the confusion because now, you aren’t a fixer or the blame or the cause or the cure. You are just … you. Responsible only for your Self and the choices you make, and you’ve made all along for your life.

Yikes.

So you get used to that after a while. Sometimes you even enjoy it, this not having to apologize for the weather if it rains on a picnic day; or if the store is out of the requested ice cream; or if there are no close-enough parking spots outside the movie theater / restaurant / boutique / bookstore / psychiatrist…

I used to feel responsible for stuff like that. When you grow up with a parent who says you’re the reason s/he gets up every day, then the algebra would also dictate that you’re the reason s/he DOESN’T get up every day… It’s a double-edged sword.

The relevance any of this has to my current life is that I’ve recently attended to some things and made a few choices that have not always been “mine.” I have not always chosen them with My Interest in Mind. I chose them because it felt socially appropriate, or I wanted to Be Someone to someone else, or because the void existed and I didn’t have enough guts to say “no.” PTA vice president, PTA president, Sports Club President, rowing partner.

Always a recipe for disaster: following through on someone else’s plan because you don’t want to let them down. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I DONE THAT?!

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That’s me on the left.

You learn who you are real quick when you’re in a tiny boat with another person in the middle of a river committed to a six-mile row, three miles of which are dedicated to competition. The good news is that we came in second. The could-be-better news is that I likely lost my patience and sacrificed an otherwise amiable friendship because I wanted to stick to my commitment and see my way through the race because I was not going to let any static take me under: either I was jumping out or we were going on.

My therapist would tell me that blending personalities in a confining space (be it a racing shell, a marriage, a dorm room or an airline cabin) is a tricky endeavor no matter the context. That blending is ok as long as respect is shared and the work is doled out fairly. In a rowing shell, it’s possible to not do your share of the work, but it’s unlikely if you make good time (and we made good time, we could’ve gone a little faster, but seeing as how we’d only been together six times previous, I’m pleased with how things turned out). It’s also possible to confuse your perception of the work due to stress or in my case a conscious effort to counter the stress load borne and expressed by the other person in the boat.

I wanted to row in a race this fall. I didn’t get to last year because Mom died and I was overwhelmed with grief. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to this year because I didn’t get on the water very often, so when the chance popped up to row a double with someone as equally interested and dubious of her own performance, I was nervous, but grateful for the chance. Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Ruh-roh…

The thing is (and here’s where we get back to the yoga quote and the lessons I had to unlearn earlier in life by not taking one someone else’s program): just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.

When things get crazy in my world now, I tend to go quiet. I used to jump in and lose my mind and amplify the craze (i.e., act like an idiot) because it was easier and way more fun than rationality, but those bells can’t be unrung. So now, after years of couch time and a ton of mat time, I just breathe deeply, sit on my hands and do my best to wait.

The first day we sculled in the double I chalked up the chatter to jitters and newness. I thought a few things about some of the drills we did right after warming up and I wondered about the near-constant outflow of commands at me. It had been a while since I’d been coached, and about four years since I’d had a coxswain, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to always be about drills and racing starts and other things so early in our pairing — after all: this was casual; we’d not even discussed a race yet. (We’d discussed plenty else.)

The second day, the chatter continued and I have to tell you: as a yoga person and someone who’s used to being alone a lot in a shell, the talking became unnerving. I didn’t mind talking while we stopped for breathers and breaks, but it wasn’t like that. I decided I could do a race, hopeful that things would ease down.

I also started to fall into a creepy and familiar place, the Crisco. The boundaries were getting blurry and I started to feel responsible for this person’s ease and I also wanted to be liked, be trusted and be considered a help. (Bad move.)

So I talked to my husband. I described the scenarios and conversations. He told me he was getting antsy just hearing about it. He noticed I started ramping up too, taking on the anxiety / jitters I was steeped in in the boat. “You have to get to a place where you’re comfortable, Mol, or this is going to be a disaster.” I noted internally that I felt like I was with my mother when I was in the shell with this partner. She expressed so many verbal observations, too many issues with the rigging, the oar locks, the slides, the water (it was too dark), the position she was rowing, the footstretchers, the boat itself… Ordinarily, I’d consider what I could to make it all better — make it stop, just make it stop! — solve the problem. Be the fixer. But not anymore. Something switched in me and I knew the difference between what was mine and what wasn’t.

The following week, I asked my coach to observe us in a launch, it was great. She was super helpful and really got us to work on some of our stroke habits and errors. She said, “No talking in the boat. When you talk in the boat, you screw everything up; you lose place of your hands, where your breath is, where your blades are, where you are on the slide… just be quiet. Eyes ahead and no talking.”

‘No Talking!’

I WAS SOOOO HAPPY!!!

A funny moment occurred between my partner and me after a row later that week. She expressed her awareness of her chatter and said kindly but without apology that when she gets nervous she talks a lot. “I understand,” I said, because I did understand. “I used to be like that,” I said.

She asked, “Oh? What do you do when you get nervous?” I laughed a little and paused. I said, “I just get nervous. But I don’t talk anymore. I get quiet and try to focus. My nervous chatter is wasted energy,” and I finished to myself, “I still seek a moment to learn to be OK with the silence.” There was no comment.

A couple more days of practice and she made a few more asides about seats we rowed and inquiries about the shell. I took on one request which made sense for safety and fitting concerns and that was taken care of. I also took on another request, despite my better instinct to let it go. I paid for that one. After that, I was out. I realized they weren’t mine. (There was that old Crisco lurking again: solve someone else’s problem.)

I decided ahead of time that regardless of how the event was going to end up, that I was going to hold fast to whatever fraction that belonged to me: that I would make it mine and I would make it good.

The night before the race we had a disagreement because of a late-night email she sent me which I considered an unnecessary distraction / spill over from her continued apprehension about the class in which she registered us and boat we’d rigged and were promised. I was done. I offered to drop out and let her go in a single. I was determined, even at this late juncture that I was still going to brand for me whatever I could of the training and of the moment: the choice was going to be hers because the problem was hers. I had to leave her with her stuff.

This was a big moment for me. I’ve been faced with many of them before and I know this won’t be the last. The more experienced I become with familiar personalities and Crisco moments, the faster I’ll be looking for the squeegee to cut through the muck and show me what’s mine.

We spoke by phone the next morning and agreed to race. We smoothed over what we could. There’s a song “Loving a Person” by Sara Groves which starts out, “Loving a person the way they are isn’t just a small thing, it’s the whole thing …” and it goes on to say “it’s the beauty of seeing things through…” and that was the message for me in this situation. I was going to accept how she was and how things were, but I didn’t have to own what wasn’t mine and I was going to see it all the way through — we’d worked hard to get here in a short amount of time and if parlayed properly, we were both going to be each others’ teachers.

When we pushed off to row the 2.5 miles to the starting line, my further (Crisco) attempts at smoothing things over were received but brushed aside; she made it clear, there would be no group hug. That’s the part about being in a small boat in the middle of a river that teaches you about yourself: just get it done (seeing it through). Sometimes you gel, but not then. It felt pointy and perfunctory for the most part, but I can’t own that. It was never mine. What’s great for me is that I realized it and we had no choice but to work together to get it done. To me, it was a success!

It was a “head race” which is a longer distance and thus is usually following the curves of a river. You’re also racing a clock. The starts are staggered to allow for room on the water. We came in second of three boats. Although we were the first to start, we had our asses handed to us by the boat which started immediately after us. It passed us in the first two minutes but we kept the boat which started after that one where it belonged. I knew we wouldn’t likely win, but I didn’t want to finish last. That was my intention.

And I’ve decided that it has to be this way for all of my life. That if I grew up with dysfunction, that I have to find a way to make it worthy and valuable: mine. That if I have a crappy time at a party or event, that I find something about the occasion that makes it mine, so that it doesn’t belong to anyone else: I wore my favorite shoes or scarf or the weather was gorgeous that night or I heard an old favorite song I’d long forgotten.

So it was with the race: I made mine what I could. The weather was perfect, the water fair and I had a great workout. Are you wondering? The chatter in the boat continued but I just did what I could to listen for “need to know” content and I want to say we kept our spirits up even though we were both pretty raw from the previous night’s discourse.

We made good time, about 25 minutes and docked well “That was very professional!” the dock master said and he was right, she’s a terrific bow seat even though she is convinced she’s terrible at it. I disagreed once and moved on.

So I guess this is a long-winded way of inspiring you to know the difference between what’s yours and what isn’t yours. What’s yours feels good and it fits. What isn’t yours feels forced and might cause you some struggle — but you can always make it yours when you find the beauty in it.

Thank you.

When Coffee is not just “Coffee.” Awareness, Attachments, Anxiety.

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So I’m about 10 days into experiencing this clean eating / diet detox and I have to say that for me, it’s not about the food. I don’t have attachments to food; blessedly, I’ve never been an emotional eater, I actually think I have a good relationship with food (“Hello sandwich, how are you today? I will eat you when I’m hungry…”), but I have determined, that what I do have, is an attachment to tradition; an attachment to attachments.

Because I’m not a big coffee drinker (as so many writers are — I simply can’t do it: my body / GI can not handle the huge thrust of caffeine, so I have one serving a day), coffee was only a loss to me in terms of my inability to have something warm and served in a cute vessel as I walked my son to school. Lots of moms and dads walk along the path to school with their kiddos holding an open mug or a travel mug or a thing as they saunter through the dappled sunlight or amidst the drizzle of these gorgeous and cool autumn mornings. I wanted to be one of those people; they looked so together, as though they’d just stepped out of a JCrew catalog or in their fitness wear, enroute to or just from the gym, but with their coffee in hand. (Hell, I could be completely wrong: maybe it’s vodka.)

So I morphed myself into being one of those people. Even though it was occasionally inconvenient: you can’t always hold a dog leash and a kiddo’s hand and a cup of something. So I found myself on days when the boys wanted to bring a dog vacillating between my cute mug of weak-ish coffee or Irish Breakfast tea and a leash, or holding a hand. When I wanted to be a be-hooded cute coffee mom and we were running late (which is often), the coffee would stay home and so began the understanding that it was more about being SEEN with the coffee, and somehow fitting in with the other moms, than actually enjoying the coffee.

Another thought that comes to mind is the obvious: if I choose to walk with the coffee, then I’m rejecting something else. Never has one of my sons asked me to leave the coffee at home to hold his hand. Not once. So what am I rejecting? Possibly my sense of just being ok with being plain old young me.

So when the detox started, I shifted gears: I put my detox tea (some horrid unique combination of lemon poison, dandelion venom, toxic licorice, and thistle milk in the vessel and the hell with it: I added some organic raw honey to sweeten the deal) in my cute vessel and guess what? I didn’t feel at all as though I was fitting in. Even though no one knew what was in my mug, and no one dared ask (because we all assume we’re coffee lemmings) I didn’t feel “cool” anymore. I’d’ve rather had no mug than carry a mug loaded with a potion which was displeasing to me. So instead, now I make my detox tea and slam it down when it reaches room temperature to just get it over with. Some attitude, I know. Then I look for a bathroom.

I don’t know what any of that means — the lack of the coolness, hipster, fitter-inner. I know that it came with some small relief upon later examination though, because I haven’t really fully enjoyed a cup of high-test coffee knowing what the caffeine does to my system. It was always a guilty pleasure. I make jokes about “coffee first” a lot; but mostly it’s for affect, and so I see that I’m being inauthentic when I say things like that because I simply can’t drink as much as others seem to be able to. It’s like the “she can’t hold her liquor” thing too … I can’t. Two drinks and I’m very comfortable — but not always: if I’m on edge in prep for an anxious moment (say expecting a weirdo to show any moment at a social event), the alcohol simply doesn’t take effect and so then, what’s the point of any of it other than a crutch? So this begs the question: what’s the point of any crutch?

A lot of this is deep, I get that. If you read my most recent post, it was my birthday and I was suffering with major headaches from the diet detox. All my friends and family who called and texted and emailed me throughout the day said to “take the Advil. It’s your birthday. You’re going to a rock concert and you’re gonna have the time of your life tonight. What’s up with the headache — ease your pain!” So, yes, against the advice / suggestion of the detox manager, I heard my older brilliant brother (as opposed to my equally brilliant younger brother): “if the technology exists, why not avail yourself of it?” So I did reach eagerly and mightily for the Advil and it was such sweet relief, so subtle and kind, that I pondered: What the what am I doing to myself? Why must I suffer to improve? Is it really improvement if this vise-like, compressing, deeply painful headache that has lasted almost 7 days and only meagerly subsides upon my laying down, makes me I wish I weren’t here?

….I know….

I’m a yoga teacher and practitioner of almost 16 years. I know deep breathing. I know staying in the moment. I can get you to relax on a mat in less than five minutes and have you hovering in the twilight, almost-all-the-way-asleep but still conscious and have you listen to the sound of my voice. But only if you’re willing… I simply couldn’t breathe / legs-up-the-wall / lavender oil / uttanasana these headaches away. Because the headaches were Other Than. The headaches were about my relationship with the detox when I’m already a mindful person, in very good health and already extended as a mom and wife and person.

So I am spinning this on its lactose, gluten, glucose and starch -laden head: we don’t need to suffer. We really don’t. These things, these GOOD things in our lives needn’t always be painful. Because the pain creates anxiety. Because I find that I already eat pretty well, that I have an occasional cheeseburger blanketed in a gorgeous square of sharp New York cheddar (sorry) I can tell you RIGHT NOW that my anxiety is reduced tenfold because I decided to listen to my Spirit last week. I heard her Loud and Clear: you needn’t suffer; this is an elective experience and suffering is always elective. True dat, but also pretty harsh. But back to true dat: it is. Suffering is a choice. We have a choice. The choice to breathe deeply, quiet our minds, close our eyes, feel the slow, soft and steady inhalation fill our chests and the calm, gentle and loose exhalation lower our ribs and chest quietly, gorgeously and so so so lovingly or become enchained slaves to the thoughts and fears and anxieties which rip through our psyches and tear holes in our spirits and send us on a panic spree about things that may or may not happen (well, something’s always gonna happen…) with and without our tender, evanescent influence … the choice is ours.

So yes. The choice is ours. Sorry. It’s like listening to music: you can crank up the Iron Maiden (which has its moments, I’m sure) and flood your head with all the synchronicity of what’s coming out of the speakers or you can switch to Jimi Hendrix, who has high energy, but more control and technique and simply get lost in his jam and not feel quite so disoriented upon the end. Or you can just listen to the clock tick and the birds sing and the refrigerator switch on and off as it cycles robotically through its existence.

The key for me is this: don’t let the shit that gets in your head own you.

For starters: I subscribe to the Daily Om — I highly recommend it. Read it.

The other day, one of the Oms was about awareness and fully experiencing that which we see. If I hadn’t started my day reading it, I wouldn’t have taken a moment to fully and truly see the man in the weighted-down minivan with the rooftop storage box pull into the public free parking lot. I would’ve missed his van barely squeak beneath the clearance bar and see the tailpipe scrape along the lip of the driveway. Then I wouldn’t have seen his furtive preparations to reverse his van into a parking space; his reverse lights didn’t work and so I had to wait, which was fine because I got a glimpse of his face which was so worry worn, so heavy and twisted with ennui, emotion and anxiety; each crease its own decades-long story. His hair, it was short but chunky and blonde, like a beachcomber’s, and his skin was leathery as though he’d lived outdoors all his life. The interior of his van was covered with all manner of life: wrappers, newspapers, coffee cups, magazines, a flip flop, stuffed animals… The windows of the van were tinted, but I could make the outlines of mounds of objects round and small and square and large. A battery-powered radio was wedged between the cracked windshield and a haphazard stack of periodicals. Here I witnessed: either a genius with serious hoarding issues, a lost soul with nowhere to go but the library on a sunny day, a criminal perhaps?, or just another guy whose emotional state is literally on the fringe. I would say he looked as though he were about 48 years old.

God has exposed me to two people in the last week who I am convinced were placed before me to keep my eyes open and my mind more open-er. That man in the van and a woman at Target who reminded me so much of my mother in her younger years that I find myself a bit dazzled by the timing of it all.

The woman was so peculiar to me. Twenty years ago I might’ve felt harshly toward her. She was wearing saggy cotton, faded black and lived-in pants, and a loose zippered off-white hoody. Her sneakers were simple Keds (Mom wouldn’t dare wear Keds). The cuffs of the sleeves were stained, as though they’d dipped into a dirty sink to wash coffee or tea or broth out of a pan or mug and I noticed that her hands were shaking a little; it was very subtle — almost like they were vibrating. Her hair was loose, shoulder length, black-brown with scant silver strands peeking out and it was oily near the scalp. I thought maybe she was out and about after feeling unwell for a few days. From her shopping basket she placed on the belt: nine cans of Campbell’s Hungry Man soups in all varieties, all with clearance price stickers on them. A ceramic table lamp, as though for a child’s room. It was white with lavender stripes and polka dots on it. The shade was inverted for storage and it was white with matching lavender velvet piping along the top and the bottom of the shade. She also gingerly took out of the top part of the cart, where little kids like to sit, a clearance-marked / on-sale pleather rust-toned backpack purse (which made me want to find out where it was because it was sort of cute but seemingly too large for my taste) which she examined closely one last time before she released it to the cashier. Then it came time to pay. Coupons. Lots of coupons (Mom couldn’t be bothered with coupons) but it was the way she paid. Her hands were more animated but deliberate in their stops and starts. The shaking was easier to see. She passed the coupons to the cashier and reached for her credit card which she then ran through the console. Her head was lurching forward, protectively in an almost vulture-like posture and she stared at the monitor as her tally ran up and then down with the aid of the coupons. Her only words, “I wish I had that Target card for the 5% off…” and then a gentle resigning laugh. She could be wealthy beyond all compare and still wanting the sale price. Or she could be a tangle of anxiety, OCD, doubt and fear. Judging by her pale, soft skin and the few gray hairs she had, I’d say she was likely 35.

I saw them. Like “Avatar” I see you -saw them. I saw them with my heart and my soul. They both those people exhibited a sense of loss, anxiety and woe to me that I could feel reverberate off them. I found myself breathing slower, more mindfully in their presence, simply to do what I could — consciously or not — to lower the vibration in the space I shared with them probably because they evoked such memories in me that I had to do what I could to calm myself down. I silently offered them both peace with each breath and have thought of them each since although the weight of their images fade with each day.

So after all these years of yoga, it’s impossible for me to not See people or feel them. I could revert back to my old ways: being hard, not caring and not getting involved, even on a witness level, but that’s false. I realize I have to be careful to not feel and see so much, and so that’s where the awareness of the awareness comes in.  So it’s that moment for me: taking myself out of my sense of expectations and attachments which enables me to fully live and fully release. Today in yoga, the quote from a book I read was this: “The hardest asana is letting go.” And so I realize, that even with all that compassion, I have to let it go or I’ll go down too.

What can you let go of today to help you be more present and to know that everything is happening –with and without you– as it should?

Thank you.

Clean Eating, Detoxes, Chicos and Dying Anyway

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Today is my 47th birthday. Tonight I am going to see “The Black Keys” and “Cage the Elephant” with my husband of 20 years and two of my three children. My youngest wouldn’t have any of that standing in a dark room with 8,000 other people to dance to a very loud band. None of that shit.

I haven’t been writing because I’ve been figuring out some stuff and I also have a terrible secret.

The figuring out thing? I thought I had it all resolved until I’d finished Prince of Tides and read Pat Conroy’s brief biography at the end of it. I thought I’d decided last week with my pal Lillian over at It’s a Dome Life  that I would hold off on the memoir for a few years because I still have a 10-year-old to screw up raise. Then I finished PoT and realized I’d sort of done what Conroy did (although not nearly as well) when I wrote my fictionalized memoir / novel two years ago over a summer. I haven’t read it in two years. I need to read it and see if it makes any sense anymore.

No one cares about that. You want to know about the secret.

The terrible secret: I’ve begun a clean-eating detox. A couple friends who know me very well asked me with great confusion on their faces, “YOU? You eat very well!” And it’s true, I do. I smooth (make killer healthy smoothies), eat quinoa, chia, agave, spelt, chikimea (I made that one up). So I’ve stopped drinking coffee and eating other stuff (bread, yogurt, milk, BRIE…. ) going on 11 days now. Aside from that Brie thing, I eat well.

Well, judging from the freakin’ headache I’ve nursed for the past three five days, my metabolism would say otherwise. It’s brutal. I won’t go into details, ok, I’m shitting like a goose, but other than that it’s great. I am sleeping better. And I am waking better, so that’s huge. But the headaches… Criminy. What the WHAT with the headaches?

I have never really been a big sugar eater — I don’t add sugar to my cereal and I dilute the juices I drink and I’m not big on pasta and cakes and stuff, but apparently, even wiping out the artisan breads and eggs and coffee (of which I drank only one mug a day) is having a profound effect on me.

I also wonder if there’s any point to this — I had my blood drawn last week before starting any of this for my biennial well check and my vitals are great: BP is 106/60; triglycerides are 57, total cholesterol is 157 (LDL 91 / HDL 47); I row, practice yoga, jog a few times a week, walk the dogs, eat well and so … why? Why am I doing this?

“Because I’ll try anything once.” That’s what I said. I had no idea I would be this miserable.

On the first conference call, the leader said that this is a good time to take care of ourselves and calm things down in the exercise department. “If you’re someone who goes to a bootcamp every day, or runs a lot, this is a good time to dial back on that and slow things down. Practice yoga, go to a sauna or a steam bath… ” and I was wondering, “Why? I mean, this is a good way to increase our health.” And then the headaches came and I realized why we would be encouraged to calm everything down. Because I CAN’T FUNCTION ANYWAY. Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln. I said the other day that I’ll gladly go back to running hard every day than do this.

To address the headaches, “Take vitamin C,” the health leader said to us on yesterday’s conference call that I had to set on mute/speaker whilst I sat in the bathroom. “About 1,000-2,000mg a day is fine…” then someone asked a further question about it and the health maven (whom I happen to respect a lot) continued, “there’s no limit you can take on Vitamin C, just take it until you start to get diarrhea…” and I thought… “Do you know where I am right now?”

So I’ve got headache and the bathroom. That’s going to be the name of my memoir: “Headaches and The Bathroom; How to Detox Your Past in 21 Days.”

The health commandant also mentioned that we could take something called Chlorella to help with the headaches. No. I know what I’m going to take for this headache. It starts with Gin and ends with Tonic and if you have just one, the headache will be a distant memory.

But I’m a trouper. I don’t give up easily and I still have a couple weeks to go. Will I make it? I really have no clue. Part of my headaches I think are coming from all the mental bandwidth I’m dedicating to this thing: “Is that safe? Should I eat that?” and “I miss my gelato…” (even though I ate 1/4 cup whenever I had it). I’m really constantly obsessing about when and what I can eat. I also really hate being told what to do. So there’s that too. But the headaches… I don’t normally get them, so this experience is as close to a nightmare as it comes for me. “Don’t go and reach for the tylenol… or the quick fix,” she said. “You’re just going to have to suck it up… ha ha >insert my sneer< …” was the response about the need for an Advil.

I did NOT speak on that call. I didn’t because I know myself too well. Once I get started on this stuff, I am not easy to talk down; I also know that I signed up for this. I foolishly, stupidly, arrogantly signed up for this. I wasn’t feeling lousy to start with, I was feeling sluggish and foggy-headed. So I thought this might be a good idea. Eleven days in, I’m feeling like I WANT TO DIE and I can’t keep my head up to save my life. My office is overwhelmed by Lara bar wrappers. I have to start reframing all this for my own sake, that food is not the enemy. I would be willing to bet that the fear-based and white-knuckled detox industry stands to become incredibly lucrative if we keep thinking unmoderately, that food is the enemy.

This morning, my husband let me sleep in because it’s my birthday. He took care of the boys and got them all off to school. When he entered our room to and leaned in to give me a kiss, I could smell the coffee on his breath and when he kissed me, I could taste it.

“You had a raspberry mocha this morning, didn’t you?” I hissed. I felt like a succubus, a harpy. I wanted to bite his lip to get the remnants and then drain him of all his pizza he enjoyed last night.

On the detox call yesterday, people were GUSHING, absolutely freakin’ OVER THE MOON about this program. They must’ve had to stop eating grass and added quinoa instead.

I am convinced my canines will be ground down to resemble cow’s teeth. No more need for incisors.

I asked on the super-secret Facebook page if anyone had a recipe for a carrot cake alternative and all I know is that it was viewed by 41 people. Not even the leader could reply. No one even said, “take a carrot and roll it up with almonds and a Lara Bar and sprinkle it with cinnamon, then close your eyes and plug your nose and eat it.” I think my question made them all run from their computers and shove their faces in their kale, eggplant, brussel, coconut flake, mung bean sprout salads.

I was talking to some friends earlier this week about mid-life crises and shopping for clothes. One of the women was wearing these fantastic pants. “Banana Republic!” said one of the girls I was with. I said, “OOOOOooooWooooo! I love Banana Republic!” (Along with JCrew, prAna, Eddie Bauer and Anne Taylor.)

We started talking about where we shop now, that we’re all “of a certain age” and one of them blurted out, “Chicos. I like it there.” And I thought: “No, honey, you’re still too young for Chicos.”

Instead I said, “I hate the name of that store… CHEEEEEE-KOS … Nah. I can’t do it. It’s like, for me, that store name is just not cool. It’s all but resignation. It says, ‘I don’t have grandchildren, but I could.'”

“Same thing with ‘Coldwater Creek,’ ” another friend said.

And we started laughing. “I think my great grandmother shopped there…” someone said.

That was just before the tears flowed. We knew “Forever XXI” was never going to be in our futures for ourselves. That ship had sailed.

“How about a store named, ‘It’ll Be OK, Honey.‘ That is at least telling the truth,” I said. “Or, mingling mid-life crises with shopping how about, ‘You’re Just Going to Die Anyway…’ that would be another good one. I can see it now, at a fashion show … ‘Here we have Giselle in a tasteful surplice frock in a simple sand dollar and sea star pattern accompanied by her LifeTime walker and Dr. Andrew Weil Earth Shoes in cordovan… the slacks have a clever little pocket which conceals any catheter or medical alert device needed…”

I told a Joan Rivers joke, it was a sight gag, but I’ll tell it here anyway. She was walking across stage in one of her fantastic sparkly gowns and was lifting her knees high and curving them to the outer sides of her body. She said, “Excuse me, I need to move my breasts out of the way of my path…” And we started laughing so hard we were going to pee.

Today I am 47. Which means I’ve ended my 47th year and tomorrow will be the first day of my 48th.

This just popped into my email inbox:

Irony?

Irony?

And the answer to this question in the TED Talk email is, Yes. We are dying. We all are. Once we hit the peak of hormonal balance and health, and begin that decades-long descent, yes, we are dying. We’ve hit our point of metabolic and procreative usefulness on this planet and all bets are off. But our liver regenerates every 28 days, so that’s all good too.

Speaking of liver regeneration, the four of us are going to a rock concert tonight while I wonder beforehand if there’s such a thing as gluten-free beer. If the headache is still here tomorrow, I’m done with this madness. I’m heading over to Chicos and I’m going to buy a real nice pair of pants with lots of pockets.

An epiphany (along with the secret): life is about living. If I were hit by a bus today, I’d be pissed that I was in the midst of a headache.

Thank you.

Nostalgist. Memoirist. The Same?

Standard

I never figured myself a nostalgist. Mom was always looking back, reminiscing and talking about when things were always rosy and comfortable.

Her tendency to glaze over the rough peaks and low valleys, filling them in with downy fluff always made my head hurt.

“Why think of only the bad times?” I remember her saying to me on numerous occasions when I simply wanted to connect about things that were real, unhealed and unsolved.

I suppose that’s when I became a “fixer.” I recall many moments when I just wanted a connection about something real, and all Mom wanted was a connection about a memory she held dear. Which is not to say that the memories she tended were not real; they were just distilled through her filters. Mom’s filters were soft, pink, tender, sweet and miraculous, which of course meant my filters had to be sterile, harsh, coarse, acidic and flawed.

So memories have been loaded for me, especially when they came from her, or from other people. Accepting other peoples’ versions of events meant, for a long time to me, that my own versions were wholly incorrect, so as a result, some of my memories have been hazy. Was I 8, 16 or 12? Did that happen in NY or VA? Was that even me?

“Don’t look back in anger, Maaally,” Mom would say often constantly. But it was the only way I could look back; because so much of my moments with Mom were so challenging and confused so I learned to suppress or re-dress what I experienced into more of an “interpretation.”

Since her death, the memories have come back, some fiercely as though propelled like a massive gas bubble, shiny, translucent round and wide at the top, narrowing to a point at the tail as it races through murky depths only to burst at the surface. My body feels like a picture frame at times, doing all it can to contain the kaleidoscopic blasts and sensations when those bubbles erupt.

For a few days last week, a year and change after her death and burial, I was conscious of the anniversary seemed to just exist and go with the flow, yet I was keenly present in my own family’s affairs. All three boys have lessons or practices several times a week and I got them there on time. Last year, I forgot to take people to lessons or pick them up. Murphy had a cyst erupt and that had to be dealt with. I managed to go for a row and make a new friend. I even made dinner –in advance– three nights in a row with no stress. The house was ready for the cleaning ladies (a feat in itself). I even cycled out the battery on my Kindle reading halfway through “The Prince of Tides.”

Late last week, I spoke with a friend by extension about writing and what to do with this trove of content I’ve created. She’s an SVP at a major publisher. Her idea, delivered in that gloriously fast and exacting New York City style I love so much is daunting yet totally appealing: “In your copious free time, define what you wish to offer and create. You’ve got a lot of vantage points here, but for it to work, you need to narrow down. Get a proposal together, nothing too huge, but something that tells someone what you want to do. I’ll try to share it with people, they’ll look at your work and we’ll see what sticks.”

She was also very comforting about self-publishing. “Those days of launching an e-book on your own and then feeling as though you’ve ruined any chance of a big house publishing you are over; the industry has changed so much, so if you decided to go that route, the doors are still quite open.”

So now what? I’m on it.

. . . . . . .

While I’d managed to be present, on Friday I was pulled back to the 1970s. My father made plans to take a train to see my brother and his family for the weekend and I drove him to the station. For me, it was a perfect visit: we weren’t going to a doctor or running an errand. We had a destination and he got to look forward to resting on a train with his laptop and watch the cities fly by.

On my way, my cell phone rang when I had about 45 seconds to go before I was supposed to be at his house, 70 minutes before his train left.

“Hi Dad! I’m on Wiseass Road … I’ll be there in 60 seconds….”

“Where are you, hon-nee?” He asked.

I repeated myself. We hung up cheerfully.

When I pulled into his driveway, he was already out and about, locking up his car and padding his tweed jacket’s pockets for his keys and cell phone and other trinkets.

I took his wheelie and heaved it into my middle row.

I could hear his keys rattle and medicine pills bounce around in their vials as he poured into my car.

We exchanged niceties, he thanked me for helping him out and all that.

“I have something for you, but I’ll give it to you at the station, when you drop me off…” he said a few moments after he settled into place and the car was riding along.

I followed his instructions to get to the interstate near his home. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it — that I needed directions from my dad, who lives very close to me, on how to get to the interstate. It’s not like that. The highways are constantly in a state of flux around here and sometimes traffic is such that Dad wants me to go a different way. Better to not rouse an octogenarian who’s got a train to catch by taking the wrong way to the highway… I’ve learned.

His cell phone rang. It was my other brother, just checking in to say hello and see how things were going on the way to the train.

“Molly’s driving me, she’s taking me now, we’re on our way to the highway. Take this road, here on the right, hon.”

I took that road on the right.

“Are you working? Preaching this weekend? Oh yeah? What’re you working on … Get in the center lane, honey, this is an exit only …”

I drifted to the center lane, which I was on my way to doing anyway, I can READ A SIGN, Dad.

“That sounds interesting. When I get on the train, I’ll call you … I’ll make it my official first call … we’re rounding a bend here to see how it’s going on the highway, OH NO…. JEEEEZUS… Go into the left lane, and we’ll run along the road on a parallel local road … Yeah, I’ll call you later.” His red Sprint handset slaps closed.

“I just haven’t adjusted to the time I guess; I thought people were still on vacation … ” he said, sounding frustrated and aged, lending to me a feeling as though because he was older that the roads were more unpredictable. “There’s always some construction going on … I hope we get there on time…”

So I went to the light, and I turned left and we hummed along the highway, which was eventually humming along as well. “We will absolutely get there on time. It won’t be an issue.” I said.

As we approached the train station, I told him he didn’t need to tell me how to get there, “It’s off Callahan Street,” I said.

“YES! What a good memory!” he said to me. I notice now as I type that exchange, that I do have a good memory, that what I recall might not always be super-duper fantastic Betty Crocker Brady Bunch Cosby Show moments, but that what I recall is likely very accurate, mine, and that it’s ok if it doesn’t synch up or please everyone else.

“Yes, I used to work down here, remember?”

“Yes, for that publisher; your boss, Jim McGovern? Joe McGavern? McGuiness?”

“Close, it’s not a common Irish name in America anyway; but you’re close …” and I told him what it was. “He taught me some amazing lessons about business and publishing and editing. I remember one instance when I …”

“Turn left here. And then we’ll swoop around down to the right and you can stop to drop me off in front.”

That story I was going to tell didn’t matter, I guess. He was excited. We were on time. He was going to see family on a beautiful weekend, for the first time ever unencumbered by Mom and her anxieties and -isms.

I turned, swooped and stopped. Put the car in park and prepared to open my door to get his wheelie out and help him to the doors.

“Hey, wait. I found this and I want you to have it.” He said as he was starting to lean out the passenger door of my SUV. He was reaching into his pocket and handed it to me. “Here. You know what this is…” he said in a gentle, singsongy and sincere voice. “I know she’d want you to have it. I want you to have it.”

Mom's.

Mom’s. It just occurred to me that I don’t have anything like this, other than my rings which I wear all the time, for my children to identify with. I have a locket, it’s got Thing 1 and our first dog in it. But I don’t wear it because doing so was “too much like Mom” even though I wanted to have one.

It was a locket. A gold, 2″ oval etched locket that Mom wore all the days of her life that I can remember. There is no mistake in this memory. I can see and smell and hear that locket swish along the ropey gold chain she wore and see it nestled on her chest, or in the crease between her breasts, or rest on a cashmere sweater that smelled of her, wool and Chanel No. 5. For as long as I can remember, that locket has housed two photos. One of me, when I was in kindergarten, and one of my older brother (whom my father was about to visit) when he was likely in second grade.

‘Shee Chrishhee. Shee Chrishhee…’ ” Dad said as he handed it to me.

I opened it up and the tears bounded out like that bubble from the murk. They poured out of me, and are again. That locket was not amongst her things when she died. It wasn’t in that plastic bag the nurse gave me the night I left her body at the hospital. I wondered where it was. I wasn’t ever going to ask Dad, but I’d wondered for 375 days. I was reluctant to ask.

“Shee Chrishhee.” I whimpered back, vaulted to my toddler self, recalling the phrase I used to utter to Mom to glimpse the picture of my brother.

When I saw the pictures of myself and my brother, they were as I’ve always remembered. The photo of  my brother is patchy and worn slightly, likely from my fingers and thumb rubbing it upon my numerous requests to see the pictures, on demand.

Here is the image of me, still under its little plastic cover which Mom likely added to protect it from destruction as the image of my brother had been worn.

I took this picture in the car, at a red light about three miles from the train station. I was five in this image; about the time in my life when I can remember mostly sadnesses and feeling alone.  I cut my own bangs.

I took this picture in the car, at a red light about three miles from the train station. I was five in this image; about the time in my life when I can remember mostly sadnesses and feeling alone.
I cut my own bangs.

Do you have an image or photo of yourself that you love so much? That when you see it, it all comes flooding back? God, I was so little. I have always cherished this image of myself.

I remember that top. I loved it. It was a blue “Health-Tex” turtleneck with tortoise-y false buttons running down the red-fringed ruffle. I had blue and red gingham pants and a skirt that went with it.

I won’t share the picture of my brother because he’d likely disown me if I did. He is a terrifically handsome man and was a great looking kid too, but per the mode of the time, he is wearing a David Cassidy-inspired vest over a massive-collared pale paisley print man-blouse. His hair is also David Cassidy, in the fashion of the day and his smile is gentle and kind. His teeth are … his teeth have been addressed orthodontically so they are completely different now, but I sense he’d kill me if I shared it so I won’t.

So I see how this goes, at least for the moment. Nostalgia is imminent. Ha. It is though. The following evening I went to a mini-high school reunion and caught up with friends. It was so lovely to be with them all. We’ve all aged beautifully, I might add.

The phrase of the night was “AOOOMAIIIGAAAD! You haven’t changed a bit!!!” and I had to brace a little at that; I spoke with a dear friend about that utterance that night and she said, “Yikes. I hope I have. I hope I’ve evolved! I’ve done so much growing and work…” we laughed.

I decided that I wanted to hear and say this, “You look great! You’ve taken such good care of yourself…” and that that would be enough.

I’ll be around. I’ll be poking at the proposal from my friend in publishing. I’m trying to figure it all out. Maybe this is enough; maybe the blogging is enough. I doubt it though; I need to let myself have bigger plans. I need to let myself chase a dream. Chasing that dream requires I go backwards too, especially if I want to call it a memoir; just don’t ask me to call it ‘nostalgia.’

Thank you.