April showers

Feeling lazy, and kind of resentful that I agreed to do something every day and failed at it. I’m sure it’s some big lesson about how if I really wanted to be a writer, I’d just write. Nothing could keep me away from it – not family or health or work… because I’d have drive and passion and blah de blah.

It’s grey, and rained last night like there was no tomorrow. Sideways, even. Now recovering from some food poisoning I got from leftover Indian food. So. Tired. Grateful for a body that identifies a foreign object and says GET OUT, just wish it wasn’t so violent.

Had the craziest dream about Ryan Reynolds last night. We were tight but married to other people and had to show restraint. Proud of myself in my dreams…

I missed a day, so what?

It’s very, very easy to beat myself up for not doing something I said I would do. I agreed to write in my blog every day for 30 days and yet yesterday went by and I didn’t realize it until 11pm when I was too tired. I don’t know what it’s like for people who have really horrible addictions, but I do know what it’s like to hold the bar too high for oneself. It’s not perfection I’m after, I believe that perfect is the enemy of the good. And I’ve become much more relaxed as an adult than I was as a child. And still, it’s disappointing.

But the wonderful news is that I woke up today, I have the chance to do something great. Doesn’t mean it will be this blog entry, or showing up to my job, or telling my husband I love him. It could be something small and I may not even know I’ve done it because my actions may affect someone else. That’s what I hope for, anyway.

Palm trees

A teacher once told me that when you are writing your personal stories, often you need perspective. Sometimes, the experience is too raw to process well enough to then convey accurately – or if not accurately, effectively, in an entertaining or interesting manner. But occasionally you just need to get the shit down on paper and let it flow, whether it happened 10 years or 10 minutes ago. Today, I’m going to listen to the teacher’s advice, though, because what I’m feeling most heartbroken about are my failures as a mother – and that alone could fill a book.

So, today, palm trees. I am on a mini-moon with my man. After a few days in Vegas for a conference, we’ve just hit Palm Springs for a couple of nights then off to LA. We’re taking our ‘real’ honeymoon in December but this feels like a nice getaway. We swam in the pool tonight and as I looked up at the palm trees swaying, I was reminded of when I first moved to California. I had just turned 20, and had been dreaming of this move for as long as I could remember, and as long as I could write. There I was, at a friend of a friend’s family house in San Diego, marveling at their backyard. Instead of grass and birch trees, they had rocks and avocado trees. Orange, lemon, cacti, and palms everywhere. I remember craning my neck to watch the palm fronds undulate, back and forth, much like hair underwater. The turquoise blue sky behind them provided such a stark contrast that I thought I was still dreaming… Here I am, exactly where I’m supposed to be. And while, obviously, I was supposed to move to NYC 20 years later and meet my man, I still dream of California – both the life I had before and the life I will have again. So, tonight, as I floated on my back, water blocking my ears from any sound, I watched the palm fronds sway in the wind and for a minute, it felt like home.

The Closeted Map

In 2011, when I got the job offer that would change my life, the one thing I knew for sure was that I wouldn’t squander the opportunity. That’s what I thought then, anyway. I moved to Brooklyn and got my one bedroom apartment in a then-borderline neighborhood, where I would live gloriously and terrifyingly alone for the first time in my life. At 41 years old.

The apartment had one long wall of mirrors in the living room, which reminded me of something out of a porno or a cheesy romantic hotel in the Poconos. I’d recently been reminded of the ‘change your mind, change your life’ Oprah manifesto and started a massive vision board. Even though I think vision boarding is for people with too much time on their hands and not enough guts to just go and do. So, I ended up with a 10 foot wide wall of maps and modern houses and sexy, handsome men and ocean vistas. (A month after I moved, I got a Facebook message from someone I’d met more than 10 years earlier. She wanted to set me up on a blind date with her brother. Last month I married him. But that’s a story for another day.)

The thing I liked most about my stupid vision board was that I had many different maps. A World map, a U.S. map, a map of the West Indies, a map of the Middle East. I wanted, and want, to go everywhere. For everywhere that I’d already been, I put a purple dot and for everywhere I wanted to go, I put a red dot. I loved wondering which dot I would turn from red to purple. When I moved to NJ, into our new home, a sweet condo that accommodated our mixed family, I realized that my man’s sense of style was very different than mine. I’m not a messy person, at all, but he’s anal. He’s sloppy sometimes but he’s compulsive about clutter. Now that I’ve pointed it out, he’s more relaxed and can let things lie but when it came to decorating our home, there would be no paper maps on our bedroom walls. So, I put them in our closet. They are piled on top of each other, with the World map facing my clothes and laundry. In order to find room for my jewelry, I thought I would put tacks on the wall and hang my necklaces there. Space saver! I decided to put tacks in all of the red and purple dots, and now my jewelry hangs from Paris and Harare and Tokyo and Bali.

But today, when I went to put a necklace away, I noticed that there was no dot or tack on Israel, which is where we’re taking our honeymoon over Christmas. I remember occasionally thinking about going there, the way I thought about seeing the ballet in St. Petersburg. Not high on the list, and apparently, not on the list at all.

I wonder lately about that vision board. In the last four years, I found my man, we traveled to many beautiful beaches and cities, and we have decorated our home in a lovely modern style that we both like. But lately, I’ve felt stuck. Probably because I was laid off a year ago and I’m in a ‘what-am-I-doing-with-my-life’ crisis, and my son is off to college in a year, and I live with two girls who don’t particularly like me on any given day, one of whom has serious mental health issues, etc. I’m feeling like I need to take the map out, as well as any other dreams that I have tucked away. Its difficult to stay focused on my goals when I have to go into a closet to find them.

Where to start, part deux

I had the strangest dream last night. My boy was little and we were on a double decker bus with Amanda Plummer. He was talking about his friends who traveled, who were the children of diplomats and lived all over the world. And then I left them behind but kept going on the roof of this bus. There was more, something about my old job, and grocery shopping with a cart that was ten times its normal size and I couldn’t reach to put in the sandwiches from the deli. But the sandwiches kept falling apart anyhow, they were stacked high and the lettuce was soggy. The store wasn’t open yet, actually, but I was trying to get food and I couldn’t reach or get what I needed but I was starving. And then there was a splash of walking by an abandoned amusement park with hundreds of people waiting in line for it to open. It was dark and strange and I tried to tell them they were closed but they couldn’t hear me. Like zombies except they weren’t, just ordinary people, with kids even, that wanted to ride the rides…

So. That’s what I woke up to. I had a good meditation session this morning – I cried and my mind went on a tangent. Something about facing my fears, I imagine but that’s the thing about dreams and monkey mind, you can never quite put your finger on what was the point.

I met some new Moms yesterday at the park with Jennifer. She didn’t have school because of Yom Kippur and I’ve become acquaintances with one of her friend’s Mom. Through her, she introduced me to three other Moms, one of whom I really liked. However, I find when I talk about my transition here, to living in NJ, I get depressed. I am funny, of course, but while they are laughing at my self-deprecating and honest jokes, are they also thinking, WTF or Let’s stay away from this one because she’s got lukewarm juju about our sweet home town? Prolly. And I don’t blame them. I bet by the time I actually embrace living here, we’ll be ready to leave. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a hell hole, its just not where I want to be. I don’t gravitate toward the monochrome, the vanilla, the all-look-same. Yeah yeah, this town has an area of affordable housing where the ‘poor people’ and ‘hobos’ live, this is all according to the girls, but that’s the most fucked up part. Despite there being a shred of diversity, which could add to the community, people here still see them as others. When I try and explain this to the girls, they put on sad, pouty faces and say how they feel sorry for the people in the projects, and its so sad they have to live like that, and on and on. While we are encouraging and teaching empathy, by our words and example, I fear that we are perpetuating pity also. ‘Those’ people are mostly smart, often educated, working men, women and children, just like us. While their opportunities have been different or non-existent, I don’t feel sorry for them. I don’t pity them. I feel for them, yes, but I don’t see them as less-than because of their circumstances. Also, what good is all the pity if we’re not doing anything to help them? The girls fear those kids because they are different. Its not that they don’t have a handful of black kids at their school, they do. And they always have a story to tell about them – they live in the projects, their Dads left and they have no money and its so so sad. This just isn’t the reality, though. Yes, I am sure this is true for some of them but its also true for some of the white kids! And the hispanic kids! Parents get divorced, people struggle with money, children are mistreated – and it is all awful. But how do we get our children to see that they are all the same… children? And what they need is friendship, not pity?

Day 7

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried keeping a blog or writing as a habit. Its not that I don’t write, I just write sporadically. I’ve kept a journal since I was about eight years old. In the last decade, I write in a journal on two different occasions… on planes, and when I’m super super stressed out about something and can’t sleep. Now, because I have traveled every 4-6 weeks for the last decade or so, I have plenty of entries. It’s a mechanism to deal with anxiety I might feel about flying and it’s also a way to reflect on what’s going on in my life at that time. Separately, I’ve taken numerous writing classes – memoir, screenplay, dramatic writing. I’ve done the Artist’s Way, taken workshops in writing + yoga, and free writing flings. In the moment, when I am working on my writing, I feel challenged and if I’m lucky, inspired. Sometimes, I even write good shit. The problem, of course, is consistency. I have spent most of my life believing that I am not a writer because hello, writers write. Every day. All the time. It’s the work they can’t not do, as Scott Dinsmore says. Or said. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what defines a writer?

For me, though, I sometimes hate it. Yes yes, the blank page, the fear, the doubt. Moreover, though, am I wasting my time? Shouldn’t I know already? Shouldn’t I feel a deep compulsion, every day, to tell my stories? I think I used to. I have suppressed those feelings for the last 20 years. When I was young, I dreamed of telling stories through film and books, not being able to dream yet of an internet connecting me to the world. I had an active imagination, I had fun with my stories, and I moved to California believing without a doubt that I would make it in Hollywood. Boy, was I dumb. And thank god because if I hadn’t taken the leap, I wouldn’t have had such a wonderful, adventurous life. More fodder for the page, I guess.

Maybe I am more afraid that this isn’t the work I can’t not do (note: as a grammar nerd, this sentence tortures me.) But it’s the work I can do now. I’m in a position in my life where I finally have the time to find out. I am not trying to figure out how to avoid a late notice from the electric company. I’m not worrying about bouncing checks to my ex for rent and wondering how much interest he’ll charge me. I have stability despite the fact that I’m not working, because my supportive, generous husband wants me to take this time to figure out what’s next for me. And I do, too. Which is terrifying, of course, but also liberating – and I still need to find a way to see that I deserve it. That I don’t need to be suffering. And that just because I am white and educated and privileged, doesn’t mean I can’t also complain from time to time. I know who I am inside and what I believe, I know my level of compassion. Maybe the problem is that the work I can’t not do is work I actually can’t do. Humanitarian work? Diplomatic work? Or is it writing screenplays and memoirs about my life which I think is extraordinary but honestly it’s not. And isn’t that the point? That my stories will resonate, that despite our obvious differences, we are fundamentally the same?

So, today is day 7 of the writing challenge. I’m not ready to find out how to monetize my blog or get 100,000 followers by this time next year. I’m not ready to say this is the work I can’t not do. I feel that this work, this expression, much like my journaling, actually just allows me to get the spinning mind down on paper and frees it up for what’s next. I have to remind myself, every morning, that today is a new day, a new opportunity. I only need to see the 10 feet in front of me, I don’t need to know where the road ends.