California Calling

A while back, in a fit of feeling sorry for myself, I decided that if I couldn’t spend one last big chunk of time with my son, I might leave my new husband and two bonus daughters.

So in January of 2016 I spent four glorious weeks in the Bay Area picking my son up from school, hanging out with him after school, being obnoxiously present on the weekends.

Fast forward a year+ and my son is at college in California – a decision that made me both heartsick and elated. I’d wished he would have chosen Wesleyan or Swarthmore, but he’s a California boy, born and raised – even though he has loved his bi-coastal experience. I recently came back from a visit and while its my son I go to spend time with, it is my friends who I equally need to connect with. I love my son. Deeply and unreasonably. However, there is a natural evolution to parenting… we raise them to become independent human beings that can connect in the world. To have humility and self-awareness. And eventually, to leave the nest. Whereas friendships, which we nurture and hone and develop, are setting us up for a different kind of security as we age. At least that is what I’m hoping from the friendships I have been lucky enough to have. There are periods of time when we are all busy in our tornados of life but even the brief respite of hearing from a friend can sustain me for weeks.

And then I come home, to New Jersey, where I know about one person, despite living here for almost four years. Sure, I ‘know’ my neighbors, but they’re not friends. I work in Manhattan. I spend most of my free time with my husband, traveling, or alone. Making friends when you’re old is hella different than when we’re kids, or have something in common like kids or husbands or work. I need to keep looking for new groups to spend time with, like minded people who can dork out with me.

Kripalu, or a weekend of waking up

I wanted to take Jason away somewhere for a surprise weekend away, and decided that since he’s never been to Kripalu and is on this crazy path of self-discovery that he might enjoy it. Or if he didn’t enjoy it he would at least get something out of it. That is, even if he didn’t want to do the personal transformation sessions, he might still be able to do yoga, or in the least go for a run in the woods.

Turns out he’s enjoying the personal transformation sessions and getting a lot out of being here. It doesn’t hurt that this building used to be some type of convent… he says he’s felt the presence of Jesus and then his eyes get watery. That’s his way of saying he cries, except for that he never says he cries. He gets very emotional about Jesus, and I’ve never seen him get emotional about anything else honestly. Oh sure anger or excitement yes but not raw emotion. Only Jesus gets to feel that. I sound jealous. I probably am.

The weather is gorgeous so we went for a nice walk to the beach and walk the labyrinth. I keep wondering if we’re going to walk away from this weekend feeling any closer. I feel like we’re friends, we’re still raw though. We have a mutual appreciation for that right now, and maybe we’re not going to feel much closer until we deal with our own shit. I have to remind myself this is all new for him. These emotions, this way of looking at life and himself, the type of relationship that is not skimming on the surface but getting deep. I also have to remind myself to be patient and kind because even though he gets excited and determined and wants to try something new, I have a lifetime of experience telling me that real, significant changes take time. Sometimes a long, long time.

Last night

I was supposed to go to a write-in. A place where writers come together, are given a prompt, they write for 15 minutes, and then are (positively) critiqued. I’ve been before and its ok, but last night I said I was going and I didn’t. I lied. I mean, I didn’t LIE LIE. I left on time, got on the bus, got off near Port Authority, walked to the building, and then just kept walking. The problem is that I knew that was going to happen. It was my plan all along. I’m embarrassed and ashamed, of course, but honestly I liked that no one knew where I was. I love the anonymity of NYC. I love that I can be at 42nd and 8th and its a hell hole, wall to wall people, and no one notices me. I loved that I didn’t have to be with my stepdaughters and our little family last night because I can only handle them in spurts, especially if the older one is having a tough time aka being a raging, irresponsible, bratty bitch.

So, I went to the one decent place for food (which I will not disclose here in case you all frequent it and then it will no longer be a safe haven for me,) and then caught a movie. I’ve actually done this before, just once. Maybe this makes it a habit now, I don’t know. Because I desire it. Not the lying part, just the being alone part. It would be hurtful to my man if he knew I didn’t want to be with them. Actually, him either. We have plenty of time without the girls, but we use that time to be together or travel or sometimes with my son. It strikes when it strikes, the need to escape.

I saw a police officer riding a horse the wrong way down a one way street. I heard bits and pieces of bizarre conversations. I smelled smells that made me hold my breath and cover my face with my scarf. I bumped into many shoulders and said many ‘Pardon me, excuse me’s. Best of all, I forgot everything I was worried about, everything I was thinking about, before I got there. I felt anger (at the throngs of slow moving people,) sadness (at the homeless, drug-addicted, and destitute strangers,) blinded (by the lights,) and a strange sense of calm that only comes from being still in the center of chaos. I wish I could achieve this at home, when the storms come, but I am too reactive, too emotional, too personal. It matters to me, and I need to take care of myself so that I do not explode, say all of the wrong things, have a negative impact on those kids.

So, since I can’t go much further than NYC because 1. we don’t have a car and 2. I need to be home at a reasonable hour, Times Square on a Friday night it is.

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.