Yesterday my heart was dark. In the morning, I received the news that I did not get a job that I thought I wanted. I was one of two final candidates. Obviously, they chose the other guy. You’d think I’d be used to rejection but this felt different because it wasn’t about my creative work; it was about me and how I did not fit into someone’s mold of what they think they need.
When I told my son about not getting the job, he was baffled. Who could be better than Mummy? Knowing that I am the person he would always choose is what healed me. There is no one better for this important role I have in his life. I know that and so does he.
I was also, oddly, healed by Patrick Swayze. Always, after a particularly painful or judgy rejection, I turn to my mantra from Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” If I can say that to myself a good fifty times, it helps to heal the wound. Didn’t work so well yesterday, but…
When I was at the grocery store, Swayze found me again when “She’s Like the Wind” came on the loudspeaker and as I listened, I truly became Baby.
I don’t need him. He needs me and he would be goddamned lucky to have me and living without me will drive him insane. I am out of his league and he’s a fool to believe he is anything I need. He can’t even make eye contact because I am so far above him.
I do not need you. I am like the wind.
Instead of going to sleep with a heavy heart, I went to sleep lying next to my kid, holding his hand. I went to sleep filled with gratitude for all that I have. I am home. I am warm. Those I love the most are with me. Tomorrow, I will break bread with more family. There is not much more that I need.
And you? You are like the wind, my friend. You are.
Thank you, Patrick Swayze.
The purple has dulled, the dandelions blown. After a hard season, the rabbit reabsorbs her fetuses.We may have built this house out of paper, this family out of twigs and thread. There is fire all around us, but the winds push it back. This world is not made of stone and grass; it is made of air and phlegm. We believe it does not exist without us, but it does. It does.
I miss our quiet suffering. I miss not knowing that you are dying. I miss finding out days or months or years later after you have already turned to dust.
This is great advice. I’ve been following it and it’s been working so far.
“One of the vital things for a writer who’s writing a book, which is a lengthy project and is going to take about a year, is how to keep the momentum going. It is the same with a young person writing an essay. They have got to write four or five or six pages. But when you are writing it for a year, you go away and you have to come back. I never come back to a blank page; I always finish about halfway through. To be confronted with a blank page is not very nice. But Hemingway, a great American writer, taught me the finest trick when you are doing a long book, which is, he simply said in his own words, “When you are going good, stop writing.” And that means that if everything’s going well and you know exactly where the end of…
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There was a little girl dressed in a costume in the check out line today. She was cute and said to her mother, “No one will recognize me.”
Then she turned to me and took off her mask and I said, “It’s you! I had no idea it was you.”
She turned back to her mother and said, “See? I told you.” The mother then attempted to engage me in conversation about how ridiculous it was that the woman who ran the changing room gave her a hard time that her daughter wanted to wear the costume out of the store.
Apparently, the attendant said, “I’ll get in trouble.”
The woman told me she said back, “I’ll take the trouble on.”
Really? Will you? So does that mean if this elderly woman is threatened with losing her job, you’ll lose your job instead? She just could not wrap her head around why her daughter, who really wanted to wear her costume, maybe shouldn’t have been allowed to because it was against the rules and could possibly cost someone her job.
So she let her daughter do what she wanted to. In fact, she stood up for her daughter doing whatever she wanted to no matter what it cost anyone else.
Her daughter is in third grade and she already believes she is more important than the people who serve her. This is not good.
I see this kind of thing all the time. The children are like little gods. They walk into a waiting room with their parents and the children sit down and the parents stand beside them because there is no other chair. Even worse, the parents let their children continue to sit even when elderly or infirm people enter the room and then must crouch against a wall (though I offer my chair and so that doesn’t last long).
Children, you are NOT more important than anyone else. You exist along side us all. You may not wear your costume out of the store. Wait until you get home. Get used to waiting. It’s good for you. Really. I promise you that it will only make you a better person. I have not lied to you yet.
Mother always said, “When the man comes, he will be wearing a suit. He will walk up a path covered in rusty pine needles.” I dreamed of him this way–a rumpled stranger outside my house, who stops, and waves.
The hard backed chairs push against my spine while his hand pushes closer to my thigh. He pretends to read the program but really he is looking at me sideways. “Do you remember when we first met?” he whispers as the conductor enters and the house falls to silence. I do remember. I remember him on my dusty drive, looking up at my window, the wind twisting the trees as he stood there on the orange ground, smiling.
Two days in, I let him touch me. He took my hand in his. My fingers long and bony, his short and fat. He thought my hand elegant. “You could have been a pianist,” he said, running his fingers up and down mine.
Sometimes, we would listen to the wind and, if it seemed particularly harsh, put on Mozart’s Requiem and let them duel it out. Mozart won every time. He had to.
Before him I never knew music and his suit was not made of cloth, it was made of wind.
“It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods — trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools — only Uncle Sam can do that.” – John Muir, Our National Parks (1901) chapter 10.
One of my beloved aunties had down syndrome. She was sweet and had funny stories about her boyfriend, Mickey Lewis (aka, Mick Jagger). She also had many endearing quirks, one of which was that she liked to clean. Whenever she stayed with us, I would come home and find all of my dresser drawers tidied, even my underwear were folded. She also had a made up game of cards she enjoyed, but only she knew the rules and so she played it like solitaire.
What I am thinking about today, though, is how she knit. To me, her work seemed painstaking and precise. She would knit down, down, down until she got to an end or a mistake she understood but that I could not see and then she would pull the yarn, unravel all of her work, and begin anew.
When I was younger, I might have seen this as an exercise in futility, but not so now. In fact, I look to her as I hesitate to pull the thread that will unravel a narrative. I think of how instead of filling me with dread, it should fill me with joy at the possibility of recreating.
Think of it this way: nothing is lost. The muscle memory remains and there is nothing but opportunity to build again what you’ve destroyed.
So I will think of my auntie’s small hands knitting and how no matter how many times she pulled the thread and unraveled her work, whatever she created anew was just as beautiful as what she had created before. I will pull the unraveling thread with a sense of hope.
First grade begins one week from today. As such, I’m feeling unhinged. I couldn’t quite express why until I read this today:
“For parents, too, first grade is a milepost, a beginning. Their child is entering the ‘real world.’ She will be labeled. She will be assessed. She will be exposed to influences over which parents have little control. A teacher becomes a powerful presence in new ways in the child’s life. Beyond the teacher’s task of nurturing cognitive growth, he or she will be able to influence the emotional development and values of the child. Her teacher will become the ultimate authority on a variety of matters, which had previously been just between parent and child… Your child is no longer just yours. She belongs to the world in a new way. Will that world like her? Will it see her lovely traits and talents–or just her weaknesses? Parents’ feelings of having to share their child, of giving her up to others, deepen in first grade.” — T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. & Joshua D. Sparrow, M.D., , Touchpoints Three to Six: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development
He stands halfway down the staircase while I stand at the top. He has two of the pillows I’d earlier stuffed up into the linen closet in his backpack. He is trying to hide them but they are obvious. I ask him why he has them there, and he stutters, stumbles trying to answer. I reach for him and watch as he falls down the stairs.
I felt that I must scream but, again, nothing would come. Even so, I held my mouth open.
The pillows break his fall. He bounces to his feet and shuffles away.
The light on the hill is like spring and it made us hopeful but we knew that soon it would snow. I had hoped it wouldn’t, had hoped it would stay dry so that the light would not be reflected whitely.
The days were long and light blue. The sky was sky colored; there was no other description. He prepared for his time off and I felt guilty that a trip had not been planned. All I could do was think about what was going on inside of my head, what was keeping me from sleeping. We should have been packing for Italy or Portugal.
I searched for Lisbon, Venice.
We visit IKEA. We buy chairs. Next time, next time.
It was all a routine.
The man putting his money in behind me at the T who looked like he wanted to kill me. The drunken man on the train platform needed attention, but no one was willing to give it to him.
Where had my need gone?
I mentioned a name to get a reaction. Watched one dog walk towards another, head down, back straight as if there were no other way to approach. Two joggers passed one another. The sound of feet on pavement and breathing was not alien to me.
A foreign couple, French, made sandwiches on a bench in the cement courtyard. They didn’t know that if they walked a few more blocks the could sit on the grass by the Charles. I wouldn’t tell them.
A broken tooth during a snowstorm and I went to that cheap dentist again. He pulled it out and warned of dry socket. I stood at the bus stop with a sodden wad of gauze covering the wound. Next time, I would try the chain dentist. He and his sassy assistant would get into a fight and he would tell me he was passing a kidney stone, wincing and sweating as he worked on my root canal.
On the plane to California, a famous guitarist was a few seats up. We forgot him quickly in the burnt hills of Malibu, in the smell of sage brush in Santa Barbara, in the sunset at Pismo Beach. San Simeon. Driving on the foggy cliffs with the top down and the heat on. Big Sur. The soulful redwoods. The seals in Monterey. And all the time, missing and missing.
My blue blocker lenses made everything beautiful.
I liked sitting in my cold, dark kitchen alone, drinking wine. Winter wrap me in your thin arms and I will rejoice.
If you can be quiet for just one minute you can hear all of the strange life.
But where did the anger collect?
My eyes formed a bridge with the light from the door. Then I kissed you and the sky opened up with a huge cavity in the clouds that I tried to fill it with the smoke from my cigarette.
I learned to play snooker in Glasgow.
I looked for you in all things.
The gray sky. Trees burdened with late falling snow, aching and arching with limbs breaking into goose bumps at the thought of someone brushing against them.
All winter long there are tracks of deer, leading to the semicircle of gray, black. And a moon. A meandering stream.
All winter long snow whispers down and trickles. The birds sing nowhere. Then there are the tracks of the smaller creatures–the chipmunks and squirrel, fisher and fox.
When the buds are out, red and proper, the snow comes again and hides them.
Trees are slick with green and wet and one of them oozes white foam, like spit. A fat robin pecks at the earth. Snow melts and pools, shifts to raining. The balsams are feathery light and driveway gravel glows in the gloom.
But nothing matches the sky for its whiteness. It is a desert of white–untouched, unmoving.
On the sand, on the dunes, there are patterns and twirls, shapes and roadways. The sidewinder, the rodents, the beetles—all leave something behind. Then they fall in and out of shadow until the sun is too high and everything goes white.
It is that whiteness.
To feel those papery hands on my face once more is love, but they are as old and as cold as the old and cold sea where the snow exists forever. Where it blasts into the dark night, tracking the sky like the breath of the world—stars and meteors and comets.