Archive for April 2010
Five years ago, W. was president again, PJP II had passed, the first face transplant went down in France, and I was single. I wasn’t struggling with it in any conventional sense, and I wasn’t miserably lonely – quite the opposite. Life had taken on a comfortable rhythm post divorce- running 5 nights a week, Law & Order marathons, “Welcome to Moe’s!”, a goal set and met of a 5k a month, peppered with kind friends and mini adventures. Maybe not your cup of tea, but it was mine, and it. Was. Delicious.
While my debt (*cough* thanks ex husband *cough*) had me working a second job a couple of nights a week, I had few complaints. My affordable 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath apartment was in a bustling and alive part of town, and it was painfully charming with its squeaky hardwoods, eat in kitchen and spacious back deck — ideal for writing under a canopy of leaves, among screaming squirrels and birds.
My rub with relationships then wasn’t a source of panic or frustration or desperation – it was one of annoyance and whybotheritis. I’d met and spent time with smart and wonderful men, they just didn’t fit me and I didn’t fit them.
Cut to: my seester.
My seester with a brain as giant as her overly generous heart, with her masters in forensic psychology and her multiple life-coach certificates. My sister, who always has time for one of my rambling ranty calls from across the continent.
As we spoke one afternoon, I imagined her in her LA garden surrounded by bougainvillea and under the orange tree near the guest cottage/her office.
“Go to your happy place.” she said, and I nearly choke-laugh which really isn’t that funny since I’m pretty sure I was driving at the time. “Do you have one? Maybe a park? Maybe a diner? Go there. Go there and bring paper with you and a pen – this can’t be done on a computer, there’s something primal and healing about the depression a pen makes in paper.”
I’m skeptical but intrigued and then skeptical some more, because I feel like there’s a hidden camera in the mix somewhere and I’m about to make a complete fool of myself.
“Make a list.” she tells me. I may have scrunched my nose or rolled my eyes or both.
“Make a list of what the perfect mate looks like – and I don’t mean physical attributes though a few of those are fine, too. I mean what kind of person are they?”
I’m at a loss, and I flashback to a seminar class I had in high school where there were no right or wrong answers but I still felt like every one I could conjure up was not only complete stinky BS, but also horribly wrong.
As if feeling the trepidation rattle in me via our shared DNA, she throws one out one of hers to get me started: “He walks up behind me at the kitchen sink on a Saturday morning when I have rat-nest hair and yuck mouth and tells me I’m beautiful and I believe him.”
“Oh shit,” I remember thinking, “that’s good. I’m using that.” She throws a few more at me and we hang up with the “I love you’s” we’ve been saying for thirty years.
Two days later on my lunch break I head to a park near my office with a blanket, my pen and one of my trusty yellow tablets. I’m still looking around for a suspicious van loaded with zoom lenses ready to capture my idiocy, and embark on the task reluctantly. The next thing I know there are 5 pages of requirements: heartfelt and goofy, they’re representative of things I’d had and never wanted again, things I had and wanted again, things I’d never had.
A few weeks passed and I’d already forgotten the list, the exercise, the trauma of waiting to show up on AFV or a list of Darwin Award nominees when I met The Mc at a social event. I watched from a distance…kind. Confident without being cocky. Laughed openly and freely. Handsome.
There were several weeks of awkwardness that followed before I gave him the nudge he needed to ask me out, and when he did I had circled back around to the list – I was armed and ready with my modern day Santa/cookie demands.
Some might say “the rest is history”, but I usually try not to be that big of an ass hat.
The 4 ½ years since haven’t been all ice cream and cool ocean breezes with sizzling sunsets, and the fact is I have no guarantee the he won’t grow weary of my shenanigans a month from now and kick me to the curb (though I don’t think he will). What I do know is it’s pretty great, and that having the list was no coincidence.
If you’re having a hard time wrapping your brain around it, humor me a bit longer and let me hit you with an analogy. When you need a new pair of jeans, where do you go? Knowing that we each have our own answer, I ask you next, where would you go if you’d never had a pair of jeans. If you’d never SEEN jeans? If you’d never even HEARD of jeans? You might end up at U-Haul rental or a florist or a recycling center. Right? Because you don’t even know what you’re LOOKING FOR.
So just now, I’m writing all this out for you on a yellow tablet in another of my happy places, with a sliver of Sunday morning sun sneaking through the cracks of two tall buildings. The sun is finding its way to my pale, rickety legs while I sip coffee and worry about you.
I’m writing this in case you’re lonely and trying to make something or someone fit that doesn’t. I’m writing it for you in case you’re lost and frustrated.
I’m writing it for us – that we might appreciate what we have or have not, as a reminder that if we focus, if we breathe, if we have patience – we will find what we’re looking for…if we know what we’re looking for.
Zooming down the freeway at 75mph with the top down before the sun comes up – still cool wind cutting around me and music volume slowly being increased to offset the whooooooooooosh. My adrenaline attempts to drown out the self judging of my music choice: The Scientist by Coldplay. It’s not in my regular rotation but it popped up on shuffle and I found it a fitting compliment to my mood on Easter morning.
Jack – she’s a good girl.
As a tween back in Anchor-town, our family had one of those monstrous RCA televisions in our basement. It was one of those that was the size of an old school Volkswagen Bug, with the push button numbers and the red 24-esque font read-out instead of the flip tuner, and when dad splurged and brought it home (presumably to keep us in the basement) we felt oh-so-fancy in our pre-cable, pre call waiting, shag carpeted rec room.
My older brothers had two VHS tapes they rented and “lost” the summer of the new TV – ones that we watched so many times I was continually surprised the tape didn’t melt to the heads of the VCR.
Many nights and mornings of hormone insomnia were spent playing my share of those two “lost” tapes, they were flicks I never would have selected for myself. The movies? Trading Spaces (most of the dialog to if challenged and which I still regularly quote) and – more importantly – Terminator.
Sarah Connor was it. Strong. Independent. Fierce and triumphant in the face of certain death, lost, alone, scared but persistent, feminine, and…she drove a Jeep. Somehow I managed to draw parallels, and identified with her as my mother was picked apart bit by bit by disease and damage she no longer wished to control. Heart surgery, amputations and alcoholism were part of every day life. Sarah Connor had seen worse, and she survived it: with balls bigger than any mans and a just a hint of lipstick. If she could battle intelligent machinery from the future at the same time as heartbreak, surely I could handle what I was being given.
There was something about that final scene of the movie, the one where ‘s worn and ragged and she’s at a filling station in the middle of the desert with the requisite tumbleweed rolling by and a German Shepard in the passenger seat. In the scene she’s brutally aware and unaware of what her future holds. A bandanna rolled and presumably preventing sweat from rolling down her forehead, and she’s sitting in the Jeep with the top down recording a message to John Connor and a little boy pops up and snaps a Polaroid of her. The same picture her son will use to find her in the future/past, the picture that captures her heartbreak and hope. There’s some dialog and she throws on her aviators and rolls off towards the storm and the mountains in the distance.
Oh, it haunted me. It haunts me still.
So when the temperatures eek themselves anywhere within 3 zip codes of warm, when I can leave the house and tap into my formerly Alaskan tolerance of cold – I take Jack for a bath and strip her bare for our annual rebirth.
The top down, the wind snarling knots in my short, fine, ever graying hair, we hit the open road and embrace my inner Sarah Connor.
PS I’m still in denial about James Cameron having anything to do with Terminator
PSS If you want to watch the scene I mentioned, I found a clip here.
In August my mothers aunt will celebrate her 70th year in the nunnery. That side of our family will gather in San Francisco to celebrate her life, her years of service and her incredible spirit. She’s got a wit that’ll cut you if you’re not careful and brilliant glowing eyes, and my mother loved her very, very much.
Among the family being collected, a small miracle will occur: my siblings and I will be together. In the same place, at the same time, and not for a wedding or a funeral. We’ll have a few events to attend over our 5 day stay and will leave the rest to wander the city of our collective births that we left nearly 40 years (**gasp**) ago, to explore what we used to know and rediscover each other – the people we used to think we knew.
It’s been twenty years since we lived under the same roof. In the years since we’ve had braces put on and taken off, body parts pierced, tattoos added and avoided, hair grown and lost, spouses added and removed, children collected, hobbies entertained and abandoned and, of course, we said good bye to our parents in those years as well.
I’m excited and anxious and tentative about it all – the adventures we’ll embark on and the conversations we’ll have and the small spats that may erupt – because in the end we’re siblings and that’s what siblings do.
One thing I know for sure is this: those five days will be brimming with vivid priceless memories and oozing with magic.
(written early this week, failed to finish the thoughts or post)
I’m having one of those days where I must have slept wrong on my face and a nose hair is crooked and tickling. The kind of day where you’re constantly scratching your nose, afraid the little fella is going to jump out and scare someone in a meeting.
It’s also one of those damp and misty and chilly overcast days that mark the end of winter. Today you suffer in observance of contrasts: yesterday we were romping through the forest on dry trails and I had to take my coat off. Yesterday I wound up with a pink forehead from the first kiss of sun this spring, but today? Today I’m curled up under a blanket again and looking achingly out the window for a hint that the sun is coming back – and coming to stay.
It’s been a long damn winter.