"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Next Post

Never have I been so nervous about what to post next on my blog. But it is nervousness in the best possible way.

Being a Blog of Note has done more than bring people to my blog, it has made me realize more than ever that I want to be a writer, want to feel that I am making more deliberate strides towards that goal. And reading the kind and powerful words of fellow bloggers, readers, and people from literally everywhere has fired that passion in a way that is hard to adequately express. I posted a comment among the many I was receiving and stated that I had never been more inspired than in this moment. And that is so true.

In reading the comments so many of you graciously left, I felt so touched that what I wrote had meaning to someone in the way that things I have read have had for me. I am truly humbled.

Writing about what happened to me last year was part of the closure. Many of my friends didn't even know exactly what happened. I was ashamed for so long because of all the excitement I had expressed to them about the relationship, only to have been completely fooled. I told a few different versions of a less embarrassing reason for the break up. To put it all out there was a piece of the puzzle, and confirmation that I finally recognized I had nothing to be ashamed about.

This blogger community is a little miracle to me. I have questioned my talent, wondered if I was right to want so badly to express myself through my words and name that my calling. And as I make my way through all of the blogs of those who left comments, reading all of the amazing work and getting encouragement from such a talented group, it has helped me believe in myself and what I want to do. How incredible is that?

Whatever your goals, whether it is to be a writer, to just have a space to spill some emotion, to simply have a central spot for your parents to see updates about their grandchildren, blogging is a little world in which you have creative freedom and opportunity. Take it, and know that we have such an intelligent, compassionate group of supporters behind us to keep us all inspired.

And finally, quite simply . . . thank you.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Suitcase

Everyone experiences heartbreak. I can't say mine is worse or less painful than any other, I only know how it affects me. And last year, I experienced the worst heartbreak of my life. To make a long, complicated story as short as possible: I fell in love with a man I had known for two years, a dear friend, who lived and worked in San Francisco. We had talked and written and become so close during that two years that being together felt more like the next step than a risky venture. We met in person, were mad for each other from moment one, and after a few months, we decided I would move to San Francisco. We looked at places to live, made plans for a life together, and were both giddy at the thoughts of it all. And then, in the most cruel way imaginable, I found out he had been living with another woman the entire time we made all these plans, the entire time we had written to each other as friends, the entire time we were seeing each other.

After I found out, he abruptly cut off all communication with me, became someone I instantly did not know, and never, ever showed a flicker of remorse or sorrow. I fell apart in ways I am embarrassed to think of now. I completely lost my footing and my confidence.

A great deal of my sorrow was just over the fact that one person could do such a thing to another. Especially to someone who had shown them only kindness and love. And WHY? Why had he drawn me into his life, made these plans, while LIVING with someone? How could I be so stupid? What signs had I missed? Why would someone treat me this way?

I needed answers, and never got them. I wanted to understand how this could happen, but there was no explanation.

For almost a year now, I have felt like someone had pushed me off of a cliff, and I was continuously falling, falling...dreading the impact at the bottom, but never hitting it. Just staying in this never ending, horrible free fall, waiting for it to be over.

When I came home from that trip, my last trip to see him, I put my suitcase in my extra bedroom and ignored it. I felt that if I opened it, the pain would be too much to bear. Seeing the things I had packed for what I thought would be a wonderful, special trip. The things I bought while I was there, before it all came apart. I couldn't bear it. And day after day, I let the suitcase sit there, haunting me.

I replaced all the toiletries, my curling iron, and an electric toothbrush just so I wouldn't have to open it. Weeks went by and then months, until I was in another season, and didn't miss or need anything inside it.

And then, a few weeks ago, I moved to a new apartment. As I carried random boxes, lamps and other items out of the spare bedroom, the suitcase stood in the corner. I realized it had been almost a year since I left it in that same spot, in that same position. My heart hurt remembering how it felt coming home that night.

I looked at this bag, and thought of just adding it to the trash pile outside. But I remembered a few things inside it that I had loved. The French shoes I had bought in San Francisco that made me feel as though I was walking on cobblestones instead of concrete. The little black and white dress that made me feel beautiful, even sexy? The journal that I had kept for years before meeting him, knowing him. I took the handle in my hand and loaded the suitcase in the back of my car.

A few nights later, I finally screwed up my courage and opened it. The first thing that greeted me was the scent of the perfume I had worn, that I loved, but hadn't worn since then. I was determined not to cry, but it happened before I could think. I wept. For a moment, I thought again of just closing it and trashing everything. But I made myself keep going. I found the French shoes, the little black and white dress, my favorite bathing suit, my journal, jewelry I adore that I had almost forgotten about, clothing I feel my best in, and some writing I had done-some short stories- that are some of my most excellent pieces. I sat there with these things all around me, still in tears.

And slowly, I began to replace the things from the suitcase in my life. I wore the shoes to work, brought the perfume out of hibernation, and washed all the clothes and returned them to my closet. My necklaces, bracelets and rings returned to my mirrored jewelry box, and the writing to my desk with my other work. I performed the suitcase cleaning ritual I used to do after my business trips, vacuuming the whole suitcase, spritzing some Febreeze and returning it to my closet.

I was fine with the contents out, but the suitcase itself bothered me. I couldn't look at it without thinking of the pain of that last trip, the pain that took me a year to open. So, I tossed the suitcase in the back of my car, figuring I would happen upon a dumpster while I was out.

And then, while driving around for work, in a shopping center where I was visiting a potential client, I saw two women behind a table with containers and stacks of odd items surrounding them. A sign read DONATIONS, and listed the name of a women's shelter. I returned to my car and pulled out the suitcase and quietly added it to the stacks of donations. As I walked away, I thought of some woman, starting her life over, exiting from pain, heading somewhere new and safe. I thought of her packing things in this suitcase, beginning anew-- associating this suitcase with happiness. At least that's what I hope. It seemed to clear my head and my heart.

I also know that during the time I was in love with him, before the heartbreak, that I felt more beautiful, more amazing, more everything than I had felt in a long time. And the betrayal took that away from me for awhile. During the last year, and especially in the last six months, I have realized that I was not stupid or blind, and I was not part of the betrayal. All of the things I felt --love, excitement, happiness--were all true and real. So the way I felt because of those things- beautiful, worthy, confident--had to be true, too. The only part of the equation that was false was him. I have finally separated myself out of it all, forgiven myself, stopped punishing myself, although it seemed to take forever to get to this point.

And it's funny, I think in a way that the suitcase in my house, however hidden, was almost like he was still around. Breaking it open, taking the parts that were the best of myself out of it, and then doing something positive with it freed me. Maybe it sounds dramatic, maybe no one can understand, but it makes perfect sense to me. And it's been almost a year since I could say that about anything.

Artwork by Paul Compton, for this and more of his work, click here.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Beautiful Mystery Solved

During the year 2000, I was fortunate to make two trips to Paris. My first trip was in May, and was the trip that made me fall in love with the City of Light. Before I had left for Paris, a friend had asked me to bring her back a particular perfume by Annick Goutal. Once I arrived, I found the address of the boutique and made my way there. I ended up falling in love with the perfume myself, and made the sales person in the shop very happy that day.

I will always be thankful to my friend for two reasons. Helping me discover Eau d'Hadrien, and for leading me (without knowing it) to one of my favorite memories of my trip. As I walked out of that boutique, I made a right turn and wandered into such a glorious surprise. There in the center of a circle of amazing buildings were the most unique and wonderful sculptures I had ever seen. The statues were incredibly tall, I can't do justice in explaining how they towered over everything. But I remember when I first walked into that plaza and saw them, I was awestruck. I couldn't even move for a few seconds. They were gorgeous and I never would have known they were there were it not for my friend's request.

I took so many pictures of these sculptures, and I tried desperately to find out more information about the artist. But I couldn't find anything near or around the pieces.

I had all my photos developed in Paris and when I got those particular pictures back, I was so pleased with them. They are still my favorite pictures from my trip. (A few are pictured above).

For all these years, I have never known about the artist-- who it was, or anything about the sculptures.

Then, tonight, I followed one of my regular habits, checking the Paris Daily Photo blog. I hadn't been there in a few days, so I scrolled down to see the last few listings. And there, in one of the photos, was one of the statues from the exhibit I had seen. I was so excited, I could barely stand it. I clicked on the post, which listed the artist's name, Louis Derbré, and that led me to his website. All of his work is amazing, but I am so thrilled to have solved a nine-year-old mystery. I love when the internet works like this--making connections, solving mysteries--just the good things.

I also love the world of blogging that I have become a part of. There are so many things I have learned and experienced because of my fellow bloggers, and I will always be grateful I took the steps to enter this medium.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

He Remained a Gentleman to the End

I have tried to keep the darkness I am experiencing right now from becoming too raw and broken in my posts here and on Facebook and the variety of other places I write these days. It is difficult, as the times I write most freely about anything are ironically the times when I am struggling. I think it is my way of coping, some way of letting the pain find a window to escape through.

So tonight, I was searching through a poetry site I had never been to before. I love to search and find poetry that mirrors my journey or pain, and I am often astonished at how someone else's words seem to capture the struggle in my heart and mind. I came upon the following piece:

Drawing from Life

Reginald Shepherd

Look: I am building absence
out of this room's air, I'm reading suppositions into
summer's script snarled on a varnished floor.
It looks like a man. That knot's his hand
waving good-bye, that stippled stripe of grain's
the stacked-up vertebrae of his turned back.
Small birds (sparrows or finches, or perhaps)
are cluttering the trees with blackened ornaments (burning
in the remnant light of August eight o'clock), and noises
I can't hear. Chirring there, chittering. The window's closed.

I am assembling a lack of sound
in this locked box, and dotting all the i's
these floating motes present (my composition), I am not lonely
for the palpable world (midges I dap hands for
and kill), shivering into darkness underwater outside glass:
what's left of light sinking from zero down to less,
cobalt down to zaffer, deeper to purple-black
where divers drown. The swimming landscape's
all mistake (one world that shuts air into
my submerged terrarium), and I am luck.

I was so taken with this piece, the flowing prose, the tangle of words I read and think I could never put together... I wanted to find more by this poet. I searched through the site and Google and found a few other beautiful pieces, and was so excited to be discovering a talent I didn't know about, and looking forward to reading more of his work as he wrote more to add to his already extensive library.

Then, I saw a link for his blog. I was so happy, as I looked forward to reading his thoughts on the craft, as well as just getting to know him better. I clicked on the link for his blog, and began to read the most recent entry. I literally gasped a little out loud.

I suppose I should have publicized these a bit earlier, but I don't always have it completely together lately. In any case, there have been a number of publications of Reginald's poetry and essays since his death last fall.

Since his death last fall. How? Why? As I read more, I found that the writer of the posts was Reginald's partner and love, Robert Philen. Reading Robert's entries, one can almost see him struggling with every word. It seems hard for him to write the word death. His pain is real. Reginald died after a battle with cancer. He was only six years older than I am now.

The blog contains more of Reginald's work, and he was astonishingly talented. I still marvel at his words and the way he turns an overflow of descriptives into something so simple and striking. Just beautiful. As I read more of his blog tonight, it was so sad to see his last entry, detailing his current hospital stay, and then two weeks later, a post from Robert about his death.

What a loss to not know years more of his work. But what a find tonight to be discovering him. I am off to read more. I realized that I can still go and learn about his thoughts on writing, and just learn more about him as a person. He has two years of blog entries left behind as a gift.

The title of this post is a quote from a nurse who cared for Reginald near the end of his battle with cancer. I thought it was such a beautiful thing to say.

I leave you with one more piece of his work, and below it, the link to his blog.


For Robert Philen

You are like me, you will die too, but not today:
you, incommensurate, therefore the hours shine:
if I say to you “To you I say,” you have not been
set to music, or broadcast live on the ghost
radio, may never be an oil painting or
Old Master’s charcoal sketch:
you area concordance of person, number, voice,
and place, strawberries spread through your name
as if it were budding shrubs, how you remind me
of some spring, the waters as cool and clear
(late rain clings to your leaves, shaken by light wind),
which is where you occur in grassy moonlight:
and you are a lily, an aster, white trilliumor viburnum, by all rights mine, white star
in the meadow sky, the snow still arriving
from its earthwards journeys, here where there is
no snow (I dreamed the snow was you,when there was snow), you are my right,
have come to be my night (your body takes on
the dimensions of sleep, the shape of sleep
becomes you): and you fall from the sky
with several flowers, words spill from your mouth
in waves, your lips taste like the sea, salt-sweet (trees
and seas have flown away, I call it
loving you): home is nowhere, therefore you,
a kind of dwell and welcome, song after all,
and free of any eden we can name

To visit Reginald's blog, click here.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite pastime is reading. It is something beyond a pastime actually, it is probably one of my greatest passions. I love to read, to talk about books and what I have read, and I simply adore recommending books to friends and even strangers. I am that somewhat annoying person you see in bookstores going up to store customers and putting a book in their hand, when they are contemplating something else in a particular section. (I can't help myself).

But, as well as my friends know this, only a few know that in and around 1996, I was not that way at all. I had, somewhere down the line, lost that love for reading. And then, a friend recommended that I read Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt. I swear I can remember vividly reading parts of that book to this day, curled up on my couch in Atlanta, where I lived at the time. I thought it was about the most perfect book I had ever read. Angela's Ashes made me remember why I had once loved reading, it awakened that passion in me, and made me seek out more books, more reading, and I haven't slowed down since. Reading the books I have read has enriched my life, and it is one of my greatest pleasures.

So, Frank McCourt gave that gift back to me. How amazing is that?

And today, I got a news bulletin from NPR that Frank McCourt had died. It made my stomach drop. He was 78, and I know lived a very full, rewarding life. But still, it made me sad. What a loss for the literary world and his fans.

Something else I often do, especially more recently, is write to authors of books I have read. The outcome has been some amazing communications I never expected from quite famous authors. I am angry with myself because I never wrote to Frank McCourt and let him know that gift he gave me. I know he received plenty of accolades, and surely didn't miss the one from me. But, I still wish I had written.

Today, Angela's Ashes is still my favorite book. I have read countless books since then, but I will always have a soft spot for that title, and it's author, Frank McCourt.

If you are reading this post and haven't read Angela's Ashes, I command you to do so! It is a beautiful memoir of Frank McCourt's childhood in poverty in Ireland, but is so funny in parts, you will laugh out loud and startle those around you. It is also touching, inspirational, and beautifully written. What more could you ask for?

Read more about Frank here and here.

Buy the book Angela's Ashes here.

Photo courtesy NPR.org


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No Explanation

I shouldn't be shocked by anything these days. The news headlines are so frightening at times, I dare not read the article that follows. And when it comes to issues with children and abuse, our systems are so flawed and broken that the thoughts of what is happening every day would leave me sleepless if I concentrated on those issues too long.

So, when reading the headline on CNN- Exchange students live American nightmare- perhaps I shouldn't have been taken aback. But as I read the article, I was horrified. One would think that exchange programs are closely monitored, that the young people we host here would be placed in homes that have been examined and approved.

Evidently, in at least these five examples, this was not the case. Not only were the host situations not monitored, exchange students were placed with convicted felons, and some were denied adequate food. One particular student broke my heart by saying that during his nine month stay he didn't have enough to eat, but didn't tell his mother for fear of her worrying.

Other students did complain though. They emailed and called the host organization, Aspect Foundation, that had placed them in sometimes dangerous conditions. They got no response.

And now, the State Department is involved. What I cannot understand most of all is that nothing was done for NINE MONTHS. There was no action taken by anyone until these students were preparing to end their stays here and return to their home countries.

If you read the entire article, prepare yourself. And imagine your child, or any child you know and love going to another country and suffering this kind of treatment. The fact that this happened in America still astounds me. What scares me even more is the thought that this might be happening on a more wide-spread scale than anyone is aware of.

Read the whole article here.
article and photo courtesy of cnn.com


Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Makes Me Feel Beautiful

I subscribed to Real Simple magazine last year after reading a piece in the magazine devoted to a married couple, taking a look at their lives together. The whole piece consisted of two letters: one from her to him, and one from him to her. The letters were honest, raw and beautiful and the most real thing I had read in a long time. So while I love the organizing tips and recipes, it is articles like this one that make me a subscriber.

This month, as I read the essays within a section entitled What Makes Me Feel Beautiful, I was again touched in a way that only perfect words and sentiment can touch me. The honesty from these essays is at once a breath of fresh air, a confirmation of some of my own doubts and fears, but also of the things that make me confident. They are all beautiful in their own way, but the very first one was the one that snagged me, that made me smile through teary eyes. Enjoy!

"My Late Husband's Words" by Anne Roiphe

It was mid-December of 2005. I don’t know why he said it. I don’t know if a shadow had fallen across him, something appalling he saw out of the corner of his eye. I don’t know if it was just coincidence or intuition that prompted him, but about a week before my seemingly healthy 82-year-old husband suddenly died, he emerged from the kitchen ready to go to his office, his face clean-shaven, his eyes shining, smiling shyly, holding the copy of the Anthony Trollope book he was rereading, and said to me, “You have made me very happy. You know that you have made me a happy man.” There I stood in my work outfit, blue jeans and a T-shirt. There I stood with my white hair and my wrinkles and the face I was born with, although now much creased by time, and I felt beautiful.

“What?” I said. I wanted him to repeat the words. “You heard me,” he said and put on his coat and drew his earmuffs out of his pocket. “Say it again,” I said. He said it again. “You’ve made me happy.” We had been married 39 years. We had held hands waiting in hospital corridors while a desperately ill child struggled to breathe and thankfully recovered. We had made financial mistakes together. We had spent hours out in fishing boats. We had raised the children and then second-guessed our choices. We had stood shoulder to shoulder at graduations and weddings and were well-worn, but still I had made him happy, and I was proud and flushed with the warmth of his words.

I know I looked beautiful that morning. Perhaps not to the young man holding his toddler in his arms who rode the elevator with me; perhaps not to the friend I met for lunch, a true believer in Botox; perhaps not to passersby on the street; but I knew it for a certainty. I was beautiful.

I don’t believe that inner beauty is sufficient in this cruel world. That’s the pap one tells a child. I don’t believe that positive thinking improves your skin or that loving or being loved changes the shape of your nose or restores the thickness and color of hair, but I do know that there is a way of being beautiful, even as age takes it’s toll, that has something to do with the spirit filling with joy, something to do with that union with another human being, with the sense of having done well at something enormously important, like making happy a man who has made you happy often enough.

Ten days after that morning conversation, my husband and I returned from a concert and dinner with friends and walked down our windy block towards our apartment house when suddenly he stumbled and fell and died within minutes. As I waited for the ambulance, I remembered his words, a beauty potion I would take with me into the rest of my life.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Words of Comfort

I have a small print of the piece above, sitting above my kitchen sink, something I see every day now. I just finished moving into a new apartment, or rather a really old one, but with lots of character and a fenced-in backyard for my dog. There are hardwood floors throughout, and the neighborhood is close-knit and fun. It is a wonderful place for me to live.

Getting here over the past week was not fun. It was a nightmare of people I hired for the move turning out to be shady characters and abandoning me half way through and me having to involve the police. It was me being horribly sick throughout the whole process, sicker than I can ever remember being, with some sort of mutant bronchitis that nearly leveled me. I was afraid and stressed, and very much alone.

I am thirty-nine, about to turn forty in a few months, and as many times as I discuss my "single-dom" with others--friends and family--and sometimes strangers, I always say I am fine being where I am right now. And that is true. I am especially fine being single after hanging up the phone with friends struggling through bad marriages that once held nothing but promise. I am fine when I leave the house of married friends who left their happiness behind years ago at another address. Even when I talk or see my friends who are in happy marriages, I don't go home and feel sad or lonely because that is something I don't have.

Mainly, I feel ok because I have always felt I have good friends and a decent life. I have worked hard in the last year to concentrate on making my life richer beyond work and the things that have cluttered it before.

But this past week, I did feel more alone than I can ever remember feeling. Mostly because I needed someone--I needed help--in a way that I don't that often. I am so used to barrelling through the regular day-to-day life things on my own that truly being unable to handle something like moving--which I have done more times in my life than I can count--was paralyzing. I have had bigger problems than this to deal with.

But, trying to move my entire life from one place to another without help was overwhelming. And the whole experience put into sharp focus for me that I am alone. And it has been harder and harder to make peace with that for me in the last week, and the argument in my head troubles me.

It has made me understand why people stay together when they shouldn't, and after the light of a marriage has gone out. The day-to-day struggles of life are hard to deal with alone.

And tonight, as I sit here worrying over finances, job stability, and the ants that are invading my kitchen, I know these worries are silently, fiercely my own. And the mistakes and choices that got me here are my own, too.

And those "words of comfort" referenced above are a little hard to find.



  © Blogger template ProBlogger Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP