Thursday, December 31, 2009

An End and a Beginning

In my family New Year’s Eve was always a special occasion and wrought with meaning especially for my mother. Every year she would tell us, “Where you are when the bells ring on New Year’s Eve is where you will be for the rest of the year.” As a kid this meant that our house had to be clean, that we had baths and new pajamas, if there was homework or projects they had to be completed, and everything in our house was in perfect order.

Of course, in those years no one paid attention to the things that were slightly out of place like the growing tension between my parents or my mother’s addiction to Dexedrine. There was no thought to putting intra-personal or interpersonal order in our lives.

For years I carried forward this tradition making sure my house was clean, laundry done, hair and nails and toes perfected. I even chose my new years eve activities to meet the law of “when the bells ring”, one sad year locking myself in my room at the stroke of midnight to symbolize to myself that I would indeed end a painful relationship in the coming months. Another year I made sure I was sitting at my desk at 12:01 to ensure a year of commitment to writing.

Today as I prepare for this evening and the change to a new year I have a new take on my mother’s teaching. I will not do laundry and not clean the kitchen. I will leave the to-do list undone and I’ll enjoy John as we relax and make love by the lights of our tottering Christmas tree one more night.

My hope for myself when the bells ring tonight is that I am imperfect, undone and incomplete and that I will accept myself as a work in progress rather than a woman frozen in time. When the stroke of midnight comes I hope to be relaxed, laughing and pleased with John and with myself and that is what I hope will carry over into 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Breast Bumps

When I was a girl my mother would say to be very careful with your breasts. Don’t let them get bumped and later I wondered if that also included letting a boy squeeze them too hard. Even later I’d laugh at the idea that bumping or man-handling could hurt a breast or cause the dreaded—cancer. So unscientific, so old-fashioned.

Yesterday in the New York Times, and excerpted in many papers, the new-old research that an outside agent—bruise, wound or injury—may be the necessary catalyst for a dormant cancer cell to begin its changes. Cancer needs two factors: to exist in a dormant state and to have a trigger. An injury can be that trigger. Also explains –in a very crude way—why it happens that someone feels perfectly fine, undergoes surgery and then rapidly dies of cancer. Surgery may be a trigger wound.

Now isn’t that a scary dish to set before Cancer Land?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

“Today is the darkest day and the beginning of the light. Pray for peace.”

For many years those have been what I have written in notes to friends on December 21st. I like solstice because it is about darkness and light. But today looking at those words it hit me that I am having an inner solstice too.

I have had a couple of hard days. Stuff with kids and stuff with us. More intimacy becomes more fear; moving closer to commitment sets off deep fears--mine and maybe his too.

So this morning when I heard, “Today is the darkest day and the beginning of the light” I thought, “Yes, this is the day that it shifts—from testing and pulling back to believing and moving toward, and from wondering if he really loves me to knowing we love each other. Any fights now are just us fighting our way to decide the kind of couple we want to be and not us tumbling off a cliff into the abyss.

Darkness becomes light. And peace

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I’m making a list and checking it twice, and thrice and even nine times: his kids, my kids, his ex and mine. I wonder about all of this, and things like holiday traditions? What are his? mine? ours? Memories: his, mine, ours? The holidays add tension. I feel sad about relationships lost and fear about the complexities in this one as we add kids and expand our circle. Will we make it to a summer wedding, or cave in to their demands and criticism? I keep wondering.

Now, like the sign at the mall, my heart says, “You are here”.

Lost in the upbeat melody of what seems like an innocuous holiday song are these incredibly poignant words: “To face, unafraid, the plans that we made.”

Walking in a winter wonderland.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Life is so good and so Hard

Life is so good and so hard.
The people I have loved,
Those I have left
Those who have left me.
The people he has loved,
Those he has left,
Those who have left him.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Ly" Day

We’ve had a big snow day today and in addition to dressing for the weather a day like this also accelerates word worries here at the home of a writer and an English teacher. Alas, a snow day is also “Watch Your Adverbs” day. Yes, sadly, on a bad weather day we are likely to hear the grating and lonely adjective that wants to be an adverb. The friendly and well-intentioned, “Drive safe” longs to be “Drive safely”. Ditto for “Drive careful” and its preferred “Drive carefully.”

But in addition to enjoying our word fussiness, we had a great day. John had no school but I had to get to work—my work increases in bad weather—so he did the cars and the shoveling and later brought lunch to my office. Tonight I came home to fresh pasta for supper. On a day like this I know we live happy and happily.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I have always read obituaries. I knew, even as a kid, that they were little stories. Now, as an adult I know they are often mystery stories. The writer is rarely the subject. Someone else is telling his or her version of the main character’s story. So, when reading them, I wonder at the focus, proportion and how reality would hold up if we could later interview the dead person.

The past few weeks I have read more closely noticing how many deaths in our region are of people under 65. I tell myself: please notice this; please live your life. None mention the fear at work or the love of clothes. One this week said “he had a perfect marriage” and I said “Uh oh” and read that one to John. He said, “Uh oh”. His marriage was described as perfect until a few years ago when he walked away admitting to himself how deeply unhappy he had been all those years.

So we know it is entirely possible that the final scribe, the writer of our obituaries, might describe a person they only know through random details: He always checked the box scores first thing in the morning. She loved to shop. She was a tireless volunteer. He was crazy about his car tending to it for hours every weekend. Who would know that these honorable behaviors masked unhappiness and avoidance of something or someone?

Who will know us when we die? It’s hard enough to know ourselves when we live. To get still enough to listen deeply to our own insides. We should be so tender with these fragile human lives, ours and the dead people in those little stories.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tiger Time

What do baby seals and Tiger Woods have in common? They both get clubbed by Norwegians!

The jokes, the jokes. But also the questions. Why do men cheat? Why is it more upsetting that Tiger Woods cheats? We want to believe that this perfect golfer, perfect son, perfect athlete is a perfect human being, and so we hate to have our belief in perfection taken away? Maybe. And maybe it’s also telling us that men do not cheat to have sex with a prettier or sexier woman. After all Tiger is married to one of the most beautiful women in the world. Is it entitlement? Evolution—a specimen like Tiger is unconsciously driven to procreate? Is it access—athletes have women propositioning them all the time? Perhaps also we are seeing that a man as cerebral as Tiger didn’t think this through. He’s not a dope but he cheated and left a trail of texts and messages and evidence. He’s a better golfer than that if not a better person.

What will happen next? Will she stand by her man? Will we now see a wicked, expensive public divorce? And what does it mean for the rest of us?

And am I alone or are many woman really mad at the perfectly ordinary man in their life today just on principle?