Saturday, July 21, 2018

Frank Ostaseski

Heart Practice

The thread of heart runs through everything. For me, a path with no heart is not a path for human beings. That seems to be an important part of spiritual practice to recognize and appreciate the heart of Being. It is also what helps us deal with conflict and difficult emotions.

Have you ever noticed what happens when your partner gives you that disapproving look?  Or maybe she/he uses that tone of voice, (Isn't it interesting how in our mind she/he is the only one in the world that uses that certain tone of voice?)

The trigger happens and out of nowhere, there’s this whole felt sense of dread or anger, refusal or deep sadness.

Usually, we are not even aware of what is happening. Te nervous system is just firing away in response to a collection of object relations. Before I know it I'm reacting and defending in the way I did as a teenager! I realize—at a cellular level—that my entire personality was designed to never go toward this particular feeling of being helpless, unloveable, inadequate or vulnerable.

Before I know it, we get sidetracked with our words, with thoughts about our emotions with all our strategies, which are always designed to move away from the felt experience. And the inevitable result is that the emotions escalate.

I’m sure this only happens to me….probably not any of you!

Meditation can help interrupt this pattern. We can develop the capacity to allow us to feel strong emotions, live them, taste them, gain insight into them.

Suppose we didn’t battle with our experience. Allowed it to change, stay the same or go away. That is really is not your business. Our work is to hold it with loving awareness.

One way that works for me is to allow the emotion in all its glory and then to ask. "Is there any part of me that can be with this experience?"

Just that question inclines me toward discovering the deeper resources of my nature. The thread of heart.

Frequently it helps to unhook me from the habitual pattern which includes the way I attach stories to my emotions which escalates them and causes me to swept away, losing all perspective.

When I ask, "Is there any part of me that can be with this experience?"  I find much-needed perspective an often something more essential like compassion emerges. Then I allow the two to meet allowing the destructive out of control emotion and its physical manifestations like my clenched jaw, my tight chest to mingle with the compassion or other wholesome qualities that have been evoked by the question.

I’ve found relief from my suffering not by turning away but by turning toward what is most difficult with heart. This helps me to regulate…and gradually I see and feel something that is more substantive and more true that my emotional reactivity.

So, the balance doesn’t come through control or denial. There is no value in denial. There is no freedom in those strategies.
Freedom comes from seeing more of the truth and feeling the thread of heart.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Albert Einstein on problem-solving


No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.

Monday, July 16, 2018

My junior conductor


This, after I deactivated Facebook

Granted, editing your real life isn't always as easy as erasing a line of text. If you've carried emotional baggage or held on to an unhealthy relationship for a long time, these may be difficult to edit out. But when you do cut out what isn't working from your life, you'll feel lighter and more alive. Editing out activities that you find stressful, disassociating yourself from people that drain your energy, and letting go of your emotional baggage are all beneficial cuts you can make. In the empty spaces that are left behind, you can add in anything you like. Just as you have the power to edit out negative situations or beliefs that you no longer wish to have as part of your life, you can now include the kinds of positive experiences, people, and beliefs that you would like to fill your life with. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Take it from Aesop

105. THE WOLF AND THE HOUSE DOG
There was once a Wolf who got very little to eat because the Dogs of the village were so wide awake and watchful. He was really nothing but skin and bones, and it made him very downhearted to think of it.
One night this Wolf happened to fall in with a fine fat House Dog who had wandered a little too far from home. The Wolf would gladly have eaten him then and there, but the House Dog looked strong enough to leave his marks should he try it. So the Wolf spoke very humbly to the Dog, complimenting him on his fine appearance.

"You can be as well-fed as I am if you want to," replied the Dog. "Leave the woods; there you live miserably. Why, you have to fight hard for every bite you get. Follow my example and you will get along beautifully."

"What must I do?" asked the Wolf.

"Hardly anything," answered the House Dog. "Chase people who carry canes, bark at beggars, and fawn on the people of the house. In return you will get tidbits of every kind, chicken bones, choice bits of meat, sugar, cake, and much more beside, not to speak of kind words and caresses."

The Wolf had such a beautiful vision of his coming happiness that he almost wept. But just then he noticed that the hair on the Dog's neck was worn and the skin was chafed.

"What is that on your neck?"

"Nothing at all," replied the Dog.

"What! nothing!"

"Oh, just a trifle!"

"But please tell me."

"Perhaps you see the mark of the collar to which my chain is fastened."

"What! A chain!" cried the Wolf. "Don't you go wherever you please?"

"Not always! But what's the difference?" replied the Dog.

"All the difference in the world! I don't care a rap for your feasts and I wouldn't take all the tender young lambs in the world at that price." And away ran the Wolf to the woods.

There is nothing worth so much as liberty.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

As seen on Facebook

Every time I write to a former friend, I'm sorry I did it.
Every time I post something that I consider something significant on Facebook, I'm disappointed in the lack of response.
Every time I eat an entire bag of peanut-butter cups from Trader Joe's, I have regrets.
Somehow these things all seem connected.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Gilman and San Pablo

I used to hit this intersection every day on my way to work. Half the time my car's engine would flood and it would die. One day my naive ass ran over to the guy lying on the bench. "Sorry, honey," he said when I asked for help. "I've been pushing bottles all night."

Oh, I thought. Poor man. He works in a bottle factory. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Today's Daily OM

And life is more of an improvisation than it is like a play whose lines have already been written, whose end is already known. Like an improviser, we have choices to make and the more we embrace the illusionary quality of the performance, the lighter we can be on the planet, on others, and on ourselves. We can truly play with the shadows cast by the light of the projector, fully engaging without getting bogged down.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Beginning of an essay

Life, Abridged


You would be pressing up against 13 now. Could be we wouldn’t get along at all. You’re not guaranteed a friend when you have a child. You’re not even guaranteed that child will be born healthy or be born at all.

Daily OM nails me

Drama, however disastrous, can be exciting and stimulating. But the thrill of pandemonium eventually begins to frustrate the soul and drain the energy of all who embrace it. To halt this process, we must understand the root of our drama addiction, be aware of our reactions, and be willing to accept that a serene, joyful life need not be a boring one. 

Many people, so used to living in the dramatic world they create, feel uncomfortable when confronted with the prospect of a lifetime of peace and contentment. The drama in their lives serves multiple purposes. Upset causes excitement, prompting the body to manufacture adrenaline, which produces a pleasurable surge of energy. 


...

When you confront your emotional response to drama and the purpose it serves in your life, you can reject it. Each time you consciously choose not to take part in dramatic situations or associate with dramatic people, you create space in your inner being that is filled with a calm and tranquil stillness and becomes an asset in your quest to lead a more centered life. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Sonora

I highly recommend taking 24 hours away from your life. Rent an AirBnB, get up early, listen to the hum of the window-box air conditioner and the chatter of Animal Planet. Drink coffee. Grapple with the fact that it's going to reach 98 today. Plan your trip to Murphys. And then home. Blessed and sweet, and missed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Put this on FB

I drove to school watching the people cross the street, the dog walkers, the parents holding their children's hands. The guy glued to his phone as he navigated my neighborhood, the woman who waved when I stopped to let her by.
Through the gate there was so much cheer. The parents looked at each other with weariness in our eyes. We held our children tight, so tight.

Seattle, eight years ago today



Monday, June 25, 2018

Truth

I saw Art yesterday. He was in town for a reading. He's the kind of person who lifts you up when he hugs you, spins you around. I love it.

On the drive to SFO, we talked about people to whom you grow so close that there is no return. You simply become part of them when they are in your life, and then afterward they are nothing.

It makes some horrible, warped, real sense.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Today's writing


I came to Berkeley at the age of 26. Like everyone else here, I was looking for something. Two decades later, I’m still not certain that I’ve found it. That’s what time does – if it doesn’t give you what you’re seeking, at least it blunts your desire for it. When it’s not sharpening it to the point of heart failure.

In other words, I still have no idea what I’m doing with myself, my life, my time here on the spinning orb. I want to walk around, checking in from table to table, asking: Do you?

But you don’t do that here. There’s a certain sanctity in being alone in public, a social contract: thou shalt not communicate. And most of the time I’m so very grateful for it.

Today is different, as it always is when you start a tale. That’s how I learned to tell a story: why is today different than any other day? Or maybe that was a prayer I said in synagogue. It’s really all the same thing.

*

When I first moved here I lived in a three-story house on Sutter Street, right near the entrance to the Solano Tunnel. It was and remains quiet there, one of those leafy parts of Berkeley that you can’t really even rent any more, a place you can drive or walk through and admire and that’s really about it. In 1998 things were different to the degree that I could get a piece of North Berkeley for less than $500 per month, and even that was a stretch that tapped me out until the calendar flipped and I got paid again.

Newspapering never paid well. Not then and not now. Even then there was the stench of mortality about it, like a puff of air from a dying man’s bed. Still, I was young and when you are young you have that optimism that you don’t understand at the time, don’t even necessarily know exists amongst the corners of angst that you know all too well. You know them because they don’t let you forget them. They poke you in all the uncomfortable places, cause you to squirm. The discomfort masks all the good stuff.

Those days I commuted from Berkeley to Fairfield, twenty-four k’s per year, the standard benefits and barely any vacation time.


The roids

I'm on Prednisone for bronchitis. Damn is this nice. Not only am I totally motivated and focused (sort of, actually) and feeling better, but I'm energetic. I missed feeling like this. Can I get a Prenisone smoothie prescription?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Sometimes

It's a gift to see the holes in your heart, those empty places that drop all the way down to some unfathomable bottom that will take your life to navigate.

Helplessness

Check out the lead picture on this story. Totally brings me back to being a kid, having that weird, slanted, half-comprehending view of the world.

And the helplessness. The lack of control. The need to rely on others.

World events this week were so triggering to me and others, and continue to be that way. No, I wasn't separated from my parents and put in a cage, numbered like something lower than the lowest. I just watched my father beat the shit out of my mother. I just cried when my mother threatened to take my brother away and put him in foster care. I just threw myself between the two of them to stop the fighting in any way possible.

That's all, really.

Recovery

I don't write about it much any more.

I thought that I was done with that.

I knew better.

I was -- abused? Messed with? Harmed at? Whatever it was, let's finish this sentence by saying at the hands of a narcissist. He was right all the time except for when he conceeded wrong, and he did that infrequently. He belittled my life and my loves. He shit-talked my husband constantly.

And I allowed it. 

I don't yet know whether I hate this man. I only know that he is toxic, and that we were toxic together.

Two major needs

Spirituality
Exercise

Both require getting up earlier.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Thank God

I had the opportunity to betray Adam. I did not take it. I look at pictures of him, watch him sleeping, and think, I never would have forgiven myself. Never. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Second day of little sleep

It's like being wrapped in soft cotton candy, or being on mushrooms. I wouldn't know. I never ate cotton candy.

Monday, June 11, 2018

More from Facebook, because I'm lazy

After a while, you move someone over into the Loss column. It's kind of a misnomer, loss, because once you start to accept it and it becomes real, it doesn't hurt quite so much any more.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sometimes

I feel like someone has hit the Pause button on me. I can't describe it any better than that.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Bourdain on existence

Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying. If I believe in anything, it is doubt.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Posted on Facebook

Why, when a celebrity dies, do we so often feel we've lost a friend? I think performers -- particularly those who suffer from depression and anxiety -- project outward in a way that makes us feel seen and included. In Anthony Bourdain's case, we traveled the world with him, peered into New York City kitchens, ate oysters in San Francisco. We were friends, he and us, though he never knew it. Then again, he probably knew it all along.

Promise

I'll love you forever
I'll like you for always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Trying

I took Baz to four Berkeley classics today: Fourth Street, Berkeley Bowl, Tilden Little Farm, and Masse's Pastries. It made both of us happy. But shit, I'm having a hard time. I need a vacation. I told Adam I was going to check myself into the funny farm yesterday. "That," he said, "is not a vacation."

I love my kid dearly, but this parenting shit is not for the weak.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Ugh

I feel really fragile today. I had an allergy attack this morning that swelled my eyes shut, the water heater threatened to burn down the house (and I'm still freaking out about that one) and I'm nervous about Bazzy's field trip to the Botanical Garden.

At least I was able to find an outlet at Philz. It's the little things, right?

Facebook sucks

I admit it: I've been a Facebook addict for years. It's starting to fade.

I don't know if people on there are getting more shallow (on my particular feed, at least) or if I'm starting to require more. Sometimes I'll post things I find interesting, that are deeper than just some stupid picture of Baz being cute, and get absolutely no feedback.

I'm not saying I deserve all this attention (though of course I do), but that I'm finding the platform itself fairly useless. As I said on Facebook itself this morning, maybe that's a good thing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Kate Spade and depression

Kate Spade killed herself. At first that line makes you blink -- I mean, she had success. But what does that even mean? How do you define success of the heart?

RIP.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

On the Cusp

Baz Franklin Sandler, age 2.5, serenading the crowd with his rendition of Yellow Sudnarine.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Morning has broken

Not a lot of sleep, hanging out at a cafe, watching the sun come up, thinking. You know, just like anyone else right now.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Daily OM nails it

Cooperation

BY MADISYN TAYLOR
Cooperation is allowed to flow more easily, when we let go of the necessity to be right all the time.
Cooperation seems simple: working together toward a common goal for the benefit of all involved. But amazingly it can be quite challenging, even when we have so many successful examples all around us. Human society is based upon the concept of cooperation, but finding a balance to ensure the good of all members of society is difficult. In nature, symbiotic relationships form between unlikely allies: a bee and a flower, a bird and a rhinoceros, small fish and sharks. Yet nature also shows us instances of constant competition in which only the strongest survive. Given the choice, it seems most people would choose the more peaceful path of cooperation. Intellectually, we know that together we can create something greater than what one could do alone, but cooperation still seems to be one of the greatest challenges people face. We don't always agree on how goals can be reached. Our priorities may be different, or our methods, but in the end, cooperation offers the best chance for success.

So how can we learn to cooperate with each other? We can gain greater perspective by trying to understand one another's point of view, perhaps even putting ourselves in their place. We can search for commonalities as well as differences, and look for the good in different approaches. There is always more than one way of doing things, and some approaches are better suited for certain situations than others. All this is easier when we let go of the necessity to be right and to call others wrong. More important, we must believe that there is a solution that benefits all involved, not just one side.

The results of cooperation can be as simple as effortlessly getting everyone in your household to their appointments to large-scale social shifts to changing minds and hearts or policies that affect the future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

That moment when

When someone who used to mean something to you doesn't have shit to mean to you any more. When you think of them and all you can think is, damn, boy. You a fraud. 

That's a first

I just got mom-shamed by a dad.

I hate kids' parties

Yes, this. All of it.

I mean, I'm an introvert. I'm the one who got high at my son's second birthday parties, riding the carousel at Tilden Park with my head spinning. I had to. 

The small talk. The insincere compliments. Who made those robot cupcakes? They're lovely! Why is there not more alcohol at these things?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Back on the Fulbright train

Before I had Baz, I applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to Romania to study street dogs with an eye toward eventually writing about them. I haven't given up a dream like that. It's only grown stronger.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Something new

Outlining a new project after all this time is like dating after a 40-year marriage. Whoa.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Well, now

ME TO BAZ: Do you know how much I love you?

HIM: Tractor. Fire truck. Something unintelligible.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Observation

Take a breath, go, and push open that door. You'll be amazed at what you find waiting for you there.

For the past three years, I've worked with the wonderful Miriam Altshuler of DeFiore & Co. She's a warm, compassionate person and a wise agent. I've learned so much from her and her associate, Kiley Frank.

Very recently, however, I've realized that the memoir is a memoir and not a Young Adult book, which is what we've been pursuing. With this in mind, I've gotten Miriam's blessing to pursue that dream.

I feel really, really good right now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Drawing board, glad to see you

BEARDED LADY started its life as a memoir. Then it became a Young Adult novel. Now it's back to its original incarnation.

I'm glad. Tired. But glad.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Forgiveness

I have no idea if you'll read this, but if you do:

I forgive you.

At its heart, we were the best of friends. 

I understand why we met.

Joyce Maynard, "The Best of Us"


“But even as his body wasted away, and his mind lost its sharpness, something about Jim had become more substantial. Something about me had changed too. I was a different person than the woman I’d been eighteen months earlier. Grief and pain had been harsh, but they had served as teachers. We had been through a conflagration, the two of us, and I would have given anything to have avoided it, but we’d emerged like two blackened vessels from the forge – our two beating hearts and our trust in each other all that remained.

“An odd irony came to me at this moment, when it seemed as if there was almost nothing left of the man I’d loved, almost nothing left of the two of us, as we’d been, or the life we’d made together: it seemed to me, as we approached the moment when everything would be over, finally, that the ordeal of the disease and the treatment – two separate kinds of hell I would wish on no living human – had turned us into two people we might never have become if the disease had spared Jim. Better ones, though only one of us would survive to benefit from this brutal education we’d received.”

Friday, May 11, 2018

Life-changing

I just wrote to Joyce Maynard to tell her that her memoir The Best of Us changed my life and resounds in my marriage. It's not important why, simply that it is.

Canta, Bazzy, canta!

Es el tiempo para musica al New House Day School. :)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

You're Beautiful

I sang this to my baby on his second day of life, watching the sun rise from my hospital bed. And now I'm listening to it while up at o'dark-thirty working, while he sleeps on the couch next to me.

I love him more than I can ever say.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

From Yelles

I say, if you're going to have clarity on something in your life, make it something so big and bright and meaningful that you will get out of bed and chase it until you grasp it or die. Bring forth a desire that is unbounded and even scares you a little bit, that will demand all the best that is in you, that takes you out of your own orbit and into the stratosphere of the remarkable. That kind of desire changes your life, and it changes the world. - Brendan Burchard

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The cocktail

Coffee for mornings, pot for evenings. A trifecta of head meds so I won't ever have to remember.

Monday, May 7, 2018

My own Me Too

But not what you're thinking. My Me Too is about chronic depression.

See, I was just reading Wil Wheaton's awesome blog post about this subject, which spurred me to start this one. Thing is, I don't exactly remember the first time I got suicidal. I just remember being in my early 20s, comparison-shopping for aspirin in the foofy market across the street.

If I was that concerned about money, I figured, I might as well live.

When I tried Lexapro a few years later, it landed me in bed, unable to get up. Adam would almost literally have to pry me out. One day I actually did get out. I went to Marin. On the way home I thought about veering the car off the Richmond Bridge. Too much effort.

I've been successfully medicated for the better part of 10 years. A trifecta: Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Abilify. But when I forget a pill -- and it happens -- watch out.

Watch out.

Possibility


Friday, May 4, 2018

See, here's the thing

There is no analytics suite for matters of the heart. And some answers you just can't Google.

Gail took me to Chez Panisse


When, not if

I was talking to Adam about what I see happening when Baz gets older and more independent. I got SO excited thinking about everything we'll be able to do -- both with and without him.

Some people can't bear the thought of their kids growing up. Me, I'm stoked to watch him do it.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Daily OM on comfort zones

None of us are born with a guidebook that provides explicit rules for thought and behavior that will enable us to navigate life successfully. To cope with the myriad of complexities to which all of humanity is subject, we each develop a set of habits and routines that ground us, their continuity assuring us that life is progressing normally. Most of us know, whether instinctively or by experience, that transformations can be uncomfortable, but we always learn and gain so much. Any initial discomfort we experience when expanding our comfort zones diminishes gradually as we both become accustomed to change and begin to understand that temporary discomfort is a small price to pay for the evolution of our soul. 

Your current comfort zone did, at one time, serve a purpose in your life. But it is representative of behaviors and patterns of thought that empowered you to cope with challenges of days past. Now, this comfort zone does little to facilitate the growth you wish to achieve in the present. Leaving your comfort zone behind through personal expansion of any kind can prepare you to take the larger leaps of faith that will, in time, help you refine your purpose. Work your way outward at your own pace, and try not to let your discomfort interfere with your resolve. With the passage of each well-earned triumph, you will have grown and your comfort zone will have expanded to accommodate this evolution. 

Whether your comfort zone is living with your parents, or perhaps being too shy to socialize, or maybe it's not realizing your spirit self--whatever it is, start small, and you will discover that venturing beyond the limited comfort zone you now cling to is not as stressful an experience as you imagined it might be. And the joy you feel upon challenging yourself in this way will nearly always outweigh your discomfort. As you continue to expand your comfort zone to include new ideas, activities, goals, and experiences, you will see that you are capable of stimulating change and coping with the fresh challenges that accompany it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Tori Amos, “The Wrong Band”

I think it's perfectly clear
We're in the wrong band
Ginger is always sincere
Just not to one man
She called me up
And said you know that i'm drowning

I looked good pregnant



Perspective, redux

Yesterday I told Adam: "Nothing is linear."

Yesterday I wrote on Facebook something to the degree of that moment when you realize that these days, too, will be memories.

This is why I like being an older mom. This is why I love being 44. I get it. To a degree, at least, I get it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The right wrong time

Stoned. Say nothing or everything? The choices.

Beginning of Berkeley Noir piece


Lacking Reception
Allison Landa

I may never live to be 100 – God, I hope I don’t – but even if I do, I will never, never understand the compunction to yap on the phone in public. Especially when you’re supposedly working out at the gym. Especially when you’re standing – standing, not using – on the treadmill that I always prefer.

I mean, this woman? She’s a sow. Porcine to the max. It’s less in the shape of her body – though it’s there too, trust me – than in the buck of her teeth, the way she holds her lip at gum level so you can see just how little dentistry she received growing up. I mean, they make Invisalign for a reason. She can still make it happen. Am I right?

It’s in the curve of her calves, the color of a sheet of paper just barely blushing. Maybe she’s a cow, not a sow. Bovine, porcine, does it really matter? She’s the kind of creature that I might see if I had a kid and if I took that kid up to Little Farm, but even if I had one of those creatures, I would rather take them anywhere else. I mean, really. Little Farm. If I wanted to feed celery and lettuce to indigents, I would never have to leave downtown Berkeley.



The heartbreaker

I was out with a friend the other night and he laid it on me. "You leave men worse off, dude," he said. "Lying in the street, crying from under their blankets."

I rolled my eyes over my Guinness.

"I mean it," he said. "I told you, you're a heartbreaker. You broke me once."

Me?

Passing it on

Baz and I were on Telegraph yesterday and stopped into Amoeba. As soon as we walked in, he said: "Beatles." So I bought Rubber Soul. A new generation learns the best of classic tricks.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Frank Ostaseski on authenticity

Waking up in this human experience is not easy. Authentic spiritual practice is not about maintaining high altered states, transcending the body, bypassing difficult emotions, or healing all that remains unresolved within us. It is more grounded, real, and alive than that. Spiritual practice helps us settle into the utter simplicity of being ourselves. The healing that it engenders happens when we bring awareness to the places that have hardened in us through the conditioned habits of grasping, resistance, and avoidance.

Mindfulness is a de-conditioning. It cultivates a merciful, awake presence of mind that no longer blocks the heart. Then things are free to be as they are. We allow the difficult, dark, and dense. We become more intimate with our pain and difficulties, our joy and beauty, embodying our full humanity and discovering an ever-deeper, vast sense of wholeness.

Sometimes what is over there seems more valuable than what is right here. But being who you are can only arise from accepting where you are.

From THREESOME


It took us more than three hours to get up to Gualala, and that was after flying into San Francisco. A drink is definitely on the menu. We find adjoining seats at the bar and survey the goods. Mostly it’s beer on tap. Some wine, some basic liquors, and really, that’s about it.

“I’m getting an IPA,” Evan says. “They’re known for that here.”

“Here as in Bones?”

“No, dummy,” he says, and kisses me. I’m not sure whether to take the statement or the action more seriously. “Northern California.”

“Like you know anything about this place?”

There. Retribution for the dummy comment. If it stings him, though, I can’t see it. Instead the line becomes just another one of those unexploded grenades, the ticking that underlies our marriage. Maybe it’s not just our marriage. Maybe it’s every marriage, even the happiest of unions.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Back to THREESOME

Now that I've submitted BEARDED LADY to Miriam and Kiley, it's time to return to a project that's been in the back of my mind ever since I finished it three years ago: THREESOME. Here's how I described it in the original query:

THREESOME is the story of Leigh and Evan, a couple who travel from their home in the Midwest to a vacation spot in Northern California in order to rekindle their marriage in the wake of the murder of their teenage daughter. During dinner on their first night there, they meet Annie, a young woman who awakens both paternal and sexual feelings in them. What ensues will test their relationship not only to one another, but within themselves.

This book is an exploration of love and loss, longing and fulfillment, temptation and resistance. It delves into the idea of emotional geometry to look at the difference between a pair and a triangle, coming away not with any hard-and-fast conclusion but rather revealing the vulnerabilities of each configuration. Ultimately, Leigh, Evan and Annie learn difficult truths while teaching unexpected lessons.

Miriam likes it. I'm there!

Withdrawn

We went to the Bay Area Book Festival and I just couldn't handle it. Too many crowds, too many bullshit panels that didn't interest me in the least, overpriced food, typical Berkeley characters begging. This isn't about reading and writing. This is about community (Adam always makes fun of how I say that), and that ain't my bag.

I've shut down pretty hard lately. People who don't know me well wouldn't know. People who do would.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Today

Man, it's so much easier to post a cute picture than to tell you what's going on in my brain. So here's Baz this morning at the Lawrence Hall of Science.


Bay Area Discovery Museum


The heart of it

I woke up this morning pissed. I knew it was floating anger. I knew I was blaming it on the wrong things.

It came out in conversation: I feel like we're on a hamster wheel, like all our resources are getting sucked into a black hole, like we can't get ahead and do the things we want to do -- i.e., travel.

I haven't been out of the country in years. I haven't been out of the state in more than a year. I've barely left the Bay Area lately.

Fuck me. It can't all be about responsibility.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Cracked

And all the king's horses
And all the king's men
Couldn't put Espresso Roma's window
Back together again. 

It's about time

I finally updated my homepage! Check it out!

New York heritage

I took my kid to the Cheeseboard Collective today and got him a bialy. Then we sat outside watching the buses and cars and flowers. That pretty much makes my morning.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Last one for tonight


“Meredith,” he says, “I want to tell you something.”
           He used to be a drunk. I knew that. It’s not like he told me explicitly on the train, but I figured it out easily enough. You don’t speak at an Alcoholics Anonymous conference if you don’t have some experience in the subject matter.
           “I loved someone once,” he says.
           I lift my chin and look him in the eyes. This sounds like Confession Time. I like confessions.
           “We were never together. We were friends. But we were way more. We would sit in the car and talk until two in the morning. We texted constantly. She helped me get sober. She helped me to see that there was more in life than a bottle.”
           My stomach starts to hurt. But why?
           “I mean, she wasn’t perfect. She was demanding as hell. She’d text and get pissed if I didn’t respond straight away. She wanted honesty at all times. I mean, she wasn’t easy.
           “But I loved her more than I think I may ever be able to love anyone again.”
           Oh my God. How old is Paul? Nineteen, twenty? And they say kids my age are dramatic.
           “You’re looking at me like I’m crazy.”
           “You are crazy,” I say without thinking, out of some weird form of anger that I can’t really figure out. So this guy loved someone. So what? “I mean, you were never even together.”
           “Sometimes those are the ones that hurt the most. Look at your situation.”
           And that is why my stomach is hurting. Would Matt be able to say the same about me? Does he even love me? And at this point, what exactly are we to one another?
           “Yeah,” I say. One-syllable words. That’s pretty much all I can handle at this point. Except curiosity comes up and the question comes out before I can figure out how to stop it. “So what happened with you guys?”
           His face slams shut. Something turns a key, locks it. But he speaks anyway.
           “You know, Meredith, sometimes a relationship gets bigger than the people involved. That’s what happened with us. There was just too much to handle. Too much between us. We couldn’t be just friends. We couldn’t be more. We just couldn’t be. You know?”
           I don’t know. If there was so much between him and this phantom girl, woman, whatever, how could they possibly let go of one another?
           “Who ended it?”
           “I did.”
           He’s obviously in so much pain. How could he do that?
           “Sometimes,” he says, “the person who ends it is the one who loves the most.”
           “How?”
           “They have more invested, so when they’re not getting their needs met for whatever reason, they call it quits.”
           “You miss her?”
           This time he doesn’t say anything. His face shuts and stays shut.

More


I had some sort of blackout. That much is clear. Something happened. That’s obvious. I have to keep repeating these facts to myself because it’s pretty much what I know.
All else is a mystery.
My worst fear has come to life.

From the book


“Meredith,” Matt says, and turns my face to his.
It’s about the least romantic thing you can imagine. His fingers on my skin feel like the fire has shifted, been blown upward, embers dancing across every bit of territory they can find. At home, fires like to jump the freeway, blown by winds whose only job is to hurt.
His lips on mine: an invasion.
His tongue in my mouth: terrifying.
And yet I respond. Why?

Realization

Editing BEARDED LADY and understanding exactly what got me here. It was a hell of a lot. A lifetime, to be precise.

Stepping out

I'm usually a lot more bullish on parenting than I am at the moment.

I took Baz to Fourth Street for lunch. He whined and refused to eat anything I got. Then my shoulder bag snapped in the middle of paying for everything. Then this woman with a giant stroller kept blocking us at Peets.

Then ... Totland.

Enemy territory. I hate Totland with ferocity. While I was pushing him on the swing, one nitwit was trying to scare another nitwit about preschool. "You're already late," she said, gesturing to the other nitwit's year-old kid. "I mean, when people find out they're pregnant, that's when it's time to get on the list."

Aw, bullshit. We got into New House without a problem when Baz was 16 months. No muss, no fuss, no crying or promises of undying loyalty and awesome Yelp reviews. Just a shitload of paperwork and there you go.

Right now he's eating his second round of peanut-butter toast -- pretty much the only thing he's eaten today. Actually, it's peanut-butter hamburger bun because that's what we've got. And Jack is coveting it. Actually, no. He just ate it.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Stirring the oatmeal: from BeliefNet

Stirring oatmeal is a humble act–not exciting or thrilling. But it symbolizes a relatedness that brings love down to earth. It represents a willingness to share ordinary human life, to find meaning in the simple, unromantic tasks: earning a living, living within a budget, putting out the garbage, feeding the baby in the middle of the night. To “stir the oatmeal” means to find the relatedness, the value, even the beauty, in simple and ordinary things, not to eternally demand a cosmic drama, an entertainment, or an extraordinary intensity in everything.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Counting Crows, "Einstein on the Beach"

What you fear in the night and the day comes to call anyway.

Those who stay by you will stay by you. End of story.

What I was discussing with Adam this morning

From Daily OM:

Parenting asks us to rise to some of the most difficult challenges this world has to offer, and one of its greatest paradoxes arises around the issue of attachment. On the one hand, successful parenting requires that we love our children, and most of us love in a very attached way. On the other hand, it also requires that we let go of our children at the appropriate times, which means we must practice some level of non-attachment. Many parents find this difficult because we love our children fiercely, more than we will ever love anyone, and this can cause us to overstep our bounds with them as their independence grows. Yet truly loving them requires that we set them free. 

Attachment to outcome is perhaps the greatest obstacle on the parenting path, and the one that teaches us the most about the importance of practicing non-attachment. We commonly perceive our children to be extensions of ourselves, imagining that we know what's best for them, but our children are people in their own right with their own paths to follow in this world. They may be called to move in directions we fear, don't respect, or don't understand, yet we must let them go. This letting go happens gradually throughout our lives with our children until we finally honor them as fully grown adults who no longer require our guidance. At this point, it is important that we treat them as peers who may or may not seek our input into their lives. This allows them, and us, to fully realize the greatest gift parents can offer their offspring --independence. 

Letting go in any area of life requires a deep trust in the universe, in the overall meaning and purpose of existence. Remembering that there is more to us and our children than meets the eye can help us practice non-attachment, even when we feel overwhelmed by concern and the desire to interfere. We are all souls making our way in the world and making our way, ultimately, back to the same source. This can be our mantra as we let our children go in peace and confidence.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Birthdays and no regrets

I turned 44 yesterday. For some reason I wanted to revisit this shot, which was taken at last year's fete. It was taken by someone who knew -- and no doubt still does know -- me very well, as evidenced by the composition.

And from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: Wasted on the Way. Beautiful.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Editing this


             Sometimes we know when a moment isn’t just a moment. Standing here in this ridiculous space that doesn’t even feel like home, that’s exactly what I’m experiencing. The sun dims slightly, as if it can’t compete with the heat inside this house, bouncing off the ugly bamboo and against the stupid chandelier that is a serious earthquake hazard, mark my words.
            I never just wanted a mother. I wanted a mommy. Same was true with my father. What a nice, neat conclusion to my tale if only I could upgrade Nails to Mom, Rooster to Dad. What a pretty ending that I can only dream of, not actually experience.
            The words press against my throat, but they go no further. “I’m busy,” I say, and start to head up the curving staircase, up to my room where I actually do feel at home, where I can lock the door and sit on my window seat and think my thoughts and possibly, probably, cry some more, from sadness and hope and the weirdness that is life.

            Nails lays a hand on my arm. It’s been so long since we’ve had any sort of contact. This isn’t exactly what I’d been hoping for, either.
           
            “You could have had him,” she says. “You blew it. Now he’s paying the price.”
           
            Um, I’m sorry. What-what-what?
           
            “Matt is cute,” Nails, my mother, the person who cried into the void and gave me life, says. She says it like it’s the world’s most important thing, and to her maybe it is. She wears an oversized sweatshirt and leggings, like Flashdance is about to call and ask for its outfit back. She looks at me like I’m one of those dust motes shimmering in an irritating way, just something else she’s going to have to ask Elvira to wipe from the balcony.
            “Let me tell you,” she says, and you just know she’s about to lay down the intel. “You may never get that chance again.”

            I know this is supposed to hurt. I’m aware that it’s an insult. I’m supposed to find a sweet dark corner and lay down my head and cry for all the opportunities missed because I’m not only a dork, but an ugly dork.
            Instead I feel amazing. Matt? He wanted me. It’s obvious. He can’t just leave this alone. He can’t let me be. He’s going to keep worrying it like the dogs at the shelter gnaw after their frozen Kongs. Difference is that they eventually get their peanut butter. Him, he gets nothing.
            Finally I’m sure of it.