self improvement, Women, WOMEN'S HEALTH

SOUND THE ALARM

These days when I see a group of women at an outdoor event in nice summer dresses talking to each other, I can’t help but think of Margaret Atwood’s book that has become the creepy Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale. Once I shake that nightmare of a dystopian visual, that feels closer to reality every day, off, I am quickly brought back to reality. Thankfully, this was not the case yesterday because I was a guest at a very lovely non-dystopian chick event, sponsored by a new Women’s Collaborative called Siren.

I made my way through this book launch and signing event held at Blithewold Mansions and Gardens in Bristol, RI. It was well attended and many of the sixty women in attendance were not on their phones trying to capture every waking minute. They were engaging, listening, looking towards each other and enjoying the brilliant company of other like minded women. Despite the heat, this alone was refreshing.

“Do you have a card?” I had asked a few women, fully realizing that I had forgotten my own. A few women had cards and a few did not.
I will not look at Facebook. I will not look at Facebook, I found myself mumbling to myself when I got home afterwards. Meeting some of these great women, I didn’t want to forget their names and I wanted to continue our connection post event so I had to look them up.

Innocent enough, but many of us likely know now what happens when we attempt a ‘quick’ look at social media. These days between friend requests, comments, new photo uploads, page likes and all of the other mumbo jumbo that happens between people thinking they are connecting with each other, I find myself getting sucked into the vortex of incredible time wasting. Or is it? I don’t know. As I made my way into the search bar so I could friend request them or message them, that little gremlin of a voice murmured, just check the feed, alayne….. Real quick.

Yeah, right. There is nothing quick about social media. Part of the draw is staying connected, not missing something, keeping communication lines flowing so that the very lines of this communication seem like they are doing something. But are they?

Yesterday at this Siren event, we were more connected than any Facebook post or Instagram photo could ever be. We stood together in the scorching, unusually hot morning, sipping our sparkling water in our lovely summer dresses and we connected. Eye to eye, person to person. What struck me between the photos being taken was that of all the women there, it seemed most were not there to tag themselves on Instagram and make it a social media extravaganza, but rather to just simply BE together.

Sixty or so women in a beautiful setting on a record breaking heat wave day should have made us all refer to the day, instead, as Hotter Than Ever. We were a force to be reckoned with and not because we were protesting or speaking out against something. We do plenty of that, but instead we were just together, being women. Celebrating our potency, our hearts and minds without even having to say it aloud.

This vapor we share between us was what makes us have that potential bond of pure power when we allow and accept our strengths as a collaborative group. Siren has created this. I immediately fell in love with the intention and its stunning group consciousness yesterday. I was able to, first hand, witness female stories from their own real voices, person to person, chick to chick. I was able to be part of their body language and their core essence. I got to smell their perfume, see their hair color, their makeup or their choice to wear none. I was part of their story just by being in the same space.

I connected with a woman who used to be a therapist and one day, she thought to herself, I can’t do this anymore because I just wanted to say to the woman I was counseling, ‘When are you going to leave the asshole? He is never going to change.’ So as any good therapist would do, she left her career and figured out a different one. Realizing a business opportunity of cleaning vacation homes instead, she is now a successful business owner and had contributed a South African fish recipe to the book being featured. I would have never known this if we hadn’t had the eye to eye contact, the handshake, the conversation.

This quick story that tumbled out of her mouth over recipe sharing would have been lost on social media. She probably would not have even shared the story because it was something that came organically between two women speaking with each other. In person. Live.

I also heard a young woman yesterday who figured out her own compass through the worried eyes of her children and managed to get out of an abusive relationship. She shared her life story giving us the gift of realizing our own vulnerabilities in the throws of power and abusive relationships. She was able to get out and she lived to speak of it with a softness in her voice, an inner strength in her heart and an authentic depth to her story that made us weep. For her. For her children. For the women who never get out right along with the pieces of the puzzles of our own twists and turns.

Siren. Sound the alarm. Code Red. Firetrucks, police cars and ambulances. Women being women with women. In person. It was a morning of surprise for me and I was so grateful to have landed there.

We are in a fragile space right now. We have a deep need for connection and are getting further and further away from the very part of who we are as women who need acceleration in true human connection, not distance from it. I don’t think I even spend that much time on my phone or on social media, but then Apple in all of its wisdom reminds me of how much time I am truly spending by sending me little text updates.

The irony is hard to grapple with. The ease of finding some of these ladies I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday was easier because of social media. But I grapple with this being the easiest way to further my dialogue. Here I am writing this piece, knowing full well that many people will only be able to read it because of social media. In the old days, it would have needed to be published old school somehow in order for it to be received. I am appreciative of what social media has offered me as a former closet writer.

When women are together in these types of female centric events, the word “balance” often comes up. These days there is so much to be balanced I often wonder if there is enough time left for us to figure out what it even means. Balance is bullshit, in my opinion. Social media is a space that takes us from what we need to be doing so we stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. How does social media allow touch and smell? It doesn’t. How do we know if who we are speaking to on it are who they say they are? We don’t. Or with artificial intelligence these days if they even look like they really are.

Yesterday was a wake up call. Sound the alarm to remind us loud and clear that between our busy lives, our running, our texting, our scrolling and time away from authenticity, we need each other. I don’t have any science to proclaim what I say to be true. All I have is the feeling I left with yesterday in being in the presence of sixty women in our own heat. We didn’t need the heat of the sun to make us hot. We had each other and this was just the beginning.

life lessons

Making a List

 

Yesterday’s assignment generated from Day 2 of WordPress University that I have embarked on since deciding this past weekend that Yes, I can build my own website. Here is the writing prompt below.

“Today, let’s write a list. Compiling a list is a way to let loose, unlock ideas, and free your mind. Today, write your own list on one of these topics:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

There are no rules, though you can create some boundaries for yourself by deciding in advance how many items you’d like to include, or by settting a timer — try a list of 15 items, set a timer for 45 minutes.”

The goal seems to be getting thoughts to run freely and wildly, but to contain them somehow in the confines of list making. List making is something I do not struggle with. I am a list maker. I am also a vision board addict. I have them in my office which is out in the open off of my living room forcing me to never forget the major projects I am working on. I just found out about a program called Creately that I almost bought until I realized that I already have organizational charts done that I created myself in excel that work perfectly fine.

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My brain never stops. You could say I have the entrepeneurial spirit, like my father, like my grandfather and if I didn’t make lists and storyboards and visionboards, I am certain my head would fly off the top of my shoulders like a spinning top. This intensity of mine, of the creative ideas that move through me as if a spicket was turned on full throttle and being stuck in the on position is part of my writing energy, though. List making, outlines and order to the electricity that is my head helps move it up and out. I am grateful for the ability to know myself well enough to know that all of these ideas must take up a residence outside of this very full brain. Usually the lists are To Do lists, sometimes the lists are dreams and desires, but the theme is always a call to action. 

Organize the basement, put the dishes away, clean the closet in the bedroom, call my grandfather, move the doctor’s appointment from this week to next week, sign up for the art class, even when I am hoping to add areas of spirtuality into a list, as I consider this list making, even that is active. Deepen meditation practice, take more yoga classes, go to Synagogue once a month.

So as this call to action from WordPress University asks me to consider a different way to look at list making and I write today with this in mind. I never use a timer for my morning writing, I let my writing class leaders do that. When I wake up and write, it is my morning peace. This is why I wake up at five am and jump out of bed, so I have the time to write. The prompts are a different way to think. This is what writing prompts do, they open possibilities and creativity in a way that five minutes before would have not thought of. So here I go. This is just a quick list otherwise this writing would be over one hundred pages

Things I Like

  • early rising
  • conversations with interesting people
  • learning
  • writing writing writing
  • going to the library, taking out a book, finishing the book and returning it before the due date
  • collecting typewriters
  • being introduced to new ideas and considering them
  • nature and gardening
  • seeing a cardinal when I am deep in thought about something I am planning
  • watching my son grow up and develop his own identity
  • wearing my grandmother’s lighthouse jacket
  • cooking, walking, going to the beach
  • going to the movies and to museums
  • travel
  • expressive arts
  • being home
  • organizing 
  • leading my team and developing leaders
  • hanging out with my partner
  • being with my close tribe of women
  • organizing fun

     

  • working out
  • a good stretch
  • remembering my dreams
  • silence

Things I’ve Learned

  • To let shit go
  • To let shit go
  • to not take things personal at every waking moment
  • that when someone leaves your life say thank you with grace not malice
  • living in the present moment is all that is important
  • I am good enough
  • boobs aren’t as important as I thought they were
  • food is thy medicine or poison
  • drinking alcohol is not good for spiritual clarity (but it tastes so good)

Things I Wish

  • I had been better with money management earlier in my life
  • I could see my brother one more time6d33b-1ndLRbRVhNrgu9pHv_-lsMQ@2x
  • my mother and I had a really good relationship
  • I had a condo on Siesta Key for two months a year
  • I had the time and money to finish my degree and get a masters in writing
  • To really make time to research my historical fiction book idea 
  • i was better at growing vegetables

Things You’re Good At

  • Life
  • being a mother
  • friendship and being a strong partner in my Living Apart Together relationship
  • being an exwife
  • developing relationships
  • connecting people
  • owning a business
  • writing
  • creative thoughts
  • kindness and charitability
  • hosting parties
  • dreaming new ideas
  • cooking and baking
  • growing herbs
  • Love 

I am not sure if I have ever done this before, but I must say it was a nice way to start my day. Thank you WordPress. Again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FACE DOWN, CAPE OFF


FACE DOWN, CAPE OFF

“Let’s go for a walk,” I said chirpy and wide eyed.

“Yes, great idea,” Michael replied. “I won’t go to the gym. Cliff Walk?”

This past Sunday was a beautiful crisp almost winter day. The use of the word crisp is questionable here. Some of my peers would say freezing cold, but there was no wind on this sunny electric New England day and this makes all the difference in the decision to walk outside by the ocean or not. Michael and I are a robust couple. We like a brisk chilled walk and as long as we are both able to move our legs, we march forth whenever we get the chance. We know that soon enough will be hibernation time around these parts so when nature calls, we listen.

A walk with my seventy one year old partner is no chump change. He moves at a quick fire pace with his super long legs and I find myself with my much shorter legs taking take two steps to his one. It is a workout I love because a walk in nature is more than exercise for my physical self; it is often a spiritual reconnection. The deep breaths of fresh clean ocean air, the sounds of birds and waves create a calm peaceful serenity that a one hour workout at the gym will never be able to compete with, (sorry Kathy Martin). Besides the pace, which is at an invigorating clip, the mileage is also not for the faint hearted. Cliff Walk is 5.6 miles start to end, but that is only half of it because one must return unless Uber is waiting at the end for you. Of course anyone can walk just a portion of this beautiful gem right here in our little state (among so many other gems), but for us we just keep going, right past Rosecliff and Salve and the Chinese Tea House, right past Doris Duke’s house and almost to Bailey’s Beach but we take that pretty right turn instead on to Ledge Rd. past houses I can’t even imagine having to take care of.

The total walk for us this past Sunday was 8.5 miles. Air in our lungs? I’d say. There is nothing like the feeling of this walk. We chat, we walk in silence, we laugh, we negotiate real estate with few other walkers who we notice barely move to the right forcing us to step aside to let them pass on more than a few occasions. This drives Michael bananas, I don’t really notice; I just move, it is easier than getting myself worked up because of someone else’s behavior on a walking path. But I get it too, as we also noticed that the walkers on this day were not making eye contact, not looking at us, not engaging with even a brief smile or hello and this made us both sad. But we marched on as we discussed the political landscape and the ripple effect it may be having on humanity in general. Right along with the physical effects of cell phone use and the perpetual state of looking down for our actual heads, we wondered why people were not chirping back to our Hellos!

These conversations and thoughts all come up on a walk. There is no distraction of cell phone or the radio blaring music or bad news into our ear space giving us plenty of open brain space to converse or be silent amidst the beauty. Silence between two loving people is a gift that I don’t take for granted. I have been on the opposite end of the world of silence in relationships where silence was so loud, it made my heart hurt. I can’t ever have that feeling again. And I don’t with Michael or actually anyone in my life. Those relationships have left the building gradually and mostly gracefully and I march on. Shedding more layers of unnecessary burdens and drama that serves nothing other than making me feel bad. And my choice these days is to feel good whenever possible. Walking makes me feel good.

I recall the walks to school my son and I used to take on occasion. We didn’t really live a traditional walking distance from his elementary school, but I insisted on walking sometimes just to shake things up and teach him on our walks safe walking. How to look both ways, how to make sure that on a busy street that didn’t normally have walkers to always look to your right and left to make sure cars and trucks didn’t pull out without noticing you. Then there were the unintended lessons of conversations that would come up that no car ride could pull out of my son. Like cooking in the kitchen with your child, a walk to school creates an environment that just simply encourages communication because there is space to allow the flow. A walk reminds us how lucky we are we can. That we are not stuck in a hospital bed wishing for one more day in the fresh air like my brother did on his last leg of his young journey, or that we have the ability to actually choose. Do we want to take the bus? One of our two cars? Our bikes? Or a walk? Lucky to have options and this multitude of choices was yet another unintended lesson because I made the time to make it happen. If not then, when? My son is going to be 21 this month and time did fly by. Those walks are like my favorite jewels in my chest that I get to pull out and remember that I have them. Luckily for me, I have lots of these little golden nuggets. I know that losing my brother at such a young age to cancer taught me an intrinsic value of seizing the moment in a way that my son got to benefit from. I don’t know if his memories of his childhood are the same memories I have of his childhood. My mother sometimes used to bring up her memories to me that I had completely different takes on. This is history, perception is reality especially the further way we get from the time we reflect back on.

As we made our way back on the Bellevue Ave side for a change of scenery, in front of all of the mansions instead of the flip side, we felt so happy and cleaned out in a way that walks outside on cold days stir the pot. Down Memorial towards First Beach with a stunning view and finally that last leg down Gibbs headed home. We are lucky because of his house proximity to all things Newport, cars get to stay where they should live, in the driveway as often as possible. Looking at the Christmas decorations and the homes as we peppered our final walking conversations with our health commentary.

“How does your body feel?” Michael asks me. “Are you tired?” “My hips feel a little tight- I’ll roll when we get home.” “I may take a nap,” I say. “I think I’ll finish the paper,” he says back. We relish in our good fortune of simple choice, grateful for the ability to make the observation. Then we continue in comfortable quiet. I look down for a brief moment and my eyes land on a red white and blue and yellow object. What? Are my eyes seeing things? Is that….. Wonder Woman? Holy coincidence. Yes. It was a small plastic toy that perhaps a little one dropped on her or his walk that day, maybe it fell out of the stroller or her hands as she was going on her little journey out into the cold with her parents, but there Wonder Woman was, waiting, face down, prostrate, cape off. Not defeated, but rather waiting patiently for me to scoop her up and give her a new home. She didn’t need her cape, she had me. I couldn’t believe that after that 8. 5 mile walk with the man I love, I would at the end of my walk find a cape-free Wonder Woman. There are no coincidences and perhaps she was there to remind me that yes, Alayne, nature always serves you. The cape is not the power, you are your power. Of course it could have also been just a plastic toy dropped randomly, but I get to choose what my own perception of reality is here. So I marched forth with my new friend reminding me of all I know but sometimes forget along the path.


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GIRLS AND SEX

GIRLS AND SEX

I stood there at the counter that separated generations. I was in sixth grade and there it was, behind the counter in the Hands Off, you need to get permission from your parents section in the Jamestown Library in 1977. At least this is how I remembered the book, Girls and Sex sitting uncomfortably and somewhat illicitly next to its companion, Boys and Sex. The much older than me librarian standing in front of me with the key to my future of understanding what was going on in this body of mine. I am guessing that I was an unusual child mirroring her back as I somewhat uncomfortably asked her for the book that looked like it would sizzle in my fingers if I had been allowed to get my hands on it. Of course this would not be happening, the sexual revolution of the sixties and the sexual promiscuity of the seventies hadn’t translated to the librarians of The Jamestown Public Library. The Jamestown Public Library located on the island of Jamestown in Rhode Island that had a population of three thousand year rounders if we were lucky was in no way going to contribute to the sexual questions of a curious and highly sexualized twelve year old girl who had just recently moved to the island. I would have to get permission from my parents to take this book out, I remember the librarian saying probably with a bit of a tsk tsk eye roll. The fact that I even had the courage to ask about this book should tell the reader something about my sexual curiosity that had found its way into my body like a concord jet flying overhead on a quiet spring Sunday morning with your windows open for the first time. I had no idea what was going on in my body, but what I did know was that there in front of me was a book that could answer my questions so I wouldn’t have to humiliate myself by asking my mother. Girls and Sex is how I remember the book. This is not the current and modern Girls and Sex book written by the hip and fabulous writer, Peggy Orenstein. When I tried to find the original book on Google, some really disgusting videos came up that made me want to throw my phone in a hazmat suit, so I am not sure what had happened to these books so I looked them up in a more grown up better place, the Ocean State Library website. Voila, there it was like an old fashioned beam of light, just like I remembered it right next to Boys and Sex, both books written by Wardell B. Pomeroy. He was born in 1913 and I was surprised to learn that he was a co -author with the famous Alfred Kinsey. That book may have been so helpful. However, I wouldn’t know because in my second courageous act, (after the first one of drumming up the courage to ask the librarian for the book), I went home and asked my mother if she would take the book out for me. I would have thought that my mother who was only thirty two when I was twelve, would have only been too happy to relinquish the dreaded sex discussion to a book rather than a face to face. She did in fact take the book out for a quick perusal and promptly said a firm No, that I was too young. And just like that, my curiosity (and bravery if I do say so myself) went down under, silent, never to come out again except in the woods behind the school with Robbie H. where we could both satisfy our interests with each other’s sexual curiosity. I navigated my own questions in the basement dances at the local churches dancing close to the equally eager boys, sweaty and pheromone ladened in a way that took our young breath away. But I was a girl and girls weren’t supposed to be feeling, thinking, acting like that. That being sexually curious, sexually charged and energized and actually open to the idea of sexuality was actually something that was a natural feeling loaded with mixed feelings that we girls would find ourselves grappling with for years ahead.

this is a later version of the book, Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy. This did not look like the book I wanted in 1977, the book I wanted was a mono deep red hardcover or something with no images as risque as this one.

I am not talking of intercourse or oral sex, that wasn’t even in my radar. (But thank you Bill Clinton for forcing me to have it in my parental radar when my son was born in 1997 having to watch endless television about cigars, semen and blowjobs). I am speaking of that old fashioned “petting,” as I have come to find out was one of the words used to describe some of the ideas in Wardell Pomeroy’s book. Instead of learning and ultimately validating that the feelings I was having from a legitimate book were normal and healthy, I had to learn from Judy Blume in her many books that weaved sexuality in and out in her themes right under the noses of our mothers who had seemed to turn conservative and June Cleaver on the subject.

Much to many of my friends horrors I began having discussions about sexuality with my son over card games as early as third grade. My thought was that my husband at the time surely wasn’t going to be having the talk and rather than make it a before and after in one awkward conversation, I would make the assumption that my son would be having these same feelings as early as I did and if I broached the subject earlier than his hormones, it wouldn’t be a “thing” but rather a natural part of normal maturity. Who knows if this decision was correct? Who knows if my son will be in therapy as he finds himself navigating his own grown up relationships with his mother’s voice chirping in his head. Eeee gads, but I had the mindset that discussion normalizes sexuality rather than surrounding it with all kinds of taboo and out of touch feelings.

These days, the notion of having to ask a librarian for permission to take out a book called Girls and Sex is like a Saturday Night Live skit. My memory seems as clear as a bell that these books were behind the counter, but I can’t imagine this now. These days, I am not sure that kids even read anymore. Our children who have a phone at their fingertips as a sixth digit on their hand have access to A-Z sex in videos and porn that make our own wonders and personal ideas about sex spin. Long gone are the days when a conversation about sex could spin from we parents caught in the act by our kids accidentally walking in on us or hearing us to realize that yes, their parents do in fact Do It. Kids today get all of their information unfiltered on the live sex shows that appear from an accidental google search with the word sex in the title. Sex is no longer left to our own personal journeys of undiscovered territory lead by our hormones and that first kiss of adolescence.

I am so happy I am past the point of having to think about these discussions with my son and instead get to focus on my own personal discoveries in the aging process. Fake boobs, body changing at the speed of light no matter how much I work out, waning and waxing interest, that pesky topic of vaginal dryness that makes for a buzz kill in the bedroom, a committed relationship that is not a married one, but a living apart together one and the simple fact that I am getting older as is my partner. Sex is everywhere, media for sure, the appalling songs that are in the buds of childrens’ head phones pumping disrespectful commentary about sexual expectations especially the female kind into their ears, innocent google searches, but also in the mating calls of birds and crickets right outside our doors and yet the open conversations about it are still in many ways locked away in our closets. Not for me though, I like talking about the ebbs and flows of sexuality and desire. My partner and I have introspective conversations about needs and wants making sure that this part of our own relationship moves in a growth pattern so we stay on the same page like all other aspects of a grown up partnership. Sex is a natural part of life and the more we can have these conversations with each other and our own children, the healthier their own outlooks on their bodies and what is going on with them will be.

If you are not comfortable talking about sex with your kids, figure it out, because if they don’t hear about healthy sex from you, the school bus and their iPhones will be their teachers. Start early because when they get to the age when their sexual interest is peaked, there is no way they will allow any form of conversation that has the word sex in it. I think we inadvertently teach our daughters that sex is a tool to be used as a manipulator by our mixed messages of being a “good girl” compared to what the definition of a “good boy’ means. For those of us fortunate to have a healthy outlook on sex and all of its attributes, I am grateful for the personal discoveries I made on my own, but I know feelings of inadequacy and shame could have been avoided if the topic had been talked about in an easier way with my mother rather than left to my own devices. Of course it is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, I guess someone would have to ask my son if he thinks this was a good idea or if I ruined his entire adolescence by my openness.

What I do know about sex is it evolves right alongside with me. There is no on or off button, but just somewhere in between. Sex, as I grow, grows with me like a warm companion in the hand holding on the couch while we watch a movie by the fire. I love the experience of maturity and sex is no longer a validator for love, attractiveness and interest. This has been liberating because I think with the wisdom of retrospect I used sex as a tool, a weapon even at times to gauge my own perception of a healthy solid connection. I am gratified by the release of this idea that never served me well and surely is not part of who I am now. Another lesson for sure when the cape came off right along with my breasts and I head towards my mid fifties.

this is the book I would recommend if you asked me. This is not the one I coveted in 1977 because back then, it was not written yet.
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QUIET BEAUTY

QUIET BEAUTY

She walked into the voting poll, with a quiet elegance , but not the wealthy kind typical of old money and blue blood. More of the kind who was simply raised well with good standards and taught the difference from right and wrong. Her age was probably around the mid eighties, with kind eyes, the ones that smile without a the necessary matching grin. She was the type of woman who seemed to have had a nice long life, probably had children who enjoyed her as much as she enjoyed them. She had on the sweetest of sweaters, fleece, cream colored, tucked under a raincoat because it had in fact been raining buckets. She seemed to be the pragmatic type, covered in the gear necessary to keep her dry, but with the old school practicality of needing to be warm too. Probably left her umbrella by the door to be more considerate so the rain droppings weren’t left in the voting booth for the next voter. The slight glimpse of the sweater confirmed it was very clean and cared for just like her house probably is or was. This woman likely came from the generation of stoic salty ladies who got their hair done snow sleet or hurricane every Friday. She was likely the type of woman who changed her curtains and bedding with the seasons, stripped to bare bones, cleaning walls using a ladder while their husbands were off to the factory or the post office job. Her children were raised with good manners, and were taught from the early days that chores were the simple part of being a child in their house, taking the trash out, washing and drying the dishes, no dishwasher in this house, raking leaves, and helping out on Saturdays with the dusting to get the house ready for Sunday dinners. After church of course. She never missed church, one imagined. She was likely at least a third generation in this small town and had seen her town inflate with each passing year with outsiders, carpetbaggers and people she no longer recognized as she made her way on the errands of the week, the post office to buy stamps and mail her monthly bills, the local drug store to pick up her prescriptions and the market for the few items she would need for the small meals she found herself making these days.

Greeting her with a happy smile, then showing her where to put the ballot, I noticed all of her layers, but it was the red splash of color peaking out beneath the raincoat that drew me to her. That made me assess all of these assumptions about her quiet life, because my eyes were simply drawn to the redness that found itself on her fleece sweater. I didn’t want to seem like I was invading her privacy. I didn’t know her until that moment, but the familiarity of the emblazoned cardinals on the lapel of her fleece sweater caught my eye.

“I LOVE YOUR SWEATER.” I said to her with an enthusiastic brightness that required a reply. She immediately placed her right hand to her lapel, like she was getting ready to cover her heart for the pledge of allegiance. Her eyes lit up, her smile extended into a big grin, but a humbled one, like the observation from a total stranger peaked into her heart in a way she hadn’t anticipated on a rainy evening on the eve of a mid term election.

“I have a story about the cardinal, “ she said in almost embarrassed way in a way that made me think she doubted I might believe her. She hesitated for a brief moment. I could feel it. It was very busy at that time, but I have my own stories about cardinals and I couldn’t pass up a chance to hear hers. I also had a feeling that her story was an opportunity for connection. I managed to find the clerk and ask him to man the machine so I could take a break and listen. She began the story quietly.

“ A cardinal flew into my open car window and wouldn’t leave, even when I walked over to the car and opened the doors. He stood on the dashboard and watched me for a moment. I left the doors open and decided to walk away. I watched him from my porch and he finally flew out and landed on the porch staring, like he knew me. I always loved cardinals, so I stood there and we watched each other. Then he flew away. The next day, I was in the kitchen and there he was again, in the same spot on my back porch. I gingerly walked towards the door, this time with some bread and placed a few pieces down slowly moving back as to not startle him, he approached the bread with confidence as if were old friends and ate it hungrily. I watched him and he looked up at me almost nodding with gratitude and flew away. The same thing happened the next day and the next and this went on for almost a full week. Then I didn’t see him again, but it was such an interesting experience. This sweater makes me remember him.” She smiled at me hoping that I would believe her.

I smiled broadly, knowingly, and found myself with barely a hesitation saying, “That is a magical story, has anyone important in your life died recently? “ She paused, surprised by my question for a split second and said, “Yes. As a matter of fact my husband had just died, he has been gone now for three years.”

Without hesitation, I said, “Cardinals are known for showing up after someone dies, perhaps your husband was there to say hello and one last goodbye, letting you know that everything was going to be alright. They are miracles for sure.”

I have known this magic about cardinals since my own father died and since others have moved on showing up in the oddest of times, singing on a quiet morning, landing on a tree at an arms length. Every single time, I have seen the bright red beauty, I am reminded that yes, everything is going to be alright. This has been happening since I separated from my husband almost eight years ago. They give me comfort and gratitude in the briefest of moments. I was all too happy to share this with her, somehow knowing she would understand immediately.

She did. I could tell by the immediate tear that welled up in her eye.She smiled with so much love, and longing. “I never heard that before, thank you for saying that. “

I wished I could have asked her for her phone number so we could hang out. I haven’t stopped thinking about her since Tuesday. We were meant to meet, I was meant to be her cardinal conduit. The notion of feeling vulnerable and taking the risk to communicate something to a complete stranger and be rewarded with the reception of the message in such a caring way reminded me how many layers underneath the surface of a first glance there are when you just take the time to say hello.


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WRITING CLASS

I am taking a six week writing class with the theme of Memoir Writing. There are about twelve incredible writers in the class and we are all feeding off of each other’s stories as writing classes often do. They propel thoughts from others making all of our writings better. The first three assignments listed below are in the order I wrote them. The task was to isolate a word or a phrase from each story and write another story from that jumping off point. I have highlighted the phrase both in each assignment and at the beginning of the following one. The first one was written right after I had learned that my friend Lesa had died and I have highlighted the phrases chosen in each of the two that follows. The third one’s task was to write about a role model and I decided to continue the exercise including a phrase from the previous. I am including the first three from the first three weeks, the remaining will follow in the next few days and weeks as the conclusion of the class is fast approaching. Sigh.

If writing is your addiction like it is mine, this is a great exercise and I attribute it to one of my writing mentors, Hannah Goodman, who introduced the idea to me in a random writing class well over fifteen years ago. As you read these, if any other words or phrases speak to you, please send them along to me as I love the challenge of writing pieces from phrases and words; it is a great discipline that helps me improve my skills.

MEMOIR CLASS WRITINGS

June 6, 2018

1. YOU DIED

You died. It didn’t really strike me in my heart until I spoke with your dad and heard his words, the words of the pain of your death, that the pain of your death caused.

And its relief. At first it was the What? She died? Kathy, you read about it on Facebook?

When Kathy called to let me know I called your father right away to find out the whats, the whys, the whens.

Yes. He confirmed. But, Alayne, she really died, really, twenty years ago, when she started on the wrong path taking the turn to the left in the fork instead of the one on the right. The turn not beckoning with love and light, but with darkness and sadness and empty promises.

Now it is the weight of the conversations, the memories being dredged up the way the beach shoreline looks after a nor’easter- fragments of chips and wood and trash and weird oddities scattered like a flea market gone terribly wrong. Reflections like it was just yesterday you were three and I was sixteen and I was trying to help you understand that it wasn’t normal to smell like pee when your dad would pick you up from your mother’s without actually saying it aloud. That is was actually a joy to read to you, not a chore like you had been taught. That baking you a cheesecake that you loved and homemade lunches to take to school was a normal expectation of a childhood. That asking for school meetings with the teachers and therapists when I was only twenty one to help you feel anything but dumb. Teaching you to put your napkin on your lap and basic table manners to help you along your way in your little shaky life. That none of it really made a difference in the end because in the end it was the end because in the end it was the addiction that took place of everyone else’s help. That in the end it was the addiction that took up the real estate in your heart. Because you chose to take the fork on the left instead of the one on the right.

June 13, 2018

2. The memories being dredged up the way the beach shoreline looks after a nor’easter- fragments of chips and wood and trash and weird oddities scattered like a flea market gone terribly wrong.

Memories have a way, don’t they? The good ones bring smiles and happy sparkly bright white teeth as we think about them, our hearts opening wide like an extra large tin can of sweetly condensed milk getting ready to be poured into a recipe for your grandmother’s dessert. Pictures of the beach, family picnics, sunscreenless kids dressed in their bathing suits covered in sand, wrapped in terry cloth towels, Dr. Scholls sandals on the moms, cigarette in one hand, glass of Chablis in the other, tans that only summers of bain de soleil and foil blankets can produce, tans of the past before we knew about the sun and the downside of its beautiful yet dangerous light.

Light is like this. It has its moments of bright and happy, but too much can cause a ruckus, sleeplessness, sunburns, dehydration to name a few. Memories too are like this. It is always an interesting trip down memory lane reflecting on history and moments in time. Bam. They confront with the most vivid of recollection and Ahhh, that too. And ahhhh and bam mushed together. Not sure if the memory is truth or filled with artistic liberties because it is so much easier to make them kinder and sweeter in reflection.

Memories have a way of being dredged up the way a beach shoreline looks after a noreaster loaded with fragments of wood and trash and weird oddities like a flea market gone terribly wrong. Whole families can take part in lively discussions about the same memory and all have a different perspective because of course memories get mixed with our own editorializing to make them fit into the box we want to open with glee rather than seal up and bury in the back yard.

We don’t get to pick and choose though. Memories. The past sits and waits. For maybe a dream to wake up a dormant thought from the old days, the past days. Or maybe a smell of something or a mannerism that reminds you of a person you haven’t thought of for sometime. Or a song, those blasted songs, Freebird. When the lights go down in the city…. Journey bellows and I am sent back in time to the sweeter days of my youth. The simpler days of a hot cup of coffee when I used to drink it with cream, smoking a joint, and playing a game of backgammon on the back deck on an early morning joint with a childhood friend before she stopped.

Cold and Abrupt.

Without Warning.

Our daily conversations forty years later.

June 20, 2018

3. Without Warning

Anna Quindlen wrote a piece about motherhood that had this quote in it,

“I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”

Somehow I remembered the quote being more about wishing she knew the last time her child would be wanting a hug and a kiss as the last time so she could have kissed and hugged just a few moments more, but maybe this was in a different piece. Regardless though, the essence of the essay is the looking back and reflecting on our child rearing years if we are the lucky moms who get to have the rear view mirror to look back in. Some mothers don’t get that chance. I did and I don’t have the same feeling she did that has just a slight tinge of regret. But I get her commentary as it is so easy to get stuck in the vortex of laundry and dishes and working instead of the fantasy world of setting up lemonade stands and forts using all of the living room pillows.

I’ll never forget the night my son didn’t want that nighttime hug. I didn’t know it would come that soon. I think he was in fifth grade. I am sure I must have written about the moment. If I didn’t, it doesn’t really matter because the memory is etched upon my heart until many years later. Now though, college age, he allows me a little more freedom in the hugging. Probably because of the breast cancer more than anything else. And maturity. And he loves me. And I love him with a feeling in my heart I never thought was part of the map that would be the road to parenting an almost twenty one year old soon to be junior in college.

My son is my role model. There is nothing like being the recipient of shitty parenting to teach you how to be a better parent. Or a worse one. But in my case, I am confident in my parenting but it is also because I have a son who was born to be a nice person. He has character and strength and a deep sense of calmness. He is self assured but not cocky or narcissistic. He’s the type of kid my aunt says, “He’s going to go places.”

He has shown a deep sense of maturity and growth since his dad, Dave and I separated six months before his Bar Mitzvah back in 2011 and I have watched him teach David and me how to be the best divorced parents. Michael was the one who came up with a more efficient visiting schedule. “Mom, why don’t I do one full week at Dad’s, one full week with you. This three day/ four day schedule is annoying.” He suggested this in seventh or eighth grade and Dave and I went with it. This taught Dave how to parent fully and me how to parent fully, each alone. At the same time we each developed our own new relationship with our son that was different if we had stayed as a couple. I suggest this to all parents who are getting divorced. It was a perfect balance and it also helped the two of us to heal our own wounds separately and together. I don’t know how he instinctively knew, but his honesty coupled with his directness has opened my eyes to what happens when a parent actually can release their know it all attitude realizing our children teach us as much if not more than we teach them.

He’s the type of young man who let’s me know without ever having to ask when he’s going somewhere, when he’s home with a simple text knowing that if I wake up at one in the morning I will check my phone and this alleviates the fear factor. “Going to Lane’s,” the short and to the point text message says when he decided at ten pm to head out knowing I have been asleep for two hours likely already. “Home,” the even shorter message says when he arrives back knowing I will be relieved when I check my phone later after the second or third bathroom run.

As Michael gets closer to the age of my brother’s age when my brother’s age was the age of his own cancer diagnosis, I am finding myself a little more anxious. I am trying to stay conscious and present to it and not allow it to take over my energy field, but it is not easy. My brother was twenty three. My son is going to be twenty one this year and I have been trying to just stay in the moment instead of projector head swirling into the what if’s. My cancer diagnosis, unlike my brother’s cancer diagnosis came without warning. My brother’s came as the result of his excruciating leg pain that was misdiagnosed for a month before we got the news. Why would anyone think that a healthy strong twenty three year old strapping young man would have advanced lung cancer? My son also named Michael for obvious reasons is my go to rockstar for not worrying. I am not sure if he ever worries. Life just happens and he just enjoys life, whatever it seems to bring towards him, around him, he doesn’t seem at least on the outside to fret or let things vex him.

I never thought during my starry eyed pregnancy that almost twenty one years later, I would be writing from the seat as the student of parenting rather than the teacher. Parenting my son, Michael has been humbling and joyful because the lessons he has taught me have far exceeded any expectations I surely had when I was belly full, waiting for my due date to roll in. December 27th the day when my future role model was actually born. Right on time, just like he has always been since.

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MOVING AND SHAKING


MOVING AND SHAKING

“Does anybody really know what time it is?” The tune of that fabulous and very danceable Chicago song started randomly playing in my head today as my morning began. Why do our brains do this? Why do they just start coming up with songs out of nowhere? I didn’t hear a Chicago song, but now I want to get up and change my Pandora from Chet Baker to Chicago and start tapping my feet and swaying my hips. Maybe it is the line itself and not the actual song. In our lives, what is time anyway? We have a short time span relatively speaking to the life on earth never mind the universe. Whether we get to live a long life or a short one, ultimately, it is up to each of us to make it a full one. Time is irrelevant actually. What I know about time in my personal observations of human behavior is we like to use it a lot as excuses for not doing versus doing. “I am so busy.” “I don’t have time.” “I don’t have my schedule with me.” I hear these lines all day every day, but what does it actually mean when we wake up each and every morning breathing- all we really have is time.

This is the conundrum I see especially with the vast amounts of women I have the privilege of meeting in my life. Running around from place to place, driving children, running errands and checking out our phones endlessly to see what the latest Facebook post is. I get it because I have subscribed to this meme allowing it in my past to be my guide rather than realizing ultimately each and every decision we make is a choice. Once I realized this and the late and great Wayne Dyer got me thinking about choice as a unique and personal decision, I understood that where we are and what we do with where we are is a choice. Like it or not. We who live in this free place have endless choices about how and what we do with our time. Our good fortune is often taken for granted. Surely.

So when there is music playing just about anywhere, I dance. On my front porch, in my backyard, walking by Gillarys on a Sunday afternoon after a few IPA’s at Judge Roy Bean and at our beloved July 4th concert series basically a hop skip and a jump from my front door. It is helpful that I share my life with someone who likes to dance as much as I do and has no inhibitions about being the only one dancing in a sea of sitters, and dance we do. Often. We move and shake, we sweat and glide and the world disappears each and every time a song comes on that speaks to our souls. And there are a lot of them. Last night it was Hey Nineteen, a band that sounded so much like Steeley Dan, I had to remind myself it wasn’t. The concert had a bummer turnout because it had been raining buckets and thundering all day, I am sure people just wanted to stay home in their dry houses, but they missed out. I have the luxury of a walk rather than a drive to the concerts so we reaped the benefits of this concert last night. Like a hula hoop or a roller coaster ride or a bike ride down a hill, dancing, impromptu, frees my soul from the ties I have allowed it to be bound by. Dancing reminds me that I am alive and happy and lucky. Dancing is a wake up to the world and BE HERE NOW. I am never quite sure how people can’t get up and move and shake when a rhythm or a beat starts pounding, sometimes I feel it is more Ego screaming, You can’t do that, no one else is dancing. You’ll look foolish, it is daylight. What will people think? And the hundreds of others beliefs that are imbedded in our brains by that dangerous EGO of ours.

The crazy and complicated miracle of caught it early breast cancer is the excuse to move and shake, to rip that protective cape off and literally bare my chest because it was necessary for life. Isn’t that so ironic and weird? That breast cancer coupled with turning fifty got me out of my never ending mind blither and got me into my LET’S ENJOY WHAT I GOT thinking. I’d like to think I had that before breast cancer, but in retrospect, I didn’t give myself permission to live in the freedom I now find myself in. Breast cancer forced a shift I didn’t know I needed. It was not a gift, fuck that. I refuse to say it was a gift or a journey, that language is irritating. More like an old fashioned alarm clock that rings loud because you wound it up the night before and forgot to push the metal lever in from the day before. It is surprising and alarming to your system of your deep slumber and though you want to shut it off sometimes you can’t find the clock fast enough.

One of my favorite and feistier superchicks I know and love, Nancy J. came up to me last night because she saw me dancing and wanted to give me a happy hug. She gets me and I have always felt a connection with her. Maybe it is our similar self proclaimed #lovelybadass selves. I could feel her love and her joy for me and my aliveness. This is the thing about cancer in all forms, whatever stage you have been at, there is a one size fits all visual people expect you to look like when they hear you have or had it. I never had “the look” because I never had chemo so the added bonus is that people see me and my sassy self and it is magnified because of the expectation that I looked a certain way before. This always makes me gratefully and humbly laugh.

Because I go out with a 71 year old man I am blessed to call my partner, I will always be young in his eyes because of our eighteen year age difference. Surviving cancer is kind of the same thing, it was caught so early that I was never sick, so here I am. Though now that I think about it, maybe it is the new boobs too that bring on the complimentary commentary, maybe it is the electric pink lipstick I now adorn myself with because why the hell not? Being the only one on the dance floor, wearing shocking pink lipstick or hula hooping in the garden are all little tiny ways that symbolically celebrate life, my life. When the final days come because let’s face it, no one gets out alive, I hope I am remembered as the one that danced in the daytime. Moving and shaking, smiling, laughing with bright pink lipstick, red head wrap around my silver hair, dressed head to toe in red white and blue on July 4th because I could.





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DISHES IN THE SINK

DISHES IN THE SINK

After spending over a week writing a eulogy for an old family friend, then reading the eulogy at her very sad funeral filled with my past life like the movie, The Big Chill, I woke up yesterday feeling like I was hit by a mack truck. The part about eulogy writing is that it is a great distraction from the loss itself. I write and rewrite and add and subtract and read and reread. Then I do it all over again and read it aloud so I can be sure to know the piece enough to look up and look at the important people sitting in front of me with their grief in their laps. Eulogy writing is something that channels itself through me so much so that its calling usually wakes me up out of bed at three am to begin its unraveling down the winding writing path.

When I woke up yesterday, I just knew that I couldn’t work; I was drained, sad, emotional and exhausted. As my business is like a living breathing organism always there when I need it, it turned out to be an unusually slow day. So I asked my illustrious team of superchick employees if I could play hookie and they could take the helm. Because they are who they are, they said a resounding yes without a blink of an eye and I made my way back to my house to gather some beach items so I could spend a quiet day in mourning in my private sanctuary and alter called The Beach.

When I got to my house at seven am after spending the evening in Newport with Michael C after the funeral, I was surprised to see Quality Roofing in my driveway. I have been trying to get Kevin, roof Master with a capital M, to fix my roof since I first spotted the three leaks in my ceiling a few months ago. I was surely not going to send him away so after we bantered back and forth for a few moments, the literal roof started to come off, almost a cliché to the way I felt.

There are no coincidences, at least in my neat little world and sense of order of things, not that I necessarily believe the tagline so freely thrown around to solve everyone else’s problems, Everything Happens For A Reason. Fuck that. I can’t stand when people say these things to other people. I mean Fine. If you choose to believe this for yourself and the rambling road you find yourself on, believe away. My personal belief for me and my own personal life experience is that Everything Happens in the Divine Right Order. For some reason, this mantra always grounds and centers me in the worst of times and the best of times giving me prayer like peace and humility. However, I try not to smear and whitewash this personal belief system on others now that I sit in the seat on the other side of two close cancer calls. I am sure I was in the boxing ring of throwing out these one liners BC (before cancer) and I almost cringe at the comments and stupid cards I sent out not having a clue of what to say. Now, though, that I am the winner of the boxing match, I know better. As a matter of fact, I know better about a lot of reflections and life coming at me moments and this is the beautiful side of the aging process.

The other beautiful magical side of the aging process is the freedom of leaving dishes in the sink. I was as pretty much every woman I know programmed from an early age right along with making your bed in the morning not to leave dirty dishes in the sink. I am a bit of a rule breaker so I am not from the school of intense rule following that I never leave dishes in the sink. I actually do this, but my own neat little rule is not to leave so many that they can be seen when I walk into my kitchen. Thanks to the previous homeowners, I have one of those fabulous deep farmhouse stainless steel sinks so hiding the dishes is an easy feat for this busy chick. I don’t do it often, but when I do it usually means one of two things, I am just too chock filled with over booking myself and I literally don’t have the extra time, which is not too often but it does happen. The other reason is because I am in emotional overload and the permission I give myself to just leave the dishes in the sink, piled up like some college age kid is pure freedom. At least temporarily because the fact of the matter is that the dishes at some point need to get done and the longer they sit, the worse they get. Kind of like negative thoughts and sadness. There is the resting period, the need to sit on the couch and wallow, the need to blow off an otherwise planned day and grieve the loss and just feel sad, the soaking period, but at some point, the rolling up your sleeves and getting the scrub brush out has to take place. If it doesn’t the caked on, stuck on greasy mess you left is worse then it was the day before surely. For us women who are the resilient types, the get shit done women, we get this and we eventually sooner than later get off the couch and grab the SOS pads and start scrubbing. Sometimes we do this sooner than we should. Sometimes we need to allow the soaking for just one more day, just giving ourselves the freedom to walk away from the sink and take a breath of fresh air to buy our own bouquet of roses for our table.

The dishes do get done and for this the symbolism of the metaphor as it relates to grief and sadness is the lesson that always propels me to just get them done. Now. Not later. Later and sadness are not a good marriage. Grief cannot be put off, it has to be dealt with or it deals with you. For today when I woke up after leaving the dishes in the sink for two days along with pans and their covers on the counter around the sink, I knew it was time to just move on. People die. It is sad. Life is short and shorter for some, getting those dishes washed this morning reminds me that I am lucky to be alive to wash the dishes for another day. So I did. Mostly.


I love this plaque hanging in front of me when I wash the dishes. Given to me by my mother, there is a certain irony in it, but it makes me happy as I scrub away at the caked on pile.
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ON MY BIKE

ON MY BIKE

Besides going to the beach as often as possible, riding my bike and gardening are two of my favorite extra curricular activities I enjoy as soon as the temperature climbs over fifty. After watering and transplanting little zinnia shoots into some pots because even though I know I am supposed to thin out the seedlings, I can’t bring myself to just throw them into the compost, I admired the progress of my garden so early into this early June. Lavender, thyme and rosemary abound, as do numerous other herbs. All of these years later after my first romance with herbs in 1990 when I used them at my wedding, they still make me smile at every turn.

I wake up eagerly and throw on my gardening dress and red rubbery plastic Birkenstocks, throw my hair up into a pile on the top of my head and make my way out with my Life is Good coffee mug to inspect what miracles have transpired in just one evening away. It is miraculous and even though I know things are going to grow with mostly predictable regularity, I am still in awe of everything that does.

The same is true when I get on my bike and I witness cardinals singing to me and I look up over and over and see him in multiple trees, almost like he is following me reminding me like he always does that yes, Alayne, you are on the right path. Keep going. Michael C. and I decided to head out for a lengthy bike ride yesterday as the original beach day plans were kiboshed because the Sunday early june weather can’t seem to get the message that it is ok to be a beach day. The air was cool, cloud covers helped keep the path from ever feeling anything but comfortable and we started our pedaling on the East Bay Bike Path with no destination in mind. No money, no cell phones, no time limit, just a couple bottles of water and some long sleeve shirts in case we got chilly from the unseasonable cooler breeze.

There is great freedom in just picking up and going with no destination in mind. Would we do the entire bike path or just ride to Barrington and turn around? Would we venture off the path and do the Rumstick loop as the sign at the corner of the bike path and County Rd. suggested on its neat little blue lined map? No idea, but between the enormous quantity of nature at every pedal, we just kept pedaling.

Swans and their babies in the far corner of Brickyard Pond that you could miss if you were busy not noticing, geese teaching their babies to waddle like their mamas up ahead in the clearing on the right. A deer in an open space trying to find some chow looking quite vulnerable and lost. A cat hunting for mice on the prowl with a red metal tag around her neck so no one would confuse her with a feral cat and try to rescue her from the wild. Then there were not only the Osprey nests, but the majestic ospreys themselves standing proud and high feeding their babies always taking my breath away at their size, their prowess and their squawking sounds. We kept pedaling never checking in with each other, taking it easy and slow as the extreme bikers flew by us kindly screaming “on your left!” warning us not to make a sudden veer to the left that would cause a bike path pile up ruining an otherwise perfect Sunday.

East Bay Bike Path is for most of part flat and easy. (http://www.dot.ri.gov/community/bikeri/eastbay.php.) It runs for 14.3 miles making a round trip of almost thirty miles. Every single time I am on it’s flat trail and I am on it a lot, I am never bored because the plants change, so does the perfume of them, so does the color. Nature never disappoints and nature is even brighter without the distraction of a cell phone close by. The sights and sounds of the people riding also never changes. All shapes and sizes, all forms of dress, helmets, no helmets, runners, walkers, roller bladers, dog walkers, training wheels, first time family rides, first time bike pathers and everything in between, the bike path is a welcome Sabbath from a busy week of work, play and volunteering that made up my last week.

A good old fashioned bike ride on the East Bay Bike Path that is less than a half a mile from my house is a perfect Sunday on a day that is not a beach day. One I needed for my body yes, but one I needed more for my soul. As we continued to ride and kept riding I could feel the pull of the end as our destination and Michael and I realized that we had both only done the entire bike path once or twice. As we made our way to India Point Park in Providence, we realized we could have continued on and ridden to Alforno or the East Side without having to cross 195 because of the brilliant path allowing us a safe journey over it. We didn’t have our wallets so we instead, just found a place at the park on a bench, gulped our water and rested. After a few moments, a kind gentleman visiting from Atlanta wandered over and asked us about great places to eat Lobster. He was planning on taking the ferry to Newport the next day and was looking for some recommendations. He hit the lottery with the two of us since Newport and Bristol are our self proclaimed expertise and we began singing the praises of our beautiful East Bay. After a lengthy discussion, we realized that we still had a fifteen mile ride back and the wind was against us giving us a little extra resistance for the ride back.

We had plans to celebrate our long and fulfilling journey, a good cold glass of white wine for me and an IPA for Michael, some fried oysters at Christians. After that we made our way back to the front porch for a cup of tea and some dancing and in bed by nine. Sleep and whatever else came our way was a perfect way to end a perfect Sunday. As I reflected on my day, my weekend, my life to this point, I once again felt humbled and happy with everything that has happened to me to lead me to this present moment. #LUCKYINDEED.

buying my bike with my old friend Sten, in Denmark almost eight years ago. not one regret for this crazy purchase because the stories surrounding it make the bike ride every time so much sweeter.
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PROCESS NOT PERFECTION

PROCESS NOT PERFECTION

There is a famous twelve step quote Progress not Perfection and it’s meaning is significant for perfectionists like me and many women I know. The word PROGRESS though implies achievement so I have switched the word to say PROCESS instead. As I get older I have learned that relationships and life is indeed a process as I learn and continue to work on facets of myself to improve upon. At the same time I try to allow and accept them as they are knowing I when I place my head on my pillow I have been kind in my day. Perfectionism used to be my nemesis and its personality traits are the vaporous results of growing up with alcoholism or any ism for that matter. The need to get it right, the need for the outer veil to look gilded when the inner isn’t quite so. Perfectionism can be debilitating and energizing in the same span of the moment it takes its hold. Many perfectionists don’t even realize that their need to get it better than good enough is a driving force of the perpetual angst they feel as they try to achieve. I sure didn’t. I have struggled with the need for better and best for most of my life. It can be something that helps greatness in a business with the result ultimately ending in a successful company and it can also cause incredible disruption because nothing will ever be good enough. The latter can be the hardest for perfectionists because it is their own inner compass of feeling like nothing will ever be exactly a ten that drives the bus on the long trip with no final place on the map to actually stop and smell the roses.

Breast cancer the first time around started to free me a bit because as I went from doctor to doctor doing my own overachieving research, I realized that no matter how much I learned, how many tests I had, how many doctors I spoke with and google searches I navigated around, I still had breast cancer. Nothing was going to change the stark reality that it was out of my control. Breast cancer told me I am not in control. I can think I am, but none of us are. I can park the bus and take a nice nap in the resting spot coming up on the exit I would have otherwise driven past foot heavy on the accelerator. (unless I had to pee, which would have been highly likely, but if I didn’t I would have flown past onward and onward, no stopping necessary to get to that proverbial destination just around the corner over there some place).

Breast cancer twice sealed the deal, but in the middle of the first one and the second one, my mother decided it would be better if we didn’t speak. Again. Ever.

I prefer you never contact me again. She wrote this to me almost two years ago to the day. Mother’s Day time. My son’s high school graduation time. Between the first diagnosis and the unknown second one. I have written about this in my earlier writings and have done a lot of my work because of this significant event in my life, our lives. There is safety in I prefer you never contact me again. That last sentence may read strangely, but the finality of it and the response it requires is a large bold period at the time, not a comma, not a semicolon, not a dash. My first response besides the traditional sadness and fury one might expect was the word relief. It is no fun to be in a relationship with someone who you are on constant eggshell walking with; it is not a walk in the park to be on guard and feeling like everything I say has to be carefully orchestrated as to not invoke a negative. It is not enjoyable to be in a relationship with someone who seems completely disinterested in everything you say all the time, like you are a nuisance and like they are watching the clock to see when its over. This was how I always felt around my mother and it turns out, she seemed to feel the same way around me. Oil and water to say the least.

The second breast cancer diagnosis was actually easier because she wasn’t speaking to me, I just went through the entire experience without her, and instead surrounded myself with all of the women who have supplemented my mother for me. There are many and I am blessed with the superchick tribe I get to call my pretend mothers and sisters. But in the sadness of the reality, they are not my mother. So at the time of my grandfather’s one hundred year birthday party this past November, as I sat on the beach one of the days afterwards, an entire letter came to me in my head to write to her. Like the many eulogies that have come through me in the past, I scribbled it quickly to get it out of me and when I got back to his house, I feverishly typed it not knowing at the time if I would send it. So it sat. The fact that it came to me on my brother’s twenty third anniversary of his own passing because of cancer does not go unnoticed here. Death anniversaries are capable of this, bringing up unfinished business and previously thought surrendered emotion.

When I got home, I decided to mail it old school. The words were kind, gentle, understanding, but also truthful and direct and bare. They needed to be said and I said them as eloquently and heartfelt as I could. There is an old Indian saying that I have often referred to when I have needed to have courageous conversation as my social worker dearest mama friend, Karen calls it.

SHOW UP

BE PRESENT

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH

DON’T BE ATTACHED TO THE OUTCOME

The reason for the bold fourth line is because this is the hardest one to have to deal with. It really means LET GO OF CONTROL, EXPECTATIONS, IT IS NOT ABOUT THE REPLY. Like an eager child though, it is a natural feeling to be hopeful that you will get the fantasy reply you dream of or any reply for that matter. This wasn’t the point though. The point was to let my mother know that her request was not something I agreed with. That I honored it to let the boiling water reduce to a slow simmer, to give it the time it needed, but that it wasn’t the finality she may have hoped for. I am not even sure it is what she wanted when she hit the send button that contained those seven words that made up the sentence difficult to unsend.

It took her awhile but she did write me back, and this started a very very light dialogue as we began our dance of reconnection. Distant, both physically as she lives in Alabama, and mentally as the fragility of our connection is like a frayed wire being slowly and carefully wrapped back up in electrical tape.

I decided this year to send her a Mother’s Day Card. Mother’s Day is difficult when the Hallmark version doesn’t match your own. So I created my own, handwritten in one of the beautiful cards a client of ours draws.

You are still my mother. I wrote. Thinking of you this Mother’s Day.

Process not Perfection. Baby steps on a path that will never complete other than the kind truth of the millions of pebbles sprinkled along the way. This is good enough and this is what makes my Mother’s Day this year better. Not only because I get to spend it with my son in the way we have defined for ourselves over the last twenty years, but because my mother and I are at least making an attempt in the way it works for us, throwing the pebbles towards the middle hoping they don’t take out an eye, but land gently at each other’s feet to keep the path open.


Happy Mother’s Day out there to all of you Moms whether you are one, have one or act like one.