Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Life now


Someone from my old job called me this morning, wanting to catch up and then working around to asking could I edit something for her. She offered to pay me but it would be just too weird; she and I worked quite closely together once, so I said sure, but I'd do it for free. She talked about how crazed everyone at the magazine felt, how her head was just spinning all the time because there just weren't enough people to do the work and she couldn't remember when last she actually saw a season change because she was stuck indoors at the office all the time. As she talked, I realized how happy I was to be out of it, to feel as if my life is my own. Even if I have just a bit too much work at the moment—a very happy problem for a freelancer!—it makes all the difference to know I said a considered yes to everything that is in front of me. Even better, all of it is work that I find interesting and challenging, not frustrating and soul-crushing, as was often the case at the old job, except I didn't understand then that I had a choice.

I have finally arrived at the place where I can see my job elimination a year ago as a good thing that happened, an opportunity for me to find work I might actually enjoy. I love working the way I do now. Sure, every new project is a little daunting at first; I never truly know in the beginning how I will get through it, but I always know that I will  find a way, I will teach myself what I need to learn, I will figure it out. And little by little, the curtains part and the light slips through, a sliver at first, and every day I understand a little bit more than the day before, and then the sunlight pours in and finds me eager to jump out of bed in the morning and get to work, ideas popping in my head all night. And that's another thing: I wake up in the night around three or four usually, and instead of lying there twisting with anxiety as I so often used to do, the thoughts and ideas just stream through my brain, almost like a meditation, and I often awake the next morning with a new thought about how to approach not just my work, but my whole life.

I said yes to a new project last week, even though I knew it would make everything else feel a little crunched. I'm editing a book for a woman I often edited when I was a magazine editor, and she and her agent really pressed for me to do it, and in the end I couldn't say no even though the money wasn't that great because some things, you just do because you have history with people, and that history is generous and good. All week as I waded into the project, I wondered what on earth I had got myself into, and then, at the end of the week, the smoke seemed to clear and I knew exactly what to do, how to approach the edit, and now I'm immersed. I feel like one of those creatures that imprints on whatever I am working on. The writer's voice gets into my head, and I fall in love with the work and want to help foster it. It's hard to explain, but I am definitely one of the lucky ones in that I fell into a field of endeavor that engages me totally. I know I've said this before, but I wish the same for my children.

In other news: My girl has a six-hour-long hospitality law exam tonight, from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m., and this after a full day of classes and activities, and also her early morning job as a teaching assistant for culinary. My hat is off to her. Send good thoughts.

My son continues to work two jobs, as a track coach at a high school and as a lifeguard, pool time coordinator and swim coach at a sports club, while waiting to hear from the FDNY about his EMT application. A friend of his who works as an EMT told him to expect it to take a year. In the meantime there is another opportunity in the wings, because wherever this boy works, he willingly takes on more than his job description, and they want to keep him and move him up. But there are some uncertainties. Again, send good thoughts.

The new rector of our church preached her first service this past Sunday and I was there in the pew, so excited that this is who that little badass church had called. I keep hearing more and more about her and her partner that makes me feel as if their guiding the next phase of this church is no accident. Not only are they both ministers who served early in their careers at that church, but they were also married in that church long before gay marriage was legal in New York State. They've been together 27 years and have two sons. They are a biracial couple with deep activist roots, and many members of their old church in Greenwich Village seem to be following our new minister to Harlem. I told my husband that for the first time I have the feeling that I want to be a part of what is happening there.

My husband and I continue to drive north to the hospice in the Bronx to sit with my cousin and her husband each evening. The doctor says Gary could expire at any moment, but to me he seems to be getting stronger. He's getting a lot better care in terms of hygiene at the hospice, and even though he is in a lot of pain, that must help. My other cousins (one of them is with my husband in the photo here) have all left to go back home, so it's on my husband and me to provide the family support now. My husband is such a good man. He says, "There is so much that is beyond our control but we can go there each evening and bring dinner and sit. This is something we can do." I am so grateful to him.

My cousin sleeps every night in a cot next to her husband's bed because she doesn't want him to die alone. I suggested that maybe Gary would prefer not to die in front of her, and if in fact that happened she should not feel guilty, she should see it as his choice. She said the chaplain at the hospice had told her the same thing, that some people simply cannot die in front of a loved one. My cousins and I all marvel that we are being asked to make these life and death decisions. We have all had such powerful mothers—the six sisters—and have been so used to their stepping into the breach in times of crisis. Now all our mothers are either already dead or, like my own mother, too frail to travel. We try to imagine what they would do if they could and emulate that.

In Ithaca two weekends ago, my daughter and I were in the candle aisle in a home goods store and she picked up a container of candle wax that was called "Old Time Elegance" and she said excitedly, "Doesn't this just smell like all the sisters? Every time I come in here I have to stop and smell this because it reminds of Grandma and all her sisters, every one of them, their perfume, their talcum powder, all their smells." And dear God, she was right. The smell just took me right back to hugging them and being enveloped in their various wonderful scents, and so we bought a container of the wax and I have just smelled it with the thought that I would describe it to you here but I can't even begin to do it justice.

I keep thinking recently how life is just everything at once, the good and the hard, the laughs and the sorrow, the love and the dwindling down, and it just keeps right on trundling along and we better hang on for the ride.


12 comments:

  1. Wow! What a post! I'm just so thrilled that you are at this place in your life where you CAN take the time to notice the seasons and not only that, but you have work you love to do. I mean...can it get any better than that?
    And you have love. And you have people to give your love to.
    Yeah. You've hung on and now it's a better place, a better time. I want more and more of that for you.

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  2. Oh Angella, what a beautiful post to read.

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  3. Have you read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg? I put off reading it because I didn't think I would like it but my niece (who is a lawyer) said she read it and it really had some good points...like how women still want to be "nice" and work for free and we need to put a value on our work....It really changed some of my thinking on a lot of things....

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  4. Everytime I click to Ms Moon, I hope for a new post by 37 Paddington :) What a post. Your girl just blows me away. She really does.I have a soft spot for her and I've never even met her.

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  5. You sound like you're in such a good place. Things aren't so great for me right now, so it's nice to hear you on the other side. I can't wait to join you in your peace.

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  6. Wow, there is just wisdom and goodness pouring off this post. I'm so glad you've arrived at the place of acceptance and maybe even gladness about the job changes a year ago. You are such a gifted writer and editor. That state of flow you enter doing your work is something holy to me.

    My grandmother was one of six sisters, and a twin. She had a hard life in some ways, but my dad recalls that when the sisters were all together again, the room would fill with joy and laughter.

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  7. Oh, this post made me smile and want to burst into tears. I think, sometimes, of you as this extremely wise and calm woman living in the part of the city that I love best, dispensing wisdom and humor and balancing it out with a tiny bit of neuroses so that we know you're real. I love you, Angella -- and have grown to love your family, even, through your warm prose and beautiful photos!

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  8. I'm so glad things are coming together so well. There's really no better feeling than knowing that a forced life change was the best thing after all! I feel that way all the time. I enjoy your thoughtful wisdom!

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  9. This was beautiful to read and you are so right...Thank you!

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  10. Amen to that last sentence! Life is all that all at once. So beautifully put by you. You are in such a better place than a year ago. So proud of you. Hugs as always.

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  11. Oh my, what a beautiful post, what sweet insights, what strength, hope and love you emanate when you write. Don't ever stop, please. And I'm so happy for you that your life is more yours now, that you found your way and are happier for it. I think you are doing what you are meant to do, you just needed to find where. Sometimes the where is everywhere instead of a specific place. Your husband is such a good man, your children are so wonderful and you are too. The picture of your mom.... too beautiful. Thank goodness you bought some of that wax.
    Keep hanging on and keep writing.
    xo

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