Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Gone swimming

Thank you friends for your lovely supportive words on my last post. All is well as I head out to sea, swimming faithfully toward the horizon, trusting I will find the port I seek beyond what is currently visible. Just because I can’t see it yet doesn’t mean it isn’t there. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

How to breathe where your feet are

I spend so much of my life counting the minutes until some upcoming anxiety inducing event is behind me. I am traveling this week to begin interviews for a new project, which has to be completed on a very short timeline. I awoke this morning to thunder, lightening, and pounding rain, and I lay there under the covers hyperventilating as I contemplated the fact that I will have to accomplish this thing, and I have no idea of the path through. My cousin Helen once advised me to write on a post-it these simple words: "I don't know how I will, I only know that I will." Post in a prominent place, she said, and then release the fear, replacing it with trust that the muses and the fates will guide me. It’s good advice. Even so, I'm over here trying to process the feeling of being adrift and afraid, to remind myself that I have been in this place many times before and have found my way, and I will this time, too. 

But you know, packing for the trip, choosing what to wear, contemplating showing up as my awkward self—it further ravels the anxiety I'm feeling this morning, which is making it so very hard to just breathe. 

I texted my friend last night: "I probably need some therapy around aging." I cannot stand seeing myself in the mirror these days, the circles deepening under my eyes, the skin creasing there just like my mother's, the lower part of my face morphing into the face I recall my father wearing in his latter years. And yet I loved my mother's wise and gentle eyes and the purposeful set of my father's mouth and chin. I loved every line, every crease and fold in their faces, but now I am struggling to love their faces on mine. It's all so weird and destabilizing. I lost fifty pounds four years ago now, and though I have not managed to drop any more, despite still having significant additional weight to lose, I consider it a win that I have kept those fifty lost pounds from creeping back on. But dear God, with each pound lost I seemed to age years, the skin under my chin loosening, the skin everywhere growing slack, making me actually miss how plump and smoothly filled out I was at the fattest version of myself. 

I had a hard time getting past the feeling that I ruined all the photos I was in at the bridal shower this weekend. I actually said this to my daughter, who put her hands on my shoulders and assured me that I was talking crazy. "That's some body dysmorphia taking over your brain, Mom," she said, not unkindly, and I just smiled and hugged her lovely self, because why make her play therapist to my crazy? But those same feelings are kicking up a holy racket right now, because tomorrow I travel to meet my new subject, and even though I know that two minutes after we sit down to talk I will forget about myself enough to give free rein to my curiosity about her journey, it isn't helping me settle myself in this moment. Hopefully my subject and I will build trust and I will discover what I need to know of her life to start writing. Even though I know this is how it has always worked in the past, and will probably work this time, too, I still have to get through the hours till I'm standing in front of her, and so I'm here this morning concentrating on trying to breathe. 

A friend posted the words below on social media yesterday. I alerted her that I would def be stealing it, because I sorely need its wisdom.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Hearts wide open

Could be I’m so worn down by the relentless bad news cycle that all I really feel like recording here right now are moments of light, evidence of the persistence of joy. We definitely experienced such moments yesterday afternoon, on the occasion of the bridal shower for my soon-to-be daughter-in-law. She was absolutely radiant in white, alternately laughing and crying as she greeted everyone who had gathered to celebrate her. Her good tender soul, sparkling wit, and loving spirit were a whole mood.

The gathering of beloveds happened at her parents' home in New Jersey, arranged by her three maids of honor (my future daughter wisely believes that more hands make for lighter work). We women did our womanly rituals under a tent set up in the back yard, while the men sat inside the family room eating pizza and watching a movie. Outside, the women told stories and played games, and imparted whatever bits of wisdom we could share with the bride to be. I contributed what I often offer on these occasions now, ever since I read about it on Mary Moon's blog when her daughter Jessie was getting married: that we will be married to many different people over the course of a lifetime, and if we can find a way to appreciate and love the good in each evolution of our partner, all will generally be well. 

Eventually, as the festivities wound down, the men joined us outside, and my son and his love indulged us in one more game, a quiz with random questions like who said I love you first, who is the better cook, the better dancer, who is more organized, more competitive, has more shoes, is more romantic, and so on. We all voted the answers and then my son and his love told us who was right, and there was much debate and laughter involved. My favorite photo from the day was taken during this interlude, it's the one up top, so much love and joy evident in the lovers at the center of this beautiful day. 

Here's another photo, this one of our two families, soon to be joined in the eyes of the law, already connected by the love shared by our children, and for each other, too. Our son and his betrothed found each other seven years ago now, so our two families have had some time to get acquainted. How utterly blessed we are in the people our children have chosen, the families with whom, if we continue to be lucky and touched by grace, we will share grandchildren. As my daughter observed of my son's fiancée's parents, "They're so pure." And they are. Hearts wide open. I pray with my whole being that our young people will be very happy through all the journeys of a lifetime, bolstered by acceptance, forgiveness, and ready laughter, and sustained by love. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Sunset break

This was a rare week between books. I turned in to the editor the revised draft of the book I’ve been collaborating on since last year and I don’t start interviews for my next project till next week. The timing is perfect and the respite felt divine. I still had to top edit stories for the magazine; they rolled into my InCopy queue at a steady clip all week as production ramps up for the the next issue. But after working on the marathon of books, editing magazine pieces goes quickly, and I’m grateful that the gig seems to be continuing despite recent changes in the publication’s leadership. 

I also attended a gathering of women to celebrate a friend. She’s not big on social media so I won’t say much about it, other than to note the venue had a fabulous terrace from which we all paused amid a loud and lively game of Pictionary to watch the sun set over downtown Manhattan. There was so much love circulating through the evening. It bonded a gathering of women most of whom had only heard of each other through our mutual friend, who then showed up to discover that through loving her, we already loved each other, too. It’s hard to explain but it felt generous and welcoming and charmed, and we all agreed that among many extraordinary gifts, our friend’s true superpower is love. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Each other’s magnitude and bond

Despite the unabashed hope in my last post, I’m not naive enough to think that one stellar and historically groundbreaking Black woman Justice joining the liberal wing of the current Supreme Court is going to be able to help turn thing around right away. After all, it took little more than a week for the conservative majority of the court to set fire to Roe, privacy protections, women’s healthcare, Miranda, gun safety, climate action, and the separation of church and state. The fight to restore these fundamental rights and to preserve other rights they’re still coming for—marriage equality, voting rights, contraception, so much more—will last generations, and will need to be engaged on literally all fronts. But what choice do we have but to stay on the field to make a better world for our children and grandchildren? Some days I fear the battle is already lost, and I am wandering in the wilderness, blind with anger and despair. On those days I stay close to home, reading, working, recharging, until I can remember that the battle isn’t ever lost unless we stop fighting. I’m exhausted beyond imagining sometimes. Just worn the fuck out. I know you must be, too. So let’s rest when we have to, but let’s also keep getting back up because a luta continua. Because as the poet and griot Gwendolyn Brooks so perfectly put it, “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

Photo: Pride umbrellas at Cantina Rooftop NYC