Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Out in the world

Baby Harper and her parents are in Argentina, touring wineries and having culinary experiences with her paternal grandparents. There she is with her mom in Buenos Aires, beside a statue of a firefighter saving a child.

She stole her daddy's whole face.

Little girl is living her best life.

And—she took her first steps this week!

Meanwhile back in New York City, my daugher and I went for a Saturday morning breakfast at Metro Diner with my cousin Nickty, who's here from Trinidad, and our niece Dani, daughter of Nicky's sister.

It's a tradition: On the first morning that Nicky arrives in New York City from wherever she's traveling from, we go out for diner pancakes. For Nicky, who spent every weekend with me in the city back when she was in college in Washington, D.C., this is a defining taste of New York.

 
It's been a minute since I've shared a taxicab selfie. This one, taken yesterday as I traveled to see a new doctor, offered kind light. My former PCP went off to join a concierge practice, a quality of life decsion, she said. I don't fault her, but now I'm at a loss, as I certainly can't pay twelve to fifteen thousand a year to join her new practice, the province of business executives and the casually wealthy. I did like the doctor I saw yesterday, a young woman with a gentle spirit, who was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She's very proactive, jumped right into diagnostics, made referrals, and observed a condition in me that absolutely no one else had identified, which is likely the cause of all the body pain I have that is not really joint related, and therefore not quite arthritis. For so long I've wondered where I took a wrong turn onto the path where my body is just one big inflamed instrument. Turns out I didn't take a wrong turn. I was born with this, my mother and her sisters likely had it, too. Though it was never formally identified in them, the condition is probably why my mom, slender as she was her whole life, suffered with flares of body pain, as I do. There's no cure really, just treatment to manage the symptoms and arrest the progression. The doctor referred me to a specialist to investigate further. Now, I know.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Father and son


Today my son and some of his crew were assigned to cover a short handed fire station near his dad’s museum. He called his dad and invited him to stop by the fire house, where the other fire guys took the obligatory pictures of father and son in front of the fire truck. One of the chiefs told my husband he had done a good job, raised a fine son. My husband beamed as he recounted that. Later, our boy shared the photos in our family chat. “It was visit your son at work day today,” he wrote. Those are my men, both good ones, too. The fire chief spoke true. 


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Some people can walk only part of the way with you


The breakup of a decades long friendship can shatter the heart as severely and painfully as breaking up with a lover on whom you projected your hopes and dreams. Some friendships, the most intimate and significant ones, are repositories of our hopes and dreams, too. These friends are people with whom we wore no social masks, we felt able to be our fullest and most authentic selves with them, and when that suddenly breaks down, for reasons that are devilishly difficult to grasp, the hurt and sense of betrayal can leave us reeling. Figuratively bleeding. My son went through the unraveling of such a friendship two years ago. There was some mental illness involved, and it was heartbreaking and apparently irrevocable. I don't think any of us have yet gotten over it. 

Now my daughter is reeling, too, because a woman she considered to be "her person," a primary relationship since childhood, has pulled away, apparently feeling that my daughter has not involved her sufficiently in wedding planning. Of course, that may not be the heart of what is happening at all. Who knows what deeper conscious and unconscious stories are at play here? I certainly don't. But on the surface of things, this friend plans lavish weddings for a living, and my daughter decided to give her a break from all that, to not lean on her in that way, which she felt would have been taking advantage of their friendship. There's probably a seed of something deeper in that my girl also felt that with her friend's expertise involved, she might lose sight of her own wishes and vision for her ceremony. 

And then there is another friend who my daughter grew close to during the two years she lived in Boston, and I'm surmising that her longtime friend might be feeling a bit displaced by that new friendship, even though my daughter loves this woman she came of age with as devotedly as ever. I can't really explain it all, not even to myself, because I can't for the life of me fathom how these two beautiful and once happily loving friends came to this. Through tears, my daughter told me yesterday, "I don't know if we can get back to what we were, but I want to know that I did everything in my power to try for that." Sadly, her friend has resorted to passive aggressive (my assessment) vagueness and social distance and as my girl put it, "She won't even get in the ring with me." 

I guess what this post is really about is the fact that my daughter's heart is absolutely breaking, and I don't know how to help her. And when your child's heart is breaking, your own heart feels like splintered shards of glass in your chest, and somehow, you have to keep on breathing through it, trusting that eventually, your child will pick her way through the minefield, regain a more certain footing, and even if the friendship she so cherished is never the same, even if it is lost completely, she will find herself again, and be okay. 


Monday, April 8, 2024

Eclipses and Earthquakes


We're having a near total eclipse of the sun today, which is supposed to peak at 3:25 PM. This on the heels of last Friday's earthquake at ten-twenty-five in the morning. At 4.8 on the Richter scale, the quake caused a couple of cracks to open up near the ceiling in my house. It felt like a subway train was rumbling by under the building, and my house guest and I, who were both working in the living room, looked at each other as if to say, are you feeling what I'm feeling? Soon everyone was texting everyone else, confirming our shared reality. And then, this being New York City, it was business as usual after that, even with the aftershock at six that evening, which I barely felt.

I've been busier than you'd imagine with all the housekeeping stages of getting the book ready for publication. The last two weeks have been absorbed by my editing gig for the magazine and responding to the copy editor's queries on the book, an endless process because, with great respect, she explained every single change she made in a margin note, which then required a response from me and/or my subject okaying her change, or asking that she stet (keep) what was originally written, or pointing out the alternate edit we decided to make to address the question raised. I've never before had a subject who was so with me in the trenches at every step.

It helps that we have a similar working styles, are similarly obsessive, so I understand what she's doing when she contemplates whether a subordinate part of a sentence should be set off with a comma or an em-dash, or whether a noun should take the article "the" or "a." She cares about these things as only one other writer I have ever worked with cared about them —Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste, who is the subject of the amazing and profound Ava DuVernay film, Origin, currently in theaters and streaming.

I edited Isabel when I was a magazine editor; I loved working with her because not only was she a brilliant and nuanced observer of the human condition, but she also cared so much about every word and punctuation choice. Well, I've found another such soul. Occasionally, I don't agree with a change she wants to make, but most of those times, I just take the change, rather than debate it with her, because I know she has thought about it deeply, and that she's hearing the rhythm of each and every sentence in her head. Other times, we have lively conversations about why an edit maybe shouldn't be made, and I prevail in those engagements maybe half the time. It's her story. She gets the last word. I just feel gratified I got to take this journey with her.

I'm heading over to my friend's house now to watch the eclipse from her balcony. She has the requisite glasses, and an unobstructed view of the sky. Maybe I'll get a picture worth sharing. See you on the other side.

 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

April showers


One of my daughter's friends, a young woman who is one of my heart daughters, is here with us for a couple of weeks as she's been having dizziness and nausea spells, and needs eyes on her just in case. She had been staying with her parents, but they are away for two weeks, so now she's with us while her doctors try to get to the root of her issues. The bathroom reno also starts this week. Tomorrow is demo day, so she will be treated to the sounds of tiles smashing and breaking all day. After that, the noise should be more tolerable. My cousin from Trinidad is also passing through New York City twice this month, on her way to and from a medical conference in Washington, D.C., so she will be with us on two weekends as well. When I scheduled the bathroom reno for April, it was because I thought it would be a time when nothing much was happening, the book almost put to bed, but it turns out to be a month in which we will have houseguests after all, and I'm just grateful they're the easygoing kind.


Monday, April 1, 2024

Easter this year


Here's an album of things that are good in my world. We went bowling on Saturday to mark our girls' birthday; there she is with her mama on one side and her cousin on the other. We had a fabulous family time.


There we are again, my niece about the bowl a strike, my daughter enjoying some wings, my son and husband deep in conversation, my son in law to be in the foreground, crushing every game. How I love all these people.


The last book I collaborated on, Belonging by Michelle Miller, is now out in paperback. My New York Times bestseller! Michelle is the one in pink at the center of the display, and she’s a co-host of CBS Mornings. Her story recounts her poignant search for the mother who walked away from her at birth. One of my former editors took this photo on her travels. I'm sharing it here because the books I write are my babies of another sort. I’ve heard books referred to as children of the mind.


My nephew Brett, who as a musician goes by Walking Eagle, competed on The Voice recently. During that experience, he spent a month before the show aired with scores of other singers who were selected to audition. He made us proud on the show, even though he didn't get very far. But in the process he became good friends with Huntley, who went on to win the whole dang thing! Well, Huntley tapped Brett to join his band, and now they are on a multi-city tour. My nephew is so talented, and such a decent soul, so passionate about music, and now his dreams are starting to take flight. I could not be happier for him. 

Last, and definitely not least, our youngest Harper participated in an Easter Hat parade at her day care in Dallas. Her fancy headwear was made for her by her paternal grandmother, who’s retired now but spent her career as a fashion designer. It's a beautiful Easter hat, and it took first place at the parade, even though Harper wasn't quite sure what the hoopla was about, and what was that thing people kept trying to balance on her head? But isn't she just the cutest, even with that serious side-eye?

*

The news is on in the background. Honestly, it's unbearable. I was going to get on here to write a screed about the threat that the GOP nominee, the orange man, represents to us all, and my rage at the photo he posted of Biden hog tied in the back of a pick-up truck. Anyone else in this nation would already have been arrested for inciting the kidnap and murder the president, because that was essentially what Trump was doing, but somehow, as he hawks his sixty dollar bibles, and doxes the daughter of the judge in his criminal hush money trial in New York, and proclaims himself the chosen one, likening himself to Jesus at his rallies, the law just wrings its hands and let's him continue to burn our nation down. But you know, I can't. I'm already tired, hollowed out by rage and bewilderment, and much as I hate to admit it, by cynicism too. He's going to skate, isn't he?

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Our heart

 Today is her birthday. I'm so grateful to be her mama.

I love you my darling girl. So do we all.



Wednesday, March 27, 2024

This is the year


Today is my daughter's last day of her twenties, tomorrow is her birthday, and in July she and her love are getting married. Here they are looking like too-cool-for-school Brooklyn people, brownstone steps, wine, sunglasses and all. My niece Dani took this photo of them soon after they got engaged. They're looking in different directions, yet their body language is connected and comfortable, and they look happy. They're deep in the throes of wedding planning now, and they seem to be managing it harmoniously. It's something I've always noticed about them, they work well together when it comes to tasks, they divide and conquer, neither one a shirker, both of them backing each other up. They've been together ten years already, ever since their sophomore of year of college. They both got promoted at their jobs recently, and this is the year they're doing the thing, saying the vows, making it all official. My girl wasn't quite ready before, but now she is, and may these two lovely and loving people be very happy together. He's taking her out for her birthday tomorrow evening, and then on Saturday, her love, her cousins, and a friend will join her dad and me in celebrating her when we all get together to go bowling. This is what she asked for, a bowling party. It brings back fond childhood memories, she said. We'll have birthday cake and bowling alley food and it will be big fun. My baby is a woman onto herself, y'all. What a wondrous being she has become. May she and her beloved walk in light and lovingness always, forever and ever, amen. 



Monday, March 18, 2024

Tonglen—"I breathe out love"


After my conversation with my friend yesterday, I looked up the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen, and here is what I found:

Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age-old patterns and begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others ...

Usually, we look away when we see someone suffering. Their pain brings up our fear or anger; it brings up our resistance and confusion. So we can also do tonglen for all the people just like ourselves—all those who wish to be compassionate but instead are afraid, who wish to be brave but instead are cowardly. Rather than beating ourselves up, we can use our personal stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.

When I feel helpless at the chaos and pain of our world, I can pause and breathe in suffering and, with intention, breathe out love. This is something I can do.

There's more here.

The photograph is by Xan Padron.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Twas a good week (plus update)



By all accounts they had a fabulous time on my girl's bachelorette weekend in Puerto Rico. My nieces told me this group of six was a perfect easygoing meld of good vibes, and my daughter confirmed that with a Friday cocktail class, a Saturday boat ride, pool afternoons and dancing nights, everything couldn't have gone better. Then on Monday, I met my daughter and two nieces (the ones on the right, above) in Dallas and we spent the week thoroughly entertained by little Harper, below with her Titi Kai.


And now I'm back in New York, wrestling with tile choices for the upcoming bathroom redo. I want blue hex floor tiles the color of the ocean I grew up with. White for the wall tiles and a light oak sink vanity, and 2"white and gray hex tiles for the walk in shower floor, accessorized by a cute free standing shower bench in teak. I'm also thinking brushed nickel fixtures instead of shiny chrome. I considered gold, but I'm a seventies child, and back then, gold fixtures looked dated and gaudy, so even though they're cutting edge now, I can't quite go there. I'm still uncertain about all my other choices though. My desire for color collides with my desire for classic neutrality. I’m trying to remember it’s not that deep.  

Update on Sunday, March 17: I spoke with a dear friend on the other coast this morning and she told me something I never considered. I lamented that I was so stressed over renovating a bathroom and how ridiculous that was given that children are dying in Gaza. She said that my stress wasn’t about the bathroom; it was merely a convenient place to put my angst about the state of the world. We can’t keep it all inside us so we find ways to spend our existential despair, bit by bit, on whatever and whomever is before us, and in this way, we survive. She counseled me breathe while whispering a Tonglen mantra—“I breathe in suffering”—inhale—“I breathe out love"—exhale—and to honor my angst regardless of where and how it shows up, to let it flow through with judging it. I think she has no idea how much her words helped. I am thankful for wise friends. 


Thursday, March 7, 2024

News from my small corner


This gorgeous crew, plus one more friend who is joining them from Boston, is touching down in Puerto Rico as I write, all of them set to celebrate my girl on her bachelorette weekend fling. I asked them to send me pictures so I can live vicariously, but I'm not holding my breath. Still, I will enjoy thinking of them together, my daughter and her three cousins, her sister-in-law, and the friend from Boston of whom she once said to me, "The friendships you make as an adult, when you're both fully who you are and choosing each other, are rock solid." There are other celebrations planned along the way to the happy couple's nuptials in July, including a gathering with her childhood friend group known as The Six, and a bridal shower thrown by me, to which all comers will be invited. I'm not a good event planner, that is my daughter's forte, so I have a bit of agita about planning the shower. But it's still a couple of months away, and so I don't need to enter full blown anxiety over the matter quite yet. Also, her wedding dress arrived at the shop this month. This thing is happening!

The book I've been working on went up on Amazon last Saturday, and technically I'm now allowed to share my role in its writing, but I won't just yet. I still feel a bit shy. I'll just say the pub date has been set for September 3, so I'll definitely post about the book then, if not before. Now that we're coming to the end of the publishing process, I have to say, this project felt charmed from the start, as if all the souls who participated in the book's making had got together before we ever incarnated into this life and said, let's all find each other and do this cool thing when we get to planet earth. 

My son, who drove his wife, his sister, and two cousins to the airport this morning, is going with me to the tile store tomorrow to choose tiles for the back bathroom redo. Now that the book is done, I'm ready to embark on that upheaval, and as usual, I don't trust my choices, but it helps to remember I don't have to achieve a House & Garden bathroom, just one that is clean and neat with a nice walk in shower, and tiles that are classic and timeless. The home improvement project continues. The good news is I still like my kitchen reno two years later, and the front bathroom is okay, too, though those white hex floor tiles show every speck of dust, something to keep in mind as I consider floor options this time around.

My agent asked if she should start putting my name back out there. I told her not yet, which in this freelance life feels risky. No idea yet what the next job will be but I think I want a little down time, with just the magazine editing for a while. Here is the puzzle on my dining table.



Sunday, March 3, 2024

Looking forward and back

I'm off to Dallas in a week to see this darling little girl and her parents. She's nine months old already! Her mama texted me this morning and said, "Want to come to a Harper party when we're back from PR?" to which I responded yes with several exclamation points. My daughter and three of her cousins and her sister in law are all headed to PR next week for her bachelorette getaway on a beach, in a place with a pool and karaoke, and two of their number, my daughter and my niece Leah, will be traveling back to Dallas with Harper's mama afterward to spend a few days with that precious little one. Her dad, who works from home, will be traveling, so it will be good company and help for Harper's mama, who will probably need to be back at work in her dental practice. Harper will be in good and loving hands with her aunties and me. Plus, I'll get to hear all about the bach party on the beach while it's still fresh for the revelers. My girl has come up with a reality TV theme for the trip, including a Survivor challenge day, as all the young women on the trip are big Survivor fans (as I am). So! Dallas to see magical little Harper! I'm excited!

*

Last night, as part of our church's 200th anniversary celebration, I attended the showing of a film, The Philadelphia Eleven, about the first eleven women to be ordained as Episcopal priests, against the wishes of the male bishops of the church, the majority of whom had voted down the idea of women in the pulpit at their 1973 convention. A year later, three bishops went against the church brethren and ordained eleven women deacons as priests anyway, holding the service at a Black church in Philadelphia. The Black minister at the Church of the Advocate queried his congregation as to whether they would support the act of ecclesiastical disobedience and they overwhelmingly were in favor of ordaining the women. Black people understood the value of civil disobedience in moving society forward.

This was in 1974, fifty years ago now, yet it seems so recent. I have vivid memories of my life in that decade yet I have no real time recollection of the fight to recognize women priests in the Episcopal Church. In fact, it never occurred to me back then that women could not be priests, at least in the church denomination in which I was raised. How oblivious I was. The women who were ordained were threatened, harassed, and vilified; the men, supposedly of God, who opposed them said the most hateful, misogynistic things in their desperate quest to uphold patriarchal power. The film was affecting, such that if I had seen it in my youth, I might well had climbed aboard that train, or at least covered the story when I became a journalist. Male priests who invited the women to conduct services from their houses of worship were actually put on trial by the conclave of Episcopal bishops and admonished, and even drummed out of the ministry. 

Here's the trailer for the film, and the first eleven women.


It wasn't until 1977 that the Rev. Pauli Murray (right) became the first Black person perceived as a woman (she was nonbinary) to be ordained to the Episcopal ministry, which made it somehow more meaningful that the first eleven woman, all of them White, had been ordained in a Black church. One of those eleven women, Merrill Bittner (third from right in the second row of photos above), moved me unaccountably. She had been a shy, reclusive girl who somehow fell in love with the Episcopal church and dreamed of the priesthood. As a young woman, despite her core nature, she stepped into that bright, hostile spotlight for a cause she believed in. She later left the ministry, disillusioned by the men as much as by the need to be constantly on stage. As something of an introvert myself, one who dislikes being on stage, I felt such admiration for the fact that she understood the historical moment and didn't shrink from meeting it. 

The little church in Harlem of which I am a member sponsored two of those eleven women deacons fifty years ago, and was at the forefront of the fight to have their ministry legitimized. I may not be in the pews on Sunday very much, but I do love that little church where my husband is a pillar of the community. The ministry is his path not taken, though he is no proselytizer. Rather he is a man of deeds. As head of the 200th anniversary committee, he hired a catering company run by ex-offenders to feed the audience at last night's showing. The food was good, too, and beautifully presented. 

*

And now I am off to binge watch Slow Horses, which a few friends have recommended to me. I hope I like it as I have absolutely nothing else planned for this Sunday. I may take a walk around the gardens later, sit in the sun, and maybe read a bit more of the brilliant, searing, and often hilarious Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America by Michael Harriot. I'm otherwise unfettered, and trying to lean in to the possibilities of that. What movies or series have you streamed lately that you might recommend?


Thursday, February 29, 2024

Leap Year


I'm out of practice writing here. I've been busy finishing the book, all the stray details, there are still a few, but the heavy lift is done, the work is accomplished, and one year ago, I could not quite imagine being in this place, but here I am. The people who need to be happy are happy, and I am, too. But now I have no idea what to do with myself, after a solid year of knowing very clearly what my day was about, even when I chose not to be about the central labor, the writing, it was there waiting for me, a structure, an organizing principle, a source of everyday meaning. And now, not three days after the manuscript has been officially "transmitted," meaning no more writing to create whole cloth, no more nips and tucks and revisions, just the steps of the publishing process from here on in, how quickly the thought reasserts itself, what on earth am I doing with my life, there's a whole world out there, and I can't bring myself to go out and engage with it, and be useful in it, useful even for the purpose of entertaining myself, I am at a loss again, no more hiding out, no more sense of purpose, just me, too much with myself, devoid of imagination as to what to do with my days. 

Soon the magazine I edit for will gear up again for the next issue. Stories will begin showing up in my InCopy queue for me to top edit, but for now, I am aimless, lost, imagining the rest of the world busy and purposeful while I lack all imagination of how to meaningfully occupy myself. My son in law to be gave me a one year pass to an art cafe for Christmas, so now might be the time to investigate that, busy myself with a creative enterprise, but really, I crave company, and everyone else is busy, doing their day jobs, especially the young people, they're all gainfully employed and I am at a loose end again, but not ready to dive into another book collaboration yet, and don't I sound pitiful and poor me. Hello out there, friends. I'm getting used to this shore again, dipping my toes into the tide, glad to be back with my friends in this virtual place, today you feel like my salvation. 

Here's something. My niece, the youngest of them, who moved to the city after college last summer, stopping over in our home for a couple of months while she searched for an apartment, reached out to her uncle and me to see if we wanted to go see the movie Dune 2 with her. I have not much interest in this movie, but I was so touched that she wanted to go see a movie with her aunt and uncle that I said yes, to which she texted back, "The roomies ride again." So I'm going to the movies tonight at the theater with the reclining red leather seats and if there are too many explosions on screen I can just drift right off comfortably, my head on my man's shoulder, and it will be good to get out of the house for any purpose at all. I seem to lack imagination these days about what to do, so I'm glad she proposed the movie.

Painting: "Cross the Tropics" by Ali Beletic

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Tuesday morning


The snow is coming down today. A blanket of swirling flakes muffling the world. Kids are sledding outside my window. Bright primary colored plastic sleds zipping down a sloping field of white. I never tire of that scene. Children allowed to be children. Two nights ago, people cheered for the singer’s boyfriend running to the end zone as in Rafah the bombs fell. I feel insane reading the news this morning, feeling helpless to do anything but be a witness. Sometimes I glimpse the full horror behind the curtain. And yet I take the next breath; do the next indicated thing. 


Monday, February 12, 2024

Super Bowl party on Work Island

  
 

The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers by scoring the game winning touchdown with 3 seconds left on the clock in overtime. An exciting game. We were all rooting for the Chiefs. Just can’t get behind the 49ers after how they did Colin Kaepernick wrong. The man and I had planned a quiet evening till our son called and proposed having a party here.  His pitch was he would take care of all the food and snacks and libations, all we had to do was open the door. He and his wife and one of their friends came, plus the nieces and one niece’s roommate, and one of my friends. Nine of us in all. Twas low key fun though we missed my girl, who’d been in Boston for a conference all week and came home sick. She and her love just cocooned at home in Brooklyn. 

Technically, Brooklyn is New York City, but to those of us who live on Work Island (which is what Gen Z’ers now call Manhattan because they all commute in from the outer boroughs for work), Brooklyn is like living in another place entirely. You never see the folks who live in Brooklyn unless you make a firm plan. My son lives near enough in Astoria, Queens to casually drop by but Brooklyn feels far. Funnily enough, when I moved to New York City more than four decades ago, young people never dreamed of living in the outer boroughs. That was for squares, old fogies, and families. But Work Island is priced out of reach these days so the outer boroughs have become where young people go, the new happening place to be. All the same, I miss having my girl nearby so I can pamper her when she's not feeling well. It's just the flu, not covid, and she's already feeling better, but still.


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

*Hey Siri, search baby gates


 Doesn't little Ms. Harper look like someone with places to go and people to see? Who's managing her social calendar?



Friday, February 2, 2024

Women friends

This is the lovely puzzle keeping me company as I work. Mary Moon says this one has magic in it, and I believe this to be true. I'm heading out to dinner with two dear friends in an hour. These women always welcome me to come as I am. Women need other women in their lives. There is such comfort in true women friends, especially decades in—no judgment, just the balm of feeling seen, accepted, and radically understood. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

In my Carnival jacket and Valisia lipstick, I danced

I dreamed that my daughter and I planned a birthday party for my son, and everyone from all the different circles of our lives was invited. It was held at a large gracious wooden house where in the dream I lived with my husband, and we set up a tent in the front yard, and people danced all day long, from morning and far into the night, bodies gyrating with abandon in the yard and on a deck of the house overlooking the yard, faces alight and turned up to the sky,  and my subject and her family were there, her daughter deejaying the music with two of my son's friends, one of whom had traveled all the way from England, a skinny pure-hearted guitar-playing boy who is a favorite of mine, and all night in my sleep people kept dancing, the joy unalloyed, nothing anxious or wrong, and I woke up this morning with a bemused smile and then it came to me that I was celebrating all night having completed this huge work, which when I started a year ago seemed not just daunting, but impossible, but I knew even then it had already been completed in a parallel universe, and last night in my dreams that universe and this one partied. That picture of me is from when I had dinner with the book team in Washington, D.C. last year. It is my current favorite picture of myself because the light is gentle and it is cropped just so, and I am wearing my carnival jacket and Valisia lipstick, which is always a bold choice. Here's to more bold choices before and to the festivities after. There are still trailing details to fulfill, like photo inserts and formatting end notes and chasing permissions, but as my soul reminded me last night as I slept, I did the thing.

 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Counting every day


I ran across one of the questions people like to ask on social media: If you could give your eighteen year old self one bit of wisdom in three words, what would you say? I thought about it for a long time, and was honestly stumped. Travel the world maybe, to which I would add the unspoken—do it while you're still young and strong and your joints still work and you can fly up stairs and walk long distances without pain. I knew what I should tell my younger self. I should warn her to pay attention to the body as well as the heart and mind, to eat right and exercise, especially to exercise, but I knew it would have been futile, my younger self wouldn't have listened, because the body would work until the day it didn't, the day in my twenty-seventh year when I fell from where I was standing on top of my desk trying to dust the top of a picture frame, because the brother of the man who was not yet my husband was passing through New York and stopping by to visit, and I wanted to make a good impression. 

I fell off that desk and wrecked my left knee. I wore an immobilizer on that leg for weeks, innocently wrecking my other knee as it did all the compensating, adjusting and twisting and accommodating and putting itself in unnatural positions to keep me moving forward heedlessly. I was traveling a lot in those days, as a reporter for LIFE magazine, jumping on planes every other week, working with photographers in near and far flung places, living in hotels and motels for weeks at a time, always on the go. 

Thus my body began to shift out of sync, and I just worked around the discomfort, then the pain, for too many years, never really addressing it, and I can draw a straight line from my once youthful sense of invulnerability to where I am now, every joint complaining, none of it helped by the below freezing temperatures in the city, the cold sneaking in through the seams of windows and the vents of AC units and settling in my bones. And then, there's an extra portion of lingering pain from my recent dance with Covid, I am definitely not imagining the aches that have not gone away. My son tells me he feels them, too, and I pray the fact that he does eat right and exercise will spare him from the arthritis I inherited from my mother. It seems Covid finds the places where your body is weakest, and burrows in there, and for me, that is most definitely the joints and the scaffold of no longer young and never invulnerable bones. 

Anyway, this wasn't where I thought I'd go when I opened this page. I thought I was going to report that I turned in the final draft today, and yay, team!

Also, what advice would you give your eighteen year old self? In three words  


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Perception management

Every morning at 4AM, I get an affirming message in my email called "Tut's Note from the Universe." I subscribed to these notes a while back, and though I no longer open them every morning, on the days I do, I'm usually charmed. Here was the note today.

Perception Management for Advanced Souls—The next time someone upsets you, think, "Thanks for pointing out that I've begun depending on your approval. Time I lose the expectations." And the next time someone doesn't take your view into account, think, "That's okay, I was once like that." And if someone steals from you, think, "It was nothing, my supply is the Universe." Or lies to you, think, "I'm sorry you feel that need." Hurts you, "All for my growth and glory." Is rude to you, "Cheer up, dear soul, it'll be okay." Judges you, "Thanks for sharing your truth." Drives by you like a bat out of hell, "Be careful, my friend. You’re loved." And the next time someone greets you with a smile, smile back, like you're sharing a secret.

Tut's Note made me smile and wish I could be that enlightened, and also less insular and self-absorbed. When I was eighteen, twenty-five, forty, I thought I would age gracefully, philosophically, but I am definitely not doing that. I thought I would acquire a map of gentle lines on my face; I didn't reckon with these valleys, ravines, and grooves. I looked at my profile in the mirror last night for the first time in forever and felt too ugly to live. Don't worry, I'm not in danger of doing anything stupid. But as I climbed into bed I wanted to ask my husband, who was reading on his Kindle next to me, how can you stand to look at me? I didn't actually ask the question, because I knew the response I wanted was: What are you talking about, I love looking at you; whereas the response I more likely would have got is: What? You're being ridiculous. I think sometimes he doesn't really see me. He sees who he thinks is in front of him, and hasn't really focused on the changes wrought by years. I might be grateful for that, I'm not sure. 

I do know that I cannot bear to see myself in the mirror. The face staring back is appalling, I don't know who she is, though I do recognize my father's face in mine, and that's how I know it really is me. I'm not gonna post any pictures that show what I see in real life. If I post pictures of myself here, it will be the ones with merciful angles, that don't show the wattled neck and chin line, thanks to shadows that fall just so. I'm vain like that. Who knew? I know I need to make peace with this face, but I haven't had a lot of success making peace with myself in the course of my life so far, so it'd be something of a miracle to find that door now. 

Here's something ridiculous: That’s an AI portrait of me that looks like a photo from back in the day. The crazy thing is, in a world with no mirrors, this is how I still see myself. That’s my weird little secret. 

 
 
 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Snow day

It finally snowed in New York. I sat at the window and watched the finest flakes swirling down all day, dusting the earth in tiny sparkles. I was snug and warm inside my house, being a good little schoolgirl from morning till night, trying to get my work done. Things are a bit intense, but I'm all the way in, and the journey is thrilling sometimes. Life is never just one thing, and I'm learning to just breathe and go with that. Ooop, gotta go. My nephew has been here since Thursday. He's on his way back to college upstate after his winter break in Jamaica, and his ride just arrived. I'm heading downstairs into this freezing cold day to greet his traveling companions and help him pack the car. 


Saturday, January 13, 2024

Here and there

There we are, my girl and me, in our usual January theater selfie. It's tradition now, that my girl gives me tickets to a Broadway play for Christmas, and we go out to dinner beforehand, and make a night of it. We both love the theater, especially musicals, but neither of our partners is as in love with the live musical experience as we are, which is okay, because we have each other, and can go together. It is my very favorite thing that I look forward to every January. This year, we saw Hadestown, which won both a Tony and a Grammy for Best Musical in 2019, as well as an armful of other awards, including Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design. I have to say, the lighting design was truly extraordinary. Usually, it's just part of the experience for me, the lighting that is, but in this show, it was a character onto itself, and I was blown away. Hadestown is a modern-day retelling of the Greek myths of Hades and Persephone and Orpheus and Eurydice, set in a New Orleans meets Mad Max dystopia. We loved it. Most of all, I loved spending the evening with my darling girl.


Meanwhile, in Jamaica, my grand niece Harper was meeting other family members, and her mom sent me pictures. I love these two of Harper at the home of my cousin Maureen. Everyone says Maureen and I look alike, and I'm intrigued to see she's even wearing glasses that are similar to mine. She's four years older than I am, but for whatever reason, I look like the older cousin now. Sometimes I look in the mirror and it seems as if my face is melting—but enough of that! Aren't my cousin and our grand niece beautiful? And there Harper is in the second photo below with Maureen's granddaughter Lauren, another beauty, after Harper's first swim in my cousin's pool. I love seeing the next generation of cousins getting in their bonding time. I do love my family.


 

Good January to you, dear friends. I'm just tipping in for a hot second to say hey, then tipping out again. Work and life and the wider world are plenty intense right now, and I think we're all dancing as fast as we can.