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.