Sunday, April 22, 2018

Have Teenager, Will Travel; the Bali Diaries

March 31, 2018

I’m sitting on a lounger (I’m lounging on a lounger?) overlooking an infinity pool which itself is overlooking a sloping watermelon plantation.  Pink orchids peek out between palm fronds.  A fourteen-year-old blonde beauty slowly paddles through the water.  She happens to be my child.  I’m drinking a cold Bintang beer.  It’s two o’clock in the afternoon.

Lana and I are in Bali.  We arrived yesterday after over twenty-four hours of relatively hassle-free travel (no lost luggage, no missed flights, and hallelujah, no forgotten antidepressants).  We are here for just over two weeks.  My excuse to all concerned (Lana, her dad, her school, Uncle Sam) is that we’re here to shop for the shop.  There will definitely be some shopping, some sourcing for future shopping.  But even more importantly to my work (and my life at large), there will be travel, which in and of itself will spawn perspective and inspiration.  Already today, on our long walk to village and beach, Lana and I devised a new summer line of garments constructed from up-cycled linen.  We also meditated some on my relationship with her step-mother - where we can bridge gaps, the things that she and I have in common (love of whole foods and cooking, adoration for Lana and her siblings, apparently the same taste in men).  This, for me, is the essential by-product of travel; a new view of the old scene, fresh solutions for stale problems.

While still back home, we booked only these first two nights of accommodation.  The rest of the trip is open.  We will follow our fancy.

We’ve never been to Asia.  This is our first trip to the developing world since Ethiopia eight years ago.  Already it’s an adjustment to avoid drinking the water from the tap.  The river of overloaded scooters streaming pellmell on the wrong side of the road is discombobulating. 

For now, we are ensconced in an elegant villa, our only plan for luxury, a prescribed antidote for jet-lag.  Soon we will head out in search of natural beauty, beach shacks, volcano villages, and hopefully less white people.  But, for now, this is quite delightful.  And $120 a night.


April 1, 2018

I was telling Lana yesterday that traveling with her is like traveling with a clone of myself.  Beyond the fact that I raised her, imbuing in her plastic brain my values, my preferences, my tastes (and yes, I’m well aware that even at this late date she could reject all those), beyond all that, we are similarly wired.  She, like me, like my mother, is fastidious.  We Balger(my mom)-Lavoie(me)-Caprons(Lana) like to plan.  We like to read our Lonely Planet cover to cover and chat about all the possibilities.  We like to know when we’ll eat and when we’ll sleep.  We’re detail oriented.

Lana said, “Oh my god, you would have so much fun with a clone of yourself.  You’d talk for hours.”

“‘Let’s read!’’ I suggested joyfully.

“‘Let’s take a walk!’” said Lana

“‘Let’s drink wine!’”

“‘Let’s go to sleep!’”

This girl knows me well.


April 2, 2018

I’m sure I’ve reported this here before but my father’s favorite toast at weddings (and, as I remember, he toasted at EVERY wedding he attended - this apple does not fall far from that tree) was “Don’t expect too much.”

He was, in fact, quoting my mother’s father, a man who emigrated from Romania in 1915 and ended up widowed, working as a laborer and feeding his family from his garden through the Depression.  He had reason not to expect too much.

When Lana and I envisioned our sojourn to SouthEast Asia, we imagined cultural immersion - beaches, yes, the dollar going far, yes, but also burial ceremonies, home-stays with Balinese families living off the land (I know, I know).  What we’ve found instead, at least so far, is tourism, and worse, tourists.  This place seems geared towards sucking money out of Westerners.  And you know, God speed, we Westerners have a lot of money to suck.  But culture, beyond delicious food served in humble warangs, beyond translating the dollar to the rupiah, beyond the echoing call to prayer (at least on Muslim Lombok) we have not yet found it.

Yesterday we journeyed from Southern Bali to a small island off Lombok, called Gili Air.  The trip involved not one but two hour-long taxi rides visiting not one but two ports in search of a boat to the Gili islands.  Once found, we waited for the boat for an hour past it’s departure time (marginal cultural experience) before traveling two hours over water to Gili Air.  

We hoped it would be quieter, more pure.  Instead we found ourselves dragging our roller bags through the sand, rejecting every suggestion Lonely Planet had for accommodations, dodging sunburned drunk whities before, in desperation, landing on an over-priced “traditional” “rice barn”  “bungalow” that was mosquito-infested and reeked of mildew.  It was a sad day.

Today, finally blessed with wifi for the first time since our plane landed, we perused airbnb.  After touring three excellent options (at least compared to our landing pad last night) we happened upon a beautiful spa with accommodation.  For the next two nights, we’re paying $100 for an exquisite villa with a private pool.  Tourism isn’t so hateful at the moment.  It’s not “real Bali” but is there a “real Bali”?


April 7, 2018

Since last we talked (you/me, journal/Liz), Lana and I have travelled to neighboring Gili Meno (smaller, mellower than Gili Air but still, sadly, a tourist mecca).  We spent two nights at a yoga “retreat” (open-air bungalows centered around a yoga stage in the middle of the jungle - my flip-flop broke in the sucking mud).  We were pretty much the only visitors but once out on the (crazy-beautiful, white-sand) beach overlooking the turquoise water (cry me a river) we were far from alone.  We entertained a constant stream of young men peddling sarongs and jewelry, swam in a sea of Australian-accented English, paid too much for vegetarian curry and instant Nescafe (Lombok coffee being the color, consistency, and flavor of mud, in my humble opinion).

Last night we had a come-to-Jesus.  Lana, exhausted by harassment (poor tall blonde nubile thing), turned off by yet another culture trying constantly to sell her something, cried Uncle.

We’ve been wrestling with where to go next.  Farther East into unexplored Indonesia?  Hop a plan to Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia?  Last night, we decided to come back to Bali.  Give it one more shot before bailing via air to somewhere less spoiled by the West.

Buoyed by action, we boarded a ferry for Bali, upon disembarking negotiated a taxi for Sideman (pronounced “Seed-a-man” - Lana: “Let’s go see da man”) and after an hour of inevitable scooter-slaloming, arrived at a hotel overlooking mountains, rice paddies, cows and quiet.  We are possibly the only guests.  It’s cooler here - maybe eighty degrees instead of one hundred.  Our room is open to the wind and air, which for the first time since our arrival in Indonesia is doable without air conditioning.

The man who greeted us at reception, Gede, is sweet and open - all the attributes we’ve heard about the Balinese people. 

I sit on our balcony, the clothes I just hand-washed dripping over the railing, giant black ants trundling peacefully over them.  Swallows bank and dip for bugs in the breeze above, huge ebony wasps tranquilly buzz the bougainvillea that climbs the balcony.  The teenager is below in the hot tub, watching a show on her phone, plugged into wifi and stupid American television for the first time in a long time - safe, unharrassed.  A glass of my very favorite Indonesian (probably Spanish) chardonnay is at hand, cows are lowing, someone is plonking away on an instrument somewhere above us on the hill.  I am clean from the shower, not yet sweating, sore from yesterday’s yoga class, blisters on my feel treated with iodine and band-aids (or dare I say “foot plasters”).  People, I am happy.


April 8, 2018

Lana hasn’t been feeling well today.  She was up in the middle of the night with a headache, feeling hot.  We had a late breakfast, a walk through the village hunting fabric (Sideman has many weavers) and then I brought the wilting girl back to the bungalow.  We kept our 3:00 tandem, facial appointments (I haven’t had a facial since I was in my twenties but for fourteen dollars how could I say no?) but then cancelled our trip to the night market (crazy yummy street food, apparently).  We’ll do it tomorrow if she’s feeling better.  Tonight we’ll have dinner in our room and watch a movie.  

This trip is about experiencing Indonesia, yes, but even more it’s about being with my girl - squeezing the juice from these last moments of cozy childhood.


April 9, 2018

When we were in Ethiopia, Megan (life-long friend/sister/travel-adoption-support) dubbed five-year-old Lana the Pokey Puppy.  Never has there been a more accurate moniker.

I’ve waited for Lana all her life.  I waited for her to be born (almost two weeks overdue, thank you very much), I waited for her to stop crying (colic!), I waited for her to nurse (always reluctant, she quit for good at ten months).  When she was three, I waited cumulative hours for her to put on her shoes.  We once had a two hour standoff parked in front of an Inverness boathouse because she refused to dress her bare legs before entering the outdoor birthday party (it was January and forty-five degrees) which was only resolved when she agreed to sit on my lap under a blanket for the entire event (which she did, placidly, both of us marooned amidst trampoline-hopping kids and dancing adults).

She does not like to be rushed.  When anxious about time, she slows down.  I have learned to be gentle in my prodding, to give her miles of lead-time before a transition.

Today, while Lana lingered over a breakfast of pineapple and toast, I said, “If I had a dollar for every time I said ‘Lana, you ready?’, I would be a very rich woman.”

If I had an additional dollar for every time she asked me to wait, usually while walking in hot sun or, alternately, pouring rain, I would be Bill Gates wealthy.

She slows me down, this kid.  Maybe that’s why she was sent to me.


April 11, 2018

Yesterday was nuts in every way.  We’re here in Ubud, Bali’s cultural center.  It’s like a mini Asian NYC; a million shops, a zillion restaurants, prices running the gamut, packed with people, traffic moving like a honking river at flood stage.

We landed in Ubud and while we loved the town, our airbnb stunk, literally.  We Balger-Lavoie-Caprons are sensitive to smell.  After some searching, we landed on a pension housed in an ancient building.  We dragged our suitcases through the packed streets (“Taxi?” the local men asked, “Taxi?” - clearly knowing us to be insane white people who desperately needed some assistance).

The new place was, while quaint, dysfunctional.  Lights weren’t working, mosquitos were swarming in the closed room, breakfast was inedible.  And so began our day-long quest for a decent place to stay.  Between a visit to Monkey Forest (starring crazed monkeys roaming free, thoroughly irritated with people, alternately charming and alarming) and a three hour, fifteen course lunch at the fanciest restaurant in Bali (exquisite and all for $80 a head), we searched.  We walked, in the wet heat, for hours, chasing down leads from Lonely Planet, from airbnb, from friendly waiters, but none would do.  We’re picky, it’s true, but somehow Ubud wasn’t forthcoming with something even moderately acceptable.  Finally we found an efficiency hotel far from city center with cartoon monkeys on the walls.  It’s colorful and moderately fun, the beds are good, the lines are clean and it has a rooftop deck.  Sold, finally sold.

And so I stowed Lana in the air-conditioned room with her phone and blessed wifi, climbed on the back of the bellman’s scooter and rode, in a skirt, sans helmet, through the sea of zooming motor-bikes and taxis to retrieve our suitcases from the previous night’s hotel.  I’m normally a person who prefers to move slowly (in terms of physical speed, certainly not in the emotional/romantic/business/real-estate realm - there I can’t move fast enough).  I have a healthy fear of motor vehicles, insisting Ben never ride a motorcycle while he was married to me (poor man), but when I found myself speeding through the warm air, on the back of a bike for the first time in almost thirty years, I was delighted.  The dangerous freedom of mopeds.


April 14, 2018

The day after the last entry, Bali Belly struck hard.

Hungry for dinner late in the evening after our long and beautiful luncheon, we ventured just two doors down from our hotel to an unknown sushi restaurant.  Mistake number one.  Mistake number two: we ordered glasses of water.  “Filtered, yeah?” I asked the waitress.  We have come to feel tremendous guilt over our bottled water consumption (empty plastic bottles littered virtually everywhere we gaze).  For the most part in more urban settings, restaurants will offer filtered water by the glass. 

Lana took a gulp of her water, grimaced and said, “Um, Mom?”  

I then took a sip from my glass (why? WHY???).  It was almost hot and tasted of sewer.  The waiter, when pressed, admitted it wasn’t filtered but claimed it to to be “clear”.  As opposed to brown, I suppose.

By noon the next day, cramps had set in.  Days later we still need to have a bathroom close at hand.

After two more days in Ubud, we were done, the energy of the city, at first so appealing, had finally exhausted us.  With four more days until we boarded the airplane for home, we decided to head to Nusa Penida, a neighboring island lauded for being less inundated with tourists.  On the boat over, we were befriended (“picked up” might be more accurate) by Tony, a middle-aged Balinese man I continually wanted to call Davy because that name made about as much sense.  Tony/Davy sold us on hiring him as our guide on Penida.  You need wheels there (big island, low population, sparse far-flung villages) and I’ve never piloted a scooter (and, even if I had, the roads are notoriously rough).  I figured Tony/Davy was sent by the Hindu gods.

Tony/Davy drove us to a few different accommodations before we settled on the best of them, which was marginal at best.  That night, after killing endless oversized black ants and having three Indonesians in our room attempting to fix our tepid AC, the voices from the adjoining room began.

At first we thought we were listening to one half of a phone conversation.

“I can’t believe you,” a young American woman brayed.  “You’re a fucking cheater and a fucking liar.”

Lana set up camp next to the slatted door that connected the rooms and was there for the next few hours, rapt.  I put a pillow over my head only to be awoken at 3am and again at six to the woman’s outrage.

Lana filled me in over a breakfast of mud-like coffee and stinky papaya.

“She’s pregnant,” Lana said.  “She found out last night that her boyfriend’s been cheating on her.”

The boyfriend was in the room, it turns out, just quiet in his shame.  Lana reported that as the evening wore on, the woman discovered that he was not only sleeping with one other woman but three.  Lana was listening to the story unfold in real time.

“It’s so weird,” she said.  “This big moment in these people’s lives and I was the only witness.”

We meditated for a moment on that poor baby, born into chaos.

After breakfast we packed our bags, putting the hotel firmly in Tony/Davy’s rearview mirror.  Tired of searching for accommodation, of making everything up on the fly, bellies sore, we texted our first airbnb hosts.  We would take the one o’clock boat back to the mainland, and return to that lovely villa.

Tony/Davy was not pleased with this turn of events.  He drove us quickly, jerkily, on dirt roads to see beaches.  While beautiful, the Indian Ocean on that particular day was disturbed, not safe for swimming.  We were grateful to bid Tony/Davy farewell.  He pressed his business card into my hand.  “No throw in the rubbish!” he instructed.

We are now back at Juan and Geoff’s (a Colombian/Australian couple with exquisite taste).  The compound is absurdly beautiful.  This morning, roused by Bali Belly, I encountered a small black snake on my way out of the bathroom.  My muffled “eep!” was enough to send it slithering into the bedroom where it hid for two hours until the two house-men (I refuse to say boys) removed it.  I’m out-of-my-mind afraid of snakes.  I spent those two hours peering fearfully at the floor from the relative safety of my bed.  Lana found the whole situation hilarious.

By ten, I was getting my first motor bike lesson.  Match, another Australian, a friend our hosts, was my teacher.  Never a braver or more patient instructor have I met.  He spent an hour with me and by the end I was driving in traffic with him on the back, dodging dogs and children, potholes, trucks and endless mopeds.  All on the wrong side of the road.  I only crashed once, into the smallest of rivers.


April 22, 2018

We are home, newly in love with the cool air and the public garbage cans.

In the last days of our trip, a French ex-pat lounging on Juan and Geoff’s lawn asked, with French directness/derision, “So do you love Bali or do you hate it?”

The question was a dare, one that I dodged.  “Love it!” I squawked.

“Mmm,” she said, stretching her brown bare legs in front of her, “You’d be surprised.  Some people, they don’t like the traffic and the garbage.  It is too busy for them here.”

“Ha!” I laughed.

I didn’t hate Bali but it was not as easy to love as I imagined.  At some moments, it felt like everything that’s wrong with the world.  Gazing at the heaps of plastic trash, gagging on exhaust, nauseous from the water, I would think, this is what we’re doing to our earth, to ourselves, Westerners more than anyone.

But here’s the real benefit of travel.  Lana and I are freshly amazed at the loveliness of home.  Our beds, our cats, the hills flushed with green, the sunlight dancing off the long, shifting grass.  We have renewed passion for our friends, these complicated quirky sweethearts that we’ve surrounded ourselves with.  My shop, which did great business in my absence, staffed by some of those gorgeous amigos, is, I’m remembering, not only my source of material sustenance but also creative.  I have brand new energy to bring to it.  

And Lana and I, after weeks on end together, each other’s sole company, are as close as we were when she was an infant and we’d spend hours staring into each other’s eyes.  It looks different now, her nestled next to me on the couch, texting her friends.  It’s a teenage version of mother-daughter intimacy but the connection is heartily present.


Bali was not our ideal destination, it turns out.  But it’s really not the destination, right?  It’s the journey.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Believing

Last time I wrote here, I described my romantic type.  He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s ambitious, but he’s also grumpy, critical and maybe a little mean.  I wrote about how a man like that, given the man that was my father, is my fate, at least in this lifetime.

You know when you say something out loud, you voice a belief, and then the very fact of it being in the air makes you hear it, makes you step back and consider it?  I’ve been thinking about my own beliefs lately, particularly the limiting ones.  And wondering if they’re true or if they have to be.

Back in September, I took a look at my beliefs about my body.  Old belief: the fifteen post-divorce pounds aren’t going anywhere - losing weight is hard and my life is hard enough, I love my wine, peri-menopause, etc, etc.  Then, one day, I braved the scale, caught my breath in horror, and downloaded a calorie-counting app.  My goal: two pounds a week.  In reality, it’s been much slower than that.  But here, months later, I’ve lost that fifteen and am still going.  I’m fit (lots of exercise to earn the wine) and getting dressed in the morning is fun again.  The negative loop of “you can’t” has turned into “you can, you will, you did”.

Another belief: I’m never going to meet anyone online.  Internet dating is demoralizing, time-consuming, and ultimately fruitless (never mind that I’ve met men I’ve had relationships with in that milieu).  I’m not going to meet anyone online and I’m certainly not going to meet anyone by chance here in the married suburbs.  There are no men for me.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded Tinder and Bumble (again).  But this time, I decided that I’d be generous with my right swipes, and I’d meet just about anyone in person - taking the internet out of it as quickly as possible.  I’ve met, in person, seven men in that time.  My rule with myself is that if there’s anything interesting about them, I’ll see them again.  So far, so interesting.  They have been remarkably intelligent, accomplished and attractive.

The final frontier of negative belief: my type.  What if I changed my type?  What if instead of chasing a man that was hard to please, I allowed a kind one to come to me?  What if I chose someone open, someone warm?  Someone that was ready to meet me in the middle?

And so, the primary characteristic I’ve been searching for in this new round of dating is kindness, emotional availability.  I’ve had some mis-steps already, for sure.  It’s hard to know what kind looks like when it’s unfamiliar.  Someone might self-report kindness and maturity hopefully but mistakenly.  

I’m in new territory, I’m uncomfortable.  In the process of interviewing potential partners, I’ve gleaned a daily admirer.  We “met” on Bumble but he lives here in town.  He has visited my shop every day for two weeks, always with an offering.  The first day was flowers, the second a giant lollipop, the third still-warm home-baked butter cookies (and they didn’t even have rufies in them).  Every day he has brought something.  Every day he’s told me, in one way or another, he’s smitten.  He’s probably not my guy but he’s definitely my newest friend.  I’ve accepted these gifts (actual and metaphorical) with as much grace as I can muster - receiving presents, particularly from men, is hard for me.  I’ve sat in this delightful discomfort, an exercise in having an open heart.


Because here’s the hardest belief to break.  Let’s say I do choose wisely, I do choose someone who can love me.  I’m going to have to be brave enough to let him.  I’m going to have to share some space in my dusty, spider-webbed heart, light a fire where it’s been quiet and cold.  Maybe I can figure out how to do that this lifetime, I won’t have to wait for the next.  I almost believe it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Crushing

I like someone.  A man.  I like a man.  Or at least, you know, I think I do.

Crushing on someone is one of my favorite feelings, particularly in the time before anything really happens.  Liking someone is the best.  It’s kind of the moment I live for.  But, of course, with it comes all kinds of other, less fun, feelings.

The first bucket of un-fun is the what-will-happen morass.  Part of what makes a crush delicious is it’s uncertainty.  But the list of possibilities of how this couldn’t work are long (is he into me, am I into him, is he ready for something, am I ready, are the logistics right, are we compatible - macro and micro, world-view, coffee preferences, sex).

The second bucket is the misery of coming right back up against my own stuff.  Am I worthy of this person - or any person?  I’m not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not successful enough, not nonchalant enough, not perfect.  If he doesn’t choose me then, yes, right, every fear confirmed.  The very same internal roller coaster I’ve been on since I liked my first boy when I was four (though one would hope I wasn’t obsessed with being skinny at that age).

The third bucket is how all the ways that he is right for me could also be wrong.  What is my thing for critical men?  (I know what it is, it’s name is Paul Lavoie).  I love them difficult, hard to please, slightly grumpy (because if I can win that person, clearly I’m lovable).  This man is exactly my type, a type that has been problematic in the past.  Wouldn’t be nice if I liked some sunny, warm, adoring, bouquet-bearing man?  Maybe next lifetime.

Liking someone is lovely.  But it’s a whole lot easier to not like someone, to move through the world satisfied by small pleasures; the sun on my back, steaming hojicha in an chipped teacup, a meandering novel.  When I like someone, I am vulnerable.  I am feeling bigger stuff.  I’m trying, once again, to navigate my old patterns around love, some of which I understand intellectually, but all of which I feel somatically and seem to be the realest even at the height of it’s absurdity.  It's so messy, the moment-to-moment with another person.  So many mis-steps, sometimes so hard to hear the sane inner voice (versus the insane one - she's in there, too). 

When I talk to him, I light up.  When he laughs at my jokes, I know myself to be hilarious.  When he listens to my insights, I know myself to be brilliant.  When he complements me, I know myself to be beautiful.  All that feels elementally good.  But that good feeling hinges on his approval, his involvement, his presence, none of which is guaranteed.  

Moving through the world with an open heart is painful, that pumping organ ripe for injury.  But probably the only way to be alive; vulnerable, awake, rolling with the punches.  I’d rather be brave than bored.  I’d rather test my mettle, my capacity, my vitality then live in safety.

As for this thing, with this man, it’ll either fade back into the woodwork or end in a box of Kleenex (break-up or funeral).  I’m hoping for Kleenex, because that will mean I cared, that will mean I lived.  Regardless, this sensation, this moment, this delicious liking, I’m gonna call myself lucky to have it.  Better sorry than safe.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sell By Date

A few weeks ago, I resumed online shopping for men.  It’s not my favorite - is it anyone’s? - but there aren’t a whole lot of single men here in the suburbs.  Pretty much everyone is married - and so HAPPY, you guys.

My latest insecurity (there are a million but this one’s new) is that I’m now less attractive because of my age.  Not how age is affecting my face or body - they’re actually holding up quite well.  Simply my age.  I have a feeling I’m not falling into men’s search criteria anymore, because I’m 47.

When I was in the midst of my divorce, a lawyer I consulted told me that as long as I snagged a new husband in the following couple years, I could be financially sound.  He said that I was running up against the age limit but I was pretty so it was possible.  

I’ve had moments of panic lately.  Men are no longer interested in me (despite hourly in-person input to the contrary).  I’ll be alone the rest of my life, one of those old ladies that gave up on romance years and years ago - because, it’s implied, romance had given up on her.

So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that all of the above is true.  That I have exited the window of statistical attractiveness.  That I won’t find someone who I feel is my equal - because my equals aren’t looking for me.  That I grow old alone.

Long ago, when that lawyer suggested I get on the man-hunt and fast, I had a moment of desperation.  Yes, better land a husband post-haste.  And then I remembered that I never want to marry again.  Not because I don’t believe in partnership but because I don’t understand why I would - I’m not having any more children and I want to be financially independent forever and always.  Back then, I was still unsure that I could earn a living.  Turns out I can.

And now, when I think about not being with a dude, when I get past the not-enoughness that I feel, the not-being-chosen, I remember about dudes.  They’re great, or they can be, but they also drive me crazy (in good ways and bad) and I love being alone.  Often, in a dating situation, I’m waiting until we’re apart so I can reclaim my space.

So, you guys, worst case scenario, I continue living this beautiful life that I’ve built; running my business, raising my kids, hanging out with my friends, living to the fullest in gorgeous geography.  None of that depends on my beauty, or on my age, or on a dude.


Maybe I will be one of those eccentric single elderly ladies.  But I bet you I’ll be having fun.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Outlander

I’ve been watching Outlander lately.  For the uninitiated, it’s a series based on a novel.  Essentially feminist porn, with all the psychological and emotional backstory that we women need to make the sex sing (ok, maybe not all women but certainly me).  There’s time-travel (which is the reason I don’t have tattoos, just in case I ever get the opportunity), loads of Scottish accents (be still my heart), and an extremely hunky, deep-feeling Scottish laird (more beefcake than I usually go for but I would NOT kick him out of bed for eating crackers).  The entire series (and the novels it’s based on) is from a female gaze.  And so the heroine is brunette instead of blond, she is whip-smart and mouthy, sometimes she is appropriately unwashed and uncoiffed.  Rape lurks, because, for us ladies, it does.  She often saves herself, though sometimes she can’t.  Because sometimes we can’t.

I was binging last night, under a quilt, stitching cashmere, cats curled against me, glass of wine nearby.  Claire, our heroine, told Jamie, our beefcake, the whole truth about her time-travel, about her other husband in her other time.  She risked his love by fully revealing herself.  And suddenly I was gushing tears.

What touched me was that when she told him her story, unvarnished and unabridged, he listened, quietly, compassionately, for hours.  And when she was finally spent, she had the great luxury of being understood.  And that, I realized, more than romance, more than sex, is what I miss.   Having a partner to listen to every word, to love me even with all my mistakes, all my mis-steps, to help me carry the load of my story.  I imagined what it’d be like to tell someone everything that’s happened since Mihiretu’s adoption, every twist and turn, every heartbreak, and to have that person, that man (because God help me I can’t talk myself out of being straight), hear it all, feel it all with me, for me, just as I would do for him, with his story.

I have such beautiful friends.  They carry parts of my story, some more parts than others.  But I’m not talking about friendship.  I’m talking about a love relationship, a partnership, a last-person-you-talk-to-at-night, first-person-you-talk-to-in-the-morning, a one-stop-shop, someone you are naked with, in every sense.  Because, as you know because you carry your own story, it’s a lot to hold alone.


An outlander is someone who stands outside society, a foreigner, a stranger.  I think we all have our outlander moments.  And I think we all want to come in out of the cold, to be home.  Sometimes that home resides, at least partially, in another person.  I’ve been an outlander, these last years, there’s no doubt.  Sometimes I like it.  Sometimes I want to belong.  I want someone to understand my foreign tongue, to make sense of it, because they love me.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sleepyhead

My greatest luxury is sleep.  I’ll take it over facials, five star dining, diamonds.  It’s really convenient that it’s free.

During my waking hours, I’m all action and efficiency, a multi-task master.  I rarely sit.  On the rare occasion I do, let’s say some tv with the kids in the evening, I have a sewing project on hand.  But, come 9pm on most nights, I’m in bed, happily curled up with my Kindle, deep in a novel.  Soon enough, it’s lights out and the adventure begins.

I generally sleep for nine to ten hours at a time, which allows for a lot of REM.  Consequently, my dream world rivals my daylight hours.  I feel like a deep-sea diver, plunging to the very bottom of the ocean, spending hours slowing examining treasures, turning them over in my hand, my hair floating up and behind me like a mermaid, bubbles blowing past my face.  I like that world just as much as I like this one.

Because my subconscious has all kinds of time to work through what’s pressing, I often end up with some screwy dreams at the end of the night.  Hillary and Bill trying to persuade me to back her for another run, Michelle mad at me - again! - for flirting with Barack, Bruce Springsteen serenading me onstage ala Courtney Cox with a specially-penned song.  Last night, for instance, my friend Josie was wondering if I wanted her bed - she was getting a new one.  I debated, it sloped from head to foot (which Josie said would be good for my sinuses), but then remembered my own beautiful bed and said no way, Josie (ho-say).

I built my bed a year ago.  It sits in the strange alcove off the living-room that I call my bedroom.  With some IKEA shelving units, plywood and ingenuity, I built the bed high off the floor, cornered just at window height.  Most seasons, I sleep with that big window wide open to the canyon below, the sounds and smells of the night drifting in on the breeze.  It’s almost as good as a screened-in porch.  I hear raccoons chirping, deer crashing through the brush, cats yowling, coyotes howling, one night I swear I heard a mountain lion right below me, chasing a yelping deer, the big cat growling, roaring, it’s voice deep and loud like an earthquake.

The bed holds me perfectly but for awhile last year when I was dating a man who was also a giant, who was anxious about sleeping on the outer edge for fear of falling to the floor and so was tucked in by the window on the less fortified part of the structure, I would wake at 3am sloping towards him, concerned about my engineering.

The other night I got in bed, the first cool night of the fall, and rejoiced in the good sleeping weather.  A chilled room and a pile of quilts, plus a couple of cats as furry personal heaters, what’s better?  It’s my favorite moment of the day, when the kids are stowed, the work put away, my teeth brushed, face clean of make-up, I’m the truest version of myself. No matter how catastrophic the day, how terrifying my worries, it is a reliable moment of comfort, of home.



Sunday, August 20, 2017

All That Hippie Shit

I’ve been going through something big with one of my kids.  So big, that it occasioned a parent wellness weekend.  Though born in Marin County, where words like “wellness” flow like water, I don’t much buy into that hippie shit.  Maybe because I’ve done so much therapy, so much yoga, so many cleanses, so much self-care, that the language of that world is sometimes a turn-off.  What’s that saying, “Live in Northern California once, but leave before you get too soft”?  Yeah, well, I’m soft as a baby’s bottom but sometimes I feel the need to fight the stereotype.

Anyway, dragging my heels, I went to wellness weekend.  It ended up being, don’t be shocked, transformative.  The meditation, the yoga, the tri-fold breath, the mindfulness, it was all quite beautiful.  And it got me closer to my feelings than I’ve been this year.  I’ve got some grief lurking.  The kid in question is alive and fairly well but my children are where I live.  If they hurt, I hurt.  And when the train goes off the rails, I should really take a minute to mourn the original destination.  Hard to mourn, hard to feel, when you’re problem-solving, when you’re panicked, when you’re terrified.  Hello, wellness weekend!

One of the exercises that weekend was constructing a personal wellness plan.  I’m the only one of my neighbors not to have one, I’m sure.  I was asked to pinpoint what gives me joy - sure, easy, so many things give me joy.  The next step was to build a plan around those things - to make sure I actually do them.

On my list: see live music, dance, sing, publish here - all at least once a month, see friends socially weekly, read fiction daily, exercise in one form or another, drink at least two quarts of water, eat six servings of vegetables daily.  So here’s what’s cool: all those things happen already.  Also on the list (close your ears, kids, though guess what, here’s news, Mom is a human being), sex.  That was also happening but then I went and cut ties with my distributor.  And I’m probably going to wait to do that again until I’m really crushed out (another form of self-care - love AND sex, such a concept).  A reach: only one alcoholic beverage per night if I’m on my own (two is my preference).  And, find a time and place to cry - ideally once a week.  This last one has not yet happened.  I’m such a good crier, too.  Like Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News”, sobbing on cue to clear the emotional system.  I’ve got to make a plan to put on a sad movie and go for it but sometimes it feels safer to sit in numbness (I’m fighting the novocaine, I promise).

All this is, of course, self-love, something I don’t feel particularly adept at.  I’m great at beating up on myself (what, you, too?), self-criticism, even self-loathing on occasion.  But I’m a concrete girl, a utilitarian.  Given a plan, boxes to check, I’m all over it.  I’m terrific with lists.

There is power in writing things down.  Particularly wishes or dreams or plans.  It can help them manifest (another Marin word).  Although I was doing those things above, I’m now more conscious of making sure they happen with frequency.  And every time I do them, I know I’m caring for myself.  And caring for myself, connecting with myself, makes me feel more connected with those around me, with the natural world, with whatever spirit in which I believe. 


It’s too late for me, friends, I’m so soft I’m melting.