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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Diary of a Camper

                                                                                                     August 8, 2017

I’m here at Emandal, our family camp.  It’s our seventh year here.  One week of August in total bliss; farm-to-table meals, stellar community of friends, the rhythm of the natural world.

My friend, Bonnie, just gave me a tarot reading - a yearly tradition.  This week of the calendar marks my new year, when I process what’s behind me and ponder what’s ahead.  The cards lead me.

Today I asked the cards what I need to know about my heart.  There’s been some grief this year, some trauma in the deepest caverns of what I care for, and my heart has craved novocaine.  The last month or so I’ve been working on waking it up - opening to the experiences and people around me - feeling even though it’s scary, even though it’s painful.  And in that opening, that conscious unraveling of my own ball of string, I’ve felt a change coming.  It’s a little like that stillness right before an earthquake; the strange sky, the death of wind.  Something beautiful is coming my way.  Or maybe I’m simply opening my eyes and ears and spirit to the magic of what’s around me.  The rustle of air through leaves, the chuckle of water over stone, the deep delicate light just before sunset.

Today the cards said that in the past I have lived on the surface - or at least not to my depth.  That I am a snake, Mother of Wands, fierce, powerful, warm and charming.  That I fear total upheaval even though it’s my nature to turn everything on end.  That I fear failure, which in terms of my heart, if not in other aspects of my life, is one hundred percent true.  I think of myself as brave - I think I am.  But I’m also afraid to risk myself completely - to dive in beyond my usual depth.

The last card of the reading, the card that predicts the future, was the world.  It represents the successful completion of a long cycle, the fulfillment of dreams.  

Since the break-up of my marriage almost four years ago, thoroughly chronicled here, I have dreamt of love.  A great love, a true love, the person I could meet with my heart completely open, who could receive that heart and meet it with their own.  It hasn’t happened yet.  I had no idea it would take this long.  But, for whatever reason, at this moment, I feel it’s imminent.  It’s traveling towards me and me towards it.

The longer I live, the deeper my understanding of love, romantic or otherwise.  Friend-love, mother-love, it’s all the same love.  As I deepen my capacity to feel, as I drop my defenses and brave uncertainty, I have more love to give, more love to get, more love.


                                                                                             August 9, 2017

I have a personal tradition here of composing haikus on my daily early morning run. Our last night of camp is a self-organized talent show - two or so hours of high entertainment; original songs, circus acts, comedy - it’s like “Cats” - you’ll laugh, you’ll cry.  I read my haikus aloud.

Today as I ran (mostly walked), I thought about how this week is a time-out from my daily life.  The key to summer camp is tradition, things staying the same every year.  Here, it’s always late summer, meals are always at 8:30, 12:30 and 6:30.  The mornings are spent under the apple trees at the farmhouse, afternoons on the river, evenings at the campfire.  Something about that sameness makes me feel like I’ve stepped into my alternate existence - I forget about the other one for hours at a time.  When I return to the other life, the other fifty-one weeks, I’m refreshed.  I see it with new eyes for having been away.

Running, walking, thinking in haiku this morning, I came up with a few metaphors for this phenomenon.  

Metaphor number one:  I’m stepping out of the river - my river.  A week goes by.  When I step back in, it’s an entirely different river  New water, new fish.

Metaphor number two:  My life is a movie.  I hit pause on the action.  I play a different movie - a short.  When I finally return to the main feature, when I finally hit play, I’m looking at it with different eyes, informed by the intermission.

Metaphor number three: Meditation.  You pull out of the busy-ness of your day.  You sit.  You let go of everything but your breath, your presence.  When you re-enter your day, you’re clearer, you have perspective, inner stillness.


                                                                                           August 11, 2017

I’m sitting here in the library, gazing out at the rows of vegetables, the barn, the pines, the flat light of midday.  There are the sounds of the kids on a scavenger hunt;  squeals, shouts, the thump of small feet in dirt.

The day before I left for camp, last Saturday, I ended a relationship I’ve been in for most of the past year.  The relationship was many things; flexible, honest, fun, sensual.  What it wasn’t was love.  We knew it, we talked about it - in that way I was breaking new ground.  But what I finally came to was the realization that while he was occupying my heart, my mind, my body, in whatever limited capacity, there wasn’t room for a deeper love to enter.  


Nature abhors a vacuum.  I’m of the belief that you have to create a vacuum to draw to you what you need or want.  I’m most likely to find satisfying work when I’m unemployed.  Mostly likely to find a home when I don’t have one.  And so, I’ve created a vacuum in the sex/love department.  I might end up bored, lonely, horny.  I might call up my friend again in a few months.  But for now there is a lovely feeling of wonder, of possibility, of honesty.  For now, that’s enough.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

This Is Not My Beautiful House

Buying a house is like getting married.  You venture on some first dates (visit open houses).  Maybe a second date (a second showing).  Maybe even make a proposal (put an offer in).  Sometimes you even get engaged (go into escrow).  And sometimes that engagement turns into a marriage (you own a house).

And, like love, usually you know right away whether or not this house (or person) could work for you.  Whether it holds the something special that will be make it home (here the metaphor works for both the lover and the house).

With my house, it’s a marriage of convenience.  I bought it two years ago.  My divorce was just final.  The house I was renting was on the market.  I had a month to either rent another house in the insane rental market that is the Bay Area or to find a house to buy that I could afford (even more difficult).

I saw my house on a Saturday evening.  Within an hour, I put an offer in.  By the next morning I was in escrow.  Did I love this house?  No.  It’s a little box on a hillside; nothing special, esthetically speaking.  But somehow I managed to get into escrow at a price I could (barely) afford.  And the house not only had bedrooms for each and every one of us, it also had an in-law unit (which made the whole endeavor suddenly doable).

We have grown to love each other, my house and I.  I helped the house through some issues; ants, termites, rats.  It has provided me with not only a (semi-leaky) roof over my head, but also acts as a hub of the small community I have built on my hillside; my neighbor-family, my tenant-friends.  It is the launching pad from where we walk into open space, to the lakes, to the mountains.  It is home.

When I went into escrow on that Sunday two years ago, I wasn’t approved for a loan.  I had forty-eight hours to get that approval.  Within twenty-four, it was clear that I wouldn’t qualify for a conventional loan - banks don’t love former stay-at-home moms turned artists.  I needed to either find someone to loan me four hundred grand (be my bank) or co-sign my loan.  Ultimately, I asked my friend, Mark.  Mark was my boyfriend in college and into my twenties.  We were elemental in forming each other and we’ve stayed friends.  He has gone on to have enormous success in his career.  I barely had the question out of my mouth before he said yes, he would co-sign my loan.  He is a good human.

With that signature, I bought my house.  I skidded into home-base once more, dusty and sweaty but safe.

My plan was always to refinance within two years to get Mark off the loan.  Once I had the work history under my belt I could get a conventional loan.  This month I started that process and all went according to plan.  Until my phone rang last night.

It was Priscilla from the title company.  She had a small question.  Since I wasn’t on the original title, only Mark was, this loan wasn’t a refinance but a sale - Mark would have to sell me my own house.  Wait, wait, wait, back up.  Of course I’m on the title.  No, she informed me, the slightest oh-honey creeping into her tone.  I’m looking at the title right now, she said.  It reads only “Mark Anderson, a married man”.

My first thought was: Impossible.  Clearly someone in this current loan process has screwed up.  It’ll be fine.  My second thought was: Fuck, maybe?  This was my first house purchase on my own.  I didn’t read every word of every document.  I tend to live life in broad strokes; the only way to do big things is to not sweat every detail.  It seemed impossible that I could have overlooked that significant bit - the fact that I wasn’t on the title.  But it had seemed impossible that I could buy the house at all.  I had barely pulled it off.  I was Liz Lavoie, an unmarried woman.  Maybe I hadn’t pulled it off at all.  Maybe I had spent the last two years living in - and fixing up - a house that wasn’t even mine.

Again, Mark is a remarkable human.  There was no way that this mistake couldn’t be rectified, one way or another.  But it shook me.  My grip on the money end of my life is so tenuous.  Every month that I survive financially is a triumph.  Somehow it felt like because I’m this single woman, this girl without a man, of course I wouldn’t be allowed to own a home along with all the marrieds.  That I could twiddle along, believing that I was playing with the big boys, but in fact I was in the sandbox alone.

Ten minutes later, Priscilla called again.  So sorry, she said, there was a mistake in our documentation, you are on the title, la, la, la, have a good weekend!

Ten minutes later the phone rang again.  One more question, Priscilla said, are you still unmarried?  Yes, I said, emphatically.  Oh, just checking, she said, because, you know, you could have remarried.  No, Priscilla, I said, I will never - ever - marry again.  Um, ok, she chirped, have a good weekend!

And so I live to fight another day. With the house I've grown to love. There are worse marriages.