Let It Go

October 19th, 2014

I am not talking about the song from Frozen, I’m talking about what I said to Flower the other day on the phone when I said that while the world was falling down all around me, I held on with a death grip to every pillar, person and place I knew. And what I should have been doing is letting it go.

This is such a hard concept for all of us who were taught to build rather than destroy.

And now I’m thinking of another myth I have told myself, the one where I need to be in a partnership or married or in a relationship. I worried that I would be like my mother or the countless other women who after 50 never married again.

But having a temporary roommate has helped me see the light – I was wrong – they were right. Living alone, being single, has more benefits than living with a partner.

Here are my reasons:

1) I have an active career that requires me to juggle many different schedules. Not having a partner means that if I have to devote a day to any one of these projects, it’s totally fine.

2) I love to go to sleep early and wake up early. I don’t have to dicker around with a partner who is a night owl whose comings and goings after I’ve turned off the light keep me from going into my deep REM sleep.

3) I’m clean and tidy and I like it that way. Most people are not clean or tidy or they are clean and tidy in different ways and it’s aggravating.

4) I have an active social life that never needs to be compromised by someone else’s agenda.

5) I spend the holidays with MY FAMILY or MY FRIENDS and don’t have to endure another’s holiday drama or bad food or tired traditions.

6) I have space and time to myself without having to worry about it being invaded.

7) I can travel to places I want to go and not have to compromise my dream journeys.

I really could go on, but are you starting to get my drift? This is new to me – I’ve been married three times, lived with lovers, and only now do I understand that living alone is the greatest gift in the world – to MYSELF.

Well, it turns out I’m a cliché once again, because Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist, spent seven years conducting interviews that reveal a startling change that he documents in his book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.

“People who live alone,” writes Klinenberg in Going Solo, are now “more common than the nuclear family, the multigenerational family, and the roommate or group home.” As a society, however, we seem to be in denial of this new reality: While some ignore it, others deplore it, branding it a symptom of social fragmentation or individual narcissism.

I get misty

October 19th, 2014

I traveled to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to do something I’ve been doing for almost two decades – go to a reporter’s conference. Some parts of it are old and tired (sitting in a hotel conference room with no view to the outside, eating bad food, not getting enough sleep, not even really getting to know the place you are visiting), some parts of it are familiar and new (meeting new people, deepening older relationships, and learning some new facets of my work).

It did remind me of the ever spiraling rungs of life that I’ve been writing about for – hey – nearly a decade. I took advantage of the hour and a half break not to walk through the beautiful campus but to lie on my bed instead and relax. There was a cold circling around the group, and I felt paranoid about getting it, so I opted for rest rather than to keep pushing on.

While I was staring at the ceiling it occurred to me that I’ve been on this continuous reinvention tour of myself and I don’t give myself time to appreciate it. A long-time colleague had said, “Rachel, every time I see you, you are living a new iteration of you.” I paused, because I always wonder if letting a little moss grow on me, might be a good thing. [read: no pun for the street I lived on called Moss Street.]

As a matter of fact, I was telling a friend about feng shui the other day and how you needed to have one good solid wall and your back to it and position yourself furthest away from the entrance. A friend was standing with me who knew me over the last decade; when I said, “The LaLa did not have one solid wall in it – it was all windows and doorways,” this friend turned and said, “That is a metaphor for that house – and why you had no power in it.”

While I was in Bethlehem, I learned about predictive analysis, the Bayes’ theorem, and that Nordstrom’s Employee Handbook has only three words in it – “Use Good Judgment” – all interesting and applicable. I thought about this on the plane ride home. At the end of the conference, a long-time colleague came up to me and said she has always admired me and thinks I’m more beautiful now than ever. She said this as she and I both welled up – “I don’t know why I’m getting all misty,” she said and I said I don’t know why I am either.

But I do know why because I’m a sentimental fool myself. She was looking at me and knowing just how profound my metamorphosis has been, and she was looking from eyes that had also journeyed thousand upon thousands of miles as well. We’ve been at any given time – different. And here we were standing together in a hermetically-sealed conference room in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania having journeyed separated and together through any one of those miles. Perhaps it does make you misty to think of it all – the whole enchilada – the fact that you can embody so much life experience inside one human being.

What’s interesting to me about people who are in my line of work is how eccentric they are – they all have very large outside lives from their workaday ones. They come from so many backgrounds, so many different places, and are all compelled into this work by the same trigger – intellectual curiosity.

At the end of the day, I came home, I unpacked, and I sat with all of this only to return to this present moment of awareness – all of it could vanish in a moment.

Running towards not from

October 13th, 2014

My daily meditation is sometimes eclipsed by daily life. And so it is. Namaste.

I’m getting on a plane this week and I don’t even know where I’m going, if that indicates the pulse of my life at this moment. I’m caught in a spate of abundance – investigative work that is overflowing, my Transracial Parenting work that is on the ascend, motherhood that is without end. I wrote my friend and said I’d like to be somewhere between ensuring Tin does not chew with his mouth open and being able to laugh at his silliness despite it interfering with my agenda. I’m nowhere near where I need to be on motherhood. I have no earthly idea if I will ever get to the point of just being in the moment, enjoying his spirit for who he is, without the overarching need I feel to educate, discipline and guide him.

Stella is incontinent. How did we get here? A puppy never made any sense, but then she came along and she fit so perfectly into my heart. There she was and there it was and there was no turning back. And now I wipe up the puddles of pee everywhere in this house and try to figure out how we got here, and I marvel at how opening your heart is messy and ridiculous and makes no LOGICAL sense whatsoever.

I have no time is my mantra. No time for what? For everything. I have no time for “everything” to be included in my life. I need to prioritize but what gets thrown out and what gets to stay in? These are questions I don’t have time to answer as I juggle and hustle my way through my fifties. A mother told me the other night as we were at a Shakshuka dinner demonstration at the synagogue, “How am I? I’m 43 with a two year old and a two and a half month old.” I cocked my eye at her, “I’m 55 with a five year old and an incontinent 8 month old puppy.” “You win,” she said effortlessly. She knows a WINNER when she sees one.

The Sunday New York Times has not been cracked. The meditation reminders have been deleted. The trip is this week and I don’t know where I’m headed but it’s business or so I think. Tin got bathed last night despite a full day of pancakes in the rabbi’s sukkah, Sunday school, naked sandpile diving with his friend, and Shakshuka dinner. He got a bath! I marvel at that because at 8PM, way passed his bedtime, I was running a warm bubble bath and he said, “I don’t want a bath.” And I said, “God, I do!” A warm, bubble bath run for me by someone who loves me and despite being dog-tired is thinking of my needs, not theirs. This my dears, must be a fantasy.

I want a life that I’m not running away from, only running towards. I think sometimes I have cultivated just that very thing, and poof, it can get lopsided when I’m over scheduled, under loved, and dog tired.

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Where do we go from here?

October 12th, 2014

Typical of this time of year in New Orleans, it is hot hot Africa hot, and then boom, a glorious week of beauty and people saying things like, “I’m starting to work out at the outdoor place in City Park,” and you wonder, why wasn’t I doing that before when it is so glorious out here. And then you turn a week and boom, it’s back to hot hot Africa hot and all those plans are dashed against the humid pavement.

Yes, it’s back to hot sticky sweet summer around here and we have put up the boots and the light jackets and all of us have given a collected sigh.

Meanwhile, no matter that the weather is not seasonal, the season has begun, which means my dance card gets full early and often and for long stretches of time. This week has been Tin’s school gala, Meshell Ndegeocello at the CAC then too much fun afterwards hanging out with some beautiful spirits till almost 2AM, and then last night was singing song’s in my rabbi’s sukkah after Gay Day at Da Zoo and brunch. Pancakes in the sukkah this morning and then shakshuka in the synagogue this evening. My cup runneth over.

I keep trying to think of how to simplify my life but I find it very challenging. Zumba, Aikido, yoga, walks, and now I’m adding Tai Chi/Qigong to my repertoire. My meditation at the Zen center is on pause with Tin’s Sunday school taking that slot.

My philosophy leans to don’t say no to anything and that usually means my cup runneth way over, as a matter of fact it foams over, sort of like yesterday when Tin pulled out all his red Legos and said it was lava spilling out of the broken ship. There you have it.

Fear, Release. Fear, Release. Fear, Release.

October 8th, 2014

I was listening to a doctor here in the U.S. this morning who volunteers in Liberia every year and has now lost three colleagues there to ebola. She said that the stress of having to suit up each time you go into the situation, and then do it again and do it again maybe three to four times a day is like fear, release – fear, release – fear, release. And yet, she is going soon to help care for the doctors there who are exposed to the virus.

You wonder how people do the extraordinary things they do in life. It truly is amazing to behold. On one hand, you have these idiots trying to hoard money, killing and raping, and turn a blind eye to starving children and yet, on the other side, you have human nature at its most giving and forgiving.

I went this morning to have my ultra sound on my thyroid, to find out about the growth my endocrinologist felt at my last visit. I didn’t realize I was worrying about it because actually the pain in my hip had taken over my daily mental angst, but then last night, I could not sleep to save my life. So I got up and took an Atavan and soon I was in dreamless land, snoring away.

When I got the exam, the first woman said it would take 45 minutes and after lubing my neck and running the scan for about 20 minutes and making some “hmmm” noises, she called in her boss, who came in and did the same “hmmm”, and then they called in a doctor. They then muttered a little to themselves, saying things like, “classic Hashi” and in unison, “hmmm.”

By this point, perhaps I was sweating a little bit, but I continued to focus on my breathing – I was in the midst of meditation having not had time to do it before leaving my house. The doctor at last said, “Boring!” and then began to show the first woman my “beautiful” lymph nodes, directly off course from the organ we were there to examine. The second woman showed me an image of my thyroid that no longer looks like a butterfly but instead like a moth eaten piece of paper. “Classic Hashi” she repeated. The Hashimoto’s disease has attacked my thyroid and was attempting to chew it up and spit it out before it was saved by synthetic thyroid, which has stanched the disease.

My metamorphosis is now in perpetual stasis.

The three wise women dismissed me, saying there are no nodules or growths and what my doctor was feeling was my chopped meat of a thyroid with holes that will be filled in with scar tissue over time. Knowing this still makes me swallow harder, even though the verdict is a good one – all clear. I asked the first woman if she could scan my hip and they all thought I was kidding. I wasn’t.

I drove home, a sudden gush of endorphins flooding my system – fear, release.

So today, I’m not dying from thyroid cancer, my hip after four chiro visits and one deep tissue massage is actually the best it has been in weeks. Yes, I did get a call from the guy’s car I backed into in Sake’s parking lot (I left my business card on his windshield), and Stella does have another UTI – I was capturing her urine this morning during the lunar eclipse (in a side conversation with one of the woman examining me this morning, I learned her cat has a chronic UTI that was brought on by stress for which she now has to go through the house spraying cat pheromones and lighting candles to make the cat’s life stress free). Maybe Stella got stressed in the kennel – poor thing was only 6.5 months old when I flew off and left her to the wolves (according to her) and what she needs now is to just relax.

Fear, release.

Tomorrow is another day.

And now back to our morning walks – yippee!

The day Tchoupitoulas got out.

October 5th, 2014

I got up early this morning when it was barely light outside and walked Stella to the neutral ground. I’m still hobbling from having dislodged my hip from its socket but the fact that I could make it two blocks to the neutral ground was good news. As we were walking, a man went up on a porch and was entering the old Victorian house when a little white dog darted off the porch, into the grass and down the sidewalk, and before the man could whip around, a woman came barreling out in a bathrobe and started yelling at the top of her lungs:

“TCHOUPITOULAS! TCHOUPITOULAS! TCHOUPITOULAS! Get your ass back here right. Fucking hell, on my one day off, and I hate your ass! COME HERE! TCHOUPITOULAS! Come here right now. Get your ASS BACK into this HOUSE. I SWEAR TO GOD. I HATE YOU. DAMMIT. ON MY DAY OFF. GOD DAMN YOU, TCHOUPITOULAS. ON MY FUCKING DAY OFF!”

What was hilarious was not that she had named her dog after a major street here in New Orleans (pronounced chop ah too laz) but rather that the little white dog, who had been behind a shrub, came out and started running behind the woman as she stormed the sidewalk while yelling her lungs out.

It made my yelling DAMMIT STELLA! every time Stella tugged on her leash seem rather quaint. I haven’t come out to the neutral ground in the last two weeks, since I dislodged my hip, because I usually end of fussing at Stella the whole way and grimacing with each footstep. One wrong step and a radioactive current shoots up to my earlobes.

Alas, Stella has forgotten how to heel, while I have been trying to heal.

Permission to Begin Again

October 4th, 2014

I went to open the ark after Kol Nidre and I felt as if – even though everything about being in the synagogue, being by the ark, listening to the Hebrew prayers, and waiting for the rabbi to speak was as familiar as rain – I have changed even while all these familiar details have remained unchanged.

We are blessed with this holiday, the Jewish New Year, the day of Atonement, an opportunity to fast and to remove yourself from the familiar so that you might begin again.

As I poured over past journals and writings of mine all the way back as far as 1998 on other Yom Kippurs – I realized that I have been doing the work before the work, the work of learning how to begin again, how to let go, how to leave out, how to fill in the empty canvas one more time. I’m a DIY expert on Beginning Again. For this I am grateful – happy new year.

One of my favorite poets reading one of my favorite poems of hers – Da Capo:

Da Capo

By Jane Hirshfield

Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.

Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.

Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.

Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.

You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

From The Lives of the Heart

Free Puppies!

October 2nd, 2014

One FREE rescue puppy.

Free you say, yes, she’s free!

$2,687.99 later – she’s had Demodex and a reaction to the meds for that so had to have alternate treatment, two UTI’s, and obedience training, and she isn’t even a year old yet.

This is what you do for love. I love this little rascal but sheesh, let’s just hope the first year was not a preview of annual costs to raise a dog!

Stella'sLitterMates

One diagnosis to go

October 1st, 2014

I went to see Sylvi Beaumont, Chiropractor, today the wonder woman of healing on Oak Street. She said my hip got dislodged from its socket, but my muscles have tightened and hardened so much around there that it can’t get back in. My homework is to walk on tip toes with my arms up around the house trying to rock my hip back in its cradle. Everyone and their mother recommended this chiropractor and I know why – she’s like Edna from The Incredibles, small but dynamite. The strained muscle, sore piriformis, was none of the above, thank you very little self-diagnosis. It is my hip out of its socket. Lord Today! No wonder this has gotten worse not better. I’m back in tomorrow for another work over to force my hip back in. Meanwhile, tippy toes, people.

My other diagnosis is next week when I go in for the ultrasound to find out about the growth on my thyroid.

I scheduled meditation back into my life – there has been a void since it left that has been filled by an ever increasing concentric circle of tightness – everywhere – the old gripping to things that no longer serve me manifested in a hip trying desperately to hold onto its old familiar habit of being – its goal is spot on, its method is faulty – in gripping it’s not letting things fall into place naturally.

Note to self.

That open letter to the ex wife

September 29th, 2014

So I read that open letter to the ex wife and I have to say it sounds smug to me. He’s all hearts and flowers as he does his sit ups to meet someone new on Grindr and he’s very apologetic that he was such a free spirit. Puhlease. As someone else responded, “I’d like to see the open letter to the ex-kids.”

The truth is that other people will come into each of their lives and make that close, familial loving connection difficult to sustain because it strains the new relationship. It is what it is.

Meanwhile, the love does not go away, it is encapsulated in a “past love” bubble lodged deep in Planet Heart.

Where do you start?
How do you separate the present from the past?
How do you deal with all the things
you thought would last that didn’t last;
with bits of memories scattered here and there?
I look around and don’t know where to start.

Which books are yours?
Which tapes and dreams belong to you
and which are mine?
Our lives are tangled like the branches of a vine that intertwine.
So many habits that we’ll have to break
and yesterdays we’ll have to take apart.

One day there will be a song
or something in the air again,
to catch me by surprise
and you’ll be there again:
a moment in what might have been…

Where do you start?
Do you allow yourself a little time to cry?
Or do you close your eyes and kiss it all goodbye?
I guess you try.

And though I don’t know where
and don’t know when,
I’ll find myself in love again.
I promise there will always be
a little place, no one will see,
a tiny part, deep in my heart,
that stays in love with you.