Saturday, July 30, 2011

On Being Revered

Which is rather nice, I think, and something I could get used to...

In June, my husband and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. We are quite proud of that, quite proud that we've held on through thick and thin and continued to find each other worth the effort. Consider the fact that we were together five years before we married, and that makes thousands and thousands of days of putting up with each other's little habits. Thousands of days of laughing together at ridiculous jokes. Thousands and thousands of nights spent sleeping next to each other in the same bed.

In a Yahoo article a few weeks ago, the writer commented that since marriage is so hard, she reveres anyone who is married 20 years or more. "Honey," I exclaimed, "we are REVERED!" And it's been one of our jokes ever since.

Imagine how lovely it was, then, to go out with friends last Friday night. Unusually for us we were child-free, having packed the two lovely girls off to their grandparents for a sleepover and intergenerational bonding time. When our friends wanted to hit a club after dinner, we were in.

Over the din of the music, the six of us sat close together on wobbly stools and worn leather loveseats and tried to talk. P scored us rounds of free drinks and the conversation ebbed and flowed. My friends drifted off to dance, following the thumping trance beat trail down to the courtyard while my friend's new boyfriend shared his boyhood memories with me. Because both he and I love F, we were both making an effort to bond, recognizing our respective importance in her life. It was a poignant evening, all of us getting along with each other so well. F, C and I watched each other as only best friends can, paying attention to each other's interactions, knowing each other's secrets and hopes. Feeling so happy to see our friends looking happy and being cuddly and mushy with truly nice men.

I was delighted to kick back and observe, noting details that I tried to press into my writer's mind for use in later fiction. The wood paneling, the locked ice machine, the exposed soundproofing and the way a cockroach crawled slowly across the wall behind K's head -- the tang of my Cosmopolitian and the golden glow of the tumblers of whiskey they held in their hands -- the lonely hunger on the faces of the twenty-somethings in line for the bathroom -- I soaked it all up.

And through it all, there was S. Whenever I caught his eye, we smiled. He talked at one end of the group, me at the other, but the bond between us was strong. Later, I switched seats, coming to the barstool next to him where I could hold his hand and lay my head on his shoulder, where we made each other laugh with our wry observations.

Later, long after we were ready to have left, my friend F grabbed my hand and pulled me out to dance. The music pounded in the brick courtyard, and I tipped my head back to look up and up from the odd triangle of space we were in, tucked in between ancient three story buildings. At the top, a geometry of night sky showed a few pale stars. I gave myself to the dancing and the lights bouncing around over the crowd. I gave myself to being with my friends and just being in the moment. The blue and green laser display shot colors across the walls, now dots, now lines, and I found myself thinking of neural bursts and the way memories travel across our minds.

I had a friend once who lived in this town, right up the street from this club. I wondered if he had ever come here and felt a pang of regret for him that he probably hadn't. Oh, he would have loved this, I thought. This crush of bodies, the movement beneath the sky, a drift of cigarette smoke hanging over the dancing crowd and the insistent, inescapable beat. Wherever he is, I hope he is able to enjoy something similar.

And then S and the guys were there, moving through the crowd to find us. We fell into easy motion, dance rhythms that go back decades for S and me, back to when we first started dancing as uneasy teenagers. His smiling face is the same one I've looked into for most of the dances in my life, and I had a surreal sense of time falling away, of being back to that ageless sensation of adolescence.

That's when people started to notice us. First, it was looks and smiles. Then they nodded at us. As we kept dancing, we started to garner compliments. "You two look beautiful together." "You look so happy." Apparently, my dress was gorgeous, according to several women who passed by.

By closing time, S and I were hanging in the bar, waiting for our people to regroup. F staggered in, a bit too filled with whisky and joy, in search of water. She came over to me and threw her arms around me. "I have to tell you. You are so beautiful," she said warmly, in her soft drunken French accent.

"Thank you," I replied, steadying her a bit.

"No, really, you are so beautiful. I love you, " she started to cry. "It is just so good to see you looking so happy. You and S look so happy together. You give me hope."

She's had a bit of a rough time with relationships. I rubbed her back gently. "I love you too."

"It's not because I'm drunk," she continued. "Well, I AM drunk, but it's still true."

"I know, F, I know." This friend knows all my problems and hardships. She's been privy to the challenges of my life. And she was telling me that she saw me really, truly happy. Because I was.

My marriage is bringing hope and comfort to my best friends. As I said, it's good to be revered. And I feel we have earned it.



*******
On a side note, the drunken French woman and her equally drunken boyfriend did not operate a motor vehicle. We saw them safely transported home, but not before there were even more proclamations of love and joy all around. It's pretty fun to be the sober ones.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sigh of Relief

Whew. At last I finished my work for July. Just under the wire.

Today has been an arduous, uphill slog. I am distracted and anxious, have almost no focus. Plus I had to write about a residential treatment facility for troubled children. Residential treatment is the last thing I have patience for or want to think about right now.

I am so glad to have this new writing collaboration, but she has really been funneling a lot of work to me. I still need to work for my own clients as well.

Still, now, I have earned some reward time. I'm ready to get away from all this stress.

Arrggh!

I HAVE to WRITE!!! I'm on a deadline!!

Up and At 'Em

I'm awake early this morning. That's a bad thing only because I did not go to sleep early last night - I was busy working til almost midnight. And I love to get enough sleep! But it's a good thing because I have more work to do and I feel like that energy has pulled me up from bed.

It's rather lovely in the morning. Everything is quiet and soft around the edges. The sky is grey, turning to pink, and the birds are chirping quietly. Even my two dogs are calm. I watch them through the front window where they lie peacefully on our driveway, surveying their terrain. They are sweethearts who greet me happily when I open the front door to let them in.

I thrilled our neighbor yesterday. I flagged him down as he drove along the street. "I think it's time to fix that fence," I said. "We'll scrape the money up. Let's get some bids and get it done before the winds start." A huge grin spread across his face. Okay, Bob, we get the point; you're tired of having our dogs out all the time. Okay.

Yesterday was a good day. I got so much done. It's been an intense week. There have been social obligations, and I've had a full docket of work projects, and then there have been extra stressors. Considering everything, we've done very nicely at staying calm and taking one thing at a time.

Monday, our daughter J went to Sea World with a friend. I love the friend and trust her mom, but that was the farthest away from us that J has ever been, and I don't think either one of us breathed easy until she was back in our home, with us hugging her.

Tuesday was devoted entirely to birthday party. My parties are big events and because B's birthday is in summer, I feel like she gets shorted on the festivities sometimes. But this one was a blowout, up to even her rather exact standards.

Wednesday was me working and then gymnastics class for the girls, and always, of course, errands.

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday, we finally sat down together and got the latest round of bills paid. Check. I caught up laundry. Check. We tidied the house. Check. We went for lunch and for a hike in the lovely weather. Check. I planned my yoga class. Check. I taught yoga. Check. AND I finished five more proposals. CHECK! Now I only have two more to get through this morning, and I earn a bit of breathing space.

Yoga class was as super as always. Students seem to enjoy my style. I think when they realize that I'm the sub they have low expectations. But I've got a very good, warm teaching energy. As S said, I've got the patter. I never thought of it that way before, but I do. I have a soothing stream of narration that I use during the poses, even some jokes I throw in. Before they know it, they are warm and then they are stretching out tense areas and then they are working hard and then they are... ah... relaxing. Subbing for this teacher is particularly easy because my style is so much more comforting than hers that students are markedly enjoying themselves. About 3/4 of the way through class last night, they started to comment on that, almost as if I wasn't there, about how fun the class was and how unusually good but relaxed they felt.

I've had two different magician friends over for dinner within the last week. Both of them were kind enough to do card tricks and discuss their approach to magic a bit. I realized yesterday that there are magic tricks to yoga as well. It's such an energetic form that it lends itself to a bit of manipulation.

If I get people working their spines, they'll feel good. If I get people breathing more openly, they'll feel good. If I put them through a vigorous sequence, they'll feel good. If I cue them to be still and tune in, they'll feel good. And if I put them flat on the floor, still and with music pouring over them, they will leave class stunned by how much they enjoyed it.

I also have my tricks. Every person has poses they excel at and poses that challenge them. Like I don't love triangle or the warriors right now, and I can't even come close to doing cow-faced pose. But I have natural hamstring flexibility. So if I want to impress, I just do a hamstring opening sequence and...ta-da... I'm a pro! Not that different from sleight of hand?

The real truth though is that people don't care about my body, they care about their own bodies. So when my instruction guides them into a pose, they get to experience that. When my correction helps them to achieve a different result, they enjoy that fine-tuning. And all of that is simply good classroom management and a solid knowledge of my curriculum. Ta da!

Okay, two more proposals right now, and we get to spend the rest of today and maybe tomorrow having fabulous fun in Pasadena or Los Angeles. I've promised myself all week. And then Sunday, I teach again. A double feature even. Oh, yeah, and my fabulous friends are having another party. That ought to be awesome.

And next week...finally...I get back to the story I started in June, the story I started for my friend A, just because she and I were hanging out together when I banged the first few paragraphs out and she told me what she wanted to read about. And then... submissions again. Yeah, looking forward to that to.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Prayer

Literature...

I mentioned this poem by Elizabeth Bishop in my June 27 post - which I guess makes it a month ago. It was one of my favorites in Garrison Keillor's anthology. I like it because I think it captures some of the caring that goes into a good friendship, and the sharing of experiences together that I have found with my lovely girlfriends. (One of whom confessed, in tears, that she loved me last weekend. But that's a different story!)

Letter to NY
For Louise Crane

In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so teribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.

--Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.

Overkill

My husband is listening to a Men at Work song. I remember we saw an episode of Scrubs once that featured this song throughout the entire show. The singer Colin Hay literally just followed the main character around, singing. Pretty funny.

Tonight, the song makes me think of my friend B. Before the party broke up last night, we pulled out the Tarot cards. Her husband reads Tarot and does magic as well. I'm a primarily intuitive reader, consciously not deeply educated about card meanings, so I was curious to know if he would interpret the cards similarly to me. I did a reading for my friend C and then for D's wife B. It was fun - almost a collaborative effort, with us confering together and discussing what we each saw. B wanted the reading badly, and it was clear from the cards that she has some unconscious stuff going on that she was trying to hold back. She said she'd had a lot of trouble sleeping lately.

"I can't get to sleep/ I think about the implications/ Of diving in too deep/ And possibly the complications/ Especially at night/I worry over situations/I know I will be alright/Perhaps it's just imagination"

Calmer

Okay, I wrote out some of my feelings. I took a few deep breaths. I walked in the sun.

Things can be okay. Please, can things just be a bit calm and balanced?

I don't want to make any extreme decisions. I don't want to slam doors shut OR open them wide.

I don't want to give up my blog, or writing, or having this means of expression. I want to look forward to the next few weeks, to focusing again on work, to having ME time in a calm and contented way.

I get to be a yoga teacher this month. It's a realization that is just now creeping up on me as my other projects get finished up. Several teachers are taking vacation, and I am filling in for them. I'll be teaching three times a week throughout August.

I don't feel like a yoga teacher. I feel overweight and out of shape, a bit removed from myself. When my favorite studio went out of business, its absence was a wound that turned me away from a regular practice. It almost hurt too much to do yoga without my guru. But it hurts not to do it also. So I guess the Universe is nudging me back into it. And I've noticed that no matter how distant I feel, I am quite a good teacher. Students like my classes and my instructional style. I know my stuff well enough to put a good class together. Ahh, lesson planning. That I can do.


Ugh. I'm in one of those weird mixed up moods this morning. The anxiety is spinning around inside like Dorothy's tornado; the black storm clouds of Depression are hovering at the edges of my mind as well; a low pressure system is poised to sweep over my entire being.

It's too bad really, becasue I have quite a lot of work to do in the next few days. I managed to beat the deadline on a proposal yesterday, much to the amazement of my friends, and I have SEVEN more that I need to finish and submit between now and Friday. So there is no choice. No matter what my mood, I will need to pull my focus together and produce.

My workload is one reason my blogging has taken a back seat lately. Also I have simply been busy. Summer is an occupied time for our family and between family activities and social events if I do find myself with some computer time, I tend to spend it working.

A big makeover project in my daughter's bedroom took every waking hour for seven days. That was more time than I budgeted for, but it came out lovely, and she is happy. And I am glad to finally have things back in the rooms where they belong.

Yesterday was my younger daughter's BIG birthday party. For the last three days, my time has been all about her. We shopped and planned and made games. We cleaned and decorated. Yesterday we spent all day preparing and then running her party. Really, it was TWO parties. There was one group of kids in the backyard, playing carnival games and eating nachos and cotton candy. Then there were some of my best friends, the parents of those kids, in my dining room. They quite contentedly enjoyed wine and cheese and conversation. The parties would blend together and then split apart again in an easy flow. I'm known in our circle for my fabulous social events, so people were quite happy to stay and stay. The last guests didn't leave until almost eleven pm, and I was exhausted when I fell into bed after midnight.

Which made it hard this morning to wake up to my husband coming back into the bedroom - he ALWAYS wakes up before me and drinks coffee!- and realizing that he was in a bad mood. Turns out that the constant stream of phone calls are just about more than he can stand. He simply isn't ready to deal with conversation or friendship or any kind of contact. And the more he feels pushed, the more he feels upset. Yesterday, he was reminding me that he will not tolerate any more betrayal from me. He is ready to leave if that happens. Fair enough. I appreciate his fears and his position. For my part, I am completely uninterested in betrayal. I am happy here in my life. I am quite happy with him. I'm not looking for any drama, upheaval, or change.

So, the third reason I haven't blogged lately -- I've simply been unsure what to write about. The re-appearance in our lives of D makes me want to be very careful and take things very slowly. My response under stressful situations is to be friendly and kind. As I told my husband this morning, that is the best tool in my toolbox. It is the one that has worked consistently for me in a variety of difficult situations.

But how about distant compassion? A little space, for God's sake!

I appreciate the attempts at reconciliation. I'm even willing to consider that they may be sincere, and not just carefully crafted manipulations intended to entrap me in a compromising situation that can only bring upheaval to my life. But I am simply not ready to talk. My husband is absolutely not ready to talk -- and may never be. And the escalating contacts are offputting and frightening. I need more space to sort through my own feelings and be true to my own best interests. I need time and understanding of my commitment to my husband and to consideration of his feelings first. And I can give myself all of those things; I don't have to ask them from anyone else. This is something I've learned over these last years.

I'm not even sure I want to reconcile. I'm not sure that this friendship can ever bring enough positives into our lives to outweigh its inherent negatives. My husband, of course, would be happy enough to move forward with no contact again, ever. He feels threatened and harrassed and will not tolerate that at all. I'm slower to cut all ties. I've always been a believer in amiability. But it's not amiable to call someone who has specifically asked not to be called. And it's not friendly to put your own needs ahead of your friends'.


This probably isn't my most coherent post ever. But it's mine. I gave up blogging here because I felt uncomfortable and over-exposed. I'm coming back to it because I refuse to give up my voice no matter what the circumstances.

Look, the last few years were hard. They hurt everybody. I made some poor choices and things were difficult; I started making good choices and things got great. I don't want to put myself back into the position of making poor choices. I'm not willing to do that to me, to my family, to my husband, to all my friends who count on me. I'm not willing to do it to my friend. Because that is what loyalty, compassion, and caring look like -- not doing things rashly that may hurt yourself or someone else.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Considering Broken Teacups




On July Fifth, as I was writing about teacups that do not break, my friend Phil over at Green Ink was describing her favorite, and once broken, mug:

"Things that are broken can sometimes be put back together, and they are all the more beautiful because of the cracks, the life marks. That's where the stories are.

You can always pick up the pieces and start again."

I could not agree more!!








Working Thursday

Here's what's on my mind today:

First - Re-establishing contact with former friend seems to be on indefinite hold. My husband is just not that interested; he figures things are fine as they are. And I do see his point there.

It's mostly not a reflection on our friend either. My husband, in general, is uninterested in making friends. Most of his friends are mine, who he really truly likes and enjoys spending time around. But if it's up to him to keep a bond going, he's unlikely to make the effort. Particularly if there have been any bad feelings. He and his brother crossed swords ten years ago, and haven't spoken since. (Although I've begun a re-unification campaign that involves sending special occasion cards and gifts and we are experiencing slow detente between our families.) He's also had a marked falling off with his best friend for years. Even with his parents I practically have to force him to pick up the phone and call or strong arm us into visiting. I do it for the sake of our children and because it's the right thing to do.

But, definitely, I am the one who is into having a rich, social network, and my husband is quite content to have me and my friends by extension.

Also, I haven't pursued any contact. In the past, I had a habit of obsessively phoning and seeing this friend. I want to show myself and my husband and my friends that I am not going to lose my sense of perspective like that again. So, for my own health, I am holding off.

And, our friend hasn't been back in touch either. I'd have to suspect he's reasoning along similar lines, and, again, with valid reasons. So, there you go. Three people, no one making contact = a pretty non-happening situation. I can only hope that we are very slowly laying down a solid base for amiability in the long run. In the meantime, I hope everything is okay and bearable, maybe even improving?

Second- Just got our cell phone bill. It is DOUBLE what it usually is and I will have to find out why. I suspect it's because my husband discovered the joy of texting with work colleagues. I kept telling him to increase his plan. Looks like it may have increased for us - in the bad way! Or maybe they thought we were in Mexico when we were in San Diego. Either way, I'll have to follow it up...

Third- We lost our credit card. Searched everywhere and reported it lost. Then we found it under the seat of our car. I knew it too! I knew all along it wasn't really lost, just misplaced. So now I have to call and see if they can reinstate this one, or if we have to get a replacement. Eek. It's awkward not having our main card to pay for purchases. I'm trying to just use cash, but that gets tricky sometimes.

Fourth (and most pressing) - I have three, THREE, proposals that are all due before I sleep tonight!! That's why I'm writing so much here. Warming up, as it were. Glad, so glad, for the work, but feeling so unmotivated to spend the entire day writing while my family swirls around me. At least the only other thing I have to do is clean house a bit and make phone calls (as detailed above). And write.

I've had a story in my mind for more than three weeks, and if I don't make "fun" writing time soon and get it into print, I'm going to lose it. Maybe this weekend I can grab a few hours...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy Fourth... uh... Fifth of July!!

It's been a busy few days.

We're on vacation in San Diego and having an amazing time. I got a whole passel of tight-deadline work assigned to me right before I left, so I've been juggling writing into my mornings and nights and feeling very smug about having a job that moves with me wherever I go.

My good friend and her family joined us here, and spending this week with her has been fabulous. Like me, she is a teacher and a busy mom, and having that second mom around as back-up made everything smooth as chocolate over the last few days.

Two of us to pack things up. Two of us to cast around for left behind shoes, hair bands, ipods, water bottles and all the other thousand things that daughters travel with.

Also two of us to sit by the pool last night, chatting and giggling. We watched the sunset and sipped our wine marveling that we could be so calm and so ready to see the fireworks. Everything and everyone was in place, hours ahead of time. It didn't have the usual frantic feel of a Fourth of July, as you jostle to get everyone into position and situated in the darkening night.

Just before dusk, while the sun was staining the clouds with gold, a summer rain fell. Completely refreshing and magical in its unexpectedness. Filled me with hope and joy that I sent radiating out to you as well.

Over the San Diego Bay, we saw at least eight simultaneous firework displays. Four of them were synchronized, separated by miles along the coast. The one closest to us had an echo of lights right behind it. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, green sparkles and golden fizz and bright, white, cold lights like diamonds in the sky hanging over the same buildings where I once worried about broken teacups.

Some teacups are never meant to break, and light might be fizzing up with the next rocket's burst.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Twist



A former friend got back in touch with my husband and me this week. It was out of the blue and completely unexpected. Perhaps he wanted to pick back up on old times. Perhaps move into a good future. But I find that our schedule can’t match his; my husband and I need some time to process our feelings. There is no rush to resume anything, especially anything that brings conflict.

We were friends through some extremely difficult periods in all our lives. Just hearing from him brought back some of those memories. It also cemented our certainty that we never want to go through that kind of turmoil again - ever.

Although we parted on affable terms, I have mixed emotions about our friendship. I’m all for being amiable. However, I’ve been enjoying my life just fine by wishing him well at a distance and not having to deal with any issues. My life is filled with good, healthy friendships – almost more than I have time for – and yet there is infinite room for true friends. Friends that bring kindness, compassion, understanding, sharing and new points of view to my days. (And maybe a good bottle of wine!) This friendship could be rich in all of those; he has so much to offer. On the other hand, I have no time to give to disruptive or negative influences. I simply have too much good stuff going on for that.

Part of my mixed feelings arise from finding that my friend is sad. I had hoped that things were going well for him these last few years. That they haven’t been is disheartening. When he asked me if I have been happy, I answered yes. He didn’t quite believe me; I realized that because he has been so unhappy it’s hard for him. But I have been very happy.

I am happy.

In fact, my friends have been coming to me lately for tips on contentment. They say that I seem so balanced and at peace. And why wouldn’t I be? I truly have everything I have ever wanted. A secure home, a loving marriage, beautiful, wondrous children, daily friendships, and a budding writing career. Patching things up with this friend could be the icing on the cake.

The pink glittering icing.

Today, my family spent the day at the mall. We had an amazing lunch at Nordstrom CafĂ©. My daughters and I go there periodically, for a girls’ day out treat. But today was even better, because my husband is on vacation and he was able to join us. We laughed our way through salads and sandwiches amid the tinkling glassware. The room is lush with rich wood tables and gilt candelabras. Light pours from the golden dome in the center of the ceiling.

For dessert, I tried the Pink Champagne Cake. A tower of frosted confection with cake so light and ethereal, it practically captured bubbles within it. The burst of sugar and wine across my tongue brought tears of joy to my eyes at the first taste. And the beauty of it! White layers mounded with champagne icing, covered over with swirls of fairy pink sparkle.

My laughing family, a day out together, work waiting at home, and the most delicious, glamorous cake I’ve ever eaten. Anyone who can understand the joy I feel at this is welcome to be our friend
.