No Destination Required…

The summer flew by melting everything in its path and scorching the green ground beneath us. While September dawned, the acrid heat of summer lingered and fall snuck surreptitiously in the back door. The air is autumn crisp and it crackles with seasonal suspense. The winter is coming but first a display of the magnificence blazing colored leaves, dotting the horizon, a feast for the senses and artists alike. There are roads to be explored and adventures to be had around each corner. 

And so this summer began with my oldest son getting his driving permit. We practiced daily and for any reason, “out of bread? need air in the tires?”. It was disconcerting to find myself getting in to the passenger seat, watching my son navigate the roads with ease, and confidence, (it’s the confidence that scares me), and having no control. My youngest, urgently sensing the unforeseen benefits of his own looming freedom, suddenly became more interested in the mechanics and responsibilities of driving.

The sands of time had fallen one granule at a time and I found myself in the role of the wise (I’m going to leave the word “old” out for obvious reasons) sage. I sat transfixed, listening to my sons talk, unprompted, about their school, friends, hopes and dreams. If we had we been sitting at home, in our usual routines, I might have gotten a few grunts between bites of food, perhaps a head nod or two. But here in this magic car, in our own cocoon, seeking out unknown routes and looking for adventure, and most of all new places to eat, we were having conversations. We rode in comfortable silence, or debated philosophy, politics, religion, and relaxed while the countryside and it’s farm stands flew by. 

In these quiet moments of concentration, watching my sons driving, becoming young men, I sat back in silent gratitude and soaked in every moment. I prayed I would always remember this hot, hazy summer of their budding independence and hopeful dreams. The future, once far away, and out of reach seemed impossibly close, as if it was just around the next corner. I’ll cherish the memories of the smell of the freshly mowed grass as we drove by. Or the sticky ice cream cones that melted in their hands and made the two of them laugh like little boys. There were unexpected water fights, the ever-present eye rolls, non-stop suggestions, and the awkward hugs that feel more like small body slams by Olympic wrestlers wrapped in Axe body spray, than a soft place to land. 

The picture doesn’t look  how I imagined it one year ago but I do think my aunt would be pleased. I’m still looking forward to aimless magical rides throughout the seasons, on roads I have never been, looking for new adventures only now it’s with my sons. I have come full circle. No words necessary. No destination required.

The Winds of Change…2018

Happy New Year to All! I’m more than happy to say goodbye to 2017. It was a difficult year of loss, political divisions, sorrow and change. 

Truthfully, I’m not much of a political pundit and usually after an election year I am eager to let go of political debates. This year was a wholly different animal. The politicians and their enormous egos, hubris, and selective memories have literally left me speechless. I keep wondering where are the adults? Whose responsibility is it to change the trajectory of our political discourse? As my sons and I grapple with the magnitude of our country’s growing pains, I am heartened to hear my children say they’re prepared to change the legacy that we have unfortunately burdened them with for the foreseeable future. I am extremely proud to have raised two teenage boys who are paying attention to what’s going on in the world and have their own ideas about how to solve our country’s looming credibility problems, our fiscal nightmares and our racially stoked divisions. To the future!

Grappling with the death of loved ones has been personally much more daunting. I’m at the age now where I am letting go of my heroes and learning to live without their guidance, support and advice. Frankly, I should attend a support group for adults handling the circle of life. From childhood to teens, twenties, etc. and finally the natural progression of my elders passing away and suddenly  I’m the wise one in the room, (mostly due to age and not actual knowledge). I feel like I looked away for a minute and the people that I love and trust most in the world, who know me sometimes better than I know myself, have gone. And while they will never be forgotten, I miss their wisdom, their experience and their ability to spot bullshit when they see it and thankfully never felt shy about sharing their opinions with me. Somehow in the chaos of growing up I realize that my friends and I are becoming “that old generation.” I don’t think I’m ready for full-time adulting!

 


So goodbye 2017, and thanks for the lessons. Its’s been rough and I know that in some ways I am much stronger. I guess I can be grateful for that, only not so many hard lessons, if you please, for 2018! While I admire strength and resilience, I have also come to realize how vulnerable and fragile my life truly is. That nothing is promised, not even my next breath, is the hardest lesson I have learned deep in my bones this year. Before they were just platitudes and clichés and I nodded along with everyone else thinking that that “time” is so far away. 

I pray that it is still far away but I know that grief will visit me and my friends and family again, all of us at some point. I hope that when it rears its ugly head, I can be as good an elder to the next generations as the grownups were in my life. I hope the wisdom that was shared with me will benefit my children and their children for generations to come. If I teach them nothing else, I will teach them to treasure every moment with the people they love, admire and respect. And when the time comes for them to say goodbye to those “going home,” I pray they will hear the love, cheering, and wisdom from their elders like their own personal  soundtrack. I pray that their lives will be filled with more ups than downs and that when the people they love leave them, they can take comfort from knowing they left them and all of us better than they found us.

Yes, the winds of change are here and I hear the whispers of the loved ones who are gone and I know they’re still rooting me on, laughing when I screw up and heartened to know, I did learn some valuable lessons from them along the way. I also hear, “I told you so,” on a regular basis but who could blame them? They so often did tell me so!  

 

Voyeurs or Friends?!

When Facebook first came out it seemed like a cool way to travel through space and time, to reconnect with new and old friends, coworkers and family. Slowly though I wonder if it hasn’t become a venue for voyeurism more than a place to share information, thoughts, friendships and images. I feel like there are times when someone is posting something extremely personal, and I’m uncomfortable viewing it. Suddenly I am engaged an extremely personal conversation with someone I know very little, or only as an “acquaintance.” The level of information being imparted for all to view, is sometimes cringe worthy and deeply private.

Without warning I find myself brought up short by knowing the ins and outs of someone’s IBS, ,(irritable bowel syndrome), their divorce and hatred of the ex, or a photo of…”what is this on my back?” I wonder, is there no one else that can look at that thing growing on your back to decide what it is and more importantly how to treat it? Must I be scrolling through my timeline with my coffee, barely awake only to see a boil the size of a small bird perched on your back, gag a little and sit back and wonder..wth!

Back in the day, there was a saying, “TMI”, too much information. It is my nature to be guarded and less likely to share personal successes and failures with “virtual strangers.” Make no mistake, while we are all FB friends, we are strangers in one another’s daily lives. It’s difficult enough to be talking with someone who is bashing their ex in real time but at least, hopefully you know their back story. On FB, it’s a momentary blurt of information without context. It doesn’t account for nuances, for two sides of a story, or for questions. Instead, we’re left with judgements and I wonder, what knowledge have I gained? Is there value in knowing you hate your ex? What if I like your ex as a person?

Have we reached the point where the “likes” are the driving force behind the posts. Who liked it, who commented, who started trolling to initiate hate and discord? Who is listening?? Is anyone listening? Perhaps that is the problem. In our lives it seems things are moving so fast and now everyone has a way to gauge who is moving faster? Who is traveling, who is getting married, having babies, buying houses/businesses, going to fantastic parties and meeting amazing people? How do I measure up? Am I losing?

In a way, it sets us all up for dissatisfaction with our own lives. Why am I not getting anywhere when everyone on FB is going everywhere? How can we live our lives with gratitude and be in the moment if the moment is only there for the sake of the post? If the motivation for having the experience, is so you can post it, are we really connecting to one another? I have been out with friends and while we are hanging out having fun someone inevitably says, let’s take a picture and post it. Suddenly everyone is primping wondering if they look alright, how do I compare with everyone else and Boom…you’re completely out of the moment. Transported again through space and time as the picture is immediately posted and you pray that everyone likes it, I mean really likes it so that everyone can see you’re doing alright. Is it a validation of who we are or are we voyeurs in other people’s lives, constantly watching, trying to measure up and wondering, am I liked?

If you combine this with the unprecedented hacking of FB, I wonder if we are soaking up hate and division more than we are benefitting from the connectedness of sharing? Have we lost the ability to see beneath the surface? Are we all just creating movie posters of our lives without the story. For me as a writer, the post is the cover of the book but the richness of the person is in their stories. Without knowing the rise and fall of triumph and the agony of defeat it seems less meaningful, less authentic. Almost like we are inviting people to look at us, to judge us, only don’t look too closely. Just tell me you like what you see.

In the Presence of Writers

This fall I took a writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard with the legendary, Nancy Aronie, who I have deemed a “Literary Guru”. As a writing teacher she moves fluidly, dancing gracefully through her life, sorrows, pain, and joy in such a way that it invites and inspires her writers to do the same. Nancy has the uncanny ability to create the space that allows each writer to submerge themselves in their memories, dreams, disillusionment, and prayers to evoke words, prose, and stories that made me weep, laugh, and applaud with astonishment and joy. Nancy creates a safe place for each writer to slowly shed their cocoon and emerge into the brightly beautiful butterflies we are constantly struggling to become. She allows us to become the writers we have each longed to become. Every day each person was required to write from one of Nancy’s daily prompts and no one disappointed, although collectively we bemoaned, “what would we say? Could we even write about ‘that’?” “Am I even doing this right?”.

These amazing writers showed up with their humor, their heartbreak, their tragedies and they wove a web of stories that enthralled and entranced everyone within earshot. As the rain steadily pounded the studio’s windows, these unique voices, shared their eloquent prose, poetry and purpose. They told stories that made me feel honored to have sat among the last vestiges of  fall’s, leaf-colored, canopy, in the in bleak ending of November and weep with unabashed abandonment. Tissues were quietly passed from person to person as we heard stories of suffering, and so much sadness that people have endured in their lives and have lived to tell about it. Each testimonial and written word was as individual as the writer but the collective experience of being human beings trying to navigate the morass of our own childhoods, teenage angst, and adult lives made me long to comfort them in some way. The best thing I could do was to sit silently, breathe deeply and bear witness to their incredible stories and then applaud like I was at a rock concert when they were finished.

You could hear a pin drop as each one of us were preparing to read our words, tell our stories and share our hopes and dreams and often revisit the very pain that had brought us there. Each voice was as distinctive as the writer. There was a richness, a catch in their throat honesty and the willingness to endure, that allowed us to be  swept away into their worlds and into their shared moments of dreams, triumphs, successes and sorrow. At the beginning of each class I was sure that we had heard the best writing and then I would be lulled, lead, and laden anew with fresh tears as even deeper stories emerged and these brave souls bared their spirits and shared their lives with such courage, writers who were strangers to me no more.

All writers were funny, raw, theatrical, heartsick, loving, imaginative, vulnerable and unflinchingly truth tellers who sat in a sacred circle and bared their underbellies for the rest of us to see. What I heard was a cacophony of vibrant voices, experiences, and writing styles, but these were WRITERS, true artists. No one else could have told their stories and shared them with 23 strangers with such rawness, profound honesty, honor and grace. Each voice, each piece was an expression of what that writer brought to the group and it could not be duplicated by anyone else. That is what being a writer is about, I suppose. Telling a story that only you know the intimate details of and making us see, feel, and step back into the piece with the same clarity and tangible, tactile feelings that the writer sees in their mind’s eye. It is the ability to draw other people along, to envision your steps, your views and your emotions that makes someone a talented writer and an artist.

As I sat listening, laughing, and languishing in empathy, sympathy, and pain, I realized, this is writing. Each person is responsible for telling their story, their way, with no apologies. Each writer’s words and voice lent itself to the story being told and on some days I wondered how it is that we have all survived. If you’re a writer, you put the pain, sorrow, and longing on the page and you tell your story because invariably the other people reading or listening are sharing in the triumphs and losses, just as your exquisitely chosen words intended to convey. It’s like writing music, the tempo, the melody and the visionary, inextricable placement of each word delivers the listener to another world, another layer, where you are the star and we are the audience, there unseen, unknowing, and unaware of where this beautiful song will lead.

I have been changed by this class and as my favorite quote reminds me, “When I move, Providence moves with me.” Stay tuned as I write about the other revelations that have emerged from this one simple act of stepping out on faith. It turns out, getting out of my comfort zone, challenging myself, and standing in the presence of greatness allowed me to find a bit of my own greatness amidst the crowd of writers that I now call friends.

#writers, #gratitude #inspiring

I Won’t Grow Up!

I swore when I was a kid that I would never be like an adult or worse, like my parents. You know, all-knowing, superior, smarter than..well any kid I knew. Basically an all around, “do what I say, not what I do,” adult. Mostly, I just wanted to stay up late, eat whatever I wanted and talk on the phone with my friends, (yes the ones I saw everyday in school). It’s sad but that was my measure for becoming an adult.

As an adult, you can buy what you want, (Hey Mom, isn’t that $20.00 in your wallet? I thought you said you had no money for my new jeans, that just everyone is wearing?). I certainly was never thinking that the $20. was budgeted for something we needed, not just what I wanted. You can stay up past 11pm, (they don’t tell you that you pay for that by not being focused the next day and your boss wonders if you meant to write the word snail instead of sail). No one can tell an adult what to do. No one, (unless you count your boss, your partner, the law, your kids, your teachers and the nagging voice inside your head that never shuts up). You are free to go where you want, when you want, (except if you have kids, then just the thought of them having to go to a new school sends them into paralysis, shock, and whining about you ruining their lives). You can swear, ok, I still do that. And you don’t have to listen to your parents anymore, (except they are the voice in your head that you will never escape, and I mean NEVER).

Now I am the grownup and damned, (sorry, I had to swear here), if I am not saying at least half of what my parents said to me. I hear their words pouring out of my mouth and I find myself looking around to see if they have snuck into the room to berate or reprimand me or my perfect children. I even find myself, (stay with me now), quoting the very sayings that caused me to roll my eyes in disgust at my parents when I was a kid. Did I realize I just said, “haste makes waste?” I know because my kids are rolling their eyes at me, right now, as we speak.

I don’t blame them, truly I don’t, but I wonder when I lost my ability to throw my cares to the wind and just climb a tree, or slide across the ice, without thinking, (I can’t afford to break my ankle because I have a thousand things to do and it could lead to me walking with a permanent limp), or eating dessert before dinner…just because. Or not taking a bath because I don’t smell dirty, to me.

No, I think I have grown up to be the kind of parent that I had, all-knowing, exhausted from repeating the same thing over and over and wise, (read wise-ass if you’re a kid). I have found myself saying things like, “Your teacher is looking for you to use what you have learned so far, so please, at least capitalize states, and the beginning of sentences, to prove you learned this in second grade”. I never really used Algebra in real life so I don’t know why I am so insistent that my kids learn it now especially given they all have cell phones and Google. My 10-year-old swears that Siri knows everything and “she never lectures”. I think that’s a slam to me because I do find myself lecturing and using way more words than necessary to illustrate a point.

Yup, being a kid means you don’t need to think about the future because the future is only a week away. Essays to your teacher, well what’s the point, they read the same material you did so you don’t need to give them details about a story they already know. Staying up late and watching your favorite shows, playing your favorite games, texting your friends or lobbying for Netflix, now that’s the life of kids today. They don’t even think about climbing a tree unless we lose electricity and they are bored. We never said bored in our house because my mother would hand us the vacuum, (we never said that within ear shot of her again).

I’ve turned into my mother and father and my lectures are the same lectures I hear in my head, daily. It is those voices that my kids will hear and will no doubt relay to their own kids. They will look around and wonder just how they turned out, just like their parents. Unless, and I look around before writing this, they break the mold and live the life they dreamed about as a kid. Being a pirate, or a professional baseball player, or an artist may just be the ticket to ending that vociferous and odious voice that preaches what they should do and they go off and do what they want to do, when they want to do it, just like an adult.

#Iwon’tgrowup #not like my parents