The girl who was once from NYC, transplanted to the sticky trap of the CT countryside. Teacher, singer, writer, hippie chick. Dancer along the path through the dark.
~May words and music and laughter light the way to kindred spirits, kind of heart~
Also a Mommy. That's the most important thing that's happened along the way, but not what this blog will be about.
and some people have amazing amounts of support their entire life to fight the battles, and some don’t. And some people spend their entire adolescence and adult life trying to pull themselves up and fill up their own well, with occasional, very rare glimpses of something more, something filling and nurturing and warm and amazing and thrilling and sweet and like an elixir of life… and some people have so much of that the whole while…and fighting battles is so much easier when you have so much to build you up, parents, money, friends, homes, and most of all love sweet love. And fighting battles is so hard when you’ve had so very little. But you do it anyway. You keep trying and pulling yourself up and finding kindness and giving kindness… And then comes that tipping point, and you watch something and someone so special to you disappear before your eyes, as it unfolds. And it is given to someone else who already had so much, and was unkind. Time and again.
That is all.
I am quiet. I still blush. Acutely aware of all I’ve missed, but not the kind of person who can bulldoze in. I write my pain. Sometimes I sing. Perhaps I’m not a firecracker, but I have more spirit inside of me than anyone you’ve ever known. And I will use that to raise my kids, and fight to breathe. But I will not waste it on the insincere. My peaceful cannot be attained no matter how you copy me. My depth and grace and old soul ways are nothing you can ever touch. And I cannot be superficial, nor can I manipulate. So we are not alike.
The quiet hush of Sunday morning on my own, and waking early, I cannot shake the pall upon me from recent events. To try to take my own advice, and go on with life, not think about walking into the school tomorrow morning and seeing all the children and teachers there. Will my heart break all over again when I walk into the kindergarten class? With time as it sinks in, this new reality, the sadness in me for those families, for this country as a place to raise my own kids, be a teacher, has grown. I realize I am a sensitive soul, too connected in too deep a way to ever shake things completely. And yet sometimes I can disconnect myself, with time, with less exposure. But this was so close. An hour away. A school like mine where I teach. A school like the one I send my own kids to. I wonder if part of the new reality with be a police presence at every school. I wonder if with all the other sadness in the world on a global and also on a personal level this has tipped things so that action will be taken to make the right kinds of changes. No more guns. No more killing. Twisted people hide themselves well, and then they kill. It’s the incomprehensible on top of so much incomprehensible. And so in this quiet morning, to hope the wheels are turning, to bring the kinds of reasonable and responsible changes we need as country to go on and heal and try to do whatever we can do to prevent this from ever happening again to anyone, anywhere.
let me just say how thankful I am to all the people who never made me feel like some cheap piece of plastic with no feelings and no wisdom, no heart, and no needs. Thanks for being there when I needed a friend. Thanks for trusting me to know what I was talking about. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk and share in real time. I’m grateful for the reciprocation and sincerity and care. I’m grateful for the love and warmth and friendship that was real/that is real. That’s what makes it possible to hold my head above water when the things turn black.
I guess when you primarily think in poetry, or maybe just being someone who gravitates towards writing, it comes in bursts, that need to exhale all the thoughts and hurts and depth of feeling—warm and sweet (or markedly otherwise). I’m glad to have that outlet, for better or worse. And if in what I say I am often either misunderstood, or not understood at all, it doesn’t bother me. I write for me. It helps the hurts. It helps the nothingness that is so much of my entire life. And if in that one way I am terribly selfish, I would rather be that kind of selfish than the many other kinds so seemingly more coveted and accepted and adored.
the vaciliation back and forth
sometimes faster sometimes slower
never knowing what is coming
and wonder what will save me, ever
certainly not love
it never does
and wondering about these past several days. At the other house with my husband and kids for the storm, remembering why I love him, remembering why we don’t live together. There were some warm cozy moments of family that were sweet. But mostly, it was nice to feel that partnership we have now and then, but unfortunately it’s not a “most of the time”. So grateful when it’s there though. And there were other reminders this week. Reminders that the people you want in your life are the ones that care for your heart, and care about your heart, and care about you. And that life is suddenly not there and there were so many tragic tales to hear this week that happened to other people, people I didn’t know, but I cried anyway as I read. (I know tragic, and maybe that’s why I have little patience for the let’s-make-drama of the world and the phony people who need drama and don’t realize there’s so much without even trying.)There were wonderful kindnesses to be seen, as well, and an outpouring of care for those less fortunate in the wake of horror and loss. I didn’t do much writing this week—none really—but I did a bit of reading. It was very enjoyable those “late” night (it was like 10:00)candle and flashlight lit hours on the air mattress in the living room, reading Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing, and listening to the complete stillness of the woods around the house once the generator was turned off. We were lucky, my family of four and I, and my family in NYC and my other family in CT. No one was hurt, or for the most part even terribly inconvenienced by the effects of the storm. I count my blessings, I cherish my friends, and enjoyed some silly and not so silly texting with old friends across time and space and work friends who make me laugh. Life is hard, these scary things that come along give pause for thought even more than the usual pause for thought I already have built in from an almost entire lifetime of seeing hard and heartbreaking, and true and joyful and honest. One thing I stumbled across this week as I was reading and learning—that ever long of life for me—this great quote:
“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~Will Rogers
I guess this applies to women as well, but in my observation, woman are quicker and wilier than most men, so much so, some men don’t even know how taken-in they are until they’re already gone.
waiting for the thrum of quiet to wash over and settle on me. The better peace of easy acceptance. The depth of solitude to bear. I reach out less. I withdraw more. It’s a patter-en (as my daughter used to say it). And now my patter-en is the more silence I let creep in, the safer I feel. Or maybe just the more resilient. It’s like fortifying walls. Building layers of armor plating, my silences. I let it sink in tonight. I let it surround me. Reveling in all alone. As though my lips can’t move at all.
like waves against the years of trial. Tomorrow could be just another day. But it’s not, for me. It’s my thirteenth wedding anniversary. It’s the anniversary of the day I decided to just say I would. I would marry someone I loved more like a friend, but we wanted to try because the love we shared was the best and most reliable love either of us had ever had in many ways. And there was some little bit of romance there now and again in all of it, though often so hard to find. But it broke anyway, that love, that life. He can still always count on me if he needs me, and in some ways I can count on him, but at a cost. To risk the anger, to risk the scolding. To risk the feeling of being afraid like walking on eggshells. But he’ll come through in the end most of time. And for what it’s worth I’m glad we tried to make it work and gave each other two beautiful children. To me that makes the rest all worthwhile.
These past few weeks at work have been spent doing what I usually do, with a new added twist of teaching memoir writing to first and second graders. Memoir writing at that age is a trick…and the examples from the picture books we are reading help some to give them eyes to see and ears to hear and ways to think and hands to write. But personal narratives from a personal perspective help even more. And so as I’ve tapped my memory banks of things to tell that might help them, these wide-eyed future adults—some possible writers in the crowd, I have not only drifted back on all the sweet nostalgia of those early school years, but also the ancillary memories of outings with family and family friends and then the subsequent years later of all the loneliness and no real friends or friendships I could count on that was a large part of my life, later on, as it became. So lost and so very alone from the age of 19 to 22 and the reeling around of all that alone, with no one but my very needy and dependent remaining parent, and the things no one can relate to in me, because they didn’t live that, know that, experience that, or WANT to know what that was like. I was always on the outside. Funny, but a little too shy. Attractive, but not quite enough. Confident, but cut so many times, in so many ways it left me very little to draw on to stand loud and proud after a while… I was an addict. An alcoholic. Needy. And those are not the hallmarks of female desirability. Those later memories are not the ones I share with the children I teach, but they are big part of what makes me, me. And even if I have tried hard to take from those years all the lessons possible, it’s hard not to, every New Years Eve, think of being 19 years old and in the middle of Time Square, all alone, and drunk, with no where to go, and no one, and no home, ringing in 1985 feeling so scared at what my life had become, and continuing to turn to my Mom to help me—even though she was hardly in any condition to give me sound advice or set me off in the right direction—because I had no one else in New York who had any time for me at that time in my life. No one I could really count on…It was all very sad. But no one ever really wants to know about sad.
I have these great snapshots from early on, that make me yearn; lunches and shopping, and theater with Mom, outings in Central Park to Sheep Meadow for football with my brothers and Dad, or Frisbee across the street at 88th street. All the picnics at the Oval to watch the baseball games, the concerts at the Bandshell, the roller skating with the parkie crowd, or the summer days at Belvedere castle, letting the dog swim…Jogging around the horse path with my brother Eric while he kicked the soccer ball backwards. The lazy summer days sunbathing across the street from my house with teenage friends I spent more time with during the summer, and saw hardly at all during those empty “school years”… I felt safe back then. Loved. Cared for. Important to the people in my life. Sheltered by their warmth and by their love and protection. Needed and wanted by friends and family alike. The memories I was sharing with the kids at work were more my school memories of Montessori (where I spent my years Pre-K through second grade, and the funny and wonderful things that stand out in my mind from those early school years). But the whole flood comes back once I start to travel back in time, in my mind, snapshots and long, drawn out moments… and I am in awe of what I miss and what I missed… The places I can’t see much anymore and can’t share with my own kids with any kind of regularity. The people I don’t see, or hardly see. All that good stuff that I held inside me to keep me afloat in the really bad years that came after and spanned roughly age sixteen through my mid twenties.
And when I think of my migration, from there, where I grew up on the UWS to the West Village, to SoHo, to the East Village, to Brooklyn and the horrific loneliness of those years, trying to find a place where I belonged and people who wanted to be in my life as I tried to find myself. How most of my memories are of me, alone, with various characters that came into and fell out of my life. There was one year, when I was 18 where it was a little more of my friends I had known, and there were nights out and dancing and bonding and there were still some family times of going out to see lots of live jazz, but I didn’t really hang out with my friends after a while, as we drifted apart, largely because of the drugs I wasn’t interested in being around, it became just work friends I spent a little time with, and it was after work for a drink and some drunken conversation…I guess I hid it well, made the best of it, put on my big brave face. But as my close friendships largely disappeared, and I was more and more isolated it was a deeply depressing time for me, and I thought my trip to Connecticut (where my Mother had moved) to help Mom out in October, 1987 was a short trip. A distraction, and then I could come back to my life in New York, find another rent in Brooklyn, and make my life feel more like the one other people seemed to find, complete with friends that stuck around, and people who wanted me in their life because I was someone worth having around. Maybe I’d find a job that worked out, or sell some poems, find a band that wanted a singer with short hair and an extra ten pounds of beer weight. I had no idea I’d find a life here in Connecticut with people who wanted to know me, share laughter and music with me, encourage me to find ways to grow. And that was easier than the thought of heading back to Brooklyn and trying to go it all alone again, feeling invisible, and not missed much at all. But even here, in a new town, with new people, I always felt a little like an outsider. I completed my GED and finally went to college. But college was ridiculous being so much older than most of the kids there—I was 23 as a freshman. (I made one friend, one kindred spirit and I am happy to say we found each other again on FB and she is just as awesome and crazy now as she was then and we still have a special bond.) I lived off campus in my apartment over by Wooster Square and took a cat in off the street and went to concerts and went dancing and worked three jobs and took my classes. And I didn’t have the issue of roommates for the first time. Most of my friends were my more age-appropriate contemporaries from the restaurants where I worked at night. But even with all of this, this change, these corners I was trying to turn, addiction and alcohol, and low self-esteem and the huge anchor of my mother and her need of me hung around me like a weight. The drama in my life at that time from her suicide attempts and addiction and from my own desperation to be loved by someone who would understand me with all the stuff I was made from…It was like a heavy fog I kept trying to lift off of myself. And I finally did. But there was such a far piece to go. There always is, on the never-ending road that rolls out before us.
It’s now that I’ve hit those middle-aged years that I am fortunate to have more perspective. Not enough that I do not feel sad for all I’ll never know: What it would have been like to have gone to high school and then to college in a more conventional way as was the path most people took. What it would have been like to have had a boyfriend my own age when I was a teenager, and to hang out with kids my own age more than just over a summer or on a weekend. Or what it must have been like to be so coveted that boys would make me mix-tapes, send me music, and treat me like I was something special, set apart and wanted—what I had observed it seemed so many other girls could find so easily. To have been romanced. To have not always been the girl who turned into a piece of furniture in the room the moment another girl walked in… To not have been a mess back then so I might have known what it was like to have had some of that for more than just a few minutes while no one else was around. But I can now see more clearly how sad I was and how the depth of my sadness overshadowed everything else about me. And how when you are young and self-absorbed another person’s sadness, and lack of stability is too big a burden to want around when the name of the game was fun and frivolity and light and fluffy. I was never the girl who hadn’t a care in the world. And I see how eventually, that lonely road led me to another very lonely person. And because of that: things I now have that I never would have otherwise, even if the now isn’t quite what I had thought it would be.
Someday I hope to get back to writing about my life the way it once was, the way it became, and what became of me from that. A memoir of all-I-had to all-I-missed, that molded me in formative years. And perhaps then, with some time to paint a picture of the surreal and painful of all of that, it would show more accurately the audacity of anyone to think they might even begin to know what that was like, or is still like, etched inside as it is. We each have our own kind of pain, that’s true. But maybe a well detailed picture of my life will show the rich tapestry of your own lives, and all the fullness there, that was never in mine… and in that different light it would be easier to see why it is never a good idea to assume anyone knows a person well enough, or has enough insight or understanding, or has the right to try to shape someone’s behavior unless they have indeed, walked in those same exact shoes, all alone.