Real Life

A Little Bling Goes a Long Way

May 13, 2017

It has been months since we slept in past 8:00am. Today, getting up two or three hours later than usual felt downright delicious. Still wrapped in dreams and clean sheets and each other’s softness, waking slowly in our time. “I’m glad we woke up today,” she said, her profile looking timeless in the morning light. “Me too,” I said, giving her a kiss before throwing on a nightgown and going to make the coffee. Mmmmmm. Coffee.

In the afternoon, we went out for a few hours and had fun at Luxe, a consignment store in Northampton, trying on all manner of dresses and jewelry and each finding a couple of things that fit us perfectly and felt good to wear. It’s no small thing, to choose to feel pretty and sexy — not for anyone but ourselves and each other and because we enjoy it and we want to.

This was not always the case for me; in fact, the very first weekend Mani ever came to visit me, not three weeks after our supposed one-night stand in January 2012, we went through every item in my closet and I realized I’d been hiding my body for years.

Back then, I considered it an indulgence to buy things for myself and getting a new article of clothing was a big deal, an exciting event. I’m still not a huge shopper, but there is a certain joy in playing dress-up and occasionally coming across something I love. It doesn’t hurt when said something costs $11 or $16 or $23 and looks brand new. Mostly, though, it’s her company I enjoy.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” I said as she slipped on an unbelievable bracelet shaped like Ganesh and covered with pink rhinestones. I chose a bling-y ring that sparkled irresistibly. We drove home listening to Leonard Cohen and Laura Marling and the “American Honey” soundtrack.

I’m sitting in the quiet of the living room now. It’s 5:15pm. This morning, I shook out the little rug we bought at TJ Maxx to go under the coffee table, and it was so dusty we both started sneezing. Plus, it’s white and shaggy, the kind of thing that looks great when it’s new and clean but is irrecoverable a year or two later, not to mention impossible to vacuum. I cringed a little before tossing it, then swept and tidied up a bit. Now the space feels relatively peacefulas I look out at the rain. The sun never did make it out today.

When I woke up this morning, before I checked the time and saw how late it was, my mind was like a ransacked consignment store — articles of discarded thoughts, strands of song lyrics, and remnants of dreams like mismatched shoes strewn all over, not even remotely organized by size or color or style. After breakfast, we each chose a card from my Vintage Wisdom Oracle deck. Hers was “Centering.” Mine was “Protection.” Driving home from Northampton, I looked at the ring and thought, that’ll do.

Now I want to write something smart about protection, but truthfully I’m just feeling my way into what it means for me right now and have no wisdom whatsoever to impart. That’s how I feel most of the time about everything, come to think of it. We take for granted the things we know the most about; they seem obvious to us. We think, I have no special knowledge to share or story to tell. But the fact is, your whole day is special — the nature of your mind and the rhythm of your day are unlike any other and I, for one, want to hear about it.

Mani is on the phone in the other room and I hear the washing machine in the pantry. The books on the bookshelf are beckoning me and suddenly I want to take them all onto the floor along with magazines and glue and posterboard and markers, to dive deep into what wants to be found. There’s so much wrong with the world, and I am finding that a big part of how I’m dealing with that is to stay close to what is right here — my family, the spring flowers, poetry, and a little bling that goes a long way.

Dive Into Poetry The Body

I Know a Woman

May 11, 2017

Photo: Jeanette LeBlanc

I know a woman
forget flowers in her hair
she is queen of the crossroads
she will lay it all bare

I know a woman
forget her sweet smile
she is storming the castle
she is beauty and bile

I know a woman
forget empty words
she is forging a path
and feeding the birds

I know a woman
perhaps she is scared
she is telling the truth
she is defying the dare

I know a woman
on a corner she stands
she is taking her name
back into her hands

I know a woman
forget what you thought
she is the sole owner
of what can never be bought

Creative Process Fierce Encouragement (for Writing + Life)

Loving the Ebb

May 5, 2017

Sometimes I feel dry on the inside. I am not talking about vaginal dryness (though that is the first thing “dry on the inside” made me think of!). More like a brain dryness. A creative desert. For years, I’ve gotten a particular kind of headache I always find difficult to describe. The image that accompanies it is that of a ship run aground.

Do you know the book Amos and Boris by William Steig? It’s one of my favorite children’s books. At one point (spoiler alert), Boris, the whale, gets washed onto shore during a terrible storm. He is gasping and won’t live outside of the ocean for long. (Amos organizes some elephants to roll him back into the sea, so all is well for the friends at the end.) That’s how this dryness feels. Like I’m gasping and there is no water to swim in. Stuck. Dried up.

What does this have to do with anything?

I’m thinking about the question of inspiration. What is its source?

When inspiration is present, it’s like I’m a whale in the water: Powerful, mighty, swimming along in my element. When it’s not, I’m just an oversized body in the sand, waiting to die.

I know this sounds dramatic, but seriously it feels dramatic when the ideas are no where to be found. There is a kind of panic that threatens to set in. I have no energy. I’m lethargic. I’m all weight and no movement.

I can think and think and no amount of thinking will induce inspiration. Instead, I must change course. This means surrendering to what’s happening rather than trying to force it. And so my job becomes the surrendering itself, and below the surface of that, to trust that this too shall pass. Ideas will resurface, inspiration will return, a tiny mouse will alert the elephants who will roll me back into the ocean of creativity and energy.

This is all tied in with the ebb and flow of writing and of life for me — something I fight against and am slowly, over time, beginning to make friends with. An unlikely friendship, not unlike the one between a whale and a mouse in open waters.

The truth is, I favor the flow the way a mother is barred from favoring one child over another; she must — I must — find things to love about the ebb. And so I spend some time, as I lie there on the sandy beach waiting for help to arrive, looking at her more closely. She is quieter than flow, and moves more slowly. Imperceptibly, even. She’s not flashy and if anything, is easy to overlook.

But in my stillness, something happens. She starts to stir. I notice the intricate patterns of her being, ones I’d never seen before as I tango’d through the waters. She is beautiful in her subtlety. And suddenly, I am so thankful to be here, washed up on the beach. I know flow will return; she always comes running back, excited to show me what she has found in her explorations away from me.

This time, though, I’m going to keep ebb close.

Creative Process

Different Branches on the Same Tree

April 24, 2017

Anthony Delanoix

Holy Wow.

I came back from a walk to do a few errands in town to an amazing horoscope. But before you read it, I have to tell you what I was talking to myself about on the walk.

Lately I’ve been noticing that I need to start making time each day where I’m not working, not in front of the computer, and not taking care of other people. In other words, time to just be and to be in that kind of unscripted space where ideas arise. Or maybe they don’t. But the point is to make the space to connect with myself. Mani suggested I take an hour a day for this — rather than falling into that big either/or trap of thinking “I need a week’s vacation somewhere beautiful with no obligations.”

This need is arising especially in relation to my work right now; I keep having that nagging feeling that I need to be listening for something, and I can’t really tell you what it is. (Hence the need to listen.) But that is not going to happen by itself. I have GOT to make time to do non-work things that bring me joy and connect me with my sense of joy, purpose, and creativity. I am not a machine.

Yesterday morning, I did just that and took a nice walk in the woods while Pearl was at Hebrew school. The point wasn’t that I would get all still and blissed-out and lightning bolts of inspiration would strike (though damn, don’t you love it when that happens?). More that all of that mind-noise is a constant in the background, like a radio that you can’t turn off where no station comes in clearly, and unless I do things that are grounding and joyful — walk in the woods, have coffee with a friend, just sit and doodle or read a book — I won’t be able to get the volume down low enough as to be able to hear my own self, or soul.

Not shockingly, during my time in the woods, I took some pictures and sent myself a few random thoughts via text that later formed the basis of a newsletter (you can read it — and subscribe — here, by the way!). And when I finally did sit down later to write and work, I felt so much more present, able, ready, and glad to be there. It’s amazing how even when you’re self-employed, you can forget that you GET TO DO THIS and turn it into the very daily grind you left behind.

Anyway, I digress. Just now as I was walking home after stops at the copy shop, CVS pharmacy, and post office, I was thinking about comparing and how it feels and tastes. It feels small, tight, mean, and yucky. It tastes like a loose filling — bits of metal in my mouth that I can’t wash out, no matter how many times I rinse. Then I thought about how not comparing feels: Spacious, beautiful, connected, and easy. It tastes like jam made from fruit that was picked that very same day.

I passed a tree that was just starting to show some flowering buds along its many branches. I looked at its trunk, the biggest branches, and then the increasingly smaller ones from each of those. I thought about my life and work as a branch, and other people’s lives and work as other branches. And whoa. I know this isn’t an original metaphor, but something clicked so completely for me. It was amazing.

My branch and your branch? They are dependent on the same strong trunk, the same healthy root system, the same soil, the same rain, the same sun. One vibrant branch is an indication of a strong system. And if I think my branch and your branch are separate, I am operating from an incredibly limited perspective that is based on pure illusion. Neither of our branches would even exist without the whole tree! What’s good for you is good for me, and vice versa.

I furthered this personal revelation out loud — quietly, mind you, but out loud nonetheless, as if often my habit while walking and working something out. It felt so so good to come to this today.

And then I got home and made a turkey sandwich with avocado on a whole wheat pita (yum) and read this horoscope. (OK, now you can read it!)

Capricorn & Capricorn Rising

Wednesday’s new moon wants me to feel it. Cozy up to it. Revel in the realness of it. Joy is my healer. Pleasure is my therapist. Amusement is my muse.

The inner-revolution that I am currently experiencing is one that needs a whole lot of happy to make it happen. Any amount that I can cultivate and allow myself to fully experience is a win. I do so consciously. I carve out time to explore what brings me bliss. I dedicate time to all things that delight my senses. I work at creating a life filled with wonder.

I am not afraid to feel good. And when I am, I help myself work through it so that I can feel the power of healing my self-denying tendencies. I work through it because I owe myself that much. I work through it so that I can honor the sacrifices my ancestors made to get me here.

I laugh, I love, I live for the benefit of my entire family tree. From my roots to the fruits yet to have ripened.

I use Wednesday’s new moon to feel the pulsating power of my creative energy. I use Wednesday’s new moon to give in to what that force wants to create next. I use Wednesday’s new moon to say yes to the projects that ground me in life-enhancing expressions of joyful healing.

*The new moon in Taurus, occurring on April 26th, is a new moon to manifest with. There hasn’t been a moon this open to interpretation in a very long time. Read more

The bolded lines? Um, yeah. So exactly where I’m at right now. Taking time away from the things you HAVE to do, the producing, the responding, the planning, the tangible, the to-do lists, and making time for the things you WANT to do is a crucial aspect, at least for me, of being a creative person. In fact, rather than detracting from my work, having a full life always, always enriches it.

We need to do our part in tending the soil of the tree, rather than expecting the flowers on those branches to bloom all by themselves. And when I tend to “my” soil, the truth is I’m tending to yours, too. We are all connected. Everything else is pure illusion.

Real Life

The Impulse to Know Each Other’s Stories

April 15, 2017

On Thursday evening, I drove over the Notch to pick my daughter up from rehearsal a couple of towns over. For a couple of miles, the car behind me was so close on my tail I thought it was going to hit me. I could see the drive in the rear view mirror; he looked liked he might have been bopping out to some tunes.

At one point, he fell back, and I felt relieved — until I saw his crossing the yellow line. I had no way of knowing if he was drunk or high or just totally distracted. All I knew was that he then sped up and was right on my tail again, showing zero signs of slowing down.

“911. What’s your emergency?” I pushed away the thought that I was overreacting and told the operator that an extremely erratic driver was behind me and I didn’t feel safe. She asked if he was being aggressive towards me. I told her I didn’t think so. I managed to read his plate  number backwards in my mirror, trying not to make it obvious that I was looking at his car as I spoke the letters and numbers into the receiver.

The operator connected me to the local police, who asked me for my name and the make and model of my vehicle. I supplied this information and about a mile later, I turned right while the car in question continued straight.

I wondering what would happen if they pulled this guy over. Was he intoxicated or high? Would he know it was me who’d made the call? I felt a rush of fear, fear I knew was unfounded. But adrenaline serves a purpose in small doses and appropriate situations, and I allowed myself a few minutes in the school parking lot to calm myself before Aviva came walking towards the car. I will admit that I Googled the license plate number, thought honestly I can’t say why I bothered or what I thought I would find. Maybe there was an impulse to know who this guy was.

I always want to know people’s stories.

This morning, I finally stopped by the Hospice Shop to donate the bags of clothes I’ve been hauling around for weeks. It was just warm enough as the sun rose higher in the sky to be to go to the free vacuums on Route 9, and believe me, the inside of our car needed a once over. At one point, my vacuum seemed clogged and I asked the guy next to me if I could use the one closer to his minivan, which he was detailing. No problem, he said. He had tunes pumping from inside the car. He didn’t look like the minivan type.

I wondered about his life. I wondered who he voted for in November.

Later, at Trader Joe’s after a short run on the bike path behind the mall, I asked the cashier how her day was going. She said she couldn’t complain, since she has a short shift tomorrow. “Oh, right — Easter! I forgot,” I told her, “since I don’t celebrate it myself.” After she finished bagging up my stuff and I paid, she wished me a good weekend, “not celebrating Easter.” Then she added, “but maybe celebrating Passover.” For a second, I wondered how she knew I was Jewish, but before I could say a word, she pointed at the Hebrew letters inked on my left arm. “Thanks — take care,” I said.

I wondered about her life. Her eyes were deep-set and sad.

We encounter each other in so many ways. Every day, encounters close and distant have the potential to change our lives. Mostly, they don’t, at least not in big, obvious, dramatic ways. But I keep thinking about that driver. The woman whose eyes met mine for a millisecond while I sat inside Starbucks yesterday and she walked down the ramp. Faster than fleeting. Unmemorable, mostly.

And yet — all the time, we are meeting eyes, gauging what feels safe, deciding where to connect and where to stay in our own sphere. So much plays into this: Prejudice of all kinds, assumptions that may be wildly false, instincts that defy cognition. Often all of this plays out so quickly and subconsciously that our actions are reflexive.

I’m not sure what my point is. Something about developing the wherewithal to see myself and choose with awareness how I interact — or don’t interact — with the world as I encounter it. Something about separateness and connection, choice and force. These play out every single day in so many minuscule ways, and also every single day in so many global, unfathomable ways.

Knowing where we are — both physically in our bodies, in the very vehicles that carry us through space, and also in terms of the beliefs and biases we bring to every single interaction — can make such a difference in what kind of energy we bring to the world. More often than not, we won’t actually stop and get to know each other’s stories. But all of this has me thinking about what would change if we did.

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