Hair

  
My older sister played the grooves off this album in 1971. I can still recite every word to some of the songs, and I often burst into a refrain of “Aquarius” when my first-born, Aquarian, squares some of her traits to her zodiac sign. Sometimes I belt out the tune merely because it is such a belting kind of song and the edge of my range register of the song can induce a near spiritual experience or maybe it’s just the oxygen deprivation.

Hair defines. 

My hair has always been a badge of horror and honor. Growing up in the hippy long straight hair parted down the middle fashion era, my hair was a horror. I was mortified that my mother had to cut my black frizzy mop very short, pixie style, to save her the time and grief of taming it, the snarls and fuzz that did not hang but billowed everywhere like a balloon around my head. My hair grew out not down. 

But in the 70s when Jimi Hendrix had already made his mark and died to solidify it, somehow afros for everyone called the day. Then, my hair was perfect. A pic and a shake set the wide puffy do–like a giant woolly black powder puff–for the day. Not a hair primper, that suited me fine. 

When the 80s arrived with its feathered bangs and poof teased hairstyles that required hair to hang up and down vertically not horizontally, I was in trouble again. Though my hair did a bit of a mullet in the early 80s, it was back to the search for the perfect stylist professional enough to make order out of the chaos that was my willful unmatched sides of thick naturally unruly curls doing their own thing. Terri and John did decent jobs with my head for the shearing every couple of months I endured to keep legit.

After the 90s, short hair to medium length hair cuts managed a certain neat professionalism to my look until the end of the first decade of the new millennium when the ever-tightening yet losing the grip of my hair’s will came to an end with Gina, the whispering sideline soccer mom color specialist who subtly wooed me into her kitchen swivel chair for the leap into another’s appearance: long blonde, straight hair. 

And the chorus kicks in:

Gimme a head with hair

Long beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming

Streaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there hair

Shoulder length or longer

Here baby, there mama

Everywhere daddy daddy
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair

Flow it, show it

Long as God can grow it

My hair

If I were your eyes…

  
I’d find more than the prize to keep myself on

or the road

if I were your eyes.

If I saw what you saw, 

I’d be wary too, 

wondering what next, who else wants what I have, 

what I need to protect.

Gazing out from yours, 

the world would be clear,

hindsight perfection,

for mistakes are costly and pre-calculations wise. 

Peering from under your nose,

I’d assess what’s what,

figure people out,

know their numbers,

predictive labels paying off in fearless dividends.

And if I stared at your desire,

the way you do,

square in her face,

laser cutting pupils

penetrated retinal heart,

a mirror reflection I’d see chestnut fire burning me.

 

Resolved

res·o·lu·tionˌrezəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n

noun

1.

a firm decision to do or not to do something.

“she kept her resolution not to see Anne any more”

synonyms: intention, resolve, decision, intent, aim, plan; commitment, pledge, promise

“her resolution not to smoke”

2.

the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.

“the peaceful resolution of all disputes”

synonyms: solution to, answer to, end to, ending to, settlement of, conclusion to

“a satisfactory resolution of the problem”

Life in balance is like mastering the clutch and stick shift: easing up and pressing down with perfect timing and coordination for smooth acceleration. Overeager with the gas and you rev the engine uselessly, going nowhere as the insufficiently released clutch pins you in place. Quick release without the gas and you lurch and stall. When cars imitate life.

I’m always tempted by resolutions this time of year but I know better. For me, there is no better self-sabotage than to resolve to do something at the start of the year. Too much pressure. While the wholeness of it–starting at the beginning–feels right, the aggressiveness of such perfection clearly undermines any chance of success. Too much gas, not enough release, in other words, stultified with the big anticipation of achievement, I know I will wig myself out with the magnanimity of starting something big, something important, desired.

Because to resolve is to be firm about solving a problem, taking steps to change. Those words are intimidating enough to write: change, problem, solve. 

It’s not a simple equation like some sort of accounting problem. Let’s see. I spent 2015 not nearly motivated enough to keep my environment clutter free and organized or my body exercised enough (probably the key to the lack of motivation), so if we add up the months of non-activity, under motivation, increased clutter, and add a little more motivation and exercise x 2 next year, then that = clean kitchen and work space in 2016.  Nah.

Like writing, the trick is to fool yourself by starting in the middle or anywhere but the beginning. I advise writing students with writer’s block to skip the introduction and start some place less comitted, to lower pressure, somewhere beyond the introductory paragraph of the essay. Same goes for resolutions. Jump in where it is easiest to feel less pressure, say like late February. 

That’s the time to solve the big problems–exercise, eating habits, organization–which takes the right balance of push and pull, surrender and action. The balanced tension and release or stasis grows incrementally by daily practices and mental predisposition. Personally (or impersonally) I am fond of the I-can-do-anything-for-15-minutes timed routine. I set a timer and do one overdue chore, one distasteful task a day, for exactly 15 minutes. The daily doing sets my mind clock, and so I regulate my actions and attitude by the repetition. 

But only if I start on a Tuesday. So here’s to arbitrarily chosen days on an arbitrary Roman calendar to toggling along just as we always do–unresolved and ambling.  
 

A Cello Rests

 
 

A cello rests in a room, its neck snugged to the corner, 

nearly facing the wall in neglect as if ashamed, 

calumny’s dust. 

Never her fault, I never loved enough, not until late, too late.

I played for spans.

A public school music teacher examining my third grade hands declared, 

“You have long fingers; you’ll play the cello.”

And pronouncement became performance.

I practiced and played: solo, ensemble and orchestra.

Competitions endured at the lust of a failed cello teacher and complicit parents

yielded no more than a B plus plus, merely a red ribbon.

But I scored Romberg’s cello sonata into my fingers for life.

And the taste, a hint of burning desire–first conquest, then mastery.

Until the mid-70s teen culture enwrapped me in smokey rock concerts and pubs,

boys and weed.

And the cello lay low in my childhood home ’til California stole me.

She plays me time to time, decade to decade since then,

testing my resolve and desire, the want-it factor.

She breaks my every attempt, every dream of recapture,

having long ago mastered me.

 

credit: clker.com

The Other Woman

  
Today, I am the other woman. 

Well, not THE other woman but another woman.

You see, I’m not myself, so I must be someone else.

Someone like me, who I am most other days, does not hide

does not steal away from the controls to cede the center.

Not the spotlight but the hub, co-equal and convergent.

But all the other mothers took my role today, the hiders

much-to-doing but not without martyred smile and cheer,

disposed to giver-worker-bee-busy-as-a-buzz-on-beer.

But I have always been eye of the storm where the stillness

of separation–me from them–oxygenates breathing space.

And yet today, I played her, the subdued sideline spectator,

the other woman waiting in the wings to seduce the shadows,

bait them cover me in downy anonymity, cog-less care free.

Who is she, this other woman impersonating me?

Slow but Quick Day of Enforced Rest

 
 
Christmas day felt like a jail sentence to a Jewish kid growing up in a largely gentile neighborhood in the sixties and seventies. When I was 4, my parents moved the family out to the burbs, away from Brooklyn’s dirt, crime and Jews. It was not their intention to remove us from tribe, but the trade off was a clean newly built blue collar neighborhood in which my mother could build a home. Ours was the lone house on the block without Christmas lights every December, the one with the large bay window sporting an electric menorah with blue light bulbs that turned slightly to the right to light up, each of the 8 nights. I remember both loving and hating the singularity of our tradition on this street in our town on Long Island.
 
But nothing compared to the boredom of Christmas day when there were no friends to call on, no malls to hang out at, no stores to browse in or anywhere to go really. My folks could not afford to take all 7 of us to the movies and only every once in a while we made it out to a Chinese restaurant. The day seemed endless, especially since I never watched much television and was not much of a reader before age 12. Time made its magic back then, elongating for miles in psychological hyper awareness and mental ticks to routine stuff I was not able to do.
 
Now, the opportunity to be imprisoned, pajama-clad in front of the fire the entire day, watching movies I did not know even existed, not cooking, cleaning or even eating most of the day winds down the year perfectly, like a day-long vacation. Permission granted, I laze and luxuriate in voluntary house arrest that whizzes by in the magical time of a slow-but-quick winter day. Gone too soon.
Peace.

Surrendering to the Holidays

  
“Pass the salt, please.” 

I look up at her from my veggie quesadilla plate, my eyes suggesting an answer to the question in my expression, but her face shows no comprehension. She wears sunglasses inside the restaurant.

I pass the salt.

Two shakes and she sets the shaker aside to pick at fake cheese melted over corn tortilla chips. Biting the triangle tip of a chip, she glances up–I think–at me, my head recently returned to face her after scooping up random bits of salsa to topple over one of the soft triangles targeted to dissect and devour. 

“When do you think you’ll know? I mean going back.” I ask but already know the answer. How can she know?

“I don’t know. You’re asking me something I can’t possibly know. I mean I could recover next week or continue on like this forever or get hit by a bus as soon as we walk out this door.” She waves to some indeterminate place beyond the restaurant walls. 

I know what she means. The asking leaps over logic into faith like a ghost limb needing to be scratched. Nothing there but habit and the act of speaking.

The gap of knowing and being spans eons now. We both know it, and yet we dance this ancient witless dance of caretaker and charge. It’s my job to ask the unanswerable questions and hers to stem the flow of fear with uncertainly, freeing and terrifying, reminding us both to surrender and enjoy lunch.

“Can we have a peaceful family Christmas dinner and forget for a few moments? Will we?” I ask uncertain of her answer, the truth of her answer. I fight the terrible urge to cough.

“Before the bus hits? Sure. Might as well.” She laughs, picking up the salt to shake it once more.  
Merry, Merry, Merry to one and all!

falalalalalalalala

  
A therapist once asked me why I gave myself appendicitis. I was supposed to move out of my marital home of 9 years that weekend but ended up moving my appendix out of my body instead. It was ready to burst and so was I, especially after such a farfetched question. I quit her after that session and never went back.

Since then, however, her question returns even after 20 or more years. Not exactly the question but the idea that I could induce a physiological crisis in my body in avoidance or in reaction to a psychological catastrophe. Could repression or stress so powerfully indel, cut, trigger or distress the body to rebel in disease? I know what the scientific literature says, but could I have caused appendicitis?

As I sit here with a flu, I believe such unconscious self-destruction possible. I have resisted this Christmas shopping for as long as possible and now that there is only today to shop, I am sick. I cannot remember a holiday season I have felt less jubilant about, and now layering the whole holiday experience is a Rudolph red nose and the vicious taunting of my own conscience. 

The kids will be so disappointed with nothing under the tree. And so, I will trudge through the stores, sharing the sick germs of Christmas spirits past and present. T’is the season to give after all. 

I do not love the holidays

  

 

I am not going to say I hate the holidays because that would admit to a greater investment in the whole sketchy affair of good cheer and “gratitude” the holidays purportedly promote. I do prize genuine good cheer and gratitude, but enforced holiday spirit not so much.

It is common to hear this complaint–about the obligatory holiday gift buying and cookie baking and niceties that go with. Just look how thrilled most people look in the overcrowded parking lots to impossibly busy malls, stores and roadways. And yes, that seasonal depression thing is real.

Fortunately, I do not get depressed so much as annoyed, fatigued, exasperated and grumpy. And it is much better now that I have grown old and beaten up enough to have far fewer fucks to give (so happy for that current expression). My stress over getting everything done–shopping, baking, wrapping, shopping, cooking, tree-decorating, candle lighting, card-writing (yeah, who am I kidding there?), and shopping–is half of what it used to be when the kids were younger and I had more fuel to burn. 

But there is still a lot of shit to do, much more than should be done in a two-week period, one of very few, during which the nation slows down to celebrate and appreciate the goodness of life granted us by a benevolent God or universe or both. We get an entire day off–all together.

But I do not need to mention the obvious–that the consumerist hypocrisy of the holidays exhausts a very noble idea, one of good will and graciousness toward other human beings. The lost message is as much of a  shame as the squandered opportunity to wind down and rest, lost to self-induced comatose gift buying and giving many of us can neither afford nor truly relish for the sacrifice of sanity the activity steals.

I am neither a shopper nor a craft maker. Though I am a gracious gift receiver, I want for nothing that can be bought in a store or online. I am a lousy gift buyer, no imagination for it. And perhaps the traditions I have grown up with and created are far too consumer-centric. 

I regret not changing the habit in my children, who I did enjoy baking cookies for and eventually with, as well as decorating trees and lighting menorah candles, when those activities were as wondrous as the gifts wrapped in expectation. Then the holidays eked out some cheer, some joy and love, despite the heightened stress of teachers’ gifts and Christmas cards and too many gifts purchased with too little money spent in far too distant and varied places among the too stressed and sick throngs.

So, as I sit here in a momentarily near vacant store two days before Christmas Eve, watching the rain, thinking about the gifts I still have to buy (have not started actually) and the dinner I have to cook in a couple of days that I have not planned yet, and the entertaining I have to do the following day and the day after, I audibly sigh the sound drowned out by the “Happy holidays!” a customer chirps as he walks out the door. Ugh! 

I truly want everyone around me near and far, known and unknown, to have a happy holiday and new year, to find peace and love and happiness, but I just have to figure out another way to express it.