On the Eve of Yet Another

Sitting across the table from my oldest at our favorite eatery, I could not help seeing what others must have seen in me 36 years ago: a tall, lean vibrant girl with a hyperactive, inquisitive mind and over burdened sense of responsibility for the buoyancy of the conversation. 

I love to watch her gesticulating hands, the petulance in her sea green eyes and the force of her concerns and wishes. She is all youth and wonder, strength and conviction.

My own youth is like an old 35 mm flickering reel, some parts skipping in fractured movement. The plot always seems to nearly unfold just as the threads run wild and loose. Just like me to crave the missing cracks, what lies in those stuttered jumps in the movie, however slight and seemingly insignificant.

If I could make a real movie of my teens to twenties, I would splice together actual footage of all the moments, days and weeks of laughter. So much laughter. My friends and I knew how to chuckle and wheeze ourselves into spasms, once we broke the ironic smirks broadcasting our quick savvy and adoptive world weariness.

The range of emotion exaggerated on a face, the wide-open eyes in surprise or indignity, the outstretched fingers flung from the span of taut exasperation palms, I recall to fleeting memories evoked by my daughter’s questioning advice on relationships, friendships and the state of the world.

She asks me who in their right mind would have a kid with our sadly looming future. And at the peak of her voiced question mark, I hear my own 20 year old voice chiming in, silently mouthing the words with her in grainy film footage. 

If I squint my reality a tad, she is me. 

But on the eve of yet another birthday, one of those off years signaling no milestones, no edges to encroaching decades or mid-split 5’s, I find myself repeating to her: “If I could give you one thing, my most valuable gift, I would export the revelations I gained both wasting time and suffering, just to push your learning curve so far back your starting point advantage would increase the laughing years twenty fold.”

Which always draws a blank green-eyed stare of indulgent tolerance.

By the time she gets it, hopefully I won’t be mere flickering light through film base covered in gelatin emulsion. 

All Roads Lead to Anger

I am an asshole on the road. 

While I have never engaged in road rage, I rage plenty on the road in seething insults and strings of profanity that I cannot help but recognize as an inheritance from my father.

I always believed I was most like my mother: cheerful, determined, optimistic and rational. But that’s because my father was never around, working round the clock as he did. Come to find out after he moved in a few years ago, I am much like him.

I not only inherited my dad’s long, skinny legs and dark eyes, but also his temper. 

My Dad could be nasty. My memories soak in pools of chiding, my mother wagging her finger at her husband after yet another profanity blasted from his lips. His pet names for his wife included colorful epithets that would curdle any feminist’s blood–really any civil human being’s blood.   

My father’s vulgarity fully bloomed in a car. I drive like him: impatiently, erratically, and aggressively. All the curses I ever heard growing up fly freely from my mouth in explosions of hateful disdain on the road. I transform from human to monster. 

I know habit has a large part to do with it, but I am nevertheless surprised at the ferocity of my anger the moment I encounter a perceived slight on the road: it rises in a flash hotter and more suddenly than those that plagued me for years before menopause. It feels like a siege, as if I have no control over an acid-spewing alien cocooning inside me that bursts from my guts and spews terror. 

And when I have just spit aloud from clenched teeth the words: “You f#@*ing asshole!” with venom, I immediately catch myself, just as automatically as the words that flew out of my mouth, “What is wrong with you?!!” 

Therein lies part of the problem: not the knee-jerk flying foul language and anger triggered by insignificant, impersonal lane encroachments but the counter reaction of self-berating. It does nothing to change the reactive fury. 

Not that I condone the behavior, the lack of control in the face of something so irrational and trivial. Like any bad habit–smoking, nail biting, leg shaking (all of which I have had to beat)–the behavior masks some other neglected need, some other unattended emotion, unhealed wound, stewing conflict or ongoing unresolved problem.  

Most often, however, we seethe in separation, having polarized ourselves in opposition to those who would thwart our efforts, not only on our immediate but our larger destination–at least that is our perception.

When we lash out at the unknown ‘other’ out there in the world, someone we have reduced to a concept, a negative speed bump in our lives, whether that be the generic bad driver (or merely inattentive driver), not to mention the total road blocks–“the racist cop”, “the black thug”– or the more specifically named and reviled “woman” or “Asian” or whichever derogatorily denoted driver, we do so because we are isolated–and not just in the safety of our cars. We are closed up inside of ourselves, removed from our innate artist’s eye able to see the details of others. I know this because no one except the seriously ill or wounded cannot memorize the lines in his mother’s face as she sits paralyzed placid in her wheel chair or the dimples in her babies’ knees.  

The mind can see if allowed to.
The distance between us is self-imposed, learned, unconscious and/or conscious. It derives from the dis-remembrance of our primal past as cave-dwelling groups of protective survival and the ever-unfolding illusion of separateness, the change in us since those days.

Change comes from active awareness of our material being. If the scientists’ and spiritualists’ postulations resonate truth, we are all part and particle of the same star bursts, the same matter that existed eons before us, made us. Our DNA that shapes us is shaped similarly to that of the earth’s flora and fauna. Whether our individual components–genetic or nurtured–make us tall, short, dark or light skinned, good drivers or bad drivers, even-tempered or hot-tempered, we are all respiring sentient beings that matter, are matter, both divine and profane.
When we forget that, we other-ize, sense the loneliness of that disconnection, and get angry. And that’s okay. Eventually, we shift sight, change gears to lower breathing rpm’s, and recognize ourselves as the free-way, the one leading us all to the same exit and on ramps.

Photo credit:  wakeup-world.com

Published in elephant journal:  what happens when we surrender to yoga


Credit: Leslie Alejandro

Even the Supreme Court surrenders to something larger than itself. We all must give in, be a part of the fabric of an order, principle, and/or belief not only for the sake of facilitating justice to those around us but for ourselves–to be the justice. 

Labels define merely to confine. Lately, yoga has been taking a hit in the news. One Congress person dismissed it as religion that he did not want to see endorsed or foisted upon him in our nation’s participation in the celebration of International Yoga Day last week. 

Schools resist implementing yoga classes for a similar anticipated outcry despite the fact that teaching children to listen to their bodies and minds early cannot but be beneficial for adulthood when life speeds up and they, like so many, will lose touch with themselves, feel alienated, ill and angry at “others.”
Yoga is more and less than religion. The responsibility the practice teaches benefits everyone. Please enjoy my essay published in elephant journal on a singular definition of yoga, not exclusively mine, but culled through my experience.


the Gaze

On Rebelle Society–my intimate journey to self acceptance

Please visit Rebelle Society to read “my intimate journey to self acceptance” which has been published today. I hope you enjoy it.


Evan was not my first love. My heart framed in poetry books, I sought love early. By fourteen I had had my first heartbreak and by sixteen, I was initiated to the world of embattled sex my mother fear-burned into me: woman as fortress and men as invader.

It was the 70s and free love was the slogan but not the practice. I was not the only young woman who paid the bodily price of losing what I did not understand I had–self-love, real love.

So when I fell in love with and married a French man a few years later, love was permeated with heady visions of Romantics like Byron and Wordsworth, but sex was informed by the attitudes of Plath and Sexton, hardened and cynical.

In my mind, love and sex were distinct and only the former was indispensable.

I loved Jean-Marc, but we were not so much “in love” as we were good friends. To me, that was more important.

Besides, it was clear I was not his physical type. He had had a girlfriend when I met him in college, a French goddess of natural beauty, as if she emerged from the heather, golden smooth skin delightfully coating her delicate bones and showcasing her eyes of sea blue.

She was the essence of what I deemed poetic femininity at the time. And I was nothing like her, not delicate, soft, supple, petite or graceful. I wasn’t French. I was New York, bookish and big.

But several years into our marriage, I grew thinner, more athletic. I struck a lean, tall figure with improved grace and balance from running and tennis. I had transformed the book worm smoker of pubs and diners around New York to an outdoorsy athletic competitor in California.

When I separated from my husband, I was in the best shape of my life, 28 years old with a hard body everyone noticed but me.

That is when I met Evan.

Evan taught me to love my body. I met him after my husband confessed that he was in love with someone else, a friend he had grown up with in France. Even though that relationship did not pan out, both of us needed time to sort things out.

In reality, the separation between us occurred long before, had been growing inside me. Jean-Marc’s vision of me affected my own. I was a rebound, the consoler and good friend when the goddess dumped him one New Year’s eve.

I was no beauty, but I was comfort.

His eye for aesthetics and style were distinguishing features of my attraction to him but also the very features that attracted him to others, beautiful, lean, olive-complected men I later came to find out.

So why did I choose someone who could not love my body? Over the years, I have considered that question.

Perhaps the body-mind division I fixed early on, prioritizing the intellectual over the physical sublimated my bodily emotions–etched the picture of an unlovely woman in my mind.

But I imagine, poor body image grew out of many seeds: my parents’ relationship, genetics, cultural dictates, social influences and my own love relationships.

Though Jean-Marc and I shared a love that made us grow in the comfort and safety of that umbrella love of young adults, he could not love me intimately, the way a lover sighs at the sight of his beloved’s nakedness. And we couldn’t talk about it for the pain and the guilt. But the elephant in the room nearly crushed me.

Eventually, I was flattened. I no longer had desire–until Evan.

I fell in love with him in a cafe in New York. He spoke soothingly about presence–being present in each moment–and though I had read my zen and Heidegger, I was witnessing the words rather than thinking about them.

He warned me beforehand and then he touched my hand and said, “You’re a writer; describe the experience of my hand.” Of course I didn’t know what he meant; I only said I wanted to be a writer–not that I was–and I was off balance with his touch.

So I described how I felt uneasy with a near stranger’s touch. To which he asked, “Does it feel warm? soft? rough? Can you feel the arced tips of the nails unforgiving yet pleasantly smooth?”

I hadn’t even thought of the physical sensation. I never did. All passed through my mind first and the physical was always sublimated, denied or ignored. Probably why I rarely saw a doctor, going about my business trying not to think of what ailed me.

Later, his first touch of studied tenderness opened my eyes and aroused passion I buried long before I knew its heat, its colorful flavors. He touched me, what was before his eyes, not a projection of me.

And then he took me on a tour of the secret vales and rich verdure of my body. It blazed real love.

Love–true love–is presence in touch; it needs no longing, fantasy, style, grace or poise–merely acceptance in being.

When I embraced my own beauty, uniquely my biological experience, replete with singular angles and curves, scars and splotches, I learned to be heart-wise loved by someone who could love me–all of me–and confirm I was worthy of another’s hand softly sweeping the hair off my brow.

My feminine, I learned, was desire—being—in touch.

How can we ever know how others sense the world? The question should evoke a yearning to find out without the hope of ever doing so. However, it is the practice–the focused being of and with others–that matters. It’s how we connect, avoid loneliness, while maintaining our own integrity.

It is how we find love, real love.

Touch led me from interpreting the world to experiencing it. Getting out of my mind, possessed with others’ formulations of love and sex, and into the moment–breathing presence; it brought me the fullness of acceptance, as a body, my body, with someone else’s.

No, Evan did not teach me acceptance by his touch; eventually, I was able to receive his touch by my own clarity–of space, moment, nearness of another’s presence becoming my own.

He taught me to “see” like the scientists and philosophers and lovers we are–empirically, intellectually and emotionally.

I wasn’t rushing headlong into someone else’s story for me. I had learned to better integrate my body and mind, which took examining inherited perceptions: those of my mother, husband, authors, and culture.

It took practice to own my body. It still does.

And being in the precise moment recalled by someone’s touch–healing in its grounding.

Evan lies next to me now, his pillowed head in the shadow of mine. I am reading, elbow-propped, turned away.

We are prone, bare, having just settled into bed for the night. Humid heat of a New England summer makes flannel impossible and silk torturously sticky. We sleep this way most nights four seasons long.

His body is serpent shape mirror of mine with inches of space between us, creating the comfort of a cooling air canal. We are art in symmetry.

His hand, open palmed, smooths across the contours of my hip, waist and shoulder, smearing heat like oil upon the line of curvy seas in the imagination of his hand–port to starboard to port again. The slow rhythm of his caress lulls my lids to half mast as the warmth and tingling skin sensors combine, dance me to lullaby languor. These are the moments.

I stop reading to softly lower my head to the pillow, ever so slowly, avoiding the slightest ripple in the water of his soliloquy wave. I hold my breath the whole way down.

Releasing, exhaling in measured silent wisps of warm air through my teeth and the pebble O my lips make, anchor hits bottom, the sync of his hypnotic oar undisturbed; it continues to brush the still of my anatomy’s ebb and flow.

I breathe just enough air to live, causing not so much as a flutter-by in the sheets. If I fill my lungs too deeply, selfishly, I will signal sleep’s onslaught, killer of this powerfully peaceful moment of breath, body and hand. No dream could be better than this. I own it–to the coral depths of fibrous memory.

Published on Rebelle Society: Ananda–Count Your Bliss-ings Not Your Troubles


Please enjoy my article on Rebelle Society, a wonderful, impeccably professional and delightful site full of creativity and practical information as well. I have been a fan even before the editors accepted my first submitted essay on February 7th of this year. Good fortune visited me the day I happened upon them in a search for something compelling to write about on a lackluster day creatively speaking. I go there often now just to get a lift.

I hope you, my dear readers and happen-to-drop-by visitors, take some pleasure from momentary ananda my words may inspirit.


the Gaze


A lover of poetry and yoga, sex and wine, and family and friends, I, like the rest of humanity, yearn for blissful moments. And though I am not a scholar of Sanskrit or the Vedantas with its Hindu terms in metes and measures, I sometimes look to their words for understanding bliss–and for creativity.

On a particularly grey day of dreary weather and woe in the face of loss–my mother’s withering mind, my oldest daughter’s going off to college next month, the recent loss of my second career in the kind of misstep that leaves me in awe of how close we all are always to falling into the margins–I contemplate bliss and its countless manifestations just to cheer me up.

However, more often I catalogue my gifts to inspire longer-term goals like grateful living and daily writing.

We–my lingual species–take for granted words like bliss, happiness, joy and even sadness, depression or despair, the ready words to capture nuances of feeling. Yet, as a complexly feeling people, we enjoy labeling the colors of our moods, one of the many inheritances that distinguishes us from other earthly creatures.

Bliss, with its thick, rich history and vibrancy steers us through that complexity as it soaks us with recognition, sense and order. The feathered tendrils of meaning that touch upon its neighboring moods captured in “pleasure” and “delight” create extensions that reach down and through our lives.

Whether we search the Oxford English Dictionary or the Vedas and the Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit, Ananda–the Sanskrit word for bliss–wholly resonates the thought-emotion from the eternal to the local. I often write on it for poetic inspiration, especially when my mood and writing discipline falters. Its order and principles cure writer’s block.

When I am stuck, I, like the Sanskrit Dictionary, begin with Pleasure, a term with associations ranging from the simple, like the tickle of childhood in watching the mercury bubble gurgle to and fro inside the glass of an old-time thermometer, to the ecstatic, like orgasm from an in-love-with lover or the runner’s high amid the stillness of a solitary crisp morning run along a cow-lined country lane in the heather of Central France.

Pleasure alone is not enough, however, for the distinct flavors of bliss parsed from the Sanskrit. Thinly sliced from Pleasure is Sensual Pleasure, which I must confess drives my daily experiences. Lure by all that teases the senses, I can close my eyes and smell the house-filled aroma of garlicky tomato sauce simmering and feel the headiness of inhaling the sweet, milky scent of my infant’s skin.

Poetry writes itself to the earliest memories of my mother’s fingernails stroking the scalp beneath the thick curls framing my resting head in her lap.

Two others related to Sensual Pleasure are Sensual Joy, found in a late Friday afternoon nap, unclothed and entwined with a lover, and a Kind of Flute, an instrument hollow and wooden or a vessel for champagne, both soothing and stimulating the ears and mind. The memory sounds of dancing to South American pan flutes puffed outside the market in downtown Caracas and toasting in the new year floats in the buzz of the bubbles and sway.

Which is a different high from Delight, a sharper edged bliss compared to the roundness of pleasure. I find it in placing that last piece into that one perfectly matched squiggly space left in the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle or the twenty dollar bill pulled from the pocket of my jeans one unsuspecting morning.

It’s the imagined lightswitch on when it all makes sense.

Happiness strikes me as less spiky than the sparkle and shine of Delight, deeper set and sustained: the mood makes us skip down the path just because…it is a lightness in the step, in the being. But turn happiness up a notch to a swelling sustenance to the heart and you have joy.

Joy catches us unawares, say, when a mother turns from her busy-ness to spy her infant’s gaze following her every movement. However, Joy’s cousin Enjoyment is quieter, less a beaming and more a warmth, though no less satisfying. For me, it’s a book to live in for a while; the first bite of deep, dark, smoky chocolate; or the silent spell of a Shakespearean sonnet.
But Pure Happiness is seeing the fruits of our efforts to help others ripen and blossom or the awe of creating another human being through unimaginable struggle.

Yet another bliss, Cheerfulness is not so much a mood as a temperament that drifts between internal and external space: the unforced mental smile naturally unfolding at the thought of another day as another opportunity to get something right or the gleam in the eyes of the genuine gift giver.

Some types of bliss follow strife, a sort of relief as in the contrast of high pressure to low. I imagine this sensation in Sanskrit as End of the Drama. I think of it as resolution after the struggle, war, riot, tussle, or tragedy and in another bliss–a Thing Wished For–the triumph of acceptance, often a satisfactory ending to a poor beginning.

Reaching to the sublime, Beatitude anticipates the first spring blossom clearing the snow face, break-through acts of kindness, a helping hand when all hope is lost, a miracle, and nature’s whisper. Somehow related in my mind, One of the Three Attributes of Atman or Brahman in the VedAnta Philosophy means a sort of holy, the oneness at the tip of the final exhale concluding meditation.

And in all things comes the contentment in order: Name of the Forty-Eighth year of the cycle of Jupiter intuits that human comfort in prediction and patterns and the recognition of the unknowable vastness, the multiverse, of which we are merely particles from planetary bursts—as well as the burden that knowledge relieves.

And finally earthbound and encircling ourselves, bliss is a Kind of House like all shelters that provide the safety and security that we imagined as children gleefully building blanket forts in the living room.

A trick of the mind or a daily devotion, inventorying all that makes us happy not only soundly defeats the writing doldrums but potentially pulls us from a slump, maybe even depression. The habit balances us–if not as an antidote, at least as a partial cure for the ills of a day or a life–and improves health.

A day when even the sun seems to let us down is perfect for cataloguing gifts and counting bliss-ings. Let us begin with Ananda.

Note: Classifications of Ananda are in the Dictionary for Spoken Sanskrit; definitions are in the mind of this star gazing poet.

Motherhood on Mother’s Day: Let it Be

My Dear Daughters:

   No letter, especially one to daughters, should begin with I’m sorry, but this one does. I’m sorry. Though regrets are a waste of time, I must apologize for your inheritance. No, I don’t mean money. In all likelihood, your fortunes are your own to make. And I know of no genetic medical challenges in store for you in this lifetime. No, this apology comes upon seeing the two of you drive off to lunch together, one tight-lipped and tense, the other tentative and earnest.

You see, dear daughter number two in birth order, you have inherited the portion of your mother’s temperament that ruffles easily when you convince yourself that another has acted poorly or unjustly or incompetently. You do not suffer lightly the effects of others’ actions on your life, irritated at the shortcomings of your fellow beings. You stew. 

To make matters worse, you can’t shake it off. When you decide to change teams and find the coach knows little more than the last one and your teammates are no different, no more skillful or intelligent or cooperative than the last, you simmer, aggravated after a game where the forwards hardly ever anticipate your serves from mid-field and so miss scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity, while the coach fails to instruct and the defense fails to adjust for the deflected offense. 

So you grouch for the rest of the day, angry at your teammates, your coach, but mostly at yourself for having chosen the team, or for even playing soccer in the first place.

And you, daughter number one, I owe you an apology for both your inability to fix your sister and your desire to do so. Like me, you feel discomfort when others display unpleasant emotions, even if  they are mere facial expression. Your sister cannot hide what she feels, though she speaks not a word or a sigh. Her face tells the story–sorry again, second born, for yet another trait passed on. 

And you feel responsible when you are not completely oblivious. Sensitivity is not your strongest attribute. You need to be hit over the head, spoken to directly, told what someone feels, unable to intuit. I gave you that obtuseness. Then when you hear the complaint, the source of woes, compassion turns to anxiety to solve the break, the mood, or problem. 

That anxiety leads to paralysis. Your mind turns foggy with the pressure to create, find an idea. And so you retreat, get disinterested and frustrated. You have no idea what to do to please her, though you try: bribe her with first choice of music in your car or chocolate or a trip to the mall. You try teasing and joking but the list of sorry-I-gave-that-trait-to-you includes stubbornness on her part as it does cluelessness on yours. 

But you know she unwinds in time, flexes her tension and exhales in release when she does, so there’s no rushing through it. The two of you cleave to one another as the best of friends, so you know.

Daughter born first, the days ahead bring many lessons about letting go, acceptance and boundaries, yours in relation to others. Your compassion will hold you in good stead if you never swallow it down in futility rather than acceptance: you can offer but no one has to accept. Perhaps she cannot. That is not your fault. Give, nevertheless, without the expectation of receiving. Help others because others need help, not to get results. You are not here to fix but to try.

Daughter born second, when you too learn to accept yourself, mistakes and all, your moods will calibrate, even out. Your expectations so high for yourself, you project those on to others who cannot meet them. If only you can merely see people, observe them without judging, and accept your strengths and weaknesses realistically without judgment, you may be able to do the same for others. 

The expanding pressure contracts and recedes in the exhaust of toxic release, the poison of fear–of disappointment, not measuring up, and not succeeding–whether aimed at you or others.

You both have a lifetime ahead of procuring patience, and if you get the jump on everyone else, you may discover the secret, the jewel of existence, of slowing down just as time speeds up. If you can, if somehow in cinematic slo-mo you can envision your two hands grab the big hand of the clock, just like when you were little we learned from that interactive picture book with the brightly colored spinning clock hands (blue for the big one and red for the small one) and hold that big boy back with all your might, you better the odds at beating the odds against you–your inheritance. 

Take time, my daughters, to be and let be. She who came after you needs time to work the inarticulable undulations of anger mounted on uncertainty overlaid on the foundation of fear that shift and morph like sea kelp ebbing and flowing with the tide. If you, my first born, breathe slowly, let every drop out before you sip another slow breath in, the extra seconds may allow you the focus, the time it takes for the words to come, the ideas to set you free:  “She is who she is, and I am who I am. Nothing more.”

I am sorry but have no regrets. You two embody the best I have to offer–and more. 

With all my love…
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I know you know.

Happy Anniversary!

Here’s to delightful surprises! May your lives be full of them.
A toast of good cheer I have made many times, sober or not, today I toast a special anniversary–mine.
I married my charming good friend 35 years ago. I loved him then, one of a couple of jackass kids we were back in 1980. Flippantly striding through college campus defying accepted authority and unearthing sacred ground, we were irreverently youthful. So when he asked me to marry him for a practical solution to an impractical problem of late registration and the French military, I did. After all, he was my good friend-sometimes lover. I did love him.


To this day I am unsure of the depth of our love–even if he loved me–to what degree or intensity. It did not matter. We galavanted through the crazy years together as a pair. And when my car blew up and my job went south, I moved in with him, only to move out nine years later and then move back in 6 years after that. 


To our sometimes amazement, sometimes knowing nod, we have lasted this long together, through the soaring and sinking. To our surprise, we built and destroyed things together without destroying each other. To no one’s surprise, we have tried our best to be good friends, lovers, parents, children, siblings, friends and citizens of the local and larger world we inhabit. 


Even more surprising than our lasting is our having met in the first place. What were the chances that we would meet at Golden West College in Mrs. Strauss’ World Literature class and start a conversation, me, who never initiated conversations with anyone, whispering that first opening line: “Where’re you from?”


I was an awkward, self-conscious, earth-shoe-wearing 18 year old poor student with visions of backpacking through Europe some day and a sucker for an accent, while he was a suave, self-assured, French-accented European of means with a late 70’s expensive shoulder-length haircut, collar-less shirt and American boorishness critique. We were caricatures of Romantics–righteous anger, cynical disdain and ironic amusement–back then.  


When I married him, I was aware his eyes turned for delicate boned petite beauties with eyes the color of the sea set in sand-polished skin while I adored tall, dark-haired brown-skinned rugged bad boys who seldom smiled. I was a tall, clunky hippy, a brown-eyed brunette with freckles who hugged her knees into her chest while conversing in wild waves of gesticulating hands. He was fair-haired, small-framed metro with polite manners and a sense of decorum. 


Somehow we found our meeting. Somehow we have survived the mountain of small frictions of daily living atop the chasm of disappointment, misunderstanding and alienation that one human being can produce in another. Steadiness steered us through the rocket ride up and back as it does now.  


We share a steadiness, a vibration like the P wave of the electrocardiogram, where the spikes are measured against the dips to tell the story of a heart’s patterns and rhythm. Call it history, maturation, transcendence, or regeneration like severed nerve endings in the brain organically reaching out and reconnecting, we share a communal past and an ongoing present. We grew up together.
To my daily delight, we survive days that lapse into years. We co-exist, unconsciously in each other’s often silent presence puppeteering the motions and emotions of two people conducting a marriage, a family, and a life as we wander through moments, sometimes colliding, clashing and crashing, other times melding and mooring, uplifting upon the same softly rocking sea of a cul de sac world we look out to sitting on our lawn chairs in the sunny warmth bathing our suburban front porch.
There is peace in constancy. I am surprised to write that, me, whose constant throughout my kick-ass twenties and thirties was the belief that contentment was a fate worse than death, a killer of creativity and therefore life. Without the itch, the striving, I thought, there was only collapse into the hum of the daily, the numbing hum of contentment. But constancy is not always contentment. 
The average, the mean and the median are constants, not so much as compromise but as perspective. The sum total of existence is the graph of heart palpitating thrills of victory measured against the torpor of stultifying loss. Quality of life, in retrospect, is calculated by that range of emotion, the depth of terror and rage against ecstasy and bliss. My husband-partner-mate and I have reached, stretched the limits together, and so have bonded, grown neurological tendrils of connections in the doing.
And we stumble over and with each other still, amazed that we awaken to yet another shared morning, that we grew two healthy, happy humans despite ourselves and manage to move through time and space as we do–mindlessly mindful of the beat that syncs us, he sometimes the high and me the low while other times he the wide and me the far. Wondrously, unexpectedly, we make it–together.
Happy Anniversary, to you who will not read this tribute to endurance. If you did, however, you would find in this lovely duet, a surprise akin to our own song. Cheers!

Marriage: the Conventional, the Unconventional and the Facts


credit: http://i2.wp.com (No, this is not my family; it’s just weirdly entertaining, kind of like my marriage)

April 19th is my wedding anniversary. In four days I will have been married 35 years–to the same man. Though we have an open marriage, enjoy physical intimacy no longer, I consider our marriage meaningful and committed. We have created and continue to raise two incredible human beings while caretaking two others safely through their twilight. Barring unforeseen calamities, including death, I see no reason for our marriage not to last.

Perhaps my years as a divorce attorney fueled the longevity of my marriage. Witness all day–so many days–to so much grief and acrimony, the willful and unwitting destruction of lives small and big, I avoided arguing when I came home at night. The running joke was always, “If we argue, I have to charge you,” while glancing down at my wrist to the non-existent watch timing billable hours. From clients to opposing attorneys, court clerks, and even my own staff, I was argued out by the time I got home and wanted conciliatory peace. And we did live peacefully in those days, most of our days, for the most part.

My marriage has not been without huge dips in the fairly steady, even road. There were times of grave disappointment and betrayal, cheating and lying, exasperatingly long periods of financial deficits and child rearing disparities. Though most of the big ticket items to tear at the seams of a marriage were little or non-issues for us–religion, in-laws and politics–there was still enough shared life to rend our lives into separate camps, feeling isolated and alone, the union itself contributing to that loneliness, for me anyhow. I confused belief in our couplehood, being on the same team, with sameness. I thought we should never be at odds to such an extent that we bring one another down.

Yes, we have laid each other low at times, blew out our ugliest selves at each other, guts a’spew, but we have also propped each other up, been the very scaffolding of each other’s lives at other times. My husband rescued me in my lowest days and shared in my greatest moments too. And I suppose that is the crux of it: we share history. The one thing that is nearly impossible to divorce is history. Observing hundreds of divorcing couples over the years, I believe that is deepest cut–slicing away the shared past. Many divorce tears shed are in mourning a communal past.

Concluding from my own marriage, those who can simply last–endure disappointment, suffer patiently and hope daily–are those who benefit most from marriage. My husband loathes change and I inherited blind optimism, which provides some of the glue of our togetherness. But apparently additional factors contribute to marital success or failure, according to Woman’s Day and its 10 Surprising Divorce Facts: parental influence, education, location, income, religion and age at marriage. 

If your parents’ marriage lasted, you’re college educated, enjoy a substantial income, are Catholic or Protestant and don’t live in Alabama, your marriage is likely to last, surprisingly. I have never lived in Alabama. My parents have been married for 61 years, which would explain my 35-year marriage but not my sisters’ three divorces between them, one of them having lasted only one year–twice. But it would explain my brother’s 29-year marriage, my one sister’s 23-year marriage before it went south, but not my still another sister’s never having been married yet in her 44th year.

So take it for what it’s worth, an “ah, that’s interesting” reading that may supply your ten minute coffee break with entertainment. This short fact list provoked in me a pondering over the definition of marriage: What makes a marriage? What makes a good marriage? Longevity certainly is not the litmus test for quality, though one might assume so. People can be unhappily married most of their lives. 

Trite as it seems, a good marriage consists of two people with realistic attitudes about the institution specifically and human beings generally. My marriage was a convenience in its inception but grew into the shapes it has taken over the years: love, family, loyalty, convention and the inverse of all of those too. Perhaps the lack of expectation going into it explains in part the “success” of my marriage. Unfulfilled expectations did not root itself in the initial contractual arrangement. Certainly they arose organically as my husband and I developed expectations over time. 

Perhaps it’s because we didn’t believe in the institution as much as we believed in each other. Marriage formulas or divorce statistics abound in the news and in the confines of counseling offices, but ultimately, the unique chemistry and conversing, the melding of two people’s lives, people harkening from separate beginnings, nature and nurture, are the core components of the mysterious making of a marriage. Each marriage rises and falls accordingly. Belaboring the obvious? Yep.

Bar Flight


credit: http://images.fineartamerica.com/saulnier

Sitting at the corner bar, satisfying the urge for a beer and relieving the boredom jitters, I’m tormented by indiscriminate shouting of barflies and distant diners lining the walls of the dark, decor of seafaring ships, anchors and fish. Sea legs. Clearly this place lacks intelligent acoustic design, much to the chagrin of the owners who honestly tried to reduce the clamor crawling the high ceilings, especially with a yoga studio above it. I once heard the story, sitting at this bar with M many months before.

My girlfriend’s already signed off for the night, so I am unconcerned about my phone’s rings, dings and buzzes. I am wherever for whatever. Thinking about the last time we met at the hotel for a quick grope and a tickle, sneaking a hurried sigh and a fierce kiss, my mind smiles, my face impassive.

The pretend-lover is off somewhere in the night, leaving town for the week tomorrow, as the story goes still smoldering in the musk stains left in my hair, emitted in the toss of my head as I spy the inhabitants of this sultry Thursday crowd. At least we got to do the fuck-and-lie before the morning’s 8 a.m. departure. What’s the weather like in the Southeast?

Often it’s the simplest moment that lingers on the tongue of my thoughts, savored in sensorial bites: a shy side glance of the twenty-something deeply brown-eyed half of the pair sitting on the stools next to me sends static up my spine, an imperceptible eye-twitch, my senses on electricity. What does it mean?

I crave quiet corners most of the time, am in love with intimate spaces with or without another. In an unsuspecting moment, memory flashes the scent of heat rushing from a wall heater mixed with bleach and sweat in a dark room in mid-afternoon while we nap, your arm dead over my hips and belly. 

Though the time is so little, so simple, it stays. Maybe that’s the draw, the beauty of it, it’s simplicity and freedom to be whatever we need it to be, something of our own creation without the stress of trying to make it be too much, like living and planning and being together, which is complicated and full of friction. Our island is tiny and sporadic, though well-timed. Maybe it’s the island that is the draw more so than I. 

His wife hates him as much as she loves him, that’s what the bar fly kitty corner to me yells over the blaring music to his companions. I wonder why. Perhaps she cannot stand the way he mispronounces the names of her favorite artist, or his snoring, explosive anger, criticism, taken-for-granted use of her body for his release coupled with the inability to fulfill her because she never figured out how that could be, relied on him to figure it out, but could not relax enough to let him, guide him or even try.

Nat King Cole croons “Unforgettable.”

Filling out a daily diary of calories in my phone app is tedious, a task I assigned myself as consciousness raising more than dieting but it has, like so many other healthy exercises enthusiastically commenced, deteriorated to an obsession. 

The same guy three stools down shouting over the next song, a 70s favorite I recognize but will have to focus on more if I want to remember the artist and title, whinnying really in a high tinny voice, about his divorce and how his wife regrets the divorce being the way it was. Also, his daughter and plans for spring break to be with her and her friends, Abbey her name, is really shaping up. Oh, so a divorce has permanently taken up residence in his conversation. The ex hates and loves him.

The divorce story’s addressees are a big bald dude and his Asian-looking companion, petite and smartly dressed with discreet cleavage, smooth-skinned soft peaks demurely and tastefully displayed below a string of pearl-like gems. She speaks with an unidentifiable accent. Like her, I am only half listening. The divorce story seems to be aimed at her, a polite, captive audience, while her boyfriend baldy winks at her looking away from the divorce tale-teller. Divorce guy wants to be heard. Baldy stays quiet, polite agreement here and there. He wants to be home fucking pearl girl. “That’s the way God meant it to be in some ways,” Divorce says. I missed the context of that statement.

Brings me back to a lover and his week of agony, strife with the wife, severe enough for him to act deflated, distracted passion, wildly unusual, so that I had to ask, as he collapsed away from me and sunk into the mattress, fists fretted together, face pinched in deep furrows, what was the matter. Did he expect me to sense his grief and ask? He is not as mysterious as I once thought. 

In our fifth year he took up confession; home life was bad, stressful, not good for the kids, he told me, the emailed story unfolding in exclamatory bursts, philosophical resignation, religious retreat and cautionary reminders. I did nothing to provoke the last so have to conjecture: it crossed his mind, the thought of leaving, running to me, but he got scared or sober or logical. He tasted the bitterness and stinging hate of hurt and revenge, the loss of power, prestige and pleasure, time spent with his children, too soon gone. 

Imagined scenarios of our making are the engine of creation, the mechanics of our story trotted out for each other to admire and merge into on cue.

Hate, vengeance and righteousness of god, fashioned to her fundamental beliefs in a church that spreads the selective word of a deity who manifested love, she believes he must be the man she wants him to be. The wont of their ilk is to toss sacred words to trump one over the other.

An ancient story repeated, their love grown in children and the grace of goods bought and sold, possession of a union, a house, a garden, two cars and a dog, they loved and rubbed each other right until it was wrong. Humans are pattern makers. God chuckles.

But he was clearly jarred, sorrowed, repentant, and seeking comfort in a resolve to improve, surrender, endure and abide, a solution time tested. Biding time is what we do. Some call it the journey. With attention, it is often referred to as presence, the fullness of time and the conjoint spirit of one. I am content. 

I prefer small pockets of pleasure disturbed by the occasional deep, destructive pothole in the roads I travel. So many lovely beings reach me, their intentions like silk tendrils of touch-full caressing care and wonder like Debussy’s Bergamasque piano silently accompanying the undulating drift of bar meanderings.  

“I will be unavailable to you that week of your return.” I told him that, and he let me go.
Divorce boy just informed baldy’s girl that he is going to finish his bottle of wine, though he apparently has had enough, and try his luck picking up on some girls situated elsewhere in the bar. The incongruence of girls in a bar strikes me. 

I have seen divorce boy passively sitting at the bar before–beak-nosed and paunchy with a deceptively young face, not unpleasing. He tries. I am not here often–eight or nine times a year–and the last time I was here he was too. Look at us, the lonely people. 

The two women to my left are pouring the remainder of their wine from their glasses back into the bottle. All neighboring eyes are turned to the task, like a netted tightrope walk to safety, the risk not too terrible but for the stains. The two young women have been sharing a small space, huddled in the corner of the bar, phones in hand illuminating the luster of their eyes and lipstick, checking social media, I presume, and speaking in tones reserved only for them.

Big baldy says, “I’d have to kill the guy.” Clearly man talk. I cannot imagine the stool mates to my left saying that kind of shit, defending their territory. Like R. He would do that, kick someone’s ass who looked at me had we been daylight lovers, out of the bedroom partners in a real life relationship. But I speculate.

How far can a fantasy stretch? What does anyone need beyond a little relief, some tenderness to ease the strain of survival? Maybe nothing. A will to bend, a neck crook for a weary head, an arm flung over a curled-up thigh and those who know your name may be the sum substantial of existence.