There are (NOT EVEN KIDDING) about 18 pairs of shoes in the hallway. My kids are both home. And while I love that they are here, their shoes, not so much. I have raised shoe whores. They are the Imelda Marcos of young adults.
My son cooked last night after grocery shopping with me, and insisting on buying a cast iron pan. He has been extolling its virtues for days, not hearing me when I tell him that my parents only cooked with cast iron, multiple frying pans hanging on a large butcher’s meat hook next to the stove. He seemed to turn a deaf ear to my knowledge, wanting to teach me, and although I have not used one since I was in high school, the taste of the meat last night was the same as if I was sitting in my parent’s kitchen. I missed that deep, intense flavor those pans can bring. I had to give it to him.
My daughter got herself a job! She is working for a landscaper, and on Friday, she got a terrible stomachache and had to come home before she was done with her work. She has felt horribly guilty about not finishing the day off. That’s a good sign–that she wanted to finish her work. I hate that she was so sick and was in the bathroom half the night, but I like that she felt responsible to her job.
Cooking and working. There is some real progress happening with those people my husband and I made. They are undeniably becoming adults. They are even teaching me stuff now. My mom used to say, “If you live long enough, you see everything.” It’s funny how I could never have imagined when my kids were toddling around in diapers that one day they’d really be people walking around wth jobs and pan obsessions. But here we are. Grateful.
The first thing I do when I get up, here at 126 days, 20 minutes and 9 seconds….10 seconds…..11 seconds…..12 seconds…(well, we could do this all day), is grab my phone to see if Trump has blown us up yet.
That is, as he would say, sad. He’d be right (for once). It is downright sad. And I have to stop thinking about him so much. But is it even possible to stop thinking of someone who is changing the fabric of what’s deemed acceptable, of the kind of actions that are deeply damaging the lives of the very people who supported him, and who need support the most.
It seems when I write about Trump, I can never adequately get my rage and dismay out. I feel it deep in my chest, this pain of unvoiced concern that can’t connect with the right words to express my shock at the predicament we’re in, that such a person could really be the head of our country. I don’t know why that is. I don’t understand why I can’t cogently get my thoughts down.
Maybe I just can’t believe someone could be so heartless, so lacking in intelligence and humanity. Maybe it’s my disbelief that this could even be happening that makes it impossible to pin down in words.
Today I will be grateful he didn’t press “the button” by accident and that Mueller and the gang is going to be thorough in their investigation. I will live in the possibility that evil will go down, that wrongdoing will be outed, that the resistance is going to help rid the swamp of the monster that lives there.
For every person who thinks the internet is having negative effects on our species, there’s this.
I don’t disagree that it has its moments, that kids might as well have their phones permanently embedded in their palms, that sometimes you don’t even think anymore, you just use your alternative brain, Google. But I have recently become part of an online offshoot of a writing class I just completed, and if I could even explain to you how this group has become like a hammock of pure and total love, a receptacle for our worse selves, our fears, our shame, our paralysis, you’d think I was making it up. This group, on the daily, doles out the kind of support you’d get if you could put double Spanx on your soul. Not only that, this collective of non-judgemental, rawesome, smart and amazingly loving humans are experienced in the pain and suffering the world can dish out. It’s almost impossible to explain how this love fest happened because it’s nothing short of a bizarre little miracle.
None of us know each other, as in ever met one another in person. We met online taking a class that the objective of was to write to the bottom of a topic—the very, very bottom–the truth– and come out the top. Some of these topics were a 27,000 on the pain scale, and some were not. The truth was what we were there to learn, in an effort to improve our writing.
Now maybe it’s that a course like this would just attract supportive and affectionate people, or maybe there is some magicosity that has occurred with this group that has created an atmosphere of openness and acceptance. There is nothing too embarrassing you can’t say, too shameful you can’t share, too gross you can’t drone on about. This group holds you in their online arms like a newborn. It’s like a wall of scaffolding that is making people stand up and shout out their truths like they were at a protest march, write out their innermost fears like they had a gun to their heads, scream at the top of their lungs about what it is they simply won’t stand one more second for.
It’s made me consider how much better the world would be if we all just gave each other the benefit of the doubt and offered support more freely. This sort of blind faith in people that’s showing up in this group is empowering. People are shifting and changing and getting in touch with the weighty shit that’s keeping them down. What if, offline, we were all just a little more supportive? Might that help us all to accomplish what we think we can’t?
Gratitude for the online cheerleading squad I’m lucky enough to be part of. You guys are the fucking light.
Yesterday was a funny day. Not ha, ha funny, but interesting funny, “wouldja look at how life is, all it is,” kind of day.
My son should have graduated from college this year, only his first choice college, USC, Fight On, Go Trojans, accepted him for the Spring semester, and he wanted to go there enough to say yes. This prompted us to have to find something to engage him for the first semester. A friend ran a cool organization and we found he could go to University of Barcelona. The USC Admissions board said, “Oh yeah, we know that program. No problem. Great” But being a novice college mom (and possibly dumb as poured cement), I didn’t get it in writing, and yes, if you’re playing along, it did not, in the end, count (four courses in a foreign city, three of which were in Spanish and not a one of them counted, THANK YOU SO FUCKING MUCH). Which means, he did not graduate this year with all of his friends, which also means I did not yet have to ponder, yet another transition.
But it seemed yesterday, I did. And it a little bit undid me.
I started the day by going to a graduation party for twin boys who I’ve known since they were little, and I say this as little in the sense of just a few months old, and little in the sense that they are now both 6’5. Not even kidding. They are like buildings in a sea of cottages. This may have started me on the course of where I ended up. I mean, you look at them and because they’re so tall, so much larger than when they were babies, you think, how, HOW could this have happened that those two tiny people became these two very big people? They are perfect visual symbols of this concept that just reminds me of everything I don’t understand about life.
Then, Peter and I met our friend Sharon, at the movie “Obit” at the Coolidge, where the filmmaker and one of the writers of obits for the New York Times was having a Talk Back after the movie. Some time ago, we recognized that we were all a little in love with obituaries. My obsession began after my mom died at 73, which I felt was way too young, and which is when I began reading obits in earnest (age 32), being secretly grateful when someone died who was younger than my mother, and covertly angry when someone was older (I never said that I was a normal person, I am clearly not). Anyway, when we heard about this film, I knew we just had to see it and we just had to see it with Sharon. It was great. But of course, it made us ponder dying and what our obits would say and I realized that I really have to step it up, because at this point, if I were to get a headline at all, it would be, “She made a nice poster, she wrapped a nice gift.”
The end of the day was another graduation party of my son’s high school girlfriend. I love this girl like she is mine (even though she is not, and has wonderful parents who raised her to be the brilliant, ethical, loyal, loving and hard working girl she is). I think after the obituary movie, which had me look at my own mortality, and the morning acknowledgement of the neighborhood boys graduating, I was set up to sob. And before I could even eat, I started to, which was ridiculous, and wrong, and I decided we had to leave abruptly, because I all of a sudden was rushed with the emotions of how fast time is jetting by, and it flooded me like a goddamn tsunami. A tsunami, I tell you.
Graduations mark time. I haven’t thought about time since back in September when my daughter left for college, leaving the nest void of kids. I’ve been busy doing stuff. But yesterday forced me to not only look at these kids who I’ve watched grow up, but once again at myself and to be reminded that there are certain periods of my life that are now over–times that seemed at some moments to identify who I was.
Morphing. That’s what we’re all doing, all the time. Going from being one of 1,209, 792,378 things that we are, into one of the 1,209, 792,378 other things we are on our way to becoming.
Graduations are for celebrating the graduate, but they also make us look at where we are in the great graduation procession of life. Yup, we’re born and we die, is how some people would sum it up. But we all know it’s more than this. It’s so much, so goddamn much more.It was a funny day. I suspect there will be many more just like it.
I droll on about Trump a lot here. It’s one of the reasons I stopped writing every day, because, duh, even those of us, who feel that true mental illness has taken over the White House, don’t want to be reminded every minute, plus we have “breaking news” every second, and like, 1,298,398 sites and papers, magazines and networks to inform us of the travesty that we’re living, so it’s not like you’re uninformed.
Anyway, this was a banner week in cuckoo land, and I am feeling pretty hopeful, that although this may take a while, finally, there is an adult looking under a microscope at that hiney in the Oval. This has honestly improved the moods of everyone I know. “Anti-depressant prescriptions plummet”, says Wall Street Journal (See how well I’ve learned how to lie because of this administration’s modeling–The WSJ said no such thing.).
I did want to just mention my gratitude for a really great organization. A few days ago, Brookline invited Ben Clements, Board Chair and Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech for People to discuss why Congress should start an impeachment investigation now. They are super smart, (and either would be a better POTUS than the one we have–of course the lemon tree in my living room would be a better POTUS that the one we have). The Brookline Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last week for an Impeachment Resolution, which next week goes to Town Meeting for a vote. If it passes (and it will), this will mean we join Cambridge, Amherst and a host of other cities and towns who have sent Congress a resolution to begin an impeachment investigation this very minute, if not sooner.
I would also like to give a shoutout to my friend Marian Klausner, who got me involved, and has been doing a lot to get rid of that man (with due respect to real men everywhere) who is the Commander-in-Chi……(I’m sorry, every time I think of him as the head of our country, I have to laugh).
So, weather is good, grown-ups are looking at President Cray Cray and the weekend is coming. Happy fucking Friday, people.
At first I did everything I could not to get pregnant. It seemed easy back then, like I might fertilize an egg just by going on a date. ROGUE SPERM ALERT! I was an obedient birth control user. A poster child, really. I would not have to make the decision to keep or abort a baby. I knew it would undo me, so I faithfully used my diaphragm (which felt like the size of a flying saucer. “Earth to Toni’s vagina.”), the pill for a short time (which made me gain 10 pounds in about six seconds), condoms (which the guys were never too happy about).
My mom had me at 41, and I swore I’d never wait that long, because I was always worried she would die before I was ready and didn’t want to impose that same anxiety on my children (little did I know I WOULD NEVER BE READY FOR HER TO DIE). A stomachache would send me on a year-long hunt for the reason and that reason would be that I had stage IV endometriosis, and all my organs were glued together, and as the doctor said, so eloquently, “You’ll never have a baby, because your insides are a mess.
But fuck you endometriosis, and fuck you even harder, doctor with no bedside manner, I did. I did have a baby. Not saying it was easy. Because it was not. There was not one easy thing about it. It was three years of physical and emotional pain, tests, surgery, anxiety and eventually a desire to get in bed, and stay there, for like, EVER.
But after one miscarriage and three years, the test was positive. Two lines appeared. I checked and re-checked. And nine months later, I had a little boy named Jake. I had a baby. I had a healthy baby. Three years later, after two months of trying, I was pregnant again (I actually thought it might not be mine). I had a healthy little girl with more hair than most full grown orangutans.
It’s my 22nd mother’s day. There is a lot more to say. A. Lot. More. To. Say. But because I have a big breakfast in bed waiting for me, I will say this: I love my kids more than all the words the alphabet can make. Jackson Robert Gabriele and Alexandra Louise Christina, Riley, my buddy (who is my dog, but I’m pretty sure I gave birth to) : you are everything, plus french fries.
I just read an account of one horrific year an FB friend is in the midst of recovering from and I thought, Fuck, there is a aircraft carrier of pain in the world. It’s not like that thought is breaking news, or anything. I have known about pain and experienced a lot of it for most of my life.
How we get through it, mystifies me as much as it impresses me. What we do, how we act, what we hold, what we carry, where we find enough strength to cross the street and move on, is what really interests me.
There have been times when I felt too much loss, too much pain. And I have thought, here I am in the quicksand of it, the belly of despair and it’s swallowing me and maybe I’ll just let it, because what’s the fucking point–I’m just too tired.
But then a little voice, in the form of muffins at your door from an acquaintance who knows of your sadness, or a perfectly timed phone call from a friend, or a song, or a favorite food you can swallow amidst your grief and actually taste, speaks to you and says, “This is just momentary, honey. There is more of the good stuff coming for you.”
It doesn’t speak loudly at first. It’s like the shy kid who was always in the back of the classroom acing the math tests. It’s like a tiny, fragile lily of the valley. It’s like a tea light candle trying to light up the whole of the black night, the sun trying to power through an opaque bank of clouds.
As long as even a tiny splinter-you-get-from-a-piece-of wood-in-your-finger sized bit of possibility is viewable from your peripheral vision even, you will make it.
This is what we do. We live as pain’s targets. We’re always trying to dodge and weave. As the song says, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”
It takes time to wrestle pain and grief into submission. I have found pain never really goes away, but I’ve learned to carry it. I used to carry it on my back, but then I realized that hurt too much. So now, I carry it in my heart. When we carry our pain in our hearts, we become compassion. Compassion creates connection. And connection saves us.