#Reverb14 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Let’s talk turkey | Do you even like Thanksgiving food? If you could make the menu, what would you have? What was the most memorable Thanksgiving? What was served? 

In my family, Thanksgiving is The Main Event. Which is nice for a lot of reasons, one of them being that I am…not a Christmas person.

So it’s convenient to have Thanksgiving be the Main Holiday in my family, particularly because my partner is not American. For me and Paul, there’s no weird back-and-forth over Whose family are we going to spend Thanksgiving with? because there’s no such thing as Thanksgiving in Ireland.

Convenient.

All of this said, a few years ago, we had a Thanksgiving that I am still trying to forget.

It started innocently enough, which was that my Uncle Sam seemed to have a touch of stomach flu on the way up to Yosemite. (Recall, my family spends every Thanksgiving in Yosemite National Park. For years, we didn’t even have TV. I didn’t know what “Black Friday” was until I was in my mid-20s.)

When I finally arrived, my mother announced: Your Uncle Sam couldn’t even have a martini! As if that explained everything.

But that was just…the beginning.

Within about a day, the bug began to spread. And if you know me, you may know that I have a pathological aversion to vomit. In other words, being stuck in a cabin in the woods in a house full of people with the stomach flu was nothing short of my version of hell.

But we soldiered on! The family prepared Thanksgiving dinner as usual. Since, at that point, I hadn’t eaten Thanksgiving dinner in years (I find most holiday foods to be very unpleasant), I wasn’t planning on eating any of the turkey or stuffing prepared by people who had been recently ill anyway. However, we had friends coming from a nearby cabin who were bringing food to share. Thankfully, these folks did not have the Norwalk virus at their cabin. AND, much to my delight, they hated turkey as much as I did, so they were bringing lasagne.

I ate only lasagne that year.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, and then sat down to the annual viewing of Christmas Vacation. All was going well until my mother began to forcefully vomit.

It seemed like it might’ve been a one-off; maybe she’d picked something up before we left on our holiday. At the time, she was still a teacher, and everyone knows classroom teachers are exposed to all sorts of viruses. So we all kept watching the after-dinner movie and then went to bed. But by the time I woke up on the Friday after Thanksgiving to hear my brother re-tasting turkey, that was the point at which I said, Enough.

Thanksgiving had become a complete and total barf-o-rama.

So I had my dad drive me two hours down to the nearest city where I could find a one-way rental car and drove from Fresno to LAX. I had been due to leave California to fly to Hong Kong for business, and there was absolutely no way I was going to stick around Yosemite to risk winding up on a 17 hour flight to Hong Kong with a stomach bug. I changed my flight to return to NYC instead of going directly to Hong Kong, and left California as quickly as I could.

All of this said, if someone in your family does get a holiday barf bug — wipe everything down OFTEN with a bleach solution. Healthy people should use separate bathrooms from the sickies if they can. Don’t share towels; don’t share dishes. Home dishwashers are usually not hot enough to sterilise or to kill virus particles, and using disposable dishes, cups, and cutlery until the bug has passed is often a good idea if you’re in a multi-person household.

And for the love of all that is holy, don’t prepare food if you are ill. I say this often, but…you never know what people are dealing with. You never know if people maybe just had surgery, or are pregnant, or if they might have some other issue where exposing them to an illness might not be a big deal for you, but for them, it could be serious. Sometimes I feel like we’ve lost a strong-enough sense of stewardship: I care about you. You’re part of my community. If I get some kind of gnarly illness, I’m going to do my best to make sure I don’t give it to you.

That stewardship instinct has to be borne out of some ancient desire for survival of the species, right? I’m not sure our current default of: Well, we all have Ebola, but it’s Thanksgiving! mentality is a great for anyone.

So with all of this in mind, and with the Great Thanksgiving Barf-o-Rama of 2012 still an exceptionally fresh (and painful) memory, please mark my words: If I wake up on Thanksgiving morning to the dulcet sounds of someone in my family hacking, retching, or similar, somebody is getting his lights punched out, shortly before I make the long drive back to Los Angeles.

I have been taking a bit of a break from writing. Not an intentional one. Just a “life got in the way, again,” one.

I’m trying to get comfortable with being…more awkward than I want to be. I think I was harbouring a delusion for a bit that I was some kind of had-it-together type, and now I’m hyper-aware that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I’m slip-n-sliding on the banana peel of change, here.

You see, my life has been pretty much the same for the last five years, save for a job change about four years ago. I’ve lived in the same apartment; I’ve run a couple of marathons each year, culminating in the absolute joy of NYC Marathon weekend; I’ve had the same dog; I’ve ordered the same groceries and gotten delivery from the same places (until Gobo closed their uptown location earlier this year, and Land Thai closed their UES location two years ago. RIP, best delivery ever). With the exception of changing cable providers and kicking a toxic, insane dude to the curb in mid-2011, I have had solid routine and stuck with it.

I am a creature of habit.

Except for rugs. I’ve changed living room rugs pretty much annually. But that’s neither here nor there.

What I am trying to say is that everything’s changing. This occurred to me most profoundly yesterday, when I sat on the sidelines watching the NYC Marathon instead of running it. And it hit me again today, when my final rent payment for this apartment left my account.

This era of my life is…over. Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just A Thing. It’s a moment before the next phase, which will bring its own challenges and joys. And I am excited to begin What Comes Next.

But I need a minute to feel weird.

I need a minute to look around this apartment and run my hands over the crown moulding and base moulding and admire the original hardwood floor, and be annoyed, once again, that the view is of a brick wall. I need a minute to gasp that I have run 14 marathons in five years, and I just don’t feel like myself since I haven’t been able to run.

The truth is, I think, we get so caught up in Being Excited, and Talking About How Awesome Our Lives Are, and Presenting a Facebook Perfect Life, that we forget to just…feel stuff.

Here’s how I feel:  I feel excited and happy that our new apartment is so lovely. It’s gorgeous; it has a cool view. I’m super excited. So I’m not…sad…for this present moment of my life to be done, but I’m not in a hurry to usher it out the door either, because, well, this is my life. I don’t know anything different.

And I was thrilled for all of my friends running yesterday, and genuinely happy for their victories out on the streets of New York. I wasn’t jealous that it wasn’t me out there, but it felt…uncomfortable that it wasn’t me. Like one of those moments at the end of a conversation where you go in for a handshake and the other person comes in for a hug and kiss — you know that thing? That was more what it felt like — a perfectly okay moment coupled with an unshakeable awkwardness, like I didn’t know what to do with my hands.

In a world where I am ordinarily running 40-50 miles per week, I am just now suiting up to run my first few miles.

In a world where I have lived only three places in ten years, I am now packing boxes for the first time in five years.

With all that said, I am excited, and anxious, and I know it will all be fine. But right now, I feel like an awkward teenager in my own life. I’m not sure how to approach things, or stuff, or people. Everything that was familiar is now strange — even running, which was always my go-to where I’d go knock out ten miles to think through a problem. Since I can’t do that, I feel like my brain is clogged, and all the thoughts have just kind-of backed up.

Eh. Maybe I’ll just go buy a new rug.

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Today, I have been blogging for 10 years.

Which is…shocking.

When I started blogging, nobody had a blog, and it was this relatively novel thing.  Now, everybody blogs, and sometimes I wonder if it’s better to leave a lot more unsaid.

(I was going to post a picture of me from this era, but the only one I could find from October 2004 is one from a Spice Girls sleepover we hosted in our old house in Burlieth, and I’m not sure I want pictures of myself dressed as Baby Spice floating around on the internet.)

My writing has been sparse this year, for a variety of good reasons: handling a busier than expected work schedule; coping with the bone rattling stuff that comes with cancer even when you walk away mostly unscathed; recovering from a hip reconstruction that has taken up most of my time and energy and kept me from participating in the activities that generally define my day-to-day; managing the exhaustion of travelling internationally everysinglemonth this year. In the past, with all that stuff going on, I’ve wanted to open up to the world and talk about it. But lately, with all that has been thrown at me this year, I’ve had to pull inwards and reflect before I can talk about it.

And to be honest, I don’t know sometimes if I can get enough reflecting done to discuss before some other Thing comes up.

None of this stuff is … bad, per se. Except for some of the health stuff, and even that has turned out largely okay. It’s all just the kind of stuff that shakes you up, and then keeps going, so there’s not really a moment to process it before the next wave hits.

Sometimes, I think about how much changes in 10 years.  Sometimes, I think about how much stays the same.  Sometimes, I wonder: Am I doing this right?  Did I make the right decisions here?  Am I acceptably angry; am I letting the right stuff go; am I appropriately happy; et cetera, et cetera?

What changes?

Everything. And then again, not a whole lot. Geography, maybe. Relationships.

What stays the same? 

I started blogging because I was an injured runner recovering from surgery…

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

What comes next?

That, I don’t really know. I am trying to focus more. I am trying to engage in at least a modicum of self-care. I am trying to remember to take out the trash, and send the laundry out on a reasonable schedule, and remember to order groceries and consume them before the cheese in the fridge sprouts a set of teeth and starts talking to me. I am trying to remember a time when doing normal stuff didn’t feel like a luxury.

Ten years ago, I thought I had Stuff Figured Out. Which was probably a function of inexperience, or fear, or youth, or a combination of all of the above.

I am comfortable now to admit that I know very little, except that this has been a wild ride.

I find myself in a series of situations where I have to sit through a lot of complex feelings — quickly — to restore the status quo.  Not just restore order — I must Get Excited.

Would that the heart and head could be so cooperative.  I am finding this whole thing…Difficult.

Paul and I are buying an apartment, and while this should be an occasion for champagne and celebration, I am Freaking The F*CK OUT.  Having now lived by myself for five years, I know I should be excited about How Great This Is, and I am.  Also, I am Terrified. I am scared of the quotidian struggles that destroy relationships.  I fear the burden and expectations of others looking in and saying, WHAT DOES THIS NEXT STEP MEAN?!?!  (Ans: It means we are buying an apartment.) I am even afraid of picking the wrong paint colours and window treatments. 

My problem, really, is that I am terrified of being tied down; stuck. Like tonsils, or an appendix, the only purpose this fear serves is to become infected and engorged — becoming bigger, heavier, and harder to bear than it needs to be.

I have always been light on my feet.  Because what if I suck at whatever comes next?  Better to make a quick and graceful exit than be caught flat-footed like a fool.

Right? 

Because what if I have to be a Real Girl, Living a Real Life? My entire life for the past few years has been a 1990s romantic comedy. You may get that impression from some of my writing, but in reality it has been more like a Nora Ephron written-and-directed-film-starring-America’s-Former-Sweetheart-Meg-Ryan than you may actually believe.

I have been taking Adventure Travel Towards Self Realisation, and have swooned over the Wrong Men in the lobbies of the World’s Finest Hotels. I have had the kind of romances that most women only dream of, but these men — they’ve always left me at the doorstep.  And now, now I’m going All The Way, with someone who might actually be The Right Guy.  Now we’re opening the door; we’re buying the house, we’re going through the threshold and building the future and doing it together…

And I’m scared.

About paint, and walls, and curtains.  And, for that matter, what if I’m no longer Interesting if I am suddenly so tied down and boring and solid and staid and … I am making all of the silly excuses that serve to prevent the real thing from happening. I am stalling. I am buying time.

I’ve always been good about being good. I’ve always been a know it all; I’ve long been obsessed with being right, and preventing myself from getting hurt. I’ve protected myself from some of the More Bad decisions I might’ve made.

But this has kept me from some of the More Good.

Tonsils and an appendix can easily be removed by a surgeon. My own fearful ego is not so easily excised. At this stage of my life, I just need to get out of my own way.

#Reverb14 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Transition | Transition of seasons; from single to couple; from couple to parents; from one to many.  It’s that time of year when the high summer sun starts to sink, and we all start to long for long sleeves.  How is your life changing.  How are YOU changing?

Almost ten years ago, my blogger friend Cara sent me this questionnaire to complete, and I posted it on my (old) blog. At the time, it was A Thing that people were doing. At the time, I was a relative newly-wed; a newcomer to New York City; I was transitioning from being a law student to working full time and going to graduate school. My body was doing weird things, and I was in the process of being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Everything was changing.  In mostly good ways — I was figuring stuff out.

Last weekend, almost immediately after coming back home from a week in London for work, my computer broke.  And I had to clear all the files off so the Geniuses at Apple could repair the logic board.  In doing so, I came across my answers to this quiz from nearly a decade back, and thought that the best way to measure transition would be to take the quiz again.

Where am I now? I’ve spent the last decade continuing to figure stuff out, in vastly different ways than before.  But I am mostly the same.  Though now, I am fundamentally a New Yorker; I am safe in my own skin. I am okay in my identity as a professional; as a woman. I don’t look at myself in reference to others anymore.

What I am saying is that I’ve faced some scary personal and professional stuff in the intervening years, but I was somewhat relieved to find that, at the heart of things, I still leave wet towels on the bed; I’m still heavily focused on making out with James Bond; and, my snacks of choice are still mainly sweets & salty carbohydrates.

I have edited the old answers for space, but otherwise, here are my answers from then and now.

Then:

10 Years Ago: I was in high school.  I think ten years ago was also the last time my hair was this long, and this blonde.  I wore it curly all the time.  I was dating the drum major, who later left me for a dude named Jeff.

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(2014 note: Matt, I love you always, and I still marvel that we thought it was a good idea to go as Juan and Eva Peron to Prom. Not sure our conservative California town was ready for us, then or now.)

Five Years Ago: I was in college; dating my most recent ex-boyfriend.  He was the stereotypical fraternity boy.  At that time in my life, I just wanted to be like everyone else. 

One Year Ago: I was finishing law school; doing a legal clinic. I was spending 60-70 hours a week working on comments to the FCC on female and minority broadcast ownership.  I was insanely depressed about the status of my life and career.

Yesterday: I went to lunch with my father in law.  And it was totally weird.  It really seemed like he wanted to get to know me.  It was really nice.  Then I came home, and built a china cabinet. Which came with terrible instructions.

Five Snacks I Enjoy:  1) Jordan almonds, 2) naan with mango chutney, 3) honey Teddy Grahams, 4) soft pretzels, 5) saltwater taffy

Five Songs I Know All the Words To: 1) Los Angelenos–Billy Joel, 2) Dry Cleaner from Des Moines–Joni Mitchell, 3) Make Your Own Kind of Music–Cass Elliot, 4) Don’t Sleep in the Subway–Petula Clark, 5) Bless the Broken Road–Rascal Flatts

Five Things I Would Do With 100 Million Dollars: 1) pay off my law school loans, 2) buy Andrew a new car and pay to garage it (btw, to garage a car in Manhattan, it would cost more than some of my friends pay in rent in Los Angeles), 3) re-do my parents hideous kitchen which they have been dragging their feet on redoing since the 1994 earthquake, 4) take extensive lessons in the cooking of all different Asian cuisines, 5) create a veterinary school scholarship and establish a fund to provide veterinary care for people who can’t afford it.

Five Places I would Run Away To: 1) Mendocino County, CA, 2) Newport, RI, 3) Nassau, Bahamas…eh, I’m out of places.  Everywhere I go, I find people I know, so I am safest in the comfort of my apartment.

Five Bad Habits: 1) leaving wet towels anywhere they fall, 2) buying too many fancy conditioners, 3) ordering take-out too often, 4) begging for a dog too often, 5) being a hermit

Five Biggest Joys: 1) my loving, wonderful marriage, 2) pedicures, 3) my relationship with my parents, 4) my new iPod, 5) the glimmer of hope I feel about my career prospects and my life from this point on

Five Fictional Characters I would Date: 1) Thomas Crown (of “The Thomas Crown Affair”), 2) Indiana Jones, 3) James Bond (in any incarnation)…that’s about it. 

Today:

Ten Years Ago: I got conned into going to Disneyworld with my then-fiance after a rough summer. We were within an hour’s drive of my grandparents, but didn’t go see them. I knew my grandfather would’ve talked me out of marrying Andrew and Andrew didn’t really want to make the drive anyway. I never saw my grandfather alive again. I have almost no regrets in my life. That I didn’t make that stupid drive is probably my only one.

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Five years ago: I had just signed my separation papers; I was free. I’d left my husband and I was on my way to spend several months with a client on the California coast. It was fitting, because at every transitional point in my life, I’ve fled for the Pacific.

One year ago: I was in Canada, at Bethany’s nuptials. She was the first of the WoW’s to let hope triumph over experience. I was grateful to be even a small part of that day; blessed beyond measure to have officiated the service. Bethany is one of my nearest and dearest, and I admire her and respect her so much.

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Yesterday: I was furious with Paul because he keeps his phone on silent all the time. I know it; I expect it; and 99.999% of the time, I am nonplussed by it. But I needed his input on something important and he was unreachable, and if I could’ve reached through the phone and throttled him, I would’ve.

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(Photo was snapped in Japan last year; I was equally annoyed yesterday)

Five snacks I enjoy: 1) Salty carbs; 2) String Cheese; 3) Spicy Lemonade; 4) Strawberries with cream; 5) Sundry other sweet & savouries beginning with the letter “s,” (I swear, I didn’t do that on purpose).

Five songs I know all the words to: 1) Flicker, Rosi Golan; 2) Hearts & Bones, Paul Simon; 3) Make Your Own Kind of Music, Cass Elliott; 4) World on Fire, Sarah MacLachlan; 5) To Love Somebody, the BeeGees.

 Five Things I would do with 100 Million Dollars: Invest it wisely.  Five times over.

Five places I would run away to: No use. Trouble follows. 

Five bad habits: 1) Leaving wet towels on the bed; 2) buying too many fancy wrinkle creams; 3) ordering take-out too often; 4) buying too many clothes I don’t need; 5) being a hermit. 

Five biggest joys: 1) running; 2) writing letters; 3) solo travel; 4) vanilla milkshakes; 5) long phone calls with friends. (This is a non-exhaustive list, these are just a few that are on my mind today!)

Five fictional characters I would date: Only one. James Bond. It’s always hard for me to choose between the Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan iterations, though.  If you know me, you shouldn’t read too deeply into that.

Sean Connery as James Bond

Paul and I went to a wedding at Luttrellstown Castle during the first weekend in August, which is where Posh & Becks were married 15 years ago.

I love Irish weddings.

The last one we went to was on the west coast, in County Mayo, in an ancient church, in the shadow of Croag Patrick.  It happened to be held in the church where Pierce Brosnan was married, too.  So I’ve made my tour of Irish celebrity wedding venues for the year.  And Paul and I were just about the only two in the whole church who didn’t rise to take communion. Paul, because he doesn’t.  And me, because I’m a divorcee.

This recent wedding, though, was a second marriage.  It was held in a Unitarian Church on St. Stephen’s Green, so I didn’t have to pretend like I’d never been married before. Like it was some dirty secret that I once wore another man’s ring, and had a different last name.  Sometimes, I even feel like I talk about my divorce so much because I’ve now become so conscious of the fact that I shouldn’t talk about having been married. Like how you find you talk about a surprise when you become conscious of the fact that you shouldn’t blow it.

This recent wedding was an Irish-Paraguayan celebration, filled with warmth and colour and all the beautiful, hopeful things a marriage celebration should be.

The other thing I should mention here is that Irish weddings go on forever.  We had arrived at the church at 2pm, and at midnight, when we left the reception, we were among the first to leave.

These days, it seems all I do is go to weddings; send baby gifts.  There was a week earlier this summer when I sent off eleven sets of baby gifts.

I love kids.  I think I want kids.  But sometimes, I feel people forget there is more to a woman’s worth than the hardware on her hand, or the products of her womb.  I have friends who have lost children; who have miscarried; who have struggled with heartbreaking infertility, and I see them shamed, and maligned, and peppered with awful, but often well-intentioned questions that imply they are not trying hard enough.  That they do not have strong enough faith.  That they have done something wrong.

I went through it myself when I had cervical cancer and people said, Can you still have children? Are you still able to have children? What about kids? What does Paul think about kids?  Is Paul okay with what you’re doing to make sure you can still have kids after this?

Oddly, most people’s reaction was not, Thank God they caught your fairly aggressive situation by total accident. Thank God you’re alive.

I will tell you honestly: That was my first reaction. I was focused on the practicalities of what I was dealing with, and I was not really considering Paul’s feelings/future offspring.  My reaction was fundamentally one of: Oh, thank God I’m not going to die. I was thinking about how bad the cancer was; how much I had to lose; whether or not I would survive; how much tissue would be excised; whether would I need a hysterectomy; whether would I need chemo/radiation, etc.

So now, every time I go to a wedding, or someone asks me about kids, I get a bit defensive/annoyed. Even now, I’m sitting here going: Thank God I’m sitting home on a Saturday night, alive enough to write this blog post.

And I’m still baffled that my fantastic education, my great friendships and relationships, my successful career, my travels, the way I have treated others, and my personal happiness were not enough.  At the time, it was as if only my fertility and my partner’s biological aspirations mattered.

With more distance between me and my experience, I still wonder: Am I worth less to you — friends, family, advertisers — because my insides have been hacked up by the surgeon and the only little feet running around my apartment are Roo’s? Every time the Facebook algorithm fills my newsfeed with Amazon Mom ads, and cool kid gadgets that I won’t be buying…I wonder.

Just because I have reached A Certain Age and there is no ring on my finger, and no kid in my arms — it doesn’t mean that I’m invisible.  It doesn’t mean I’m not interested in where you are, or that I’m ignorant of the fact that we’re in different stages and seasons of our lives.  It simply means that what I am doing is right for me, and where I am is okay, and our callings are each worthy of respect and compassion.  That I worked really hard to have the career I have is not…selfish, and my choices are certainly not a referendum on yours. What I’m doing is just…different.

It seems funny that I have to say this; that I have to reassure myself by writing it; by shouting it. That I have to tell it to other people around me: We should all just be supporting each other to the extent that we Feel Okay Doing That and Taking It In, and Minding Our Own Business.

There is a saying that people in recovery use, and I’ll share it here: Take the best and leave the rest.

This year has been an exercise in doing just that.

I know a man/he came from my hometown/
he wore his passion for his woman like a thorny crown
He said “Dolores, I live in fear/my love for you’s so overpowering, I’m afraid that I may disappear.”

- Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away

Here are the things that I am afraid of:

1) Ebola

2) Financial regulators (global)

3) Little people, and the various television shows about them (this is an irrational fear, but we are being honest, here)

4) Living without passion

5) Never being loved the way that he loves Dolores