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

Confession: I am not good at doing hair – my own, or other people’s.

TV and movies had me convinced that little kid hair should be beautiful; golden; glowing.  And when I was a little girl, mine was red, stick-straight, and fine.  The type of hair nobody could do anything with. As a result, my mother sort-of gave up, and cut it short.

And growing up in Southern California as a ginger-to-maybe-strawberry-blonde-in-a-sea-of-tow-heads, I never felt…right. By 5th Grade, I was addicted to Sun-In.  Maybe I am just Not A Redhead At Heart.

Anyway.

I have this theory that there is a cult of people out there who are really good at doing hair.  (You may know them as: Hairdressers.)  (Kidding.)  They were the girls who would come to elementary school with their hair in perfect ponytails; who would show up for ballet class with impeccably coiled buns.  Who, in high school, would arrive for first period looking as if they’d just come from a blow-dry.

Needless to say, I am not one of those girls.  I have spent the last few months wearing my hair tied back in an awkward, lumpy chignon because it’s summer in New York, and even though the weather has been almost unseasonably nice, I’ve been busy and can’t be bothered.  But even if I could be bothered, I’m not much good at it anyway.

I spent years of my young life envying The Ponytail Girls.  Wondering where they learned their tricks.  Trying to uncover their secrets.  Sometimes, I felt like they had the world at their fingertips, and I was always going to struggle to be pretty, or popular, or to fit in, because I couldn’t get my damn hair to lay flat.

Confession:  Sometimes, I still feel that way.

Don’t you?

Don’t you ever look around, and think: Holy crap. These people around me know something I don’t.  There is some secret to finding the right clothes, and being liked, and doing hair, and I was absent that day.  I missed some crucial piece of information, and not only can’t I put my hair up in a smooth ponytail, but I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!

Speaking of being absent that day: When I was a kid, we attended a Catholic church for a while, which meant I had to go to CCD.  This was around the time of First Communion, which was a critical stage in Catholic religious education and formation. It was also around the time that I came down with some deadly virus, and missed a bunch of school and CCD.

I was always a diligent student, and while I didn’t particularly like CCD, I also didn’t like feeling as if I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was able to catch up enough to make my First Communion.  However, I was absent on the day that they taught what you’re supposed to do at the point during a Mass when you make a bunch of tiny crosses down your face.

Imagine my horror when my first Sunday back, all the other kids in my class were making tiny face-crosses, and I was left standing like a fool. I was too embarassed to ask what the hell was going on, so I spent years just sort-of waving my hands over my face whenever I had to attend a Mass.

Fast forward to when I became engaged to my former spouse, and I had to go through the whole religious education thing AGAIN, because 1) the Catholic Church had no record of my previous “formation” and 2) I’d never achieved any of the other sacramental levels besides First Communion.

And of course, I again managed to get sick and was absent the day they taught the tiny crosses.

I felt stupid.  And I stumbled through a lot of events and innumerable masses because I had no idea what I was doing.

In reality, Catholics make those tiny crosses before the Gospel is read during a Mass to symbolise a desire to have the reading in their thoughts; to have it proclaimed from their lips; and to invite God into their hearts through the Word. I probably could’ve figured that out years ago via Google.

It is not a some kind of secret handshake happening there in the church.

And there is no secret to the magical ponytail, either.  Some people just have good hair; some people don’t; some people take the time to learn the tricks to do hair, and I never did.

I guess what I am saying is that I have spent a lot of my life feeling weird, and left out, and I blaming other people for it — like they had the answers and were keeping some secret from me. In reality, I was just as much to blame.  I could’ve asked about the crosses; I could’ve learned to do my own hair.

The other thing I now know is that yes, people talk; yes, people care about what others are doing.  But they probably aren’t noticing your flapping hands or messy ponytail.  We’re all just as clueless; we were all absent on some crucial day.

That said, I still won’t make the tiny crosses before the Gospel reading.

Recovering from the kind of hip surgery I had is part art, part science, but mostly it is sitting still and following the doctor’s/PA’s/physio’s instructions to the letter.

For someone who a) is incredibly active; b) has run 14 marathons in four and a half years; c) is very fit, this sitting still has been a challenge.  For nearly two weeks post-op, I was spending about 4 hours in this device:

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And then additional time in the ice machine:

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And then trying to fit in physical therapy appointments as well.  It was just so…time consuming.  And some of the therapies were boring.  Four hours of bending?  Come on! But you know what?  I wasn’t in pain.  For the first time in almost a year, I wasn’t in pain! It was amazing.  Boring, time consuming, and amazing!  I’ll take it.

I went back to work in the second week of recovery, and would come home in the evenings and have another 2-4 hours of bending and icing to deal with after working a full day.  I have been marvelling this whole time about how great I feel, but also how much TIME this whole process takes.

Thankfully, my physio allowed me to substitute 20 minutes on my bike for one hour of bending, which has made the timing piece a bit easier.

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Seriously, you guys.  Open a new tab in your browser right now, and buy yourself a spin bike on Amazon.  I got this fancy contraption for less than $300, and it’s just as nice as something you’d ride at the gym.  Very sturdy; very quiet; super easy to put together. When I am fully back in the saddle, I will YouTube some spin routines, or be Sarah’s spin choreography guinea pig (it always helps to have a friend/cousin who is a group fitness instructor!).  But for now, I am using a timer set for 20 minutes on the iPad, and some old episodes of AbFab — which are are just what the doctor ordered.

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I cannot fathom how I went for so long being in so much pain.

I had my stitches out on Monday, and the surgical nurse showed me the photographs the doctor took during the surgery; showed me the placement of the screws in my hip joint; showed me the before-and-after of how they ground down the bone on my femoral head.

You had a lot of work done, the nurse explained, I’ve never seen quite so much inflammation in a joint before — see all that redness?  That’s why it’s so important for you to keep taking the anti-inflammatories.  We’re all shocked and pleased you’re in so little pain.

Not “little” pain.  I’m in NO pain, I said, eyeballing the screen, surprised by the fact of it myself.  I was looking at the redness on the screen; the rawness, and the things that had been hiding inside of me.  I was thinking of Jacob and the angel; of me wrestling with the unknown; of being forever transformed; of what this process has changed in me.

For now, on the doctor’s orders, I am sitting still.  I am taking it easy; I am asking for help; I am taking in support.  I am doing all the things that I never thought I would be able to tolerate or do.  I am recovering in all senses of the word.

I am not in pain and I have never felt quite so good.

At some point, over the last few years, I became one of Those People who carries a big tote bag, and talks about the latest workouts, and drinks her water out of an omnipresent glass water bottle (because BPA is bad), and has Lunches and Dinners and Drinks Things at fancy places.

Basically, I went from being a Garden-Variety Yuppie Asshole to being an Insufferable Yuppie Asshole.

Anyway. This summer has been busy with all the Lunches and Dinners and Drinks Things that are the hallmarks of the Insufferable Yuppie Asshole lifestyle and so last Tuesday, I had my sesquiennial Lunch with Frederic.

It seems that we get together every year and a half or so to “catch up.”

We are different, now, in most ways, and in the fundamental ways, we are still very much the same.  But not…angry anymore.  Not hostile in that way that fuelled our passionate fires.  Now, we are just…friends.

So I had picked the Pool Room for our meet-up, partly because I had graduated to a new level in Yuppie Assholedom, but also because they’ve got this gazpacho that I sometimes dream about.

When the day of our lunch came, I hadn’t washed my hair. I was wearing flats. My skin was breaking out because I was pumped so full of analgesics that I was practically oozing naproxen. There was a time when I would’ve cancelled because I was so afraid that Frederic would see me with so much as a hair out of place.  Now, my skin was erupting like I was 13 and I just didn’t care.

We met in the entrance of the restaurant, and ascended the staircase to the host stand together.  The maitre d’ greeted me by name, probably because I’d made a number of bookings there lately; probably because I eat a lot of gazpacho.

And we were seated for lunch.

I ran out of hair stuff this morning, Frederic confessed, And my shoes broke, so I’m wearing these weird, orthopaedic shoes.

I smiled, and sort-of laughed, because even after knowing each other for so long and having gone through so much together, we still had these idealised versions of each other in our heads.  We were still afraid to be messy, and ugly, and have a spots and unfashionable shoes, and All That.

We stared at each other for a moment.

Are you engaged yet? Frederic asked.  My eyes caught his wedding band, and then flashed down to my own naked marriage finger.

Me? No. Not really in any rush.  We like where we are; not in a hurry to change things.

He nodded.

People ask me that a lot, especially over the last two weeks since Andrew has gotten married: So when are you and Paul going to make it official?

I don’t think either Paul or I feel like we are lacking anything in our lives or our relationship because we aren’t married.  I admire the hardware that the married girls sport, but otherwise, I am pretty ambivalent about That Whole Thing.

Also, I have observed that people seem to feel unhappy in relationships when they believe they must be on some sort of march to the finish.  But I have found one can enjoy people and partners for what they are, where they are, and one need not necessarily be in perpetual motion.

Once I figured that out, I felt a lot more…free.

I guess that was really how I had found myself sitting face to face over gazpacho with a man who had once broken my heart in that punchyouinthegut kind of way.  Back when I believed everything had to go somewhere, interactions between Freddy and me were downright weird.  I could barely tolerate looking at him because I was so devastated about the way things had or hadn’t gone.  But now, we were just two old friends who had been to the front and back, sharing stories; talking about our partners; inquiring as to what had been going on and what came next.

At the end of our meal, the waiter came out with the big plate of cotton candy, which Frederic eyed suspiciously.

Don’t worry, I said, It’s not on the menu, but when they get to know you, then they just bring it to you.  Also, there’s ice cream in the bottom.

And we ate it. That was it.

There was no drama; no high emotional or sexual tension; no massive or horrible news to break.  We were two old friends having lunch.

There had been so many years of grief and loss and fear and fear of loss; so many years in perpetual motion, and now we were just still.  Now we had just run out of hair cream, and had spots on our faces, and were wearing orthopaedic loafers.

It occurred to me, too, that I had spent so many years blaming Frederic for everything – his drinking, his lying, his inability to accept things. It was not until recently that I could bear to accept that I also had to shoulder some of that blame.

We had been friends for nearly a decade. Things between us had never really gone anywhere.  In truth, they really hadn’t had to.  What we were looking for had been in front of us the whole time.