Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Work| What sort of work did you do in 2014?  Was it new to you?  Did you take on new responsibilities?  Change jobs?  Or take on a new task at home?

You may or may not be wondering what happened to Frederic in the midst of all of this Major Life Change.

Years ago, when we still worked in the MetLife building, as the world was ending around us, there was one day when Frederic looked at me very sadly and said, Promise me we’ll always be friends. And I was so taken aback by it that I’d made the promise, even though in my heart I was saying, Yeah, right, buddy. If our respective marriages fail and we don’t wind up together, I’d probably rather see you rot in hell rather than be your FRIEND.
And in truth, for a long time, I very much wanted him to rot.
We’d had this Big Love. And nobody gives you instructions for what you do with a Big Love that doesn’t end with rice in your hair, and a baby in a carriage, and one of those wood-paneled station wagons like everyone’s Cool Mom in the ’80s (am I dating myself here?).
So Freddy got married to an ex-colleague of ours and moved to the ‘burbs, and I stayed on the Upper East Side, and we each had to grow up in our respective ways once Everything Changed.
It took me a long time not to be mad about that.  Because sometimes, it felt like everyone else was moving forward and I was Staying The Same.
It took us a long time to be…Friends.
This was partly because he had called me out of the blue one Friday about three years ago to tell me he was marrying someone we both knew, and the following day, I got hit by a car. Within 72 hours, I had found out my then-boyfriend was sleeping with another friend’s sister, and my entire life unraveled into a shame-spiral of public humiliation, and I’d had to slink back to California where I sat slack-jawed at SFO, my arm in a sling, too bewildered to explain what was happening even to another friend who’d seen me at my worst.
So I blamed Everything Bad on Frederic. Because he was easy to blame, and because he wasn’t there. He didn’t have anything to do with anything. Technically, he didn’t even  DO anything to me, except go on with his life, which he had already been doing for the better part of a year at that stage.
Then, one day, after months of not-speaking, I was in London, and the night before, I’d just been caught in the riots in Notting Hill, and I was overcome with the urge to email Frederic.
That evening we exchanged a few messages like nothing had happened, and then he said, “BTW, I guess we’re speaking again.”
And so we were.
And so we have been.
Some people in my life have said, “You never should’ve scratched that old scab.”
But the reality is, you don’t stop loving someone just because it didn’t work out between you. As I’ve gotten to know Freddy as his friend, I’ve realised, too, that it was never going to work out for us.  We had something special, but the sharp edges of our personalities are such that it would always be barbs and jabs. For one, he is fastidiously neat, and I leave wet towels on the bed. He wears cargo pants at the weekend, and in my view, that’s a sartorial death wish (I have young kids! he whined when I called him out on it, I’m not going to carry a diaper bag).
(Buy a nice messenger bag and burn the cargo pants, I told him. Or just take a cyanide pill right now, I said under my breath.)
And so this year, when the opportunity for us to work together professionally arose, I seized it.  We got to be…normal friends; normal colleagues.  We got to sit in meetings; tell old jokes; talk on the phone; and, be the grown-up version of ourselves that we had become.
I have learned over the years is that Big Loves are very, very big. And if they are real, your heart doesn’t shrink when they change shape or size — you just have to choose to work at them, and with them, in whatever form they shift into.  And it’s good to be friends with Frederic now. It’s a choice — it’s a natural choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s not work.
I like who and what our relationship has grown into. Is it a little crazy — this friendship; this relationship; this work that we do? Sure. But sometimes things worth having are the result of a solid history, and a little bit of crazy, and a lot of hard work.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

1000 Words| There’s the old saying that a photo is worth 1,000 words.  Give us a photo with that impact that sums up some significant event of your 2014, or give us 1,000 words about a pivotal moment in 2014.

F-SSF23054

(Via Filmclub)

Last week, I was in London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and back to London.  This hideous tour of the British Isles and the Continent required multiple 3.00am wake-up calls; many short-hop flights; innumerable waits at passport control; and more back-and-forth through Paddington Station than I care to even think about. It was not an unpleasant trip, but it did leave me with the desire to punch every single person who whines at me about how glamourous my life of international travel and fancy hotels is.

Because it is not. It is, however, different than your life. Maybe.

On the flight back to New York, I noticed that British Airways was offering Beaches as a film selection. And I had jetlag induced amnesia and somehow forgot for a moment that I was a lawyer, and my best friend was an actress, and we had met when we were 11 years old.

Beaches is kind-of a special film, as cheesy as it is, because there aren’t a lot of films out there that elevate female friendships to the level of the sacred. The late ’80s were the era for that: Beaches; Steel Magnolias; etc.  I guess nowadays, Bridesmaids is what passes for that kind of film, and while it’s not a bad movie, I don’t think it has the same…je ne sais quois.

Seeing each other through marriages and divorces and major/chronic illnesses, and life and birth and death on the silver screen is…One Thing.

Shitting in the middle of the street is a totally different…Thing, I think.

Anyway.

I have lots of very close, excellent girlfriends. But my best friend is like my sister. We have Always Been Together. We have Stuck it Out.

For instance, back in 2009, when things were very, very dark, I called her up and I told her to drive to Carmel Valley, California, where I was working with a client. And I gave her a list of things to bring, which included peanut butter, and bread, and gallon jugs of water. She sort-of comprehended that I was going to force her to climb Half Dome with me, but I’m not sure she completely understood what that meant.

So we drove from the coast through the evening and into the wee hours to Yosemite Valley; through a fire; through me getting a speeding ticket and screaming my frustration out at the Park Ranger who pulled me over. We were all nerves, and latent anger, and frustration, and smouldering embers back then.

And at the break of dawn that September morning five years ago, we climbed Half Dome.

We made it to the summit, but it took her years to forgive me.

It was so wonderful, then, when Paul proposed in Yosemite, with Half Dome in the background, because it wasn’t just important to me, and to my family, but it honoured all of the parts of my heart, and the people who had gotten me up the mountain.

Which all led me to being incredibly jetlagged, on a NY-bound plane on Sunday night, after a series of European short-hops, where I was doing the incredibly stupid thing of watching Beaches.

I guess the truth is that it wasn’t a pivotal moment, per se. But have you ever had one of those flashing moments when you remember: This is who I am? My life has been so topsy-turvy this year. So unsettling and so unsettled. And watching that sob-fest of a film reminded me that This is home. I have a best friend with curly blonde hair, who smells like sea and salt and sunscreen, and who sings songs with a low and brave voice, and who knows me by the name I call myself, and who, on more than one occasion, has saved my life.

Sometimes the big moments are hiding in the very small ones. Sometimes they are obvious, and sometimes, they are hiding in 25 year old motion pictures.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

The PlankIt has been said that you must learn to take care of yourself before you can be effective at taking care of others.  How did you take care of yourself in 2014?  How will you take care of yourself in 2015?

This year has been a lot of…surviving. In fact, I’m breathlessly surprised it’s December again, because I’ve been living Lord, just get me through this day! for enough days that it’s a bit odd to wake up on the cusp of another year turning over.

And I haven’t been good at taking care of myself. In fact, I slept for 12 hours on Saturday night, and I knew it was the only sleep I’d get all week. I hadn’t slept more than four hours a night before that, and I haven’t since. I could give the excuse of Too Much To Do, but that’s a rookie excuse.

Too Busy is, in my view, the stuff of amateurs who can’t budget their time appropriately. But if that’s the excuse I’m giving to myself, then I’ve become one of those people who doesn’t know how to prioritise. Who can’t tell the difference between what can be delegated or outsourced; what can be put off; what needs to be Done.

The truth is that I’m anxious; I’m thinking about too much. I can’t focus on any one task for long enough to get it done, so everything takes longer than it should. I’m tired, so everything takes longer anyway. And an additional truth is that sometimes life is just that way.

I’m an optimistic and joyful person in real life, but I’m not going to lie to you or to myself: Sometimes this whole middle-part of being an adult is…a slog. Marriages, and divorces, and babies, and pregnancies, and fertility treatments, and jobs, and job loss, and meetings in cities nobody ever wants to travel to, and parties where everyone is sitting around moaning about mortgages and school fees, and all of this punctuated occasionally with death, and destruction, and chronic illness, and baby loss, and everyone’s parents getting older.

True, the middle bit beats the alternative, but it’s still a weird emotional Thing when just moments ago you were some lithe little girl who didn’t think twice about your age or attractiveness whilst standing on line for an event or nightclub, and then one morning you wake up to a hurricane, grey hair, and a cancer diagnosis, all the while hobbling around on a hip that needs fixing.

Oh no. Even having this discussion is becoming the world’s biggest cliché.

So what have I done to take care of myself in the middle of this perfect storm?

Probably not as much as I should.

However, I’ve learned a lot.

So what will I do next year?

Talk with friends more. Ask for more help. Create more sacred spaces. Read more. Spend more time with Roo. Practise yoga twice a week. Write more letters. Get massages. Continue to order delivery via Seamless and care not at all whether anyone judges my domestic skills. Not buy a crock pot. Cut fewer corners with my health. Spend more hours on the people that matter, and give less time to the bloody irritating people who try to wish me a blessed day and try to give advice on things that are frankly, none of their business.

Develop a thicker skin.

I spent many, many years being less. Trying to disappear into myself. I am okay now with taking up the space to which I am entitled; being loved; being…more.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

HeroWho was your hero this year? Tell us why. What makes a hero in your eyes?

I tried to define this term, so like any human living in the 21st century, I googled it, and came up with this:

he·ro
ˈhirō/
noun
noun: hero; plural noun: heroes; noun: hero sandwich; plural noun: hero sandwiches
  1.  
    a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
    “a war hero”
    • (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legends; the chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
  2.  
    North American
    another term for submarine sandwich.

(Source: Google)

Hmmm. None of this sounds correct.  The chief male character? A submarine sandwich?

Please.

One of the interesting, lasting effects of a couple of bad relationships in my 20s is that I have a lot of female friends. I’d spent my teens hanging out with boys — mostly because I felt alienated by the high school politics of Mean Girls. But after dating a couple of jealous guys (then marrying one), it got to the point where having friendships with men became…challenging. And less important to me.

This is not to say I don’t have close relationships with my male friends — because I have those relationships, and they’re great. But I’ve spent the last decade or so cultivating friendships with other women, and sometimes I’m sad to think of what I missed out on in my youth because I didn’t actively nurture these sorts of things.

My girlfriends are amazing. From all angles, these women blow my mind. Athletes, writers, artists, musicians, parents — they are all genuinely beautiful souls. My friends have crossed marathon finish lines with me; they have battled terrible travel circumstances while pregnant to be in the hospital with me while I had cancer surgery; they have taken care of my dog while I’ve had to travel to advance my career (or simply to allow me to face the sometimes challenging circumstances that come with having a job like mine); they have supported me when I have insisted that I totally knew what I was doing and that it was a great idea to chase married men; they have tended to my wounds, and nursed my broken heart, and listened to my endless rants about my favourite thing to whine about that I’ve been ranting about for 3.5 years.

But aside from who they are and how they are in relation to me, each one of these women contributes to this world so meaningfully, it breaks my heart with beauty. Whether it is how she manages charitable grants, or how she donates time and money to the communities in which she works/lives, or how she raises her children, or how she creates art, or how she has turned immeasurable loss into an opportunity to give, each of these ladies is a meaningful example to me of who and how I want to be.

I am surrounded by women who show up; who raise me up; who create things. Sometimes this makes me absolutely furious with jealousy because I love them so much, I want to be the things that they are.

I suppose that’s what a hero is, isn’t it?  Not somebody’s lunch, or the sympathetic guy in the story. It’s the person who makes you better than you think you are; it’s the thing that keeps you striving for better; it’s the part of the story where the going gets good. And in my life, that role is played by a bunch of bad-ass (mostly) blondes.

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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.

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.

IMG_3572

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.

IMG_3674

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.