This is the 17th in a series of posts about New York

Maybe you’re wondering whatever happened to Frederic – the man who was once such a major part of my New York Story.

I regret to inform you that the answer is possibly the most boring answer known to man: We became friends. Not the well-intentioned ex-lover kind, but the real kind.

Just writing that sentence makes me cringe, because the future I had in mind if the darlings ever DID make it to Mantua was either so glamourous or so horrific – nothing in between.

To recap, or for the uninitiated: Freddy and I had met at work nearly a decade ago. We had been friends, then had a fabulous, troubled, star-crossed romance at the end of our first marriages; he broke my heart when he surprised me with marrying someone who wasn’t me. The same weekend he told me he was marrying a former colleague of ours, I was hit by a car when I was out running. While in hospital, I couldn’t locate the fellow I was then-dating, which is how I found out he was cheating on me with a mutual friend’s sister (the friend had set them up).

Being a resilient woman, I made my displeasure with Everything That Happened That Weekend known by hunting silver foxes through the British Isles and (former) colonies for the ensuing few years.

Eventually, Frederic and I met for lunch at the Pool Room, where everyone who’s anyone in New York gets business done, and I Got Over It. (NB: If you ever want to convince me to do anything important, I would strongly recommend talking me through your proposal over gazpacho or crab cakes at the Four Seasons, with a side of cotton candy.)

That was it, really.

(Well, not really. Throughout the last few years, we had had a lot of open conversation about feelings, and recovery, and grown-up things – messy, yucky, ugly things. Those kinds of conversations are good for friendships but they make for terrible blog posts. Repairing trust doesn’t happen in fewer than 800 words.)

After that, we worked on a handful of professional projects together; I hired his firm to do some work for mine. We see each other frequently enough; Paul and I sent his family a Christmas card this year.

Everything is so middle-aged and normal that I keep waiting for a gotcha. We used to torture each other at every turn -trying to outsmart and outwit each other – and at our last meal together, we had a 20 minute conversation about why luxury cars weren’t what they were cracked up to be and why I was glad, retrospectively, that I no longer had my fancy English car. (Now I drive a Volkswagen.) At which point, he chimed in that he was thinking of trading in his SUV for a tricked out Ford Focus.

Apparently, the far side of the road travelled by star-crossed former lovers is done in sensible sedans?

I don’t know that this is a Happy Ending, per se, or even a typical one. I don’t think you go from standing barefoot in the ladies’ lounge at the W in Union Square telling someone to go fuck himself; to having his tongue down your throat in the elevator lobby at Bloomingdale’s; to pulling up your Jag at The Retreat at Westchester to pick him up to start his new life; to finalising mutual divorces; to watching him marry someone who isn’t you; to receiving the birth announcements for each of his beautiful children and being genuinely excited for him and his wife; to sending his family Christmas cards signed by you and your fiancé.

What this all tells me is that I don’t know much, really.

But what I do know is that this sort of thing only happens in New York.

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.

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.

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A few months ago, I was in Montauk with my girlfriends. I told the story of the trip, but I forgot to tell a few OTHER parts of the story.

We had planned this girls’ trip, and we were all en route to Long Island on a Friday afternoon when I had a complete, total, uncharacteristic melt-down.  It was mid-October and I was spent.  Work had been so busy, and life had been so busy, and I was strangely exhausted, and I was way behind on marathon training to boot.

But I also didn’t know then what it would take three more months to discover: That things that seemed so benign on the surface were actually malignant.

You see, that week I had just gone in for a routine scan, and the radiologist had incidentally noted a cyst that seemed like nothing, but would later turn out to be something.  And it would take two more months of accidental discoveries to uncover the fact that the alleged cyst wasn’t what it seemed.

Not long after that weekend in Montauk, I had seen a doctor to ask about switching a medication I was taking. I had made a few complaints, and as an afterthought, mentioned the radiologist’s report.  Moments before I left, he checked my chart and he decided to run a few additional tests.

They all came back with very abnormal results.

After Thanksgiving, and a few more rounds of tests, it was clear that something was wrong.  By mid-December, I was on edge with all the news I was getting.  And when I got back to New York, after a very busy week of work in London and Amsterdam, I had to schedule surgery for right after the new year.

Somewhere in my shock, I remembered that this was not the sort of news that one text-messaged to people — this was phone-call news.  It was a weird soup of emotions I cycled through — it was the process of not getting too emotional over knowledge I didn’t yet have, but getting emotional enough to look like I was scared.

I am not sure why I cared, at that point, about how I would be regarded by others.  I think it was because I had been told for so many years to have feelings; to be emotionally accessible.  But I had learned a long time ago that, at least in my experience, emotions had no place in a crisis.  Deal first, feel later.

I was dealing.

On Friday, 10th January, I had surgery.  Bethany came up from Washington to be with me, and we walked down from my apartment to the hospital together.  It was a damp, unremarkably grey morning after the Polar Vortex.  We arrived at the hospital, and the pre-op process was quick and painless.

And then it was done.  I had a few complications and so what should’ve been a straightforward day surgery wound up taking a couple of hours longer than expected (my blood pressure dropped significantly and unexpectedly in recovery, which was a little scary).  Bethany stayed another night, and eee and Katka stopped by.  I ate a lot of ice cream.  I survived.

This week, the doctor called with the pathology reports.  The “cyst” was really an early stage malignancy.  They were able to remove it all.  Further treatment would simply be close observation.

And that’s it, really.

I haven’t felt like myself in a long time; I haven’t felt like writing. Things have been weird, and scary, and unexpected.  And I have been extremely angry — angry in a way I didn’t know how to handle before now, and I don’t like to write about things until I feel I’ve got a good handle on them.

I have felt…rabid.  Frothing at the mouth; suspicious; unable to take in the simplest things.

And now, I am…healing.

Maybe someday, I’ll go into the intricacies of the wounds.  Maybe someday, this will all be worth discussing.  But for now, I am going to be…Okay.

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

Routine: Have you started a new routine this January?  Is this routine different from last year?  Is it the result of a resolution or goal you’re working on?  Tell us about your days.  How do they flow?  If you’d like, maybe give us a full “day in the life” or just some snippets.

My life is anything but routine these days.

I am waiting.  Waiting for news.  Waiting for the phone to ring.

Waiting is fine for other people, I keep telling myself. I am not a patient woman; I am used to skipping to the head of the class, the front of the line.  I had to wait to board a plane for the first time in years, recently, and it was stupidly jarring.  But…how have I forgotten who I am; what kind of idiot am I who thinks it is her birthright to go first?

So what makes me worthier of right now?

The answer is…nothing.

Not desire; not status; not…anything.  When it comes to waiting — the cosmic wait — I am just one amongst many; one amongst millions and billionsTake a number, kiddo.  Wait it out.

Since December, that has been the routine:  Wait it out.

I wait.  I phone friends.  I try to go about my daily routine — what’s left of it.  I snuggle up with the dog

When this process got started, the doctor’s nurse told me to write down some words that were meaningful.  I wrote down: Patience; bravery; stillness. When this process was well underway, she told me: You have great veins, as she took my blood.  They always say that to me, like having great veins can set aside the cognitive dissonance of the seeing a youngish, healthy-looking woman curled up in a hospital bed.

Today, the phone rings; the wait is over.  This is the news I have been waiting for.

It is weird, suddenly, to find that I have come through a thing I never fully knew I was suffering.  It is strange to suddenly possess a new vocabulary of sharp and dangerous words.  Cutting words; cut-out words.  I have, without my complete knowledge or consent, inherited a lexicon of survivor words.

And so begins a new life and a new routine.  It is a peculiar, quiet triumph.

These have been hard years.

This really occurred to me when my brother knocked at my door on the morning before the Marathon — after he escaped the Nightmare That Was Los Angeles Under Siege:  These have been very hard years.

I talk about them in the abstract; we talk about them in terms of Drugs, Heart Failure, Jail, Divorce, Eating Disorder, Loss, Et Cetera.  I talk about them in terms of Redemption, and What I Have Learned.  It has all been one, long, horrible Life Lesson — a very shitty Afterschool Special that Kristy McNichol might have starred in if this were the ’80s…

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…and in which she might play someone’s mom if she were still on TV.

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So my brother showed up at my house, by way of a miracle flight, on the Morning Before The Marathon, and I thought: The hard part is really over.

(I am not really sure why I had that thought, because I still had an entire New York City Marathon ahead of me.)

We ran the race, but I barely remember the race.

We got to the finish, but I barely remember the finish.

We arrived back at my house, and then I remember opening the door to a house full of people I love — people who were screaming SURPRISE, and who were passing a tray of Champagne around.

At some point this year, I think I stopped fumbling.  At some point this year, our little urban tribe hit The Bottom.  And perhaps that sounds silly, because one thinks that things “can always get worse,” but on the morning before the Marathon, I discovered that The Bottom is not always the worst place to be.  I thought: Why do we have to be such pessimists?  Sometimes, The Bottom is merely the point at which you make your Revelation.  It is the point at which you are Redeemed.

Together, we have survived the worst kinds of losses, and crises, and all of the kinds of things that most people don’t ever encounter in a lifetime.  Together, we have weathered the kinds of things that tore my marriage apart.  We have sat together in hospital rooms and kept watch; we have rushed across state lines to be together.  We have celebrated victories, and cheered accomplishments.

We have shared secrets; we have found safe spaces.  We have laughed, and cried, and climbed mountains.  We have run the hardest races and still reached the finish.

We have…survived.

I think that the scariest thing about relationships is not knowing whether you will be loved back — not knowing whether, if when you leap, that the net will appear.

We have been each other’s net.

We have held on.

What have I learned?  What life lesson has come about?

I have learned that sometimes, one has to lose everything in order to Start Again.

I have learned that I do not have to “behave” in order to be loved.

I have learned this because, years ago, I invested in many box-sets of After School Specials. Someone had copied them all to DVD, and was selling them on Amazon.  I bought the ones where Rob Lowe is a teen father, and he figures it out.  I bought the ones where Kristy McNichol is a wayward teen orphan who learns how to love and be loved.  I even bought the one only available on VHS where the Edward Hermann (aka Richard Gilmore from Gilmore Girls) is a widower who buys his kids an electric grandmother who teaches his motherless children how to open their hearts.

I don’t think I knew, back when I purchased this treasure trove of complete nonsense, that it would have a purpose.  Did any of you watching those specials back when they aired believe that they would be The Light that guided you out of the Shitswamp?

Probably not.

I did not.

But I guess what those shows were trying to teach — either by accident or maybe on purpose — was resilience.  The Main Idea is that if you fall, you can get back up. If you leap, the net will appear.

The race is long, and the miles will be hard, but at some point, you rise to the challenge, and you learn to live again.

I did not think I could ever be so grateful for these years I have spent in freefall.

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Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.

I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.
– C.S. Lewis

I am hard on myself.

I find it easier to forgive others, but hard to forgive myself.  But if I can’t forgive myself, am I really forgiving anyone?

What sort of bullshit system do I have going here?  What sort of false piousness is this?

This time of year, I see a lot of posts on Facebook and on Twitter — self congratulatory posts — about paying it forward.  People who write statuses and tweets about the times that they give unto others.

I paid for lunch for a blind, one-legged 127 year old WWI veteran today.  He was so grateful!  Brought tears to my eyes when he thanked me!  Remember to pay it forward!

I cannot forgive myself for the time I didn’t do X or Y for someone close to me, and then she died, so now I always do X or Y for strangers in our community.  Remember to always to X!

I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, by the way, so this isn’t me passing judgment — it’s more of an observation.  I talk about the money I donate, and the fundraising I do, and the volunteering I undertake.  I want you to know about it.  I want you to think I am a good person.

Why do I want you to think I am a good person?  Because I think I’m a bad one.  Because I can’t forgive myself for the major and minor trespasses I’ve committed.  Because I was a jerk to someone this morning, or did something imperfectly, or tried and failed and failed again, and so I have to tell myself — by telling everyone — that I cannot possibly be a Real Jerk because I do these good things for other people; because I practice kind actions, and I pay it forward; and I actively forgive.

But what I have found, in my limited experience in thirtysomething years as a human, is that it is infinitely easier to be less of a jerk to others when I am nicer to myself.  I have found that I do not have to run around, bumbling, fumbling, frantically pay for others’ drinks and brag about it on social media to compensate for my bumbles and fumbles, when I am just a little kinder to me.

It’s not just about the false piousness, though.  Failing to forgive means continuing to resent.

I don’t really want to be resentful anymore.

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Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.