April is National Poetry Month. In honour of that, I’m digging through my archives and posting a series of poems I’ve written over the years.

I wear the smallest invisibility cloak.
I put it on
Whenever you look at me,
And I disappear.
Like when I left
To go run a marathon
Kitted out
In full bright regalia
And those bouncy Pippi braids I so love

Waving goodbye first thing
And toting the bag
Emblazoned with the name of the race
And you,
Blithely saying goodbye
Not noticing
Where I was off to.
Never realising that I’d gone.

I get smaller, too
Microscopic
I shrunk as you cut me from the frame
In those pictures of us
Skiing in Vermont
To use in your dating profile.
Or when you
Refused to be photographed with me
In the first place
If no evidence of us ever existed
Then no harm could ever be done.

But sometimes
It is cosier.
Insidious, almost.
Like the blanket I wear on your sofa.
Snuggled beside you
Like the whole world
Rests between your head
And my heart.
Isn’t this nice, I think
I feel your breathing and mine
I feel my chest lurch under the weight of you.

Between the beats
Your son calls
His face appears on your phone
Like a ghost or an angel
And you quickly rise
Hiding me from his view,
Invisible again.

(November, 2016)

April is National Poetry Month. In honour of that, I’m digging through my archives and posting a series of poems I’ve written over the years.

Wicked tongue
You have me lashed to you now.
Your vain voice,
The gentle rolling cadence
Lilting laugh,
Falling timbre.
Darling,
It’s a vicious, thrilling ride.

(March, 2008)

Sarah, Kat, Kim & I are continuing to host Reverb through 2016 as a way to share writing prompts and providing a space for writers via our Facebook group. Here’s August’s prompt. 

Nostalgia // Tell us about your favourite summer memories. As the summer winds down, tell us about your favourite summer memories from this year (or any year). We want to see your freckled faces and tanned skin. Show us your summer.

I had to retire my favourite summer dress recently.

It was a strapless dress, and I’d had it for over a decade, so it was beyond salvaging. It was just an old brown dress from Ron Herman that I’d picked up on a trip back to LA after I’d sat for the Bar. I’d taken it all over the world with me; worn it to all sorts of major life events.

I’m not sure it was even attractive, but I felt good in it.

There is something special about a favourite summer dress – mine; anyone’s. It seemed to absorb the smells of salt and sand and sunscreen over the years. The dress was constructed of a simple t-shirt fabric, and had resisted a decade-plus of spills, and tears, and subway grit, and New York City grime. I had used the dress’s length to cover up the nasty case of shingles I’d been surprised with one hot, late summer five years ago. I had sunburned the hell out of my chest while wearing it to my ex sister-in-law’s graduation. It was a sword; a shield. If you know me in person, you probably wouldn’t remember the dress offhand, but you probably have an image in your mind’s eye of me in it.

It had come with me to explore all of China, and jump fully clothed into the sea in Thailand; had travelled all over Chile and New Zealand. We had rung in the New Year in Australia together in 2012, and soaked in blue English nights over warm beer with good company.  I had worn it back to LA one warm late-winter to console my best friend after her house burned down. The dress had been my one constant over my whole tumultuous time in NYC – through husbands, and jobs; change and upheaval. No matter the circumstances or the hemisphere, I could count on slipping into my brown summer dress and feeling like myself.

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(After the fire)

A few weeks ago, I found it in the bottom of a drawer. I hadn’t been able to find it all summer, but I knew I had put somewhere last year to remind me to take it to the tailor to have the elastic around the top replaced. I obviously had tucked it away so well, it had avoided notice. The dress was getting on in years and it needed to be repaired; probably replaced, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to part with it just yet. I slipped it on anyway – wrinkled and sagging – on my way between running Summer Streets (my first outdoor run of the season!) and a hair appointment.

During the colouring process, the gown covering me slipped open, and my colourist dripped bleach on my dress. In all my years of being a bottle blonde, that has never happened. But it did, and I knew that it was the universe’s way of telling me that The Dress Was Done.

There is something funny about living in the past; about not merely breathing in the sweet summer smell of a t-shirt dress every year, but clinging to it. There’s something silly and maybe a little sad about patching up a dress that is clearly falling off your body and smells permanently of sunblock, perfume, and faintly of sweat. So when I arrived home from my hair appointment, I changed out of my dress and slipped into a different outfit before meeting some friends for Mostly Mozart that night.

I looked like myself, but different. Older, maybe.

Before I went out, I found my kitchen scissors and I quickly cut two swatches from the bottom of the dress, then binned it. I penned a letter to Jade in California, reminiscing on the night that I’d come to her house after the fire; wearing my off-season summer dress. Then I popped the note in the mail with a scrap of dress; headed off to Lincoln Center and never looked back.

In California, there is a bit of a love-hate relationship with fire. Every year, the wildfires rage and they burn the canyons near my parents’ old house; sometimes hopping the eight lanes of freeway and lapping dangerously near the pink stucco expanse of tract-homes on winding cul-de-sacs. The droughts and the ever-growing brush make this a constant threat. But farther north, the coniferous forests also need the fire to reproduce – some of the old-growth trees, like the Giant Sequoias, need fire to release their seeds from their cones. Fire is part of the renewal process. Other trees depend on periodic fires to clear the choking brush so they can grow.

Jade almost died in a fire about a decade ago; escaping at the last minute, woken up by her cat. A few years after, I dragged her into a brush fire in Yosemite Valley, deep into the Sequoia forests, to climb above the treeline; away from but still inside the inferno.

So it seemed like the right thing to do – to take the dress you wear to the water and you wore to the fire and send it back to where it came from in California.

Being a grown-up is funny, sometimes, isn’t it.

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This is the eighth (and final) piece in a brief series of posts. Here are the firstsecond, and thirdfourthfifthsixth, and seventh.

By mid-June, I am feeling crazed by Not Knowing whether I have the type of EDS that will make my organs rupture without warning, and also by Not Being Able to run now, or potentially ever again.

There is nothing that makes a woman feel less attractive than spending a summer recovering from surgery. My skin and stomach are both taking a beating from the constant onslaught of anti-inflammatories. I have been nauseous for weeks; constantly dissolving Zofran tablets on my tongue. I sleep in long, monogrammed PJs even as the temperature rises because I am sick of looking at the scabby holes in my leg. I’m walking on my own, but my gait is like that of a baby giraffe and I cannot walk for too long without epic fatigue.

These are First World Problems, so I try to power through. I focus on how quickly I am healing; I talk about my progress with physical therapy. I take pictures of the scars and I post them on Instagram because when you are full of holes, you only want people to see the supernova of your body on your terms. I have two constellations of incisions – one on each hip – and a whole galaxy of scars on my right knee from repeated, failed arthroscopies during my days of competitive sports. There is also a several inches-long vapour trail running down the inside of my right leg from my running accident last summer.

I have to do something. I search for any activity that I can participate in that will Take The Edge Off and will not require more medication and that will not bore me. Under the influence of the last of my narcotics and Royal Ascot, I decide horseback riding is the way forward. I ask my physical therapist whether equitation is permissible, and he tells me that it is possible, but not advisable because Meredith, squeezing a piece of horsemeat between your legs could irritate your hip flexor.

I love making dirty jokes, but I do not take his bait because the last time I did that, I wound up announcing to the entire gym that I eat boxes for breakfast! I was talking about my prowess in conquering the eight inch riser they were having me step-up and step-down to prove my quad strength before they’d let me in the anti-gravity treadmill. But I got a few looks that morning.

I spend the next few days scouring the internet for barns that are not too stuffy, that are close to the city, and that accommodate adult beginners.

The last time I rode a horse was when I was leaving my first husband. Jade told me that when I was ready to leave Andrew, I should come home. When I knew it was time, I called my parents to come pick me up at a wedding in Las Vegas and take me back to LA. I had had several moments where I knew my first marriage was over, but that wedding where Andrew had dragged us to Vegas insisting he was the best man in a wedding in which he was not even in the wedding party provided a particular moment of clarity as to the direness of my circumstances.

Once I arrived in LA towards the end of that particular shitshow, Jade took me to her mother’s house. Jade’s mother, Das, is an accomplished equestrienne, and was one of the only divorcees I knew intimately at the time. Das took me out on the trail and we rode for hours and hours. It had inspired me to write a poem about Frederic, and horses, and divorces, which I had shared with him, and which he had praised in that way that made clear he thought it was stupid.

And that was that.

Within months Frederic was legally separated, and so was I and I thought things might go somewhere, sometime. But then he surprised me by telling me that he’d been seeing the Danish girl all that time, and what was I doing, still writing him letters? Didn’t I know that I’d caused a terrible flap between him and his girlfriend because they’d moved in together and one of my letters had been forwarded to their shared abode?

I shrunk back in a special kind of shame, then, when I realised I had left a man who couldn’t handle rejection to the point of refusing to admit he wasn’t the best man in his childhood friend’s wedding, only to find myself sending poems to a man I failed to notice was living with another woman.

I sign up for riding lessons at a farm in Pleasantville, NY near where Paul and I were married. My instructor wears concert t-shirts and has turquoise hair and tells me that I need to feel things; that I will suck at this a little to start; that feeling is first. I cry the first time I get on the horse – a giant gelding called, of all things, Bill – not out of fear, but because I am certain I haven’t felt much of anything in years.

I don’t suck at horseback riding, but I am not instantly good at it, which is exactly what I need. I need something to take my mind off of the EDS; and the whole of my lower extremities.

Hold the reigns up, like an ice cream cone! Tamara the instructor shouts from the centre of the ring, and I apologise for not doing it right. Why are you saying you’re sorry? she asks me, truly baffled, You’ve done this like three times in your life!

With that, I begin to realise how far off the rails I have gone. Literally. Figuratively.

At the end of my first lesson, I sign up for many more because even if I never master the sport, I am coming to terms with the fact that nothing will be the same again, and the future, whatever it is, will be entirely different and wholly Okay.

This is the second in a brief series of posts. The first post is here.

It is March, 2016 and I am standing at the finish line of the Fitbit Paris Half Marathon. It is cold, and windy, and as with every finish, my feet are hot, so I strip off my shoes. I have run the whole race without stopping once because some primal part of my brain has said Do not stop; keep going till the end.

I know at the finish line that this is not my Triumphant Return to Running after my 2014 hip reconstruction and my 2015 knee reconstruction. I know that Something is Not Right, but I cannot yet put my finger on what. I fumble in my waistpack for paracetamol with codeine, and I gobble it greedily. I drag myself back to the hotel, where I order ice and Pringles from Room Service, and fill the bathtub with cool water and ice cubes, lowering myself into it like a professional athlete. Then I watch shitty movies on my iPad and eat Pringles in a questionable hotel bathtub.

I am able to make it through the weekend and arrive back to New York. Days later, I am standing in paper shorts in my hip surgeon’s office when he knocks to enter the exam room, his entourage of physician’s assistant; student fellow; nurse in tow. He is one of the best orthopaedic surgeons in the world – his patients are typically professional athletes. He’s also a really nice guy with a good bedside manner. I’m still not sure how I got so lucky to get on his roster.

He begins to talk to me about my right hip, and how great it looks on the x-ray I’ve just had, when I interrupt.

No, I say, I mean, yes. It does look great. But I am here for the left side.

He frowns. Okay, let’s take a look.

With labral tears, femoroacetabular impingements, and certain other impairments/ injuries of the hip, a doctor will rotate your joint around and push it this way and that to see if you have the injury before ordering a scan to confirm. The manipulation feels excruciating.

The surgeon looks disappointed – his goal for me was a complete recovery. I know that I am a typically fun patient because I am motivated, and I follow instructions. I am disappointed; I am a Bad Statistic now. He orders an MRI, but we all already know that I will be splayed on an operating table sooner than later.

The MRI results come back quickly, and the surgeon’s nurse practitioner calls me to tell me that they have a variety of areas of concern. They have compared this scan to the one they took in 2013, and it seems impossible for me to have injured myself so badly when I have spent the better part of three years in sports rehab. The bone marrow edema is significant; the tear in the cartilage is obvious; there is an impingement; so on and so forth. Before they can do anything else, before surgery can even be an option, I am given a list of specialists I need to consult.

This is March.

I do not say much about this to anyone, because people tend to think that People Who Run are to blame for everything that happens to them. When I slipped and fell in August and had to have my knee emergently reconstructed, a bunch of probably well-meaning friends and family sent me messages telling me that this was God/The Universe’s way to say Don’t Run Any More!

I wondered, then, if I had been hit by a car if those same people would tell me that it had been God’s way of letting me know I shouldn’t walk outside alone anymore. As if I should be personally responsible for every possible contingency resulting from my mere existence or participation in society or recreation.

(But I am also related to a lot of rightwingers and Bootstrappers; I have dated more Eagle Scouts than even your average Mormon, so I do wonder if I it is partly the company I keep.)

As the weeks tick by, I see specialist after specialist, each of whom takes my blood and asks me questions. One doctor thinks I have blood cancer. Another doctor thinks that this is the legacy of a previous bout with an eating disorder. Nobody has answers.

I am sent for a DEXA scan, and I am asked to track down the DEXA scan I had performed on me in 2008. I call NYU Hospital and ask them to sift through Hurricane Sandy-affected records under my old-married name to find out whether I can have the test done on the same equipment. This feels weirder than it should – saying my old name; digging through old files; looking at old diagnoses.

It feels almost like we are talking about a dead person – this Sick Woman; this anorexic; this woman who couldn’t hack it in BigLaw; this Woman who was Married to Andrew; who loved Frederic; who couldn’t Recover. I am not That Woman.

In the midst of This March, it is Frederic’s Birthday. I text him, because I have wished him a Happy Birthday by some sort of message since before Texting Was a Thing – it is reflexive. I could never help myself where Freddy was concerned. Thank you, he says, Of course you remembered. I feel a need to reconnect with you. We should make lunch happen.

He had relapsed; he is sober again. I had appreciated his honesty in telling me, but now I am left to wonder if the whole rekindling of our friendship; our business relationship (which took place during his relapse) was a lie. It is the Same as it Ever Was, except the promised lunch will never happen.

I have the new DEXA scan. This time, they scan my wrist, too, for good measure, and they have forgotten to tell me to take my Love bracelet off. They look irritated with me when I ask if they have a screwdriver. They push the bracelet up my arm, but the bangle shows in the scan, and I am secretly glad of it, because now I know it is Me in these pictures, and not Her – not the Sick, Dead Girl.

I do not have blood cancer.

It is April.

I don’t eat radishes, except when I’m at the Palm. It’s one of my rituals. Rituals are important.   – Larry King
The New York Times Magazine

I am sitting in my office, reading an article in the New York Times Magazine about Larry King. In the opening scene of the profile, King is dining at The Palm in Washington, D.C., and I am thinking about how my old boss took me there on my first day of work at my old firm. That particular boss was a big man, with a booming voice, and…hairplugs, and he was the sort of person you’d expect to see at The Palm, alongside the caricatures of celebrities, including, but not limited to Larry King.

At the time I started that job,  I had been out of work for a year, and had been travelling to Africa, and Asia. I had eaten roast yak meat, and had been roused from slumber by the sounds of bullfrogs and roosters. I had stopped running my toothbrush under the faucet at home when I brushed my teeth at night because it had been so long since I’d been able to drink the water from the tap. I was also freshly out of months and months of intensive therapy geared at saving my failing marriage. I had all but forgotten how to talk to normal people in a workplace setting. 

Somehow, none of the strangers with guns on any of my travels ever made me as nervous as I was that day at The Palm — sitting across from a man with bad hair, wondering if I could hack it back in the Real World.

The Larry King profile goes on to talk about King’s various accomplishments at CNN, and the oddities and complexities of his Life on The Air. For instance, the author claims that King “sat shiva” on CNN the night that both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died.

That same day Michael and Farrah died, I was standing in the lobby of the SeaWorld Orlando Marriott, a grown-up at a convention of college-aged women, trying not to get punched in the face by a woman from New Jersey who was screaming at me that [she] was a leader not a follower.  What the hell was I doing there? What the hell had I done to deserve that? There were TVs blaring overhead, announcing the news that first Michael Jackson had died, and then Farrah Fawcett — all gods dead, all songs sung, all faith in Hollywood shaken. 

The college girls milled around me like I was a barely-submerged iceberg in the stream of tanned, well-heeled Southern blondes. They had been taught to avoid conflict, and I was a beacon of it. I had been humiliated by a trollop in a gold lame gown, while Larry King sat shiva on CNN on the big screens that dotted the lobby. I had no idea how I had gotten to where I was in the first place.

This reminds me that the cat died at the beginning of August. Grace was my grandparents’ cat – she was all that was left of them – and my mother had taken her from Florida over a decade ago when my grandparents’ health began to fail. She had lived with Mums and Daddy until the week that they were to move house. She died days before they moved across town.

Some things just can’t tolerate change, I guess.

The day after Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died; the day after Larry King started to sit shiva on CNN; the day after I almost got punched in the face was the last time I ever left Orlando. I never bothered to go back and find out where my grandparents were buried. I never bothered to go back at all.

Larry King, according the the profile, is fixated on dying. Larry King is planning his own funeral. Larry King wants Bill Clinton to give the eulogy. Larry King will have the memorial service in a synagogue, to honour his mother, but to be clear, Larry King is not religious.

I have not been back to The Palm since that day in Washington. I will probably never go back to The Palm — not the one in Washington; not the one in Tribeca; probably not even the one in the Delta terminal at JFK.

You see, I am usually the kind of woman who Goes Back To Places. This is one of my Rituals. Rituals are important – they help you make sense of the world. But sometimes the world doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes, things fail; bosses suck; relatives die; people misinterpret your best intentions.

Sometimes, the only way Out is Through.


#Reverb15 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2015.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Daily Life | Show us a day or a week of your life! Include pictures!

Monday, April 13: A month or so ago, I bumped into my ex-boyfriend in Paris. This might be remarkable for some of you – for me, this was wonderful, but unremarkable, because I have finally accepted that I am simply the sort of woman who bumps into people in unexpected places. I am therefore not the kind of woman who could ever expect to work as a spy or carry on an extramarital affair.

Matt and I were high school sweethearts, and I’ve written about him, and us, before. We were weird kids, and artists, and good at supporting each other’s creative endeavours – especially for being teenagers.  He grew up to be an actor and singer and composer – exactly as he had intended.  And I grew up to be a lawyer and a financial services executive – maybe not as planned, but still not a bad gig.

He and his partner were in Paris for a meeting, and to support one of their Ugandan students who had won a modeling competition. I was in Paris for a half-marathon and attend a conference at the invitation of a group I do a lot of work with.

How different our lives were! From each other; from the past; from whence we came.

We grew up in a former onion-and-spinach farming town just outside Los Angeles, on the edge of the Mojave Desert – a planned community that has grown exponentially since we both left.

Matt and I grew up in a place that valued sameness. That’s not a knock on the place or the people who live(d) there. It’s simply to observe that the very essence of a planned community is to cultivate similarity. People buy houses in those types of places precisely because they want to live where stuff matches, and they like the predictability of shopping centers and big box stores. That’s not a bad thing, and I can’t really judge that instinct, except to say that I’m not sure I’d pay any sort of premium for the privilege of adhering to draconian CC&Rs dictating the three shades of taupe my eaves can be painted – OR ELSE.

But when you grow up in a place that’s not just treating you like you’re a teenager, but also like you’re weird, sometimes you move on to adult life questioning: Am I weird? Are these feelings normal? Is it okay to feel X or Y? And you lose touch with how to cope with Big Feelings or Confusing Stuff because you feel a constant pressure to stuff down every out-of-the-mainstream instinct and feeling.

Or maybe you never learn it in the first place.

That’s the back story.

But all of this back story aside, I bumped into Matt and his partner Griffin in Paris because they’d posted a picture of themselves at Charles de Gaulle Airport on Facebook, and we wound up having the chance to spend the better part of a day together.

At some point during that afternoon, Matt and Griff suggested I should help them raise money for a concert they were helping to host for the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s 15th Anniversary Celebration in April.

It’s a WASP’s wet dream! Matt said.

Well, in that case… I laughed.

So after an afternoon of walking around Paris and eating Speculoos ice cream and talking, I agreed to be on the benefit’s host committee, and a week later, Matt sent me the details.

On a Monday in April, I headed up to the Apollo Theatre to meet a few friends at the benefit, and to see Matt and Griffin perform songs from their show Witness Uganda. The show itself will open off-Broadway later this year.

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It’s wonderful, and weird, and wild, and strange to have shared that relationship with Matt, and to watch this chapter unfold for all of us. And I’d be lying if I said it’s not sometimes hard – figuring out what role to play, and how much to say, and how to feel in This Part Now.

Growing up in a Los Angeles suburb where every house looks the same might prepare you for how to pick the ideal shade of greige to paint your garage door, or how to pick the perfect shrubbery for your front garden, or even how to be on a benefit committee, but it certainly does not prepare you for Paris, or Broadway.