Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Only its not a house.
And its not "ours."
Not ours in the sense we don't own it. We rent. And damn, I love renting. My fridge is broke. Someone come fix it. Ooh, look at all those leaves out there. Someone (else, not me) should really rake them so no one slips and falls. Oh, you're here to clean out my air filters so we'll be nice and cozy this winter? I heart you really nice maintenance dude that remembers my name.
M and I have both had the moving bug lately. But if there is one thing that gives us pause, its that we know. We are certain. We could most likely never afford a place this great in any other city that we would want to live in. I am looking out the window in my office, past the turning leaves, straight into the river where I kayak. If I walk the length of the place - and it is looooong - I end up on my little balcony, which overlooks the state capitol. Dome and all.
I live across the street from my Office. As in, the place where I go where most of my other co-workers are. We park there too. Bonus. We can walk to just about all of the eating/drinking/playing establishments in town (and stumble home). The only thing missing is a decent supermarket that's walkable. Hence my madwoman adventure in search of ranch dressing when I was pregnant.
Our place is huge. Far more space than 2 people should occupy. If I were still in Poland this would be a squat for at least a dozen students. M and I each have an office. Each have quiet space. Although we've both taken to the (usually unused) dining room table to do any hard core studying (me for my CAE, M for, well, we'll get into that later).
I love our home. I hated coming back to it from the hospital. I hated the long, empty hallway, esp. when I heard other people's kids running down it. But we are back to a peaceful coexistence again: Me and this space. Despite the size, we ALWAYS end up trying to fit into tiny spaces together - the kitchen (which, admittedly, is the one thing I would gut and redo if we had that option), the broken couch, the floor in front of the couch behind the coffee table we got from the office basement and have proceeded to ruin with our negligent coffee and tea mugs (sorry), M's office (it's the warmest room in the house come winter).
I love the yellow walls of my office, the dark, dark blue in my quiet room. I love that the kitchen is so far away from our living space - so if I'm nonstop munching I at least get some exercise. I love where we live.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Elizabeth McCracken is the easy answer here. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is the "OMG. Holy shit. I am NOT crazy!" book. The "what happened to us WAS/IS and forever will be fucked up and it is OK that I was not in my right mind every moment of the way" story. As beautifully written as any horrible story could be, McCracken, man. She speaks to me.
So, how's about a not-so-expected answer now?
There was one book that I read, cover to cover, when I still couldn't see straight. One that I picked up throughout the day and then used to pummel M with facts and information that I had gleaned from it every night when he came home from work.
"Hey, M! Guess what? Did you know the Hardy Boyz made their own trampoline wrestling ring in their back yard when they were kids?"
"Hey, M! Did you know their mom died when they were young? That's sad."
"Hey, sweetie..." [WHAAAAAAAT? Tell me, m. just what did you learn about Matt and Jeff today? I'm just dying to know.]
I can't explain it. I went for a walk most days. One day found me at the library. I saw this book. I picked it up. And good goddess, it became my security blanket. I couldn't get enough of the Hardy Boyz and their trials and tribulations in the WWE. It was simple. It was straightforward. It probably dropped my reading level down several grades. But whatever. It entertained me and g*ddammit I wanted to be entertained.
It did the trick.
Unlike me, trying to replicate a super-sweet wrestling move on M. a few months ago. Yep. Scar is still there.
All of this to explain why you are reading a "day 13" post on the 26th day of the month.
Day 13 - a fictional book that is meaningful to you since your loss
The short answer to this is: none. Sure I've read a few books that I've liked, some that I've set aside. I just haven't been drawn to a fictional piece since our loss. Haven't found that book that's made me go, OMG, how did I miss this one?
I do, however, have immense gratitude for Carl Hiaasen. You know, the dude that wrote Striptease, and dozens of other books, all set in south or central Florida, all having more or less the same plot (corrupt land developer or business owner, quirky middle-aged characters with family issues but good hearts, hijinks, good guys winning). Hiaasen is what I read this year and the year before on our summer vacations down to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Both times felt like a reprieve, like a pause in life where M and I could just grab a trashy novel, a beach towel and enjoy each other's company for a while. And Hiassen was our go-to guy. Nothing too taxing. Nothing too stressful. Just a decent story and a couple of laughs and lots of down on their luck souls getting some breaks here and there.
Hiaasen makes me think of Bonita Springs which makes me think of happy.
And so many thanks, by the way, for your comments and emails yesterday. The storm seems to have faded. Life resumes, as it always does, after some tense moments, a shaky day, some hugs, some tears and some love. Thank you for giving me the strength to walk in the door with a smile on my face to try to shift the scene. It eventually worked.
Monday, October 25, 2010
But M. woke this morning when my pilates alarm went off (I chose snooze. sorry. legs still sore) and continued to toss and turn until he finally got up, sighing the whole way in and out of the shower. Somber morning, the kind where I quietly can't wait for him to leave since the weight of the air is oppressive. Is it about work? Was it the alarm? Did I say something last night to start this funk? what was the trigger? How can I make it better? Can I make it better?
On the way out it felt like he was trying to pick a fight over some earphones and finally I was like, dude. What? What is this about?
"I just can't find a reason to get up in the morning. That's all. I just don't see the point."
And with that he leaves. And here I sit. Reminded that no matter how fine things appear on the surface, That is always there.
Sometimes I wonder how different things would be if I just never got pregnant. If nothing worked and the grieving was for something else. Not two real, actual little girls that never got a chance to get mad as us, make us crazy, make us proud. I wonder if the sting would be any less if we knew there was NO chance, as opposed to one chance, and oh you blew it, and now you have none. That feels terribly cruel, don't you think?
But where does the anger go? Who to be mad at? Sure there are the usual suspects, but inevitably it turns inward or to each other, or to The World in general, and leads to mornings like this. Ones where I text until he answers me so I am sure he at least made it to work safely (he is). One were all my best laid plans are shot to hell and I still have a day of work ahead of me. Of other obligations, other expectations that have nothing to do with this.
This dead babies/infertility/sad husband/crazy family business (which I am not even getting into here)...It's really doing a job on me this morning. And the rest of the day awaits.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
And it’s been worth every lost minute of sleep. And you know my deep affection for sleep.
Spent the morning commute catching up on blogs and personal emails, treated myself to a caramel macchiato when I arrived at my destination, found myself seated with some of my favorite colleagues, listened to some amazing poetry courtesy of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement and remembered that spoken word isn’t just for intellectual blowhards at indie coffee joints. It can be real. It can be powerful. It can break your heart with its truths.
Not that intellectual blowhards don’t have their own truths.
Next up was Anne Mahlum who founded an organization called Back on My Feet which engages the homeless population in running. Yes, running. Why?
“Running is one of the most empowering activities there is because there is no end. There is always another mile, another road, another right turn. There is no buzzer and there is no referee. It has taught me so much about life, especially the simple notion that to get anywhere, you have to take it one step at a time."Go check out their website and blog to read Anne’s story and the events that led her to lace up her shoes, and then get others to join her on the journey. She’s a terrific speaker. I hung on her every word. Probably because I felt like she was speaking to me. Directly to me. Especially when she said running made her “feel like [she] could fly” and that starting the nonprofit “made her life make sense.” She talked about how running doesn’t discriminate, and is so easy to start – “all you have to do is show up.” And for just showing up, folks that participate in her program earn points towards grants they can use to get themselves back on their feet.
And she’s so young! And has great hair. Tangent. Sorry.
Of course I found her after the event and thanked her personally, told her just a smidge about me – My babies died. I started to run. I kept running. It changed me. It heals me. It forces me to rely on my body again. And focus my mind. It has nothing to do with being physically fit, but everything mentally. I am pretty sure it saved me. Thank you. Thank you for everything you said and for what you do, and for encouraging others down this path.
How’s that for an elevator speech?
So, yeah, I basically spent the whole morning hugging people, tearing up, hoping no one turned the lights back on while my eyeballs were full, and wondering to myself, what is MY life mission? What is the thing that is going to make my life make sense? Make me feel like I am in love?
I don’t know yet.
But I do feel like there are some pieces that are coming together and some people coming back into my life that are reawakening some long-dormant urges. Urges to, you know, like help people and shit.
For the longest time, the very notion of volunteering made me cringe, because working for a nonprofit often makes one feel like you’re donating time all day. Especially when you see your paycheck. This, after years of pre-adolescent and teen years being a pretty vocal and active spokeskid for various charities and events, had been my prevalent train of thought. What I do during the day is enough. I don’t need to cut into my happy hours and Gossip Girl watching time. The concept appealed to me even less after our loss. When the therapist suggested we do something to help other people, both M and I held back snorts. Why the fuck would we want to do THAT? Aren’t we here to talk about US? C’mon lady. Focus.
But, hmm, I don’t know. I feel like there’s something brewing. Something ready to maybe make itself known. I’m not withholding information or burying the lede on you here. I honestly don’t know what that something is. But…
Side note: is there anything cooler than Galaxie 500 covering Joy Division? Wow, Pandora. You know me. You really know me.
Can my day getting any better?
I'm kind of with Angie on this one. I don't like to drop terms like OCD around too lightly. But that's the title of today's topic, so let's talk about some habits, perhaps some repetitious habits that I may feel a little silly admitting.
Reading through the other ladies playing along, its pretty clear we're all a little hung up on lists of all shapes and sizes. I prefer mine with little empty boxes drawn next to my to dos that I can fill in when they're done. Silly, yes. Satisfying, yes. But I also seem to find a bizarre comfort/discomfort in stacks.
Like when my dear pal S. came into my dorm room in the midst of mid-terms freshman year to find me quietly crying and stacking my books and notes in piles around me.
“Dude, I think if you just opened one and started studying, you might feel a little less stressed.”
Well, yes. Probably. But I just have this desire to physically see a representation of the tasks ahead of me. That stack – manageable. That one – no way. That one over there – I’m going to pretend it’s not really there but I will keep it there so I don’t completely forget that there is something big that I am avoiding.
15+ years later (dammit!) I look around my desk and I see these same patterns. This stack – personal. That stack – work-related. That stack – stuff I should get to sooner than later. It’s all stacks and piles that would probably be thinner if I spent less time stacking and more time doing.
I can’t tell if this is how I get my head around things, or how I unnecessarily add to my anxieties. The stacking helps compartmentalize but it’s not like I create one and stop. Ok, here are tasks I can reasonably address today. One step at a time. No. That would be sensible. I need to know I am in the weeds. In over my head and I need the piles as evidence.
My penchant for stacking is not unnoticed. It is M’s scapegoat for all things missing (aka things he’s misplaced) in the apartment. Sometimes it is the culprit (have you seen the last New Yorker magazine? What about my library book?) Oftentimes not. (honey, where’s my toothbrush?) But anyone who has lived with me for a time can attest that when I talk about piling it on, it’s not even figurative.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Is a year ago recent? I think it should be. What if I look exactly the same? That should count, right?
This is me, and two other gorgeous women, who also had children that aren't with us today. Bonus points if you can guess who they are.
I look at this photo and remember the kind older gentlemen who took it for it when he saw us struggling to get that outstretched arm, aim and hope for the best self-portrait. He said, "look at those smiles. You must be really good friends."
And the truth was, it had only been hours since we met. It was, but it wasn't. We had been writing and reading and consoling and grieving with each other for months and months.
It is true that real hugs feel even better than virtual ones.
I look at this photo and I know there is life after loss. Because we are living it.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
This post was a little fun. Because it forced me to dig through an old box of photos. The hard part was trying to decide what to share here - a pic of me and my old friend A? Me and the original J*vi? The original Isa? Most of these photos made me smile. In fact, there's one lingering on my face right now. I couldn't find the photo I had in mind, the one from my own house of bad vibes, which is most likely for the best, particularly if I ever plan on running for office.
So I give you this one:
Summer 1998. Lithuania, or maybe Latvia. Just a few weeks after M and I first met, moved in together, and pretty much understood we would be spending the rest of our lives together. I can't explain it - I knew this as a fact before I actually liked him. Let alone loved. I think he might say the same thing. I am wearing his shirt. We are sleepless, probably haven't eaten in a day, and simply, blissfully happy. Hopping on trains, wandering cities, spending a lot of time in parks. Because, well, they're free.
Sure my hair is ridiculous. Whatever. 1998. I bet yours was too.
How does this photo make me feel now? Like it was yesterday. Like sometimes following your heart pays off. Like I am the luckiest girl in the world.
This post takes me back. Way. Back. But I still remember the overwhelming emotions I felt on this trail when this moment occurred. I was thinking about this when my pal A. had to crawl out of bed to meet her Race for the Cure team after a late, late night out with me (sorry A., but I still blame you), and when my boss told me about her own experience with her daughter at the Race and how inspired they both felt. I knew what she meant. It truly can be a pretty overwhelming experience to be surrounded by women (and men!) who have overcome some pretty tough stuff and found themselves on the other side. Not the same, but ok.
Kind of like...
Ok, without further ado, here's some old shit. And more pics! OMG she's an exhibitionist now.
Cottonwood to Indian Gardens, Grand Canyon
I am a cancer survivor. I know that at least one out of ten Americans can (fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) can say the same thing. I don’t think I am anything special. I don’t necessarily feel good when people say that I “beat” or “conquered” the disease because to me that implies that all of my friends who didn’t somehow fell short, or maybe didn’t fight as hard as they could. I know that’s not the case.
Having cancer has shaped who I am. It is a part of my identity. But it is not My Identity. There are people that have known me for years that had (have?) no idea that I was once really sick. It’s not that I avoided the issue. I just never thought to mention it.
There are times when I am reminded, sometimes gently, sometimes like a punch to the gut, that being in remission from cancer does make you different. One of those times was climbing the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu where oxygen is already scarce because of the high altitude. Scar tissue over my lungs and diminished lung capacity, two leftovers from cancer days, combined with the physical exertion to make me feel like I was going to die. Seriously die. Thank God for my patient husband who climbed ¼ mile back down the trail to retrieve the blubbering, shuffling mess that I let myself become.
That entire day I was feeling sorry for myself, constantly reminding myself that I had serious disadvantages over the rest of the people on the trail. That may or may not have been true. I used my cancer as a crutch and clearly it wasn’t a very good one because it didn’t get me very far. M’s perfect walking stick ™ would have worked much better.
That was four years ago. I am much stronger, physically and mentally now. I know that there is probably nothing I will do that will be more physically challenging than the Inca Trail. It is my benchmark. As in, “Is this as hard as the Inca Trail? No? Then keep moving!” That’s my toughy inner voice, which shares space with my not-so-tough inner voice and the virtual jukebox in my head when I hike.
My not-so-tough voice was getting ready to note her objections to the switchbacks that steadily lead the way up to Indian Gardens, our next camp, when I had to step aside and make way for a mule train that was coming down the trail. I glanced up from my boot-gazing stance to say hello and found myself looking at at least twenty women wearing Race for the Cure t-shirts astride the mules. Some had short spiky hair. Are you a survivor?? I couldn’t help wondering. Are you a survivor? My heart started racing. Because I am a survivor, too! Hey! I’m a survivor!! I was so excited I think I was trembling. I kept smiling and trying to speak but I couldn’t. The words were caught in my throat. I am a survivor, too!!!
The mule train passed, probably wondering what the heck was wrong with this teary mute on the side of the trail, and I continued on my way. As usual, M. was distances ahead of me. I was alone with my thoughts, which were no longer mundane. I felt alive, elated, proud of myself, proud of those women. I felt grateful. I felt thankful. My steps had new purpose. I am hiking the Grand Canyon. I can hike the Grand Canyon. I am a survivor! Darn it if that darn Destiny’s Child song wasn’t stuck on continuous loop on Gabby’s virtual jukebox.
I made it to camp in record time. I don’t think I stopped once. M was shocked and amazed. He had barely put down his pack and filled his water bottle when I turned the corner. I didn’t need him to come to my rescue this time. I did it on my own. My cancer wasn’t my crutch; it was my motivation and my reason. I don’t think I am anything special for being a cancer survivor, but boy do I feel lucky.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I distinctly recall pulling out my camera and feeling kinda artsy this weekend. This amazing, restorative weekend spent with some other baby lost moms. I think Niobe was rubbing off on me.
Nothing fancy, but I like it. I'm a little partial to the beach off season. And wonderlands.
Monday, October 18, 2010
And, just like that, I'm days behind on the MEME. Don't worry, I've already received some tsk tsks from IRL friends. And I'll do my best to catch up.
But can I just skip over the rest of the picture posts? Please?
My relationship with photography could be one of the most striking changes since the birth and loss of our daughters.
Because on the one day, in the few moments that we needed a camera, we had none. For some reason, the woman that carries a little point-and-shoot with her everywhere had a an empty purse. The man who takes hundreds of photos weekly had nothing in his hands.
But its worse than that. Its not like we trekked hours to get to the hospital. We could walk there from our apartment. One phone call to M's parents or my brother would have sent them and any photo-taking apparatus we wanted dashing to the room where we were weeping.
But we didn't call.
In fact, we sent both of them away when they appeared at the hospital that night. Because I couldn't bear to let anyone else into the grief that overwhelmed us. Didn't want to try to explain the events leading up to the delivery. I couldn't get my head around anything that had occurred within the last 24 hours and trying to bring anyone up to speed while hanging on to the final seconds of our daughters was more than my heart and head could bear.
And if I could undo all of that, I would. If I could give the people we love just a few minutes with our daughters while they were alive, I would.
But I didn't. And that is one of the most shameful admissions I can make. I didn't. I didn't let anyone in.
We have just a handful of photos of Isa and Jovi - one from a camera that a nurse let us borrow and a few taken on my cell phone that are far too fuzzy to do anything with. Trying to transfer the photos from the nurse's camera to something we could use was a fiasco, an absolute breaking point for M, who insisted the prints she handed us were lovely but there HAD to be a way to get them off the memory card and on to one of our computers - he ran home to get a computer and any other USB apparatus he could grab. He opted not to grab a camera because at that point the girls had already passed away and it felt, I don't know, it didn't feel right snapping photos. Frankly, I am surprised he didn't hurl all of our cameras into the river. Because that was his state when he returned to the hospital. Shaking. In shock. Realizing that the apartment he entered looked exactly like it did just a day earlier when all was well. The understanding that everything in our lives had completely shifted, but nothing else had.
So, its not a particular photo that makes me angry/sad/ashamed - it is the lack of them, and the remembrance of my own selfishness that makes me cringe.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
M. and I have quietly been prepping for an FET with me.
And last night, after learning that after almost a full month of heavy increases of estrace that my lining is still only 4.7 mm, we decided together to call it off.
We still have time to try a few more days of estrace before another ultrasound on Friday, but really, what would that show us? That it's grown to 5.1? 5.5? Still well below the 6.0 that would usually mark the canceling of a cycle. Far below the preferred 8.0 mm.
It's not about the numbers. It's about feeling like this is grasping at straws, like this is desperate. And that's not a place M or I want to be.
I don't want to put everything on hold only to have someone else make this decision for us. I don't want to spend my mental energy trying to reschedule meetings, juggling more days off work, longing for my morning runs and thinking about all of the things I could be doing if I wasn't cycling....and truly, this is where my head has been lately. After the first ultrasound showed us pretty much exactly what I expected, my heart wasn't in it. And neither is M's. All the more reason to say, hey, you know what? I don't think this is the time.
This isn't bad news. Disappointing, hell yes. But the fact that we could rationally sit down and make this call - this decision that these were not the terms we wanted to accept - felt like a pretty big milestone.
"For the first time in a long time, I am actually happy with our life. I'm ok with where we are, with what we have planned."
"Me too. And I'm afraid going into a cycle where the odds of success are well below normal could throw us back to a place I don't want to be."
We're not hanging up our baby-making hats. We haven't given up our hope for a family. In fact, I know it will happen. Somehow.
But probably not like this. Not right now.
And that's ok.
Monday, October 11, 2010
This is me. Circa 2000. After a day-long ascent up the Inca Trail en route to Macchu Picchu. At that point in my life, the hardest thing (mentally and physically) I had ever done. Because it was all me. It wasn't about dealing with something someone else did to you (chemo, a bad break up, etc.) It was a situation I put myself in and the only way I was getting out was by my own legs.
There were moments where I seriously was not quite sure I would make it to the top. Even gnawing furiously on coca leaves, the altitude was draining. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't feel my feet. And I couldn't understand why everyone else was doing ok and I wasn't and that was beyond discouraging (later M. reminded me that one cannot have a chestful of scar tissue and bleomycin and assume their lungs are fully functional. That helped the sting a little, but not enough) I found it harder and harder to resist the urge to fling myself over the side of the cliff. I remember thinking through an existence in Peru and how I could sustain myself if I had to linger there.
Even with the crest of the mountain in sight, I could not put one foot in front of the other for more than a few steps. I was immobilized. I just can't explain it.
And then M. who had been hanging out at our destination for at least an hour. Who had already done this gruel of a hike and was (rightfully so) resting his own sore legs and waiting patiently for me, realized that his shouts of encouragement just weren't working. And neither were his prods.
So he ran back down the trail, dried my tears, held my hand, took my pack and walked the rest of the way with me.
And then it was over. And then I realized I had done it. We had done it. And OMG the relief, the joy, the pride. It was overwhelming.
This could be my favorite picture of me ever. I keep this photo on my desk at home, which is why you're getting a sun-faded, crooked, photo of a photo kind of shot here.
And yes. This is the very first photo of me that has appeared on this here blog.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
- Exile in Guyville
- Cooking when I’m not hungry
- Knitting when there’s no urgency to finish
- Kayaking when I’m not busy drowning
- Poodles on my lap
- Galaxie 500
- Laps in the pool
- The sauna when I don’t have to share it
- M’s laugh – not his snort, not his guffaw, not the nervous chuckle that everyone else in the world adores, but his full-bellied, rarely heard, eyes tearing laugh
- Running along the river
- Walking along the river
- Staring at the river
- Putting the kettle on for tea
- Fresh sheets on the bed
- A new notebook (for my lists, see day 12) and a nice pen
- Reading Lucky “the magazine about shopping”
- Riding the train by myself
- Sunday afternoons at my in-laws’ house, watching football on the oversized couch eating bbq chips with poodles on my lap
- M’s embrace
Saturday, October 9, 2010
-author unknown (at least to me)
I came across this my freshman year in an impossibly difficult seminar on the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poets. JFC it sounded so cool in the course catalog, but I can't think of a class that made me feel more like a fish out of water. In fact, I just shuddered when I saw some of the writer's names in the wiki post. Scars, dudes. Scars. I left the class every single day thinking to myself "what the fuck am I doing here?" meaning the school in general. It was a dive face first into pretension - one I wasn't ready for. It is only now that I understand that every single other person in that class was talking as much shit as I was. That is a wonderful revelation, an ah ha! moment that I think only comes with age.
But back to the quote. The one cool thing about the class was that it gave us a reason to request access to the cool library on campus, the one where you had to wear gloves to touch shit, the one that was rumoured to house a book bound in human flesh!!! And pretty much the only place in North America I am guessing found a reason to hang on to the zines and self-published works of these "poets."
So there I am, locked in the reading room trying to find something ANYTHING accessible in the stack of stuff that prided itself on being inaccessible to mere mortals like me. And I came across this quote. And it hit my young impressionable mind like a brick. A ha. Now there's something. I can't even tell you I understood what it meant. It just....spoke to me.
And still does.
Friday, October 8, 2010
The Road Less Traveled - I blame (love) loribeth for planting the seed.
Still Life with Circles - altered the idea slightly to fit the lens through which I see most of the world
Some faves: (I almost said "old faves" but I didn't want you to get mad at me)
Between the Snow and the Huge Roses
And some blogs and ladies I look forward to getting to know this month:
Angel Baby Alexandra
Butterflies for Alexandra
Fly Away Home
My Insides, Out
Only a Whisper
The Nature of Balloons
The Radar of Chance
Valentina in the Sky
Hard to say, since my book consumption post loss is pretty sporadic.
(Ok, ok, my book consumption before loss was pretty sporadic too.)
That's something and English and American Lit major and former English teacher probably should not admit.
But here's how I justify it - I spend all day every day ingesting enormous amounts of information and attempting to break it down into comprehensible forms. I read a LOT, just not the subject matter of my choice.
So when I get home, my eyes go straight to Lucky, "the magazine about shopping" (TM), or ReadyMADE, Bust, or the New Yorker (which kinda counts, no?) or any of the many, many mags we get along with our charitable donations to birds and nature and parks an'nat. but mostly Lucky. I want shiny pictures and stickers I can use to tag pages and things I can rip out and stick in an ideas book I have yet to put together. You get the picture.
But once upon a time, particularly those times living in countries where books in English were precious and a library card to the American or British Library in town was worth its weight in gold, I devoured books. Books I still love, still think about, books I am hesitant to read again because reading them the first time was such an emotional investment. Hesitant to read them again because I don't want my feelings about them to change.
And now, as I sit and type with this short stack next to me, I realize that most of them deal with loss, particularly, finding one's identity after loss and reshaping your life and your definition of love around this space that someone once filled. That's an insight I am fairly certain I didn't have the first time around.
So, without further ado, here are the books that almost always in my head:
The Bone People by Keri Hulme. I love this book so much I forced it upon one of my accelerated International Baccalaureate English classes in Poland, who dug it too, by the way.
Another Country by James Baldwin. This book is gorgeous. Read it.
Mating: A Novel by Norman Rush. This book is still a tease-point for M. since I had to renew it 3 times from the British Library, reached my maximum allowance, then had to ask M to check it out for me on his card. Its not that difficult a read, I was simply savoring it. What struck me the most about this book was how Rush so convincingly captured the voice of a young American female expat brazenly trying to define herself while assimilating (but not) into the foreign culture around her. My description isn't even coming close to explaining my full immersion into this novel.
The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker. I'm not saying that I liked this book. But it is one that I can't, to this day, get out of my head. It made me contemplate vegetarianism, question my thoughts on marriage and love and simply challenged me on a number of levels. This one I might just need to pick up again for a re-read, simply to see if it is a groundbreaking as I once thought it was.
And lastly, the granddaddy of all novels Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace. I think the selection of this book pretty much solidifies the fact that being Gen X is my master status, the way I define myself above all other identifiers. I was crushed and angry when I heard of Foster Wallace's suicide. What did you do, man? Don't know you were writing for us?
This book is dense and some may say pretentious. I say genius. Some dismiss it as being too sarcastic, too insincere. I say it is so sincere it hurts. M read this first and then handed it off to me after saying he was "never going to read another book" because this one was the best he had ever read (he lied). This book was the prime suspect of the "infamous laughing incident** that took place when we still lived with M's parents. This book is the source of phrases and turns of words I have built into my daily existence (do I confess I sometimes refer to some of the more hardcore advocates in my field as "wheelchair assassins"?) This book is a bear to read without multiple bookmarks and heavy as shit but I don't know what my bookshelf would be without it.
**The infamous laughing incident took place sometime after midnight on a weekday at M's parents' house. I was reading a section of the book which had me choking down my laughter. My snorts woke M up who started to reread the section over my shoulder. Snorts turned into howls turned into M's mom furiously banging on the wall telling us the SHUT THE F UP. And yes, she did drop the F bomb. Which shocked us into even more uncontrollable laughter. The following morning, M found a copy of a decree from some country that I forget prohibiting a number of actions that could be performed in public. M whited out words a la mad lib style and turned it into the "NO LAUGHING DECREE" and hung it on the fridge. It was there for months.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
One summer when I was a camp counselor at the Best. Camp. Ever, my recently divorced co-counselor dropped this knowledge onto my young heart and brain:
"Don't ever, EVER think you can change a man, m. What you see is what you get. It's just like buying a pair of pants on sale with the intention of taking them to the tailor later to make them fit. It never happens. Off the rack, m! That's my motto! Off the rack!"
And we laughed and laughed until we realized we were missing campers and went our separate ways to retrieve them from the shadows of the campfire and out buildings.
Twentysome years later and I have heeded that lesson, and probably fared much better in love and life because of it. M. is complex in some ways, transparent in others. He's a Gemini so that keeps things interesting. While we are so alike it is scary in some aspects, there will always be matters where we diverge. He will never convince me his brief stint as a Britney Spears fan was not ironic. I will never be able to explain to him the sex appeal of the Afghan Whigs. He hates sour cream. I love it. Potato. Potahto. It's all good. There are some things I love I assume M will never "get".
But wait! What's this? My hip hop husband singing Galaxie 500 with me????? Gasp. The water-averse landlocked man pulling my ass out of the river as he kayaks along with me??? Shudder. And hang on....is the same man, the one that once proclaimed, "why are you watching this shit? These people are assholes. Is this funny for you?" now coming home with the first four seasons on DVD of....wait for it....
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
This show is my shit. And now it's M's too. I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere between loathing it and being baffled at my chuckles, M started to see the magic too. Here's the premise: 5 friends own a dive bar down an alley in Philadelphia. They are assholes. They do asshole-y things. To each other and to other people. And it never ends well. And it is always hilarious. And I love it. Because I, dear friends, am an asshole, and sometimes I do asshole-y things. And the show, as its name implies, embodies all things Philadelphia which is, in essence, our second home and a place we hold great, great affection for. Pennsy! My residency! I can't recall a show that spoke to me more. And I am thrilled that rather than sneaking episodes off of the DVR while M is working, he now howls right there with me. Even better.
Off the rack? Not so much. I mean, shit's gotta fit. But there's always room for a little hem.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Oh now, this one's easy. You already know how I feel about Pineapple Express because I've told you here.
Full disclosure: I have an enormous soft spot for stoner comedies. Half Baked and Dude, Where's My Car will always sit safely in my top ten movies of all time. I will never say no to a Cheech and Chong flick. But this, this right here, made us laugh when I didn't think it was humanly possible. And for that, I will be forever grateful.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Crunching through freshly falling snow, making my way to the Department of Public Welfare Building to request birth and death certificates for my daughters, Nick Drake's Pink Moon played over and over and over again in my ears as I cried and walked and cried and walked.
And even at the time I could help but think, "Fuck you, Juno. This, this right here, this is a scene is out of a god damned movie."
And wishing I wasn't cast as one of the main characters
When I was young, younger than before
I never saw the truth hanging from the door
And now I'm older see it face to face
And now I'm older gotta get up clean the place.
And I was green, greener than a hill
Where flowers grew and the sun shone still
Now I'm darker than the deepest sea
Just hand me down, give me a place to be.
And I was strong, strong in the sun
I thought I'd see when day is done
Now I'm weaker than the palest blue
Oh, so weak in this need for you.
And just like Catherine W., Nick Cave's Into My Arms is a song I listened to when I had the house to myself. The one I put on to bring on the tears, to stop from feeling numb. Because hurting is better than nothing when nothing is what you have.
When I was pregnant, I would try to take daily walks along the river. I remember stopping in my tracks one afternoon, absolutely overwhelmed by Radiohead's (new, at the time) album. Particularly this song. (christ, I am tearing up as I embed the damn video. Play with caution)
I just can't let go of this album, but this song is one I need to skip every now and then. Because its all too much.
And it goes without saying that Bjork's Isobel is one that is so beautiful, but now so painful I won't be linking to it here. If I had to choose one song, erased from my playlist forever, not because I don't love it, but because I do, this would be the one.
wondering what's going on here? Here. Read this.
Posting after an extended break from writing feels a little like sliding back into the kayak after an unfortunate incident. Oh you know you can navigate the waters, you've done it before. But you've spent so much time thinking about it, rehashing, replaying that now there's a hesitation where there wasn't before. A pause when there would have been a Publish.
But dude, you can't stand on the shore forever, right? Right.
Watching Loribeth share lovely glimpses of herself with the 30 Days Meme has been like a friendly prod. Don't you want to write a little today? Doesn't this look like a nice project to work on? Don't you want to do something like this?
And while I was contemplating, Angie came up behind me and shoved me in, clothes and all, when she put this new twist on it. So yeah, I'm in.
And by "in" I mean over the next 30 days, in line with October as Pregnancy Loss and Awareness Month (newsflash: babies die. Boo!) Oh god, that was crass, sorry. Where was I? Yes. Over the next 30 days, I'll give you a little of me, bit by bit, day by day, building from Angie's master list. We'll laugh, we'll cry. We'll wonder how m. still has real life friends that put up with her, particularly considering the amount of shoegazing early 90s music she still listens to.
We won't use the third person again. Sorry about that.
My list starts today and will spill into November, and might even be interrupted here and there with non-meme posts and updates. Because once I get my feet wet again, look out.