Tag Archives: love

Here, Take My Shoulder. I Have 2

You know that moment (or moments) in your life when you feel you just can’t take any more bad news or bad luck? You’ve hit the wall? You’ve had enough? You’ve reached your bullshit-threshold? You have actually thought of crotch-punching the next person who smiles at you?

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there – I’m pretty sure. People who haven’t must have an extraordinary amount of patience or good luck; perhaps a combination of both. I don’t even know the meaning of those words. I get road rage and have been known to honk furiously if the person in front of me is too busy fluffing her hair to notice the light’s turned green. MOVE YOUR ASS!

In any event, I’ve had many instances in my life when I just wished the world would swallow me up. When I longed to dig a hole and bury myself – which, actually, is impossible – I’d have to ask for help and I’ve no friends willing to bury me.  That’s what this post is about.

“If you could pick one flaw of mine that you think I should fix, what would it be?” I asked that in a handwritten survey I gave to my closest friends in high school. The only response that has stuck with me all these years came from my friend Annie, who replied with, “You’re too quick to temper.” I don’t remember any of the other ones. Not one. Hers I thought was hilarious. I’m pretty sure I disregarded the rest. I didn’t like to be told I had no self-esteem. Oh, yeah? The sky is blue, the grass is green, blah blah blah. But this? Fantastic. I have a temper? Not just a temper but a QUICK temper. What can I say? 1/2 German + 1/2 Italian = 1 Hothead

At that age I had already developed the habit of wanting to fix certain flaws in my make-up but was unable to figure out just what it was that needed fixing or how to go about doing so. I relied on my friends – and such wonderful friends they are. Over the years, I have witnessed death and dying. I came to a point where I dubbed myself The Grim Reaper. And, like all humans, I have experienced crushing heartache. Yet it was my collection of friends who have repeatedly picked me up, held me aloft, and propelled me forward – as I do for them.

Friendships that we cultivate in our lives are crucial to our emotional (and physical) well-being. I have discussed this before.  It’s healthier to reach out, socialize, lean on the shoulders of ones who love you than to bottle it up and cope on your own. Everyone knows this. Yet sometimes it’s easier to crawl into your shell, dig a hole and hide. I know. I’m the crawler/digger/hider type. My friends new and old? They’re the phoning, emailing, texting, show-up-on-your-doorstep-because-you-ignored-their-calls type, and I love them to bits. They are too marvelous for words.

My point is, if you’re going through something, reach out. Your friends are there and want to help. It is our empathy towards others that makes us astounding beings – this empathy we so conveniently use to put ourselves above the animal kingdom, while overlooking examples of compassion from within it. Every being with a normal sense of compassion wants to ease the suffering of those around it. Sometimes you can’t. All you can do is lend them an ear and some strength. Be there until they can get through the moment, break through the bubble of their misery and realize, outside it, there’s a whole world of possibilities. You never know when one gesture of yours would a difference.

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“Pushing Jelly Up a Hill”

“If you find it that horrible to do paintings for other people, why don’t you ever do any for you?”

I don’t recall saying I found it horrible. I may have said I found myself horrible during the process of painting a gift for someone. There’s the added pressure (self-imposed) of making sure you’re not handing over something that will insult the other person. “Here, it’s your birthday, have this ugly purple blob of paint.” Wouldn’t it be awful to see the look upon their faces as they think, “Um, what the fuck?” Not that any of my friends would behave that way, it’s just the way my mind works. It’s part of my damaged bits.

OK, fine, I may slightly recall saying I found it horrible… But by the same token, I don’t care to do any for myself. I began one last year that I haven’t touched in at least six months. It’s a large monstrosity that keeps getting moved about my house because my college son needs the space in his room when he visits, and, in my infinite wisdom, I chose to begin a painting that’s massive. The canvas is behind me as I type this – shouting, “You’re a bit of a failure as a painter, too!”

My last painting was a gift. I had written about it previously.  I finally completed it, and, stupidly cut it close. I’d decided I would hand-deliver it to my friend when I met her in NYC last month. The problem began when I decided this shortly before my trip. As it was oil, with thick strokes, it took that much longer to dry. The subject was a beloved pet, and, as such, it should actually resemble the creature. You can’t fudge something like you can when it’s a landscape. The eyes kind of need to go in the proper spot. Bushes? Meh, you can move those around. Eyes? Not so much. Days before I was to leave, I decided the bird’s beak wasn’t quite right, so I picked up the painting, and stuck my finger directly into his wing feathers. What? Why were they still wet? NIGHTMARE! I won’t go into details but by the time I got done messing with the bird’s beak, the painting sat on the floor in my room with direct sunlight and a fan blaring down on it for days.

It all worked out in the end – which is such a rare occurrence for me. I packed it in a shoe box and, days later, had the extreme pleasure for only the third time in my life of hand-delivering one of my paintings.

So why, then, don’t I paint more? I’d imagine for the same reason I don’t work on my manuscripts more. I begin, see my work, get disgusted, and stop. When I paint for others, it has a purpose. To please them. To let them know for that amount of time I was thinking of them, they’re important to me, and I’m grateful to be a tiny part of their lives.

This large canvas behind me is for me. It seems like a strange gesture to paint something for me. What is the point of letting me know I was thinking of me when I spend far too much of my time contemplating me as it is? It’s absurd, when you think about it. I’m not too terribly grateful to be a part of my life.

Oh, don’t worry. I’ll finish the canvas because I feel it’s important for my boys to see that their mother is capable of finishing things still. The first manuscript that took 5 years (the one resting comfortably with my agent?) hasn’t completely broken me.

I’ll finish the painting because I want my youngest son to have a reminder of our wonderful Scotland trip.

I’ll finish the goddamn thing so I have a piece to hang in that weird half-wall space in my living room.

I’ll finish the bloody canvas because  I don’t want my Del Mar painting (which is everybody’s favorite) to be my last big work. It touches me that so many of my friends like that one. It’s the most important piece I’ve ever done. Completed and shipped in 2009, it was the one I had most wanted to hand-deliver. Ironically, the person who always droned on about how I needed to “compartmentalize” and how getting me to do so was a bit like pushing jelly up a hill, would be proud to know I’ve succeeded in some small measure since that day. You see, I no longer have anything to compartmentalize. My compartments are empty. Clearly, the only time I’ve ever traveled light…

I will finish this fucking painting so I have something to stuff in one of my compartments, how’s that?

Bitterness on the Vine

You are a blip in my life. A bit of flotsam that floated by. Someone wholly unconnected to me in the universe. Or are you there with me for decades now – a part of my inner circle? It doesn’t matter. I feel the need to help you. To pull you up from the wreckage of your life and send you on your way a better and wiser person.

Your envy is indeed a wreckage. You’ve tarnished a good part of your soul living in twisted bitterness for years. No one deserves a life of sadness, and I shall never understand those who gratefully choose one. It does not make you look strong, but sad, weak, sour and vexatious. Your anger is unjustified at those you lash out at. You should scream at the universe for its perverse audacity in not granting you your every wish. Then you should grow the fuck up.

The time has come for you to move on. To pick up the pieces of your smashed fairy tale. Someday your dream may come true. Someday that may be your town/house/car/job/child. And, most importantly, someday your prince may come but he may not be the one you’ve pined for.

Love is not a guarantee. Nor is REAL LOVE always joyful. It can be a vine that twists and curls, destroying with impunity. It has the power to overcome and poison those it touches by weakening them and taking their light. Leaving walking corpses behind. Walking corpses who won’t play dead.

For some, love floats in like Glenda the Good Witch in her pleasing bubble – there as a gift, as the other soul surrenders itself into your hands. When this happens, you will know. Love is not vague. When they love you, they will TELL YOU – and that “I love you” will be the sweetest sound you’ll ever hear until it is whispered in your ear by your warm and cozy toddler.

If love was not the case for you – this time- there’s no reason to believe it won’t be the next time. You should be giving your affections to someone ready and willing to accept them, someone who will tend to your love and watch it grow, not leave it alone to waste and wither.

We have all been walking corpses. We have all not played dead. Love hurts – it is no Disneyesque tableau. It is real, harsh. Love makes you hold the hand of a friend as they gasp their last breath. It makes you cry yourself to sleep at night when you walk away from a relationship that ended too soon (or too late). But you should always do what’s best for your mental and emotional health. Not cling to the hope of a dying vine. You didn’t get what you wanted this time. But love, when coursing through your soul, should not cause you to throw your toys from the cot or blame anyone else. You cannot make love out of nothing. Love will never blossom in toxic soil. You cannot wave Glenda’s wand and have the house/town/job/car/child you’ve dreamed of. No one promised you any of these things. And, sadly, you cannot make them your lover if they are not interested. Life never guaranteed you that.

When accepting advice, you should always consider the source. I’ve been married over 20 years and have friends still from 4th grade to new ones I’ll meet for cocktails just to be girlie. Healthy relationships, therefore, are something I can conduct successfully in my sleep. So you with the bitterness in your soul, rise up, make yourself a cup of tea, go for a leisurely stroll through a botanical garden or museum, and realize that life, love and beauty are all around you. Let go of the hatred and jealousy that’s entrapped your heart because life isn’t going to wait while you pine. Life marches on, stoically and, at times, with much abandon. Fling yourself into the mix joyously and see what develops.

The Clock Stands Still

It was just a little slip of paper – something inserted in a baby shower gift. A note. A poem. The top had a pretty bouquet on it. She had written it, I’m sure, on the spur of the moment and had no real thought that I’d keep it forever in his baby book. She certainly could never know that one day I would use it to eulogize her.

I stood before a packed church, straight as a rail, with a powerful voice and no quavering knees and spoke of my friend. I did so without crying. At the end I read her poem – the one she’d meant as a welcome for my baby born fourteen years earlier.

Isn’t it funny how we keep little things that, after we lose someone, become so important? They’re like nuggets of gold in the stream of our lives. We catch a glimpse of them – these gifts – sitting on bookshelves, mantels, or hanging in our closets, and all of a sudden they take on new meaning. They’re gone. The person who shared such times with us is gone and we’re left with these tokens of a life spent together.

On my mantel is a clock that stopped working years ago. I keep it because on the back, written in permanent marker, my friend wrote, “Friends for all of time.” She is gone but the clock stays. I’m sure that’s just a sign I’m far too sentimental (and disorganized!) for my own good. I like the clock. I don’t mind time standing still. If it had, my boy wouldn’t have moved away to college and he’d still be here – trashing the kitchen with his midnight meals. But time doesn’t stand still. It marches on and drags down our jowls until soon our necks resemble turkeys’.

I have a collection of rocks. They began as a gift from my friend Andy. He sent one as a Christmas gift in 1998 and one shortly after. They’re the largest in my collection – more like bricks – and they’re also the most valuable to me.

I have a drawing of an olive from 10th grade typing class. It was drawn by my friend Millicent. She knows I still have it. It’s in a photo album. I have no idea why I kept it. I mean, sure, I like olives, but why I’d have kept that over the masses of horse and shark drawings she’d done since 5th grade, I have no clue. To me, that olive means the world.

I have nearly all my boys’ drawings. Really. I used to have a wall covered entirely from floor to ceiling. They were taped together like wall paper. It was glorious. The drawings are precious.

I have shiny decorative objects and jewelry from Marcia. They glitter and remind me I’ve friends who think I’m sparkly.

I have a lifetime of gifts from my family, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what life’s all about – giving? Your time, your effort, a smile. They end up being memories for those you leave behind. Priceless.

Reach Out and Touch Someone – Really

You know that old expression “A hug is worth a thousand words”? Well, I’m not going to deny it. I can think of many times when I’d been up to my eyeballs listening to words, words, words but never feeling any comfort. Never feeling that real connection that a hug provides. Maybe it was the words that were falling flat, or maybe it was the speaker coming across as being insincere or cold. Either way, a hug always used to work.

After sitting alone in a hospital room and holding a dear friend’s hand as she passed in 2005, I went through a dark phase. It was an ugly time. Watching someone die is painful, especially when they’ve been taken off life support. Their body doesn’t want to let go. So you hold that hand a little tighter, and cry that much harder. I vaguely recall giving her eulogy at the packed church. It’s one of the few times in my life I can say I was proud of myself – I got through my speech without crying. After the service was over, people came up and hugged me, it was then I realized I’m huggable on my terms. Shortly thereafter I became very choosy about doling out hugs. I guess because it all came rushing back. People hugged to comfort me that day, but also because they needed comforting, and I was suddenly all out of that particular commodity. I was very tired.

My children’s hugs were different, and those of my best friends. My dear ones. My “blankies”. Their hugs gave me strength and helped me move on and out of that phase where I tried to box myself up and push away any pain. I’ve gotten really good at “compartmentalizing” over the last few years, something I’d always struggled with. But while I’ve been compartmentalizing and distancing myself from pain, I also realized I was distancing myself from life. I was becoming detached. Whereas that’s all right for a traumatic event like 2005, a sort of coping mechanism to help me continue on with daily chores like moving, getting up, getting the kids off to school, feeding the family, etc., it’s not a permanent way to live life.

Now that I’ve spent so many years detached, it’s the reattaching that seems more difficult. There’s always another, “Oh no!” moment coming along. But life has a way of throwing “Oh no!” moments at us and we just have to be prepared and stand on our own two feet and cope. I began writing the manuscript that’s currently in the hands of my literary agent, Laura Strachan, shortly after the loss of my friend. It helped me cope. It kept my mind occupied. And it has, for years. First it was for defense, then it became my baby. I’ve nursed it for four years now. It’s one of the reasons I’m particularly proud of it and why I couldn’t just let it go when I received rejections. Persistence pays off.

Nowadays I’m back to the touchy, huggy type. I tend to touch people on the arm when I talk to them, and I usually give a quick hug goodbye. I still have my special “blankie” ones, whose hugs are loved and missed the most when I don’t have them. That pain of missing someone though is part of life. Losing loved ones is part of life. But if you’ve merely lost contact or had a disagreement, why not reconnect? Reach out and touch someone – even if it’s only by text. You never know what you’ll find.