The Gift of Memory


When I speak, words sometimes hide behind opaque curtains. Words like sank, orthodontist, and Las Vegas, suddenly play hide-and-seek. They are far enough away to require covering up the disappearance with another word, but close enough to reach minutes or seconds after the required moment. This stop-and-go aspect to memory is a fear mongerer. These words should be immediately accessible—I think them, they are there, spouting forth—thought and speech simultaneous. But should that demand be re-evaluated? Can I excuse myself by saying that I have so much stored in my memory by now that I can expect some things to slip out of their at-my-fingertips compartments? Does that excuse matter when worry overshadows explanation?

A few weeks ago I started a new school year with approximately 160 new students. By now I know most names, first and last. I push to pride myself on that accomplishment rather than the slippages. But still, I can’t forget that they happen, and what the disappearances may augur.

Those momentary loses sometimes extend beyond words to cover thoughts. Whole ideas imagined or read disappear. Pouff! Lost amid untold layers of crumbled careless thoughts. They are retrieved, some after focus, others after online searching.

It’s easier to deal with the small age spots that have appeared on my hands (six on the right and seven on the left) in a purely observational manner, but my memory, my mind—it is who I am. Perhaps it’s just menopause and the curtain will draw back soon, held by its ties, and all will be well. But as things go, these momentary lapses themselves will never disappear into a memory lapse, they will always incite fear, whether the word bank of temporarily lost words grows or remains contained.

Another wrinkle to my memory game is that I teach five classes of the same subject and they are all, more or less, on the same schedule. So, within a couple of days I need to repeat myself five times. Even with all my memory systems in place, it’s hard to remember to which class I already cracked my joke about how I dislike orthodontists because they don’t have afternoon hours and every student with braces (and it seems that it’s all of them) misses morning classes to accommodate their orthodontists’ golf schedules and not their patients’ school schedules. As much as I try to remember who I tell what to, at some point I sound like my 82-year-old mother telling me for the umpteenth time about how she freezes the dark meat of her Costco rotisserie chickens.

In and of itself forgetting a word or two isn’t a horrible thing, but this fear of Alzheimer’s and dementia is more powerful than the fear of other illnesses and diseases because for me words, through which I express myself and make my living, are supreme. My body might rebel against this hierarchy, but time to read has always been more important than time to exercise.  

Each time I lose and then find a word, I experience the dip and then rise of my confidence because I did remember the word. That is until I speak to a younger colleague who looks at me with horror when I tell her that “drowned” wouldn’t get out of the way for “sank.”

Sometimes when I talk I can feel the words tumble out at an ever so slightly slower pace to accommodate a brief pause newly needed for my words to catch up to my thought and then tumble out, under supervision. As a fast talking former New Yorker, this slower pace might not be a bad thing for the people who listen to me, but it troubles me. I want to be a non-agerian who is lucid even when her hair is coiffed high to hide its paucity and I’m wearing lady diapers.

My daughters hate to hear about these moments, so I have stopped telling them. They need me to be their focused, reliable mother who is the foundation upon which they depend, not a wavering mother unable to offer the solidity they need. I am their family, and I take that responsibility as seriously now that they can legally drink or smoke pot as when they were babies learning to sit and I would put pillows behind them so they wouldn’t bang their heads on the hard tile floors when they wobbled backwards.

I try to remember the lost word fast and hold onto it. But what of the words to come?

I never had a strong memory. Forgetting the book I just read as soon as I finished reading it. Forgetting the address of the place I last lived. Forgetting people’s names. But that felt like a normal part of my identity. Laura with the bad memory. A word, though, isn’t something to forget; it’s not hidden on a shelf in an inner bookcase, it’s an integral part of the language of my life. These lapses are personal.

It’s not just a missing thought, it’s the momentary fog that hovers over the well of memory.

Besides the fear of what may be, there is the realization that what is must shake me from any casual (to its border with flippant) attitude about life. It’s not that I need to go on a week-long raft trip or learn how to throw a pot on a potter’s wheel, but burgeoning from within is a heightened degree of acceptance, respect, sanctity, joy, peace. A litany of words generally reserved for greeting cards, but they are the potpourri through which I have begun to breathe.

It may be anxiety that has caused me into an awareness of the finiteness of life. But it is what has made me realize that I do not dread not accomplishing what I dream of, but that I won’t be the person I could be. The woman who is guided by and exudes acceptance, respect, sanctity, joy, peace.

The bucket list, something I have always found offensive but wasn’t sure why, now I understand why. It is all about achieving and having. Of seeing life as a shopping basket. I’m starting to work on my Be List: how I want to be, whether or not I remember the word …pail… something…

Why Date?

Cherry tomato

The last of the cherry tomatoes growing on my balcony.

It’s been a while since my ex-husband ruined my life. So long ago, in fact, that sometimes I think about how his life has been ruined and feel sorry for him, and not in the pitying vindictive way people imply when they mention karma.

The years of shredding my self-confidence have faded, leaving behind the dullness of disappointment. In him. In myself. Making me, not quite regret, but wonder about what might have been if we had caught ourselves before bitterness seeped into the solitary spaces of a marriage between opposites.

The impact, though, is on far more than the lost possibilities in our joint past; it is in my resistance to wanting to have a relationship today.  

I tell friends that there are no men to meet, that no men attract me, and I joke about the men online (who start each sentence of their profile with “I,” and have manly pictures on motorcycles, and refer to women as girls, and write about wanting to impale a woman’s mind into his mind to discover something worthwhile). And about the men who make it past that hurdle to a date [there were the guys with whom I barely made it through the complementary one hour of conversation; the antisemite who thought he was going to score; the guy who brought his own teabag to Starbucks (not because he was a tea snob, but so he could just pay for his cup of hot water); the guy who didn’t believe in evolution (he made it to date five and sex before this revelation); and the married guy whose wife had a brain tumor who left (after paying the bill) when I was in the bathroom, sick from attempting to drink two lemon drop martinis]. I even comment, in a completely judgmental way, to my mother that when I look at my friends’ husbands, there is not a one who, in other circumstances, would entice me. Nice men, but not the man for me. She, being a supportive mother, states the same about her friends’ husbands.

Notwithstanding my objective lack of success, I wonder if there is a subjective element that bars me from meeting the/a man. Perhaps the question isn’t Why haven’t I met someone, but—with a slight shrug—Why would I want to meet someone.

The last time I was in a relationship was more than four years ago, with Kenny, who lived with me and my younger daughter for a year and a half. He said he loved me with all his heart and would do anything for me. Anything, it turned out, but make me happy. In that relationship I was increasingly stifled by his need to be acknowledged and loved in the ways that suited him. Which, not surprisingly, inevitably meant his disappointment in something I did or did not do in accordance with his desires, which, of course, made his love for me “better” than my love for him. I will freely admit that I ignored his request to wear dresses when we went out. Even if I liked wearing dresses, which I don’t (and he could have seen that in our closet), that was a huge invite for me to definitely not wear a dress even if I felt like it. Why is it so difficult for men to understand one of the thickest redlines they should not cross with a woman (it can’t just be me) is to tell her what to wear. I got the petulant silent treatment for wearing pants.

My reaction to his suggestion/demand shouldn’t have been a surprise because during our long conversations, when he was living in Beirut and then Belfast, I would tell him how harmed I had been by my husband’s controlling ways. He had been so understanding and supportive. He knew that I was dealing with the residual pain of insults and put downs, of my desires deemed wrong or inappropriate, and my need to not be curated.

So his man-structing was unexpected and devastating.

When we argued, I couldn’t leave the room because of his fear of abandonment. But what of my need to be alone and think so as not to immediately lash out? Being told that I needed to argue in a way that supported him was another redline too many. The relationship became as if on a continuum with how my husband had tried to control my actions and thoughts and emotions, or maybe it was worse because I had opened up to Kenny about retreating into self and how I was trying to not shut down.  

The best part of that relationship were the trips we took together. We would talk in the car, opening up our internal monologues as we drove along the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Los Angeles, or along highways and backroads from Virginia to Key West and back again. We wanted to stop at the same time and try the same places, and we even needed pee breaks at the same time. We were in unison, at least on the road. But at home, his need to be taken care of, which had to be done exactly as he wished to prove my love and to prove that he was lovable, underpinned his declarations of love. I was increasingly reminded of how unhappy I had become in my marriage as I tried now to make him happy. I didn’t have the energy or the desire to take on someone else’s emotions.

If you’re not one of my daughters, then I don’t want to take care of you. (Except, maybe my mother, and I’m dreading that scenario.) And he did want to be taken care of. As did my ex-husband.

And I did it.

But I don’t want to anymore.

On weekends, I don’t want to think about what someone else wants for breakfast and I don’t want to try to anticipate his desires. And to be fair, I don’t want someone trying to cater to me.

My standing weekend desire for a soft scrambled egg with feta and fresh herbs from my balcony garden, right after I wake up and take Poops for his morning walk, and as soon as the coffee in the French press is ready, the bread toasted to a warm brown, every section of the newspaper available, and no talking required, is, frankly, why I don’t want to date.

Beyond the fear of being hurt and undermined again, lies the very basic question: What do I want out of my life?

Surely my inability to formulate a substantial why I should want to be in a relationship is a reflection of past failures, but I can’t help but dread that it would be more of a diversion from how I want to live and what I want to do, than a benefit. Do I want to be in a relationship just to have someone with whom I can travel or rehash the stresses of the workday? My inability to even perceive a relationship as a source of respectful, supportive love shows my state of being.

My two friends who date the most, and are in and out of relationships like my high school students, are also the ones with the most out-going personalities. Both of their lives center around doing, and not around contemplation (there are no books in their homes) or fulfilling an inner drive to create or express themselves. Perhaps relationships are their manner of expression.

I would rather sit by myself in an internal monologue than have a conversation, day in and day out, just to fill the time and play a role.

Am I missing the chance at a great love that will imbue my world with joy?

I had that grand romantic love when I was first with my ex-husband. I needed it then. He helped pull me out of myself and into the world. I was aglow; I bubbled. Now when I think about those years it occurs to me how intensely focused we were on each other. I can’t imagine wanting to narrow down my life again. If by some outrageous dating app algorithm that intensity of love at 22 were to revisit me, that insular quality of being part of a couple is not something I want to relive. An identity as part of a couple is not something for which I yearn.

I was married for 21 years; approximately 15 of those made the marriage worthwhile. So moments of envying people in marriages and relationships are quickly overridden when I realize that I prefer to be alone or with different friends, without limiting myself, then always having a partner, even if he is not physically present at that moment.

A life of placid contentedness is not a surrender, it is lake upon which I float or into which I plunge, knowing that no one will interrupt my daydreaming in the tub.  

Moving into Bubbleland


“I’m done.”

It was empowering to say it, though it would have been better, truly empowering, if I had said it to the person with whom I was done and not just to an empty room. But after years of disappointments and excusing away those disappointments, and then letting myself swing back into action in the hope that this time, this time, this time, I wouldn’t be disappointed—I mentally moved into Bubbleland, that comfy place where thoughts and feelings no longer bang against walls of indifference, but rest unrestrictedly on settees of validity and acceptance. 

This “I’m done” represents far more than just a statement of fact, because I intend to use this last time to unmoor my mind from expectations of family that were formed by societal and cultural myths, but were never supported by the reality of my family in its not very intricate web of connections.

My brother is not the cause of this realization, rather he represents the reality in which I must now reside. I need not resent and regret that he has once again failed to live up to my perception of basic familial standards, but simply acknowledge that he doesn’t care. Not about me. Not about my daughters. And, generally, not about our mother. And I cannot make him care—at least in a way that has meaning for me. Here I must find the strength to finally acknowledge that just because I am right (and, oh, so righteous about it) means nothing, except to my own pained heart. And to acknowledge that I no longer want to be empathetic, no more limbs of compassion, toward him and those expectations.

‘Tis better to have hoped and lost, then never to have hoped at all?


It had seemed so easy: Why not meet for breakfast in Maryland on Saturday morning when our mother and my younger daughter were visiting me in Virginia from Florida and Colorado. My brother, with his wife and son, were down in Maryland from New York for the weekend helping his son (a college senior) move his things from one apartment to another in the same complex. But notwithstanding our offer to drive up to them for just a brief visit, breakfast at a diner for goodness’ sakes, he was too busy.

“Too busy” in this context I interpret as I can’t be bothered, or I’m too lazy, or I’m overwhelmed, or It’s not important to me. Okay, they all mean the same thing, because I can’t think of anything else—no “real” reason—not to meet except for the fundamental Family Does Not Matter to Me that has finally reached into my timbers after years of being on the receiving end of that attitude, and not letting myself believe that I really didn’t matter. And that leads to my eagle-eyed perception that his suburban ranch house and those who call it home are the root ball, wrapped in thickest burlap, in which he lives, and gone are the feelers that were tended in the apartment we grew up in Queens, and the apartments of our grandparents and relatives throughout New York. Good for him that he can live so confined within his unit, since this is what he created, but it saddens me. The anger has subsided, and I remain immersed in disappointment.

But it is not just my brother from whom I need to mentally unmoor, it is also from my hopes of family holiday meals that require adding leaves to the table. That time has long since gone and will not be back. I need to re-wrap what I have, so that it is not a small box within a big, empty box, but a treasure in an individual-sized container. Perhaps it is time to see that, anyway, this is what suits the introvert that I am—that my family seems to be composed of introverts, and this is our norm, not the idyllic images that never suited us. Maybe we don’t do big gatherings because none of us, siblings and cousins, thrive amidst the revelry of many.

Or is that an excuse because I just can’t resist an excuse?

Or is that an excuse because it is still painful to accept that I have lost something I thought was essential?

This loss is especially hard because I perceived that this could happen and tried to prevent it. But, as Robert Burns put it, “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men oft go astray.” Indeed.

One reason I moved to Israel after college was because I knew that family was important to me and I didn’t think I would get what I needed in New York, where most of my family lived. I wanted more than the Seder at Passover and the occasional celebration. I anticipated my own neediness.

I thought that Israel—a country founded on the idea of protecting and strengthening the Jewish family, and where Shabbat, the weekly holiday, is time set aside for family---was where I would find what I sought. Alas, in Israel I married into a family that was even less in need of extra chairs at holiday time than mine. When we moved back to the US, the ties to his family loosened, and after the divorce, the ties disappointed whenever they surfaced.

Was the dream for a close, extended family the dream of an introvert for whom family is built-in company? Is having family around too easy of an escape, allowing the introvert to cocoon inward rather than explore outward? Has my reality been a necessary, self-directed shove out the door?

This “I’m done” is starting to feel more like a declaration to engage with others, rather than a statement of loss.

I'm Back!


It’s been a busy and sedentary year. I taught and I translated a book from Hebrew to English that took far more time and work than I thought it would. I also gave myself time to think about what I want to do in my non-work hours. It was my year to not challenge myself any more than I had already done. While I enjoyed it, I did feel a pull to do more, a pull that drew me back to writing, back to the way I interpret myself and my world, the way which, as the years of life have taught me, is where I need to delve so that I am not continually feeling I am missing something. It is not an activity that I was missing, it was the solitude and confidence to explore my meanings.


Those of you who are new here, welcome! Those of you who have been reading through my ups and downs, and contemplations, I hope you continue to find moments of clarity and connection through my writings, welcome back!

New Clothes

New sweaters


I was in a frenzy this morning: I needed to go clothes shopping. Originally I planned to wait until after school on Wednesday, but there are SALES and who knows how the prices will leap on Wednesday. One reason that I’m overweight is that I don’t deny myself some of life’s little pleasures (as if shopping for clothes when overweight is a pleasure, but it does enable me to envision myself in something other than my well-worn winter clothes that make me feel well-worn and overweight). This morning I took those oft-folded sweaters down from the top shelves where they had been relegated on the first sweaty day of spring, and practically wept imagining another year folded into those tired clothes.

I’m not exactly a high-end lady: I was at Old Navy before it opened. (Younger daughter has convinced me that I am not killing women in Bangladesh because I am not a wasteful shopper who treats clothes as disposable, but only shop when I need them—and I was in an extreme need situation.) But there was nothing to try on. My quest was for cardigans and button-down shirts: the clothes that fit my frame and make me forget my frame, thinking, occasionally, that I look good. Next, it was on to TJ Maxx.

When I was going through my divorce, I had pared down to black and white. There were no colors in my closet. Then there was my red phase: a post-divorce exuberance that even allowed a mustard yellow cardigan to enter my closet. But now it seems that I have settled into a very calm (depressing?) oatmeal and gray wardrobe. It’s not purposeful, it just seems to have happened. I stay away from black; I have decided that it’s a lazy non-choice choice. But, really, is gray any livelier? Or oatmeal? Blah and blah. Why is it that the only things that fit, don’t itch, and are not made of material that, let’s be blunt here, make me feel that my sweat glands think I’m working on a farm and not a classroom, come in those two color categories? It’s not so bad, I tell myself, at least it’s not white and black. 

With gray, I know this is hard to believe, there is rebellion. Growing up, gray was the big no-no because my mother’s mother worked in the fashion industry when it was still alive and well in New York City and the clothes made for display were gray, which is what my mother would sometimes get. So between her and my grandmother, there was a negative hand-me-down feeling to gray. I, as I am wont to do, have defied tradition. So gray is not dull, it is the color of personality.

I did try on some navy sweaters, but, really, is navy any more exciting than those other choices?

Patterns would be nice.

Yesterday I saw a woman wearing a dress in diagonal stripes of orange and white. It’s not nice to disparage someone else’s fashion choice, so I will merely say that if I had ever thought to wear diagonal stripes (horizontal was long ago listed as no-go), I am certain now to never even be tempted to touch a stripe of any kind—even if it’s really really discounted.

I tried some patterned blouses. But as I knew ahead of time, hence the search for cardigans and button-down shirts, they didn’t fit or feel right. They seem to allow a greater degree of roll-perception than my other fashion choices, and a woman is never more critical of herself than when a roll might be discerned, and a day in the mode is not a good day.

But I was successful: two cardigans, one oatmeal and one gray, although they are the same sweater in different “colors,” which feels wrong, but I know that I won’t have the energy to go shopping anytime soon so I told myself it’s okay, it’s better than the depression of constant repetition of a wardrobe from years gone by. I did get a gray over-sweater that seemed to hint, ever so slightly, that the wearer has a modicum of a sense of style.

Then it was home to put my new sweaters in my closet, pushing the old ones to the back.

Oh, I also got a big jar of Dead Sea bath salts, because soothing was necessary after that fun ordeal. 

My Other Selves

Potomac River

Lately I have met some of my alternative selves. Surprisingly, this has not upset me. It has actually made me happy to see how possibilities not taken would have worked out. At one time I would have decried the notion that there is another Laura out there, but time has made me realize that while we are all unique, we’re unique in groups of similarly unique people. I have found my sub-category of people.

Yesterday during lunch, a woman I met recently told me that she, too, went to Israel right after college. She said that she had considered joining the Peace Corps, but then found a program that brought Jewish people to Israel to do community work in development areas. If I had known about that program, I would have done it instead of the kibbutz program I participated in after college. At temple on Yom Kippur evening, I sat next to a woman who joined the Peace Corps right after college. She remarked that she had thought of going to Israel instead and how she sometimes wonders what her life would have been like if she had gone to Israel rather than to South America as a Peace Corps volunteer. I, too, had thought of joining the Peace Corps, but I went to Israel instead because I decided that I wanted to contribute my energies to the strengthening and development of Israel and the Jewish people. The three of us made a triumvirate of women with similar desires, but we each took a different step, yet we each could have lived the other’s choice.

Though I don’t know of their lives outside of our casual conversations, we also represented other life possibilities: married with children, divorced with children, divorced with no children. Kind of a basic mash of life choices and circumstances. At a glance, we seemed content, intelligent, engaged, down-to-earth women. Our possibilities seemed to have led to fulfilling lives.

But the Laura possibilities can also lead to hardship. A few months ago a friend told me about a friend of hers who, like me, had lived in Israel and married an Israeli. She stayed in Israel and got divorced there, while I got divorced in the US. As I had feared for myself if I had gotten divorced in Israel, this woman lost her children and, from what I understood, lived in very reduced circumstances because her ex managed to manipulate the system to his advantage—as I am sure would have happened to me if I had gotten divorced there. A bleak possibility that could have been my reality.

These peeks into possibilities have made me realize that I am living the life I am supposed to. I didn’t mess up by going to the wrong place, or studying the wrong thing, or marrying the wrong person. I lived out the paths of possibilities that were mine to take and forge into my fate.

As a person who seems to be constantly tainted by regret and envy, these meetings have been good for me. Those other choices seemed to have led to lives lived parallelish to mine. Sure, there could be Laura’s directing innovative companies and publishing bestsellers, but there is, I have finalized realized, a contentedness of self that has resisted pushing past the comfortable and known.

Choices are made and seemingly made for us. Yet, how we live with those choices defines us as much as or more than the choices themselves, for don’t the small daily decisions we make and live with represent us more than the biggies. Or, the biggies represent aberrations rather than the norm, and we always settle back into our personalities and the lives in which they can thrive. 


The Summer of the Hot Flash

The hot flashes have intensified. I may be having a conversation or reading a book or standing when all of a sudden sweat drips down my neck, puddling in my bra, a moisture moustache forms, and my face transforms to tomato. This is not the heat wave of August 2015, but the heat of 54.

Sweating while standing is not a sight for the delicate. It turns out that I have a predilection for hot pink tee shirts, which tend to show sweat. My younger daughter took a look at me in one of my series, and stated, “Why are you sweating. You’re not doing anything.” Oh, the ignorance of the young and uninitiated.

Not only have my flashes multiplied and intensified this summer, they have also gotten me into trouble.

There I was, in the very back of a very big classroom when the lecturer decided that he must show off his classroom management skills in addition to his grasp of the Nazi mindset. “Would you mind telling us what’s so interesting?’ he called out as I spoke briefly to my new BFF.

Oh, I thought in the moment within the embarrassment, he does not know who he is talking to. I was mad. He was up there talking for hours without giving us a bathroom break and he’s complaining about my rudeness. Oh no. Isn’t talking a human right/need? How else can we express and share our experiences and our knowledge, as he was going to do for five days—in a very one-sided way.

In my loudest teacher voice, I said, “I told her that I’m having a hot flash.”

Sometimes it feels wonderful to be a big mouth and that, surely, was one of those moments. 


The Summer of Yoga

This summer I have become a yogi with a practice. Mind you, a yogi who doesn’t wear yoga-wear and is as inflexible as any of the umpteen GOP presidential candidates; although, I do have a mat with pink flowers.

I’m not quite sure what happened to get me doing inversions, but I think it has something to do with noticing how comfy I was doing nothing physically, and how that  inertia was settling into me mentally. The couch can be a tempting place to pass a life. At that point of minimum exertion, I realized that if I didn’t move now, I was heading into a very mushy AARP-life. I needed to find an exercise that would make me feel better doing it and having done it, rather than having stayed in my reclining position.  

During the first critical weeks, when you waiver between realizing that those initial dates are not quite what you thought they were or sticking with it because you have a good feeling, younger daughter was here. She went with me to one class and then, as we were walking out she asked, “Which class do you want to take tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?” I asked, wondering if she really knew her mother. In what world do I work out two days in a row? Before she came, I was giving myself two days between classes. It’s so unhealthy to push yourself. But she had me cornered; it wasn’t the yoga that got me initially, it was spending time with her. Even though we were upside down and dripping, what mother can resist an opportunity to bond with her teen?

So here I am, a summer into yoga and feeling committed to it. I even decided on the monthly unlimited class plan.

The lack of aggressiveness in the room is appealing. Even in the yoga weights class, there’s none of the clanking and huffing and showing off that you see in a gym. I mean those places, even the relatively safe treadmill-zone, were reminiscent of the pre-mating, jockeying for the ladies, season out in the veldt. The pilates classes I tried a few years ago unnerved me with worrying about mid-body noises and being exposed to far too much up-beat music and bouncing. There is a line that must be drawn between getting exercise and being the butt of a comedic skit wherein we women are tricked into thinking that we’re exercising when, in fact, a mad contortionist has us do a random succession of moves that we think will help us lose our jiggle when, actually, it’s only for a laugh at the ladies later.

Back to yoga class: since my body does not understand the language of contortion, I cannot be envious of the ladies who get into their dolphin poses and hold their eagles. I hold what I can and no one cares or knows: look, no mirror! Besides, why look at the lumpy lady sweating as she gets into her chair pose, a high chair the way I do it, rather than the lululemon-clad woman who gets into every advanced pose as if it’s a walk in the park? Since so much sweating is involved, I have to take off my glasses, which means I can barely see what anyone else is doing. It’s me focused on me, with no feelings of inadequacy (okay, barely any). I just do what I can. Perhaps this is what it’s like when you’re retired and taking classes: all you care about is your own learning, no grades, just dealing with yourself, improving yourself for yourself.

And the grunting. When I told younger daughter that I had grunted holding some of the poses she noted, “Yes, I know.” But you know, I wasn’t the only one grunting. I might not see anyone, but I can hear their very real struggles, even if it is to hold the advanced pretzel poses. We are all pushing ourselves, for ourselves. I guess there really is something to focusing on your own breath (though I keep getting confused when I’m supposed to breathe in and when I’m supposed to breathe out) that lets you concentrate on what matters at that moment, even when I’m sweating like a sumo wrestler.



The Door

There are times when it’s good to use your strength, like when opening a jar closed by a small man with biceps bulging out of his XL shirt. Then there are those times when thought should precede that mighty muscle flex, which I learned the hard way the other morning.

It all began innocently enough, as so many things do: when I came home from walking Poops my front door wouldn’t close. I needed the door to close since I needed to take a shower so that I could meet a friend for a walk. Now, I have two front doors: a glass/screen door combo and then the keep-out-the-predators front door. It was not enough to lock the glass/screen door and close the front door as much as possible, since I need the double-lock at shower-time. (Have I said that I’m from NYC?)

I used my arm strength to try to close the door. Nothing doing. I tried again. Nothing. It would not close all the way. Then I decided, with a brilliant lightbulb above my head, that only a full-body propulsion lead by the mighty shoulder would do. Voila! Success. Door closed.

Closed shut.


The joy of success was immediately followed by a drop of dread, and then a tug on the door.

Another tug.

Sealed shut.

I had just shut myself into my house. My first thought was that I have enough food to last a few days, followed by a glance at Poops, who had about another eight hours of holding it in in him.

A moment of claustrophobic panic arose, but I shot it down as I looked out to the sunny balcony. No, I told myself, you cannot go there.

Of course, my Mr. Fixit neighbor, with his big boy muscles, was not at home.

I texted the friend who I was supposed to meet and asked her if she could come over and save me by pushing open the door.

But more needed to be done. She might free me, but the door needed to be fixed. I was on it: yelping for handymen. Did I go with Jim, Doug, or Honey Do Guy? For the first time in a very long while I was choosing between men! How empowering.

Just as I was about to do my eeny, meeny, miny, mo, my friend called to say that she would come over and that she had a handyman who lived in her building, if I wanted. Thank goodness for friends.

Oh, the wonder of asking for help and getting it.

An hour later, she and Ted arrived. As Ted banged on the door, she called out, “We’re here!” Between Poops’ barking and the pounding of Prince Charming, I already knew that they had arrived. Within a huff or two, I was freed! Glorious sunlight and a clear path out.

Ah, but the door still needed fixing.

Ted took a look. Then he got a tool. As we have all learned by now, there is no fixing without the appropriate tools. I, myself, armed with an Ikea toolkit, have tightened many a loose screw.

He used sanding paper to try to sand down the bottom edge of the door, since it looked like that was where the door wasn’t closing. (Of course, since the door is not wood, he was sanding down the paint, even I could see that.) He rubbed some more and then tried to close the door again. No movement. He sanded some more. But still no closure. Then, just as I looked away for a moment, he pointed to a plastic bag that looked ominously familiar and said, “There’s the problem.”

There lay Poops’ poop bag. It had gotten stuck between the front door and the door jam.

Now it is important to understand that this bag is one of the ways by which I am saving the world. It is a bag from a newspaper that either my brother or a friend donates to my worthy cause of poop pick up so that I don’t have to purchase wasteful manufactured dog poop bags. But that is not enough, there are surely more ways a dog walker (especially one with a small dog) can save the world: rather than just put one of Poops’ puny poops into a bag and then throw it away, I reuse it, knotting as I go along, until it’s full.

Since I don’t want my neighbors to be disturbed by the sight of a poop bag in front of my house (though why I care, I don’t know, since they leave their very big dog’s bags strewn all over the front yard, but at least now they use bags), and since I don’t want the smell in the house, I have been putting it between my two doors. It was a great solution. Until now.

Now it’s in a little garden pot hidden behind plants next to my door.

Since it’s always important to look on the bright side, I am grateful that the bag was not placed in such a way that when I shoved with full-body force the poop burst forth. Then, surely, I would have needed a shower. 

Poops' poop bag

Summer Vacation Thoughts

University of Richmond


It is true that I am not as smart or funny or attractive as I had hoped. It is also true that sometimes I am almost as smart and funny and attractive as I imagined. What’s more, I am both more and less delusional than I would have expected. This is based on the assumption that this is normal, even the norm. Why is so much of self-perception based on delusions? And why does one’s perception of reality tend to team up with self-criticism? You just have to wonder what’s the point of introspection when you generally end up hauling yourself over simmering coals as opposed to placing yourself on a tacky pedestal. For every moment of self-flattery, there are the non-stop, non-subtle knocks of disapproval.

But who cares!? Who the curseword cares. Not me. I am freeing myself.

It’s time to crash the clown car of critique and live within delusion. What’s the harm in thinking I’m my best expression of myself? Is it really hurting anyone, even myself, if I refuse to bow down and place some cockamamie gilded goddess of perfection and leaning as the light of my light? I think not.

It gets tiring living in a two-tiered world, where one tier encourages others in confidence and aspirations, and the other confronts the self as if it is a criminal for eating and napping, and, generally, just being a woman who needs (nay, wants) to eat and nap.

Oh, but to convince myself that my little island is the best expression of myself even as the tide of aspirations ebbs and flows. How lovely that would be. Could be. Will be?

It gets tiring thinking that who you are is not enough. But if there was someone else I could have been, I would have been her by now. Perhaps if I honestly settle into this acceptance I can be as content as I tell myself I am. Perhaps then I will let myself realize that there is no purpose of life other than to live, and that it is enough. I could do without burdening myself into thinking that the only valid life is one that is saving the world, when I find it challenging enough just to go through the mail once a week.

The calm that enables the chastisement is pretty darn fertile because it is also the foundation from which actual accomplishments arise. Maybe not the ones I envisioned when I told myself who I am and can be, but actual accomplishments which, apparently, are the ones I’m geared to make.

This calm is the place from which I will head into my eleventh year teaching. And I’m excited to meet, challenge, and encourage new students. It continually confounds me that I discount my teaching and think it only a worthwhile enterprise to solve the problems we read about in the headlines. Instead of those angel wings that people tattoo on their backs, I need to imagine butterfly wings beating, not in a vacuum, but participating in some sort of People’s Nobel Prize of Humanity wherein we all do what we can to bring out and encourage goodness. 

The Tomato Way of Being

Tomoto from a friend's garden


I’m not sure what’s happening, but lately I have been making new friends as if I’m a cheerleader struttin’ around with pompoms. Or it could be that us mid-lifers are so desperate to get away from the routines that we have levelled into, that any woman who can hold a conversation will do (which, by this time, should be all of us). Going back many, many years here, I can remember how picky I used to be about who I would be friends with. It was all based on some psychic click of recognition. It was like picking out tomatoes, so many just weren’t the perfect degree of ripeness. Maybe that hyper-selectively was because I was an introvert, or maybe it was that I feared being judged and passed over for another tomato. Which leads to my tomato story.

When I initially went to Israel in the spring of ’82, I participated in a six-month work-study program on a kibbutz (half the time learning Hebrew; the other half working on the kibbutz). My first job, disappointingly since I had envisioned myself as a new wave of pioneer building the land and not a woman still stuck in the kitchen, was to sort through crates of tomatoes in the prep kitchen. I was to rinse the tomatoes, and put the good ones in one bin and the bad ones in another bin. At home I had not bought tomatoes because they were tasteless, but I was still able to discern a good, firm tomato from a bad one in the best tradition of an American supermarket shopper. In other words, if there was a mushy part, no matter how small, or a blemish, no matter how insignificant, it was no good. Nothing with an imperfection was to make it into my basket.

After going through about four crates, the woman in charge looked at my breakdown of tomatoes: five in the good bin and an overflowing bin of bad tomatoes. She looked at me with the scorn befitting a spoiled child, picked up a “bad” tomato, cut off the offending part—half! —and placed the rest of the tomato into the good bin. She left me to redo the job. Who knew that you didn’t have to look at the tomato as a whole?

Which brings me back to friendships. As we acknowledge that there are aspects of ourselves that don’t represent our proudest parts, and discover that we can be as dull as a never-sharpened tomato knife, we learn that it’s no big deal and that all that counts is that we focus on the firm spots—in ourselves and others. The tomato-way of friendship can be liberating.

Yet, alongside that deeper understanding of how to interact with others, I have also come to the exact opposite understanding about how to view myself. I see now that to be a content person, one who can peacefully go between interactions with friends and the inaction of sitting alone, I must accept the totality of the tomato: mushy parts and all. I finally recognize that those seemingly discordant parts of myself (or those that don’t adhere to the image that I try to project to myself of myself) are not in conflict. Those parts don’t prove separate things about myself; rather, they should soothe me by enabling me to accept with honesty the fullness of my personality. There is no compartmentalized self, there is only the commitment to not ignore or disparage even the mushiest of parts.

So, do not do unto others as you would do unto yourself and you just might have a social life.

Contentment Is a Place

Summer balcony

It is a beautifully blue June day with sunbeams graying the black floorboards, a slight breeze cooling the afternoon heat, children’s playground calls ringing out, and me, sitting on my chair, looking out / in. During this season of travel plans and gatherings, the ease of sitting and thinking without concerns and complications feels as luxurious as a Caribbean beach. It is not that I have had enough of seeing the sights of the world, but the solitude of mind is far gentler on my couch than meandering cobblestone paths alone while passing couples and families.

There is a way, I am coming to understand, to make insularity feel like the best alternative and not the only option. I rearranged my balcony to feel less rustic hut and more vacation bungalow. A rose plant, on sale because it needs TLC, is giving that to me by adding its brilliant red blooms to my assortment of practical herbs. The rhythm of a home-based retreat enables me to find only comfort and avoid those confrontations of self that, inevitably, call forth wonderings of lackings, and I realize, suddenly, that it is strength that I have crafted. Why wander lonely when I can sit comforted?

The other day I read an article that stated that it is better for one’s long-lasting sense of self and self-preservation to be content than to seek happiness, which, I assume we all know by now, is transitory. Sounds about right, but it does take a long time of seeking the high to realize that it is too dependent on others to ever be of intrinsic value. It also takes a long time to realize what one needs to be content.

A job I enjoy, at which I’m good and want to keep improving. Vacation time long enough to focus on what I need, which has narrowed down to time spent with words. Volunteer activities that I expect to bring me fulfillment and not just a pat on the back. Friends, in emails, on the phone, down a path, on the other side of a table, with whom my life has been woven into an enveloping fellowship. Body acceptance that finally enables me to go sleeveless. Family, essentially the three women—daughters and mother—with whom there exists a spirit of independence and dependence that makes me feel just the right amount of needed.

But still (and this has taken more days of introspection since that blue June day to understand) there is an emptiness. Does being content mean accepting the present for what it is and what it is not? Getting to this calm point has involved two major relinquishments: love and vanity. No expectation to meet a man and no expectation for writerly recognition. Two hard things to accept. But life does feel easier, even if that acceptance is, at times, overlapped with loss and regret. True contentment, then, must not be guided by willful ignorance, but by forthright acknowledgement.

I wonder why it takes half a lifetime to stop crying about what will not be. The power of wanting what we learn to want. The time it takes to honestly assess one self. It is hard, isn’t it, to realize that you are not who you want to be, but are merely who you are. Change is not always possible, and even if it were, who would you be—and for whom? Half a lifetime gives you time to look around, time to realize that you could not be another, time to nod we got this to the self, time to try stilettos and revert to flats. It takes time to fill a space with what seems necessary and to empty that space of what is not necessary. It takes time to sculpt a soul.

Allergies and Analogies

Ball in tree


I can finally open my right eye, but little pustules keep appearing on my arms, while the weeping ones give me hope that this plant v. Laura battle will eventually end. My face feels like a mask of dry, itchy skin pressing down, suppressing the breathing of my pores, sealing me in. Time and steroids and lotions and ice packs and antihistimines are doing their work, and it has only been four days, but this feeling of being incased within myself is haunting, disturbing. There are layers of me, but this outer layer presses down and in so doing takes control. There is no escaping the discomfort of feeling so aware of my irritated skin.


And while I focus on battling this invasion of poison ivy, I think about racism, poisonous racism, and I wonder if hate is a person’s poisoned outer layer or is it his interior, awash with receptors to toxins that permeate the outer layer.


We are told that we are not born with hate, that it is something learned, then why are we so darned good at hating—as if we are born to it? Perhaps there is a gene that enables us to transition from hate-free to hate-full. What could there possibly be within the supple limbs of a child, the contours of a lock of hair, the radiance of a smile that makes hate natural? Is hate a lack of spirit? Is someone who hates a person who is afraid of anything new, different, not the norm that he was raised within? Is it not so much a taught capacity, a learning, but rather a reflection of fear, an inability to survive—to trust—anything outside the known boundaries?


Is hate a poison that is always within, waiting to protect the self with a shell that scratches at those who come near? Are too many of us too innately the survivalist dependent on the tribal, afraid, innately, to test the self against / to present the self to the unknowns of people who are not like me? Do they need guns and weapons and manifestos because looking into someone’s heart might profoundly reveal that there was never a reason to stand separate.


My face feels unfamiliar to me. The skin that I obsessively moisturize is bumpy and tingles with an itchy dryness that cannot be moisturized away. I press ice to it, numbing the irritation.


The battle of good and evil.


The clash between love and hate.


This interminable space that separates fear from acceptance.


Summer. Another season.


Last night there was a pounding storm. Now there is oppressive sun and heat. And still my skin. And still to contemplate hate.


It must be deep inside: the sand that an oyster uses to create a pearl must be for us a switch that turns the self into a representation, a weapon. Could it be that in the interior of self we are so far removed from any degree of intelligence that we are only that ancient instinct for survival and all that does not mirror us is a danger? Is that a place where rationality dissolves and we seep back into the past beyond memory?


Perhaps hate, racial hate, hate of the other, anti-Semitism, actually shows that we humans have progressed from the dawn of pre-time because there are those among us who don’t differentiate and label and shun and pummel. Maybe the only thing positive about a murderous racial rampage is that the murderers and their apologists are over there, in the thicket of instincts, but there are those of us who cry in pain and sorrow and deep regret that we could not reach into that shell of hate to help them see that other is another word for neighbor. 

Fighting Anti-Semitism

I've been doing some work with an organization that fights anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses. I received this email from them today, and thought to pass it on. Hopefully you will sign the petition calling on the UC system to adopt the State Department's definition of anti-Semitism, and then send the info on. 



AMCHA INITIATIVE has launched a push to support a UC Stakeholder petition in support of the University of California Board of Regents adopting the U.S. State Department's definition of anti-Semitism at the upcoming July meeting. Without adopting a formal definition of anti-Semitism that recognizes contemporary examples of anti-Semitism, university leaders across the UC System cannot properly condemn anti-Semitism as it manifests on campuses today.
Unfortunately, an anti-Israel group has decided to create its own UC stakeholder petition specifically against adopting the State Department's definition of anti-Semitism. 
This is no longer only about the UC system. This is a public battle for correctly defining contemporary anti-Semitism. Too often contentious campus-based actions that seek to delegitimize Israel take place; signing this petition is just one small thing that you can do to help stop these anti-Semitic and anti-Israel campaigns. The repercussions for inaction are potentially too great.
In addition to UC President Napolitano endorsing the State Department definition of anti-Semitism, the ADL has written in to the Regents endorsing the adoption of the definition as well (See their letter here:
There is only a month to build up AMCHA's stakeholder petition and round up support for the UC adoption of the State Department definition of anti-Semitism. 
Thank you.

Not Regretting Regrets

Orchid blooming

An orchid that I received post-bloom a year ago and which, obviously, I have somehow cared for well-enough to rebloom. What a sense of accomplishment.


Apparently we are not supposed to live with regrets, as I became aware yesterday while loop listening to “No Day But Today” with its insistence that I “Forget regret—or life is yours to miss.” But how do you tell your personal documentary that events and people need to be eternally spliced? How do you stop a mind’s meanderings while driving down a straight road early on a Sunday morning? Which brings me to an important tangent: What is with songs nowadays that are barely disguised self-help lessons? I don’t want a song to tell me what to do; I just want to hear a few uplifting love stories that might bring on a memory, balanced with those that reveal the ugly churn of love into empathetic pain. Is that too much to ask for? Can songwriters keep the suggestions of their therapists to themselves and stick to harmonizing about love.


Has it always been like this? I don’t think so. I remember listening to the ache of love missing, present, and past, not this guidebook. And it’s wrong. Who wants to hear a 20-year-old spouting words of wisdom? If I wanted the words, I wouldn’t have taken a break from NPR. The same applies to older singers: I don’t want to know what you think of the world we live in; again, taking a break from that to listen to you.


Going back to that line that’s bothering me: “Forget regret—or life is yours to miss.” That is a horrible suggestion; or, perhaps, it is a horrible suggestion to a middle-aged woman who needs to find her way amidst regrets for things done and not done, ‘cause it can’t be undone. And certainly steer clear of telling me that only by making decisions and choices is life lived, because it’s happening whether or not you make choices, wise or otherwise. Let’s be honest: there will always be something to regret for there are more choices than paths to be taken. Life cannot be missed, even for the fatalist on a sailboat. Besides, this implies that we only have regrets if we don’t act, but what about regretting actions taken, which, certainly, is a treasure trove for a woman with age spots, skin tags, and a mind that recently blanked on “pool table” and “fidget”?


Regret. It seems to be my new home territory, and, definitely, an uptick from where it used to reside at self-pity. I say, regret is in the same category as envy, hard to live there, but even harder not to stop by for the occasional visit. Why regret regret? Live with it because it seems that there is no alternative to backward looking, and doesn’t it, really, help you better understand and accept where you are, regretfully or not?


Note: I’m back, I think. I’ve been busy with school, but more so I’ve been residing in my little hole where I am certain that only published authors, especially novelists, have valid things to say. But you know what, they don’t. I have worked at convincing myself that I am like a poet or songwriter (of yore, not these singing therapists) who focuses on one topic and makes it into a world and that is okay since we all need to be reading accounts from lots of worlds to inform our own mini-micro-world. 



C&O Canal, Washington DC

C&O Canal, Washington, DC.


The other night I dreamed that I was in a synagogue. I put my pocketbook down on a pew and went off to do something. When I got back to the pew, my pocketbook was gone. It doesn’t take years of analyzing dreams to figure out that this dream shows that a place that had been safe is now unsafe, and I immediately knew that the synagogue represented the school where I teach. Between the initiatives from the newest principal, to the impending changes from the county which is gung-ho for uniformity, to the cliquishness and negativity that some of my colleagues have elevated lately, I’m feeling that life has become a bit nightmarish.


My sanctuary from the cacophony of the classroom used to be the twenty minutes of lunch with my colleagues. It was the only daily meal that I would eat with anyone, and it used to feel like we were a family sitting. As much as I like my dinner companions (House Hunters International and Cooking with Lidia), solo eating requires the occasional break for it not to be an emotional drain. So, those few minutes of grown-up conversation of lampooning and commiserating were important for my ability to be okay with all the other solitary meals, and hours of only talking to teens. To effectively live a lone life, there needs to be the right balance, however seemingly unbalanced, between aloneness and togetherness.


On Wednesday, with the intention of driving home to make stir-fried tofu and vegetables for dinner, I drove straight from school to a Greek restaurant. It wasn’t that I needed a gyro (though it has become a comfort food; or is it the fries?), but I needed not to be alone, and I needed to be served. Although the waitress seemed to think that I needed to be alone and barely served me, I was still comforted by not sitting in my dining room, staring at the screen, feeling alone.


The desperation for the grand dinnertime escape came from two days of hostility, closed doors, and whispered conversations. It’s not only that I don’t agree with all of the conspiracy theorists around me (regarding the new initiatives), it’s that I am confronted so starkly with the fact that I am the eternal outsider. As much as I think I am friends with this core group of women, there are times (whisperings about happy hours that I am never invited to and dinners that I never know of) when I am forced to realize that, just like when I was in high school, not only am I far from being a cool girl, I am outside of all groups, a group unto myself. There seems to be no escaping how your character is interpreted: I am always alone, an internal design feature it seems. Sometimes I wonder if having created and been part of a family was the anomaly, and the aloneness the norm.


But while I am an introvert who surely needs her alone-time, there are times when I need to be with other people, when I need to see faces and hear voices and feed on the energy of interaction. And, honestly, being a teacher surely negates the assumption that I am a “pure” introvert.

On my drive home from the restaurant I decided that maybe I’m not the problem. I vowed not to keep putting myself into an unwelcome and needy situation. If I’m not wanted, then you’re not wanted, and I did the grown-up thing: the next day I abandoned my usual seat and sat, instead, at the other end of the long lunchroom table. It felt immature, but, you know, confronting things sometimes means that retreat is the best course of action.


As I sat there, it occurred to me as I listened and talked to my other-end-of-the-table colleagues that these women were the women I should have been sitting with all along. These are not the mean girls grown up, who always have something critical to say, but the considerate girls, who have compassion to spare. So now, I wonder, why did I not realize sooner which was the better environment for me? Do I always need to try to push myself forward, always to think that I am not quite who I am, always to assume that I shouldn’t be myself? No wonder I am still in high school. I still have lessons to learn.

My Skin

First flowers 2015


The first thing I saw the other morning when I opened my eyes to the new day was the skin on my right arm. It was not a kind good morning! to the day for I discerned the beginnings of crepe-y old lady skin. And I should know since I was just down in Southern Florida. I’m not horrified that my skin resembles a snake’s right before sloughing just because it signifies a stark “this is what you have to look forward to” moment; no, it’s that, well, yes, maybe that is the problem. My immediate reaction was to lather body lotion on my arms as if the from-now-on application will make up for years of walking around with unprotected and unlubricated arms in the Israeli sun, and an obsession for putting on hand cream, never acknowledging that there is suppleness to protect beyond the wrist. Oh, what have I done?


My formerly non-disruptive skin perturbs me more than the grays because there is no easy box fix-it. This skin is as much a sign of my progression as that which a shirt takes from proud first-time wear to the indignity of the donation pile: no amount of tending to can turn back years on a back.


It didn’t seem to me that people down Florida-way particularly minded their slack skin; otherwise, how to explain all of the open exposure? Maybe when you realize that you’re falling apart, you don’t protest reality, you do what you can to slow it down, and then move along to the next activity. Shuffleboard anyone?


It’s not that I regret my aging skin; it’s that I regret not having appreciated the beauty of the ordinariness of skin when it was right there in front of my eyes at wake-up time for many, many, many years. And now, now it’s gone and in its place is this blotchy pre-crepe skin.


Is this an example of wisdom? Is this me coming to a realization that without time I never would have come to? What’s the benefit? Why does it have to be accompanied by skin tags and why, oh why, can’t we truly benefit from someone else’s experience? 



Nature Reserve Florida 2015


In what turned out to be a break between snow and ice storms in Northern Virginia, I visited my mother in Southern Florida. As a gesture to hope, I packed my sandals and capris—and I got to wear them the entire time! No Uggs that weekend.


We did the women-in-the-family trifecta: eating lots in and more out, light sightseeing, and intense clothing and shoe shopping. My mother started the tradition with me, and I proudly continue it with my daughters. Who am I to reject a tradition that involves pastrami, pad thai, bagels, the beach, and new sandals?


While there, essentially to check on my 81-year-old mother, she sent an email to older daughter with “Mom” in the subject line. Older daughter, as another tradition would have it, immediately worried that something had happened to me. But no, my mother was emailing her to say nice things about me. Her momentary anxiety, while not fun for her, made me feel appreciated. I know, I should feel that already, and I do, but sometimes tangibles make the intangible tangible. For my mother, (I hope) it was that visit; for me, it was older daughter’s concern and younger daughter’s texts as I journeyed back to the tundra-on-the-Potomac; for them, it should be the souvenir tee shirts that I purchased and planned to buy even before booking my flight.


A tangible that became even more tangible was how alone I am when I’m not reinforcing tradition at DSW. Having to roll my suitcase with me each time I went to the bathroom and as I walked up and down the concourse to exercise away my too early airport arrival, while other women simply nodded to their husbands and tapped their suitcase was, to my travel-tense mind, an indictment against me. The regrets from the dissolution of my marriage and the what-ifs that swirl around have a party whenever I’m at the airport; they overwhelm my otherwise sane acknowledgement that the past cannot be re-lived and to live with the result without a never-ending trial. There’s something about being confronted with couples and families going about their family business when I am traveling alone, even if it is to family, that slurs my convictions.


At this point, after years of mulling and rolling, I don’t know what I could have done differently; though the flipside of my could is his equally logical could, but going there is too painful, and full of real and imagined guilt.


My mother loves to psychoanalyze my ex, but I can’t. I think she does this to support me, but I have no need or desire to rehash his wrongs and find the source of his flaws. We did that for years when I would call her from my car seeking her solace and support, crying after he cursed me and insulted me to the girls once again. Maybe she misses when I needed her? But as much as a marriage and a divorce can transform from something living to something inanimate (a block in the shape of time and experience), this has reached that stage. I only wish him well. Besides, with distance I find it easier to find fault with myself, because isn’t it that fun, and I know that that’s a trap.


So the past can, in the same instant, be both the past and the present. What’s key is to keep it contained there, and not allow it to seep into the future, and that requires that I still the theorizing and the fault-finding. I was the me of then, and now I am a different me.


Sometimes you see yourself and you wonder how it is that you haven’t changed in all these years, and then at other times you wonder when you had that growth spurt.  





Funny title: "My Social Life." It implies something, but there's nothing beyond the implication. Initially when that phrase came to mind, I was thinking about my romantic social life, but upon further reflection, I realized that sloth has settled into all of my interactions. It's winter. It's self boredom. Hence, it's my non-existent social life.


Looking past the winter, though, I wonder if the scene has already been set for more of the same non-ness into the future. Once there have been a certain number of repetitions of your most exciting stories to diverse people, the whole Gosh, I'm an interesting person mode wears off and you feel yourself becoming as charmless as a charm bracelet. There are just so many times that you can meet new people before you lose your lustre, and your assumption that you and your stories have lustre, which is why it is so critical to establish strong friendships, romantic and otherwise, when you're young and deep in the process of living those stories, and being thrilled by them, and the possibilities ahead. That is in contrast to the midlife now, when those stories have become a part of your history and the recollection of them feels as draining as if you were required to relive them as you tell them, embellishments and all.


Sometime this summer I popped my head out at the possibilities of social interactions, but after a bit of dabbling, I popped back into my tortoise existence. There's no getting around the reality that it's as hard to feign interest in yourself as in whoever happens to stride or sit beside you. Alas, my social life has given in to the pull of the cynic's couch, a darn strong pull, especially in winter. Or perhaps I need to realize that the people, like me, who are looking to expand their social horizons and fill their empty hours as I do are not the people who captivate a crowd. Perhaps I need to accept my social reality, and stop assuming that there is more to me than the people who are reflected back to me. Perhaps, too, I need to stop looking, still, to be impressed, and learn to better base my interpretations on warmth and kindness. People as soup; unfortunately, I'm not a soup person. Stew, I am a stew person, and there, too, is comfort, stability, and trust.


Where do I go from this point of unsteady acceptance of disappointment? Will it transition into a steady acceptance of self and life, and the joys that are contained within simplicity? For isn't that point the truest assertion of who I am, and not who I thought I might become. Alas, I fear that I must acknowledge that perhaps there never will be a peaceful sitting down to stew; rather, there will always that misplaced herb that conjures an alternative, unsettling and fiery, an alternative me that counts even if only because it refuses to mute away into my history.


I am as much me as my trepidations, distillations, and acceptances. Disappointment as a function of existence, of taking the next step, of meeting the next person. Is it possible to be satisfied with dissatisfaction? Will I always whine?


Or is it that I will continue to find purpose and joy in plundering my emotional landscape and I need to face up to that. Is this my truth as much as an embossed business card. Am I to be wary and wavering, not because it is a step toward something, but because this is as much me as my morning coffee (freshly ground, French press, hot milk, in the mug my daughters bought one Mother's Day). Am I to stop complaining about being a tortoise, and instead laugh at the absurdity of thinking I should be other; as if, at 53, I really think there's a better way to be doing this than how I'm doing it. 





I had to escape my cold house. When I turn the heater to higher than 58, it turns on the auxiliary heater and since I fear a system stoppage or breakdown, I leave it there, at least until the outside temperature rises above freezing, which may be some time this weekend. My hardwood floors are lovely; but even with two pairs of socks on, my feet are cold. So I, the anti-shoe-in-the-house person, has begun wearing younger daughter's Uggs in the house. Yet even with flannel pajama bottoms, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater, and a sweatshirt, I need to huddle. Hence the escape to a neighborhood coffee shop. After I discovered the wifi code, I saw the thermostat, which is lovingly set to 76. I have pulled up my sleeves for the first time in days.


I am not complaining about getting another snow day, which sets me now into day five of a scheduled three-day weekend, but it is darn cold out there and my neighborhood streets are icy. I even took a slide onto the snow when I walked Poops earlier. Those Uggs, it seems, are better as slippers than for walking out and about in the snow.


It is warm and lovely here, with all of the parents and their young children. A father who should not have such young daughters, but they are adorable; one with pigtails set on top of her head. A mother safely holding her baby's pacifier in her mouth for a moment of comfort. Another mother picking out a game to play with her daughter, while her son maintains focus on his game and huge chocolate chip cookie. It's nice to see kids outside of the confines of the high school pressure cooker, and see them in their young explorations with a protective parent nearby. The other adults are all absorbed in their computers.


But a change has occurred. Pigtail girl didn't listen to her father, and her sister, who was charged with keeping her from showing her toys to the rest of us, was unsuccessful, so they have gone. Game boy didn't help his mother when she dropped the game they were playing; &But my sister isn't doing her part.& To which the mother aggravatingly told him that she was just asking him to help. He was then instructed to get his jacket on. The illusion of peace between parents and  young children is gone, as is my moment of thinking that it could be fun to teach little kids.


There is now a group of four seniors eating lunch where the game players had been. They are loud enough to easily eavesdrop, but I really don't want to hear about people with scabies and the possible causes. I fear I will be pushed back out into the cold.


It has been nice, this warm break. It's good sometimes observe. Funnily, it has made me feel more of a participant than usual. At home, in my classroom, at school, my normal environments, I am so focused on what I need to do that I forget that I do not need to be in control, that being in the flow of life is a very warm place.