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Thursday, September 5, 2013

You've got a friend....

It is amazing what a profound effect it has upon me to see my old friend from high school. Having an afternoon with her sets my mind wandering for days and nights to come.  This time, as always, it was a horribly quick fly-by, and this time she was with other people.  My dear friend did not warn me that they were all Republicans as I confidently and comfortably (for how often can we left wing progressive liberals be confident and comfortable?) shot my mouth off.  Apparently it had no long lasting or ill effects....... of those other friends of hers did mention the "shared history."  That is the thing that, besides the fact that we still cling to the same - dare I say - liberal and democratic values we had as teens- binds us.  I have no one else.  I don't have family.  I don't have my first husband et al. My daughter only goes back about twenty years.  My friend and I - WE have HISTORY!

And then I lay awake thinking about all the amazing friends I have had the honor to have known.  Thanks to the internet I still "know" them in a way.  Not only was I reunited with two other friends from high school, but I was able to keep in touch with the astounding people I befriended in Michigan.

Yes, yes, I couldn't wait to leave Michigan. I couldn't wait to get back to the East Coast, to New York.  But I hated leaving the wonderful people who were my friends in Michigan.  They saved my life.  They supported me with actual money, with used clothes badly needed, with emotional and mental support and simple company.  They were there when I had to have a skin cancer removed from my face and put up with my nerves before and my giggles afterward (due to Valium).  They were there to help me move out of a house where I thought I would live my life, and into an apartment where I felt safe.  They were there when my autistic daughter disappeared one night and still there when she reappeared hours later with a big policeman. They were there for a birthday I didn't really want to acknowledge yet they made it not only bearable but fun. They were there at holidays to make it possible to feel that I was not alone and abandoned. And they were still there to help me make the major move back to New York.  I cannot find words to adequately thank them or have them know how much I carry them around in my heart and mind each day.  I've said for decades that I think god has a lousy sense of humor.  The irony that it took me fourteen years to finally make dear and wonderful friends in the alien world of Michigan (alien to me) and then have the one and only chance to leave them bears that out.

So now I am entering a new world.  I am making friends again, just as I did so many times before in my life.  It is uncertain, it is awkward, it is a slow and cautious process.  But, it is happening.  How strange.  How weird to feel like a kid again in some social situations as I feel my way around, as I try to reciprocate, as I try to be available, as I try to put my best self forward and yet not be untrue to the self I have fought all these years to find.
Nevertheless, I am eternally grateful to the wonderful friends - those beautiful girl friends I had in my teens who were there when my family fell apart and still did not reject me- and those open hearted amazing people in Michigan - who quite literally made my life possible, even if they don't know it. 


Monday, August 5, 2013

We're all carried along by the river of dreams....

I keep having bad, bad work dreams.  And I haven't been to work now for over three months.  Crazy.  I've never had this much time where I didn't have to report to a job.  And instead of feeling wonderful, I feel.....guilty.  I have horrible dreams.

A friend of mine just left the same workplace and we saw each other over the weekend.  As we vented, both of our spouses said, "It's over."  Yes, we know. But part of the healing will come from venting and sharing our similar unfair and miserable experiences. And, quite frankly, seeing her socially, away from the confines of the workplace or a restricted lunch hour, I realized that it was the first time in years that I had heard anything positive out of her mouth. I warned her about dreams and how very long they can go on.

I will need a new computer of my very own.  My husband monopolizes the main one and my daughter's is not salvageable.  She dropped it and we tried to have it put back in working order, but it isn't worth spending more money on.  So, I have decided that I will get a new laptop in September.

I have also made the momentous decision that I an going to pull down "Astoria Story" and rewrite it. I have been told I am "too concise" and don't "elaborate" enough.  And, I think that is fair and constructive criticism.  In my defense, I felt that I was in a rush to complete it or it just would never get done.  I had time constraints because of my job and classes, so I hurried.  Looking back, I feel I wrote it in a way that sounded more like how I would have spoken to a therapist rather than writing to an audience.  It is actually a little exciting to go back and have a re-do.  I will just hate taking the old one down, though.  However, I have another project in the works and hope to release two books - the new one and the new "Story" - at the same time!

This really feels like a step forward in my reinvention.

(Joel, B.  "River of Dreams" 1993)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It Only Takes a Moment

A "liminal" moment. I learned what that meant on the night of my graduation ceremony at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. Still learning.  Missing the process.  Wishing for the opportunity to do it more.

The word "subliminal" refers to information we process unconsciously.  Therefore, a "liminal" moment is one we seek out consciously, an occasion, if you will, to commemorate a passage.  Weddings, graduations and funerals are all "liminal" moments. 

I was able to meet people that I had interacted with via the class discussion boards but had never met in person.  I was able, I believe, to make a friend -- a person with whom I shared class time, discussion boards and several group projects.  After a couple of disastrous group projects, this person was a breath of fresh air. A team player who kept up her part of the bargain, did the work, did it on time and did it well and kept in touch throughout.  A gem. I am so glad we met in real life and will continue to know one another.  I consider it such an honor.

There was a gap between when I actually finished my studies (December 2012) and the commencement ceremony (June 2013).  And I went back and forth about the business of actually attending. Why?  I'm not in my twenties anymore. What does it matter? Well, it turns out that it does
matter. Three years of online work, which I personally found more intense and demanding than any other college courses I ever attended in actual classrooms, along with all years of cutting and pasting classroom experience from C.W. Post, to Hunter College to the University of Michigan all the way back to C.U.N.Y.  All of it mattered.  All of it, even if some of the credits weren't transferred.  The knowledge mattered.

So, today, I am the first one of my parent's children to obtain a college degree. Today I am on equal educational footing with my husband. Today I can die in New Jersey and the death certificate will say I obtained a B.A. degree. Today I am no longer a secretary. Today I join the 25% of Americans (a stunningly low number) who have a college degree.  Today I am an indie author.  I am an author.

Funny what one little liminal moment can do.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

It's clouds' illusions I recall......

I am reading a book titled "Rachel and Her Children."  It was written more than a decade ago, but the words resonate still.  Only in the book it is Reagan and his administration being vilified, but we only recently heard the same sentiment from a certain Mr. Romney.  The book is a factual report of the plight of the poor and the homeless in the U.S.  It is shocking but that is a subject for another blog and another post. 

But it causes me to take stock. It also fills my heart with gratitude for where I am now because there was a time - quite a long time - when I was just one step away from that world. I don't think that "Astoria Story" gets that point across. I think I should rewrite it. Everyone should read this book.  It is enlightening and important. I don't believe you can read it and ever feel the same way or listen to the inane and cruel rhetoric and lap it up ever again. 

So, I take stock.  I reflect.  I've looked at clouds and love and life from both sides now. (Joni Mitchell) Funny, too, that this week, out of the blue, the ghost returned yet again.  Someone may be trying to establish a false identity - the dead former wife's. We got some very strange phone calls.  Nice.  I asked my husband to change the phone number five years ago.  He wouldn't. He saw no reason. He saw it yesterday.  The next book is going to be a freaking page ripper when I get to this stuff.  I may have to label it for adults only if only for the  epithets. And still I wander and digress.

The events of the past several weeks have been interesting.  I got laid off.  Not fired, mind you, but laid off.  My former employer is probably patting himself on the back for what a wonderful thing he did. I got severance and my accrued vacation and my health care for a year.  The f-ing healthcare that is drowning me in bills.  He just didn't want to pay someone to work for three days a week.  (He has a nurse who works three days a week and is a giant slacker, but that's ok).  So I am not yet officially eligible for retirement and I am not officially disabled.  I am in limbo. 

I will be speaking to my doctor about disability when I see him which isn't for awhile because I had an infection ("Infections, sometimes fatal, may occur") and could no longer take the medication I was on that allayed the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.  And I now know how much that medication was helping because it is an effort of will to move.

I am just so heartily disappointed in the people and place that I worked.  A medical institution.  But, like the disenfranchised in "Rachel and Her Children" it's nothing personal. I was just a cog in a giant machine.  I raised a disabled daughter, I provided health insurance for my family, I kept a roof over our heads and food on the table.  But, ultimately, I feel so useless.  I did stupid work. I pushed paper around.  I answered phones. Granted, I had to use judgement, but, the only people grateful were few and far between, a few exceptional patients.  I hated my job.  I always hated it.  Always.

The first time I was close to homeless I was very young (22), divorced and temporarily in my mother's house.  There was no question about me leaving.  No question.  I had a sister who knew a chiropractor who needed a secretary.  What the hell does a secretary do?  Had I gone to college, stayed in college, and worked - I could have been a teacher who retired years ago. Sixteen when I graduated from high school with a dysfunctional,  almost non-existent family, I had no support, emotional or financial, and no direction.  So I took the job.  And I became a "medical secretary" for the next forty years.  Do I regret it?  You bet I do.  At the same time, I had no idea what else to do.

The second time I was almost homeless was right after my former mother-in-law said that we would "be in the streets."  I did worry about that and by god, I wasn't going to let her win.  I could live without her lousy son who sucked every dime out of what I earned. But I was worried and lived on the edge the whole time I was in Astoria.  That part will be in the next book.  Let's just say it was easy to keep my girlish figure.

I DID get that dog.  He is a rescue from the south, about two years old, a black and white pointer/hound.  The first couple of weeks were a little rough because he was afraid of everything.  EVERYTHING.  But we have settled into a routine and he is feeling safe and his dopey personality is starting to blossom.  He gets so absolutely delighted when I offer him a dentabone that he doesn't know what to do with his body.  The paws go up and down and his head goes side to side and his tail wags so hard his back end wiggles, its hilarious.  His name is Harry and we are becoming family.

And that little girl who was diagnosed with autism at age six now has a Bachelor of Science degree. Although she still has social deficits she has come so very far and I am quite proud of her. 

Now I have to figure out what to do with and how to do it for the rest of my life.  It's amazing how long it takes to adjust.  I've been sleeping lots.  And nooks and crannies of the house that hadn't been cleaned in forever have finally been spritzed, wiped and shined.  I still don't have a grasp on a regular routine for myself and I need to enable another computer so I can work.  The nice thing is that now I don't feel like I have to rush.  Just breathe.  Breathe, walk, gaze........."It's life's illusions I recall, I really don't know life at all."

"Both Sides Now"  J. Mitchell


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Who knows where the time goes?

There are two mug trees in my kitchen that together hold more than a dozen mugs.  The two at the bottom are there just for show.  They can't be used anymore because they have some cracks in them and I'm afraid they will break, but I still like to look at them.  I think they're pretty- they have a cafe au lait color on the inside. Outside they are white with deep blue designs that I suppose are an Asian motif, since one is bamboo stalks and the other is a sylized rendition of cherry blossoms.  These mugs are nearly forty years old.  They were the first ones I acquired as an adult person on my own.  They remind me of many things, one of which is the friend I had who pointed out how very personal mugs are.  Indeed.

They remind me of the apartment I had on Long Island, of my job and of my big, fat orange cat, Huey.  They remind me of the people I knew, of C.W. Post College and what it was like being young and naive. And they make me marvel at how long ago that was.  Where did it go?

I discovered once again how personal mugs are when my husband and I were dating.  We had issues surrounding his deceased previous wife.  I finally blew my stack over the mugs.  He was totally clueless, naturally, but one day he handed me a cup of tea in a mug they must have purchased at Disney World.  There were two, actually, one that said "bouncy" and one that said "naughty."  It didn't take me long to figure out what the reference was and I was tired of being made to feel like I was being handed a cup of his former sex life with someone else.  Oh, yes, it was personal, alright. No woman likes to feel that she is being invaded, accompanied, overwhelmed by another when it comes to her love life.  After my banshee fit the mugs disappeared.  But there were others (fits)  about other things.  I could write a whole book about that alone. Beware of widowers.

Gradually we have built a set of our own.  A mug from Barcelona, one from Florence. One from work and one from school.  One from the Blue Note where we heard Jane Monheit sing. He brought one back from Guernsey when he was there on business. For some unknown reason that one has become my favorite one to use. It's bright with warm colors and seems happy. Another one comes from the little bistro we have in town. All of them much more interesting than Disney World.  He apparently got the message about the unique personal quality of mugs. They are rather like songs in the way they can transport you to another time and place and evoke a host of memories.  They can make yesterday, even forty years ago, seem like a mere blink.