Taking the Long Way

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It’s been two long years now
Since the top of the world came crashing down

In May of 2006, the Dixie Chicks released their album “Taking the Long Way” which included songs that were a direct response to the scathing treatment and death threats they received for criticizing President Bush and the Iraq war in 2003. Country radio stopped playing their records, and some even hosted CD crushing parties in their station parking lots. The album earned five Grammy nominations and went on to win all five categories: Best Performance by a Country Group, Best Country Album, Song of the year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year.

And I’m getting it back on the road now

At the end of that same May 2006, I finalized my divorce nearly two and a half years since the filing took place. I listened to that album once a day everyday for months. I blasted it on road trips, added my favorite songs to playlists, daydreamed about being the Chicks best friend. There was rarely a time when the title track didn’t cheer me up, even if I did need to let out a few tears first, a release of worries that gave way to the truth and comfort of the chorus…

But I’m taking the long way
Taking the long way around
I’m taking the long way
Taking the long way around

Two years seems like the unit of time that most upheavals require, in order to move through all of our cells, both physical and emotional. It’s the amount of time it takes so that when we are inevitably confronted with a ghost from that upheaval, it doesn’t knock the wind or spirit out of us, and hopefully, if we have been going to therapy, and accepting the love and laughter of friends, we confidently stand our ground with the ghost and tell it to get the fuck out.

Well, I fought with a stranger and I met myself
I opened my mouth and I heard myself
It can get pretty lonely when you show yourself
Guess I could have made it easier on myself

Life is relentless, so it also happens that just as you are coming out of a two year cycle of hell, you’re not winning Grammys, but instead filing bankruptcy. And for that one, you have to add on another four years of lean years, but, the aggregate of therapy, love and laughter of friends, Life Experience, and learning to once and for all be nice to yourself, you get to the other side of that too.

Today, I realized I am finishing another two year return: in 2013 I was too injured to run or hike without significant pain or discomfort, and it was discovered that I needed surgery on my right hip. Fitting that it was on a hike when I put this all together, and I was listening to this song when I had the epiphany. Yes, I was crying. But they were happy tears.

Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else
Maybe someday, someday I’m gonna settle down
If you ever want to find me I can still be found

Taking the long way
Taking the long way around
Taking the long way
Taking the long way around

Robin and Joan

I know I need to give an update about surgery (short story: all went well, recovery is appropriately challenging, more news to come), but dammit if I am not out of sorts and struggling under the avalanche of just total crap news the past four weeks. Physical therapy is slow and hard and slow, work is being weird, I haven’t seen my boyfriend since July 7th, I miss my dogs, and too many good famous people whose job it was to remind us to lighten up through laughter have died.

I was still home in the hip brace when the news came of Robin Williams’ death. Since I live in Marin County, only one town away from his home in Tiburon, it felt more personal to me, knowing his neighborhood, and having several friends who cycled with him, they all, in terrible shock. I cried, bawling, loud jags for about an hour as the news reports and tweets rolled in, each one echoing the same basic story: Robin was tender and kind, shy and vulnerable, giving and warm, intelligent and well-mannered. Being a comic genius was actually much lower on the list.

Today, Joan Rivers died. She lived to be 81, sucking all the delicious marrow out of a long life while working her ass off every single day. For all their differences, she and Robin shared two things. First, the gift of comedy, which shows me time and time again to be the most potent medicine for the widest range of ailments. Second, they are widely hailed as people of integrity and humanity, always there to support or mentor, and always looking out for those coming up behind them.

It strikes me that the reason it hurts more to lose actors and comedians like Robin and Joan is because of this magical combination of humor and humility and the talent and drive they have to perform it for us, out loud, in public, on a stage. They make us feel as if they live inside our brains, saying all the things we want to say at JUST the perfect time, all the while an entire audience shares this same feeling, and bam, we are all connected. Most of us don’t know them personally, but they express our emotions and validate that we are not alone with all our complicated feelings through their writing, performance, and support of others doing the same work. They relieve us of our anxieties by pointing out how absurd our behavior is. There is real power in this exchange. Much more powerful than, say, creepy extremists carrying out horrific violence on other humans.

I hope we keep our focus on all the joy they brought us, because the world feels really terrible and overwhelming lately. They both made it a little easier for me to get up and face each day. I think I will read all the gushing remembrances over again and watch some good videos of them and others who make me laugh.

And hopefully the next person to go will be Vladimir Putin. And Pussy Riot will dance on his grave. (Joan would like this joke.)

Lost in My Mind

When I was in my mid 20’s, during what seemed to be a routine therapy session talking about work stress and some flared up issues with my dad’s drinking, I discovered that I had been apparently having pretty severe panic attacks for a few years. What I thought at the time was just run-of-the-mill long film production hours exhaustion – because who doesn’t have aural blackouts while driving with no memory of the last 10 miles, or insomnia so severe that getting in bed felt like a physical assault – was in fact a pretty standard case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. There was relief in getting this diagnosis and treatment plan, but also a healthy dose of shame that something was wrong with me that I could not just choose to feel less anxious about [WORK, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, MONEY, HEALTH, FRIENDS, WHAT IF/WILL HE/WON’T HE ETC ETC AD NAUSEUM] and go on with my life.

Soon enough I learned to cope also with the shame of the anxiety, because once I got the attacks to stop coming with such force, I could focus on the triggers, and then cut the wires to those bombs carefully, methodically, one at a time. (There was also a years-long backslide during an abusive relationship; the attacks came back stronger than ever, he piled on the shame goading me not to take the medication or be in therapy. But even after that, long though it took, I diffused those bombs too, and got smarter and healthier and humbler than I have ever been. Oh, and grateful. Can’t leave out the gratitude.)

But sometimes, like a lot of last week, and tonight in the wee hours of Monday morning, the anxiety gremlins attack my brain and my sleep, and I am filled with a range of doubts and get distracted by terrible thoughts of intellectual and emotional failure, and chronic loneliness, and physical weakness, and diminished confidence. I know I am not unique and that while most humans have not had to contend with severe panic, they have felt in the dumps or confused, or have the kind of week when you keep biting the inside of your lip in the same place and it fucking hurts so bad and no matter what it won’t heal until you can figure out how to stop biting it.

This is me trying to stop biting it.

Fully surrounding the petty annoyances and standard issue un-fun adult requirements is the massive cache of goodness I have built around me. Most of this is reflected in the deep and meaningful and wholehearted friendships I share, the average length of which is about 17 years. Sometimes, the ones I had to let go of to move forward come back to me, bringing joy, and satisfaction, and fun. It also scares me a little, because it challenges the way I have muted the expansiveness of my hope in favor of necessary pragmatism, but really, I want to get back to the hope which leads to kindness, and love, and maybe even sleep.

And maybe even… magic.

(BTW, you can blame this song for this post. xo)

Gratitude, You Old So And So

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I’ve just been struck by a moment of clarity and in the hopes of not letting it get too far way from me,  a few thoughts on gratitude before I subject my IT band to the foam roller.

Many friends on Facebook are participating in their own versions of a  30 Days of Gratitude Project, which seems mostly inspired by everyone’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. (Because, it is the BEST holiday, do not argue, it’s science. Also, my green chile cornbread stuffing will make your heart skip a beat.) From cappuccinos to courage, I am enjoying their daily posts of simple and complex expressions of gratitude, the quotes, a personal triumph,  a scene of quiet or outrageous beauty captured in a photo.

This is also the time of the year when reflection is in style and I am on trend. I’m looking back over the year, giving it some structure, finding the themes, connecting the struggles and the wins, deciding what to keep working on, what to let go of moving forward, all in service of being both softer AND stronger. 2013 has not been my favorite year, but it has not been my worst, so very far from it in fact.

The difference? C’mon, you know what I am going to say.

Gratitude.

It struck me tonight as I am busy with work and injury recovery, finally achieving some goals that have taken longer than I thought, that so many people have said Yes to me this year, even when I got roughed up for so many months by a gang of strong-armed No’s.

Right off the top of my head, here are a handful, ones that made the difference between insecurity and confidence, loneliness and love, giggles and a full-out jag.

Yes, I will get you that phone number.

Yes, I will take care of your dog.

Yes, I will give you a micro-loan.

Yes, I will make that introduction.

Yes, I will be tender when you’re anxious.

Yes, I will share your post.

Yes, I will take you to dinner.

Yes, I will give you the discount.

Yes, I will sign the contract.

Yes, I will come over for a slumber party.

Yes, I will stay on the phone with you laughing for an hour.

Yes, I will forgive you.

YES.

Oh friends and family, thank you for taking such good care of me, this year and all years, and may I do the same for you when you need me.  Here’s to more gratitude, more Yes’s, and a belly full of green chile cornbread stuffing.

Getting There Means Being Here

Going home on Friday.

On most Fridays, I post a cheeky status update on FB welcoming the weekend with wonder and flirtation. It’s as much fun as it has become routine; if I don’t post one of these winking welcomes, friends either write a note on my Timeline announcing their own Friday excitements, or they text me directly, worried that I might be stuck under something heavy. (Hopefully a hot guy! <rrrrrim shot!>)

I work my ass off at a job I absolutely love, but even still, weekends are necessary to rest and recharge, mostly in the company of family and friends. I’d say that I manage to do this about 37% of the time, which if I were grading that, well, that’s kind of an F-minus. I am not AT ALL lacking for wonderful friends or family to spend at least another 53% of that time with (a girl does need some time for meditation and beauty treatments), but I have been lacking in certain basic resources… of which I am trying to figure out just how to explain here, and in so doing feel less tortured and frustrated by their constraints.

The rub is, when you isolate yourself for whatever the reason, you miss out on the very thing you need to help you rest and recharge: connection with humans who love you. It’s been a fairly erratic summer for me on this front, and especially even harder without my running to keep me sane and fit. About two weekends ago, after countless  2-day stretches seemingly tied together only with near constant rewatches of Pitch Perfect, (which although a super fun movie, is not compelling enough to watch so close together, I mean it’s no Clueless) I realized I was teetering and couldn’t seek refuge in the bottom of my very old TV and 500 channels much longer.

I’m feeling… cryptic… and that’s 100% intentional (A-plus!). Mostly because I am in the middle of the process of reaching out to my people, and attempting to share my tender spots without emotional drama, but also, to get the encouragement and connection I need from them to get to the place to use my writing to tell the stories of WHY I find myself having to spend so much time alone.

So Friday, you handsome devil you, I will still continue to flirt with you. And since you’ve been so patient with me, I will likely put out – SOME WRITING! (sheesh, don’t be all handsy) – very, very soon. I have trust issues, but I am so worth the wait.

Hot Links: Being a Grown-Up

For some reason, this week, I have been having a bad case of the Olds. I am not someone who lies about my age, I am proudly 42, but, blearrrrgh, I am feeling every second of those 42 years. Nothing fits right, my runs are kinda slow and herky-jerky, it seems like my grays show up faster, might I have arthritis in my left middle finger (and yes, I am flipping it off), I feel like I look tiiiiiiiiired and I am worried-beyond-worried about all the super bad news lately. (Well not really about North Korea, but they are all over the news cycle!)

But because I am 42 (only!), I am fine, I got this, life will go on, and I know how to not slip into a Pit of Despair Over Things I Cannot Control. I am actually happy and content and inspired. And I totally made this pound cake last weekend for my outlaw step-daughter and BF.

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That said, onward with some random Hot Links from all over that spectrum of 42-year perspective.

Hat tip again to Kim France for linking to these over-4o fashion bloggers.

Looking forward to my summer soundtrack.

They have heard of Roe v. Wade right? Get off women, jerks.

Best obituary of Margaret Thatcher hands-down. A sampling:

Is that what made her so formidable, her ability to ignore the suffering of others? Given the nature of her legacy “survival of the fittest” – a phrase that Darwin himself only used twice in On the Origin of Species, compared to hundreds of references to altruism, love and cooperation, it isn’t surprising that there are parties tonight in Liverpool, Glasgow and Brixton – from where are they to have learned compassion and forgiveness?

And finally, the sheer goodness power of the Internet. I met Leslie Fandrich in person (!) at Camp Mighty last fall, she of the twinkling-eye, earnest comments and wicked sense of humor. She has the kind of talent with both her camera and her paintbrush that makes it seem like, “omigod, I can totes draw that,” until you go, “no wait, I cannot, I can barely take a proper selfie or draw a stick man,”  because wow, she has some serious SKILLS of the magic kind, but that is why you are drawn into her work so deeply – because you can access it with your own emotions and experiences. The way her photos are both observational and composed creates an instant relationship, with Leslie and her subjects. This is probably why, when I flagged her down to sit with me for the last dinner at Camp, I found myself spilling my guts in a way I only do with very old and trusted friends, or perhaps, my therapist. (Still feel spazzy about that LF!! You get my shoulder next time, drinks on me!) Leslie is just that person. A brilliant, warm, talented, funny, awesome person.

Leslie has also been sharing one of the most intimate human experiences (and one that I have not yet had), the passing of her mother. Her photos, words and art work documenting the intimate nature of dying has been as life-affirming for me as a sunrise hike, belly laughter, great sex, a perfect plate of pasta. Using the word effortless to describe her experience and her work does a disservice to her courage and determination to be present and share it with all of us. Nothing about this is passive… yet there is an ease, and a quiet power, and mostly… great love in her expressions throughout this time. My deepest sympathies are with Leslie and her family as they move into the necessary period of mourning, but also, deepest and most humble gratitude for showing me what love and courage looks like.

Much love to you Leslie, can’t wait to see you in the fall. Let’s try something magical.