If You Know What’s Good For You…

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I get up at 5:30 on weekdays and about 7:00 on weekends. I’ve been doing this for the past few years so I can write for about an hour before taking care of required life business. Too often, instead of writing I do the following:

  • Water the garden
  • Pick blueberries from the yard (okay, this is lovely, right?)
  • Check emails – mostly from Talbots, Lord & Taylor, J. Jill, Real Beauty (??) – I never shop at any of these places
  • Look at Facebook posts
  • Read other people’s blog posts
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Grocery shop before the weekend hordes descend
  • Read the newspaper
  • Cook
  • Laundry

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Yes, a few of these are necessary, constructive and nourishing things to do. But this is supposed to be my writing time. Why don’t I honor that? Why am I distracted by nonsense?

If I write at the very beginning of the day, I get to walk around all day with a happy secret practically humming inside of me. It’s beautiful. I can physically locate that good feeling right below my ribs. Yes, as I sit here I feel like I’m charging my Solar Plexus – like I’ve got a little Sun in there glowing brighter as I put words to page.

Only in writing this today did I realize the physicality of what happens to me when I write, that I can actually locate a place in my body (besides my stiff shoulders) where I feel this. Of course I had to step away for a minute for a little (distraction??) online research and found this on balancechakra.com:

Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura

The Solar Plexus Chakra is a center of personal strength, learning and comprehension. It guides you through life by creating a strong sense of self, setting personal boundaries and building self esteem and willpower. The ability to bring change into your life and to the world is born within this Chakra.

No wonder starting the day by writing feels good! I’m feeling my Solar Plexus, baby!

So why do I procrastinate rather than head directly to a beautiful accessible place? Do I need to look at those pictures of Amal and George Clooney instead? Really?

Yes, I do shit like that. Do you?

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Beside the Ohio River: A Kentucky Retreat

 

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The stillness of the water, steady as socks around the tree trunks is deceptive. Simmering through the leaves, the sun makes a green sauna of where I stand searching the water for a hint of lapping tide against the sloping banks.  Stepping carefully across the slippery mud, I dodge the poison ivy thriving even in these flood waters. Swollen by this summer’s rains, the Ohio River looks benign from where I stand. But 20 feet out, huge logs and unidentifiable debris speed by, the only indication that this is no lake. The current is treacherous enough to swallow the strongest swimmer. In fact, in recent days entire homes have been washed away by these waters.

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A massive engine rumble and I know before I see, a loaded barge passing – long, flat beds piled high with construction materials. This one dirt, the next, huge cement blocks. A tugboat at the end, merrily pushing the load. It stirs my heart, this timeless glimpse of industry and I watch it pass like a parade.

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I love a river – the stories they carry, the sense of coming and going, both a force of life and destruction. Growing up, the Hudson was my river. I sent my adolescent angst against the tides of immigrant history, imagining relief and romance with the promise of the ocean and a world beyond my Bronx Streets. The Ohio is a different beast – an American river connecting and sustaining working communities. I stand in Kentucky looking across at Ohio. West Virginia, Indiana, meeting the Mississippi in Illinois leading through – not just an exit and entry – as much a life-line as an artery.

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Up at the house are friends who also traveled here from other states. But this river holds our history from decades ago. We studied with a sculptor here in Kentucky, sharing art and our lives. When we can, the women of our group, (we christened ourselves Studio 70 Sisters) meet in summer for what we call, our retreat. We began these gatherings more than 5 years ago when our kids were old enough that leaving them for a week inspired minimal guilt. We reconnect with the ease of family, sharing wine and food, delighting in catching up on each other’s lives.

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By the second day, a spot is sussed out, easels set up, paints and pastels arranged and a magical quiet descends. These gatherings are not just for gabbing – there is work to be done! Like alchemy, there is a sweet understanding and common language creating best circumstances for creative working, thinking, being. Quiet, of course and a sensitivity to space that is remarkable and rare. Any of us can peek into a room and quickly sense whether someone wants to be left alone.

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This year we are at Paula’s – a stunning spread of fields bordered by river and railroad tracks. At night, the rattle of trains rush by, so close to this grand old farmhouse that our beds shake. Like barges on the river, I find this romantic and easily go back to sleep imagining the lives whooshing past this dear spot. I feel simultaneously a sense of being in the center of things and in the middle of nowhere.

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It is good to be back here after so many years even in this sweltering humidity. The barge has passed and the rumble fades as the load heads towards Cincinnati. Within minutes, a lone Tug chugs into view heading in the opposite direction, relieved of its load, it is pushing easily upriver. I think of us gals – especially with kids, how we forded our way through the currents of our lives, keeping precious cargo steady on course for the more than twenty years until we could (almost) let go. And here we are again. As I watch the tug chug back from where it came, unencumbered and light, I navigate my way carefully up the muddy banks for dinner with my friends.

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I Went Nowhere

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I’ve been on vacation this week and spent it getting reacquainted with my old friend, solitude. After making breakfast and packing lunches and smoothies for my loved ones, I sent them off with a kiss to their jobs and my pup and I stayed home.

I love my gal and my guy but I cherish solitude. I love my job requiring me to talk to people but going a whole day without speaking to a soul is bliss. I’m overdue for visits with many beloved friends but I made no plans for lunch or coffee. This week, I indulged my neglected introvert.

Just for fun I took one of those goofy online tests to see whether I am an introvert or extrovert. I’m both. I love meeting new people, talk easily and with pleasure with anyone — but my need for solitude is important enough for me to get out of bed ridiculously early so I have some time alone. I’m grateful my loved ones are big sleepers more inclined to stay in bed till noon than worry about getting any worms. Mornings belong to Tetley and me and even he usually goes back for a nap after his quick morning outing.

During this week’s abundance of alone time, I did experience some pangs. I remembered the other side of the coin: the loneliness of being alone. It’s a fine line. In my pre-family past, when I lived alone, I often felt an ache of longing – to have someone in my life, wanting love, to be wanted, needed. Rarely did I own up to this, sure it was a sign of weakness, of being a loser, of not fitting my self-image – or at least the one I hoped to cultivate. I’d take lovers anyone else could spot would not be right for me, sure they’d fill the spot I’d reserved. With varying degrees of drama, these affairs crashed and burned. I marveled at my mated friends – envied their sense of being a unit even when they squabbled. Okay, then maybe not so much – I know how lonely it can be even when someone is sleeping next to you.

I used to hate the feeling of loneliness. Now I recognize the pangs of desolation as first steps on the road to where I like to be, as a sign I’m going in the right direction on the way to get somewhere interesting. It may be tough to climb the mountain, but how great the view is. I understand better how to dive into this place of alone.

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Being good at solitude is a little like a muscle and if you don’t use it, you lose it. For me, it’s the same group of muscles I use to create. My best work grows from a quiet place deep within me – a whole different terrain than the day to day business of being in the world, going to my job, being an extrovert. Like all of my muscles, I want to keep this one limber, the one that gets me to a quiet place where I can best hear what’s really going on.

It was a good week. I went nowhere.

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A Tale of Two Chairs on a Thursday

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My dental hygienist alerted me to erosion in my one remaining upper wisdom tooth, way back where I could barely fit my toothbrush. Ever since, I regularly squirmed my tongue around it to feel the roughness, the beginnings of a cavity sure to cause me pain sooner of later. If I there’s pain ahead, I try and dodge it. Wouldn’t you? Out with the tooth, I decided.

My willingness to get a tooth yanked was based on previous experience. My left top one was removed a few years ago with little fanfare thanks to nitrous oxide. I recalled the experience as almost fun, me acting like a bad drunk, cracking stupid jokes through a mouthful of gauze. This time I was determined to keep silent and enjoy the other worldly experience of laughing gas without the follow-up embarrassment.

Calling me ‘honey’, the lovely assistant who was young enough to be my kid, held my hand as the oral surgeon shot me with novocaine, a little nose mask of gas blissfully distracting me from the needle as it pierced the roof of my mouth. After a dreamy pause while the numbing took effect, they both returned and after a snap! snap! snap! of rubber gloves, the surgeon came down towards me humming only a few notes of a tune I vaguely recognized. Usually I keep my eyes tightly shut while in a dentist chair, not wanting to see drills, needles or blood – and mostly I did today too – but for some reason, I peeked and caught a blur of two sets of hands – a tug and then a shadow as a tongs passed my tooth to lovely assistant. Next a push of gauze to staunch bleeding and a few more tugs of stitching. In and out and delivered in less than 30 minutes, to Molly, my chauffeur for the day. As pleasant as something like that can be.

I kicked myself a little when I went to pay the bill and discovered everything but the laughing gas was covered by my insurance.  I’d dropped $150 on a quick high to make the yank a little more bearable when really, the numbing would have done the job fine. What a wimp.

“Let’s go for a pedicure.” I suggested, thinking I deserved some pampering after my mini-non-ordeal and knowing Molly would appreciate the perk. Perhaps, as I suspect my daughter imagined, I was still high. I almost never venture into any of these ubiquitous salons. I can’t bear to have my fingernails scraped and filed nor the suffocating feeling of the polish on my fingers. Toenails are another matter and recently, looking down at my bare feet in a public place, I noticed they could use a little grooming.  We flip-flopped our way into a nail salon.

I chose red polish and sat down in one of the chairs and immediately remembered this disturbing expose in the New York Times in May. “Paul” and “Jane” greeted us and went to work. Did they, like the people profiled in Sarah Maslin Nir’s article, live in overcrowded rooms in Queens? Were they also woefully underpaid? Maybe abused? (read that fine article, please) What the hell was I doing sitting here being pummeled by an electronic massage chair with my feet in a plastic bin? In that tiny salon, at least 30 people were bent over hands and feet – mostly Chinese with a few Latina women (even more underpaid if the article holds true for this shop) cleaning up and offering massages. I hated it.  And I really hate emory boards – the sound, sight and especially feel of one being sawed across my toes made me wish I’d had a dose of novocain beforehand.

I overtipped and hurried out, the tissue still twirled between my crimson toes. This had not felt like pampering to me. I found it hard relaxing when… when – what? When paying someone to mess with my feet? Yes, having someone I cannot converse with, whose story I cannot know but only imagine as including dreams unlikely to be achieved by hunkering over my feet. Knowing they’re probably getting paid shit, makes me uncomfortable. I feel like I’m participating in something unjust. I am.

So my toes look great, my rotting tooth is gone and I barely felt a thing.

 

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Aging with Vinegar & Honey

Olive kitteridge

What does it say about me that I love the ornery, razor tongued Olive Kitteridge? I loved her in Elizabeth Strout’s engaging book by the same title and I love her as played by the superb Frances McDormand in the HBO series. Olive, lives in a gorgeous, small seaside town in Maine. The rocky, rough setting is the perfect backdrop for Olive who is kind of awful. No, wait: she’s really awful. She’s mean to her sweet husband, to her kid, to everybody. But I love her even as she makes me flinch. I don’t really know what to say about that except maybe she reminds me a tad of me — were I not to self-censure. And she definitely reminds me of how my own mother could be.

The other day ran into someone who worked with my mother in the real estate business more than 30 years ago. She said, “Cathy was a nice woman.” this former colleague said. I responded incredulously, “Really?” And she answered, “Well, you know…”

Don’t get me wrong, the woman clearly appreciated Cathy, probably got a kick out of her since she was smart as a whip, had integrity and wit and I know for a fact, shared the same leftist social consciousness as this former colleague. But nice? Not an adjective I would use to describe my mother. Nor myself.

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But, I’m trying. I’ve learned to curb my tongue in order to keep jobs, avoid fisticuffs in the subway, road rage incidents on the highway and just because – life is better without meanness. Our’s is not a home of fights – we are mostly kind to each other and when we’re not, we call each other out on it and quickly make amends. I am proud of how kind and empathetic my daughter is and she always help keep my nasty, devil-side in check. And frankly, it’s just easier to go to sleep at night without the guilt and regret of some verbal dagger thoughtlessly delivered during the day.

Olive has a soft spot for the broken ones – the drug addicted mother and her son. And she grows, eventually recognizing – at least within herself, the mistakes she’s made, the time she’s squandered. And in the end, she learns to love a little better (though still in her prickly Olive way). Now that’s inspiring. As we age, it seems we just become more of what we are. Late-life transformations, even slight, are rare. So there’s the challenge to pay attention to who we are now, decide if that’s who we want to be, and if not — get on with the work of changing.

Have you read Olive Kitteridge or watched the HBO series? Do you hate or love her?

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Shared Notes of Love in the Public Schools

 

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Molly and I pulled into a mostly empty lot at her old middle school 15 minutes before the start of a retirement send-off of her former Strings teacher. After 42 years of teaching, Barbara is hanging up her baton. I suggested to Molly we walk because it might be hard to park, imagining the lot overflowing as it often does when there are special events at the school. A little dismayed, I reminded myself Barbara was an orchestra teacher not a football coach. The arts in this struggling city get short shrift unlike the nearby wealthier and homogenous suburbs where near-infants are enrolled in Suzuki school.

Norwalk is more of a sports town. The soccer team is great, usually composed of children of newer immigrants from places where soccer is the real football.  The football team isn’t too bad either and the heavily supported band performing at all the football games always wins awards. Strings are trickier. Unable to march in the parade on Memorial Day with no pretty girls in leotards twirling flags and wooden guns over their heads, Classical music – orchestras have less mass appeal. After all, there’s no spectacle! You must sit and listen – quietly – no hotdog eating, no cheering.

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Barbara ignited a love of music in countless children in our urban community, including Molly who joined the elementary school’s orchestra program in third grade. Like many an arts teacher in struggling urban communities, Barbara juggled the elementary school strings program along with the middle school – traveling from school to school because the budget didn’t allow for a teacher in each.

On Stage

I needn’t have worried about a turnout at Barbara’s send-off. In no time at all, the stage filled with former students — kids sitting next to adults — some in their early 50s themselves — hard to believe when you look at their ageless mentor. Generations of students – some now teachers themselves – with cellos, violas, violins – even two bass players showed up, hauling their gigantic instruments like old friends.

I confess, I dreaded, especially in the early days, Molly’s school concerts – screechy selections of cheesy music grinding on for hours, but over the years, they got better and yesterday, I grinned through the whole jolly celebration of love. Love of music, of the shared bonds of the orchestra, of the woman who stood before them as quick with a hug and a stellar smile as with a stern word for her players to pay attention punctuated with appropriate baton tapping.

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I sat right up front (more were on stage than in the audience) so I could watch my girl – who sings (like an angel) now but hasn’t picked up her violin in ages. Here she was again, paired like the old days with her dear friend Darius who I have watched grow up into a lovely man. How easily they slid into an easy rapport, sharing smiles and wise cracks behind their music stand. A lovely throwback to a sweet time not so long past but now, perhaps gone forever. United for last songs, with generations of one woman’s students, making gloriously, imperfect music together.

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Clearing the Way

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We’ve been busy in our garden. Molly helped me yank the fence out, pulling and tearing at the wire gauge buried in the earth for more than a decade. For a few years, it actually worked – keeping critters away from lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes. Eventually a greedy groundhog boldly moved in, digging his doorway smack into the middle of my sunny patch. He spared my leeks, asparagus and an unruly horseradish plant neither of us were much interested in eating – but that’s it. For the past few years, I’ve abandoned the space to him, letting the patch grow wild with mint, weeds and the odd volunteer Maple tree.

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Taking down the fence entailed cutting away insidious vines woven through the links dense as a basket. Molly attacked the job ferociously, snipping away at metal and yanking the hairy roots out of the ground until triumphantly pulling the wire completely away from the earth. Our plan is to clear this sunny place so perfect for growing things and planting fruit trees. Peaches. We want to have our own peaches to pluck from the trees. And maybe an apple tree or two.

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For years, my stubborn determination to reclaim my vegetable garden, trying (organic) remedies to keep the old creature at bay, failed again and again. Despondent, I ignored this slice of precious acreage allowing ground cover and ivy to grow thick as branches. I can rarely resist a life metaphor when working in my garden and surely there are plenty here. No longer just surrendering to the bastard groundhog but letting go of the notion of what this plot of land should be and thinking more about what it can become. Clearing it away felt a Herculean job but was necessary to do – and how sweet to have my girl beside me in the task. I would not have managed as well alone — sometimes dreams become more accessible when shared.

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How much easier it will be to take care of this reclaimed space, how lovely it feels without the ugly and long-useless fence. And how delicious our own peaches will be — as long as that groundhog can’t climb trees.

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Sparks of Joy, Embers of Sadness

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is a wildly popular little book that has been sitting on the bestseller list for a few weeks. It’s a bit wacky and wonderful, and somehow, incredibly motivating. Basically, the author suggests that you get rid of anything that does not spark joy in you. I confess, I’d read only a few chapters before launching full speed ahead into sorting out the joy from no-joy in my closet. Doing this with Winter clothing was easy — especially after this year’s grueling season. I was all too happy to give a heave-ho to my woolies and packed up 3 garbage bags.

Hidden in the behind my clothes was also something I’d been ignoring for 11 years – since my husband’s death. An oversized blue duffle bag full of papers documenting symptoms of his demise including collection letters, bank notices, recovery books and saddest of all, his return plane ticket to England for May 5, 2004.  He never got on that flight, instead, in the early hours of May 1st, he chose to end his life.

I’d held onto this bag of sadness for more than a decade. Why? To remind myself of what a lost cause our marriage had become? Proof I had done what I could? I don’t need that kind of reminder any more. As the years have passed, it’s gotten easier to remember the wonderful things about the father of my daughter, the man I’d once been wild about. The funny, warm, generous guy he was before addiction swallowed our marriage and eventually, him. Time has delivered healing, allowing me to better remember the laughter, adventure and love we shared. On a recent balmy night – too warm for a fire, I sat in front of the fireplace feeding the flames with sad history, sparks flying up the chimney into the night sky.

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If You Can Read…

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The walk to Kingsbridge Library meant passing a ferocious dog. I dreaded that stretch of sidewalk. Running as fast as I could, heart pounding, I kept my eyes on the corner ahead, willing the dog not to leap from the second floor terrace from where he snarled. But on the day I went to sign up for my first library card, my heart beat with anticipation so I barely noticed the barking canine. The requirement was you needed to be able to write your name and after practicing like mad, I was ready to sign on the dotted line. I can still conjure that moment when I received the manila piece of cardboard, my name typed on it, a ticket to borrow books for free. The first and most precious document I’d ever signed up for and I was 5.  Through the library and reading I entered a world beyond any walls or city streets I knew.

A few years later we moved to our new neighborhood on Broadway across from VanCortlandt Park and Riverdale Library became my new destination. According to my memory, walking to either library took about half an hour but a quick Mapquest search of my old addresses indicates that they’re both less than 15 minutes on foot from where we lived, the distance greater because of the always heavy load of books I carried each way.

In elementary school, I tore through books about dogs and especially Collies, obsessed by Lad and the Sunnybank Collie series by Albert Payson Terhune. By 6th grade and through Junior High School, I haunted the Nature section particularly loving memoirs by naturalists and accounts and guides about surviving in nature. A country girl trapped in the city, I became a Euell Gibbons devotee, stalking mostly park dandelions and my favorite – fragrant Black Locust Blossoms delicious because of the sugar and batter they were fried in.

When adolescence hit, I discovered May Sarton and coveted a life like hers, observing nature, befriending the animals. Now, as an adult, I recognize a loneliness in her pronounced solitude and realize that probably resonated with me too. I read travel books and dreamed of living in Australia with all that weird wildlife. From a library in the Bronx I learned about tracking animals and when my parents bought a weekend house in the Berkshires, I wandered the forest searching mud and snow for prints and once, came upon a deer walking ahead of me on the quiet path – the ultimate prize for my solitary walks.

Reading was a common thread in my otherwise fractured family. Our faces were in books the way today’s kids are in their phones. The day my father moved out he told me he wanted to pursue his dream of writing, (not that he’d fallen in love with another woman) and that reading was his excuse for not writing. Within an hour of his reveal, he began packing his books, removing familiar titles I’d grown up with, leaving empty, dusty shelves.

My mother devoured The New Yorker, novels, and religiously, The New York Times. When she gave a sharp shake of her paper, I knew that meant she was about to read a passage that incensed or amused her, wanting to share her outrage or joy with me. If I also had a section of the paper, I’d do my best to snap my own pages to communicate my annoyance, on the ridiculous chance that she might understand my code and be quiet. I confess, now a mother myself, I do this — wanting to read something with my daughter who of course, also hates it but tells me so and I stop.

My sister and I are crazy about each other and in our weekly phone gabs, drill each other about our lives. What are you making for dinner tonight? (We wish we were at each other’s tables …) How’s work? What are you doing this weekend? And of course, what are you reading? Inevitably, we both have a few titles to recommend and so my daunting tower of books-to-be read grows.

Family Christmas presents are easy – we all love books. Kevin is an omnivorous reader with eclectic, far ranging interests. My other brother always has something specific and often obscure – a literary title or the latest guide to wild mushrooms.

When Molly was little, our Saturday morning of errands always included a stop at the Westport library – not our town but a far better endowed one than the one I live in with  a beautiful space and key: lots of parking.  We’d go through the shelves together, picking out picture books to add to the vast choice she already owned, for our nightly 5 books-a-bed reading. We lingered in the play area, her scouting out new friends over the wooden toy collection while I scanned the new book section. Did I tell you I work in a bookstore? My librarian friends who knew me from the store teased me about my ‘bus-man’s holiday’ – and of course, I knew them too. We’re like that, us book people, we just can’t get enough.

I cannot imagine my life without reading, without the crazy towers of books around me and it astounds me that not everyone shares this pleasure. During the years I gave tours at the United Nations, when I had groups of children, I always paused in front of the beautiful photo above, taken by former UN photographer and  dear friend John Isaac, to talk about literacy. I’d ask them, “What can you do if you can read?” The children piped up and I’d add “Cook!” (because I believe anyone can) and we’d go on endlessly with our list concluding, that if you can read, you can do ANYTHING.

IF YOU CAN READ YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! Sorry to yell but I just want to shout that from the rooftops.

PS: Conversely, if you can’t read… well, you’re screwed. Here’s some depressing information about the unnecessary illiteracy rate in the United States:  http://literacyprojectfoundation.org/community/statistics/ 

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Whatever I Want: Birthday Inspired Ruminations

My birthday was last week. I always try and celebrate by taking the day off work and doing whatever I feel like. But for dodging icy rain drops on the way to a morning yoga class and later, delicious dinner out, I stayed inside, sitting here, in the little room off of Molly’s bedroom, that in her absence, I claim as mine. I wrote, I read, I napped and spent way too much time reading Facebook posts and other people’s blogs. I made myself tea and took Tetley out when he wanted to go – although my handsome old guy is mostly content to sleep by my side. Bliss.

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Is this what I would do if by some miracle, I can, one day, I can not work – you know: retire? Maybe. But I’ve also been thinking a lot about traveling. Not the 10-day visits to 15 places kind of travel. More of the life-changing, where else might I live kind of travel. Partly this is financial – there are so many other places that cost so much less than here. It’s crazy how much money we need to even live ‘simply’. The car no sooner is paid off and it needs big repairs. The house always needs fixing or just requires constant ‘juice’ and electricity, oil, water bills are daunting, especially during these long, frigid winters. Add to that the cost of being hooked-up to society – telephone, internet, television. I have a good life but lived fairly close the bone and without a solid job, I would not be able to sustain all this for long.

Now that my daughter edges closer to independence – meaning half-way through college, I have started to imagine what I might, like on my birthday, want to do every day. Having a kid means turning that spot of what “I want to do” over to what you need to do for your kid. I did so willingly, wanting nothing more than to make her my joyful priority. But the deal is, the kid grows up and goes out into the world and figure all this stuff out themselves. Mine will be ready soon, I’ve no doubt. So time for me to re-evaluate, to ask the question I haven’t seriously considered for 20 years: what do I want?

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Happy mom-me in Dubrovnik 1995.

When I was the age my daughter is now, all I thought I wanted to do was travel, to see the world, live other places and so, I did some of that. After hopping on a Freddie Laker special ($100? something crazy like that!) I traveled through Europe for 4 months – from Ireland as far as Greece. I think I had barely $1,000 with me – all in traveler’s checks. I wrote letters and if anyone wanted to write to me, they did so c/o American Express. I think I picked up a letter or 2 in Athens. I never called. Can you imagine? No email never mind Facebook or messaging! I remember many adventures, wonderful connections – and an almost constant ache of loneliness. First of all, I’d made the mistake of falling hard for Gerry Clancy who I met in a pub in Limerick on the first day of my trip – and after an extraordinarily romantic interlude with him, continued on. I might have stayed were he not still spinning from a recent breakup. That story deserves to be told on it’s own another time, but for now, let’s just say, I spent many Europass miles for the rest of the trip, pining. And lonely. Would have things been different if I’d been able to connect through cyber space with family, friends, lover(s)? Absolutely!

Kyoto, 1985? Me and my Honda Cub - I felt so cool and looked so dorky!

Kyoto in 1985? Me and my Honda Cub. I felt so cool – looked so dorky!

While I look back and marvel at the richness of those days, the months of living an interior life out in the world, on my own. Really on my own with no loved ones ever really knowing where I was for long, what I was doing, hell – if I was alive – all of us just trusting in the universe. I think this set the foundation for the rest of my life – to believe I was okay in the world – anywhere.

But I do think the ability to reach out and connect and sustain relationships and share images, stories, joys, sorrows, and most of all – meals, while traveling, has changed the game, the experience, to one I would enjoy even more today. I love my solitude but I love connection. I like to have hours to myself to read, walk, contemplate – but I love company, sharing my experiences with like-souls, something not always so easy to find in a strange place.

Contemplating the Grand Canyon. One of the best trips of my life - drive-away car across country with Paula & Jane, 1981.

Contemplating the Grand Canyon. One of the best trips of my life – drive-away car across country with Paula & Jane, 1981.

I get inspiration from many traveler’s blogs – a few of them (like this and this one) are kids not so much older than my daughter so I follow them with a dual traveler interest and maternal concern. Some are young couples, some are a little older – a dreamy idea. Some have settled in one spot for awhile so are less traveler and more expat now, living for a time in a place – probably more my speed these days. But I devour their news, thrill at their adventures. And I start to imagine my own. These days, I’m thinking about Burma/Myanmar – a place that’s always appealed to me. Maybe they need English teachers? Or Cuba? Something about these places that seem locked in time appeal to me. (I’ll pass on North Korea, thank you, especially after reading this book.)

For now, I relish my life here, in almost-Spring Connecticut with a little room looking out at the oak, my dog beside me, my man in the next room both enjoying their sleep on this Sunday morning. Oh – and the New York Times delivered to my drive. I’m thinking about dinner – crockpot pulled out from a cupboard. So much stuff under there! Juicer, rice cookers, food processer, pots, pans, serving trays pulled out once a year. I’m still a long way from hitting the road. For now – I’ll dream, longingly gaze at friends photos of the cherry blossoms now in bloom in Kyoto, and check on the croci in my own garden, bravely torpedoing their way out of the frozen earth.

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