Tag Archives: Holidays

I’ve Been Traveling Oh So Long

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This time of year it’s so busy busy busy that I just get caught up in it like a branch in a river. There I go, past deadened raspberry brambles and soft sweet pines and peeling white birches. Over leaden brown rocks and sifting sand. Through nameless towns, crusted grey with salt, under bridges bearing the weight of countless souls. I flow on. Buying stuff, wrapping, baking, working, cleaning, working more, writing checks, calling relatives for gift ideas, dodging or not dodging party invitations, sitting through holiday concerts, driving kids over hill and dale, December birthdays, piles of catalogues, trash, more trash, stuff, more stuff.

If I get a moment to stop, to cling to the river bank for a quiet moment, I feel hollow. I am pressing my nose against a steamy glass window where lovely powdery rolls are piled like snow banks and there is a gentle ancient longing. I feel close but out of reach, there but not there. I am untethered and yet entwined in a complex and fractured life. I miss my mother, and realize I have always missed my mother, even when she was alive and in the same room with me.

And so this year, instead of presents, I ask for presence. Let me be in the room with the people I love in a way the says, I am here. I am connected. To you. I picture roots, twisted and strong growing down from my heart to my feet. Eyes open and clear, ready for the throw down where the heavens open up and hurl whatever they’ve got, and I in return, stay. Remain rooted to the earth, to my children and family and friends.

If you, like me, are caught in the holiday pitch and fervor, I hope you find presence. And if you are not there, if Hanukah during Thanksgiving already had its way with you, and you are coming up for a little air and watching us gentiles running around like chickens, I wish you presence too. Something we could all use, no doubt, as the river continues to unfurl.

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Do You See What I See?

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I went to watch this video of Junot Diaz and Karen Russell talking at the New Yorker festival, but first I had to sit through a commercial about Cover Girl’s Bombshell mascara. I learned that it’s an enormous breakthrough in mascara. It makes your lashes bigger, sexier, bombshell-like.

This reminded me of a commercial for Max Factor’s 2000 Calorie mascara that increases your lashes by 300x their normal size. I’m not sure how they measured this claim, and I really don’t understand why it takes 2000 calories to do this, but apparently, you get really plump lashes when you use it.

I wasn’t planning to get sidetracked with mascara when I went to watch the Diaz/Russell video. I was thinking, these are two writers who are really out there. These are people who wrestle with language like those guys in shiny gold tights and lightening bolt masks. They must practically spit out blood and maybe a few of their teeth when they write. I want to hear what they have to say.

And I started thinking about these two writers after reading this short story by George Saunders, which he submitted to get into the MFA program at Syracuse University. Talk about out there. This story is bombshell out there. It’s way more than 2000 calories out there.

These writers look perfectly normal. They look like they hold day jobs, pay taxes, eat oatmeal, watch television. They could have families, shop at Target, drive hybrids. Maybe they wear mascara, or know people who do.

But inside they are spinning. They are mixing time and space and colors and metaphors. They are jumping off cliffs and walking through desserts and eating raw liver and diving head first down rabbit holes.

How do they do it? Courage, grief, callused to other people’s opinions? I don’t know what it takes but I am in awe.

This time of year exacerbates the madness and horror and beauty of things. It goes off like a bombshell – with glitter and Hallmark and Black Friday and greed and homelessness and family melt-downs and charity and sorrow and ghosts. I think these writers would say there is only one thing to do.

Give in to it. Like a Jedi Knight, close your eyes and feel the force. Plump up. Tell your story. Behold.

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When You’re a Jet You’re a Jet All the Way

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Over a month since I’ve been here and I don’t have a single decent excuse to throw at you. My head feels like a Ninja blender most days, filled with ice cubes and peanut butter and eggplant parmesan and big honkin’ Brazil nuts and liverwurst and gouda cheese and low sodium V-8. A smoothie from hell.

The day job’s spilled over into the rest of my life, the car’s on its last leg, the writing plods along like the slug that it is, my house is falling apart around me, my kids are my kids are my kids, my dogs need their toenails clipped and their butts expressed and they have cabin fever and keep humping the couch pillows, my spouse is working like the workaholic that she is and fades out with me during Primetime television at night and here’s the damnedest thing, I keep getting older. That bugger time just pushes along.

Don’t get me wrong, I go through the motions, but I feel dull as an old nickel choking at the bottom of someone’s penny jar. My only hope is to write to Ellen and get her to fly me out to California and save my sorry ass. But my story is so lame compared to all the other heartbreakers with their deployed spouses and termite infested homes and 17 children and gambling debts.

‘Tis the season. Inadequacy looms behind every missed bargain, limp latke, pilled sweater, new chin hair, broken ornament.

I know, as my mother would always say, this too shall pass. I will wake up soon and feel lucky. My hair will behave, there won’t be a run in my knee high stockings, the coffee will taste amazing and give me the perfect buzz, the kid at the Dunkin Donuts drive through might wink at me, I’ll think of a perfect sentence, write an scene that’s hysterical and poignant, my kids will make me laugh, I’ll have dinner with a friend who will tell me I smell good, I’ll organize my linen closet or find the perfect recipe for vegan gingerbread with only 5 ingredients. Life will smile on me, show me the error of my ways. All things will once again be possible.

I know there is an up to this down, a ying to this yang. I know I’ll come back to this blog eventually. I’ll write shit for anyone bored or brave enough to read it. This is the way my world spins. With a bang and a whimper, both.

It’s good to be back here, waxing and waning. Gives me a glimmer of the “H” word, dare I say it, hope. Throwing it out there to you. Spread it around when you get it. If you’re in the gang of shame and loathing, you know we’ve got to keep that sucker going.

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Oh, Joseph, I’m So Tired

mangerDo you think that Mary-the-Virgin-Mother-of-God ever looked to the heavens after traveling a million miles through desert and bumpy terrain on the back of a saggy-ass donkey passing Inn after Inn with No Vacancy signs but Joseph insisting they can’t ask anyone where the next empty Inn is because he’ll find it himself then they finally end up in a filthy freezing cold manger and she has to give birth without an epidural or even a friendly female face who gets that she’s going through the most painful and terrifying thing in the world and instead there’s bloody straw and a nosy shepherd and three old men with ridiculous gifts when she really needs something useful like a baby wipe warmer or a binky and she says, I hate my life?

Or was it later, with Jesus sneaking off to the market hanging out with hookers and heading up a gang of Apostles and busting up temples and telling everyone he was the son of God and Joseph always working working working fixing other people’s houses while their kitchen cabinets looked like shit and she could never get the utensil drawer open without a fight and her health was going to hell in a handbasket because of stress and poor diet and she was always the one hosting the Seder taking Jesus to play practice making the dentist appointments and putting the toilet paper in the holder and not just sitting out on the sink. Do you think she sat down at the end of the day with a glass of Mogen David and said dear God give me strength?

Christmas. The mother of all holidays. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas there is this eerie residual affect, a dusting of angst that coats your skin and makes you sneeze. So much tinsel and jingling and debt and old wounds. Enormous sighs of disappointment. Frenzied sugar highs and lows. Tender hopes and dreams bruised and buried deep inside. Impossible expectations and global jealousy and utter fatigue. We love it, we hate it, we wrestle it to the ground and strangle every ounce of beauty from it year after year trying, forever trying, to get it right.

I made it through in the usual condition. Gained weight, landfill of trash from wrapping paper and packaging, cookies sitting in tins still not delivered to neighbors, a few spot on gifts and lots of pajamas, missing friends and family who live too far away, didn’t send out cards, feeling hollow and tired, wondering if I’ll ever get it right. How did you do this year?

PS  I stole the title for this post from Richard Yates. Read this short story if you get the chance.

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