Thursday, April 28, 2011

In the Interim

I've been off in my own world, taking a bit of blogging break. I've been periodically working on my book (!!!!) and also just taking a breather.

I've been on a poetry kick lately. Rilke. Dickinson. Oliver. One of my new favorite finds: Dean Rader (you can visit his blog here.) I learned that one of my high school friends married a writer. Then I learned he was a poet. I bought his book, Works & Days. So. Good. (Side note: he was the Winner of the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize.)

So, while I'm on my little hiatus, I give you one of my favorite Dean Rader poems:

The universe (which others call the Library) - Borges
by Dean Rader (Works & Days)

He hated tomatoes
And was afraid

Of the noises in the
Desert at dusk.

At times, the numbers
Thumped across the brain

Like horses or bad sentences.
Just a second of peace,

He would say to himself.
A moment

To see images, music, colors.
The calculus of the visible.


What does it mean to see light
And think of a poem?

To see numbers
And arrive at heaven?

To look at stars
And picture a river?

What does it mean to know time
The way one knows a language?

To say that centuries or seconds
Are the letter t in a poem of infinite metaphors?


If you divide the present by the past
You arrive at perception.

If you see light as wave,
Your hear the word silence.

If you see light as particle,
You hear the word wind.

Is the opposite
Of darkness, darkness?


Einstein thinks:
I know that what we are,

We have become, and what
We have become we turn

To shadow, and what the shadow
Touches, the present forgets.

Memory is the shadow of the present
Stretching backward

Forming the equation
To prove Borges was right:

God is a book.

The translator: me.
The language: desire.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not Almost Seven

Abby and I were in the kitchen recently talking about the upcoming summer. We talked about next round-up of family birthdays, including hers. I told her that I couldn't believe that she would be seven this summer.

Because I busied myself washing dishes as we chatted, I couldn't see her incredulous stare. Her stare finally cut through my dish washing and I caught it, peripherally. I looked up from the sudsy sink.


"Yes, sweets?"

"Ummm, I'm going to be eight this summer."

Five little letters. One small word. Eight.

That little word smacked me and left a stinging swath. That five-letter-word sucked all the air out of the room. Abby continued to watch me. The drop in my gut validated that what she said was true.


I looked at her, unable to disguise my slight confusion--and luckily, she seemed to get a kick out of my mental lapse. I really, truly thought she was turning seven. Interestingly, I didn't think she was six. She's seven, turning seven. Of course! Seven turning seven makes all the sense in the world.

My mind had reached over and hit its own little pause button.

But my mental pause didn't reach any further than my mind. Time spinning, spinning, spinning. Recklessly this time. Time, moving with her own motive, laced with her own prerogatives. I stared at Abby. Blond, wind-whipped pieces of hair escaped her pony tail and framed her transitional face. Angularity had crept in and replaced once full, round cheeks. Adult teeth crowded her mouth. Her questioning blue eyes sparkled while showing that their particular shade of innocence had shifted just a tinge.

This permutation of time's passage left me reeling and raw. The usual questions surfaced, as if their rhetorical repeat would magically make my mental pause button effective:

When did this happen? Eight? Didn't I just rub Desitin on her diaper-rashed tushy? How did I miss the culmination of moments leading us here?

No longer a little girl.

Almost Eight.

Friday, April 15, 2011


As a result of Catherine Zeta-Jones' statement regarding her Bipolar Disorder, the news media and internet are a flurry of commentary. I adore Zeta-Jones for her brave admission which helps to destigmatize depressive disorders. I have many dear friends who've battled their own depressive episodes. My friends Christine and Lindsey each write beautifully and openly about their dealings with depression. I find all of these women inspirational and sheroic (I totally stole that word from someone and I can't remember who they are so I can't give them credit. Apologies to that inspired person).

Yesterday morning, as I sat with my lap-top and read my Twitter stream, I read these two tweets from another shero, Jane Roper:

Jane Roper, writer
Yes, that's right. I just overshared in a big way. But it's part of my ongoing mission to destigmatize depression/bipolar disorder.
Jane Roper, writer
Forgot to take my meds last night. Feel like junkie in first hours of withdrawal. (I think?) Oy.

Brava!, I thought. Good for you and everyone who does their part to normalize this disease. HIGH FIVE. I applaud anyone who does anything to destigmatize depression because each time we share our struggles we extend air into another's lungs and normalize the human experience.

But my elation quickly retreated as one of those sneaky "uh-oh" feelings wrapped around my lungs. I realized--with gut-wrenching clarity--that I hold onto old, worn beliefs about my own depression which contribute to the very stigmas I wish to see obliterated. (But, luckily for everyone else, I reserve all my vitriol for me.)

My continual self-flagellation and judgement of my disease actually perpetuate the stigma. Damn it!, (shaking fist at the sky) I hate when that happens! This insight didn't fully crystallize until yesterday morning--I am so disappointed that I still suffer from depression. I thought, that by now, that I'd be able to manage this disease without medications. Or that, by now, I'd have sent this dark monster packing. My disappointment dances through my days while jeeringly mocking me. And frustratingly, the bitchy self-critic is actually a symptom of the very disease against which I rail. I feel that I'm weaker, somehow, less-than, because I've haven't mastered depression.

My logic denounces this silliness. Even as I see the words on my screen, I cringe at the ridiculousness of them. However, I realize that the maniacal stronghold of depression works into the dark recesses of my being--and my thoughts. I hope that by sharing these thoughts here, I can begin to jettison these cramped, toxic untruths.

Depression runs through the intricate tributaries of my heritage. Many different variations of the disease clog my genetic pool. Bipolar ebbing here, depressive episodes rising there. It'd be quicker to list those relatives who do not suffer some form of mental illness than to list all those who do. Unfortunately, because of those aforementioned societal taboos, no one discussed the depression epidemic in our family. The malformed DNA strands responsible for this unwelcome disease were brushed aside and ignored. Until recently. Now, it's discussed with a bit more candor. But, in my very humble opinion, not enough.

I hope to change that in my own family. I hope to find the wells of strength to do just that. Smash open that damned taboo. Today, I start. With this post.

I've always held hope in my palm, like a penny at a wishing well, hoping that with further self-actualization and maturation I would step out of the inky depressive rivers. Over 15 years later, I still take anti-depressants and occasionally I take anti-anxiety meds. I still need them. And this pisses me off immensely. I recognize the irony in this bitter pill--I know the drugs help me--I KNOW they allow me to function normally. But...that but still lingers....


I remember the first days after I received my diagnosis of depression, roughly 15 years ago. I'd known for months that I was very depressed and finally found a doctor with whom I felt safe, comfortable and heal-able. She prescribed an anti-depressant and lots and lots of therapy. I embraced the thought of therapy. But the drugs? Nope. I wasn't ready to take them. Fear perched in my gut and heart--I was so, very, very scared.

Would the drugs numb me to life? Would I still live fully? Would I still feel? Would I become a zombie-lady, bumping aimlessly through life?

The first day, the foil starter pack stared at me from my Formica bathroom counter. I stared back. I didn't break the foil--I didn't take a pill. I proudly breezed off to work thinking, I don't need those things. I'm stronger than this. The second, third and fourth days that pill pack sat, untouched. I saw it each morning and each night, those tiny little pink pills that would supposedly make me feel better. That would lessen the caustic, damning views of myself. That would allow me to get healthy. Geesh, I thought, as IF.

Day six day came and I belligerently grabbed that now water-stained foil pack of pills. I sat on my gold, wide-wale corduroy couch and stared down the pills. The late, Saturday afternoon sun spilled into my tiny apartment; dust speckles danced on my grooved, faded hardwood floors. The sounds of my Chicago neighborhood, usually audible in a constant din, faded completely. The only two sounds I heard: my throbbing, questioning heart and the crinkle of the foil pack beneath my fingers.

One of my tanned legs swung over the edge of the couch, the other sat tucked beneath me. Disappointment flooded me, almost drowned me. My defeat inundated the room and thwarted the noble efforts of the tenacious sun beams. My failure owned me--depression was stronger than I. The foil pack glinted and fought with the sun, casting funny patterns on the ceiling. I turned the pack over and over, mentally volleying my decision. As much as I grappled, the answer was clear--continue through the caustic, grappling days of my depression, or give this foil-wrapped life--line a try.

I grabbed a glass of water. I pushed a pill through the foil wrapper. The foil crinkled. My heart thumped. I pushed through the inky, low-lying clouds. And I swallowed that pill.

I have more to say. So much more. But for now, I have some questions for you: what stigmas, if any, do you hold? Are you open and caring with others while judging yourself? Have you ever dealt with depression, or helped someone through depression?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Married? Married. Married? Yes, MARRIED. Geesh.

The most alive moment comes when those who love each other
Meet each other's eyes and in what flows between them then. - Rumi

This weekend, my brother got married.

My brother. And his new wife.

They. Are. Married.

My baby brother is nearly 8 years younger than me. As a much older sibling, and with no siblings between us, my relationship with my brother never embodied sibling rivalry. I remember the day he was born. I loved spending time with him, and he with me. But because I left for college when he was just 10, I didn't live at home while he morphed through the daily transformation of boy to young man. Despite this distance, we always enjoyed a close, warm relationship, albeit unfortunately infrequent at times. I always have, and still do, love him fiercely.

Now that we're both adults, we enjoy the erasure of the years that, at times, frustratingly distanced us. We've crossed the age bridge and we're not older/younger anymore, we're friends.

Last weekend, he got married. The two celebratory days rose and swirled with love, contentedness and joy. I rode the current, soaking up every last bit of the wonderfulness that was their wedding. Visions of days past and decades-old memories rose up for their moment in the spotlight. Strands of the past and hopes for the future embodied this space, this celebration of two. Each juncture of their wedding radiated grace and love; each moment a mirror, reflecting the inner, steadfast commitment and love between them.


On Monday morning, with the grace and flurry of the weekend behind me, I finally sat alone with my thoughts. The magnitude of their union forcefully smacked me. Tears gathered in my eyes and emotion clogged my throat as I reflected on the moments, some blurry, some crisp, swirling and rattling through my mind.

So I called my brother, and his wife (my sister-in-law!!), and through my sleepy-hoarse voice, I inarticulately choked out how fabulous they were. And how honored I was to be there. And how proud I was of them. And how much I loved them.


I want to share so many details with you. The careful tutelage that my brother and his bride took with all their guests. The exquisite details of the bride's dress and how it served the perfect canvas for her gorgeous, contagious happiness.

She. Was. Stunning.

The clear, yellow, late afternoon sun that chased away the fog and clouds that had lingered for days. The seriousness with which Abby and Henry took their wedding duties as Flower Girl and Ring Bearer. The exquisite views of the city. The rugged, confident handsomeness of the groom. The joyful tears that brimmed in the bride's eyes as my brother said, "I Do." The giddy elation rivaling the bubbling champagne as they publicly formalized their union. The high-fives that Hubby and I gave each other because we partied with the young folk until 2:30 am (3:30 am Eastern--which is notable because to us East Coasters, it was an hour later ... and we're almost a full decade OLDER).

But more than anything, I want to share this: this weekend, I fell so much more in love with my brother and my sister-in-law. The gussets and shades of love constantly amaze me; it's so expansive, so broad. Just as soon as I think that it would be impossible to trump the amount of love I feel for someone, the love bubbles up and multiplies, exponentially filling my heart and my life.

These two people? My brother and my sister-in-law? They are so upstanding. So gracious. So damn cool. Is it possible that this chiseled, loving, intelligent, accomplished, handsome man--who is, and will forever be one of my favorite men on the planet--used to be the round-cheeked boy with soft brown curls? And his new wife, well, she's spectacular; intelligent, accomplished, kind, funny, fun, (did I mention intelligent), caring, warm and beautiful. I cannot wait to fill my years knowing her more and more.

As I watched the two of them say "I Do", my breath suspended. I clasped my manicured hands. An exposed, red-brick wall served as their backdrop. Abby sat next to me, legs swinging her ballet-slipper clad feet. The suit-clad Henry sat next to her, his expression a delicate mix of curiosity and happiness. From my seat, I could only see my brother's silhouette. But I had a clear view of the bride's face. I watched all of her unspoken words and sentiments shine from her eyes, magnetically attached to my brother's own eyes. It's like they spoke their own relationship Morse code.

Now, I get to watch them settle into this next phase of their life. Together. Married.


That evening, I hung out with their friends. For the first time in a long time, I chilled with my brother and his contemporaries (point of reference: the last time I "hung out" with him and his friends, I was 18 and they were 10, running through the house doing what 10-year-olds do). They are now cool, accomplished, 20- and 30-somethings. Their friends' stories of them lit up the night, sparking laughter, tears and broad smiles. So many of their pals took the time to tell me how much they loved each of them. I learned so much about these two--and about how they love those that they love. I got to see each of them through a wider lens. As a result, I floated around like a helium balloon, riding the high of their fabulousness.

And now their life continues. The downs. The ups. The middle. And everything in between. They're ready. I know it. And more importantly, so do they.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Drunk on Fresh Air

Sunlight finds her muse in
Winter's protected luminosity
Resplendently opening arms to

She's come again
Kissing their cheeks
Tousling their hair
Spring weaving warmth and chills

April's shade held firmly hostage
by winter's embrace
Stalwart, returning on twilight dusk

Buoyant youth rejoicing on
Heralding the retreating
Vestiges of winter

Tipsy from the sweet nectar
of Spring's perennial promise

Running, screaming, laughing, sliding, swinging coats
scarcely hanging on
A blurred kaleidoscope of
Frenetic, pent-up aspiration

Barely perceptible green hues
Secretly whispering
Her return yielding

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Trip to the Museum

Earlier this week, I chaperoned Abby's class on a trip to the Field Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. I'd never visited before. I snapped photos along the way and once we returned home, several quotes found their way to me which provided a perfect caption commentary for the photos.


After entering the museum, this bronze-cast moon grabbed my attention.

And once home, these words of Rilke illuminated:

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. Rainer Maria Rilke

And then I found this ethereal gem from Rumi:

Who could be so lucky? Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon. Rumi


The graceful neck bones of the dinosaur below directed my eyes up to a beautifully designed ceiling. I love how the light plays on the hexagons. Each individual cut creates a shape which creates a pattern--like each individual moment crafts a day which crafts a life.

As I saw each exhibit, I pondered the devotion, time and patience it took to unearth each bone. Breathtaking, really.


Then, from the third floor of the museum, I gazed out onto Central Park, complete with her Spring-ready trees and nodding daffodils way below. I'm always amazed at how quiet and calm the city appears from above.


I adore wrought-iron windows. Their graceful bends and intricate patterns seem secretive and archaic.

Any device in science is a window on to nature, and each new window contributes to the breadth of our view. Cecil Frank Powell
(I found it a bit ironic that I contorted myself into one window to take a photo of another window. I did this once before, while at the Vatican. As I leaned out the window, snapping away, everyone thought that I must be photographing The Pope himself. Imagine their disappointment when they learned I was merely photographing a lamp post and a wrought iron window. See below.)


After leaving the museum, fresh, cool air and Teddy Roosevelt and a Native American guide greeted us. They looked handsome and regal against the glorious periwinkle, cloudless blue sky.


After seeing the natural and intricately beautiful displays of Mesozoic dinosaurs, moose, elephants and ancient rock structures, I felt as if I could hold in my hands my finite, infinitesimal life. When Abby and I stole a few moments to ourselves, we marveled over the incomprehensible concept of Trillions of Years. (As we talked, she leaned her lithe, long body against mine. That connectedness was blissful.) We sat, mesmerized by the vastness of time, stretching so far in each direction. Simultaneously, I acknowledged the pulsing knowledge that although our lives are but a swift blip, they are not futile.

And then I found these words:
No individual exists in their own nature, independent of all other factors of life. Each has the totality of the Universe at their base. All individuals have, therefore, the whole Universe as their common ground...Lama Govinda

This planet, this universe, providing a home to all. I love trips to museums and the variegated screen of perspective which lingers long after I shuffle the lengthy exhibits, pull on my coat (corral 100 2nd graders) and leave. An opportunity to remember:

For small creatures such as we the vastness
is bearable only through love. Dr. Carl Sagan