My outlook on daily life will inspire you and make you laugh.
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You're Not Alone. It's a threat.I've got my eyes on you, girl. I see what you did. Don't think you can get away with it.In fourth grade, I fall off the balance beam. When bone smashes against wooden floor, a snap precedes shock by an instant. I’m not alone; the gym teacher must be watching, ready to yell at me for breaking the balance beam. I imagine my classmates watch, too, ready to make fun of me. I sneak through the big double doors under the exit sign. Halfway down the sidewalk, pain...
I've got my eyes on you, girl. I see what you did. Don't think you can get away with it.
In fourth grade, I fall off the balance beam. When bone smashes against wooden floor, a snap precedes shock by an instant. I’m not alone; the gym teacher must be watching, ready to yell at me for breaking the balance beam. I imagine my classmates watch, too, ready to make fun of me. I sneak through the big double doors under the exit sign. Halfway down the sidewalk, pain blasts through the shock, but I limp and sob the remaining four blocks home.
In the doctor's office, Dad watches, ready with the belt, if I'm faking. The doctor pronounces my ankle broken. My parents station me on the sofa. My brother brings school books home, with notes from the teacher tucked inside, assignments to keep me busy. Mama cooks, or sweeps, or studies the Burpee seed catalog. She doesn’t ask how I am. It doesn’t matter. The house is quiet. For eight blissful weeks, I breeze through a whole year's worth of schoolwork, then settle into The Snowy Day … My Weekly Reader … The Pink Motel. I’m alone, safe from ridicule and punishment.
You’re not alone. It's a lie.
I am alone. It's miserable.
A week before Christmas. My husband is across the country on retreat. My family are scattered over half a time zones. I was counting on the good cheer at my semi-retired girlfriend's house—she lives to throw parties. This year she plans to spend the holiday with her in-laws. In desperation I phone a depressed acquaintance, who’s outlived her entire family, fears a slippage into senility, and depends on her parakeet for companionship. I pretend to commiserate with her about how the two of us are ending up by ourselves on Christmas, all the while waiting for an opportune moment to suggest we spend it together. She’s very sorry. She’s made plans.
I must figure out how to make friends and create plans. I join Art Today!, a subscription to monthly gatherings held at artsy locales. The first email announces a catered buffet at a hip urban gallery and a tour of the exhibit, followed by a theater performance at a venue across town. I register right away because space is limited, which is validation that I am, at last, part of the in crowd. GPS delivers me to the gallery, but I navigate the block in ever-wider concentric circles, because I’m afraid to parallel park. Inside, I let a group of ten chatty art connoisseurs ahead of me in the buffet line, because I’m afraid they’ll be mad otherwise. I plant myself near the door, because I’m afraid to talk to these adept jugglers of glasses and plates and conversation. After the tour, I find my car and drive to the theater, which thank god, has a parking lot. At intermission, I refuse my bladder’s urgency, remain in my seat, because I’m afraid I’ll trip over the carpet and fall on my face en route to the restroom. Art Today! produces a screaming migraine, but no new friends.
You’re not alone. It's a secret.
My semi-retired girlfriend, who lives to throw parties, throws a book party for me. As we admire her garden, heat from the wooden deck seeps through my sandals, warming the soles of my feet. A woman I have not met rushes toward us, her flushed face stretched into a grin. When I reach to shake her hand, she wraps me in a bear hug. She mentions one of my essays. “I can’t get over it. When you describe getting lost—I feel exactly like you do.” We skip past the awkward part that happens when you first meet. We’re already old buddies.
We move indoors, where the guests take their seats and I hook up to a microphone. Before me sit busy men and women (I know this from Facebook), who have included my party in their plans. I didn’t beg, blackmail, or bribe them. Their attention is a mystery to me. When I finish reading my stories, they tell theirs.
“Me, too. I loved My Weekly Reader.”
“Me too, I never know what to say.”
“Me, too. Hated school.”
"Me, too. My father kept the belt in his T-shirt drawer."
"Me, too. Christmas is hell."
Affection settles over the room, like morning dew. Writing—a solitary act—has led me into the heart of intimacy. As with all bits of delicious gossip, I’m the last to discover the secret: I’ve never been alone.
A reunion with Y has been delayed for years, challenged by too many time zones and too many commitments. A car rounds the corner. Maybe it’s her. Is it her? Yes, it’s her. I leap out of mine, slam the door. I catch the first glimpse of her grin, mischievous and world-weary, unchanged since we were twenty. I jump up and down. When she parks and turns off the engine, I race to meet her. “You’re here! You’re here!”What happens that transforms me into a Mexican...
What happens that transforms me into a Mexican jumping bean?
I visit K, our homes separated by a half-day drive. When we hug, her shoulder blades poke into my arms, her cotton blouse is soft against my cheek. The embrace is strong and tight—our friendship a protective shell. As she swirls around the kitchen making lunch, her footfalls vibrate across the floor and up through the soles of my feet; I feel supported by the earth that holds us both. The summer heat that settles on her shoulders settles on mine, too. And I feel swaddled by the air.
What happens that shrinks an entire planet-load of goings-on down to only she and me?
We also talk on the phone once a week, scheduled like meetings. The conversations follow a pattern. First we cover the news: how’s your foot, how’s your head, how’s your husband, how’s yours. Then we ponder, question the reality of foot and head and husband. Her voice speeds with excitement, mine too. We pause, slow down. We sink into each other’s company, The pauses lengthen, as though we’ve slipped into meditation. The only words remaining: I love you, bye bye. Afterward, it feels like butterflies are flitting all over my skin, and I’m breathing joy instead of oxygen.
What happens that tingles my skin?
L and I chat via email and Facebook. I post a commentary about the nature of relationships, toss off questions and opinions like jokes. Truth is, the questions do puzzle me, but today I hesitate to reveal my soft underbelly online. I’ll be an easy target for ridicule. L responds with … attention. Her post gives weight to my comments; she gives them—and me—value. I’m taken aback by the value. The typed words release vibrations, living breathing bits of L that say it’s okay to feel the puzzlement, hey, let’s hash this out together. She rescues me from my own darn self. I am seen, and the heat of shyness creeps upward from my neck.
What happens that causes my face to flush?
Presence, the creator of friends both techno and retro.
Presence happens in a parking lot, a kitchen, on the phone, and yes, on Facebook. Go out and grow yourself a friend. Be present.
Searching for My Heart: Essays about Love is now available in paperback on Amazon. Buy it here. (Coming soon to IndieBound, Barnes & Noble online, and iBooks.)At the end of a retreat, the word love popped into my awareness and refused to un-pop—a four-letter annoyance that blared from the tabloids at the checkout counter before sneaking into a conversation I overheard about politics, right after turning up in a book-marketing podcast. I'd never had a relationship with love, and now I...
At the end of a retreat, the word love popped into my awareness and refused to un-pop—a four-letter annoyance that blared from the tabloids at the checkout counter before sneaking into a conversation I overheard about politics, right after turning up in a book-marketing podcast. I'd never had a relationship with love, and now I couldn't get away from the damn thing.
"I love you." What? "God is love." Huh? "Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places." Where’s the right place?
I planted the mystery in the back of my mind and got on with life’s daily slog. Cleaned the house. (Once.) Baked a pie. Took a nap. (Quite a few naps.) Went to a funeral. These exciting events ended up as essays. It turns out, they also ended up as answers to the question what does love mean.
The result is Searching for My Heart. Buy yourself a copy.
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