February 2010


I have always been aware of myself as a participant in my life, like an omniscient narrator or an old self looking upon a younger self in memories.  It’s a unique perspective.  Sometimes it’s amazing – stepping back and deeply appreciating my situation – and sometimes it’s just horrible of me to be so disconnected.  Sometimes, I’ve been in a moment and closed my eyes and thought, “I just want to capture this and remember it forever.”  Despite my terrible memory – and there are far too many examples of it to count – I’ve been able to keep those moments in my mind in a way that sets them apart.

I wish I could say that they were events of particular significance, but they’re not.  It’s shameful that I can remember them better than things I should recall.  Once, I was sitting under a tree in the Boston Common, in the sunshine, between classes.  I remember the sound of traffic and the way the sun felt, and I remember thinking that this moment would pass, and I would grow older, and I would miss being there.  I wanted to hold on to how everything looked and felt, including my own youth.

When I have somewhere to go that makes me really thrilled, I try to drag out my preparations even days in advance.  Lengthen the experience: plan what to wear, what to bring, imagine what it will be like.  On the drive there, I get excited to arrive, but it is tempered by a voice that says that before I know it, it will be over, and I will be back in my car for the ride home.  And no matter how much I cherish the moments while I’m in them, before I know it – I am.

I don’t particularly like viewing things as pages in my story while it’s being written.  I don’t do it all the time, but lately I’ve been feeling it more profoundly.  I’m tired of thinking, tired of the inner monologue.  I want desperately to lose myself in a crowd, to make rash decisions and mistakes just like everyone else, to fall in love no matter how ill-advised it may be, to be spontaneous and wild, to live in the moment.

I don’t remember those moments very well – those times when I’ve stopped observing and just let go – but I know the smile I get on my face when it happens.  It’s muscular memory.  And when I am actually old and grey and sitting on my rocking chair or on some bench at the nursing home, letting the sun warm my wizened features, I would rather smile that smile and not know why than recall those stupid memories of self-awareness, created and framed as by an artist, with no true sense of the subject.

I love Valentine’s Day.  I know that I’m supposed to act all bitter since I haven’t been in a relationship for some time and don’t currently have a boyfriend (the hallmarks – pun intended – of a Valentine’s Day hater).  But I love romance, even if it’s not happening to me.

It probably has something to do with my first real Valentine’s Day.  I was sixteen years old, which – it just occurred to me – was exactly sixteen years ago.  I got a dozen red roses.  I didn’t have a boyfriend at that time, either, but I knew who had sent them.  And yet, as much as I loved the flowers, I still didn’t get together with him.  I actually went back and read my diary today and it turns out that over the next nine months, despite his letters and phone calls and declarations, I waited and made him wait.  For what?  To find out if I loved him.  He was my friend, but I didn’t know if there could be more than that.  I can’t believe he waited, but he did.  And it was worth it.  We were together two and a half years.

I actually spent most of the next eight years in relationships.  I LOVED relationships.  It wasn’t until the end of the last one, when I was 24, that I realized that living without one was worthwhile as well.  It wasn’t long after I started sowing my wild oats that I moved so that my son, who was two at the time, could come live with me.  It was a five year journey to the adoption.  Although I dated during those years, it was half-hearted.  I was undergoing so many changes and facing so many challenges that it was unrealistic to try to find someone to be my partner during all that.  And I hardly knew what I was doing; I hardly knew myself in all that mess.

Part of the reason I moved us back to the area was because as much as I’d gained in those years, I’d also lost something.  I needed the space for us to start over as our own family, but to also start feeding my own interests again.  This is a place where I know I’ll be living until he graduates high school, which is the first time since I was his age that I knew where I’d be living for the next ten years.  I’ve changed for change’s sake so many times that I grew to love it.  Now I’m truly living without conflict, without drama, without indulging the itch to run away.  I can’t.  At least for a while. And it’s turned my focus to the present.  To fun.  To singing.  To dancing.  To flirting.  Surprisingly, I love it.

I’m not bitter about Valentine’s Day because I know that love is never too far away.  I’m in a great place for it.  And if I have the patience that I once did, I will find it again.  You never know when someone is going to knock on your door and deliver you roses.  I have to always believe that’s a possibility.  Because even after all these years, I’m still a romantic.  I hope I always will be, no matter what happens.

I know I haven’t been taking very good care of myself lately, but it wasn’t until I ended up hanging out in the ER yesterday that I stopped to consider that I needed to do a better job.  It wasn’t anything bad; when I wrote to my boss to tell him why I was leaving work, I even said it was stupid.  And it was.  I’d been having chest pain all week, which I thought I could just go see a doctor for.  Unfortunately, as soon as you mention those two words together, doctor’s offices get all worked up and tell you they won’t see you and that you need to go to an ER.

I was all-too-familiar with the feeling that I was going to go through a big medical deal just to find out it was something mundane.  I knew it would turn out to be something like acid reflux or the catch-all hypochondriac diagnosis: stress.  But everybody I talked to got so…dramatic.  “You need to take care of yourself!” they admonished.  EVERYBODY I talked to admonished me.  One thing I knew wouldn’t help me to take care of myself would be getting a huge ER bill, but nobody wanted to listen.  “Your health is worth every penny,” a nurse said.  I scoffed.  She hadn’t seen my checking account balance.

I got registered, saw a nurse, got an EKG, and then got moved to a room of sorts, where I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  First I tried to sleep, but after about 45 minutes, I started getting mad.  Being hungry wasn’t helping, and I just felt like the whole thing was a big waste of time.  I talked myself out of walking out (because I’d still be stuck with the bill, of course) and tracked down a nurse, who eventually got the doctor in there.  When he arrived I was pacing; I started because I was upset but then I found the movement was calming.  He was brief and cordial.  The diagnosis?  Acid reflux or an ulcer – he wasn’t sure – but my EKG was good so it wasn’t my heart.  He advised over-the-counter medicine, diet and exercise as I laughed at the injustice, and sent me on my way.

I haven’t told anyone.  It seems like a really stupid conversation opener.  And it all turned out fine.  I’m just confused about why I wish I had someone to talk to about it who’d say the same thing – “You should take care of yourself” – but who I’d actually believe.

Last week, someone asked me what my favorite book was.  I said The Art Lover by Carole Maso.  He asked me what it was about.  I stumbled and finally replied something along the lines of, “Well, it’s about a writer who is channeling her grief by writing about a family experiencing loss but ultimately the author steps in and speaks in the first person because she can’t even channel her grief through a writer who is channeling it through her story, so she has to get it down on the page.  Oh, and it’s not a narrative and there’s brilliant symbolism.”  (I’m sure he totally regretted asking.)

I was thinking about this because I just finished writing a post about taxes.  But I don’t want to write about taxes.  I don’t want to write about what I’m going to do with my refund.  Because you know what?  You don’t care.  And not only do you not care, but I don’t care.  What I really want to write about is crushes.

This weekend, my son picked out his Valentine’s Day cards for his class, but asked me if he could pick out a special, regular size one for – gasp! – Elizabeth.  He’s always had crushes.  Many times he insists on telling them and despite any discouragement I proffer, he usually does.  When one girl doesn’t like him, he has about three other crushes to rely on.  We even give each other advice.  When I have a crush on a boy, he encourages me to tell him, even though I rarely do. 

Last night, out at dinner with my mom, my sister, my nephew, and him, I was telling them about a guy I know.   My mom started laughing.  I looked over at my son.

He was making a heart shape out of his hands.

“No!” I cried.  “I don’t Like like him.”

But he knows.

My first crush was Kevin Dunn in second grade.  I used to tell my mom that he had beautiful eyes (and he sure did – I still remember).  He moved away, but I got more.  I don’t have more than one crush at once like my son, but I do love having them.  Work ones are good because it is a reason to dress nicer and put on makeup in the morning.  Club crushes are fun because you always have a chance of running into them.  School crushes are the best, except when you zone out and forget to pay attention to the teacher.  They are an innocent focus, most of which come to nothing, but while they’re happening, add excitement to your life. 

My crushes have ended all sorts of ways, but when they do, they truly end instantaneously.  In college, I found out that a guy I had a crush on in lit class was hanging out with a skeevy girl, and that did it for me.  I found out that a flirty guy at work was actually married.  Sometimes it ends because you get to know the person better, or share a kiss, and there’s really nothing more there.

This, too, will end.  Maybe I’ll just dream until Valentine’s Day and then it’ll pass.  Maybe I’ll meet someone else.  Maybe his laugh will start to annoy me.  Until then, this is the good part.

And the terrible part.

Saturday night, I couldn’t fall asleep.  I was thinking of my story, thinking of people, and singing in my head.  I always keep a notebook in my bed (in addition to my diary, magazines, and many books – it’s a big bed) so I was jotting down ideas for the storyline and lyrics, of all things, in the dark.

Late last year, my mom asked me to go through an old plastic bin from the shed, where she’d been storing various and sundry items (I love that phrase) for years.  This particular bin must have been put together when I went away to college.  I was surprised by some of the things inside.  They were things only I would find worthwhile.  I threw out a lot, because that’s what I do, but kept a few particular items, like my first Barbie, one arm missing but all the outfits there. 

What surprised me, though, was all of the writing and drawing I found.  Drawing?  Apparently, I drew, and not poorly, although I wouldn’t call myself a talent.  And I wrote.  I wrote songs.  I wrote stories.  There was a ton of it.  I was, to my surprise, extremely prolific in my creativity.  Ah, high school.  When no one tells you what you can and can’t do, what your talents are and aren’t.  Where you don’t know what you’ll be so you try everything.  As I got older, I suppose I started pigeonholing myself.  And feeling as though I had to do things instead of wanting to do them, enjoying them.  Or maybe some things just lost their allure.  After all, my songs really weren’t that good (although the one I wrote with my best friend called “Hangover from Hell” – something we’d had no experience with – was pretty funny).

I’ve decided to approach life as though I can do anything.  I can finish this story.  I can lose 20 pounds.  I can find another band.  I can run my department at work.  I can get the guy who seems out of my league.  No more wishing.  Only believing.