Things That Don’t Exist Anymore

When I traveled cross country in 1985 with my best friend, Erin, we both left boyfriends behind. I left mine after dating only three weeks. I had fooled around with him, somewhat awkwardly. Then he went to Greece to spend the summer with his Dad. And I was on this six week trip. I told him that I didn’t know what three weeks meant for such a long break. I told him I understood if we just needed to see what the deal was when we got back. I was ok with that, but he promised me that he was interested in continuing this and I got all excited by that. We arranged that I would send him letters from the road, and he would respond to my Uncle’s house in CA, where we were planning on stopping later in the trip. So I did. I wrote, everyday. I assumed he was writing back. And then when I got to my Uncle’s there was one letter. It came from Egypt, where he stopped on his layover, on the way there.

I think these summers were always kind of wild for him. I take it he didn’t want to miss out and got into a relationship. And then maybe he wanted to believe that he had broken up with me already, so it wouldn’t be cheating, and so he didn’t write, and when we got back, it seemed like he was embarrassed to talk to me. When I called over after he had returned, his little brother answered the phone and she said to him, “it’s her.” We met up, and he played dumb about promises we had made. I thought my lack of experience disappointed him before we even left. That’s not what he told me explicitly, but I pieced that theory together from the fact the he played dumb about promises we made to pick this up again and other things he said.

It’s not like I was in love with him. Well, kind of but I didn’t have to be.

I wish I knew what I wrote him. That could be a record of the trip. There could be things I don’t even remember in those words. I could find him and ask him if he kept them, and if I can have copies. I’ve kept what people wrote me. I should have the letter he wrote me from his layover in Egypt, somewhere. I have a box of letters. Sometimes I read through them. I used to hand write people letters (I’m old enough) and if the handwriting was sloppy, or the first draft had corrections, I would copy it over and then I’d keep the original. So that way I had a copy of some of my correspondence too. But I don’t know where that is. I have letters and cards I’ve gotten from others, but I don’t recall finding any letters written by me. I sometimes wonder whether my husband ever found stuff like that and decided to throw some out.  He’s not the kind of person to do that. In fact, he hasn’t really expressed an interest in any of my stuff, or anything I write. I don’t think he would bother. It’s just strange that things I used to keep don’t seem to exist anymore.

Actress

I loved watching TV.  My mind was engaged. And it inspired me to dream. I would aspire to the careers people had on TV, magicians, paramedics, police officers, cowgirls, cruise directors, whatever, until I realized I wanted to be all of those things, one at a time. I was an introvert, but I wanted it badly enough I let my dad sign me up for acting classes. And it wasn’t because I was a ham, or liked showing off, or being in the spotlight.  I did not!  it was that I wanted to be someone else. I liked myself during that time, and I believe even now, that I would like myself more today, if I had kept pretending that I was someone else.

The first year I acted, I was in two plays, and it was the focus of my existence. It is the only time in my life that I can remember wanting only one thing. The effects of acting class, trust exercises, relaxation exercises, and role playing with other people bled over into my real life, and I became wilder, laughed harder, cut up, and was way more outgoing. I had more friends. I had more fun.

Whether or not I was to act I wanted to be that person. I should have stuck with it for that reason alone.  But I became interested in music. And I liked to write. I thought maybe I’d want to be a stand up comedian. And I also considered whether I should commit to public service, you know, to make the world a better place. Not be so selfish. Something like my mom did, working for non-profit. II had to decide what to focus on in high school. By the 10th grade I had a choice between focusing on music or acting. Can’t be good at both, can you? Let’s be truthful, cause I keep coming back to this, and I know that no one can know for sure, so I should say “probably,” but being true to what I know is true, and believe in my heart, I might as well admit that I chose wrong.

Now, that’s not to say if I could go back in time, I would fix it. No. I want too much of what I have now, and everything would be different.  That doesn’t mean that at the time, given who I was and what I wanted, that it wasn’t a mistake.  It’s important to understand that.  Because my life still goes forward, and making the best choices now depend on how well you know who you want to be.  Who you always wanted to be.

I wasn’t born last night, but I was born at night.

Whatever that means.  What I mean to say by that is that I’m old, but I’m not too old.  Not yet.  I ain’t taking an acting class though.  I feel too removed from that.  Maybe I should, I don’t know.  But I don’t think I can.  Let’s start with understanding shall we?  Can’t run before walking.

That first year I was in two plays.  The next year I did another.  Then I took a year off, because I thought I had made a different decision.  Then I came back to it in my senior year of high school, because I was already wondering if I had made a mistake.  But it was hard for me to enjoy it as much because I wasn’t as fully committed.  Consequently I wasn’t as good. And then I felt like I had lost something. I became so conscious of what I was doing.  I wasn’t living a role anymore, I wasn’t being someone else,  instead I was looking at my scene partner, and wondering why HE seemed so aware of the stage.  I felt like it was a drag that I had to rely on him, when he wasn’t in it for the same reasons as I was.  I thought I would prefer a solitary exercise, like writing.  And listening to music, even if playing it had the same pitfalls as acting did.

I remember one day.  We were in the classroom where we took acting class, and where we rehearsed our scenes.  It was on the 2nd floor of a cultural center of sorts, in NYC.  There were  a lot of community activities that took place there. There was a theatre too, that actually had an off broadway company in it but we also got to use that theatre when we performed. In our rehearsal room, there were big windows that would remain open and that let in a lot of light. Outside the windows was a park, and the breeze smelled of the outside. It was a great place to be.

But now, I was literally having trouble saying my lines, like I had turned mute. I refused to say them.  I just couldn’t lie and I couldn’t believe it.  Jerry, our acting teacher, was frustrated, had to be.  He tried an exercise to just get me screaming. Screaming the lines. Angry.  At the top of my lungs  It helped. He was great, and I felt like we had had so much in common.  We were both Virgos.  We shared the same enthusiasm for acting. People like me were the reason he did this.  At least that’s how it had been a couple years before. But now I felt like I had let him down.  I wasn’t that girl afterall.

Anticipating Eulogies

My mom is 78 and my dad is going to turn 80 this year.  Logically I think about their mortality.  Someone asked me the other day which of my parents I was closest to growing up, and I had a hard time coming up with an answer, because I seem to dwell on the negative. I feel like, if my kids end up like me, I will consider myself to have been a failure. So what does that make my parents?  I don’t necessarily think I was entitled to perfection from them.  I think I could have taken responsibility for myself. So, I know, intellectually at least, that they aren’t responsible for why I am persistently less proud of myself than I wish I was, why I feel like a failure. I blame myself for falling short. But as a parent, I know what my goals are, and they are to successfully guide my children towards joy and happiness and success, whatever that means to them.  I would tell them that it is up to them to take charge of their own lives, that they suffer the consequences of their own decisions if they don’t, and that I can’t make them do anything, that it is entirely up to them, but if I am not able to get through to them and inspire them to do it, then I will consider myself a failure, even though that is a contradiction.

My mom was a hard act to follow.  She was successful, and admired by people, including me. She was doing good for the world, running a not for profit organization. She was liberal in the way she chose to raise us, schooled in the latest enlightened thinking on the subject, but it felt more like an intellectual exercise. I didn’t always feel loved by her or my dad. She was judgmental, even if she chose to pretend otherwise and refrained from expressing it. I always felt like I knew what she expected and when she was disappointed. She was disappointed that I smoked pot.  My sister didn’t care or notice it about them, but I did.  She was disappointed, but she allowed it, because she thought we would do it anyway, and this way she could know about it.  She was never wrong, at least I’ve never heard her admit to it. She could be impatient and righteous even though she was a self avowed atheist and even as her liberal parenting philosophy made her tolerant and permissive. It was the wrong combination of authority and structure. It was permissive but with disclaimers. We weren’t free, we would have been more free if we kept more secrets, and it wasn’t loving, but it wasn’t controlling either. It pretended to be free and loving. And I always wanted to leave it.

I used to say I wanted to run away from home. I said, “I hate this family.” At six I remember recognizing that I was financially dependent on them, and that’s why I couldn’t run away. I don’t remember how I came to that realization. I don’t remember if someone asked me how I would live, or whether I was trying to figure out a plan and came to it on my own. It makes sense in retrospect that I became an accountant.

There wasn’t the structure I needed, there wasn’t the guidance I needed. I wasn’t happy, and she didn’t help. I often wish I could go back and assert myself more, so I wouldn’t have to blame them. I hated them, but it felt wrong to do so, because they let us do whatever we wanted. They weren’t strict. They were the best parents in the world. So why did I feel so imprisoned?  And how could I rebel against that?

I guess I tried too hard to please them, and now I blame them because it kept me from living my own life.

My dad was a bit more artistic and emotional. Maybe he would have been more loving if I had been. He was creative, a teacher, and he played the guitar and he sang, but he suffered his own depressions. And he lived in the shadow of our mom too. If their opinions differed, she got her way. I should have been closer to him than her. My husband thinks that’s the obvious answer to the question. But I specifically remember telling him that I hated him more than I ever did her. And it probably hurt him more than it would her. Maybe I expected him to help, and was more upset when even he couldn’t help me. I was never sure who I was, and never felt free enough to be whoever I wanted to be. I think I felt like I didn’t belong in that family. I didn’t want to be like my older sister or my younger sister or my brother, who was the youngest, and honestly, did I ever even really get to know him?  He is the most like my mom, but he was still young when I left for college. I didn’t even want to be me, I wanted to be someone else, I should have been an actress, but that’s a topic for another blog, I guess.

I am the writer in the family, at least I say so.  So does that mean that I need to be prepared to give their eulogies?  Or does it mean I should be the last one to do it? Writers who are truly honest alienate everyone.  I’m still held back because I think they don’t deserve it, but I can’t help feeling angry towards them.

OK, here is honesty. Forgive me for this. I don’t defend it, it is a secret what I am about to tell you. I’ve never told anyone. I have recurringly fantasized about being freed by their deaths. I have always felt that the people in my life who know me have such a hold on me that only their deaths would free me. And I used to imagine the person I would reinvent myself to be if they died, my mom in particular. And later, it was my husband. I was jealous of Elie Wiesel when at the end of the book, Night, he was finally all alone. I know that sucked, I know it is an awful kind of freedom but it is freedom. And I didn’t need my mom to die to achieve it. Because my time with her, and with my dad, was limited. I would move out eventually. I always knew that, and I looked forward to it.

But now I am married, and not free, and there is no expiration date short of death. And I’ve got kids. And my husband probably doesn’t deserve this, but he is a lot like my mom, as if I chose him to work out my issues with her. He is not as intuitive as I. He is not as empathetic towards the kids. He loses his temper faster than I do. He does not apologize for it. It’s not like I don’t lose my temper. I am not, after all, happy. But I usually apologize for it, at least to the kids. I’m sure if he died, I would be heart broken, and guilty and unable to become the person that I wanted to.  I wouldn’t want to benefit because my kids lost their dad. Actually I’m not sure of that. I think it’s probably true. But I don’t want him to die. I could, however, live without him. I just also wish I could figure out a way to be myself and stay with him.

1979

Sometimes I wonder whether smoking pot when I was so young was the cause of all my current failures.  I ask this in the interest of honesty. could I have been successful, not by other people’s standards, who would consider me successful right now, but in the way I always wanted. It helps with depression but it also contributed to a change in what I thought I wanted out of life. I split my focus that year, I enjoyed different things stoned than I had without, and became confused about what I wanted to be. It may be culpable for my infamous (in my own mind) lack of direction.

My older sister introduced it to me when I was at the end of the 8th grade. And then I smoked with her more or less daily throughout my 9th grade year. It was not so uncommon a thing in NYC, in 1979. That year pot use in the US peaked and that aligns with my personal experience.  I made new friends some of whom also smoked, but I didn’t get peer pressure from them, except sometimes to take another hit, which I usually did. I could have said no, I just didn’t. One of my friends from then, with whom I am now reacquainted through social media told me that her parents would give her the shake from their own weed.  The pot had a lot of shake then and fewer buds.  As young as we were, I know it seems young to me now too, we were effectively allowed it. My parents knew too, although I might have preferred they didn’t – it was my older sister who told them.

Outside, we could light up walking down the street.  Inside bars too, where cigarette smoking was still common (yes we were also inside bars) and a few of us were even surprised by our English teacher when unknown to us, we were smoking in front of her apartment building.  She laughed and said something as she pushed quickly by us, and into the building, we, too startled to register what she said.

We even smoked in an elementary school,  after playing there with the middle school band to impress upon parents or their children what a great school their kids would be rising to. Not cool, I suppose not. It scared me when someone else lit up in the cafeteria after the “gig,” but I gave in and lit up my own joint, I guess I wanted to be just as cool, right when the janitor arrived. I showed him my profile with fingers and joint to my mouth taking a big drag. He said, “hey!” and we tried to run. At least everyone but our teachers were already gone. They were still sitting and talking in the auditorium. The back door to the outside was locked,  and we had to walk out in front of them all. We were never specifically called out, but I have to believe that in some ways this disappointment was not forgotten and it may have affected our relationship with the teachers and even opportunities we never knew we could have had.

But this was a  neighborhood school with a lot of underprivileged kids. We were not, by a long shot, the most at risk, and in that our relative freedom was founded. That’s where the adult perspective came from, I think. And we all turned out well, those of us who limited ourselves to pot and alcohol anyway, even if I’m not as happy or as free as I think I could be, and still sometimes wonder whether I would be happier if I had never smoked.  Or it could be, what I usually think it is, that I didn’t smoke enough, that I should have kept it up.   Because that was a good year.  I still think of it as one of my happiest.

Freedom

It’s not my husband, it’s me.  It’s that I can’t relax unless I’m alone.  And that’s all I want out of life, to relax.  I honestly might like it more if we could have our own rooms.  And if we spent less time together.  If we each had our own missions. I appreciate him.  I just like freedom a lot

Choices

I think maybe it’s nice when you’re young not to have too many choices.  I guess there’s another side to that.  If you’re stuck in a bad situation, you definitely want an out.  You don’t want kids to feel hopeless.  But they are anyway.  I mean, they’re lives are decided for them.  They can’t quit their families or their schools.  No one should ever feel like they don’t have any options. But choice, when there isn’t any problem to fix, is, or can be, an opportunity for regret.  What do kids know? How can they make the right choices?  It’s hard enough to pick a major when you’re in college.  What about when you commit to a certain path in life by choosing among high schools, or elementary schools.  I went to an Arts school, I chose it, and I don’t have regrets about that.  I am artsy.  Maybe it’s fine to have choices if you’re one of those kids who knows what she wants.  But I have let too many other people make choices for me.  And by that I mean I go with the flow, take the path of least resistance.  That’s it!  I’ve taken the path that I thought would give me the least angst (and was wrong).  If I didn’t want to explain why the path that felt right to me was different than what I thought they expected of me, then I would convince myself I wanted what I thought they wanted.

How often do you have an epiphany while writing a little 250 word blog post (actually I haven’t counted the words – and I’m not going to).

So, having had an epiphany, and whereas my life isn’t yet over – I’m still young, I may have implied otherwise in some pages here, but, I  am not old.  I may not have as much youth left as I once did, but I haven’t turned any corners, and anyway, it only matters what you feel about yourself, in your soul.  I’m young, today. We’re probably none of us actually young, or maybe we’re all so young  It depends on your perspective, cause there are facts we don’t know, how old is your soul for example?

I didn’t finish my sentence.  So having had an epiphany and whereas my life isn’t over, what can I do with that? There isn’t anyone I know that can say she hasn’t made a bad choice. This is the lot of being female.  Unfortunately.  Actually, I don’t know for sure and don’t really care whether anyone out there thinks she (or he) never made a mistake.  In the words from a movie I saw once that I can’t remember the name of, it was a martial arts film, sort of, “only the tea can judge itself.” But from my standpoint, I think you should acknowledge them and use them as stepping stones.  What else can you do with them?

I should end this post by telling you a story about a bad choice I made.  But I don’t want to.

If you want to be a writer

Then, remember two things.

  1. Don’t belittle yourself.  If you are a writer, call yourself a writer.  Don’t say you want to write, or aspire to, or try to.  Don’t say you are a rising writer, they way you are a rising 1st grader for the entire summer after finishing kindergarten.  If you are a writer, call yourself that.
  2. Remember that you are nothing but a loser, if you say you are something and then never do it.

Virginity

I lost my virginity when I was 20.  It was a disappointing experience, but I was glad to get it out of the way.  He was experienced and I was trying to pretend that I wasn’t a virgin. After that I kind of shut him out, and he wrote me a note saying he didn’t understand that. He slept around, and I knew that and so I didn’t think that he expected anything more.  I took the position that it was a mistake because actually it was kind of embarrassing how awkward I was, and I was still  trying to play off why with some excuse other than my virginity.  Like that we just weren’t meant to be lovers.  He said he didn’t understand what he had done wrong, and then I went over and hung out with him a bit, and it was friendly but that was basically that.

He actually came to my engagement party years later with his girlfriend/wife, I don’t remember.  I believe that was who he married, but I don’t know if he was married to her yet.  That was the last time I saw him.  He wanted to come, and I told my girlfriend, who was organizing it, “what if he says something?”  and she said, “he would never do that.” “He’s matured a lot,” she said, so I said ok.  He was a friend, after all, he was always a friend.  But in retrospect, I would like to know why he wanted to be there.  Was it to meet the kind of guy I would pick to be with forever?  What did he want to know about me that he would want to come to my engagement party?  Was it some kind of closure or just curiosity?

I am still not comfortable naked.  I wish I had had my own place for long enough that I could have just done my chores without any clothes on.  I’ve always been modest, ashamed even.  If I had worked to become more comfortable with myself, I think I would relax more in sexual situations even still.  I enjoy sex; I’m better at it for sure.  I get passionate, but I still fall short on the sensual aspect of it.  It’s almost like the mood has to overcome me to the extent that I am out of control, otherwise I allow my insecurities to interfere.

I had heard that he desired me through friends and I liked him too.  We were hanging out in my room, not the first time, I don’t think, but the other times were innocent enough. We were playing this game in which he traced words on my back that I would try to read by feeling. I’ve never actually been good at that, but this time, maybe he wrote the same things enough times for me to get it.  He wrote “I want you,” and I nodded yes.

I’m pretty sure he was disappointed too.  If I had told him I was a virgin it would have been easier, but I wasn’t comfortable talking at all. He asked me if I was a virgin! Because I guess it was obvious, and I lied.

“No,” I said, “but it’s been awhile.”

I was 20, which at the time seemed old for losing my virginity, and I was pissed off, particularly, that I had not had sex until after my teen years.  That was a significant marker. So I said, “it’s been awhile,” like I had done it before but it was so long ago I forgot how. Should I assume he knew I was lying?  And furthermore that he was confused about why I would?  Or maybe he believed me!

I thought he would talk about it with his friends.  I expected it going in.  Believe it or not, that didn’t bother me, except when I thought he might tell them I was a virgin.  That’s why I continued to lie.  I didn’t trust him not to tell his friends, and I was that embarrassed about it.  Blows the mind, doesn’t it?

In the morning he climbed out the window.  I think it was because he had had a relationship with someone in my dorm, and didn’t want to run into her coming out of my room.  I thought it was funny at the time. I still think it’s funny.

Loser!

I’m a loser but that’s not to say that I’ll always be one. The purpose of saying it is, at least in part, to move towards growth. So, I need to say it. Don’t argue with me. Not that saying it will necessarily change anything. At my age, change isn’t generally expected by anyone, and I would have to surprise people to be something different than what I’ve always been. And to do that, I would have to write more, and the reason I am a loser is because I don’t write. Plain and simple. It’s not complicated. That pretty much sums it up. And yet, I do almost anything instead of writing. I watch TV, that’s mostly how I waste my time. If I read more that would be a fair alternative, but I watch bad TV instead, not even good TV, unless I get lucky (you don’t know if its good until you watch it). I also eat. I also take baths (well, not more than one on any given day). And I get stoned. I always hope the last one will help me to write but does it? If I weren’t already lazy it might. Sometimes it does.

My problem seems to be that  I have no fortitude to make myself do things that take effort. And that’s why I have so much potential and a good personality. I’m actually a pretty good catch. I put other people first. I’m actually not lazy when it comes to doing for others. Write that on my tombstone.

I’ll give myself credit for things. I’m a good mom and I’m proud of that. It’s important to me, and I’ll be remembered for it. I hold down a job. Most would call that a success, and they’d be right. Truthfully I could be a better wife. Maybe I should love him more.

We’ll Always Have the Memories (of eating bread)

They brought my burger without a bun to the 20 something boy next to me by mistake.  He said, “um, I think this is right, but… I don’t think I ordered it with no bun.”

“That looks like mine,” I said to the waiter.  And then to the guy, “you’re too young to be forsaking bread.”

Although I equate my dietary restrictions, which have become extensive as I try to figure out what makes me feel bad (everything), to age, when I eat right and discover what it’s like to feel good, I wonder whether these issues are even recent. The other day I had this fleeting thought after a particularly disciplined day of eating, that it feels good to be alive (I can’t remember ever feeling that way ) and then I wondered, “is this how other people feel all the time?”

Are food sensitivities that I remained oblivious to over the past 4 decades (or so) to blame for everything?  For why I have not achieved my dreams, like the one in which I am a writer, for instance? Is that chronic minor depression that I have learned to accept, and blame, and which has kept me from following through on such dreams, caused simply because I eat things that are poison to me?  Maybe it’s not mental after all.  Maybe it’s not who I am.

I love spaghetti.  Bread.  I even like drinking beer, but it’s always made me tired.  Who doesn’t like that stuff?  In any case, I can say is that I’ve been there and done that.  I’m old enough now that I’ve got experiences under my belt.  If I have to forsake some going forward, then I can at least say that I will always have the memory of eating bread.