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The Spaces We Keep in Between…

The spaces we don’t need anymore.

This new job is amazing. I haven’t worked for a college in years and I didn’t realize how much I missed everything about being on a campus. There’s a sense of life here that you don’t get with other types of work environments. There is a feeling of ‘opportunity’ for lack of a more elegant way of phrasing that there’s hope on college campuses all over the country. Hope for the future and hope for the contributions that are just waiting to be made.

The funny thing about returning to academia is that I have to remove almost everything I learned about religion over the past five years. Well, much of it. I have to readjust and last week I thought about how much I had to ‘forget’ when I took my last job. The beauty of learning something is that you can almost never unlearn it.

One small thing that I learned this week, and I learned it from a copyeditor, is that I don’t need an extra space after a period and before a new sentence. For years I have just added that extra space because that’s how I was taught when I took my typing classes in high school. Space. Space. Word.

I’ve followed that format for so long that I realized it was second nature. Now, I’m trying to remember not to add the space and it’s been a little tough because it’s habit. Space. Space. Word.

That extra space is like padding. All of these years I thought it was there to protect the start of a new sentence from the end of an old one. And in many ways, isn’t that what space is about? It’s about protection.

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Marcel Pagnol on Happiness…

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be…”

First, perhaps you are asking yourself who Marcel Pagnol is and why I am using him to illustrate how we look at happiness.  Then you’re asking yourself if that last sentence needed a question mark at the end and, if you’re like me, you’ve decided you don’t care today. Normally, you might, but you’ll quickly realize that your happiness will not be made or broken by a grammatical exclusion even when done by someone who writes, on a fairly regular basis.

I never wrote about my trip to Chicago, did I? I had a wonderful time catching up with old friends and making new ones. I can’t thank the women I got to spend time with enough for finding new and improved ways to think about love, life and the pursuit of whatever it is I am pursuing.

Thank you.

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The Three Ages of Woman…

1992 years ago marked a significant turning point in my life.  My daughter, A the wonder-child, was born. I call her the wonder-child because usually, just as I have lost all normal amounts of patience with her, she turns around and does something that makes me wonder how she ended up being my kid instead of some lucky stranger’s tall bundle of joy.

Her arrival changed a lot about me.  I was never an art aficionado in high school or college, unless it was related to words. Words seemed to always make a bigger connection between my heart and mind than images, but when A was born it was like I tried to seek out images that expressed what it meant to become a mother.

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Who Should I Blame for My Daddy (or Mommy) Issues?

You? How about you over there? No? Not you? Okay, in that case, who?

Or maybe the question should be ‘why do we blame others for our abandonment issues?’

Should we blame the original source of abandonment or does it make much more sense to blame everyone we come in contact with throughout our lives?

People usually ask me why I started therapy a few years ago. They ask if it was to save my marriage and are surprised when I say absolutely not. I decided to find a therapist to help me understand why I was more comfortable being invisible and silent in my important relationships.

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A Life In Quotes: Mae West

If there is anything better than the first sunny day in New York City, then I don’t know what it is.  Even when we don’t get a lot of snow here it’s still nice to see the sun shining out over the city and even better when it’s setting behind the Palisades and I can sit out on the terrace with a beer and a book or four.

I was researching content for another site I’m writing for and came across a Mae West quote that I wanted to use as an intro.

That quote made me think about the past three years and how much has happened since ‘The Runner’ and I divorced. And, is it alright to admit to you right now that I have never missed him?  That used to keep me up at nights.  How could I be with someone for over ten years and not miss them?  I guess the easiest way to explain it is by saying that there’s no need for me to explain it anymore. 

I used to try to come up with reasons for so many things and now I’ve just stopped trying to explain air to birds, for lack of a better phrase. Yes, I just made that up. I might copyright it because it sounds so poetically ridiculous.

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The Kitchen Project…A Guest Post by Diana Powell Ward

Have you ever had the good fortune to meet someone in one capacity, then find out that you can learn so much more from this person than you ever imagined?  Good fortune like that probably comes alone much more often than we allow ourselves to embrace.

Today’s guest post is by a woman I admire tremendously. I truly think she is just the nicest, most kind, ridiculously smart woman I have met in years and she has honored me by letting me post something of hers in this little space.

I think that when we all realize how much we change and how often those changes are defined by things we don’t even notice – a sink, paint, tiles – we get a better idea of how our history and our future are all often tied together in ways we forget to embrace.

So…without more rambling from me:

The Kitchen Project

For weeks my fridge and stove were sitting in the living room, along with an upended exercise bike, and disassembled kitchen stuff. The living room looked like a storage area. The kitchen, on the other hand, showed the underbelly of rubble and soil that occurs when people grow up, part, move on.  Men came three weeks ago to remove the wood cabinets, countertop, and sink. The dirty walls behind the cabinets were a gray wash, framed by the sunny yellow that I painted the room after D and I separated and I had the freedom to do as I pleased. I feel bereft of these objects that were a part of my daily rituals of survival – eating, cooking for family and friends, a Thanksgiving when a huge cabinet fell forward off the wall from the weight of my dead mother’s extra dishes.  My home is changing in ways that make me feel disoriented. I know I should be excited with the new things coming in, cabinets with glass insets, quartz countertop and inlaid sink, porcelain floor tiles – new colors, new textures, new, new, new – that is what makes me feel so strange.

This all started with a leak under my sink, went to a major blockage in the wall leading down to my neighbor’s bathroom, black sludge billowing up into my sink. Before I knew it, the wall behind my sink was ripped out, 80-year-old pipes were exposed, and I could see down into a small corner of the bathroom below, where the leak had settled into the ceiling and required removal of a big chunk of the ceiling to expose the pesky water’s pathway. Looking down at the floor now I imagine my children crawling around when they were little, while I tried to get their meals ready, mice occasionally sneaking in from the cold in late October in the space between the brick wall and the floor boards, and the din of the dishwasher as it cleaned up the dishes from a late night party when we had drunk too much and I insisted on cleaning up before allowing myself to go to bed. In a few days there will be no more visibility to my memories of our life in this kitchen, nothing to anchor me but my own will to remember.

Now everything is finished – the walls are painted Silken Pine, the Italian tile floor has been laid, the cabinets are hung, and the stone countertop and stainless sink are installed. We even have a swan-necked faucet that has two kinds of spray and movable parts.  When I walk into the kitchen, the natural textures, especially of the tiles, give off an echo and feel cool to the touch. The space is larger. It is like getting off the boat in Martha’s Vineyard every summer after nine months in this New York apartment. The air is cooler, the space is bigger, and I can breathe deeply. I am wrapped in a Zen-like energy that ripples up my legs and across my back.

New York is the place we all functioned individually – the kids could come and go on the block even when they were 4 and 5, as I could hear them through the open windows. D had his daily routine that revolved around Second Avenue– get up about 11 am, off down the street diagonally for two blocks to Veselka for the paper and coffee and across the street to the office at his theater on St. Mark’s Place. After the show was done he would stop at the Orchidia on 9th for booze and endless conversation with other actors, closing the triangle back at home after the kids were asleep. I could work at home in silence and feel free of family pressures.

I have put away all the dishes and glasses, pots, casseroles, pantry stuff, and still have room. For 43 years I have organized this space and fitted things into places that nobody else knew existed.  Jeff Buckley is singing about “moving in ya” as I sit down to contemplate the fresh environment and remember my old kitchen on 10th Street with the bright yellow floor and D and I sometimes making love resting on the side of the tub.   And I can welcome the knowledge that “love is not a victory march; it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”


I Used to Love Him…

The year was 1998 and I was raising a 6-year old by myself.  Being a single parent is, by no means, the worst thing in the world. In fact, since A’s arrival in 1992, it’s been one of the best things to ever happen to me.  However, 1998 was a hard year.

A’s dad and I had finally decided to file for divorce. I had wanted to file a year earlier, but at the time, New York had extremely strict laws about what could be used as a cause and we couldn’t agree on how to file. I didn’t want to separate for a year and pretend that we were getting back together. He didn’t want to admit to having an affair.

So, like two children playing war, we set up our sides and stuck to our guns and waited for the other to blink.  Looking back, that was the easy way out.  It’s not what we should have done, but I was too hurt and each new hurt that arrived in front of me made it harder and harder to want to stay friends with a man I’d loved since the moment I’d seen him walking towards me 7 years earlier.

“The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” came out the same year that we filed and it was like she had heard my heart break and decided to write songs only I could understand. But that’s not true, is it? This CD wasn’t written for me, but it could have been.

In a strange twist of fate, a few months after A’s dad moved out, A and I had to move in with him because our apartment building was the site of a pretty devastating fire. To be honest, living with each other in a different setting was a great experience.  Until “I Used to Love Him” rotated itself into airplay.

I must have played this song a million times and each time it played, A’s dad said: Again?

Now, almost 15 years after we first separated, I laugh at how much we couldn’t get out of our own way.  Even in the middle of divorcing, I never doubted he loved me and he never doubted I felt the same. We just weren’t meant to stay together.  We were, however, meant to ‘create’ A. I use quotes because in many ways, she’s created herself and in others, she is her father. And her mother.

It wasn’t until 1999 that I learned to stop crying every morning. Santana released “Supernatural” and I couldn’t resist the lift it gave my spirits. But a year…Is that how long a breakup takes? Is it a year? Is it longer? Is that too long? I’ve never figured it out, to be honest. But then again, I’ve only experienced heartbreak a couple of times and each time, it took about the same amount of time to say:

Oh, look Sun, you’re back!

The truth? It hadn’t gone anywhere, I was just too sad to notice.

With the long weekend I wanted to do something slightly special, so tomorrow I’ll have a new guest post up from a woman who is just so interesting I want to steal her away and have her dictate her life to me. How’s that for an intro?

My Hair Is Like a Bad Boyfriend…

That’s why her hair’s so big…it’s full of secrets (Mean Girls, 2004)

A little background.

I threw myself into triathlon training last year and tried to do it with shoulder-length hair.  And, what I learned was that when you have a ton of hair to deal with, swim caps are not your friend.

So, what did I do? I cut it all off.  At 39, this marks the third time that I’ve grown my hair out to a shoulder length style, then cut it all down to about an inch of curls.

Why do I do this?  I’ve always thought that hair is about how I’m feeling, and in looking back at pictures, each of the major haircuts has been about change. A transformation, of sorts.

The first time I made ‘the big chop’ I was struggling with how to manage my separation from A’s dad. I took all the blonde and brunette colors and had them cut off in a salon on Astor Place in the East Village. I was ecstatic. I had owned that hair from birth and it felt good to lose 23 years of history and start clean.

I spent a year growing it back out and by the time it was chin-length, I was dating again and learning how to be a single parent.

My next cut came in 2005 when I was training for the New York City Marathon.  By that time I had accumulated almost ten years’ worth of hair and I was ecstatic to see it go. I knew it was time when I would have to wake up in the morning to shower and wash my hair just so I could pull it back into a ponytail to go for a run.

The most recent cut came last year. I had a good excuse, you know? Training for a half-Iron is no joke and I was tired of the hair and the heat so off it went. I took my standard picture to a local salon where they speak no English and the ladies asked, in Spanish, was I sure.

I was. I am.

It wasn’t until I had gotten home after that cut that I realized I was carrying around relationships with my hair. I was carrying ‘The Runner’ and ‘The One’ and I hadn’t even realized that it isn’t because of biking or running or swimming that the hair was too much…it was that so much had changed and I’d been too busy in the middle of it to notice.

So off it went.

And it was with short hair that I trained and wrote and started a business and went to Paris. So, as 40 draws closer, I think it’s time to say that I’ve accomplished so much more with short hair – probably because I don’t have to spend hours doing it each week.

But where does that leave me now? I’ll tell you…

And before I do…you know I love a metaphor. Or two.

It leaves me with hair that’s like your worst ex-boyfriend. You know the one. Every day you wake up with the promise that today is the day he’s going to behave. You just know that he wants to do right by you, but he’s so immature and selfish that he just can’t seem to get out of his own way. Or yours.

You think he’s going to play nice and do what you’ve suggested would be a fair compromise and he’s all for it until he gets outside. Then, he’s waving at strangers, curling up and hiding when he shouldn’t, popping out and looking crazy when he should be laying there neatly in one place.

Yeah, I’m wearing a bad boyfriend on my head, but I don’t know what to do about it. I keep saying I’m going to get rid of him, I mean, it, and then I wake up hoping that today is the day that we fall in love again.

I’m so sure I’m wrong that I just booked an appointment at my hair salon.


**And the image for this post? Well, it’s entitled “No More Bad Hair Days, by Shakespeare” and who doesn’t want to have no more bad hair days, right?

On Looking Glasses and Relationships…

On Looking Glasses and Relationships…

Who really is the fairest of them all?

To be totally truthful with you…I was going to write about President Obama today.  You know, when history is made, you gotta be on the right side of writing about it, right?

Instead, there’s something I’m wrestling with at the moment and it’s sometimes best to just put it out there and let the universe be the guide. Or something like that.

When “The Runner” and I were married I made a few mistakes. Some I’ve written about in detail and others I’ve sort of touched upon, but not in detail.

One of the mistakes I made was in trying to mirror him in ways that didn’t make sense.

Ask me how I got into running. Go on, ask me. Okay, great. I got into running because he was running. All of the time. Every day. And I wanted to find a way to spend time with him, but being a non-runner meant I was a walker. And walkers aren’t runners. One day, I woke up from a dream and realized that in the dream I had been running. I asked “The Runner” if he thought I could do it. Run, that is. He said I absolutely could and he would help me.

Of course, being a walker I was grateful for the help. And run we did. Well, we did until it became apparent that I might never break a 9-minute mile. So I said ‘go on, Runner, run’ and he did.

But I kept at it. I trained and sweated and got myself into race shape, whatever that means when you’re carrying around D-breasts and I ran. The more I ran the better I got at it, but I never forget that “The Runner” ran first and I never forgot that he really did try to help me get better.

Then, after running, I took up swimming and biking and that’s where we stopped mirroring each other. I was no longer only a runner, I was a triathlete. And “The Runner” had no interest.

Well, he had no interest until we were just about to end our marriage. Then he asked if I thought we should do a triathlon together. Funny, I thought, he didn’t notice the house smelled like bike chain oil and chlorine until we were almost done being a limited partnership.

Was I mad? No, to be honest, it was one more reminder that he didn’t notice me until I was almost gone.

I bet “The One” listened to this complaint more times than any human wants to listen to records that are broken, but it was a constant source of confusion for me. How could I be invisible when we had been mirrors? Doesn’t one part of a mirror notice when a piece of it is missing?

What did I learn? I learned that sometimes, people don’t notice your passions until the distance between you is too great. And I learned that sometimes, people use your passion against you – no, that’s not totally right. It isn’t that they use it against you, they use it as leverage.

Hey, honey, remember when we used to catch butterflies? Wouldn’t it be nice, when our relationship is breathing its last breath, if we could do that again so you remember how much you love me?

Wouldn’t it, indeed.

The truth…the truth is often grey, but in some cases, it is a rainbow of colors. And in this case, it was in 3-D.

I was invisible – the things I loved or the things I attempted – they didn’t actually matter outside of “The Runners” needs. And when I realized that, the whole world sort of lit up.

Now? I know it’s okay to say these are my likes, those are yours. You never have to do what I like, but you have to try to respect why I do it. And you have to get your own thing.

And that’s how I started running again. I wrote a few months ago about why I gave it up and in looking back, that was just nonsense in the most nonsensical reason.

As for that mirror…three years after my divorce I’m happy to say that I use an organic window cleaner and the skies outside look pretty colorful.