Permissions Denied, Pigeons Assigned

Piccione, this morning you left your house without a bra?

This was yesterday, when everyone had begun drifting back from wherever people go when they leave NYC over the holidays. I was nursing an americano, waiting for some friends visiting from out of town.

For a full week, the coffee shop next door—the ones run by the wily Italians—had been closed. In fact, the whole neighborhood had been closed because all of the planet had been magically out of time.

I’d gotten a lot done.

But, I am sorry to report, my unconscious also had erected one last roadblock before this wretched, wonderful year could draw to a close.

This roadblock was a doozy.

It began a few days before Christmas, when my Macbook Pro’s operating system began devouring itself, which impacted everything connected to my Apple ID across all my devices, everything that required–and o the irony is rich if not sweet–permissions.

Essentially, I was being denied access to my own identity. At first I was only blocked from features that were convenient but unessential: Apple calendars, reminders, and notes that I accessed across all my devices. Then passwords stored in my iCloud keychain began to disappear, which is when I realized that all these years I’d thought I was being smart and responsible by using Apple-suggested passwords, I was really being stupid as a heart attack. Because these passwords were so complex that I had no way to resuscitate them using anything as pedestrian as, say, human memory.

Needless to say, this was a nightmare. But it wasn’t until I was locked out of my documents that I truly melted down.

Very literally, I’d lost the permissions to read and write my own book on both my computer’s hard drive and in all my backups.

This all transpired during this last quiet holy-unholy week. Most of it I’d spent with cranio-sacral specialist Jennifer, who has emerged as a real ally. Although her work is hands-on and mine is “head-on,” we enjoy the shorthand of two intuitives who see what others won’t.

Such alliances help.

But—okay, and (word choice matters, yes it does)—our fluency also means we tread in a major transparency zone. So she knew all too well why and how this computer mishegos might’ve transpired.

Cue sympathy without indulgence. And, in my case, self-awareness without self-pity.

Every day that week, I’d get on the phone with M, an Applecare specialist based in Spokane, Washington who’d been assigned my case after I’d been bumped up three levels of supervisors, each of them saying—nicely, blandly—gee, I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Not exactly music to the ears of a broad watching her whole life’s work evaporate like Jim Carrey’s memory in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

As the problem progressed from annoying to devastating, M. began saying things like, “I know this is frustrating but I find it so cool and original.”

We tried this and we tried that. Over long sessions he coached me through erasing my hard drive and user ID to rebuilding them from scratch. Still, the documents themselves—all I really cared about—remained out of reach. “Work the problem,” I told myself calmly, some part of me possibly relieved for the writing reprieve.

J’s first words to me a refrain echoing in some spiderweb in my brain: Endings are important and they’re not going to kill you.

Then on December 30, I crumbled. Despite the many hours M and I had logged on the phone, the issue was only getting worse, and as we ran tests and rearranged data, he began asking more questions about film and my professional past, which he’d clearly Googled.

I was starting to realize he and I were at cross purposes. I might have been desperate for a solution but he was working shifts through the holiday no matter what. Dragging out the issue worked to his benefit since I was proving more fun to work with than anyone else he might have been assigned.

Ultimately, this might have been on me, because of my tendency to sing for my supper whenever I feel threatened or in need. Generally such carefully calibrated charisma elicits the kindness of strangers when I most require it, but it also works against me from time to time.

This was emerging as one of those times, no doubt because the biggest lesson of last year was that the self-betrayal had to stop.

You need permission, not him,” said J archly. I nodded miserably.

I texted my pal Nefty, a Queens native who’s walked me back from many a Signs & Sirens technical cliff in the last five years. Like many high-frequency IT geniuses, N is not an Apple stan since the company tends to rob users of agency. “Yo,” he said, his voice hoarse from the holidays and weed. “Patch me into your next call.”

I sighed and smiled at the same time. Because, really, it was like buying or repairing a car. Even now—although maybe it won’t be in the 2020s?—it helps to bring in another dude.

After a half hour of Nefty hammering out questions to M on a three-way conference call, the former texted me:

Call when you’re done. This guy isn’t helping you.

Four hours later, after M had uploaded everything to Apple engineers and said, “Well, let’s pick this back up on New Years Day,” I hung up the phone and burst into tears.

I really didn’t cry that much in my Year of 12 Novembers. Oh, I cried when my last relationship ended. I cried for friends and clients who were facing trying times. And I always cry over art. But mostly when it came to my own life, I got scarily stoic.

After that call ended, though, I flipped open my computer because writing is the only way I know to rescue, recognize, reorganize myself. And then I realized that we’d so completely dismantled my computer that there were no applications on which I could write and no storage system in which my words wouldn’t be lost.

Which meant that I couldn’t trust that the book I’d been assembling since the summer of 2017—the story of how I transformed the black hole of my family into a magical foxhole of my own—might be permanently destroyed.

And I fell on the floor and began sobbing all the tears that had been forming since I’d begun writing this story in earnest. I cried the tears of that toddler I’d saved by learning to read and write when I was only 3. I cried the tears of the six year old who hexed creepy adults before they could molest her and her little sister. I cried the tears of an adult who didn’t want a partner or a parent to pay her way but couldn’t sustain herself financially with work she cared about.

I cried the tears of a woman who didn’t know how to permit herself to write a new life.

I moaned, gasped, writhed, bawled until the old Italians downstairs began banging on the ceiling with a broom, which made me laugh since all day every day those two scream at each other—bastardo! puttana!— until I bang on the floor with a broom.

Then I remembered I had no way to write about them and began to cry even harder.

Finally I called back N, who answered the phone on the first ring. “Homie,” he said, and this time his voice was hoarse with concern. “You and I both know that strong witches’ energy affects electronics. So it’s okay to cry, but then you gotta breathe and center yourself. Because if your strong energy could mess up that machine in a way they rarely see, it’s also gonna be what gets it back up to speed.”

Well, I heard that. I really did. Over and over my petty ego blocks have caused me to forget that having faith in the flow–that benevolent divine energy bathing everyone and everything –is the only real way to move forward. And then the universe as Spiritual GPS has had to do more “recalibration”–heartbreak, bankbreak, backbreak– to remind me again.

Resistance ain’t just a river in Egypt.

After I got off the phone, I picked up Grace and began to pray with the same stubborn faith I’d practiced as the child whose story I was now writing. Typically my permakitten-overfamiliar protests when I squeeze her too tight, just as she typically skitters away when I make loud noises, but she’d stayed glued by my side as I’d wept and now cleaved to my chest as I thanked G-d—yes, God; it’s a handy shorthand—-for protecting us and our book.

Then we fell fast asleep, confident as that small child I was channeling that we’d been heard and received.

When the Apple store opened the next day, I was stationed at its entrance, tears already rolling down my face. And no doubt because a bawling middle-aged woman smeared with red lipstick and green mascara is not great for business, they set me up with a Genius immediately–a young woman with a no-nonsense air and kind eyes. Handing me a box of tissues she scanned the information on my case and raised an eybrow. “Yeah, you should have been sent in to a store immediately,” she said quietly, looking around to ensure none of her managers could hear her. “You can’t entirely rebuild an operating system by downloading it from the Internet. It all lands in the same messed-up partition. So this whole time you’ve been using a rocky foundation.”

That stopped me in my tracks, not only because I couldn’t believe how much time I’d wasted before accepting that singing for my supper was less useful than simply asking for help. But because for all my talk about how our bodies are maps, I haven’t been taking into account that systems errors are also spiritual similes. This metaphor called my Macbook Pro.

Two more things.

While waiting to learn whether this overhaul would solve my system problems, I sat sniffing at a Genius Bar table. All around me people also seemed upset. A man and a teenaged girl who looked like she could be his daughter sat red-eyed on my right. Briefly the man’s eyes met my own and he wordlessly showed me the contents of his phone screen. It was a suicide note that had been posted online. “This is my daughter’s friend,” he said, and his voice broke. “I keep asking her my daughter if she’s okay and she says she is but I can’t be sure.”

I looked at his daughter, squirming with embarrassment and sorrow, and I smiled to let her know I understood. “She’s not okay but it’s okay that you keep asking. Keep doing that.”

The woman sitting opposite us looked up from her broken Macbook Air. “I tell him the same thing.” Her eyes also welled, and the four of us continued talking while a small boy with Down Syndrome danced at her feet. The woman told me about their immigration from Jamaica, how they’d discovered vegan food was prohibitively expensive in New York as was the right care for her son so she had begun cooking and growing all their food to save and make cash. “I am learning to really like it,” she said with a great gummy grin.

Before I knew it, I had set up an Instagram account so she could share her delicious Jamaican vegan cooking online and begun planning the cookbook I already could see published. When I really am in distress, I’m most connected to everyone’s sadness as well as their potential. The reason, of course, is that I do not have the energy to sustain my normal psychic shields.

The results of this particular shields failure was beautiful. Grasping the hand of her son, who by now was braiding my hair and belting out an appropriately Genius song entitled “Pizza for Lisa, Pizza for Me” to remind his family of how ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATINGLY HUNGRY FOR PIZZA he was, this woman told everyone at the table—even the 19-year-old hipster slumped dejectedly over his cracked iPad, even the visiting Parisians whose selfie-taking had been hijacked by a faltering iPhone—that she now was going to lead us in a prayer circle. Shocked though the others might have been, they lowered their heads as she led us through a prayer for all of our electronics, “especially Lisa’s, o lord Jesus Christ please heal her computer so her story may share its light.”

Jesus may not be my chosen first responder but I was deeply honored she sought his help on my behalf.

Of course just then the bona-fide Apple Genius returned to encounter nine strangers holding hands, chanting, and weeping big tears. (Just imagine the story those Parisians are serving up back home with a nice Bordeaux!) They were tears that only grew bigger when she announced she’d fixed the problem.

As of this writing, I can safely say I think she did. In fact, I can say that we all did. All hail the power of an extemporaneous coven.

Which brings me back to the café next door, from which I’m writing to you today and where I’m known as Piccione, the crazy witch who randomly told them not to kill the neighborhood pigeons the night before they were planning to stealthily do just that.

Piccione, this morning you left your house without a bra?

This was owner Chicco, who with his great belly, short stature, pointed red hat, and lewd expressions looks like Snow White’s lost eighth dwarf. Call him “Salty.” Or maybe “Sketchy.”

“You were running down the street in a blue sweater and no bra and everyone came in and told me. Froth in the street, Piccione. Foam.”

Once upon a time, such outrageousness would have ruffled my pigeon feathers like nobody’s business. I mean, so what if I’d remembered to move my car at the last minute and burst out of the house sans coat, hat, and, yes, bra?

But today I just laughed, and now am laughing even harder with the friends who just trooped in.

Because how offended can I be that that my nearly-50-year-old boobs are the talk of the neighborhood? And really I’m just happy to be in the flow of all this bad and good, stupid and smart, sad and happy, sweet and salty. And really really, I’m just grateful to be surrounded by everyday geniuses, magical carrier pigeons, miraculous sea goats. And really really really grateful to be able to write the story down.

So between now and the end of Capricorn Season (aka my birthday, my personal new year) I’m diving underground to complete Draft 1 and conduct intuition readings since my two lines of work are feeding each other so beautifully right now. Oh, I’m sure I’ll post but pretty-please don’t get cross if it’s no fun. In the meantime I send a wing and a prayer. Feel free to send magical carrier pigeons and sea goat stamina in return.

We are all so very permitted!

To schedule an intuition reading of your own, get in touch.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy