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The Hardest Time, Unmasked

This post is going to be very, very bald, even for me. Because this is the first Monday in January 2021 and o man does it feel hard. Almost but not quite unspeakably hard.

I was speaking to a dear friend–one of the last I’m still in good touch with (I said this post was going to be bald)–and we both said we are not really posting at this point because it feels like yelling into the void. More energy than we can spare given how drained and disconnected we feel. Then I remembered that often I can’t even feel my feelings until I write them down and press send, and so–selfishly, desperately–thought I’d share them here.

I want to pretend my back is all the way healed because this drama has gone on for two months already. But the truth is I am still in pain every day. The suffering has abated, yes, but what remains moves all around my body since the underlying issue is not local but global. I still can’t sit for any length of time without pain, can’t drive my stick-shift car, can’t walk more than a mile or two, can’t lift my laundry or groceries. Definitely can’t read for others or write or Zoom for any length of time. So I am not independent financially or physically, and freedom was all I still had until recently.

I know the problem is as much about general despair as it is about any physical dysfunction and that makes it worse because I don’t know how to fix that–not in myself, anyway. I have teachers and healers and supporters (not to mention a great reserve of self-pity). But none of it helps the fact that, on Month 1,000,000,000 of Pandemic and A Truly Next-Level Fascist Regime, I am awash in my childhood sense that there are no true grownups in charge and no forest for the trees.

I’d be lying if I said this was just the state of the union. I am turning 50 two weeks from tomorrow and can’t stave off the absolute worst feeling in the world: That I have not merited the time I’ve taken here. That I’ve not offered enough back to the world and do not have the real estate, relationships, professional achievements to merit my consumption. During this year so many friendships have fallen by the wayside because none of us have had the bandwidth for our own shit let alone anyone else’s. I also have cycled through many old loves that ended the first time around for good reason–not to mention a new one that should never have started. The last affair–the oldest one, the origin story of all my failed and fucked-up romances–ended over Christmas week with a whimper rather than a bang on any level.

All this failed love has only better acquainted me with an existential loneliness that drove me into the wrong arms in the first place. Behold the sorrow I’ve carried my whole life. A solitude that has become acute, positively shrieking its its silence, over this very very lonely year and even lonelier holiday season.

Here at the beginning of a new calendar year and only two weeks from a new decade in life, I do not see the future as an open horizon so much as a frightening abyss. It’s the worst feeling–nothing to dress up or for. I am scared, I am lost, and–the only gift–I am still here. On this Monday in what I pray is the last month in the worst chapter of America’s history as well as my own, I am not asking this rhetorically: Is there still a happy what-next?

I send hugs. More than that–who am I kidding?–I need hugs. But only from people I both love and like.

Things You Know But Forget

During this period in which I’ve been really really physically compromised, I’ve been harshly reminded of just how much we take our health for granted and how much humbleness any degree of illness and injury entails. I have been through this before–I broke my neck once, for heaven’s sake–but forget because my independence is more important to me than–well, than everything except for Grace and my ability to communicate clearly. When I am not ill, I am swift and impatient, sometimes even rough. But right now, I can’t do much for myself–and I can’t do anything rapidly. It helps to have received a diagnosis—apparently, a torn psoas muscle will throw your entire back out of alignment and put you in extended spasm as it heals. But knowing what’s wrong doesn’t take the sting out of how immobilized I am. I can’t carry my trash to the curb. Can’t do my laundry in the basement. Can’t clean. Can’t fetch groceries. Can’t drive my manual-transmission car (operating a stick being the most butch thing about me.) Can’t even sit upright for any length of time, which means I can’t work by Zoom. (No Talking Pictures episodes or Ruby Intuition sessions until I heal.)

Even bending down to feed Grace takes some strategizing.

Many have stepped up and I am beyond grateful. (A former beau still willing to change your cat’s litter is the purest friend in the world.) But I cry at least 10 times a day not just out of pain (I am not in the business of meds) but out of frustration over not being able to do things myself. It scares me, honestly. What if something happens to Grace? What if there’s a fire in my building? Intellectually I know I will sort every issue out as it comes up and that this is not permanent. That muscles heal and that all the maladies I’ve experienced since I took my intuition practice online—from kidney troubles to back spasms—suggest I must learn to be a channel rather than a depository. That I must develop beautiful boundaries and a greater reserve of gentle strength. That I must trust in the Flow and also the Force. But the willful, resourceful child who runs too much of my show is just mad I can’t stamp my foot.

In between somatic healing exercises and energy work sessions, I walk carefully carefully carefully around the block for much-needed sunshine and to ensure my muscles don’t atrophy. And I’m amazed by how many people cut me off or blow up that I’m moving slowly. I suspect I don’t look as fucked up as I feel so they don’t realize how vulnerable I am.

But what if—and I’m just spitballing here—we all made it a practice to treat everyone with the degree of care you’d reserve for a person bleeding and prostrate on a sidewalk? Because on some level, especially this year, we all are.

I’m sending love —and not just because I’m literally surviving on yours. I’m sending it because only love air-lifts us to a better place.

Paintings: Egon Schielle.

Miss Grace and the Mouse: A Very 2020 Parable

So I’ve been laid up for the last three days with my now-annual autumnal bad back. This year I chalk it up to being a middle-aged woman who danced all Saturday night and then ran a victory lap around lower Manhattan on a broken baby toe. That, and the Slow-Moving Coup the Trump administration is attempting to stage in the shadow of Biden’s inarguable victory. People I love and trust tell me it’s all going to be ok but anyone with genocide in their family lines doesn’t rest easily while a fascist is refusing to cede office.

On every level, in every way, Donald J. Trump’s mic should be cut. No social media. No quotes reported by news outlets. Yes, document the policies he’s pushing through, the terrifying appointments he’s making. But don’t grant his ravings a platform. The amount of chaos and hatred he can still sow is dangerous, if not lethal. Let’s not exacerbate this.

All to say that while I’ve been largely immobile a certain furry roommate has been acting peculiar and finally yesterday gallumphed into my bedroom with a living mouse in her mouth. After triumphantly laying the vermin at my feet, she recommenced chasing it in a dance that went on for two hours–Grace’s happy squawks and the mouse’s fainter squeaks punctuated by the duo’s dashes to where I was, gulp, lying on the floor. This permakitten was in permakitten heaven. I could tell in her mind she even had named this new playmate. “Herman,” maybe–“Hermie” for short. Continue Reading →

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