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She Speaks, but Still Has Nothing Nice to Say

I really feel like typing out why my fella and I broke up this time. So here it is. He and I were at his studio when he started flirting hard with his young female pretty assistant right in front of me. I let it go–male egos are male egos (boring but true), and him preening for female attention is no new story. Then he introduced me to her as his cousin. I said, “oh, cousin?” As in: “You fuck all your cousins?” In fact, we are cousins–third removed, nothing to the British Royals, and sometimes I think it’s funny when he announces it. But there was no earthly reason to introduce me this way to this other lady except to preserve the appearance of his romantic viability. “Also confidante,” he clarified. I picked up my purse and left.

I waited a day to ensure I’d cooled down before giving him a chance to redeem himself. I have a long history of loving this man, and wanted to express my hurt with a heart open enough that it would give him space to meet me halfway. Instead he bore down, said my feelings were bullshit (literally used that word), and that I was gaslighting him and being low-level, un-self-aware, insecure, and (this is rich) not respecting his professional dynamics and women in the workplace. There was so much I could have said, so much Machiavellian manipulation to unpack, but instead to my chagrin I began weeping, not because I thought he was right but because I knew right then we had to be done–that I had to stop making myself vulnerable to this self-serving emotional arsonist. He told me to leave, and began working on an accounting spreadsheet on his computer until I did, sobbing and stumbling.

Sometimes I feel the language of trauma is overused–that what passes for trauma in this day and age was business as usual throughout the history of humankind. But that exchange exemplified how you can be abusive without raising a hand once.

Anyway, two days later he texted that he was sorry I was so upset and a bunch of other actual gaslighting malarkey. I’d written a 2,000-word letter (“You have sacrificed me to the altar of your ego for the last time”) but merely read it to the river before ritualistically burning it. To him I wrote two words: We’re good.

In general it’s been quite a week even for this decade of overwhelm. War overseas worsening, fascism surging everywhere, and a huge shooting in the Brooklyn subways, 22 injured, not to mention a big tax bill coinciding with a weird drought in my practice. The latter I can only chalk up to the blockages in my own field–no energy source anywhere, just drains. I will say this: My back continues to heal, which suggests I am learning to support myself no matter what the circumstances. Good thing, too.

For just once when there was a NYC disaster, I’d love my Boston-based parents to ensure I was ok. They didn’t check that I was ok on 9/11/01 (I wasn’t; two friends were killed, including my boyfriend’s sister) and they still haven’t checked on my status since the subway shooting. I thank all who did check in, and in fact am fine and so are my people, but we’re also fearful and sad and angry. NYC really feels scarier as the hatred and chaos liberated by Trump and covid (and late-stage capitalism) keep spreading in a place where so many different people from so many different walks of life share space, usually beautifully.

I know it’s unseemly to put up such a self-pitying post at age 51 but lately I haven’t been saying anything since I haven’t had anything nice to say. Honestly though? Fuck nice. I value kindness but the hegemony of niceness mostly exists to reinforce a problematic status quo. My clan’s silence distills their pathology perfectly in a culture that upholds the biological bond above all else, and my choice of love object indicates I’m still working through that legacy. My chosen family—including you—is spectacular, and for that I’ll always be grateful. More than that, I am grateful for every impetus to expand my own compassion, healing, and insight. But boy o boy Massholia can really be a state of mind.

*message me if you want to read the letter. I just may post it as a matter of record.

Thanksgiving Falls on Every Day of My Calendar

I got up early, watched the sunrise with coffee and permakitten, drove over to Queens in Minerva, my trusty blue hatchback, and took a long hike through Forest Park, listening to the birds and squirrels and wind and leaves, meditating by the pond as the whippoorwills and a potbellied homo sapien practiced their scales. On the way home I stopped off at Trader Joe’s to fetch things I’ll want to eat on the Thursday formerly known to me as Thanksgiving, and joked with cashiers whom I’ve come to know and adore. It was a simple morning, but so meaningful and joyful because it was entirely on my terms.

Only very very recently could a woman could live by herself, drive a car she bought herself with money kept in a bank account with only her name on it. Even more miraculous: I finance my existence with work I feel called to do that once upon a time would’ve got me burned at the stake.

Given our country’s history of genocide and colonization–and given my complicated personal relationship to the Thanksgiving holiday–I’ve come to treat the last Thursday of November as a quiet and solitary day of reflection. I go for a long city walk, I say hi to the river, I slow-roast local vegetables, I pay my respects to this land that has seen so much harm since Europeans’ arrival. And then I watch really raggedy, emotionally complicated films like Lumet’s The Morning After, in which Jane Fonda plays a drunken former actress framed for murder on Thanksgiving Weekend.

It’s been a year since I injured my back so badly I was immobilized; two years since I was so broke I was afraid I would lose my home. Now, through the support of friends, healers, and my own adjustments, I can stand on my two feet again. I’m profoundly grateful I can freely move through this world’s extraordinary-ordinariness on my own terms. There is always so much beauty and love to be honored

Every day of the week, I’m so grateful to be grateful.

No Day But Today (‘Tick, Tick…Boom’)

I saw Tick Tick…Boom! this afternoon at the newly reopened Paris Theater and it was the first film I’ve seen in years where the audience, unprompted by the presence of cast/crew (I see a lot of press/industry screenings), burst into spontaneous applause.

Given that the musical, written by Rent composer and playwright Jonathan Larson, centers on Larson’s struggle to write and produce a musical, it easily could have devolved into a super-grating ouroboros. In the hands of anyone more narcissistic or nihilistic (Charlie Kaufman), it would have. Instead Tick Tick illuminates how creating art—creating anything—invites us to move beyond projection and self-aggrandizement into communion with each other and the love always moving through everything.

Exactly what we need in these dystopian times.

Shoulder to shoulder, ogling a big screen only blocks from Times Square, we in that hodgepodge audience reconnected with the irreplaceable joy of being part of art simply by fully experiencing it, and were briefly united as one. It underscored how grateful I felt to still be in NYC, one of the few places Trumpism could never infect (a place from which he beat a hasty retreat) because it relies on that shoulder-to-shoulder coexistence—no one more important, everyone a star of their own uniquely technicolored musical. A place where we’re all performance artists just by showing up at the plate, and grudgingly loving each other for it.

Which loops back to diehard New Yorker Larson, who delighted in making and embodying art, not just wrapping it up with a bow and delivering it somewhere slick. Who embraced the joy of trying, no matter the result, and the inevitable shock of change, even his own demise. Who built worlds celebrating that joyful, grueling praxis.

Thus his death at 35, right before Rent ever saw a real audience, was not a sad story so much as uniquely his story. The crescendos always as important as the climax. The grace notes not codas so much as bittersweet refrains. Not untimely at all, but linked into kairos, also known as soul time– what truly endures.

Utopia (noun). Perfect place. No place. A place to which we’re always striving.

More than any moment in my memory, we Americans need to thread back to each other and our best selves. And from the other side, aided by Lin-Manuel Miranda and his fabulously staged cast (a “Moonlight Diner” scene alone is worth the price of admission), Larson still is activating that American experiment. If you can, see this film on a big screen, for the full re/sourcery of real life as magic and magic as real life. Even if you’re alone as I was–especially then, maybe–it will reconnect you to the intimacy of strangers, arguably the most beautiful artwork of them all. You may know it as the social contract.

Utopian, indeed.

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