Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Riding the Wave, Grieving as Metaphor

I know several people who are living in transition for a variety of reasons. Some have gone public with their pain; others share privately with loved ones or kindred spirits. The fact that we can communicate immediately across oceans doesn’t mean we all prefer to do it with every soul in existence. I try to respect people’s choices, even when I don’t always understand it.
This infographic was making the rounds on Facebook. It references a Reddit discussion thread from someone who had just lost his or her father and felt hopelessly lost. Below is part of one response from someone who has loved and lost, literally, and sees the scars of loss as a “testament of life.”

Original, longer version available at
Of course, everybody grieves differently, but I was touched by the imagery. This is the most poetic and accurate description of what I have felt when I’ve lost some very important people.
What this describes is an almost crippling grief that unravels your soul. It’s unlikely you’ll feel this for a third cousin twice removed.
No one can dictate or even predict how you will grieve for a loved one. Sometimes we don’t immediately recognize the value of someone in our lives, or even our own emotional attachment; and it takes losing them to understand what we’ve lost.
Nor is loss always to be strictly defined as death. Breakups, divorces, and other terminal separations elicit an emotional response. (And I suppose that if you are a Browncoat, another senseless cancellation from Fox also applies, but that’s really a different discussion.)

The Kübler-Ross model gives you a roadmap to five stages of grief. For those of you not familiar with the concept, the stages – after the initial shock – are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

To some, it’s a full circle. Others depict it as hurdles to jump over to get to some proverbial end of a race… Some see rings of fire to jump through. Some chart it as an inverted bell. The stages do not always fall in order, and sometimes repeat. Sooner or later, though, you will experience some of it before you regain normalcy. Just know you can regain it.

SOURCE: http://jenpersson.com/care-data-riding-the-change-curve/

The problem is that it was meant to be broad. Knowledge of it does not prepare you to experience the emotional rollercoaster. Its purpose was to allow psychiatrists to treat people dealing with terminal illness, and then expanded to include other forms of loss. Its value, for therapists, is to move the patient along toward acceptance and being functional or at least stable.

But everybody experiences and perceives pain differently, and when it comes to grieving, that pain manifests in different ways: from overwhelming melancholy to actual physical pain.

To me, the metaphor of a giant wave works perfectly; and if you’ve been tossed around like a toy by a wave, pushed to the sand, and dragged out to sea, left petrified and breathless, you’ll grok it too.

There is a moment, when you catch your breath and you reorient yourself, and see the shore, that feels like triumph over death and all the sadness in the world. You forget that fleeting moment (that just seconds ago felt like an eternity) when you feared you would die of it, and you push towards life and living.

Soon, the memory of it remains but the fear, pain, and sadness ... these are replaced by the story of the journey and tied to a memory of love--of life, of self, of others.

Yes, love hurts, life hurts!, but it also helps you grow. Understand the pain, embrace it and let it pass, you’ll come out on the other side. It's just a journey and some passages are treacherous. But think Big Kahuna: if you ride the wave eventually you’ll hit the shore. 

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! 
But you gotta keep moving or things that kill you will catch up.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sinkhole Update and Alternate Reality Perspectives

Sinkhole update: the hole is still there and we have rotating crews working day and night replacing the old pipes, and eventually filling it up and leaving us a lovely, new road by mid-November.

Work is going on 24/7 and so far the only inconvenience was no water overnight (but with advance warning) a week back.

Sanitation is coming three-quarters of the way into the block, picking up garbage, and then backing out slowly.

The block is closed but not inaccessible – as was evident when an ambulance was needed next door or when delivery of a large appliance was made to another neighbor. So there's hope for delivery pizza and FedEx--though maybe not UPS.

The media and curious onlookers have quickly lost interest as other more exotic sinkholes appear. A sinkhole in Florida that tried to swallow a condo! Hungry sinkholes that swallow trucks and buses, and one in Wisconsin that swallowed a couple of cars. Then there was the tragic sinkhole collapse in Kentucky that tried to swallow the Corvette Museum – an event that would have been the nail on the coffin of Sam “Mayday” Malone.

Of course, it's all over the moment you insert a sinkhole with a British accent, even if it's a Manchester accent. That's a game changer! You just can't compete with BBC sinkhole...

As we grow accustomed to the industrious clanging noises coming from Fifth Avenue (can’t say the same about the house shaking), every once in a while, I imagine all these ridiculous alternative realities to amuse myself. If this had happened in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Woody Allen would've written synopses in his head about a neurotic little man who lived underground and whose hermitage is disrupted by the sinkhole, and is then forced to interact with the world of street-dwellers and city workers trying to fix it.

I’m getting silly but then, it’s 98° F in this apartment and I am ready to faint. This, of course, makes me feel bad about these poor guys working up the block in this heat, some immersed in the guts of our mythical city. I envy them not at all.

Here's hoping for Indian summer right into Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Mythical Massive Sinkhole

I have been referring to the place I call home the “Mythical Borough of Brooklyn” for decades. Certainly, I fell in love with Brooklyn and it enchanted me as if it embodied magic itself. (All the magic!)

Every discovery became an adventure, and Brooklyn – as the largest city in the Big Apple – has plenty to discover if you are willing to explore. My fascination and its charm grew deeper as I read “Winter’s Tale” the first time (and the second, third, fourth, etc.).

Some people don’t quite buy it because their vision of Brooklyn comes entirely from Law & Order episodes or Spike Lee films or any number of one-sided portrayals of a place that is not that easily labelled once you recognize the massiveness of our Kingdom.

The point is that they might start taking me a little more seriously. We have our own Hell Mouth, much like Sunnyvale.

Located at the top of my block, a few hundred feet from my bedroom, the sinkhole is trending on Facebook and has made international news. 

The event has brought firefighters, police, as well as engineers, scientists and bureaucrats from Environmental Protection and every utility.

The thing is gigantic and I am sure it will take some time to fix. There will be more people on this block in the next few weeks than have walked through and lived on it for the last 30 years. 

At 20 feet deep by 20 feet wide, the first question that comes to mind is what escaped from there?! (Gimme a break, I'm a writer!) My weapons are ready, in case I have to go on slayer mode. 

In the meantime, our hell hound protects the Temple as he gives the workers and media people the evil eye…

Seriously, though, we are fine (thanks for the emails, texts, and calls). We don’t have to vacate, and we’re already used to hearing the racquet from work being done across our bedroom windows on the BQE. More work will not affect us that much, not even 20 tons worth of refilling. (Well, except we’ll have to clean more often because there’s going to be a lot more dirt flying in the air.)

My deep love for Brooklyn will not be affected by the appearance of a Hell Mouth. I will remain ensconced in Brooklyn, probably binge watching old episodes of Buffy in between freelance projects, research and writing.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Big Ball of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

In the moment, it always feels as if there is never enough time. But time is relative or rather our perception of its passage is. If you’re having fun, it never feels like it is enough time. If you are in the midst of solving a crisis, it always feels as if you will not have enough time. Horror makes time stand still.

Only sorrow seems interminable and an affront to time itself as it viciously threatens to last forever. Of course, sorrow lies.

Time, however, marches on with or without you. Sometimes, in the process of living, you lose track of time, but it has always been there. Constant. Moving forward. And then, before you know it: OMG!

I was thinking that a year ago, I was laid out in the hospital, and we didn’t know what was wrong. Fear registered for a moment, but it did not take over. In fact, some of it wasn’t too bad. I lived in each moment to get through to the next.

Mom went for her yearly mammogram this week and ran into one of the four roommates I had while hospitalized. We shared a lot of laughs and made the situation so much better for each other, moment by moment.

As throwbacks go, I realized that I have passed the 10-year mark in writing this blog. It was always meant to be an exercise to keep myself writing, a way to clear my head, rant and vent (free therapy!), and a conversation starter with friends. That the conversations have remained private is a minor miracle, but precious to me. More than anything, the blog has been a way to document the passage of time for future reference.

Certainly, 10 years have seen a lot of change.

It started following a disastrous period of Biblical proportions that began on the summer of 2001 and did not let up until the spring of 2005. It was positively Dickensian: Laid off, starting grad school, terrorist attack, financial roller coaster…

In that decade, I managed to get a great job, become fluid again, and I travel a little bit. Some of the people who shaped me and showed me love have passed, and some of them I miss extraordinarily. I’ve written one eulogy too many, but I accept that this is a function of time. Most of my extended family (the one I picked and chose from the four corners of the world) is still with me, and that alone makes the journey worth it!

I beat sleep apnea and brought myself back to my old normal—though I am sad that I ca no longer sing nor properly pronounce challah. There was nerd training. I restarted my freelance practice. I reconnected with old friends. I met new (mostly great) friends.

I’ve made mistakes. Two. One I refuse to regret—though it was a worthless experience. The other, well, the other came with chocolate – so despite the waste, I accept my own failings in the whole sordid thing because chocolate. I'm sorry. Truly. It was good chocolate though.

I wrote, published, and sold books! Still exciting and satisfying, even as I get stuck in storytelling and must regroup and restart.

The last year has been challenging, but the last 10 have reminded me that I never lie down in surrender nor let time beat me down. I always manage to ride it like battle beast. Sometimes at a gallop, sometimes gliding like a Pegasus, and sometimes as if we were but simple companions to a Time Lord!

I may be on survival mode right now, as I work towards getting myself back on top, but I roll with time and look forward to the next decade and all the adventures, new friends and experiences, new job (it is coming! I feel it!!), new creative tricks, new recipes, new books, and more words to share with you.

Thank you for sharing in the journey.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

If you are old enough, or if you have grandparents of a certain age, you learned the word nostalgia early on, and Joe Franklin (the self-proclaimed King of Nostalgia) curated it in the form of magazine articles, newspaper columns, radio and television shows, and even a small museum.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, as Yogi Berra is often attributed as saying (he didn’t, but that’s another story).

Social media and Internet culture have brought a completely new dimension to nostalgia and these days one of its bigger proponents are: TBT and a series of websites to share memories and reminisces.

TBT or Throwback Thursday gives everyone the opportunity to share usually images from years before – which document childhood, earlier relationships, school days…

But nostalgia is a larger trending movement with more than a handful of websites that allow demographic groups to share their thoughts, memories, stories about usually artifacts from their past. The concept is that generally it involves things that are not seen as often (or at all) in these modern times…

On these websites, you’ll find galleries of toys, fashions, tools, and even music. There is even an app that prompts you to share memories – perfect for the romantics or the liars trying to pass as romantics, as the case may be.

Memories date you, and with these websites, you find like-minds or at least souls who’ve been where you’ve been.

We’ve all seen the images on social media and, I rarely participate but do read the comments for interesting stories.

Today, a friend posted this photo:

My mind was immediately transported and I became this girl:

My grandmother and I were with my godmother and her husband. We’d stopped at a small store in Santurce (the metropolitan area in Puerto Rico). On the floor, leaning into a display, was a sole corn popper. It was the perfect size, just my size. It was shiny and pretty and I touched it. Its wheels accelerated its movement, the “kernels” popped and jumped in the dome, and it made popping noises!

I was shocked and exhilarated and I stepped back for a second. The adults had walked ahead. I touched it again, tested it in place, and took off to hear it pop. I may have squealed.

My grandmother turned, saw me pawing the toy and warned me to put it down. Ordinarily, I did as she said. But this thing was awesome. Did she not understand that when the kernels popped, you felt the vibration up your arm, and it echoed in your head, and if you pushed it, you could build speed!!!

She came after me to take the toy away and I did the only reasonable thing a toddler could do. I ran for it! I giggled and squealed and ran in and out of aisles, my little legs trying to catch up to the accelerating dome ahead of me. I thought we were playing. Until she caught up with me and threatened my tiny life.

She wanted me to apologize to the shop owner, who took me in his arms, looked into my amber eyes and took pity on me.

He turned to my grandmother, flirted a little with her (assuring his shock that she could not possibly be old enough to have a grandchild), and said, “Ay, señora, let her keep it. That toy is the display one, it’s all scratched up. I was never going to sell it. And nobody is ever going to enjoy it more than she will.”

He begged, I gave her puppy eyes, until she acquiesced.

That Fisher-Price Corn Popper was one of my favorite toys ever. Yes. I remember it. I remember it well.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Living a Virtual Life is Hugless

We used to entertain a lot. Then somehow, it slowed down, and eventually, it stopped altogether. I think we needed a break (between work and other considerations). It was never a conscious effort not to be social.

We were very much socially active. Simply put, just not at our place. Then once we hit a financial rough patch, we put entertaining on hold and never got back to it.

We still cooked and had dinner parties and picnics, but we’d found other places to base the parties, and this suited us just fine. Less clean up!

After we started the beautification at the house earlier this year, I though perhaps we needed to start entertaining again. Then as I began to think of possible menus and planning in my head, it occurred to me that my people have steadily gone down in number.

Some folks have died and we can never have them back. They don’t figure here except that I realized we never really replaced the folks we lost. Not sentimentally, mind you.

Generally speaking people who were our friends a decade--two and even three--back, are mostly still in our lives. We did part with a handful of folks. They are less likely to come back than the dead are.

While I did make new friends in the intervening time, most have been online. I do realize there are horror stories about the Internet, but my friends have been awesome. In fact, I have met some of them in real life, and I even consider some family. Virtual family can be as valuable as blood relations. They are a source of love and respect, moral support and true friendship, but they are spread out across the globe.

And therein lays the problem. As I planned these fantastic dinner parties with extraordinary combinations of friends I’d sit on my dining room table, I realized that most of my friends have left New York.

The last few years have been brutal because everybody has been hit with a variety of things that keep people away from each other – death, divorce, unemployment, hurricanes, terrorism, marriage, bankruptcy, new jobs, studies, health, children, parents… While we have more ways to remain in touch, it also makes it easier to lose physical touch.

We just found out that next year we are about to lose another one. We don’t mind this, we are happy for her and we look forward to visiting her in her new digs. And then I took inventory and realized, if I were to hold the perfect dinner party (and there are at least six combinations of friends I’d love to engage), it’d cost thousands of dollars to have them travel to New York or we’ll have to do a virtual dinner involving a Google Plus hangout (or Skype or Facetime, whatever is the app of choice this week!).

The Virtual Dinner party *is* a thing! Remember this?

In a world with social media, I love how much easier it is to keep in touch with my jet-setting friends and to maintain long-distance relationships. Now if someone would hurry and invent transporter technology so I can have my dream dinner party (and hug my guests).

Beam me up awesome dinner guests!

(I don’t discount making new friends, of course. But that takes time. We’ve gotten more and more exacting in the things we accept or not of the folks we invite into our lives. Plus, I only cook for people I love. I don’t just give it away!)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Sacred Holiday of Fleet Week

It’s Fleet Week again and a girl’s brain turns to sailors, Navy officers, and Marines everywhere you go. They’ll be in Manhattan and Brooklyn, in the parks, in the streets, in the subways and on buses!

Whether you love men (or women) in uniform, or just love the huge ships, Fleet Week is always a fun time to be in New York. 

Go to silive.com for beautiful photos from the Parade of Ships from May 2015

When we first moved to Bay Ridge / Sunset Park, I remember walking as far as the foot of the Verrazano Bridge, marveling at the parkway, and finding Owl’s Head Park quite by accident.

During my outings in the new neighborhood, a local told me in conversation that we could watch the parade of ships from the lawn or the parkway.

That was our first Fourth of July. We did a picnic on the park, watched the ships come up into the bay. We met neighbors and played with kids, hung out most of the afternoon, and had a lovely time. Later that evening, we moved up to the pier to watch the fireworks.
Best quote ever from Eleanor Roosevelt:
The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seenThank God for the United States Marine Corps!
The better parade of ships, bar none, is the one that takes place at the beginning of Fleet Week. You get an unobstructed view of the ships. It’s spectacular. Fleet Week is awesome experienced in Manhattan, but the parade of ships must be watched from Brooklyn.

If you are lucky, you’ll also get good weather (May is no guarantee it won’t be below 60-degrees).

Sadly, after we started developing allergies, we had to rethink it because between the grass and the trees, it is a perfect killer.

Still, whether we partake in the celebrations in the flesh or not, Fleet Week remains our second favorite holiday after Halloween! So if you run into a Marine, a sailor, or a Coastie: give 'em a hug. Say thank you. Buy them a drink!

For details, dates and schedules, ships to tour: go to http://www.fleetweeknewyork.com/fleetweeknewyork/