Thursday, October 20, 2011

Novelist

Words linger

Bring them to life, my love
let the wind from your
brilliant mind
blow us into art

Tell the world
about mornings in your bed
when our minds
magnets
connect in open stillness
and insatiable passion
that will be there then
like it is now

Tell them of
my overwhelming need to
cling to clarity
patiently tolerated
from time to time

They'll them how
our eyes will meet
at 3 am
because of biorythms
and shooting stars

Pen your
calm, solid, gentle
movements
that no one knows...
except me

Note the year
we overcame
when fate
held us accountable

Tell the world
how we laugh,
our thoughts -
collisions of
undeniable wonder
that never slip away

Tell them how
we will sustain ourselves
on purity
watch the birds
garden sunset
live profoundly
the rest of our days
among unguarded magic
captured
the day
time stood still

           ~

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making Room

I used to be a serious person, but something changed after I had children. Not only was I outnumbered, but their behavior was so comical that it made me see an entirely different way of looking at life. I realized quickly that I would have to silently surrender and join their circus-like crusade if I wanted to come out on top.

Humor never came easily for me; you can ask anyone. I've never been able to tell a joke. Plus, it was my sister's role when we were growing up. But I'm catching up to her now, giving her a run for her money. We're like the Venus and Serena Williams of puns, except we're not black and I've never played tennis.

I still can't really deliver a punch line though, and here's the reason why.

It's because I'm a writer. I ponder. I make observations and take mental notes and turn them into delayed gratification for others...and I like it.

So I guess that makes me a serious humorist; a revised version of my former self. Hopefully it's not an epidemic, because I really want to be the only one. It's like a multiple personality that took a long time to integrate.

Sure, I can still be poetically somber, but not for very long. It's difficult to stay in character when all of my kids are trying to talk at once.

Even when they do, though, they are still the best thing that has ever happened to me. They have probably added years to my life by forcing me to laugh, although they will debate this and ask, “Then why do you always tell us we are going to give you a heart attack, Mom?”  They have saved me from my serious self, innocently submerging it to make room for their childhood.

I will always be an introvert; some things will never change. And I know my quiet side will always be there when I need it, and sometimes I still do.

But I need my children the most.

I need to hear their laughter and they need to hear mine, which is why I almost always let them win.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Peace Sign


Numbers have never mattered to me.

They've just never seemed important, but I know some of them are.

Money and addresses would be good examples, although I can usually find the place where I am going by description alone.

I don't even know the ages of my parents or my closest friend, and although I could probably guess - it just doesn't seem relevant, and it's not that I don't care. It's that I care so much I would rather imagine them to be the age they seem and remember the moments instead.

Maybe it's my free-spirited way of always living in the present; I'm really not sure.

I also wasn't sure what numbers the scale would display when I stepped on it in the Spring of 2005.

I didn't own my own scale at home; I was at the doctor's office, weighing in.

I knew I was overweight, but when the numbers stared back at me, I was shocked.

Clearly, this number mattered.

I weighed 306 lbs.

My body mass index was 51, and there I stood.

A single mom. Divorced. In-between jobs. Depressed.

Most importantly, though, was the fact that I was contemplating suicide.

Not right there in the doctor's office, of course. I had a much better plan.

I would use my car and my garage and I would die from carbon monoxide poisoning. I would do it while my daughter was at kindergarten, and I would ask someone to pick her up beforehand so she would not be left waiting for me.

My ex-husband would remarry, and my daughter would finally have the mom she deserved. Someone who had energy, someone who didn't cry so often, someone who could play with her at the park.

This was my disturbing thought process, and I am sharing it because I know that I am not the only one in this world who has – in their deepest, darkest moments - thought about things like this.

I had come to my initial appointment with Dr. Brian Gluck - a surgeon who specializes in weight loss procedures - and I pretended to be happier than I was.

He saw right through me. I was transparent.

I cringed when he looked at my chart. I looked away; he did not. And I thought surely he would announce how large I was and that the number would be overheard by everyone like it was in my elementary school gym class, but he surprised me.

He looked at my chart and said, “You have a daughter.”

“And you're going to die if you don't do something about your weight.”

I wanted to tell him my plan about the garage, and that nothing really mattered because I was going to die soon anyway, but I didn't.

I took his words home and I took them to heart.

I watched my daughter while she slept that night and decided I was not going to die.

I would fight this battle for her, if no one else, and I would go to the park and swing with her if it was the last thing I ever did.

The next morning I decided I needed help. I called a local agency and explained my situation.

One week later, I met Rebecca, my therapist.

She agreed that gastric bypass surgery would benefit my health, but she also encouraged me to dig deeper than that.

We talked about my traumatic early childhood. We discussed abuse and neglect. We talked about abandonment and we talked about fear.

We determined the reasons why I had lifelong issues with food, why I had used it to comfort me throughout the years, and why I had chosen to eat my feelings instead of expressing them.

She then recommended the surgery and wrote the necessary letter that is part of the authorization process.

I kept going to see her even after that, but eventually we ended our sessions. She had helped me all she could, and she released me into the world the way a baby bird leaves a nest.

I will always remember what she said, because I carry her words with me everyday.

“You are responsible for your own happiness.”

I gave her a goodbye gift. It was a figurine of an angel holding a lantern, and it was called “Angel of Light”.

Rebecca helped me see the light.

She reminded me to give myself the peace sign...to hold two fingers up to symbolize peace.

“The first finger means to figure out what you need in your life. The second finger represents finding a healthy way to get it,” she'd say.

“Give yourself the peace sign, Marcy.”

So I did.

I took control of my life and let go of my fears on September 13th, 2005.

I put my life in the hands of Dr. Brian Gluck – a man I really didn't know – but for some reason, trusted.

“The surgery is only a tool, Marcy," he said. "You are going to have to do the work.” 

I'll never forget his words, either.

I will also never forget the kind way he treated me, the way he looked me in the eye and didn't look away, and that he – a busy surgeon, husband and father - called me at home after my surgery to check my progress, and immediately called back when my phone accidentally disconnected the call. 

His wife Jennifer is a nurse who works closely by his side. I remember how her voice, steady and strong, calmed me during a follow-up visit after my surgery. I was frustrated because I could not eat - I could not feed my emotional hunger - and she sat with me like a mother would while I cried. My newly created “pouch” wasn't ready for food - only liquids. Food wasn't allowed yet, and I would have to learn to deal with it.

“I feel like I lost my best friend,” I told her.

“Well, maybe you did,” she said knowingly.

My food “friend” was gone, and Jennifer helped me realize that I needed to let go of it. 

I don't remember every individual day from 2005 until now, but looking back I wish I would've kept a journal. It is my only regret.

I do recall some minor complications, but overall what I remember most is the smoothness of how it all happened.

Basically, it went like this:

I listened to what was said. I followed the directions. And here I am, living my life without limits.

I practice moderation now, balance the bad with the good, and drink as much water as I can. 

I also learned the hard way how important vitamins are when I stopped taking them after I realized that the most important relationship in my life (at the time) was failing. I became so weak that I had to take time off from work for bi-weekly iron infusions at a facility designed for cancer patients.

I remember the call from Dr. Gluck's office.

“We don't usually see lab results like this, and you need to come in right away.”

“Your hemoglobin is so low, we don't know how you're functioning.”

My body was completely depleted of nutrients, and I looked frail and anorexic - although I was eating. My protein level was the only thing that was sufficient. Had it not been, I think they would have admitted me into the hospital.

I remember the look of disbelief when Shannon (Dr. Gluck's assistant) saw the lab results in my chart.

She was truly concerned about my well being and saw that I was slipping. She reeled me back in like I was a fish trying to swim away.

“You do know your heart is a muscle, right?” she asked carefully, as if to invoke thought.

She wasn't letting go of me, and she wasn't letting me let go of myself either.

Shannon helped me understand that there will always be triggers, and that self-sabotaging behavior was not what I needed. I silently vowed to take better care of myself, and my heart.

I also remember when both of my grandparents passed away a few years ago without much time separating their deaths. It made me want to eat so often that I called the office to ask if I might have stretched out my “pouch” somehow.

The therapist on staff asked to see me, and I brought my daughter with me to the appointment. She waited in the hallway during the visit while I explained my feelings and all that had recently taken place.

As it turned out, my stomach was fine - but my emotions were not. I was sad, stressed, and mourning my grandparents – and those feelings had provoked my old eating habits. I had been "grazing", and not eating the correct amount of protein.

When the appointment was finished I greeted my daughter, who had been playing with my phone while she waited for me.

Ironically, she had used the camera on my phone to take a picture of her fingers forming the peace sign, and in the background of the photo was Dr. Gluck's office.

I had never told her about Rebecca's words. It was pure coincidence.

That picture will always speak a thousand words to me because in that moment I heard Rebecca, Dr. Gluck, Jennifer, and Shannon all at once - and because I was reminded of the reasons I made this choice.

I was back-on-track after that, but what I want everyone to know is that this is not a yellow-brick road. 

It's real, and it may not come easily for some.

It takes courage and commitment to change, and it takes work to rebuild something internally - especially when the external structure is being replaced at the same time.

And in case you're wondering, I'll tell you.

I still don't look at the scale very often, but at a recent doctor's appointment I weighed 115 lbs.

My body mass index is now 21, and I can fit on a swing at the park.

I am still finding my way without numbers, because I have a description in my heart of where I am going, and that is what will always guide me.


                                         



Friday, January 21, 2011

Space of Time

"Poetry is what happens when nothing else can."
~ Charles Bukowski


Space of Time


In the space of time I contemplate the ambiguity of you

but not the certainty of us


In my heart you belong

And I, in yours


Time is a friend, you say

so I let your words

fill the space of time



when my tears fall



and trust whispers your name

~



Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Flight Risk

I remember the movie vividly, like I saw it yesterday. Vivian, a prostitute, in a king size bed at The Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, talking to Edward. Her disheveled hair fell loosely around a thick white bathrobe, and he wore an expensive suit. His hand was on the door.

"Three thousand, for six days, and Vivian, I will let you go."

After he leaves, she smiles and says, "But I'm here now."

It was a temporary situation that didn't make any sense, this uncertain scene from Pretty Woman, and Vivian had no idea what would unfold. What she did understand, though, was the present. She stayed in the moment.

I know the movie well; I was a teenager when it came to the big screen. The story is about a quirky, street-smart prostitute who is funny, yet strong. She is adventurous, kind, and willing to underestimate herself just long enough to learn what she does not know. She is naive to the point of innocence, hence the white bathrobe, and everyone watching the movie knows that she has not fully realized her potential.

I've held onto her "But I'm here now" mentality since I was a young girl, because that was when I realized how quickly life could change. Vivian had a safety pin holding her boot together, and a minute later she's riding shotgun in a Lotus Esprit...until she gets behind the wheel.

I think we all loved how she took control, because we are creatures of habit. We lose sight of what is innate, and we do what we have to do for survival, similar to Vivian, which is exactly what I did for the past ten years.

I don't mean prostitution, although I do like boots. What I mean is that I forgot what came naturally to me. I forgot who I was and who I wanted to be and instead did what was familiar. I worked with doctors and patients in the medical field because it was what I knew best.

But I resigned from my job recently, and people thought I had gone mad. They asked me if I knew how difficult it would be to find something else, and if I was sure about my decision.

I had never been more sure of anything.

Erich Fromm once said, "Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties", and he was a philosopher. Surely he knew something.

I quit my job because it wasn't fair to stay; when I was there, I was distracted. Restless. I had so much to say and for me, writing is how I do it. Words were emerging and coming to me at the speed of light; I couldn't write them down fast enough. I started writing on my breaks, jotting ideas down on my lunch hour. I was compelled. I was the female version of Jerry McGuire and his "mission statement", and like Jerry, I didn't know what the future would hold. I just had to trust that it would be something good.

Every morning after that I woke up infused with enthusiasm. It was as if my internal "battery" had been super-charged overnight.  And the words were still materializing like they did for Jerry before he took his "memo" to a copy mat in the middle of the night and the shaggy-haired clerk told him, "That's how you become great, man. You hang your balls out there."

(Shaggy-haired clerk's words. Not mine)

So without a job, I had time to write, but financial challenges did present themselves. I learned that a savings account won't last forever, and retirement accounts are, well, designed for retirement.

Okay.

But I'm here now.

I found the time to watch a movie someone had loaned me called The Secret. One year later, and I finally had the time to watch it. For those unfamiliar, familiarize. It teaches you how to visualize and use the energy within yourself to create abundance, if that is what you desire.

Of course I was skeptical, but I started visualizing anyway, and within two months of quitting my job I had three new job offers.

One of the jobs was for a large company in a big city, and it was offering to pay more money than I had ever made in my life - but it would've entailed doing almost exactly the same things I had been doing. I knew what I didn't want was another job that would anesthetize me.

The second was a lesser-paying apprenticeship position, to work under an editor's wing. It involved writing articles and taking pictures for a local newspaper, and getting a commission for ad sales. It also offered the flexibility I had been yearning for.

The third was a freelancing opportunity for a small magazine.

Unsure of what to do, I met the editor of the newspaper at a restaurant to hear what she had to say. I didn't finish eating, so the server asked  if I wanted the food wrapped, and the next thing I knew, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" was the in-house music, playing over the speaker.

I love that song, but still, I had no decision.

I kept thinking about my New Year's Resolution. "This year I will write and rewrite and I will buy a plane ticket."  I had promised myself adventure.

And then it happened.

My lunch came back to me in a paper bag that was printed to resemble an old newspaper from London. I looked closer, as if I needed bifocals.

Directly in front of me were black and white classified ads for Medical Doctor Assistants, and my food was inside.

"Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high...there's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby."

It felt like an out-of-body experience. I don't even remember driving home that afternoon.

I knew if I didn't take a chance, I would be looking at classified ads for Medical Doctor Assistants for the rest of my life and that it would become a colorless pattern. But if I didn't take the big job, how would I...economize?

I would visualize abundance, that's how. I've always been a risk taker.

The next morning I sent an email to the large company that had money to pay and explained that I would be accepting a different position. What was I going to do?

I was going to write and rewrite and buy a plane ticket.

So I spent the summer writing and working for the newspaper while my young daughter looked on. She swam in the pool and I wrote. It was probably the best summer of my life.

When summer ended my daughter went back to school, and one of her first assignments was to write an essay about her parents. She wrote about how her dad is an artist (which he is), and about how her mom is a writer.

"My mom is a writer."

She only watched me write for three months, but she saw me embrace something I love and it became real to her.

"Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true."

This hasn't been an easy decision, I will admit, but nothing worthwhile comes easily. After all, Vivian was a prostitute and Jerry got fired - and he left with a goldfish.

But I'm here now, following my heart and teaching my daughter to do the same. I realize the plane ticket may not come this year, but it will happen eventually. It may have to carry over into next year, like a remainder.

So until then I will remain a flight risk, naive yet redefined.

I already have boots and a white bathrobe, but I don't have a goldfish...yet.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kewl


I am constantly defending the English language. I correct my children at every turn. I remind them not to use double negatives, explain when to use the words “seen” and “saw”, and tell them for certain that “ain't” is not a real word. I have a feeling that I will battle with “ain't” until the end of time because something tells me it may actually be in the dictionary. I fear looking it up, though, because then I would have to write poison pen letters to Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster if the definition boldly stared back at me.

My family gets tired of me doing this, continually going undercover for the grammar police, but English is something they need to know and understand. I believe communication is the key to success and think it's crucial, especially in the world today. It doesn't matter to me that my daughter is young. I remind her frequently that she will eventually need a resume and will need to know how to speak properly throughout her career, whatever it may be.

So you can imagine my frustration when I see her intentionally using misspelled words like this:

skool (school)
kewl (cool)
plz (please)
jelly (jealous)

and initialisms like these...

IDK (I don't know)
IKR ( I know, right)
GTG (Got to go)
IDC (I don't care)

Now, I understand that trying to establish her identity among her friends and pleasing her mother at the same time can't be easy, but this is a girl who only missed one spelling word last year, and was disappointed in herself for spelling the word "peddler" without one of the d's. What happened to my overachiever? Is peer pressure to seem less intelligent all the rage? I can understand abbreviating when a person is in a hurry, but she is not in a hurry to go anywhere. She has time to spell the words correctly.

“Why don't you just spell the words correctly?” I ask her.

“Because Mom, it's not what WE do,” she says ("we" meaning the majority of the tween population).

“Okay, but make sure you know how to spell the words because someday you will need to know how to use them,” I tell her.

“MOM!”

Enter a blessing in disguise while school shopping a few weeks later, when I agreed to pay more for a pair of jeans than ever before because she loved them, and because they fit her well. After I bought them, I handed her the bag to carry as we went to several different stores before going home. It seemed like a perfect shopping trip, but we couldn't find the new pants at home when we arrived. Somehow they had gotten lost, and I was disappointed. She had been carrying the bag, and I was frustrated by her carelessness. She was probably distracted by poorly-downsized text messages, I thought. I should've asked her to turn her phone off.

I thought about some acronyms of my own.

IDBT (I don't believe this!)
YIBT ( You're in big trouble!)
GAJ (Get a job!!)
ACYR ( And clean your room!)

You get the picture, but I didn't want to confuse her, or explain that one of the letters may or may not represent profanity. So, I rearranged my schedule the next day to track down pants that had gone AWOL. I sent her a text message to let her know I had found them at the mall, and this is the message she sent back:

“Mom, do you still love me? Because I still love you, and I am sorry.”

No abbreviations. Perfectly punctuated.

I stopped dead in my tracks. I think I even heard crickets chirping. I felt like a deer in the headlights frozen by shame.

“Of course I still love you,” I quickly responded. Did she really think a misplaced piece of clothing would make me love her less? Well that's enough Mom guilt to last me awhile, I thought. What kind of car did she say she wanted? But something else surfaced along with that contrition. It was pride, and it made me smile.

She didn't abbreviate. She knew I was upset because she knows I don't like wasting time and money. She didn't use half-words like “luv”, “bcuz”, or “u”. She understood what I have been trying to explain to her.

Now, there aren't a lot of things that can bring me to tears. I've cried enough in my life and my tear ducts are almost in retirement, but I realized something in that moment as I was looking for a tissue in my purse. She does know about timing, and she knows when to be sympathetic. She is still a good speller who is learning to be graceful. She feels remorse, she is insightful, and she absolutely - without a doubt - recognizes the power of words.

I didn't care about the pants after that, because I had found something greater than what I ever could have imagined.

I found her.

And to me, that's pretty kewl.   

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Door Orchestra


There is a door orchestra

that plays only at night

Trying mysteriously

to stay out of sight


They've mastered their timing

One door then the next

I am the conductor

of a percussion quartet




The rythm is a pattern

of high notes and lows

A bedroom door orchestra

and its crescendos


Out of their rooms

the players will peek

A standing ovation

and forte, they seek


Without an encore

a cymbal will clash

The repeat sound

of a metal door latch




It's time for bed

to sleep, no less

I will give you a whole note

if you give me a rest