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Fountain of Youth

Ezra, 4th birthdayDear Ezra,

You turned four around the time that I started to notice that I'm going to turn 40.  Not tomorrow, but one day, and sooner than I'd like.  Everyone says 40s are the new blah blah blah, and I'm sure they're right, but nobody says 40s are young. Nobody says oh I was 45 and beautiful and carefree.  This is the sort of pointless script that's been running through my head lately, when I am not either crushingly busy or fastidiously quieting my mind.  Which is still enough of the time to be noticeable.

A friend told me that four-year-olds are obsessed with death.  I hadn't noticed until we watched March of the Penguins together and you asked me why did the baby penguin diiiiiiiiiiiie? for days on end.  Since then you have specialized in threat assessment.  Nearly every day you mentally follow one risk or another through to its logical conclusion, invariably some form of if you (fill in the blank) could you get dead?  To which I reply, yes, if you (swallow glass) (jump from a high place) (play with fire) you could die.  In my head I also note and if you (eat too much bacon) (don't take your fish oil) or, you know, (just keep waking up every day).  Apparently we are both preoccupied with mortality.

My godmother sent me a primer on Buddhism and you'll never guess what example the author uses, right there in the first chapter, to illustrate the basic concept of attachment.  Our attachment to our body.  Our vanity.  Our fetishization of youth.  In other words, I am a textbook case.  The Dalai Lama thinks I am a cliche.

I was hoping to justify my fixation as maintenance, like haircuts and eyebrow waxes.  Harmless.  I could harvest your knock-knock jokes and inject them into my laugh lines.  Emulsify your imagination, and smooth it over my age spots.  Collect the eyelashes you shed and let an obsessive-compulsive aesthetician glue them onto my own, one by one, the world's most luxurious extensions.

Is it creepy to fetishize your own child's youth?  I hope not.  I wouldn't really steal one moment from you, one innocent query, sweet boy.  Witnessing your curiosity as you piece the world together is one of my chief joys.  I would rather (go gray) (sag) (wrinkle) (learn to meditate) than rob you of a thing.  After all, if everything goes well, I'll have a long, long time to get progressively wrinklier, saggier, grayer (and hopefully more detached) before I get dead.

All my love,



Lost and Found

artifacts of a former lifeOther than Will, the roommate who tolerated me the longest was Loren.  Last week she sold the condo we lived in forever and in the process of cleaning out the storage unit unearthed a collection of boxes that I was too lazy to deal with when Will and I bought our house seven years ago.  I considered taking the boxes straight to Goodwill, on the operating principle that I hadn't missed their contents in the past seven years so I probably don't need whatever is in there.  But yesterday I gave in and looked.

I did indeed set aside three of the four boxes to be donated.  But the fourth, oh my.  The fourth was a forgotten time capsule curated by a former self.

Inside I found maps of cities and towns all over south Asia, annotated with my chicken scratch, a guesthouse here, a suggestion of a river trip there, a recommendation of the best fruit shakes in Laos.  On those maps I could see my backpack-clad self boarding a bus, tracing that line of highway up the valley.  I could remember that hot spring or the garden where I played backgammon or the awful flea-infested squat where I stayed trying to cross that border.

I found a trekking permit for the Annapurna circuit in Nepal, an official government document made of yellow construction paper and stamped by every bureaucrat in Pokhara before I could set out on the trail.  I read in the New York Times last year that the trail has now been turned into a highway.  

I thought about throwing these things out - what do I need with them now?  But then I imagined Ezra looking through these when he has grown and having a sense of me as someone with a rich and adventurous life, even beyond my identity as his mother.

I found old letters inside the box, letters my brother wrote me when I was in college (Mom, did you make the 13-year-old Avram write to me?  Surely he didn't do that of his own volition?), love letters from an old boyfriend, from friends, from my parents.  I found an undated birthday note, presumably from one of those early-20s birthdays fraught with nervousness about how to be a grownup, that contains possibly the best three sentences of parental advice ever committed to paper.

Happy birthday darling,

Keep in mind when older people give you shit about career & earnings & security, etc., that not one older person who has strived & worked & accumulated would not give up everything to be young and poor.  Do what makes you happy.  That is the only measure of success.

Love, Dad

I laughed and cried sifting through these pieces of evidence, proof that I really did exist in those other lives, and so did the people I love.  Here are these tangible artifacts, held in my own hands 15 and 20 years ago, that remind me of the power of paper, of making things, of writing things down.

Ezra will probably never comb through my Gmail account, past all the decades-old Groupon offers and Linked In notifications, in hopes of finding the meaningful digital breadcrumbs left behind.  But he may look through these pieces of paper, covered in handwriting, and laugh and cry and know that I was really, fully here.


So to the growing list of things I want to get good at, I add this: write love letters.  On paper, in my often illegible handwriting.  Do it often and without the expectation they will be reciprocated.  Enter into the permanent record my high regard for the people who share my life.  Share sage ideas.  Use the postal service.  Choose pretty stamps.  Make proof of life, and proof of love.


A Love Letter

Dear Dylan,

I can't believe next week marks three years since you've been gone. When you called me a few years earlier to confess that you'd fallen off the wagon I didn't realize it was the beginning of the end.  I had always known you as a sober person and I assumed this was an unfortunate bump in the road, but that you'd be back on track, say, the next day.  I didn't know that the wheels were starting to come off.  I didn't understand that all those years when you seemed okay, your demons were still there, under the surface, gaining strength.  I didn't understand anything.

When I think about how absent I was from your life at the end, so wound up in pregnancy and having a new baby, I feel so sad.  I know I couldn't have changed anything for you, but I wonder if I could have just gotten a little bit more of you.  Jackie told me things got pretty bad, that you were in the grip of self destruction and despair, so maybe it's a gift that I don't remember you that way.

I usually think of you when I'm in the car listening to music, but that might be because it's the only place I tend to be alone with my thoughts.  You also always come to mind when I'm chasing a tele-skier down a slope that's a little beyond me (this has become a theme in my life, but you were the first and the most demanding), or when I get on the old mountain bike you sold me when you became a partner in the bike shop. When I go hear shows at Red Rocks you are with me and I can't listen to David Byrne any more without thinking about the time that you got me backstage at the Fillmore to meet him. 

I feel so lucky to have shared the years of friendship with you and Jackie that I did.  I was such a kid when I started working with Jackie that it's a wonder she didn't roll her eyes and mock me mercilessly for my endless follies.  But she didn't.  She laughed with me, and she invited me into your lives and made me the approved girlfriend, an appropriate companion for the things you loved that she didn't, like skiing and listening to jam bands play live shows.  I hope I was good company for the things we all loved to do together too, like four straight seasons of Sunday night potlucks at your house watching every episode of Six Feet Under that ever aired.

I found myself wondering recently, during one of my Dylan reveries in the car, if you're here at all anymore.  The grief we all shared immediately after you died made you feel so present to me.  But coming up on three years without you, you were starting to feel distant and faint.  When Jackie e-mailed me to ask if I wanted the cruiser you gave her it was like a jolt.  When I saw the bike for the first time I laughed out loud for the joy of it.

Dylan, this bike is the most perfect gift I could imagine.  It just feels so you, from the outrageous color to the skull-and-crossbones valve stem caps.  Riding it makes me feel close to you and to Jackie and to all the times we shared together.  It also makes me hopeful for the colorful and inspired future I am calling forth every day.  This bike is the vehicle I'm taking to that place, so thanks for that.

I made this little film for Jackie, but also for you, to show you just how much I love your bike.  Since you loved good design and the coolest people, I'm imagining you and Jerry Garcia and Steve Jobs huddled up in a corner around an iPad watching this.  (You would have LOVED the high-def iPad, Dyllie.  Wish you could have stuck around to see it.)

Miss you so.




A Response from The Moment

I got a lot of response here and elsewhere to the post I wrote about having a bone to pick with The Moment.  Imagine my surprise when this landed in my comments yesterday:

I am interested this this Presence upgrade The Moment is selling, but I always hate Customer Service interactions.  Most entities don't know how to handle Customer Service well and I imagine there's a high call volume there. 

If I call Now and get put on hold, it might actually put me over the edge for good.


An Open Letter to the Moment

Dear Moment,

Here is the bitch of a thing I'm noticing about you.  I go around diligently trying to live in you, and you calcify around me - or at least my imagination.  I get into the habit of thinking that my circumstance is the Truth.

If I'm in discomfort, in pain, in love, in bliss, whatever, I could be forgiven for misinterpreting that as reality, right?  If you're potty training a toddler it would be easy to mistake the utter lack of evidence that the process will ever end as proof that it will not.  And then one day it does.  Or so they tell me.

The thing of it is, even when I'm consciously, actively courting change, when I'm putting on perfume and lip gloss and trying to get it to notice me, I still get caught in the trap of thinking that nothing is moving at all. Everything is as it is, and as it shall be.

Everything is as it is, and as it shall be.

Everything is as it is, and as it shall be.

Even I know that those words, strung together on a page in that order, don't begin to make any sort of logical sense.  But Moment, you slipped a pair of blinders over my eyes and eased the bit into my mouth and then I was trotting along in a rhythm and I forgot there was anything else out there.  You are the enemy of Perspective.  You are the trees and I can't even tell I'm standing in the middle of a fucking forest and now I'm getting so agitated that I'm mixing metaphors, dammit.

And then a lightning bolt comes across a phone line and illuminates the truth - that everything can change in an instant.  That infinite possibilities are gestating just below the surface all the time.  And suddenly that which I have been wondering about, or dreading, or avoiding, or praying for, or that which I never saw coming even for an instant, is here.  Suddenly what was not real is real.  What seemed true is no longer true.

Moment, I can't decide if I'm noticing this for the first time (and should therefore beat myself up for taking 38 years to catch on) or if I just have to remember to warn myself about you every now and then.  Either way, you should know that I'm on to you.  You're not the Truth.  You're just the moment.  There are a million more where you came from, and your time is almost up.



P.S.  You know I hate conflict, so I hope we can still be friends.