Today in New York

22 Mar

Sometimes I just feel the rhythm of this city – the energy that swells up from beneath the layers of concrete.  It throbs through me, and echoes out of all of the layers of myself; all the Samanthas piled up on top of each other.

People ask me, “Where are you from?” all the time, especially since I’m new to this filthy, rat-infested, glorious, crumbling empire.  I feel that; that I choose to move here and watch it all fall, but I know that it’s already fallen.

“I don’t know where I’m from,” I say because I’m not from anywhere. I’m a culmination of all of my experiences, of all things forgotten and remembered.

Sometimes I sift through my memories, like pages of a book that I cannot put down.  I am terrified of forgetting and know it’s the inevitable conclusion.

But my experiences are my most precious possessions – the shining jewels of my mind.  People don’t realize that when they tell me I have a good memory I shine brighter than when I’m told I’m beautiful.

I don’t care about being beautiful, really.  But, when I look at my aging face I know that I am lying to myself.  That my life will change as my body changes because people will respond to me differently.

And who I am if I am not pursued and shouted at?  Who am I when I no longer look like the person that is recognizable to me?

And yet, when the young waitress, whose beauty is so obviously flourishing, serves me my glass of white wine, I don’t envy her.

She is too fresh, too ignorant – her beauty is in the blossoming and not in the experience; her beauty is a shiny shell and not the nooks and cracks – the marks that chaos leaves behind.

And what is beauty anyway?  I have seen so many different types and faces, and when I sit across the table and ask two woman of color if they have a difficult time dating, their response is, “”yes, thank you for asking.”

Asking is my pleasure, as is knowing others, or, “the other.”  The unseen city, the yet-to-be climbed hill, the person I haven’t yet met.

This is what I love about New York, it’s a city of extroverts, of people constantly wanting to tell something to the other because we’re all standing so close together.  Piled up in so tight that it can be stifling.  Elbows are bumped, drinks are spilled, and apologies are rarely made – there is no room.

The mountainous, sea-smelling spaciousness of other places that I have lived reminds me how I didn’t fit because no one had the need to talk or listen.  No one wanted to scream out their story to me – people had too much room to, “journey.”  Here people need to cut through to make space.

And sometimes I feel my joy radiate out of me like an incandescent light that others smell – I strut down the streets, smaller than most, and yet, still noticed.  At other times I feel so lonely that I can’t get out of bed, feel that I’m trapped in, weighed down by all of my unshared experiences.

I’ve been so loved by so many people, but never really loved; never had a man (or woman, for that matter) want to spend the rest of their life with me.

I know it’s me – I’m the common denominator.  I keep people at arms length or throw myself into and/or against things.  The thought of truly giving myself to another horrifies me but so does my ever-abundant freedom. 

A friend of mine told me I was looking for the perfect partner, but aren’t we all? Aren’t we all looking for that puzzle piece that just naturally clicks itself in, forming a greater picture, making a single soul larger with it’s connection?

Maybe God is my soulmate – maybe I am just a child of the world, the universe because the only thing that I’ve been in love with these past two years is life.

I’ve looked up at the sky, on a boat in Bolivia, floating along a lake were sea meets sky because its 3,812 meters high.  I felt the sky’s nearness.  I wanted to take my fingers and poke them through the scattered clouds that were hanging above; to swing across that lake with clouds in my hands.

My heart was so full – the richness and luck of my life so apparent; time and time again, I looked up and whispered, “thank you.”

And when I stride down the streets of New York, on my way to a meeting, an opportunity, a date, and I feel the millions of people who are also going somewhere, I believe that I can do anything.  That putting myself out there into the world is an accomplishment; that I am here because I am willing to push forward, persistently, toward the image of Self that I hold in my mind.

That unattainable Perfect image that isn’t real; that is a mirage in the distance, the person we all believe ourselves to be if we were just a little bit more or less of something.

I hear the hustle outside my window, steaming out with sound, and I look to the handsome man sitting next to me, and I pretend that knocking over my coffee is an accident.

He turns towards me, offering one of the napkins piled high on his table, and our fingers brush, just for an instant.

It is in that instant that I lower my eyes, and then quickly look up.  My hazel meeting his blue, and I breathlessly say, “thanks and what is your name?”

Beginning again what I’ve done before, and will do again, in cycles, one piling on top of the other, seeking out and writing all of life’s unwritten chapters, and here in New York with it’s abundant stories, ferocious underbelly, with it’s bloody gorgeous rhythm that rips people apart is where I will dwell, for now, as I write my endless, infinite chapters.

New Beginnings and Loss – it’s all the same

17 Jan

I have suffered so much loss – incredible loss.  Heart aching, breaking loss – more than I ever talk about, more than I can express through action or words, and long before my Dad died.

But he did die, recently, on the exact same day my Grandpa died – one year apart, so I have lost the men of my life.  There really haven’t been any other, and in a way, I haven’t allowed for anyone else because those I did allow betrayed me – all when I was very young.

And now I’m 30 – a significant age, an age I’m happy to be, and I’m in a time of my life that I’m happy to be in, but it all feels strange because I’m without a Father, and grandfather, and I know in my heart my childhood drifted away amongst all my adventures.

And I’m not unhappy, nor happy.  I just am here, navigating this new phase of my life with all of it’s uncertainty.  I truly have no idea what’s ahead.

And I can’t run away because I don’t want to, but I am consistently seduced, tempted by the thought of changing locations, of endless travels in endless cities where everything is an adventure and nothing means anything with the quiet hope that somehow, somewhere I will find that unknowable something that will allow me to know here it is, my final stop.

But stopping is a choice, as is living, as is not letting the undertow of grief sweep you away and allowing the happiness to continue on.

As is never letting life beat you, as is never letting shame overtake, as is forgiving yourself for the missteps and haps that occur along the way.

As is the journey continues on, even while stopped because roots need stillness, nourishment, need actual planting to grow.

So I will try and trust this moment, that is what I tell myself everyday, let’s stay here, and trust that it will grow.

And trust that I don’t have to know everything, know what’s next, that I am strong and capable, well-traveled, ready and experienced; that I can make life what I want it to be even while stopped, even in grief, even in the shadows of happiness that dance across the moments where I let it in.

In fear, in pain, in joy, in sadness, in rage, in desire, in frustration, in love it’s all there all the time, this spinning wheel of uncertainty and in the living we create, and in the loss we evolve, so here I am, in this moment, uncertain, sad, joyful, wanting, hopeful and angry that life isn’t always what we want it to be; that love is not always waiting; that expression isn’t always possible and that acceptance, choice and change is all that’s left.

A Piece of Fiction – Midnight At The Party

23 Sep

It’s midnight in this poetic darkness, but you do not see the words that I have inscribed on my forearm with that black marker we found in the street, and grabbed because we thought it would be a fun thing to bring to the party.

At that point we already had too much to drink,

But you never listened to me when I told you that it was enough – that we should stop.  You never listened to me when I told you that we shouldn’t take it so far; that I couldn’t take it anymore because I kept moaning it was all so good.

It was good, wasn’t it?  Even when I was lying we had those flickers of fun –

And when you passed out, I scribbled, “turd,” across your face and told you someone else did it.

I couldn’t believe how juvenile I was.  I looked at my hand holding the black marker, and ran out of the party, leaving you there.  I told you I was too blacked out.

I told you that when I saw those words scrawled across your cheek I knew it wouldn’t work, but I knew long before. I knew that evening you looked at me, while I begged for your support, on my knees, in tears because my life was so heavy sometimes and you said, “I can’t be there.”

You needed me you said, but nothing was wrong.

You didn’t know what wrong was, and so you told me that I was wrong all the time.  You told me that I didn’t accept you, you told me that I didn’t love you…

And you were right, I never loved you, not like that.

But what do I love anyway?  People, in general, with their terrible flaws that try to take each other down?  These weak, deteriorating beings that don’t last as long as the objects that they create.

It’s funny, I never miss you until I do.  And I think of that night, when I wrote liar on my own long-sleeved arm to remind myself to release you from me because you never had the courage to do it yourself.

The Space Between the Chapters of Living

12 Sep

No matter where I go in the world I know in Newport Beach the sun will be shining.  This flawless beauty disturbs me – it doesn’t feel real.

And it isn’t.  Next to me, at lunch, sit gaunt women, with pinched faces who pick at their cucumbers and cottage cheese.  I want to shove a hamburger in their mouths.  I want to turn to them and say, “do you know you are wearing your unhappiness?”

But who am I to judge strangers over lunch?

It is just at this moment of my life, I have no grounding structure to sit within.  I am in-between one chapter and another, and am impatiently awaiting to acquire what is next.

Yet, in this space I am crystalizing what I want to do; in this space I am plotting my next chapter.  At times, though, it feels hot and uncomfortable – like the sunburn that I acquired at the beach, making me red with my lack of protection.

And I know better – know to wear sunscreen, to be patient, to understand the importance and significance of this moment that I am sitting in.

People keep asking me outrageous questions, such as, “where do you live?” or “what do you do?” and I want to answer with what I see for myself – what I believe to be ahead of me.

Instead, I say the truth, which sounds equally outrageous, “I haven’t had a permanent address in over a year,” and “I’m a strategic creative consultant who helps other people tell their stories – both business and personal.”

“Oh,” is usually the response – it’s beyond a categorical understanding – there is no box to place me in.

But this is what all of my travels, people and jobs have brought me; the knowledge that you can make a blank canvas of your life and color it any way that you want.

It might not be easy or fair – it might seem hopeless or the result might look very different than the picture that you had in your mind, but your life can be crafted from your own abilities, desires, and whatever else you decide to throw upon the canvas.

Still, at times I am entangled and frightened.  At times, I get caught up with words like, “normal,” “typical,” and “broke.”  At times, my parent’s words ring in my ears, “when are you going to grow up?” which is what they recently asked me.

And my response was, “how am I not grown up?”

I built a career, made a home, attempted to create a lasting, long-term relationship, traveled the world and participate in managing the responsibilities that come with having an extremely ill Father and an overwhelmed Mother.

Are we so caught up in our own societal constructs that we cannot celebrate the many chords and keys in which one can live their life?  Are we so stifled that we cannot be open to what can be the joy of autonomous living?

And I want some of the above, of course.  I want (one day) to be married, I want (one day) to own some kind of abode that I can dwell within.

But even more than that I want to create – I want to continue to travel down the path that I’m on; the one that sees books and companies ahead.

I want to strike my own notes, so loudly that I forget the doubt, the fear, the uncertainty and pain that have brought me to this very moment of in-between.

The Exquisite Anguish of Being…

4 Sep

I have always written about fire – it fascinates me. Not the physicality of it, but the idea, the metaphor; for what are we without illumination? Yet, what is illumination without the danger of destruction? The pain of truly seeing? The ash it leaves behind? And who are we without our desire for warmth and consumption? Are we to arise again and again to both spark and destroy?

These are the questions that encircle my mind and frame my life, and the conclusions that I have come to regarding human nature often fuel my choices. That I believe we are both our greatest illumination and destruction; that we are born to die, and that it is the fearless act of living that truly matters.

Recently, I came across a quote of Albert Camus from ‘The Sea Close By’ that captured me because I thought it so beautifully illustrated, as what he coined, “the anguish of being,” or the duality of being – the illumination and the it leaves behind.

“Space and silence weigh equally upon the heart. A sudden love, a great work, a decisive act, a thought that transfigures,all these at certain moments bring the same unbearable anxiety, quickened with an irresistible charm. Living like this, in the delicious anguish of being, in exquisite proximity to a danger whose name we do not know, is this the same as rushing to your doom? Once again, without respite, let us race to our destruction. I have always felt I lived on the high seas, threatened, at the heart of a royal happiness,”

I am happy to be stuck underneath this dense (almost unbearably heavy) quote for I believe it is saying that what we yearn for, what makes us feel most alive is also our greatest fear; that our triumphs, our loves, our most meaningful decisions are what we are afraid to lose – and loss is the inevitability of life.

For a “royal happiness” is a happiness that invites envy, and the cliche that, “there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” also means there is always a tunnel beyond the light.

Yet, what is life without an end? It would be a life without, “irresistible charms” because we’d be weighed down with the knowledge that everything would go on and on, so nothing could truly be appreciated. It is living on this edge of doom, the risks, the tingling fears that make us feel truly alive.

What is the point of our choices if we didn’t live with the, “danger whose name we do not know?” To me, we know the danger is our finite time, and yet the length cannot be named.

So the, “race to our destruction,” is living fully, “on the high seas,” which will rise and fall at will for we do not always know the consequences of our choices. Life can only be lived this way if one is striving for a “royal happiness,” which most are afraid to reach for because it is a journey across a choppy sea – full of risk and loss.

But the consequences of living otherwise is often a protective numbing darkness that alienates one from their own feelings and possibilities.

This is why I’m drawn to the fire in all things, and why at times I throw it all in and let it burn – for I want to be taken with the swell, the up/the down, the flame and ash, the beginning/the end, and the anguish of being the in-between.

Experiencing the United States Social Security & Healthcare System

3 Sep

Today I went to the Social Security office with my Mom because she’s planning for her retirement. The offices open at 9:00 am and we got there at 8:45 – there was already a line.

A uniformed man shouted that, “no food or drink were allowed inside,” so I chugged my coffee.

When our number was called the woman told us that we had to go to another office nearby. “This is a problem for the State,” she said.

My Mom looked like her mouth was full of sour lemons and her grey roots were showing. She kept saying, “see no one can help us,” but the fact is they can. It’s just incredibly difficult, especially for someone who has her own things to deal with.

My Father has now been sick for eleven years and each year he gets worse. This experience has taught me a lot about the United States Health Care system, Unemployment and Disability. What I’ve seen is both frustrating and frightening.

Ill people and their families have to wade through a convoluted labyrinth of programming and often there is no one to talk to, “it’s all online,” they say, but what if you’re 65 years old and don’t have an email address?

There are three hour wait times just to be called up to window to make an appointment for the next time or to get told that, “you haven’t been unemployed long enough to receive help.”

It takes 2-3 months to get any paperwork processed because, “they’re behind,” and personally it took my Father two years to get approved for disability, even though he suffered strokes, seizures, has a greatly depleted short term memory and walks with a cane.

And my Family is lucky. My Mom still somewhat holds down her job as a nurse, there are Roth IRAs and Annuities – there are safety nets.

However, despite any savings, how long does money last with medical expenses and no income? Why should people suffer for being sick, disabled, old or laid off? These things are hard enough unto themselves.

They divide families and deplete spirits.

I look around at the Social Security office, or the State office, and I see such anger and suffering. I see people of all colors and ages attempting to understand how and why they got there and what needs to be done to get out.

On our way to the office I hear on the morning news that the United States implemented a Drone attack on Somalia, trying to kill the leader of the militant group al-Shabab.

It all seems wrong to me. It’s a cycle of Defense, Attack, Protect, and here within, ill people are trying to navigate systems that are designed to be difficult so less are served.

I do think a huge shift is slowly occurring in our society; that the generation beneath mine is looking more toward healing, and I don’t think this shift can happen fast enough.

We on both an individual, societal, national and global level need to learn how to recognize our fears, and sit with them instead of always turning against the other. We need to, even on a small scale, look at how the communities we exist within help those in need, and not just assume that everyone who is receiving help is taking advantage of the system.

We need to evaluate what our nations our investing in and hold our leaders accountable because I guarantee the cost it took to build a Drone could also pay for someone’s much-needed operation.

Of course, I hope one day to exist in a world where we don’t need Drones or Bombs, but I am not so naive. Still, we are the United States of America, and yet we so rarely united on any issue regarding the internal care of our people.

I think all teenagers should be assigned a hypothetical income and problem, and then go through the system and attempt to solve it. They’ll see how it feels to be left waiting, clutching a number and being told, “no.”

Then these children will grow up and maybe instead of investing their knowledge in weaponry or material gain, they’ll be inspired to use their brains to create systems that will help heal the many families who live within our nation.

It All Ends Eventually: Turning 30 & A Year of Travel

14 Aug

I wanted to write something profound when I turned thirty. A Joan Didion – esq kind of thing about the end of it all and what it all meant. Instead, my computer stopped working, and then I thought, “but really, computers are on the out anyway,” though I’ve never enjoyed writing on my phone or tablet. Ask my friends, I barely text.

So now it’s a month later, and I’m sitting here trying to write something profound about the end of this year and what it all meant. As if I have the capacity to capture it when I’m still somewhat in it, or in-between it and what’s ahead.

To inspire myself, I looked at all of my photos, not just of my trip, but of the past ten years, and all I could think of was, “Wow,” which was frustrating.

“This is how articulate I am?” I thought. Wow.

In my 20s, I kept telling myself (and those who would listen) that I would get to writing; that the book was coming. I also told people I was lost, and confused, and sad, and then occasionally people wouldn’t want to live with me anymore, which lead to me to moving a lot.

People would wonder why I moved so much, why I left things, why I was so disorganized, “how could such a smart girl not know this or do such stupid things?” or “why in the hell aren’t you leaving him?” and I thought people were pretty hard on me, but really I was hard on myself.

I agreed with the questioning, and I had no answers. I didn’t know how a smart person could, at times, choose so poorly for themselves, or how a confident person could be so insecure. I didn’t understand how a courageous person could not let go of things, and I certainly didn’t know what I was supposed to do with my life. I just knew that I expected myself to do something amazing, and I knew even that expectation wasn’t original.

However, that expectation was what I lived by, and so I began to blindly and fully throw myself at things like, “Account Executive,” “Chicagoan,” “Girlfriend,” “San Francisco,” and these things began to pile up on top of one another, giving me a drawer full of experience with no definite answers.

I began to feel that I wasn’t writing because my life was my book, and that subconsciously I was acquiring the outrageous to create stories that were to be written in the future.

Privately, I raged at the memoir genre and wanted to ask everyone in the world to stop writing in the first person because there needed to be an existing market for me and my experiences when I felt ready to commit to the solitary discipline of “the work.”

“I tried to at 25,” I would answer to those who asked, “but I just wasn’t ready for the loneliness that comes when it’s just you and your computer,” and I knew that answer was true.

When I turned 30 I was in a town in the Netherlands called Ultrecht. I sat down to an Italian dinner with practical strangers, and drank tea because I was recovering from being sick.

This number that I had been looking forward to seemed so anti-climatic, and as much as I wanted to not care, I couldn’t help but feel sad.

“Why was I even there?”

The year before I had a dinner with 20 friends, went a club, kicked a go-go dancer off the stage, and did a solitary performance to ‘I Am a Woman,’ and I thought, “hell yes I am!” but that was the end of something.

This year of travel was an in-between, an intermezzo of wonderfulness that I needed in some intuitive, inexplicable way. I can’t rationalize it. I can’t pretend that I don’t have terrified moments of questioning; the haunting doubts of what am I doing with my money, or why am I with four strangers in Ultrecht turning 30 before a plate of Italian food in the Netherlands?

“Maybe going to Asia would have been the better option, maybe I should have taken this money and invested in the business I want to start, maybe I shouldn’t have visited so many countries?”

And then it occurs to me that these are the same questions as, “how can a smart girl be so stupid?” or, “why did you do that?”

I know exactly what I am doing. I can articulate who I am and what I want in ways that I thought were unreachable, but most importantly, I have proven to myself that I am a capable woman who has the courage and knowledge to live her life as she wishes – that is the point.

This is what will lead me into the next chapter of my life, no matter how daunting it feels in this moment; this piece of proven belief in myself founded on my experience is what separates my 30s from my 20s.

I am now in the process of reconstructing my life from this place, and no, I don’t know what’s ahead, and yes I will write my book – maybe two.

And yes, this year, this ending, this transition is something I will never forget, though parts of it will fall away with time, or old age, or dementia, or maybe I’ll get hit by a car tomorrow and all that will be left of me are the words that I’ve left behind for others when I found the time and patience to jot it all down.

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