I’ve been 51 for a week and…

No, this was not the last piece. But it was the cake.
No, this was not the last piece. But it was the cake.

…I just ate the last piece of my own birthday cake. Thank you, Bliss Bakery, for making a cake that is still good a week later.

…what used to be menopause is now officially menofilibuster.

…I am still learning the exact same lessons I thought I’d already learned when I turned 21, 31, and 41. Old dog, same tricks.

…it is now abundantly clear to me why my sister is always formulating plots about faking her own death

…that memoir I’ve been planning to write would likely have to end with me faking my own death, anyway.

…I’ve finally reconciled myself to the fact that when my mother said (disparagingly) in 1981 that moving to Massachusetts would turn me into a bleeding heart liberal she was mostly right.

…I am still mad at Tim Geithner and Larry Summers for siding with the banks (and don’t tell me they didn’t).

…I will always eat lunch at home standing up, even though I haven’t had to do that for, like, ten years.

…I’m ready to admit I buy my jeans at Chico’s.

…so I would like all of the cash I wasted on gym memberships back now, please, because walking in those Chico’s jeans is not only free, it’s so much better for society at large than doing anything in yoga pants in public.

…my friend Jenny is right – everyone thinks you’re lying when you say you’re fifty because it is too round a number, but everyone will believe you when you tell them you are fifty-one.

Clearly I wasn't going to put 51 candles on my own cake (or anyone else's for that matter).
Clearly I wasn’t going to put 51 candles on my own cake (or anyone else’s for that matter).


September 11 Heralds the Value of Collaborative Storytelling

Sunrise on September 11, 2013
Sunrise on September 11, 2013

I love TED talks, and I get a new one every day in my inbox. I don’t always have time to watch, but yesterday’s by Jake Barton put the best possible spin on today, September 11. He’s immersed in designing the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York slated to open next year and his talk is a journey through that project so far, and how in the process they have designed new ways to enliven modern museums of all stripes. Their interactive museum tools are the new spring growth, the unexpected flower after the scorched earth fire. The interactive features, some of which now in use at the Cleveland Museum of Art, don’t replace the existing exhibits, but they do cool things like allow viewers to put paintings, sculptures and bits of architecture in their original contexts via an integrated digital image. You can see the tapestry on the castle wall, the gargoyle on the building, the bust in the artist’s studio. Our CGI-marinated kids will love this.

image credit: wikipedia

The 9/11 Museum also draws on the Storycorps idea of hearing personal stories fro ordinary people about that extraordinary day (if you’ve never heard Storycorps Friday mornings on NPR, they are always worth hearing – click on the link to the main site and listen to one or two – each story is only a few minutes long). They’ll have a booth and people can go in and tell their story, and some of the audio from previously recorded will be playing through the PA system as people walk through the exhibits. Real voices, real people, real stories – unfiltered by historians, TV commentators or politicians.

I’m glad that part of the legacy of this day is bring people together with technology that connects us not just as individuals but with our art, our poetry and our history.

Standing in a doorway, February 1992

Florence, Italy, February 1992

I went through the photos from this trip with fresh eyes this morning – the stark winter light and sharp shadows of the architecture seem both vintage and timely somehow.  It was easier then to take photographs of strangers without seeming intrusive; whether it is me or the times that have changed I don’t know.

Winter Storm Warning

I know it’s getting to me when. . .

  • I look at my calendar and try to think of reasons to get out of every appointment on it.
  • I tell everyone on Facebook to put out their flags for Veteran’s Day and promptly forget to do it myself.
  • My family has to get their clean underwear (and pretty much anything else) from the huge pile of unfolded laundry in the corner of my bedroom.
  • Making the bed means the bedspread is pulled up over the pillows.
  • The fridge looks like my Mom’s – four cartons of half and half (two open), three half-empty bottles of ketchup, six pounds of butter, eight kinds of salad dressing, three bottles of beer that no one likes, cheese with sell by dates from last June and no milk.
  • I don’t care if W. takes his stuffed Wallace & Gromit sheep to the restaurant and gets an extra seat, napkin and menu for it.
  • I stop watching The Daily Show and the Colbert Report.
  • I do all of my reading online.
  • I am more interested in my Farmville Garden on Facebook than I am in my actual garden.
  • Salad consists of lettuce and cucumber.  Every night.
  • I don’t like answering or talking on the phone.
  • I give one-word answers to questions:  “Okay.”  “Fine” “Thanks.”
  • I avoid opening any e-mail with “autism” in the subject line.
  • I buy a whole pomegranate.

Rehabilitating the Heart

Something stirs in the dead zones; cool water on the hot coals of confusion.  The steam sears, but it feels good to know emotional complexities again.  The spots and crackled skin on my hands comes from over exposure to the sun, but the warmth that is brings is something good.  For the first time in a vey long time, I am comfortable in my own middle aged skin.

The stirrings were fleeting at first and are still vulnerable to the snapping jaws of panic, but I can still recall when fear was the only reliable emotion I could access for weeks or months at a time – I had two modes:  panic and exhaustion from being panicked all the time.  I was able to identify the places where joy and peace would fit, but there was no feeling to put there, and so I filled them with tears that may have looked like happiness but were actually despair at the joy I was incapable of feeling.  The numbness is not entirely gone, and sometimes I still fill the slots with the wrong emotions, but in the past year I have felt a broadening, an expansion, like blood flowing into long empty veins.  It can be painful, but those pipes that flowed primarily with fear and confusion, now course with hope.

Where all energy went into the suppression of fear, there are stories, words descriptions, curiosities that no longer torment but intrigue.  I read and write and the atrophied muscles ache and respond.  Slowly.

Recovery has required withdrawal from things and people I know are important.  I will have to find a way to keep those connections without allowing such pursuits to short circuit this delicate thread of creative electricity.  I worry that it will snap but I know that I will only happen if I allow it.

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