Spring has finally arrived in Brooklyn. I’m writing this post out on the deck, in a short-sleeved t-shirt. After such a drab, low-key winter, any day that brings sunshine and a warm breeze is a gift.
The sky is a milky blue filled with jet streams. The birds are alive with conversation–pigeon, sparrow, crow, blue jay, and the red-breasted robin–they all make themselves known. The air sweeps through the bamboo trees caressing every leaf. Oh, and the carpenter bees are back, too.
My office feels like a slice of Walden in Brooklyn, surprisingly quiet and meditative despite its proximity to the hustle and bustle of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, the Terminal, and Barclays Center.
Dreams about loss, not of people but of things. And it seems many of those dreams manifested in the last hour before I woke. I’ve been reading a lot about lucid dreaming, where you can move in between sequences without pause; it certainly felt like it. I wouldn’t be able to explain the surreality and blended flow of past vignettes otherwise.
It was like watching a scene from a Woody Allen movie and then interacting with all of its characters. I was having lunch at a restaurant, my dining companion nondescript when someone walked by the plate glass window holding up a book that looked familiar. Something I owned, something I knew. That flash of recognition compelled me to dash out of the restaurant in the direction from which the stranger had come, and into the not so distant past from which I had come. A series of life-like experiences and interactions with objects from my past followed: a box of items left under my desk at a former employer’s office; a ‘crooked’ pantry filled with discarded butter and opened bottles of water in from my childhood home; and the persistent presence of a brown corduroy jacket with cream colored pinstripe interior that I’m not sure I ever owned.
The interactions were accompanied by a wave of emotions. First, anger and annoyance for the company not trying to get in touch with me before donating my ‘goods’ to the strangers and streets of New York City. Then frustration and confusion that the new owners of my childhood home would let food spoil, in a Fantasian asymmetrical room. In each sequence, there was an undefinable and unrecognizable personality: the administrative assistant that was going to help me resolve the box issue; the young woman with curly brown hair sitting on a couch with a mug of tea; an older woman wearing the jacket, the one that used to be mine.
For the last few years, as February has shifted into March so have things and people shifted in and out of my life. A career, a house, a persona, and yes even that brown corduroy jacket. And for every exit, there has also been a beginning: a dream set in motion, a home created, and even a new addition or two to the unfinished fashion closet.
Today marks the 17th anniversary of my mom, Lucia Romano Preziotti’s death. For those who knew her personally–sadly only a handful of people left in my life–she was the kindest soul with the strongest heart, a believer in the underdog, and a supportive if quietly reserved #feminist. Born in the late 20s, a working woman in the late 40s, a wife and mother in the 60s and then again in the 70s, a working mom and student in the 80s, a retiree and traveler in the 90s, gone too early in the millennium. She was my champion and my best friend.
This weekend I honored her memory by participating in the historic Women’s March on Washington with some of my closest friends. And although we were not all walking side-by-side I could feel their spirit and positive energy in DC, San Francisco, New York, Berlin, Providence, and everywhere else around the world. These women who give me strength, who offer emotional love and support, women who make me laugh out loud and who challenge me to be my best self, women I am honored to call #sisters. These badass women who I am certain my mother would be excited and proud to hear are a part of my life. “This is what feminism looks like.”
one year later … and what I really want to say is how much a year worth of decisions or indecisions can change your life. seriously, what a difference 365 days can make.
if you think about it every year is filled with endings and beginnings. people walk into your life and they walk out. opportunities present themselves, some better than others. doors appear from nowhere, some are open, some are locked, some are waiting for you to nudge them in either direction. life is a series of moments both active and still, depending on what road you are traveling on.
this road that I am traveling moves forward regardless if my feet comply. even as I stand still, I can feel it rumbling underneath my feet with tremors of encouragement. it is a life force unto itself.
sometimes I forget how powerful the universe can be.
“There’s room for both of us.” This is what I’m telling Rocky as he tries to find space on my lap as I type. He was sitting in the chaise on the deck, nestled into the Mexican blanket I brought back from Cancun the first time I discovered the Mayan oasis. Now he is curled into the inner nook of my left elbow, his cerulean eyes quizzically looking in my direction.
Dusk, the sky is a faded velvet. It is so quiet up here and the breeze is heavenly, dancing around the copper chimes, brushing up against the clematis on the stairs. The rain is settling into a mist and there is a definitive feel of fall in the air. Something is rising, and not just in the atmosphere; it’s a changeling for all the things I feel internally. Change is brewing, I’ve felt the subtlety of what the newness could mean if I could just step forward. My current vocation is the last thread, the last anchor that ties me to the world where Dad was present. So many changes in two years time, it doesn’t seem very long at all, and yet f feels like a lifetime ago. The swirl of emotions from grieving is growing, surreptitiously deciding my future and all of it makes me feel like I have to be braver. Moreso than ever before.
Bravery is the act of being courageous; having courage, valor, intrepidity, nerve. True, there are more important things to fret about given what is happening in the world today but most of it beyond opinion is out of my control (racial inequality, gun control, and Iran’s nuclear powers). My greatest concern a call for bravery is a first world problem, and it’s not necessarily bravery that I am after but that last word on the end: “nerve.” That’s the one that resonates and calls to mind one of my favorite literary (and movie) characters from The Wizard of Oz–the cowardly lion.
On their journey to Oz he is determined to acquire courage from the great wizard and upon arrival is surprised to find out he has been practicing the act of courage all along. “The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.” (Frank L. Baum)
Life’s greatest mysteries they are often resolved in the everyday act of living.
A lot can happen in two years. A lot did happen in two years.
There were a handful of hypnotic eye-opening experiences in India, as well as a slightly disturbing observation in the duty-free shop in Qatar. The stories start here.
I came home with a new mindset and a plan to make some serious changes in my life. I adopted Rocky to fill the hole left in my heart from losing Tigger the year before. His arrival could not have been more serendipitous, one week later after an unbearably hot July my universe was shaken to its core when my father passed from this life to the next. Those stories are here.
Next came a year’s worth of weekends searching for a new home, and then this past March moving to a new neighborhood. Now almost 5 months in, my Saturdays are spent looking for furniture and sprucing up the deck. You can find out all about that here.
I’ve taken a very long hiatus from my writing and luckily that well is being replenished even as I type this “welcome back to me” post. In addition to ramblings about life and the occasional blast of poetry when the mood strikes, I’ll be exploring a new philosophy idea of how to give ourselves permission (aka leave) to live our lives.
What is it about being sick (in this case with a sinus infection/cold/cough) that makes you dream so vividly, almost frighteningly so.
In a span of 6 hours, I went from whimsical and positively light reverie to trolling the depths of despair and darkness.
I am in a deep sleep and the lulled scent of fresh flowers, of life, wakes me. I am in a building cut in half, like a diorama where anyone passing on the outside can see in even though the surrounding streets are empty. There is a cool breeze the type that is awakened by a midsummer day and curls around your skin like silk beckoning you to begin the day. There…here it is twilight in this room where I’ve been sleeping. No larger than a broom closet, and a male voice asks why I am sleeping in such small quarters, but I do not feel the size of the room, only peace. Untangling tan legs from crumpled white sheets I walk towards the window. A large plate glass that reminds me of the loft scene in Ghost; nearby I hear the mewing of a cat and can vaguely see the shadow of one on the fire escape. I reach around the window, the wall to pick the kitten up, his fur is soft and blue-gray and he is comforted by my touch. Just beyond the window, there is an empty lot and I can see 2 figures: a man and his daughter. The child is wearing a pink dress, her dark hair cut in a pageboy; she laughs and waves to me, I smile and wave back. I blink, the scenery changes. Now there is a meadow with a small lake bordered by dark gray cobblestones slick with moisture, the grass is yellow-green and surrounded by wheat flax rising on the hills. It reminds me of the rolling leaves and mountains on the drive to Lake Tahoe with Mon Frite. To the left, there is a playground shaded by a large oak tree that appears to be growing adjacent to my building, almost as if the building and tree are one. There is a barn, actually, no a monkey bar set with a yellow thatched roof, the oak branches sway side to side and I feel content, blissful even. And when I wake it is 2 AM.
# # #
We are in a courtroom. I am dressed in a simple black dress, fingering a strand of pearls at my neck. My mother is there, except she is older, her hair is white as if she were here with me in 2011. She is also dressed in black. In my dream, there is a young boy maybe 6 or 7 and he is drawing in a sketchpad. We appear to be waiting. A nondescript man appears, his presence ominous almost fearful. He pulls me aside with mom lingering nearby one eye on me, one eye on the boy. His words are unclear but his tone undeniably forceful; when he is done he calls to the boy who looks up and follows him without question. I seem to be trapped where I stand, now in the middle of the courthouse lobby. The walls are stone cold, the marble floor dull and gray, there is but one chandelier lit. The bulbs reminiscent of movie marquees from the 70s, only these one circular, the glass frosted. I look toward the staircase, the boy grows smaller and smaller in the distance. A woman resembling my mother walks over to me, holds me close and whispers with a soft Irish brogue, “It is for the best my love.” I feel heartbreak, and my body starts to shiver uncontrollably. And that’s when I wake up at 11 AM feeling ill and disoriented, hungry yet nauseous, mind unclear and foggy.
swimming, the action of propelling oneself in water by natural means using arms and legs, can also be used abstractly as both a negative representation of a sensation, where one is floating or reeling and a positive one where one proves to not go under and surmounts difficulties in their path. a lot of meaning for one word isn’t it?
swimming, I’ve been in and around water since I was a child. the ocean and its surroundings a part of almost every childhood memory. in each memory, there is sun, sea, sand. the sun’s appearance dictating a Saturday beach outing where we would pile into the dusty green Datsun and drive east toward Rockaway. On longer weekends we headed west toward the Jersey shore. And during the weeks of summer vacation, my mom and I would travel by subway to Coney Island or by bus to where the end of Oriental Boulevard meets the sea.
It was the draw not only of the sun on the sea but the sun and the sand, and depending on what shoreline we found ourselves, each experience of the sand beneath my feet, defined by its texture, shape, and size was like time traveling. From the bay shores of Coney Island to beginnings of the ocean near Riis. The eastern shores of Long Island where the granules near Montauk Point are slightly larger and mixed with ground seashells to the north shores of Orient Point dotted with shiny smooth stones that glimmer like black and silver diamonds on the horizon, to the white shores of the lido in Sicily where the best swimming holes to be found are nowhere near sand.
swimming, if one were to ask me I would undoubtedly claim to have been swimming since the very first moment my feet touched sand all those years ago. And that would be a half-truth.
At a young age, my Mom and Dad dutifully taught me how to swim in a seaside kind of way. They introduced the ebb and flow of the sea gradually, first building sand castles and moats, then splashing in caches of water near the surf, slowly leading me closer and closer to the frothy water’s edge. With each visit to the beach we ventured a little further, and one day I learned to float, the next time the doggy paddle. I can still see their young faces full of pride, laughing. As I got older they flanked me on either side holding my hands, as we jumped over the crashing waves, eventually finding a spot where we cleared the sea floor enough to sail with the breaking waves body surfing along the surface. In this homegrown adventure, I learned to swim.
And then one day years later on the beaches of Cancun, I unlearned how to swim.
It was a gorgeous day, my friend and I were staying at the Krystal Palace and after a day of touring the ruins made our way to the hotel’s private beach just steps away from the infinity pool. The sea was translucent and turquoise, the sky above us clear with rolling puffy clouds way, way off in the distance. The water refreshing and cool in the Mexican heat, there was no incentive to leave the water and so I lingered. Nearby a few other beachgoers were looking out onto the horizon, it seems they had spotted something unfamiliar. Upon looking over I saw it too, a cloud far off in the distance with what seemed to be a tornado like a spout touching the ocean.
These funnels, or water spouts, as they are traditionally called, can induce storm-like conditions and its advisable to not be in the water when first sighted as they can move swiftly. I know this now but back then, I continued to tread water and swim, glancing backward at the water spout from my location and was quite taken by surprise when the undertow shifted. Caught in a tumbling wave like a rag doll, I lost all sense of gravity and emerged disoriented and shaken with sand burns on my skin, a torn bathing suit and a heap of sand in my hair. I left that beach seemingly unscathed only to find myself weary of any undertow or swirling current. Since that day I rarely venture beyond my comfort zone, preferring my feet to touch the sea floor regardless of what beach I may be on from the frothy surf waters at Ditch Plains to the mild green seas of Antigua, Barbuda, Aruba and Puerto Rico. This unrequited fear of the undertow has put a damper on any ocean side endeavors.
I finally decided enough was enough, a fear of the ocean is just not feasible for someone who loves the beach. There are so many things l want to do that involve the sea, like surfing and kayaking and even in my wildest fantasies, I dream of selling off all my worldly possessions and buying my own private island. I can’t do any of that if I’m too afraid to swim!
And so I’ve enrolled myself in a crash splash course at the Y, a swimming boot camp if you will that meets (1) hour a day, 4 days a week for a month straight. The instructors test you on your ability and place you in a group of students with similar swimming strengths. Then they teach you the basics starting with the swimmer’s form, or streamline position, and begin introducing you to each individual stroke, i.e., backstroke, freestyle, butterfly, et cetera.
Classes started last week, and I’m happy to say that I survived basic training. It takes some getting used to wearing a swim cap and goggles but it certainly makes for quicker, less invasive swimming. I would say the breath has been the hardest adjustment and a complete 180 after a dedicated yoga practice (in through the nose, out through the mouth); it’s no surprise really that I resorted to holding my nose all these years. I can already feel the benefit in swimming as a form of exercise, and as one friend mentioned it’s the one sport where you use your entire body. My upper body feels more awake and open, and even though my muscles are sore from under usage, I’ve never felt healthier. I’ve also noticed a change in my diet where I crave protein-rich foods more than sugar/salt/starch. And last but not least is the added benefit of sleep. After a full day at work, I swim vigorously for an hour, shower then I relax in the sauna for a few minutes before heading home for a long uninterrupted slumber.
Taking a cue from Li Jia, the protagonist of Kitchen Chinese, one of the latest books I’ve read I am seizing the moment to write. Free of guilt and disappointment for a week’s worth of posts scribbled in notebooks, ideas jotted on post-its, fleeting sparks of something and then nothing swirling in my brain, allowing the words to flow on the page like writing feng shui.
I’ve been out of sorts lately, I don’t know if it’s the wishy-washy change of weather; the solemnity of the news from Japan to Libya; the fast-pace change and evolution at work or maybe it’s an undercurrent of what this year is: the final 284 days of my 30s.
What I’ve come to know is that once you graduate from college and hit the ground running with work and life, time moves so much faster than you can ever possibly imagine. It’s not as if someone can warn you about this speed dial on time, it just happens, and the reality of it is intangible, how it affects you, the choices you make. In fact, not until you live through it may you determine, and discover that it is a marvelous time for self-realization and reflection.