Saturday, January 18, 2020

What I've Been Doing

Photo by the inimitable Carl Jackson,

I bet you're wondering what I've been doing since I last posted when the year was young -- only two days -- and so filled with promise and resolution and new beginnings. Well, we're eighteen days in, Reader, and so far my favorite thing about the new year is writing 2020 instead of 2019. It looks better, it sounds better, and I'm hoping it gets better.

So, what have I been doing?


  1. Reading: I've read Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney which I really liked (she's just such a readable writer), but I didn't like it nearly as much as last year's Normal People. I'm still reading The Water Dancer by Ta Nehisi Coates and finding it difficult. Dare I say he's a better non-fiction writer (beyond brilliant) than fiction writer? As the kids say, IMHO. I'm almost finished with the sensational The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah Broome. It's so good. In the bathroom I've got this great book called Sharp by Michelle Dean.  The subtitle is "Ten Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion," and so far I've gotten through the first profile on Dorothy Parker. I'm not one of those people who spends a lot of time in the bathroom on the toilette or doing my toilette, but I do like to pick up something interesting and short to read that I can come back to and easily pick up where I left off. I've also just begun to read Garth Greenwell's Cleanness because two of my writing mentors recommended it, and the editor of MGDB* touted it as well. I read Greenwell's earlier book, so I'm expecting this to be as good. The sex is very, very graphic. By the way.
  2. Going to movies: I've seen "1917," which sucked me in and under as I've always been partial to the Great War, if one can be partial toward wars at all. Aside from sitting on the edge of my seat throughout the movie and being enthralled by the cinematography and the two beautiful co-stars, the main feeling I had was a sort of bemused rage and incredulous sorrow. WE MUST DO ANYTHING WE CAN TO MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO MORE WARS. Honestly, nearly every war movie I've ever watched has manipulated me into this emphatic imperative. Wars are hideous. There is no glory or honor in them. They are madness and insane, and anyone who justifies killing on a grand scale like that is spouting propaganda. Speaking of wars, I've also seen my beloved Terence Malick's "The Hidden Life" which is another war movie, but it's about goodness -- about what it means to be deeply moral and good. I saw Goddess Greta Gerwig's "Little Women" and was utterly enchanted by it, transported in exactly the same way I was transported by the book -- any book, actually -- as a very young girl. That took me by surprise as I had never seen any of the other renditions and only had the book to compare it to. The movie was just as much about writing and reading as it was about being a sister and a woman chafing at societal constraints. I absolutely loved it. I've watched some Netflix and Amazon stuff, too -- most memorably, "The Two Popes" which was more a story of two human beings than the weird fuckery of the Catholic Church. I think that's because Anthony Hopkins and especially Jonathan Pryce were exceptional. Reader, I still can't abide the Catholic Church and that dislike would include Francis, as he is still THE POPE of an institution that I believe should be dismantled.
  3. Teaching at two different schools: I have around 60 students that range in age from 13 to 18. The majority are in a small, private, ultra-religious high school here in Los Angeles that is, at the very least, giving me a lot of material for a future memoir. No more need be said or will be said. Stay tuned, though. I have a few students in another, very highly specialized school, each of whom I adore. Truly. One of my students began reading Carson McCuller's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and on a day when I wasn't even teaching her, she poked her head in my office and said, Oh my god! I love the book you picked out for me! I was having a particularly difficult time finding something for another of my students to read and relate to -- and then I thought of Flannery O'Connor's short stories. The kid is sucked in and under and very, very into "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "The Life You Save May Be Your Own." Reader, this thrills me to no end. 
  4. Having my mind blown without the use of psychotropics: I attended a 12-hour Holotropic Breathwork workshop last Saturday. I haven't fully processed the experience and don't have the words to describe the journey I went on during the 3 hours of breathing I did, blindfolded and  carried by incredible music that filled the room and my body with sound. You can read about holotropic breathwork on the world wide webs. I released a whole lot of shit and am still feeling the effects in a positive way over a week later.
  5. The tedious work of what Divorce Lawyer World calls "Discovery." I will say no more except that I have been set into a Matrix, a strange and mad world of no reason, where everything is transactional and my worth measures in negative numbers. It's a good thing that one of the hallucinations I experienced during the Holotropic Breathwork session was my generous body as Mother Earth, merged with the indigo Cosmos and lit by stars, my children rushing toward me as beings of power, my pelvis on fire and the only thing to fear a strange, searing pain that ran up and down my left side but, allowed to speak for itself, was released and transformed into dance. Honestly.





















* My God-damn book, which I have worked on only in my brain with not a thing on paper to show for it for over a year.



 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2020


This is my New Year's post.

On New Year's Day, Carl (aka The Bird Photographer) and I took Sophie to Solstice Canyon in Malibu because we read that it had an accessible path. It did have an accessible path, and the two of us took turns pushing Sophie up the steep grades, stopping every now and then to admire the yellow leaves, the bird calls and the grass-covered hills in the distance. I would have liked a view, but you had to do some serious, non-accessible climbing to see the Pacific, so Carl and I planned to come back another day. Afterward, we stopped at a fish shack restaurant on the PCH (that's Pacific Coast Highway for you non-Californians) and ate fried shrimp, grilled swordfish, grilled catfish, french fries, Cajun rice, coleslaw and salad. The restaurant was more "accessible" than accessible, so when we left, Carl had to make a path through the hordes of people waiting in line. He was helped by one guy who yelled out, "Watch your backs, folks! Coming through!" It must be the New Year kind of thing and all people filled with the resolutionary spirit because all the people parted, smiled, said encouraging things like No problem! How ya doing! Happy New Year! as we made our way through.

Here's the thing. It's been a hard year. It's been a hard decade. Hell, it's been a hard couple of decades.

But then there's now.

Who would have thought that on the first day of the year 2020 I would be divorced, walking a path with my daughter and a man with whom I've fallen deeply in love? Sophie's father -- my ex -- is devoted to Sophie, as she is to him, and I am grateful for that. I will say bluntly, though, that I had absolutely no expectation of finding happiness with anyone else. I had the usual post-fifty fears, both superficial and complex, but, frankly, the real concern was over who in their right mind would take up with someone whose life is a three-ring circus? There is baggage and then there's -- well -- baggage. I'm not saying Sophie is baggage, but the world of disability is not for the faint of heart. Sophie's made me who I am. Carl has a massive heart, and I am filled to bursting with gratitude.





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