Monday, January 22, 2007

Uh, where was I?

Oh, that's right -- blogging. Sorry for the gap in posts. I was in Philadelphia last week for a few days getting a stress test done. I could make a joke here: something about how there were actually two stress tests, and only one of them involved medical personnel. That's because I had a fight with Stobex. That wouldn't be a fair or even very funny joke, though. Actually the fight was very useful, in an odd and, yes, narrow-end sort of way.

Gotta do the updates first, though. I have heard from the only law firm that has my resume; the head of the complex litigation department is still swamped from end-of-year administration and the backlog that resulted from a big trial he had last year. That's okay, I told him, I'm not in any particular rush. And it's true. I have enough on my plate now without a job to factor into the mix! I have 2.6 miles on the week, and 15 for the month/year. I also lost some weight; I weighed 6 pounds less at the cardiac imaging center than I had a month earlier at the doctor's. Don't bother with the happy dance, though -- who knows where their scales have been. A cautiously good sign, though, I reckon. I'm almost completely caught up on the Vanity Fairs, have kept up with the weeklies (EW, TV Guide, and SI) and am getting ever closer to the dreaded Jaws music that is . . . The New Yorker.

And the demon lurking around this week is the latest installment of my Dealing With Anger. (When I was in law school, Eric -- my best friend at the time -- and I used to identify annual themes. One year seemed to focus on Pieces of Work, for example, meaning those pesky people who really suck all the fun out of your life, and make you crazy in the process. I am beginning to suspect that this year's theme is going to be about anger...) The fight with Stobex was the catalyst for this week's anger safari.

The topic, issue, context, and framing of the fight itself are not important. The meta-issue seems to be how much I value people who are self-aware and making some forward progress in their lives, but even the meta-issue isn't all that interesting. (Still, here's the short form, if you care: Self-awareness is vital. I know that's not objectively right, but it is heavily weighted in my internal sense of worth, and I value it disproportionally in others. Someone else might value contribution or accomplishment, and I could hardly argue. For me -- well, let's just say that my motto is "The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living," and leave it at that. And if you're not self-aware, then I like to see a lot of progress. The people I know who neither move forward in their lives, nor have a clue what's going on and why, are difficult for me to love and support. I just want to shake them. And that would be objectively wrong!) No, what was interesting to me was my willingness to put some action into my reactions.

There were two key moments in the past few days when I actually did something about what I was angry about. In one, I walked away from someone I love because I recognized that I couldn't change what was happening. For a few hours afterward, my various ego-states checked in and voiced their opinions. Fear, shame, righteous anger, dismay. I really got the theme & variations. I think it was the first time I wasn't overwhelmed by any single emotion but was able to co-exist with them all. Uncomfortable, but revealing a nice sense of progress.

The second epiphany was last night. Someone said something that felt wrong to me. I didn't dwell on it, and actually didn't think about it consciously for the rest of the night. Strangely, though, I stayed up late which I mostly never do. It just seemed right last night. When I got up this morning, nothing out of the ordinary until I sat down to draft an e-mail regarding the statement that had so briefly concerned me and discovered I'd tapped into a real resevoir of "hell no!" Starman helped me reframe my approach (phone call rather than e-mail, basically) and in the end, I said what I needed to say. I kept my perspective; I could see my anger was turbo-charged by ancient events, but I also knew I wasn't wrong. And the recipient knew it too. The specific issue will probably get dealt with, but the big, bigger, biggest issue certainly got slayed: I'm not afraid of my own anger anymore.

Such a small moment in the hugeness of one life, but I think I'll hang this memory up next to the epiphany I had in a bagel shop in 1988 when I saw for the first time that people critiquing my performance at work actually wanted me to improve, so I didn't need to fear them. Self-awareness and forward progress may not win the Nobel Prize or earn me millions, but I'll take `em.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Sorry. I have a cold, so I'm grumpy and crabby and sleepy and probably a couple other dwarfs to boot. Heh. I'll survive. It's only a cold!

The electrician has left the building, which means that both Starman and I now have beautifully light, bright offices in the basement. Gotta love the halogen, particularly in rooms where the only natural light is coming from a measly three square feet of window near the ceiling. I've got a call into the painter; once he's done, we can get on with construction of Ikea flatpack furniture and shelving. (In theory we could construct all that now, but there is no space to put anything except in the rooms themselves, and it's just easier to let John do his thing.) Starman's room won't be fully furnished until the boat sails that has his stuff on it. Okay, it has to sail, dock, get unloaded, and the shipment has to clear Customs. A few more weeks, at least.

When my room is outfitted, however, the real fun starts: the dozens of boxes already here have to be unpacked, and then all my fabric has to be packed and moved from Philadelphia to Harmony (that's what we call our house here) and reorganized. In the end, it's going to be stunningly beautiful and tremendously useful. I have to use superlatives like that or I'll get overwhelmed by all the work involved! The real carrot for me is the thought of all that luscious fabric organized by color and tone. Check out another quilter's studio for some idea what I'm talking about: (January 8, 2007). You have to know that's nirvana to my eyes! I swear I could lose 50 pounds, eat all my vegetables, be a fulltime lawyer, and keep my house spotlessly clean if someone would allow me to buy fabric as behavioral rewards. I wouldn't even need time to sew it up; it's enough just to look at it! (You'll notice I didn't talk about maintaining our life savings in that list of fantasy accomplishments; fabric is Not Cheap.)

And how am I doing on the New Year's Resolutions? I have done nothing new on the job front; I'm up to 3.6 miles on the week, and 11.4 for the month/year-to-date; I've cleared out all the Sports Illustrated backlog, and am down to four Vanity Fairs; and I have a little news on the Demonslations. Starman and I went to Philadelphia on Wednesday and saw my therapist. He doesn't normally accompany me, but wanted to on this occasion, so I saw it as an opportunity to deal with some anger issues. I'm not angry at Starman. Starman is so far beyond the normal zone of annoyance that can pop up in relationships that I have a hard time even using something he does to show how not annoyed I am. (Only lame example? He sometimes leaves kitchen cupboards open after taking out -- or putting in -- the one thing he wanted. See? Not even registering on the Richter Relationship Scale.) And yet. . . And yet I have gotten enormously angry at him twice in the last month. The first time could have been situational; we needed to treat the cats with flea stuff and one cat protested vehemently and Starman didn't keep kitty under control. I got bitten, which wouldn't normally bother me so much, but this time it did.

The second time -- on Monday -- was so obviously not about the topic at hand that I knew it was important to talk about in therapy. Starman and I were off to run errands and go to the movies. This involved crossing state lines into New York, so map reading became somewhat challenging. I was driving; Starman was navigating. And, as so often happens, the moment came when the directions as given didn't match up with reality and adjustments had to be made. I just lost it, and honestly, I can say this: I was genuinely angry and I have no idea why. Of course I apologized, but even as my (slightly) more mature adult self was saying those critical words of contrition, an inner child was seething still at the situation. I wish I knew what had upset said child, but the communication inside a dissociated person like me is hardly straightforward. Twenty minutes later I told Starman honestly that I really had no idea what happened.

Talking about it with La Reine (blogonym for my therapist, but the backstory will have to wait) helped Starman, I think, understand that while he's the target (and I'm sorry about that: it's really not my intention to hurt him, and I know that it does hurt him) he's not the cause. La Reine urged him not to walk on eggshells with me because the anger, bubbling up from 45 years ago, is healthy. Not fun, but healing overall. I told him he was allowed to look straight at me and remind me (and himself), "I am not your sister." (I think it's safe to say that my sister -- and not the 2007 sister, but someone from the early 60s -- is the only person deserving of my rage.)

Was a demon actually slayed? No, not really. But it's a terrible irony that Starman is so loving and attuned to me that I feel safe enough to open a can o' whupass on him. Poor man. I'll make it up to him another time, and in some other way.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Now Showing at the Multiplex: I Puritani ?!

We went to the opera on Saturday. At a movie theater! The Metropolitan Opera in New York has figured out how to send a high definition broadcast of their Saturday matinee to various movie theaters around the country, and one of those is south of Scranton, and thus reasonably near us. It's a wonderful experience -- a narrow-ender's dream, as everyone there is self-selected as an opera nut. That was probably a mainstream interest 70 years ago (particularly in my old neighborhood in South Philadelphia), but these days it's a bit arcane. And old -- I love feeling "young" in a big group, and I do in opera audiences in the U.S. (Strangely, I'm probably the statistical average in London, where there seem to be as many twenty- and thirty-somethings in the audience at Covent Garden as old age pensioners or OAPs, which is British shorthand for the AARP set.)

In addition to being allowed to slurp a gigantic $4.00 soda throughout the performance (we eschewed the popcorn), there are social advantages to attending the opera in the hinterlands. I find it pays off to be friendly at these things, so I'm willing to chat without forcing myself on someone. Sure enough, Eileen, the woman to my right was a very youthful 70 (or so), and not only shared an interest in opera (she and her husband Edwin have some role in a local group called Mostly Opera) but she also plays bridge -- another of my once-common, now-waning interests. I made sure she had my and Starman's cards before the lights went down; I love networking!

The opera was glorious, btw. Well, the story is pretty silly (and set during the English civil war, complete with Roundheads and Cavaliers) but the singing was sublime. Anna Netrebko sang Elvira; she's the perfect soprano for the sort of intense close-ups you get with these broadcasts: stunningly pretty in the Catherine Zeta-Jones/Jennifer Connolly/Colbie Smulders school of creamy complexion, perfect symmetry and dark hair beauty. And she had a very pretty manicure. That's how close up the close ups are! Starman (who's British, you'll recall) and I had a good laugh over the Italian versions of the names: Queen Henrietta becomes Queen Enrichetta (sounds like coffee creamer put out by the folks who make Ensure for seniors), Arthur Talbot is Arturo, and there's actually Sir Bruno (Ali G.'s friend, mysteriously knighted?). Oh, and they had Beverly "Bubbles" Sills doing the commentary with Margaret Juntwait -- Bubbles is a hoot!

Next up: Placido Domingo, who is Not Young, as the First Emperor. Love the opera at the multiplex!

Resolution Big Board time! Job: I got tired of waiting for the office manager at the law firm to acknowledge my existence, so I sent an e-mail to the one partner whose name I had. See, I'd been clever and asked Stobex to ask the folks at his firm if anyone knew anyone at the target firm. And someone did -- they had lovely things to say about a senior partner at the target firm, so I sent the SP an e-mail quoting the lovely things, explaining about the office manager's silence and asking SP who I might send my resume to. He replied immediately and said to send it to him, as he was the head of complex litigation. Sweet! (I did try to be gracious about the office manager, suggesting perhaps she was sick or busy or both; I don't want to be a nasty bitch about her and then get the job -- she probably controls the number of pens you're allowed to have, or something!)

Exercise: Another walk so we're at 7.8 miles across the board. The full circuit took about 1 hour 15 min., which is faster than our walk together last Tuesday, but longer than mine on my own. But Starman confirmed that I'm walking faster, so that's a good thing.

Backlog: Good news: Down to only five SI (from a high of 28) and current with TV Guide & Entertainment Weekly. Bad news: Another New Yorker added to Godzilla!

Demonslations: Nothing much to report.

Off now to run errands, go to lunch and see a movie. More work on the craft room to follow.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


A bit of a mixed bag today. First up, congratulations to Cherry J. for huge momentous life event news, but I'll let her tell you all about that. (Well, she'll tell you when she's done cooking -- and boy, does all that sound yummy. Except maybe the oohbleck.)

Next, I'm instituting The Resolution Big Board today. Check in and see how I'm doing on the Big Four Resolutions: Job / Exercise & weight loss / Backlog reduction / Demonslations. On the Job front, nothing new today, but I did apply Tuesday for a position in a nearby city. (Well, to be more specific, I found a posting, found the firm's website, identified the office manager and sent her my resume by e-mail. I figure that's the equivalent of actually applying, although what I really want is for her to forward my resume to someone who can say yea or nay to whether they are interested in me.) The job -- as posted -- is a good fit with my skill set & background, but in my life that means I won't even get a courtesy e-mail back. I have terrible luck in employment matters, which just balances out my awesome luck in other areas. I'll do more on the Job Resolution tomorrow.

Exercise & weight loss: I went for a walk by myself today, so I'm up to 5.2 miles on the week/month/year. Starman has a cold, poor dear. Oddly enough, Stobex has a cold too (I saw him yesterday in Philadelphia). I suspect they have the same cold, caught around Christmas, as the timing is otherwise suspicious. I won't know about weight loss for a while, as I don't own a scale, but for right now the walking is very good. I did today's walk in a little over an hour, which is fast for me.

Backlog reduction: I need to explain about this one. I spent about a third of 2006 in England, and if you have magazine subscriptions you'll know what I mean when I say I have stacks of stuff to read/throw away/whatever as a result. So I've been working through them as fast as I can. I have gotten completely caught up with Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, I'm working now on Vanity Fair and Sports Illustrated, and I have the Godzilla of magazine backlogs, The New Yorker, still to get to. That's the real resolution: be completely caught up with The New Yorker by 2008. When I get to them, I'll start a count, but for now, I'll just list the other titles as I finish them off.

Demonslations: Well, it's a bad pun, but what I mean by this is more of the lifelong effort to put to rest my fears and issues about my childhood. (I'll unwind this over time, but the short version goes like this: I am missing 8 years of my childhood, probably as a result of abuse by siblings. They were kids themselves, and we were all stuck in a bad family situation, so no one's a monster here; all the same, I have real scars that only I can smooth out.) So I'm trying to slay my demons, hence the bad pun. And I'm trying to understand just what my fears are, so it's a bit of "demon translation" as well. (I know, I know -- it's still a bad pun. I'll work in it. I will.)

This is the juicy bit of my week's efforts, because on Monday Stobex, Starman & I all went to my sister's annual New Year's Day party. I had good reasons for going, mostly because I knew it would end the odd frostiness that developed in the summer when I announced that Stobex and I were getting divorced and that Starman and I were a couple. I told everyone then it was okay and that in fact all three of us would be travelling in the fall. In December they all got my Totally Impersonal Christmas Letter saying what a good time we'd had on our travels and how happy we all were, etc. I know people have been known to uh, exaggerate in holiday letters, and I also acknowledge that my romantic life rather beggars the imagination, but my sibs are really smart people whom I rather expect to keep up with reality.

In any event, Starman had only met my brothers, so I wanted to bring him to a party where he'd meet other kinds of useful relations: One sister, two nieces, and three in-laws. It worked like a charm. My sister is e-mailing me again (she's not one for the phone) and my brother is now talking about all four of us going to see The Magic Flute at the Met. But, specific to my Resolution Big Board, I had a fine time at the party and wasn't too anxious or uncomfortable. I did get ten minutes or so alone with my sister, during which I realized that I might have been guilty of "Christmas treeing" her. Remember how much bigger Christmas trees were when you were a kid? We know why that is, but we can't quite adjust our memories to provide a more accurate sense of how big the childhood trees actually were. I think I'd always assumed my sister -- a very bright and talented woman, to be sure -- was almost superhuman in her ability to perceive my weaknesses. While we were talking, I realized she hadn't gotten the story with Stobex & Starman right at all. (I think she figured Stobex was bereft and crushed by my betrayal. Puh-leeze! He's not quite at the "Wanna lose unwanted weight? Divorce your wife!" stage, but he's a happy man these days.) That's when I realized that I'd imagined her powers to be roughly as overwhelming as Christmas trees must have looked to us back in the day. Not so big now, of course, that we've grown up.

All in all, it was a good week on the resolution front. But I gotta go -- I got a new SI today!

Monday, January 1, 2007

A New Year

I like New Year's -- and one's own birthday -- because they're place markers that stick. You can generally remember where you were and what you were doing last year on New Year's or your birthday, and that means you can actually gauge a year's progress. Plus, New Year's has the added advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your feelings) of traditionally inspiring resolutions. I recall making five resolutions with Stobex last year; one -- to make friends with Starman (fka the boyfriend; yes, he now has a blogonym -- film at 11!) -- can be marked off as accomplished rather beyond even my standards of success.

This year, my resolutions are pretty much the same old faves: Lose 40 pounds (but I'll settle for 20), get back to an exercise regime I can maintain, face down some more demons from the past . . . y'know, the classics. I'm off to a good start, though. I have a walking route that works -- it's 2.6 miles, involves a really steep hill in the first third, then a level bit, then a kinder, gentler uphill in the final third. Takes me about an hour, but I'm hoping to improve on that. Exercise is the key to weight loss for me, as it adjusts my metabolism and induces a pleasant appetite depressant.

And the demons? Well, Starman and I are off today to see some family members at a party. We'll be a bit of a surprise: we've been invited, but it's an open house I don't normally attend. However, as these particular family members were unusually hostile to the news of my divorce from Stobex, (I gather) blaming me for hurting Stobex (hah!), and generally presenting a stony silence, I thought it would be a good idea for all three of us to attend. This is a logistical feat, as Stobex lives in Philadelphia, Starman and I are in rural Pennsylvania, and the family party is in New York City. Synchronized watches and cell phones a must! I'm told my sister has already guessed that we might attend, but that's okay because I had guessed that she had guessed. Duelling gypsy blood!

I want to tell you about my demons, but I had an insight into this situation the other day. We have some lovely neighbors here who are roughly 20 years our seniors. (Frankly, I should look that good and be that fit even at my age.) They have grown children a decade younger than us. It's clear looking at the offspring that mistakes were made by the parents. Hey, it happens. But I like the parents, and can't really fault them as people. Had I met their children first, and learned about the parents through the children's eyes, I might not have been able to like them when I met them. That sort of filter is insidious, and I want to avoid it here.

My family includes lovely, bright, educated, accomplished, funny and charming people. They have tons of friends, who appreciate them in every respect. So the very same people I have problems with are completely unproblematic for most of the people in their lives. Yet, I'm not an ogre myself. You see where I'm going with this? It works the same way inside the family, as well. Our parents are both dead. I was very close with my mother, whose faults (and there were many) paled next to her characteristics: she too was lovely, bright, educated, accomplished, funny and charming. (Apple, meet tree.) I was less close to my dad, who was lovely, bright . . . you get the picture, but who didn't do it for me. I tried really hard, but there wasn't any particular magic between us. He struck me as solipsistic, and I struck him as scarily perceptive and argumentative.

Now, if you talked with my siblings, you would hear about their very different parents. Our mother would be portrayed as scatty, irrational, unreasonable, abusive, etc. Our father would come across as brilliant, methodical, rational, etc. You know what? It's all true. I just liked one of them more than the other. My siblings clearly liked the other one better.

So, here's deal. I'll tell you about my siblings, the party, their reactions when I show up with the husband and the boyfriend, etc., because it will make one hell of a story. But let's be clear. Just because I don't much like my siblings doesn't mean you wouldn't. You probably would. The worst thing I can say -- and even this should be taken with the appropriate saltiness -- is that they aren't unlikeable people, they're just (occasionally) unlikeable to me.

Well, a year ago -- right around New Year's -- I resolved to start a blog. Didn't happen until . . . oh, whatever the date is on my first post here. There, that's two I got done! Batting .400 ain't entirely shabby.

Have a very happy New Year's, and a very happy new year.