Hope Rises. Hope Falls. And I Adjust My Lapel and Say “OK.”

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I woke up this morning feeling the stillness of my neighborhood and I knew. I knew we had a new president. One I did not vote for. And I felt afraid.

I still do.

As a woman. As a Jew. As an American. As a being of light and love.

I realized that fear prevailed. And now I am the one afraid.

How do I not be?

How do I live in a place of love and light? How do I be a part of the solution and not the problem?

Yesterday, I believed we would elect the first woman president.

I was so proud to cast that vote. So uplifted by the photos and stories on #pantsuitnation. Unable to tear myself away from the words of people who had chosen to say, “I’m with her.”

The Muslim woman covering her head with an American flag scarf. The white, straight, self-proclaimed “Southern redneck” who totes guns and had voted Republican his entire life. Until now.

Recent immigrants who believe in the values this nation was built upon. Men in skirts. Men in heels. Women in pantsuits and Army fatigues.

People voting from hospital beds – their ballots brought to them, notarized and returned. People whose absentee ballots never arrived and flew back to their “home” states to cast their votes.

I sat on the bus. In the doctor’s waiting room. On my couch. Reading these stories of hope, struggle, strength and peace. And the cheers of support around them. Around us.

I want to believe in that America.

Four months ago, I returned to Chicago following a year abroad. People asked why.

Because my visa expired. Because I’m not Spanish. Because Madrid wasn’t home.

I believed I was meant to be here during this time. That it was important for me to be here during this time.

And now I am. Here. In this place that doesn’t much feel like home either.

I don’t believe “the answer” is somewhere else. I think it is inside of me. Inside of all of us.

Greater love.

But it is hard to believe when I am in fear. Hard to believe when hope rises and then falls.

And then I turn to the words and wisdom and stories of others. (The power of social media used for good.) Of a woman I dance with, who remembers having to drink from a “colored only” fountain when she was a kid. “Do not let fear cloud your judgement and reason … this country has gone through shit before; if you’ve never had to go through it, it can be terrifying … but you know what? That kind of shit got ended …”

Of a woman I’ve known since I was 12, whose husband is black and whose children think my baldish head is beautiful. “It is time for women to get barefoot and pregnant with new ideas and give birth to a new movement, mother it and take anyone down that tries to hurt it. We are just getting started.”

Of a mother on #pantsuit nation, a woman I do not know, whose six-year-old daughter put on her suit jacket this morning, the same one she wore to school yesterday, and asked “What do I need to do to become president?” And upon hearing, “work really hard in school, get in to a top college and then a top law school, and understand the law so you can change it,” replied “Okay,” full of confidence, adjusted her lapel in the mirror and went to school.

And hope rises.

Today, I will adjust my lapel, say “okay,” full of confidence, and go out into the world carrying love and light – knowing I am meant to be here, knowing there is work to be done.

My Past Is My Present

Many thanks to those who have supported my Go Fund Me campaign, “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” — a post-divorce narrative of how 52 Artist Dates healed my heart and pointed me in the direction of my dreams –- and my goal of manifesting blog into book deal. It is a joy to share your stories in mine.


4 August

My friend Bob Conlin recently invited me to join a group challenge called 100 Days of Greatness.

Each of us chooses something, anything, we want to do for or achieve in 100 days. We answer a couple of questions about what we want to do, why we want to do it and how we will measure success. And then update the group at least once a week.

My 100 Days of Greatness? 100 Days of Writing and Editing “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain.”

My update:

“Day One. Forty-five minutes on manuscript. (I promised 30.) Setting a timer helps. Don’t feel like I made much progress … but I honored my commitment. Brava!

“When I was writing regularly the words seemed to fly off my fingers. The process, joyous. I am reminded of these words from my meditation teacher … ‘Our mind wanders, and we gently return to the mantra.’

“And I gently return to the page. The practice.”

Practice builds muscle. Momentum. And action begets action. I’ve been seeing this in my campaign. As I continue to commit to “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain,” others do the same.

Like the mother of a long-time friend from college (who wishes to remain anonymous). She’s been one of my biggest fans since I began blogging from Rwanda in 2012. She sent a donation earlier this week, adding a note that read, “I believe in you.”

Like my dear friend Kip Helverson, who in the swirl of life’s unexpected also found time to make a contribution. And Laura Silverman, whose own round-the-world adventures inspired my own. “Can’t wait to read it!” she wrote, along with her donation.

Many thanks to each of you, for your support — both financial and energetic. Seems there’s a place on the shelves for one more happy ending. — a post-divorce narrative where the protagonist sweeps herself off her own feet. (And without even trying … isn’t that always the way with romance?!)

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5 August

“It’s not about the money….”

I’ve heard these words more times than I can count. In work. In divorce. In marriage. In financial decisions. My experience is, the moment I say “It’s not about the money …” it IS about the money.

And yes, this IS a fundraising campaign.

And yet, I have been delighted by the non-monetary gifts that have come from this effort. They are:

1. I’m having fun! When I’m writing my blog, a paid-assignment, or a piece to submit for publication, I toil. Considering each and every word. Not so here … Much to my surprise, I write these updates right on the Go Fund Me site. No cutting, pasting, perseverating, or wringing of hands. It’s an update or a thank you. Nothing more. An unexpected exercise in keeping it light!

2. I continue to gain clarity about my vision. Every time I write an update, I need to answer the question, “What is ‘They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain’ about anyway?”

It’s my story. About how I found healing after my divorce, not through the love of another person. But by romancing myself. That by committing each week to doing something fun, interesting, inspiring or different — Alone! — I began to see clearly who I was. What I liked. What I didn’t. And was able to step into a life I’d been dreaming of. A life as a writer. A life overseas.

Or, for the purposes of keeping it the length of an elevator ride, “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” is a post-divorce narrative — told through a series of weekly “Artist Dates” — that offers a different option for a happy ending. One that doesn’t require a Prince or Princess Charming. But instead, where the heroine rides off into the sunset on her own white horse.

3. I’m not doing this alone. I do my best growing in groups. Weight Watchers. Twelve Step. My Artist Dates are solo. But publishing a book doesn’t have to be.

5. I’m connecting with all sorts of people from my past and present. Among them, David Hicks. I haven’t seen David or his wife since I left Oakland in 2007. And, truthfully, I’m not exactly sure when or how we met. What I do know is the connection was easy and true. And it still is.

Thank you, David for supporting my vision from across the miles!!

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10 August

Sunday night. I am stretched out on the couch, laptop on my lap, considering digging into my past. Actually, not so much digging as reaching into … or reaching out to.

I would … except I’m not certain the interaction will give me what I want or need. Clarity. And a sense of connection.

So I connect to myself instead — writing.

(This logic of turning inward to get what I crave outward reminds me of what Woody Allen said about masturbation, “Don’t knock it — it’s sex with someone I love.”)

It can be any writing. Journaling. Blogging. In this case, penning A Go Fund Me update. As long as it brings me back to myself. To my life. The life I want. The life I am creating.

I hit “Post My Update,” feeling infused, inspired … and not the least bit interested in digging around in my past.

Funny thing happens … my past comes to me. Not in the form I think it might. But in contributions and sweet notes from people from my past, who are still part of my present.

Among them, my high-school creative writing teacher, Jan Mekula. Strangely, I don’t remember a thing I wrote in her class. (I do in others.) What I do remember is feeling incredibly safe in her classroom. (I didn’t in many.) Seen, honored and valued as a person.

Sharing my post on her Facebook page, she wrote, “My former student, a fine writer and amazing fierce brave human being.”

My heart swells and my eyes get teary.

I wake up the next morning to three more donations. (I’ll be thanking the donors individually.) It feels like a nod from God. “You’re on the right/write track. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

Like working on my manuscript — “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain.” A post-divorce narrative of how 52 “creative dates” (aka Artist Dates) healed my heart and pointed me in the direction of my dreams. A year living abroad. A life as a writer.

Thank you, Jan Mekula!

(Photo: Outside hotel in the South of France where F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald took up residence. Apropos for honoring my high-school creative writing teacher? )

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Want to know more about “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” — how 52 Artist Dates saved my soul after divorce and landed me smack in the middle of my own life — or how to contribute to my Go Fund Me campaign? Click here.

 

 

Artist’s Date 24: Finding “Epic” Acceptance

epic flyingWhen I was about eight, my parents took me to see The Black Stallion at the Keego Theatre, a movie house where they played second-run shows for a buck.

Onscreen, a storm is raging.  Passengers of a luxury liner jump into life rafts.  A young boy cuts free an agitated, tied-up horse, and it leaps from the boat.  The horse’s angry owners hold the boy at knife point before he is flung into the dark, choppy waters.

I am hysterical.  Sobbing.  Unable to catch my own breath.  I do not know the horse will rescue the boy.  That the story is just beginning.

My mother pinches me under the arm.  “Do we have to go out to the car?” she asks.

My feelings are too big for my family.  This is what I believe, true or not.

It is why I often watched television upstairs in the guest room, alone – my emotions leaking out with Folgers commercials and documentaries on PBS.  It was a source of teasing – mostly good-natured – in my family.  But I was too sensitive to realize it.

Sitting in the Davis Theatre watching Epic – Artist’s Date 24 – I remember all of this.  The fear.  The anxiety.  The shame that is tied to these feelings.  I am experiencing it now.

I’m old enough to know that good will prevail.  This is a PG movie.  I know that the Leafmen will “win,” that the pod will bloom in the full moon, that the forest will be saved.

And yet.

There’s this loud, foreboding music.   Crescendo rising.  Bats flying.  Forest dying.

The Images are dark.  Mandrake, nemesis of the forest, of life itself, wears a rat skin like a hooded cape.

I feel my heart quicken, a desire to turn my eyes away.  I am afraid.  I do not trust it will end well.

I am the only adult in the theatre without a child in tow and I feel a little bit self-conscious.  I retreat to my head.  Do the parents think I am suspect?  A child molester?  Why aren’t the children afraid like I am?

A dad ducks and scurries out, gripping two little hands, one in each of his.  Are they frightened?  Or do they have to pee?

epic flowersI saw the trailer for Epic a few weeks ago, on another Artist’s Date.  I was enchanted by its beautiful images – flower-people, with heads like cotton pom-poms, dandelions turned to seed.  Faces on sunflowers and gerbera daisies.  I was called by its questions about belief.

This is what brought me here, on a day I find myself emptied out, running on fumes – the promise of loveliness.  Of faith.  Of possibilities.  This is what I receive:

Professor Bomba’s unshakeable belief in something he can’t see, but only knows.  Like God.  Like Horton Hears a Who.  His willingness to be perceived as crazy.  His willingness to lose seemingly everything for his belief.

The Leafmen’s simple code, “Many Leaves.  One Tree. You are Never Alone.”

I learn that love can bloom riding gently on a deer.  And a pod that blooms in full-moon light is the source of all creation.  That hummingbirds make great horses, but common brown sparrows can do the job too.

I am reminded that relationships between fathers and daughters are sometimes hard.  And that it’s ok to hold on to someone you hardly know – if they offer you a hand or a torso and you need one.

That each of us has a purpose – even slugs and snails.  We might not know it.  Don’t always ask for it.  But we can embrace it.  And continue to put one foot in front of the other.

That life is about finding out what we are capable of.  How high we can jump to get ourselves out of a hole.  And that each of us can learn to fly.

That we all experience loss.  Of a parent.  Of a friend.

And that sometimes, love comes back – oftentimes in the most unorthodox and unexpected of ways.

Queen Tara’s energy, twinkling light like Tinkerbell, speaking to Ronin and to MK after she has left this-worldly plane.

MK’s reunion with Nod, straddling “normal” and Lilliputian-sized worlds for the promise of connection, of love.

I think of my own recent reunitings, seeing someones I never thought I’d see again … and then did.

The tears stream down my face.  Gratitude.  Beauty.  Joy.  I feel their salty release.   I notice them, like I notice the fear, and do nothing.  I let them roll off of me in the darkness.  I can sit with them.  They are not too much for me.