Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Little Puffs

(Note: it's a long one, but I really wanted to try to capture the raw emotion.)

Although I'm sure we all came from Love originally, somehow on this physical plane-world I chose to take on the path of learning love deeply, amplified by there being a (perceived) big gapping hole of it in my formative years.

I've written about the black hole before. It stems from a deep wound of insecurity, of not feeling loved, of not being accepted. Of knowing I wasn't wanted and being told that repeatedly by the parent who stayed.

Most of the time I've been able to deal with this lack well enough, having become quite resourceful, adaptable and resilient in the process. I'm also a "doer." That helps me enormously. You see, productivity equals value, and value equals love and acceptance in my book.

But this weekend, perhaps weakened by the deluge of (unpaid) activity from the past few months, coupled with feeling just plain squeezed out and exhausted, that damn black hole rose up and bit me in the ass. Like some sugar-crazed hormonal insomniac, the black tide rose up out of nowhere and dragged me out a few hundred yards. Choking and gagging for breath, it's all I can do to get to shelter.

* * *

I'm sitting in a lovely garden surrounded by lovely people sipping lovely cocktails while nibbling lovely carb-ridden hors d'oeuvres when all of a sudden I feel the tide rising in me to an uncontrollable level of not being able to breathe. No amount of makeup or wearing the costume, a form fitting black sweater set over a long linen skirt revealing bejeweled sandals and a shiny deep cinnamon pedicure, can assist me in feeling the part in this verdant oasis.

Seated on a scrolled wrought iron bench with lushly upholstered white cushions amidst every shade of possible greenness, birds tweeter gently to the sounds of trickling water. The air hangs heavy with dewy foliage and I am encircled in light cocktail banter. I should be in paradise. Instead, the woman seated next to me on the bench keeps her back to me for 20 minutes barely acknowledging my presence despite several polite attempts to join in the conversation. She nearly hits me several times with her gesticulating, yet never turns to fully acknowledge or include me. It's not like she doesn't know me. We've spent the last two years together at the same preschool.

Her affluence finally gets the better of me when I hear her state she would rather have spent the $2000 a night lounging with her family at the Four Seasons than stay on the horrifically rustic adventure they chose for their summer vacation. Well gosh. I, on the other hand, have thoroughly enjoyed my days in town spent at the public sprayer pool with my daughter and a zillion other "public" children, getting in for free with my public library card while my husband goes out of town every handful of days with the band.

I have never felt so invisible in my life. Except maybe growing up. Invisible. Needs not met. It's the combination of wanting to be noticed and failing to get the attention. Solution? Remove the need = not being disappointed. No needs here.

Even getting to the party, which doubled as a school fundraiser, was difficult. It almost didn't happen. Because my husband was playing a concert that night it was up to me to find "coverage" for my daughter so I could go to this event. Exhausting our entire babysitter list and even desperately calling around to the neighbors with kids to see if one of them could watch her for a couple of hours this Saturday, I got nowhere. Then, when I was just about to signal defeat and cancel, another mom who was going to this event offered to have her sitter watch both our daughters together, which was such a blessing of generosity when she suggested it, that I almost started crying on the spot. I never would have thought to bother her with my problems.

I have to interject here that many a time I have cast an envious eye on those with family close by who just drop their kid off at grandma's when they need to, or call on the sister across town, or have a high-school-aged cousin look after the kids. Or the more affluent ones whose nannies do much of the drop-off and pick-ups at our school, accompany the kids to weekend birthday parties and such so their parents don't have to. I suppose extending the nanny's shift into the evening some nights is probably not a huge deal if they're already on staff and you can afford it. Or, some smart parents hire a sitter for an ongoing weekly stint--say every Friday or Saturday night --regardless of plans. One babysitter I called told me her Saturdays were usually booked 2 months in advance. Two months? We hardly know what we're doing next Thursday, let alone a few weeks from now! But that's smart shopping: Book the sitter, and the date will surely come. But at the going rate of $12-15 per hour, you'd better have a reason to go out! It adds up quickly.

A little pang of economic inequity coupled with parents who've let me down begins to fester inside. I know I have a lot to be grateful for but we've been the juggling do-it-yourselfers from day one. We've had to be. And usually when hubs works at night, which is frequently, I'd just stay home forfeiting any personal plans.

I gratefully accept the kind help my mom-friend has offered, feeling somewhat less-than and loser-like. Oh, here's the DIY mom who can't get her shit together, sitter-wise. Yet my friend insists it's totally fine, please don't worry about it, and she won't take my money.

So I'm sitting in a luscious garden of abundance all around me yet I can't help but feel like a wilting imposter, like I don't belong, like if I stood still for 30 minutes, not one person would come up and talk to me at all. I know I am creating this projection, and I know it's old business, but here it is nonetheless. I am weak and susceptible. The howling in my head is growing like a cancer. I'm feeling diseased and pitiful. Me, the "uber-doer" parent of the bunch. The recently-coined "highly functioning, high performing" school parent.

Waiters come and go, and the host refreshes another woman's drink across from me. He comes up and generously offers to bring me a glass of Prosecco, then sends the waiter back this way who instead ignores me and refills everyone else's glasses. See? Invisible. Pathetic. Two trips later and I'm thinking the waiter just got it wrong since I don't have a glass to fill, but the host is happily ensconced in dialogue elsewhere, forgetting his offer to me.

I'll just get my own glass, thank you.

Hurt by this ridiculously petty injustice, the anger rises to its whip-slap reaction. Emotions whip out of control like a windstorm on the beach blinding me with sand in my face. I can feel my imbalance like a chemical reaction, yet I am powerless against the internal storm. I am nothing, not even worth remembering. I don't deserve a drink like the rest of them do. I must not be likeable. Not worth fussing over like that other woman in the glamorous dress.

I feel more at home in the laundry room where I painstakingly blotted that red wine stain off the nice woman's expensive white shirt, or doing an unofficial garden tour identifying different varieties of herbs, citrus and vegetation. I feel more at home in the kitchen where two waiters and a nanny bustle around cleaning and baking off platters of thinly-crusted spinach pizzas or miniature roulades of puff pastry and tapenade. Little puffs of air…

My eyes follow the spiral of black tapenade against the gold and I fall into the pastry, comfortable and in my element. My mind starts to envision different fillings and colors. Anything goes with puff pastry. It's so light and accommodating. You could fill it with just about anything…sweet, savory, textured, puréed…something more substantial.

It occurs to me that I spent a good deal of years being "the help" in the kitchen, not the celebrated guest. It is uncomfortable for me to not be "doing" something. If I am not productive, I feel like I am not fully alive, not worthy of just being for being's sake. Although irrational, I know this is a deep wound.

I remember the words of a therapist who once wondered out loud what my life would look like if I had truly felt loved and accepted for who I was and had nothing to prove. Hmmm…would I be the happily married hostess living in the same town as my family wearing a lovely party dress throwing delightful garden cocktail parties never raising my voice at my children or feeling that desperate, burning need to succeed and "BE SOMEBODY?!"

Could I EVER feel like who I already was, was enough already?

I've been walking through my life off-kilter, grown lopsided from accommodating this sense of lack, finding ways to over-compensate and cover the hole.

I feel the lump rising in my throat as I sink further, knowing that the sting of tears behind my eyes is on its way to the surface. Damn. Thought I'd gotten over this one. It's so ridiculously transparent but I'm caught.

Suffocated by listening to bland niceties and feeling ignored, I check my watch and realize it's already 10 minutes past my daughter's bedtime.

Screw pouring my own drink. Screw trying to fit in where I feel out of place. Screw the carb overload, I'm hungry for protein. Shifting my focus on not wanting to take advantage or poach another family's sitter, I grab my bag and dash away, barely throwing goodbyes behind me. I exit stage left under the auspices of picking up my daughter despite there being no real need to, except for my own perceived inadequacies.

I can't get out of there fast enough as the tide crests. I get in my car and rev the engine while opening all the windows. (Damn air conditioning's broken.) Aaahh, air. Motion. Speed. Wind blowing my hair every which way. Cool me, save me, be the salve on my skin. Blasts of air, though empty, somehow are healing now.

I feel miserable. Hungry. I should feel happy and full.

I don't.

Instead I race away to my daughter. This time I need her more than she needs me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jam or Jelly?

Today I received a fervent call from a friend inquiring about the appropriate way to preserve her freshly-picked Oregon Marionberries, a kind of cross between a mulberry and a blackberry.

Jam or jelly she wanted to know?

She had already gotten into a heated "discussion" with her husband about the matter, and was curious to hear my opinion.

"Well," I ventured, "it'd make a great pie," not wanting to get in the middle of things.

"Too late," she countered, the pot already simmering.

"OK, the way I see it, on pure instinct alone ...jam. If you want jello, then make a bowl of jello," I tell her.

But if you've got fresh, hand-picked juicy berries, I say bring on the big jammy fruit. Let me feel the tender crush of distinctive flesh and seed, let my tongue savor big lumps of the exotic tartly-sweet fruit surrounded by dense gooey berry goodness,
(as I envision it lovingly spread on a thick-cut piece of butter slathered crusty paisano bread, or warmed and spooned over creamy vanilla-bean ice cream.) Why strain out all the personality?

"Jam, baby." Not a doubt in my mind.

* * *
So later I was thinking, why is it we continually try to refine and strain our personalities, our individual uniqueness in order to be nice, fit in, be presentable, etc?

Here's to allowing our inner-fruit the opportunity to ripen and be fully celebrated.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Compass Girl

On the eve of the 1-year anniversary of the conception and birth of my Go Mama blog, as I revel in its new color makeover, I can't help but reflect back on the title track and name of the CD I made, er, 9 years ago, a few years after I moved to LA.

Compass Girl.

Compass Girl…a concept I resonated with so deeply, an identity I clung to and well, completely identified with…a phrase, an image, a cellular snapshot, a touchstone, a moving icon, a theme song, a melody that announced my presence, my own personal ringtone…it couldn't get much more "me." We embodied each other.

I envisioned her like some spinning ballerina in a child's jewelry box, both mystical, delightfully magical, and the longer you stared at her going round and round, somewhat cheapened at the same time. Her gilt showed some wear, the too bright lipstick belied a too-perky smile, the pointe shoes were the wrong shade of pink. These flaws merely hinted at something being a bit off. Still, she draws you in to her ever-spinning world to examine her compartments, knowing they hold secrets, transformative in their power.

Unfortunately, those who looked with an untrained eye would never fully grasp her and she would spin herself into perpetuity, frozen in half-dream half-reality, popping up when the lid was opened like some ever-hopeful jack-in-the-box desperately wanting to be "seen," recognized. Only a child's pure heart could ever fully embrace both her imperfections and her perfect majesty. Only love could break the spell.

I suppose in some ways the notion of Compass Girl represents my ideology at the time, my memoir in song, with every inch of it true, actual, literal yet also layered in double-deep significance.
This was, afterall, my life.

It was heartbreaking really when it didn't stick, professionally speaking. But then lots of things don't. Go figure.

Moving on.

Skill-sets like so many pages ripped out of a diary, were tossed into the street, caught by a blast of wind, scattered into oblivion. Dancer, singer, actress, waitress, coat check girl, chef, accountant, personal assistant, guru's disciple and retreat staffer, songwriter, recording artist, radio personality, talk show host, editor, producer, music rep, music publisher, chick singer, session singer, background singer, voice-over artist, line cook, pastry chef, head chef, kitchen manager, event coordinator, private chef, home improver, landscape designer, chief gardener and bottle washer… Bills, one hundred, two hundred, three thousand, slapping them down, used and consumed, muscles aching and repaired, spirit cracked and bonded, relations disconnected, discarded, personas shifted and realigned, deliberately disposable, invisible, not lasting. Momentous moments. Momentary all. Transitory.

Moving into a whole new world of change and disruption and death and rebirth. Could I ever foresee this happening? As a woman, now as a mother, finding my way, finding my voice, forging a family connection where none grew before me. Out of new mama crisis, the tearing apart of any shreds of identity and dignity and self-preservation my ego stubbornly clung to, I come through the fire anew, and this time instead of song, words were born out of the chaos into the stream of consciousness and flow into the collective force of mothers everywhere. I found my step, tentatively at first, I found my voice, and most importantly, I found connection. With support, anything is possible.

Perhaps it's the passage of that identity, the loosening of its tight inner-grip, as well as the realization that I'm no longer her, not so mobile, not in that same indie spinning way. No, I have put down roots. I have been here longer than anywhere. A dozen years. That must count for something. I have created a mate, a family, a home, a village, and I have witnessed the re-creation of myself and the sound of the rallying cry as we cheer each other onward:

Mothers in unity, not judgment. …Go Mama, Go Mama, Go Mama…!

So in homage to the past, to the girl I used to be before I stopped spinning long enough to stand still, with arms outstretched to the cosmos I honor her, the girl, and with open heart, I listen to her story once more:

Compass Girl

I've been around this world

Searching for my lost pearls

I've dragged them through the mud and swine

And I told myself it was…
fun, fucked… fine.
I'm just a Compass Girl

Spinning around this world

A nomad and misfit, wandering spirit

East coast, west side and true north, but

It's going to take a lot of snow to freeze this heart

And I come to you still…

I'm just a Compass Girl

Following my own free will

And if it feels right, it's alright by me

But when the feelin's gone, you know it's time to move on

I spent a long, long time finding my place in this world

I'm just a Compass Girl

Sightseeing and nightseeing, feeling with eyes closed

My life, your knife, twist and turning

Hey! it's gonna take a lot of jabs to cut this light

And no matter what you do

I'm just a Compass Girl

Following my own free will

And if it feels right, it's alright by me

But when the feelin's gone, you know it's time to move on

I spent a long, long time chasing my tail in this world
I'm just a Compass Girl

And oh I keep searching, but oh, I just keep spinning

Spinning around, around, around and round-oh-
I'm chasing 'round this world

A Compass Girl, a Compass Girl
watch me chasin' round the world

…all my life I've been a Compass Girl...

But in reflecting backward in order to connect to who I am today and "see" the transformation of my life, I am witness to the truth, the actual experience that so much has changed since then. In fact, I embody change. Change and possibility.

I'm still spinning, but this time with purpose.
I'm still going places, but this time I've got an anchor.
I'm not in isolation pining away, but in community inter-connected.

I'm still the Compass Girl, but now the compass is inside me.

And I have unlimited possibilities.

Use the compass, use the compass….


And act accordingly.

* * *

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 02, 2007


As summer kicks in and the heat index intensifies, it's enough to keep our own body and hair groomed and tidy, but those of you with cats, particularly those with long-haired cats, know this is the time of year for massive shedding, abandoned grooming efforts--hey, I'd be over it too using the feline showering method-- which leads to hairballs, painfully matted tangles of fur which pull at their scalp and make for even grumpier kitties than usual.

In a fit of hurling furball overload, every year for the last 3 years right around the 4th of July weekend, I have taken my domestic long-haired alley-cat-- who happened to wander into my yard 12 years ago and subsequently move into my life--in for a shave.

I know. It sounds ridiculous, cruel even, but really, it isn't. In fact the first time I had her shaved, after the initial shock and adjustment wore off, she seemed to lose about 5 cat years along with the extra fur. She became frisky, happy, agile, downright youthful again.

So each summer I have given my kitty, Jade, the pleasure of a trip to the salon for a "lion cut." You know, tall boots, full mane, shaved body and the little poof at the tip of the tail. Comic relief, yes. Hurlage relief too. Everyone was happy.

Until that first and fantastic neighborhood "feline groomer" closed her shop due to neighborhood gentrification and rising rents.

So being that it's that time of year again, this weekend I called around looking for another "pet salon" and found a place that would take her the same day, TLC-Tender Loving Care experienced groomers. Sounded good to me.

I got my daughter up, breakfasted and dressed, and the cat packed up in her carrier, and half-an-hour later we dropped her off for her shave and wash. The lady at the shop seemed nice enough, really chatty, and I was relieved to have been able to check one more thing off my weekend to-do list.

A few hours later I get a call from the groomer saying Jade had bit her and they weren't able to get the job done. She said they would try again later when things were less hectic--and loud--in there. (13 groomers all going at once, dogs and cats and blow driers and shavers barking and yowling and yelping, it was pure animal pandemonium. And even though this wasn't her first time being shaved, it was her first time at this particular venue and I'm sure my cat was pretty freaked out and defensive.)

Another hour goes by and this time the groomer calls telling me she got bit again, they couldn't finish her, and could I please come and pick up my cat. Relieved that she--the groomer-- was OK, not hurt too badly, I began to feel under-whelmed. Afterall, this was their terrain, not mine. What happened to 30 years experience and that tender loving touch? What about finishing the job?

When I got there, Jade,
like some half-shorn sheep, was curled up in a kennel panting from the stress of it all. Poor thing. The shop happily refunded my money and I took my shaken kitty home calming her down with a roll in some catnip.

She's fine, but here's what she looks like now:

I guess in this case TLC doesn't stand for Tender Loving Care, or even The Lion Cut, but rather, Total Lack Of Control.

So what does one do with a half-shaven cat?

Do the neighborhood cats ever snicker... "yo, duude, what happened?"

Do kitties ever feel humiliated over a bad hair day?

P.S. (Three days later) All better now: