In Defense of Avoidance

No one likes avoidance.  No one thinks there is even one good thing to say about it. According to Google, it is such a bad thing it should probably go out and drown itself.  So, in the interest of fairness, I’m here today to defend it, and tell you that contrary to popular belief, avoidance can be a good and useful thing. 

Think of it as the hard candy of coping mechanisms: sweet and slow, more subtle than fight or flight.  

Case in point: You are on a happy jaunt down the candy aisle of your local market when you see your dental hygienist, whom you have just cancelled for an epic sixth time just this morning, saying you had an important meeting with your stockholders.  Now she is coming your way.  In what universe doesn’t it make sense to cover your face with your hat and pretend to be coughing into it until she passes by?   Classic avoidance to the rescue.

Avoidance is flexible: in its infancy it can be called “delay” or “postponement” or “deferral” and its uses are many. For example,  you avoid calling a friend to chew him out for avoiding calling you in your hour of need, only to find out that he fell off a stepladder and broke both arms and could not have called you.  Your avoidance saved you from the embarrassment of seeming heartless. 

 Or, you put off breaking a date for drinks with a friend because you’re getting a reputation for breaking dates, and then an hour before you’re due to meet, the friend calls and cancels, putting the onus on him.

You delay making a doctor’s appointment about the pain in your back for one more day and voila! the pain goes away and doesn’t return.

Think about it. We practice “passive” avoidance all the time: when we avert our eyes at the ASPCA commercial because it is too heartbreaking to see those panting, crusty-eyed dogs, or the stop-smoking one because it is too grisly and we don’t smoke, anyway. (I don’t understand exactly why, but I also avert my eyes from the one where the guy uses the wrong paper plate and dumps spaghetti dinner in his girlfriend’s lap.)  

And when you keep “forgetting” to pick up a jacket  at the cleaners until the forgetting becomes clear avoidance leading to the revelation that you never liked the jacket and when you finally pick it up, you are going to get rid of it? Could we say that subliminal avoidance has led you to enlightenment and maybe wisdom?

For me, avoidance is sometimes really “percolating.” You would not call steeping your tea to make it strong “avoidance” would you?  Of course not.  And so, avoidance of writing this essay until the very last moment was really giving it a chance to develop, grow, change – and come into its own.  In the meantime, avoiding writing it all day – which psychologists will tell you causes anxiety – caused me to sublimate my anxiety, my adrenalin ramped up and I tackled six household cleaning projects that I had been postponing for ages, and by the time I finished them, my self-esteem had gotten an enormous boost, my house smelled sweetly of furniture polish and floor wax, and all that physical work had made its way to my brain, and solved the writing problems that I had been avoiding.  

Win, win, win, win.  No need to avoid taking a victory lap now.  

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The Mapless Comfort Zone

I am always examining clichés, and because I have an oppositional streak,   I usually give them a good shaking to see what happens when I reverse what they are telling me.  With that in mind, I have to say, it’s been a helluva year for the phrase, “ It’s always good to move out of your comfort zone.”  

Back to basics: A zone is a particular area restricted by space or reason, for a particular purpose.  This year, we have had to radically re-think or change our habitual physical “comfort” zones, even the ones we never give a thought to, like our homes.  

This year as a society, we have had to retreat to our literal, physical spaces in hopes that they would keep us not only comfortable, but also safe,  and for many of us that meant our homes, our own four walls. But, for the last 13 months in those physical comfort zones, the comfort has widely varied, sometimes become discomfort zones.  We retreated to that cozy apartment in order to be safe,  but found it had become claustrophobically small, sometimes small enough to make it necessary to move away,  from comfort to a foreign precinct, city to country, looking for space to breathe.   So what was habitually comfortable became either radically altered temporarily, or  obliterated for all time.  People who said they would never leave the city, took off to their country houses, or air b&bs, or bought houses out of the city, or went to Florida if they could.   Some people will return; many won’t.

   And what about our headspace?  At this same time, many of us were moving way out of our psychic comfort zones.  Workaholics were re-homed.  I wonder what that was like?  Was it comforting to be able to avoid the commute and work pants-off, from the kitchen table?  Was it revealing to anyone within sight that we were working longer hours while seeming not to, because the work was our comfort zone? When stay-home housewives got their wishes, and their mates became house husbands, did that feel comfortable, or did they feel disrupted, maybe interrupted mid-sentence, just as they were saying, as usual, “Oh, sure, George, you go out to work and leave me here eating bonbons?  Is that what you think?” 

Did actors who had work before the pandemic suddenly feel demoted, as if they were back on the same level as actors who didn’t have work before the pandemic?  Did they have crises of confidence?  Did they begin second-guessing their talents?  Career choices? 

What about people whose comfort zone was their chosen ignorance and impotence about technology who now had to learn to conduct life and business on the internet: how many of them expanded into the new comfort of Zoomland and how many sank into angry helplessness?  

The pandemic made many widows and widowers.  Was their comfort zone then established   by the pandemic or exacerbated by it?  

I think the fates have shaken us up and we should retire the admonishment about it being good to “get out of your comfort zone,” because in this crazy world we don’t know from one moment to the next what is likely to give us comfort.

So for now, everyone should find as many comfort zones as she can, and snuggle in there, and stay as long as he wants.  

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A SHORT NOTE TO PROGENY

People are living longer these days, so the idea of ending up on a Smuckers jar on the Today Show featuring people 100 and up seems at least possible.  And in case 19 years more finds me less invested than I am now in honing my image, I’m leaving some instructions today, and if it all comes to pass, I trust these will be carried out by my heirs.     

Do not photograph me wearing a tiara.  They give me a headache and a slight case of hat-head.  

 There should be no OVER THE HILL balloons in the picture. In my mind, “over the hill” means  “dead,” so if you’re celebrating me on a jam jar, that’s an illogical statement.

 Please, no one call me “One hundred years young.” 

On the short list of what I still like to do, please lie.  I would like to be remembered as I am not and never was:  Still playing tennis.  Fly fishing.  A soprano.  Enthusiastic nudist.

Do not say I “play a mean accordion” or “make a mean coleslaw” or do a “mean” anything; nor am I a “triple threat.”

If pressed to reveal the secret of my longevity, say it is 3 raisins soaked in a tumbler of gin every morning, and it is all right to skip the raisins.

And if there should be an actual commemorative jam jar with my name on it, I hope the label is a little off kilter, with a big blob of extra glue dripping down one side.  Imperfect and individual,  like life.

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Uses of Nostalgia

A sunny Thursday in June.  11:a.m.   Twenty seven years ago.  

I opened the back door of my duplex apartment in Queens, and uncovered the two bicycles resting against the brick wall of our postage-stamp patio, locked up and underneath a tarp.  I unlocked the Schwinn and wrapped a rubber band around my ankles to catch the extra fabric of my jeans so they would not get caught in the bicycle’s gears.  I grabbed my pocketbook and stuffed it into the basket that hung from the handlebars; I pulled the backdoor shut before setting off.

My ride took me to 73rd Avenue, a main drag that took people to other main drags and to the Clearview Expressway, which led onto the Long Island Expressway. In other words, a well-trafficked area.  I rode close to the curb, sometimes making a quick twist to avoid a sewer grate.  It was early enough so that not too many cars whizzed past.  73rd Avenue was a slightly graded street, level to the eye and if you were driving it, but if you were riding your bicycle up you could feel it in your calves. I went to the dentist at the top of that slight grade (which cannot compare with the roads I walk nowadays, to walk my dog).  

That day, though, I made a sharp left at the top of 73rd Avenue where it turned onto Bell Boulevard, and followed Bell, a street split by a grassy strip in between single lanes going east and west. The single lane was tight if a car was passing by.  I rode up onto the sidewalk and took it until a pedestrian appeared, and then I either dismounted or (smoothly or not so smoothly) bounced off the sidewalk and back into the street.  I hit a small pothole and the front wheel of the bike swerved and shivered, but there was no one coming from the cross street, so I kept on going, righting myself more easily in the wide open section between streets.  

I reached my destination, Blue Water Fish,  in about 25 minutes.   Next door to Blue Water was Blossoms, a local bistro which M and I would be going to, to meet our friends, Paula and Barry, for our usual Friday night dinner-and-unwind.  Loren, the Friday night piano man would be there to take our requests.  

Tommy, the owner of Blue Water greeted me.  He had my Red Snapper ready.  We talked for a while, and I took my fish and went back home.  Riding back down 73rdAvenue, I ran into someone I knew, and pulled over to chat.  

I look at this account, and think about how many things have changed, and will never happen again in just that way. 

I had no sense of danger, on that June morning even though I had no helmet, because helmets were not in common use, especially if you were just “doing errands” on the bicycle.  

 We sold our bicycles in 2001, because the hills here in upstate New York were too steep for us to ride them, and taking the bicycles back and forth to the reservoir on the hood of the car seemed like too much trouble.  (Anyway, I didn’t like riding for sport as much as I liked using my bicycle as a means of transportation.)

Blue Water Fish is gone.  Tommy bought a place on the North Fork.

Blossoms is gone.  It is a real estate office now.

I saw an obituary for Loren, the Friday night piano man several years ago.  Paula died six months after that June morning.  M has been gone a year now.  And Barry died three days ago.  

It is said that the trick to being happy in old age is compromise.  If you can reconcile what was with what is, and accept it, you will find old age…umm…not so bad.  I think a good stash of memories helps.

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Unnecessary Anniversaries

Way back in the 20th Century, someone introduced me to the idea of “anniversary reactions,” a psychological term that describes what people do when signal moments come around, either as an excuse for feeling bad, or before granting ourselves permission to move on. It’s kind of like a psychic version of acid reflux.

Noticing it in my own life – a year ago this, a month ago that, last spring at this time, one birthday ago – has made me notice it in the world at large.  It seems we all yearn to remember, record, and in some obscure way “celebrate” dates that rise above the rest of the days and nights in some way.  In fact, most often in a bad way.

This was the week when the pandemic started, and every network had some “tribute” to the beginning of the pandemic, with footage reminiscing about the growing fears, the mounting cases, the overfull hospitals, the dead beloveds.  They obsessively revisited the statistics and conditions, all under the rubric of “what we went through.”  And many of us, unless we changed the channel, were forced to relive some of it again.  

We went through this after 9/11, and I’m willing to bet we will go through it again, when the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol building comes around next January 6th.  

The philosopher Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”  I agree with this, which is why I don’t want to see parts of our history obliterated in a rush of political correctness.  (Statues of people no longer revered should be put in a contextual setting, so we know our history, even if we have moved on from it.). Yet, the constant repetition of our miseries seems like too much of a bad thing. 

Maybe it is a necessary part of a grieving process.  Maybe, if it is a personal loss, we are still in that phase of disbelief, and replaying it is our way of letting history take its course within us.  And as a society, too, we may need to go over and over it, until we no longer say to one another, “Can you believe it?” and it becomes cemented  into our psyches.  

Only then, perhaps, are we able to settle down.  Light a candle once a year, if it is personal.  Go to the 9/11 memorial once a year, if it is societal.  And see fit to move on.

What I don’t understand, quite, is why we only commemorate the bad stuff.  Do we ever have an “anniversary reaction” to our anniversaries? To the good things?  

I had a wonderful day yesterday.  But unless I mark it on next year’s calendar, I don’t think I will be having an anniversary reaction to it.  I wonder why our heads work that way.  

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HERSTORY: GENERATION &GENDER

Forty-seven years ago, my boss hugged me on my vulnerable side. (That was the side I bumped whenever I bumped into things.) It made me uncomfortable. Yet I said nothing.  I guess I was so traumatized that I needed forty-seven years to process it. Now that I have, and since it is never too late, I am coming forward.  I am ashamed that I did not do it before, because who knows how many poor, weak women employees he went on to hug in the intervening years? He might have been a serial hugger.  Mea culpa. I should have called for his resignation and would do so now, except alas, he retired several years ago, and to compound the fact that he escaped ignominy, he also died.

I understand now how his hugging must have impacted me, because I always knew I was meant for greater things than the things I did, and there had to be a reason I did not achieve them.  I see now that had I not been scarred by his unwanted attentions, I might have gone on to be an aviator or an astronaut.  Instead, I became, well…an academic.  You do the math.  Obviously: damaged. A victim.  And the only reason I did not feel  like a victim was because I was suffering from PTSD, which blocked my ability to feel how bad I felt.

         As I admit this, other memories come flooding back, and the full whoosh of them includes: 

*My grandpa giving me zerberts, those sloppy, wet reverse kisses on my neck and tummy.  I may have giggled, but what did I know?  I was an infant.  I probably didn’t like getting zerberts  or having grandpa invade my personal space.

*My father called me his “doll” and I see now that I was being objectified.

*When I was 8, the Bronx Borough President came to our school to talk about crossing at the green and not in between.  He ruffled my hair.  It gave me shivers and has led to an unhealthy concern about my hair, causing me to have it cut every 6 to 8 weeks. 

*When I was in junior high, a math tutor, in response to a correct answer, patted me on the shoulder.  I believe this was a subliminal pat on the ass, and it led to a lifelong math phobia which held me back from attending MIT.

*In high school, my asthmatic teacher, Mr. Brown’s heavy breathing made me uncomfortable, and in its aftermath, I developed a serious sexual dysfunction: whenever my lover begins to breathe hard, I run for a nebulizer.

*I got whistled at near the construction site at 43rd Street and 6th Avenue in the late sixties, and am ashamed to say I did nothing.  I should have gone to Cushman or Wakefield and reported the construction workers and gotten them fired.

*In all my years working in the music business and academia, I was only hit on once, and I am sorry to say I considered it a compliment that so-and-so wanted to be my boyfriend.

*Finally, in the subway one day I was assaulted by the aggressive scent of Brut, leaving me with a disturbing sense memory which causes me to sneeze whenever I encounter it, and has lately worsened to include Aramis and Pour Homme. 

         A friend described a “hug club” in a high tension ad agency in the 1980’s, where someone who needed a hug could get a hug, no questions asked.  Though it was not gender specific, it seems like something that would appeal to females more than males.  Is this a sexist thought? Is it okay to say?  It is certainly not of our time.  A “hug club” might seem gross to some people today, but can we agree that it is a benign effort to make contact in an increasingly isolating world?

         It really is a matter of generation as well as gender, I think.  But it transcends those categories too.  When we cannot or do not distinguish between the serious and the insignificant, we trivialize the real instances of abuse and unequal treatment of women.  It chills the debate.  And it does not strengthen women to suggest that we are as sensitive to a sneeze as an assault.

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THE GOTCHA GAME

I’m on a list, I’m sure of it.  I got my seventh or eighth (I’m losing count)“Hello Grandma” call this past week.  And although sometimes I just hang up,  sometimes I’m in the mood to play. 

This last time when my caller said, “Hello Grandma,” I skipped the “Yes,” and “Who is this?” part and went straight to, “Freddy?  Is that you?”  (I don’t have to tell you I have no Freddy grandsons.) He, of course, replied “Yes,” probably thinking how lucky he was that I had accepted that he was my grandson so easily and even provided a name. I asked why he was calling me in the middle of the day.  “Are you all right, honey?” I asked. The story then followed the usual script:  he had been in a car accident, had broken his nose – this is to explain any questions if the voice doesn’t sound like my grandson’s – and was incarcerated because the police blamed the accident on him.  The plea for money is what is supposed to come next, but I short circuited it.  I said, “Freddy, don’t say another word.  I’m going to get grandpa, and you know even though he’s retired, he still has lots of friends in the agency and he’ll get you out of there.  I have your cell number, so sit tight!”  He hung up so fast I felt a breeze.

It was so satisfying, I got to thinking about how else I could vary the script.  My son suggested a variation on the Freddy script, asking what precinct he was at and saying Grandpa knew a couple of detectives there.  Here are some other ideas:

Him:“Hello, Grandma?” 

Me: “No, this is the nurse.  I’m so glad you called.  She’s been asking for you and we’ve been trying to get in touch with you.  How soon can you get here?”

OR

Him: “Hello, Grandma?”

Me: “Oh, thank god, it’s you, Freddy.  I’ve been calling you.  I’m being sued and I need you to advance me some cash.”

OR

Him: “Hello, Grandma?”

Me: “Freddy?  

Him: “Yes.”

Me: “You have some nerve calling me after what you did!  Either bring back the money you took out of my purse, or I am going to call the police. Grandson or not, you are a BIG disappointment!

OR

Him: “Hello, Grandma?”

Me:  “Stephanie?  What happened to your voice? Bronchitis again?”

The idea, of course, is to not be a victim of the scam, but also not be a victim of law enforcement’s laissez-faire attitude to the scam.   Remember, they say “just hang up” as a solution to this pitiful crime, despite the fact that “just hang up” leaves the criminals out there to steal money from people who don’t hang up.  And, while you’re at it, it’s a nice way to be nasty.

I declare all of these in the public domain, so if you should get a “Grandma” call yourself, feel free to use any or all of them.

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Private Thoughts on Public Lives

This week I read about a well-known author– I had read some of his books — recently deceased, being “outed” by one of his children as a monstrous abuser who beat and demeaned her throughout her life.  Aside from his literary light, this author was known as a humanistic, ethical, moral force for good in the world, so the accusation was more than surprising, it was shocking.  But why, I wondered, did it also feel so personal to me, as if he had done me wrong, misled me. And how had I made such a crucial mistake in trust?

   It reminded me of how I felt when I heard about Bill Cosby, whose early comedy I loved, and whom I believed was the kind, witty, ethical obstetrician I tuned into on Thursday nights in the 1970’s on The Cosby  Show.   I would have gladly made an appointment with Dr. Huxtable if I ever got pregnant again.  So when I heard about the multiple accusations of his sexual abuse of women, it hit me hard. So did the news that Charlie Rose, my favorite interviewer of all time, urbane, insightful, gently probing but never gauche, was fired for sexually harassing women in the workplace. 

Is it only me?  Why do we feel so personal about public people, whom we don’t even know?  Part of it, maybe, is the desire to enhance our own enjoyment of their art or skill by going deeper, knowing more about them in order to uncover secrets of how they do what they do.  For example, if we like a film or a book or a work of art very much, do we feel moved to Google it’s maker, to see what else he’s written or acted in, or where it all started?  And, somehow, while we’re at it, it would be good to know whether he is married, or where he lives, too. Knowing even a bit about the private life of that public person makes us feel…closer to him.  So, when his next project comes along, we do more than just take notice, we take pleasure in it.  He’s more mine than the rest of the people he writes for,  because I know him a little better, appreciate him more deeply.  In fact, he’s special a little because I say he is.  Because I like him he is more likeable.  No logic in this at all.  But true.

So, when our “special someone” public person has a fall from grace, or has something awful revealed about him, we feel implicated in that, too.  Shall I believe it?  Have I been betrayed?  How could he have done this (to me)?   Where was my radar?  What else am I wrong about?

This re-enforces my belief that the only real thing you can take away from an author is what he has put on the page.  Everything else is out of bounds.

This also re-enforces the idea that no one really knows anyone but the people they are closest to, like family, and even then…

This re-enforces the idea that the more the publicity machine pushes out information about someone, the more wary we should be.

This re-enforces the idea that within a single individual are often conflicting impulses, and good and evil often co-exist.

Sometimes I side with the accused, when the accusations seem trivial, or driven by spite.  Or, if the accused can no longer defend himself, because he is dead.

And it brings up the old question about whether one should…if it is all right to…enjoy the art and condemn the artist.  Wagner was a Nazi sympathizer but his music was sublime.  Don’t listen to him or separate the two?  Ezra Pound was anti-Semitic.  Read the Cantos anyway?

Will I enjoy this author’s work again? Would I tune in Charlie Rose if he came back? Honestly, I think I would; I’m just not sure I could. 

I write to see what I think, and I see I have a lot of thoughts about this news item.  Do you have some thoughts?  Tell me what you think.

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MEN I HAVE LOVED, Part I

         I think it was Carl Reiner who once said since he got old he began every morning reading the newspaper obituaries and if he wasn’t in there he knew it was going to be a good day.  Good joke, and like all good jokes, funny because true.  Old people do tend to read the obituaries with special interest.

I’ve been reading them all my life.  They are often small gems of writing, interesting thumbnail biographies, touching tributes.  One can extrapolate fictions from some of them, if one is moved to do so, or imagine the lives bound in the small type, strict word-count accounts. Sometimes there are pictures accompanying them, showing  the deceased when young, or in some iconic pose.  

Sunday’s New York Times obit has been chockful of names this past year.  Yesterday morning, I scanned the names in the text box in the upper left of the page and slowly edged down, and there, smack in the middle of the page was a face I knew.  In the black and white of the paper, was the brush moustache, the bright eyes, the pursed, slightly amused expression of my first editor, J, a man I loved with all my heart for a month in 1961.

He had hired me away from my first job, writing press releases for a record company, to the small music magazine of which he was editor.  He thought he could make a reporter out of me. I started out writing little music biz news items. Then he gave me my own column of industry gossip which I (oh so cleverly) called “Surface Noise” (which is the sound of a stylus scratching across vinyl).  The entire staff of the magazine consisted of J,  me, and the owner of the magazine, who did all the advertising which kept us in business.  J was young, aggressively red-headed, with a walrus moustache and ears that stuck way out from his head. He was witty and smart, and he had high hopes for me: even though I didn’t know the first thing about covering hard news, he sent me to cover the payola trial of the disk jockey Peter Tripp, who had been indicted for taking bribes from record companies to play their songs on his radio show.  The trial was at the courthouse in lower Manhattan. I got there a little late, so I quietly let myself into the courtroom and sat in the back.  It was hard to hear what was going on up front, and I began to be a little worried that I wouldn’t have anything to report.  I remember taking what notes I could, a word here, a word there.  But there was really not much I could make out, and I was getting more than a little worried when abruptly, the action seemed to end with the slam of a gavel, and the defendants got up to leave. That’s when I realized that I had sat through the trial of someone else.  Peter Tripp’s trial was in another courtroom. On another floor.   Maybe even in another courthouse.  

When I finally got the courage to call J and tell him I had, unfortunately sat through someone else’s trial, dear man, he sighed and said, “That’s all right.  I heard the verdict on the radio.  We’ll put something together. Come home.”  

A month later the owner of the magazine ordered me to select a certain song as the “hit pick” of the week because the company who recorded it had bought a full page ad.  I quit, because, I said,  it was unethical to “hit pick” records based on their taking out ads (payola, wasn’t it?), but I really think it was because I was terrified that J would assign me another hard news story.  He still thought he could make a reporter out of me.  

Turns out J went on to be a prominent editor at several desks of Newsday and The Times.  According to the obit, he had a family who adored him, and the things they said about him rang so true to what I knew about him that brief time in 1961, that it was a pleasure to read it. It gave me a chance to relive that sweet and funny memory one more time.  I am grateful to have had it, thanks to the obit.  R.I.P. JS.

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THE ANXIETY OF INFLUENCE

         

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day almost completely ignored by M and me through our long marriage, with the exception of when it wasn’t (which was usually when I wanted to make a point about him not being the romantic type, so I would get make-believe indignant if he didn’t do something).  Once, I sequined a jockstrap as a joke, which is probably too much information, but I am too old to care.  (What can I say? He had the jockstrap, I had the sequins.)  But exceptions aside, our Valentine’s Days were hastily put together cards, supermarket bouquets of flowers, afterthought swag bags leftover from Chanukah, filled with Hershey kisses or Necco hearts. In other words, we didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, really.  It wasn’t our thing.  We had other commemorative days we liked better.  

Yet, as the day approached, as a new widow, I stepped up to the plate, and did what I felt I was justified in doing: sinking into an expected and totally justified funk.  Poor me.  Valentine’s Day widow.  Boo hoo.  

I have a friend whose husband actually died on this day, which is a blockbuster of a reason for mourning and commemorating. 

But, as I have been learning this past year, my first year of life without M, grief, though always there, surges and ebbs on its own time and follows its own emotional logic.  Maybe my friend will feel deeply sad on this day, and it will be compounded by the irony of it being a public day for lovers. Maybe not.   

For me, Poor Me actually came last week, when I had a plumbing emergency, and M was not there to take care of it.  I was plunged into deep grief. I missed his beautiful, capable hands in his old work gloves, his jeans worn at the knees, his knowledge of circuit breakers and pipes and the whole toilet/water system/boiler thing.  I longed for his instant eye-to-eye with plumbers and electricians when they entered our lives and how safe it made me feel.  And when it was over, and the water had been restored and life was back to normal, I sat down and had a good long cry. At that point, the recently installed LED lights which replaced the recessed ceiling lights in my living room flickered.  Momentary panic.  Flickering stopped.  Message from M?  

I don’t really believe in messages from Beyond, though sometimes I want to.   So I did. Message received.  What was the message?  You can handle it.  You handled it.  I’m here but I’m not here.  Emergencies come and go, because life keeps on keeping on. With or without me. 

The late literary critic, Harold Bloom,  theorized that there was an anxiety of influence that affected the work of young writers because of their worry about what came before, what old writers had done.  I keep thinking of that in terms of my being a widow.  Was it the anxiety of influence of widows past which pulled me toward sadness on Valentine’s Day?  

Do the rules of the widowroad provide signs and symbols to help me navigate, or do they tie me up in an anxiety of influence? Am I situated properly in the seven stages of grief?

I suppose, the rules do both, sometimes one and sometimes the other.  And it is up to me to figure out which is which.  For now, message received, and my own personal tradition is re-established: Valentine’s Day? Not our thing.  I’m fine today.

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