The Letters

I have moved a lot in the last few years and for the first time in a long time I have the time and the courage to open boxes that have long been sealed, forgotten, in storage.

I found a box of letters and poems (oh my god, I was horrible) and writing from 35 years ago.  And picture.

Charlie Debbie

That’s me. And Debbie. Decades ago. Brother and sister. Now, we live together, decades later. Brother and sister.

The letters were carefully sorted into banded bundles by author. I had completely forgotten some of these people, and, too, forgotten how obsessive a letter writer I was before email happened and long distance calling disappeared.

Do you remember carbon copies? I made carbons of many of the letters I wrote. Or, COPIED THEM BY HAND!

There are bundles from three men with whom I was obsessed, and one man who was obsessed with me and I am as HORRIFIED by those letters as I am by the poems.

I may never Tweet or write again. Who wants more horrifying shit like that left as record? Of my life.

Also, the letters are FILLED with people’s secrets. I had forgotten how may people confessed to me. Confided in me.

I had also forgotten how certain I was of all I would be.

And, oh dear, never was.

So, I am going to continue being quiet a while. I killed a few social media accounts. I am feeling at loose ends. My chest is tight. I am, well, I am fine. But, I don’t want to talk anymore. I don’t want any more “never was” or “never will be”or bundles of letters or memories of people where the feelings didn’t match and I didn’t know enough to let go. Or, get out.

I. Have. Never. Learned.

 

In Most Need Of Thy Mercy

In a switch from my usual Sondheim-ing, Joni Mitchell-ing, and Phoebe Snow-ing, tonight I am listening to a rosary on YouTube.

our-lady-of-the-rosary1This Roman Catholic chanting was the music of my life before those others. Tonight, a Saturday night, resurrected was my aching loneliness. It is a tessellation of despairings, an accumulation of missings and might have beens, this mosaic; longing for lovers never met and too, those met; for a friend now gone; for those specific people, specific memories of them; that last time she called me honey; that last time he sat on my lap; that last time I delayed getting up and going to do what needed to be done because he was playing with the light blonde hairs on my arm; and too, the wondering memories; when was the last time she made one of her daily calls to me; when was the last time he kissed me; when was the last time he said goodnight; when was the last time he told me the truth/lied to me.

I thought: Each memory, each ache, is like a bead in some sick, too often revisited rosary, chanted again and again, and I never, never achieve absolution.

And I thought of my aunt, Sissie, who’d spent nearly all of her Saturday nights alone, her bed never shared except with nieces and nephews there, spending weekends, as she gave parents a break from the endless having of them.

I hate the church but I love the sound of the rosary, and the angelic hymns sung in the background.

I send up my sighs, from this, my current exile in this valley of tears, and wish I might imitate Sissie’s grace.

 

Used To Be Mine

This . . . pretty perfect follow-up to my most recent post [here].

Used To Be Mine

It’s not simple to say
That most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and it’s patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used to be
Although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girl

She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

It’s not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it’s all true
And now I’ve got you
And you’re not what I asked for
If I’m honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew

Who’ll be reckless just enough
Who’ll get hurt but
Who learns how to toughen up when she’s bruised
And gets used by a man who can’t love
And then she’ll get stuck and be scared
Of the life that’s inside her
Growing stronger each day
‘Til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes
That’s been gone but it used to be mine

Used to be mine
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

Written by Sara Bareilles • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Brief from a dark day . . .

TRIGGER WARNING: If you are one of the dear ones who find my dysthymic downs alarming, you should skip this entry.

I’ve been berating myself A LOT lately about how I have failed in life. I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Why was I always afraid to really try to go for the things I wanted? Why did I spend decades listening to someone who always thought I fell short, was not enough, was doing me a favor tolerating me and putting up with my flaws? Why was I always drawn to people who I was convinced were better than me, would be rid of me as soon as they realized what a loser I really was, how stupid I was, how less than, less than, less than.

Today was a Mom-day. My second this week. Long-short, I’ve not been feeling physically well for quite a while, struggling with a digestive disorder which comes and goes, without warning, at varying intensities, and seems — after two-plus years — to defy diagnosis. Tuesday morning I had my third follow-up appointment for the latest episodes, an appointment where it was finally suggested (probably because I was quite literally sobbing in the office when told I should go back to the GI doctor who’d done nothing on the last visit and who usually can’t schedule an appointment for six months) that due to my lousy insurance, I was probably going to keep being shuffled around, untreated, and ought wait until I got really sick again and head to the emergency room where I might actually get the tests that would lead to a diagnosis for the mystery disease.

I wasn’t feeling so hot after that. So, when I got a message from my Mom that she had somehow hurt her back and the staff where she lived wanted her to see the in-house doctor the next morning, thus, she had rescheduled her hair appointment for THAT VERY AFTERNOON and where was I? Why wasn’t I answering? I needed to come get her! I did. We went, despite the fact she could barely walk and getting her to and from car, not to mention her walker, was four times the usual chore, and then, to make it even better, on the way back from her beautician located up a damn highway in a town best known for its KKK rallies, we were caught in horrifying thunderstorms which brought traffic to a full-stop, after which, she didn’t want to get out of the car unless I could find an umbrella to protect her hairdo.

I did all that, Tuesday, with cramps. And diarrhea. I know. TMI. I know. Lots of people deal with much worse pain all the time. I should not whine.

I went to pick Mommy up for today’s adventure which was just going to be lunch and she needed “a few things” from a grocer. I rested most of Wednesday — with minimal cramps, and I was ready today to smile and be perky and be the son she deserved, happy and ready to do anything.

First of all, she didn’t come outside when I got there. I waited. I get there about 15 minutes early (or more) so she never has to wait. She comes out early, knowing I’ll be early. Not today. At the appointed time, she still was not out. I guess this is the place to mention that my illness also seems to have insomnia and interrupted sleep as symptom, with feverish night terror/dreams, and all last night I’d been having them about Mom, thinking something was wrong. So bad, I almost called the place where she lives at 2a.m. So, when she didn’t come out, I panicked.

No need. For the second time in the past few weeks, she had fallen asleep in her chair. She is getting more tired. She is getting crankier. She is getting — understandably at 89 — older.

The thing, though, everything I did today was wrong. She didn’t want to decide where to go for lunch. I made a suggestion and she said fine. I started driving there and she said she didn’t really want to go there, wouldn’t it be better if. I re-directed. I drove in the wrong lane. I didn’t park in the better spot. I was eating too slowly. The store didn’t have what she wanted. I offered to go to another store, but no, she wouldn’t. She’d just get what she didn’t want and then mention it three times on the way home.

Listen, I love my Mom and she does NOT mean to do any of this. She loves me. A lot. And I was a horrifyingly awful teen/twenties (well, some would say teen-to-now) son. But having everything I did be not enough pushed all my buttons, every button, because I was already having one of those rejection days (not worth going into) and as she criticized me I couldn’t help but think, “Is this why when they wanted to skip me two grades you wouldn’t let them? Is this why when they wanted to send me away to private school you wouldn’t let them? Is this why when I wanted to be an actor and a writer and someone who didn’t live in Frederick, someone really special you said, ‘Charlie, people like us don’t do things like that.'”

No. It isn’t. She didn’t want me to be hurt by the world. Like she had been. She wanted to protect me and that was how she knew to do so. She loved me. Loves me. And I am responsible for my choices and my life and its being a fucking mess is my doing, no one else to blame.

But today, after having gotten her back there, and helping the staff carry in a week’s worth of groceries because, you know, they were doing it when I got there, and feeling my cramps again, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe I had heard a different tape when I was young, if just maybe, instead of looking at beautiful photos of New York City on Twitter, and reading other people’s books, I might be in New York, writing my own books, having done what I wanted, less afraid, rather than spending the majority of my life trying to please a long line of sociopathic, self-centered people who only wanted me to fill a role they’d already written, who never gave one damn whether or not I got what I needed or wanted, who told me when I finally stood up for myself that I’d never really added anything to our lives anyway, that I wasn’t that much in the first place, that I was crazy, a liar, worthless  —

— maybe if I had heard something other than “not for people like us Charlie” —

— then maybe I wouldn’t feel like doing just what my father did and driving into the nearest fucking telephone pole.

I’ve turned everything off again. I’ll get over this — and back to being grateful for what is beautiful in my life, but today, damn, today. Fuck today. Fuck those nasty YOU ARE NOTHING tapes I keep hearing.

 

 

The Lost (Found) Weekend Begins

It’s been eleven hours since I began my hiatus from the world, which means, for me, I have detached from social media by abandoning Twitter, uninstalling Grindr, and I’ve not turned on a television or radio nor used my phone other than to answer texts (and I have started no text exchanges, I am in reply mode only, and, even then, ignoring some people) and I am turning my laptop on only to write and post blogs, not surfing the inter-webs.

Why? Bad dreams. About bad waking. This election is frightening me, pushing buttons, bringing up things I thought I’d dealt with. I get so annoyed with myself: there are people in this world with real problems, and I, who live a life of relative privilege — I have a family and friends who love and support me, a place to live, food to eat, safety — and spent ages in therapy dealing with my bullshit worries and fears, re-booting myself so I operated from the energy of Love and Light, rather than living in fear and darkness,  I ought to be over and past and done with those triggers:

Daddy died when I was 17 months old — abandonment fears —

Physically & verbally abused by family member —

Called names/bullied from first grade through being chased out of school and home at 16 —

Agoraphobia/social anxiety —

Body/slut shame insecurities —

The “not good enough” & “they wouldn’t love me if they REALLY knew me” thing —

— all of which, finally, are founded on a belief instilled in me — NO, not instilled, it isn’t the doing of someone else, I am responsible for my own reality — so, maybe, okay, not a belief, but a nagging-copout-suspicion-self-doubt that I don’t belong here, am not good enough for this club of being, that whatever love or appreciation I receive is coming my way because I have either fooled people/world or people/world can’t have their first (second, third, fourth) choices and so I am the back-up plan, what they’re left with.

And a world in which nearly half the country in which I live can vote for an insane man who operates from a narcissistic platform of hate and attack, energizing the same sorts of people who threw me up against lockers in school, called me faggot in my twenties and chased me down the streets of New Haven looking to kill me, is a world in which I do NOT belong, and do NOT wish to live in.

So, I need to recalibrate here, find a way to understand the fear and hate and ignorance driving those people, focus on the OTHERS, and find some peace. At least my night terrors last night were less violent than the few preceding nights, and I was lucid enough to say, “No, Charlie, remember, you are taking a break, love yourself, love yourself, love yourself.”

It did some good, not a lot, and I gave up at 4:30 and got up. Fed the dogs. And prayed these stomach cramps I’m having don’t last all day. Or, all weekend.

It was — I think — four years ago I decided I needed to take a break from Facebook for a few days and never went back.

We shall see if I return to my life.

 

 

Little Fictions, Larger Truths

C said out loud to himself, Monday my blog views peaked.

He loved the word peaked when used to describe the condition of having gone wan and worn, which is what he went after his blog-stat-metrics revealed the popularity spike had to do not with his mordantly witty Balzacian meanderings of incisive social commentary, but, rather, his Jonas Brothers coming out/huge dick posts.

C thought How funny, this late in life, for dick to have, somehow, on so many levels, garnered me more attention than my intellect or insight. Irony, that, as dick was the last organ for which I thought I’d be known, having lived so long focused on the brain and heart, and gotten so little use from my dick.

This convolution of syntax and emotion marked his writing, which, perhaps, explained why his dick-work was more popular. With that, he was straight(so to speak)forward. Spare of word. And thought. And emotion. Those submissions, he said to himself, are accepted.

But his dick was out of play at the moment because he was trying to write while house/dog-sitting in the gorgeous home of dear friends, taking advantage of the peace, the energy of love and affirmation this family generated, a powerful vibration that echoed and sang even when they were away.

In the background, from his laptop, played a four-hour version of Richard Wagner’s opera, Tristan und Isolde. His paternal grandmother, Edna Wagner, promulgated what was later revealed to be a blatant untruth that the family were Wagner descendants. The only connection she had to Wagner was her anti-Semitism and racism. However, the family connection myth had been inculcated in C long before he discovered Wagner’s horrific prejudices and hatreds, so, beginning early in his writing non-career, he used lengthy Wagner-works as measurements of enforced writing time, additionally hoping for a magical-familial-spiritual inspiration to flow through the ether and raise his literary compositions to the same genius level. Alas, by the now of now, he feared that all he had in common with Wagner was a writing style “verbose, unclear and turgid” (he’d read this in Wikipedia — about Wagner, not himself. C wasn’t famous enough for Wikipedia. C wasn’t famous at all.) which might have — once or twice — been said about his prose, even by strangers on Twitter. But not, he thought to himself, on Grindr.

He also loved the word turgid. Latin root, meaning swollen. Related to tumid. As in tumesce, a back-formation of tumescent. As in bulging, inflated, bombastic, overblown. (Ha, he thought,  over-blown makes you tumesce. I will always be a dirty-minded ten year old boy. Yes, ten, I was ahead of my time and that was the year I read “Portnoy’s Complaint”.)All about the swell. Swell, which brought to mind for him for some reason (Uhm, I’m gay, fool.) Gene Kelly assuring Judy Garland that she is “just swell, kid!”

I think it was Summer Stock? Where Judy stole Gene from her sister, Gloria DeHaven. Who died Monday.

Which made it all make sense in C’s convoluted way because Gloria DeHaven had died the same day his blog hits went nuclear because someone linked his Jonas-dick story which somehow linked Judy Garland to his dick story which brought him full-gay-circle. He thought.

Sad world, this, where Judy Garland somehow devolves to Nick Jonas dick. If I had a choice — like one of those god-miracle-things — Okay C, you can either see Judy Garland at the Palace or you can have a night fucking Nick Jonas; which one would I pick? Wow, this is way harder than I thought it would be. I almost hate myself right now.

C was having trouble focusing.

Where was I? Hell, where am I? I’m one hour and twenty minutes into Tristan und Isolde, in the home of dear friends, their two dogs sleeping at my feet, and I am trying to write. But, I am distracted. By things. I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Fever dreams — by which I mean I was in and out of sleep, obsessing on things (so many THINGS) by which I’d felt assaulted during waking hours. For example, a writer I very much admire, CN, was passive-aggressively-attacked on Twitter by another writer I do not admire, J, who, in fact, annoys the shit out of me and was Tweeting the praises of a writer I like even less, J2, a misogynist, privileged, overrated mess of a blathering lit-idol. It pissed me off. I said so to J, who shortly thereafter blocked CN for questioning and debating the basis of the passive-aggressive attack. That’s some chickenshit there, to go after someone and then disappear when they respond. Mind you, J is the very same white writer who defended a racist poem published in The New Yorker and had the temerity to tell those it derided and degraded they had no right to feel affronted. So, fuck her.

C was leaving something out of the story he was telling himself. During the course of his CN,J,J2 tale taking place in Twitter world, there happened that thing that happens not infrequently, as in, C, himself just a small, outsider, visiting cog in Twit-lit-world, Tweeted something about the above described episode to which one of the large-insider-Twit-lit cogs, who he very much liked and by whom he was often and kindly acknowledged and engaged, responded, a response thereafter liked by the usual suspects who also qualified as large-insider-Twit-lit inhabitants, who had ignored C’s initial Tweet on which the response was predicated, which, in fact, made the response make sense. So, why was his original, pithy(ish) comment being ignored? Because he was a small cog in the structure that ruled the world and classism and elitism existed even in the literary world.

It bothered C. Which it ought not have. But it did. And so, that he was bothered, bothered C even more, which sort of botheration resulted in his fustian, prolix babble-versations with himself:

It shouldn’t matter to me who does or does not like a Tweet, or mutes me, or reads me. People are busy. Lives lived on Twitter are still — to some degree — connected to IRL lives, and my IRL life intersects with very few of the people with whom I’ve Twitter-lives, and the people who I interact with IRL, well, truth, they care nothing about my brain and mostly about my dick, hell, even my real life friends who do care about my brain and heart, mostly don’t know who Cn and J and J2 are. I’m living in entirely made-up worlds, or, I’m living alone. Mostly. In my head. So, shut up C. SHUT UP. You have spent so much energy trying to make a life where class and money and social-constructs don’t matter. A life with as few isms as possible. Even though body-shaming and ageism are HUGE on Grindr. Shit, wait. Let’s not delve there right now. Let us not think about how there are these constructs everywhere I go even though I have tried to make places for myself to go where there is no — wait — are no; WAIT! NO. This is my pressure. And, too, acknowledge that the pressures of the life-game endured by some of those who qualify as larger-Twit-lit inhabitants must be near-crushing and my life is not crushing. My life is all in my head. That’s where my crushing is. Crushing. I love what that word has turned into. Actually, my life is a lot of crushing, come to think of it, like on Nick Jonas’s dick. Which, apparently I have in common with many, many people and thus my peaking blog views cuz of my crushing in common. Common crushing? Dick crushing? Oh, wait. Stop. Write. I can almost stop, yes, because here is the Act 3 Liebestod. It’s almost over.

And he thought, Do I alone hear this melody? And realized, in all likelihood, yes. If he was quoting Wagner, he was going to be doing so alone, having these conversations with himself.

And there C was. Back where he’d started. Peaking blog views. Nick Jonas’s dick. Or, even further back, there, where he’d started, this C, at Judy Garland. Yes. There he was.

And here I am, going.

And then, as an afterthought, I tagged the post: Nick Jonas Big Dick, so that someone might read it. Which, they won’t. But, here, so it’s not a total waste:

Jonas, Nick cuddling jonas nick scream queens workout jonas tucker gay Jonas Nick nick-jonas-poses-shirtless-in-his-underwear-for-flaunt-magazine-01 Jonas Nick nick-jonas-poses-shirtless-in-his-underwear-for-flaunt-magazine-03 Jonas Nick nick-jonas-poses-shirtless-in-his-underwear-for-flaunt-magazine-04

 

Believing long enough to get a Miracle (Charlie)

My morning was made beautiful by seeing that P had posted pictures of herself and Duchess Goldblatt on vacation. P is a very dear friend of the soul-level, mind-reading, telepathic sort, who I can tell anything and trust with my heart, even though we have probably spent less than twenty-four hours total in each others’ physical presence.

Some people in my day-to-day life find that connection unusual. What they find even more unusual is P and I having become acquainted because of our mutual devotion and service to Her Grace, The Duchess Goldblatt of Crooked Path, with whom neither of us has spent even twenty-four seconds in actual physical presence.

duchess goldblatt

Her Grace, The Duchess Goldblatt

The Duchess, you see, is a fictional character. Her Grace exists on Twitter, where she is the benevolent ruler of a sovereignty of loving, literary, literate dear ones longing for community of like minds and souls who affirm what is best in universes both corporeal and fictional. Like (I suspect) not a few of Her Grace’s devotees, when I was suffering, I was given comfort and offered support by this community; revealing the details would feel like a betrayal of privacy, so it will need to suffice to say that if not my actual life, at least my heart and soul, were saved by Her Grace and her followers.

They believe in MiracleCharlie.

I used to worry people would think me hubristic for naming myself MiracleCharlie. It had nothing to do with any delusional belief I possessed magical powers, rather, it started two decades ago when I did A Course in Miracles with a friend equally desperate to locate some logical cause/effect for the clusterfuck that was the reality of our day-to-day lives. I already had an AOL-user name based on my desire to be Dorothy Parker, but when I checked the availability of MiracleCharlie, certain it would already have been taken, to my surprise it was okayed. So, when I started Tweeting a few years ago, I carried the identity over without considering how pretentious or preposterous it might appear to others.

Now, I have learned, anyone who matters understands, like Duchess Goldblatt, MiracleCharlie represents the places and possibilities where all of my selves — fictional and in real life — exist. Now, I have learned,  anyone who matters understands we are all beautiful combinations of fictions and truths, reality is little more than a collective hunch (thank you Jane Wagner), and every moment of being is an exercise in choosing what of us is “real” today, a leftover piece of wisdom from my Course in Miracle days: We are in every second choosing between Love and Fear.

I love living in Duchess Goldblatt’s dominion, a serenity of souls whose collective hunch agrees that we are stronger in love, that there is a community of generous, passionate, romantic, dreaming, thoughtful, good beings who prove that no matter the trials and tribulations and traumas (and I am hardly a Pollyanna, I have days when I dive into those fears and wallow there), optimism is warranted, the world is a worthy,wonderful place to be where you can reach out and find a hand, someone to hold you, someone to trust.

Greene Bear & Rory couch 7-30-16 Greene's Bear & RoryBetter, the world is a worthy, wonderful place where you can be that hand and earn that trust. This week, as I type this, I am sharing my days and nights with two pups, Bear and Rhory, in the beautiful, love-filled home of a family of dear ones as they vacation. They trust me with their pups and their house and their privacy. I am deeply honored by this trust. I am also ecstatic to spend much of the week on their couch, with their dogs, reading and enjoying this worthy, wonderful world.

Better still, yesterday, someone I love very much, someone I admire and adore, someone who allows me all my fictions and truths and sees in them always my essence, always MiracleCharlie, blessed me with the honor of being her driver, companion, responsible party (she is — you can tell by that — a brave woman, a woman of great faith) as she underwent a medical procedure. What a blessing, to be given that gift, to hear and feel from a loved one, “I trust you to be there for me.”

Miracle. These gifts, being embraced by The Duchess Goldblatt, sharing in P’s life and joy, my friends sharing their homes and pups with me, my dear ones trusting me to care for them and hold them up when need be, my Mom and I becoming best friends and sharing secrets and snark, all miracles.

Listen, the thing, I wasn’t always MiracleCharlie. I’m still not always MiracleCharlie. There was a time I couldn’t be trusted to celebrate someone else’s vacation companion or joy, couldn’t be trusted with dogs or a house, or with secrets or to have someone’s (not even my own) back, and many, many times — years, decades even — when I lived in fear. I tried to end my life, more than once, and spent the years when I believed in one or another god praying to that one or another god to let me die before I woke.

I made it through. Dumb luck, mostly, and being loved, being needed, and choosing love often enough that I got through the nihility of bad choices and spiritual paralysis. Listen, what I’m saying is, there will still be dark days, I know this. But, when you have a life as beautiful as mine, when you are greeted in the morning by P’s vacation photos, and the knowledge that another friend might need you to deliver meds, or your Mom might need you to make her a special food she misses, or be the one she can swear with (or, at), and that there are years worth of laughs left to have with the dear sister you live with, and books being written (and read) by minions of The Duchess, and when you are lucky enough to live in a world and have had a lifetime during which marriage equality happened and Hillary Clinton is going to be the first female president; hey, Miracle. Every day.

Choose Love. MiracleCharlie did, name and choice maybe by accident, but here I am, going.

Love and Light, dear ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contentment: A story of just one Sunday in just one life

2:00a.m. Not getting up. Not yet. This aging thing makes sleeping until 4:00a.m. feel triumphant, although calling what I do in bed sleeping is the same sort of delusional leap as calling Donald Trump presidential. My night is a series of short, unsatisfying naps punctuated by efforts to determine the time from the amorphous glow of green-blur radiated by the bedside clock I bought five years ago — the one with extra-large digital display specially designed for the near-blind — without putting on my glasses because putting on my glasses somehow cues my body to full wakefulness.

2:45a.m. See 2:00a.m. plus a nagging feeling I will soon have to visit the bathroom.

3:15a.m. See 2:45a.m. plus the definite feeling that I really should go to the bathroom.

3:30a.m. See 3:15a.m. plus the suspicion the need to use the bathroom is waking me up.

3:40a.m. See 3:30a.m. plus a mad dash to the bathroom.

3:45-3:59a.m. Tossing and turning, checking and rechecking of nuclear-green blob of near numerals waiting to see a shape that looks like 4:00. Obsessively dwelling on how long it will be before my delaying of night peeing and natural decline in bladder control will result in a return to wetting the bed like I did as a child and wondering if my other youthful qualities like unbridled optimism and trusting in happy endings will also return or will this aging thing only result in adult diapers and disappointment?

4:00a.m. Glasses on. Rise and shine. Paradoxical Note: while this aging thing may make sleeping until 4:00a.m. feel like a triumph, it makes getting up at 4:00a.m. feel like a defeat. But, this aging thing and the serendipitous result of giving things up in order to get free of less than soul-affirming situations is that here I am in a spot where there isn’t anywhere I have to be, so, time can continue to be a big green undefined blob because it is unimportant. And I am lucky, because I can live this free-form life. So, live. Time for coffee. Made last night in my old-school, throwback, non-electric percHamilton, Jane The Excellent Lombardsolator. Since latest unexpected but ultimately beneficial downsizing and relocation requiring further economizing, have learned to love and appreciate the practices of my frugal forebears, like buying the cheapest coffee, preferably chicory infused, and slowly, steadily, patiently boiling it until it is diner-mud-strong. Delicious way to start the day. Even if the day’s start is what I used to call the night.

4:00a.m.-6:00a.m. Read current novel, Jane Hamilton’s The Excellent Lombards, which I am loving very much and which I got from library because Ann Patchett blurbed it. As a rule, I no longer fall for blurbs because I understand the pressure to get and to give them, but when Ann Patchett or Elizabeth McCracken blurb or talk about books, I believe them. This plot is particularly resonant for me because it features a brother and sister, very close in age, who are so close and soul-connected they believed themselves to be twins. I had that once with a sister.

july 24 2016 36:00a.m. Breakfast. We splurged on a pastry labeled “authentic French chocolate brioche” and it is delicious. I imagine it has been flown in from Paris as I place it on a plate that has been in my family since before I was born, a plate my aunt, Sissie, insisted I take when she was moving to her assisted living, final apartment, a plate I had in storage for years until we moved to this place, our own, and I use a fork I acquired (stole) on one of my trips to the pre-Marriott Algonquin Hotel, the hotel Sissie insisted I visit before I got too old to enjoy it, before it was too late, as it became for her. Surrounding myself with these echoes of the past — my own, my imagined, and stories borrowed from others — used to make me melancholy and achey of soul, but now, these spirit songs make me happy. How lucky am I to be able to imagine Paris? To have this plate and this fork? To have made those Algonquin trips? To have had my life so shaped by Sissie? I hear ethereal, intangible music of such beauty every day because of all of these memories and reminders.

o'hara frank6:30a.m. Catching up with my backlog of New Yorker Magazine issues has triggered my poetry jones. From the stacks on the windowsill and nightstand by my bed I choose Frank O’Hara: Selected Poems: A New Selection Edited by Mark Ford. I don’t do investigative, interpretive reading this morning; instead, I dive into and wallow in Mr. O’Hara’s soul-words, reading many poems, quickly, merging his and my memory songs. My first Frank O’Hara was bought for me when I was an adolescent by Sissie, my literary mentor, from Learmont Books, my first independent bookstore, a two-storied, mezzanined treasure trove opened in Frederick by two transplanted New York City gay men who recognized in me a like and looking-for-kind spirit and guided me toward books and authors I should know.

8:30a.m. Time to read the New York Times on-line — which is a gift from a marvelous friend. While I love basking in the echoes of what once was, I also cherish the now and the magic of gaining entry to or information about almost anything in the wide, wide world with the clicks of a few buttons. When I was the child who first ate off that heirloom breakfast plate and heard Sissie’s tales of the Algonquin Round Table and met Mr. Learmont and Frank O’Hara, managing to get a New York Times (or a copy of O’Hara, or a new Streisand album, or, an old Streisand album) in Frederick was a near supernatural feat. Now, everything is mine for the searching on my laptop, a banquet unto gluttony! Speaking of which, the Book Review section persuades me to go to my library account and reserve Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sypmathizer and Robert Kolker’s Lost Girls. Another modern-on-line miracle: reserving library books from home in an instant! I truly do love this life I am living.

july 24 2016 19:30a.m. It’s time to put the kale on. My sister — the one with whom I once believed myself twinned — is on her annual jaunt to Duck. She usually entertains Mommy on Sundays, so I am filling in today. When I spent my Thursday with Momma, I told her I’d be making a new recipe for chicken salad and asked what else she’d like. She did her Mommy thing, “Oh Charlie, I don’t care.” Wait for it. Within a few minutes she placed an order for corn on the cob and kale. I wanted fresh tomatoes, so we went to our favorite orchard stand where she also found some peaches and a strawberry-rhubarb pie she thought would be nice. $50 later we were back in the car. I made the chicken salad yesterday morning when I woke at 3:30a.m. Now, the kale goes on to cook all day, and I shuck the corn to soak it in water until it is time for the fast boil.

10:00a.m. Time to finish the cleaning I started Friday night after returning from two weeks of dog & house-sitting during which I’d stopped in briefly here at my new home to check on the sister, so I’ve gotten behind on domestic chores. After tackling living room, dining area, kitchen, and sister’s room Friday night, today is bathroom attack. It wasn’t properly cleaned before we moved in and with my busy house/pet sit schedule, this is my first chance for a real scrubbing. I make my own cleaning solution using tea tree oil, lemon juice/essence, and vinegar which I use for a first pass and daily wipe-downs. I follow up with a manufactured product in shades of neon-green and blue and by the time I am done, the bathroom is clean enough to sup in. I guess I could also say my kitchen is clean enough to pee in, but that doesn’t make much sense, does it? I love cleaning. I do a little every day.

July 24 2016 511:30a.m. I stack the books I got for Mommy. She very much enjoys reading but is almost blind (I guess she can never tell what time it is when she wakes up in the middle of the night, either.) and new large print books are ridiculously expensive so I regularly visit the library discard shelves and a Girl Scout Used Book Store which both offer hardbacks for one dollar, paperbacks for fifty cents. The Girl Scouts had ten possibilities this week. I re-donate the ones she rejects and too, the ones she finishes. I feel some guilt the authors and publishers aren’t benefitting from these re-readings, but I can’t afford $35 a book and I figure books are read repeatedly from library purchases, right?

11:40a.m. Me time. Catching up on backlog of New York magazines. Oh no. An article titled Publishing Can Break Your Heart [click here] about author, Helen DeWitt, of whom I’ve never heard, and her possibly great novel, The Last Samurai, of which I’ve never heard and now, OF COURSE, must add to my ToBeRead stack. I go to library on-line. DAMN. They don’t have it. Now I am going to have to do my used bookstore search thing until I find it. OH LIFE! WHY?!?! Hahaha, this is probably a good thing because I now have ten books on hold at library, some of which are yet to be released, but, if history is any indication, most of these will become available for pick-up at the same time or within days of each other. Why am I blogging? I should be reading.

12:30p.m. Message from a dear one I met on Twitter and fell in friend-crush-love with in real life, who is about to go out-of-electronic touch for a while. During our brief exchange we discover we LOVE yet another author-in-common, this love and this message, this connection, again, marveling at how full is my life. And, the wonders of Twitter. From which I am taking a break(ish) because the political crap is exhausting (and frightening) me.

1:00p.m. Call Mommy to ask what time she’d like to be picked up. Four. Because her Orioles are playing and she wants to watch the game, there, in her room at Record Street, where she can rant and rail and rave at the players and coaches.

machado, manny

Mother’s crush: Manny

1:15p.m. I head to gym. If only Mommy had wanted to spend the entire afternoon with us instead of with Manny Machado (Not that I blame her? But no question where I got my — uhm — desire to waste time with the cocky, swarthy types. Hahaha.) I could have delayed my return to workout routine another day. Alas, I seriously need regular exercise because since May’s upending eviction notification, the ensuing search panic, the purging, packing, and moving, the busy pet/house-sitting summer schedule, the return (continuation?) of my digestive(?) illness, and, too, my low-grade (well, some days it was pretty damn HIGH-to-HUGE-grade) depression and existential angst exacerbated by the uproar, I have not been eating as healthily as I might, not weighing myself, and not gymming as I ought. So, here I am, going to the gym. Dammit.

3:45p.m. Picking up Mommy at Record Street after two hours of gym work. I did it. I had to force myself to stay on that elliptical and finish all those sets of chest and leg works, but I did it. And, yes, we said 4:00pm, but, Mommy knows I continue to operate by my theatre-days motto, “If you’re not fifteen minutes early, you’re late.” So she comes down to the lobby early and on those occasions when I arrive at the actual appointed time, she asks me why I am late.

4:00p.m.-6:30p.m. Mommy, sister, and I finish watching the Orioles game. They win in the bottom of the ninth. Mommy is overjoyed. Sister and I are relieved. We watch old black and white episodes of Gunsmoke until dinner time. We have a delicious dinner. We have a lot of fun. We gorge on strawberry-rhubarb drowning in vanilla ice cream. Mommy gives me hell for getting too many books for her. I give her hell for giving me hell instead of just saying thank-you. Sister intervenes and explains that I check the Large Print sales outlets all the time and they only rarely have new books so I get a lot when I can so she doesn’t run out. Mommy says okay. Not, mind you, thank you, but, okay. I come by my curmudgeonliness honestly, people.

6:30p.m. I take Mommy back to Record Street. Every time I go there — EVERY — TIME — I am both grateful that it exists to take care of my Mom, and stunned and surprised again that both she and Sissie, two such very different people who influenced and raised me in such very different ways, who loved the father I never knew in such very different ways, knew him so differently, have both loved and known me so differently; Me,Charlie, who looks so much like that father I never knew; Me, Charlie, who was seventeen months old when he died, who stayed behind and decades later took and takes such care of two women he loved so much. Lots of different. Lots of the same. Lots of decades to figure out how often what you think is different turns out to be, ultimately, the same.

Me, Charlie who drives back to this apartment I share with my sister, heats up some of the percolated coffee, settles in for a bit of trash television, heads to my room by 9 to read some more Jane Hamilton, and starts dropping off to sleep shortly thereafter.

9:30p.m. I put in my earplugs, reduce the pillow stack from seven to two, turn out the light, and marvel at this contentment, this quiet satisfaction I have won without ever having starred on Broadway or had a book published or married or made millions or managed fame. I marvel, having recently read a biography of Mary Martin, who did star on Broadway, published a book (or two or three), married (twice), made millions, and was famous for much of her life, and I mentioned her to a younger guy I was seeing and he had absolutely no idea who she was, had heard of none of her shows, had never seen Peter Pan, and I realize, at long last, everyone is forgotten, everyone is unknown by most people, everyone is on their own, finally alone, here we all are going, doing the best we can. We Love the best we can. We make Light the best we can.

My Love and Light might not have been shared and shone in the way I dreamed as a child, not in the way Sissie and Mommy and even Daddy might have imagined and wanted for me, but damn, I can rest my head at night and sleep well, having saved those dishes and mementos and morals and memories I gathered through life, kept them around me, making a full and unique life that could be lived by no one other than me, and I have made others’ lives richer, made others believe in their own paths, given others enough Love and Light to make my being here worthwhile. And I’m okay with that.

So at the end of one Sunday in one life, with a smile on my face, I go to sleep.

Letting Go (Part Four) Being Alone

Blanched: A Haiku

I sleep alone. I

always have. Rarely have I

been lonely alone.

 

thomas, marlo THAT GIRLI like being alone. Almost.

I have nearly always slept alone. Perhaps it was early childhood obsession with Marlo Thomas as Anne Marie, Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, and Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern, or it may have been the example of my sister, JoAnne, leaving the tiny area outside which no family member had ever dared venture to brave Philadelphia for the glamorous life of the single city-woman in the 1970s, or, quite probably — like every other major decision about who I am and what I love and how I live — I was influenced by the example of my aunt, Frances, who we called Sissie, who never in her adult life had a romantic relationship. Or, maybe it was just dumb good-luck (or, good dumb-luck?), but I’m fundamentally a quirky character, able to and worthy of love, but with a storyline requiring a room of my own.

And, as I said, I like being alone. Mostly.

There was a time when I ached with wanting to be part of a couple. A romantic couple. Or, I thought I did. Somehow,  this yearning to create union resulted in misunderstanding my way into primary relationships where the attraction was the absence of romance as culturally defined; I and my partners (for lack of a better word — for, in most instances, these were not partners in the way society defines partner) were most often  consumed by a lie (or delusion or disorder) which complicated our connection resulting in a disastrous, messy ending. When one half of a duo fantasizes the possibility of a Bronte-esque love story in which the mismatch of physical attractions (age, sexual apparatus) or social situation (age, status, title) is overcome by the intensity of the soul connection, you’ve got the makings of a Lifetime-movie-tragedy about unhinged obsession, not a love story.

(There is another discussion about surviving the hell of constantly disappointing someone who professes to love you just as you are, all the while criticizing every detail of that “are”, but I am not yet evolved enough to tell it in personal essay format without bitterness, so it must wait.)

In retrospect — which seems to be where I am living lately — it seems I have spent the last decade in recovery. I quit smoking. Twice. I reduced my wine intake from a bottle (or more) a night to a glass or two a week, or month. I lost thirty pounds. Three times. I started exercising. And I have — by and large — stopped investing belief in the opinions of people and cultural groups who want me to contort myself into their normative boxes.

At least in my case, said recovery required a near total withdraw from society, real life and virtual.

This has left me a lot of free time and energy. And space. In general, plenty of room and opportunity for that mid-life upending (it’s not always a crisis, darlings) thing which compels some to pilot a sleek sporty vehicle, climb an impossible mountain, train for a marathon, or lust for all those sorts of people one never braved pursuing in one’s youth; it’s been called a second adolescence, but I find such labeling to be as dismissive as I do assumptions about gender, race, age, and sexuality, so, I like to think of the navigation of this complex maze of memory, discovery, and delights as the Great Letting Go.

And I am navigating it alone. Mostly.

As has almost always been the case with me, I am experiencing this life stage in ways unlike most of my cohort — most of the world, even. I’ve no desire for a little red Corvette, no Everest trek, and I’m content with reasonable visits to the gym absent triathlons or long distance running. I will admit to a healthy interest in the sort of men I would never have considered approaching in my youth, a fascination with the availability to me of the sort of sexual adventuring I would never have considered possible outside of onanistic fantasy.

But, that said, this life I live is unlike the lives of others I know, and is foreign, or confusing, or terrifying, or, even, repugnant, to some of the people with whom I am very close.

In life, there is a place of discovery you can reach where it becomes clear that most of those things you thought were done to hurt you had only the effect you permitted them, that most of those people against whom you held grudges were also doing the best they could, and their “evil” was mostly about the energy you invested in believing in hate.

I have achieved that place. But I have to work every day to live in the belief that everyone — not just those I love deeply, admire, and wish to be with, but also those whose words and behaviors are horrifying and offensive to me — is made of the same basic building blocks of Love & Light. Sometimes, real life and events make that very difficult.

Fear takes over.

When it does, I begin to doubt all my choices. I begin to doubt all my relationships. The cacophony of existential questioning drowns out the good sense of my aunt, Sissie, who always said, “You only need to worry about what you do, what anyone else does is not in your control and isn’t about you, the only thing about you is what you do with what you’re given.” And, the Duchess Goldblatt, who said, “When we count our losses, we turn the balance sheet over to see what’s been gained, you and I.”

So, the fear of late, this contagion of doubt brought on by the news, politics, world anger and striking out, the broiling, bubbling hate being broadcast and campaigned, in combination with forgetting Sissie’s words and feeling I am somehow less than and have sinned because some folks on Twitter seem to love me less than they once did (silliness) and some folks in real life seem to want me less than they once (or, a few times) did, and my life-long, nagging-to-debilitating suspicion I am a temporary stop on any journey, a compromise until something (or, someone) better comes along, a fraud who when discovered will be discarded; those fears have left me forgetting to turn over the balance sheet to see what’s been gained.

Here, where I am, going, what’s been gained? Like Anne Marie, Mary Richards, Rhoda Morgenstern, JoAnne, and Sissie, and, too, the Duchess, I can exist in this Charlie, this brilliant character I am, as who I am, myself. I appreciate and often thrive on the Love & Light of your reflections, but, the center of any of us is who we are without the reflections of others, who we are when we go to bed, quietly, alone.

And so sometimes, I am here, where I am going, in retreat from the noise and the Twitter and the family gatherings and the being out and about, to renew myself, to remind myself, to remember myself, and to be the self who Sissie and Her Grace hold in their hearts. And yes, now, Sissie and Her Grace cannot physically hold me, do not speak to me in real life presence, but they are — their love is — representative of what I’ve gained, in this life, the confidence and Love & Light enough to know I can be and am happy, here, where I am going.

Often (and never) alone.

 

Tuesday … only Tuesday?

CoffeeIt’s one of those “give me more coffee” days combined with “I can’t drink any more coffee, my stomach is a mess” mornings, and, uhm, well. Ugh.

Time is moving very slowly. My stomach is at it again, off and on. This has been going on for more than a year now and is quite tiresome. There seems no rhyme or reason to the flarings up, and new added feature, in the past week I have twice been wakened in the middle of the night by the physical urge to vomit. Oh, hoorah. I have managed not to do so, but my sleep is disturbed. Long, short: again, today, going on about two hours of actual sleep, and there is odd-thought-morphing from the waking-fever dreams by which I was tormented last night which now elide into real-life and I am in a half-doze state and doing my dazed, not quite focused thing.

I am, then, now, here where I am staying with a darling, ancient dog who is having trouble lifting her hind quarters from resting position, who looks at me with some confusion and sense of betrayal, as if I have aged her, as if I have exhausted her body, and I smile each time, and I wait, patiently, and I say, “Tess, I am having those sorts of aches and exhaustions my own self. I get it. No one will put me down either.”

All of this which-ness is making me so longing and achey for my dear Sissie, who died twelve years ago. I keep having these, “Oh, I need to tell Sissie –” moments; mental-spiritual urges to share with her, involuntary, habit, striking before I remember she is not here. And then, the echo, the aftermath of the urge: I cry. I am sick with wanting to talk to her. Honestly, I feel like it is a symptom of this whatever illness I have that no one seems able to define.

Brideshead originalIt is manifesting now in this desire to find someone with whom to read on a roof, all Bridesheady and unspoken sort of quiet sort of erotic sort of inevitable sort of here we are and here it is and we won’t talk about it because it will ruin it sort of Sebastian and Charles sort of thing. You know, just the sort of disaster I have thought romantic my whole life? Ha.

We all know how these things turn out, Charles. Let’s not.

gif bonnie and clyde

Really, not. Again.

bonnie shot

Good day, dears. Keep away from the news. I know I am. Maybe some day I will sign back on to Twitter or other social media or read a paper, but right now, nope.

Love and light, kids.