Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Archive for the ‘words’ Category

Back Pain, Sex Books, and Responsibility

blog54         I did something bad, really painful to my back yesterday in yoga class. The muscles in my lower back seized tight like I had been digging graves or planting bulbs, you pick, for a few days. By 5 pm, I could barely sit at my desk, but walking helped, so I enlisted a friend, and we walked around Barnes & Noble bookstore for a good hour.

Giggling, I walked around the store, limping the gauntlet of back pain, circling literary fiction, then teen picks, over to poetry, and past the enormous display of 50 Shades of Mediocre Writing, More Mediocrity, and finally, The End of Mediocrity (until the author does some actual research into consensual sexuality versus stalking and rape). My friend was standing in the sex section.

You know.

The section of the bookstore that we want to peruse. But are frightened or plain embarrassed to be seen having interest, prurient interest in a topic that has been part of the NC legislature’s tussle over the last year.

Grow up folks; even the pearl-wearing and the seersucker-suited government is talking about sexual issues.

My friend looked pretty comfortable. We picked out books by their cover to be disappointed with the lack of pictures and the downright clinical tone of the books. When did sex become so dull? Well, I am living in NC, and it is a national chain of bookstores.

It wasn’t always that way. Ten years ago I took a similar jaunt to B&N to pick up some books for clients (counseling knows no shame thankfully). It was the middle of an afternoon in the middle of the week. I walked over to the shelves marked SEXUALITY, pulled a few books, tucked my skirt under me, and sat down with the books on the floor.

Within a ten minutes, a few people had walked by, walked by again, and then walked up to me.

“What you looking at?” asked a man.

“Books,” I said.

“Books about what?”

“Books about sex.”

“Oh.”

A few people skittered away. Fast feet and heads down. A few souls stayed.

“What do you think about this book?”

They sat down on the floor blocking the aisle. We started comparing covers. Yes, the cover of a book is crucial. (I like the hot pink and yellow book titled, ‘Hot Sex: How to do it.’)

In thirty minutes, we were a circle of people, different genders, different ages, different skin colors. And we were having a thoughtful conversation about what we look for in a sex book. Pictures, some humor, explicit information and directions, more humor, and permission to explore this important part of our lives.

“It’s great Barnes & Nobel has employees like you,” a woman said.

“Yeah, I’ve never felt so comfortable talking about sex.”

“Um, I don’t work here,” I said.

“Well, you should.”

“Who are you then?”

“Just a reader like you. Interested in sex.”

We unashamedly laughed, giggled, and snorted. Under the bright lights of the bookstore, we talked about the meaning of sex in our lives, how we wanted books that reflected that interest and employees that were knowledgeable and unafraid.

So what has happened in the last ten years? How did we end up with HB2? Why are we mute as our reproductive rights are being legislated away and programs are being defunded? We do not blink an eye as art, in its different forms, is rigidly censored. Art, the conscience of the culture, meant to confuse and inform and disturb us but we settle for sofa art – some image asking nothing of us.

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I think we are fucked, and not in a good way. What are you going to do about this?

Elegant Feet: A Story for You

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“I have been told that I have elegant feet,” he said picking her up for their third date.

She had swallowed, tantalized, thinking about those feet. The imagined feet plagued her through the entire night – while he was driving the car, scrounging through the CD store, eating at the upscale restaurant, while playing word games at dinner, and on the drive home to her house. She plotted. “How do I see his feet without actually having sex with him?”

During the drive from her house, he had talked about growing up in Detroit. “The mosquitoes grow big enough to carry away small children.” She had searched the statement for hidden meanings. “Detroit is too dangerous and I left it for Kansas.”

“Oh,” she said dumb with desire for his feet.

“Now political speechwriting keeps me busy. It’s unexpectedly lucrative,” he said parking the car.

She watched him get out of the car – an older man than she usually dated. He had a fastidiously trimmed mustache. Arched eyebrows were neat and all of a length. His spare but well kept hair was gray sliced with youth’s gold.

“Depending on whom I am writing for, I grow, shave, and grow back the mustache,” he said.

He watched her watching him. Mustache, eyebrows and hair suggested light lashes but they were a thick, dark shade framing blue eyes. Startling but still …

They had walked down the street crowded with perfect twenty year olds.

“I was very skinny as a teenager and into my twenties,” he said. “Clothes were a trial.”

Inwardly she smiled at the cleverly chosen clothes covering his tidy body. He wore a comfortably rumpled linen shirt, beige jeans with a handsome leather belt, and a dark fitted blazer. But the clincher for her was the navy blue cloth sneaker with the brown leather stripe mostly hidden in the shoe’s tongue. She was unable to name the color of his thick, ribbed socks. The nondescript color of his socks united the beige jeans and navy sneakers. She concluded that his clothes were well coordinated and deliberately planned to mask the thickening of his body with age. He carried them off with an attractive nonchalance.

Her attention returned to his feet making her silent.

“Your head must get heavy with all that thinking,” he said. When he smiled, the slight padding of fat on his fine English bones made him look a decade younger than his age.

“Yes. Sometimes my hair hurts,” she said with a giggle.

As they continued their stroll, she had been curious about the type and color of his underwear. On the first date, she had taken him for a tightey-whitey kind of guy. Now she wasn’t sure. She thought he might be a hybrid, the type of man who wore the boxer-brief style but in a safe color such as gray or black. Would he be hairy on his stomach, back and groin or would he have the sparse tufts often found on blondes? Would he have freckles? Or moles? What would it matter?

“You may have elegant feet,” she said. “But you have beautiful hands.” Initially, his hands had enthralled her. They were the reason she went out with him the first time. Their hands were the same size. The skin on his hands lay flat and taut lacking the muscular depth of her hands.

“I had wanted to play the piano. Now it is too late to learn.”
“You love music?” she said.
“Yes. I have this good speaker system at home.”
“Oh. What do you listen to?”
“I love to sit between the speakers and listen to the romanticism of Schubert’s songs.”
“Why between the speakers?”
“I don’t know. Maybe better sound quality. The music asks me to sit quietly, very still as the waves of notes pour out. Do you like music?”
“Yes. I grew up in a family of musicians but I was the dancer. My feet always hurt.” She looked away. “I have bad feet.”
“They look perfectly fine to me. They seem to work. We’re walking.”

She fought an urge to cry. “What’s the difference between classical and romantic music?” she asked.
She nodded in attentive silence during his explanation. In awe over his extensive knowledge of music, she was still fixated on his footwear.

“I hear with my cerebral processes,” he said.
“What about your body?”
“It’s superfluous. When I’ve been drinking, I can tap my foot. I don’t dance,” he said.
“Do you think we have the same size feet?” she asked.
“No. I think mine are bigger,” he said with that same smile. She wondered if he would have short Freddy Flintstone toes or if they’d be long and prehensile.

“What do you do with the rest of your body while your mind and head is so active?”
“My body’s useful. It carries around my head,” he said.

She had smiled at the witticism but she was a little confused by the disconnection between his mind and body. It doesn’t make sense, she thought. He is touched to his core by music but his body stays still. She knew she moved her whole body in response to music. Each dancing teacher had said the same thing. “We have to work on your technique, especially your feet, but you’re an unusually lyrical and musically expressive dancer.”

At the CD store, he had gone looking for a vinyl copy of a CD she had played for him on their first date. She left him to wander in search of the more formally structured music she loved. She was struck by the selection of new and used CDs watched over by a young pimply girl in her late teens. The pimples covered her face, neck, chest, back, and upper arms. The scattering of wounds did not appear to upset her in the least. Clad in flip-flops, her feet were flawless – pale skinned, soft, and smooth. The young girl’s disregard for her wounds and her beauty shifted the focus to other factors, such as the proliferation and diversity of music in the store. She watched her date walk up and down the aisles of pressed discs. His feet did a fine job of moving through ankle, arch, and toes.

At the restaurant, he ordered a non-alcoholic beer. She had a lovely Portuguese white wine. “Do you mind me having a glass of wine?”

“No. I’m just tired after raking my yard all day. I don’t want to risk sleepiness driving home after a drink,” he said clicking his non-alcohol to her alcohol.

She fretted over his plans for the evening. She didn’t think he had plans to show her his feet.

Sitting at an outside table, they had shared a Caesar salad that he gallantly dished onto her plate. She move moved a toast point onto his plate after he knocked one off serving her a portion of the salad. Talk was easy and light. His feet remained tucked under the table. She sprawled on her chair. Her naked toes peeked out from under her jeans. Sandals left her feet chilly in the rapidly cooling fall air. His feet stayed under the table. She was sure they were thoughtfully arranged.

When their main course came, she had laughed with delight. Her shrimp were a fragrant pink on their woodland bed of onions, mushrooms, and grits. His tuna was seared brown with a rare red middle. She wiggled her toes in her sandals glancing over at him. He was eating away with a gusto she hoped would be available for other activities. At the dark table, their lone candle created a fuzzy halo for their meal. Arms, mouths, and faces moved towards the food and each other. The bottom halves of their bodies were quietly waiting.

They had walked back to his car, warm with food and talk, carried by their two sets of feet.
“I have something to tell you,” he said.
Looking into his serious face, she held her breath.
“I have peripheral artery disease. I don’t feel much below my knees.”
“And your feet?” she said.
“Not much feeling,” he said shaking his head. “But it has other implications in my life. I want you to understand what you might be choosing in a relationship with me,” he said.

They had stopped walking to turn towards each other. She laughed with recognition and relief. He looked hurt.

“What’s so funny?”

She smiled at him as she told him a story.“I have a friend who was a Buddhist monk. Now he sells used cars. He said, ‘After a while, all cars have issues. So I keep a mechanic on staff and don’t sweat the small stuff.’”

“Small stuff like feet?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said.
“Do you know any mechanics?”
“No but I know someone who might,” she said laying her head on his shoulder.

They had continued their walk back to the car, fingers intertwined, and their feet in concert.
That night, with much laughter, they showed each other their boo-boos.

“I’ll rub your elegant feet,” she said.
“I’ll brush your heavy hair,” he said.

It was these acts of kindness that started their love. Some days he limps and other days she gets fixated on ideas. In this life, you never know where feet and head will take you.

Writer’s Storm

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“You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms … “
(The opening words of “You Will Hear Thunder” by Anna Akhmatova)

Two events have me wondering about my writer’s soul. I am creating a working definition based upon the importance of truthful observation and expression in all its shades of black and gray (thank you Graham Greene).

Last weekend, I went to see the film Woman in Gold with a friend of Germanic descent. We had decided to go together for support while experiencing a potentially difficult movie. Interestingly we cried at different places. As a Jew, the film was heartbreaking to watch. The ghosts of my mother along with other family members sat with me in the theatre. My Teutonic friend was deeply touched by the movie, specifically the complicity of people then and today. We came to the movie with different values, histories, and cultures. Walking to our cars, we talked about how important it was to see the movie and not look away.

Two days ago, standing in line, waiting for the post office to open up so I can mail my book to a reader, I took the silly online quiz, ‘Who’s Your Poet BFF?’ The quiz matched me with Anna Akhmatova, the Russian poet. Her difficult life was reflected in work. Family pressured her into writing under a pen name to avoid embarrassment. Friends and country pushed her to conform, silencing her writing for periods. I wondered why I had drawn this poet’s name.

I called a writerly friend and she said, “Maybe it’s important to think about the connection.”
While I cannot claim the mastery or soul of Akhmatova, I feel the pressure to conform. I write the personal, about my thoughts, my feelings, some adventures, my family, and my friends. My family does not like that I write. Some of my friends do not like my writer’s sensibility, my voice or choice of writing subjects. (I struggle to avoid mining others’ lives for vignettes at their expense.) I feel ambivalent and scared about putting my thoughts and feelings on paper, on the web, in stories, and in the world through my voice. But I cannot and will not avert my eyes for the comfort of my family, friends, or colleagues. Nor will I change my voice to fit the literary world’s idea of what a writer should write about and in what particular style.

This is my writer’s voice and soul. It is smart (and silly), funny (and serious), competent (and inept), sexy (and prudish). At times, I can be snarky and sarcastic (while trying to avoid cruelty). My worldview as female, Jew, widow, middle-aged, immigrant, and body therapist informs my writing. I will make mistakes and cross lines but I promise to learn from them. Help me by pointing them out – as kindly as possible. Over my life, I expect to grow and my writer’s voice and soul to echo that growth. But my essential soul is not up for change to fit somebody else’s template. Or comfort. I am fine with my writer’s soul – my honest observation of experience. If my writing makes you uncomfortable, all the better.

That does not mean that I am uninterested in your voice and your worldview. I want to struggle next to you as we experience the world.

To summarize, by reveling in Anna Akhmatova’s words, I —
“ … Hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.“
(The last words of her poem, “You Will Hear Thunder”)

Batten down the hatches or throw them open so we can dance in the storm.

Fighting the Flu

rodblogI have been accused of smacking my readers over the head, being preachy and judgmental. I am. Working on it. Trying for more subtlety. But damn me if I don’t think my readers sometimes deserve the full truth. Raw. Blunt.

I hate flu season. Not the disease so much but the season. I hate snow. Not so much the precipitation but that it usually happens around flu season. I hate the wail of an EMS siren. The snow, flu, and EMS created the perfect storm nineteen years ago.

Raleigh’s weather had been bad. Finally the snow melted. The roads were the usual mess. My husband and I had the flu or so we thought. Rod had been ill since Wednesday. He stayed home from work – something he dearly loved to do. We got to spend more time together. My office was on the other side of the duplex.

By Friday afternoon, I was feeling better, seeing a few clients at my home office, and checking on him between clients. He didn’t look good. Green around the gills. Listless and grumpy unlike the teddy bear he had become over our marriage. I was out of graduate school and the pressure was off him as I started to bring in money. We were planning to open a holistic bed and breakfast. A year later, I found a notebook, two inches thick, with specifications of the land that he would have bought, notes on his instructions to real estate agents, and drawings of structures I had okayed as possibilities for our adventure.

When I finished work after 7 that night, I washed my face before checking on him. He was lying in bed. A six foot four unmoving lump. Chest barely rising. Staring at the ceiling.

“I don’t feel so good,” he said.
“You don’t look so good. I’m going to call the doctor.”

I called Rod’s newly assigned doctor. I could tell he was irritated by a call on a Friday night – abrupt, dismissive annoyance traveled over the phone. I told him I was concerned. My husband didn’t complain. Barely went to the doctor. But he was complaining now. He wasn’t quite thirty-one.

“You have to see him. Something’s wrong,” I yelled into the phone.
“I’ll call you in something for the flu,” said the doctor.
“Do you think I should take him to the ER?”
“No. It’s the flu,” he said and hung up.

I promised Rod to be as fast as possible, drove to the pharmacy, and got the anti-nausea med. When I returned it was close to nine. Rod had collapsed in on himself. The skin around his mouth was blue. His eyes were sunken back into his head. He looked like he had lost thirty pounds in an hour.

“I’m taking you to the hospital,” I said.
“No don’t,” he said. His eyes were sad, glittering with tears, but he smiled up at me.
At that moment, through some grace of God, we knew he was dying.
“I’m so scared,” he said. I had to move close to his heart to hear him.
Instead of denying it, I asked Rod, “What do you want to do?”
“I want to be at home,” he said along with the wordless question of could I be there with him.

I don’t remember what we talked about but we talked. He gave me permission to love again. He told me it would be a waste to have learned such a hard-won skill and never use it again. I tried to laugh it off but he put his hand over my mouth for me to kiss. We smiled a little, giggling like the young things we were. Murmuring little love words to each other. Saying our goodbyes.

By midnight, his muscles had started aching from lack of oxygen. At first his body alternated between trembling and stiffening. In an hour, whole body seizures started. I held him. Rocked him. Massaged him. Sang him little songs he loved. Told him not to be afraid. It would be shitty but I would stay with him. Held back all the tears that I nearly drowned in later. When he started blacking out, going minutes without a pulse, I called EMS. I had kept my vow.

A gruff man came in and took over. He was the age I am now. “What’s your husband’s name?” he asked.
“Roderick Eugene. Rod,” I said.
“Rod, I need you to listen to me. Pay attention to me,” he said.
“We can’t get a blood pressure,” said another member of the EMS team. They got busy.

I grabbed our stuff from the bedroom. Threw on some clothes. I was not allowed in the ambulance so I followed them to the Emergency Department in our truck. The wail of the EMS kept my adrenalin up, pushing back the terror, robbing me of breath. EMS pushed his gurney through the doors, sirens still wailing, leaving me to fill out papers. I waited.

The doctor came out to talk to me, a sad man with kind eyes.
“There’s nothing we can do. He has a virus that is causing him to bleed into his heart and lungs,” he said.
I nodded.
“Is there someone you can call? I have to get back in there,” he said looking at the closed doors where my husband lay bleeding out.
I called my friend and colleague, Catherine. She found me staring at the pale green walls, tight and motionless on a plastic molded chair. She wrapped her arms around me but I didn’t cry.
The doctor came back.
“We couldn’t save him.”
Save him from what? I thought.
“We’re going to clean him up and then you can come spend some time with him,” he said.

In a few minutes, a gentle nurse with soft, fat fingers took my hand, leading me to the room. She told me that he would be covered in tubes and hospital regulations would not let them remove them. Lying on the stretcher, Rod was gone. The nurse handed me some scissors and left me alone. After cutting off a swatch of his hair and gathering his wedding and anniversary rings, I left the hospital room.

The ER doctor came out to express his regrets in words somber and heart-felt. I never heard from Rod’s doctor – the one I annoyed with the phone call.

Somehow, I drove home and made the necessary arrangements. People were good to me for a while, more than a while. The ER doctor talked to me periodically. The hospital called with bills. I was clear that Rod had died in the way he wanted – in our love, in our house.

Here’s where I get preachy. Love your partners. If they are ill, fight the doctors to get the needed care. Make a scene. Here’s where I get judgmental. If you don’t love your partners, you won’t be able to be with them when their time comes. So let them go find the partners who will be there in love.

Love Without Words

earring 2Sometimes words are unnecessary. Such a weird thing for a writer to say. Coming up on Valentine’s Day, I want to remember what it is to be in love, astoundingly, courageously, heart in my mouth, love. When I started thinking about this post, a series of images took flower in my heart, bittersweet, opening my eyes to how lonely life had been for years.

Nineteen years ago, I went to dinner at what was for us, a fancy restaurant. After ten years together, finally finished with my graduate schooling, Rod had scraped together enough money to go for our first Valentine’s Day dinner out.

I was excited, toe-tingling, searching my closet for something pretty to wear, putting on uncomfortable lingerie, excited. After an hour of primping, usually I’m done in 30 minutes, 45 if I have to deal with animals; my hair looked okay, eye make-up subtle, mouth a bright red for the holiday, my husband walked into the bedroom. I thought how happy I was to be married to a man I adored … and who was so handsome. Thick black hair shot through with silver, soft kissable mouth, green eyes lively with intelligence and humor.

Before we left, we stood looking at each other. If there were words, they weren’t memorable. We drove to the restaurant in his beat-up Corvette. For five courses, smiles and eye contact were our form of communication. Words would have muddled the time. Before dessert, Rod reached into his pocket to pull out a box. Without breaking our gaze, he presented the box across the table. Opening the box, I found a pair of garnet earrings bound in silver wire – these from a man who professed a disbelief in gifts. Silently, I put them on. They were small rectangles of a soft red, the color of blood. Plates of berries and cream interrupted our contented sighs. After a final glass of champagne, we tootled the mile back to our house.

Immediately, I felt sick. Running to the bathroom, I vomited raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and cream all over the bathroom. Rod got a pillow for my knees and held my long curly hair out of my face. The projectile berries created quite a firework display covering the bathroom floor, the walls, and me with blotches of red, purple, blue and pink.

Between explosions, I said to Rod, “I’m so sorry. I was excited about the night and now I have a whoopsie tummy.”
He ran towels under water ands started to wipe off my face. Another explosion of berries.
“Not a problem. What an ending to the night,” he said.
“I ruined it,” I said tears mixing with the stains on my face. Caring for me like I was a sick baby, Rod took my clothes off, chucking them in the trash, wiped clean my body with cool towels, and scooped me up.
“You are a mess,” Rod said laying me in the bed.
“Yes, but a mess who loves you with all her heart,” I said.
Rod put a wastebasket by the side of my bed and a washcloth on the nightstand. “Just in case. I’m right here.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. And you are my mess.”
I took out the earrings to wake up with them still held in my hand.

Less than three weeks later, Rod contracted a virus. His heart bled out.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you can use action to show someone how much you love them. Celebrate their foibles, little quirks, and whoopsie tummies. I am going to wear my garnet earrings in remembrance of love.

Word Choice and Tramping Avalanche Peak

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I keep thinking about Freedom of Speech – how the world needs words, images, dialogue, differences of opinion to save it. Yes, I know it is a difficult concept and painful reality but I had an experience where words saved me.

A few years ago, I flew half way around the world to meet my college boyfriend in New Zealand. We had talked over college wounds deciding, “We had loved each other the best we could at that age.” Admittedly I had not thought of him much in the past decades but I was excited to further heal the breach with a seminal figure from my past.

It was a long flight to end up living for three weeks on a damp, cold boat with a man of minimal words. Within the first week, he told me I talk too much. Okay. I remembered that talking was not our strong suit. We had explored other things. Hormonal activities that … uh hum, kept my mouth occupied. On the boat, being censured for talking left me feeling lonely and confused. So we got active, tramping the various treks of the South Island.

One tramp was along Avalanche Peak. 2000 meters up. The steep, rocky trek along the peak is named for its many avalanches in winter. We were going in New Zealand’s fall. Websites describe it as ‘tragic’ and ‘dangerous’ and ‘with sheer drops.’ Bill did not tell me any of this. The night before our trek, we had checked into a hotel, ate a hot carb-laden meal, checked our boots and clothes for the morning, and climbed into bed.

As drifted off to sleep, Bill looked at me and said, “You need to gain 10 pounds. You were so pretty in college.”
“Why in God’s name would you say that?”
“Well it’s true.”
“That’s not the point,” I said.
I didn’t get much sleep that night as I stewed on his hurtful words. Hearing the rain beat down and the wind howl. Somehow, I managed to curb my urge to smother him with a pillow as he slept peacefully beside me.

The next day, bleary-eyed, I dressed in fleece tights, double layer waterproof and thermal hiking pants, sock liners and hiking socks, two tops, one silk and one wool, a climbing jacket, scarf, gloves and hat. No way in hell was I talking to him so that left climbing the peak.
We got to the visitor center and the ranger suggested we put off our tramp. It was still raining and they were expecting strong winds further up the peak. I was ready to find a warm fire and have a hot toddy, maybe nap on a sofa away from Mr. Hurtful Words.

“Let’s go check it out,” he said. I didn’t say anything.

The trailhead was a vertical climb, pulling oneself up a streambed. Using the tree roots as handholds.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said mouth open, staring up a small river cascading over a sludge of mud, stones, and hard looking scrub.
Hurtful Words said, “We can always stop. Once at the top, it’s a great view and an easier trek over the other side.”
“Fuck,” I said.
“You know I don’t like swearing,” he said. “I’ll go first.” So he started. All 200 plus pounds of him moving all the footholds and loosening the tree roots so I had to forge another path up the bloody mountain.
“Shit,” I said as my foot slipped and I dropped ten feet.
“Fuck,” I said as a tree root came away in my hand slicing it open through my gloves.
“Damn,” I said as a cascade of pebbles from steps of Hurtful Words thundering on above me pummeled my face.

I used the mantra of “Shit, fuck, damn” to make it up the streambed. Then we emerged into a torrential rain. Blindly I followed him. There were some vague screeches floating in the air – I thought they were from me. When the rain stopped, we reassessed. I was standing on a rim twelve inches wide with a sheer drop on one side and a roll and drop on the other. Great view of death. I sat down tears rolling down my face. Snow started.

“Let’s go back,” I said. The snowflakes grew fatter, colder, harder like pretty hail.
“You can but I want to go on,” he said. I knew he had the car keys so pushing him off the mountain was going to be counterproductive.

We kept putting one foot in front of the other. Abruptly, the snow stopped. Next came the gale force winds that almost pushed me off the mountain. Dropping my center of gravity, I scurried hunched over along the foot-wide ridge. Hearing some swooping and keening sounds again, I moved my eyes without moving my head. Swirling in the air were enormous birds with curved beaks, like out of Jurassic Park.

“They’re called sheep killers,” he said. “They eat the fat on the back of the sheep driving them crazy so the sheep throw themselves off the mountain.”
“Oh shit, shit, shit.” I sat down on the mountain to cry. Hail crashed my face.
“Don’t face into the wind, your tears will freeze on your face and you’ll get frostbite.”
“Fuck you asshole,” I said. All out of niceness. “I don’t think frostbite matters if I die on this godforsaken mountain.”
“You need to eat.” He gave me a gummy worm. I threw it at an approaching bird. Periodically, he gave me gummy worms and I threw them at the birds. They followed but kept their distance. Then came the horizontal sleet.
“I need to get off this fucking mountain,” I yelled into the icy bath.

“It’s approaching whiteout. I can’t see the trail. We should go back,” he said. I couldn’t see a thing. I sat down on the ridge.
“I’m not strong enough. I’m going to die up here. Shit, fuck, damn,” I cried.
“I hate it when you swear,” he said.
“That’s the least of our problems.”
“It isn’t helping.”
“The extreme probability of dying on a fucking mountain makes me want to swear,” I yelled at him.
“We have to start back now,” he said.

I followed him back through the sleet, birds, gale-force winds, snow, and torrential rain, to the streambed. He went down first, backwards. I followed slipping, sliding and swearing. Landing on my ass. Tearing my clothes. Somehow we made it back to the visitor center where, from relief, I promptly threw up gummy worms.

“This was a good day,” he said. “The only thing that spoiled it was your swearing.”
“My words kept me going. Your words last night weren’t so helpful,” I said.

I would not have survived Avalanche Peak without using my words, swear words, to generate the anger and energy for the trek. I will never be sure of the intent behind his words. Words have consequences bringing us together and pushing us apart.

Un-Cursing Myself

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I said aloud, “I am cursed.”
“Yes,” she said.
“Since Thanksgiving things have sucketh mightily as my family says,” I said after a lousy run of luck over the holidays.

My book came out at a weird time before the holidays. It’s not a typical holiday read (a collection of short stories and/or workbook about breasts – yep people will be delighted to have that under their Christmas tree and/or Hanukah bush). Somehow I think even the pagans will have a difficult time justifying it as a Winter Solstice gift. Definitely not a hostess gift.

For a year, I have been limping through my yoga classes, teaching duties, counseling appointments, and onto stage to read my scribblings. I have a Morton’s neuroma, ganglion growth between the toes, necessitating some combination of painful shots, foot binding reminiscent of the Inquisition, and eventual surgery with an awesome recuperation in an attractive surgical boot.

Then there was the massive brouhaha with the heating/air conditioning/duct work/zoning/dampers replacement. I have heat and more than likely a fractured or chipped ulna. For over a month, I have griped about pain in my arm and numbness in my fingers to the point I can’t hold a cup. Probably happened moving carpet from the attic, down through the hole in the closet, down from the second to the first floor, then out the door across the parking lot to the dumpster.

When I tell people, “My right leg and arm are going to be in either a cast or brace of some sort,” they have not exactly been helpful or maybe I’m touchy.
“I can’t drive with my foot in a surgical boot. I have a manual transmission,” I said.
“Wait. It’s your right foot that’s broken?”
“Yes.”
“Well you can’t drive an automatic either.”
“Yeah. Guess you have a point.”
Notice, he didn’t say, “And honey, I would love to drive you around when you need me.” What are friends for – good times it appears.

This morning I had a difficult time getting up. Stuck like a turtle on my back trying to figure out how to use my left arm to roll onto my right side to hoist myself out of bed. The cat watched for a whiie, meowed, sat on my chest for a minute to scamper down my leg knocking my foot against a book. Fat cat. Great, it feels like I have a collapsed lung, broken arm and great shock waves of pain rolled up from my foot into my hip. Tears, lots of them, not such a great way to start the day.

My yoga classes are composed of breathing exercises and standing poses avoiding anything on the ground and my imitation of a turtle stranded on its back.

I could go on with this laundry list of troubles. My shower has a leak that rivals Niagara Falls. My computer is running hot (I need a better porn site). My office is like the Arctic – luckily I hand out blankets as people come in for sessions. My iPod has developed little lines though it and that can’t be good. My Fiat has a poltergeist – the windshield wipers come on whenever. My plans for New Years collapsed along with my engagement. Yick. If I were a horse, I would shout me.

(You might be wondering how I am writing at the moment. One word – oxycodone. When it wears off, I better be at home, in bed, with the remote in my left hand and my foot up).

In my general clumsiness from the foot, arm, and escalating grumpiness, I knocked over a pile of photos. Trying to clump them together with my left hand and right claw, while swearing with pain, I picked up the photo posted here. My second husband took the picture after years of medications, two chemical menopause episodes and an eviscerating surgery a week earlier. I was ecstatic to be home from the hospital. My hair – on my head, eyebrows, eyelashes, everywhere – had fallen out and was beginning to grow in. I had lost twenty pounds. Had absolutely no make-up on. My first husband was telling anyone who would listen that I had died. I was 29.

My friend took the photo.
“You look like Lyle Lovette here,” she said.
“I can live with that,” I said.
“Good bone structure but not your best picture,” she said.
“I didn’t die and that was all I was asking for,” I said in conclusion.
It was a long recovery. Twenty-five years later, I complain about the little, painful, annoying but not lethal, indignities of living. While mechanics, techies, orthopedists, and a pharmacist would be helpful, mostly, I need this picture.

Throughout this new year, I want to remember – with gratitude – I am not cursed.

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