Monday, September 27, 2004

By the way...

I have not forgotten that I just left the "Dreaming" story hanging. It is, in fact, torturing me because I seriously have no idea what happens next and unlike the first three segments, it is not writing itself. I've tried many times to try finishing it, but no dice. It just comes out lame and forced. So, just in case anyone out there was wondering -- that's what's up with that.

I ask myself regularly, "Is it Peter, or is it not Peter? If it is, how does he tell her?" And, most importantly, "Why, really, does she care?"

And confound it, my brain is not telling. Maybe I don't know. Do you?

Yonder There Be Dragons

There's another reason why it took us so long to discover the world was not flat. The dragons. I have heard (though have not confirmed) that when early mapmakers drew out the edges of the world as they knew it, they would write "Yonder there be dragons," for anything beyond their own scope of knowledge. Did they mean real dragons? People weren't sure, but regardless it was enough of a warning: Beyond this point, scary bad things are out there. Best not to go looking. Perhaps the mapmakers were simply unconsciously protecting a dearly-held view of the world, but perhaps there was more to it. Perhaps they were right. Yonder there be dragons. What are dragons?

For the last week and a little more, I've been much more moody, listless, and depressed than I've been for quite awhile. Not constantly so. I've had some easy times, some contentment, some in-lovedness, etc. But some kind of storm hangs over me -- the barometric pressure weighs heavily on my chest. It is constricting, uncomfortable. I am ill-at-ease and restless.

D. and I are at a strange impasse. I read a poem once that included a line to the effect that marriage is a series of impasses and I suppose this is one of them. Last week was a very bad sugar-binging week for me. D. and I talk about these things. I am confounded by the binging at times, aware that I should be able to resist and yet finding myself unfit to the task of it. D. worries about my longevity, and my apparent pre-diabetic condition. He believes that if I could just control my sugar addiction, I'd be able to prevent actual onset. He spends a lot of time reading about how addiction works, physiologically, and the best means to beat it. I feel like in the process of trying to "help" me do that, he makes his respect and admiration for me conditional. If I am "beating" my sugar addiction, he's proud of me. If I am not, he's disappointed in me, and feels somehow betrayed by me, though even he acknowledges the irrationality of it. I don't want it to be his business and think it is unfair of him to hinge feelings of approval for me on something I do not fully control, didn't seek, and don't want. He feels very strongly that my health is his business and notes that his feelings are irrational and he doesn't fully control them either. We are both right and we are both wrong and it's hard to imagine how we will find our way through this without compromising our honesty with each other.

Then there's work. Today we have a staff meeting to talk about all of the work we currently have (enough that all of us are budgeted for over 50-60 hour weeks through November) and all that is coming up (enough to sink the boats) --- all of which makes me feel leaden and empty at the prospect of having to dedicate any of the hours of my life to it. If I did fall down the rabbit hole at all week before last, it was in the fantasy I allowed myself for the first time of just quitting this job. Of walking into my bosses' offices and saying, "Look, I love you guys, I do. But this isn't the right job for me and I need to leave in order to find one that is." It was so amazing to allow myself the prospect of such freedom. It ignited my imagination. But, unlike, deciding to take a trip around the world, the effect was not a sensation of walking through a plate of glass but into one. And ouch. I can't do that. I mean, I can, but I can't. The wall still feels solid. It probably isn't, but it feels like it.

D. said that he would support me at a part-time job that would enable me to write more if I would demonstrate my commitment by writing an article and seeking publication. That should be all it takes. I'm disgusted with myself to find that, instead, I have nothing to write about. Certainly nothing that I can imagine trying to get published.

In the meantime, we need my job for the health insurance (D.'s open enrollment period has ended), because, let us not forget that I am caught in limbo between wanting a baby and the expensive problem of having trouble conceiving one, while all around me friends have babies or are pregnant --- most notably, my best friend, who is, of course, ambivalent about being pregnant. Every group function is peppered with her funny, sardonic comments about pregnancy while others hover about her, tending, indulging, enjoying this event with her. Meanwhile, I sit on the sidelines watching the game, wondering if I'll ever get called in from the bench.

I feel so out of rhythm with my surroundings right now that it hurts. I feel like Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time, standing before IT, trying to manage her own breathing and heart rate, while IT pulsates an overpowering rhythm all the while promising that if she'll just relax into ITs rhythm, everything will be easy. And she resists because she knows that then she would be less Meg, all her distinctions and uniqueness evened out to be in lock-step with everyone else. And that's the wrong image because in the book "IT" is evil, and in this case, I'm not sure that's true. But that's how it feels.

What are real dragons? Are they dinosaur-sized lizards with wings that breathe fire? Perhaps they are the fears and voices inside a person that define the map of known lands -- the allowed world, the area that is "easy," where one's heart beats to a set rhythm and is comfortable. Perhaps we only meet them when we try to step off the map. Maybe sometimes they serve us well, protecting us with their fearsome displays that warn of the discomfort and danger of wandering too far afield, turning us back to the safety of shore, of charted lands.

Maybe sometimes, though, they are only the figments of our imagination -- born of our willingness and need not to wander out beyond the known lands, not to lose sight of the shore. What happens when we keep venturing, even past their fearsome displays? What happens when we lose our willingness and need to cling to shore?

I don't know that's what's happening. But I wonder.

I'm probably just experiencing the hormonal chaos of Clomid.

But I wonder.

Monday, September 20, 2004

All Right Now

This weekend, I was out running errands when I passed an elderly African American man slumped awkwardly in a wheelchair by the side of the road. I passed slowly, trying to determine whether he was okay. He was wearing more layers of clothing than it seemed to me the day called for, and stuffed plastic bags hung off the handles at the back of his wheelchair. He had a white stubble coming in as though he hadn't shaved in days. He didn't move. But he was in a passenger loading zone. I drove on, thinking, "He's fine. Someone's coming to by soon to pick him up."

But half a mile later, I gave up trying to ignore the tingly, alert feeling I'd had driving by him, and turned my car around.

I pulled right up to the curb alongside him. He didn't stir.

"Sir? Are you okay?" I called from inside the car.

His head moved slowly and he raised confused, rheumy eyes. It seemed to take him a moment to recognize the source of the voice, but eventually his eyes met mine.

"Ma'am?" He dragged out the word.

"Hi. I, uh, didn't mean to disturb you. I just wanted to make sure you're okay. That everything's okay."

As I spoke his eyes began to clear and he started to smile at me. "Well, Miss," he said very slowly, deliberately, and directly. "See, I was praying. I was with Christ. I was in a deep meditative state, praying for the world to be all right."

I'm not sure how to convey this, but suddenly it was obvious that was exactly what he'd been doing. Something in his face, in his voice, in his eyes. I felt a lump form in my throat.

"That gives me hope for the world," I surprised myself by saying aloud.

"Won't you pray with me?" he asked with a warm smile on his face.

"Yes, I will," I said.

I don't really know what he meant he wanted me to do. I didn't get out of my car right then and there and fall to my knees next to his wheelchair, head bent and holding his hand. Instead, I think I lamely said something like "Okay, then," gave a little wave and drove off. And he waved, still smiling serenely and warmly at me.

However, as I drove away my eyes brimmed over and my heart felt blown open. I laughed and cried at the same time and as much as I know how to, started praying for the world to be all right.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Down the Rabbit's Hole

I'm sorry to those of you who are checking in to catch the next installment of the Dreaming story. This isn't it. It's coming --- probably this weekend --- but right now I have something else pressing for expression and since I seem to have abandoned my journal for blogging, I turn here. I don't need an audience. But I do need the possibility of one. Somehow, even the possibility of an observer changes everything.

Without question, it makes me a better writer. And, I admit, I want that. As frightening as it is to admit, because here, where I am known through my writing, you have material with which to judge me for this hubris: I think I am a writer. I mean, I think that's what "Phoebe" is supposed to be. I'm slow in accepting it and it's a little like, I think, a 35 year old woman who's been running 5 miles a day suddenly deciding that she's really always supposed to have been a marathon runner --- a full-time, possibly, Olympic marathon runner. So, it might very well be that I'm just crazy. Or it might be that I'm finally starting to see the ships in the harbor.


I heard a story last night that I'd never heard before. Supposedly, when Columbus' ships were approaching the Central American (obviously, not so-named at the time) shore where they ultimately landed, the Mayans did not see them, even though they approached for over a day, including in broad daylight. It's thought that the reason they didn't see them is that they had no reference for such a sight, and so did not absorb it. The ships were there -- their eyes were taking them in, but their brains weren't. It wasn't until the shaman, who noticing that the water was behaving as though something was moving at sea, was able to realize they were there that he could see them and point them out. Until they were able to make sense of such a sight, however, their brains had selectively disregarded it as meaningful.

Whether or not this is, strictly speaking, a true story, it illustrates a point that we do know is true, which is that we do not "see" everything that is actually around us. Our eyes take it in, maybe our noses smell it, or our ears hear it, or our skin registers air movement, etc... But unless our brains have selected the specific stimuli from among the millions of bits of information coming in as meaningful, it does not register with us, at least consciously. It is a reasonable hypothesis that there are things around us all of the time that we do not see or recognize as present or real because our brains have no reference points for them and don't treat the information as meaningful. This isn't spooky, necessarily. We experience it all the
time. For example, I often consider my office "quiet" even though I bet a decibel meter next to the air conditioning vent would suggest, objectively, that it is anything but. And add to that the whirring of my computer, the street traffic below, the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, my breathing, noises in the office next door, the copier machine just down the hall, the fact that I am smack dab in the middle of heavily populated city, etc., and my perception of "quiet," seems more like deafness than fact. And yet, I know the difference between "quiet" and "not quiet." Further, I'd wager, that on those days when I think of my office as quiet, you could enter it and you'd find it "quiet" as well. It's just that our brains selectively disregard the other stimuli.

Or consider this: most of us have had the experience of combing an area for something we've lost, staring as intently at it and around it as we can, and then, suddenly, strangely, recognizing the object as having been right in front of us the whole time. Not creepy, just a blip in the mechanism of judging meaningful stimulus. Our eyes didn't fail us, it was our perception of what was in front of us that failed us.

I think this phenomenon is also in play in other realms -- where it is a little more disquieting to consider. There's the obvious: we used to be convinced that the earth was flat. Yes, telescopes and circumnavigation helped us confront that misperception, but our ability to perceive that the horizon line is not fixed, that things coming toward us from a great distance appear to be rising as they approach, which probably means that the surface is curved, not flat, did not develop with the telescope. We just didn't consider that information meaningful. We could have all along believed that the world was round -- we weren't obligated to perceive it as flat. For some reason, however, we ignored all the information our brains and bodies were receiving that might have challenged the perception that the world was flat until one of us finally had a breakthrough insight and could see it and point it out to the rest of us. Our "coming to consciousness" as a species is riddled with examples of our frequent convictions that things are one way, when they are not that way at all. And not because we are stupid -- just because we are not, for some reason, taking in all of the relevant or important information around us to recognize things "as they are" (which is often only just one more step toward recognizing things "as they are").

I've had other experiences I'd put into this category. For example, it tempting to be glib and say something snide about my having finally recognized my first husband rightfully as an ex-husband. But though there's truth in that, it isn't as interesting to me as D. and I having decided to spend the first year of our marriage traveling around the world. This is something that people don't do -- everyone knows that. Some people may think about it, or fantasize about it. But who leaves their successful careers, mid-career, while still on a climb toward greater success, while still paying down a mortgage, to travel for a year? I certainly hadn't considered it as a possibility for the course of my life -- and right up until the very strange moment when D. and I, both, for some reason suddenly saw it as one of a few very sane choices we could make, I would have said it wasn't possible. I still remember the sensation of the realization that we could go. It was like walking through a wall of glass. It was exhiliarating. It felt like we were making all new rules.

Now, D. and I hear frequently from people that they could never do what we did. And the thing is, they're wrong. Of course, they could. We were very lucky, in that we had an on-going stream of revenue from a rental property, and we found a tenant who covered our home mortgage, and thus even managed, crazily (it still doesn't make sense to me that we pulled this off, but we did), to make the trip without assuming debt. Also that we both got "good" jobs within 6 weeks of resuming our mortgage and bills, and thus managed to stick the re-entry landing with a fair amount of grace. I don't get that. We were Lucky in a capital "L" way (not deserving, just lucky). That part maybe not everyone could do. But that's not the part that people are talking about when they say they could never do it. What they mean is that they couldn't just step off the people-mover (career, home, family, kids, bills, chores, "responsibility," duty, routine, comfort, security, etc.) that most of us are on in our workaday world. And they believe it. They don't think about what it would be like to step off it it. They don't believe it is an option. That there would be a good life, or even life, waiting for them if they did.

And painfully, now that we're back, I sometimes I'm right back there myself. And I think D. is, too.

But today, for some reason, I'm aware that there are options I am not seeing. And while I'm not ready to go throwing myself through glass walls, exactly, I am wondering what those options are? What ships are approaching on the horizon that my brain is not perceiving as meaningful?

In a way, today, I'm looking for Alice's Rabbit Hole. I'm dressed for the occasion. I'm wearing an outfit for the first time since it was my favorite that year D. and I stomped around the world. It has inexplicably held up so well -- I wore it every 3rd day for a whole year -- that three people have asked me if its new today. It looks like a nice, conservative top and skirt, but really, it's built for travel. For seeing new things. For seeing in new ways.

I hope it helps.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Dreaming, part 3

Part 1 ~ Part 2

She did nothing the next day. Or the next few days after that. Jason didn't ask any questions and she didn't bring it up. There was plenty to talk about, plenty of work, plenty to do. Jason, Tallie, and Striker spent the following evenings with friends and for long stretches of her days she even forgot to think about it. Occasionally the reply crossed her mind, but while she hadn't deleted it yet, she also hadn't read it again.

Her dreams in the meantime were interesting. Over and over again she dreamt of fire, of red, orange and yellow flames. Sometimes she was inside them without burning herself, but aware of being too hot to approach; sometimes, as in the last dream about Peter, she just watched the flames dance erratically in a big campfire. Out of curiosity she finally looked up the imagery in an old book of dream symbols she'd bought long ago.
"Fire: represents the dreamer's emotional life. If the fire is destructive, the dream is about the dreamer's destructive emotions."
She didn't find it helpful. But, flipping through the book, she also stumbled upon a paragraph she'd underlined at some point.
"Every person and every object in a dream represents the dreamer. If a dreamer says, 'I dreamed I saw a dead person,' we can understand the dream to mean that the dreamer is feeling deadened in some way. By giving our attention to other symbols in the dream, we may even be able to pinpoint the cause of the dreamer's feeling of lifelessness."
"Hokey," she thought.

On Cycle Day 12, according to her temperature chart, she woke from another Peter dream. The same dream as before, but this time, she didn't remember any of the dream preceding the moment of watching him have sex with some other woman they'd both grown up with (though Tallie, once awake, was not sure that the woman was a real person from her past). Again, they were across the fire from each other. But this time, and Tallie thought perhaps for the first time, he had looked at her while in the act. The alarm had rung just as their eyes met.

Tallie pulled the thermometer from her mouth and noted the temperature on the chart. Day 12 meant it was time to start peeing on sticks -- checking for impending ovulation. Jason pulled himself up on his elbows to look at the chart in her lap. After studying it a moment, he raised her eyes to her quizzically.

"Soon," she said.

He laughed lasciviously and rubbed his hands together. She had to laugh. She forgot the dream. "How soon?" he asked.

She looked over at the clock beside the bed. "Spiker might get a shorter walk this morning," she said, sliding back under the covers.

"Oh," Jason murmured into her ear. "Very, very, very soon. That's very good."

At work that afternoon she was thinking about the morning's negative ovulation predictor test result when she opened the reply from Professor Peter Wilson. She stared at it as though it had opened itself and gnawed at the inside of her cheek, wondering if she should feel guilty.

"I do not know you," it still read.

She hit reply. "I do not believe you," she said aloud as she typed.

"I'd have to be insane to send this," she whispered to herself, casting a furtive glance out her office door to see if anyone was in the hall. She stared at the screen.

"This is stupid," she said moving her cursor over the "delete" button. "He is not he. He is me," she told herself.

"I am certifiable," she said as she moved the cursor and sent her own reply.

Dreaming, part 2

To read Part 1, click here.

It was over a week before Tallie thought of either the dream or the email again. Not until the reply came, which, inexplicably, she knew was a reply even as the envelope icon appeared in the corner of her screen at the end of her workday, before she had opened the message.

"I do not know you," was all the sender had written.

A strange choking feeling snaked into Tallie's body. Her hands and legs trembled. "Well, how about that," she said aloud.

She shut down her computer for the day and went home. She took the dog for a walk and was just returning as Jason pulled into the driveway. She was so lost in thought that Jason had to honk to get her attention, at which point she also realized that Spiker, their dog, had been pulling her behind him.

"Wow, what's on your mind?" Jason asked climbing out of the car. He was smiling.

Tallie hesitated. "It's kind of a long story."

Jason seemed not to notice her pause. "Tell me over dinner?" he asked as he pushed open the door, set his briefcase on the entry table and turned around to hug her.

She stepped into his arms and leaned into his warmth and steadiness, noticing the feelings of her body soaking in the comfort of his. "Okay."

"Well, that was kind of wierd," he said after she'd told him about the dream and looking Peter up on Google, finding an email address and sending him a message.

"How so?"

"I don't know. I think it's kind of wierd that you decided to contact him after that particular dream."

Tallie studied Jason's face for more clues about what his words meant.


"What do you mean, 'why'? Because you haven't heard from the guy for fifteen years and it doesn't sound like a dream that would make a person really miss another person and want to know how they are. Or if it is that kind of dream, I don't get it. He kind of sounds like a jerk from the dream."

"Well, yeah, and actually, he was kind of jerk at times in real life. But, I grew up with him, you know? It seems so strange to me to have no idea where he is or what he's doing. It feels weird to not know him."

"I guess."

They sat silently for a minute. Tallie still wasn't completely sure she understood what Jason was feeling. It wasn't like him to feel insecure about her. They both had friends of the opposite sex and had long ago learned to trust each other's fidelity and devotion, which seemed good and right and made other friendships easy. She doubted that whatever he was feeling it would be as simple as jealousy. There was a static between them, though, and for a moment she wondered if she should just ask. She realized she was afraid to, and though she couldn't think of a good reason she should be, instead, she said, "So, anyway I got a reply today."

"And?" Jason kept his eyes on his plate.

"It said 'I don't know you.'"

Jason looked up. She could feel him assessing her now. "Oh. Well, I guess that's that."

"I guess."

"What's that mean?"

Tallie sighed. "I don't know, Jason. I know you're going to say I'm crazy, but that was it. That was all it said. I think it's wierd. I think it was him."

There were no longer noises of eating. Spiker got up from his spot under the table and stalked to the corner of the dining room nearest the kitchen. He plopped down on his haunches and stared pointedly at Tallie and Jason, who were looking at each other. Spiker whined.

"Yeah, okay, buddy. Dinner's coming," Jason said, tossing the dog a glance. He pushed himself away from the table. "You do whatever you gotta do, Tallie," he said, taking their plates with him to the kitchen.

Tallie's eyes watered as she sat there a minute, feeling trapped between two worlds and not sure why.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Big Tent on This American Life

If you are an American Democrat --- or an interested observer of American politics -- who is trying to understand this strange time when the nation is so deeply divided, and if you are willing to ask and think about how to bridge the divide, to rebuild a national unity that propels us to make some good decisions about who we are in the world and at home, I recommend listening to the "Big Tent" episode of This American Life. Click here for the Real Audio file. (It's an hour long).

Sometimes it's frustrating to realize how great the divide is, but a lot of the time this episode offers a kind of insight that is nearly impossible to get otherwise.

Monday, September 13, 2004


She woke from yet another dream about Peter having sex with someone from their past in front her. Again, by firelight, though this time a campfire. As her first memories of the dream passed across her conscious mind she sat straight up and grabbed the thermometer from the bedside drawer, and considered the dream while the digital meter rose. Peter. She hadn't seen him in over 15 years now. They'd grown up together, across the street. While she'd openly had crushes on him that had come and gone, he was only ever interested in her when she was with someone else. They'd left for college together and Tallie thought for sure, this would be the time -- something would happen. But what happened is that Peter had dropped out before the end of the first quarter and she'd seen him no more than 5 times since then, and even then, the last time she had just graduated herself.

It was the fourth dream of him she'd had in three months. The thermometer beeped and she pulled out her notebook and wrote the temperature down. She'd just started her period, and her temperature was higher than she expected. It was all a mystery to her, this "trying to conceive" process of tracking temperatures and cervical fluids and times of day and... She knew enough to know that she could only make herself crazy trying to read the chart as though it were meaningful yet. It was only meaningful at its end. A completely unsatisfactory thing to a person too impatient to buy even microwave popcorn, preferring the pre-popped kind.

Jason stirred beside her, wrapped a warm arm around her and she settled back against him -- the father, someday, to-be. "What time is it?" His voice was craggy and hoarse. She smiled at his sexiness.

"Time," she said.

"I hate Mondays," he said.

She chuckled. "Yeah."

She turned toward him and they grabbed each other tightly in a long embrace before pulling apart to begin the day. The dream had left her mind before she got into the shower.

Late in the afternoon, however, when her attention to work was flagging and she'd already searched through all of the websites she tended to track, she typed Peter's name into Google. None of the hits seemed likely to be related to him. On search page 15, there was something that was possibly related to him --- right age, anyway -- but it was a reference to a visiting American Literature professor at a prep school in England. Fifteen years, I suppose -- she thought -- is enough time to go back to college and become a teacher. And Peter's mother had been British. Following links through the page, she found an email address.
"Dear Prof. Peter Wilson:
I grew up across the street from a Peter Wilson in Chico, California. I've lost touch with him and would love to know how he is. Please forgive me if you are not related. I realize it's a common name. If you are related, or in fact, the same person, please drop a note to let me know. Thanks very much, Natalie Jessup"
She hesitated before hitting the send button, considering the wisdom of the impulse. For one thing, this more than likely was not the Peter she was looking for. More importantly, she wondered, why am I looking for him?

In all of the dreams Peter had come to visit her. And though she also wasn't married to Jason yet, Peter wasn't cast as a romantic interest in the dream -- just a friend with whom she had a complicated past. The dreams always started off with an exhaustive conversation about their childhood and the intervening years, and then differed in what happened next. Except that each dream ended with him having sex with one of the girls they'd both known as children or teenagers in front of a fire, and, for some reason, in front of Tallie. Not exactly to hurt her, she thought, but also not without significance.

For years she'd written her dreams down, instead of her temperature, just upon waking. She'd expected that someday, the effect would be that she would begin to understand them, and herself. She had not reached that point by the time she and Jason decided to try to have a baby, but she did have better recall.

Four dreams in three months. She knew better than to think that the real Peter Wilson could shed any light on what they meant. She believed her dreams were just her dreams, not insight into lives or consciousness beyond hers. Even if this was the right Peter, what was the purpose of contacting him? He obviously had not sought contact with her. She was easy to find. Tallie had kept her maiden name and knew for a fact she was easy to find on Google (having been "found" by other lost friends). For that matter, her mom even still lived in the same house in Chico, same phone number. Her fingers hesitated above the keyboard. What good, really, could come of trying to find him? She hadn't thought of him for years before the dreams started. They hadn't parted with anger, just a sense that there was no more connection between them. It really did seem strange to her to have multiple dreams about him. After a moment, she hit "send."

Note: I woke up with this story brewing in my head. But I really have no idea where it goes.

Friday, September 10, 2004


Note: This story inspired by a painful true-life incident that I witnessed as a stranger while I was walking my dog this morning. It sent me straight back into the skin and mind of my own 12 year old self the first day of middle school. Oh, thank goodness that's over.

While Julie's mom was still pulling to a stop, Julie was already opening the car door. As she ran up the steps to Desiree's door, Desiree stepped out and Julie stopped dead in her tracks. Desiree was wearing a new multi-layered stretchy purple shirt, and new black cargo pants. She even had on new 2" platform flip-flops. She must have seen something in Julie's face. "Oh. I'll go change," she said and turned back into her house.

Julie, her long white t-shirt from horse camp hanging nearly halfway down her legs, which were dressed in old jeans and standing in sneakers, bit her lip and looked back at her mom who smiled at her and made a questioning gesture. "Oblivious," Julie thought.

"She'll be right out!" Julie called to her mom, just as Desiree re-emerged, her mom pushing her from behind.

"Hi Mary," Desiree's mom called to Julie's, who waved back. "There's no time, Desiree," she said turning to Desiree.

"But Mom."

"Nope, go on." She looked at Julie. "Hi, Julie. Are you as excited as Desiree?"


"Yes, Mrs. Westly."

"Well, have a great first day, both of you! It's so exciting! You're growing up!" Mrs. Westly said as she returned inside.

Desiree smiled at Julie. Julie tried to smile back.

"Come on, girls!" Julie's mom called.

They turned and ran to the car.

"First day of middle school!" Julie's mom exclaimed as she pulled away from the curb.

Desiree and Julie looked at each other and giggled.

"You look so grown up, Desiree," Julie's mom said.



"Just ---" Julie wasn't sure. "Just drive."

Julie's mom sighed and turned on the radio, muttering. "Yes'm. Righ' 'way, ma'am."

Julie rolled her eyes and looked back at Desiree. They giggled together. Then they fell silent, listening to the radio, watching the streets whiz by.

"I'm sorry," Desiree whispered. "I forgot."

Julie looked away for minute. It's true that they hadn't mentioned it since the last night of horse camp three weeks ago -- not even last night when they'd compared class schedules and who they'd heard would be coming from their old school to this one. But Julie hadn't needed reminding.

That last night of camp, they'd been the last to fall asleep, huddled in Julie's bunk, whispering late into the night, not even as loud as crickets or the wind in the trees overhead -- a special whispering just between the two of them that they'd been practicing at sleepovers for years. They promised each other they wouldn't ever be like the other older girls at horse camp, more concerned about how they looked and what they wore than they were about anything else -- even more than the horses, or playing in the grass bare-footed, or swimming, or being nice to a new kid, or holding hands with your best friend. Desiree and Julie swore fervently to each other to just be themselves, together, best friends, all their lives. It was Julie's idea that they'd both wear their camp shirts the first day of school. But Desiree had agreed.

Julie looked back at Desiree. For one angry minute, she considered accusing Desiree of lying, of betrayal. But Desiree looked great. Like an older kid. Like a teenager. Something deep and silent in Julie relented, surrendered.

Julie shrugged and smiled a little. She said softly, "You look nice."

Desiree's lips stretched across her perfect teeth in a big open smile. "Thanks, Julie. So do you. I know I should have worn my camp shirt, especially now. You look great."

Julie smiled and knew it was a lie.

When Julie's mom pulled up to the school, Desiree and Julie made their quick and nervous goodbyes to her, and then the two of them walked up to the bustle together, searching the crowd for familiar friends. Almost immediately, they were surrounded by old friends, but before Julie knew it, she was standing on the outside of a circle of girls clustered around Desiree, comparing their shoes and bags and shirts to each other's and to the eighth graders.' She fell into step with some of the "other" girls, the younger-though-they-were-all-the-same-age girls.

Julie knew, then, that nothing ever would be exactly the same again with Desiree. They'd stay friends. But Julie would always have this tiny tight knot of scar tissue, the beginning of the changes that would cause their paths to diverge. Even years later she would still sometimes find herself wondering whether Desiree had really just forgotten, or whether she had just been too scared to admit to Julie that she couldn't keep their promise to each other. Julie sometimes wondered if it was even a promise that could have been kept --- if it would have been her to break it first, if Desiree hadn't. On the much rarer occasions years later when Desiree would remember that day, she'd wonder most of the same things, but it would never occur to her that it might have been Julie if it hadn't been her.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Life at the Laboratory

A couple of months ago, I had to take a two-hour blood glucose test. I was having a certain type of chronic infection and the doctor wanted to rule out diabetes as the cause. So, I came into the lab and drank a disgustingly sweet vial of glucose and documented the activites of the waiting room for the two hours that I had to stick around to have my blood drawn periodically. (You can read about this grand adventure here.) For that doctor's purposes, the results were "normal:" no diabetes, nor even pre-diabetes. For our fertility specialist, however, the results were suspect, so he's ordered an insulin test to clarify the results.

As before, I have fasted for the last 12+ hours so I am hungry and slightly cranky. As before, I am at the lab, waiting to have my blood drawn. This time, however, I am sitting outside the lab because I unfortunately incorrectly "remembered" the lab opening at 8a.m. Turns out it opens at 8:30. And I am here extra early to ensure I'll be first in line. Needless to say, I am.

Fortunately this is a one-draw test. In a little over a half an hour, when they finally call my name, I'll submit to the needle and then be on my way to work. Two things to look forward to.

Which reminds me, apropros of nearly nothing, that at our neighborhood association meeting last night it was necessary for the Board President to explain my sarcasm to an angry mob of fellow neighbors ready to lynch me. It was eerie, actually, to have all those blood-shot eyes and white teeth turn on me for an ill-timed joke that was intended to lighten the mood. It followed a very hostile reception for the State Department of Transportation folks who'd come out to explain why our wealthier neighbors just to the North of a state highway that separates our neighborhoods had recently gotten a sound wall on their side with no plans to install one on our side as well. Predictably, the State folks were being bureaucrats and explaining how they had followed the letter of the law, even going so far as to say that they had sent invitations to a community input meeting prior to finalizing the plans for the sound wall. "Who did you invite?" asked the angry crowd. "All of the 'impacted' parties," was the first reply, which upon pressing turned out to mean all of the parties most likely to benefit from the wall and no one on the reflective side (our side) of the wall. They really needed some PR help, these guys.

We're an activist neighborhood. People really care about this. Really care. And they're vocal enough that all of our local government officials knew to be in attendance, too. Including our City Councilmember-Elect, with whom I am talking next week about a possible position in his new office this fall.

Sarcasm was probably, in retrospect, not a great vehicle for levity in that circumstance. Especially mine, which for some reason rarely comes across as ironic to people who don't know me well. But typically I just get quizzical looks, not outright hostility.

Jobs. I am not well-suited to mine and I am not sure what to do about it. The Council thing notwithstanding (since I didn't go looking for it --- it's an opportunity that, more or less, found me), I haven't been looking to leave where I'm at. I work for and with great people, is the problem. If they were any less great, the work would have driven me away long ago.

BF and I were talking about this (including, among other things, how her new pregnancy changes, and doesn't, our friendship --- so far, miraculously, it is proving to be a good thing for us). She's only recently begun to understand what it is I am currently paid to do and she's, frankly, horrified for me. I don't want to insult anyone by admitting this, but essentially, I have become an auditor. As I said, all the people I work with and for are great --- and they're all auditors. They're just also unconflicted about being auditors. If James Lipton were to ask me "What career would you least like?" this would be in my top ten. Well, twenty. The problem is, "What career would you most like?" leaves me feeling about for something to hold and coming up empty.

On that note: it's time to go get punctured.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Autumn Sunlight

In long draping lines,
It hangs like silk.
Drifting through the leaves
Lighting them up,
Casting a glow below.

It touches lightly the
Soft belly of my

Which is heavy,

And my Longing

Which is empty,
A deep, pulling emptiness

And they dissipate



They are thinning -- ebbing
And spreading out into
The everything around me.
Leaving snail’s treads
In every direction.

In case I will call them back?

I am opening my hands.

I am letting them go.

And I am leaning back,
Further and further back
Into its warmth,
Finding it solid,
And promised,
And beautiful.

And for now, this moment,

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

It's a Monday of a Tuesday

It's kind of painful to sit at my desk today for a bunch of reasons.

Perhaps foremost, this weekend I threw my back out playing tag football on Alki beach and boxing with my surrogate 6 y.o. and 9 y.o. nephews. But I had a good time. Turns out we only made one day of Bumbershoot -- Sunday. The highlight was The Bad Plus, which I understand is pooh-poohed among those who really know their jazz, but were a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

Last night we returned to a nice dinner with BF and K and talk of their first doctor's visit. I'm feeling happier for her all the time. Maybe in part because I'm recovering a certainty within my own skin that my turn will come. I don't really even know what that means. But for now, it keeps my heart roomy enough to love BF and K more than I pine for whatever is next for me and D.

I really have nothing to say. I'm just putting up something to put up something. It seems like a Monday kind of Tuesday thing to do.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Fun I'll Be Having

Unfortunately, we can only make the Saturday and/or Sunday shows, but THIS sounds like FUN.

Thank you all for your warmth and understanding this week. Have a great weekend! I certainly expect to...

Thursday, September 02, 2004

On the Couch

What I would have said to my analyst today (if I had one):

BF and I met while juniors in college. One of her oldest friends was my college housemate (VDF) and when BF would visit, she and I had an instant affinity but it didn't develop a life of its own until VDF got married. As I've found to be true at most of the weddings of my closest friends, there's usually someone (if not someones) who becomes a friend-made-at-the-wedding. Friends of friends are --- not surprisingly --- often cool in their own rights. In any case, after VDF's wedding (she's since divorced), BF and I finally started keeping in touch with each other.

She moved to the city where I live the year that all hell broke loose in my first marriage. It would be another year until my ex and I separated and yet two more finally to divorce, but those years became the cement of BF's and my friendship. She rocked and rolled in her own relationship turmoil, while I tried to hold valiantly to my sanity while being lashed by the tempest of divorce. We stood by each other through all of that, but what we really did, more than that, is make sure the other one was also still having fun. Lots of fun. And feeling good about herself. BF and I were masterful at keeping each other's self-esteem and self-compassion quotients up.

It was, without question, an amazing time of our lives.

We managed to fall in with a group of great single people, and fortuitously, more men than women. We, all of us, were good friends more than anything else. Though occasionally, after too much dancing and drinking, there were odd romantic skirmishes, they rarely yielded too much drama. Unless BF had fallen back into the vortex with an old ex, or I had pushed at D too hard --- and then, well, inevitably, then there was bound to be some drama.

D was one of our circle of friends, and from the outset he and I had something special -- an inexplicable recognition of each other that was profound and eerily comfortable but provocative. From our very first conversation, D and I went deep diving into each other's minds and hearts. There was no time for swimming at the surface, looking cute in our swimming suits. We had stuff to talk about.

There was never a question for either of us that there was something inevitable between us --- just a beaten-to-death point of disagreement about when to act on it. I was feeling released from too long a life of walking on eggshells and being careful, feeling burned by the mistake of marrying someone who, it had turned out, once I stopped being so careful about being myself around him, didn't even like me. My creed was "BE HERE, NOW." But D saw me as burning my way along a path of rediscovering my sexual identity as a result of my divorce, and he was still bringing his own to a close. And, there was definitely some part of me that was like a boy-crazed schoolgirl during that time, ridiculously self-disclosing and honest with D about my crush of the moment and the surprise of feeling so intensely touch-hungry after years in my marriage of feeling touch-indifferent. In any case, he was unwilling to risk being mistaken for a crush of the moment and instead was aggravatingly cautious about how much and what kind of time he and I spent together --- and very candid about why. He wanted to wait until I seemed to have settled down into myself. In hindsight, it was a good call on his part --- at the time, he was the only man (besides J.K.) who could send me reeling into new (non-divorce) drama.

D joined our circle of friends through K. K lived across the street from BF, and D's and my first conversation took place one night when we tagged along with K and BF on the third date the first time they got together. D had gone to law school with K nearly 10 years earlier and the two of them had seen each other through first marriages and divorces, as well as some infinite hours of music shopping and all the highs and lows associated with that (unless this is your thing, that might sound overstated, but it wouldn't to D and K). K and BF broke up very shortly after that third date. But K and BF managed to stay friends and the four of us, along with another 5-6 central characters formed a rag-tag kind of family who saw each other through various relationships of various intensity and managed to make each other laugh on a regular basis and fill empty hours with companionship and fun.

"Fun," I think is an underrated value. Dedication to it exclusively can be unhealthy, obviously. But I think having fun as a staple of one's life is a hugely helpful thing. It keeps all kinds of bad things, especially self-pity and loneliness, in check.

In any case, yesterday, learning BF was pregnant not only made me jealous because I so much want to be, but because, totally irrationally, it took me back to a night over four years ago, when K joined BF and I for our weekly Friday night margarita and carnitas. BF and I often held court at this restaurant every Friday night, inviting anyone and everyone who wanted, to join us in "putting ourselves 'out there'" as single women who otherwise felt daunted by singleness (geeks, yes). It was the one weekly commitment we had to each other, though we typically saw each other everyday. It was often the highlight of our week, and full of adventures. It was rare that we weren't joined by someone from our group, if not the whole group. It was equally rare that someone, BF, me, or one of our "guests" didn't end up taking home the phone number of some new "prospect," who sometimes even got absorbed into the group for some period of time. We'd talk and laugh and get just enough drunk to really enjoy dancing freely at the blues club blocks away. It was the end of the workweek, the beginning of the weekend, the kick-off of what was inevitably two days of hanging out at the river or each other's homes, seeing movies, going out, cooking together, BBQs, whatever. It was the beginning of the weekend's fun.

The night K showed up with BF they'd been sleeping together again for a month already. Up until that night it had simply struck me as a great convenience for BF (and K, who was/is also a very good friend of mine) to have such a good friend with whom to scratch a mutual itch. It was of no other consequence. We sat down at the table and ordered our alcohol and food and all was good. It was fun, we were laughing, we were doing "our thing," I thought.

I realized it was all different, however, when BF moved away from K and said, "Since this is really my night with Phoebe, I'm going to sit on her side of the table."

Suddenly, I realized "our thing" was over. They were a couple, not two friends scratching a mutual itch for each other. And BF was having to make a point that I was still "as important" as K. And, K didn't take it well. Not because what BF was doing was unnecessary but because he expected to be most important.

Instant displacement.

I wasn't jealous that she was no longer single --- I honestly was happy for her. I like K a lot, most of the time. And even when I don't like him (because he can be a sarcastic jerk sometimes), I love him. He has a huge heart under that sometimes crusty exterior, and he, like she, is family. But I was jealous that I was displaced, even though I knew, even at the very moment, that while my role was changing, my importance to BF was not.

Now, I am not a classically trained student of psychology by any means. I think, fairly, one would have to say that I am an untrained non-student of pop-psychology. But I'm thinking, as I reflect on the fact that yesterday I felt something so similar to the feeling of having been displaced by K that I may have some issues, here. Clearly, I carry some expectation of being replaceable, vulnerable to the belief that the people who love me only love me until something better comes along.

Maybe I have some deeply-seated unconconscious belief that unless I have something unique to offer, I will lose to whoever else can compete. With BF, my feeling displacement is not about the baby she's carrying --- I want BF and K's baby in the world. I can hardly wait to meet him or her! I get a flush of physical giddiness thinking about it. I already love this kid, even if "he" is making BF, sick as a dog right now, this little mischeivous brat has captured my heart as surely as "she" has my imagination. My feeling of displacement is about all our other friends from whom we've both been feeling slightly alienated who are either pregnant or have just recently had children.

My fear is that I have nothing, or at least not enough, to offer BF on this next part of her path. I worry that she's moving into a phase that is about issues I won't be able to relate to. As much I want to be there myself, I won't be obsessed with my own little one's every subtle shift and development, needing to talk ad nauseum to other people who know about such things. Ironically, I worried about this in reverse... that if I got pregnant and had children and BF didn't, that then we would drift apart because of a divide in experience that would make our former intimacy impossible.

We've already experienced such a time to some degree --- not even with K, but with D, with whom I left to travel the world for a year after our marriage, leaving BF behind and a wake of difference in experience that's been incredibly hard to bridge again. But we were just beginning to.

When K came to dinner that night it was the same --- when it was just sex, I could have cared less. He was not competing with me there. But when I realized that he was going to assume the role of her daily companion and confidante, the fun-maker, and loneliness-battler, that's what hurt. Somewhere deep inside me was the conviction that I could not compete with that and would be shunted aside, pushed outside the circle.

Now I'm worried that BF's other friends, the ones who know what morning sickness feels like and how to alleviate it, who can advise her on good doctors, help her anticipate symptoms and next phases, who can be helpful to her on this next part of her path --- well, I cannot compete with them. And honestly, the worry this time about being pushed outside of the circle is that not only that I'll lose BF, but I'm going to be the only one left out here. That I'll be out here standing alone.

It sounds like I need to have some fun.

With that, I think my time is up for today.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


B.F. is pregnant.

Six weeks. Just learned today.

She's terribly sick -- she sounds truly horrible. She hasn't been able to keep anything down for 48 hours.

She's going to make a terrific mom. And B.F.'s husband is going to make a terrific dad.

And right now, I am a mess of emotion. Some genuine happiness for them, concern for the intensity of her morning sickness, but mostly --- as ashamed as I am to admit it -- a lot of bad tangly feelings for me.

Did they get my baby? I realize it is the stupidest question in the world, I truly do. But it's in my head anyway.