Posts tagged ‘courage’

December 31, 2011

Wild Women Just Do It

I have received a request. A dear friend and creative compatriot has suggested that I change the name of my blog. She says it is misleading. It’s not that she doesn’t get the irony therein, I’m sure she does. She is quite perceptive and has a brilliant sense of humor. However, she seems to think that people may not bother exploring any further if they are hit with something that reads as a psychic stop sign upon first meeting me in cyberspace.

Perhaps I should re-title this blog, Fucking Fantastic Writing. Maybe it’s time for me to come out of the shadows of my own modesty (read: insecurity). Perhaps it’s really OK for me to blast my message confidently throughout cyberspace and beyond. After all, I do not have an agent or a marketing guru or a PR firm working on my behalf. It’s just me.

See here’s the challenge. I might think what I’m penning is just brilliant, but you might hate it. There it is. Nothing complicated. What if I act like I’m the shit, and you just think I’m shitty?? That could be pretty awkward for me. Do you see my predicament here?

OK, you’re all pretty creative. Some of you might even make a living off your creativity. By the way, I hate you. No, ha ha… I don’t mean that. Seriously, I’m just playing, because I’m sure you really are brilliant and deserve whatever you have achieved. I’m just a mite jealous of anyone who doesn’t have to navigate the schizophrenia of the day job mind split.

But do you see what I mean?? This is a perfect case in point. I’m a pretty compassionate, loving person, and here I am openly admitting that if you have what I’m striving for, I would say I hate you and be jealous. Seriously. This is not a benevolent situation here, people. I absolutely want to be that person that arouses that kind of jealousy and hatred. Of course, if when I achieve that level of success, I wouldn’t won’t be a big dick about it, and I would will try to help as many people as I could can before, during and after, and who knows if I would will really be happy once I got get there… oh, the dog eat dog part of this really makes me a bit weary…

The bigger issue here is this. How do I claim my identity as a writer – own it, really own it, without worrying about you thinking that I’m a conceited, narcissistic, needy, insecure… need I go on??? OK, ok, you think I’m just fishing for compliments, but seriously, this shit gets very debilitating. I know, I know, none of you are sitting around thinking about me. You’re all busy dealing with your own shit. I get that. I learned that in therapy years ago, (to my great relief, I might add).

But nevertheless, I still get way too attached to what you might or might not be thinking. What writer doesn’t care what her readers are thinking??? I mean, you can’t really think about it while you’re writing, but like any act of bravado, you put it down with a flourish, hit send, and then the anxiety begins. It’s not easy to be brave when you know on the back end you’re gonna hear it from someone who says, um, that wasn’t a good idea, or, really, do you think you should be writing about THAT??? I mean after all, you are a (choose one) mother, professional whatever, someone who has to face your neighbors in the supermarket… the list goes on…

What am I, Catholic??? What’s with all the guilt? Yeah, I’m Jewish… OK. Let’s not make this a religious argument. I’m pretty sure I’ve stumbled into what my other extremely creative and brave friend describes as the plight of many women writers. We are often strangled by our sense that we, as women, can only express ourselves in certain prescribed ways, and to step out of that safe zone is to open ourselves up to all sorts of nameless dangers.

Seriously, girls, are we still buying in to that? You’d think after all this time we would have figured out that it’s OK for us to use naughty language and talk about sex or violence, or changing the government or being angry at corporate greed or protesting war, or pointing out injustice, or WHATEVER THE HELL YOU FEEL LIKE TALKING ABOUT!!!

Well this may be an extremely roundabout way of getting around to making a New Year’s resolution, but there you have it. 2012 will be my Year of Living Dangerously. This shit burns a whole in my brain, and it’s either write or die…

Earlier this week, my son and I participated in a Kwanzaa celebration with another dear friend. For those of you who are not familiar with its workings, Kwanzaa is a relatively new African American holiday designed to inspire and support a sense of family and community spirit. Its daily principles resonate with power and potential. As part of the yearly tradition, a libation (small offering of wine or water) is poured in honor of our departed ancestors as we celebrate their continued presence in our lives. We then honor ourselves and our children as the holders of our future.

In this spirit, I wish to honor some of the creative women I know who have  inspired and continue to inspire me through their work. Women who are not afraid, or if they are, they are not letting it stop them from pursuing their passion, their truth.

Kalae All Day – At the ripe young age of 23, one of my youngest friends, Kalae is someone who is coming into herself so quickly, she’s going to explode. She may think she’s already there, and honestly, she’s in there pretty good, but this is one young woman who brings so much to the table, I feel like she’s only just scratched the surface. Singer, rapper, writer, designer… the list goes on. See for yourself. Visit her blog. She is a force.

Deb Margolin – What can I say about Deb? She is quite literally one of the smartest, funniest, most honest women I know. As an artist/mother/lover she really gets the painful dilemma of creating, loving and letting go. Her experience, from playwright to performance artist to Yale University professor, and everything in between, speaks to the range of possibilities for creative women. She is also a damn good musician. Get her to a piano, and see what I’m talking about…

Kim Schultz – When I first met Kim, she was performing a one woman show about her relationship with a con artist and the death of her father. It was really funny. This incredibly candid woman has a knack for turning the sorrows and challenges of her life into the most enlightening and entertaining works of drama and comedy. A trained actress and improv performer, Kim’s latest is a piece she wrote after falling in love with an Iraqi refugee. Artist and accidental activist, she puts her heart on her sleeve on a regular basis, and for that I love her dearly.

Lillian Ann Slugocki  – Lillian’s stuff is so immediate, so passionate, so familiar (to me), and so unfettered by self-consciousness, that she inspires simply by being. I love the way she embraces the full range of her experience as a woman, and explores all aspects of her history, her desires, her needs… and she is one helluva storyteller. One of my newest mentors and friends, I look forward to her bravery and inspiration rubbing off on me as I resume working on my fiction.

Jennifer aka J.J. Brown – Jennifer’s background is extraordinary. As a scientist, she brings a level of insight to her fiction that is rare, indeed. Another woman who perceives herself and her work in the context of the world at large, she is not afraid to look unflinchingly at life in all of its dimensions, and explore the light and dark aspects with equal curiosity and sensitivity. I am proud to count her among the new friends I have made this year.

Jenifer Jackson – For the last decade or so, I have been enjoying the quiet evolution of one of my favorite singer/songwriters. This Austin, Texas resident who used to live in the East Village writes songs of love and loss and hope with a sweetness that touches me deeply. I saw her perform live the last time she came to NYC, at the Rockwood Music Hall, with her seasoned band. I think I cried from joy through half the songs.  Her music evokes at different times strands of folk, country,psychedelic pop, bossa nova, jazz and soul. I go back to it again and again…

Cherie Blackwell – This talented visual artist is also, I’m proud to say, my cousin. Another woman who incorporates a passion for science into her art, Cheri is currently engaged in a cubist exploration of Brooklyn landscapes. She is also a New York City public school art teacher, which automatically elevates her standing in my book threefold… not to mention the fact that she does a mean beat box.

Alice Bradley – Unless you count a few brief exchanges on Twitter, Alice Bradley and I do not personally know one another. Co-author with Eden Kennedy of the pee-in-your-pants funny book, “Let’s Panic About Babies…” (it’s a really long title), Alice is someone who I will probably run into at some point or another. She’s from Long Island, like me, so already, we are practically friends. Her book about birthing made me rethink everything I know about trying to be inspirational and give advice to other women. Plus, she says fart a lot. Well, at least once that I know of…

Carole Hart – Award-winning producer/director of the film, For the Next 7 Generations, Carole has been paving the way for women who believe in the healing power of the arts for decades. A seasoned television and film producer and writer, Carole has been at the helm of such notable works as Free to Be… You and Me, Hot Hero Sandwich, and this most recent documentary about the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. She has taught me volumes about bringing spirit and balance into art and life, and I’m proud to call her friend.

Erin Cressida Wilson – I am most grateful to Erin for her extraordinary support and encouragement at a pivotal moment of my life. It was she who encouraged me to start blogging when I was still in a fog, and she has been a great fan of my work even when I had no idea what I was doing. When I did not believe, it was her absolute conviction that I had a strong voice that kept me moving forward, one baby step at a time. I’m so lucky to know her, after all these years…

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So happy new year to all of you, wild or not, women or not. I look forward to connecting more with each and every one of you in the coming year!

Photo by Crinity

May 14, 2011

Surgery, Life, Health and Courage

Apparently, like so many women, I herniated my belly button during childbirth eight years ago. At first, I thought it was just that usual, “I used to have an innie, but now I have an outie,” thing. But over the years, that outie popped out further and further. Not so cute.

I admit, I was told by more than one doctor that eventually, I would have to get it fixed. But what really made me understand that something had to change, and fast, was that I was incurring increasingly frequent bouts of lower back pain. After an acute, two-day, flat-on-my-back episode several weeks ago, my astute chiropractor, Dr. Loretta French, explained to me how the lack of abdominal muscle strength caused by the hernia (i.e. no core!) was causing me to overuse various muscles in my lower back. Hence, the weakness and vulnerability there.

I can’t tell you how happy this made me. Seriously. I have not been able to sustain a workout regimen for longer than a few months without injuring myself since I had my son. I went out the next day and scheduled an appointment to see a surgeon. Finally, an explanation for the chronic problems I’d been having since giving birth! I had just thought, OK, I had a baby, now I’m broken… But no! It did not have to be this way! Now I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. So I expedited the process, and this past Tuesday, I had the outpatient surgery. It went well, and I’ve been slowly recovering at home, gradually getting back to my regular work…

Of course, the experience brought up a few things, and of course, I want to share them with you.

First of all, I have to say, it’s very different being on the receiving end of medical services than it is being the care partner of a patient. I fulfilled that latter role for over twenty years with my husband Ivor, before he finally passed away in October of 2009, due to complications of his lifelong, chronic illness, sickle cell anemia. During our decades together, Ivor and I logged countless hours in emergency rooms, intensive care units and regular hospital wards. We crossed paths with untold numbers of nurses, interns, residents, specialists, technicians, assistants, pharmacists, therapists… I found most of them to be caring, dedicated and skilled, although over the years, we did have the misfortune to meet more than a few who were plagued by cynicism, overwork, negative presumptions about Ivor or his illness, or just plain battle fatigue. We learned to be pro-active, articulate and self-protective.

We were a team.

Now my surgery was no where near the harrowing, life-threatening, repeated incidents Ivor had to endure over the years. Having not let my condition progress too far, the procedure was still at the semi-elective stage, and besides that one problem, I’m basically strong and healthy, so I had no other risk factors going into surgery. Predictably, there were no complications. But things did get a little weird for me when, a half hour before the procedure was to begin, the anaesthesiologist described how he would be putting me to sleep with some medication via my IV, and then inserting the tube down my throat for the general anaesthesia. The what? THE WHAT? How had I missed that??

Intubated. The thing that happens when you’re so weak from pneumonia that you can’t breathe on your own. When one of your major body systems can’t function and you need mechanical support. When you are near death. Tube down my throat? I acted calm, but inside I was filled with all of the most negative associations. So much so, that when it came time for them to administer the first injection, the anaesthesiologist asked me if my heart always beat that fast, or was I just nervous. I said, I’m very nervous. My kind surgeon, Dr. Sas, offered to hold my hand. I squeezed it hard. But honestly, when the medicine began to hit, I remember saying, “Oh yes, this will work just fine.” And the next thing I remember, I was waking up in recovery.

Surgery is a kind of miracle of faith and trust. You put your life in the hands of doctors and nurses who cut into you to change your body, so you may live a better life. You have faith that when you go to sleep, you will in fact, wake up better than before. That you will, in fact, wake up! That you won’t wake up attached to some metallic, wired apparatus in a hidden room somewhere, with alien creatures performing strange sexual experiments on your helpless body (yeah, I went there). Or that you won’t end up at the end of the tunnel of light with your dear, departed husband (I love you honey, but I’m just not ready to be dead yet). All these thoughts and more were crowded out of my brain by the flood of endorphin producing chemicals that do whatever else it is they did to mercifully blank out my consciousness, allowing those talented and caring professionals to exert their skills on me.

I feel grateful that I don’t have to do this on a regular basis, and I feel awe and respect for those who do. Living with a chronic or life threatening illness enters you into an ongoing ride on the faith, trust, courage, strength, and fear train. Repeated challenges to one’s inner fortitude take almost as much, if not more energy, than the physical toll of the medical condition and its treatment.

The sacred bond between patient, doctor and all members of the support team (including the care partners) is one that I will always honor. I have lived many sides of it, and know of its profound impact on the souls of all who are involved. Being part of this circuit has given me an appreciation for the preciousness of each moment of life and good health. I am deeply grateful for my experience.

And yes, I have an innie again…

Photo courtesy of otisarchives 1