Friday, March 27, 2015

Beginning to see the light

I'm trying very hard to understand why we do the things we do, and what influences us in the choices we make as human beings. I've realized for example that lately, in the last week or so, I've felt an enormous sense of palpable relief, that somehow my life is less anxious and more about the warm spring days and the abundance that brings.  There is an optimism that wasn't there before. I'd lost it. I'd forgotten I had it. I forgot the thing that I bring into the room. I left it somewhere. Blame it on the time change, blame it on the fact that the odd ex-boyfriend and I aren't in contact at all, zero, zilch, or blame it on healing.

EXT: FARMER'S MARKET, LOS ANGELES: I had breakfast with my Ex-Husband on Monday. We don't know what to call each other. We are still married. I'm not sure why, but we are. We see each other infrequently, but we talk every day, and he is, to be honest, still my best friend. He introduced me to someone as "the mother of my children and my current wife" but that's not entirely true. I have to find a better word. There must be a better word. In his honor I ordered huevos divorciados. I chortled at the joke. He didn't notice. He stuck with rancheros. And all the way to breakfast I'd felt excited, as if there was something magical in this meeting, that I'd maybe I'd been wrong all along, and that he was lovely and I was lovely and it was all a big misunderstanding. Five minutes in I remembered why we couldn't live together. Tears were pouring down my face in the middle of the Farmer's Market (not enough tears apparently to prevent me from gulping down my divorced eggs and their two delicious salsas) and I remembered the pain that only someone who has known you most of your life can inflict, unwittingly. When he's really mad at me his eyes blink rapidly. But breakfast finished with my face only slightly red, my nose only slightly swollen, and I saw how bad he felt, not just for making me cry, but for all of it, for the years and years and years we spent together where we couldn't quite get it right, for being children together, for raising each other, for our co-dependence we couldn't shed, all of it. He struggles. I struggle. The children struggle. But we love, too, over divorced eggs and warm tortillas and "a bunch of fucking tourists you'll never see again" (his quote when I complained about crying in public).

For over a year there was anxiety: when was he (London boyfriend) going to call, when was I going to see him, would he keep his word, would he return the text, would he say good night, was he having a bad day, did he in fact love me as he said he did, was he going to miss another plane. It was constant. It was constant and I think I thought that I enjoyed it. I loved him. I loved him because he was brilliant and kind and funny and unpredictable and completely off his tree. And I thought that I would be able to change him. I thought that by loving him, everything would transform for him. I thought that the brilliant sunshine I brought to his life (and I am, I promise being ironic) would illuminate his days and we'd live happily ever after.

You see, the damage we dispensed to each other was beyond anything I imagined two human beings could do.  I don't think it was intentional, but it felt like it, and so everything became miserable. Every time we spoke. Every interaction. Even seeing his name, or a letter he'd written me, a present from him, set me off into such a state of anxiety, I could hardly function. I didn't sleep. The sunny way I saw the world became dark and bleak. I was like an addict. Maybe I was an addict. "You're in a bad relationship" said my friends, all of them, at different times. "It's toxic" they said. But like my sweet Frenchie who won't let go of a toy she loves, and you have to wrest it from her grip and her strong, puffy jaws, I wouldn't, couldn't let go.  27 years of one relationship went pear-shaped. And then I was dancing and being read poems and walking through London at midnight and I was loved and fed smoked fish and flat whites and my hand was held constantly and I was told I was beautiful (and that hadn't happened for a long, long time) so you see, it was very hard to give up.

"You're worth more than table scraps" said a friend and I wondered what that meant. Because after no food, table scraps taste pretty good.

My mother said something quite telling the other day. She said "you can't keep asking about someone if there isn't happy news." And I think that is how we are programmed, to fill our lives with happy news. I do it without thinking about it. But one thing that John (my husband) taught me was that being in it, living with it, being in the pain, and feeling it, and allowing it to cover you, knowing, with faith, that it will go, that it will dissipate, is important. Maybe that is the healing, to just be with it, without judgement. Maybe that's what I have to learn to be comfortable with. My mother also said "he will make you unhappy for the rest of your life if you let him." It was that advice that allowed me to let go.

And so now, when I walk in the mornings, early, with the dogs, and marvel at the flowers that have grown overnight, and watch the hawks, the crows nesting, the little band of wild parrots that flies over the canyon, the cucumber vine with the spiky chartreuse fruit, that people hate and I love for its persistence, I have back a sense of wonder that I'd lost in the fraught, hard-scrabble world of trying to make a man love me when he didn't know how.

It's all here. It's in the trees and the grass and the birds. It's in the sky that makes theatre every morning and every evening, without fail. It's in the constant knowledge that the sun will rise and that there will be a new day, a new way to start, and way to make amends for the crappy job you did of yesterday, and that today there is a cup of tea, a joke, a book, work, a warm bed, some furry friends.

"Oh, to throw my arms round the neck of a creature, dog or man, a creature who loves me!"  -- Colette

I'll stick with dogs for now. Ok?

Here's the Velvet Underground:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Guest House


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks


Friday, March 13, 2015

Stony hearts

Let us fall in love again
and scatter gold dust all over the world
Let us become a new spring
and feel the breeze drift in the heavens' scent.
Let us dress the earth in green,
and like the sap of a young tree
let the grace from within sustain us.
Let us carve gems out of our stony hearts
and let them light our path to Love.
The glance of Love is crystal clear
and we are blessed by it's light.

-- Rumi "Hidden Music"


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Blessing

The room darkened, darkened until
our nakedness became a form of gray;
then the rain came bursting,
and we were sheltered, blessed,
upheld in a world of elements
that held us justified.
In all the love I had felt for you before,
in all that love,
there was no love
like that I felt when the rain began:
dim room, enveloping rush,
the slenderness of your throat,
the blessed slenderness.

"The Blessing" by John Updike from Collected Poems. © Knopf, 1993. Via Writer's Almanac


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Are you lonesome tonight?

I think the word "loneliness" is one of the hardest to utter.

I'm told it goes hand in hand with "divorce" "menopause" "empty nest." I'm still married, I'm not (yet, I don't think) going through menopause but yes, both my children don't live at home, but my husband and I have been apart for close to four years and though we are great friends, we lead our own lives.

Tonight on the phone I spoke to a friend of mine who suffers as I do. I know this because she pisses me off. She goes for long periods of time without calling me and I inevitably taking this personally. I'm wrong. She's worked all her life. She was a studio head. She is very, very smart. And she's not happy when she's not working. And so, like me, she hides sometimes. She stays in bed all day and reads books. Tonight I got her on the phone and I was happy about it. She has a deep, calm, purring voice and like me, she has Norwegian roots. We think of ourselves as tough girls. I told her why I fired my client who won three Oscars. She told me why she got back together with her husband.

And then I told her something I've never told anyone else, until today. I said "I'm lonely." I lived my whole life with someone else. And it's been four years since he's been gone, and I miss having a nice warm body in my bed. And I broke up with my lovely English boyfriend before Valentine's day, and he didn't live here anyway, and the truth is, I hole up here. I work. I sleep. I eat. I walk my dogs. And I'm lonely. And tonight, for the first time ever, as I was making pasta with pine nuts and cauliflower and parsley and reading Joan Didion's recipes, and talking to my lovely lumpy lady, who is 14 and a dalmatian, and very very lame on her front foot, I thought of a good idea, stirring garlic into the onions and cauliflower. I thought for the first time in nearly four years that I should call up my ex-husband and ask him if we should try again.

Now I know that we love each other. And I know that we're not compatible. And I know that he has a lovely girlfriend. And I know that there is a man in England that I'm mad about even though it's over. (I know that I love him madly despite the fact that he is a flakey, crazy, excuses-laden chap, hopelessly devoted to his singleton-dom.) But just for a moment, I thought, wouldn't it be nice to feel some relief from this terminal loneliness? And I do love the father of my children. He is a good man, a kind man, a man who buys excellent Christmas presents. But, jeez, what is that about?

What is this loneliness that creeps in at the time of year when we should be feeling hopeful? Spring solstice is only a few weeks away. Every morning I hear the birds singing jubilantly in the canyon. The grass is the greenest it will be this year. The trees are budding. I should be in someone's arms, drinking it all in, feeling optimistic.

I long, I long to be wrapped in warm arms. I long to make a cup of tea at six o'clock in the morning for someone other than myself. I know this is temporary. I know that this will pass. I know I must stick to my list of mental health fixes. (See the photo below. I'm amused, and must thank my ex-boyfriend for pointing out that I said THE nature, instead of nature, but you get the point.)

But I'm going to say it anyway. Although I am rich with friends, and I have a thriving business and clients I adore, I am lonely. (No disrespect, dog and horse friends, you've been wonderful). I'm also amused by it. People think because I am jolly and English and usually very optimistic that I'm always out and about and on the town. This could not be further from the truth.

This is what I'd like: to lay out under the stars somewhere without light pollution with the dogs and a nice warm jersey, and a nice man who understands what a nut I am and doesn't care. That's it. And maybe he'd be holding my hand.

A letter to "Kate," the cat burglar

Here's an open letter my friend Eve wrote to the woman who picked up and kept Eve's beloved "lost" cat for a couple of weeks. It's self-explanatory. -- Miss W

Dear “Kate,”

I’m not sure if “Kate” is even your real name as you blocked your number before calling me and didn’t volunteer any other information about yourself when you and your mom, Judy, came to my home last night.

Let me start by saying again, Thank You, for returning Jane.

My family and I have literally been emotionally suffering since “losing” Jane 2/7/15. We have been going out with food and flashlights 2-3 times a day calling and looking for her. We have knocked on countless neighbors’ doors (many people know her). Of the 200 posters we printed, we stuffed them in over 50 mailboxes, put them up on posts in a ¼ miles radius, gave flyers to our mailman, FedEx and UPS driver and dog walkers. We put up posters in Starbucks and To Wag For on Montana Ave. We contacted every vet in Santa Monica as well as several shelters and put a lost cat profile on their watch list. There are ads on PetKey and PetFinders. We put up two Lost Cat ads in Community under Pets and Lost and Found on Craigslist. The information on the posters and ads and that all these organizations have is that Jane went missing 2/7/15 and is micro-chipped.

A little more about Jane: she (and her two littermates) was bottle fed from 2 weeks old by my mom, who has been featured on Animal Planet for cat rescue. We’ve had her with us in Santa Monica since she was 8 weeks old. She is (or at least was) an exceptionally friendly, funny cat, always purring and chirping to us.

When you first called you were “hesitant” about returning her. You wanted to do “what was best for Jane.” You openly stated you were questioning if she came from a good and responsible home.

You mentioned Jane is an “absolute delight” and that she is very soft. How do you think she got that way? Because she came from an irresponsible and abusive household? Jane was brushed, fed and adored by three doting humans EVERY DAY.

Well? What’s your opinion now? Are you surprised to learn that you are not the only good pet owner on the planet? What about the other neighborhood cats you heard me mention last night? Why not pick them up? Why not make their owners suffer, too?

Jane is not the same since you deigned to return her. I understand, much better than the average cat owner, that it will take time because she was yanked from her territory and held in a new environment with another cat she’s not familiar with. Jane used to purr as soon as you called her or touched her. She is now skittish, not purring, not coming to us. She is also overweight.

I don’t believe you fully grasp cat behavior if, as you say, you saw Jane “more than once” IN THE SAME TERRITORY. Jane had her “routine.” She was so regular in fact, our neighbors have checked in with us in the past to say Jane and Xena were in their yard playing @ 10:30am just like clockwork.

If you feel YOU are such a responsible cat owner, why did you needlessly expose your own cat to a “stray?” You don’t know if the cat you picked up has Feline Leukemia, parasites, etc.

You said you didn’t see posters or online ads. Does that mean that they weren’t there? Sure, we didn’t go nuts with TONS of posters until 6 days after her disappearance, but the initial posters and information went out within 48 hours.

You could have at the VERY LEAST called in anonymously to the Santa Monica shelter or any vet in the area and asked if anyone was looking for a cat meeting her description. You would have gotten your answer.

You said Jane was running in the street @ 10:30pm. As a nocturnal animal, she probably was. She is an indoor-outdoor cat and that is the risk you take with such a cat. She WAS happy to have it that way. Neighbors enjoyed her and looked out for her. Our other cat, Xena, was her constant playmate. Now they are hissing at each other.

There are SO MANY CATS that need homes or are not cared for. Can you HONESTLY say that upon seeing Jane, that she wasn’t well-cared for?

I hesitated this morning writing this letter because I am now a little terrorized that you could take her again if you see her and not return her. As I don’t know who you are or where you live, I would have no recourse to get Jane back again. I would like to kindly suggest that you take your judgment of other pet owners down a notch.

You have NO idea who I am in regard to animal rescue and care. The day before you returned Jane, I rescued a boxer, “Sparky,” off San Vicente Blvd who’d gotten out of his yard and hit by a car. I found the owner, beyond distressed at having lost the dog (for a whole 30 minutes) who is now injured. He wasn’t home when it happened. A well-meaning person in his employment accidentally let the dog out of the house. IT HAPPENS. But, my first impression upon seeing the dog was, “Gee, this dog is so well-cared for and so friendly, I’m sure he got out and got lost.”

I wonder what truly compelled you to finally, after almost THREE WEEKS, return Jane. I am thrilled that she isn’t hurt or dead, but I am appalled that you were more than able and capable of finding her home within MINUTES of picking her up but instead chose to sit smugly in judgment of another pet owner.

Next time, YOU do the right and RESPONSIBLE thing and consider the pet’s and the owner’s situation and feelings first before your own. 



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dream Song 29

Dream Song 29

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart   
só heavy, if he had a hundred years 
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time   
Henry could not make good. 
Starts again always in Henry's ears 
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime. 

And there is another thing he has in mind   
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years 
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,   
with open eyes, he attends, blind. 
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;   

But never did Henry, as he thought he did, 
end anyone and hacks her body up 
and hide the pieces, where they may be found. 
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.   
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up. 
Nobody is ever missing.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Breathe again

It's over. We can all breathe again. Those of us that make our livings in Hollywood can now look up and see the world around us and not just through the prism of Awards bloggers and special events and red carpets and shaping a strategic narrative. Outside, nature has been washed, everything is glittering after yesterday's rain, and the birds are positively jubilant. And the best thing? A phone call from my daughter at 7.30am. "I'm calling you for JK Simmons" she says. I beam.

My neck has a permanent dent in it from looking down at my phone. One of this week's New Yorker covers is appropriate:

How many of us miss the butterflies?

Every day is a choice. I realize this as I lay in bed at 5 or 6, wondering whether I can handle what's coming at me, wondering how everything will turn out, wondering if I'm strong enough to function in this town (my chronic dislike of the red carpet is well documented) or keep my head high for another day. But today I got up, I went outside with my limpy lame old lumpy lady who can barely walk, and she stopped and sniffed the fresh, rain-cleansed air, and positively smiled at it, and I thought yes, you can do this.