The Bridge

There’s a bridge in South Africa, as everyone on the planet with Windows 10 who likes nature scenes found out yesterday. So I’m not alone in this knowledge. But I feel like it’s meant for me, this picture chosen to appear on my screen. The bridge in South Africa, a land tied inextricably to the mixture of black and white, a land of unspeakable pain and breathtaking forgiveness – the bridge that crosses.

A river runs below, but that’s almost incidental. It’s the trees above and the ropes that surround and the wood plank support that pulls me in. I feel my feet on the bridge, the warmth of the sunlight through emerald leaves, and my hands on the ropes.

The intricate, looping, arched ropes. Even if I wanted to jump from the bridge, I wouldn’t be able to – beautiful, strong, solid thick ropes block my fall, curved patterns that stretch along the length of the bridge.

There’s no jumping off then. No going backwards, either. My only choice is to breathe in leaf-tinged sunlight, 

and cross.

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Last night’s dream…

…is haunting me, filling my head still with the feelings of transition and loss and nostalgia and hopefulness for this new year. 

But it doesn’t make any sense, unless you accept the idea of “priestess.” That there are some women on this Earth drawn to spiritual places and groups because their soul’s charge and purpose is to be the light and life of that community. In eons past, they would live within the walls, spend every waking moment tending to the spiritual lives of the faithful. They are found in every house of every kind of worship, in every culture, throughout history. And my soul is one of these – I know because I came alive when I walked into my temple.

Last night before bed I learned a fellow priestess had moved on, had decided our community was no longer her path. And when I slept, I dreamt her dream.

All the welcoming features of the building itself were gone – warm mauve deepened into dark blue, stained glass windows turned into walnut wood walls, easily accessible gently sloping aisles stretched upward into high stairwells and narrow halls. And the spiritual leader had become unrecognizable, not just a new person but a farce of another faith’s stereotypical paradigm. And a woman she knew and loved (who is now gone) turned with rage twisting her face and declared, I am SO angry with you!

A dreadful place indeed, and who can blame her for wanting to leave? But my fellow priestess, you may travel on, but remember that your sisters still know and cherish you. In the end, dreams may help reveal our hearts, but you have to open your eyes to see.

Dreams…

…aren’t just pictures, aren’t just random musings of an unconscious mind. Dreams are where real work gets done, beyond the physical. Where healing can happen. Where rifts between souls can be healed. And last night, once again, I dreamt of you. 

Whenever you’re in my dreams, we’re in separate rooms, separate spaces. You hate me still. When you saw me this time, you rolled your eyes in teenage disgust. Not her, again.

But I needed to tell you something. I needed to tell you I’m leaving LA, about my new job, that I’m probably going to land in Irvine. That I’ll be going to a certain synagogue. I needed to tell you, so you could avoid those places, so you could avoid me and avoid the pain and fear that seeing me brings to the surface. I just wanted to warn you.

So I sent a note to you, instead, through a mutual friend. A game of telephone, because I can’t phone. And then woke to the sound of church bells, as my alarm brought me back to this world. 

My daughter said l looked drained, like I hadn’t slept all night.

I miss him

I miss my husband, the man who used to loll happily on the couch with me, discussing the day’s events. I miss the man who knew more news than me, who was connected to the universe. I miss his easy smile, his gleeful insistence that yes, he could do that amazing stunt we just saw or eat that disgusting thing in one bite. I miss his surety that he would succeed, if he just kept trying. I miss him stepping outside for a one hour conference call, at 10 pm or 10 am, didn’t matter. I miss him reaching for me in the dark, holding me close.

I hope that man comes back to me someday, after a long road and a hard journey. I’ll try to hold on to that hope through this long, lonely night.

 

The Cocoon

For the past 20 years, there has been one constant in my life, through all the transitions of adulthood. There was always UCLA. I’ve been there longer than half my life, at this point. At 17 years old, I visited the campus for the first time, during February of my senior year. I had already applied, sight unseen, along with all the other schools i thought might also be good for me (for various reasons), including UC Berkeley, Tufts, Brown, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern, and Yale. I applied to them all, even though my high school guidance counselor thought I didn’t have a chance with many of them (what the hell, by the way?). And then in February, I went on a college tour with my dad and stepmother to visit the places to which I had applied.

We started with Tufts. I loved Boston from the moment I landed there (it was my first time), but hadn’t applied to Harvard out of loyalty to my family’s Yale connections. So we left the city and visited Tufts, and I found that as a high school senior, I knew more about the class I visited than many of the college students. They seemed slower than me, and the campus seemed very small, so I crossed that one off of the list.

Next was Yale. I spent the night there with some girls in their dorm hall, and was intimidated by everyone’s intensity. It was also 30 degrees below zero with the wind chill. But I was just excited and happy to be there, and did love the campus, and knew it would be a challenge. Plus, they had a world-class reputation for theater. So it stayed on the list. Then we visited Brown in Rhode Island. It felt like a small town, but an incredibly fun, funky, intelligent one. It stayed on the list, too, even a bit higher than Yale because it seemed more nurturing and less intimidating. Plus, the entire ethos of creating one’s own major strongly appealed to me.

Then came Northwestern, which was beautiful and had huge, welcoming dorm rooms, but was knocked off of the list the second I heard on the tour that all freshman take the same courses. I strike my own path – this was definitely not for me. We skipped visiting Washington University, since I had visited St. Louis many times – my family’s from there, and I was born there. I felt like I knew what it would be like; it was safe.

On a trip later that month, I visited UC Berkeley, and didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It seemed dingy and uninviting, and even though my boyfriend at the time dreamed of going there, I couldn’t see myself there at all. And then, on a 75 degree February day in 1993, I visited UCLA.

I fell in love completely and instantly with the campus. It was the perfect mix of old and new, of world class scholarship and exciting new opportunities. I loved Los Angeles, too. I loved that a movie world premiere was held in Westwood on the day that I visited, and I watched Clint Eastwood get out of his car for In the Line of Fire.  The campus was a dreamworld, and I wanted to be part of it. I got into every college I had applied to, and there was no doubt that I would choose UCLA.

And I always thought I would leave. I went to Washington DC for a time, and thought I would go back. But I had met the man who would become my first husband, and he didn’t want to leave LA. So we stayed, and after a couple of months (basically, just one summer) of turmoil after my graduation, both ended up with jobs at UCLA. Over the next twelve years, we both stayed there. He worked, being promoted a number of times. I worked and earned two graduate degrees. And at the end of it, we had grown apart and separated – the same month I left him, I graduated with my PhD and he was laid-off and left UCLA.

I moved back to LA to be closer to the campus and cut my commute, and for the past four years, have created my own career path in the University. It has cocooned me, sheltered me, absolutely been a major part of turning me into the scholar and poet and woman I am today.

But yesterday, the cocoon cracked open, just a bit, and sunlight started to shine in. Because I was told I’m no longer able to forge my own path here, I have to conform to the path I’m supposed to be on. It’s looking more and more like it’s time for me to find a new path, now that I have a strong partner to walk with me wherever I might want to go (for my faithful readers, you know who I mean).

After 20 years in my cocoon, it might just be time to fly.

And now it really gets complicated…

So this relationship thing has been, is definitely, wonderful. Just wonderful. No stumbling blocks yet, really. Sure, there’s been a bit of ex’s drama, and sure, there’s been some angst as we’re meeting our respective families and friends, but nothing major. But. That’s because I’ve been pretending to be just like every other single girl out there for two and a half weeks. I’ve been on a mini-vacation, of sorts. Because my two daughters, the two people that define me and define my daily life, have been off visiting their grandparents in Texas. And they come back today.

So now, I go back to being a single mom. Kind of. I’m a single mom with a boyfriend now, which I’ve never been before. And it’s time for them to meet him, an experience that they’ve never really had before. And I keep hearing horror stories from people, about how their kids hated their boyfriends or girlfriends and wanted their mommies or daddies all to themselves and so tried their best to be horrible people to run them off. Think “Parent Trap” – that’s every kid’s fantasy. If I can only just run off the new person and get my mommy and daddy together in a room or on a horseback ride or something, they’ll fall in love all over again and it’ll all be happily ever after!

Well, kiddies, you know that me and your daddy aren’t getting back together. And you’ve been saying for years that you want me to have a boyfriend and be happy…so, I’ll find out soon how all of this might go. Will they be their normal selves, which is draining enough for most people to deal with? Or will they be horrible, trying to get my boyfriend to run for the hills?

Or…in my wildest dreams, I hope for this…will they be happier and better off, knowing that their mommy is happier? Better able to deal with life as it comes, after seeing what a good relationship looks like? Please, universe, can we make that happen? That might just be too much to wish for. But I’m going to give it my best, and just hope for the best.

Treehouse

It’s over and done. I have moved on, if not in body yet, then at least in spirit. A new lease has been signed, a ridiculous amount of money has been given for rent and deposit, and the keys will shortly be handed over. And then I have a week of being in-between – not yet entirely in one place, not yet moved out of the old one. But I feel empowered that I was able to make this happen, overcoming all real and insubstantial (but those are the most frightening, yes?) obstacles.

The biggest reason why this is so empowering, so wonderful, is that I made it happen on my own. I really love that. When I moved into the current apartment, I said that I wouldn’t leave it until I could move in with someone else, could rent a house that cost twice as much as my apartment rent (that’s just the lowest going rate for a small, basic 3-bedroom house in my area – we’re not talking anything fancy here) with me contributing half, and then I’d have my backyard and my quiet home and my trees and my laundry that didn’t cost quarters anymore.

A little over three years later, still single, I found I couldn’t even afford where I was anymore, because the landlords kept raising the rent and it was just getting too high and I tried working myself to the bone to pay for all this and that just made me miserable. Time to find a cheaper place, on my own, and resign myself to the fact that it would be worse than what I have now. It would help in other ways (didn’t I write about that a few posts ago?), but would be overall a step down.

Instead, I found…I found exactly what I needed. It’s not a stand-alone house, but it’s a triplex, and when you pull into your own driveway and park your car into your own garage and then walk across the driveway to your own front door, that just feels like a house. It’s on a very quiet, peaceful little street – the energy there is incredibly serene, on this little hill. And it has trees, both in the little front yard, and the backyard. It has a backyard! And it has laundry that doesn’t need quarters anymore. So I’m going down to just one bathroom, so what? My daughters just come in and use mine whenever they want anyways (including in the middle of the night), so this’ll actually give me a bit more privacy since they won’t barge in anymore. And finally, it’s about $200 less per month.

Not at all what I thought I could do on my own, but I did, and I’m moving to my hilltop treehouse in the city soon. And then I’ll be able to finally breathe.